November 23, 2013

3-D printing multi-material objects in minutes instead of hours

New 3-D printing process speeds up fabrication of multiple-material objects.

Researchers at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering have developed a faster 3D printing process and are now using it to model and fabricate heterogeneous objects, which comprise multiple materials.

Although 3D printing – or direct digital manufacturing – has the potential to revolutionize various industries by providing faster, cheaper and more accurate manufacturing options, fabrication time and the complexity of multi-material objects have long been a hurdle to its widespread use in the marketplace. With this newly developed 3D printing process, however, USC Viterbi professor Yong Chen and his team have shaved the fabrication time down to minutes, bringing the manufacturing world one step closer to achieving its goal.

USC Viterbi researchers developed improved mask-image-projection-based stereolithography (MIP-SL) to drastically speed up the fabrication of homogeneous 3D objects. In the MIP-SL process, a 3D digital model of an object is sliced by a set of horizontal planes and each slice is converted into a two-dimensional mask image.

The mask image is then projected onto a photocurable liquid resin surface and light is projected onto the resin to cure it in the shape of the related layer.

The USC Viterbi team also developed a two-way movement design for bottom-up projection so that the resin could be quickly spread into uniform thin layers. As a result, production time was cut from hours to a few minutes.

Carnegie Mellon computer uses visual learning by analyzing millions of images to teach itself common sense

A computer program called the Never Ending Image Learner (NEIL) is running 24 hours a day at Carnegie Mellon University, searching the Web for images, doing its best to understand them on its own and, as it builds a growing visual database, gathering common sense on a massive scale.

NEIL leverages recent advances in computer vision that enable computer programs to identify and label objects in images, to characterize scenes and to recognize attributes, such as colors, lighting and materials, all with a minimum of human supervision. In turn, the data it generates will further enhance the ability of computers to understand the visual world.

But NEIL also makes associations between these things to obtain common sense information that people just seem to know without ever saying — that cars often are found on roads, that buildings tend to be vertical and that ducks look sort of like geese. Based on text references, it might seem that the color associated with sheep is black, but people — and NEIL — nevertheless know that sheep typically are white.

"Images are the best way to learn visual properties," said Abhinav Gupta, assistant research professor in Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute. "Images also include a lot of common sense information about the world. People learn this by themselves and, with NEIL, we hope that computers will do so as well."

A computer cluster has been running the NEIL program since late July and already has analyzed three million images, identifying 1,500 types of objects in half a million images and 1,200 types of scenes in hundreds of thousands of images. It has connected the dots to learn 2,500 associations from thousands of instances.

Ex-800 Blade server uses hybrid memory cubes for super data performance with lower power usage

A single HMC (Hybrid Memory Cube) can produce an incredible data bandwidth of 160 GBytes/sec, thereby providing more than 15 times the performance of a state-of-the-art DDR3 memory module while consuming 70% less power. (Multiple HMCs can be chained together to appear as a single, mega-humongous memory.) The EX-800 Blade Server uses hybrid memory cubes for more data performance with lower power usage.

The EX-800 is a PCI Express board that features the combination of an HMC and four Altera Stratix V FPGAs (providing 3.6M FPGA gates). The massively parallel computational capabilities of the FPGAs can be used to drive the HMC at full speed. Key features of the EX-800 include:

160 GB/s of memory bandwidth
16 full-duplex lane connections from the HMC to each of the four Stratix V FPGAs
A 4GB Micron DDR3L SODIMM dedicated to each of the four FPGAs (32 GB total)
PCI Express Gen 3 full duplex switch
x16 Gen3 PCI Express to the host
x8 Gen3 PCI Express link to each Stratix V FPGA

November 22, 2013

Two person electric 18 rotor helicopter is now flying

A two person electric volocopter has flown. The Volocopter has six arms extending from the central part of the rotor ring split into twelve more arms, with rotors placed at each juncture. The Volocopter is an environmentally friendly and emission-free private helicopter. Instead of one combustion engine, eighteen electrically driven rotors propel it.

A prototype of the 2-person VC200 flew on Sunday, November 17, 2013. Based on this model, it will be prepared for series production in the coming years. “There are already numerous requests for the Volocopter from around the world,“ said Alexander Zosel, managing director of e-volo.

With multiple flights lasting several minutes reaching the nearly 22 meter high ceiling of the dm-arena, including a number of smooth takeoffs and landings, the Volocopter concept exceeded all expectations. “Rich and incredibly quiet sound, absolutely no noticeable vibrations in the flight, convincing structure with a great, new spring strut landing gear, and an extremely calm rotor plane,“ concluded the e-volo managing director, thanking the KMK. “New innovations that have the possibility to change our world are continually presented at the Messe Karlsruhe. Therefore it was natural to work in partnership with the e-volo team to enable the test flights in the dm-arena,“ announced KMK managing director Britta Wirtz. “The fair is not just a display of strengths in the technology field, but concretely supports pioneers of aviation as well.“

Ten small propellors for electric vertical take off and landing personal flying car

Zee.Aero is working on a flying car concept that can take off and land vertically using a plethora of small electric motors turning four-bladed propellers. According to illustrations included with the patent filings, one version of the vehicle is narrow enough to fit into a standard shopping center parking space.

The Zee.Aero design sees wings mounted fore and aft, with the payload area mounted in between. This arrangement is called a canard wing, with the aircraft’s horizontal stabilizer mounted on the front of the aircraft instead of on the tail. On the top of this compact wing arrangement are a number of electric engines turning fat, four-bladed propellers.

This group of engines, which from the illustrations seems to number eight, can use battery power to lift the aircraft vertically for takeoff. Then two vertically mounted engines provide forward thrust until the wings have enough air traveling over them to provide lift. The small vertical engines can be shut down then for an efficient cruise flight.

The large number of propellers are to provide redundancy in the case of failure.

This vehicle design is being led by Ilan Kroo, an aeronautics professor and NASA scientist who has founded Zee.Aero and is listed as the inventor on the patent applications.

Construction underway of second Vogtle AP1000

Safety-related concrete has been poured for the basemat of the second AP1000 unit at the Vogtle plant in Georgia. The milestone means that four AP1000s are now officially under construction in the USA.

the Vogtle plant will be the only four-unit nuclear power plant in the USA.

