November 13, 2010

Interconnecting Gold Islands with DNA Origami Nanotubes

Nanoletters - Interconnecting Gold Islands with DNA Origami Nanotubes

Scaffolded DNA origami has recently emerged as a versatile, programmable method to fold DNA into arbitrarily shaped nanostructures that are spatially addressable, with sub-10-nm resolution. Toward functional DNA nanotechnology, one of the key challenges is to integrate the bottom-up self-assembly of DNA origami with the top-down lithographic methods used to generate surface patterning. In this report we demonstrate that fixed length DNA origami nanotubes, modified with multiple thiol groups near both ends, can be used to connect surface patterned gold islands (tens of nanometers in diameter) fabricated by electron beam lithography (EBL). Atomic force microscopic imaging verified that the DNA origami nanotubes can be efficiently aligned between gold islands with various interisland distances and relative locations. This development represents progress toward the goal of bridging bottom-up and top-down assembly approaches.

Morgan Stanley has a detailed projection of growth in Chinese consumption through 2020

Morgan Stanley has a series of reports under the umbrella Chinese Economy through 2020. Their base case scenario is that China's total consumption will equal two-thirds that of the US level and account for about 12% of the world total by 2020. China’s economy will be driven more by consumption than production in 10 years due to the support of the six factors: demographics, urbanization, infrastructure, social security, education and consumer finance. Lou Gang, a strategist with Morgan Stanley China said there is still room for further improvement of infrastructure, such as high-speed railway, ultrahigh voltage(UHV)) grid and pollutant drainage equipment, in addition to China’s massive investment on infrastructure in recent years. Meanwhile, with the progress and reform of the pension, health care and education systems along with the further construction of a social safety net, China's enormous deposits held by residents will be released and give an unprecedented push to consumption. China's urbanization will rise from 47 percent to 63 percent. According to the report, Morgan Stanley believes that driven by the urbanization process, China will see its fixed asset investment double and its consumption triple by 2020, making 14 percent of the world’s GDP.

In the first, we argued that China's economic growth rate potential is set to slow but should nevertheless average 8% per annum through 2020, with a profound structural evolution that leads to rising shares of consumption-GDP, service sector-GDP, and labor income-GDP (see Chinese Economy through 2020: Not Whether but How Growth Will Decelerate, September 20, 2010).

In the second installment (Chinese Economy through 2002 (Part 2): Labor Supply to Remain Abundant, October 10, 2010), we made the case that China will continue to benefit from a low demographic dependency ratio and abundant labor supply through 2020. The expected deceleration in the growth of the working-age population is unlikely to become a headwind to overall economic expansion in China.

This third report aims to assess how consumption will take off over the next decade as a driver of growth. We make the following key points:

Ice Lithography for Nanodevices

Nanoletters - Ice Lithography for Nanodevices

We report the successful application of a new approach, ice lithography (IL), to fabricate nanoscale devices. The entire IL process takes place inside a modified scanning electron microscope (SEM), where a vapor-deposited film of water ice serves as a resist for e-beam lithography, greatly simplifying and streamlining device fabrication. We show that labile nanostructures such as carbon nanotubes can be safely imaged in an SEM when coated in ice. The ice film is patterned at high e-beam intensity and serves as a mask for lift-off without the device degradation and contamination associated with e-beam imaging and polymer resist residues. We demonstrate the IL preparation of carbon nanotube field effect transistors with high-quality trans-conductance properties.

The team is now trying to improve the process by making 3D nanodevices and adding etching clusters during fabrication. "We also need to better understand the detailed mechanisms behind ice lithography, about which we know very little."

11 page pdf

Supporting information

IEEE Spectrum also has coverage that ice lithography on the nanoscale moves up a notch in complexity

Rice University lab finds table sugar, metallic sheets produce pristine graphene in one step

Rice researchers have learned to make pristine sheets of graphene, the one-atom-thick form of carbon, from plain table sugar and other carbon-based substances. They do so in a one-step process at temperatures low enough to make graphene easy to manufacture.

The lab of Rice chemist James Tour reported in the online version of the journal Nature this week that large-area, high-quality graphene can be grown from a number of carbon sources at temperatures as low as 800 degrees Celsius (1,472 F). As hot as that may seem, the difference between running a furnace at 800 and 1,000 degrees Celsius is significant, Tour said.

Canada's uranium production is up

Cameco produces most of Canada's uranium

* Cameco's uranium production rises 17% year to date, average unit cost of production decreases 13%
* 2010 uranium production forecast increases to 22 million pounds
* Cigar Lake on track
* Cameco is on track to double annual uranium production from existing assets by 2018

November 12, 2010

Carnival of nuclear energy 27

1. Craig Piercy and Corey McDaniel of the American Nuclear Society make the case for active engagement by the United States to facilitate the global nuclear renaissance as a major supplier of safer, more proliferation-resistant nuclear technology. The U.S. cannot stop the global nuclear renaissance. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) guarantees that all signing nations have the right to enjoy the peaceful benefits of nuclear energy technology. Other countries are clearly determined to tap the increasingly internationalized nuclear marketplace to expand nuclear generation capabilities with or without U.S. participation. Unlike 40 years ago, today the U.S. only controls whether there will be a renaissance in the U.S.—not the rest of the world.

It is critically important that members of the U.S. Congress realize that the fundamental policy choice facing them is no longer simply about nuclear energy as a domestic clean energy option. Nuclear energy is now a national security imperative for the United States.

North Dakota Oil Production 341384 Barrels per day in September and companies are buying up land in Alberta Bakken

1. North Dakota set an oil production record for the each of the first eight out of nine months of the year in 2010. North Dakota Oil Production 341384 Barrels per day in September 2010.

North Dakota is close to double the production from two years ago.

2. There is another new shale oil play that is getting ready to explode onto investors’ radar early in 2011 – the Alberta Bakken.

Located on either side of the Alberta/Montana border, the key land packages in this play have been assembled with very little news or fanfare – but by some very smart and successful companies, like Crescent Point (CSCTF.PK) in Canada, and Rosetta Resources (ROSE) , Newfield Exploration (NFX) and Murphy Oil (MUR).

