August 04, 2012

Michael Phelps Medal Count Compared to Countries

Michael Phelps has won a total of 22 medals (18 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals). He also has 11 gold medals in individual events and 13 Olympic medals in individual events for a male. He has double the gold medals of the next highest individual.

How does Michael Phelps compare against the medal count of countries ?

If the Olympics were to end now, he would finish tied for 15th in overall medals in this olympics with 6 (4 gold and 2 silver). He would be ahead of Brazil, Ukraine and Belarus if most gold was used as a tie breaker.

He would be tied for 9th in terms of most gold medals.

In Beijing in 2008, his 8 gold would have put him tied for 25th in overall medals.

His 22 medals would be tied for 53rd in overall summer olympic medals. (with Portugal)

His 18 gold medals would put him in a tie with Austria and Ethopia at 37th in summer Olympic gold medals.

Google Fiber signups going very well in Kansas and talks about expansion to other markets

Google Fiber has over 4% penetration after one week of offering the 1 Gbps internet service. The service will start to deploy in September. In a research note to investors (not online), analysts at Macquarie Capital estimate Google has signed up 7,000, out of a possible 165,000 households. They are probably now at about 5%.

50 fiberhoods in Missouri have achieved the 5 or 10% or 25% pre-signup thresholds. The required signup levels vary.

CNET - Missouri residents seem to be more enthusiastic about the service; 39 percent, or 50 out of 128 eligible "fiberhoods" qualifying for service.

Kansas has 7 out of 72 fiberhoods over their threshold.

Over time, Google Fiber hopes to spur a new wave of technological innovation, from telemedicine to cloud computing, that can capitalize on its network's ability to stream high-definition videos and transfer large files. Indeed, some believe Google Fiber is so powerful that it will improve education technology and transform how businesses operate.

Internet video streaming, in particular, seems ripe for new applications. Google Fiber's emphasis on Internet-TV technology may also spur a new way to use apps, which are now primarily developed for computers and mobile devices.

Google has privately discussed expanding its offerings to other markets that Verizon hasn't entered with its FiOS fiber-optic TV and Internet service, people familiar with the matter have said.

Verizon Fios availability

19 new transcription factors break bottleneck that limited synthetic biology complexity

For about a dozen years, synthetic biologists have been working on ways to design genetic circuits to perform novel functions such as manufacturing new drugs, producing fuel or even programming the suicide of cancer cells.

Achieving these complex functions requires controlling many genetic and cellular components, including not only genes but also the regulatory proteins that turn them on and off. In a living cell, proteins called transcription factors often regulate that process.

So far, most researchers have designed their synthetic circuits using transcription factors found in bacteria. However, these don’t always translate well to nonbacterial cells and can be a challenge to scale, making it harder to create complex circuits, says Timothy Lu, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science and a member of MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics.

Lu and his colleagues at Boston University (BU), Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have now come up with a new method to design transcription factors for nonbacterial cells (in this case, yeast cells). Their initial library of 19 new transcription factors should help overcome the existing bottleneck that has limited synthetic biology applications, Lu says.

Solve for X - CoolPlanet's carbon negative liquid fuels

What if there was a way to take plant waste (like corn husks) and turn it into bio fuels? What if this also removed carbon from our atmosphere? What if the same process also produced a substance that would help turn deserts back into productive crop land? What if this process could be done on an industrial scale but also could be made self-contained in a small village so that farmers all over the world could get the economic benefits of producing bio fuels with their agri-waste and simultaneously help clean our atmosphere? Too good to be true?

CoolPlanet Energy Systems is developing a revolutionary thermal/mechanical processor which directly inputs raw biomass such as woodchips, crop residue, algae, etc. and produces multiple distinct gas streams for catalytic upgrading to conventional fuel components.

In support of the above biomass fractionator , the company is also developing a range of simple one-step catalytic conversion processes which mate with the fractionator's output gas streams to produce useful products such as eBTX (high octane gasoline), synthetic diesel and proprietary ultra-high crop yield super fuels.

CoolPlanet Energy Systems plans to package its proprietary biomass fractionator together with an "open architecture" chemical processing section in standard modular shipping containers which can each produce up to 2 million gallons of fuel per year. These modular fuel processors can be equipped with CoolPlanet Energy Systems' catalytic conversion processes and/or your own selection of dryers, separators, catalytic processes, etc.

Fast thermal/mechanical processing of biomass typically also produces a large quantity of neutral carbon since biomass has substantial excess carbon versus hydrogen when used to produce conventional petrochemical fuel components. The company is also developing long term sequestration options for this excess carbon.

Solve for X - Ten times more efficient nutrition production

Solve for X is a place to hear and discuss radical technology ideas for solving global problems. Solve for X was set up by Google. Radical in the sense that the solutions could help billions of people. Radical in the sense that the audaciousness of the proposals makes them sound like science fiction. And radical in the sense that there is some real technology breakthrough on the horizon to give us all hope that these ideas could really be brought to life.

This combination of things - a huge problem to solve, a radical solution for solving it, and the breakthrough technology to make it happen - is the essence of a moonshot.

Solve for X is intended to be a forum to encourage and amplify technology-based moonshot thinking and teamwork.

David Berry gave a Solve for X talk about radically more efficient nutrition production.

David Berry is a Partner at Flagship Ventures and CEO of Essentient. David has MD and PhD degrees and has founded several life science and sustainability ventures.

The cow is, to put it mildly, not the most efficient mechanism to turn basic ingredients like CO2, water, and sunlight into calories and nutrition. Soy beans are better, but it is still an extremely inefficient process. What if we could skip many of the intermediate steps and directly convert the basic components of food into calories and nutrition. Such a solution would leap us forward by more than an order of magnitude in our ability to feed the world.

The world is already pretty exhausted in feeding 7 billion people — so we have to increase the amount of fuel every person consumes and the amount of food every person consumes.

How do you do that without using more water that's already on the planet or wrecking the environment?

Berry's answer is to understand the molecular nature of food and create a food source that converts the basic components of food directly into calories and nutrition, instead of having "intermediate steps." Creating nutrients directly at less than a tenth of the cost we see today.

Essentient Nutriculture

Essentient’s "nutriculture" technique combines protein science, a molecular understanding of nutrition, and low-cost, sustainable production systems, all in an attempt to improve on the agriculture-based system of consuming nutrients that we’ve relied on for thousands of years.

"We took single-cell photosynthetic organisms, and we asked the question, 'Can we find something that has the right features, the ability to live in saltwater, the ability to have a robustness for our process, the ability to withstand the right sorts of thermal tolerances to be productive outside, and the ability to produce at very, very high qualities?" he says. After much searching, Berry and his team found these organisms. They gave them the ability to take in sunlight, CO2, water, a final ingredient that changes based on the end product, and the ability to secrete a pure nutrient when all these ingredients come together. At a basic level, it’s not much different from what Joule is doing.

The company already has some products in the pipeline, including one that gives "gold standard nutrition" and tastes like sugar, another that feels and tastes like fat (without the nasty health consequences), one that helps build muscle, and a product that cuts down on appetite. "This is designed to be formulated with food we know today. We have no interest in replacing food," says Berry.

They screened several thousand organisms that can work with non-fresh water, CO2 and sunlight and secrete one key nutrient. A continuous process instead of batch and produce pure product (so no high cost purification).

Solve for X - Spray on Low power wireless everywhere

Solve for X - Anthony Sutera is an entrepreneur in communications, specializing in radio, satellite and wireless communications systems. He is currently the CEO of Chamtech Enterprises, a company holding several patents on its nano, spray-on antenna technology.