Two AP1000 units are also under construction at the VC Summer plant in South Carolina, operated by South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), a subsidiary of Scana Corporation, and co-owned by SCE&G and Santee Cooper. First concrete at Summer 2 came in mid-March, just days before the same milestone at Vogtle 3. First concrete at Summer unit 3 was poured in early November.

Westinghouse senior vice president for nuclear power plants Jeff Benjamin said, "This has been an exciting month for Westinghouse; our consortium partner, Chicago Bridge & Iron (CB&I); and our customers, as we successfully completed the basemat nuclear concrete placement for the second AP1000 units at both the VC Summer and Vogtle nuclear sites."

He added, "This milestone has now been achieved at all eight of the AP1000 units we are delivering to our customers globally."
Four AP1000 reactors are also being built in China, at Sanmen and Haiyang for China National Nuclear Corporation and China Power Investment Corp respectively. Sanmen unit 1 is expected to be the first AP1000 to begin operating. The unit is expected to begin generating electricity next year. All four Chinese AP1000s are scheduled to be in operation by 2016.

NASA is unwilling to share the costs of a Mars Flyby so Dennis Tito must look to Russia or China

Dennis Tito is trying to put together a Mars flyby mission. He would need to launch in late 2017 to take advantage of a rare alignment of the planets that would greatly shorten the trip, or maybe in 2021, the second best option. He has raised $300 million (mostly his own money) and has asked the US congress to provide the heavy launch rocket for about $700 million in cost. NASA has rejected the proposal.

NASA's response - Inspiration Mars' proposed schedule is a significant challenge due to life support systems, space radiation response, habitats, and the human psychology of being in a small spacecraft for over 500 days. The agency is willing to share technical and programmatic expertise with Inspiration Mars, but is unable to commit to sharing expenses with them.

Given Russia’s clear recognition of the value and prestige of accomplishments in human space exploration, and their long-time interest in exploring Mars, my personal belief is that in all likelihood the Energia super-heavy rocket revival announcement signals Russian intent to fly this mission in 2021,” Tito stated.

Harvard Business Review says if you want to change the world then partner with China

Harvard Business Review says if you want to change the world then partner with China. This is not because of bias in favor of China. It is a recognition that 6-8% GDP annual growth now and higher growth for the past few decades has made China the place where most of the change in the world has been happening. China passes Japan's economy in overall size in 2010 and is twice as large in 2014. China passes the US in total power generation a couple of years ago and next year will have about 50% more power generation.

China has packed the equivalent of 200 years of industrialization in America into just two decades. A population of two million is considered a small city. A Chicago of new skyscrapers is built every year. And 200 million more people will move into cities in the next 12 years. Here, big is bigger than you can imagine.

This vast scale means that if China can’t carry out breakthroughs in sustainability fast enough, the consequences will break the planet. But the speed of change means China has an opportunity to leapfrog to the latest practices. And changes in infrastructure and behavior are in many ways easier to trigger here.

In order to support an expected one billion people living in cities by 2030, China is the only country building whole communities at a time. It’s using this development to rapidly experiment with new technologies, policies, and financial systems. In fact, China is innovating at a city level, designating tens of cities at a time as pilots for every viable clean technology. Each of these pilots exploring sustainable urbanization is a potential model that China might be able to scale to go green. Its ability to experiment and accept failure is making China not just the world’s factory, but its cleantech laboratory as well.

Russia unveils plan for 21 new nuclear reactors by 2030 and includes two BN-1200 sodium cooled fast reactors

The Russian government has approved a plan to build 21 new nuclear power generation units across nine power stations by 2030 as part of a regional and territorial energy planning scheme.


The plan, released in a document published by the government's official online portal for legal information, includes the construction of five new nuclear power stations with two units each, three new power plant units at locations where a commercial nuclear installation already exists, and the addition of one new unit at an existing plant site.

The five new nuclear power stations are:

• "Kostroma" in the Kostroma region, about 350 kilometres northeast of Moscow. It will consist of two VVER-1200 reactor units.

• "Nizhny Novgorod" in the Nizhny Novgorod region, about 330 kilometres east of Moscow. The site has been in the planning stage since 2008 and the location that has been chosen is in the Navashinsky district in the southwest of Nizhny Novgorod. The new station will consist of two VVER-1200 reactor units.

• "Tatar" in the Republic of Tatarstan, Volga district, western Russia. The station will be sited in the Kamskiy region, 130 kilometres east of Kazan, and will consist of two VVER-1200 reactor units.

• "Seversky" in the closed town of Seversk, about 20 kilometres north of Tomsk in south-central Russia. The station will be built near the Sibirskaya nuclear power plant, which in 1954 was the first industrial-scale nuclear plant in the then-USSR and was decommissioned in 2008. The new station will consist of two VVER-1200 reactor units.

• "South Ural" in the Kaslinsky district of the Chelyabinskaya oblast, about 200 kilometres southeast of Yekaterinburg. It will consist of two Generation IV BN-1200 sodium-cooled fast reactor units.

November 21, 2013

Planetary Resources explains how asteroid mining will open space for human colonization

All of the transportation needs in space –— from orbit raises to station keeping to Lunar landings or even expeditions to the outer planets –— are near infinitely more achievable when access is fueled by the resources present in near-infinite quantities on asteroids. In short, harnessing the resources of space for utilization in space is a far less daunting challenge than we are prone to believe.

To help visualize why asteroids play such a vital role and where Planetary Resources comes in, they have produced an educational short for you.

Prospecting and staking claim on asteroids will drive economic growth into the Solar System.

Metamaterial route to high temperature superconductivity

Researchers say metamaterials may be formally linked to another area of physics: superconductivity. In particular, they say that superconductors may be a special form of metamaterial that steer electrons instead of light. That raises the tantalising possibility that the secret to high temperature superconductivity could lie in the development of a new generation of metamaterials that exploit this idea further.

