May 03, 2016

UAE performing design study of artificial mountain to increase rainfall

The UAE is currently in the first stage of a man-made mountain development project as the country mulls different approaches to maximizing rainfall.

Experts from the US-based University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are in the “detailed modeling study” phase, NCAR scientist and lead researcher Roelof Bruintjes told Arabian Business.

The presence of mountains forces air to rise, creating clouds that can then be seeded, Bruintjes said.
Cloud seeding, a weather modification process designed to increase the amount of rainfall produced from clouds, has a permanent unit at the NCMS’s meteorological department, which conducts operations across the UAE.

The department recently revealed $558,000 was spent on UAE cloud-seeding last year.

“Building a mountain is not a simple thing,” added Bruintjes. “We are still busy finalizing assimilation, so we are doing a spread of all kinds of heights, widths and locations [as we simultaneously] look at the local climatology.”

One proposal to build a 1.2-mile-high mountain in the notoriously flat Netherlands was found to be feasible if the mountain were hollow. Estimates for the cost went as high as $230 billion.

Arxiv - Cheap Artificial AB-Mountains, Extraction of Water and Energy from Atmosphere and Change of Regional Climate by Alexander Bolonkin

Bolonkin's idea is creating a cheap range of inflatable ‘mountains’ (really immense gasbags) from a thin film whose presence forces humid air (a wet wind) to rise to high altitude. It is well known that air expands and cools at altitude. The air humidity decreases, exceeds the maximal saturation level and superfluous water vapor condenses in various forms, including rain or rain clouds.

The top of the gasbags’ film is located at an altitude of ~3 - 5 km. It is supported at this altitude by a small additional air pressure produced by ground ventilators. The film is connected to Earth's ground by controlled cables, which allow some change in the height and orientation of the artificial mountain(s). The gasbag’s external surface may require double-layer film. We can control the heat conductivity of the dome cover by pumping an air between two layers of the dome cover and change the solar heating (solar radiation) by control of cover clarity or pumping a warm air between layers if icing-over or show is at the dome top. That allows selecting for different conditions (solar heating) in the covered area and by pumping air into the dome.

The building of a film dome is very easy. The collapsed film is spread out over Earth’s surface, turn on the pumping propellers and the film is raised by air overpressure to the needed altitude limited by the support cables. Damage to the film is not a major trouble because the additional air pressure is very small (0.005 - 0.05 atm) and air leakage is compensated for by the air impellers.

Singapore's sports stadium, SportsHub, is the largest free-spanning dome structure ever built—stretching more than 1,010 feet across at its widest point.

Radiation and immunotherapy combination can destroy both primary and secondary tumors

Radiation therapy not only kills cancer cells, but also helps to activate the immune system against their future proliferation. However, this immune response is often not strong enough to be able to cure tumors, and even when it is, its effect is limited to the area that has been irradiated. Now, however, research to be presented to the ESTRO 35 conference today (Sunday) has shown that the addition of an immune system-strengthening compound can extend the radiation therapy-induced immune response against the tumor sites and that this response even has an effect on tumours outside the radiation field.

A combination of radiation therapy and L19-IL2, an immunotherapy agent, can increase significantly the immune response when given to mice with primary colorectal tumors. L19-IL2 is a combination of an antibody that targets the tumor blood vessels and a cytokine, a small protein important in cell signaling in the immune system.

The researchers found not only that the mice were tumor-free following treatment, but also that when re-injected with cancer cells 150 days after cure, they did not form new tumors. There was also an increase in the number of cells with an immunological memory.

May 02, 2016

Chinese Hypersonic Weapons Development

China has an anti-access/area-denial strategy (A2/AD) [a lot of missiles] for combating the US Navy and airforce. China’s A2/AD strategy is about to become even more deadly — thanks to the growing sophistication of Beijing’s hypersonic weapons program, or in layman’s terms, missiles that can move 5 more times faster than the speed of sound (Mach 5+).

