April 21, 2015

Supervoid 1.8 billion light years across match cold spot billion light years across in the Cosmic Background radiation

In 2004, astronomers examining a map of the radiation leftover from the Big Bang (the cosmic microwave background, or CMB) discovered the Cold Spot, a larger-than-expected unusually cold area of the sky. The physics surrounding the Big Bang theory predicts warmer and cooler spots of various sizes in the infant universe, but a spot this large and this cold was unexpected.

A mysterious large structure
Now, a team of astronomers led by Astronomer István Szapudi of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa may have found an explanation for the existence of the Cold Spot, which Szapudi says may be “the largest individual structure ever identified by humanity.”

If the Cold Spot originated from the Big Bang itself, it could be a rare sign of exotic physics that the standard cosmology (basically, the Big Bang theory and related physics) does not explain. If, however, it is caused by a foreground structure between Earth and the CMB, it would be a sign that there is an extremely rare large-scale structure in the mass distribution of the universe.

Using data from Hawaiʻi’s Pan-STARRS1 (PS1) telescope located on Haleakalā, Maui, and NASA’s Wide Field Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite, Szapudi’s team discovered a large supervoid, a vast region 1.8 billion light-years across, in which the density of galaxies is much lower than usual in the known universe.

Not a coincidence
While the existence of the supervoid and its expected effect on the CMB do not fully explain the Cold Spot, it is very unlikely that the supervoid and the Cold Spot at the same location are a coincidence. The team will continue its work using improved data from PS1 and from the Dark Energy Survey being conducted with a telescope in Chile to study the Cold Spot and supervoid, as well as another large void located near the constellation Draco.

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society by the Oxford University Press - Detection of a supervoid aligned with the cold spot of the cosmic microwave background

Russia printed mouse thyroid gland and are targeting a functioning bioprinted kidney in 2018

Skolkovo biomed cluster resident 3D Bioprinting Solutions has announced the successful printing of a mouse's thyroid gland. 3d Bioprinting Solutions is targeting functional printed kidney scheduled for 2018.

If confirmed, it would reportedly be the world's first synthetic construction of a complete, transplantable living organ.

"This is undoubtedly a breakthrough in the world of regenerative medicine," said the bioprinter's developer Vladimir Mironov. "We have successfully demonstrated the possibilities of Russia's first bioprinter, and we're continuing our validation work, systematically testing and optimizing our technology for 3D organ bioprinting," he added.

The coming weeks will see Mironov's team attempt to transplant the organ - a matter of millimeters thick - into a mouse suffering from hyperthyroidism

April 20, 2015

3D printers are churning out made-to-order bones and rudimentary organs

The advent of three-dimensional (3D) printing has generated a swell of interest in artificial organs meant to replace, or even enhance, human machinery. Printed organs, such as a proto­type outer ear developed by researchers at Princeton University in New Jersey and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, was on the agenda at the Inside 3D Printing conference in New York on 15–17 April.

The ear is printed from a range of materials: a hydrogel to form an ear-shaped scaffold, cells that will grow to form cartilage, and silver nanoparticles to form an antenna.

Printed body parts brought in US$537 million last year, up about 30% on the previous year, says Terry Wohlers, president of Wohlers Associates, a business consultancy firm in Fort Collins, Colorado, that specializes in 3D printing.

Scientists are looking ahead to radical emerging technologies that use live cells as ‘ink’, assembling them layer-by-layer into rudimentary tissues, says Jennifer Lewis, a bioengineer at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Bioprinting firm Organovo of San Diego, California, already sells such tissues to researchers aiming to test experimental drugs for toxicity to liver cells. The company’s next step will be to provide printed tissue patches to repair damaged livers in humans, says Organovo’s chief executive, Keith Murphy.

Exoskeleton helps spinal injured walk and reactivates nerves in some

An exoskeleton that enables movement and provides tactile feedback has helped eight paralysed people regain sensation and move previously paralysed muscles.

People can spend a lifetime feeling disconnected from their lower body, and tend to receive less physical therapy as a result. Just over a third of the 12,500 people who experience a spinal cord injury every year in the US have complete injuries.

The Walk Again Project's results suggest that rehabilitation with an exoskeleton might offer a better future. Developed by a team of 156 people spanning the globe, the device reads the wearer's brain activity using an electrode cap. Activity patterns associated with the wearer's intention to move are translated into an electrical signal that moves the legs of the exoskeleton, allowing the person to walk.

