January 12, 2013

Quasar group is 4 billion light years wide and is the largest structure in the universe

The largest known structure in the universe has been discovered by an international team of astronomers. The large quasar group is 4 billion light years cross. Quasars are the nuclei of galaxies from the early days of the universe that undergo brief periods of extremely high brightness that make them visible across huge distances. These periods are 'brief' in astrophysics terms but actually last 10-100 million years. Since 1982 it has been known that quasars tend to group together in clumps or 'structures' of surprisingly large sizes, forming large quasar groups or LQGs.

The LQG also challenges the Cosmological Principle, the assumption that the universe, when viewed at a sufficiently large scale, looks the same no matter where you are observing it from.

RNA Guided Human Gene and Genome Engineering and Radical life extension, disease prevention and cures

Science - RNA-Guided Human Genome Engineering via Cas9

Bacteria and archaea have evolved adaptive immune defenses termed clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated (Cas) systems that use short RNA to direct degradation of foreign nucleic acids. Here, we engineer the type II bacterial CRISPR system to function with custom guide RNA (gRNA) in human cells. For the endogenous AAVS1 locus, we obtained targeting rates of 10 to 25% in 293T cells, 13 to 8% in K562 cells, and 2 to 4% in induced pluripotent stem cells. We show that this process relies on CRISPR components, is sequence-specific, and upon simultaneous introduction of multiple gRNAs, can effect multiplex editing of target loci. We also compute a genome-wide resource of ~190k unique gRNAs targeting ~40.5% of human exons. Our results establish an RNA-guided editing tool for facile, robust, and multiplexable human genome engineering.

CRISPR needs 20 base pairs of RNA for targeting. The previous best genetic engineering method TALE Nuclease used 2000 base pairs for targeting and was about 0.37% accurate for targeting.

CRISPR is 100 times easier to create the targeting and 10 to 20 times more effective at targeting.

Beneficial gene therapy for HIV cure in phase 2 human trials

There is a phase 2 clinical trial to genetically modify t-cells to create immunity to HIV. Tim Brown, the famous "Berlin patient" and first person cured of HIV. Brown's visit and Sangamo's clinical trial results draw attention to human gene therapy with beneficial mutations. In Sangamo's case, its scientists generate mutations in the CCR5 gene in human CD4 T cells that conferred resistance to HIV-1, the most common strain of the virus. Brown was cured when he received donated CD4 T cells with a naturally occurring CCR5 mutation. The Richmond, Calif.-based Sangamo has touted results at the one-year clinical trial endpoint: in five of nine subjects, CD4 T cell counts persisted a year after infusion at greater than 500 cells/mm3, the accepted threshold for initiation of HAART therapy.

CRISPR will allow large scale genetic editing for a lot of beneficial mutations.
Mutations for viral immunity, longevity and other mass changes to stem cells extracted and modified and then reintroduced to the body.

Thousands of changes could be made and then copied for millions of stem cells.

This method could be used for a transhuman future with radical life extension and other genetic and epigenetic changes.

George Church described these goals in his latest book Regenesis and a Discovery Magazine article.

Bigelow Inflatable Module will be added to Space Station

NASA has awarded a $17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace to provide a new addition to the International Space Station. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module will demonstrate the benefits of this space habitat technology for future exploration and commercial space endeavors.

Universe Today has coverage NASA will release more information about the agreement and the module next week, but previous reports have indicated the inflatable module would be used for adding additional storage and workspace, and the module would be certified to remain on-orbit for two years.

Bigelow’s inflatable modules are more resistant to micrometeoroid or orbital debris strikes. Bigelow uses multiple layers of Vectran, a material which is twice as strong as Kevlar. In ground tests, according to, objects that would penetrate ISS modules only penetrated half-way through the skin of Bigelow’s modules.

Mars with Oceans from topographical data

Kevin Gill has created a view of what Mars would look like with Oceans based on terrain elevation data (topographical maps) from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, plus some reasonable assumptions.

Perspective and Economics of 3D Printers

In 2012, Deloitte predicts that 3D printers will likely become a viable segment in several markets including the $22 billion global power tools market, and the industrial manufacturing market with growth rates of greater than 100 percent versus 2011. 3D printers are also expected to enjoy success in several niche areas such as the “do it yourself” home hobbyist market and various after-market support chains with long tail characteristics (such as small appliance and auto repair). There is also significant interest in the application of 3D printing in the biomedical sector. However, total combined printer sales will likely remain in the sub $200 million range, and those expecting a “replicator” for use at home will be disappointed.

Mass produced objects are still substantially cheaper to manufacture than their 3D-printed counterparts due to the costs of feedstock material. So although a consumer could print dinner plates at home, they would cost 30 times more than simply buying them at a store75. In the same way, while most people already have the capability to print novels and textbooks at home, they find it cheaper and more convenient to buy books through online or local bookstores.

3D printers are extremely useful for creating prototypes, highly customized items, or small production runs, but they do not scale well beyond 10 items.

At the low-end consumer level, the dominant process will likely remain single color thermoplastic extrusion. This method uses a print head to deposit small amounts of melted ABS (or other plastic) in a manner similar to an inkjet printer. There are several limitations with this method, most significantly the high cost of raw feedstock plastics, which will likely remain in the $35-$45/kg range.

The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of additive manufacturing was 29.4% in 2011, according to the new report. The CAGR for the industry’s 24-year history is 26.4%. The AM (Additive Manufacturing which includes 3D printers and other types of rapid manufacturing systems) industry is expected to continue strong double-digit growth over the next several years. By 2015, Wohlers Associates believes that the sale of AM products and services will reach $3.7 billion worldwide, and by 2019, surpass the $6.5 billion mark.

Wohlers Report 2012 covers all aspects of additive manufacturing, including its history, applications, processes, manufacturers, and materials. It documents pertinent developments in the past year, covers R&D and collaboration activities in government, academia, and industry, and summarizes the state of the industry in countries around the world. It also tracks the extraordinary growth of personal 3D printers—machines priced under $5,000, with the majority in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.

Molten Salt Reactors and Sorensen FliBe reactor discussed in the Journal Nature

A number of commercial high-temperature reactors are under development around the world. But this year, a consortium of petrochemical companies and reactor manufacturers agreed to back the Antares high-temperature reactor design from the French company AREVA, based in Paris. “All that's left is about $800 million of work design and licensing effort required to get the technology to the point where the Nuclear Regulatory Commission could approve it,” says Fred Moore, head of the division that provides power and steam for the Dow Chemical Company, headquartered in Midland, Michigan. He estimates that this should take 5–7 years. If all goes to plan, high-temperature systems will be among the first advanced reactors to be deployed, starting in the 2020s.

Engineered 2D Ising interactions on a trapped-ion quantum simulator with hundreds of spins

Here is a follow up article with more information about a trapped ion quantum simulator made by NIST with hundreds of qubits

Researchers demonstrates a variable-range Ising-type spin-spin interaction on
a naturally occurring 2D triangular crystal lattice of hundreds of spin-1/2 particles (Beryllium ions stored in a Penning trap), a computationally relevant scale more than an order of magnitude larger than existing experiments.

