September 07, 2013

Traffic Straddling Bus still does not appear to have been built but there is a newer video with engineering refinement

The 3D Express Coach (straddling bus, straddle bus, or tunnel bus) was a proposed new bus designed by Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Company back in 2010. It was recognized by Time magazine as the innovation of the year in 2010.

A proposed trial project was to cost about 500 million yuan (~US$74.5 million) to build the bus with a 40 km (25 mi) guideway. This is claimed to be at 10% of the cost of building an equivalent subway, and is estimated to reduce traffic congestion by 20–30%. The Chairman of the company has said that it would only take a year for one to be built. 115 mi (185 km) of track was set for construction in the Mentougou District of Beijing for late 2010. The cities of Shijiazhuang, in Hebei Province, and Wuhu, in Anhui Province, were applying for financing.

I have not heard of an actual implementation, but there is a new video with refinements to the engineering. The video is by China TBS limited (which is a large shipping company).

Stacked Solar Cells Can Handle Energy of 70,000 Suns

North Carolina State University researchers have come up with a new technique for improving the connections between stacked solar cells, which should improve the overall efficiency of solar energy devices and reduce the cost of solar energy production. The new connections can allow these cells to operate at solar concentrations of 70,000 suns worth of energy without losing much voltage as “wasted energy” or heat.

Stacked solar cells consist of several solar cells that are stacked on top of one another. Stacked cells are currently the most efficient cells on the market, converting up to 45 percent of the solar energy they absorb into electricity.

But to be effective, solar cell designers need to ensure the connecting junctions between these stacked cells do not absorb any of the solar energy and do not siphon off the voltage the cells produce – effectively wasting that energy as heat.

Applied Physics Letters - Effect of GaAs interfacial layer on the performance of high bandgap tunnel junctions for multijunction solar cells

DNA used to Assemble a Transistor from Graphene

Stanford researchers started with a tiny platter of silicon to provide a support (substrate) for their experimental transistor. They dipped the silicon platter into a solution of DNA derived from bacteria and used a known technique to comb the DNA strands into relatively straight lines.

Next, the DNA on the platter was exposed to a copper salt solution. The chemical properties of the solution allowed the copper ions to be absorbed into the DNA.

Next the platter was heated and bathed in methane gas, which contains carbon atoms. Once again chemical forces came into play to aid in the assembly process. The heat sparked a chemical reaction that freed some of the carbon atoms in the DNA and methane. These free carbon atoms quickly joined together to form stable honeycombs of graphene.

"The loose carbon atoms stayed close to where they broke free from the DNA strands, and so they formed ribbons that followed the structure of the DNA," Yap said.

So part one of the invention involved using DNA to assemble ribbons of carbon. But the researchers also wanted to show that these carbon ribbons could perform electronic tasks. So they made transistors on the ribbons.

"We demonstrated for the first time that you can use DNA to grow narrow ribbons and then make working transistors," Sokolov said.

To the right is a honeycomb of graphene atoms. To the left is a double strand of DNA. The white spheres represent copper ions integral to the chemical assembly process. The fire represents the heat that is an essential ingredient in the technique. (Anatoliy Sokolov)

Nature Communications - Direct growth of aligned graphitic nanoribbons from a DNA template by chemical vapor deposition

Carnival of Space 318

The Carnival of Space 318 is up at Everyday Spacer.

Music of the Spheres discusses Starmap Media, a new "mobile astronomy education" product for iPhones and iPads.

SpaceX using a Leap Motion device to manipulate a virtual rocket engine model as a step towards an Iron Man movie like design interface

SpaceX is exploring methods for engineers to accelerate their workflow by designing more directly in 3D. We are integrating breakthroughs in sensor and visualization technologies to view and modify designs more naturally and efficiently than we could using purely 2D tools. We are just beginning, but eventually hope to build the fastest route between the idea of a rocket and the reality of the factory floor. Special thanks to Leap Motion, Siemens and Oculus VR, as well as NVIDIA, Projection Design, Provision, and to everyone enabling and challenging the world to interact with technology in exciting new ways.

Accelerator driven thorium power plant

Aker Solutions has conceptually designed an accelerator-driven thorium reactor 600 MWe power station, an accelerator driven, thorium-fuelled, lead-cooled fast reactor. The accelerator would add 10% to the cost but would allow for other systems to be cheaper. The accelerator-driven thorium reactor can burn waste actinides generated in uranium-fuelled reactors, providing sustainable energy for future civilisation. Choosing a sub-critical accelerator-driven system provides safe operating margins for the thorium fuel cycle. The proposed reactivity coefficient of 0.995 allows selection of an industrial-scale accelerator with commercial benefits which led to a novel solution for measurement and control of reactivity.

Virtually all thorium mined can potentially be used as fuel, compared with uranium that requires expensive enrichment processes resulting in significant quantities of depleted uranium waste. In energy equivalent terms, 1 ton of mined thorium is equivalent to 200 ton of mined uranium, which is equivalent to 3.5 million tonnes of mined coal.

The Yuan is still restricted but is already the ninth most traded currency

A triennial report on global foreign exchange activity from the Bank of International Settlements showed Thursday that trading in the yuan had tripled since the BIS’s 2010 survey, when it placed 17th in the world. In contrast, the BIS estimates showed that total global foreign exchange trading grew by 33% to $5.3 trillion over the three-year period.