Superconducting properties of a material, such as electron-electron interactions and the critical temperature of superconducting transition can be expressed via the effective dielectric response function of the material. Such a description is valid on the spatial scales below the superconducting coherence length (the size of the Cooper pair), which equals ~100 nm in a typical BCS superconductor. Searching for natural materials exhibiting larger electron-electron interactions constitutes a traditional approach to high temperature superconductivity research. Here we point out that recently developed field of electromagnetic metamaterials deals with somewhat related task of dielectric response engineering on sub-100 nm scale. We argue that the metamaterial approach to dielectric response engineering may considerably increase the critical temperature of a composite superconductor-dielectric metamaterial.

If this is correct it could help to create designer high temperature superconductors.

Very Light Car and OLED solar could make a practical electric car with enough solar power for a typical commute

A heavy electric pickup truck gets an extra 2 kilometers per hour of sunlight from solar power. A car that is 2-3 times lighter could get 4 kilometers per hour of sunlight. Lower cost production could make it worthwhile to use solar power to extend the range of cars and other vehicles. With enough efficiency range anxiety could be flipped around. The Solar powered electric car would have energy and would be able to move some distance whenever it was light out. A gasoline car would have no gas if there was no gas station nearby.

The Very Light Car can fit four passengers and uses a 10.5 kwh battery for a 114 mile range (350 MPGe).

It has about 4 square meters of mainly upward facing surfaces. (Roof, windows - OLED solar can be transparent, front and rear hood)

Factory sized ink jet printing mass production of lower cost OLED screens

Color-rich, energy-efficient, and flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays could soon be churned out more economically on giant inkjet printers. Mobile phone displays accounted for 71% of the US$4.9 billion 2012 OLED market. Within five years, it’s expected that more than half of all new phone displays will be OLED-based.

Other researchers area also making OLED based lights and solar cells. This thin film electronics has the potential to be low cost solar power, lights and displays.

OLED displays are widely expected to eventually supplant LCDs, the most common display today in TVs and computers. OLED displays use less power, have more vibrant colors, and can be made on plastic, making them attractive for flexible and even wearable electronics. The futuristic displays are already appearing in some expensive smartphones, digital cameras, and televisions. But manufacturing challenges have hindered attempts at mass production.

Kateeva has a movable platform that precisely positions glass panels or plastic sheets large enough for six 55-inch displays beneath custom print heads. Each print head contains hundreds of nozzles tuned to deposit picoliter-scale droplets in exact locations to build up the pixels of a display. The company says the tool can be incorporated fairly easily into existing display production lines.

Solar panel cover provides 2 kilometers of driving for every hour in sunlight

A solar panel tonneau over the rear bed of VIA Motors' extended cab truck provides adds an additional 10 miles (16 km) every day to the vehicle's all-electric range. At the moment, VIA Motors is only taking orders for its vehicles from fleet customers, but expects to begin retail sales by mid 2014. The solar tonneau cover will be available as a US$2,000 option.

So it would be $2000 for up to 3650 miles of no-charge driving each year. Maybe around 20000 miles for the life of the panels or $1 for every 10 miles over 10 years. This will become more interesting when it is about five times cheaper and when added to the roof top of lighter and more efficient vehicles.

Solid Energy touts lithium metal electrodes to safely boost lithium ion battery energy density by up to 40% and could lower costs by half to about $130 per kilowatt hour

A new MIT spinoff company, SolidEnergy says it has materials that can increase the amount of energy that lithium-ion batteries store by 30 percent or more and lower costs enough to make electric vehicles affordable.

SolidEnergy replaces the graphite electrode used in conventional lithium-ion batteries with a high-energy lithium-metal one. That’s been tried before, but the metal tends to cause short circuits and fires. So the company has also developed improved electrolytes to make them safer. It plans to sell materials to battery manufacturers, rather than making batteries itself.

Experimental cells store 30 percent more energy than conventional lithium-ion batteries, but the company calculates that the approach could eventually lead to a 40 percent improvement.

SolidEnergy calculates that its materials could be used to make battery packs that cost $130 per kilowatt-hour, in line with U.S. Department of Energy goals for making electric vehicles affordable. Battery pack costs are typically kept secret, but estimates range from $250 to $500 per kilowatt-hour for packs in commercial electric vehicles.

Massive online courses are succeeding with Professional training to solve trained professional shortage for big companies

Higher education is an enormous business in the United States--we spend approximately $400 billion annually on universities.

Sebastian Thrun attracted a stunning number of students--1.6 million to date into using his Massive Open Online Courses (MOOD). He was obsessing over a data point that was rarely mentioned in the breathless accounts about the power of new forms of free online education: the shockingly low number of students who actually finish the classes, which is fewer than 10%. Not all of those people received a passing grade, either, meaning that for every 100 pupils who enrolled in a free course, something like five actually learned the topic. If this was an education revolution, it was a disturbingly uneven one.

"We were on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and at the same time, I was realizing, we don't educate people as others wished, or as I wished. We have a lousy product," Thrun tells me. "It was a painful moment." Turns out he doesn't even like the term MOOC.

A recent study found that only 7% of students in this type of class actually make it to the end. (This is even worse than for-profit colleges such as the University of Phoenix, which graduates 17% of its full-time online students, according to the Department of Education.) Although Thrun initially positioned his company as "free to the world and accessible everywhere," and aimed at "people in Africa, India, and China," the reality is that the vast majority of people who sign up for this type of class already have bachelor's degree.

A modest amount of success in medical science could see a Japan with a median age of 65 by 2050

There are detailed population projection scenarios for Japan out to 2060.

They made the “medium-mortality” assumption (84.19 years for men and 90.93 years for women in 2060) based on the statistics of mortality from 1970 to 2010 and set the “high-mortality” assumption (83.22 years and 89.96 years for men and women, respectively) and the “low-mortality” assumption (85.14 years and 91.90 years for men and women, respectively) according to the 99% confidence interval of the mortality index parameters.

Currently Japanese women’s average life expectancy was 86 and Japanese men’s average life expectancy was 79. However, life expectancy is a lagging indicator since it is based upon people dieing today who were born 79-86 years ago.

The median age in Japan is projected to be over 55 by 2040 and over 57 by 2060. Currently the median age in Japan is 45.

There is a strong likelihood that there will be great advances against cancer, heart disease and alzheimers. There is also a good chance for antiaging therapies from stem cells and gene therapy.

It is probable that a likely mortality scenario for Japan is 95 years for men and 100 years for women. Japan would then head to a median age of 65 by 2050.