The Penning trap confines hundreds of spin-1=2 particles (qubits) on a two-dimensional (2D) triangular lattice. Each qubit is the valence electron spin of aBe+ ion. (lower) A Penning trap confines ions by use of a combination of static electric and magnetic fields. The trap parameters are configured so that laser-cooled ions form a triangular 2D crystal. A general spin-spin interaction HˆI is generated by a spin-dependent excitation of the transverse (along ˆz) motional modes of the ion crystal. This coupling is implemented with an optical dipole force (ODF) due to a pair of off-resonance laser beams (left side) with angular separation qR and difference frequency µR. Microwaves at 124GHz are directed to the ions with a horn and permit global spin rotations Hˆ B. (upper) A representative top-view resonance-fluorescence image showing the center region of an ion crystal captured in the ions’ rest-frame; in the lab-frame the ions rotate a at wr= 2p 43:8 kHz. Fluorescence is an indication of the qubit spin-state (j"i bright, j#i dark); here, the ions are in the state j"i. The lattice constant is d0 20µm.

Arxiv - Engineered 2D Ising interactions on a trapped-ion quantum simulator with hundreds of spins (14 pages)

Regenerating ear hair cells and stem cells to regrow dental pulp and rebuild arteries

1. Medical xpress - Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School researchers demonstrate for the first time that hair cells can be regenerated in an adult mammalian ear by using a drug to stimulate resident cells to become new hair cells, resulting in partial recovery of hearing in mouse ears damaged by noise trauma. This finding holds great potential for future therapeutic application that may someday reverse deafness in humans.

Hearing loss is a significant public health problem affecting close to 50 million people in the United States alone. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form and is caused by the loss of sensory hair cells in the cochlea. Hair cell loss results from a variety of factors including noise exposure, aging, toxins, infections, and certain antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs. Although hearing aids and cochlear implants can ameliorate the symptoms somewhat, there are no known treatments to restore hearing, because auditory hair cells in mammals, unlike those in birds or fish, do not regenerate once lost.

2. Memphis Daily - Dr. George Huang of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is attempting to develop a revolutionary new root canal treatment that would actually regrow infected and lost pulp tissue in the roots of diseased teeth.

Zycraft making sales of its carbon nanotube boat to Singapore

Zycraft is starting to make some successful sales of its carbon nanotube ship to countries like Singapore.

The ship has about 5 times the range of ships it is replacing, more fuel efficiency and the ability to operate in shallow (2 meter) waters. It can operate by itself for over 30 days while other ships can only operate for about 2 days.

The Vigilant IUSV is a state of the art multi-mission unmanned vessel. Built from advanced nanotechnology enhanced material, the IUSV achieves unparalleled range and payload. It is the only USV that features the Seakeeper™ system stabilization onboard resulting in exceptional seakeeping that optimizes system performances, especially at loiter speeds. These technologies enable the IUSV to remain effective at sea for long periods of time making it a real force multiplier.

The Vigilant IUSV is designed to operate independently of a mother craft. Its size and enhanced seakeeping qualities enable shore to shore operations. Even in rough seas, one can expect the IUSV to remain operational without worrying about launch and recovery issues that often plague operations involving a mother craft. Command and control is achieved via satellite communications systems, thus enabling the IUSV to operate anywhere in the world.

Matter clock links mass and time

Berkeley researchers have made a Compton clock based on the so-called Compton frequency of a matter wave (in a block of cesium).

Müller’s Compton clock is still 100 million times less precise than today’s best atomic clocks, which employ aluminum ions, improvements in the technique could boost its precision to that of atomic clocks, including the cesium clocks now used to define the second.

Müller can also turn the technique around to use time to measure mass. The reference mass today is a platinum-iridium cylinder defined as weighing one kilogram and kept under lock and key in a vault in France, with precise copies sparingly dispersed around the world. Using Müller’s matter wave technique provides a new way for researchers to build their own kilogram reference.

Müller’s proposal to make a mass standard based on time provides a new way to realize plans by the international General Conference on Weights and Measures to replace the standard kilogram with a more fundamental measure. It will involve an incredibly pure crystal of silicon, dubbed an Avogadro sphere, which is manufactured so precisely that the number of atoms inside is known to high accuracy.

And what about the question, What is time? Müller says that “I don’t think that anyone will ever have a final answer, but we know a bit more about its properties. Time is physical as soon as there is one massive particle, but it definitely is something that doesn’t require more than one massive particle for its existence. We know that a massless particle, like a photon, is not sufficient.”

Müller hopes to push his technique to even smaller particles, such as electrons or even positrons, in the latter case creating an antimatter clock. He is hopeful that someday he’ll be able to tell time using quantum fluctuations in a vacuum.

January 11, 2013

Cheaper, easier and faster technique to snip DNA using RNA could revolutionize gene therapy

A simple, precise and inexpensive method for cutting DNA to insert genes into human cells could transform genetic medicine, making routine what now are expensive, complicated and rare procedures for replacing defective genes in order to fix genetic disease or even cure AIDS.

Discovered last year by Jennifer Doudna and Martin Jinek of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and University of California, Berkeley, and Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine-Sweden, the technique was labeled a “tour de force” in a 2012 review in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

That review was based solely on the team’s June 28, 2012, Science paper, in which the researchers described a new method of precisely targeting and cutting DNA in bacteria.

Two new papers published last week in the journal Science Express demonstrate that the technique also works in human cells. A paper by Doudna and her team reporting similarly successful results in human cells has been accepted for publication by the new open-access journal eLife.

The bacterial enzyme Cas9 is the engine of RNA-programmed genome engineering in human cells. Graphic by Jennifer Doudna/UC Berkeley.

Quick Rundown on the major methods of Gene Modification

Zinc fingers have been the gold standard of gene therapy for 20 years.
TALENS (Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nucleases) was introduced about two years ago and was viewed as better than Zinc fingers.
CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) was discovered about one year ago as a gene editing technique (CRISPR the DNA component was discovered in the 1980s) and is better than TALENS.

Combining the elements of the crRNA and tracrRNA that were necessary for Cas binding and DNA target recognition into a single molecule would make the system easier to manipulate for laboratory use, she explains. It worked: the result was a DNA-cleaving enzyme that can be programmed with a single RNA molecule to cleave specific DNA sites.

“We can direct it to any site we select,” says Doudna. “Because the guide RNA contains both the structure required for Cas9 binding and a separate guide sequence that can base pair with DNA, we can program Cas9 to cleave a specific site by simply changing the guide sequence. This system offers a straightforward way to cleave any desired site in a genome, which could be used to introduce new genetic information by coupling it to well-known cellular DNA recombination mechanisms.”

Atomically Precise, No Interface, Devices

There was an Atomically Precise, No Interface, Device Regime Workshop in the middle of 2012

The workshop was to explore the possibilities for novel devices and devices with improved performance in the evolving device regime being explored by the seminal work of Michelle Simmons and others. This new device regime creates metallic conductor, semiconductor, and insulator regions by deterministic and atomic precision placement of dopant atoms in Si, without metal-oxide-semiconductor interfaces.

Single electron, quantum dot, and single atom transistors, as well as 4 atom wide nanowires, and extremely low noise operation have already been demonstrated. The intention of the workshop was to gather some of the world’s leading device and atomic precision fabrication experts to explore new possibilities in the quantum computing, digital, and analog device areas and the improvements and extensions of atomic resolution processes, fabrication tools, and modeling/design tools that would be required to enable these new devices.

Recent work at the University of New South Wales in Sydney Australia in the group of Michelle Simmons has shown that it is possible to make transistors in a device regime that is dramatically different than is used for current semiconductor devices.

Using Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) lithography and dosing with phosphine, Phosphorous atoms (N-Type Dopants) can be placed by design (both number and position) in the silicon lattice. The device is overgrown with crystalline Si using Molecular Beam Epitaxy and is completely embedded in the silicon. In this way, a number of devices have been made without metal or oxide including a single atom transistor as shown in the figure. In other words this is not a Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor (MOS) device. For comparison, a schematic of a conventional MOSFET device is also shown. The table points to some advantages of this new no-MOS device regime that avoids some of the problems that limit conventional devices.