Videos of rapid multistory building construction in China

Ark Hotel Construction time lapse building 15 stories in 2 days for the metal strucure and another 4 days for the skin of the building and rapid construction of the Broad Pavillion at the Shanghai expo

China's National Development and Reform Commission Says new nuclear capacity target is 112 Gigawatts for 2020

China plans to increase nuclear power capacity to 112 gigawatts (gW) by 2020, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

Rod Adams, atomic insights notes - If you look back into history, you will find an example of a country with a population (203 million) that was about 15% of China's current population that managed to complete more than 100 large nuclear plants in about 20 years. The GDP PPP was 3.6 trillion in year 2000 dollar equivalents. The US economy was 3 to 4 times smaller than the chinese economy now and on a per capita basis were making three times more than people in China now. The early US reactors had small staff that came from coal plants.

Big Rock Point, fifth US nuclear reactor, operated from the mid-sixties to the mid-nineties. In April 1960, Hausler, assistant manager of a Consumers’ coal plant, was offered the position of manager of the new plant. He recalls, "Practically all the staff was from coal plants. We had a nuclear engineer and health physics supervisor, but no one else had any nuclear background. Some of us went through a postgraduate type class at the University of Michigan during the summer of 1960, learning reactor theory and getting hands-on experience on the university’s reactor." Other workers took similar courses at a junior college. Some also went to training offered by General Electric in California and to Dresden Station Unit 1 and Yankee Rowe for additional experience.

Pat Donnelly, now on loan to the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, was named plant manager in 1993. He recalls, "When I came to the plant as an auxiliary operator in 1969, there were 49 people, one secretary, no copy machines and no security

Nuclear power may make up 7 percent of the China's 1,600 gW electricity generation capacity by then, Geng Zhicheng, senior researcher at NDRC's Energy Research Institute, said at a conference in Beijing on Monday.

China's economy could pass the United States in 2012 based on purchasing power parity

The Conference Board said it is conceivable that with the current forecasts for rates of growth, China’s GDP (purchasing power parity) could surpass the U.S.’s by 2012.

The most recent IMF forecast of GDP (Purchasing power parity) is that China would pass the USA in about 2016. However, the IMF forecast had the US economy growing by 23% from 2010 to 2015. The conference board is calculating a lower GDP PPP for the USA and a higher GDP PPP for China versus the IMF numbers even for 2009.

Here is a summary of key results of the conference board global forecast to 2020

The conference board PPP-adjusted GDP figure for China’s GDP for 2009 is $11.6 trillion, while the nominal figure offered by the International Monetary Fund and others for that year has been more along the lines of $5 trillion.

Barrons has the conference board projections

GDP (constant) in millions US$, ppp-adj 
        United States  China
2000  12,219,604  4,337,325
2001  12,351,532  4,800,704
2002  12,575,547  5,396,402
2003  12,888,712  6,213,749
2004  13,349,260  6,841,338
2005  13,757,016  7,552,836
2006  14,124,714  8,511,474
2007  14,399,780  9,719,364
2008  14,399,670  10,651,923
2009 *  14,020,652  11,621,248
2010  14,385,189  12,783,373
2011  14,557,812  14,009,231
2012  14,848,532  15,286,673
2013  15,145,057  16,680,600
2014  15,447,505  18,201,634
2015  15,755,992  19,861,363
2016  16,151,298  21,434,069
2017  16,556,522  23,131,309
2018  16,971,913  24,962,943
2019  17,397,725  26,939,613
2020  17,834,221  29,072,804

Performance efficiency of IBM Aquasar water cooled computer, Fujitsu petaflop computer and Nvidia planned GPGPUs

BBC news reports on IBMs plans for its Aquasar water cooled computer chips. IBM wants to make a sugar cube supercomputer processor with many water cooled layers.

It takes about 1,000 times more energy to move a data byte around than it does to do a computation with it once it arrives. What is more, the time taken to complete a computation is currently limited by how long it takes to do the moving.

Air cooling can go some way to removing this heat, which is why many desktop computers have fans inside. But a given volume of water can hold 4,000 times more waste heat than air.

Until recently, the supercomputer at the top of that list could do about 770 million computational operations at a cost of one watt of power. The Aquasar prototype clocked up nearly half again as much, at 1.1 billion operations. Now the task is to shrink it.

Japan's next-generation Supercomputer (under construction and expected operation in 2012) will use the ultra-high-speed SPARC64™ VIIIfx processor developed by Fujitsu. Each of these processors possesses a computational performance of 128 gigaflops, and has a degree of reliability inherited from Fujitsu's mainframe technology. The CPUs are also highly energy efficient, with a world-class processing power of 2.2 gigaflops per watt, a reduction of power consumption by 2/3 compared to previous levels.

How much sustained GDP growth can a developed country have ?

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics dense plasma focus fusion has October progress report

Experiments this month gave further confirmation of our basic theoretical model of the DPF (Dense Plasma Focus). ICCD images showed the pinched filament kinking into a plasmoid and gave us clearer estimates of the plasmoid radius and density. X-ray emission energy continues to increase, giving us more confidence for our spin-off X-ray generator applications. Our replacement trigger heads were completed and tested, making us ready to return to 12-capacitor firing. Aaron Blake and Derek Shannon are joining the LPP team full time.

For the first time, LPP have captured images of the kinking process that leads from the pinched filament column to the formation of the plasmoid. This process, portrayed in the Focus Fusion Society animation of DPF functioning, is critical to our theoretical understanding of how the plasma in the pinch region gets further concentrated into the donut-like plasmoid.

X-ray energies continue to increase to hundreds of keV. Shots taken at the end of October have shown very high X-ray energies. LPP can’t yet say precisely how hot the electrons producing the X-rays are, but it is clear that the typical X-rays emitted must have energies of around 150 keV, with large fractions at 200-300 keV, above the minimum goals we have set for our spin-off X-ray inspection application. The total amount of X-rays emitted (tens of mJ) are still far short of the goals for this application, and more data will be needed to get a precise measurement of the X-ray spectrum and the electron energy distribution, but we are excited about the progress thus far.