The Jamestown foundation has an article about Chinese Hypersonic Weapons Development by Karen Montague and Erika Solem

China, the United States and Russia are pursuing various iterations of hypersonic glide vehicle (HGVs) and all three have developed prototypes of this high-tech weapon. The X-51A, Yu-71, and DF-ZF are the current HGV prototypes for the U.S., Russia and China, respectively. This new class of weapons has prompted each nation to adopt different approaches, with each model using a different engine, fuel type, and delivery method, but all HGV weapons’ core characteristic is sustained and controlled Mach 5 (3,836 mph) flight

Collapsible-rent-a-fridges can lower the cost of keeping transported food cool in India where 40% of fruits and vegtables spoil

A team of MIT and Harvard University students won the first-ever MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize on Thursday night for an idea to make India’s temperature-controlled supply chain for food — or “cold chain” — more affordable.

The team, GoMango, is developing smart, modular, refrigerated shipping boxes that can be rented out individually to cut costs and save billions of dollars in spoiled perishable goods in India. This innovation earned GoMango the first-place prize of $12,000 at the competition, which was organized by the student-run MIT Food and Agriculture Club to support early-stage ventures focusing on food and agriculture sustainability.

For the competition, six finalist teams pitched ideas to a panel of judges from academia and industry, and a capacity crowd, in the Samberg Conference Center. A team of MIT students, Safi Organics, earned the $8,000 second-place prize, and a team of MIT and Harvard University students, Ricult, won a $5,000 third-place prize. Other inventions included edible eating utensils, nanosensors for plants, and robotic hay compactors.

gomango is building a network of modular, intelligent refrigerated boxes to transport perishable goods using any existing truck or train. An on-demand network of low-cost refrigerated boxes will distribute the benefits of refrigerated transport widely. Reduced food waste and increased food choice will increase food access and availability, stabilize food prices, and improve nutrition.

Rentable cold chain

In GoMango’s pitch, team member and MIT alumnus Naren Tallapragada ’13, now a PhD student at Harvard University, said refrigerated trucks are rare in India, because they’re too expensive for producers and wholesalers to rent or own. By some estimates, there are as many refrigerated trucks in Boston as there are in the whole country of India.

With shipping routes sometimes spanning hundreds of miles in very hot temperatures, nearly 40 percent of India’s fruit and vegetables spoil before reaching customers, Tallapragada said: “This means hundreds of millions of people are malnourished [and] billions of dollars are wasted.”

To address the issue, GoMango invented refrigerated boxes that can be collapsed, and stored in partnering cold-storage warehouses. Food producers and wholesalers can rent exactly as many boxes as needed and stack them on traditional dry trucks, which cost roughly $100 less than refrigerated trucks.

Boxes are stuffed with packs filled with innovative phase-change materials, much like giant ice packs. They’re kept frozen until packed with food — such as fruits and vegetables and meats and fish — and liquefy throughout a trip to keep contents cool for up to three days. Each box also connects to the Internet to track location, temperature, humidity, and payment information.

Net Market Share joins StatCounter as ranking Google Chrome as the king of Browsers

For the month of April, Google Chrome took home a 41.6 percent share of all desktop browser traffic picked up by Web tracker Net Market Share, up from 39 percent in March. Over the same time, Internet Explorer's share dropped to 41.3 percent from 43.4 percent. This marks the first time Chrome has surpassed IE to assume the top spot, at least in the eyes of Net Market Share.

While the browser battles aren't as intense as they once were, browser makers continue to fiddle with their approaches. Most dramatically, after years of riding IE's dominance, Microsoft is moving on with the more modern Edge browser in Windows 10.

oogle Chrome has actually been in first place since 2012, according to fellow Web tracker StatCounter, which puts Firefox in second and Internet Explorer in third. Why the difference?

Each Web tracker uses its own somewhat unique methods and sources to determine Web traffic data. For example, Net Applications counts unique visitors per day rather than page views, covers around 40,000 websites and has a stronger presence in certain countries than other Web trackers. StatCounter analyzes the overall volume of Web traffic and tracks more than 3 million sites around the world.

Three exoplanets about the size of Venus and the Earth are the best known targets for life outside the solar system

Star-like objects with effective temperatures of less than 2,700 kelvin are referred to as ‘ultracool dwarfs’. This heterogeneous group includes stars of extremely low mass as well as brown dwarfs (substellar objects not massive enough to sustain hydrogen fusion), and represents about 15 per cent of the population of astronomical objects near the Sun.

