September 29, 2012

Halving the cost of superconductors will see major shifts from conventional infrastructure in 5 to 10 years

There are some significant utility scale high temperature superconducting (HTS) projects

Southern California Edison says that exploiting the benefits of HTS over the next decade is most likely to start with niche [utility scale] projects to build a technology foundation while gradually expanding markets and growing the manufacturing capacity to supply them. Minervini added that “microgrids” for isolated military bases and large urban data centers may provide another entrée by avoiding the need for investment by risk-averse utilities.

Studies suggest that reducing the present cost of the superconductor by a factor of two would bring the cost of 10-GW, 1200-mile-long, superconducting cables to within range of that of conventional overhead lines. Since underground dc cables also offer substantial environmental, siting, and aesthetic benefits over conventional overhead transmission lines, they may become an attractive alternative option in some situations.”

Electronics That Fight Infection and Dissolve Away

DARPA researchers have created electronic systems and components using ultrathin sheets of silicon and magnesium encapsulated in silk, a biocompatible material. The thickness and crystallinity of the silk determines how long the electronics take to dissolve: days, hours, or even minutes. Silicon and magnesium are naturally occurring at low levels in the human body, and since the amount of material used in these devices is below physiological levels these electronics are biocompatible and eco-friendly.

New designs Enabled by Robotic Cars

Brad Templeton discusses how robot cars will change the design of cars.

Big changes that will come about from robocars will come from how they free car designers from the constraints of human-driven cars which are the owner's sole, or almost-sole vehicle.

If one can hire a cheap specialized "robotaxi" (or whistlecar) on demand when one has a special automotive need, car users can elect to purchase a vehicle only for their most common needs, rather than trying to meet almost all of them -- or to not purchase at all.

Most trips are short, have only one passenger and do not require significant cargo room. Almost nobody purchases a vehicle good only for that purpose, because they want to cover the occasional needs for long trips, taking extra people, carrying cargo, towing or going off-road.

So if on demand robotic cars are always roaming nearby then they could be instantly called when you need to carry more people or more cargo.

Sloppy warp fields should be much easier to engineer

Warp Field Mechanics 101 (33 pages)

Almost all of the information in this post is from the Harold White paper "Warp Field Mechanics 101" and a presentation he made on September, 2011 at the 100 Year Starship Symposium which were all posted at the NASA server. The video is an interview of Eric Davis on "Attack of the Show" from G4 TV. The original Alcubierre space warp theories required massive amounts of energy and exotic matter. If Harold White is correct with his ideas for a higher dimension manifold and thicker shell, then the amount of energies needed will come down to a feasible level. Experiments at NASA over the next few months with a moderate sized laser could show that a detectable space warp is formed with 1 ten millionth the level of warping than would be needed for actual propulsion.

Hard "Sonny" White's bio is at the Icarus Interstellar project website

Dr. White holds a Ph.D. in Physics from Rice University, a Master’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Wichita State University, and a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from University of South Alabama. Dr. White has accumulated over 15 years of experience working in the aerospace industry with Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and NASA. He currently serves as the Advanced Propulsion Theme Lead for the NASA Engineering Directorate and is the JSC representative to the Nuclear Systems Working Group. In his role, Dr. White is serving to help the Agency incorporate high TRL advanced power and propulsion technologies into near and mid-term human exploration architectures. He is also pursuing theoretical and laboratory research on developing lower TRL advanced propulsion and power technologies in the advanced propulsion physics laboratory known as Eagleworks that is located at the Johnson Space Center.

The idea of a warp drive in higher dimensional space-time (manifold) will then be briefly considered by comparing the null-like geodesics of the Alcubierre metric to the Chung-Freese metric to illustrate the mathematical role of hyperspace coordinates. The net effect of using a warp drive “technology” coupled with conventional propulsion systems on an exploration mission will be discussed using the nomenclature of early mission planning. Finally, an overview of the warp field interferometer test bed being implemented in the Advanced Propulsion Physics Laboratory: Eagleworks at the Johnson Space Center will be detailed.

The advantage of allowing a thicker warp bubble wall is that the integration of the total energy density for the right-most field is orders of magnitude less that the left-most field. The drawback is that the volume of the flat space-time in the center of the bubble is reduced. Still, a minimal reduction in flat space-time volume appears to yield a drastic reduction in total energy requirement that would likely outweigh reduced real-estate. Sloppy warp fields would appear to be “easier” to engineer than precise warp fields. Some additional appealing characteristics of the metric is that the proper acceleration α is zero, meaning there is no acceleration felt in the flat space-time volume inside the warp bubble when the field is turned on, and the coordinate time t in the flat space-time volume is the same as proper time τ, meaning the clocks on board the spacecraft proper beat at the same rate as clocks on earth.

Eric Davis explains on Attack of the Show
Eric Davis in another talk on Hyperspace Dr. Eric Davis outlines Dr. Giorgio Fontana's "Hyperspace for Space Travel". Fontana postulates that a localized strong gravitational field may allow travel to different local universes or Faster Than Light (FTL) travel within the same local universe, thus potentially allowing the collision or focusing of gravitational waves to produce effects comparable to those of short-lived black holes to facilitate Faster-Than-Light (FTL) space propulsion. Fontana is a professor at the University of Trento in italy, and Davis is a theoretical physicist working at EarthTech International.