Anthony tells us about an accidental discovery that may change the world of wireless communications.

Using nanoparticles for a spray on antenna that is an order of magnitude better than regular military antennas. They sprayed it on a tree and military testing showed that they antenna sprayed on a tree was better.

Thousands on nanocapacitors that are far more efficient (so they do not build up heat) than antennas with wires.

Can collect power out of the atmosphere or via wireless transmission.
Can make the lining of electric engines more efficient.
Can improve the grid.

Painted an antenna over an iPhone antenna and it was 20 dBm better.

Chamtech has developed simple and easy to use templates for customer RF use (HF, VHF, UHF and SHF) from 1 MHz through 6.4 GHz. Simply hold the template up and spray with three coats, apply the custom made connections, then link the coaxial end to the radio and it is ready to begin TX (transmission) and/or RX (receiving). Our antenna system is completely equipment agnostic & fully functional in under 10 minutes. Chamtech’s Rapid Deployment Antenna Systems allow first responders to re-establish radio communication more quickly and efficiently in any post-disaster environment.

Chamtech has developed the “Spray-On Antenna” to assist intelligence gathering operations by concealing the antennas for equipment that needs to transmit and or receive in frequency bands from 1 MHz through 6.4 GHz. The spray has no reflective values and can also be sprayed over lightly with non-metallic paints to provide additional concealment, ideal for operations that require the ability to “Hide in Plain Sight” (HiPS).

3D-printed exoskeleton gives a little girl use of her arms

Venturebeat - A heartwarming new video documents the story of a small child whose life has been radically changed for the better because of 3D printing technology.

Two-year-old Emma was born with a rare disease called arthrogryposis that makes it so she can’t raise her arms without assistance. Through the use of 3D printing, a Delaware hospital created a mobile plastic exoskeleton that now allows Emma to use her arms for many things.

3D printing ensures that a new exoskeleton can be created if Emma breaks or outgrows it. Emma is now on her second 3D-printed jacket and calls the device her “magic arms.”

The video was created by 3D printing business Stratasys, which recently merged with Objet in a $1.4 billion deal. A Stratasys 3D printer was used to create Emma’s jacket.

See-through-wall surveillance with WiFi

Researchers from the University College London were able to design a radar that can reportedly identify frequency changes, thus enabling them to detect moving objects and people. Karl Woodbridge and Kevin Chetty built a radar prototype that has a similar size of a suitcase. Inside the radar is a radio receiver that is composed of two antennas and a signal-processing unit. The researchers said that they were able to use the device to determine a person?s location, speed and direction. Interestingly, they also said that the device can see through a one-foot-thick brick wall and that it can remain undetected because it doesn’t emit radio waves. The researchers are hoping that the finished product will one day be used in the military. “The device could become sensitive enough to pick up on subtle motions the ribcage makes during breathing, which would allow the radar to detect people who are standing or sitting still,” said Woodbridge.

According to Woodbridge, some challenges remain which he and others involved in the research will attempt to resolve. The UCL team hopes to raise system sensitivity so that their system can pick up and detect not only people who are moving but also people who are standing or sitting still. The device, he said, may be made to be sensitive enough to pick up on subtle motions that the ribcage makes in breathing in and out.

Through-the-Wall Sensing of Personnel Using Passive Bistatic WiFi Radar at Standoff Distances

Experimental Demonstration Of An Entanglement-Based Quantum Router

Arxiv - Experimental Demonstration Of An Entanglement-Based Quantum Router

We report an experiment that demonstrates full function of a quantum router using entangled photons, where the paths of a single-photon pulse are controlled in a coherent fashion by polarization of another single photon. Through a projective measurement, we prepare the polarization of the control photon in arbitrary superposition states, leading to coherent routing of the target photon in quantum superposition of different paths. We demonstrate quantum nature of this router through optical measurements based on quantum state tomography and show an average fidelity of 93.24% for the quantum routing operation.

Technology Review - It is an interesting step forward but the new router has significant limitations. The most significant of these is that it can handle only one quantum bit or qubit at a time. And because the process of parametric down conversion cannot handle more qubits, it cannot be scaled to more qubits.

That's a significant drawback. It means that this is a proof-of-principle device but not one that will ever form the basis of a future quantum internet.

In a sense, it's a little like the first quantum computers which relied on nuclear magnetic resonance to manipulate the spins of the molecules in a tub of acetone. These performed trivial calculations using a handful of qubits but couldn't be scaled up to do anything interesting.

That's not to say that we'll never have scalable quantum routers. Various groups are working on different approaches that have the potential to scale. Progress is steady but slow.

August 03, 2012

Solve for X - Drug Delivery

Mir Imran gives a Solve for X talk on radically improving drug delivery.

Mir Imran is CEO and Chairman of InCube Labs, a life sciences research lab. Mir's passion is creating medical solutions that dramatically improve patient outcomes and change the standard of care.

Many of the world's most pervasive, expensive, and critical disease actually have known therapies - therapies that as they are currently administered are more toxic than the disease itself. But if there was a mechanism to give just the right amount of these pharmacologic agents at just the right time and to just the parts of the human body that needed it, that mechanism would be the vehicle for radical progress in the fight against disease like Parkinson, Alzheimers, MS, and many many more.

DARPA One Shot XG Sniper System for 2013/2014 for more Snipers Accurate out to 1 mile

Wired - Darpa awarded a $6 million contract to Cubic Corporation’s defense division to develop the device, called the One Shot XG. According to Darpa’s solicitation for proposals, the new device is intended to be a “compact observation, measurement, and ballistic calculation system” that is mounted onto a sniper’s rifle or scope, allowing accurate shots “under crosswind conditions, at the maximum effective range of current and future weapons.” The little device should also be able to handle calculations in near real time and handily feed the data into both the gunsight and a handheld display screen.

Darpa wants the XG to stay cool, be smaller, and have 10 prototypes ready for testing in 15 months. The agency also has to keep up with a new generation of deadlier, longer-range sniper rifles that can hit targets up to three-quarters of a mile away. Darpa is trying to engineer guided bullets, too.

Whether the XG comes in on time, though, is hard to say. One Shot has been consistently behind schedule. The tools were supposed to have been fielded in 2009. This was later bumped to 2011. Now the military wants them by late 2013. There’s also a big gap between developing a prototype and fielding a battle-ready weapon.

In 2011, US snipers stared getting the XM2010 rifle, capable of hitting a target from a 3,937-foot distance — about three quarters of a mile. The old sniper rifle, the M-24, had a range of 2,625 feet.

Nextbigfuture reader Tony Rusi Thinks he has Figured out Elon Musk's Hyperloop

Previously we had discussed Elon Musk teasing that he would release a description of a radical new transportation method called hyperloopM

I (Tony Rusi) don't think Elon ever said that the Hyperloop went 1000 mph. The average speed is near 760 mph. That is the average speed required to get from LA to SF in 30 minutes. It also happens to be the "speed of sound" at ground level. AKA "Mach One". If the main train never stops, it will always be pretty close to that speed, and I think the main Hyperloop train cars never, ever stop. See why below.

This is Elon talking about the Hyperloop in a very recent interview with the LA Times.

Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Win a total of $1.1 billion from NASA for Manned Space Taxis

MSNBC Cosmiclog - Teams headed by the Boeing Co., SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corp. will be receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from NASA over the next 21 months for further development of spaceships capable of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station

NASA is setting aside $460 million for Boeing, $440 million for SpaceX and $212.5 million for Sierra Nevada.

