August 20, 2011

GE SILEX laser uranium enrichment

General Electric has successfully tested laser enrichment for two years and is seeking federal permission to build a $1 billion plant that would make reactor fuel by the ton.

General Electric, an atomic pioneer and one of the world’s largest companies, says its initial success began in July 2009 at a facility just north of Wilmington, N.C., that is jointly owned with Hitachi. It is impossible to independently verify that claim because the federal government has classified the laser technology as top secret. But G.E. officials say that the achievement is genuine and that they are accelerating plans for a larger complex at the Wilmington site.

“We are currently optimizing the design,” Christopher J. Monetta, president of Global Laser Enrichment, a subsidiary of G.E. and Hitachi, said in an interview.

Donald M. Kerr, a former director of the Los Alamos weapons lab who was recently briefed on G.E.’s advance, said in an interview that it looked like a breakthrough after decades of exaggerated claims.

Gene Therapy progress to cures for adult leukemia and Duchenne muscular dystrophy

1. Two of three patients dying of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) appear cured and a third is in partial remission after infusions of genetically engineered T cells.

The treatment success came in a pilot study that was only meant to find out whether the treatment was safe, and to determine the right dose to use in later studies.

"Our results were absolutely dramatic. It is tremendously exciting," Porter tells WebMD. "These kinds of outcomes don't come around very often. We are really hopeful that we can now translate this into treatment for much larger numbers of patients and apply this technique to other diseases and to many more patients."

Excitement is spreading as oncologists learn about the findings. "I think it is a big deal," says Jacque Galipeau, MD, professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory University Winship Cancer Center. Galipeau was not involved in the Porter study.

"Here's this guy, the handwriting is on the wall, any hematologist will tell you he is a goner -- this guy was essentially cured," Galipeau tells WebMD. "These genetically engineered cells did what everyone in the field has tried to do for 20 years. The man probably had kilograms of disease in his body, and the cells mopped it up completely."

The treatment uses a form of white blood cells called T cells harvested from each patient. A manmade virus-like vector is used to transfer special molecules to the T cells. One of the molecules, CD19, makes the T cells attack B lymphocytes -- the cells that become cancerous in CLL.

All this has been done before. These genetically engineered cells are called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells. They kill cancer in the test tube. But in humans, they die away before they do much damage to tumors.

What's new about the current treatment is the addition of a special signaling molecule called 4-1BB. This signal does several things: it gives CAR T cells more potent anti-tumor activity, and it somehow allows the cells to persist and multiply in patients' bodies. Moreover, the signal does not call down the deadly all-out immune attack -- the feared "cytokine storm" -- that can do more harm than good.

This may be why relatively small infusions of the CAR T cells had such a profound effect. Each of the cells killed thousands of cancer cells and destroyed more than 2 pounds of tumor in each patient.

"Within three weeks, the tumors had been blown away, in a way that was much more violent than we ever expected," June says in a news release. 'It worked much better than we thought it would."

Nanomechanical detection of nuclear magnetic resonance using a silicon nanowire oscillator

SiNW and apparatus. a, Scanning electron micrograph of a SiNW substrate showing several SiNWs representative of the type used in this study. Scale bar is 5 μm. b, The tip of the SiNW used in this study with the polystyrene coating. The dashed lines indicate the outer diameter of the SiNW. Scale bar is 100 nm. c, Schematic of the experimental setup. Prior to the experiment, a single SiNW on the substrate is selected and coated with polystyrene. The SiNW tip is brought near the constriction in the rf wire. Focused, polarized laser light is used to detect the displacement of the specific SiNW with the polystyrene. d, Experimental apparatus

Arxiv - Nanomechanical detection of nuclear magnetic resonance using a silicon nanowire oscillator

Magnetic resonance force microscopy (MRFM) was proposed as a means of magnetic resonance imaging with the eventual goal of achieving the sensitivity to image individual molecules with atomic spatial resolution1.

We report the use of a silicon nanowire mechanical oscillator as a low-temperature nuclear magnetic resonance force sensor to detect the statistical polarization of 1H spins in polystyrene. Under operating conditions, the nanowire experienced negligible surface-induced dissipation and exhibited a nearly thermally-limited force noise of 1.9 aN2/Hz in the measurement quadrature. In order to couple the 1H spins to the nanowire oscillator, we have developed a new magnetic resonance force detection protocol which utilizes a nanoscale current-carrying wire to produce large time-dependent magnetic field gradients as well as the rf magnetic field.

Merkle Puzzles in a Quantum World

Arxiv - In 1974, Ralph Merkle proposed the first unclassified scheme for secure communications over insecure channels. When legitimate communicating parties are willing to spend an amount of computational effort proportional to some parameter N, an eavesdropper cannot break into their communication without spending a time proportional to N^2, which is quadratically more than the legitimate effort. We showed in an earlier paper that Merkle's schemes are completely insecure against a quantum adversary, but that their security can be partially restored if the legitimate parties are also allowed to use quantum computation: the eavesdropper needed to spend a time proportional to N^{3/2} to break our earlier quantum scheme. Furthermore, all previous classical schemes could be broken completely by the onslaught of a quantum eavesdropper and we conjectured that this is unavoidable.

We give two novel key establishment schemes in the spirit of Merkle's. The first one can be broken by a quantum adversary that makes an effort proportional to N^{5/3} to implement a quantum random walk in a Johnson graph reminiscent of Andris Ambainis' quantum algorithm for the element distinctness problem. This attack is optimal up to logarithmic factors. Our second scheme is purely classical, yet it cannot be broken by a quantum eavesdropper who is only willing to expend effort proportional to that of the legitimate parties.