Michelle Simmons illustrates how to build single atom qubit quantum computers

The smallest transistor ever built - in fact, the smallest transistor that can be built was created using a single phosphorous atom by an international team of researchers at the University of New South Wales, Purdue University, the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney.

A controllable transistor engineered from a single phosphorus atom has been developed by researchers at the University of New South Wales, Purdue University and the University of Melbourne. The atom, shown here in the center of an image from a computer model, sits in a channel in a silicon crystal. The atomic-sized transistor and wires might allow researchers to control gated qubits of information in future quantum computers. (Purdue University image)

The technical meat of the TedX video is about 12 minutes into this 16 minute video

Foresight Technical conference - Illuminating Atomic Precision

I am at the Foresight Technical conference today and will be for the next two days. However, I am limited in what blogging I do based on the media policy where the presentations are confidential. However, I can find material online based on what is presented. So I will gather what is already public from the presentations.

The schedule for the conference is here at this link

You can still sign up for the event.

You can go to this link to sign up for the Foresight Technical conference and use discount code 2013NBFQ for a $100 discount.

Proof of concept molecular machine that slowly mimics the work of a ribosome to assemble peptides

The field of molecular machines has taken a new bio-inspired turn to assemble another molecule, in this case linking up individual amino acids into a peptide. While this molecular peptide synthesiser isn’t going to rival a ribosome for speed any time soon, it does suggest a way to make multicomponent polymers.

Researchers mimic the ribosome, a cellular machine that can build proteins. ‘The ribosome uses a track where a machine moves along it processively,’ Leigh says. So when the group started thinking about how to build a synthetic version they naturally thought of the rotaxane architecture of a ring on a track. However, Leigh is keen to stress this is not intended as an artificial alternative for the ribosome, especially as his machine is much slower than its biological counterpart – it took 36 hours to synthesise a three amino acid peptide. Instead, Leigh says the work is a proof-of-concept for a molecular machine.

Lead researcher Leigh has a number of plans for the device, including increasing the number of amino acids that can be strung together. As the peptide sequence grows, says Leigh, ‘it will be very interesting to, at the single molecule level, see how these things fold as they are made’. There are also different chemistries and polymers to try, and Leigh also says he’d like to investigate keeping the information on the track so that it can be read again, just as RNA can be read more than once by a ribosome.

Journal Science- Sequence-Specific Peptide Synthesis by an Artificial Small-Molecule Machine

Analog of Electric Capacitance for Stored Neutral Atoms

First came electronics, the processing of information in terms of the charge of electrons flowing through circuits. Later a new form of tronics, spintronics, was invented to exploit the magnetic properties of electrons. Over the past decade or so still another information modality, atomtronics, has been under development, one employing not electrons but neutral atoms as the vehicle for information. The latest chapter in this development is the demonstration of a rudimentary atomtronic analog of capacitance.

Journal Nature Scientific Reports - Analogs of Basic Electronic Circuit Elements in a Free-Space Atom Chip

For more than a century the movement of electrons in circuits has been described in terms of three handy parameters: resistance, the energy lost by electrons in wires by scattering and heating; capacitance, the storage of energy in the circuit in the form of an excess of electric charge; and inductance, the storage of energy in the form of magnetic fields.

Dumbbell-shaped optical enclosure for atoms. (Courtesy JQI)

First Controllable Atom SQUID

Researchers have created the first controllable atomic circuit that functions analogously to a superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) and allows operators to select a particular quantum state of the system at will.

By manipulating atoms in a superfluid ring thinner than a human hair the investigators were able for the first time to measure rotation-induced discrete quantized changes in the atoms’ state, thereby providing a proof-of-principle design for an “atomtronic” inertial sensor.

Absorption time-of-flight images show quantized stages in the central vortex. Images (e) and (f) show off-center vortices forming in the condensate when rotation speed exceeds a transition point, just as a voltage appears in a traditional Josephson junction when current exceeds a critical value.
Image Courtesy of Authors

January 10, 2013

World food prices were 7.0 percent cheaper than last year

FAO (Food and Agriculture Administration of the United Nations - The FAO Food Price Index averaged 209 in December 2012, down 2 points (1.1 percent) from November and the lowest since June 2012, when the Index stood at 200.

The decline in December was led by drops in the international prices of major cereals and oils/fats. For 2012 as a whole, the Index averaged 212, 7.0 percent less than in 2011, with the sharpest declines registered by

sugar (17.1 percent),
dairy products (14.5 percent) and
oils (10.7 percent).

The 2012 price falls were much more modest for

cereals (2.4 percent) and
meat (1.1 percent).

Southampton scientist develop silica nanofibers 15 times stronger than steel by weight

Research by (Optoelectronics Research Centre) ORC Principal Research Fellow Dr Gilberto Brambilla and ORC Director Professor Sir David Payne has resulted in the creation of the strongest, lightest weight silica nanofibres – ‘nanowires’ that are 15 times stronger than steel and can be manufactured in lengths potentially of 1000’s of kilometres.

Their findings are already generating extensive interest from many companies around the world and could be set to transform the aviation, marine and safety industries. Tests are currently being carried out globally into the potential future applications for the nanowires.

Their findings are already generating extensive interest from many companies around the world and could be set to transform the aviation, marine and safety industries. Tests are currently being carried out globally into the potential future applications for the nanowires.

Guesstimating the tensile strength from the ambiguous statement

In 2009, these same two researchers described the ultimate strength of silica nanowires at 10 GPa. (Nanoletters - The Ultimate Strength of Glass Silica Nanowires). The theoretical σf of silica nanowires is above 30 GPa.

In the past decade nanowires have attracted an increase interest because of their extraordinary mechanical strength. In fact, material properties in the nanoregime are extremely different from those found in macroscopic samples: few crystalline materials have shown a tensile strength in excess of 10 GPa in the form of nanowires. Still the length of defect-free crystalline nanowires is limited to a few millimeters and the strength of long nanowires is compromised by defects. The strength of glass nanowires is less affected by single defects. In this paper we present the ultimate strength of glass silica nanowires manufactured by a top-down fabrication technique; this is the highest value reported for glass materials. The measured ultimate strength is in excess of 10 GPa and increases for decreasing nanowire diameters. Scanning electron micrographs of the broken fragments showed a fragile rupture.

Regular fiberglass (has a tensile strength of 100 MPa, Polyester and Chopped Strand Mat Laminate 30% E-glass, density 1.4 grams per cubic centimeter)

Structural steel ASTM A36 steel has a tensile strength of 400 MPa. The density is 7.8 grams per cubic centimeter.

Silica nanofibers have a density of about 2.0 to 2.3 grams per cc (4 times less dense than steel). So I think a strength 15 times steel by weight would be about tensile strength of 1.6 GPa (which is not too impressive).

They do say high strength steel.

Steel, high strength alloy ASTM A514 has 760 MPa and there are other types of steel with up to 2600-5300 MPa of tensile strength (same density).
Really good fiber glass Polyester and Continuous Rovings Laminate 70% E-glass has 800 MPa tensile strength and 1.9 density.

About 8 GPa is less than the ultimate strength and would be impressive.
Kevlar is 2.757 GPA and density of 1.44.

So I think the material might be twice as strong as Kevlar but is still 10 to 50 times weaker than the ultimate strength of carbon nanotubes or graphene.