While the government has quietly opened up a number of avenues for foreigners to participate in its capital markets, the capital flows into and out of the yuan are miniscule compared with other currencies. That should change: the government’s stated intent is to achieve “full convertibility” within the current five-year plan ending in 2015, though Beijing’s definition of that might fall short of the liberal trading regimes prevailing for the dollar, euro and British pound.

What translated this trade dominance into foreign exchange growth over the past three years, however, was the creation of centers for trading offshore versions of the yuan, first in Hong Kong, then in cities such as Singapore, London and New York. That allowed myriad businesses that trade with Chinese exporters and importers to hedge their exposures through spot and forward currency transactions.

Meanwhile, steps are being taken to open flows through the capital account, with one Chinese central bank official arguing Thursday that the time is right for more liberalization.

The Chinese currency will be fully convertible within five years, while a third of China’s trade will be settled in yuan by 2015, HSBC Holdings Plc forecast in a March report. This would mean at least another tripling of RMB currency activity by 2015. However, there is a stickiness problem that will prevent rapid switching to a new currency after another currency has been chosen for a project.

Here is a summary of the Bank of International Settlements report

Tripling China RMB usage by 2015 would put the RMB as about the 6th most used currency. China seems likely to get to 4th most used by 2018-2020 even with a conservative plan of capital liberalization.

China should want to get more RMB usage because it offers to make their economy more efficient and would force more efficiency on their banks. It offers increased economic growth. For the rest of the world it would mean even more outflows of capital from chineses individuals and companies able to buy and invest more overseas. This has already had a large impact on real estate in Canada, California, Australia and some Asian countries.

September 06, 2013

SENS antiaging approach is winning the battle of ideas

Aubrey de Grey indicates that the divide and conquer repair of aging damage approach has become mainstream.

Fightaging as usual highlights this momentous milestone in antiaging. The Hallmarks of Aging is essentially a more mild-mannered and conservative restatement of the SENS approach to aging - written after more than ten years of advocacy and publication and persuasion within the scientific community by SENS supporters. To my eyes, the appearance of such things shows that SENS is winning the battle of ideas within the scientific community, and it is only a matter of time before it and similar repair-based efforts aimed at human rejuvenation dominate the field.

Aubrey describes the importance

The Hallmarks of Aging was not any old review. Here's why:

(a) it appeared in Cell, one of the most influential journals in biology;
(b) it is huge by Cell's standards - 24 pages, with well over 300 references;
(c) all its five authors are exceptionally powerful opinion-formers - senior, hugely accomplished and respected scientists;
(d) above all, it presents a dissection of aging into distinct (though inter-connected) processes and recommends a correspondingly multi-pronged ("divide and conquer") approach to intervention.

It will not escape those familiar with SENS that this last feature is not precisely original, and it may arouse some consternation that no reference is made in the paper to that prior work. But do I care? Well, maybe a little - but really, hardly at all. SENS is not about me, nor even about SENS as currently formulated (though a depressing number of commentators in the field persist in presuming that it is). Rather, it is about challenging a profound, entrenched, and insidious dogma that has consumed biogerontology for the past 20 years, and which this new review finally - finally! - challenges (albeit somewhat diplomatically) with far more authority than I could ever muster.

Cell - Hallmarks of Aging is the article that Aubrey talks about

Abstract - Aging is characterized by a progressive loss of physiological integrity, leading to impaired function and increased vulnerability to death. This deterioration is the primary risk factor for major human pathologies, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases. Aging research has experienced an unprecedented advance over recent years, particularly with the discovery that the rate of aging is controlled, at least to some extent, by genetic pathways and biochemical processes conserved in evolution. This Review enumerates nine tentative hallmarks that represent common denominators of aging in different organisms, with special emphasis on mammalian aging. These hallmarks are: genomic instability, telomere attrition, epigenetic alterations, loss of proteostasis, deregulated nutrient sensing, mitochondrial dysfunction, cellular senescence, stem cell exhaustion, and altered intercellular communication. A major challenge is to dissect the interconnectedness between the candidate hallmarks and their relative contributions to aging, with the final goal of identifying pharmaceutical targets to improve human health during aging, with minimal side effects.

Flakes of Graphene can now be handled with lasers to make new classes of devices and access new physics

Researchers now have ability to stack graphene sheets on top of each other which should make possible an entirely new class of devices that exploit previously inaccessible physics. The new advanced approach targets specific flakes of graphene and carves them into any desired shape and then picks them up individually so that they can be transferred and placed in a new environment. The process is relatively straightforward. It begins by identifying the graphene flake to be removed and then carving it into shape with a laser. This is instead of using scotch tape to lift flakes.

The next step is to cover the entire substrate, including all the unwanted graphene flakes, with photoresist and then use the laser to expose the photoresist above the patterned graphene to light. The exposed photoresist is then dissolved to reveal the graphene below.

The final step is to pick up the exposed graphene using the ordinary Scotch tape technique. Since all the unwanted graphene flakes are covered by undissolved photoresist, this only transfers the desired graphene sheet.