IBM plants transactional memory in CPU

EETimes - IBM has become the first company to ship a commercial microprocessor using transactional memory, a new feature for multicore chips researchers have studied for years.

The BlueGene/Q processor used in the Sequoia supercomputer IBM is building for Lawrence Livermore National Labs will employ the new feature, IBM disclosed in a paper at the Hot Chips event here. Sequoia is expected to deliver 20 petaflops when it is complete in 2012.

August 19, 2011

Russian T-50 fighter debuts at air show

The Sukhoi T-50 fifth-generation stealth fighter, which Russia is jointly developing with India, made its public debut at a Moscow airshow on Wednesday.

The T-50 resembles Russia's best-selling Su-30 fighter jet but will have all its weapons hidden inside its body and wings to avoid radar detection and will fly at supersonic cruising speeds. The aircraft will also boast ultra manoeuvrability and high-technology avionics.

The Russian Air Force will begin testing the Perspective Frontline Aviation Complex, as the plane is called in Russia, in 2013 and will start inducting its mass-produced version from 2014, said the Russian Air Chief at the show.

Wikipedia on the Sukhoi PAK FA fighter

Sukhoi director Mikhail Pogosyan has projected a market for 1,000 aircraft over the next four decades, which will be produced in a joint venture with India, 200 each for Russia and India and 600 for other countries

Elon Musk is interviewed by NPR about Spacex going to the Space Station

The SpaceX company has gotten approval to launch its Dragon spacecraft this fall. If all goes well, the 'craft will dock at the International Space Station nine days later, making it the first private spacecraft to do so. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk discusses plans for the launch.

Elon -
Falcon 9 is - it's a pretty big rocket. It's about a million pounds of thrust, which is four times the thrust of a 747. It weighs about as much as a fully loaded 47 - 747 on takeoff. The nine refers to the nine engines on the base. It's designed for super-reliability so that you can lose any of the engines, including right after lift-off and still complete your mission. It's really the only rocket that can do that. And then later in flight, you can actually lose more than one engine and still complete the mission.

So I think that's a pretty significant reliability improvement. It's designed to have higher structural safety margins than other rockets, so we designed our rocket to 40 percent above flight loads instead of 25 percent.

SRT-1720 protects mice against obesity and extends life by 44 per cent

(a) Kaplan-Meier survival curves of mice fed a standard diet (SD) or a high-fat diet (HFD) supplemented with SRT1720 at either a low (HFD-L) or high (HFD-H) dose. Mean and maximum lifespan in weeks and the hazard ratio for mortality are represented below. In the parentheses the increases in maximum lifespan from birth and then diet onset are given. (b) Body weights of the groups over time, with average caloric intake over the course of the feeding study in the inset. Below are images of representative mice to illustrate phenotypic body mass of the groups at 82 weeks of age. (c) SRT1720 maintained normal liver appearance and reduced the onset of fatty liver as depicted by images of whole livers harvested after 12 weeks on diets and subsequent oil red O staining. Quantification of steatosis was performed by a blinded pathologist on livers from 82 week-old mice (26 weeks on diets; n = 6)

Scientific Reports - SRT1720 improves survival and healthspan of obese mice

NY Times has coverage

The drug, SRT-1720, protects the mice from the usual diseases of obesity by reducing the amount of fat in the liver and increasing sensitivity to insulin. These and other positive health effects enable the obese mice to live 44 percent longer, on average, than obese mice that did not receive the drug, according to a team of researchers led by Rafael de Cabo, a gerontologist at the National Institute on Aging. Despite the positive new results with SRT-1720, Sirtris is not putting it into clinical trials because the company believes another of its resveratrol mimics, SRT-2104, is more promising. That drug “is more suitable for human consumption,” said Dr. Sinclair, a co-author of Dr. de Cabo’s report.

Sirt1 is an NAD+-dependent deacetylase that extends lifespan in lower organisms and improves metabolism and delays the onset of age-related diseases in mammals. Here we show that SRT1720, a synthetic compound that was identified for its ability to activate Sirt1 in vitro, extends both mean and maximum lifespan of adult mice fed a high-fat diet. This lifespan extension is accompanied by health benefits including reduced liver steatosis, increased insulin sensitivity, enhanced locomotor activity and normalization of gene expression profiles and markers of inflammation and apoptosis, all in the absence of any observable toxicity. Using a conditional SIRT1 knockout mouse and specific gene knockdowns we show SRT1720 affects mitochondrial respiration in a Sirt1- and PGC-1α-dependent manner. These findings indicate that SRT1720 has long-term benefits and demonstrate for the first time the feasibility of designing novel molecules that are safe and effective in promoting longevity and preventing multiple age-related diseases in mammals.

Revolutionary Material Dramatically Increases Explosive Force of Weapons by Five Times

A revolutionary material that will replace steel in warhead casings will bring added lethality and increase the likelihood of a hit on an enemy target, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) announced August 10.
By combining several metals with standard manufacturing techniques, High-Density Reactive Material (HDRM) has the potential to dramatically increase the explosive impact of most weapons with little or no compromise in strength or design.

Unlike conventional munitions, the innovative materials approach integrates the casing with approved warhead explosives for increased lethality. In addition, the unique design for fragmenting warheads allows release of chemical energy after impact, increasing the probability of a catastrophic kill.

BBc News- Missiles made from the high density substance can explode with up to five times the energy of existing armaments.

The material mixes metals and polymers and is said to be as dense as steel but have the strength of aluminum.

US Navy scientists say that projectiles made from the new compound are less likely to kill innocent bystanders.

