April 07, 2012

Deep Sea Challenger Explores More Ocean - There is a continental US of Ocean Bottom below 20,000 feet

MSNBC - Deep Sea Challenger is exploring and sampling a shallower part of the ocean floor

Just days after the filmmaker plunged more than 35,756 feet (10,890 meters) into the Pacific Ocean to the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on Earth, his team piloted Cameron's innovative submersible to yet another deep-sea spot.

This time, members of the expedition took Cameron's lime-green Deepsea Challenger to a depth of 3,600 feet (1,100 meters) off the coast of the tiny island of Ulithi, part of Micronesia.

The image of the Cameron's Deepsea Challenger was taken by an unmanned seafloor "lander" — a large contraption that is baited, hoisted over the side of a ship and dropped to the seafloor. Once it's on the bottom, bait ideally lures seafloor creatures, and the lander's suite of instruments can take samples, photographs and data.

Cameron was slated to have a lander by his side during his Mariana Trench dive, but the plan was scuttled because of various mechanical problems, so Cameron went down to the bottom without any robot companions.
The DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, as seen by the unmanned lander DOV Mike during a DEEPSEA CHALLENGE project test dive off Ulithi Atoll in March. Photograph by Deepsea Challenge Expedition

National Geographic - If his schedule permits, Cameron said he would like to do more dives himself in DEEPSEA CHALLENGER. "I'd love to continue with the dives, but I'm not sure that if I'm making Avatar 2 and 3 over the next few years I'm going to have much time," he said.

Now that the sub has proven itself as a viable science platform, Cameron said he has no objections to other scientists going down in his stead: "I don't have to be the one piloting the sub. Other people can make the dives."

Expedition geologist Fryer said that she for one would leap at the opportunity. "I'd be the first person to take a ticket," she said. "Train me up, and set me down."

Carnival of Space 244

1. Rand Simberg has a A Practical Proposal for Securing Property Rights in Space

Many believe that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty implicitly prohibits private property in outer space, but under another conceivable interpretation, it only prohibits declarations of national sovereignty. A proposed law requiring the United States to recognize land claims off planet under specified conditions offers the possibility of legal, tradable land titles, allowing the land to be used as loan collateral or an asset to be sold to raise funds needed to develop it.

Such a law would vitiate the 1979 Moon Treaty, which does outlaw private property claims in space, but to which the U.S. is not a signatory. This should be viewed as a feature, rather than a bug. The law would not impose any new costs on the federal government, and would likely generate significant tax revenue through title transaction fees and economic growth from new space ventures carried out by U.S. individuals and corporations. It would have great potential to kick the development of extraterrestrial resources—and perhaps even the human settlement of space—into high gear.

Popular Science covers the space steading and individual space rights proposal

Simberg proposes that the U.S. government recognize off-planet land claims from people who meet three criteria: Plans to establish permanent human settlements on the Moon, Mars, or other bodies; provide commercial transportation between the settlement and Earth; and offer the land for sale.

Simberg plans to present his study on Capitol Hill this week. We know he has at least one high-ranking presumptive supporter in Newt Gingrich — it remains to be seen whether he can convince any members who still have actual power.

2. Bad Astronomy Discover - HD 10180 is a star that’s nearly the Sun’s twin: it’s very close in mass, temperature, brightness, and even chemical content of our friendly neighborhood star. But in this case of stellar sibling rivalry, HD 10180 may have the upper hand: a new analysis of observations of the star indicate it may have nine planets!

In a new report accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, an astronomer re-analyzed data of the star taken with the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), an exquisitely high-precision camera mounted on a 3.6 meter telescope in Chile.

The new analysis looks at the old data in a different way, examining it using different statistical methods. Not only are the six planets seen in the new results, but the seventh is confirmed, as well as finding two additional planets in the data.

April 06, 2012

DNA origami hinged barrel with logic gates for programmable delivery of drugs

Researchers at Harvard University have developed a robotic device made from DNA that potentially could seek out specific cell targets within a complex mixture of cell types and deliver important molecular instructions, such as telling cancer cells to self-destruct.

A research team headed by George Church used what they call the DNA origami method, in which complex three-dimensional shapes and objects are constructed by folding strands of DNA. In this case, the researchers created a nanosized robot in the form of an open barrel whose two halves are connected by a hinge. The DNA barrel, which acts as a container, is held shut by special DNA latches that can recognize and seek out combinations of cell-surface proteins, including disease markers. When the latches find their targets they reconfigure, causing the two halves of the barrel to swing open and expose its payload. The container can hold various types of payloads, including specific molecules with encoded instructions that can interact with specific cell surface signaling receptors.

Science - A Logic-Gated Nanorobot for Targeted Transport of Molecular Payloads

We describe an autonomous DNA nanorobot capable of transporting molecular payloads to cells, sensing cell surface inputs for conditional, triggered .activation, and reconfiguring its structure for payload delivery. The device can be loaded with a variety of materials in a highly organized fashion and is controlled by an aptamer-encoded logic gate, enabling it to respond to a wide array of cues. We implemented several different logical AND gates and demonstrate their efficacy in selective regulation of nanorobot function. As a proof of principle, nanorobots loaded with combinations of antibody fragments were used in two different types of cell-signaling stimulation in tissue culture. Our prototype could inspire new designs with different selectivities and biologically active payloads for cell-targeting tasks.

43 pages of supplemental material

AFM micrograph of closed nanorobots. Nanorobots were diluted to ~10 nM into TAE buffer containing 12 mM Mg2+. 5 μL were applied directly on freshly-cleaved grade V mica mounted on a sample plate using optical adhesive no. 61. Samples were visualized in a Veeco/Bruker Multimode Nanoscope V in fluid tapping mode, using SNL-10 C probes.

Indigenous Weapons Development in China’s Military Modernization

Indigenous Weapons Development in China’s Military Modernization (43 pages, U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Staff Research Report, April 5 ,2012)

China’s process of modernizing its armed forces has involved the development of indigenously designed weapons systems—some of which appeared to undergo a process of development, procurement, and/or deployment that outpaced the estimates of U.S. and other foreign observers. This paper specifically focuses on four key weapons platforms that have been discussed as “surprise” developments to U.S. analysts:

* Type 039A/B/041 (Yuan-class) diesel-electric attack submarine
* SC-19 anti-satellite (ASAT) system
* Dongfeng-21D (DF-21D/CSS-5) anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM)
* Jian-20 (J-20) stealth fighter aircraft

Chinese military leaders have said the twin-engine J-20 fighter jet could be operational by as early as 2017.

Left - A view of the undercarriage of a PLA Air Force J-20 fighter during its maiden test flight, Jan. 11, 2011. Source: “CAC J-20,” Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft, entry dated Jan. 28, 2011.
Right: A Yuan-class submarine moored pierside. Source: Jeffrey Lewis, “Yuan Class Submarine,”, entry dated June 10, 2005.

Google[x] and Sergey Brin wearing Augmented reality glasses

Project Glass is the second Wired - big project out of Google (x), the company’s Mountain View skunkworks devoted to long-term projects. Since Larry Page reassumed the role of CEO (exactly one year ago today), his fellow co-founderSergey Brin has focused on Google (x) and Glass is apparently the project Brin promised news of almost a year ago at Google’s I/O conclave. Glass has been in the works for years, with key input from Babak Amir Parviz, a Google (x) employee who is still listed as the McMorrow Innovation Associate Professor at the University of Washington.

Sergey Brin wearing the project Glass augmented reality glasses

Google X lab announces on Augmented reality glasses

Google has announced project Glass.