Antiaging success would mean that most of the people over 65 would be healthy and vigorous.

In 2018 Japan will have one person over 65 for every two working age people and by 2040 there could be three seniors for every child under 15

Japan will desperately need technology (exoskeletons and life extension rejuvenation) to maintain vigor and independence for a vast amount of elderly people.

The population of people over the age of 65 will be 47% of the population of people who are 15-65 (working age) by 2017.

The Japanese Health Ministry estimates the nation's total population will fall by 25% from 127.8 million in 2005, to 95.2 million by 2050. Japan's elderly population, aged 65 or older, comprised 20% of the nation's population in June 2006, a percentage that is forecast to increase to 38% by 2055.

A Star Trek episode called the Deadly Years was when Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty and one expendable character age rapidly

By 2055, Japan will have about one person of current working age (15-65) for every person either over 65 or under 15.

EIU projects world economy to 2018 and expects 80% of pre-financial crisis growth rates

The Economist Intelligence Unit has forecasted the world economy and countries and regions out to 2018. The expectation is for world GDP growth to be about 3.6-4.0% per year. This is about 80% of the 4.5-5.2% GDP growth that was seen in pre-financial crisis period of 2003-2006.

Economist World in 2014

The Economist magazine has released their World in 2014 annual special in print and online.

The Economist has projections for over a dozen industries.

The Economist has forecasts for dozens of countries.

The Economist projects the USA as the number one economy on a GDP and GDP PPP basis. The GDP PPP (Purchasing power parity basis could change this December when the new international price comparison survey is released. The price study could boost China's PPP by 20-40%.

US GDP 17.5 trillion
US per capita GDP $54920

The Economist has a projection for China in 2014

China GDP PPP 14.86 trillion
China GDP 10.38 trillion
China per capita GDP PPP $11090
China per capita GDP $7740

India is number 3 on a PPP GDP basis.

GDP per head: $1,700 (PPP: $4,350)
Inflation: 9.0%
Population: 1.26bn

November 20, 2013

Lithum Sulfur batteries good for 1500 charges are good enough for electric cars

Lithium Sulfur Battery could find use in mobile applications, and eventually, electric vehicles with 300-mile range. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have demonstrated in the laboratory a lithium-sulfur (Li/S) battery that has more than twice the specific energy of lithium-ion batteries, and that lasts for more than 1,500 cycles of charge-discharge with minimal decay of the battery's capacity. This is longest cycle life reported so far for any lithium-sulfur battery.

Just last month Nextbigfuture reported an advance to 200 charge cycles for lithium sulfur. 1500 charge cycles provide batteries that last about 5-10 years or more. Depending upon the consumers usage of the car and the frequency of charging.

Demand for high-performance batteries for electric and hybrid electric vehicles capable of matching the range and power of the combustion engine encourages scientists to develop new battery chemistries that could deliver more power and energy than lithium-ion batteries, currently the best performing battery chemistry in the marketplace

Mars Flyby Architecture Study Report Summary

Here is the 28 page Mars Flyby Architecture Study Report Summary

This proposal seems to be worth the risk.
People go in the thousands every year to climb Mount Everest and about one in 20 die.
This would be the biggest achievement in Manned space since the first moon landing in 1969.
If we are going to make big advances in space and not wait many decades then we need to be willing to take some risks.
NASA is not spending $16-18 billion each year to do anything else nearly as interesting.
The best use of NASA money would be drive down the cost of access to space by ten times or one hundred times or more. However, that has not been done.

Dennis Tito asks US Congress to repurpose NASA rocket tests for launching Mars Fyby mission in 2018

Dennis Tito has pitched a private-public partnership option for the Mars flyby to the US Congress.

At the Inspiration Mars Foundation, we have designed the architecture for a mission carrying two astronauts to the far side of Mars and back. It would be a voyage around the sun of more than 808 million miles in 501 days. We propose to do this in collaboration with NASA, as a partner in a NASA mission, in the name of America, and for the good of humanity. The endeavor is not motivated by business desires, but to inspire Americans in a bold adventure in space that reinvigorates US space exploration. In fact, the capabilities developed through private funding will belong to NASA for this and future missions.

This partnership is a new model for a space mission. It is not the model of traditional contracts or subsidies for vehicle developments, although those models are imbedded in the NASA programs to be leveraged for this unique mission. It is a philanthropic partnership with government to augment resources and achieve even greater goals than is possible otherwise.

Every 15 years or so, there is a rare planetary alignment that makes a Mars journey relatively less complex, relying on the gravitational forces of Mars, the Sun, and Earth. An American spacecraft would have to be on its way in the first days of 2018. Otherwise, we’re looking at another 15 years before that perfect alignment occurs again.

If we need a Plan B, there is a mission 88 days longer that flies by Venus before going by Mars, a unique trajectory that could be flown in 2021.

In testimony on Capitol Hill today, Inspiration Mars Chairman Dennis Tito said about $300 million could be raised privately while NASA would invest $700 million. NASA is developing the Space Launch System (SLS) anyway. This would just repurpose early tests to launch the main Mars flyby capsule. There would not be crew risk for such a test. The crew would be launched in a proven and safer smaller rocket.

School in a Box with Scripted Lessons Could rapidly improve education in the developing world

212 Bridge Academies have opened in Kenya during the past four years. Bridge’s “schools in a box” spring up seemingly overnight: In January of 2013, the company launched 51 schools at once, while in September it opened another 78. Bridge now educates roughly 50,000 students in Kenya every day, and its global aspirations may transform the entire project of education for poor youth around the world.

Bridge’s CEO, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur named Jay Kimmelman, compares his company to Starbucks and McDonald’s — organizations that offer a consistent experience no matter where in the world you encounter them. Beyond its 212 branded academies in Kenya, Bridge has set its sights on Nigeria, Uganda, and India. The founders intend to be serving half a million children in 30 countries by 2015, and 10 million by 2025. “We’ve systematized every aspect of how you run a school,” Kimmelman says. “How you manage it. How you interact with parents. How you teach. How you check on school managers, and how you support them.” And this operational approach gets results. Bridge tests kids six times a year, and a third party performs Early Grade Reading and Math Assessments annually. According to those evaluations, Bridge students are beating out their peers at government and other private schools. In reading fluency, the gap is as high as 205 percent.