The next phase of NASA's commercial spaceflight effort — known as Commercial Crew Integrated Capability, or CCiCap — calls for these three companies to take their design and testing program through a series of milestones by May 2014. Optional milestones could lead to crewed demonstration flights in later years.

NASA wants to have at least one commercial space taxi carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station by 2017. The three companies say they can meet or beat that schedule, provided that they continue to receive NASA support.

The coming phase of the spaceship development effort — known as Commercial Crew Integrated Capability, or CCiCap — is aimed at producing the design for an entire launch system, including the "space taxi" capsule and launch vehicle as well as ground and recovery operations. The three companies tapped for future funding already have received hundreds of millions of dollars from NASA during earlier development phases. Boeing has gotten $131 million for work on its proposed CST-100 capsule, Sierra Nevada has been allotted more than $125 million for its Dream Chaser space plane, and SpaceX has won $75 million to upgrade its Dragon space capsule to carry crew.

SpaceX, known more formally as Space Exploration Technologies, has also received almost $400 million from a separate NASA program to support the development of the Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket for cargo deliveries to the space station. The successful flight of a Dragon to the station and back in May opened up the way for SpaceX to start regular cargo deliveries under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA.

NASA will provide further support for the development of the Boeing Co.'s CST-100 capsule (left), Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser space plane (middle) and SpaceX's Dragon capsule (right).

Progress to Wafer scale graphene transistors and electronics

Physicists from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have developed a procedure for manufacturing integrated high-performance circuits from graphene and silicon carbide.

Graphene is a one-atom-thick layer of graphite. The material has a several unique properties and researchers around the world believe it has great potential in electronics. As early as 2009, FAU researchers devised a method for large-area production of graphene on a silicon carbide layer – however they have not yet been able to use graphene for producing high-performance transistors with excellent characteristics.

In their latest study, Professor Heiko Weber from the Department of Applied Physics at FAU and his team have made a breakthrough to solve this limitation. Professor Weber and his research team adopted a different approach than most of their international colleagues: “We are still using a silicon carbide surface to form the graphene but our technique uses the surface as a conductive rather than insulating layer,” explains Professor Weber. “This allows us to use the properties of both materials for electronic processes.”

The graphene, a two-dimensional honeycomb structure consisting of carbon atoms, is formed from a silicon carbide crystal. It is then shaped into conductor paths and partly treated with hydrogen. This causes the electrical energy (image: blue electrons) to flow over the graphene contacts (black) into the silicon carbide crystal where it is regulated by the hyrdrogen-treated graphene contacts (red/yellow). Image: J. Jobst, S. Hertel

Nature Communications - Tailoring the graphene/silicon carbide interface for monolithic wafer-scale electronics

Accumulated Mitochondrial Changes may partially account for Female Longevity in many Species including Humans

BBC News - Scientists believe they have discovered a clue to why women tend to live longer than men - by studying fruit flies.

Writing in Current Biology, they focus on mutations in mitochondrial DNA - the power source of cells.

Mitochondria are inherited only from mothers, never from fathers, so there is no way to weed out mutations that damage a male's prospects.

But one ageing expert said there were many factors that explained the gender difference in life expectancy.

By the age of 85, there are approximately six women for every four men in the UK, and by 100 the ratio is more than two to one.

And females outlive males in many other species.

August 02, 2012

Memristor Research

1. Arxiv - Fundamental Issues and Problems in the Realization of Memristors (14 pages)

Paul Meuffels and Rohit Soni
Forschungzentrum Jülich GmbH, Peter Grünberg Institut, Jülich, Germany
Nanoelektronik, Technische Fakultät, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Kiel, Germany

In 2008, researchers at the Hewlett-Packard (HP) laboratories claimed to have found an analytical physical model for a genuine memristor device. The model is considered for a thin TiO�� film containing a region which is highly self-doped with oxygen vacancies and a region which is less doped, i.e., a single-phase material with a built-in chemical inhomogeneity sandwiched between two platinum electrodes. On base of the proposed model, Strukov et al. were able to obtain the characteristic dynamical state equation and current-voltage relation for a genuine memristor. However, some fundamental facts of electrochemistry have been overlooked by the authors while putting forward their model, namely the coupling of diffusion currents at the boundary between both regions. The device will operate for a certain time like a “chemical capacitor” until the chemical inhomogeneity is balanced out, thus violating the essential requirement on a genuine memristor, the so-called “no energy discharge property”. Moreover, the dynamical state equation for the HP-memristor device must fail as this relation violates by itself Landauer’s principle of the minimum energy costs for information processing. Maybe, such an approach might be upheld if one introduces an additional prerequisite by specifying the minimum amount of electric power input to the device which is required to continuously change internal, physical states of the considered system. However, we have reasonable doubts with regard to this.

Ferroelectric Memristor for future neuromorphic computational architectures

Arxiv (24 pages, researchers from France, Japan and the UK)- Memristors are continuously tunable resistors that emulate synapses. Conceptualized in the 1970s, they traditionally operate by voltage-induced displacements of matter, but the mechanism remains controversial. Purely electronic memristors have recently emerged based on well-established physical phenomena with albeit modest resistance changes. Here we demonstrate that voltage-controlled domain configurations in ferroelectric tunnel barriers yield memristive behaviour with resistance variations exceeding two orders of magnitude and a 10 ns operation speed. Using models of ferroelectric-domain nucleation and growth we explain the quasi-continuous resistance variations and derive a simple analytical expression for the memristive effect. Our results suggest new opportunities for ferroelectrics as the hardware basis of future neuromorphic computational architectures.

Robotic Arms being added to UAVs

Robotic Arms being added to UAVs.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as those used by the military for surveillance and reconnaissance, could be getting a hand –and an arm– from engineers at Drexel University as part of a National Science Foundation grant to investigate adding dexterous limbs to the aircrafts.

A gantry system, like the one pictured, will be used to test the robotic arms that could eventually be mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles.

3d Manufacturing to embed electronics into products

Economist - Now new ways of printing electronics in three dimensions are being developed. This makes it possible to incorporate circuitry and components into the material the product is made from, such as the phone’s case. It could revolutionise the way electronic goods are made. Technologies are improving rapidly and now allow electronics to be printed on a greater variety of surfaces. In the latest developments, electronics printing is being combined with “additive manufacturing”, which uses machines popularly known as 3D printers to build solid objects out of material, one layer at a time.

3d printed electronics is being applying it at certain stages of existing mass-production processes, such as printing antennae onto mobile-phone cases. Many phones use a number of different antennae to connect to different radio networks, so this would make more room for conventional electronics inside. Some commercial applications of the technology are less than a year away.

Optomec is developing applications which could provide some of the necessary steps. Besides antennae these include edge circuits for the screen, three-dimensional connections for chips, multiple-layer circuits and touch-screen parts. It would also be possible to print the battery. The biggest challenge would be to print the chips that are the brains of the phone. These contain millions of transistors in a square millimetre and are at present made in silicon-fabrication plants costing $10 billion or more. Yet embedding even some circuitry means phones could be made slimmer, as well as reducing the costs of materials and assembly.

Armadillo Aerospace progresses on reusable suborbital rockets

Parabolicarc - Armadillo Aerospace Gets Launch License for Reusable STIG-B

At Newspace 2012 hosted by the Space Frontier Foundation in Santa Clara CA, Dr. George Nield, Associate Administrator for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation, presented Neil Milburn, Armadillo Aerospace’s VP of Program Management,with an Operator Launch License for their STIG (Suborbital Transport with Inertial Guidance) class of reusable suborbital launch vehicles.