The Alcubierre Warp Drive in Higher Dimensional Spacetime

An eight page paper on Harold White's space warping ideas

The canonical form of the Alcubierre warp drive metric is considered to gain insight into the mathematical mechanism triggering the effect. A parallel with the Chung-Freese spacetime metric is drawn to demonstrate that the spacetime expansion boost can be considered a 3 + 1 on-brane simplification for higher dimensional geometric effects. The implications for baryonic matter of higher dimensional spacetime, in conjunction with the Alcubierre metric, are used to illustrate an equation of state for dark energy. Finally, this combined model will then be used to outline a theoretical framework for negative pressure (an alternative to negative energy) and a conceptual lab experiment is described.

Recall that the spacetime expansion boost for the Alcubierre model could be made to be arbitrarily high depending on the choice of input variables. A high boost is clearly not an exclusive feature common only to negative energy densities and can be readily obtained in the lab provided powerful enough equipment.

We used Rindler’s method to extract the canonical from of the Alcubierre warp drive metric in order to properly pose this FTL geometry into the Chung-Freese modified FRW metric for cosmological spacetime. This led to the remarkable discovery that a spacecraft’s spacetime expansion boost in the Alcubierre warp spacetime actually represents a movement of the spacecraft off our local brane (3 + 1 dimensional spacetime) and into the higher dimensional bulk space. The Alcubierre warp spacetime expansion boost merely acts as a scalar multiplier acting on an initial velocity. The consequence of this is that the equation of state for the energy density and pressure that induces this effect is equivalent to the dark energy equation of state and the equation of state for the vacuum energy in space. This suggests a conceptual laboratory experiment whereby a toroidal positive energy density induces a negative pressure warp field.

Hopkins Researchers show that myostatin inhibition can increase muscle mass of aging population

Working with mice, Johns Hopkins researchers have solved a key part of a muscle regeneration mystery plaguing scientists for years, adding strong support to the theory that muscle mass can be built without a complete, fully functional supply of muscle stem cells.

"This is good news for those with muscular dystrophy and other muscle wasting disorders that involve diminished stem cell function," says Se-Jin Lee, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of a report on the research in the August issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and professor of molecular biology and genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Muscle stem cells, known as satellite cells, reside next to muscle fibers and are usually dormant in adult mammals, including humans.

Mice without the gene for myostatin (right) have nearly twice as much muscle mass as normal mice (left).
Se-jin Lee lab

PNAS - Role of satellite cells versus myofibers in muscle hypertrophy induced by inhibition of the myostatin/activin signaling pathway

September 28, 2012

Harold White Presentation on Making Space Warping Achievable

Space Warp equations are being tested using an instrument called the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer. At Johnson Space Center, Eagleworks has initiated an interferometer test bed that will try to generate and detect a microscopic instance of a little warp bubble.

Across 1cm, the experimental rig should be able to measure space perturbations down to ~1 part in 10,000,000. As previously discussed, the canonical form of the metric suggests that boost may be the driving phenomenon in the process of physically establishing the phenomenon in a lab. Further, the energy density character over a number of shell thicknesses suggests that a toroidal donut of boost can establish the spherical region. Based on the expected sensitivity of the rig, a 1cm diameter toroidal test article (something as simple as a very high-voltage capacitor ring) with a boost on the order of 1.0000001 is necessary to generate an effect that can be effectively detected by the apparatus. The intensity and spatial distribution of the phenomenon can be quantified using 2D analytic signal techniques comparing the detected interferometer fringe plot with the test device off with the detected plot with the device energized.

Here is information from a presentation by Harold White that explains the test setup and physics around the concept.

H. G. White and E. W. Davis- The AlcubierreWarp Drive in Higher Dimensional Spacetime

Old muscles made young

King's College Of London - Researchers at King’s College London, Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital have identified for the first time a key factor responsible for declining muscle repair during ageing, and discovered how to halt the process in mice with a common drug.

Although an early study, the findings provide clues as to how muscles lose mass with age, which can result in weakness that affects mobility and may cause falls. The study, to be published in the journal Nature, involved researchers from King's College London, Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital. The study looked at stem cells found inside muscle – which are responsible for repairing injury – to find out why the ability of muscles to regenerate declines with age. A dormant reservoir of stem cells is present inside every muscle, ready to be activated by exercise and injury to repair any damage. When needed, these cells divide into hundreds of new muscle fibres that repair the muscle. At the end of the repairing process some of these cells also replenish the pool of dormant stem cells so that the muscle retains the ability to repair itself again and again.

Nature - The aged niche disrupts muscle stem cell quiescence

Will Baxter be the Model T of the robotics industry?

Rodney Brooks has been working in the field of robotics since the 1970s, and is considered one of the world's foremost roboticists. In 1990 Brooks cofounded irobot, which has produced a number of innovative robots including the roomba vacuum cleaner. In 2008 Brooks co-founded Rethink Robotics with the aim of creating inexpensive, versatile, and easy to use manufacturing robots that could work directly with humans. Rethink Robotics recently unveiled the highly configurable Baxter robot, which should be the first in a series of increasingly sophistic ated and autonomous robots. In an interview with Sander Olson for Next Big Future, Brooks discusses the capabi
lities of Baxter, why he believes that Baxter is a game-changing robot, and what industries will be transformed by robotics in the coming decade.