Stem cells used to repair some brain damage in rats

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.7 million people a year will suffer a traumatic brain injury.

A new stem cell study conducted by USF researchers may lead to respite for patients suffering traumatic brain injury (TBI).

In the study, partial neurological function was restored to neurologically impaired rats when adult stem cells were injected.

Stem cells enable transplant tolerance to allow transplant recipients to stop taking anti-rejection medicine

An innovative Northwestern Medicine® research program investigating if stem cells may be the key to allowing organ transplant patients to stop taking immunosuppressive drugs has received $12 million in research funding. The grant will allow researchers to finish Phase II of the clinical trials and begin Phase III. Northwestern began the study’s clinical trial in early 2009 as part of a partnership with the University of Louisville, which engineers the specialized stem cells used in each transplant procedure.

“During our clinical trials, we have been able to take the novel stem cell technology that the University of Louisville pioneered from the bench to the bedside,” said Joseph Leventhal, MD, PhD, director of kidney and pancreas transplantation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and professor of Surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “The results of our clinical trial were a catalyst for Novartis’ long-term investment in this new cellular based therapy for solid organ transplantation.”

Scientists create 'mini-kidneys' from human stem cells

The US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disease states that more than 20 million adults in the US have some form of chronic kidney disease, showing the need for better knowledge and treatment of the condition. Now, scientists have created miniature 3D kidney structures from human stem cells with the aim of providing just that.

Investigators from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California say the mini-kidney structures could open new avenues for studying the development of kidney disease and lead to the creation of new drugs that target the condition.

The researchers note that although scientists had previously created precursors of kidney cells using human stem cells this year, the team at Salk is the first to create 3D cellular structures that are similar to those found in human kidneys.

Scientists used mouse embryonic kidney cells (red) to 'coax' human stem cells to turn into early-stage uretic buds - early structures of the human kidney. Image credit: Salk Institute for Biological Studies

31 months of Gene Therapy Benefits Advanced Heart Failure Patients

Researchers from the Cardiovascular Research Center at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai reported the long-term benefits of a single dose of their gene therapy AAV1/SERCA2a in advanced heart failure patients on Nov. 19 at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2013.

The new long-term follow-up results from their initial Calcium Up-Regulation by Percutaneous Administration of Gene Therapy In Cardiac Disease (CUPID 1) clinical trial found a one-time, high-dose injection of the AAV1/SERCA2a gene therapy results in the presence of the delivered SERCA2a gene up to 31 months in the cardiac tissue of heart failure patients.

In addition, study results show clinical event rates in gene therapy patients are significantly lower three years later compared to those patients receiving placebo. Also, patients experienced no negative side effects following gene therapy delivery at three-year follow-up.

"This study shows AAV1/SERCA2a gene therapy has long-lasting and beneficial effects for congestive heart failure patients allowing us to block the downward spiral of patients with severe heart failure, ” says principal investigator Roger J. Hajjar, MD, Director of the Cardiovascular Research Center and the Arthur & Janet C. Ross Professor of Medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who developed the gene therapy approach.

2.5 year survival rates are over 90% versus about 60% for the placebo

Long Term Follow-up of Patients With Advanced Heart Failure Following a Single Intracoronary Infusion of Aav1/serca2a

Graphene shows promise for improved DNA nanopore sequencing

Nanopore sequencing—the ability to sequence a strand of DNA by reading its electronic signature as it slithers through a nanoscale pore in a membrane— has always held great promise, but it has been frustratingly difficult to realize its full potential. There have been attempts to boost the faint signal produced as the DNA passes through the nanopore. Other research has aimed to slow the speed at which the DNA passes through the nanopore to improve the measurement. Some researchers have even created a molecular motor that doesn’t just slow the DNA down but controls it’s movement through the nanopore.

Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have turned to the wonder material graphene as the membrane.

The original technique on which this latest iteration of nanopore sequencing is based suffered from the nanopore frequently clogging up as well as a general lack of precision in the measurements.

Typical insulating membrane that is used nanopore schemes is as thick as 15 DNA bases—the chemical rungs of DNA's ladder-like helix. But graphene is only 0.335 nm thick, which is equal to the spacing between two bases in a DNA chain, making it possible to individually analyze the passage of the DNA bases as the squiggle through the nanopore.

In only 5 milliseconds 50 000 DNA bases can pass through. So the signal given off by the DNA passing through the pore is too faint to read.

Nature Nanotechnology - Detecting the translocation of DNA through a nanopore using graphene nanoribbons

November 19, 2013

China's government stopped QQ virtual currency but if they cannot block Bitcoin then Bitcoin could become the first trillion dollar non-fiat currency

Bitcoins are still being viewed cautiously by lawmakers and regulators in the United States. In fact, there are two Senate hearings this week about the risks Bitcoin poses. But that is decidedly not the case in China. There has been a steady drumbeat of positive news in the Chinese press this year, including a landmark report on CCTV, China's national television network.

China's fascination with the currency upstart resulted in an estimated 40,000 client downloads a day and a burgeoning acceptance rate from online retailers down to physical traders standing in Tiananmen Square.

The largest Bitcoin exchange in the world is located securely inside China, and one of the world's largest Internet companies, Baidu (BIDU), is integrating and using Bitcoin. It seems highly unlikely that Baidu would be able to integrate Bitcoin payments across its vast network of users without some sort of complicit nod from higher authorities.

Chinese interest could play a huge role in turning Bitcoin into the first trillion dollar non-fiat currency.

Credit-Driven China Glut Threatens Surge Into Bank Crisis

China has had a $6.6 trillion credit binge during the past five years, encouraged by Beijing policy makers as stimulus to combat a global economic slowdown, now threatens to stoke a debt crisis. At stake are trillions of yuan in bank loans that companies producing everything from ships to steel to solar power are struggling to repay as the world’s second-largest economy heads for the weakest annual expansion since 1999.

China’s biggest banks are already affected, tripling the amount of bad loans they wrote off in the first half of this year and cleaning up their books ahead of what may be a fresh wave of defaults. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. and its four largest competitors expunged 22.1 billion yuan of debt that couldn’t be collected through June, up from 7.65 billion yuan a year earlier, regulatory filings show.