NY Times - Google-made augmented reality glasses that will be able to stream information to the wearer’s eyeballs in real time. They are expected “to cost around the price of current smartphones,” or $250 to $600. The Google glasses said they would be Android-based, and will include a small screen that will sit a few inches from someone’s eye. They will also have a 3G or 4G data connection and a number of sensors including motion and GPS.

These glasses have a front-facing camera used to gather information and could aid in augmented reality apps. It will also take pictures. The spied prototype has a flash —perhaps for help at night, or maybe it is just a way to take better photos. The camera is extremely small and likely only a few megapixels.

The navigation system currently used is a head tilting-to scroll and click. We are told it is very quick to learn and once the user is adept at navigation, it becomes second nature and almost indistinguishable to outside users.

TowerJazz and UCSD Demonstrate First Silicon Wafer-Scale 110 GHz Phased Array Transmitter with Record Performance

TowerJazz, the global specialty foundry leader, and The University of California, San Diego (UCSD), provider of a leading program in microwave, millimeter-wave and mixed-signal RFICs, today announced they have collaborated to demonstrate the first wafer-scale phased array with 16 different antenna elements operating at 110 GHz frequency range. First time success was achieved for the RFIC using TowerJazz’s own proprietary models, kit and the mmWave capabilities of its 0.18-micron SiGe BiCMOS process, SBC18H3. The device targets applications for automotive radar, aerospace and defense, passive imaging, security, and mmWave imaging. The collaboration of the phased array chip was partly funded by DARPA.
4x4 Wafer-Scale Phased Array Transmitter at 110 GHz

Scope and Limit of Lithography to the End of Moore’s Law

Scope and Limit of Lithography to the End of Moore’s Law, Keynote of the 2012 International Symposium on Physical Design. (66 pages)

Pushing the Limits of Lithography [towards 8 nanometers]
* Pitch splitting with ArF water immersion
* Further wavelength reduction to EUV
* Multiple E-Beam Maskless lithography

Algorithm that is 10 to 100 times faster than state of the art for determining the optimal circuit block shape in VLSI fixed-outline floor-planning

The best paper award for the IEEE International Symposium on Physical Design 2012 was given to Professor Chirs Chu at Iowa State University, who proposed an algorithm for determining the optimal circuit block shape in VLSI fixed-outline floor-planning, achieving a 10-to-100 increase over previous state-of-the-art techniques.

Specifically formulated for fixed-outline floorplanning
* Optimal, efficient and scalable for non-slicing floorplan

* Main contributions
- Basic Slack-Driven Shaping
- Three Optimality Conditions
- Slack-Driven Shaping (SDS)

* Promising Experimental Results
- Obtain optimal solutions for both MCNC & HB benchmarks simply by the basic SDS.
- For MCNC benchmarks, 253x faster than Young’s, 33x faster than Lin’s, to produce results of similar quality.

Future Work
* Embed SDS (Slack-Driven Block Shaping)into a floorplanner.
* Use the duality gap as a better stopping criterion.
* Propose a more scalable algorithm to replace the geometric programming method.
* Extend SDS (Slack-Driven Block Shaping) to handle non-fixed outline floorplanning.
* Applied on buffer/wire sizing for timing optimization

Optimal Slack-Driven Block Shaping Algorithm in Fixed-Outline Floorplanning (31 pages)

This paper presents an efficient, scalable and optimal slack-driven shaping algorithm for soft blocks in non-slicing floorplan. The proposed algorithm is called SDS. Different from all previous approaches, SDS is specifically formulated for fixed-outline floorplanning. Given a fixed upper bound on the layout width, SDS minimizes the layout height by only shaping the soft blocks in the design. Iteratively, SDS shapes some soft blocks to minimize the layout height, with the guarantee that the layout width would not exceed the given upper bound. Rather than using some simple heuristic as in previous work, the amount of change on each block is determined by systematically distributing the global total amount of available slack to individual block. During the whole shaping process, the layout height is monotonically reducing, and eventually converges to an optimal solution. We also propose two optimality conditions to check the optimality of a shaping solution. To validate the efficiency and effectiveness of SDS, comprehensive experiments are conducted on MCNC and HB benchmarks. Compared with previous work, SDS is able to achieve the best experimental result with significantly faster runtime.

Integration, Architecture, and Applications of 3D CMOS Memristor Circuits

Integration, Architecture, and Applications of 3D CMOS Memristor Circuits (67 pages)

Professor Tim Cheng adn Dimitri Strukov at the University of California at Santa Barbara described how 3-D techniques could realize the dream of semiconductor memristors.

Using a hybrid 3-D integration technique, Cheng's memory structure sandwiched the memristive material between the perpendicular lines of a crossbar at the astronomical density of 100,000 gigabits-per-square-centimeter with 1 billion gigabits-per-second bandwidth.

The biggest challenge of the design was to overcome the mismatch between the fine-grain dimension of the crossbar-based devices and the interface pins of the chip, which Cheng overcame with novel 3-D vias that were tilted with respect to the interface pins.

If Successful, 3D Hybrids Can Achieve…..
• Unprecedented memory density
– Footprint of a nano‐device is 4F nano 2/K, for K vertically integrated crossbar layers
– Potentially up to 10^14 (100 trillion) bits on a single 1‐cm2 chip
• Enormous memory bandwidth
– Potentially up to 10^18 (1 quintillion or 1 million trillion) bits/second/cm2
• At manageable power dissipation
• With abundant redundancy for yield/reliability

Three competing semiconductors at the 8 nanometer node

EETimes - The possible pathways down to the 8-nanometer semiconductor fabrication node were detailed last week at the IEEE International Symposium on Physical Design (ISPD).

The conference program and links to slides are here

The pathway is fraught with engineering peril as three competing technologies tool up for mass production capabilities. However, keynote speaker Burn Lin, a TSMC distinguished Fellow, claimed that one of three alternatives was sure to surmount the downward scaling hurdles to 8-nm design rules.

The three alternative pathways were
1) 193-nanometer immersion lithography supplemented with multi-patterning
2) extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography
3) e-beam lithography.

Immersion is closest to realization, according to Lin, but only if it can surmount spiraling cost barriers. EUV at the 13.5-nanometer wavelength has already been demonstrated capable of sub-20-nanometer design rules, but needs better focusing mechanisms and higher output light sources to overcome reflectivity of optics as low as 65 percent. E-beam is known to be able to achieve the 8-nanometer node today, but is a last-resort technology due to its slow speed and low throughput.

Mapper Lithography (Delft, the Netherlands) uses more than 10 thousand beamlets operating simultaneously as it aims for migration down to the 8-nanometer node. Source: Mapper Lithography

New ultra-small laser opens up a world of possibilities

University of Sydney - Computing and medicine are among the many fields which could be revolutionised by a new form of ultra-small laser. It is the first laser to be mode-locked making it highly precise, ultra-fast and ultra-small. It will have applications in computing, measuring and diagnosing diseases, and processing materials - all areas where lasers are already used. It will also open up entirely new areas such as precision optical clocks for applications in metrology, ultra-high speed telecommunications, microchip-computing and many other areas."

"It's the first time we've been able to use a micro-cavity resonator to lock the modes of a laser, which is how ultra-short pulsed lasers are created. Lasers that have their modes locked generate the shortest optical pulses of light," explained Dr Moss.

Making lasers that can pulse at very high and flexible repetition rates - much higher than those achieved with electronics - is a field that has been pursued by scientists around the world. Different research groups have proposed a variety of solutions to creating these lasers, but this is the first success.

"Our new laser achieves extremely stable operation at unprecedentedly high repetition rates of 200 Gigahertz, while maintaining very narrow line widths, which leads to an extremely high quality pulsed emission," said Dr Moss.

