February 09, 2013

IBM Watson providing superior cancer treatment plans and will accelerate the adoption of new cancer research

The IBM Watson system gained fame by beating human contestants on the television quiz show Jeopardy! almost two years ago. Since that time, Watson has evolved from a first-of-a-kind status, to a commercial cognitive computing system gaining a 240 percent improvement in system performance, and a reduction in the system’s physical requirements by 75 percent and can now be run on a single Power 750 server.

IBM Watson trained in medicine to leverage 1.5 million patient records and 2 million pages of cancer research

IBM Watson has ingested more than 600,000 pieces of medical evidence, two million pages of text from 42 medical journals and clinical trials in the area of oncology research. Watson has the power to sift through 1.5 million patient records representing decades of cancer treatment history, such as medical records and patient outcomes, and provide to physicians evidence based treatment options all in a matter of seconds.

In less than a year, Memorial Sloan-Kettering has immersed Watson in the complexities of cancer and the explosion of genetic research which has set the stage for changing care practices for many cancer patients with highly specialized treatments based on their personal genetic tumor type.

Starting with 1,500 lung cancer cases, Memorial Sloan-Kettering clinicians and analysts are training Watson to extract and interpret physician notes, lab results and clinical research, while sharing its profound expertise and experiences in treating hundreds of thousands of patients with cancer.

“It can take years for the latest developments in oncology to reach all practice settings. The combination of transformational technologies found in Watson with our cancer analytics and decision-making process has the potential to revolutionize the accessibility of information for the treatment of cancer in communities across the country and around the world,” said Craig B.Thompson, M.D., President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “Ultimately, we expect this comprehensive, evidence-based approach will profoundly enhance cancer care by accelerating the dissemination of practice-changing research at an unprecedented pace.”

3D Printing Made Awesome. The Joy of a Robohand for a 5 Year Old

Custom 3d printing toys in your house is ok.  3D printing crappy guns is stupid.  3D printing a hand for a kid who can not afford one is pure AWESOME! The fundraiser is at this link

Ivan Owen in Bellingham, Washington and Richard Van As in South Africa—have published the design for Robohand, the mechanical hand prosthesis, on MakerBot's Thingiverse site as a digital file that can be used to produce its parts in a 3D printer. They've intentionally made the design public domain in the hopes that others around the world who don't have access to expensive commercial prosthetics (which can cost tens of thousands of dollars) can benefit from it.

They worked to provide a 5 year old (Liam) with a working hand. Makerbot donated printers to the effort and that allowed for fast iterations. Liam received a finalized working version of the hand, printed on the MakerBot. The PLA plastic resin used by the MakerBot machine is strong enough to be used day to day, Owen said. We've found we can control the in-fill percentage—the ratio of plastic to air in the part," he said. "So actually, from the experiments we've done, the force to break the plastic exceeds the strength of the human hand." It also means that, as Liam grows, the design can just be scaled up and reprinted for him; when he's fully grown, the hand could be metal fabricated.

Separate Kickstarter Project for Brainwave activated 3D printed Arm

A 17 year old is developing his second generation printed arm with a combination of 3D printed parts, dental rubber bands for tendon-like spring action, nylon-coated jeweler’s wire for ligaments, a telemetric Nintendo Power Glove, and a brainwave-activated headset to control the arm’s movement. For muscle power, he made a servo by adding a potentiometer to a DC motor. He was 14 when he built his first prosthetic arm.

February 08, 2013

All of the Pieces for the Next President to Command Skynet

What are the pieces for the next President to command all seeing hunter killer laser armed drones ?

* Super high resolution drone mounted cameras
* Laser armed drones
* 150 kilowatt or more powerful lasers
* An open ended legal policy for the use of drones for targeted killing

Lord Acton's dictum, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely".

1. From an altitude of 17,500 feet a drone with a 1.8 gigapixel video camera can monitor half of Manhattan and they can zoom in and see a person waving or a bird flying. The interface shows the wide field of view all at once but 65 windows can be opened up showing zoom in views of different spots. They can see things as small as 6 inches like birds. They can make out people waving from the ground and what they are wearing. The software analyzes and tracks everything that is moving.

All of the images is archived from every UAV. The persistent monitoring means that any past time can be selected for a monitored area and what happened at that time can be played as if you were watching it live. The current system has 1.8 gigapixel video but DARPA has another project that will soon have 50 gigapixels of resolution and mass production will drive the cost to about $1000. 50 gigapixels would mean increasing resolution to make out 1 inch objects from 17500 feet or viewing a larger area at the 6 inch resolution. A live and historical feed of everything in Manhattan down to 1 inch resolution from one drone.

Non-smartphone mobile phones should be non-existent by about 2015

The total mobile phone market, at 438.1 million units, was flat year-on-year, while the worldwide smart phone market grew 37%. Android smart phones accounted for 34% of all phone shipments and iOS phones 11%. Smart phones now represent almost 50% of all the phones that shipped in Q4 2012.

Non-smartphone mobile phones should be virtually extinct in 2015 (based on the 37% year over year growth of smartphones and the flat mobile phone market).

In the smart phone market, Android handsets accounted for 69% of the 216.5 million shipped. Samsung had a very strong quarter, growing 78%, while the Chinese vendors Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo and Yulong all grew by triple-digit percentages. Android’s share did, however, dip sequentially from 74% as Apple’s share grew from 15% to 22% on the strength of the iPhone 5. BlackBerry and Windows Phone shares remained unchanged sequentially at 4% and 2% respectively.