“In the next three to four years, industries with excess capacity will be the main source of credit loss for banks and their nonperforming loans as China cleans up the legacy,” said Liao Qiang, a Beijing-based director at Standard & Poor’s. “The speed of the process will depend on the government’s determination and whether they are willing to incur short-term pain for long-term gain.”

China easing one child policy and eventually will phase it out completely but no date was provided for the complete phase out yet

China will eventually scrap family planning restrictions, a senior official said on Tuesday, days after the government announced it will allow millions of families to have two children. However, no date for the phase out was given.

Mao said China would further loosen family planning policy but signaled that the government would not abandon it in the near term.

"The situation that you mentioned will be realized one day," Mao said when asked whether China could see a day when there would be no family planning restrictions.

He said he could not say when and how the policy would change.

OECD World Economic Outlook to 2015 has higher growth for China and slightly lower growth for most other countries

GDP growth across the 34-member OECD is projected to accelerate from this year’s 1.2% rate to a 2.3% rate in 2014 and a 2.7% rate in 2015, according to the Outlook. The world economy, by contrast, will grow at a 2.7% rate this year, before accelerating to a 3.6% rate in 2014 and 3.9% in 2015. The pace of the global recovery is weaker than forecast last May, largely as a result of the worsened outlook for some emerging economies.

Growth in the United States is projected at a 2.9% rate in 2014 and a 3.4% rate in 2015. In Japan, GDP is expected to drop to a 1.5% growth rate in 2014 and a 1% rate in 2015. The euro area is expected to witness a gradual recovery, with growth of 1% in 2014 and 1.6% in 2015.

Growth has begun picking up in China but will remain weaker than previously projected in most other major emerging market economies. A group of emerging OECD member countries – Chile, Turkey, Mexico, Korea and Israel – will continue out-pacing growth in other advanced economies.

The Outlook draws attention to a range of downside risks in this recovery, which is still weak by past standards. It points to a worrisome slowdown in world trade growth, in foreign direct investment flows and in fixed investment, as well as continuation of stubbornly high unemployment, particularly in Europe, where it is only expected to fall below 12% by the end of 2015

Early Registration for the Foresight nanotechnology conference

2014 Foresight Technical Conference: Integration
February 7 – 9, 2014

Crowne Plaza Hotel, Palo Alto, California, USA

DEADLINE for early registration: Dec 6
For $100 discount, use code WANGNBF2014NANO

Paolo Gargini, ITRS Chairman, former Intel VP of Technology Strategy

Conference Co-Chairs:
Robert P. Meagley, CEO/CTO, One Nanotechnologies
William A. Goddard III, Director, Materials and Process Simulation Center, Caltech

• Strategy, Analysis and Simulation
• Bionano Systems
• Commercially Implemented Nanotechnology
• Electronic and Optical Nanosystems
• Self-Organizing & Adaptive Systems

Carnival of Space 328

The Carnival of Space 328 is up at the Chandra Space Telescope blog.

Universe Today - Just where has the Curiosity rover traveled so far and where is it going? This new video provides an aerial tour of the rover’s past, present and future traverses on the Red Planet.

John Grotzinger, Curiosity's project scientist, narrates an aerial tour of the rover's past, present and future traverses on the Red Planet.

Business Week has 2014 predictions for 55 industries, interviews executives and leaders and predicts the $40 tablet

Business Week has a detailed look at 2014. They have a detailed look at 55 global industries, from tech to banking and energy to retail.

The Aakash 4, a 7-inch Android tablet developed by British manufacturer Datawind and India’s Ministry of Human Resources Development. Datawind Chief Executive Officer Suneet Tuli said at a Wired conference in October that the device has twice the processing power and RAM of the first iPad and will cost as little as $40. The company, which has shipped about 1 million of its earlier models, will make its money on app sales and ads

There will be even deeper discounts as we go further into a weak Thanksgiving shopping season

For the fourth year in a row, disposable incomes in 2013 have only inched up. As result, low-income Americans will again have a less-merry season than affluent consumers, who are more flush thanks in part to a 26 percent rise in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index this year.

Faced with wary shoppers and a shorter holiday season, retailers are piling on deals as they jockey for market share during the most important sales period of the year.

Wal-Mart is dangling a 32-inch flat-screen TV for $98, down from $148 last year. More than a dozen retailers are opening earlier, or for the first time, on Thanksgiving Day.

“The consumer is more deal-driven than ever,” Ken Perkins, president of researcher Retail Metrics LLC, wrote in a Nov. 14 note. “Discretionary dollars for holiday spending are limited for the large pool of lower- and moderate-income consumers due to lack of wage gains this year coupled with the increased payroll tax.”

November 18, 2013

Plug-in Hybrid Volvo Full Size City Passanger Bus gets 21 mpg

Fuel consumption is reduced by over 80% and the total energy consumption by over 60%. The results of the field tests being conducted in Gothenburg show that Volvo Buses' plug-in hybrid more than meets expectations.

“Our performance results are even slightly better than we had anticipated. The plug-in hybrid consumes less than 11 litres of fuel for every 100 kilometres. That's 81% less fuel than the equivalent diesel bus consumes,” says Johan Hellsing, who is the Project Manager for the field test at Volvo Buses.

Moreover, the figures for the overall energy consumption, including both diesel and electricity, have exceeded the target. Here, the plug-in hybrid gives an energy saving of 61%, compared to a corresponding diesel bus Euro 5.

The field test in Gothenburg began in June 2013 and includes three plug-in hybrid buses, whose batteries are recharged at the terminals. This makes it possible for the buses to run on electric power for most of the route.

21 mpg is better gas mileage than a 2013 Ford F150 and many other passenger cars and trucks.

DARPA works on Scalable, On-Demand Blood for Transfusions and customizing blood cells for vaccine and drug delivery

DARPA program decreases cost of pharmed blood and raises possibility of enhanced red blood cells that offer novel therapeutic benefits to recipients.