Nature Communications - Demonstration of a stable ultrafast laser based on a nonlinear microcavity

Ultrashort pulsed lasers, operating through the phenomenon of mode-locking, have had a significant role in many facets of our society for 50 years, for example, in the way we exchange information, measure and diagnose diseases, process materials, and in many other applications. Recently, high-quality resonators have been exploited to demonstrate optical combs. The ability to phase-lock their modes would allow mode-locked lasers to benefit from their high optical spectral quality, helping to realize novel sources such as precision optical clocks for applications in metrology, telecommunication, microchip-computing, and many other areas. Here we demonstrate the first mode-locked laser based on a microcavity resonator. It operates via a new mode-locking method, which we term filter-driven four-wave mixing, and is based on a CMOS-compatible high quality factor microring resonator. It achieves stable self-starting oscillation with negligible amplitude noise at ultrahigh repetition rates, and spectral linewidths well below 130 kHz.

Filter-driven four-wave mixing design. (a) Schematic of the central component—a monolithically integrated 4-port high-Q (Q=1.2 million) microring resonator (fibre pigtails not shown) (b) High repetition rate laser based on filter-driven FWM: the microring resonator

Your Brain--It's Organized Like a Woven Cloth in Uniform Grids and Not Spaghetti

NSF - It was previously thought the inside of the brain resembled the assembly of a bowl of spaghetti noodles. Researchers and scientists, funded by the National Science Foundation, have now discovered that a more uniformed grid-like pattern makes up the connections of the brain. Knowledge gained from the study helped shape design specifications for the most powerful brain scanner of its kind, which was installed at MGH's Martinos Center last fall. The new Connectom diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner can visualize the networks of crisscrossing fibers – by which different parts of the brain communicate with each other – in 10-fold higher detail than conventional scanners, said Wedeen.

They are optimizing MRI technology to more accurately to image the pathways. In diffusion imaging, the scanner detects movement of water inside the fibers to reveal their locations. A high resolution technique called diffusion spectrum imaging (DSI) makes it possible to see the different orientations of multiple fibers that cross at a single location – the key to seeing the grid structure.

The technology used in the current study was able to see only about 25 percent of the grid structure in human brain. It was only apparent in large central circuitry, not in outlying areas where the folding obscures it. But lessons learned were incorporated into the design of the newly installed Connectom scanner, which can see 75 percent of it

Van Wedeen and team discovered that the pathways in the top of the brain are all organized like woven sheets with the fibers running in two directions in the sheets and in a third direction perpendicular to the sheets. These sheets all stack together so that the entire connectivity of the brain follows three precisely defined directions.

The directions of the pathways of the brain were previously difficult to determine because in embryological life the pathways run in simple directions but become very bent and folded as the brain matures into an adult and more information and skills are learned. The surface of the adult brain appears more folded and the three directions become increasingly curved and thus difficult to view definitively.

Path neighborhood in rat left ventricular myocardium (stereo pair), comprised circumferential fibers

Science - The Geometric Structure of the Brain Fiber Pathways

The structure of the brain as a product of morphogenesis is difficult to reconcile with the observed complexity of cerebral connectivity. We therefore analyzed relationships of adjacency and crossing between cerebral fiber pathways in four nonhuman primate species and in humans by using diffusion magnetic resonance imaging. The cerebral fiber pathways formed a rectilinear three-dimensional grid continuous with the three principal axes of development. Cortico-cortical pathways formed parallel sheets of interwoven paths in the longitudinal and medio-lateral axes, in which major pathways were local condensations. Cross-species homology was strong and showed emergence of complex gyral connectivity by continuous elaboration of this grid structure. This architecture naturally supports functional spatio-temporal coherence, developmental path-finding, and incremental rewiring with correlated adaptation of structure and function in cerebral plasticity and evolution.

Sapphire Energy is Confident about scaling up Algae Fuel to $85 per barrel by 2018

This week, algae-biofuel startup Sapphire Energy announced it has received $144 million in new funding, which brings its total to over $300 million. Sapphire Energy aims to have a product that's competitive with oil priced at $85 per barrel, and it expects to meet this goal once it reaches full-scale production in about six years. Sapphire hopes to lower the cost of producing algae fuels by changing every part of the production process. That includes increasing the quality and the amount of oil produced, reducing the cost of building ponds, and developing low-cost ways to harvest the oil.

The company, which is less than five years old, has been moving quickly to build a 300-acre algae farm as a large-scale demonstration of its process for making algae oils. The U.S. government has supplied over $100 million of the investments, including a $50 million Recovery Act grant designed in part to spur job creation.

The new funding will allow Sapphire to finish building its algae farm, near the small town of Columbus, New Mexico, just north of the U.S.–Mexico border. A 100-acre segment of the farm has already been finished, and when the whole project is complete, by 2014, Sapphire will have the capacity to produce about 1.5 million gallons of algae crude oil, which can be shipped to refineries to make chemicals and fuels such as diesel and gasoline.

Last year, a pair of studies from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, concluded that algae-based diesel made by scaling up existing algae technologies would cost several times as much as conventional diesel. According to one of the studies, it would cost about $9.84 per gallon to make algae diesel, as opposed to $2.60 per gallon for petro-diesel, at January 2011 costs. Other studies have estimated even higher costs.

April 05, 2012

Programmable Assembly With Universally Foldable Strings (Moteins)

Programmable Assembly With Universally Foldable Strings (Moteins). 12 pages, 2011. Understanding how linear strings fold into 2-D and 3-D shapes has been a long sought goal in many fields of both academia and industry. This paper presents a technique to design self-assembling and self-reconfigurable systems that are composed of strings of very simple robotic modules. We show that physical strings that are composed of a small set of discrete polygonal or polyhedral modules can be used to programmatically generate any continuous area or volumetric shape. These modules can have one or two degrees of freedom (DOFs) and simple actuators with only two or three states.We describe a subdivision algorithm to produce universal polygonal and polyhedral string folding schemas, and we prove the existence of a continuous motion to reach any such folding. This technique is validated with dynamics simulations as well as experiments with chains of modules that pack on a regular cubic lattice. We call robotic programmable universally foldable strings “moteins” as motorized proteins.

We see three main topics for future work with this type of folding string: initial selection of a space-filling curve from the space of curves that are possible for a given shape, further work on motion planning, and applications.

(a) Spanning tree is shown with red lines that connect the nodes (red dots) at the center of each “pixel.” (b) Subdivision of each pixel into four “subpixels,” each group of which forms a Hamiltonian path, and any assembly of which contains a Hamiltonian path (the yellow tile shows the construction by the addition of new tiles). (c) Six possible “pixel” configurations and their “subpixels” demonstrating edge connectivity. (d) Eight cubic voxels, arranged in constructive lattice, each comprised of eight cubic subvoxels with Hamiltonian loops of connectivity shown in green and blue. (e) Constructive connection between two paths to make a circuit that includes all subvoxels of the original two. (f) Fully face connected voxel, connected to all six adjacent voxels, enabling a connected path to all surrounding voxels from any given voxel.

Chinese discretionary spending will nearly triple by 2020 to $4.4 trillion

McKinsey has an analysis of the Chinese consumer in 2020

Many of the changes taking place in China are common features of rapid industrialization: rising incomes, urban living, better education, postponed life stages, and greater mobility. Japan saw similar changes in the 1950s and 1960s, as did South Korea and Taiwan in the 1980s.

But some unique factors are also at work, such as the government’s one-child policy and the marked economic imbalances among regions. Our analysis reveals important insights into the likely demographic and socio-demographic profiles of Chinese consumers at the end of this decade.