Germans developing weed control using laser armed drones. What could go wrong ?

German scientists are seriously developing a laser based system of weed control in order to be more "environmentally friendly" than using chemical poisons. What could go wrong ? Laser armed Robots and drones for farming and weed control and they will have artificial intelligence algorithms and high resolution cameras for recognizing plants. They would have the goal of having this on a large scale for better "organic farming". The laser system is currently being tested in a greenhouse.

Drones or small robotic planes would fly over the fields. These could also fight weeds near protected waters, where herbicides are not allowed to be used. According to researcher Christian Marx, the German railway service has expressed interest in the project as well. "30 percent of the railway tracks are in water protection areas where you can't use herbicides anyway."

Could robots or drones weeding beds and fields using laser be the answer? At the moment this is only a pipe dream, but in a few years such scenarios could be far from impossible. The laser beam is directed into the growth centre of the plant, thus killing it. In a project funded by the German Research Council (DFG), the scientists started by adjusting the energy of the laser precisely and effectively to the type and height of the plant. “We have to place the beam directly where it is needed,” says project leader Prof. Thomas Rath from the Institute of Biological Production Systems.

The scientists in the current project are concentrating on CO² lasers, which emit beams in the mid-infrared range.

A movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger had laser armed robots and drones

The second major challenge is recognising the plant. What is an undesirable plant and what is desirable, and where precisely must the laser be aimed? Here the scientists have developed a clever system. Cameras film the plants, and software measures the contours of each individual plant so that the laser beam can be optimally positioned. “We have algorithms for many different weeds,” says Professor Rath. It becomes difficult when weeds and cultivated plants are very close together and overlap. “The key to success is recognising them so that we destroy only the weeds,” explains Marx.

A 3D 70 micron long Wing Commander Hellcat model spaceship was made to show capabilities of a fast laser lithography printer

Nanoscribe GmbH, a spin-off of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), presents the world’s fastest 3D printer of micro- and nanostructures. With this printer, smallest three-dimensional objects, often smaller than the diameter of a human hair, can be manufactured with minimum time consumption and maximum resolution. The printer is based on a novel laser lithography method.

The 3D laser litho-graphy systems developed by Nanoscribe – the spin-off can still be found on KIT’s Campus North - are used for research by KIT and scientists worldwide. Work in the area of photonics concentrates on replacing conventional electronics by optical circuits of higher performance. For this purpose, Nanoscribe systems are used to print polymer waveguides reaching data transfer rates of more than 5 terabits per second.

Biosciences produce tailored scaffolds for cell growth studies among others. In materials research, functional materials of enhanced performance are developed for lightweight construction to reduce the consumption of resources. Among the customers are universities and research institutions as well as industrial companies.

Increased Speed: Hours Turn into Minutes
By means of the new laser lithography method, printing speed is increased by factor of about 100. This increase in speed results from the use of a galvo mirror system, a technology that is also applied in laser show devices or scanning units of CD and DVD drives.

February 07, 2013

Propellentless EMDrive Research Continues in China and Experimental Claims Are Eight Times Better than Boeing Xenon Ion Drive with Spaceplane Promises

The latest EMDrive experiment paper (from China) describes their latest thruster and gives the test results in details, showing that with a couple of kilowatts of power they can produce 720 mN (about 72 grams) of thrust.

It may not sound very much, less than three ounces, but in space a little thrust goes a long way. Boeing's advanced XIPS thruster, which fires out Xenon ions at high speed, generates less than a quarter as much thrust from twice as much power. It's used to maintain satellites in position, or move them to a slightly different orbit. Crucially, Xips weights about twenty kilos, more than an equivalent EmDrive, and the propellant for prolonged operation can weigh much more.

Nextbigfuture covered the EMDrive work back in 2008 and 2009 The heart of the Emdrive is a resonant, tapered cavity filled with microwaves. According to Shawyer, a relativistic effect generates a net thrust, an effect confirmed by various Emdrives he has built as demonstrations. Critics say that any thrust from the drive must come from another source. Shawyer is adamant that the measured thrust is not caused by other factors.

In 2008, professor Yang Juan of the College of Astronautics at Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) in Xi’an was happy to confirm that they were building an Emdrive.

Shawyer now estimates that the prototype superconducting thruster could be ready in 2016. He previously was talking about having such a system in about 2010.

Other coverage of the EMDrive at Nextbigfuture.

Superconducting EMDrive has not yet been built

The EMdrive enables superconducting cavities to very efficiently create static thrust. Thrust is measured in "pounds of thrust" in the U.S. and in Newtons under the metric system (4.45 Newtons of thrust equals 1 pound of thrust). 300 pounds of thrust is 1335 Newtons of thrust. 6 kilowatts of input means that 222.5 N/kW.

Apparently the 6.8 million Q device has 143 kg opf thrust from 6 kW input.