Arxiv - The selective transfer of patterned graphene

Graphene is an emerging class of two-dimensional (2D) material with unique electrical properties and a wide range of potential practical applications. In addition, graphene hybrid structures combined with other 2D materials, metal microstructures, silicon photonic crystal cavities, and waveguides have more extensive applications in van der Waals heterostructures, hybrid graphene plasmonics, hybrid optoelectronic devices, and optical modulators. Based on well-developed transfer methods, graphene grown by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) is currently used in most of the graphene hybrid applications. Although mechanical exfoliation of highly oriented pyrolytic graphite provides the highest-quality graphene, the transfer of the desired microcleaving graphene (MG) to the structure at a specific position is a critical challenge, that limits the combination of MG with other structures. Herein, we report a new technique for the selective transfer of MG patterns and devices onto chosen targets using a bilayer-polymer structure and femtosecond laser microfabrication. This selective transfer technique, which exactly transfers the patterned graphene onto a chosen target, leaving the other flakes on the original substrate, provides an efficient route for the fabrication of MG-based microdevices. This method will facilitate the preparation of van der Waals heterostructures and enable the optimization of the performance of graphene hybrid devices.

2013 Climate CoLab winners include Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Dense Plasma Focus Reactor and Integral Fast Nuclear Fission Reactor

The 2013 Climate CoLab popular vote winners in the electricity category were Integral fast fission reactors and funding nuclear fusion projects that could succeed within ten years. The goal of the Climate CoLab is to harness the collective intelligence of thousands of people from all around the world to address global climate change.

Popular Choice (at large): It's the 21st Century. Where's My Fusion Reactor? submitted by Dennis Peterson

Popular Choice: Integral Fast Reactors Can Power The Planet submitted by Tom Blees

The Judges choice in electricity was conversion of fossil fuel power plant CO2 to dissolved calcium bicarbonate

Transparent artificial muscle can play music

Ionic conductors could replace certain electronic systems and offer several advantages.

1. ionic conductors can be stretched to many times their normal area without an increase in resistivity — a problem common in stretchable electronic devices.

2. They can be transparent, making them well-suited for optical applications.

3. The gels used as electrolytes are biocompatible, so it would be relatively easy to incorporate ionic devices — such as artificial muscles or skin — into biological systems.

Science - Stretchable, Transparent, Ionic Conductors

September 05, 2013

China's High speed rail network is paying off and is a key part of future development

Yichuan Wang (undergraduate economics and mathematics student at the University of Michigan) makes the case that China's high speed rail development strategy is working (Quartz article)

* Passenger usage intensity of the rail network has increased by 50% from 2001 to 2011
* high-speed rail has allowed more trains to be placed on the same length of tracks without overcrowding.
* average daily ridership on the high-speed rail network has hit 1.33 million daily passengers—more than one-fourth of the total number of passengers on the rail system.
* efficient high speed freight is enabling the development of inland areas
* daytrips for business enable more high value added service industry (consulting or finance) activity
* the Tourism industry makes up 10% of employment in China, and its direct and indirect effects add up to around 14% of China’s GDP (pdf). Since tourism depends on cheap travel, high-speed rail could play a pivotal role in fostering this industry. There has been 20% growth where high speed rail lines are added.
* high speed rail in more environmentally friendly than air travel

The NY Times in an article about the floundering economy in India works in praise of China's high speed rail infrastructure

Poor infrastructure has also driven up costs for industrial real estate in India, which are high compared with China’s. Just in the last five years, China has opened 5,800 miles of high-speed rail routes and 400,000 miles of highways of two or more lanes. That has allowed tens of thousands of factories to move to smaller towns in the interior with much lower land costs.

Global Automotive markets potential until 2025

Ricardo Strategic Consulting, has investigated the likely global automotive potential in the decade to 2025.

From 2020 onwards the study predicts that the engine for profitable growth will be – political stability provided – the economies of Ricardo’s ‘Rising-15’ automotive markets: Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

Taken together, Ricardo’s ‘Rising-15‘ – which has a combined population of 1.2 billion – is already the third largest vehicle market in the world, with annual sales exceeding 8.5 million vehicles in 2012. These sales are equivalent to the combined total of the four largest European vehicle markets – Germany, UK, France and Italy. Average annual growth across the ‘Rising-15’ has exceeded 9% for the past 10 years – and in most of these countries, Ricardo found, vehicle markets have grown faster than the economy as a whole.

“The impending maturity and repeated hiccups in growth of the BRIC economies in the latter part of the current decade have been predicted by many industry observers,” commented Ricardo Strategic Consulting managing director for Central Europe, Andreas Schlosser. “There have been winners and losers in the efforts of the current cohort of established global automakers to exploit growth within the BRIC region; the key strategic question now is where the next wave of growth based opportunity will arise. By analysing the world’s fast-growing economies in some detail, we have been able to highlight what we are calling the ‘Rising-15’ markets which will present the key opportunity to 2025 and beyond. The insights provided by this work will be of interest to the established global automotive brands as well as to the emerging global automakers of the BRIC region with strategic aspirations to move beyond their domestic markets and compete at an international level.”