Changes in economic profiles have been and will continue to be the most important trend shaping the consumer landscape. The Chinese are certainly getting richer fast: the per-household disposable income of urban consumers will double between 2010 and 2020, from about $4,000 to about $8,000. That will be close to South Korea’s current standard of living but still a long way from its level in some developed countries, such as the United States (about $35,000) and Japan (about $26,000).

Our consumption model suggests that in 2010, average household spending for value, mainstream, and affluent consumers was about $2,000, $4,000, and $12,000, respectively. These figures will jump to $3,000, $6,000, and $21,000, respectively, by 2020. So although all consumers will increase their spending, the gaps between different income groups will widen significantly. Stark disparities in standards of living are emerging in China.

Annual volume growth rates of more than 20 percent are foreseeable for luxury SUV cars, compared with around 10 percent for basic family models. China had already become a leading luxury market by 2010 and could overtake Japan to become the biggest such market by 2015.

Research undertaken by McKinsey suggests that, barring major world economic shocks, China’s GDP will indeed continue to grow, at an annual rate of some 7.9 percent over the next ten years compared with 2.8 percent in the United States and 1.7 percent in Germany. The difference henceforth is that consumption, rather than investment, will be the driving force. It will account for 43 percent of total GDP growth by 2020, compared with a forecast contribution from investment of 38 percent.

The 44 page report

Medicine and Longevity High Impact Technologies

Technologies that I expect to see having a lot of progress in the 2012-2016 timeframe should see each of the technologies enabling more improvement in the other technologies in the 2014-2019 timeframes. The exact timeframes would depend upon how fast leaders in one technological area are able to incorporate advances from other areas.

The whole list of 2012-2016 Technologies

1. Energy Revolution - Mass produced fission, fusion, and maybe cold fusion
2. Memristors and other significant computing and electronic improvements.
3. Robotics
4. Urbanization Broad Group skyscrapers, Tata flat packed buildings
5. Space
6. Supersmartphones, exoskeletons and wearable systems
7. Hyperbroadband
8. Energy Efficiency - superconductors, thermoelectrics, improved grid
9. Additive manufacturing
10. Not so mundane - neuromorphic chips, quantum computers, photonics
11. Automated transportation (leading to robotic cars and planes)
12. Supermaterials
13. Improve medicine and public health
14. Synthetic biology and recombineering
15. Sensors everywhere
16. Education transformed and accelerated innovation

Previously I had mentioned the following expected improvements in medicine and public health.

Cookers and heaters for the developing world that do not have indoor air pollution can save about 1.6 million lives per year and reduce the warming effect of black carbon (soot).

Clean water and sanitation can save millions of lives.

Universal vaccination can save millions.

Combined about 37 million of the 55 million deaths are premature and can be avoided/deferred.

There is advancement on tissue engineering, stem cells and regeneration.

There is advancement against the major diseases and towards longevity.

Advancements against poverty and the rise of the global middle class are huge trends that will enable much of the medical and public health progress.

New DARPA Grand Challenge to make humanoid robots

Hizook - The new DARPA Grand Challenge is for a humanoid robot (with a bias toward bipedal designs) that can be used in rough terrain and for industrial disasters. The robot will be required to maneuver into and drive an open-frame vehicle (eg. tractor), proceed to a building and dismount, ingress through a locked door using a key, traverse a 100 meter rubble-strewn hallway, climb a ladder, locate a leaking pipe and seal it by closing off a nearby valve, and then replace a faulty pump to resume normal operations -- all semi-autonomously with just "supervisory tele-operation."

Wired - This is the third grand challenge that Darpa’s launched in recent years.

In 2004, the agency’s first $1 million Grand Challenge asked researchers to develop autonomous vehicles capable of traversing circuitous off-road mountain routes; no vehicle made it further than eight miles. A year later, with the prize money upped to $2 million, five different robo-cars completed the 132-mile course, with an SUV built by Stanford scientists taking the top prize. In 2007, Darpa’s next challenge doled out $2 million to a collaborative entry from Carnegie Mellon and Tartan Racing, when their autonomous car managed not only drive itself, but obey traffic signs and avoid other driving ‘bots.

With such successes, it’s no wonder that Darpa’s now opted to turn its attention to humanoid robots.

Printable Robots

IEEE Spectrum - MIT has been given a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the project aims to reinvent how robots are designed and produced by developing technology to allow an average person to create programmable robots in a matter of hours.

The MIT project is An Expedition in Computing for Compiling Printable Programmable Machines

An insect-like robot designed and printed using new fabrication techniques developed by MIT researchers. Photo: Jason Dorfman, CSAIL/MIT

This project envisions a future desktop technology that prints actual programmable hybrid electro-mechanical devices from simple descriptions on-demand, anywhere, and with performance one would expect from a team of professional engineers, using advanced materials. The project aims to transform manufacturing as dramatically as the personal computer democratized information technology and transformed how we communicate.

The technical approach builds on analogies with compiler technology and its support algorithmic theories. Experienced engineers may know from experience what is constructible but their experience must be expressed in a language that blends the continuous with the discrete, the cyber with the physics of materials processing. The project addresses broad classes of constructible cyber-physical systems: (1) the development of tools for functional specification and automated co-design of the mechanical, electrical, computing, and software aspects of the device; (2) the design of planning and control algorithms for the assembly of the device and for delivering the desired function of behavior, and tools for the analysis of these algorithms that take into account all the necessary resources, including actuators, sensors, and data streams from the world; (3) the methodology to generate device-specific and task-specific programming environments that provide safeguards for programs written by non-expert users to enable them to operate the machines safely; and (4) the development of novel approaches to the automated production of new devices which may be based on the synthesis of programmable materials with customizable electrical or mechanical properties. This research is highly multidisciplinary, primarily leveraging the disciplines of computer science, electrical and mechanical engineering, materials, and manufacturing science.

Recent work with pop-up MEMS will help with the effort to make printable robots

Green homes use 80 per cent less energy in Australia

Good design, solar hot water and energy efficient appliances in houses can reduce energy consumption by 50-80 per cent compared to the average Queensland household.

"Good architecture is essential, but green houses are also dependent on good urban planning," she said.

"Housing estates need to be carved up to accommodate environmentally friendly architecture, allowing for as many north facing blocks as possible.

"Also, it is important that the house doesn't take up the whole of the block. Keeping the house to 50 per cent or less of the block size allows for breezes, shady trees and gardens that help to keep the house cool in summer."

Ms Miller followed a number of Ecovillage families over three years through the process of design, construction and occupation. The houses had monitoring equipment installed to track the use of lighting, power, solar energy, hot water, rainwater and recycled water.

Innovating against Poverty and prototypes for $300 houses

The $300 house workshop at Dartmouth brought together students, designers, planners, engineers, health care providers, business thinkers, and members of two communities in Haiti to develop design prototypes that will provide low-cost housing for those currently served by conventional housing programs. The plan is for work on the prototypes to continue beyond the workshop and eventually develop into pilot projects in Haiti.

The design of the $300 house won’t prove a magic bullet in and of itself, Kim said. The key is in how the innovation can be delivered to ensure the best outcomes for the poor. Eradication of a disease that affected 50 million people each year in the 1950s came about not only because of the development of the smallpox vaccine, but because of enormously successful management of an eradication program that focused on targeted vaccinations of those most likely to have come in contact with the disease, he added.