Effect of increased Q for the Emdrive

Q=50,000 (1st gen.) Static thrust=315 mN/kW Specific thrust at 3km/s=200mN/kW

Q=6,800,000 (supercond) Static thrust=222 N/kW Specific thrust at ??km/s=??N/kW

Q=5* 10**9 (supercond) Static thrust=31.5 kN/kW Specific thrust at 0.1km/s=8.8N/kW

Q=10**11 (supercond) Static thrust=630 kN/kW Specific thrust at 0.1km/s=??N/kW

Middle Class and Affluent America Has an Informal One Child Policy and it is leading to big problems

Middle-class Americans have their own, informal one-child policy these days. And an alarming number of upscale professionals don’t even go that far—they have dogs, not kids. In fact, if it weren’t for the wave of immigration we experienced over the last thirty years, the United States would be on the verge of shrinking, too. The global demographic implosion and the demographics of the United States are covered in a book by Jonathan Last.

College Educated white couples in the United States have a fertility rate of 1.6 while in China with an oppressive one child policy has a fertility rate of 1.54.

Everything about modern life—from Bugaboo strollers to insane college tuition to government regulations—has pushed Americans in a single direction, making it harder to have children. And making the people who do still want to have children feel like second-class citizens.

Mexican Immigration has cratered and will be insignificant in the Future

Pew Research has shown that net migration from Mexico has fallen to zero and possibly is a net outflow back to Mexico.

After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants—most of whom came illegally—the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped and may have reversed.

In the 1960s Mexican women had an average of seven children each; now they have only 2.4, and before 2020 the number is expected to drop below two.

China will take more aggressive steps for cleaner cars and power in the face of killer air pollution

Schoolchildren were ordered to halt outdoor sports activities for several days as a dirty cloud of smog shrouded Beijing in January This was among a series of emergency response measures adopted in Beijing when the city's Air Quality Index exceeded 500 micrograms, the highest level. Anything above this is regarded as "beyond index." The air pollution crisis could prod faster and stronger steps for air pollution mitigation similar to events like the London Fog in 1952 (air pollution event that killed about 12000 people over 2 weeks) caused action in Europe and North America.

Reports of respiratory problems -- as well as the sale of masks -- have skyrocketed, according to state media, and over the weekend, streets appeared emptier, as a sun was barely visible amid a hazy blanket.

Hospital admissions for respiratory complaints jumped 20%

China produced 9.7 million kilotons of carbon dioxide while the United States had 5.42 million kilotons in 2011. However, the immediate health risks are from the sulfur and particulate air pollution.

PM2.5 (2.5 micron particulate matter) is from four different sources: chemical reactions from sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, volatile organic compounds and black carbon [soot]. A large number of sources need to be tackled to solve the problem. The main sources are cars, ships, trains, building construction, coal power generation and factories.

Hong Kong and China are advancing laws to reduce or limit sulfur in fuel used in cars and ships.

Measures announced in January by Beijing include getting rid of at least 180,000 older cars and trucks in the city, encouraging the use of less-polluting vehicles and shutting about 450 factories.

The World Health Organization recommends that PM2.5 levels be kept below 25 micrograms per cubic meter. In January, Beijing air quality levels reached nearly 900 micrograms. A level of 300 is considered hazardous.

Fujifilm has printable, bendable thin film thermoelectric that can power devices using body heat

Fujifilm Corp developed a thermoelectric conversion material using an organic polymer material. The selling point of the thermoelectric converter module is that it can be manufactured by using an organic material and printing technologies. The company expects that the module will be attached to a human body to be used as a power supply for a health monitoring device and installed on the back of a photovoltaic panel to efficiently collect energy.

The dimensionless performance index (ZT) of a thermoelectric conversion device using AIST's material is 0.27. But Fujifilm realized a performance higher than that, it said. The exhibited thermoelectric converter module has a power generation capacity of several milliwatts and is capable of generating electricity with a temperature difference of 1°C, the company said.

The module used in a demonstration. When a temperature difference is created by placing a hand on the module, it generates electricity and powers a toy car

Nextbigfuture made the front page of Reddit for two days in a row

Nextbigfuture Articles that made the front page of reddit

US Manufacturing jobs are leaving China and Returning to robots in the US

This had over 2500 points and 1600 comments.

Top Reddit comments
- *the robots are manufactured in China
- For now. Just until we have more robots that can manufacture more robots.
- This will go a long way to reduce the high rate of unemployment amongst American-born robots...
- Thats good because many people are needed to build, program, maintain and manage the robots. At least those (typically higher paying jobs) will be in the US and not China. The fact is, change happens, old jobs die off new ones come about. At least those newer jobs are going to be found in the US and not elsewhere.

Cable companies make 97% margin on Internet services and have no incentive to provide gigabit internet

This had over 3000 points and 1100 comments.

Top Reddit Comments -
- As if that isn't bad enough, Time warner is actually lobbying against a community owned ISP (to make it illegal) because they can't compete.

- That's a really old article, but yeah that sort of thing is common. ALEC (presumably at the behest of AT and T) has been pushing model bills to make municipal ISPs illegal for some time. See

-Welcome to america where business is free, in the sense that you can buy laws.

All Nextbigfuture articles on reddit can be found at You can support the site by submitting articles you like to reddit, ycombinator and stumbleupon and upvoting them.

Seventh Actor to Die from the Unlucky Babylon 5 Cast

Robin Sachs was most well known as an actor for his science fiction and fantasy work. He was in Babylon 5 as a guest star six TV episodes and the TV movie In the Beginning. He played Minbari Warrior Caste members of the Grey Council and two Narns.

