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April 27, 2013

2013 Starship Congress will have an update on the Warp Field Experiments

Dr. Harold White will give a talk “Warp Field Physics: An Update” He will review the space warp energy optimization techniques and analysis findings presented at the 2012 100 Year Starship Symposium. He will reintroduce and discuss an interferometer experiment identified in that talk and provide a status update of the experimental effort, along with a discussion of upcoming activities, and additional testing techniques and approaches. Finally, Dr. White will provide a modification of the original Matthew Jeffries XCV Enterprise artwork for the original Star Trek series, and discuss the differences to help articulate the math and physics findings at the beginning of the talk.

Sony ISP in Japan launches 2 Gbps internet and other gigabit internet news

1. Sony Corporation announced yesterday that its own Internet service provider So-net Entertainment has launched what is thought to be the world’s fastest Internet connection for home use, with download speeds clocking in at a massive 2 Gbps, on average twice as fast as competing high-speed fibre connections in Japan.

Targeting individual homes and apartment buildings of two floors or fewer, the ultra-fast connection, known as Nuro, will cost 4,980 yen (US$51) per month. Download speeds will be 2 Gbps and uploads of up to 1 Gbps. Customers are required to sign up for a two-year contract and pay 52,500 yen ($535) for the initial installation.

2. Vermont Telephone Co. (VTel), whose footprint covers 17,500 homes in the Green Mountain State, has begun to offer gigabit Internet speeds for $35 a month, using a brand new fiber network. So far about 600 Vermont homes have subscribed.

The company was able to afford the upgrades largely by winning federal stimulus awards set aside for broadband. Using $94 million in stimulus money, VTel has invested in stringing 1,200 miles of fiber across a number of rural Vermont counties over the past year

Deceleration of an interstellar probe

Several areas of investigation for deceleration of an interstellar probe have been identified and these include: Reverse engine thrust, solar sail, Magsail, Medusa sail, microwave sail, orbital slingshot, aerobraking. This is an analysis by the Icarus project.

Reverse engine thrust simply means using the same engine as used during the boost phase, but to decelerate the probe. However, there are several issues with doing this. First, this necessitates that the large mass engine (or a separate engine) must be carried by the probe into the target system, which minimises the staging potential. Second, the amount of propellant goes as the square of the mass ratio assuming an equal acceleration-deceleration profile, so the propellant mass would be increased to an unreasonable amount. Instead, one can go at a much slower cruise velocity and minimise the propellant mass required overall, but for a maximum mission requirement of 100 years this doesn’t allow for much margin.

Here is a quick back of envelope calculation using the existing Daedalus design and assuming its stage exhaust velocities. With a propellant mass of 46,000 tons (first stage) and 4,000 tons (second stage), and with a stage structure mass of 1,690 tons (first stage) and 980 tons (second stage), including the 450 tons science payload. If the vehicle undergoes its normal first stage acceleration for 2.05 years it will reach a cruise velocity of around 21,900 km/s or 0.073c where it will reach a distance of around 4,733 AU or 0.075 light years. But now rather than ignite the second stage, instead allow the vehicle to cruise at this speed for 41 years, until it reaches a distance of 3 light years, which is a total of around 3.1 light years when you add on the boost distance. Now use the second stage engine for reverse acceleration (deceleration) which takes just under 2 years (but we neglect this) and the vehicle will achieve a velocity increment of around 14,970 km/s or 0.05c, but in the opposite direction. Subtracting this from the cruise velocity already obtained, the vehicle now has a new cruise velocity of 6,930 km/s or 0.023c. Coasting at this speed it will reach the nearest stars 4.3 light years away in around 55 years from the end of the deceleration phase.

20 billion dollar International Tokomak Fusion Project Keeps Rolling Along but would deliver commercial power in 2050 at the earliest

The ITER project gained final approval for the design of the most technically challenging component – the fusion reactor’s “blanket” that will handle the super-heated nuclear fuel.

Over the next few years about a million individual components of the highly complex fusion reactor will arrive at the Cadarache site from around the world. They will be assembled like a giant Lego model in a nearby building which has a volume equal to 81 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The roots of the Iter project go back to 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the former Soviet Union, offered his country’s prowess in nuclear fusion as a bargaining chip in the nuclear disarmament talks with the US, which at that time was pursuing its “Stars Wars” defence system.

Gorbachev and President Reagan, with the support of Margaret Thatcher and French President Fran├žois Mitterand, signed an agreement to cooperate on nuclear fusion using the Russian “tokamak” reactor. This was a revolutionary device that could hold the super-hot fusion fuel by creating a “magnetic bottle” within the reactor’s doughnut-shaped vacuum vessel.

Several experimental tokamak reactors around the world, including one at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, have shown nuclear fusion is theoretically possible, but the giant tokamak at Iter will be the first to generate more power than it needs to attain the very high temperatures required for nuclear fusion.

IF it was successful the ITER fusion project would deliver an inferior result to deep burn fission. The Integral Molten Salt reactor is an example of a system that would deliver lower cost energy by the 2020s. It would cost less and has far lower technical hurdles and would provide clean power at lower cost over 30 years faster than ITER

China is not the only Country that needs to retool its growth model

Beginning in the 1960s, South Korea has set economic-development records with a growth formula that focused on heavy-industry and manufactured exports. GDP has tripled in just the past 20 years.


Yet the nation’s GDP growth is increasingly decoupled from the lives of its middle- income citizens. The number of middle-income households—earning 50 to 150 percent of median income—has fallen from 75.4 percent of the population to 67.5 percent since 1990, and more than half of middle-income households are cashflow constrained when the full costs of housing payments are counted. The squeeze contributes to trends that could affect future growth, including a plummeting personal-saving rate and one of the world’s lowest fertility rates. Beyond Korean style: Shaping a new growth formula, a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), explores the causes of these economic challenges and makes specific recommendations for combatting them. Among the report’s findings:

* South Korea’s largest industrial corporations have continued to grow rapidly, but mostly in new global markets; their domestic employment has fallen by 2 percent annually for 15 years, leaving job creation to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and Korea’s underdeveloped service sector, where wages are just 55 percent of manufacturing pay.