New Nanotube fibers have unmatched combination of strength, conductivity, flexibility

Rice University’s latest nanotechnology breakthrough was more than 10 years in the making, but it still came with a shock. Scientists from Rice, the Dutch firm Teijin Aramid, the U.S. Air Force and Israel’s Technion Institute this week unveiled a new carbon nanotube (CNT) fiber that looks and acts like textile thread and conducts electricity and heat like a metal wire. In this week’s issue of Science, the researchers describe an industrially scalable process for making the threadlike fibers, which outperform commercially available high-performance materials in a number of ways.

“We finally have a nanotube fiber with properties that don’t exist in any other material,” said lead researcher Matteo Pasquali, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and chemistry at Rice. “It looks like black cotton thread but behaves like both metal wires and strong carbon fibers.”

“The new CNT fibers have a thermal conductivity approaching that of the best graphite fibers but with 10 times greater electrical conductivity,” said study co-author Marcin Otto, business development manager at Teijin Aramid. “Graphite fibers are also brittle, while the new CNT fibers are as flexible and tough as a textile thread. We expect this combination of properties will lead to new products with unique capabilities for the aerospace, automotive, medical and smart-clothing markets.”

Nanotubes are tightly packed in the new carbon nanotube fibers produced by Rice University and Teijin Aramid. This cross section of a test fiber, which was taken with a scanning electron microscope, shows only a few open gaps inside the fiber.

Science - Strong, Light, Multifunctional Fibers of Carbon Nanotubes with Ultrahigh Conductivity

Technology Review has coverage

The filaments are about 25 micrometers thick and can be woven into thicker threads to hold up heavier loads, or to carry more current. Pasquali says the group can now produce the nanotube materials continuously, and that it takes a couple of hours to produce a few hundred meters.

Rice group has now made carbon nanotube fibers that have more of the properties of individual nanotubes. They have an electrical conductivity close to copper’s, but are much stronger. They’re not quite as strong as conventional carbon fibers, but they’re much less brittle. And they’re more thermally conductive than metal or carbon fiber. That means nanotube fibers could replace these materials in existing applications in aerospace and electronics, and enable new technologies that take advantage of the fibers’ unique combination of strength, flexibility, and thermal and electrical conductivity. Pasquali envisions washable electronic textiles, lightweight wiring for planes, and eventually, more efficient wires for the electrical grid.

Personality-Influencing Gene May be a Key to Long Life

Brookhaven National Lab researchers have studied a personality-modifying dopamine gene in a group of 1,151 individuals between 90 and 109 years old. This genetic variant - a derivative of a dopamine-receptor gene (the DRD4 7R allele) - appears at significantly higher rates in individuals over the age of 90, and is linked to lifespan increases in mice. The participants were part of the Leisure World Cohort Study, established in 1981 as a health survey among residents of the Leisure World retirement community in Laguna Woods, CA.

Beginning in 2003, 233 surviving participants over 90 years old from the Leisure World cohort were surveyed and genotyped at the human dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) gene and compared to a European ancestry-matched control population.

The DRD4 gene is known to regulate traits such as motivation and thrill seeking, and is also associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and addictive and risky behavior. More than 90 percent of people have a DRD4 gene with groups of alleles repeated 2, 4, or 7 times, and that variation could be the difference that enables a person to live past the age of 90.

This "oldest-old" population had a 66 percent increase in individuals carrying the 7R allele relative to the younger control group (aged 7 to 45), and the presence of the 7R allele was strongly correlated with increased levels of physical activity. Thanos' team also found that the DRD4 gene plays a role in protecting against dementia.

Breakthrough Iron-based Superconductors Set New Performance Records

Brookhaven National Laboratory has created a high performance iron-based superconducting wire that opens new pathways for some of the most essential and energy-intensive technologies in the world. These custom-grown materials carry tremendous current under exceptionally high magnetic fields—an order of magnitude higher than those found in wind turbines, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, and even particle accelerators. The results demonstrate a unique layered structure that outperforms competing low-temperature superconducting wires while avoiding the high manufacturing costs associated with high-temperature superconductor (HTS) alternatives.

Nature Communications - High current superconductivity in FeSe0.5Te0.5-coated conductors at 30 tesla

Lightbridge Annular Metallic Fuel for Power Uprates and Details on the Power Uprate market potential in the USA

Lightbridge has an investor presentation which describes the economic case and technical details of their annular metallic fuel for uprating the power in nuclear reactors.

* Testing, design and validation of the metallic fuel is from 2013-2018
* Regulatory approval will be in the 2014-2018+ timeframe
* First commercial installation will be 1-2 years after regulatory approval
* The increased power generation will have a levelized cost of 20-30$ per MWH which is less than half the cost coal and natural gas and the regular nuclear construction

Lightbridge Corporation's Advanced Metallic Fuel for Light Water Reactors

Lightbridge Corporation is developing an advanced metallic nuclear fuel capable of increasing the power output and extending the cycle length of current-generation light water reactors (LWRs). This paper provides a review of the unique geometry and composition of the metallic fuel and its application to power uprates in LWRs.

* The peer reviewed article to be published in December 2012 provides further validation of LTBR’s fuel technology
* Unique alloy and fuel rod geometry
* Increases power output by up to 17% in existing PWRs
* Extends fuel cycle to 24 months or more, enhancing industry economics
* Increased safety through lower operating temperatures

Record-setting ‘optical phased arrays’ could lead to better laser rangefinders, smaller medical-imaging devices and even holographic TVs

If you want to create a moving light source, you have a few possibilities. One is to mount a light emitter in some kind of mechanical housing — the approach used in, say, theatrical spotlights, which stagehands swivel and tilt to track performers.

Another possibility, however, is to create an array of light emitters and vary their “phase” — the alignment of the light waves they produce. The out-of-phase light waves interfere with one another, reinforcing each other in some directions but annihilating each other in others. The result is a light source that doesn’t move, but can project a beam in any direction.

Such “phased arrays” have been around for more than a century, used most commonly in radar transmitters, which can be as much as 100 feet tall. But in this week’s issue of Nature, researchers from MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) describe a 4,096-emitter array that fits on a single silicon chip. Chips that can steer beams of light could enable a wide range of applications, including cheaper, more efficient, and smaller laser rangefinders; medical-imaging devices that can be threaded through tiny blood vessels; and even holographic televisions that emit different information when seen from different viewing angles.

In the 4,096-antenna chip — a 64-by-64 grid of antennas — the phase shifts are precalculated to produce rows of images of the MIT logo. The antennas are not simply turned off and on in a pattern that traces the logo, as the pixels in a black-and-white monitor would be. All of the antennas emit light, and if you were close enough to them (and had infrared vision), you would see a regular array of pinpricks of light. Seen from more than a few millimeters away, however, the interference of the antennas’ phase-shifted beams produces a more intricate image.

In the other chip, which has an eight-by-eight grid of antennas, the phase shift produced by the antennas is tunable, so the chip can steer light in arbitrary directions. In both chips, the design of the antenna is the same; in principle, the researchers could have built tuning elements into the antennas of the larger chip. But “there would be too many wires coming off the chip,” Watts says. “Four thousand wires is more than Jie wanted to solder up.”

Indeed, Watts explains, wiring limitations meant that even the smaller chip is tunable only a row or column at a time. But that’s enough to produce some interesting interference patterns that demonstrate that the tuning elements are working. The large chip, too, largely constitutes a proof of principle, Watts says. “It’s kind of amazing that this actually worked,” he says. “It’s really nanometer precision of the phase, and you’re talking about a fairly large chip.”

Both chips represent the state of the art in their respective classes. No two-dimensional tunable phased array has previously been built on a chip, and the largest previous non-tunable (or “passive”) array had only 16 antennas. Nonetheless, “I think we can go to much, much larger arrays,” Watts says. “It’s now very believable that we could make a 3-D holographic display.”