The exoskeleton has another important feature: it provides tactile feedback to the wearer. A flexible bed of temperature, pressure and proximity sensors – what the team calls an artificial skin – lines the sole of each foot. When the wearer takes a step, a signal is relayed to their forearm, which is still able to feel sensations. "You are driving the exoskeleton by thinking about what you want to do, and you are getting instantaneous feedback from the surface on how you're walking and how you're moving in space," says Nicolelis.

Icy Tendrils Reaching into Saturn Ring traced to Enceldus water geysers

Long, sinuous, tendril-like structures seen in the vicinity of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus originate directly from geysers erupting from its surface, according to scientists studying images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

This result is published online today in a study in the Astronomical Journal, along with additional insights into the nature of the structures.

"We've been able to show that each unique tendril structure can be reproduced by particular sets of geysers on the moon's surface," said Colin Mitchell, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and lead author of the paper. Mitchell and colleagues used computer simulations to follow the trajectories of

ice grains ejected from individual geysers. The geysers, which were discovered by Cassini in 2005, are jets of tiny water ice particles, water vapor and simple organic compounds.

Under certain lighting conditions, Cassini's wide-view images showing icy material erupting from Enceladus reveal faint, finger-like features, dubbed "tendrils" by the imaging team. The tendrils reach into Saturn's E ring -- the ring in which Enceladus orbits -- extending tens of thousands of miles (or kilometers) away from the moon. Since the tendrils were discovered, scientists have thought they were the result of the moon's geysering activity and the means by which Enceladus supplies material to the E ring. But the ghostly features had never before been traced directly to geysers on the surface.

This collage of Cassini spacecraft images and computer simulations shows how long, sinuous features from Enceladus can be modeled by tracing the trajectories of tiny, icy grains ejected from the moon's south polar geysers.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Siemens and Emrax claim best power to weight ratio for electric motors in the 5 to 10 kilowatt per kg range

Siemens researchers have developed a new type of electric motor that, with a weight of just 50 kilograms, delivers a continuous output of about 260 kilowatts – five times more than comparable drive systems. The motor has been specially designed for use in aircraft. Thanks to its record-setting power-to-weight ratio, larger aircraft with takeoff weights of up to two tons will now be able to use electric drives for the first time. To implement the world-record motor, Siemens' experts scrutinized all the components of previous motors and optimized them up to their technical limits. New simulation techniques and sophisticated lightweight construction enabled the drive system to achieve a unique weight-to-performance ratio of five kilowatts (kW) per kilogram (kg). The electric motors of comparable strength that are used in industrial applications deliver less than one kW per kg. The performance of the drive systems used in electric vehicles is about two kW per kg. Since the new motor delivers its record-setting performance at rotational speeds of just 2,500 revolutions per minute, it can drive propellers directly, without the use of a transmission.

The key to electric plane performance is still the energy density of the batteries or other power storage. The weight of the batteries tends to outweight the motor by about one hundred to one.

Industrial electric motors used in heavy machinery that produce less than 1 kW per kilogram, or even to more efficient electric motors for vehicles that generate around 2 kW per kilogram.

Emrax electric motors claim about 8 to 10 KW per kg. It would be interesting to know if all power and weight metrics are being consistently specified.

EMRAX motor is a completely new type of pancake axial flux brushless synchronous three phase AC (Alternating Current) electric motor. It can also work as a generator - technical data are the same - either EMRAX is used as a motor or as a generator.

March 2015: Prototype EMRAX 348 is cooming (1200 Nm /350 kW at 3000 RPM, weight 42 kg, diameter 348 mm, length 107 mm, IP65). First prototype will be ready for testing in next few months. Also we are preparing documentation for EMRAX 348T, which can deliver power 600 kW, torque 2400 Nm, weight 70 kg, dimensions: dia 348 mm length 170 mm.

Here is an Emrax electric motor manual

Here are some tables of power to weight ratio for non-electric and electric motors

China will sign road, rail and energy projects with Pakistan that will alter trade and geopolitics in the region

China's President Xi Jinping is on a two-day visit to Pakistan, where he is expected to announce investment of $46bn (£30.7bn).

The focus of spending is on building a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) - a network of roads, railway and pipelines between the long-time allies.

They will run some 3,000km (1,865 miles) from Gwadar in Pakistan to China's western Xinjiang region.
The projects will give China direct access to the Indian Ocean and beyond.