Triad markets move beyond their peak, while the BRICs stumble
The study indicates that the traditional triad markets of Europe, North America and Japan and Korea will continue to stagnate, with automakers struggling to reach pre-2008 vehicle sales levels. While demand falters, however, not all sectors are being affected equally, with lifestyle, premium and budget vehicles performing significantly more strongly than the squeezed mid-market sector brands previously favoured by middle-class purchasers. With signs of overcapacity already becoming apparent within the triad and the BRIC regions alike, stronger localization policies will combine with increasing competition to make these markets less attractive to global automakers.

By the end of the current decade, it concludes that the more liberal markets and rapidly developing economies of the ‘Rising-15’ will offer significant new opportunities for the global automotive industry. With vehicle ownership strongly correlated to GDP per capita, the study indicates that the fast growing ‘Rising-15’ markets still offer the biggest potentials for automotive growth. In markets such as these, a further qualitative trend in vehicle purchase has been the substitution of imported used vehicles with budget vehicle brands. But as with previous waves of international automotive expansion, competition in this new phase of growth will be joined by new players – particularly from China and India – with aspirations for global expansion. The long-term insights provided by the full study are likely to be extremely valuable to the entire automotive value chain in all parts of the world.

17th Foresight Nanotechnology Conference on Feb 7-9, 2014

The 17th Foresight Nanotechnology conference is scheduled for Feb 7-9, 2013. 20 speakers will present their research and vision within the realm of groundbreaking atomic- and molecular-scale science and engineering with application across a wide range of advanced technologies, including materials, electronics, energy conversion, biotechnology and more. Events will include presentation of the annual Foresight Institute Feynman Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in nanoscale science and technology.

Planned Sessions include:

Analysis and Simulation
Bionano Systems
Commercially Implemented Nanotechnology
Electronic and Optical Nanosystems
Self-Organizing and Adaptive Systems

George Church at the 2013 Technical conference

George is a leader in Synthetic biology and talked about DNA for storage of data and an existing molecular actuator and device.

George Church: "Regenesis: Bionano" at Foresight Technical Conference 2013 from Foresight Institute on Vimeo.

Mining has started at the Cameco Cigar Lake Uranium mine

Mining began in June, 2013 at the Cigar Lake Uranium mine in Canada. The first packaged pounds of uranium from the massive Cigar Lake project is expected before the end of year. Cigar Lake is 50% owned by Cameco(France's Areva holds 37%). It is the world's second largest high-grade uranium deposit (Cameco's McArthur Lake being the largest) boasting U3O8 grades 100 times the global average.

Cameco had lower uranium production in the second quarter relative to 2012, but the first half of the year was still ahead of 2012 by 1%

Cigar Lake uranium production is expected to ramp up to 8,200 t/y U3O8 (7,000 tU/y) over four years from production start in mid 2013. Known resources are 150,000 tonnes U3O8 at about 17% average grade, and with other resources the mine is expected to have a life of at least 30 years.

The Right mix of bacteria in our gut can reduce obesity

The human body is teeming with thousands of species of microbes that affect health. A study showed that transplanting gut bacteria from obese people into mice led to the animals gaining weight, while bacteria from lean people kept them slim.

The right mix of gut bacteria and the right diet will enable successful weight loss. A human obesity treatment is unlikely to use transplants of thousands of species of bacteria from lean people's guts as it carries the risk of also transferring infectious diseases. Instead a search for the exact mix of bacteria which benefit weight - and the right foods to promote their growth - is more likely.

The bacteria were then put into mice which had grown up in completely sterile environments and had no gut bacteria of their own.

Mice with the obese twin's bacteria became heavier and put on more fat than mice given bacteria from a lean twin - and it was not down to the amount of food being eaten.

A lean twin was better at breaking down fibre into short-chain fatty acids. It meant the body was taking up more energy from the gut, but the chemicals were preventing fatty tissue from building up and increased the amount of energy being burned.

China's cost advantage in solar power is mainly from economies of scale with factories four times larger than in the US

A detailed bottom up analysis of all costs associated with PV (solar photovoltaic) production shows that the main contributors to that country’s lower PV prices are economies of scale and well-developed supply chains — not cheap labor.

As of 2011, manufacturers in China accounted for 63 percent of all solar-panel production worldwide.

The lower cost of labor in China provides an advantage of 7 cents per watt, relative to a factory in the United States, but that amount is countered by other country-specific factors, such as higher inflation.

The biggest factor contributing to China’s ability to make solar panels for about 23 percent less than U.S. companies, Buonassisi says, turned out to be economies of scale. Typical Chinese PV factories are four times larger than those in the United States, the study found. That leads to economies in several ways: Those factories can negotiate better contracts with suppliers. Also, their manufacturing equipment can be used more efficiently, since machines can be scheduled to run more of the time by allowing flexibility in matching up the production rates of machines at different stages in the process.

The key to making solar panels competitive is to bring the cost of installed panels to a level competitive with the current cost of electricity from the grid, without subsidies or tax benefits. Once that goal is achieved — which the researchers estimate will likely occur by the end of the decade — then much larger PV factories will become economically viable worldwide.