Rodney Brooks

Question: Your company recently changed its name from Heartland Robotics to Rethink Robotics. This implies that a new generation of robots is emerging.

The first manufacturing robots emerged in 1961, when sensing and computation were expensive. Since then, robots have been used in welding and painting, but are generally not deployed in the assembly line. This is because robots were too dangerous, and difficult to interact with. Just as the PC transformed the way people interacted with computers, these new generation robots are inexpensive, and are designed to safely interact with humans, to be trainable, and to be an easy to use tool.

September 27, 2012

Transatomic Power Update

Forbes - Transatomic Power is trying to develop a “Waste Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor.” Dewan and Massie’s design is fuel-agnostic in the sense that it can run on either uranium or thorium; as the name implies, its signal feature is that it can consume spent fuel from conventional light-water reactors. Transatomic joins a growing list of start-ups, including Flibe Energy, that are trying to revolutionize nuclear power by bringing back alternative fuels, including thorium, and alternative reactor designs.

Most uranium in the ground is the isotope uranium-238 (U238), which is not fissile, and thus is no good for producing power. Conventional reactors require fuel in which the percentage of the isotope U235 has been enriched up to 3% to 5%, or “reactor-grade” uranium. Uranium that is enriched to around 20% U235 is weapons-grade.

China nuclear reactor program to resume in fourth quarter

Reuters - Shanghai Securities News said China's Ministry of Environmental Protection had already started accelerating the approval process for the nuclear sector. The second phase of the Sino-Russian Tianwan nuclear project in Jiangsu province on the eastern coast was certain to start construction in December.

Before the Fukushima disaster in Japan, Beijing had been expected to set a new 2020 nuclear capacity target of more than 80 gigawatts, but that target is now expected to be scaled back. China's current total nuclear installed capacity stands at 12.57 gigawatts.

As of September 2012, Dwave Systems is able to use 442 qubits on its 512 qubit adiabatic quantum computer chip

The qubit count of D-Wave's quantum processors have been increasing exponentially since the first chip. This animation takes a tour of the chips leading up to the latest processor: 'Vesuvius'.

From 2 minutes into the video, the statement of 442 qubits reached this month

Opposed Piston and Other Engines that could deliver 100 mpg

1. EcoMotors is developing high-efficiency engines — specifically the unique opoc (Opposed Piston Opposed Cylinder) engine — for use in cars, light trucks, marine applications, agricultural vehicles, stationary generators, etc.; essentially anywhere conventional gas or diesel power is utilized. They have stackable engines. Below is a picture of a dual module Ecomotors OPOC engine.

EcoMotors, a startup building an efficient engine, has raised a $32.5 million Series C round led by Braemar Energy Ventures, and including previous investors Khosla Ventures and Bill Gates in 2012. The four-year-old company’s engine design includes stackable modules, one of which can be shut off when it isn’t needed, and the startup has said its engine could deliver a 100 MPG for highway driving in a 5-passenger car.

EcoMotors said this morning that the funding will help it create diesel engines with customers, including Navistar and Zhongding Holding Group. The company will also use the funds to make a gas-version, in addition to its diesel-version. Eventually EcoMotors will also develop a compressed natural gas version, too.

Self-driving cars a reality for 'ordinary people' within 5 years, says Google's Sergey Brin

Computer World - "autonomous vehicles" will be a reality for "ordinary people" in less than five years, Google CEO Sergey Brin said on Tuesday.

He also said he thinks autonomous cars will be "far safer" than those driven by humans, and he envisioned a world in which office parking lots become a thing of the past, with cars instead dropping off their owners and driving off to park themselves somewhere else.

Brin spoke at a press conference at Google's Silicon Valley headquarters, where California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law state legislation that is designed to accelerate the testing and development of self-driving vehicles.

Bill SB1298 requires, among other things, that a driver be present to take control of the vehicle when needed. It also says autonomous vehicles can only be used for testing until the state has granted various safety approvals. It follows similar legislation passed in Nevada.

3-D laser sintering technology can make aircraft parts 50-75% lighter

Phys Org - More than 50 percent weight savings in aircraft construction is now possible using hypermodern production techniques. A process called 3-D laser sintering of the raw material permits a completely new kind of fabrication. This process can reduce aircraft component part counts and improve designs, leading to enormous savings in weight and volume. The only equipment for this process in Austria - and at its time the second in the world - is located at FOTEC in Wiener Neustadt. The research subsidiary of the University of Applied Sciences located there is presently optimising the monitoring and quality control of the production process, while manufacturing a fuel collector for an aircraft engine that is even around 75 percent lighter than before.

The method is still so new that there are only a few professional production machines worldwide. One of them is located at FOTEC Forschungs- und Technologietransfer GmbH in Wiener Neustadt. Using this machine, a laser-sintered prototype fuel collector has now been fabricated for Austrian aircraft manufacturer Diamond Aircraft Industries GmbH. According to Dr. Gerhard Pramhas, Managing Director of FOTEC, "Using laser sintering, we were able to reduce the number of components from five down to one. Along with that went a weight reduction of 77 percent. This was made possible through the unique manufacturing technique." The raw material for laser sintering is a metallic powder. This is mechanically built up layer-by-layer to a powder base. After applying each layer, the powder is melted by a laser at specified locations. Subsequently, an additional layer of powder is applied and melted again at the pre-calculated locations. In this way, even the most complex components can be manufactured as one piece, one layer at a time.