The launch will take place from Spaceport America in New Mexico and will be the first licensed launch from the Spaceport although Armadillo Aerospace has launched four earlier flights under the FAA’s Class III waiver regime. The last of these flights with STIG A reached 95-km setting the stage for the space capable STIG B vehicles.

Milburn complimented Dr. Nield on AST’s performance in processing the license application. “Allowed 180-days by law, the review team at AST granted the license in just 63-days, setting a new record” said Milburn. “This successfully exemplifies AST’s dual role of ensuring public safety but at the same time promoting the commercial launch industry.”
Planned rockets

NASA Forum comment - The Stig-III doesn't appear to be orbital-capable (not enough stages or the right staging ratio for a pressure-fed to get orbital), more like a high-suborbital like a traditional multi-stage sounding rocket but serving also as a platform for testing staging techniques (something I don't think they've done before).

Canada and China work on Thorium Candu Fuel and India May Start Mining 1 million tons of Thorium

1. Mining Weekly - India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) would permit private miners to process beach sand and supply monazite tailings to the government-owned Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL) to increase the latter’s capacity to extract thorium and uranium.

At present, private miners were allowed to extract rare earths from beach sand but not process radioactive monazite, which, under the Atomic Energy Act, was categorised as a ‘prescribed substance’ and the sole domain of the government.

Private miners were forced to stockpile beach sand with monazite content higher than 5% at their own cost or put it back into the mine if monazite content was lower.

According to an official in the Mines Ministry, the DAE proposed to make amendments to the Atomic Energy Act so that beach sand miners could hand over the monazite tailings to IREL for further processing into thorium and possibly uranium, if economically feasible.

The DAE hoped to secure supplies of at least one-million tons of thorium from beach sand processed by private miners, and increase the supply of monazite to IREL.

Data from the Atomic Mineral Directorate for Exploration and Research has shown that India’s monazite reserve was estimated at 10.70-million tons. The province of Andhra Pradesh accounted for the largest reserves estimated at 3.74-million tons, followed by Tamil Nadu with 2.16-million tons, Orissa with 1.85-million tons, Kerala with 1.51-million tons, West Bengal with 1.22-million tons and Bihar with 0.22-million tons.

Mobius and Hasenstab of Templeton provide assessment of China and World Economic Situations

1. Mark Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group, says not to freak out about China's economy

Yes, China’s growth is decelerating from the double-digits of recent years; various forecasters are predicting a possible GDP growth range of 7 – 8% this year. However, I think it’s important to emphasize that would still represent an impressive pace, and remember that China isn’t the world economy’s only locomotive.

Many of the world’s economies are facing slower growth trends this year, and China is also undergoing structural changes that often come with the side-effect of a few growing pains. It has been moving toward a more consumption-oriented economic model and loosening controls on the economy, which require some adjustments.

A piece of good news for China in regard to these domestic-driven efforts is that new lending during the first half of this year helped drive fixed-asset investment in China 20% higher than levels seen during the same time in 2011.

Using halophytes to grow fuel

Halophytes are salt-tolerant plants that are found throughout the world. Halophytes can be used to grow both fuel and food, and a NASA facility is attempting to use halophytes for large-scale fuel production. The aim is to create aviation-grade biofuels without using any arable land, freshwater, or standard food crops. Dr. Bilial Bomani, the head of NASA's greenlab research facility, has dedicated his career to using halophytes to create food and fuel. In an interview with Sander Olson for Next Big Future, Dr. Bomani discusses how halophytes could be used to create vast amounts of biofuels, and food in an environmentally benign and sustainable manner.

Bilal Bomani

Question: You oversee a NASA project to create "extreme green" biofuels. How did this project arise?

In 2008, with the help of Robert C. Hendricks, we came up with the “eXtreme Green” plan to research the next generation of biofuels. Our “eXtreme Green” plan came with three main limitations. First, we could not use fresh water, which is in increasingly scarce supply. Second, we could not compete with food crops, so no food crop fuel production, such as soy beans or corn. Finally we could not use arable land. So the solution we came up with relies primarily on algae and salt-tolerant halophytes. Our Halophyte biofuels program was instigated by Dennis Bushnell – Chief Scientist at NASA Langley Research Center.

Net carbon dioxide uptake by land and oceans doubled during the past 50 years

Nature - One of the greatest sources of uncertainty for future climate predictions is the response of the global carbon cycle to climate change. Although approximately one-half of total CO2 emissions is at present taken up by combined land and ocean carbon reservoirs, models predict a decline in future carbon uptake by these reservoirs, resulting in a positive carbon–climate feedback. Several recent studies suggest that rates of carbon uptake by the land and ocean have remained constant or declined in recent decades. Other work, however, has called into question the reported decline. Here we use global-scale atmospheric CO2 measurements, CO2 emission inventories and their full range of uncertainties to calculate changes in global CO2 sources and sinks during the past 50 years. Our mass balance analysis shows that net global carbon uptake has increased significantly by about 0.05 billion tonnes of carbon per year and that global carbon uptake doubled, from 2.4 ± 0.8 to 5.0 ± 0.9 billion tonnes per year, between 1960 and 2010. Therefore, it is very unlikely that both land and ocean carbon sinks have decreased on a global scale. Since 1959, approximately 350 billion tonnes of carbon have been emitted by humans to the atmosphere, of which about 55 per cent has moved into the land and oceans.

So about 2 to 4 billion tons per year of additional carbon dioxide is being absorbed.

In 2011, 34 billion tons of carbon dioxide are being produced by human activity.

NASA Landing nuclear powered rover on Mars using a Sky Crane

Mars Science Laboratory represents the first use of a "soft-landing" technique employed at Mars. The sheer mass of Mars Science Laboratory prevents engineers from using the familiar airbags to deliver their rover safely to the martian surface. As rovers become more capable and carry more instruments, they become larger. So, in order to accommodate this advanced mission, engineers designed a sky-crane method that will lower the rover to the surface. The Mars science lab mission landing will be in 3.5 days. (5:31 am UTC August 6, 2012).

CNET - Tipping the scales at one ton, the nuclear-powered Curiosity, a rolling laboratory equipped with a suite of state-of-the-art cameras and instruments, is too massive to use airbags like the ones that cushioned the landings of NASA's much smaller Pathfinder and the hugely successful Spirit and Opportunity rovers.

NASA Mars Mission site

Texas oil production at 1.834 million barrels per day

Texas field production of crude oil is at 1.834 million barrels of oil per day in May, 2012. Texas production is at oil production levels last seen in 1991.

There is a difference in how the EIA is calculating Texas field production versus the Texas railway commission tracking of crude oil production. The Texas railway commission does not count natural gas liquids.

New NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Awards

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program announced its 2012 awards.

These proposals have been selected based on the potential of their concepts to transform future aerospace missions, enable new capabilities, or significantly alter and improve current approaches.

Each Phase I study will receive approximately $100,000 for one year, and each Phase II study will receive approximately $500,000 for two years. These studies will advance numerous innovative aerospace concepts, and help NASA achieve future goals.

30 page presentation from phase 1 NIAC study of Nuclear Propulsion through Direct Conversion of Fusion Energy. This project has been awarded a phase 2 award.