Improvements under way in every step of the PV manufacturing process — from thinner silicon wafers to greater cell efficiency to better ways of mounting the cells in a panel — could end up making them highly competitive with other sources of power.
Thin solar panels that are integrated into roof shingles can be a lot more efficient and would not increase the deaths from falling off of roofs. The shingles have to be put on rooftops anyway so there would not be an increment in risks from falling. Roofing is the sixth most dangerous occupation.

First Smartwatch has a lot of features but is pricy and clunky. Sports monitor devices will take a few years to displace

Summarizing the major reviews of the Samsung Galaxy Gear. It is pricy at $299. It does have almost all of the expected list of features. It is able to make a phonecall, has a camera, can pick up notifications. It must be synced with a Galaxy phone or tablet to get the most out of its functionality. It is a bit clunky. It has location awareness but does not have GPS.

Many are hoping that the next version of Galaxy Gear will be better in price and have fewer rough edges or that the Apple iWatch will get the right mix and integration.

Sports and health monitor wristdevices are approaching 50 million units in annual sales. Two leading products are the Nike Fuelband and the Fitbit ($60-$100)

The Nike Fuelband sports biomonitor costs $149.

Nike+ FuelBand measures your everyday activity and turns it into NikeFuel. It tracks calories burned, steps taken and more. It's also a great watch. Nike+ FuelBand tracks running, walking, dancing, basketball and dozens of everyday activities

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$1.5 billion or $15 billion market in 2014 for Wearable Technology like Google Glass and smartwatches ?

A Juniper market research report had forecast that smartglasses and smartwatches would be a market of about $1.5 billion in 2014 but Apple was expected to ship 63 million iWatches to start 2014. Will smartwatches exceed 150 million units in 2014 or will they be less than 30 million ? The level of success will be based on what killer applications are driving adoption and how seamless the integration and functions are and how hassle free the software interfaces are.

Will wearables be cool and trendy and fashionable ?
Will they provide longterm productivity value ?

It should eventually happen but will the manufacturers get the formula right like the iPad did or will they be like the Apple Newton ?

Apple iWatch mockup

A January 2013 report from Juniper Research finds that there will be a total of almost 70 million smart wearable devices sold in 2017, including smart glasses, health and fitness devices along with enterprise wearables, compared to almost 15 million sales in 2013.

Juniper forecasts next-gen wearable devices market, including smart glasses, will be worth more than $1.5 billion by 2014, up from just $800 million this year.

Apple is projected to ship 63 million iWatches for the start of 2014. This alone would be over $6 billion worth of product.

If Apple were to sell more than 60 million "iWatch" units in the first year, it would be a number more than 4 times above the 14.8 million iPads Apple sold in that product's first 12 months. However, the iPad carried an entry level price of $499 in its first year, while Wanli expects the "iWatch" to cost less than half of that.

It's been claimed that the new product will focus on biometrics, offering users feedback on health and activity by acting as a pedometer, heart rate monitor, and possibly more.

The Pebble smartwatch recently passed 275,000 units in sales.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

The Samsung GALAXY Note 3 comes with a wider (5.7inch) full HD Super AMOLED display, yet slimmer (8.3mm) and lighter (168g) hardware design, and more powerful and longer lasting (3,200mAh) battery. Also, equipped with a 13 megapixel rear camera with Smart Stabilization and high CRI LED flash, Samsung GALAXY Note 3 enables users to crisply capture every visual story in their lives, even in low light and active situations. Samsung GALAXY Note 3 offers the latest LTE technologies – CAT4 Carrier Aggregation and supports the greatest number of multiple frequencies. Incorporating the industry’s largest 3GB RAM, the GALAXY Note 3 also provides faster and more powerful performance.

The new S Pen reinvents and modernizes the classic note-taking experience by providing the ability to accomplish everyday tasks with just one click. The advanced S Pen is designed to be fully functional as a communication driver between the phone and the user by creating essential input and control features. It plays an integral role in how users interface with the device, making all daily routines easier.

The Samsung GALAXY Note 3 delivers a larger screen and the increased size is matched with powerful improvements that allow users to fully utilize the additional screen space.

Galaxy Gear - smartwatch

September 04, 2013

Genetically modified has 25% higher yield from larger grains

China consumes nearly a third of the world's rice, which is more than what the country currently produces. As its demand for rice continues to increase, crop breeders must come up with new ways to improve grain yield — and genetic modification is undoubtedly the most promising route.

Yueqin Chen at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou and co-workers1 have now developed genetically modified rice plants that could yield up to 25% more grains than normal rice plants.

The researchers initially studied OsmiR397, a microRNA that is highly expressed in rice seeds but not during development. They found that OsmiR397 downregulates the gene OsLAC, whose product increases the sensitivity of plants to to growth-promoting hormones called brassinosteroids. This led them to believe that the expression of OsmiR397 may affect grain yield.

Nature Biotechnology - Overexpression of microRNA OsmiR397 improves rice yield by increasing grain size and promoting panicle branching

In 2011 IDC predicted Windows Phone Market share would be 20% in 2015 and now IDC predicts 10.2% world market share in 2017

In 2011, IDC projected 20 percent market share for Windows Phone by 2015. IDC's latest prediction is that Microsoft Windows Phone will have 10.2% market share in 2017.