There is a video of laser sintering at this link

World and US Oil Projections and recent statistics

Alberta Oil Magazine has projections of oil production for the US and Canada out to 2016.

TheOilDrum has a typically overly pessimistic view of what will happen with world, US and Canadian oil production. The figures that they are using are already outdated for the US which has had an increase of 1 million barrels per day in crude oil since 2011.

How Atomic Scale Devices Are Transforming Electronics

Early in 2012, Professor Michelle Simmons' lab announced it had created 4-atom-wide nanowires. IBM demonstrated it could store a bit of information on only 12 atoms, compared with 1 million atoms for today's most advanced hard drives. Then Prof. Simmons showed a working transistor made from a single atom. Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard is planning to commercialize a mass-market flash memory device based on memristors, a new type of electronic device that stores information by manipulating the location of a few atoms.

EETimes - Williams said memristor research was essentially complete, adding: "If you know what you're doing – and there's a lot of intellectual property involved – literally any foundry could make memristors tomorrow."

These breakthroughs show how, after more than a decade of research advances, scientists and technologists are learning to measure and manipulate matter to create fundamentally different electronic devices.

MICHELLE SIMMONS: Other groups had found that making nanowires thinner than 10nm wide tended to deactivate their dopants, the atoms added to the wire to make it conductive. We embedded our wire in crystalline silicon to isolate the dopant atoms from surfaces and interfaces that caused this deactivation. We predicted this would give us highly conductive wires, and this is what happened.

The key to making these wires was combining scanning tunneling microscopy, a technique to image and manipulate individual atoms, with molecular beam epitaxy, a way of growing perfect crystals. It gave us great precision in all three dimensions, and when combined with a high density of the dopant atoms, allowed us to create these highly conductive nanowires.

China is developing two fifth generation stealth fighters

The Chinese military has leaked first photos of a brand new lightweight fighter with external characteristics that allow the jet fifth-generation attribution. Some pictures suggest it could be used on future Chinese aircraft carriers. Chengdu Aircraft Corporation is heavily testing its J-20 “Mighty Dragon” fifth generation heavy fighter-bomber. The Shenyang Aircraft Industry Group F-60 is a lightweight fighter.
Shenyang Aircraft Industry Group (SAC), one of the leading aircraft design and manufacturing corporations of China’s aviation industry, has rolled out a prototype that might eventually become Chinese analogue to America’s F-35.

The aircraft bears a certain resemblance to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, and even reportedly has the codename F-60.

Bionic Legs could be thought controlled starting this year

Last week at the Wellcome Collection in London, Sophie Morgan, who was paralysed in a car accident, demonstrated bionic legs after just two short practice sessions.

The exoskeleton, developed by Richard Little and colleagues at Rex Bionics, has lithium batteries that can power up to 2 hours of walking. The user can select different modes, for example to walk up stairs or head down a slope, then guide themselves manually using a joystick. But soon the bionic legs could be controlled using thought alone, thanks to a collaboration with Jose Contreras-Vidal from the University of Houston in Texas. The new mind-reading system will detect brain activity using EEG and translate the electrical impulses into commands for the exoskeleton. Contreras-Vidal is taking a unique approach by extracting impulses associated with motion from the lowest brainwave frequencies.

The team hopes to test the thought-controlled system this year.

Signature of long-sought particle that could revolutionize quantum computing seen by Purdue physicist

A Purdue University physicist has observed evidence of long-sought Majorana fermions, special particles that could unleash the potential of fault-tolerant quantum computing.

Leonid Rokhinson, an associate professor of physics, led a team that is the first to successfully demonstrate the fractional a.c. Josephson effect, which is a signature of the particles.

"The search for this particle is for condensed-matter physicists what the Higgs boson search was for high-energy particle physicists," Rokhinson said. "It is a very peculiar object because it is a fermion yet it is its own antiparticle with zero mass and zero charge."

a.c. Josephson effect and Shapiro steps.

Nature Physics - The fractional a.c. Josephson effect in a semiconductor–superconductor nanowire as a signature of Majorana particles

September 26, 2012

Toward a Production Very Light Car from the makers of Edison 2

The Edison 2 won the 100 mpg Xprize with a 120 mpg run over 200 miles in 2010. It was a 750 pound car.

A next generation Very Light Car is being developed. It is much more than just a pre-production version of the X Prize prototype. It is a completely new vehicle, using the same underlying architecture and with the same virtues of efficiency that won us the X Prize.

A VLC prototype with a Smart Car driveline achieved 89 MPG (highway), compared to 41 MPG for the Smart

The VLC demonstrated the lowest drag ever recorded at the GM Aero Lab for a multi-passenger car (0.160 Cd)

A 1060 lb. VLC, in a 40% Offset Frontal crash test, allowed only a 22g peak passenger compartment acceleration, well below the allowable limit of 70g (Center for Advanced Products Testing)

Top view of the next generation Very Light Car

On the left the 2010 Xprize winner and on the right the next generation VLC

US Crude Oil Production at 6.509 million barrels per day

US Daily Crude Oil Production for the week of Sept 21, 2012 was 6.509 million barrels per day. This is almost 150,000 barrels per day more than the peaks of 6.34 million barrels reached this summer. The US was last producing at this level in 1994-1996 when there was a plateau at about 6.3 to 6.7 million barrels per day.