* Spending on housing and education have soared. The median price for a home in South Korea is 7.7 times the median annual income—more than twice the US multiple. South Koreans also pay much more to finance their home purchases because low loan-to-value limits often force homebuyers to seek supplemental, high-interest loans. Spending on private education is extremely high as well (around 9 percent of GDP) because South Koreans believe admission to a top university is the only path to success for their children.



China yuan projected at 6.0 and Japanese yen at 110 to the US dollar at the end of 2013

The Chinese yuan is set to strengthen as rising inflows of speculative capital add to pressure on the currency, the head of a Ministry of Commerce research institute said.

“Hot money is flowing into China, and that will push up the yuan exchange rate,” Huo Jianguo, president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the ministry.

“China’s situation is exactly the opposite” of Japan’s, said Huo, who previously worked as a trade official in the commerce ministry. The yen is expected to continue weakening amid the Bank of Japan (8301)’s policy easing, Huo said, estimating the currency could drop to 110 per dollar this year.

HSBC Holdings Plc raised its estimate for yuan appreciation this year after stronger-than-expected gains in the first quarter, according to an April 17 report. The bank now sees the yuan trading at 6.14 per dollar by the end of the year, up from a previous estimate of 6.18, a full-year gain of around 1.5 percent.

The yuan ended trading at 6.165 to the US dollar.

China is likely to widen the yuan’s trading band against the dollar in 2013 to tighten monetary conditions, Commonwealth Bank of Australia strategists Richard Grace and Andy Ji wrote in a note yesterday. The yuan remains undervalued and will gain another 3 percent to reach 6 per dollar by end of this year, they forecast.

Global Growth and Defense Spending to 2022 - China, Russia, India and Saudi Arabia would #2 to #5 in 3 out of 4 scenarios

McKinsey has Global Growth Model scenarios out to 2022 bounded by emerging markets’ growth rates (between 3 and 7 percent per year from 2013 to 2022) and advanced economies’ growth at 1 to 3 percent annually. These growth rates define four broad-based scenarios: Global Growth Renewed, Advanced Economies Rebound, Emerging Economies Lead, and Global Lost Decade.


The scenarios suggest dramatic shifts in defense spending in absolute terms. Defense spending in the BRIC countries and Saudi Arabia will increase significantly in all scenarios—from roughly $290 billion in 2011 to between approximately $550 billion and $830 billion by 2022 (in constant 2011 dollars). The fate of the United States and its major treaty allies’ defense spending is mixed, however. When the major developed economies fare well, their combined defense spending increases from a little over $1 trillion in 2011 to more than $1.4 trillion in 2022; when they fare poorly, in the Global Lost Decade and Emerging Economies Lead scenarios, their combined defense spending falls below $1 trillion by 2022.

China, Russia, India and Saudi Arabia would #2 to #5 in military spending in 3 out of 4 scenarios

Cubic Millimeter Micromotes which wirelessly monitor tumors and buildings are a big step to Smart Dust

Michigan micromotes are a development on the path to realizing Smart Dust

Micromotes will live off the power they can scavenge from their surroundings. A mote near a light source might use a tiny solar panel, while a mote running somewhere with greater temperature extremes can be built to tap into that, by converting the heat energy that flows between hot and cold into electricity.

So what will be smart dust's killer app? The Michigan team says Micro Motes could be used to monitor every tiny movement of large structures like bridges or skyscrapers. And motes in a smart house could report back on lighting, temperature, carbon monoxide levels and occupancy

Micromotes are 1 cubic millimeter general-purpose heterogeneous sensor node platform with a stackable multi-layer structure that includes a new, ultra-low power I2C (Inter-Integrated Circuit) interface for inter-layer communication. The system has an ultra-low power optical wakeup receiver, GOC (Global Optical Communication), which allows for re-programming or synchronization. It also includes an ultra-low power PMU (Power Management Unit) with BOD (Brown-Out Detector) to prevent processor malfunctions and battery damage, and also controls POR (Power-On Reset) modules in other layers to enable a proper reset sequence. Image and temperature sensors are implemented, but the modularity of the system allows end users to easily replace or add layers to incorporate specific circuits in appropriate technologies as needed.



Volvo Kers Flywheel System boosts fuel efficiency by 25% and will look to put it into production cars

Volvo Cars tests of flywheel technology confirm fuel savings of up to 25 per cent in a S60 sedan.

Volvo Car Group has completed extensive testing of kinetic flywheel technology on public roads - and the results confirm that this is a light, cheap and very eco-efficient solution.

"The testing of this complete experimental system for kinetic energy recovery was carried out during 2012. The results show that this technology combined with a four-cylinder turbo engine has the potential to reduce fuel consumption by up to 25 per cent compared with a six-cylinder turbo engine at a comparable performance level," says Derek Crabb, Vice President Powertrain Engineering at Volvo Car Group, "Giving the driver an extra 80 horsepower, it makes car with a four-cylinder engine accelerate like one with a six-cylinder unit."

The experimental system, known as Flywheel KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System), is fitted to the rear axle. During retardation, the braking energy causes the flywheel to spin at up to 60,000 revs per minute. When the car starts moving off again, the flywheel's rotation is transferred to the rear wheels via a specially designed transmission.

The stored energy was sufficient to power the car for short periods, meaning the engine could be switched off for as much as 50 percent of the time.

Compared to a conventional gasoline-electric hybrid, Volvo’s flywheel KERS is lighter, cheaper and easier to maintain.



April 26, 2013

Aubrey de Grey - Undoing aging

Aubrey de Grey is a biomedical gerontologist and the Chief Science Officer of SENS Foundation, a charity dedicated to combating the aging process. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Rejuvenation Research, the world's highest-impact peer-reviewed journal focused on intervention in aging. His research targets the accumulating and eventually pathogenic molecular and cellular side-effects of metabolism that constitute mammalian aging and the design of interventions to repair or obviate them. His comprehensive plan breaks aging down into seven major classes and identifies detailed approaches to addressing each one. Dr. de Grey is a Fellow of both the Gerontological Society of America and the American Aging Association, and sits on the editorial and scientific advisory boards of numerous journals and organisations.



Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo could have supersonic test flight Monday

Virgin Galactic's billionaire founder, Richard Branson, says his company is planning to fire up SpaceShipTwo's rocket engine for the first time in flight on Monday — a "historic" blast that is expected to send the space plane supersonic.

"We're hoping to break the sound barrier," Branson told the Las Vegas Sun. "That's planned Monday. It will be a historic day. This is going to be Virgin Galactic's year. We'll break the sound barrier Monday, and from there, we build up through the rest of the year, finally going into space near the end of the year. I'll be on the first official flight, which we look to have in the first quarter of next year. We're doing a number of test flights into space first."



Cold oxidizer streams from the back of SpaceShipTwo's engine during an unpowered test flight on April 12. Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Galactic, says the rocket plane could go supersonic when its engine is lit up for the first time in flight, as early as Monday. Copyright (c) 2013 MarsScientific.com All Rights Reserved

Rethink Robotics Launches New Generation of Humanoid Robots for Research, Teaching and Custom Application Development

Rethink Robotics today announced the launch of the Baxter Research Robot, a humanoid robot with two arms powered by a revolutionary new Software Development Kit (SDK) that will allow researchers to create a wide array of custom applications for robots. The Baxter Research Robot runs on ROS, the global Robot Operating System standard, which gives researchers the ability to share innovations and build on each other’s work and know-how.

Designed to work side by side with technicians and researchers without safety cages, the Baxter Research Robot is available for $22,000, which includes a service plan plus built in sensors such as cameras, force, sonar and rangefinder. The Research Robot’s extremely low price point will allow Baxter to become an integral part of robotics labs in higher education institutions and manufacturers’ research centers.



Here is the Baxter Research Robot datasheet

8% of the internet is vulnerable to known security flaws

There are 3.7 billion IP addresses assigned to devices connected to the Internet around the world (Google, in contrast, collects information offered publicly by websites). Replies from 310 million IPs indicated that they came from devices vulnerable to well-known flaws, or configured in a way that could to let anyone take control of them.

Over 114,000 (used for business and industrial systems) control connections were logged as being on the Internet with known security flaws. Many could be accessed using default passwords and 13,000 offered direct access through a command prompt without a password at all.

Systems used by more “critical” facilities such as energy infrastructure are just as likely to be vulnerable to attack as those used for jobs such as controlling doors in a small office.

The Chinese government’s Computer Emergency Response Team asked U.S. authorities to stop HD Moore (who leads research at computer security company Rapid7) “hacking all their things".

Moore’s survey (pinging all devices) has helped Rapid7 colleagues identify how a piece of software called FinFisher was used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to spy on political activists. It also helped unmask the control structure for a long-running campaign called Red October that infiltrated many government systems in Europe.

Transmitting magnetic fields using a superconducting tube designed with transformation optics

A "magnetic hose” consisting of concentric tubes of superconducting and ferromagnetic materials can transmit magnetic fields. A tube consisting of 20 concentric rings that is about ten times longer than it is wide, should transmit about 90 per cent of a magnetic field at one end to the other. Indeed, a tube of just 2 concentric rings should transmit about 75 per cent. Researchers tested the idea with a single superconducting tube 7 cm long (made of BiPbSrCaCuO) and filled with a ferromagnetic alloy (of cobalt and iron).

Exactly how they might build and control these magnetic hoses on this nanometre scale isn’t yet clear. But it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that these devices could become an important enabling technology for quantum information processing in future.



Arxiv - Magnetic hose: Routing and Long-distance Transportation of Magnetic Fields

Magnetism is a fundamental interaction shaping our physical world, at the basis of technologies such as magnetic recording or energy generation. Unlike electromagnetic waves, which can be routed and transmitted with waveguides to long distances, magnetic fields rapidly decay with distance. Here we present the concept, design, and properties of a magnetic hose which enables to transfer the static magnetic fi eld generated by a source to an arbitrary distance, and along any given trajectory. We experimentally demonstrate the fi eld transmission through the simplest hose realization using a superconducting shell with a magnetic core. We discuss possible application of magnetic hoses to harness quantum systems by addressable magnetic fields, in the context of quantum information processing.

The impact of magnetism in science is limited by an apparently insurmountable restriction: magnetic fi elds rapidly decay with the distance from the sources. Our goal in this work is to design a magnetic hose that can route static magnetic fields from their sources (e. g. a magnet) to arbitrary long distances along a desired path, and to come up with a feasible realization. Magnetic fi eld transmission is routinely used in technologies such as transformers, typically using a ferromagnetic (FM) material with high magnetic permeability . However, this only works for small distances, because the transmitted field rapidly decays with distance. Moreover, even though superconductors (SCs) expel magnetic fi eld, they cannot be used to transmit magnetic fi eld lines through a hollow superconductor tube, because the field inside a hollow SC tube decays exponentially. Thus, transmission to arbitrary distances has never been achieved for static fields. A completely di fferent approach is presented in this work. We will proceed in several steps, starting from mathematically exact but unfeasible schemes, based on transformation optics, and ending with feasible proposals that will be experimentally con firmed. Transformation optics allows subwavelength control of electric and magnetic field lines, rather than rays. This has enabled realizing invisibility cloaks, perfect lenses, and waveguides operating in the subwavelength regime. Particularly powerful is the application to static fields like our present case, where one can literally get inside the (in finite) wavelength. We find an exact solution for our goal using transformation optics.

Google Fiber forcing competitors to make internet speed improvements

Akamai study shows that Google Fiber is causing competitors to speed up internet service in Kansas and other locations where Google Fiber is being offered.

In the fourth quarter of 2012, Kansas saw the largest jump in average Internet connection speeds of all U.S. states compared to the fourth quarter of 2011, with an 86 percent surge. The next-highest increase was in Wyoming, at 51 percent.