November 11, 2010

Achieving the next level of economic growth rate will take more than a manufacturing revolution

Robin Hanson is an economist who has written about the economics of technological singularities.

I will summarize some of his writings and my own about achieving higher levels of economic growth. There are several projects from DARPA and Airbus which could revolutionize manufacturing. A construction revolution is possible with Contour crafting (printing buildings with concrete printers). The manufacturing revolution and construction would not speed up economic growth like the move from Farming to early industry. For any economy wide speed up in economic growth and to get full utilization out of these and other technologies (robotic cars, vacuum tube highspeed rail to enable a one city effect across a nation)

Societies have to be restructured to enable transitions to faster economic growth.
China used special economic development zones as part of transition from planned economies to market driven economies.

Having larger than city areas where the new rules and large scale economic experimentation is possible is something that will be needed.

Also, currently the US can only rebuild or add about 1-2% of its key infrastructure (like grid transformers, power plants) each year. China can add 5-10% each year to its infrastructure (5.2% annual energy growth).

In order to enable 20% or higher economic growth rates then a nation would need to be able to add 15-20% to power generation and infrastructure each year. Have the technical and project management capability is one factor but also the regulations and planning that could move at that pace would be needed as well.

Plus after you transitioned through your infrastructure rebuild and addition once, you would have the next revamp in infrastructure that would need to be done in parallel. Like a relay race, there would be overlap and handoff to next economy wide upgrade. China is going through a doubling of infrastructure and energy generation every 20 years and they are looking at accelerating the retirement of old infrastructure to about 40 years. If you were looking to grow two to three times faster than China then you would need to double infrastructure in 7-10 years and retire the old infrastructure in 15-20 years. This means that as you move into this that you can build with a shorter expected lifespan. An example of this good enough obsolescence, was in world war 2 when Russian tanks lasted about six months before they were destroyed by the Germans. There was no need for an engine that lasted 5 years. The Germans built far fewer very well made tanks. The germans needed to speed up and build good enough tanks.

Mode     Doubling   Date Began   Doubles  Doubles
Grows     Time (DT)  To Dominate  of DT    of WP
----------  ---------  -----------  ------   -------
Brain size   34M yrs    550M B.C.     ?       "~16"
Hunters     230K yrs   2000K B.C.    7.2       8.7
Farmers      860 yrs    4700 B.C.    8.1       7.5
??            58 yrs    1730         3.9       3.2
Industry      15 yrs    1903         1.9      >6.3   

Robin Hanson recently wrote about the need for more flexible laws to help smooth economic transitions to significantly faster growth.

Robin Hanson has described how unlimited automation would remove the limitations of human population from the growth equations.

I have previously considered what technology would be needed to achieve rates of economic growth beyond our current levels.

I have looked at the seeds of a new manufacturing revolution.

Computer modelling, city and national planning and regulations will all have to be adjusted to go as fast as new manufacturing and construction.

DARPA has the Adaptive Vehicle Make program

Adaptive Vehicle Make is a three pronged effort consisting of the META, Instant Foundry Adaptive through Bits (iFAB) and Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Combat Vehicle (FANG GCV) programs. Many components of the program leverage crowdsourcing and will be open source.

Instant Foundry Adaptive through Bits (iFAB) attempts to design a manufacturing facility that can fabricate vehicles and can be reconfigured to manufacture other systems. The facility would be capable of manufacturing the FANG vehicle

The Goal of META is to analyse interactions between components to verify designs without prototyping in order to shorten development times. META will create and compile a component library. A META set of language will be developed. META I began mid-2010 and last 15 months. META II begins in late 2010 and lasts 12 months. An infantry fighting vehicle library will be compiled in late 2011 and will continue for 1.5 years.

The Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Combat Vehicle (FANG GCV) attempts to crowdsource the design of the Army's GCV Infantry Fighting Vehicle culminating in an infantry fighting vehicle prototype. Participants will use the META metalanguage and have the option to use Vehicleforge

Specialized Blood Vessels Jumpstart and Sustain Organ Regeneration

In a pair of studies that has the potential to change the way researchers think about regenerative medicine, scientists have shown that a previously overlooked group of cells—the endothelial layer of blood vessels—is essential in helping adult stem cells multiply and revitalize damaged tissue.

Shahin Rafii says “To regenerate long-lasting liver, we may need to transplant hepatocytes with the properly activated endothelium, which produces the right growth factors for the hepatocytes to attach, grow, and connect with other parts of the liver.”

The endothelium is the innermost layer of blood vessels, made up of cells that had largely been assumed to function primarily as delivery vehicles for oxygen and nutrients. But earlier this year, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Shahin Rafii figured out that these endothelial cells also release growth factors that direct bone marrow stem cells to multiply and differentiate into different types of blood cells.

Boston Consulting Group examines seven alternative energy technologies

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) released a report called What’s Next for Alternative Energy? BCG examines the state of seven of the most significant alternative-energy technologies—advanced biofuels, electric vehicles (EVs), concentrated solar power (CSP), solar photovoltaic (PV), onshore wind, offshore wind, and clean coal through carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

Prospects were assessed in terms of three issues:

• Can it achieve cost competitiveness with conventional energy by 2020 and be economically viable without subsidies?

• Can it overcome barriers to rapid adoption once cost competitive?

• Can it reach penetration levels by 2025 that disrupt the status quo?

Write strategies for multiterabit per square inch scanned-probe phase-change memories

A mark-length write strategy for multiterabit per square inch scanned-probe memories is described that promises to increase the achievable user density by at least 50%, and potentially up to 100% or more, over conventional approaches. The new study shows how the density could be increased to 10 Tbit/in^2 or more. The viability of the write strategy has been demonstrated by experimental scanning probe write/read measurements on phase-change (GeSbTe) media. The advantages offered by adopting mark-length recording are likely to be equally applicable to other forms of scanned probe storage

World Energy in Exajoules by energy source from 1800 to 2008

Tennessee Valley Authority takes first step to build six mPower mini nuclear reactors

The Tennessee Valley Authority has taken the first step toward gaining regulatory approval to build up to six new mini-nuclear reactors on the site of the abandoned Clinch River Breeder Reactor in Oak Ridge

The federal utility "is evaluating the feasibility" of erecting two of the new Babcock & Wilcox-designed "mPower reactors" by 2020. Each of the new reactors would produce 125 megawatts of electricity -- about 10 percent as much as conventional reactors at TVA's other plants -- and could be built in controlled factory conditions to cut production costs and ensure construction quality.