Nature - Large-scale nanophotonic phased array

January 09, 2013

Sky City Skyscraper project has not been cancelled and Broad Group will soon be proposing construction projects in the USA

Some have claimed that the Sky City 220 story skyscraper project was cancelled (instead of just delayed).

1. In the China Daily site, has an interview with Wang Shuguang, general manager of subsidiary Broad USA.

"The idea is to set up franchises anywhere such as the United States, using the techniques of making sustainable prefabricated construction materials," Wang said from Broad USA's headquarters in Hackensack, New Jersey.

"The recent Hurricane Sandy destroyed houses and buildings, and this is where our expertise to build sustainable and safer housing could be needed," he said, hinting that Broad intends to propose such projects in the US.

Wang wouldn't elaborate, but he said the company is eager to bring sustainable-construction projects to the US market soon.

Construction is expected to begin early this year of Broad's 220-story Sky City in Changsha, in Central China's Hunan province. Once completed, it will rise 10 meters higher - at 838 meters (2,749 feet) - than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, currently the world's tallest building. Sky City's construction cost is estimated at $620 million; the Burj Khalifa, completed in 2010, took five years to build at a cost of $1.5 billion.

According to Zhang, sustainable construction will help address the challenges of China's rapid urbanization, including land shortages and traffic congestion. The materials and techniques used by Broad are "stable and as solid as a mountain" and will help "save the cities and save the Earth".

'Standard Quantum Limit' Smashed, Could Mean Better Fiber-Optic Comms

Communicating with light may soon get a lot easier, hints recent research* from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)and the University of Maryland's Joint Quantum Institute (JQI), where scientists have potentially found a way to overcome a longstanding barrier to cleaner signals.

The findings, which demonstrate for the first time an error rate far below the "standard quantum limit" for a wide range of light levels, could increase the efficiency of fiber-optic systems by reducing both the power needed to send a signal and the number of errors the receiver makes.

Light waves traveling through a fiber-optic cable often carry digital information encoded as differences in phase between one wave and another. The crests of two waves that are "in phase" pass a point at the same time, while if the two waves are 180 degrees out of phase, one crest passes while the other's trough does. Receivers can be designed to detect more than just two phase angles—0, 90, 180 and 270 degrees, for example—and the more phases they can detect, the more information can be packed into a signal, increasing the rate of data transmission.

Gathering the peer reviewed studies on blood lead levels and criminal arrests in early adulthood

PLOS Medicine study - Association of Prenatal and Childhood Blood Lead Concentrations with Criminal Arrests in Early Adulthood

Prenatal and postnatal blood lead concentrations are associated with higher rates of total arrests and/or arrests for offenses involving violence. This is the first prospective study to demonstrate an association between developmental exposure to lead and adult criminal behavior.

Discovery magazine had a summary of the research.

A cohort study done by researchers at the University of Cincinnati. Between 1979 and 1984, 376 infants were recruited. Their parents consented to have lead levels in their blood tested over time; this was matched with records over subsequent decades of the individuals’ arrest records, and specifically arrest for violent crime. Ultimately, some of these individuals were dropped from the study; by the end, 250 were selected for the results.

The researchers found that for each increase of 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, there was a higher risk for being arrested for a violent crime, but a further look at the numbers shows a more mixed picture than they let on. In prenatal blood lead, this effect was not significant. If these infants were to have no additional risk over the median exposure level among all prenatal infants, the ratio would be 1.0. They found that for their cohort, the risk ratio was 1.34. However, the sample size was small enough that the confidence interval dipped as low as 0.88 (paradoxically indicating that additional 5 µg/dl during this period of development would actually be protective), and rose as high as 2.03. This is not very convincing data for the hypothesis.

For early childhood exposure, the risk is 1.30, but the sample size was higher, leading to a tighter confidence interval of 1.03-1.64. This range indicates it’s possible that the effect is as little as a 3% increase in violent crime arrests, but this is still statistically significant.

For 6-year-olds, it’s a much more significant 1.48 (confidence interval 1.15-1.89). It seems unusual to me that lead would have such a more profound effect the older the child gets, but I need to look into it further.

US Daily Crude Oil Production Above 7 million bpd for the first time since March, 1993

US daily crude oil production was over 7.0 million bpd for the first time since March, 1993

US crude oil production was 7.002 million bpd for the week ending Jan 4, 2013

Ethanol, natural gas liquids and refinery gains were 4.486 million bpd.

The EIA energy shortterm energy outlook is for crude oil production to continue to increase to 7.3 million bbl/d in 2013 and 7.9 million bbl/d in 2014, which would mark the highest annual average level of production since 1988.

Shrinking the sensors and electronics for self driving cars

Audi is making the lasers sensors and other electronics for self driving cars far more compact.

Audi has developed a compact laser sensor, about the size of a fist, for autonomous vehicles. The compact laser scanner for autonomous vehicles is small enough to fit into the grill of a car. Laser scanners make it possible for autonomous vehicles to sense their surroundings, but driverless cars typically sport large, roof-mounted scanners. They are working to embed this technology into vehicles.

Reviewing the Woodward Book - Making Starships and Stargates

Nextbigfuture has been covering the work of independent researchers who are working to enable the Mach Effect to be used for propellentless space propulsion and potential as a means to create wormholes.

James Woodward is the primary researcher and theorist in this area. He has written a book "Making Starships and Stargates".

In the book Woodward walks through all of the physics and theories. He describes the history of the theories and experiments.

He describes his reasoning and why his approach to the problems of inertia, mass are engineering exploitation of it are plausible based on an interpretation of accepted physics.

Other physicists know what the formulas from Einstein and Mach imply but have tried to make up reasons to deny it. are aware of the terms in the formulas of Einstein and Mach but usually view them as parts of formulas which need to be patched to exclude negative results.

Here is the exact quote from the Foreward from John Cramer -

"Many of the theoretical physicists who work with general relativity have fundamental objections to the very idea of wormholes and warp drives, which they consider to be unphysical. Some of them have decided that one should erect a "picket fence" around those solutions of Einstein's equations that are considered to be physically reasonable and to place exotica such as stable traversable wormholes, faster-than-light warp drives and time machines in the forbidden area outside the fence, excluded because it is presumed that nature does not allow such disreputable objects to exist. They are, in effect, attempting to discover new laws of physics that would place restrictions on GR solutions."

Looser quotes that cover the picket fence theories -

"Their first attempt at building the fence was called the Weak Energy Condition (WEC)... Average Weak Energy Condition (AWEC)...

The WEC, AWEC, and the other similar energy rules are "made up" laws of nature and are not derivable from general relativity. They appear to be obeyed for observations of all known forms of matter and energy that do not fall within the domain of quantum mechanics. However, even for simple situations involving quantum phenomena (examples : the Casimir effect, squeezed vacuum, and the Hawking evaporation of black holes), the WEC and AWEC are both violated.

"...more recently quantum inequalities...quantum field theory cannot be trusted for some applications...missed fundamental calculation by 50 orders of magnitude"

Here is a paper "Wormholes, Time Machines, and the Weak Energy Condition".

For the regular propulsion aspect, they have achieved tens of micronewtons of force in labtop experiments.

For the stargate/wormhole aspect, this is the second term in a key formula which is always negative. He shows how the areas of inertia and mass and the exact nature of the electron are weakspots in current physics and the best work in this area is the work of Einstein and Mach.

I had covered an earlier Woodward paper on the physics of stargates.