Google began installations in November in Kansas City, Kansas, offering one-gigabit Internet connections—nearly 100 times faster than the U.S. average—for $70 per month, or $120 with television service, a Nexus 7 tablet remote, two terabytes of DVR storage, plus another a terabyte of cloud storage. The rollout and TV service had been announced a few months before. “It could be the case that the other incumbent providers were going, ‘Oh, crap, we stand to potentially lose subscribers to this deal with Google if we don’t provide competitive service,’ ” says David Belson, who authored Akamai’s state of the Internet report.

April 25, 2013

Costs and economics of Terrestrial Energy's Integral Molten Salt Reactor

Canadian David LeBlanc is developing the Integral Molten Salt Reactor, or IMSR. The goal is to commercialize the Terrestrial reactor by 2021.

Molten Salt and Oilsands
* Using nuclear produced steam for Oil Sands production long studied
* Vast majority of oil only accessible by In-Situ methods
* No turbine island needed so 30% to 40% the capital cost saved (instead of steam to turbine for electricity just send it underground to produce oil from oilsands)
* Oil sands producers expected to pay 200 Billion$ on carbon taxes over the next 35 years, funds mandated to be spent on cleantech initiatives
* Canada Oil Sands in ground reserves of 2 trillion barrels, current estimate 10% recoverable (likely much higher with cheaper steam)
* 64 GWth nuclear to add 6.4 million bbls/day (200B$/year revenue)
* 64 GWth needed as about 200 small 300MWth MSRs
* Oil Sands a bridge to MSRs then with time, MSRs a bridge to not needing oil

So each 300 MW thermal MSR would generate $1 billion per year in oil revenue from the oilsands.
A 300 MW thermal reactor would be the same as a 100 MW electrical reactor. Even if costs were as much proportionally as a $10 billion 1 GWe conventional nuclear reactor (the high costs of the most expensive european or US projects.) the $1 billion cost would be recovered in about 2-4 years. Also, they indicated that there is no turbine to produce electricity since only steam is used. So the costs should be $700 million max.

This profitability means that the first 200 units should easily be profitable. Usually making more units has a improvement rate in lowering costs by a few percentage points for each later unit. The oilsand units would also generate the money to help payoff research and development costs, which would initial come from oilsand taxes and oilsand partners.

In previous design discussions about a similar Denatured Molten Salt Reactor , David LeBlanc believed that capital costs could be 25% to 50% less for a simple DMSR converter design than for modern LWRs (light water reactors).


The 25 MWe version of the IMSR is the size of a fairly deep hottub

Low cost and increased supply of energy

Harvard business review looked at the the Spacex process for lowering the cost of space.

Spacex has a big goal, learned from the past, looking at the whole picture to find and prioritize opportunities, then refining key aspects of the space flight model to achieve their objective — is an approach that can make any organization more creative about cutting costs.

SpaceX approach innovates and transforms by looking at the entire business model instead of the parts. Cuts weren't just made to the physical rocket itself but to everything surrounding it — overhead, support services, development timeframe, and more.

* Sustaining cost reductions over many years
* Reinvest for more innovation

Applying to Energy

Canadian David LeBlanc (Transterrestrial Energy) is developing factory mass produced molten salt nuclear reactors.

LeBlanc envisions IMSR reactor sizes ranging from 25 MWe to 300 MWe.
* No fuel fabrication cost or salt processing = extremely low fuel costs
* Under 0.1 cents/kwh
* 200 small 300MWth MSR could be used to boost Canadian oil production by 6.4 million barrels per day

The 25 MWe version of the IMSR is the size of a fairly deep hottub

There are other factory mass produced nuclear fission reactors in development. China has a 210 MWe high temperature pebble bed reactor under construction and it should be done in about 2017. Initially it will not be cheaper than other nuclear reactors in China. Although China and South Korea have nuclear reactor construction costs that are about half the cost of other countries. China is also working on a Thorium molten salt reactor.

Most of the other small modular reactors will not be systems with the potential to radically alter the world energy mix or radically change the cost of energy.

Iron Man 3 Includes Bonus Footage for the China Market

Last year, China surpassed Japan to become the second-largest box office behind the United States, with theater earnings up 36 percent to $2.7 billion from the previous year. China’s box office gross in 2012 was still about one quarter of America’s, but that is expected to grow to one third of our take this year, and experts say by 2020, at the latest, China’s box office will be looking at the U.S. in the rearview mirror.

China is likely to surpass US movie box office in 2017 or 2018.



Rumors of salt in concrete sand in Shenzhen buildings

In September 2011, it was reported there were concerns of an increase in steel thinning across China. Zhengzhou and Shaanxi Province were two of the regions highlighted in the piece but the rumors that manufacturers of steel reinforcement rods were stretching their materials to greater lengths to maximise profits regardless of the ramifications to the structural stability of the buildings they would be used in reached much wider.

In March 2013, reports emerged that ‘inspections by state officials have found raw, unprocessed sea sand in at least 15 buildings under construction in Shenzhen, including a building which, when finished, was set to become China’s tallest’. However a notice on Shenzhen’s Housing and Construction Bureau's website on 18 March stated that a document posted that day had been false in its claims that a number of residential buildings under construction in the city had been found to be using concrete made with sea sand.

The use of sea sand in the production of concrete is considered dangerous as the material contains chlorine and salt which can corrode the steel reinforcement rods within a construction project, rendering it unstable. Sand from freshwater rivers should therefore be used instead.

There are scores of case studies where construction projects which utilise this budget material have either collapsed or been rendered unsafe.

Shanghai Tower Still Proceeding

The Shanghai Tower, which is under construction in the city's Pudong district, has reached 501.3 meters with the completion of its 108th floor, the building's contractor said on April 11.