John Slough could have an experiment in 2012 with a net gain in fusion energy of 1.6. It will be an imploding liner experiment. For space propulsion he is targeting a 200 times gain in energy output from what is input. Mission profiles are for 30 day or 90 day missions to Mars with over 5000 ISP

2012 Phase II Fellows

Duda, Kevin Variable Vector Countermeasure Suit (V2Suit) for Space Habitation and Exploration Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc.

Khoshnevis, Behrokh ISRU-Based Robotic Construction Technologies for Lunar and Martian Infrastructures University of Southern California

Miller, David High-Temperature Superconductors as Electromagnetic Deployment and Support Structures Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ritter, Joe OCCAMS: Optically Controlled and Corrected Active Meta-material Space Structures Neoteric Physics, Inc.

Short, Kendra Printable Spacecraft: Flexible Electronic Platforms for NASA Missions NASA JPL

Slough, John The Fusion Driven Rocket: Nuclear Propulsion through Direct Conversion of Fusion Energy MSNW LLC

Strekalov, Dmitry Ghost imaging of space objects NASA JPL

Westover, Shayne Radiation Protection and Architecture Utilizing High Temperature Superconducting Magnets NASA JSC

Whittaker, William Cavehopping Exploration of Planetary Skylights and Tunnels Astrobotic Technology, Inc.

Wie, Bong An Innovative Solution to NASA's NEO Impact Threat Mitigation Grand Challenge and Flight Validation Mission Architecture Development Iowa State University

Elon Musk of SpaceX Interviewed by LA Times

LA Times interview of Elon Musk of Spacex.

Q - The movies provide us with two space future models: "Star Trek," where a government agency governs space, versus "Alien," where a private space mining company makes its own rules.

A - We need a new archetype. I've talked to James Cameron about this. He's got a script for a realistic Mars mission because there's not been a good Mars movie. That's another thing that bugs me: The Mars movies have been so bad. I mean, honestly! And it's going to be tricky getting funding for another Mars movie after"John Carter." It was a good comic book, and they totally screwed up the movie.

New $3 million prizes in Fundamental Physics

Yuri Milner, who made $1 billion from investments in Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and Groupon, has awarded nine initial prizes worth $3 million each to recognize advances in the field of fundamental physics, dealing with the basic laws of nature.

The nine winners will now form a committee to select a winner, or winners, for next year, Milner said.

Two categories of prizes will be awarded for past achievements in the field of fundamental physics, with the aim of providing the recipients with more freedom and opportunity to pursue even greater future accomplishments.

The Fundamental Physics Prize recognizes transformative advances in the field, while the New Horizons in Physics Prizes are targeted at promising junior researchers. All prize recipients are invited to present public talks targeted at a general audience, on subjects ranging from the basics of modern physics to cutting-edge research.

These lectures, together with supporting materials, will be made available to the public, allowing them to keep abreast of the latest developments in fundamental physics, guided by contemporary masters of the field.

The Milner Foundation has awarded nine Fundamental Physics Prizes and the recipients are:

* Nima Arkani-Hamed
* Alan Guth
* Alexei Kitaev
* Maxim Kontsevich
* Andrei Linde
* Juan Maldacena
* Nathan Seiberg
* Ashoke Sen
* Edward Witten

August 01, 2012

Elon Musk Will Propose a Crashproof Pneumatic 700 to 1000 mph Hyperloop Transportation System

Musk also cites Aeromovel as a similar transportation network, meaning that the Hyperloop could take advantage of a similar pneumatic transportation guideway.

This system I have in mind, how would you like something that can never crash, is immune to weather, it goes 3 or 4 times faster than the bullet train… it goes an average speed of twice what an aircraft would do. You would go from downtown LA to downtown San Francisco in under 30 minutes. It would cost you much less than an air ticket than any other mode of transport. I think we could actually make it self-powering if you put solar panels on it, you generate more power than you would consume in the system. There's a way to store the power so it would run 24/7 without using batteries. Yes, this is possible, absolutely.

UPDATE - Speculation as to what Elon Musk's Hyperloop might be

LA Times talks to Elon Musk in an interview. California high speed rail is starting up, but you've proposed an alternative — maybe solar-powered, maybe on a pneumatic track — you call the hyperloop?

I've got to find the time to write up the details. I'm going to put it on a blog and open-source the idea. Why are we, in the center of high tech, doing such a bad job [with high-speed rail]? It's embarrassing. It says all sorts of wrong things about our state. I was thinking about what could be better, state of the art? That's where I came up with the idea for a fifth mode of Earth transport, apart from planes, trains, automobiles and boats. The hyperloop could go from city center to city center in not much more than a half-hour.

Aeromovel blowers propel air (under low pressure) through a duct built into the guideway. The pressurized air pushes a propulsion plate attached to the bottom of the vehicle. This propulsion plate acts like an upside down sail, propelling the vehicle forward and helping to stop it when the air flow is reversed.

New technique shows promise for dramatic miniaturization of metamaterials and negative index of refraction of -700, one hundred times larger than before

In a vacuum, light travels so fast that it would circle the Earth more than seven times within the blink of an eye. When light propagates through matter, however, it slows by a factor typically less than 5. This factor, called the refractive index, is positive in naturally occurring materials, and it causes light to bend in a particular direction when it shines on, for example, water or glass.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), collaborating with the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, have now demonstrated a drastically new way of achieving negative refraction in a metamaterial.

The advance, reported in the August 2 issue of Nature, results in an "extraordinarily strong" negative refractive index as large as -700, more than a hundred times larger than most previously reported.

"This work may bring the science and technology of negative refraction into an astoundingly miniaturized scale, confining the negatively refracting light into an area that is 10,000 times smaller than many previous negative-index metamaterials," says principal investigator Donhee Ham, Gordon McKay Professor of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics at SEAS.

a, Optical image of a 2DEG strip-array metamaterial prototype. Ground–signal–ground (GSG) on-chip CPWs direct electromagnetic waves to and from the metamaterial. The inset shows a magnified portion of the strip array.

Nature - A Newtonian approach to extraordinarily strong negative refraction

Predictions made in 1987 from Science Fiction Writers

Writers of the Future has released the 1987 time capsule predictions from science fiction writers for the year 2012.

(H/T KurzweilAI)

Sheldon Glashow
Prediction 1 (Sheldon Glashow) - There will be no fast trains connecting American cities, but a network of levitated superconducting trains will be under construction in Western Europe and in Japan.

There are presently only two commercial maglev transport systems in operation, with two others under construction. In April 2004, Shanghai began commercial operations of the high-speed Transrapid system. Beginning March 2005, Japan began operation of the HSST "Linimo" line in time for the 2005 World Expo. In its first three months, the Linimo line carried over 10 million passengers. South Korea and the People's Republic of China are both building low speed maglev lines of their own design, one in Beijing and the other at Seoul's Incheon Airport.

Japan has one superconducting maglev line. This is the nine-station 9 km (5.6 mi) long Tobu-kyuryo Line, otherwise known as the Linimo. The linear-motor
magnetic-levitated train has a top speed of 100 km/h.

The Shanghai Maglev Train demonstration line, or Initial Operating Segment (IOS), has been in commercial operations since April 2004 and now operates 115 (up from 110 daily trips in 2010) daily trips that traverse the 30 km (19 mi) between the two stations in just 7 minutes, achieving a top speed of 431 km/h (268 mph), averaging 266 km/h (165 mph). On a 12 November 2003 system commissioning test run, the Shanghai maglev achieved a speed of 501 km/h (311 mph), which is its designed top cruising speed for longer intercity routes.