DARPA created its Blood Pharming program to potentially relieve the shortage or blood by developing an automated culture and packaging system that would yield a fresh supply of transfusable red blood cells from readily available cell sources. If the program is successful, it will eliminate the existing drawbacks of laboratory grown red blood cells, including cost, production efficiency and scalability, compared to those grown inside the human body. Pharmed blood could also offer additional benefits. These potential benefits include eliminating the risk of infections from donors, on-demand availability, avoiding the detrimental effects of storing donated blood, and circumventing the issue of matching blood types between donor and recipient.

Before pharmed blood becomes practical for common use, the production costs must be significantly reduced. Under the Blood Pharming program, DARPA has decreased the cost of the chemical stock required to support blood growth for one unit of blood from more than $90,000 per unit to less than $5,000 per unit. DARPA believes that future reductions in the cost of chemical stock for unmodified red blood cells will eventually make pharmed blood practical for basic transfusions.

NASA may use Spacex and other commercial partners to fly astronauts to and from the Space Station within 4 years

Engineers and safety specialists from NASA and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) met in late October to review the safety of the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket being developed to launch humans into low-Earth orbit later this decade.

SpaceX is one of NASA's commercial partners working to develop a new generation of U.S. spacecraft and rockets capable of transporting humans to and from low-Earth orbit from American soil. NASA intends to use new commercial systems to fly U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station within the next four years.

The Dragon mock-up that will be used for upcoming parachute drop tests is on display at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.
Image Credit: SpaceX

Can success against HIV/Aids be matched with cancer, heart disease, alzheimers and preventable poverty deaths

Huge gains in global public health are within reach over the next 10-20 years. The mean global life expectancy could move from 66 years to 75 years. The lowend 45-55 years should move to 65-75 years with progress against Aids/Hiv and extreme poverty. All developed countries should at least have life expectancy at 90 years or higher. Monaco has that level now.

The World Health Organization has written that Ending Preventable Child deaths is within reach.

The number of children dying each year under the age of 5 has fallen from 12 million to fewer than 7 million in the past two decades – a dramatic 42 per cent reduction.

But there is still a long way to go. A staggering 4.4 million children died in 2011 from conditions which are preventable or treatable: pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, birth complications and newborn infections.
Solutions are known and cost effective. The recent Lancet series on childhood pneumonia and diarrhoea shows that by 2025, key solutions for these top two killers of children under 5 could virtually eliminate child deaths from diarrhoea and reduce by almost two-thirds child deaths from pneumonia. These reductions would be possible if the solutions were scaled up to reach at least 80 per cent of the people who need

Nextbigfuture believes All preventable poverty deaths could be virtually eliminated and deaths from cancer, heart disease, Alzheimers and traffic accidents could be reduced by an age adjusted 80% by 2030

Hundreds of thousands of deaths from Aids/HIV have already been avoided with industrial scale deployment drugs for millions of people.

Wider deployment across the developing world with effective treatment at less than $100 per person per year are implemented they would avert an estimated 13.5 million deaths and 19 million new HIV infections by 2025.

Can success against cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's be achieved on a similar scale and timeline and cost as the success against HIV/Aids ? Can gene therapy, vaccines, new diagnostics impact other major diseases in the same way as success against HIV/Aids ?

Extreme poverty (less than $1.25 per day per person GDP Purchasing power parity) could be virtually eliminated by 2025.

Clean water, smokefree cooking, clean sanitation and enough food could be provided which would greatly reduce 35 million avoidable deaths.

Air pollution deaths and disease can also be vastly reduced with affordable actions on pollution mitigation.

Updates from Africa and the UN indicate that the battle against HIV/Aids is being won and 13.5 million lives should be saved by 2025 and the cost will soon be below $100 per person per year

South Africa has witnessed an "unparalleled" five-year increase in life expectancy since 2005 thanks to the world's biggest programme of HIV/Aids drug treatment.

The trend marks a spectacular reversal from when former president Thabo Mbeki was branded an "Aids denialist" whose dogma was blamed for 330,000 deaths. In a few short years, South Africa has gone from global disgrace to shining example.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, president of the South African Medical Research Council, said the rise in life expectancy – from 54 years in 2005 to 60 in 2011 – was of the order usually only seen after a major societal shift, such as the abolition of slavery.

By making strategic efficiencies in HIV programming, UNAIDS estimates that expansion of treatment can be accelerated within the existing resource needs of between US$ 22-24 billion for 2015. “With smart planning, we estimate that cost savings of around 20% could be made by 2015 which, if invested smartly, would allow us to reach yet more people with lifesaving antiretroviral therapy.”

UNAIDS estimates that cost savings could be achieved through three main areas; a reduction in costs of medicines and medical supplies, particularly as volumes increase; simplifying delivery systems; and increasing efficiencies within the overall AIDS response.

Significant successes in reducing costs have been achieved in recent years. For example the price of medicines to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV was reduced from US$ 800 in 2011 to below US$ 100 in 2013. Through a more competitive bidding process, South Africa has reduced the cost of procurement of antiretrovirals to the lowest price anywhere in the world at US$ 113 per person per year for the fixed dose combination recommended in the new guidelines. This has resulted in a 53% reduction in expenditure on antiretroviral treatment for South Africa.

If the recommendations in the new guidelines are implemented they would avert an estimated 13.5 million deaths and 19 million new HIV infections by 2025.

Can success against cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's be achieved on a similar scale and timeline and cost as the success against HIV/Aids ? Can gene therapy, vaccines, new diagnostics impact other major diseases in the same way as success against HIV/Aids ?

Based on per capita income life expectancy in South Africa should be 65 years

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 183 - Japan using actual dosimeter radiation readings which are 3-7 times lower than estimates

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 183 is up at ANS Nuclear Cafe

The Hiroshima Syndrome –
Japan Makes a Rational Exposure Calculation Decision

This week, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority decided to use actual dosimeter readings for radiation exposures in repopulating communities. Previously, the agency took aircraft-borne monitor readings and estimated exposures based on the assumption that people remain outdoors 8 hours per day. It turns out that these estimates grossly over-stated the case. The change in methodology is to be applauded as rational and reasonable.