The mPower reactor has been covered here

Rice University imaging agents inside silicon particles could improve MRI by 50 times

Scientists at Rice University and other Texas Medical Center institutions and colleagues in Colorado, Italy and Switzerland have discovered a way to trap contrast agents inside a silicon particle that, when injected into a patient's bloodstream, would make them up to 50 times more effective. Contrast agents "light up" damaged tissue in the body in images produced by MRI instruments.

In 2007, 28 million MRI scans were performed in the United States, and contrast agents were used in nearly 45 percent of them.

November 10, 2010

Preventing oil tanker piracy with anti-piracy weapons and tactics

Next Generation Oil and Gas covered the issue of piracy. The US-flagged container ship Maersk Alabama repelled an attack by suspected pirates off the northeast coast of Somalia. According to a statement from the US 5th Fleet, when a pirate skiff approached the ship, the security team on board responded with evasive maneuvers, and blasted them with Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) and small-arms fire. The pirates then broke off the attack.

Ships often need better radar to detect the small boats used by pirates.

Current ship-based radar systems are designed to prevent collisions at sea, or to detect threats from the sky.

Holographic radar is a non-scanning, continuously tracking 3D radar that provides persistent illumination of its field of view and can resolve and measure an object’s motion at fine scale, as well as its range and direction. It is currently being scaled up for use on wind farms to offer infill coverage for air traffic control and military surveillance radars, but if adapted appropriately for a marine surveillance application and placed at prominent points on a vessel’s superstructure, it would enable a crew to detect small boats and take evasive manoeuvres or trigger self-defence mechanisms to repel a pirate attack.

Piracy statistics released by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) point to a significant increase in attacks by pirates in the first nine months of 2008. According to a PRC press release, reported acts of piracy committed up to late October 2008 have included 115 vessels boarded, 31 vessels hijacked, and 23 vessels fired upon, seeing a total of 581 crew members taken hostage, nine kidnapped, nine killed and seven missing, presumed dead.

Fire hoses, robot boats and dazzle guns are other forms of anti-piracy devices that are more commonly used by other large vessels such as container ships, but oil tankers have cargo well worth protecting.

In November 2008, pirates hijacked the Saudi supertanker Sirius Star, which held 2 million barrels of oil valued at about $100 million. The tanker was released last January for a reported $3 million ransom after a two-month drama that helped galvanize international efforts to fight piracy off Africa's coast

Stem Cell Transplants in Mice Produce Lifelong Enhancement of Muscle Mass

A University of Colorado at Boulder-led study shows that specific types of stem cells transplanted into the leg muscles of mice prevented the loss of muscle function and mass that normally occurs with aging, a finding with potential uses in treating humans with chronic, degenerative muscle diseases.

The experiments showed that when young host mice with limb muscle injuries were injected with muscle stem cells from young donor mice, the cells not only repaired the injury within days, they caused the treated muscle to double in mass and sustain itself through the lifetime of the transplanted mice.

China Nuclear firms will list on stock exchanges and raise capital and rumor of new 2020 target of 117 GWe

China's three major nuclear power companies have all embarked on their listing plans as the country sees accelerated growth in the development of the clean energy. A senior research official at a conference in Beijing last week mentioned a new target of 117 112 GWe (gigawatts of electricity) from nuclear power for 2020. This is 21 GWe higher than even the highest 86 GWe old target. The official targets have been 8% of electricity for 2020 and 70-80 GWe.

UPDATE: China's national development and reform department said the 112 GWe 2020 target

Although the 8% target for China share of electricity from nuclear might calculate to 96-120 GWe based on 1400-1500 GWe of total electricity in 2020 China will have to continue to scale the nuclear construction supply chain.

Coal prices are expected to go up 12% next year. If that is a trend then China would hit the accelerator for even more nuclear reactor construction. China needs to have more staff and technical people trained.

The three major companies are China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPG), and State Nuclear Power Technology Corp (SNPTC), China Business News reported Tuesday, citing unnamed sources.

China yuan will rise faster as part of a grand bargain and a US Debt plan is floated

1. China is accelerating the yuan’s appreciation as part of the “grand bargain” to win U.S. support for Beijing to gain a bigger say at the International Monetary Fund, says Goldman Sachs Asset Management’s Jim O’Neill. The yuan will rise faster than the 3 percent traders are betting on in the non-deliverable forwards, according to O’Neill.

2. A presidential commission’s leaders proposed a $3.8 trillion deficit-cutting plan that would cut Social Security and Medicare, reduce income-tax rates and eliminate tax breaks including the mortgage-interest deduction.

Toro's managing director Greg Hall calls for Australian Uranium mining leadership

Toro's managing director Greg Hall says Kazakhstan currently produces 18,000 tonnes of uranium but Australia could produce 30,000 tonnes of the mineral by 2020. He is calling on anti-nuclear and anti-uranium groups as well as non government organisations to embrace uranium mining.

Kazatomprom has talked about uranium production targets of 26,000 tons or higher for 2020 Kazatomprom will produce 17,800 tons of uranium this year.

Wired Talks to the Navy about the Superlaser program

The Navy is increasingly excited about building a superpowerful laser to shoot down missiles and rockets that might attack its ship

The US Navy has an open-ended, $163 million project to develop one into a weapon. Last September, it gave Boeing $26 million task order to develop a prototype design for the laser — the company completed a preliminary design in March — that’ll deliver by early 2012.

The current lab model lasers at Jefferson uses an oscillator, with energy stored up in its cavity, and runs at 10 percent efficiency. He’s “99.99 percent confident” the Free Electron Laser can get to 100 kilowatts: Boeing will have to improve efficiency or pump ten times more power into it.