IEA reports World Oil (all liquids) Supply rose in July to 88.7 millino barrels per day

IEA projects oil demand to rise to 92 million barrels per day by the end of 2012

World oil supply in July rose by 0.6 mb/d from June, to 88.7 mb/d, with non-OPEC production up by 0.4 mb/d. Rising Canadian production offset lower UK production. Non-OPEC supply is now seen averaging a lower 53 mb/d in 2011 on prolonged production outages, rising to 54 mb/d in 2012.

Stem cells could be used for tissue engineering spare part for your heart by 2016

Stem cell researchers in Hong Kong and the United States are trying to grow spare parts for the human heart that may be ready for tests on people within five years.

(H/T Fightaging)

Scientists have already made basic heart muscle from stem cells, but the Hong Kong-led team wants to refine it so it can replace any part damaged in heart attacks, and to recreate the natural pacemaker, where the heartbeat originates.

“When you get a heart attack, there is a small time window for a cure when the damage is still small. You can cure with a patch, a small tissue, so you won’t progress to late stage heart failure,” said team leader Ronald Li, director of the University of Hong Kong’s Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Consortium.

The future of cities to 2030 and better urban planning

PLoS One - A Meta-Analysis of Global Urban Land Expansion

The conversion of Earth's land surface to urban uses is one of the most irreversible human impacts on the global biosphere. It drives the loss of farmland, affects local climate, fragments habitats, and threatens biodiversity. Here we present a meta-analysis of 326 studies that have used remotely sensed images to map urban land conversion. We report a worldwide observed increase in urban land area of 58,000 km2 from 1970 to 2000. India, China, and Africa have experienced the highest rates of urban land expansion, and the largest change in total urban extent has occurred in North America. Across all regions and for all three decades, urban land expansion rates are higher than or equal to urban population growth rates, suggesting that urban growth is becoming more expansive than compact. Annual growth in GDP per capita drives approximately half of the observed urban land expansion in China but only moderately affects urban expansion in India and Africa, where urban land expansion is driven more by urban population growth. In high income countries, rates of urban land expansion are slower and increasingly related to GDP growth. However, in North America, population growth contributes more to urban expansion than it does in Europe. Much of the observed variation in urban expansion was not captured by either population, GDP, or other variables in the model. This suggests that contemporary urban expansion is related to a variety of factors difficult to observe comprehensively at the global level, including international capital flows, the informal economy, land use policy, and generalized transport costs. Using the results from the global model, we develop forecasts for new urban land cover using SRES Scenarios. Our results show that by 2030, global urban land cover will increase between 430,000 km2 and 12,568,000 km2, with an estimate of 1,527,000 km2 more likely.

Tensilica DSP core does 100 GMACs at 1W

EETimes - Tensilica described a new integer DSP core for next-generation cellular applications that when made in a 28nm process can compute 100 GMACs/second at less than a Watt. The BBE64 core is a new instruction set architecture based on the companies' current Xtensa LX4 core.

The BBE64 combines SIMD and VLIW concepts and lets designers configure processors for a range of handset and base stations uses. Rowen said the core run at data rates of "a few hundred MHz" could process 2x2 MIMO LTE Advanced signals at 1 Gbit/second across 100 MHz of spectrum.

New Electric Vehicle Charging Proposal and Ecodriving plan for 30% better fuel efficiency

Caption: A schematic of the proposed power transfer system for a running automobile. This system transmits electric power thorough a capacitor composed of a steel belt and a metal plate attached to the road, and the power feed in differential mode. Notably, the leakage electromagnetic field is small, and the infrastructure can be set up at low cost compared with coils.

Toyohashi University of Technology (Toyohashi Tech) propose a potentially revolutionary solution for powering EVs capable of running unlimited distances. The basic concept stems from electric railways, where each car of the train is power from an overhead wire while the car runs on tracks. The researchers imagined how an automobile running along a road could do so without resorting to dangerous contacting devices such as pantographs, and finally came up with a profound and novel idea: The source of energy from power lines is up-converted into radio frequency (RF) by high-speed inverters implanted along tracks in the road. The RF voltage is applied to a balanced metal track embedded under the surface of the road. The EV picks up the RF voltage via electrical capacitance between the metal and a steel belt installed inside of the tires of the EV.

Bellefonte 1 reactor will be completed

Tennessee Valley Authority has decided to complete a nuclear reactor at Bellefonte Bellefonte 1 is a Babcock & Wilcox pressurized water reactor currently considered 55% complete. A $4.9 billion project should see it begin operation by 2020 to generate 1260 MWe.

August 18, 2011

Telepresence Robots Seek Office Work

Office bot: This telepresence robot, from Anybots, costs $15,000. Known as the QB, it has built-in obstacle avoidance that automatically prevents it from striking objects such as doorways.
Credit: Anybots

Technology Review - New telepresence robots are being commercialized

Building on the trend toward remote work, two companies started shipping wheeled telepresence robots to customers this year, and other versions are launching soon. While prices are steep and sales tepid, some early adopters find that the robots offer advantages over technologies such as videoconferencing.

Telepresence robots are wheeled machines steered by a person sitting at a remote computer; the bots take the person's place around the conference table or, say, on a facility inspection. They are equipped with cameras, microphones, screens, and speakers so the human controller can interact with real people.

VGo Communications sells a four-foot-tall robot. Some engineers and designers enjoy being able to visit a distant lab or inspect a prototype without leaving the office, he says: "It means they can be there more often. You get the immediacy of walking in the door, and that valuable ad hoc contact." More than 200 of the robots are in use so far, he says, and customers include companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Cisco.

Personal robotic transportation pods could be coming to ten cities in the United States

An ULTra PRT on a test track in Cardiff. Credit: ULTra PRT.

