April 13, 2013

Details of Elon Musk Goal of getting 80,000 people per year to Mars

Elon Musk had a November 16,2012 talk at the Royal Aeronautical Society where he rolled out his plan for a major colonization of Mars. He followed up on twitter

He actually planned to send 80,000 people to Mars every year once the colonization begins. He says he knows it sounds crazy to some and he also says that he does not expect Spacex to do it alone.

Reusable rockets are the difference between something costing half a percent of GDP and all of GDP.

At a joint press conference with NASA , SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the company will try a water landing of its Falcon 9 first stage later year (2013). The landing will be the start of a series of flight tests that could culminate with an attempted propulsive landing of a first stage back at its launch site in the middle of 2014, Musk said. A successful propulsive landing would enable reusable rockets which could lower the cost of launching to space by 100 times.

Elon Said

The cost of the propellant is only about 0.3 percent of the cost of rocket. And we have a low cost rocket….The Falcon 9 is 60 million dollars, and that’s for something with four times the thrust of a 747 and about the same liftoff mass. So that’s a good deal. But the propellant is only 200,000 dollars. So if we could use the — hypothetically use — Falcon 9 rocket 1,000 times, then the capital cost would go from being 60 million dollars per flight to 60,000 dollars a flight.

Graphene nanoplatelets used to make battery anode with four times the capacity available now at commercial scale

XG Sciences has launched a new generation of anode materials for lithium-ion batteries (LIB) with four times the capacity of conventional anodes. The new anode material is produced through proprietary manufacturing processes and uses the Company’s xGnP® graphene nanoplatelets to stabilize silicon particles in a nano-engineered composite structure. The material displays dramatically improved charge storage capacity with good cycle life and high efficiencies.

The graphene battery anodes are available immediately at commercial scale.

The exact performance of the new anode materials will depend on the specific battery formulations used by the cell manufacturer, noting that XGS has demonstrated capacity of 1500 mAh/g with low irreversible capacity loss and stable cycling performance in life tests.

We have to buy the Future. More money means we can buy a better future

Money is critical in technology development and technology adoption.

The new or improved technology that is adopted in the future will become the technology of the future.

People adopt the products of the future by choosing to buy it in large numbers.

Wealthier people can buy more expensive and better products.

Initial wealthier people are often the early adopters who buy the most expensive first versions of a product.

Those early sales fund more development and refinement of products.

Do poor countries develop the next dominant technology ? Did they do that in the past ?
Are poor people in poor countries buying new technology products ?
It costs money for research and it costs money for development and commercialization and industrial scale production.

The average american has about $50,000 per year. (approximate per capita income)
There are several countries in Africa and Asia with per capita income of $500 per year.
100 times poorer.
People in Monaco have about $100,000 per year in per capita income. Twice as rich.
There are things that a country could feasibly do with widescale use of robotic manufacturing, cheap and abundant energy, robotic cars, cities and skyscrapers which could enable people to be ten to one hundred times richer than they are now.

Just as people in the US are ten to one hundred times richer than people in other countries now. Choices could be made that would enable a far more productive and wealthy society. The 50 percentile would move up to the level of the 99 percentile. The 99 percentile being the infamous 1%.

Jetpacks that can fly for an half an hour and have a 30 mile range will be available commercially soon and cost about $100,000

Commercial flying cars are getting certified and will cost about $279,000

If people who can afford a $28,000 car were ten times richer they could afford a flying car.
There are about 200,000 people who own their own small plane or jet now.

April 12, 2013

Oilsand taxes will pay for Molten Salt Reactor development. MSR will provide steam for $200 billion per year of oil. MSR will free us from oil for better energy future

Canadian David LeBlanc is an expert on molten salt nuclear reactors. Nextbigfuture covered a talk he gave on denatured molten salt reactors.

Terrestrial Energy Inc. (“TEI”) was founded in late 2012, and is domiciled in Ontario, Canada. Its mission is to commercialize its patent-pending Molten Salt Reactor technology in Canada. The company has been formed around Dr. David LeBlanc, and his intellectual property portfolio. Dr. LeBlanc is the internationally recognized expert on MSR technology.