The new level is 800,000 barrels per day more than in January of this year and 1 million barrel per day more than the summer of 2011. This is 1.5 million barrels per day more than the production levels in much of 2007 and 2008.

All US oil liquid production is at 10.8 million barrels per day. US Imports were down to 7.5 million barrels per day.

Optical black hole lasers

Arxiv - Optical black hole lasers (14 pages) You can amplify light by bouncing it between the horizons of a black hole and a white hole. Now physicists have worked out how to build such a device in the lab.

Their real triumph, however, is in showing how such a device could be made in the lab. They point out that the refractive index of certain materials depends on the intensity of light inside them. So the light itself changes the refractive index.

That means a very intense beam can create a huge gradient in the refractive index. This gradient can be so steep that it behaves like an event horizon. In fact, a single pulse can create black hole horizon at its leading edge and a white hole horizon at its trailing edge.

That's exactly the condition these guys are looking for. They go on to say that it ought to be possible to do this in optical waveguides made of diamond. They've tested the idea numerically and say it works as expected.

Faccio and co are quick to point out that it is possible to grow diamond into more or less any shape so it ought to be possible to test this idea in the lab now. "This would therefore seem to indicate that this kind of novel amplification process could be observed in real settings," they say.

That would be an extraordinary experiment-- a black hole laser in a lab.

Kalinin 4 accepted for commercial operation

World Nuclear News - A ceremony has been held to mark the formal acceptance for commercial operation of unit 4 of the Kalinin nuclear plant by its owner, Rosenergoatom.

Rosatom director general Sergey Kiriyenko noted that Kalinin 4 was completed on schedule and for 7 billion rubles ($240 million) less than the 76 billion rubles ($2.4 billion) allocated to the project.

African Spiny Mouse with with salamander-like regenerative abilities

A small African mammal with an unusual ability to regrow damaged tissues could inspire new research in regenerative medicine, a University of Florida study finds.

For years biologists have studied salamanders for their ability to regrow lost limbs. But amphibian biology is very different than human biology, so lessons learned in laboratories from salamanders are difficult to translate into medical therapies for humans. New research in the Sept. 27 issue of the journal Nature describes a mammal that can regrow new body tissues following an injury. The African spiny mouse could become a new model for research in regenerative medicine.

“The African spiny mouse appears to regenerate ear tissue in much the way that a salamander regrows a limb that has been lost to a predator,” said Ashley W. Seifert, a postdoctoral researcher in UF’s biology department. “Skin, hair follicles, cartilage — it all comes back.”

African spiny mouse specimen collected in the field near Nairobi Kenya.

Nature - Skin shedding and tissue regeneration in African spiny mice (Acomys)

A. kempi and A. percivali exhibit skin autotomy and subsequent rapid healing. a, b, A. kempi (a) and A. percivali (b) possess stiff, spine-like hairs on the dorsum. c, A. kempi after loss of dorsal skin. d, e, Scab formation after full-thickness skin injury visible at D3 (d). The same wounds in d are no longer visible

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Launched

1. Business week - Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) expects sales of its new Galaxy Note 2 smartphone to get off to a stronger start than its predecessor even after Apple Inc. (AAPL) sold a record number of the latest iPhone in its debut weekend.

The model will probably sell three times faster than the previous Note did in the first three months, as more carriers are set to offer the product, J.K. Shin, head of the mobile business, said at a briefing in Seoul, without giving a projection. The device goes on sale in 128 markets through 260 operators, starting with South Korea today, the Suwon, South Korea-based company said in a statement.

Samsung is marketing the pen-equipped Note devices alongside its best-selling Galaxy S smartphones after the first model sold more than 10 million units and helped Samsung regain the lead in global smartphone sales from Apple this year.

Samsung first unveiled the Galaxy Note 2 at the IFA consumer-electronics fair in Berlin last month. The model has a 5.5-inch screen, larger than its predecessor, and runs the latest version of Android. The device is loaded with software that recognizes handwriting from a digital pen.

Turing Gamebot - multiplayer first person shooter, people cannot tell between computer NPC and human controlled players

The UT^2 game bot, created by computer scientists Jacob Schru, Igor Karpov and Risto Miikkulainen, won the Humanlike Bot Competition at the IEEE World Congress on Computational Intelligence (WCCI 2012).

“The idea of the competition is to evaluate how we can make game bots, non-player characters (NPCs) controlled by AI algorithms, appear as human as possible,” explains Miikkulainen, professor of computer science in the College of Natural Sciences. “It is generally recognized that NPCs are relatively weak in most video games: their behavior is predictable and mechanical, and they often make mistakes that human players would be unlikely to make. Players often enjoy playing against other humans, because it provides a more interesting game experience. The goal of the competition is to promote more research in human-like bots, as well as evaluate how well we are currently doing in this area.”

The Humanlike Bot Competition focuses on interactions in the Unreal Tournament 2004 videogame, which is a fast-paced first-person shooter game. There are complex 3D environments in which multiple players and bots battle each other with different weapons and abilities. Humanlike behavior involves actions like moving around in the 3D space, engaging opponents, and choosing weapons.
In a multiplayer first person shooter, people cannot tell between computer NPC and humans

Double Strength Glass within reach

Rice University researchers determined in a new study that a process called chemical vapor deposition, which is used industrially to make thin films, could yield a glass that withstands tremendous stress without breaking.