Technology Review - ULTra PRT (ULtra "personal rapid transit") could soon be branching out beyond Heathrow airport. The company has proposed systems similar to that at Heathrow for 10 cities in the United States.

The City of San Jose has already committed $4 million to a study evaluating whether the system makes sense for the region around San Jose Airport. Santa Cruz is interested in seeing whether a PRT system could alleviate the traffic jams that beleaguer Highway 1 on the weekend, when everyone heads to the beach. Cities from Ithaca, New York, to Raleigh, North Carolina, to Hillsboro, Oregon, might all see a PRT system in place, if ULTra PRT has its way.

China is looking at solar sails to deflect an asteriod in 2029

Arxiv - Utilization of H-reversal Trajectory of Solar Sail for Asteroid Deflection

Near Earth Asteroids have a possibility of impacting with the Earth and always have a thread on the Earth. This paper proposes a way of changing the trajectory of the asteroid to avoid the impaction. Solar sail evolving in a H-reversal trajectory is utilized for asteroid deflection. Firstly, the dynamics of solar sail and the characteristics of the H-reversal trajectory are analyzed. Then, the attitude of the solar sail is optimized to guide the sail to impact with the object asteroid along a H-reversal trajectory. The impact velocity depends on two important parameters: the minimum solar distance along the trajectory and lightness number. A larger lightness number and a smaller solar distance lead to a higher impact velocity. Finally, the deflection capability of a solar sail impacting with the asteroid along the H-reversal is discussed. The results show that a 10 kg solar sail with a lead-time of one year can move Apophis out of a 600-m keyhole area in 2029 to eliminate the possibility of its resonant return in 2036.

SENS Foundation Academic Initiative’s new structure

The SENS Foundation Academic Initiative’s new structure is actively in the process of being implemented, and involves a number of significant changes. Among these are the separation of the Initiative into branches, an updated membership system that allows students to become involved more easily and in more ways, the creation of volunteer committees, and the addition of outreach projects to the Initiative’s activities

IBM Unveils Cognitive Computing Chips

IBM's Cognitive Computing Chip, at about 3-mm wide, has demonstrated the ability to play (and win) against a human in the game "Pong" and can also read a written letter 7, even when written in various ways. IBM has two working prototype designs. Both cores were fabricated in 45 nm SOI-CMOS and contain 256 neurons. One core contains 262,144 programmable synapses and the other contains 65,536 learning synapses. The IBM team has successfully demonstrated simple applications like navigation, machine vision, pattern recognition, associative memory and classification.

IBM researchers unveiled a new generation of experimental computer chips designed to emulate the brain’s abilities for perception, action and cognition. The technology could yield many orders of magnitude less power consumption and space than used in today’s computers.

In a sharp departure from traditional concepts in designing and building computers, IBM’s first neurosynaptic computing chips recreate the phenomena between spiking neurons and synapses in biological systems, such as the brain, through advanced algorithms and silicon circuitry. Its first two prototype chips have already been fabricated and are currently undergoing testing.

Called cognitive computers, systems built with these chips won’t be programmed the same way traditional computers are today. Rather, cognitive computers are expected to learn through experiences, find correlations, create hypotheses, and remember – and learn from – the outcomes, mimicking the brains structural and synaptic plasticity.

August 17, 2011

Lockheed unveils maple-seed-like drone

Lockheed Martin Advance Technology Laboratories' Craig Stoneking, bottom, holds a maple seed as engineer David Sharp holds the company's new drone on Wednesday in Southampton, N.J. The unmanned, one-winged flight machine is based on the flight of maple seeds that twirl down from trees during the spring.

The seeds that drop from maple trees each fall, whirring softly to the ground like silent one-winged helicopters, are the inspiration for a new kind of flying machine that could be useful for military information-gathering.
Lockheed Martin's Intelligent Robotics Laboratories, based in Cherry Hill, N.J., has spent the last five years developing an unmanned craft to replicate the motion.

The device, dubbed the Samarai, is scheduled to make its public debut next week at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in Washington, D.C.

Safer stem cell therapy

Nature Biotechnology - An antibody against SSEA-5 glycan on human pluripotent stem cells enables removal of teratoma-forming cells

An important risk in the clinical application of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), including human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells (hESCs and hiPSCs), is teratoma formation by residual undifferentiated cells. We raised a monoclonal antibody against hESCs, designated anti–stage-specific embryonic antigen (SSEA)-5, which binds a previously unidentified antigen highly and specifically expressed on hPSCs—the H type-1 glycan. Separation based on SSEA-5 expression through fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) greatly reduced teratoma-formation potential of heterogeneously differentiated cultures. To ensure complete removal of teratoma-forming cells, we identified additional pluripotency surface markers (PSMs) exhibiting a large dynamic expression range during differentiation: CD9, CD30, CD50, CD90 and CD200. Immunohistochemistry studies of human fetal tissues and bioinformatics analysis of a microarray database revealed that concurrent expression of these markers is both common and specific to hPSCs. Immunodepletion with antibodies against SSEA-5 and two additional PSMs completely removed teratoma-formation potential from incompletely differentiated hESC cultures

Real time three dimensional observation of neuronal activity with 50 times higher resolution using digital holographic microscopy

Caption: This is a 3-D image of living neuron taken by DHM technology. Credit: Courtesy of Lyncée Tec

Digital Holographic Microscopy (DHM) can now be used to observe neuronal activity in real-time and in three dimensions—with up to 50 times greater resolution than ever before. The application, borrowed from materials science, has immense potential for testing out new drugs to fight neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It has already been commercialized by the EPFL start-up LynceeTec.