Photo taken on April 11, 2013 shows the Shanghai Tower (R) under construction in east China's Shanghai Municipality. The height of the Shanghai Tower, which is still under construction, reached 501.3 meters Thursday, surpassing the neighbouring Jinmao Tower and the World Financial Center. The designed height of the Shanghai Tower will be 632 meters, the tallest skyscraper in China. (Xinhua/Pei Xin)

Revolutionary low cost has not made Tata Nano a success

The Harvard Business Review looked at success that Spacex has achieved and appears likely to achieve by radically reducing the cost of space travel. Spacex has made single use rockets that are about half the cost of competitors. Spacex appears on the verge of making reusable rockets that will lower costs up to 100 times.

Tata Motors’ has a disappointing experience with the Nano, the $2,000 compact it introduced with great fanfare in 2008, it’s clear a car can be too cheap—at least for consumers who don’t want to be associated with a low-end ride. Tata Motors has sold just 229,157 Nanos since deliveries began in 2009, and sales in March were off by 86 percent from a year earlier.

Tata won’t kill the tiny, egg-shaped car. It will soon add improvements to breathe new life into the model, a move that would ultimately bring its price closer to those of rivals. The Nano’s marketing “didn’t jell with anybody,” Slym says. Scooter drivers weren’t attracted because others “don’t think I’m buying a car, they think I’m buying something between a two-wheeler and a car. Anyone who had a car didn’t want to buy it, because it was supposed to be a two-wheeler replacement.”



Harvard Business Review looks at Spacex for Cost Innovation Lessons

Serial entrepreneur Elon Musk, entered the space industry several years ago. He faced a problem about where to innovate, given the restrictions and mandatory performance criteria for space travel. Musk quickly zeroed in on the one area ripe for innovation: cost reduction. He gathered a team with a wide cross-section of expertise and put them to work at trimming the fat.

NASA has tried for decades to provide low-cost space flight — that was the failed promise of the Space Shuttle — a reusable spacecraft to avoid the expensive building of a new craft for each mission. The complexity of the Shuttle and its reliance on 1970's technology drove costs up. Contractors paid based on their costs, with little incentive to save, increased them even more. Working against NASA as well was a heritage of exploration: unique space missions that pushed technologies and space travel to the edge. It was fundamentally different from the mindset of low-cost frequent and standardized transport that SpaceX embraces today.

SpaceX has learned. With industry veterans and outsiders, they benefit from past experiences but are unconstrained by forces and factors that pushed up NASA costs. It's not that they threw away the NASA playbook, rather they combined what worked with new ways that have the potential to dramatically reduce costs (as the Grasshopper test flight demonstrates). Their process — having a big goal, learning from the past, looking at the whole picture to find and prioritize opportunities, then refining key aspects of the space flight model to achieve their objective — is an approach that can make any organization more creative about cutting costs.

Lockheed 10 megawatt ocean thermal energy plant could finally be beginning of utility scale commercialization

Lockheed Martin recently entered into an agreement with Beijing based Reignwood Group to develop and build a 10-megawatt Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) pilot power plant off the coast of southern China.

The offshore plant, to be designed by Lockheed Martin, will be the largest OTEC project developed to date, supplying 100 percent of the power needed for a green resort being developed by Reignwood. In addition, the agreement could lay the foundation for the development of several additional OTEC power plants, ranging in size from 10 to 100 megawatts, for a potential multibillion-dollar value.

Southern China is an ideal location for an OTEC plant, which uses the natural temperature differences found in the ocean of tropical regions to drive turbines that create electricity. The energy produced by an OTEC facility is clean, sustainable and well-suited to the ocean conditions found near 80 countries around the world, including in the Asia-Pacific.

Once the plant is operational, the two companies plan to use the knowledge gained to improve the design of the additional commercial-scale plants to be built over the next 10 years.

OTEC has the potential to offer global amounts of energy that are 10 to 100 times greater than other ocean energy options such as wave power. OTEC plants can operate continuously providing a base load supply for an electrical power generation system.

A US Dept of Energy study indicated a maximum for global OTEC power production of 30 terawatts. More modest scenarios show 7 terawatts having little impact.



Polyacrylonitrile nanofibers 1750 MPa strong and 605 MPa tough

University of Nebraska-Lincoln materials engineers have developed a structural nanofiber that is both strong and tough, a discovery that could transform everything from airplanes and bridges to body armor and bicycles.

Dzenis and colleagues developed an exceptionally thin polyacrilonitrile nanofiber, a type of synthetic polymer related to acrylic, using a technique called electrospinning. The process involves applying high voltage to a polymer solution until a small jet of liquid ejects, resulting in a continuous length of nanofiber.

They discovered that by making the nanofiber thinner than had been done before, it became not only stronger, as was expected, but also tougher.

Dzenis suggested that toughness comes from the nanofibers' low crystallinity. In other words, it has many areas that are structurally unorganized. These amorphous regions allow the molecular chains to slip around more, giving them the ability to absorb more energy.


ACS Nano - Simultaneously Strong and Tough Ultrafine Continuous Nanofibers

April 24, 2013

Is China preparing for radical reform and if so when ?

If China's leader Xi were preparing for radical reform, we probably would not know it yet. Mr Jiang took eight years before he and his premier, Zhu Rongji, were able to launch sweeping economic changes in 1997. It could be years before Mr Xi consolidates his power.

His crackdown on corruption has gone further than many imagined, though more “flies” have been swatted than “tigers” bagged.

The urbanisation strategy being handled by Premier Li Keqiang is the biggest and most far reaching change. It could involve giving hukou urban residency permits to up to 220 million migrant workers and allowing farmers to sell land at market prices. Empowering a whole new class of consumers could have a huge impact on the entire economy, from banks to state-owned enterprises.

Central planners agree that dense, compact, energy-efficient cities must be built. “Urbanisation is not about sprawling cities,” Mr Li said at last month’s annual meeting of parliament.

China plans major bond market reform to raise the money the ruling Communist Party needs for a 40 trillion yuan ($6.4 trillion) urbanization program to buoy economic growth and close a chasm between the country's urban rich and rural poor.