This marks a major advance in China's plans to boost its economic influence in Central and South Asia, correspondents say, and far exceeds US spending in Pakistan.

China plans to inject some $46bn - just a little less than three times the entire foreign direct investment Pakistan has received since 2008. Many say Mr Sharif's penchant for "thinking big" and China's increasing need to control maritime trade routes may well combine to pull off an economic miracle in Pakistan over the next four years, when Pakistani officials say most of the projects being finalised today will be well under way.

The CPEC corridor will serve as a primary gateway for trade between China and the Middle East and Africa. In particular oil from the Middle East could be offloaded at Gwadar, which is located just outside the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and transported to China through the Baluchistan province in Pakistan. Such a link would vastly cut the 12,000-kilometre route that Mideast oil supplies must now take to reach Chinese ports

US Air Force confirms hypersonic SABRE engine is feasible

An analysis undertaken by the United States’ Air Force Research Laboratory (‘AFRL’) has confirmed the feasibility of the Reaction Engines Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (‘SABRE’) engine cycle concept. Reaction Engines is famous for their Skylon Spaceplane single stage to orbit design and the Mach 5 Lapcat A2 commercial hypersonic passenger plane design.

Reaction Engines Ltd ('REL') is a privately held company located in the United Kingdom and was formed in 1989 to develop the technologies needed for an advanced combined cycle air-breathing rocket engine class called SABRE that will enable aircraft to operate easily at speeds of up to five times the speed of sound or fly directly into Earth orbit.

They have achieved a breakthrough in aerospace engine technology by developing ultra-lightweight heat exchangers 100 times lighter than existing technologies that allow the cooling of very hot airstreams from over 1,000 °C to minus 150 °C in less than one hundredth of a second.

Reaction Engines' technology has undergone extensive independent technical assessments, undertaken by the European Space Agency at the request of the UK Government, which have confirmed the viability of the engine technology and its vehicle applications.

The analysis was undertaken by AFRL as part of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (‘CRADA’) with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Aerospace Systems Directorate (AFRL/RQ). These investigations examined the thermodynamic cycle of the SABRE concept and found no significant barrier to its theoretical viability provided the engine component and integration challenges are met.

Reaction Engines Ltd. (REL) and AFRL are now formulating plans for continued collaboration on the SABRE engine; the proposed work will include investigation of vehicle concepts based on a SABRE derived propulsion system, testing of SABRE engine components and exploration of defence applications for Reaction Engines’ heat exchanger technologies.

Nextbigfuture had an interview by Sander Olson with Richard Varvill, the Technical Director and Chief Designer at Reaction Engines Limited back in 2009.

April 19, 2015

Ocean floor submarines could hide forever like a Titanic wreck that actively evades detection

Today's submarines are link blimps in the ocean. They float high over the sea floor. Dr Robert Ballard proposes submarines that hide on the ocean floor.
Modern nuclear attack submarines like the American Seawolf class are estimated to have a test depth of 490 meters (1,600 ft), which would imply (see above) a collapse depth of 730 meters (2,400 ft). Each 10 metres (33 feet) of depth puts another atmosphere (1 bar, 14.7 psi, 100 kPa) of pressure on the hull, so at 300 metres (1,000 feet), the hull is withstanding thirty atmospheres (30 bar, 441 psi, 3,000 kPa) of water pressure. World War II German U-boats generally had collapse depths in the range of 200 to 280 metres (660 to 920 feet).

The average ocean depth is 2.65 miles (14,000 feet).

In 1984, Dr Robert Ballard demonstrated the ability to operate on the ocean floor during a two-week exploration near Iceland's Reykjanes Ridge. He took the Navy's deep-sea research submarine, the NR-1, down 3,000 feet and drove it around volcanic peaks; he even hid in the occasional lava tube. At the time, the NR-1 was the Navy's largest deep-sea research submarine and its smallest nuclear sub. At a length of 150 feet and 400 tons, it could support a crew of 13 for up to a month. But most importantly, the NR-1 had retractable wheels and portals. The wheels allowed the NR-1 to roll along the seafloor. The portals allowed the sub drivers to see where the hell they were going.

In a complex, jumbled terrain with rocks, mountains, and canyons, the sound waves get so jumbled up that it's impossible to make any sense of the sounds that come back.