“DHM is a fundamentally novel application for studying neurons with a slew of advantages over traditional microscopes,” explains Pierre Magistretti of EPFL’s Brain Mind Institute and a lead author of the paper. “It is non-invasive, allowing for extended observation of neural processes without the need for electrodes or dyes that damage cells.”

Senior team member Pierre Marquet adds, “DHM gives precious information not only about the shape of neurons, but also about their dynamics and activity, and the technique creates 3D navigable images and increases the precision from 500 nanometers in traditional microscopes to a scale of 10 nanometers.”

The Food Crises and Political Instability in North Africa and the Middle East

Arxiv - The Food Crises and Political Instability in North Africa and the Middle East High food prices lead to a kind of tipping point when almost anything can trigger a riot, like a lighted match in a dry forest.

Social unrest may reflect a variety of factors such as poverty, unemployment, and social injustice. Despite the many possible contributing factors, the timing of violent protests in North Africa and the Middle East in 2011 as well as earlier riots in 2008 coincides with large peaks in global food prices. We identify a specifi c food price threshold above which protests become likely. These observations suggest that protests may reflect not only long-standing political failings of governments, but also the sudden desperate straits of vulnerable populations. If food prices remain high, there is likely to be persistent and increasing global social disruption. Underlying the food price peaks we also fi nd an ongoing trend of increasing prices. We extrapolate these trends and identify a crossing point to the domain of high impacts, even without price peaks, in 2012-2013. This implies that avoiding global food crises and associated social unrest requires rapid and concerted action.

Talk of 9.5 to 16 million barrels per day of increased oil production from the Americas

Foreign Policy Journal - Geologists have long known that the Americas are home to plentiful hydrocarbons trapped in hard-to-reach offshore deposits, on-land shale rock, oil sands, and heavy oil formations. The U.S. endowment of unconventional oil is more than 2 trillion barrels, with another 2.4 trillion in Canada and 2 trillion-plus in South America -- compared with conventional Middle Eastern and North African oil resources of 1.2 trillion. The problem was always how to unlock them economically.

Analysts are predicting production of as much as 1.5 million barrels a day in the next few years from resources beneath the Great Plains and Texas alone.

An additional 1 to 2 million barrels a day from the Gulf of Mexico now that drilling is resuming.

Australian Sliver solar cells will lighten the gear carried by soldiers

Sliver® cells address the major issue relating to the uptake of solar electric systems – the cost. Sliver® cells use up to 90% less silicon compared with mono crystalline cells of equivalent output resulting in lower module costs. They generate up to 140 watts per square meter

Sliver® solar cells are fabricated using 1 – 2 mm thick silicon wafers. The key step in Sliver® cell processing is to form deep narrow grooves all the way through the wafer. Several processes can be used including laser scribing, a dicing saw or an anisotropic etching process.

The result is a wafer cut into a series of slivers, with each sliver approximately 50-100mm long, 1-2mm wide and 40-60μm thick.

Today’s soldier relied on a wide range of battery-powered devices including radios, torches, night vision devices and global positioning systems.

‘‘The average soldier in Afghanistan now is carrying probably 40kg to 50kg, some of them even 60kg,’’ he said.

August 16, 2011

Acoustic Cloak

Applied Physical Letters - Acoustic cloak for airborne sound by inverse design

This Letter presents practical realization of a two-dimensional low loss acoustic cloak for airborne sound obtained by inverse design. The cloak consists of 120 aluminum cylinders of 15 mm diameter surrounding the cloaked object—a cylinder of diameter 22.5 cm. The position of each cylinder in the cloak is optimized using the data from two different techniques: genetic algorithm and simulated annealing. The operation frequency of this cloak is 3061 Hz with the bandwidth of about 100 Hz. Being a multi-step approach to the desired cloaking, the inverse design is also valid, in principle, for non-symmetric cylinders and even for three-dimensional objects.

Mitochondria rejuvenated by drug

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found a protein normally involved in blood pressure regulation in a surprising place: tucked within the little "power plants" of cells, the mitochondria. The quantity of this protein appears to decrease with age, but treating older mice with the blood pressure medication losartan can increase protein numbers to youthful levels, decreasing both blood pressure and cellular energy usage. The researchers say these findings, published online during the week of August 15, 2011, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may lead to new treatments for mitochondrial–specific, age-related diseases, such as diabetes, hearing loss, frailty and Parkinson's disease.

A Mix of spider silk, Goats milk and human skin can stop a reduced speed 22 caliber bullet

A mix of spiders silk, goat's milk and human skin can stop a reduced speed 22 caliber bullet from a rifle.

Dutch scientists recently brought this combination to life, pushing the limits of science. The project is called “2.6 g 329m/s” which is the standard weight and velocity that a Type 1 bulletproof vest can protect against.

Spider silk might not seem like much, but it’s the toughest of all the silks in existence. Its many times stronger than steel, and it’s the toughest natural protein fiber. With that much strength, spider silk is capable of a great many things. And when woven together, it could even stop bullets.

Jalilia Essaidi thought that perhaps there could be one less layer between the person and the spider silk. Why not combine spider silk with human skin? (It isn’t that simple, and the experiment did not include a person.) Theoretically, though, the spider silk protein could take the place of keratin which is responsible for the toughness of human skin.

Rather, genetically enhanced goats were infused with spider silk at the genetic level. The goats then produced milk that carried the spider silk protein which was then spun into a matrix laced with human skin cells

World Transformed and the need for faster innovation and GDP growth

The Hamilton project has shown that US productivity growth has stalled since about 1973. The underperformed of 2% per year has resulted in the US being half as rich per capita as it could have been if we had maintained the 1948-1973 trend

I was on the World Transformed interview series and discussed existential risks (along with Michael Anissimov and Alvis Briggs) - Our Fears Transformed

Alvis Briggs - Social futurist, writer and stealth groupcasting startup CEO Alvis Brigis focuses on the social aspects of convergent accelerating info, tech, comm and capability growth.