Windows Phone will solidify its position as the number three O.S. with incremental share gains over the course of the forecast. With the acquisition of Nokia’s device and services unit, Microsoft will increasingly need to drive share gains by itself as OEM support for Windows Phone is expected to wane now that the company is set to become a full-fledged hardware maker. Microsoft will also need to ship more low-cost smartphones to high-growth emerging markets if it is to continue building on its recent nominal share increases.

The worldwide mobile phone market is forecast to grow 7.3% year over year in 2013, marking a sharp rebound from the nearly flat (1.2%) growth experienced in 2012. Strong demand for smartphones across all geographies will drive much of this growth as worldwide smartphone shipments are expected to surpass 1 billion units for the first time in a single year.

Vendors are now forecast to ship more than 1.8 billion mobile phones this year, growing to over 2.3 billion mobile phones in 2017.

Worldwide smartphone shipments are forecast to grow 40.0% year over year to more than 1.0 billion units this year. High smartphone growth is the result of a variety of factors, including steep device subsidies from carriers, especially in mature economic markets, as well as a growing array of sub-$200 smartphones. Total smartphone shipments are forecast to reach 1.7 billion units in 2017.

September 03, 2013

Regenerative medicine could reach a technological takeoff point with genetic understanding of regeneration in 2-3 years and possible human treatments in 10-20 years

Sometime in the next few decades, humans may be able to regrow a finger here, a toe there – and maybe even fresh patches of beating heart tissue.

Human hearts are among the most promising targets: "Fifteen years ago we would have said 50 years, but it could be as soon as 10 years from now," Ken Poss, a cell biologist at Duke University, told NBC News.

Just this month, researchers from the Gladstone Institutes showed that they could turn human scar tissue into electrically conductive tissue in a lab dish by fiddling with just a few key genes.

"It's an intriguing idea, because you could turn bad cells into good cells," Poss explained. Among the hurdles that lie ahead: taking that technique out of the lab and applying it to living human hearts.

Artificial muscle created which can lift 80 times its weight

A research team from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Faculty of Engineering has created efficient artificial, or “robotic” muscles, which could carry a weight 80 times its own and able to extend to five times its original length when carrying the load – a first in robotics. The team’s invention will pave the way for the constructing of life-like robots with superhuman strength and ability.

The theoretical limit for polymer muscles is calculated at lifting 500 times its own weight. If a robot with polymer muscles had muscles about the size of a regular person then the leg muscles might weight 10 kg. This would enable lifting capability of 800 kg with the current system. Theoretically a strength of 5 tons might eventually be achieved.

In addition, these novel artificial muscles could potentially convert and store energy, which could help the robots power themselves after a short period of charging.

Robots – current limitations

Robots, no matter how intelligent, are restricted by their muscles which are able to lift loads only half its own weight – about equivalent to an average human’s strength (though some humans could lift loads up to three times their weight). Artificial muscles have been known to extend to only three times its original length when similarly stressed. The muscle’s degree of extendability is a significant factor contributing to the muscle’s efficiency as it means that it could perform a wider range of operations while carrying heavy loads.

Super, artificial muscles

Explaining how he and his multidisciplinary team managed to design and create their novel superhuman muscles, Dr Koh said, “Our materials mimic those of the human muscle, responding quickly to electrical impulses, instead of slowly for mechanisms driven by hydraulics. Robots move in a jerky manner because of this mechanism. Now, imagine artificial muscles which are pliable, extendable and react in a fraction of a second like those of a human. Robots equipped with such muscles will be able to function in a more human-like manner – and outperform humans in strength.”

In order to achieve this, Dr Koh and his team have used polymers which could be stretched over 10 times their original length. Translated scientifically, this means that these muscles have a strain displacement of 1,000 per cent.

Graphene Based computer logic circuits

A team of researchers from the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering have solved a problem that previously presented a serious hurdle for the use of graphene in electronic devices.

Graphene is a single-atom thick carbon crystal with unique properties beneficial for electronics including extremely high electron mobility and phonon thermal conductivity. However, graphene does not have an energy band gap, which is a specific property of semiconductor materials that separate electrons from holes and allows a transistor implemented with a given material to be completely switched off.

A transistor implemented with graphene will be very fast but will suffer from leakage currents and power dissipation while in the off state because of the absence of the energy band gap. Efforts to induce a band-gap in graphene via quantum confinement or surface functionalization have not resulted in a breakthrough. That left scientists wondering whether graphene applications in electronic circuits for information processing were feasible.

Scanning electron microscopy image of graphene device used in the study. The scale bar is one micrometer. The UCR logo next to it is implemented with etched graphene.

Arxiv - Graphene-Based Non-Boolean Logic Circuits

Microsoft buys Nokia in what would have been a merger of strength years ago

Microsoft will pay EUR 3.79 billion to purchase substantially all of Nokia's Devices & Services business, and EUR 1.65 billion to license Nokia's patents, for a total transaction price of EUR 5.44 billion in cash. Microsoft will draw upon its overseas cash resources to fund the transaction. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014, subject to approval by Nokia's shareholders, regulatory approvals and other closing conditions.