EIA Short-Term Energy Outlook

EIA estimates U.S. total crude oil production averaged 6.4 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2012, an increase of 0.8 million bbl/d from the previous year. Projected domestic crude oil production continues to increase to 7.3 million bbl/d in 2013 and 7.9 million bbl/d in 2014, which would mark the highest annual average level of production since 1988.

The last two weeks of 2012 had US total crude oil production at 7.0 million barrels per day.

An annual projection of 7.3 million bpd for 2013 means starting at 7.0 and ending at about 7.6 million by the end of the year.

An annual projection of 7.9 million bpd for 2014 means starting at 7.6 and ending at about 8.2 million by the end of that year.

January 08, 2013

Sign up for the Foresight Technical Conference Jan. 11-13, 2013 with a Nextbigfuture discount

I will be going to the Foresight conference starting this Friday. You can still sign up for the three day event.

You can go to this link to sign up for the Foresight Technical conference and use discount code 2013NBFQ for a $100 discount.

For 2012 Foresight members the rate is $345.

The Foresight Technical conference is in Palo Alto, California
The topic is Illuminating Atomic Precision.

This conference will bring together over thirty of the world’s leading researchers to present reviews and results on a wide range of work relating to atomic and molecularly precise devices and materials, and their fabrication. It will provide a richly heterogeneous mix of speakers and participants to catalyze interdisciplinary dialogue, productive collaboration, and progress towards beneficial atomically precise nanotechnologies.

One of the researchers will be George Church (involved in Synthetic Biology)

I, Brian Wang, will be attending the conference.

There are five main conference themes:

1. Atomic Scale Devices

2. Molecular Machines and Non-equilibrium processes

3. Self-Organizing and Adaptive Systems

4. Commercially Implemented Single Molecule Technologies

5. Computation and Molecular Nanotechnologies

Strong case that childhood lead leads to a lot more youthful adult violent crime, teen pregnancies and IQ loss

In 2007, Nextbigfuture covered a report that linked Childhood lead exposure to crime.

I have an article with a medical study of lead levels in the blood of babies and the tracking them through adulthood.

They found that for their cohort, the risk ratio was 1.34. However, the sample size was small enough that the confidence interval dipped as low as 0.88 (paradoxically indicating that additional 5 µg/dl during this period of development would actually be protective), and rose as high as 2.03. This is not very convincing data for the hypothesis.

For early childhood exposure, the risk is 1.30, but the sample size was higher, leading to a tighter confidence interval of 1.03-1.64. This range indicates it’s possible that the effect is as little as a 3% increase in violent crime arrests, but this is still statistically significant.

For 6-year-olds, it’s a much more significant 1.48 (confidence interval 1.15-1.89). It seems unusual to me that lead would have such a more profound effect the older the child gets, but I need to look into it further.

In the last week there have been a number of articles that have summarized the case that lower childhood lead exposure has reduced crime.

The correlation is across different states and countries who stopped using leaded gasoline at different times. Violent crime peaks around 20 years after lead pollution peaks. The crime rates in big and small cities in the US, once wildly different, have now converged, also some 20 years after the phase-out.

This large effect probably also means that the other toxins from fossil fuels could also be resulting in behavioral change that goes along with the health damage and death. Burning 12 billion tons per year of oil and coal throws a toxic chemical cocktail into the air, water and soil.

Freakonomics also covered the lead and crime links back in 2007.

There are at least three independent strands of evidence linking lead to violent crime:

Ecological studies. These look at correlations between lead exposure and crime rates at a population level. There are now multiple rigorous studies using different methodologies that demonstrate this correlation at the city level, the state level, the national level, and in different countries at different times.

Longitudinal studies. A University of Cincinnati team began following a group of children starting in the early 80s. Every six months they measured lead levels in their blood. At age 7, kids with higher lead levels were doing worse in school. At age 17 they were more heavily involved in juvenile delinquency. At age 27 they had higher arrest rates for violent crimes.

Imaging studies. The Cincinnati team recently did a series of MRI scans of their subjects and found that participants with higher childhood lead levels had permanent damage to areas of the brain that are responsible for things like impulse control, judgment, and emotional regulation. We've long known that lead poisoning at high levels makes you more aggressive and prone to violence, and this study strongly suggests that the same thing is true even at moderate levels.

A one-kilometre-long electric sail tether was produced

The electric sail (ESAIL), invented by Dr. Pekka Janhunen at the Finnish Kumpula Space Centre in 2006, produces propulsion power for a spacecraft by utilizing the solar wind. The sail features electrically charged long and thin metal tethers that interact with the solar wind. Using ultrasonic welding, the Electronics Research Laboratory at the University of Helsinki successfully produced a 1 km long ESAIL tether. Four years ago, global experts in ultrasonic welding considered it impossible to weld together such thin wires. The produced tether proves that manufacturing full size ESAIL tethers is possible. The theoretically predicted electric sail force will be measured in space during 2013.

An electric solar wind sail, a.k.a electric sail, consists of long, thin (25?50 micron) electrically conductive tethers manufactured from aluminium wires. A full-scale sail can include up to 100 tethers, each 20 kilometres long. In addition, the craft will contain a high-voltage source and an electron gun that creates a positive charge in the tethers. The electric field of the charged tethers will extend approximately 100 metres into the surrounding solar wind plasma. Charged particles from the solar wind crash into this field, creating an interaction that transfers momentum from the
solar wind to the spacecraft. Compared with other methods, such as ion engines, the electric sail produces a large amount of propulsion considering its mass and power requirement. Since the sail consumes no propellant, it has in principle an unlimited operating time.

The electric sail is raising a lot of interest in space circles, but until now it has been unclear whether its most important parts, i.e. the long, thin metal tethers, can be produced.

The planned space missions and funded projects for the esail are:

ESAIL EU FP7 project

The ESAIL EU FP7 project (2011-2013) develops laboratory prototypes (TRL 4-5) of the key components of the E-sail. The project involves five countries, nine institutes and has a budget of about 1.7 million Euros.

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

* Test of a 100 m tether deployment on Aalto-1 3U CubeSat (2014)

Solar Wind Electric Sail Test (SWEST)

SWEST (Solar Wind Electric Sail Test) is a proposal to the EU whose purpose is to build a flight-ready 60 kg satellite which is able to measure the E-sail effect in the solar wind with four 1 km long tethers. The satellite is mainly built by the Alta space company in Italy.

Panasonic power loader light exoskeleton

Panasonic has developed a power assist robot named "Power Loader". It is being targeted for assisting construction workers and disaster relief crews. The new "Power Loader Light" is smaller than prior versions.

Users of the exoskeleton can easily carry about 30kg in one arm. The commercial version should allow each wearer of the exoskeleton to handle 100 kg.

January 07, 2013

One in Six stars have earth sized planets and billions more roam interstellar space

Planetary scientist John Johnson of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, results indicate that our galaxy harbors at least a hundred billion planets, many of them Earth-sized.

The findings come thanks to NASA's Kepler space telescope, which has been notching up an increasing tally of exoplanets—worlds orbiting stars other than our own sun—ever since it was launched in 2009. "The total number of exoplanet candidates is now 2740," says Christopher Burke of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, including 461 new ones unveiled at the meeting. The number of Earth-sized candidates has increased by 43% since Kepler's previous catalog was published about a year ago.

Kepler keeps an eye on the brightness of some 150,000 stars. If an orbiting planet passes in front of the star, the telescope sees a small, periodic dip in the star's brightness. Follow-up observations with ground-based telescopes have so far confirmed that 105 Kepler candidates are true planets. Many of them reside in multiplanet systems, although most orbit much closer to their parent stars than the planets in our own solar system do.