DARPA makes solid state receiver with 0.85 terahertz gain on the way to 1.03 THz

DARPA researchers have created the world’s first solid state receiver to demonstrate gain at 0.85 terahertz (THz).
This is the latest breakthrough in the DARPA THz Electronics program in its quest for transistor-based electronics that will enable electronic capabilities at THz frequencies. This represents progress toward the second major technical milestone on the way to 1.03 THz integrated circuits. Previous milestones included demonstrations at 0.67 THz. Operating at these high frequencies enables a host of DoD electronics capabilities such as advanced communication and sensor systems.

Femtosecond lasers non-invasively destroys brain tumors and other cancer growths

Researchers at the Center for Laser Applications at the University of Tennessee Space Institute in Tullahoma have developed a technology that goes on a “seek and destroy” mission for cancerous tumors. They have harnessed the power of lasers to find, map, and non-invasively destruct cancerous tumors.

“Using ultra-short light pulses gives us the ability to focus in a well confined region and the ability for intense radiation,” said Parigger. “This allows us to come in and leave a specific area quickly so we can diagnose and attack tumorous cells fast.”

Once the cancerous area is precisely targeted, only the intensity of the laser radiation needs to be turned up in order to irradiate, or burn off, the tumor. This method has the potential to be more exact than current methods and to be done as an outpatient procedure replacing intensive surgery.

“Because the femtosecond laser radiation can be precisely focused both spatially and temporally, one can avoid heating up too many other things that you do not want heated,” said Parigger. “Using longer laser-light pulses is similar to leaving a light bulb on, which gets warm and can damage healthy tissue.”

Roll-to-roll printed resistive WORM memory on a flexible substrate

The fabrication process and the operation characteristics of a fully roll-to-roll printed resistive write-once-read-many memory on a flexible substrate are presented. The low-voltage (less than 10 V) write operation of the memories from a high resistivity '0' state to a low resistivity '1' state is based on the rapid electrical sintering of bits containing silver nanoparticles. The bit ink is formulated by mixing two commercially available silver nanoparticle inks in order to tune the initial square resistance of the bits and to create a self-organized network of percolating paths. The electrical performance of the memories, including read and write characteristics, is described and the long-term stability of the less stable '0' state is studied in different environmental conditions. The memories can find use in low-cost mass printing applications.

(a) A printed questionnaire card with a R2R printed 12-bit WORM memory bank, flexible battery and a Si-based light-emitting-diode assembled together as a system. The graphical printing, screen printing of electrical wiring with a conductive silver ink and the card assembly were performed at Stora Enso Oyj. (b) R2R flexographic printing of WORM memory banks for the questionnaire card with VTT's 'ROKO' printing line. (c) WORM memory bank pre-sintering and the readout device. The electrical contacts were realized using an array of spring-loaded probes.

Researchers invent new tissue engineering tool

Imagine a machine that makes layered, substantial patches of engineered tissue—tissue that could be used as grafts for burn victims or vascular patches. Sounds like science fiction? According to researchers at the University of Toronto, it's a growing possibility. Toronto researchers have invented a new device that may allow for the uniform, large-scale engineering of tissue.

"There's a lot of interest in soft materials, particularly biomaterials," explains Guenther of the materials that help create functional tissue cultures, "but until now no one has demonstrated a simple and scalable one-step process to go from microns to centimeters."

How exactly does a machine grow a large patch of living tissue?

Scientists manipulate biomaterials into the micro-device through several channels. The biomaterials are then mixed, causing a chemical reaction that forms a "mosaic hydrogel"—a sheet-like substance compatible with the growth of cells into living tissues, into which different types of cells can be seeded in very precise and controlled placements.

Unique to this new approach to tissue engineering, however, and unlike more typical methods for tissue engineering (for instance, scaffolding, the seeding of cells onto an artificial structure capable of supporting three-dimensional tissue formation) cells planted onto the mosaic hydrogel sheets are precisely incorporated into the mosaic hydrogel sheet just at the time it's being created—generating the perfect conditions for cells to grow.

The placement of the cells is so precise, in fact, that scientists can spell words (such as "Toronto," shown here) and can precisely mimic the natural placement of cells in living tissues. And by collecting these sheets around a drum, the machine is able to collect layers of cells in thicknesses made to measure: in essence, three dimensional, functional tissues.

Image of cells aligned to spell "Toronto", courtesy Lian Leng

July 31, 2012

South Korea starts up another nuclear reactor and begins construction on another APR-1400

Shin Wolsong unit 1 nuclear plant has entered commercial operation, KHNP announced. It comes within days of Shin-Kori 2 starting commercial service.

The Shin Wolsong 1 OPR-1000 unit, construction of which began in November 2007, started up and was connected to the grid in January 2012. The final stages of commissioning tests began on 24 June. A 'performance guarantee test' confirmed that the unit generates its designed output. KHNP subsequently received approval from the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission for the reactor to enter full-scale commercial operation.

Its sister unit, Shin Wolsong 2, is expected to start up next month and enter commercial operation in January 2013.

South Korea now has 23 nuclear power reactors in commercial operation with a combined generating capacity of 20,787 MWe.

Carnival of Space 260

The Carnival of Space 260 is up at Supernova Condensate

NASA reports that a test of an inflatable heat shield was successfully conducted on July 23, Monday morning. The test was the latest in a series of technology demonstrators conducted by the space agency.

ZMEScience - Researchers at MIT, the University of California at Santa Cruz and other institutions have come across the first exoplanetary system, whose planets exhibit a regularly aligned orbit, after analyzing data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope. So far, other discovered exoplanetary systems had planets, particularly hot-Jupiters, which presented far more eccentric orbits.

Drug IL-1Ra halves brain damage from stroke

Scientists led by the President of The University of Manchester have demonstrated a drug which can dramatically limit the amount of brain damage in stroke patients.

They have been testing the effectiveness of the drug Anakinra (IL-1Ra), which is already used for rheumatoid arthritis in experimental studies of stroke.

This new study builds on previous research, although the big difference is that rats with stroke risk factors such as obesity, insulin resistance and atherosclerosis were used alongside healthy rats and older ones. It means the findings have a far greater chance of being replicated in human stroke patients.

Researchers induced a stroke in the rats and the drug IL-1Ra, or a placebo for comparison, was injected under the skin. The researchers did not know which animals had been given which drug. This is a similar process to what happens in clinical trials of medicines.

The results were startling. MRI scans revealed that the rats that were given IL-1Ra up to three hours after the stroke had only about half the brain damage of the placebo group.

July 30, 2012

Energy News - Waterless LPG Natural Gas Fracking and Tanzania Uranium

1. Business Insider - A planned shale gas drilling project in New York state has drawn global attention for its aim to make use of a waterless form of hydraulic fracking – a new technique designed to reduce the pollution associated with controversial natural gas drilling processes.

The project (in the Marcellus Shale) is focused on using a technology that pumps a thick gel made from propane into the ground as opposed to using traditional methods of hydraulic fracking that make use of a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals to extract natural gas reserves from deep shale formations. Unlike traditional technologies, the gel from the new liquefied propane gas (LPG) fracking method reverts to vapor while still underground, and as a result returns to the surface in a recoverable form.

Propane/butane gel could very well become the shale 'treatment of choice' in all countries because of its many technical and environmental benefits relative to large volume 'slick' water fracking techniques.