Wolynes, a senior scientist with the Center for Theoretical Biological Physics at Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative, and Wisitsorasak reported their results this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their calculations were based on a modified version of a groundbreaking mathematical model that Wolynes first created to answer a decades-old conundrum about how glass forms. With the modifications, Wolynes’ theory can now predict the ultimate strength of any glass, including the common varieties made from silica and more exotic types made of polymers and metals.

If metal glass sounds odd, blame it on the molecules inside. Glass is unique because of its molecular structure. It freezes into a rigid form when cooled. But unlike ice, in which water molecules take on regular crystalline patterns —think of snowflakes — the molecules in glass are suspended randomly, just as they were as a liquid, with no particular pattern. The strong bonds that form between these randomly-arrayed individual molecules are what hold the glass together and ultimately determine its strength.

All glasses share the ability to handle a great deal of strain before giving way, sometimes explosively. Exactly how much strain a glass can handle is determined by how much energy it can absorb before its intrinsic elastic qualities reach their limitations. And that seems to be as much a property of the way the glass is manufactured as the material it’s made of.

September 25, 2012

ESTCube-1 and solar electric sail test set for 2013

We have had extensive coverage of the solar electric sail and the planned test projects.

The Electric Solar Wind Sail (E-sail) was invented by Pekka Janhunen, Finnish Meteorological Institute. He first published "Electric sail for spacecraft propulsion" in the AIAA Journal of Propulsion and Power. (2004)

* Uses solar wind momentum for producing thrust
* Consists of a number of long thin conducting tethers
* An electron gun is used to keep the wires at high positive potential
* The electric field of the wires extends tens of meters into the surrounding solar wind plasma

There is now more details of the first ESTCube-1 space mission to deploy a ten meter solar electric sail wire. It will be followed by a 100 meter test in 2014 and then a satellite with 4 - one kilometer long solar electric sail wires.

* Test of a 100 m tether deployment on Aalto-1 3U CubeSat (2014)
* CubeSat mission to the solar wind

ESTCube -1

* To deploy and confirm the deployment of a 10 m conductive Hoytether from a 1U CubeSat

* To measure the electric sail force, interacting with the tether. The success criteria for this objective is the measured effect on the satellite attitude resulting from electric sail force

Launch planned for 2013

GE Global Laser Enrichment get license from Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Bloomberg - GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s (GEH) Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) today announced receipt of its license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build a groundbreaking laser enrichment facility on the 1,600-acre site of the company’s global headquarters in Wilmington, N.C.

While a commercialization decision must still be made by the company, the license enables GLE to build a first-of-its-kind uranium enrichment facility using lasers conceived of by Australian technology company SILEX and developed by GLE experts.

Washington Post - GE Hitachi said it hasn’t yet decided whether the project will be profitable enough to launch construction of the $1 billion plant. Part of the evaluation will be weighing whether markets for enriched uranium will hold for years into the future

Nuclear Townhall has coverage

Nextbigfuture has covered Silex laser uranium enrichment before

The Above Room Temperature Graphite superconductivity claim

Chemistry World - Can graphite treated merely with water become a superconductor at room temperature? This is the extraordinary claim made by scientists in Germany. Unsurprisingly, this has been met with scepticism – from measured to outright – by other experts in superconductivity.

Nextbigfuture covered the research which finds indication of superconductivity up to 230 degrees celsius (way above the boiling point of water)

Pablo Esquinazi and his team at the University of Leipzig say that they observed a ‘tantalising hint’ of superconductivity at room temperature in samples of graphite powder that had been mixed with water and dried overnight at 100oC. The researchers placed the material in a magnetic field and observed changes in the graphite’s magnetism – tracing a hysteresis loop – that are characteristic of a superconductor. Analysis showed that only a tiny fraction of the sample, around one part in 10,000, was producing the response.

NOTE - Joe Eck at has claimed room temperature superconductivity in a different material but also only for a fraction of the material

Broad Group and their factory mass produced skyscrapers featured in Wired

Wired has coverage of Broad Group of China and their CEO Zhang.

Broad has built 16 structures in China, plus another in Cancun. They are fabricated in sections at two factories in Hunan, roughly an hour’s drive from Broad Town. From there the modules—complete with preinstalled ducts and plumbing for electricity, water, and other infrastructure—are shipped to the site and assembled like Legos. The company is in the process of franchising this technology to partners in India, Brazil, and Russia. What it’s selling is the world’s first standardized skyscraper, and with it, Zhang aims to turn Broad into the McDonald’s of the sustainable building industry.

For two decades, Zhang’s AC business boomed. But a couple of events conspired to change his course. The first was that Zhang became an environmentalist, a gradual awakening that he says began 10 or 12 years ago. The second was the 7.9-magnitude earthquake that hit China’s Sichuan Province in 2008, causing the collapse of poorly constructed buildings and killing some 87,000 people. In the aftermath, Zhang began to fixate on the problem of building design. At first, he says, he tried to convince developers to retrofit existing buildings to make them both more stable and more sustainable. “People paid no attention at all,” he says. So Zhang drafted his own engineers—300 of them, according to Jiang—and started researching how to build cheap, environmentally friendly structures that could also withstand an earthquake.