Microsoft is acquiring Nokia's Smart Devices business unit, including the Lumia brand and products. Lumia handsets have won numerous awards and have grown in sales in each of the last three quarters, with sales reaching 7.4 million units in the second quarter of 2013.

Microsoft could move into third place in smartphones with Nokia smartphones and other windows phones.

Windows Phone’s growth isn’t coming from stealing Apple or Android consumers. Only 27% of Apple and Android users change their OS when they replace their handset, and those that do switch tend to move between the two big operating systems.

Windows Phone’s success has been in convincing first time smartphone buyers to choose one of its devices with 42% of sales over the past year coming from existing featurephone owners. This is a much higher proportion than Android and iOS. The Lumia 520 is hitting a sweet spot, offering the price and quality that new smartphone buyers are looking for.

NBF - most of the Windows phones have been sold by Nokia. So Nokia has been able to convince 42% of its featurephone users to switch to a Lumia. If Microsoft/Nokia could maintain that conversion rate then they would be able to keep about 25 million smartphone customers by keeping 42% of the remaining 53 million featurephone users.

Gartner statistics show that Nokia is still number 2 in overall mobile phone sales.

NASA sending lunar orbiter and China sending lunar rover this year

China has far more ambitious near and mid term space program objectives than NASA does at this time. NASA is sending a robotic orbiter. China is sending a lunar rover. If China can keep to its timetable they plan to have a manned lunar mission in 2017. This would be 48 years after NASA. However, NASA does not have the current capability to return a man to the moon. China also plans a manned lunar base.

1. NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is a robotic mission that is scheduled for a Sept 6 2013 launch. LADEE will orbit the moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust. A thorough understanding of these characteristics will address long-standing unknowns, and help scientists understand other planetary bodies as well.

The LADEE spacecraft's modular common spacecraft bus, or body, is an innovative way of transitioning away from custom designs and toward multi-use designs and assembly-line production, which could drastically reduce the cost of spacecraft development, just as the Ford Model T did for automobiles. NASA's Ames Research Center designed, developed, built and tested the spacecraft.

2. China has confirmed it is on track to land a rover on the Moon later this year to scoot across the surface analyzing dust and rock samples.

Frederik Pohl has died. He was an award winning science fiction author, editor and blogger

Frederik George Pohl was an American science fiction writer, editor and fan, with a career spanning over seventy-five years — from his first published work, the 1937 poem "Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna", through the 2011 novel All the Lives He Led and articles and essays published in 2012.

From about 1959 until 1969, Pohl edited Galaxy and its sister magazine If; the latter won three successive annual Hugo Awards as the year's best professional magazine. His 1977 novel Gateway won four "year's best novel" awards: the Hugo voted by convention participants, the Locus voted by magazine subscribers, the Nebula voted by American science fiction writers, and the juried academic John W. Campbell Memorial Award. He won the Campbell Memorial Award again for the 1984 collection of novellas Years of the City, one of two repeat winners during the first forty years. For his 1979 novel Jem, Pohl won a U.S. National Book Award in the one-year category Science Fiction. It was a finalist for three other years' best novel awards. In all he has won four Hugo and three Nebula Award.

Frederik blogged at "the Way the Future Blogs".

September 02, 2013

Diana Nyad completed a cageless Cuba to Florida Swim

Diana Nyad is a 64 year old swimmer. She completed a Cuba to Florida swim without a cage. One of the big problems with the swim are the jellyfish.

She has been using a mask and a suit and a gel to protect her from the jellyfish.

Reviewing the Simon - Ehrlich Bet

There is a new book that reviews The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and our gamble over Earth's future.

Ehrlich's population bomb was first dropped in the pages of New Scientist on 14 December 1967. His article, entitled "Paying the Piper", began: "The battle to feed humanity is over... Sometime between 1970 and 1985 the world will undergo vast famines – hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." Human numbers, he said, would double in a generation and we had no chance of feeding everyone.

Simon, says Sabin, declared that there were "no limits to growth". Ehrlich might be right that more people meant more mouths to feed, argued Simon, but they also delivered "more hands to work and brains to think". As the title of his 600-page riposte to Ehrlich implied, humans were The Ultimate Resource.

Simon said he would bet that $1000 worth of five metals – chrome, copper, nickel, tin and tungsten, then all in increasingly short supply – would fall in value during the 1980s. Ehrlich accepted the bet, saying prices were bound to rise. Whoever won would compensate the other for the change in price.

A lot was riding on the outcome. It wasn't just metal prices; two views of Earth's future were going head to head. There was an inescapable political context, too. The US president at the time, Jimmy Carter, was an ardent environmentalist who pushed US funding for population control programmes. But the man who beat him in the presidential election later that year, Ronald Reagan, was a free-marketeer, anti-environmentalist and passionate opponent of Uncle Sam paying for family planning services.

Carnival of Space 317

The Carnival of Space 317 is up at Urban Astronomer.

Too Hot to Swallow: New Chandra results help explain why gas near the Milky Way's supermassive black hole is so faint in X-rays.