One Naval generator, on all the ships they’re planning on building in their more-electric fleet capacity, can put up to two megawatts of power. Of course, the Navy plans on having more than one generator on its vessels… 100 kilowatts is not a power constraint for a naval weapons system for an FEL.
At 10% efficiency one generator could power 200 kilowatts of lasers.

Google gives raises to employees to reduce poaching from Facebook

Google has given all of its employees $1,000 cash "holiday bonuses" and 2011 salary increases of at least 10%, a loyal reader tells us. In addition, Google will also give each employee an additional raise equivalent to 1X the employee's target bonus for the year. And employees will be eligible for additional "merit increases" based on their individual performance. Google will pay the taxes on the $1,000 holiday cash bonuses, thus allowing employees to keep the whole thing

About 10,000 of Google's 23000 staff are in the San Francisco Bay Area (mostly at the Googleplex offices in Mountain View

The raises are another modest signal of the beginnings an an upswing in the silicon valley labor markets.

The unemployment rate in the Silicon Valley was 11.2 percent in September, unchanged from a revised 11.2 percent in August and slightly below the year-ago estimate of 11.7 percent

Jeremy Fitton of Skylifter is interviewed by Sander Olson

Sander Olson interviews Jeremy Fitton, the founder and Director of Skylifter, an Australian company that is developing a novel transportation system that uses solar powered engines to fly massive balloons. Skylifter should be able to lift 150 ton payloads and transport such payloads over thousands of miles. Although originally developed for the mining industry, skylifter could be also used for tourism, freight transportation, mobile hospitals, or disaster response. Skylifter has already had successful prototype tests and plans on having a full-sized prototype ready within 4 years.

Question: What are the origins of the SkyLifter concept?

Answer: I discovered the mining industry had issues with transporting large, oversize and heavy mining equipment directly to and from the mining sites. Helicopters were about the only option, but they were expensive, short range, and limited to at most 20 tonne payloads. I began exploring the concept of using large balloons to transport heavy payloads. It soon became apparent that by using these large balloons we could transport objects weighing up to 150 tonne thousands of miles, and put them down in precise locations.

AMD Fusion chips now and Wichita for tablets in 2012

EETimes reports that AMD will field Wichitain 2012 as a follow on to its 9 watt Ontario chip now being built into small notebooks and netbooks Some OEMs will build tablets using Windows 7 and the 1.2 GHz Ontario chip now shipping. However, Wichita, made in a 32 or 28nm process, will be a better option.

Both chips use DirectX 11 graphics cores and AMD's new low power x86 core called Bobcat announced in August. Bobcat is geared to run up to 1.6 GHz with as many as two cores in 40nm processors. One to 3 Watt processors are the sweet spot for tablets.

AMD expects to be in production with 32nm parts by June, starting with its Llano processor for mainstream desktops and notebooks. It uses GPUs and an older so-called Stars generation of x86 cores. By mid-2011 AMD plans to have production chips in a 28nm process. That will be followed by a 20nm process in production by the end of 2013 and a 14nm process in late 2015.

November 09, 2010

IBM begins 5 year Quantum computer project and Google may build a Dwave Adiabatic quantum computer facility in 2011

A circuit of four superconducting qubits. Scientists have succeeded in entangling three of these. Yale work published in Nature

NY Times reports that I.B.M. has reconstituted what had recently been a relatively low-level research effort in quantum computing. I.B.M. is responding to advances made in the past year at Yale University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, that suggest the possibility of quantum computing based on standard microelectronics manufacturing technologies. Both groups layer a superconducting material, either rhenium or niobium, on a semiconductor surface, which when cooled to near absolute zero exhibits quantum behavior. IBM has assembled a large research group at its Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., that includes alumni from the Santa Barbara and Yale laboratories and has now begun a five-year research project.

D-Wave Systems, a Canadian computer maker has built an adiabatic quantum computer system [different approach than the IBM effort] with more than 50 [128 qubits] quantum bits, but it has been greeted skeptically by many researchers who believe that it has not proved true entanglement. Nevertheless, Hartmut Neven, an artificial-intelligence researcher at Google, said the company had received a proposal from D-Wave and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop a quantum computing facility for Google next year based on the D-Wave technology.

D-Wave processors are related the ideas of co-design

The quantum processors built by D-Wave Systems are a perfect example of specialized animals, and give an insightful look into some of the ideas behind co-design. The D-Wave machines don’t look much like regular computers. They require complex refrigeration equipment and magnetic shielding. They use superconducting electronics rather than semiconducting transistors. They are, at first inspection, very unusual indeed. But they are carefully designed and built in a way that allows an intimate match between the hardware and the software algorithm that they run.

Cogenra solar power for electricity and hot water and more efficiency

Tony Blair and Vinod Khosla see a big future for Congenra, a solar co-generation (producing both power and heat) company formed just 15 months ago with a scant $10 million of funding. With five times more energy production than photovoltaic technologies, Cogenera's system may help traditional investors discover that the economics of clean energy are quite attractive.

Cogenra has worked with "off the shelf" standard products and a "low-tech" approach. The parabolic solar thermal design doesn't require curved glass, but has layered flat glass panels in a parabolic shape - simplicity has conquered complexity. This drops the capital required to launch Cogenra to a manageable $10 million.

Gartner Identifies seven major future IT issues and vaguely predicts human augmentation

Gartner has identified seven business and IT issues that CIOs should act on during the next three years

Beyond 2020, Gartner analysts forecast that two emerging trends will become $1 billion markets. First, human augmentation, a technology that focuses on creating cognitive and physical improvements as an integral part of the human body is slowly but steadily becoming a reality and enhancing peoples’ lives. The second trend is wireless power devices. By 2011, there will be more than 1 billion PCs and 5 billion mobile phones in use in the world, and based on the levels of demand Gartner foresees cumulative sales from wireless power products surpassing $1 billion by 2020.

Not sure what they mean by human augmention, since the steroids and human growth hormone businesses are already larger than billion markets. Also, the drugs for cognitive enhancement are more than a billion market. Is Gartner referring to some new genetic or stem cell therapies ?