He also played the main villain in the movie Galaxy Quest and did the main voice work for the video games Mass Effect 2 and 3. He was in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Torchwood among many other roles.

Other Babylon 5 Actors who have died

On radio it was stated that seven Babylon 5 actors have died. I know of six including Robin Sachs.

Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar)
Richard Biggs (Dr. Stephen Franklin)
Michael O'Hare (Jeffrey Sinclair - Valen)
Jeff Conaway who played Zach (also known for being in the movie Grease and the TV show Taxi)
Tim Choate (Zathras)

Ground and Space based telescopes should be characterizing the atmospheres of habitable exoplanets by 2017 to 2020

An analysis of thousands of stars in the Kepler space telescope's database, found 95 possible planets orbiting red dwarfs. Of these, three are Earth-sized candidates in the habitable zone – the region around a star where liquid water can exist. Statistically, that means 6 per cent of all red dwarfs in our galaxy should have rocky planets in the habitable zone.

Most of the stars nearest to us are red dwarfs, including the closest, Proxima Centauri. Based on the distribution of red dwarfs in the Milky Way, Dressing estimates that a potentially habitable planet is only 13 light years away.

Due to orbital geometries, the odds that a given planet transits its star so that we can see it are just 1 in 50, so there's a chance the nearest habitable world will not be one that surveys like Kepler can see. The odds are better that we can see a habitable planet transit within 100 light years of Earth. That's still near enough for planned observatories to check its atmosphere for gases produced by life on Earth, such as a large amount of oxygen.

NASA is currently considering two planet-hunting telescopes that could help find such a nearby world: the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the Fast Infrared Exoplanet Spectroscopy Survey Explorer (FINESSE). One of these missions is expected to be selected this spring for launch in 2017.

Even if neither space mission goes ahead, large telescopes on the ground should also be able to detect gases like oxygen in exoplanet atmospheres. Ignas Snellen of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and colleagues think that, once a habitable planet around a red dwarf is found, planned facilities such as the European Extremely Large Telescope could detect such gases in its atmosphere within three to four years.

"We could be in the business of studying the atmospheres of habitable worlds 10 years from now," says David Charbonneau, also of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. If NASA launches the missions the space telescopes and we get lucky with analysis of Kepler data to confirm exoplanets, then we could be studying the atmospheres by 2017 or 2020 with space or ground based systems.

The EELT was funded with first light expected by 2022

The Thirty Meter Telescope is still on track for 2018 completion. China and India were paying for part of the $1 billion cost

The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) is a ground-based extremely large telescope planned for completion in 2020. It will consist of seven 8.4 m (27.6 ft) diameter primary segments, with the resolving power of a 24.5 m (80.4 ft) primary mirror and collecting area equivalent to a 21.4 m (70.2 ft) one. The telescope is expected to have over four times the light-gathering ability of existing instruments. Two mirrors are cast and the mountain is being prepared

February 06, 2013

Gigabit Internet deployments and US Prospects

Gigabit connections are available to governments, educational institutions, and large businesses, it’s difficult to get such a fast connection for regular public use. Santa Monica, California has a 10 Gigabit network, but that’s mostly allocated for business use.

Gig.U, Gigabit Squared - Seattle, Chicago and other Cities

The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project, or Gig.U, is a broad-based group of over 30 leading research universities from across the United States. Drawing on America’s rich history of community-led innovation in research and entrepreneurship, Gig.U seeks to accelerate the deployment of ultra high-speed networks to leading U.S. universities and their surrounding communities. Improvements to these networks drive economic growth and stimulate a new generation of innovations addressing critical needs, such as health care and education.

Gigabit Squared raised $200 million and so far is targeting six cities for gigabit internet deployment. Gigabit Squared has set aside $5 million for the Chicago project as part of its Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program in collaboration with partner Gig.U. The State of Illinois is kicking in $2 million, while the University of Chicago is committing $1 million now and plans to raise another $1 million in the surrounding communities.

The first phase of the project will bring gigabit fiber connections to 4,825 homes, businesses, schools, libraries and healthcare institutions in the Hyde Park neighborhood U of C calls home, as well as surrounding communities.

They will expand out over the next four years taking in more neighborhoods. Eventually the project hopes to connect 210,000 residents living in 79,000 households with a combination of fiber and Wi-Fi technologies, as well as link 10,000 individual small businesses. That’s a healthy chunk of Chicago’s south side.

February 05, 2013

Hydro beats coal and nuclear which beat oil and natural gas plants in a recent study

A new study lists and quantifies environmental sustainability factors and ranks energy sources under different scenarios for the following technologies: hydro, coal, oil, gas and nuclear. The results show that hydroelectric plants are usually the best solution. Coal and nuclear could be a good choice even if each type of plant has its strengths and weaknesses. On the contrary, the oil and gas-fired plants are always the worst choice.

The results show that, considering the traditional generation technologies, nuclear plants are usually the best option along with coal, even if this latter technology suffers from social acceptability in many countries.

France has constructed earthquake cloaking for protecting hospitals, nuclear power plants and other structures

A group from the Institut Fresnel in Marseille and the ground improvement specialist company, Menard, both in France, say they’ve built and tested a seismic invisibility cloak in an alluvial basin in southern France. That’s the first time such a device has been constructed.