China admits will build a second aircraft carrier, stealth jets for carriers, drones and more nuclear submarines

China will build a second, larger aircraft carrier capable of carrying more fighter jets, the official Xinhua news service reported late Tuesday, quoting a senior officer with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy. Chinese officials denied foreign media reports in September 2012 that China was building a second carrier in Shanghai.

China currently has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which was refitted from a Russian-made model. Considered by military experts to be decades behind U.S. carrier technology, it was originally intended to serve as a floating casino, but was turned to military use in the runup to a once-in-a-decade power transition in late 2012.

China is also building up other forms of military hardware, including a stealth fighter jet believed to be capable of landing on a carrier, drone aircraft and nuclear submarines.

China is alone among the original nuclear weapons states to be expanding its nuclear forces.

Is this the century we begin to build starships ?

Starship Century is a symposium (May 21-23, 2013 in San Diego) coordinated by the new Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination in collaboration with Gregory and James Benford, presenting ideas from their anthology of science and science fiction.

Scientists address the challenges and opportunities for our long‐term future in space, with possibilities envisioned by: Freeman Dyson, Paul Davies, Peter Schwartz, John Cramer and Robert Zubrin.


US Crude oil production up over 20% or about 1.2 million bpd from the same time last year

US daily crude oil production increased by 118,000 bpd to 7.326 millions bpd. This is an increase of over 20% (1.2 million bpd) from the same time last year.

Getting to over 7.5 million bpd will be a crude oil production level last seen in the late 1980s. (This is likely to happen this summer)

Adding another 1.2 million bpd would put US crude oil production in the 8.5 million bpd range. This would be the highest levels since the 1980s. This is likely to happen in 2014.



Japanese Minister indicates several nuclear reactors could restart in the fall of 2013 if they pass summer safety assessm

Japan's industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi revealed that some of the country’s offline nuclear reactors may be restarted by autumn this year at the earliest if they pass the new safety assessment put in place by Japan’s nuclear regulators. The majority of the country’s nuclear power plants were shut down after the Fukushima disaster, forcing Japan to look towards traditional non-nuclear fuel sources for thermal power generation.

Artificial Intelligence to provide Google searchers answer and not just links

Ray Kurzweil joined Google to develop a truly intelligent computer ( one that could understand language and then make inferences and decisions on its own.). It will require nothing less than Google-scale data and computing power.

Kurzweil was attracted not just by Google’s computing resources but also by the startling progress the company has made in a branch of AI called deep learning. Deep-learning software attempts to mimic the activity in layers of neurons in the neocortex, the wrinkly 80 percent of the brain where thinking occurs. The software learns, in a very real sense, to recognize patterns in digital representations of sounds, images, and other data.

They are producing remarkable advances in speech and image recognition. Last June, a Google deep-learning system that had been shown 10 million images from YouTube videos proved almost twice as good as any previous image recognition effort at identifying objects such as cats. Google also used the technology to cut the error rate on speech recognition in its latest Android mobile software.

The New Machine Age will deliver even more growth when we change businesses and economy to take advantage

As machines take on more jobs, many find themselves out of work or with raises indefinitely postponed. Is this the end of growth? No, says Erik Brynjolfsson -- it’s simply the growing pains of a radically reorganized economy. A riveting case for why big innovations are ahead of us … if we think of computers as our teammates. Be sure to watch the opposing viewpoint from Robert Gordon.

Erik Brynjolfsson examines the effects of information technologies on business strategy, productivity and employment.

Productivity is growing at 2.4% in the 2001-2010 timeframe.
This does not include $300 billion worth of free goods like wikipedia.

* digital
* exponential
* combinatorial

Machine learning is the most important.

Humans collaborating with machines is what makes more productivity and more jobs.



Superconductor motors, generators, maglev, space applications and energy weapon applications in the 2018-2023 timeframes

SuperPower and program partners ABB, SPX-Transformer Solutions and TECO-Westinghouse announced progress in energy device demonstration projects.


* US Army Research Lab joins SMES work to develop energy storage device for tactical microgrid


April 23, 2013

GE Using Additive manufacturing to make thousands of jet engine nozzles

GE engineers are starting to explore how to use additive manufacturing with a wider range of metal alloys, including some materials specifically designed for 3-D printing. GE Aviation, for one, is looking to use titanium, aluminum, and nickel-chromium alloys. A single part could be made of multiple alloys, letting designers tailor its material characteristics in a way that’s not possible with casting. A blade for an engine or turbine, for example, could be made with different materials so that one end is optimized for strength and the other for heat resistance.

All that is still on paper—or rather, in the computerized designs of product engineers. For now, GE’s engine nozzle—a part small enough to fit in the palm of your hand—will be the first big test of whether additive manufacturing can revolutionize the way complex high-performance products are made.



GE's aviation division, the world’s largest supplier of jet engines, is preparing to produce a fuel nozzle for a new aircraft engine by printing the part with lasers rather than casting and welding the metal. The decision to mass-produce a critical metal-alloy part to be used in thousands of jet engines is a significant milestone for the technology.

CFM International, GE’s joint venture with France’s Snecma, will use the 3-D-printed nozzles in its LEAP jet engine, due to go into planes in late 2015 or early 2016 (CFM says it already has commitments of $22 billion). Each engine will use 10 to 20 nozzles; GE needs to make 25,000 of the nozzles annually within three years.

GE chose the additive process for manufacturing the nozzles because it uses less material than conventional techniques. That reduces GE’s production costs and, because it makes the parts lighter, yields significant fuel savings for airlines. Conventional techniques would require welding about 20 small pieces together, a labor-intensive process in which a high percentage of the material ends up being scrapped. Instead, the part will be built from a bed of cobalt-chromium powder. A computer-controlled laser shoots pinpoint beams onto the bed to melt the metal alloy in the desired areas, creating 20-micrometer-­thick layers one by one. The process is a faster way to make complex shapes because the machines can run around the clock. And additive manufacturing in general conserves material because the printer can handle shapes that eliminate unnecessary bulk and create them without the typical waste.