ABI Research identified human augmentation technology (exoskeletons, Powered Prostheses and Optical Sensory Devices) to grow to $877 million by 2020

powered exoskeletons — robotic frameworks designed to enhance the strength of the wearer — will see a CAGR of 68% over the forecast period of 2010-2020, and will be used primarily in military and medical settings initially, due to their high cost of manufacture. Advanced powered upper-limb prostheses, which include myoelectric and nerve-controlled limbs with articulating digits, will post a CAGR of 28.5% over the forecast period, while ocular sensory-substitution devices for the blind, such as retinal implants and ocular prostheses, will see a CAGR of almost 75% this decade, with more than 16,000 units to be shipped in 2020.

1. Inadequate software management of operational technology (OT) systems will result in a major business failure of a top Global 100 company by 2013.

2. Through 2015, 80 percent of organizations will lack a coherent approach for dealing with information from the collective (social media)

IEA World Energy Outlook 2010-2035

Google vs Facebook vs Apple vs Other News roundup

1. Ed Sperling (Forbes magazine) looks at the battle between Google, Facebook and Apple to create sticky user technology and experiences and generate ad revenue.

Social networking is stickier than search, to use some marketing terminology. You have to sign up and commit serious time to it, which is why Google is ramping up all sorts of side businesses in the hopes that something does stick. Google's Android operating system is about the stickiest thing it offers

Google created Gmail, which is somewhat sticky, and why it's working on GoogleTV, which may ultimately prove even stickier once the dust settles on this market. But even Facebook will be facing new competition. Social networking and corporate collaboration are just getting going.

High On/Off Ratio Graphene Nanoconstriction Field Effect Transistor

Arxiv - High On/Off Ratio Graphene Nanoconstriction Field Effect Transistor Graphene transistors with current on/off ratios greater than 1000 could be suitable for digital electronics applications say the researchers, who now hope to increase the efficiency of their top-down fabrication process to produce integrated circuits containing NCFETs

We report a method to pattern monolayer graphene nanoconstriction field effect transistors (NCFETs) with critical dimensions below 10 nm. NCFET fabrication is enabled by the use of feedback controlled electromigration (FCE) to form a constriction in a gold etch mask that is first patterned using conventional lithographic techniques. The use of FCE allows the etch mask to be patterned on size scales below the limit of conventional nanolithography. We observe the opening of a confinement-induced energy gap as the NCFET width is reduced, as evidenced by a sharp increase in the NCFET on/off ratio. The on/off ratios we obtain with this procedure can be larger than 1000 at room temperature for the narrowest devices; this is the first report of such large room temperature on/off ratios for patterned graphene FETs.

18 page pdf

Quantum computers can tolerate qubit loss rates of 24.9%

Imperial College of London - Quantum computers should be much easier to build than previously thought, because they can still work with a large number of faulty or even missing components, according to a study published today in Physical Review Letters. This surprising discovery brings scientists one step closer to designing and building real-life quantum computing systems – devices that could have enormous potential across a wide range of fields, from drug design, electronics, and even code-breaking.

Arxiv preprint copy of the 4 page paper, Fault Tolerant Quantum Computation with Very High Threshold for Loss Errors

Gartner Forecasts World Tablet Sales to reach 208 million in 2014

Previous graph showed the projected sales through 2013. 2014 prediction is for 208 million tablets sold worldwide

Gartner forecasts worldwide media tablet sales to end users to reach 19.5 million units in 2010, driven by sales of the iPad. Media tablets are poised for strong growth with worldwide end user sales projected to total 54.8 million units in 2011, up 181 percent from 2010, and surpass 208 million units in 2014.

The Apple iPad and its ecosystem [and android and other tablets] are likely to disrupt existing technology use profiles and business models, and CEOs should ensure that its potential is being seriously evaluated inside their organizations.

Navy Railgun and Laser Projects still on track

Rear Admiral Nevin Carr, the chief of naval research, said that prototypes of the rail gun generate 25 megajoules of energy, and a test next month will attempt 32 megajoules, getting a projectile traveling 100 nautical miles in six minutes — “well ahead of pace” for a target of 64 megajoules for a range of 200 miles in six minutes.

The end of 2010 test of a 32 megajoule prototype is a few months ahead of the early 2010 schedule. There is also work to make the materials to last for 1000 shots before needing replacement parts

The Navy is making “breakthroughs on directed energy.” Such as the Free Electron Laser, a multi-wavelength laser that the Navy wants to put aboard its ships to fry incoming rockets or missiles with 100 kilowatts of energy.

Israel and the United States are also working on the David's Sling project. David's Sling is the newest bilateral effort to defend against a wide range of rockets, ballistic missiles and air-breathing threats.

November 08, 2010

Color e-readers from Hanvon and Barnes and Noble

China Hanvon Technology is the world's second-largest e-reader manufacturer and the world's leading technology supplier of handwriting recognition, optical character recognition and biometrics identification.

NY Times reports Hanvon’s first color e-ink product will using a 9.68-inch color touch screen will be available this March in China, starting at about $440. The price is less than an iPad in China, which sells for about $590. It will be positioned as a business product, with Wi-Fi and 3G wireless connectivity.

Hanvon has a 78 percent share of the Chinese e-reader market.

Ms. Colegrove of DisplaySearch said these types of lower-cost products should continue to gain market share, growing from four million units sold worldwide in 2009 to 14 million units by 2011. At the same time, slate-type devices like the iPad will increase from one million in 2009 to 40 million in 2011

Economic benefits of robotic cars include super cities

Economist Robin Hanson at Overcoming Bias notes that robotic cars will make cities more efficient and productive.

Google told the world it has developed computer driving tech that is basically within reach of doubling (or more) the capacity of a road lane to pass cars. Pundits don’t seem to realize just how big a deal this is – it could let cities be roughly twice as big, all else equal. The main problems here are not technical but legal (& political) – first to not excessively punish tech sellers for related car accidents, and second to sufficiently reward car owners for their contribution to reducing congestion.