Three months ago, several hundred people returned to their homes in Tamura’s Miyakogi district, and each person was issued a dosimeter. In September, the government appropriated $27 million in funds to also give each of the prior returning evacuees a dosimeter to be monitored by the Prefecture. Since then, thousands of returnees have had their actual exposures monitored. All show that previous dose estimates were exaggerated. Some of the dosimeter-based exposures were seven times lower than had been estimated. The least level of exaggeration was by a factor of three. Many international experts have been saying Japan’s aircraft-based estimates of exposures were too high for nearly two years. Now, there’s actual data to show they have been correct all-along.

Those locations that have been opened to returnees have witnessed less than 40% of the pre-3/11/11 population take advantage of it. The government’s goal has been for 100% repopulation. Those staying away say they are either skeptical of government assurances, don’t trust Tepco, believe any radiation exposure is tantamount to a death sentence, or a combination of the three. But, there are many reluctant individuals who don’t know what to think and opt for the cautious path. These might be the ones the new data could positively influence. The new methodology does not change the long-term goal of having all repopulated areas eventually below Japan’s goal of 1 millisievert per year.

Every returnee to Fukushima has a dosimeter and the actual radiation measurements are at least three times lower than guesstimates from measurements from planes that assume people are outside for 8 hours per day

Chinese reforms will allow rural people mortgage their property and among changes that are bullish for China and the Global economy

China is studying new ways to measure the size of its economy to reflect ambitious reform plans that will make it easier for farmers to sell their land and to take into account property values.

China's Communist Party leaders unveiled a broad program of reforms last week. One of their objectives was to make it easier for farmers to sell the right to use some of their land. Farmers don't currently own their land, but they have the right to use it.

Among a number of changes outlined in a document released last Friday, China's leaders pledged to boost income for rural residents by giving them more property rights, allowing them to mortgage their property and envisioning experiments in allowing farmers to sell their land.

Consumption measurements also will be revised to include some services paid by the government, such as for education and medical treatment, the statement said.

A final plan will be announced at the end of next year or in early 2015, according to the statement.

Boosting the income and financial resources of chinese in the rural areas will help address income inequality in China. People in the cities and coast have a lot more money. Boosting the rural areas seems to be a stimulus that would not be pushing areas that are already over developed.

Because China is the largest trading partner for many nations, financial markets are interpreting this policy document as bullish for regional and global economic growth. The world's financial sector, in particular, has been looking for the economy of the world's most populous nation to evolve from being export-driven to consumer-driven.

November 17, 2013

Why Instagrams get built but Hyperloops have not

If Hyperloop could succeed it would disrupt airline and rail travel as we know it and improve the whole economy with more economical and efficient transportation. There have been many innovative engineering designs and proposals but they are not taken seriously and have not been funded even if they could greatly benefit society and potentially be economically successful.

The entire culture of Silicon Valley, and entrepreneurship around the globe, has taken on a groupthink that prevents truly novel inventions, like the Hyperloop, from reaching the market. The result is a major loss. It’s a loss to our society. It’s a loss to our capital markets. It’s a loss to private investors. And it’s a loss to entrepreneurs.

The age of software is suffocating investment in improved largescale physical changes that require a lot more funding and patience to get to a lower return than software can provide

If we want to have companies like Hyperloop in Silicon Valley, and we want to have less companies like Instagram, we have to stop building startups based on a one-size-fits-all formula. This formula produces companies like Instagram and Buffer. They hit all of the checkboxes, but entirely fail to innovate. Not to mention, they’re boring.

Companies like Hyperloop break all of these rules. There is no MVP, it’s very high risk, there is no angel who specializes in it, it’s a first-time inventor, the company wants to go public, and all the founder has is a scribble on a legal pad to explain how it’s going to work. It goes against all conventional wisdom, but that may be the best investment of our generation.

Bigger societal goals and embracing change

Even though the electrical grid in North America and other developed countries has many known problems only about 1% of the grid is upgraded. There is a large backlog of unrepaired bridges and other infrastructure.

Very little power generation is replaced even though it is well known that existing coal plants are polluting or is an old and inefficient system.

How far away are we from major new treatments for cancer, heart disease and alzheimers ?

There are some possibilities for some cures for cancer, heart disease and alzheimers related to vaccines and gene therapy treatments for different aspects of the different diseases. Heart disease and alzheimers have the hope (though not the certainty) of broad spectrum treatments. Various gene therapy possibilities seem the most promising for new Heart disease treatments. Early detection with more accuracy and lower cost for various types of cancer and alzheimers hold the promise of near term improvement in survival and treatment.

Success against Aids/HIV is an example of what is possible when truly effective and affordable treatments are widely deployed. Significant success with Aids drugs have reduced costs have been achieved in recent years. For example the price of medicines to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV was reduced from US$ 800 in 2011 to below US$ 100 in 2013. Wide scale deployment will avert an estimated 13.5 million deaths and 19 million new HIV infections by 2025. In 2005, under Mbeki and health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang – who promoted a "treatment" of beets and garlic – only 133,000 patients were on ARVs. Now the total stands at 1.9 million, the biggest programme on the planet. Aids-related deaths decreased from 257,000 in 2005 to 194,000 in 2010, according to the Actuarial Society of South Africa. The rate at which HIV-positive mothers transmitted the virus to their babies decreased from 8.5% in 2008 to 2.7% in 2011.


The cancer diagnostics market is on the verge of explosion, as the researchers approach major technological breakthroughs in tumor diagnosis and therapy, discover new specific antigens, and unlock the mystery of the genetic basis of the disease. During the next five years, the worldwide cancer diagnostics market is promising to be an exciting, dynamic and rapidly expanding field. Anticipated technological breakthroughs will create numerous opportunities for determining genetic predisposition, detecting specific tumors, and monitoring biological response to cancer therapy. The rise in geriatric population will further compound the growing demand for malignancy assays and the rapid market expansion.

Jack Andraka's cancer test (which would cost about 3 cents for the disposable part of the test) via finding antigens has broad application for not just cancer but early detection of other diseases.

Andraka’s method proved to be 168 times faster compared to previous tests, not to mention being so sensitive that it is also 400 times more effective when it comes to an accurate diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. There is also optimism going around that this could be useful in testing for different kinds of cancer as well as HIV.

Lung cancer is the world’s top cancer killer, with over 40% of cases diagnosed at an advanced stage when the cancer has already spread widely beyond the lung and survival outcomes are extremely poor.