Future versions of this system could be used to protect hospital, nuclear power plants and other key facilities.

The secret of invisibility cloaks lies in engineering a material on a scale smaller than the wavelength of the waves it needs to manipulate. The appropriate sub-wavelength structures can then be arranged in a way that steers waves.

The French team created its so-called metamaterial by drilling three lines of empty boreholes 5 metres deep in a basin of silted clay up to 200 metres deep. They then monitored the area with acoustic sensors.

The experiment consisted of creating waves with a frequency of 50 Hertz and a horizontal displacement of 14 mm from a source on one side of the array. They then measured the way the waves propagated across it.

The French team say its metamaterial strongly reflected the seismic waves, which barely penetrated beyond the second line of boreholes.

One problem with this kind of array is that the reflected waves could end up doing more damage to buildings nearby. That’s why some groups are looking at metamaterials that absorb energy rather than steer or reflect it.

US manufacturing jobs are leaving China and returning to robots in the US

60 Minutes looked at the jobless recovery and the replacement of workers with automation and robotics.

* automated warehouses (Nextbigfuture looked at distribution warehouse automation )

Swisslog builds modularized conveyors, stacker cranes, row rovers (called carriers) and autonomous tugs as well as their new AutoStore robots. Swisslog can handle open-case light goods and pallet/case systems. Swisslog provides European style material handling often characterized by high capital and operating costs and lots of mechanical devices. They enjoy very high productivity and space utilization in return. Swisslog claims that their methods maximizes both vertical and horizontal space enabling them to process up to 1,000 picks per hour. This is six times better than Amazon's previous automation system from just a couple of years ago.

* IBM Watson is being used in call centers and on Wall Street

* Rethink Robotics' Baxter robot

* US manufacturing jobs are leaving China and returning to robots in the US

Bigelow Aerospace Announces Pricing for Inflatable Space Stations

Bigelow Aerospace's historic first commercial space station will open up extraordinary opportunities for countries across the globe. Nations such as Japan, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Sweden could secure the future of their human spaceflight programs and dramatically increase the size of their astronaut corps. Smaller countries with no human spaceflight experience such as Singapore or the United Arab Emirates could take their first bold steps into space in a rapid and affordable fashion.

* 8% lower cost ($36.75 million instead of 40 million) for astronauts but able to stay up to 9 times longer (60 days instead of 7 days)

Superconducting Bi-2212 wire that has five times higher current and will enable superconducting magnets with over 30 Tesla

A group of scientists has discovered how to make better wires using a promising material known as Bi-2212. With this discovery comes the possibility of creating magnetic fields in excess of 30 Tesla, three to four times higher than those generated by present accelerator magnet technology.

Bi-2212 stands out as the only HTS (high temperaure superconductor) that can be fabricated as a round wire. This makes Bi-2212 a perfect candidate for winding cables and coils without significantly changing present magnet technology.

Researchers have developed a technique that prevents bubble formation almost entirely by performing the melting and re-solidification of materials under high external gas pressure. The group observed five times higher current in a long wire sample made by the new method compared to an identical sample made by the standard recipe.

Importantly, the electrical currents in the improved Bi-2212 wires were two times larger than the usual benchmarks used for the development of superconducting magnet coils.

This breakthrough signifies the birth of a new high-performance, very-high-field magnet conductor. Shen and his collaborators are optimistic that they now have the recipe for a new class of superconducting magnets that could help unlock information about chemical and biological processes, create new materials and reveal the fundamental processes of the universe.

Arxiv - Processing long-length Ag-sheathed Bi2Sr2CaCu2Ox wires for high critical current density: internal gases and creep of Ag at high temperatures (22 pages)

“Yolk-shell” design stores five times more energy in the sulfur cathode of a rechargeable lithium-ion battery than commercial batteries

Scientists from DOE's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have set a world record for energy storage, using a clever “yolk-shell” design to store five times more energy in the sulfur cathode of a rechargeable lithium-ion battery than is possible with today’s commercial technology. The cathode also maintained a high level of performance after 1,000 charge/discharge cycles, paving the way for new generations of lighter, longer-lasting batteries for use in portable electronics and electric vehicles.

Cui’s innovation is a cathode made of nanoparticles, each a tiny sulfur nugget surrounded by a hard shell of porous titanium dioxide, like an egg yolk in an eggshell. Between the yolk and shell, where the egg white would be, is an empty space into which the sulfur can expand. During discharging, lithium ions pass through the shell and bind to the sulfur, which expands to fill the void but not so much as to break the shell. The shell, meanwhile, protects the sulfur-lithium intermediate compound from electrolyte solvent that would dissolve it.

Previous attempts to make sulfur cathodes using bare sulfur or simply coated particles could not prevent the dramatic reduction of energy-storage capacity as the lithium-sulfur intermediate compounds (polysulfides) created during charging broke free and dissolved away. (Credit: Zhi Wei She, Stanford University)

Laser based generation of high energy neutrons

A new compact high-flux source of energetic neutrons has been built by physicists in Germany and the US. The new laser-based device has the potential to be cheaper and more convenient than the large neutron facilities currently used by physicists and other scientists. The inventors say the source could be housed in university laboratories and might also be used to identify illicit nuclear material.