Prefab home with Ikea decor

Ikea has partnered with Oregon architectural firm Ideabox to launch a line of prefabricated homes. Dubbed “aktiv,” the one-bedroom home will be decked out entirely in hip Ikea decor. Expected to sell at $86,500

Ideabox has worked with Portland branch of Ikea

This is not a flat packed house, like what India's Tata is developing for $720 for a 215 square foot house

Mice representing 1000 gene strains will speed gene to disease matching from 15 years to 2 years

With a 95 percent genomic similarity to humans, mice have long been used to learn about the genetic causes of human disease. Genetic mapping, is a long and difficult road, made more challenging by the 5% difference between the humans and lab mice.

A new mice population will offer 1,000 genetic strains within a fixed genotype — the composite of the entire genetic makeup of an organism. This is a marked improvement on the previously existing 450 genetic strains of lab mice with varying genotypes, making Prof. Iraqi’s new strain ideal for genetic mapping. And with these mice, researchers will be able to identify a gene associated with a particular disease within two to three years instead of the 10 to 15 years it takes now, says Prof. Iraqi.

Prof. Iraqi has already used the new mouse population to identify a group of genes that are crucial to susceptibility to infection when exposed to Aspergillus fumigatus, a soil fungus that causes respiratory infections in humans. Getting to this point took only a year — compared to the 15 years it might have taken using standard lab mice

MIT Developing MEMS fabrication methods with costs that match the smaller size of MEMS markets

MEMS (microelectromechanical devices) have wrought revolutions in several industries: Arrays of micromirrors, for instance, enabled digital film projectors, and accelerometers like those in Microsoft’s Wii controller have changed gaming. But commercially successful MEMS represent a tiny sampling of the prototypes developed in academic and industry labs — from supersensitive biological sensors to films that can turn any surface into a loudspeaker to devices that harvest energy from motion.

The problem is that most current MEMS are built using the same techniques used to produce computer chips, and those techniques are expensive.

MEMS fabrication needs to have capital cost that is well-matched to the size of the MEMS markets.

New MEMS fab approaches

* ink-jet printing technology to deposit metallic nanoparticles on some type of substrate
* stamping patterns into plastics

Henry Smith is developing a maskless MEMS fab method. Masks themselves are one of the major expenses in chip manufacturing; Smith’s technique does away with them. Instead, it produces patterns using an array of 1,000 tiny lenses. A wafer of material moves back and forth beneath the lenses, and the light passing through them turns on and off. Where photolithography can, at best, transfer a pattern to a rectangle that’s 20 millimeters by 30 millimeters, Smith’s technique can impart a single pattern to the entire surface of a six-inch wafer.

LumArray is commercializing a maskless lithography system

Schematic depiction of zone-plate-array lithography (ZPAL), invented at MIT and being commercialized by LumArray, Inc. A CW laser source illuminates a spatial-light modulator (Silicon Light Machines) containing 1000 pixels. Each pixel controls the level of light to one zone plate of the array, adjusting the intensity from zero to the maximum in a quasi-continuous manner, enabling grey-tone control of linewidth. By moving the stage under computer control, patterns of arbitrary geometry can be written in a dot-matrix fashion

Economist Looks at the Rise of China's Military

Economist - China is rapidly modernising its armed forces is not in doubt, though there is disagreement about what the true spending figure is. China’s defence budget has almost certainly experienced double digit growth for two decades. According to SIPRI, a research institute, annual defence spending rose from over $30 billion in 2000 to almost $120 billion in 2010. SIPRI usually adds about 50% to the official figure that China gives for its defence spending, because even basic military items such as research and development are kept off budget. Including those items would imply total military spending in 2012, based on the latest announcement from Beijing, will be around $160 billion. America still spends four-and-a-half times as much on defence, but on present trends China’s defence spending could overtake America’s after 2035.

In 2010, Nextbigfuture had a similar projection of China's future defense spending

Estimate of Defense Budgets for China and the USA in Billions

Nextbigfuture has also looked closely at China's procurement plans for major military systems

April 04, 2012

Quantum computer built inside a diamond

Eurekalert - A team that includes scientists from USC has built a quantum computer in a diamond, the first of its kind to include protection against "decoherence" – noise that prevents the computer from functioning properly.

The demonstration shows the viability of solid-state quantum computers, which – unlike earlier gas- and liquid-state systems – may represent the future of quantum computing because they can be easily scaled up in size. Current quantum computers are typically very small and – though impressive – cannot yet compete with the speed of larger, traditional computers.

Nature - Decoherence-protected quantum gates for a hybrid solid-state spin register

Quantum gate operation in the presence of decoherence.

The protocol for controlling quantum information pioneered by researchers at UC Santa Barbara, the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience in Delft, the Netherlands, and the Ames Laboratory at Iowa State University could open the door to larger-scale, more accurate quantum computations.

The researchers demonstrated the high-fidelity execution of a quantum search algorithm using this two-qubit system. Quantum search algorithms, if executed on a larger number of qubits, could provide search results of certain databases considerably faster than search algorithms performed on a classical computer.

The results of this study point to greater possibilities for quantum computers that overcome, according to Awschalom, the perception that spin qubits in semiconductors, such as those used in this work, suffer from too strong of environmental interactions to be useful qubits. These solid state spin systems also offer the added benefit of operating at room temperature, in contrast to other candidate qubit systems which operate at only at a fraction of a degree above absolute zero.

The quantum circuit used in the demonstration is a 3mm x 3mm chip with a 1mm x 1mm diamond in the middle. Credit: Delft University of Technology/UC Santa Barbara.

A 'Superradiant' Laser demonstrated that could be up to 1000 times more stable than conventional lasers

NIST - Physicists at JILA have demonstrated a novel “superradiant” laser design, which has the potential to be 100 to 1,000 times more stable than the best conventional visible lasers. The spectral purity of an oscillator is central to many applications, such as detecting gravity waves, defining the second ground-state cooling and quantum manipulation of nanomechanical objects, and quantum computation.

This type of laser could boost the performance of the most advanced atomic clocks and related technologies, such as communications and navigation systems as well as space-based astronomical instruments.

Described in the April 5, 2012, issue of Nature,* the JILA laser prototype relies on a million rubidium atoms doing a sort of synchronized line dance to produce a dim beam of deep red laser light.

JILA's superradiant laser traps 1 million rubidium atoms in a space of about 2 centimeters between two mirrors. The atoms synchronize their internal oscillations to emit laser light.

A steady-state superradiant laser.

Nature - A steady state superradiant laser with fewer than one intracavity photon

3D printing method for polymer features at a resolution of just 10 nanometers and many metamaterial applications

Engineer UK - A novel 3D printing method could allow the creation of polymer features at a resolution of just 10nm, opening up the path to a raft of new metamaterials.
‘Currently, there is no real three-dimensional fabrication method on the nanoscale,’ said lead investigator Joachim Fischer of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). ‘The only thing you can do is you can stack two-dimensional stuff on top of each other, which is very time consuming and error prone.’

The team’s method is a variation of the relatively new 3D additive manufacturing technique of two-photon polymerisation (2PP).

The team has now achieved a spatial resolution of 65nm and is hoping to get down to 30–40nm soon, with an ultimate goal of 10nm. This threshold could exploit a whole range of phenomenon, such as the cloaking principles of metamaterials, all within reach through relatively simple fabrication rather than using exotic crystal.

Laser & Photonics Reviews - Three-dimensional optical laser lithography beyond the diffraction limit

Society needs to dream big again

Popular Mechanics - Science Fiction used to be about bold engineering, and so was America. PM Resident Contrarian Glenn Harlan Reynolds says that's the spirit we need to recapture.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is the author of Instapundit

In the 1950s and 1960s, scientists could cite antibiotics, nuclear energy, and moon flights as evidence that science just plain worked. This gave them credibility on a range of issues.