The best way to cut costs, he decided, was to take building to the factory—and as a manufacturer of massive AC units, he knew how factories worked. But to create a factory-built skyscraper, Broad had to abandon the principles by which skyscrapers are typically designed. The whole load-bearing structure had to be different. To reduce the overall weight of the building, it used less concrete in the floors; that in turn enabled it to cut down on structural steel. The result was the T30, 90 percent of which was built inside the factory. And Zhang says this percentage will only rise with future buildings: The more that happens in the factory, he says, the safer and less wasteful construction becomes.

Success for uranium-from-phosphate plant

World Nuclear News - A portable demonstration plant has achieved "exceptional results" with uranium recoveries of over 90% during steady state operations from phosphate.

The Demonstration Plant operation is a joint effort between Cameco and Uranium Equities (UEQ) staff with Cameco lending significant resources to the project. Cameco invested about $16.5 million in this project.

The global annual production potential of uranium from the phosphate industry is in the order of 20 Million lbs U3O8 (10,000 tons). This quantity of uranium is mined in phosphate ores but not recovered annually on a worldwide basis. The major phosphate based fertiliser producers are located in Northern Africa, North America and Asia.

We covered this project in 2011.

Uranium Equities' (UEQ's) PhosEnergy demonstration plant uses a refined ion exchange process to recover uranium from phosphate streams from the production of phosphate-based fertilizers. The demonstration plant, which is contained inside two shipping containers allowing for easy mobilization and transport, was shipped from Australia to the USA, where it was commissioned in May. Four ten-day tests were completed between June and August using phosphate streams from two different fertilizer facilities.

The operations achieved consistently high uranium recovery of over 90%, with the chemistry of the phosphate stream unaffected except for the removal of uranium, results which UEQ describes as "exceptional." The concentrated product from the operations was shipped to a uranium production facility and can be used to make a "saleable product".

UEQ managing director Bryn Jones described the completion of the plant's first operating phase as a major milestone in the commercialization of the process, to be followed by an engineering study to further increase confidence in capital and operating cost estimates – operating costs are currently estimated to be $25-30 per pound U3O8, with capital costs of $100 per pound of annualized nameplate capacity. The engineering study is expected to begin in the final quarter of 2012.

Vicarious developing machine learning using Recursive Cortical Network

Technology Review - Your eyes work with your brain to teach you about the world. You learn to recognize objects, people, and places, and you learn to imagine new things. A startup called Vicarious thinks computers could learn to do likewise, and it's building software that tries to process visual information the way the brain does.

Vicarious hopes to combine neuroscience and computer science to create a visual perception system inspired by the neocortex, the wrinkly outer portion of the brain that deals with speaking, hearing, seeing, moving, and other functions.

Vicarious is developing machine learning software based on the computational principles of the human brain. Our first technology is a visual perception system that interprets the contents of photographs and videos in a manner similar to humans. Powering this technology is a new computational paradigm we call the Recursive Cortical Network.

Cofounder Dileep George, who was formerly chief technology officer at an AI company called Numenta.

At Singularity Summit 2011

Google Ventures looks at radical life extension, cryogenics and nanotechnology startups

CNBC - Google's Venture fund is planning to invest $1 billion in a wide-range of start-ups over the next five years. While Google Ventures, which is currently invested in over 100 companies, is invested in some social media companies, William Maris, Google Ventures managing partner, said the fund seeks entrepreneurs that "have a healthy disregard for the impossible" with forward-thinking ideas, especially in biotech. Google Ventures has over 50 people on their team to mentor and guide the startups.

Maris said some of the areas he is interested in include businesses that are focused on radical life extension, cryogenics, organ replacement and nanotechnology.

One biotech company Google Ventures is invested in is Foundation Medicine, a molecular information company that is focused on personalized cancer diagnosis so that patients can receive personalized cancer treatments.

"Part of my job is to discern the fine line between crazy and genius," Maris said. "We're looking for entrepreneurs that want to change the world for the better and that's important. So I do think our values are a little bit different than the typical sort of venture capitalist you might meet."

September 24, 2012

George Church and Craig Venter Videos

George Church TEDMED Ocober 2010

George Church - 2012 GET Conference

Spacex Videos

A Tour of Spacex Offices from October, 2011

Global Foundries will go to 14 nanometer lithography process in 2014 only 1 year slower than Intel

Globalfoundries, which builds chips designed by other companies, was formed from former operations of Advanced Micro Devices AMD and Chartered Semiconductor and is bankrolled by investors in Abu Dhabi. It recently completed construction of a large factory near Albany, N.Y.

Intel plans to introduce sample chips with its next production process–also based on FinFETs and rated at 14 nanometers–in late 2013 and have volume production the next year. Globalfoundries says it expects to have its first FinFET-based process the same year.

But there’s a noticeable difference. Globalfoundries plans to introduce a hybrid process that combines FinFET transistors rated at 14 nanometers with a layer of interconnection circuitry based on its forthcoming 20-nanometer process.
EETimes - Globalfoundries Inc. said Thursday (Sept. 20) it plans to offer 14-nanometer process technology featuring FinFET three-dimensional transistors in 2014, just one year after the foundry's 20-nm process is scheduled to enter production.

The acceleration of its process technology development roadmap will likely give Globalfoundries a clear technology lead over other dedicated foundry suppliers. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) and United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) have indicated that they plan to integrate FinFETs in their 20-nm processes, which UMC is set to put in production in the second half of 2014 and TSMC likely some time after.