Core-accretion theory predicts that, given the small masses of these ultracool dwarfs, and the small sizes of their protoplanetary disks, there should be a large but hitherto undetected population of terrestrial planets orbiting them5—ranging from metal-rich Mercury-sized planets to more hospitable volatile-rich Earth-sized planets.

Researchers report observations of three short-period Earth-sized planets transiting an ultracool dwarf star only 12 parsecs away (40 light years).

The sizes and temperatures of these worlds are comparable to those of Earth and Venus, and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the solar system.

This artist’s rendering shows an imagined view of the three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth that were discovered using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. In this view, one of the inner planets is seen in transit across the disc of its tiny and dim parent star. Image: M. Kornmesser/ESO

The inner two planets receive four times and two times the irradiation of Earth, respectively, placing them close to the inner edge of the habitable zone of the star. Their data suggest that 11 orbits remain possible for the third planet, the most likely resulting in irradiation significantly less than that received by Earth. The infrared brightness of the host star, combined with its Jupiter-like size, offers the possibility of thoroughly characterizing the components of this nearby planetary system.

Masses of host stars and equilibrium temperatures of known sub-Neptune-sized exoplanets.

Nature - Temperate Earth-sized planets transiting a nearby ultracool dwarf star

Hoverboard flies over a mile and another inventor makes a homemade Hoverbike

Franky Zapata crushed the old world record of 905ft for the farthest hoverboard flight. The Flyboard Air inventor set the record Saturday in France, riding his hoverboard over 7,388 feet

The flyboard air has four turbo engines on the board, two more are on the sides for stabilization. Each engine has 250 horsepower. Flyboard Air has about 1,000 horsepower in total.

The flyboard air can go as high as 10,000ft (3.3km) with speed around 150 kilometers per hour (93mph), with no wings or autorotation to bring them down softly they are reliant on the thrust that they produce. The flyboard air took two years to create the great turbo reactors, and to create the algorithms to stabilize the Flyboard. First flight was March 2016. On April 30, 2016, Zapata broke the Guinness World Record for the farthest flight by hoverboard, which had been set by Alexandru Duru in August of 2014 at 275.9 m. Zapata's distance was 2,252.4 meters (7,389.76 ft), at speeds reported to be up to 55 km/h for 3 minutes and 55 seconds.

It is impossible to ride it before you have a minimum of 50 or 100 hours in the original Flyboard with water.

they have finished the research and development on a new project that will use the same kind of board and the same kind of technology for the stabilization, but it will be much easier for the general public, and also certainly for the army, or for security, so they have something for this. They can use the technology to maybe change the way that people travel, hopefully.

The general public version will be something you can sit on. It will be easier to fly.
Patents have not yet been filed.

Another inventor made a hoverbike

Spacex Falcon 9 launch payload increased by 73% to 22,800 kilograms

Spacex updated its website information on the payload that can be launched by the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy.

The Falcon 9 rocket is now rated for 22,800 kg (50,265 lb) into low earth orbit versus old data at 13,150 kg (28,990 lb). The Falcon Heavy has also been given an increased payload for missions to low-earth orbit, jumping by 1,300 kg (3,085 lb) to 54,400 kg (119,930 lb).

The Falcon Heavy shows an increased payload for missions to low-earth orbit. Payload rating is increased by 1,300 kg (3,085 lb) to 54,400 kg (119,930 lb).

The increased payload capacities came about because the Merlin engines are proving tougher than first expected in testing, allowing the team to increase launch thrust

May 01, 2016

Google DeepMind analyzing more UK medical data and providing predictive analytics services to hospitals

A data-sharing agreement between Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind and the Royal Free NHS Trust – gives the clearest picture yet of what the company is doing and what sensitive data it now has access to.

The agreement gives DeepMind access to a wide range of healthcare data on the 1.6 million patients who pass through three London hospitals run by the Royal Free NHS Trust – Barnet, Chase Farm and the Royal Free – each year. This will include information about people who are HIV-positive, for instance, as well as details of drug overdoses and abortions. The agreement also includes access to patient data from the last five years.