Michael Anissimov co-created the Singularity Summit and writes at Accelerating Future. He is a leading thinker and proponent of Friendly AI.

The one thing that I want to focus on for the World Transformed is the need to get organized to develop as fast as possible.

Change attitudes and plans for faster technological development. If we consider human civilization stuck on earth as a teenager living in his/her parents basement. We have to hurry up and grow up and develop the solar system. Move out and get a job and achieve ambitious things.

Reconfigurable gradient index using metamaterials for terahertz control

Applied Physical Letters - Reconfigurable gradient index using VO2 memory metamaterials Being able to tune metamaterial devices at this level of precision – repeatedly, as required, and after the metamaterial has been fabricated – opens the door to new techniques, including the ability to manufacture Gradient Index of Refraction (GRIN) devices, that can be used for a variety of imaging and communication technologies.

We demonstrate tuning of a metamaterial device that incorporates a form of spatial gradient control. Electrical tuning of the metamaterial is achieved through a vanadium dioxide layer which interacts with an array of split ring resonators. We achieved a spatial gradient in the magnitude of permittivity, writeable using a single transient electrical pulse. This induced gradient in our device is observed on spatial scales on the order of one wavelength at 1 THz. Thus, we show the viability of elements for use in future devices with potential applications in beamforming and communications.

Arxiv - Reconfigurable gradient index using VO2 memory metamaterials (4 pages)

Wearable Electronics Demonstrate Promise of Brain-Machine Interfaces

All the components needed to monitor electrical signals from the brain and skeletal muscle - electrodes, sensors, power supply and communications - are mounted on an ultrathin, skin-like membrane. Photo Credit: University of Illinois

The University of California, San Diego has demonstrated that a thin flexible, skin-like device, mounted with tiny electronic components, is capable of acquiring electrical signals from the brain and skeletal muscles and potentially transmitting the information wirelessly to an external computer. The development, published Aug. 12 in the journal Science, means that in the future, patients struggling with reduced motor or brain function, or research subjects, could be monitored in their natural environment outside the lab. For example, a person who struggles with epilepsy could wear the device to monitor for signs of oncoming seizures.

An ultrathin, electronic patch with the mechanics of skin, applied to the wrist for EMG and other measurements (Image: John Rogers)

Helion Energy, General Fusion and Tri-Alpha Energy Nuclear Fusion Project Updates

1. New Scientist [registration required] - Helion Energy has already received something like $5 million in funding from NASA and the US Department of Defense among others, is now looking for $20 million from private investors to build what it says could be a commercially viable reactor.

Helion Energy accelerates two small, compact balls of plasma into one another at a speed of hundreds of kilometres a second. The conditions created by the collision should, in theory, be sufficient to force the nuclei together, heat them and ignite fusion. This method has some notable advantages. Although magnetic fields are still used to confine the plasmas, the arrangement is far less elaborate than a tokamak, so the device can be a lot smaller. The reaction is intense and is over in a fraction of a second, and neutrons are only produced at the point where the plasmas collide, making it easy to collect them to breed tritium.

Helion researchers have used the technique to smash two plasmas together and achieve a temperature of 25 million degrees. A device that is three times larger could achieve ignition and breakeven.

Helion Energy has been covered regularly on Nextbigfuture

50 Helion Energy Fusion engines could transmute the US stockpile of nuclear waste.

Vacuum as a hyperbolic metamaterial with effects that would be detectable in early universe imaging

A couple of months ago, the Russian physicist Maxim Chernodub showed how a powerful magnetic field can generate electrically charged ρ mesons that behave like a superconductor along the axis of the magnetic filed. And today, Igor Smolyaninov, at the University of Maryland, takes this idea a step further. Smolyaninov has turned his attention to the superconducting behaviour of the charged ρ mesons generated in a vacuum by a magnetic field. He points out that this superconducting state behaves exactly like a metamaterial, focusing light in exotic ways.

Smolyaninov as one of the world's leading thinkers about metamaterials. In recent years, he has shown how to use metamaterials to make everything from black holes to quantum foam.

GE wants to add solar-thermal technology to its natural-gas plants to go to 70% efficiency

Technology Review - GE has agreed to invest up to $40 million in eSolar, a California-based developer of large solar thermal power systems. The investment follows a licensing agreement that GE struck with eSolar in June that will see the two companies supplying technology that combines solar-thermal and natural-gas power systems. The hybrid technology reduces carbon emissions and pollutants that would otherwise come from a stand-alone natural-gas plant.
GE wants to package eSolar's solar-thermal technology, which uses a large field of mirrors to focus the sun on a central tower to produce steam, with a new line of natural-gas plants known to as "combined cycle" systems because they capture their own waste heat to power a steam cycle. This process increases the plant's operating efficiency. The combined-cycle plants achieve up to 61 percent efficiency and use a new type of gas turbine that can more quickly adapt to the variability of some renewable energy sources, such as solar.

Adding eSolar's technology could boost that efficiency even further. Its precisely positioned mirrors achieve temperatures of up to 580 °C and produce enough heat to turn water into steam. When the sun is shining, the steam augments the steam cycle of GE's natural-gas plant, increasing overall plant efficiency to around 70 percent.

Watch a lot less TV and exercise for a substantially longer life

Watching TV for an average of six hours a day could shorten the viewer's life expectancy by almost five years, indicates research published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The impact rivals that of other well known behavioural risk factors, such as smoking and lack of exercise. Other research has shown that lifelong smoking is associated with the shortening of life expectancy by more than 4 years after the age of 50, with the average loss of life from one cigarette calculated to be 11 minutes - equivalent to half an hour of TV watching.