Navies also use very sensitive magnetic detectors to locate the giant, metallic mass of the submarine as it moves underwater. But this method is less effective in some kinds of seafloor terrain. For example, near basaltic rocks, which interfere with even simple compasses and create downright havoc with sensitive magnetic sub-hunting gear.

Between the jumbled sonar and the magnetic interference of the ocean floor, it can be very hard to find something hiding in the seafloor terrain. Ballard illustrated this point clearly when he dared the Navy to find him while he was tooling around on the Reykjanes Ridge in the NR-1. Two weeks of searching later, the Navy had no clue where he was.

Bionic Ants, Robotic Butterflies and robotic chameleon tongue grippers

Germany-based automation company Festo is making bionic ants. These are artificial ant units that move together under clear rules. They are showing off their cooperative behavior for doing tasks and working as an overall networked system. The company named their creations BionicANTs, to also stand for Autonomous Networking Technologies. The company sees them suitable as development platforms for new technologies and production methods.

BionicANTs – cooperation based on the behaviour of ants

The technology carrier BionicANTs uses the cooperative behaviour of ants as a model. Engineers from Festo used complex regulation algorithms to transfer the behaviour of these insects to the world of technology: just like their models from nature, the BionicANTs cooperate in accordance with clearly defined rules. This enables the BionicANTs to react autonomously to different situations as individual units, to coordinate their behaviour with each other and to act as a networked overall system. By pushing and pulling in a coordinated manner, they shift loads that one ant could not move alone. All actions are based on a distributed catalogue of rules that was devised in advance by means of mathematical model-building and simulations and is programmed into each ant. The individual insects are thus able to make decisions autonomously, while nevertheless subordinating themselves to the common aim; each ant thus contributes its share to solving the task at hand.

The required exchange of information between the ants is effected via the radio modules in their torsos. The regulation strategy comprises a multi-agent system, in which the participants have equal rights. With the 3D stereo camera in their heads, the ants recognise an object to be grasped and can determine their own locations. The BionicANTs’ cooperative behaviour and decentralised intelligence open up interesting prospects for the factory of tomorrow. Future production systems will be based on intelligent components that can flexibly adapt to different production scenarios and process orders from the superordinate control level.

Kuangchi Science has 52% stake in Jetpack company and is making internet blimps to compete with Google Loon

Martin Aircraft, the jetpack company, raised $27 million by issuing shares in the company, most of which were taken up by China-based investor KuangChi Science.

The Shenzhen-based Kuang-Chi Institute of Advanced Technology has a 52 per cent stake in Martin Aircraft.

The funds raised by the listing will go toward a commercial jetpack planned for the second quarter of 2016.

The US Department of Homeland Security intends to take the product, which can fly for 30 minutes with a 30-kilometre range at speeds of up to 74 kilometres per hour.

Martin Aircraft (ASX: MJP) listed on the ASX less than two months ago. Within its first two weeks as a publicly listed company, the stock surged as much as 687.5% to $3.15, but has since come back down to earth to trade at 95 cents (A$233 million valuation).

Liu and his team at Kuang-Chi Science – a firm founded in 2010 – are also interested in developing cutting-edge aerospace technology and metamaterials (synthetic materials with properties not found in nature).

Startup Ninebot with Smartphone Giant Xiaomi backing buys Segway for alternative transportation unification

Segway Inc., the developer of two-wheeled, electric-powered people movers, was acquired by China-based competitor Ninebot Inc.

After allying with Segway, Ninebot will use electric driving, mobile Internet and man-machine interaction technologies for future products, Gao Lufeng, Ninebot chief executive officer, said at a press conference in Beijing. The companies didn’t disclose terms of the April 1 transaction.

The announcement came after Xiaomi Corp., the Beijing-based smartphone maker that owns part of Ninebot, joined in an $80 million funding round for Ninebot that included Sequoia Capital and the Shunwei Foundation. Ninebot began two years ago as a crowd-funded project and its products are now available in more than 38 countries, with production facilities in China, according to its website.

The China-based company also makes a single-wheeled device called the Ninebot One. In the U.S., the Ninebot sells for $3,199, while the Ninebot One can be purchased for $850, according to the company’s website.

Xiaomi, China’s largest smartphone maker, is expanding into web-enabled smart home devices and consumer electronics by taking stakes in other startups. The company has backed 27 such companies under plans to invest in as many as 100, Xiaomi Chief Executive Officer Lei Jun has said.

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