Neutrons are a valuable tool for scientists in many fields, allowing them to probe the structure and dynamics of a range of materials. Today, the main drawback of neutron science is that intense beams of neutrons must be produced in either nuclear reactors or dedicated accelerator facilities – making a laser-based table-top source very attractive.

Printing human embryonic stem cells

In recent years, the use of a simple inkjet technology for cell printing has triggered tremendous interest and established the field of biofabrication. A key challenge has been the development of printing processes which are both controllable and less harmful, in order to preserve cell and tissue viability and functions. Here, we report on the development of a valve-based cell printer that has been validated to print highly viable cells in programmable patterns from two different bio-inks with independent control of the volume of each droplet (with a lower limit of 2 nL or fewer than five cells per droplet). Human ESCs were used to make spheroids by overprinting two opposing gradients of bio-ink; one of hESCs in medium and the other of medium alone. The resulting array of uniform sized droplets with a gradient of cell concentrations was inverted to allow cells to aggregate and form spheroids via gravity. The resulting aggregates have controllable and repeatable sizes, and consequently they can be made to order for specific applications. Spheroids with between 5 and 140 dissociated cells resulted in spheroids of 0.25–0.6 mm diameter. This work demonstrates that the valve-based printing process is gentle enough to maintain stem cell viability, accurate enough to produce spheroids of uniform size, and that printed cells maintain their pluripotency. This study includes the first analysis of the response of human embryonic stem cells to the printing process using this valve-based printing setup.

Tests showed that 80-90% of the embryonic stem cells stayed viable.

a) Schematic drawing of the cell printer system. (b) Detailed schematic of the two dispensing systems.

IOP Science - Development of a valve-based cell printer for the formation of human embryonic stem cell spheroid aggregates

Cable companies make 97% margin on internet services and have no incentive to offer gigabit internet

The cable distribution giants like Time Warner Cable and Comcast are already making a 97 percent margin on their “almost comically profitable” Internet services, according to Craig Moffet, an analyst at the Wall Street firm Bernstein Research. As Levin points out, “If you are making that kind of margin, it’s hard to improve it.” And most Americans have no choice but to deal with their local cable company.

UPDATE - Nextbigfuture has coverage of where the current US gigabit internet deployments are being made and the companies and organizations behind them.

Google fiber is mostly deploying in February and April of this year in Kansas. There are some areas that already have installation in progress.

Confirmation of Lazy Money Grubbing Evil

While Verizon operates the fiber network serving the largest number of home subscribers in the nation, the company is backing off from installing additional U.S. fiber connectivity. The company’s fiber service, called FiOS, offers basic service starting at 15 megabits per second (which can be upgraded in some areas to as much as 300 megabits per second).

Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said in a conference call last fall that there are no plans to expand FiOS beyond those areas. “At this point we have to capitalize on what we have invested,” he said. The basic goal is to sign up more people in the existing service areas, which adds the most revenue without increasing capital costs.

The other cable and telecom companies are focused on capitalizing on existing cable infrastructure, not emulating Google Fiber by building out fiber connections to homes and businesses. In Kansas City, Time Warner Cable in late January (likely in response to Google Fiber’s presence) boosted speeds and lowered prices, offering download speeds of 100 megabits per second for $75 a month. For $199 users can get cable bundled with TV and phone service, with two DVR.

Google Fiber, Gig.U and some City Gigabit Efforts

During an earnings call earlier this month, Google CFO Patrick Pichette said the company plans to finish building out the whole city, on both the Kansas and Missouri sides of the state line, and added that the effort “is not a hobby: we really think that we should be making good business with this opportunity, and we are going to continue to look at the possibility of expanding.”

February 04, 2013

An economical way to convert carbon dioxide into calcium carbonate

A chance discovery that sea urchins use Nickel particles to harness carbon dioxide from the sea to grow their exoskeleton could be the key to capturing tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Experts at Newcastle University, UK, have discovered that in the presence of a Nickel catalyst, CO2 can be converted rapidly and cheaply into the harmless, solid mineral, calcium carbonate.

The process developed by the Newcastle team involves passing the waste gas directly from the chimney top, through a water column rich in Nickel nano-particles and recovering the solid calcium carbonate from the bottom. They are looking for business partners to develop their patented process.

Self-assembled quantum dots in a nanowire system for quantum photonics

Nature Materials - Quantum dots embedded within nanowires represent one of the most promising technologies for applications in quantum photonics. Whereas the top-down fabrication of such structures remains a technological challenge, their bottom-up fabrication through self-assembly is a potentially more powerful strategy. However, present approaches often yield quantum dots with large optical linewidths, making reproducibility of their physical properties difficult. We present a versatile quantum-dot-in-nanowire system that reproducibly self-assembles in core–shell GaAs/AlGaAs nanowires. The quantum dots form at the apex of a GaAs/AlGaAs interface, are highly stable, and can be positioned with nanometre precision relative to the nanowire centre. Unusually, their emission is blue-shifted relative to the lowest energy continuum states of the GaAs core. Large-scale electronic structure calculations show that the origin of the optical transitions lies in quantum confinement due to Al-rich barriers. By emitting in the red and self-assembling on silicon substrates, these quantum dots could therefore become building blocks for solid-state lighting devices and third-generation solar cells.

HAADF-STEM image of a GaAs nanowire coated with an AlGaAs shell. The formation of finite Al-poor islands is also observed.