New technique can sequence entire genome from single cell

Researchers have developed a method — dubbed MALBAC, short for Multiple Annealing and Looping-based Amplification Cycles — that requires just one cell to reproduce an entire DNA molecule.

More than three years in the making, the breakthrough technique offers the potential for early cancer treatment by allowing doctors to obtain a genetic “fingerprint” of a person’s cancer from circulating tumor cells. It also could lead to safer prenatal testing for a host of genetic diseases.

Science - Probing Meiotic Recombination and Aneuploidy of Single Sperm Cells by Whole-Genome Sequencing

Nvidia Tegra 4 is six times faster than Tegra 3 and Current Tablet and Smartphone Processor market share

NVIDIA today introduced NVIDIA® Tegra® 4, the world's fastest mobile processor, with record-setting performance and battery life to flawlessly power smartphones and tablets, gaming devices, auto infotainment and navigation systems, and PCs.

Tegra 4 offers exceptional graphics processing, with lightning-fast web browsing, stunning visuals and new camera capabilities through computational photography.

Previously codenamed "Wayne," Tegra 4 features 72 custom NVIDIA GeForce™ GPU cores -- or six times the GPU horsepower of Tegra 3 -- which deliver more realistic gaming experiences and higher resolution displays. It includes the first quad-core application of ARM's most advanced CPU core, the Cortex-A15, which delivers 2.6x faster web browsing and breakthrough performance for apps.

Tegra 4 also enables worldwide 4G LTE voice and data support through an optional chipset, the fifth-generation NVIDIA Icera® i500 processor. More efficient and 40 percent the size of conventional modems, i500 delivers four times the processing capability of its predecessor.

Current Tablet and Smartphone processor market share

EEtimes - Revenue for mobile applications processors grew at a whopping 77 percent for tablets and 58 percent for smartphones in the third quarter of 2012, according to reports from Strategy Analytics.

Nvidia held its lead in non-iPad tablets, taking a third of the sector and 17 percent of the overall tablet processor market. Apple still dominates with its A-series chips in 53 percent of all tablets, given the iPad’s success.

Planet Hunting Volunteers Comb Kepler Data to find more Habitable Planet and Moon Candidates

Wired - Volunteers from the Planethunters website have identified 15 new habitable planet candidates among data collected by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft.

One of the 15, a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting the solar-type star KIC 12735740, has been officially confirmed as a planet (with 99.9 percent certainty). Named PH2 b, it is the second confirmed planet to be found by, part of the Oxford University-led Zooniverse citizen science project that turns raw data over to keen amateur researchers. The remaining 14 planet candidates are at least 90 percent likely to be planets.

Since 2010, Planethunters has been searching through the Kepler data NASA released into the public domain, allowing its 200,000-strong army of volunteers to seek out the telltale dip in the brightness of parent stars as planets pass in front of them.

Added to the 19 similar planets already discovered in habitable zones, where the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water, the new finds present exciting possibilities for the discovery of regions that could potentially support life — not only on the planets themselves, but also on their moons.

Jupiter has several large water-rich moons. If a Jupiter planet in the habitle zone had Earth size moons, we would see worlds with rivers, lakes and all sorts of habitats. This scenario might be common.

Arxiv - Planet Hunters. V. A Confirmed Jupiter-Size Planet in the Habitable Zone and 42 Planet Candidates from the Kepler Archive Data

Germany successfully tests a 50kW high-energy laser weapon

Rheinmetall has successfully tested its new 50kW high-energy weapon technology demonstrator. Conducted at the end of November, 2012 the test encompassed the entire operational sequence from target detection and tracking to target engagement. They shot down flying USV drones from a distance of 2000 meters and cut through a little over one half inch of steel from 1000 meters and had a successful test interception of a mortar.

The 50kW HEL weapon technology demonstrator consisted of two functional models: a 30kW weapon station integrated into an Oerlikon Revolver Gun air defence turret for static and dynamic tests, coupled with an Oerlikon Skyguard fire control unit; and a 20kW weapon station integrated into a Revolver Gun turret of the first-generation, patched in for static tests. There were also additional modules for supplying power.

Witnessed by leading experts, the demonstration delivered compelling evidence for the 50kW HEL weapon technology demonstrator’s high stability: a massive, 15mm-thick steel girder was cut through at a distance of 1,000 metres. The successful shooting down of several nose-diving target drones at a range of two kilometres formed the second major highlight. Though they were flying at over 50 metres a second, the Skyguard radar had no trouble detecting the incoming unmanned aerial vehicles at a distance of three kilometres. Then the 30kW weapon station used the Skyguard data to carry out rough tracking mechanically. The optical tracking system in the Beam Forming Units (BFU’s) in the individual leaser weapon modules performed fine tracking of the UAVs. After reaching the programmed fire sector the laser weapon modules engaged the UAV’s immediately and destroyed the incoming UAVs within a few seconds.

Warning for a Scam targeting Science Fiction Authors and Futurist Speakers

A warning courtesy of John Scalzi. Nextbigfuture also received a copy of the scam email.

Short version: If you’re a science fiction/fantasy writer/futurist speaker who got an invitation to speak from Bexley College in the UK, someone’s trying to scam you.

The letter mentions my speaker listing at AboutSF suggests that whoever is doing it has copied out that site’s speaker list contact information and is probably contacting other folks listed there. So this is to raise a general alarm. Note that I suspect most science fiction/fantasy writers are smart enough to recognize a scam with they see one, but on the other hand better safe than sorry.

Bear in mind this particular letter uses Bexley College but it’s entirely possible the scammers will change it up and use other educational institutions. They’re crafty, these scammers.

So: Science fiction and fantasy writers: Beware.

Thorium reactor projects getting increased funding and effort

The UK Telegraph has an update on global projects to develop commercial Thorium molten salt reactors.

China's project has $350 million in funding and 140 Phds working on it. They will have 750 Phds by 2015. They are targeting for a 2 MWe reactor by 2020.

Kirk Sorensen's Flibe Energy is exploring a 250 MWe liquid flouride thorium reactor.

Japan,Russia, India, Norway, UK and other countries have increased efforts om their Thorium work as well.

Best electronic properties of diamond and silicon in one material

The University of Wurzburg has modified SiC crystals to exhibit new and surprising properties. They enable the best electronic properties of diamond to be used in a solicon material.

This makes them interesting with regard to the design of high-performance computers or data transmission.SiC crystals consist of a regular lattice formed by silicon and carbon atoms. At present, these semiconductors are extensively used in micro and optoelectronics. They are particularly suited for used in high temperature applications in power semiconductors.Now physicists from Saint Petersburg and the University of Würzburg have succeeded in manipulating SiC in a way so it can be used in novel, super-fast quantum computers.

Multi-decade delays in advancing complex products is costing the developed countries

Countries trying to understand what’s next for their export industries often call Ricardo Hausmann. The Harvard economist and onetime planning minister for Venezuela has developed a kind of economic aptitude test for nations. Using complexity theory and trade data, Hausmann looks at what a country is good at making and predicts what types of more valuable items it could produce next.

That sounds plain enough, but the results of Hausmann’s analyses are often surprising. A country with a competitive garment industry might want to move into electronics assembly—both need an industrial zone with quality electrical power and good logistics. A country that exports flowers may find it has the expertise in cold-storage logistics necessary to spark an export boom in fresh produce.

The fundamental reason is that productivity in manufacturing has been rising rapidly and demand for manufactured products has been growing more slowly. To supply the stuff that people want requires fewer jobs.