DeepMind announced in February that it was working with the NHS, saying it was building an app called Streams to help hospital staff monitor patients with kidney disease. But the agreement suggests that it has plans for a lot more.

This is the first we’ve heard of DeepMind getting access to historical medical records, says Sam Smith, who runs health data privacy group MedConfidential. “This is not just about kidney function. They’re getting the full data.”

The agreement clearly states that Google cannot use the data in any other part of its business. The data itself will be stored in the UK by a third party contracted by Google, not in DeepMind’s offices. DeepMind is also obliged to delete its copy of the data when the agreement expires at the end of September 2017.

Google says that since there is no separate dataset for people with kidney conditions, it needs access to all of the data in order to run Streams effectively. In a statement, the Royal Free NHS Trust says that it “provides DeepMind with NHS patient data in accordance with strict information governance rules and for the purpose of direct clinical care only.”

Still, some are likely to be concerned by the amount of information being made available to Google. It includes logs of day-to-day hospital activity, such as records of the location and status of patients – as well as who visits them and when. The hospitals will also share the results of certain pathology and radiology tests.

As well as receiving this continuous stream of new data, DeepMind has access to the historical data that the Royal Free trust submits to the Secondary User Service (SUS) database – the NHS’s centralized record of all hospital treatments in the UK. This includes data from critical care and accident and emergency departments.

The document also reveals that DeepMind is developing a platform called Patient Rescue, which will provide data analytics services to NHS hospital trusts. It states that Patient Rescue will use data streams from hospitals to build other tools, in addition to Streams, that could carry out real-time analysis of clinical data and support diagnostic decisions. One aim, the agreement says, is for these tools to help medical staff adhere to the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines.

DeepMind is not planning to automate clinical decisions – such as what treatments to give patients – but says it wants to support doctors by making predictions based on data that is too broad in scope for an individual to take in

Comparing a new patient’s information with millions of other cases, Patient Rescue might be able to predict that they are in the early stages of a disease that has not yet become symptomatic, for example. Doctors could then run tests to see if the prediction is correct.

Technological advances enable nuclear reactors to be constantly updated for indefinite operations

Age is no barrier to prolonging the operation of nuclear power plants thanks to technological advances that could not have been predicted by reactor designers working decades ago. That was the conclusion of nuclear industry leaders at a conference hosted recently by EDF Energy and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) in London.

Commonly referred to as 'life extension' - the practice of upgrading existing units to add years to their productivity - is therefore better described as "recovering safety margin", said Duncan Hawthorne, president and CEO of Bruce Power. Hawthorne, who has led the Canadian nuclear power plant operator since its formation in 2001, said: "Every one of us that works in this industry today is kind of standing on the shoulders of giants. The people who designed the Generation II reactors did so without the benefit of very much operational experience; less than 100 years of reactor opex was available for these plants. So I never talk about life extension, but rather about recovery of safety margin."

Those "stalwarts of our industry" were working without computers, animation and 3-D stress analysis, he said. "Not surprisingly, they chose to apply conservatisms to their designs to acknowledge what they didn't know and to recognise that some of the material properties were covered by assumptions."

Today, the industry has more than 12,000 reactor years of experience to reply upon, along with a "massive quantum of analysis", he said. "Intergranular stress corrosion cracking wasn't even talked about when these plants were built and yet every one of us has to deal with it now in some form or other. As an industry we've learned how important it is to do good preventative maintenance programs, to have an asset-led management plan and to think of all those components."

Nuclear plant operators today can also inspect reactors using multiple phased array ultrasonic detectors. "We can use so many more data calculations to come up with proper analysis of what really is the life-limiting factor," said Hawthorne, who served as chair of WANO's Atlanta Centre and, until recently, was president of WANO's governing board. On 1 May, he will become CEO of Horizon Nuclear Power, the wholly owned UK subsidiary of Japan's Hitachi.

Composite fiber reinforced concrete donuts can be used to repair quake damaged bridges in days instead of weeks

In an earthquake, a bridge is designed to take the brunt of the damage at the top and bottom of the vertical columns where they meet the foundation and the horizontal beams. If a bridge survives from collapsing but the columns are damaged, it is likely too unstable to be driven over. And if several of the steel rebar in the columns have snapped, the bridge likely cannot be repaired at all and must be torn down.