14 pages of supplemental material

More efficient computer displays to enhanced biomedical testing from better quantum dots

An MIT team says that it has succeeded in overcoming all the obstacles to improved quantum dots performance at once, while earlier efforts have only been able to tackle them one or a few at a time. Quantum dots — in this case, a specific type called colloidal quantum dots — are tiny particles of semiconductor material that are so small that their properties differ from those of the bulk material: They are governed in part by the laws of quantum mechanics that describe how atoms and subatomic particles behave. When illuminated with ultraviolet light, the dots fluoresce brightly in a range of colors, determined by the sizes of the particles.

First discovered in the 1980s, these materials have been the focus of intense research because of their potential to provide significant advantages in a wide variety of optical applications, but their actual usage has been limited by several factors.

The new process developed by the MIT team produces quantum dots with four important qualities: uniform sizes and shapes; bright emissions, producing close to 100 percent emission efficiency; a very narrow peak of emissions, meaning that the colors emitted by the particles can be precisely controlled; and an elimination of a tendency to blink on and off, which limited the usefulness of earlier quantum-dot applications.

Nature Materials - Compact high-quality CdSe–CdS core–shell nanocrystals with narrow emission linewidths and suppressed blinking

February 03, 2013

Aubrey de Grey (SENS Antiaging) interviewed on Gluck Radio

46 minute podcast interview of Aubrey de Grey on Gluck radio. Aubrey is emphasizing that he wants to eliminate the diseases of aging and making people healthy. He is de-emphasizing the life extension.

Meet revolutionary scientist Aubrey de Grey. Aubrey started a foundation called SENS, which is looking to do what seems like the impossible: ending aging. Although Dr. de Grey sees aging as a disease and not a longevity issue, his research could mean that the middle aged person living today could live to 1000.

A breakthrough in organic spin electronics to store one petabyte per square inch

An international team of researchers affiliated with Göttingen University has found a way to store vast amounts of data - up to one petabyte - per square inch. One petabyte is equivalent to 1,000 terabytes or one million gigabytes. Using information stored in the spin of an electron, the scientists succeeded in storing the information in an organic molecule and reading it at a temperature close to room temperature.

Elementary particles, many atomic nuclei and atoms with certain electron configurations have what is called spin, defined as the rotation of a body around its own axis. This enables an alternative form of electronic data processing – called “spin electronics or spintronics.” The scientists developed a unique molecule that serves as the memory for their electronic device: They fused non-magnetic carbon atoms linked to one another in three benzene rings into one unit. Using spin injection, they chemically added an unpaired electron that carries a net spin. This can be exploited to store information as “0” and “1” by having the electron’s spin orientated up or down. Another accomplishment of the researchers was to use a magnetic reference electrode to read out the stored information at room temperature.

“Spin storage on an organic material and the successful reading at room temperature represent a breakthrough in organic spin electronics,” emphasised Prof. Markus Münzenberg, one of the physicists from Göttingen. “Spintronics integrated into flexible plastic components are already a familiar part of the organic LEDs employed in today's displays, TV screens and smartphones. Our recently developed molecular units have a similar potential.”

Interface magnetoresistance effect. Molecular structure of zinc methyl phenalenyl (ZMP) in a neutral state with no net spin (top). Charge transfer processes through hybridization on the ferromagnet surface can change the chemical state.

Nature - Interface-engineered templates for molecular spin memory devices

Mixing Polymer fiber and carbon nanotubes to make cheap material that is twice as strong as Kevlar

Traditionally, carbon fibers are made by “carbonizing” a polymer called poly-acrylonitrile, or PAN. First, the polymer is spun into a fiber and then it is heated to very high temperatures. This causes the polymer molecules to to be converted into a homogenous carbon structure, causing the material to become a stiff solid.

Some research groups are designing new fibers that are made with 100 percent carbon nanotubes, which are among the strongest materials out there. But they’re extremely expensive. Marilyn Minus’ goal is to design a composite fiber that is twice as strong as current commercial materials, but cheaper.

To do so, she’s adding small amounts of nanotubes to the polymer fibers. The tubes, she says, act as needle-like skates allowing the long, flexible polymer chains to slide into a more ordered conformation. Now the spaghetti strands aren’t jumbled in a messy pile, but are neatly aligned, one strand evenly stacked atop the next. The alignment affords much stronger properties, says Minus.

She’s playing around with several different types of polymers and nanomaterials and varying the concentrations of each. Ultimately she hopes to have a library of sorts, with a variety of materials designed for a variety of applications. Also, because she’s using textile grade polymers with only a small percentage of nanomaterials, the prices of her fibers may not be much higher than a silk shirt.

And speaking of silk, Minus has already developed fibers that are stronger than spider silk — one of the strongest natural materials around. At the same time, her fibers are pushing the limits of Zylon, the strongest synthetic material currently available. Still at the beginning of her research, Minus believes there is still a lot room for improvement.

PBS shows off 1.8 gigapixel video feed and analysis from a DARPA drone

From an altitude of 17,500 feet a drone with a 1.8 gigapixel video camera can monitor half of Manhattan.

The interface shows the wide field of view all at once but 65 windows can be opened up showing zoom in views of different spots. They can see things as small as 6 inches like birds. They can make out people waving from the ground and what they are wearing.

The software analyzes and tracks everything that is moving.