A study published Online First by The Lancet shows that just 15 minutes of physical activity per day reduces a person's risk of death by 14% and increases life expectancy by 3 years compared with inactive people. The Article is by Dr Chi-Pang Wen, National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan, and China Medical University Hospital, and Dr Jackson Pui Man Wai, National Taiwan Sport University, and colleagues.

August 15, 2011

Hybrid spintronics and straintronics: A magnetic technology for ultra low energy computing and signal processing

The magnetization of a 2-phase magnetostrictive/piezoelectric multiferroic single-domain shape-anisotropic nanomagnet can be switched with very small voltages that generate strain in the magnetostrictive layer. This can be the basis of ultralow power computing and signal processing. With appropriate material choice, the energy dissipated per switching event can be reduced to about 45 kT at room temperature for a switching delay of ∼100 ns and about 70 kT for a switching delay of ∼10 ns, if the energy barrier separating the two stable magnetization directions is about 32 kT. Such devices can be powered by harvesting energy exclusively from the environment without the need for a battery.

The proposed design runs on so little energy that batteries are not even necessary; it could run merely by tapping the ambient energy from the environment. Rather than the traditional charge-based electronic switches that encode the basic 0s and 1s of computer lingo, spintronics harnesses the natural spin – either up or down – of electrons to store bits of data. Spin one way and you get a 0; switch the spin the other way – typically by applying a magnetic field or by a spin-polarized current pulse – and you get a 1.

Arxiv - Hybrid spintronics and straintronics: A magnetic technology for ultra low energy computing and signal processing (16 pages)

The primary obstacle to continued downscaling of digital electronic devices in accordance with Moore’s law is the excessive energy dissipation that takes place in the device during switching of bits. Every charge-based device (e.g. MOSFET) has a fundamental shortcoming in this regard. Spin based devices, on the other hand, are switched by flipping spins without moving any charge in space and causing a current flow. Although some energy is still dissipated in flipping spins, it can be considerably less than the energy associated with current flow. This gives “spin” an advantage.

A composite structure consisting of a layer of piezoelectric material with intimate contact to a magnetostrictive nanomagnet (one that changes shape in response to strain). When a tiny voltage is applied across the structure, it generates strain in the piezoelectric layer, which is then transferred to the magnetostrictive layer. This strain rotates the direction of magnetism, achieving the flip. With the proper choice of materials, the energy dissipated can be as low as 0.4 attojoules, or about a billionth of a billionth of a joule.

If each operation needed that little energy and all of the other processes of a computer were maintained at that level then 2.5 exaflops would take 1 watt. 400 watts would be needed for a zettaflop. 400 kilowatts for a yottaflop system.

147 Superentities dominate the network of global corporate control

Network topology. (A) A bow-tie consists of in-section (IN), out-section (OUT),
strongly connected component or core (SCC), and tubes and tendrils (T&T). (B) Bow-tie structure of the largest connected component (LCC) and other connected components (OCC). Each section volume scales logarithmically with the share of its TNCs operating revenue. In parenthesis, percentage of operating revenue and number of TNCs, cfr. Table 1. (C) SCC layout of the SCC (1318 nodes and 12191 links). Node size scales logarithmically with operation revenue, node color with network control (from yellow to red). Link color scales with weight. (D) Zoom on some major TNCs in the financial sector. Some cycles are highlighted.

In 2007, a mere 147 companies controlled nearly 40 percent of the monetary value of all transnational corporations, researchers report in a paper published online July 28 at

Arxiv - The network of global corporate control

The structure of the control network of transnational corporations affects global market competition and financial stability. So far, only small national samples were studied and there was no appropriate methodology to assess control globally. We present the first investigation of the architecture of the international ownership network, along with the computation of the control held by each global player. We find that transnational corporations form a giant bow-tie structure and that a large portion of control flows to a small tightly-knit core of financial institutions. This core can be seen as an economic "super-entity" that raises new important issues both for researchers and policy makers.

36 page paper

Everything Robotic looks at the shift in Industrial robots and changes to world manufacturing

ABB's FRIDA two-armed robots, from the ABB website

Everything Robotic looks at the shift in Robotics that is being spearheaded by Foxconn deploying one million industrial robots by 2014 Foxconn’s deployment will more than double the world’s industrial robot population. And it will do so outside of the auto industry.

A new breed of flexible industrial arms is on its way. Almost all major companies in industrial robotics are trying to bring to market a similar kind of robot to cater to the needs of new-age manufacturing. Traditional companies like ABB, KUKA, Yaskawa Motoman and Fanuc are trying to bring their robots out of their cages in a step by step manner of evolution, while new entrants and researchers are trying to build entirely new kinds of revolutionary devices.

Google to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion

Google (GOOG) said Monday that it will pay $12.5 billion to acquire phone-maker Motorola Mobility.

The deal, which has been approved by the boards of both companies, will give Google its own hardware products and allow it to compete more closely with phone- and tablet-makers such as Apple (AAPL), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and the new alliance between Microsoft and Nokia.

It also gives Google access to thousands of patents held by Motorola, which pioneered the cellphone business. Analysts said that could help the Mountain View company stave off a barrage of patent claims levied by Apple, Microsoft and other rivals against Google's Android operating system.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 65

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 65 is up at NEI Nuclear Notes

Canadian Energy Issues - Environmentalists who make a big deal out of opposing the proposed expansion of the Keystone pipeline do so on the grounds of the sheer amount of carbon it represents. Keystone carries synthetic crude from the Alberta oil sands to refineries in the U.S. Natural gas is a vital ingredient in oil sands processing, and is the main source of oil sands carbon emissions. Now, if oil sands carbon is bad, and that carbon comes from natural gas, then why do the same environmentalists who oppose Keystone support the increased use of natural gas for power generation in Ontario? … In Ontario, Sierra opposes new nuclear build and favours, incredibly, natural gas.