Saudi Arabia's plans for 17 GW of nuclear build over the next two decades will go to several builders for political gain

Saudi Arabia’s atomic energy ambitions are grand enough to grant several reactor vendors multi-billion dollar contracts to keep them busy building in the desert for decades.

Saudi Arabia is likely to opt to build a variety of different plants to meet its rapidly rising power demand, according to the Vice President of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), which is responsible for steering the Kingdom’s nuclear plans.

More than one design would avoid over-stretching one reactor builder and allow the Kingdom to sign politically potent, long-term contracts with several of its biggest trading partners.

The current front runners are all countries which Saudi Arabia has already signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with, which include France, Korea, China, and Argentina.

Kazakhstan uranium production forecast for 2013 through 2016

Kazakhstan has uranium reserves enough for 60-70 years at the maximum production level and 80-90 years at the current production without replenishment.

“In any scenario a production decrease may be expected in Kazakhstan after 2020, if no new fields are developed,” he said.

According to some forecasts, Kazakhstan has up to one fourth of the global uranium reserves at its territory. 20.9 thousand tons of uranium or 37 percent of the global volume was produced in Kazakhstan in 2012. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan plans to keep annually increasing production of this mineral.

Kazakhstan uranium production level is expected to reach
* 22,821 tons in 2013
* 24,019 tons in 2014
* 24,754 tons in 2015
* 25,602 tons in 2016

Spacex Grasshopper flew 250 meters into the air on a windy day

SpaceX’s Grasshopper flew 250 meters (820 feet) straight up, tripling the height flown on its previous leap. The video provides a great overhead view from SpaceX’s hexacopter.

Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle that SpaceX has designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact.

Spacex is trying to rapidly implement the reusability technology. They will retrieve a Falcon 9 first-stage rocket component from a water landing in the ocean later this year. SpaceX will try to land a first-stage on dry ground in 2014.

Spacex will go higher and faster in each of a series of flights this year and they hope to reach hypersonic speed before 2013 is out.

The maximum mission altitude would be increased from 670 feet incrementally up to 11,500 feet. The altitude test sequence likely would be 1,200 feet; 2,500 feet; 5,000 feet; 7,500 feet; and 11,500 feet. The maximum test duration would be approximately 160 seconds.

In October 2012, SpaceX indicated that a second Grasshopper vehicle with fold-up landing legs would be built on the longer Falcon 9 v1.1 platform. As of March 2013, the v1.1 Grasshopper suborbital flight vehicle will be constructed out of the Falcon 9 v1.1 first-stage tank that has been used for qualification testing in Texas at the SpaceX Rocket Development and Test Facility for the past several months. It will be rebuilt as the next Grasshopper "with flight-like landing legs." Test plans call for the v1.1 Grasshopper to be flight tested only at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, at altitudes up to approximately 91,000 metres (300,000 ft).

Grasshopper v1.1 info from Spacex spokeswoman Katherine Nelson
- Lighter legs that fold up on the side of the rocket
- A different engine bay
- 50% longer





Orbital Sciences Test Launched Antares Rocket

Orbital Sciences Corporation's Antares rocket finally made it off the launch pad. The rocket's maiden voyage appeared to go off without a hitch, culminating with the successful insertion of a payload meant to simulate the Cygnus spacecraft into orbit. This paves the way for a full-fledged demo flight to the International Space Station, which Orbital says may come later this year.

April 22, 2013

Solar Power that could be over 50 percent efficient

Solar panels on the market today consist of cells made from a single semiconducting material, usually silicon. Since the material absorbs only a narrow band of the solar spectrum, much of sunlight’s energy is lost as heat: these panels typically convert less than 20 percent of that energy into electricity. But the device that ­Harry Atwater and his colleagues have in mind would have an efficiency of at least 50 percent. It would use a design that efficiently splits sunlight, as a prism does, into six to eight component wavelengths—each one of which produces a different color of light. Each color would then be dispersed to a cell made of a semiconductor that can absorb it.

Atwater’s team is working on three designs. In one (see below), for which the group has made a prototype, sunlight is collected by a reflective metal trough and directed at a specific angle into a structure made of a transparent insulating material. Coating the outside of the transparent structure are multiple solar cells, each made from one of six to eight different semiconductors. Once light enters the material, it encounters a series of thin optical filters. Each one allows a single color to pass through to illuminate a cell that can absorb it; the remaining colors are reflected toward other filters designed to let them through.

Another design would employ nanoscale optical filters that could filter light coming from all angles. And a third would use a hologram instead of filters to split the spectrum. While the designs are different, the basic idea is the same: combine conventionally designed cells with optical techniques to efficiently harness sunlight’s broad spectrum and waste much less of its energy.

It’s not yet clear which design will offer the best performance, says Atwater. But the devices envisioned would be less complex than many electronics on the market today, he says, which makes him confident that once a compelling prototype is fabricated and optimized, it could be commercialized in a practical way.



IBM solar concentrator generates electricity and enough heat for desalination or cooling

IBM and its partners used a solar concentrator dish to shine light on a thin array of highly efficient triple-junction solar cells, which produce electricity from sunlight. By concentrating the light 2,000 times onto hundreds of one-centimeter-square cells, IBM projects, a full-scale concentrator could provide 25 kilowatts of power.

In this design, the engineers hope to both boost the output of the solar cells and make use of the heat produced by the concentrator. Borrowing its liquid-cooling technology for servers, IBM built a cooling system with pipes only a few microns off the photovoltaic cells to circulate water and carry away the heat. More than 50 percent of the waste heat is recovered. “Instead of just throwing away the heat, we’re using the waste heat for processes such as desalination or absorption cooling,” says Bruno Michel, manager, advanced thermal packaging at IBM Research.

"We plan to use triple-junction photovoltaic cells on a micro-channel cooled module which can directly convert more than 30 percent of collected solar radiation into electrical energy and allow for the efficient recovery of an additional 50 percent waste heat," said Bruno Michel, manager, advanced thermal packaging at IBM Research. It could convert 80 percent of the incoming radiation into useful energy.