Dream Chaser completes a captive carry test dangling from a helicopter

NASA partner Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) of Louisville, Colo., successfully completed a captive-carry test of the Dream Chaser spacecraft Thursday, Aug. 22, at the agency's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. During the 2-hour test, an Erickson Air-Crane helicopter picked up a test version of the Dream Chaser flight vehicle and flew it a distance of three miles over a dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base at a maximum altitude of approximately 12,400 feet. The spacecraft followed the projected path it will fly during future approach and landing tests at Dryden. Dream Chaser's flight computer, along with its guidance, navigation and control systems were tested. The landing gear and nose skid also were deployed during flight.

This was the second captive-carry test of the Dream Chaser flight vehicle and its first captive-carry at Dryden. Data obtained from the test will provide SNC valuable information about the Dream Chaser hardware and ground operations.

September 01, 2013

Progress to deployment of vehicle to vehicles communication and crash avoidance to help drivers avoid or reduce the severity of 80 percent of unimpaired vehicle crashes

On Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it "could be at the verge" of a breakthrough to allow vehicles to communicate with each other and "transform the nation's surface transportation safety, mobility and environmental performance."

The NHTSA has just completed a yearlong test in Ann Arbor, Mich., with 3,000 cars, trucks, and buses connected by Wi-Fi to help avoid crashes and improve traffic flow.

The NTSB recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration "develop minimum performance standards for connected vehicle technology."

With those standards in place, the NHTSA should then require the technology to be installed on all newly manufactured highway vehicles, the NTSB said.

Such technology could help drivers avoid or reduce the severity of 80 percent of unimpaired vehicle crashes, NHTSA said.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 172

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 172 is up at Yes Vermont Yankee

James Conca at Forbes explains how Vermont could be paying 8 cents per kwh for clean electricity but instead will pay 20 cents per kwh

“The current [upward] trajectory of electricity prices is likely to continue as Vermont mandates production from much more expensive renewables and provides a variety of subsidies to producers of renewable energy. Electricity from wind can cost up to 20 cents per kilowatt hour and solar between 20 and 30 cents. Compare that to the current wholesale price of electricity from Hydro-Quebec, which costs about six cents per kilowatt hour [similarly for natural gas]. Vermont recently decided not to purchase electricity from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which was selling electricity to the state for less than five cents a kilowatt hour”

(Burlington Free Press -Electricity Prices in Vt Among Nation’s Highest).

Vermonters should only be paying 8¢/kWhr, not the 18¢/kWhr they’re paying now, nor the 20¢/kWhr they’ll be paying in the next few years.

These upside-down cost situations occur because what we pay for electricity has little to do with what it costs to produce it. The real costs of producing electricity such as construction, fuel, O&M, decommissioning, have little to do with what its price on the wholesale market. The price has more to do with financing, tax credits, subsidies, mandates, power purchase agreements, weekly power bidding, and other non-technical drivers.

Inflatable space stations, Reusable rockets and Spiderfab for the 2020s

Bigelow Aerospace has launched some smaller scale demonstration inflatable space stations. They have a design for an 84 persons resupply Depot. It would have 8300 cubic meters of space.

Six BA 330 modules, three BA 2100 modules, nine propulsion buses with docking node and three crew capsules.

Stem for the Classroom analyzes the Bigelow proposals for the Hercules resupply depot.

If Spacex succeeds with developing its reusable rocket and continues making upgrades to their rockets. I think a conservative expectation is that they would follow up the Merlin 1D with a Merlin 1E. Enough to increase the lift a Spacex Superheavy to 85 tons (reduced to 70-75 tons with fuel saved for powered landing to enable reusability). This could enable Spacex to launch the 2100 cubic meter inflatable modules. The other way would be for a modified inflatable module design that would fit into the largest Spacex launch rocket.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) will test its flyback booster technology during the maiden launch of its Falcon 9 1.1 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California later this year, according to the company’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) commercial launch license.

Spacex could launch 100 Bigelow modules for about $1 billion using two reusable Spacex Heavies over as little as one year (one launch per week).

This would be 200,000 cubic meters of volume. This would be enough for 2000 people with the same facilities per person as the Hercules resupply depot design.

New fashion frames for Google Glass

Google glass will be offered with more fashion frame options.

Modeled by Amanda Rosenberg, the Google employee reportedly in the middle of Sergey Brin and his wife's separation, the new frames are fashionable and more wearable than earlier prototypes. Google Glass will be available to the public next year.

Low cost iPhone 5C and a China Mobile deal could help Apple gain significant smartphone marketshare

Apple will introduce two new iPhone models at a special media event on Sept. 10. There should a high-end iPhone 5S and a budget iPhone which should be the iPhone 5C.

Apple’s iPhone 5S is expected to launch on September 20th in the U.S. and other initial markets and will have a new A7 processor, a better camera and an embedded fingerprint scanner.

The lower cost iPhone 5C will have five different colors, a price around US$400 (not including subscription discount) and will feature a plastic housing and a thicker build.

Huberty is estimating that the iPhone 5C would add an incremental 20 million units just in China, increase its market share by 13 points and add $4 in EPS ($0.20 per million units) , all without a deal with China Mobile CHL +0.84%. If the company can strike a deal with China Mobile, which Huberty is less certain about, it could add an additional 12 million iPhones, six points of share and $2.50 to EPS ($0.21 per million units).

A combined China mobile deal and introduction of the iPhone 5C could boost Apple to number one in China