China IT milestones now and future

China reached a few technological milestones in the last 12 months

* China has already overtaken the United States as the world’s biggest smartphone market.

* China also passed one billion mobile subscribers early in 2012.

* China has over 500 million Internet users, according to the government-affiliated China Internet Network Information Center.

Future Milestones for China

China's online population will be over 800 million by 2015
Web sales will be over 18 trillion yuan ($2.9 trillion) by 2015—taking the top spot in global e-commerce.

Gartner is predicting enterprise IT spending alone in China will grow from $117.8 billion in 2013 to $172.4 billion by 2016, representing a compound annual growth rate of 8 percent, compared to a global growth rate of just 3 percent over the same period

January 06, 2013

Updating predictions of India's Future Economy

Nextbigfuture last forecasted the Indian Economy out to 2030 in 2011. India's 2012 GDP growth ending up being about 5.5% instead of 8 or 9%.

Back in 2011 I thought that India would be able to maintain 9% GDP growth out to 2030. This was mainly based on India have a young population, early development stage and economic performance of 2003 to 2010.

2003 8.3%
2004 6.2%
2005 8.4%
2006 9.2%
2007 9.0%
2008 7.4%
2009 7.4%
2010 10.4%
2011 7.2%
2012 5.5%

I thought that the Indian currency would slowly strengthen but instead it weakened by over 20%.

India's rupee to US dollar conversion is now 54.3 indian rupees to US one dollar. The Indian currency has weakened from the 44 to 1 US dollar level it was at in 2010 to early 2011.

I am now expecting India to average about 6% GDP growth and an occasional year with 8-9% GDP growth from now to 2030. I expect the currency to stay relatively weak.

India’s current account deficit widened to 5.4 per cent of GDP in 2012

India's inflation has persisted between 7-11 per cent for a little more than three years now.

Manufacturing is yet to show signs of a revival and only marginal agricultural growth is foreseen, chances of India’s economy expanding at faster than 6 per cent in 2013-14 are narrow, analysts say.

With Reforms and effective policy India could have 8-9% GDP growth

India should be able to achieve a growth rate of 8 per cent if it manages to maintain a savings rate of 35-37 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), said Rakesh Mohan,
executive director, International Monetary Fund. “If we want to have an impact on the people’s welfare in the grassroots level, you need to have these kind of growth rates (8 per cent). With incremental capital output ratio of 4-4.5 per cent and an investment rate of more than 35 per cent, achieving a sustained growth rate of 8 per cent-plus is not difficult,” Mohan said.

India is underperforming because of financial problems and lingering issues of lack of education, corruption, poor infrastructure and other issues.

Mercury damages US$10 to 40 billion per year in Europe alone

A new study calculates that preventing Mercury health damage in Europe could provide an economic benefit of US$10 to 40 billion per year. this will help about 1.8 million children. Coal pollution is a primary cause of mercury emissions

The hair-mercury concentrations were the highest in Southern Europe and lowest in Eastern Europe. The results suggest that, within the EU, more than 1.8 million children are born every year with MeHg exposures above the limit of 0.58 µg/g, and about 200,000 births exceed a higher limit of 2.5 µg/g proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO). The total annual benefits of exposure prevention within the EU were estimated at more than 600,000 IQ points per year, corresponding to a total economic benefit between €8 billion and €9 billioon. About a four-fold higher values were obtained when using the logarithmic response function, while adjustment for productivity resulted in slightly lower total benefits. These calculations do not include the less tangible advantages of protecting brain development against neurotoxicity or any other adverse effects.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 138

1. Atomic Insights summarizes Dieter Helm who is a Coal Critic, Atomic Agnostic, Natural Gas Enthusiast

As indicated by the subtitle of his book, Helm believes that the world, especially Europe, has achieved very little in the twenty years since the Kyoto treaty was signed. He believes that there is little hope that the process set in motion by that treaty will result in anything more than the continued annual consumption of a lot of aviation fuel to move people to ineffective conferences that are primarily climate theater. He provides a correcting prescription involving three main components.

Helm is pretty sure that natural gas will be the winner for the foreseeable future if his prescriptions are implemented, but atomic energy can prosper as long as it is not artificially constrained.

2. Atomic Show #193 – Nuclear Wrap Up 2012

Gwyneth Cravens, Will Davis, Meredith Angwin, Ben Heard and Rod Adams gathered from locations around the globe (California, Ohio, Vermont, South Australia and Virginia) to talk about the major nuclear stories of 2012.

Huaneng Shandong Shidao Bay Nuclear Power plans

China has broken ground on a 3 billion-yuan (476 million-U.S. dollar) nuclear power project (pebble bed high temperature reactor) that will be the first in the world to put a reactor with fourth-generation features into commercial use, a Chinese energy company said Sunday.

* the 200 MWe high-temperature gas-cooled reactor will start generating power by the end of 2017

* It can also raise electricity generation efficiency to around 40 percent from the current 30-percent level of second- and third-generation reactors

* If it is commercially successful, the reactor's technology and equipment can be exported to other countries in the future, said a Huaneng Shandong Shidao Bay Nuclear Power Co., Ltd. (HSNPC) public relations officer who declined to be named

* The project is part of the HSNPC's broader plan to build a 6.6-gigawatt (GW) nuclear power plant that will require approximately 100 billion yuan in investment over 20 years. If completed, it would be China's largest nuclear power plant, said the official. The rest of the plan includes four 1.25-GW AP1000 pressurized water reactors and a 1.4-GW CAP1400 pressurized water reactor.

The plan has not yet been approved by regulators.

54 per cent of 135 japanese mayors near nuclear plants would accept restarts

Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper polled 135 mayors in communities located near Japan’s 50 nuclear plants.

54 per cent would accept reactor restarts
Only 18 per cent were against the restarts
28 per cent chose not to clarify their position
two did not give valid answers.

The results reflect the harsh economic reality in many of the rural communities which host nuclear plants, which are often major employers.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who came to power in December, has voiced his support for nuclear power as part if his agenda to rebuild the nation’s sluggish economy.

Carnival of Space 283

1. thevenustransit site has a short explanation about the rising moon with a nice video

2. The Meridiani Journal has more ‘bubbles’ from Curiosity – a lot of them

Mastcam image from sol 137 showing more of the “bubbles” on the bedrock. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

3. Omega Centauri is on the hot spot! Personal observation and interesting links about Omega Centauri globular cluster. Have a look at the biggest globular cluster in our Milky Way @ Links Through Space.

4. Nextbigfuture -Talk Polywell had some calculations of what might be achieved with the Harold White space warping work given plausible power generation and propulsion systems. This information was provided by Paul March who is working on the NASA project to try to create a detectable warping of space.

Paul March did some more calculations with the warp-field analysis tool and found the following -

by decreasing the resonant cavity dielectric density down to a lunar like vacuum level of 5x10^-12 Torr and increasing the warp-core torodial resonant cavity size up to 20 meter OD by 15 meter ID by 20 meter long while still using green light laser frequency for the RF source and using "just" 1.0 gigawatt of electrical input power, that one might be able to obtain a c boost factor of 88,000 times the speed of light. If one pulled back to using an infrared 1x10^12 Hz (THz) RF source using the same 1.0 GWe of input power, then the c boost factor lowers down to ~3,600c.

* First have a successful creation and detection of a one part in ten million space warp

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

* Develop and increase the level of space warping to a full warping of space

* Develop advanced space propulsion to achieve about 10% of light speed (nuclear fusion propulsion, nuclear fission propulsion, power beamed propulsion)

* Apply the advanced design of warping technology to the sublight space vehicle