Using Black Holes to Measure the Universe's Rate of Expansion

Prof. Netzer (Tel Aviv Univesity), along with Jian-Min Wang, Pu Du and Chen Hu of the Institute of High Energy Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Dr. David Valls-Gabaud of the Observatoire de Paris, has developed a method with the potential to measure distances of billions of light years with a high degree of accuracy. The method uses certain types of active black holes that lie at the center of many galaxies. The ability to measure very long distances translates into seeing further into the past of the universe — and being able to estimate its rate of expansion at a very young age.

The viability of this theory was proved by using the known properties of black holes in our own astronomical vicinity, "only" several hundred million light years away. Prof. Netzer believes that his system will add to the astronomer's tool kit for measuring distances much farther away, complimenting the existing method which uses the exploding stars called supernovae.

According to Prof. Netzer, the ability to measure far-off distances has the potential to unravel some of the greatest mysteries of the universe, which is approximately 14 billion years old. "When we are looking into a distance of billions of light years, we are looking that far into the past," he explains. "The light that I see today was first produced when the universe was much younger."

One such mystery is the nature of what astronomers call "dark energy," the most significant source of energy in the present day universe. This energy, which is manifested as some kind of "anti-gravity," is believed to contribute towards the accelerated expansion of the universe by pushing outwards. The ultimate goal is to understand dark energy on physical grounds, answering questions such as whether this energy has been consistent throughout time and if it is likely to change in the future.

Physical Review Letters - Super-Eddington Accreting Massive Black Holes as Long-Lived Cosmological Standards

Smartphone app turns drones into spacecraft for simulated space station dockings

A free ESA app released today turns a popular iPhone-controlled ‘home drone’ into a spacecraft. The augmented reality game lets owners of Parrot AR.Drone quadcopters attempt dockings with a simulated International Space Station while flying their drones for real – in the process helping to improve robotic rendezvous methods.

This new AstroDrone app is part of a scientific crowdsourcing project by ESA’s Advanced Concepts Team, gathering data to teach robots to navigate their environments.

“For ESA, this development opens up completely new ways of involving the public in scientific experiments,” noted Leopold Summerer, head of the Advanced Concepts Team. “We can obtain real-life data to train our algorithms in large amounts that would practically be impossible to get in any other way.

The AR.Drone is one example: around half a million have been sold since their introduction by France’s Parrot company in 2010. Equipped with two cameras, the midget drone flies on four rotors and can be steered by iPhone or any other iOS device.

“We wanted to carry out robotic crowdsourcing, which meant selecting a robot that the public actually possesses in large numbers,” added Guido. “This is indeed a robot that people have at home and play games with, with the imaging capabilities we need.”



Israel air force on track to develop drones that can do everything piloted aircraft do by 2050-2060

Israel’s air force is on track to developing drones that within four to five decades would carry out nearly every battlefield operation executed today by piloted aircraft, a high-ranking Israeli officer told The Associated Press Sunday.

The officer, who works in the field of unmanned aerial vehicle intelligence, said Israel is speeding up research and development of such unmanned technologies for air, ground and naval forces.

“There is a process happening now of transferring tasks from manned to unmanned vehicles,” the officer said, speaking anonymously because of the classified nature of his work. “This trend will continue to become stronger.”

Isaac Ben-Israel, a former Israeli air force general, said however there was no way drones could entirely overtake manned airplanes. He said there are just some things drones can’t do, like carry heavy payloads needed for major assaults on targets like underground bunkers.

“The direction is drones playing a bigger and bigger role in the air force,” he said. “In a decade or two they should be able to carry out a third or half of all missions. But there are still certain things you cannot do without a piloted plane.”

Bill Gates is Still Smart

Bill Gates is interviewed at Wired on flying cars, the malaria epidemic, and article-writing robots.

* Flying cars are not a very efficient way to move things from one point to another, but getting information at everyones fingertips was more important.

* The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has saved more than 5 million lives.

We need a malaria epidemic in the blogging community! Either that or we need people who have seen the malaria epidemic to start blogging. Seriously, we have two communities that don’t intersect with each other. One is about a billion and a half people—families, children—who live in malaria-prone areas.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 153

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 153 is up at the ANS Nuclear Cafe

Nuke Power Talk - turns a spotlight on some of the issues associated with renewable energy. Although it would seem that Gail Marcus is straying from nuclear topics, she points out that the possible concerns and drawbacks associated with nuclear power–and with fossil fuels–are discussed in the press far more often than the potential drawbacks to renewables, so she feels she is balancing the playing field. She discusses a book by Ozzie Zehner that analyzes the close links of renewable energy to fossil fuels, and a study by Paul Krugman that discusses the tendency to underestimate the costs and difficulties of new technologies.

April 21, 2013

Guns are done but Personal Drones Airforces are Interesting

The gun situation in the world and in the US is not going to radically shift over the next 20 years.

11 million guns made and sold in the USA each year. There are about 270 million guns in the US.

There are about one billion guns in the world.

3D Printing a gun now is like using a slow ink jet printer to put out a 500 page book.
It can be done but who cares relative to the total number of guns.
The US government has shown that the gun lobby will prevent any change in gun policy and as indicated there
are already lots of guns. The US is not rounding up illegal immigrants and they are not rounding up guns.


Now drones are more interesting. Let us review the status and trends around personal drones.
Check out DIY drones or my article about it and 3D Robotics. Drone software is getting very easy.

Now you can start having a useful personal robotic airforce for $500-1000.

The price is going down and the capabilities are going up.

DARPA made a chip that integrates the accelerometer and bunch of other nav electonics.
The autonav package will fall from $150-200 down to $1-10.

Parallel 10 megapixel smartphone cameras can be hooked together for gigapixel snapshots instead of piecing together a bunch of 10 megapixels shots to form a higher resolution image.

The radio controlled toy market is over $1 billion (it was $600 million in the US back in 2002).
The adjacent and related toy segments are building sets (like Lego, Vehicles, and electronics) which in total are ove $3 billion