Neal Stephenson - "There was some moment in the late '60s and '70s when people thought we had enough tech," he says. "Technology was too dangerous, and people became reflexively skeptical of new ideas. If you stay that way for a couple of decades, it can come back to bite you. There's also a less obvious danger, which is that if science and technology stop wowing us, people start to develop skepticism about the scientific method."

Here is a list of 12 bold optimistic science fiction books

Matter-Antimatter GeV Gamma Ray Laser Rocket Propulsion and a super material with 100 thousand tesla field from Friedwardt Winterberg

Centauri Dreams - Adam Crowl explain the latest thinking about a classic concept for antimatter rockets that Friedwardt Winterberg would like to take to the next level.

In 1954, Winterberg made the first proposal to test general relativity with atomic clocks in earth satellites and his thermonuclear microexplosion ignition concept was adopted by the British Interplanetary Society for their Project Daedalus Starship Study.
Edward Teller has been quoted as saying Winterberg has perhaps not received the attention he deserves on his work in nuclear fusion.

The first rocket scientist to propose an engineering solution to how light might be directly harnessed to rocket propulsion, rather than just pushing solar-sails, was Eugen Sänger. Sänger’s discussion of photon rockets showed clearly how difficult it would be – every newton of thrust would require 300 megawatts of photon energy released. Any vehicle generating photons by conventional means would be confined to painfully low accelerations, thus Sänger proposed using matter-antimatter reactions, specifically the mutual annihilation of electrons and positrons, with the resulting gamma-rays (each 0.511 MeV) being reflected by an electron-gas. Unfortunately the electron-gas mirror would need a ridiculously high density, seen only in white-dwarf stars.

The next stage for the matter-antimatter photon rocket saw the work of Robert Forward and more recently Robert Frisbee, who applied more modern knowledge of particle physics to the task. Instead of instant and total annihilation of proton-antiproton mixtures, resulting in an explosion of pure high-energy gamma-rays in all directions, the reactions instead produce for a brief time charged fragments of protons, dubbed pions, which can be directed via a magnetic field. Simulations by John Callas at JPL, in the late 1980s suggested an effective exhaust velocity of about one third the speed of light could be achieved.

Friedwardt Winterberg’s recent preprint suggests a different concept, with the promise of near total annihilation and near perfect collimation of a pure gamma-ray exhaust.

Winterberg describes generating a very high electron-positron current in the ambiplasma, while leaving the protons-antiprotons with a low energy. This high current generates a magnetic field that constricts rapidly, a so-called pinch discharge, but because it is a matter-antimatter mix it can collapse to a much denser state. Near nuclear densities can be achieved, assuming near-term technical advancements to currents of 170 kA and electron-positron energies of 1 GeV. This causes intensely rapid annihilation that crowds the annihilating particles into one particular reaction pathway, directly into gamma-rays, pushing them to form a gamma-ray laser. By constricting the annihilating particles into this state a very coherent and directional beam of gamma-rays is produced, the back-reaction of which pushes against the annihilation chamber’s magnetic fields, providing thrust.

Vixra - Matter-Antimatter GeV Gamma Ray Laser Rocket Propulsion (17 pages)

* the proposed solution would not only enable an efficient antimatter rocket propulsion but also a high powered gamma ray laser

* The proposal is also to create an ultra dense deuterium state (deuteron quantum liquid) using nuclear microexplosions to create a material with a 100,000 tesla field and normal temperature superconductors with a critical field of 10^9 Gauss, ideally suited for the storage of antihydrogen

* Winterberg is working with the Bae Institute on Metastable innershell molecular state (MIMS). MIMS exists in matters compressed “suddenly” at pressures in excess of one hundred million atmospheres. This work continues to be funded and there is experimental evidence to support Winterbergs theories.

Switchblade flying motorcycle now targeting first quarter of 2013

Samson Motorworks is still developing the Switchblade three wheeled flying motorcycle

* The current schedule, kit deliveries should begin first quarter 2013.

* Target price of the kit is $60k without engine or avionics, resulting in an overall targeted price of approximately $85k. Much of this will be determined by the actual price of the kit, and the engine choice that the builders make

* you must have a Private Pilot Certificate to fly it.

* You can drive the Switchblade to any public airport to take off, and may land at the same, or any other, public airport. You can also take off and land from any private airport where you have privileges

* The Switchblade is a three-wheeled, fully enclosed vehicle that you drive from your garage to a local airport. Once there, you swing the wings out and fly directly to your destination at up to 200 mph, at altitudes to 10,000 feet. You simply land and swing the wings closed, continuing on wherever you want to go.

* It has side-by-side seating, room for 50 pounds of luggage (golf clubs, etc.), and a wide cabin

* Experimental/homebuilt class, requires the owner to build 51% of the vehicle. The kit is delivered to you majorly assembled. Should you desire professional assistance, one of our Builder Assist Centers will be able to help you complete the vehicle in as little as three weeks. Other options are possible, please call for information.

They are at the final stages of building the quarter-scale flying prototype. The propeller spinner is yet to come, as is a final coat of primer plus a little fillet work at the wing-to-body intersection. We are very happy with the quality of work being done, and of course are looking closely now at our initial flight testing of the model. One thing spotted is an interference with the ailerons and the upper wing surface that needed to be cut back. One of the benefits of doing a 1/4 scale prototype is we get to find the little quirks that could have been a costly mistake in full scale, and the flying qualities will also be fleshed out as this scale of prototype should be very close to the flight characteristics of the full-size vehicl

Parajet Skycar targets Late 2012 Deliveries

In 2009, Nextbigfuture covered the Parajet Skycar. At the time they were projecting deliveries for late 2010.

Parajet Automotive is now projecting late 2012 for deliveries of the roughly $80,000 fabric wing flying car

In flight mode the Skycar is suspended by the latest ram-air wing and capable of take-off from a field or airstrip in less than 200 metres. It will be easier and safer to fly than any other aircraft, as it has no pitch control and therefore impossible to stall or dive. Should the engine fail, the pilot would simply glide down into the nearest field or strip of sandy desert.

Future Titanium Navy

An Office of Naval Research (ONR)-funded project will produce a full-size ship hull section made entirely with marine grade titanium using a welding innovation that could help bring titanium into future Navy ship construction, officials announced April 3.

The contractor team building this section recently completed the industry’s longest friction-stir titanium alloy welds and aims to complete the ship hull section this summer. Friction stir welds more than 17 feet long joined the titanium alloy plates for the section’s deck.

“This fast, effective friction stir weld technique is now an affordable manufacturing process that takes advantage of titanium’s properties,” said Kelly Cooper, the program officer managing the project for ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department.

What it means for the Navy

Titanium metal and its alloys are desirable materials for ship hulls and other structures because of their high strength, light weight and corrosion-resistance. If constructed in titanium, Navy ships would have lighter weight for the same size—allowing for a bigger payload—and virtually no corrosion. But because titanium costs up to nine times more than steel and is technically difficult and expensive to manufacture into marine vessel hulls, it has been avoided by the shipbuilding industry. But perhaps not for much longer.

Gene therapy: Reversing bone loss in mice

Nature China - Lingqiang Zhang at the Beijing Institute of Radiation Medicine, Ge Zhang and Ling Qin at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and co-workers have now developed a gene therapy for osteoporosis. The treatment uses small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) that are designed to target the gene Plekho1 in bone-forming cells.

In China, osteoporosis is a disease that has reached epidemic proportions. Treatment using bone-growth stimulating hormones is limited to a two-year period because longer usage may lead to increased bone resorption. This prevalence places a dire need for more effective treatment.