Apple Could sell 100 million iPhones, 48 Million iPads in 2011

A bullish analyst (Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair) is predicting that Apple will double 2010 iPhone sales in 2011

His checks with the supply chain suggest Apple intends to produce 45-48 million iPads next year, which would be up from his forecast of 13.5 million in 2010. Among the drivers he anticipates is the arrival of the iPad 2, which he thinks will include not only a front-facing camera, but also a thinner form factor essentially built from one piece of metal.

For those positive targets to be hit, it would require several things which probably will not happen

* Apple would have to introduce a sub-$500 iPad
* Tablets would have to nearly totally displace netbooks
* Android tablets would have to bomb in the market.
- Samsung seems to have a good tablet and will have follow up versions

Nanotechnology has the ability to solve problems in agriculture

Your cell phone may one day be powered by a nanoprotein extracted from spinanch. Leafy vegetables use photosynthesis to convert solar energy in order to grow, said Hongda Chen, a national program leader at National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the United States Department of Agriculture.

By studying the plant's Photosystem I, a nanoscale protein, researchers can create nanostructures that directly convert solar energy to electricity, he said.

Novel metamaterial vastly improves ultrasound imaging resolution by 50 times

This 3D holey-structured metamaterial can improve the resolution of sonagraphy by a factor of 50, promising better picture quality for ultrasound imaging as well as sonar. (Photo by Xiang Zhang/UC Berkeley, courtesy of Nature Physics)

In a paper appearing online this week in the journal Nature Physics, physicists at UC Berkeley and Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in Spain demonstrate how to capture the evanescent waves bouncing off an object to reconstruct detail as small as one-fiftieth of the wavelength of the sound waves. Evanescent sound waves are vibrations near the object that damp out within a very short distance, as opposed to propagating waves, which can travel over a long distance. Instead of being able to resolve 200 millimeter features the new ultrasound can resolve 4 millimeters.

DARPA begins funding plans that are to lead to an exaflop supercomputer in 2018

The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego, will provide expertise to a multi-year technology investment program to develop the next generation of extreme scale supercomputers.

The first two phases of the [exaflop scale] project extend into 2014, and a full system design and simulation is expected at the completion of those phases in 2014. Phases 3 and 4 of the project, which have not yet been awarded, are expected to result in a full prototype system sometime in 2018

Georgia Institute of Technology is also involved in one of the projects

DARPA funded four groups -- led by NVIDIA Corp., Intel Corp., the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Sandia National Laboratories -- to develop UHPC prototypes. A fifth group, led by the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), will develop applications, benchmarking and metrics that will be used to drive UHPC system design considerations and support performance analysis of the developing system designs.

The new DARPA Ubiquitous High Performance Computing (UHPC) initiative is a $100 million challenge, which will require development of revolutionary approaches not bound by existing computing paradigms.

Energy Harvesting: Nanogenerators Grow Strong Enough to Power Small Conventional Electronic Devices by 2016

Compressing a nanogenerator between two fingers is enough to drive a liquid-crystal display. (Courtesy: Zhong Lin Wang)

New Georgia Institute of Technology nanogenerators rely on the piezoelectric effect seen in crystalline materials such as zinc oxide, in which an electric charge potential is created when structures made from the material are flexed or compressed. By capturing and combining the charges from millions of these nanoscale zinc oxide wires, Wang and his research team can produce as much as three volts – and up to 300 nanoamps.
Mechanical energy comes from compressing a nanogenerator between two fingers, but it could also come from a heartbeat, the pounding of a hiker’s shoe on a trail, the rustling of a shirt, or the vibration of a heavy machine. While these nanogenerators will never produce large amounts of electricity for conventional purposes, they could be used to power nanoscale and microscale devices – and even to recharge pacemakers or iPods.

Recent improvements in the nanogenerators, including a simpler fabrication technique, were reported online last week in the journal Nano Letters.

Densest GPU Servers

Server maker AMAX has introduced what it says is the densest GPU computing system on the market. The ServMax AS-5160G is a 16-GPU, 4-CPU system that delivers more than 8 teraflops of high performance computing in a mere 5U of rack space. Scaled up to a 42U rack, an AS-5160G cluster will deliver over 64 double-precision teraflops.

Appro recently introduced its Tetra 1U server, which is equipped with two x86 CPUs and four Fermi GPUs. If you string four of these together, you get 16 GPUs plus 8 CPUs in a 4U space. That would edge out the ServMax AS-5160G for sheer computational performance.

Other competition includes Dell, which can build a 7U 16-GPU solution from its 3U PowerEdge C410x GPU expansion chassis and two 2U PowerEdge 6100 servers. HP is also in the running with its new dual-socket 3-GPU ProLiant SL390s G7; coupling four together will yield a nifty little 4U 12-GPU cluster.

The AMAX system would be most energy efficient of any of these, though, since it uses only four CPUs to drive its 16 graphics processors.

IEA Oil Market Report

The IEA (International Energy Agency) Oil Market Report for October 13, 2010

• Global oil demand for 2010 and 2011 is revised up by 0.3 mb/d on average to 86.9 mb/d and 88.2 mb/d, respectively, on new data showing much stronger‐than‐expected 3Q10 readings, notably in the OECD, and updated GDP and price assumptions. Yearly growth is now +2.1 mb/d in 2010 and +1.2 mb/d in 2011. If GDP growth were a third lower, demand growth would only reach 0.4 mb/d in 2011.

• Global oil supply fell by 150 kb/d to 86.9 mb/d in September on lower non‐OPEC output, but was up by 1.5 mb/d year‐on‐year, shared equally between non‐OPEC, OPEC crude and NGLs. Estimated 2011 non‐OPEC supply is raised by 150 kb/d to 53.1 mb/d on stronger US, Canadian and Chinese output, growing from 52.6 mb/d in 2010.

For the third quarter of 2010, oil production has been a bit over 87 million barrels per day.