Navy Scientists Demonstrate Breakthrough in Tunnel Barrier Technology

Scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory have demonstrated, for the first time, the use of graphene as a tunnel barrier — an electrically insulating barrier between two conducting materials through which electrons tunnel quantum mechanically. They report fabrication of magnetic tunnel junctions using graphene, a single atom thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice, between two ferromagnetic metal layers in a fully scalable photolithographic process. Their results demonstrate that single-layer graphene can function as an effective tunnel barrier for both charge and spin-based devices, and enable realization of more complex graphene-based devices for highly functional nanoscale circuits, such as tunnel transistors, non-volatile magnetic memory and reprogrammable spin logic.

Diagram (left) of the graphene-based magnetic tunnel junction, where a single atom thick layer of carbon atoms in a honeycomb lattice separates two magnetic metal films (cobalt and permalloy). The magnetizations of the films can be aligned parallel or antiparallel, resulting in a change in resistance for current flowing through the structure, called the tunnel magnetoresistance (TMR). The plot (right) shows the TMR as an applied magnetic field changes the relative orientation of the magnetizations — the TMR persists well above room temperature.
(U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

Nanoletters - Graphene As a Tunnel Barrier: Graphene-Based Magnetic Tunnel Junctions

Hayworth’s brain-preservation and mind-uploading protocol

Kurzweilai - Neuroscientist Kenneth Hayworth wants his 100 billion neurons and more than 100 trillion synapses to be encased in a block of transparent, amber-colored resin — before he dies of natural causes.

Hayworth’s brain-preservation and mind-uploading protocol

Before becoming “very sick or very old,” he’ll opt for an “early ‘retirement’ to the future,” he writes. There will be a send-off party with friends and family, followed by a trip to the hospital. After Hayworth is placed under anesthesia, a cocktail of toxic chemicals will be perfused through his still-functioning vascular system, fixing every protein and lipid in his brain into place, preventing decay, and killing him instantly.

Then he will be injected with heavy-metal staining solutions to make his cell membranes visible under a microscope. All of the water will then be drained from his brain and spinal cord, replaced by pure plastic resin.

Every neuron and synapse in his central nervous system will be protected down to the nanometer level, Hayworth says, “the most perfectly preserved fossil imaginable.”

Using a ultramicrotome (like one developed by Hayworth, with a grant by the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience), his plastic-embedded preserved brain will eventually be cut into strips, and then imaged in an electron microscope. The physical brain will be destroyed, but in its place will be a precise map of his connectome.

In 100 years or so, Hayworth says, scientists will be able to determine the function of each neuron and synapse and build a computer simulation of the mind. And because the plastination process will have preserved his spinal nerves, the computer-generated mind can be connected to a robot body.

“This isn’t cryonics, where maybe you have a .001 percent chance of surviving,” he said. “We’ve got a good scientific case for brain preservation and mind uploading.”

Chronicle Review - The Strange Neuroscience of Immortality

Kenneth J. Hayworth, Electron Imaging Technology for Whole Brain Neural Circuit Mapping, International Journal of Machine Consciousness, 2012, DOI: 10.1142/S1793843012400057

Japan using nuclear saves about $1 trillion versus Fossil fuels

Forbes - James Conca compares the cost for Japan of using fossil fuels in place of Nuclear or restarting all remaining nuclear power and uprating to make up for the loss of Fukushima.

Over the next two decades, the cost of replacing nuclear with fossil fuel generation in Japan will be about $1.2 trillion, most of it in the cost of natural gas. This cost does not include financing, insurance or other non-operating or non-construction costs. It will take about ten years to fully implement this new mix.

Over the next two decades, the costs of keeping the nuclear fleet afloat is about $225 billion, much less than the fossil fuel alternative

Materials and fuel are more costly in Japan relative to the U.S., and labor is slightly cheaper. So in $US, replacing Japan’s approximate 300 billion kWhrs/yr of nuclear with a mix of a third coal (twenty-one 750 MW plants with a capcity factor of 71% @ $2.5 billion each) and two-thirds gas (thirty-three 880 MW plants with a capacity factor of 80% @ $820 million each) will cost about $80 billion in construction. But the additional fuel costs for these plants will be about $4 billion/yr @ 4¢/kWhr for coal and $40 billion/yr @ 18¢/kWhr for gas, or about $44 billion/yr. Operating costs for these new plants would total about $15 billion/yr @ 0.5¢/kWhr for each fuel type.

Kidney Cancer Vaccine Successful in Clinical Trials

Researchers at the University of Tübingen and immatics biotechnologies GmbH – a start-up by Tübingen scientists – have published the results of two clinical studies using the kidney-cancer vaccine IMA901 in the latest edition of Nature Medicine.

IMA901 is used to treat patients with cancer of the kidneys. It is composed of ten synthetic tumor-associated peptides (TUMAPs), which activate the body’s own killer T-cells against the tumor. Unlike chemotherapy, this process targets the body’s immune responses and mobilizes them to attack the cancer. The studies show that this active immunization against cancer can be successful and extend the life of a patient for longer than even the latest chemotherapy techniques – with far fewer side-effects.

Nature Medicine - Multipeptide immune response to cancer vaccine IMA901 after single-dose cyclophosphamide associates with longer survival times

Self-Assembly of Quantum Dots with World’s Highest Density 730 billion per square centimeter

The NIMS Photonic Materials Unit is developing an advanced self-assembly technique for semiconductor quantum dots called droplet epitaxy, which is an original NIMS technology, and recently succeeded in the development of a new self-assembly technique for quantum dots with the world’s highest surface density, greatly exceeding the previously reported value.

Quantum dots have attracted heightened attention in recent years as a technology for achieving substantial improvement in the properties of semiconductor lasers and development of ultra-high efficiency photovoltaic cells based on a new operating principle.

In the newly-developed technology,
(1) use of a substrate with a high index surface,
(2) formation and crystallization of gallium droplets at near-room temperature, and (3) suppression of the droplet coalescence by optimization of the amount of supplied gallium were introduced in the gallium arsenide (GaAs) quantum dot formation by droplet epitaxy.

As a result, the NIMS team succeeded in self-assembly of GaAs quantum dots with an extremely high surface density of 730 billion per square centimeter in a lattice-matched system. The team also discovered that defects originating in crystallization at near-room temperature can be restored by applying ingenuity to the heat treatment process for the crystallized quantum dots, and strong PL emission can be observed from the quantum dots.

Atomic force microscope (AFM) image of ultra-high surface density quantum dots formed by reducing the amount of gallium irradiation to 3 monolayer at a growth temperature of 30°C. An ultra-high surface density of 7.3 x 10^11/cm2 was achieved.

Silicon Chip utilizing Casimir Forces by Geometric Configuration

Technology Review - Jie Zou et al at the University of Florida have carved a single device out of silicon that is capable of measuring the Casimir force between a pair of parallel silicon beams, the first on-chip device capable of doing this.

There are other forces at play here too, such as residual electrostatic forces. When Zou and co take these into account, their results more or less exactly match theoretical predictions for the Casimir force that beams of this shape should generate.

The device solves a number of problems. First, because both silicon beams are made in the same lithographic step, unwanted distortions are not a significant problem. And the positioning is easier to control too since the beams and actuator are all part of the same device and so need far less calibrating and alignment. Finally, there are the measurements themselves which are more straightforward to do on a single chip than in previous experiments.

All this adds up to a significant step forward. What these guys have built is the first on-chip machine that exploits the Casimir force generated by a specific geometric configuration.