Previous studies have shown that Plekho1 inhibits bone formation, so knocking down Plekho1 should increase bone formation. The RNA is delivered only to bone-forming cells through a specific amino acid sequence embedded in the delivery system.

The unique delivery system successfully inhibited Plekho1 in bone-forming cells for both normal mice and mice suffering from osteoporosis. Within nine weeks, the treatment helped build bone mass and increase bone density, thus effectively reversing osteoporosis.

Nature Medicine - A delivery system targeting bone formation surfaces to facilitate RNAi-based anabolic therapy

GE Continues pushing Prism reactor and China makes new CAP1400 facility

1. World Nuclear News - GE-Hitachi has continued to promote the idea of using a Prism reactor to dispose of the UK's plutonium stocks with another suppliers' day and an agreement with the National Nuclear Laboratory for expert input.

The UK has about 87 tonnes of plutonium extracted from nuclear fuel used in reactors that were built as part of a national program that ran from the 1950s to the 1990s. The fuel continues to build up and stocks will hit 140 tonnes by 2018.

GE-Hitachi say the option of using two Prism reactors is attractive because they would generate 600 MWe of electricity while conditioning and disposing of the stocks.

The PRISM (Power Reactor Innovative Small Modular) is GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's next generation sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor.

Today's PRISM is a GE-Hitachi design for compact modular pool-type reactors with passive cooling for decay heat removal. After 30 years of development it represents GEH's Generation IV solution to closing the fuel cycle in the USA. Each PRISM Power Block consists of two modules of 311 MWe each, operating at high temperature - over 500°C. The pool-type modules below ground level contain the complete primary system with sodium coolant. The Pu & DU fuel is metal, and obtained from used light water reactor fuel. However, all transuranic elements are removed together in the electrometallurgical reprocessing so that fresh fuel has minor actinides with the plutonium. Fuel stays in the reactor about six years, with one third removed every two years. Used PRISM fuel is recycled after removal of fission products. The commercial-scale plant concept, part of a Advanced Recycling Centre, uses three power blocks (six reactor modules) to provide 1866 MWe.

Prism would be part of a complete fuel reprocessing system The (Advanced Recycling Cneter) ARC would cut radioactive waste. It could extract/burn by up to 90 percent of the energy in uranium, instead of the 2-3 percent that widely-used light water reactors do.

Usain Bolt could improve his 100 meter sprint time to 9.45 with an optimal start and better wind conditions

Significance journal - How Usain Bolt can run faster – effortlessly Usain Bolt holds the current 100m world record, at 9.58s, and has been described as the best sprinter there has ever been, dramatically reducing his running times since he first won the world record in 2008. Bolt ran 9.58 seconds for the 100 meters at the 2009 Berlin World Championships.

The mens 100 meter final for the 2012 London Olympics is scheduled for August 5, 2012.

Significance study highlights the three key factors instrumental in improving Bolt's performance, which combined produce an improvement of 0.13 seconds.

1) Bolt's reaction time is surprisingly poor, in fact one of the longest of leading sprinters. By responding to the gun as quickly as possible without triggering a false start, with 0.10s, he would shave 0.05 seconds off his world record to 9.53 seconds.

2) advantageous wind conditions can help athletes improve their times, although this is supposedly taken into account. Bolt's Berlin record of 9.58 seconds benefited from a modest 0.9 meter per second tailwind. If he were to benefit from a maximum permissible tailwind of 2 meter per second, he would expend less effort on beating wind drag and reduce this record further by 0.05 second to 9.48 seconds.

3) Running at altitude reduces the air density in the wind drag calculation, as was witnessed at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City (2240m above sea level), where significant improvements over short distances were displayed (although for longer distances the altitude makes running more difficult). As a result, athletics world records are only permitted at altitudes of up to 1000 meters, but this still allows Bolt to reduce his time by a further 0.03 seconds to 9.45 seconds if he runs at this altitude.

NASA radiation shielding project videos

Nextbigfuture recently covered three NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts projects that are targeting lighter and improved radiation shielding.

Here is a video on Electrostatic Active Radiation Shielding for Deep Space Missions.

There is also a video on Radiation Shielding Materials Containing Hydrogen, Boron, and Nitrogen.

Transformer Robot Theme Park in China

China Daily - Mr. Iron Robot Theme Park is set up in a deserted factory, featuring some 600 robot-shaped sculptures assembled by parts salvaged from old vehicles and machine tools.

Carbuzz - China has a robot theme park with 600 Transformers and robot models made out of used car parts.

"Mr. Iron Robot Theme Park" in China is playing host some 600 (600!) Transformers and other miscellaneous robots and carton figure sculptures all built out of recycled car parts. Built by Zhu Kefeng and his league of extraordinary builders, the huge Transformers statues appear like the real things and are menacing pieces of art.

The project began in 2010 and features several 10-foot tall statues and more, though Mr. Kefeng says he had plans to build his incredible collection decades ago.

The 225-hectare park was once an abandoned factory. All the artworks in the park were made of wasted materials from used cars, gears and old machines.The Mr. Iron Robot Theme Park is located in Jiaxing City in east China's Zhejiang Province.

April 03, 2012

Metformin Protects against Liver, Oral, Prostate and Pancreatic Cancers

Previously, we had covered Metformin as one of five recommendations for longevity by Dr. Terry Grossman.

Generic metformin costs about 14 cents per 500mg pill.
It has potential side effects of diarrhea and stomach upset.
Need ease onto it. One quarter dose, then half dose then full dose of 2 pills 250-500mg per day.
Need a doctors prescription. If you FBS (fasting blood sugar) 86 or more then consider it and definitely with FBS 100 or more

The recommendations were

Carb Concentration diet (only carbs at one meal per day) - Free
Metformin 14 cents per day
Exercise - Free
Baby aspirin cents per day
Donate blood (to lower iron in the blood) - Free

Other presenters at the personal life extension conference mentioned metformin

Metformin has some MTOR activation (same pathway as Rapamycin)
It extends maximum lifespan of mice by 10%
Useful in humans (seems to be yes).

1. WebMD - The diabetes drug metformin -- commonly a first choice for controlling blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes -- is sparking new interest as a cancer fighter.

A new study presented here at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting shows that metformin (Fortamet, Glucophage, Glumetza, Riomet) may put the brakes on the growth of tumor cells in men with prostate cancer. Another study released in one of the association's journals suggests that it may extend the lives of people with pancreatic cancer.

But experts caution that the work is still preliminary and more study is needed before metformin can be recommended as a cancer treatment.

One new study involved 22 men with prostate cancer. They took metformin pills three times a day from the time they got their diagnosis to when they had their prostates removed, an average period of 41 days.

Researchers compared tissue from biopsies taken at diagnosis to tissue removed at the time of surgery and found that metformin slowed the growth of tumor cells by 32%.

Levels of insulin-like proteins in the blood also dropped.