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Focus Fusion Switch Success and other design upgrades ready

Left: LPP Advisor Bob Fitzgerald smiles his approval for the upgraded FoFu-1 during a visit to the lab, 8-6-2011. Right:The full complement of twelve new spark plugs.

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics nuclear fusion project has switches as a critical part of the system design. Switches have to fire repeatedly and precisely and often if the desired power is to be achieved.

A complete set of 12 re-designed switches passed all tests with flying colors, ready for higher voltages. The complete switch system fires simultaneously 18 times in a row with no misfires or prefires; New switches pass all tests at 35 kV and 40 kV.

In a major step forward for the Focus Fusion-1 experiment, LPP researchers succeeded in firing the entire bank of 12 capacitors simultaneously through our new “Mark 12” spark-gap switches. On August 7-8, the team fired the bank successfully 18 times in a row. During this series, there were no missed fires by any switch and there were no prefires--A prefire is when a switch spontaneously fires before it is triggered by the device operator. All switches fired within 40 ns of each other, and most switches fired within 10 ns of each other. While too few shots have been fired to determine the lifetime of the new switches, wear so far has been minimal.

Predictions and Predictable Futures

Jamais Cascio at Open the Future laments about conventional futurists

Consistently accurate predictions about interconnected complex systems are functionally impossible, at least at any real level of specificity. It's long been known that even people paid far too much money to make predictions about a constrained system (such as the stock market) usually do no better -- and typically worse -- than a chimpanzee flinging darts (or whatever else the chimp feels like flinging).

Look at the methods of the best predictors or performers

However, it is possible to invest and consistently outperform the stock market over decades. Warren Buffett takes value investing to another level. Many value investors aren't supporters of the efficient market hypothesis, but they do trust that the market will eventually start to favor those quality stocks that were, for a time, undervalued. Buffett, however, doesn't think in these terms. He isn't concerned with the supply and demand intricacies of the stock market. In fact, he's not really concerned with the activities of the stock market at all. This is the implication this paraphrase of his famous quote : "In the short term the market is a popularity contest; in the long term it is a weighing machine."

He chooses stocks solely on the basis of their overall potential as a company - he looks at each as a whole. Holding these stocks as a long-term play, Buffett seeks not capital gain but ownership in quality companies extremely capable of generating earnings. When Buffett invests in a company, he isn't concerned with whether the market will eventually recognize its worth; he is concerned with how well that company can make money as a business.

If it is too hard to consistently invest and win in stock market that is hard to predict then depend upon situations that you can control and are able to predict.

So if you find very difficult to predict complex interconnected systems then find aspects of them that are usefully predictable or find something else that is predictable.

Build up a core of what is known now and how well we know it and clear ranges for where things will be at different points in the future.

World population is 7 billion plus or minus 250 million. Census counts are not perfectly accurate. There could be systemic hiding of population from census counts. Second and third children are probably being hidden in China. Everyone who is alive in 2011 and does not die will be added to who is living in 2012 plus all of the net new births.

Moore's law has held up fairly well and is fairly dependable for several to many more years. There are many implications from the nuances and implications of it.

Overall levels of GDP, energy generation and other large scale factors are relatively predictable.

August 14, 2011

Follow Lawrenceville Plasma Physics on Twitter

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics lead project is the development of a dense plasma focus (DPF) fusion reactor, using proton-boron (pB11) fuel, an approach they call Focus Fusion. There latest project can be tracked on twitter.

Aug 11 - FoFu-1 preparing to fire and now fusing

Aug 10 - electrodes - including slotted knife-edge cathode base - back on the machine, that means time to play the slots for fusion!

Aug 10 - checking axial magnetic field coil for any irregularities due to wiggly wires--lookin' good!

Aug 9 - Improvements to cathode base to optimize pinching with knife edge underway, piece should be back from machine shop soon

Robots Appear to Finally be on the Verge of explosive unit growth and if everything goes right 1 billion robots by 2020

Foxconn is almost on their doubling the current level of industrial robots by 2014. If other manufacturing companies in China follow then we could see ten times or more the number of industrial robots by 2015. Heartland Robotics has talked about bringing automated robotics to a far lower price point. Instead of $20,000 to 100,000 down to $1000-5000.

Also, there is the construction of a lot of higher performance personal robots using tablets like the Ava Robot Tablets for the head and enlarged Roombas on the bottom with a 3 foot neck.

Finally making the move to the popularity growth pattern of PCs in the 1980s. Ten Million IBM PCs in 1983 after being introduced about 3 years earlier.

Gartner projects that the number of tablets will increase from about 17 million at the end of 2010 to 294 million (over 16 times more) by 2015. If those tablets were levels were used for Robots with a three year lag, then their could be 300 million tablet leveraging robots with cheap Heartland Robotic (and Chinese knockoff) arms by 2020.

Graphs and plans for North Dakota Bakken Oil from State Minerals Department

Oil in place in North Dakota by County for Bakken and Three Forks formations conmbined

North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources from Aug 2010, 28 page presentation on North Dakota Oil North Dakota is the fourth largest oil producing state and is clearly heading to at least second place behind Texas. (H/T theOildrum)

In June, 2011 oil production increased to 384676 barrels of oil per day, an increase of 21000 barrels per day from the prior month to another new record

Three‐Dimensional Geologic Model of Northwestern North Dakota (91 pages, Feb 2011)

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