But if the columns can be repaired, engineers typically chip away at the concrete, replace any bent rebar and steel hoops inside and then pour new concrete into a steel cast that's built around the column. That's a lengthy process that leaves the bridge unusable for weeks until the repair is finished.

Pantelides' quicker and more cost-effective process involves creating concrete donuts known as "repairs" that are lined with a composite fiber material built around the bottom and top of each column. The material is a carbon fiber-reinforced polymer made of fibers and resin that is stronger than concrete and steel.

University of Utah civil and environmental professor Chris Pantelides stands next to a donut-sized "repair" he and a team of researchers designed that can fix a damaged column on a bridge. The repair -- a black concrete donut surrounding the ends of the column and wrapped with a composite fiber material -- can be deployed on bridges damaged in an earthquake much more quickly than through the standard procedure. CREDIT University of Utah College of Engineering

DARPA holographic imaging so soldiers can 'see' around corners, behind walls

Researchers from SMU's Lyle School of Engineering will lead a multi-university team funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to build a theoretical framework for creating a computer-generated image of an object hidden from sight around a corner or behind a wall.

The core of the proposal is to develop a computer algorithm to unscramble the light that bounces off irregular surfaces to create a holographic image of hidden objects.

"This will allow us to build a 3-D representation - a hologram - of something that is out of view," said Marc Christensen, dean of the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering at SMU and principal investigator for the project.
Researchers from SMU's Lyle School of Engineering will lead a multi-university team funded by DARPA to build a theoretical framework for creating a computer-generated image of an object hidden from sight around a corner or behind a wall. The proposal is to develop a computer algorithm to unscramble light that bounces off irregular surfaces to create a holographic image of hidden objects. CREDIT SMU Lyle School of Engineering

Diet and other factors change the bacteria composition in our bodies which changes our health

The Flemish Gut Flora Project, one of the largest population-wide studies on gut flora variation among healthy volunteers, has presented its first major results. Through the analysis of more than 1,000 human stool samples, a team of researchers led by professor Jeroen Raes (VIB/VUB/KU Leuven) has identified 69 factors that are linked to gut flora composition. These results provide important information for future disease research and clinical studies. The project's fundamental insights will be published in the upcoming issue of the leading academic journal Science.

2012 marked the launch of the Flemish Gut Flora Project, initiated by prof. Jeroen Raes (VIB/VUB/KU Leuven). Together with his team, prof. Raes aimed at the ambitious task of mapping the gut flora composition of around 5,000 volunteers in Flanders (Belgium). The purpose of this endeavor was to investigate links between the human gut flora and health, diet, and lifestyle.

Prof. Raes' study has identified 69 factors associated with gut flora composition and diversity. Most of these covariates are related to transit time, health, diet, medication, gender, and age. Integration of the Flemish Gut Flora Project results with other data sets gathered around the world revealed a set of 14 bacterial genera that make up a universal core microbiota present in all individuals.

Beer and buttermilk

Stool transit time showed the strongest association to gut flora composition. Also diet was an important factor, with most associations related to fiber consumption. One of the many surprising findings was the association of a particular bacterial group with a preference for dark chocolate! "The Belgian chocolate effect.", Raes laughs. "As many readers might expect, we also found an association between gut flora composition and beer consumption." Other project results incite deeper investigation, such as the relationship between the gut flora and factors linked to oxygen uptake capacity. Medication also had a strong link to the gut flora profile. The Raes Lab researchers not only identified associations with antibiotics and laxatives, but also with hay fever drugs and hormones used for anticonception or alleviation of menopause symptoms. Remarkably, early life events such as birth mode or whether or not volunteers were breast-fed as babies were not reflected in adult microbiota composition.

Tip of the iceberg

Although the Flemish Gut Flora Project has enormously enriched our knowledge on gut flora composition, it only allowed to explain 7% of gut flora variation. An enormous amount of work still needs to be done in order to sketch out the entire gut flora ecosystem. The Raes Lab estimates that around 40,000 human samples will be required just to capture a complete picture of gut flora biodiversity. In other words: we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. And although the VIB team revealed a wide range of associations, further research is required to unveil what is cause and what is consequence.

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