All of the images is archived from every UAV. The persistent monitoring means that any past time can be selected for a monitored area and what happened at that time can be played as if you were watching it live.

The sensor uses four lenses and 368 cell phone cameras, 5 megapixels each.

Each chip is receiving the light from one tube. The video below does not reveal what the system looks like, but I am pretty sure it looks like the system shown in a patent from 2007.

The ARGUS-IS, or the Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System, is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) project contracted to BAE Systems. Nextbigfuture covered this system in 2009.

Another DARPA project should have developed a 50 gigapixel camera out of off the shelf parts. Mass production could bring the cost of 50 gigapixel systems down to about $1000. 50 gigapixels would mean increasing resolution to make out 1 inch objects from 17500 feet or viewing a larger area at the 6 inch resolution.

Impulse Drive - Mach Effect Thruster

The Mach Effect Thruster (MET) is a device which utilizes fluctuations in the rest masses of accelerating objects (capacitor stacks, in which internal energy changes take place) to produce a steady linear thrust. The theory has been given in detail elsewhere and references therein, so here we discuss only an experiment. We show how to obtain thrust using a heavy reaction mass at one end of our capacitor stack and a lighter end cap on the other. Then we show how this thrust can be eliminated by having two heavy masses at either end of the stack with a central mounting bracket. We show the same capacitor stack being used as a thruster and then eliminate the thrust by arranging equal brass masses on either end, so that essentially the capacitor stack is trying to push in both directions at once. This arrangement in theory would only allow for a small oscillation but no net thrust. We find the thrust does indeed disappear in the experiment, as predicted. The device (in thruster mode) could in principle be used for propulsion. Experimental apparatus based on a very sensitive thrust balance is briefly described. The experimental protocol employed to search for expected Mach effects is laid out, and the results of this experimental investigation are described.

Suggestion from Advanced Space Propulsion Workshop in Huntsville Alabama for a null experiment. If we were to place identical brass masses on either side of our active PZT stack, then the mass fluctuations would result in pushes and pulls of equal magnitude and the device should just oscillate a little but show no average thrust. This appeared to be worth testing. It would show that we were able to eliminate any unwanted vibration, noise effects.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 142

1. ANS Nuclear Cafe - Nuclear Artifacts

The latest crowd sourced blog post at ANS Nuclear Cafe brings readers a series of very special historical objects, papers, and other pieces of the past of nuclear energy -- as depicted in personal descriptions and stories told by their owners...

2. NEI submissions:

NEI's Richard Myers on the Wall Street Journal Story on Natural Gas and Nuclear Energy

3. NEI Nuclear Notes - The Future in Miniature with Georgia Power

4. NEI Nuclear Notes - The Swiss Turn Ever So Slightly Back to Nuclear

5. NEI Nuclear Notes - Taking the Nuclear Marbles and Going Home

6. NEI Nuclear Notes - Energy Plants: An Open and Closed Case

7. NEI Nuclear Notes - Dr. Robert Peter Gale and Eric Lax Help Demystify Radiation

Carnival of Space 287

1. Meridiani Journal - Astronomers redefine the habitable zone for exoplanets. Astronomers, from Penn State and also collaborators with the Planetary Habitability Laboratory, have concluded that, overall, the habitable zones are a bit farther out from their stars than previously thought. “This has implications for finding other planets with life on them,” according to Ravi Kumar Kopparapu, a lead investigator with the new study.

Joe Eck Reports 35 Celsius Superconductor after substituting Silicon

Superconductors.ORG (Joe Eck) reports the 30 Celsius superconductor discovered in December 2012 has been successfully reformulated to advance high Tc to above 35 Celsius (95F, 308K). This was accomplished with a simple substitution of tetravalent silicon into the magnesium atomic sites. The chemical formula thus becomes Tl5Pb2Ba2Si2.5Cu8.5O17+. This is the third material discovered with a critical transition temperature (Tc) above room-temperature.

Joe Eck is a lone researcher who has had some previous work published in smaller journals and some other researchers have copied his work and had them published. He detects magnetic transitions that indicate likely superconductivity but the material has a low percentage of superconducting material and needs to be processed and purified. He has not been able to get the interest or cooperation of larger institutions. Joe has also done work to improve the formulation of YCBO superconducting materials

Multiple magnetization tests were performed on two separate test pellets to confirm this exceptionally high Tc. The highest and lowest measurements on the first sample ranged from 37.1 C to 35.8 C. The second pellet produced diamagnetic transitions between 37.5 C and 35.5 C. The average of all the tests was just under 36 Celsius. The flashing lines in the two plots at page top represent the average of the noise component skewing apart near 36 C in both warming and cooling test cycles

With an ionic radius smaller than magnesium (0.4 Å - vs - 0.72 Å) silicon will occupy the same atomic sites in the "Light" region of the C1 and C2 axes as magnesium does. This is illustrated in the D9223 graphic at left with an arrow pointing to the Si-Cu plane. Though the planar weight ratio is lower with silicon than with magnesium, the Cu02 planes clearly benefit from being electron-doped.

Below is the plot of a second sample pellet, synthesized and tested three days after the first pellet. The plot again shows an unambiguous diamagnetic transition just below 36 C. Resistance tests were not possible with this formulation, as the non-superconductive bulk material is an insulator at room-temperature. A measureable bulk resistance is required to observe a resistance change resulting from a minority phase.