LeBlanc is going to develop the Integral Molten Salt Reactor, or IMSR. The goal is to commercialize the Terrestrial reactor by 2021. They have oilsand partners.

David LeBlanc had a presentation - Molten Salt Reactors and the Oil Sands:
Odd Couple or Key to North American Energy Independence?

Molten Salt Reactor Advantages
* Many potential variations but sharing unique advantages
* Increased Safety
* Reduced Costs
* Resource Sustainability
* Greatly Reduced Long Lived Wastes
* Fission products almost all benign after a few hundred years
* The transuranics (Np,Pu,Am,Cm) are the real issue and reason for “Yucca Mountains”
* All designs produce less TRUs and can be kept in or recycled back into the reactor to fission off (IMSR will keep the waste inside)
* Over a thousand fold improvement over conventional “Once Through"

Molten Salt and Oilsands
* Using nuclear produced steam for Oil Sands production long studied
* Vast majority of oil only accessible by In-Situ methods
* No turbine island needed so 30% to 40% the capital cost saved (instead of steam to turbine for electricity just send it underground to produce oil from oilsands)
* Oil sands producers expected to pay 200 Billion$ on carbon taxes over the next 35 years, funds mandated to be spent on cleantech initiatives
* Canada Oil Sands in ground reserves of 2 trillion barrels, current estimate 10% recoverable (likely much higher with cheaper steam)
* 64 GWth nuclear to add 6.4 million bbls/day (200B$/year revenue)
* 64 GWth needed as about 200 small 300MWth MSRs
* Oil Sands a bridge to MSRs then with time, MSRs a bridge to not needing oil

IMSR design
* No fuel fabrication cost or salt processing = extremely low fuel costs
* Under 0.1 cents/kwh
* Right size reactors, right pressure steam

The IMSR is a simplified design denature molten salt reactor design that takes features of the Small Modular Advanced High Temperature Reactor (SmAHTR)

With the right combination of power density and core design Terrestrial could build the IMSR with upwards of six times the electrical output of the same size vessel as SmAHTR. It would require replacing the graphite core every four years. The fuel would reside temporarily in a holding tank during the core swap. That marks an improvement over the SmAHTR concept, which requires a swap of the solid fuel core every four years.

LeBlanc envisions IMSR reactor sizes ranging from 25 MWe to 300 MWe.

The 25 MWe version of the IMSR is the size of a fairly deep hottub

Samsung mass producting 128 Gigabit NAND memory using 10 nanometer lithography

Samsung has begun mass producing a 128-gigabit (Gb), 3-bit multi-level-cell (MLC) NAND memory chip using 10 nanometer (nm)-class process technology this month. This chip will enable high-density memory solutions such as embedded NAND storage and solid state drives (SSDs).

“By introducing next-generation memory storage products like the 128Gb NAND chip, Samsung is extremely well situated to meet growing global customer needs,” said Young-Hyun Jun, executive vice president, memory sales & marketing, Device Solutions Division, Samsung Electronics. “The new chip is a critical product in the evolution of NAND flash, one whose timely production will enable us to increase our competitiveness in the high density memory storage market.”

Samsung’s 128Gb NAND flash is based on a 3-bit multi-level-cell design and 10nm-class process technology, which means a process technology node somewhere between 10 and 20 nanometers. It boasts the industry’s highest density as well as the highest performance level of 400 megabits-per-second (mbps) data transfer rate based on the toggle DDR 2.0 interface.

Some who call themselves Environmentalists are Hypocritical about China's Nuclear, Wind and Solar Power

China is building the most new nuclear power of any country and should have about 40 gigawatts of nuclear power generating about 260 TWh. China's current 15 GW of nuclear power generates about 98 TWh.

China increased its solar PV target to 40 GW.

An MIT researcher estimates that 40 GW of solar PV power in China will generate about 50 TWh.