Arxiv - Geometry-dependent Casimir forces on a silicon chip (11 pages)

We report measurements of the Casimir force gradient between two parallel silicon beams with near-square cross sections at separations down to 260 nm. Both the force-sensing element and the actuator that controls the distance are integrated on the same substrate, with no need for manual alignment. Taking residual electrostatic forces into consideration, the measured Casimir force gradient agrees with the theoretical calculation based on the exact geometry. This scheme opens the possibility of tailoring the Casimir force using lithographically defined components of non-conventional shapes.
The set-up of the experiment and device. (a) A simplified schematic (not to scale) of the beam, movable electrode and comb actuator supported by four springs, with electrical connections. The current amplifier provides a virtual ground to the right end of the beam. The suspended and anchored parts of the comb actuator are shown in dark and light colors respectively. The separation d between the beam and the movable electrode was controllably reduced so that the Casimir force can be detected. (b)-(e) Scanning electron micrographs of the entire micromechanical structure (b) and close-ups of: the doubly clamped beam (c), zoomed into the white dashed box in (b); the comb actuator (d) and the serpentine spring (e).

Nanosys quantum dots display layer will be in consumer electronics starting in 2013

Technology Review - A layer of nanomaterial that gives a liquid-crystal display the rich range of colors usually possible only with more expensive technologies will be commercialized later this year by the materials giant 3M and Nanosys, a private company in Palo Alto, California. Nanosys representatives say they are in talks with major display manufacturers to adopt the quantum-dot films, and that they will be in a 15.6-inch notebook computer available next year.

Liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) dominate the market for both televisions and portable electronics. For many years now, manufacturers have concentrated on making LCDs on a large scale at ever lower costs, to the point where they have become commodities. Meanwhile, more expensive display technologies based on organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) have come along, offering richer color and, in some cases, better power consumption, but at a higher price.

Representatives from Nanosys say their film—a sheet of plastic embedded with nanoscale spheres of indium-phosphide and cadmium quantum dots—makes it possible to match the color gamut of an OLED in an LCD, without any changes to the manufacturing process, and without adding much cost.

Nano boost: A film loaded with quantum dots (left) can be added to an LCD to improve its color gamut. The film converts some of the blue light emitted by the screen's backlight (right) into red and green light. Nanosys

Carnival of nuclear energy 115

The Carnival of nuclear energy 115 is up at AtomicPowerReview.

NEI Nuclear notes - In April 2011, the Worldwatch Institute predicted a rocky future for nuclear energy, but the most recent report from the OECD shows the predicted slowdown never occurred.

Idaho Samizdat - The Department of Energy is reviewing proposals from B and W and several other SMR (small medium reactor) firms to be granted up to $452 million over five years to support SMR engineering and licensing work. The agency will make up to two awards by the end of September this year.

Samsung Galaxy note 2 will be launched August 15

Techradar and BGR report that the Samsung Galaxy note 2 will be officially launched August 15, 2012 It should be available for purchase in September.

Rumors have suggested that the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 will have a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and a quad-core Exynos processor, and it may have a 12-megapixel rear camera as well.

Warming by about 0.15 C per decade (Anthony Watts) reports on a new set of papers at Berkeley University on world temperature which shows half the temperature increase of previous IPCC studies.

A new paper authored by Anthony Watts, et al as part of the Berkley Earth Surface Temperature Project (BEST) (being submitted for publication) has now shown that the temperature guage site metadata (information about site changes like urban development, site moves, etc) used by NOAA and NASA's GHCN and resulting data adjustments overcompensated on high quality rural sites and undercompensated on poor quality urban sites, leading to overmodification of the temperature record, thus falsely showing a 0.308 C warming since 1979, when a new site rating methodology now shows the actual warming since 1979 has only been 0.15 C. Note the old, incorrect, exaggerated warming of 0.308 C has consistently been shown to be roughly half of the amount of warming predicted by the best computer climate models used by NOAA, NASA, and CRU to produce their predictions for the UN's IPCC report.

Anthony Watts, President, IntelliWeather, Chico, CA, USA

Evan Jones, IntelliWeather, Chico, CA, USA

Stephen McIntyre, Toronto, Canada

John R. Christy, Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama, Huntsville, AL, USA

NY Times has an article by co-author physicist Richard Muller There seem to be at least two Berkeley Earth teams.

Call me (Richard Muller) a converted[fake] skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

Richard Muller was warning about global warming for the last decade. He wrote an article in 2003 in Technology Review.

Let me [Richard Muller] be clear. My own reading of the literature and study of paleoclimate suggests strongly that carbon dioxide from burning of fossil fuels will prove to be the greatest pollutant of human history. It is likely to have severe and detrimental effects on global climate. I would love to believe that the results of Mann et al. are correct, and that the last few years have been the warmest in a millennium.

Love to believe? My own words make me shudder. They trigger my scientist's instinct for caution. When a conclusion is attractive, I am tempted to lower my standards, to do shoddy work. But that is not the way to truth. When the conclusions are attractive, we must be extra cautious.

July 29, 2012

Latest graphene isolation methods enable over 10 perfect layers

Phys Org - Researchers at the University of Manchester have demonstrated that graphene can be used as a building block to create new 3D crystal structures which are not confined by what nature can produce

A new side-view imaging technique can be used to visualize the individual atomic layers of graphene within the devices they have built. They found that the structures were almost perfect even when more than 10 different layers were used to build the stack. This surprising result indicates that the latest techniques of isolating graphene could be a huge leap forward for engineering at the atomic level.

Cross-sectional imaging of individual layers and buried interfaces of graphene-based heterostructures and superlattices, by S. J. Haigh et al. Nature Materials, 2012.

Colloidal Quantum dot film solar cells reach 7% efficiency

Researchers from the University of Toronto (U of T) and King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) have made a breakthrough in the development of colloidal quantum dot (CQD) films, leading to the most efficient CQD solar cell ever

The researchers, led by U of T Engineering Professor Ted Sargent, created a solar cell out of inexpensive materials that was certified at a world-record 7.0% efficiency.

"Previously, quantum dot solar cells have been limited by the large internal surface areas of the nanoparticles in the film, which made extracting electricity difficult," said Dr. Susanna Thon, a lead co-author of the paper. "Our breakthrough was to use a combination of organic and inorganic chemistry to completely cover all of the exposed surfaces."

A 3 page article from Nature Photonics explains what is needed to get colloidal quantum dots to a commercial breakthrough

Given the practical limitations associated with reducing balance-of-systems costs, it is widely believed that a long-term viable solar technology — even one with an unprecedentedly low module cost — must offer a clear roadmap to achieving power- conversion efficiencies of more than 20%.

Half of the Sun’s energy the Earth lies in the visible band, while the other half is in the infrared range. If a single light-absorbing semiconductor is employed in a solar module, its bandgap must lie in the near-infrared (around 1.1–1.4 to offer a theoretical limit of 31% under unconcentrated illumination conditions.)

When a single-junction power-conversion efficiency of 10% is eventually reached, the
multijunction strategy can be deployed to engineer these low-cost, flexible materials
into devices with efficiencies of 15%.

OECD Debt and Deficit Statistics

The OECD provides many financial statistics which can be turned into graphs and tables.

Here is the national debt estimate for 2013.

The US is projected to be at 111% debt to GDP in 2013.
The only countries in the OECD with higher debt to GDP ratios are
Japan 222.6%
Greece 173.1%
Portugal 130.1
Ireland 126.9
Iceland 124.7
Italy 122.1

The area total ratio
OECD 109.3
Euro Area (15) 99.9%