Globalfoundries maintains that its 14-nm XM technology is expected to deliver a 40 to 60 percent improvement in battery life compared with today's two-dimensional transistors.

Video of first Spacex Grasshopper Reusable rocket tests

On Friday, September 21, 2012 SpaceX's Grasshopper vertical takeoff and landing test vehicle (VTVL) took its first test flight hop from the company's rocket testing facility in McGregor, Texas. The short hop of approximately 6 feet is the first major milestone for Grasshopper, and a critical step toward a reusable first stage for SpaceX's proven Falcon 9 rocket. As seen in the video, Grasshopper consists of a Falcon 9 first stage, a Merlin-1D engine, four steel landing legs, and a steel support structure. SpaceX is working to develop vehicles that are fully and rapidly reusable, a key element to radically reducing cost and increasing the efficiency of spaceflight. Testing of Grasshopper continues, with the next big milestone -- a hover at roughly 100 feet -- expected in the next several months.

Smallest hologram pixels are made with Carbon Nanotubes

University of Cambridge - Carbon Nanotube hologram pixels could lead to super high resolution 3d holograms with a wide field of view.

A breakthrough in the use of carbon nanotubes as optical projectors has enabled scientists to generate holograms using the smallest ever pixels.

Scientists have generated holograms from carbon nanotubes for the first time, which could lead to much sharper holograms with a vastly increased field of view.

The researchers from the University’s Centre of Molecular Materials for Photonics and Electronics (CMMPE) have harnessed the extraordinary conductive and light scattering abilities of these tubes – made from several sheets of carbon atoms rolled into a cylinder – to diffract high resolution holograms

Harvard researchers develop new DNA barcode

Much like the checkout clerk uses a machine that scans the barcodes on packages to identify what customers bought at the store, scientists use powerful microscopes and their own kinds of barcodes to help them identify various parts of a cell, or types of molecules at a disease site. But their barcodes only come in a handful of "styles," limiting the number of objects scientists can study in a cell sample at any one time.

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have created a new kind of barcode that could come in an almost limitless array of styles -- with the potential to enable scientists to gather vastly more vital information, at one given time, than ever before. The method harnesses the natural ability of DNA to self-assemble, as reported today in the online issue of Nature Chemistry

Researchers have created a new kind of barcode that uses DNA origami technology. Colored dots can be arranged into geometric patterns or fluorescent linear DNA barcodes, and the combinations are almost limitless -- substantially increasing the number of distinct molecules or cells scientists can observe in a sample. [Credit: Chenxiang Lin, Ralf Jungmann, Andrew M. Leifer, Chao Li, Daniel Levner, George M. Church, William M. Shih, Peng Yin, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Medical School]

Carnival of Space 268

Linksthroughspace has the Carnival of Space 268

Nextbigfuture - A Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle (HAIV) mission architecture, which blends a hypervelocity kinetic impactor with a subsurface nuclear explosion for optimal fragmentation and dispersion of hazardous near-Earth objects (NEOs), has been developed through a 2011 NIAC Phase I study. Despite the uncertainties inherent to the nuclear disruption approach, disruption can become an effective strategy if most fragments disperse at speeds in excess of the escape velocity of an asteroid so that a very small number of fragments impacts the Earth. Thus, the proposed HAIV system will become essential for reliably mitigating the most probable impact threat: NEOs with warning times shorter than 10 years. It offers a potential breakthrough or great leap in mission capabilities for mitigating the impact threat of NEOs. The proposed Phase II study further develops the HAIV-based mission architecture and explores its potential infusion options within NASA and beyond.

September 23, 2012

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 123

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 123 is up at Hiroshima Syndrome

ANS Nuclear Cafe reviews the details of what Japan's nuclear policy currently is.

The energy policy announced by Maehar’s boss, Prime Minister Noda, calls for reactors to operate to the end of their 40 year life, but it offers a loophole to operate them for another 20 years if it can be proven they can do so safely. That loophole would allow a reactor that loads fuel for the first time in 2015 to have a decommissioning date of 2075.

Reactors already under construction will be completed, says Yukio Edano, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry trade minister. They are the No. 3 reactor at the Shimane plant (94- percent complete) in Matsue, capital of the Shimane Prefecture, which is operated by Chugoku Electric; a reactor at the Oma plant (38 percent complete) in Aomori Prefecture, which is operated by Electric Power Development; and, No. 1 reactor (10 percent complete) at the Higashidori plant also in Aomori Prefecture.

Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Japan relied on nuclear power for 30 percent of its energy and had plans to boost that number to 50 percent. Prime Minister Noda’s politically expedient decision to drive forward with a zero power option for nuclear energy throws cold water on any rational plans for the future of rational energy plans in his country.

World Record One Petabit per Second Fiber Transmission over 50-km on a single fiber

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, Fujikura Ltd, Hokkaido University, and Technical University of Denmark demonstrated ultra-large capacity transmission of 1 petabit (1000 terabit) per second over a 52.4 km length of 12-core (light paths) optical fiber.

The present achievement indicates that transmission of one petabit per second (Pbps), capacity equivalent to sending 5,000 HDTV videos of two hours in a single second is possible over 50 km, which is approximately the distance between medium-haul telecom offices. This sets a new world record throughput over a single strand of optical fiber.

The target is get over ten times beyond the latest achievement