A growing body of evidence -- from lab, animal, and human studies -- suggests metformin mounts a multi-pronged attack against cancer, he tells WebMD. It lowers levels of insulin in the blood, and insulin contributes to the growth of cancer cells

2. Patients with diabetes and pancreatic cancer who are prescribed metformin may have improved survival compared with those not prescribed the commonly used diabetic agent, according to a study published in Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Superlens Lithography achieves sub-50 nanometers

Nanoletters - High Aspect Subdiffraction-Limit Photolithography via a Silver Superlens

Photolithography is the technology of choice for mass patterning in semiconductor and data storage industries. Superlenses have demonstrated the capability of subdiffraction-limit imaging and been envisioned as a promising technology for potential nanophotolithography. Unfortunately, subdiffraction-limit patterns generated by current superlenses exhibited poor profile depth far below the requirement for photolithography. Here, we report an experimental demonstration of sub-50 nm resolution nanophotolithography via a smooth silver superlens with a high aspect profile of 45 nm, as well as grayscale subdiffraction-limit three-dimensional nanopatterning. Theoretical analysis and simulation show that smooth interfaces play a critical role. Superlens-based lithography can be integrated with conventional UV photolithography systems to endow them with the capability of nanophotolithography, which could provide a cost-effective approach for large scale and rapid nanopatterning.

The superlens can be integrated with conventional photolithography (365 nm wavelength) systems to achieve a comparable resolution (as deep UV immersion lithography and other expensive methods) and it is potentially capable of application in large-scale mass production. It greatly reduces the equipment cost and relevant materials and process cost.

iRobot Warrior, PackBot will be used at nuclear plants in US as part of routine operations

CNET - iRobot's military robots are now working at a U.S. nuclear plant as part of routine operations.

The company's Warrior and PackBot military robots are carrying out inspections and other duties at a nuclear power plant in South Carolina.

Last fall, operator Progress Energy purchased one Warrior 710 and two PackBot 510 units for its Robinson Nuclear Plant near Hartsville. It marks the first time iRobot's machines are being used at a domestic nuclear plant.

South Korea makes big overseas nuclear energy push

1. Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) said it will begin talks next year with the United Arab Emirates on a new deal for four more nuclear power plants, and plans to spend 800 billion won ($706.06 million) this year on overseas resources development including acquisitions.

The state-run utility would start construction on four nuclear power plants in the UAE on July 1, advancing the start date by four months, pending regulatory approval by June 30, with completion scheduled for 2017-2020.

KEPCO would also begin exclusive talks with the UAE next year on a deal to build four additional nuclear plants to be completed by 2021, he said, aiming to conclude negotiations by the end of next year.

"Super-Turing" AI gets development funding

University of Massachusetts Amherst computer scientist Hava Siegelmann has received funding to develop the first ever "Super-Turing" computer. Based on analog recurrent neural networks, Siegelmann says the device will usher in a level of intelligence not seen before in artificial computation.

Alan Turing set out the basis for the digital computers we use today back in the 1930s. In 1948, he proposed a concept for a different type of computing machine that would use what he called "adaptive inference" in its computations.

Siegelmann, an expert in neural networks, wants to evolve Turing's ideas into reality. She and research colleague Jeremie Cabessa are working at putting what she has dubbed Super-Turing computation into an adaptable computational system that learns and evolves. She says the system will use input from the environment in a way quite different from classic Turing-type digital computers.

Neural Computation - The Computational Power of Interactive Recurrent Neural Networks, 2012

In classical computation, rational- and real-weighted recurrent neural networks were shown to be respectively equivalent to and strictly more powerful than the standard Turing machine model. Here, we study the computational power of recurrent neural networks in a more biologically oriented computational framework, capturing the aspects of sequential interactivity and persistence of memory. In this context, we prove that so-called interactive rational- and real-weighted neural networks show the same computational powers as interactive Turing machines and interactive Turing machines with advice, respectively. A mathematical characterization of each of these computational powers is also provided. It follows from these results that interactive real-weighted neural networks can perform uncountably many more translations of information than interactive Turing machines, making them capable of super-Turing capabilities.

Super-Turing Computation: A Case Study Analysis (61 pages by Keith Douglas, 2003)

Wikipedia on Hypercomputation or super-Turing computation

Hypercomputation or super-Turing computation refers to models of computation that go beyond, or are incomparable to, Turing computability. This includes various hypothetical methods for the computation of non-Turing-computable functions, following super-recursive algorithms (see also supertask). The term "super-Turing computation" appeared in a 1995 Science paper by Hava Siegelmann. The term "hypercomputation" was introduced in 1999 by Jack Copeland and Diane Proudfoot.

The terms are not quite synonymous: "super-Turing computation" usually implies that the proposed model is supposed to be physically realizable, while "hypercomputation" does not.

Technical arguments against the physical realizability of hypercomputations have been presented.

Skylon spaceplane testing integrated precooler

The UK Reaction Engines company is testing its integrated pre-cooler for the development of its Skylon Spaceplane project.

The testing of the Pre-cooler, now fully integrated into the B9 test stand with the Viper jet engine, has finally begun this month after a number of delays shaking down the system. The initial tests have gone very well and represent a good start to the test campaign which will last several months.

The flow thorough the Pre-cooler has been found to be aerodynamically stable without any significant structural deflection or vibration.

The next major steps are

* ground test a full SABRE engine
* fly a few subscale "Nacelle Test Vehicles" to test the engines and (especially) inlet geometry at high speeds and low pressures
* plan is build a full prototype

The heat exchanger is the key piece of equipment of the Skylon space plane. There has not been any results announced about the heat exchanger work yet.

Reaction insists the heat exchanger works, but trials set to run to year-end are needed to demonstrate to waiting investors that the technology is viable. Then, the company says, its investors are ready to release £200 million ($325 million) for a 2012-14 project phase to build an engine demonstrator. If successful, a further £7.5 billion ($10 billion) should be forthcoming to develop the airframe for service from 2020, says the company.

Peter Thiel and George Gilder debate on whether Technological Progress in Increasing or Decreasing

Accelerating or Decelerating? The Prospects for Technology and Economic Growth ?

Peter Thiel, Co-founder of PayPal, Technology Entrepreneur, Investor, and Philanthropist
George Gilder, Chairman, George Gilder Fund Management, and Senior Fellow, Discovery Institute

Peter Thiel's thesis that technological progress is decelerating has been featured prominently as of late in a number of opinion journals and popular magazines, while George Gilder holds to the supremely optimistic premise of his famous 'Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution in Economics and Technology'.

Moderator: William Davidow, High-technology Executive, Venture Investor, and Author of 'Overconnected: The Promise and Threat of the Internet'

The Stanford Review provides an overview of the debate

The debate was formatted as a point-counterpoint, with Thiel and Gilder speaking for about fifteen minutes each on the primary topic—whether the growth of technology is on the rise or in stagnation—before providing short followups to each others’ speeches and finally taking questions from the audience.

Thiel started out the talk on a rather solemn note, arguing that “there’s been less technological progress than people often advertise in recent decades, and unless something is done to fix this situation, we will be likely to have even less in the decades ahead.”

Emerging countries will get more power in IMF reforms

IMF reforms will shift 6% of current quotas to dynamic emerging and developing countries according to Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Their role is significantly evolving. It reflects, as I was telling you for the credibility issue, the economic evolution of those countries. It is best manifested in three areas.

1) is the staff. How many staff do we have in the institution who come from India or from China? This applies throughout the institution but also at the top level. How many people in the management originate from China or India? We have quite a number of them. I've just recently appointed the Secretary of the Board, who is a Chinese national. One of my deputy managing directors is a Chinese national. Among the key leaders of this institution, we have many very talented Indian economists who lead key departments like the strategic department. So, that's one level.

2) We are right in the middle of the quota reform, which is going to shift 6% of current quota to dynamic emerging market and developing countries, while protecting the quota shares and voting power of the poorest members. Clearly, the BRICs will be among the recipients of these additional quotas, and as a result of the reform, all of them will be within the top 10 countries of this institution in terms of quotas.

3) I don't think is as relevant but it matters, is whether they sit at the board of the institution. As it happens, they do. Brazil sits at the table, Russia sits at the table, India sits at the table. China does as well.