Eric Drexler at Metamodern talks about the benefits of a good checklist and a new quantum gravity paper

1. A good surgical checklist was used to provide big benefits - during a three-month test across eight hospitals, several continents, and almost 4,000 patients, a new technology reduced serious surgical complications by 36% and deaths by almost 50% — in raw numbers, over 150 cases of severe harm and nearly 30 patient deaths. Eric Drexler and Metamodern highights the benefits described in the Checklist Manifesto book.

The prototype hardware consists of a sheet that lists 19 carefully engineered steps. The first step after sign-in — proved by testing to be crucial — is a pause in which the members of the surgical team simply introduce themselves to one another by name.

A carefully engineered checklist is a high-value medical technology by any measure you choose. It averts injury, saves lives, saves money, improves morale, and reduces staff turnover. It costs virtually nothing. Only inertia holds it back, and what the humble checklist needs most now is an infusion of glamor and excitement. A Nobel Prize for Dr. Gawande would do more than recognize accomplishment: It would give a boost to a critical technology that could save your life.

“A Surgical Safety Checklist to Reduce Morbidity and Mortality in a Global Population” (New England Journal of Medicine, 2009).

Software Edits Huge Images in Seconds Instead of Hours

Using sophisticated new software named ViSUS, it took scientists at the University of Utah only seconds to produce a seamless, evenly exposed preview of the full panorama of the Salt Lake Valley. It looks almost as good as the full, 3.27-gigapixel panorama, even though it contains only one-3,600th as much image data

University of Utah computer scientists developed software that quickly edits "extreme resolution imagery" - huge photographs containing billions to hundreds of billions of pixels or dot-like picture elements. Until now, it took hours to process these "gigapixel" images. The new software needs only seconds to produce preview images useful to doctors, intelligence analysts, photographers, artists, engineers and others.

Seminar by Bo Kong of John Hopkins at Lawrence Livermore about China Nuclear Energy Expansion

At a seminar on Tuesday (Nov. 2), Bo Kong, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, described how China is "diversifying" its energy sources and greatly expanding its use of nuclear power.

In related news, Deutsche Bank is projecting an increase of 12% in the price of coal in 2011

"China is not a large nuclear economy," Kong observed. It currently has 13 operating nuclear plants, producing approximately 11 gigawatts (GW) of power, representing less than 1 percent of China's total energy production.

(In comparison, the United States has more than 100 operating reactors producing roughly 100 GW and providing nearly 20 percent of its energy. France obtains more than 75 percent of its energy from nuclear power, Ukraine nearly 50 percent, South Korea more than 35 percent, Germany 28 percent, and Japan 25 percent.)

China considers nuclear power to be 'clean' energy," Kong explained, "and is aiming for a fivefold expansion in the next decade."

China leads the world in nuclear power plant construction. Today, 24 reactor units are under construction, which, when operational in 2015 or earlier, will generate a total of 26 GW of power. An additional 15 GW of nuclear power capacity is approved and in the pipeline for construction.

Unlike the United States, the Chinese public is generally supportive of nuclear power. "It's desired highly," said Kong, "because it brings jobs and provides security against power shortages." He noted that 16 localities have selected 51 preliminary sites for 244 reactor units, which if all built would bring 120 GW of power to inland China and 150 GW to the population centers along the coast.

Canadian scientists transform human skin into blood

Canadian scientists have transformed pinches of human skin into petri dishes of human blood — a major medical breakthrough that could yield new sources of blood for transfusions after cancer treatments or surgery.

(H/T KurzweilAi)

The discovery, by researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., could one day potentially allow anyone needing blood after multiple rounds of surgery or chemotherapy, or for blood disorders such as anemia, to have a backup supply of blood created from a tiny patch of their own skin — eliminating the risk of their body’s immune system rejecting blood from a donor.

Researchers predict the lab-grown blood could be ready for testing in humans within two years.

The start of human clinical trials would still mean a number of years before any widespread usage for treatment.

Nature - Cellular 'alchemy' transforms skin into blood

November 07, 2010

Catastrophe Scenarios from Willard Wells and my responses

Willard Wells listed several extinction and catastrophe scenarios on the Lifeboat Foundation list. I responded to them and he replied to my response. Below are the scenarios and the discussion. Willards website is

We do not get into a discussion of likelihood. The Lifeboat foundation threat discussions are usually about extremely rare and unlikely developments which were to somehow happen and cause extinction.

First order devices, hybrid memristors, and the frontiers of nonlinear circuit theory

Arxiv - First order devices, hybrid memristors, and the frontiers of nonlinear circuit theory

Several devices exhibiting memory effects have shown up in nonlinear circuit theory in recent years. Among others, these circuit elements include Chua’s memristors, as well as memcapacitors and meminductors. These and other related devices seem to be beyond the, say, classical scope of circuit theory, which is formulated in terms of resistors, capacitors, inductors, and voltage and current sources. We explore in this paper the potential extent of nonlinear circuit theory by classifying such mem-devices in terms of the variables involved in their constitutive relations and the notions of the differential- and the state-order of a device. Within this framework, the frontier of first order circuit theory is defined by so-called hybrid memristors, which are proposed here to accommodate a characteristic relating all four fundamental circuit variables. Devices with differential order two and mem-systems are discussed in less detail. We allow for fully nonlinear characteristics in all circuit elements, arriving at a rather exhaustive taxonomy of C1-devices. Additionally, we extend the notion of a topologically degenerate configuration to circuits with memcapacitors, meminductors and all types of memristors, and characterize the differential-algebraic index of nodal models of such circuits.

Neuromorphic, Digital and Quantum Computation with Memory Circuit Elements

Arxiv - Neuromorphic, Digital and Quantum Computation with Memory Circuit Elements

Memory effects are ubiquitous in nature and the class of memory circuit elements - which includes memristors, memcapacitors and meminductors - shows great potential to understand and simulate the associated fundamental physical processes. Here, we show that such elements can also be used in electronic schemes mimicking biologically-inspired computer architectures, performing digital logic and arithmetic operations, and can expand the capabilities of certain quantum computation schemes. In particular, we will discuss few examples where the concept of memory elements is relevant to the realization of associative memory in neuronal circuits, spike-timing-dependent plasticity of synapses, digital and field-programmable quantum computing.

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