Some people who call themselves environmentalists (there are good environmentalists and bad ones who call themselves environmentalists) will try to spin that China's nuclear power does not count because it is centrally planned. Then they say that China's solar power and wind power mean that solar power and wind have arrived even though solar and wind also are part of China's central energy plan.

The reality is that China is the single most important energy market in the world. The developing countries are where all of the economic growth is happening and where the vast majority of new energy generation is getting built. China counts for nuclear. China counts for wind and solar. So far, China has added more hydro power (like the Three Gorges dam)

The 40 GW of solar power is cheered by Cleantechnica and is proof that solar power has arrived.

Amory Lovins is a considered an energy expert by green environmentalists.

In 2008 Amory Lovins said - In 2006 distributed renewables alone got $56 billion of private risk capital while nuclear as usual got zero—it's only bought by central planners. Nuclear added less capacity than photovoltaics and a 10th of what wind power added. Even in China, which has ambitious nuclear goals, they already have seven times as much distributed renewable as nuclear capacity, and it's growing seven times faster.

NOTE- Lovins combines multiple lies (or more politely confusing spin). He classifies smaller natural gas power units as distributed micropower. Below you can see that nuclear power generation is about equal to wind and solar. So the growing seven times faster was kw and not kwh and some additional playing with numbers and definitions that do not represent reality.

China's power generation in 2012

China's generating capacity in 2012 was 4977.4 TWh, an increase of 5.2%
Hydro generating 864.1 TWh, an increase of 29.3%;
Thermal power (mainly coal) 3910.8 TWh up by 0.3%
Nuclear power 98.2 TWh, up by 12.6%
Wind power 100.4 TWh, up 35.5%
Solar power generation 3.5 TWh, up by 414%.

3676 kwh / year per capita power generation for about 40% in developed countries.

Google, Baidu, Dwave Systems focused on Sparse Coding for more accurate image classification and unsupervised feature learning

Sparse coding is a hot area in the field of Deep Learning. Deep learning and sparse coding appears highly promising for increasing the accuracy of image classification and it enables a system to look at tens of millions of images and to classify the information without human supervision. Increasing the accuracy of image and voice recognition can transform the interaction and experience that people have with search systems and artificial intelligence interfaces. A highly accurate voice recognition system means that people can just talk to a computer and not need keyboards and mice. This enables efficient and transformative new form factors for devices. Google, Baidu (dominant search engine in China) and Dwave Systems (adiabatic quantum computers) are all focused on Sparse coding and deep learning.

Dwave systems has a 512 qubit adiabatic quantum computer. They recently wrote up how to solve sparse coding using the Dwave system. The results are comparable to the best conventional systems. If Dwave systems are scaled to 2000 qubits the speed gain expected would be about 500,000 times. This would suggest that Dwave would be the fastest systems for important aspects of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Dwave used the PiCloud python libraries, which allows us to run hundreds or thousands of parallel jobs to perform the optimization over the weights. As a rough estimate, for the optimization problems generated by MNIST, each optimization using FSS takes about 30 milliseconds, and there are 60,000 of these per iteration of the block descent procedure. If we run serially this is about 30 minutes per iteration. If we use 100 cores, we can send 600 jobs to each core, and get about 100x speed-up, taking the time down to about 20 seconds.

As an interesting aside, Dwave find that our own Python implementation of FSS is about the same in terms of performance as the original MATLAB code provided by Honglak Lee. This was a little surprising as the core computations run in highly optimized compiled code inside MATLAB. This is evidence that the routines within numpy are competitive with MATLAB’s versions for the core FSS computations.

Deep Learning

Deep learning is a sub-field of machine learning (artificial intelligence) that is based on learning several levels of representations, corresponding to a hierarchy of features or factors or concepts, where higher-level concepts are defined from lower-level ones, and the same lower-level concepts can help to define many higher-level concepts.

Deep learning is part of a broader family of machine learning methods based on learning representations. An observation (e.g., an image) can be represented in many ways (e.g., a vector of pixels), but some representations make it easier to learn tasks of interest (e.g., is this the image of a human face?) from examples, and research in this area attempts to define what makes better representations and how to learn them.

Sparse Coding

The sparse code is a kind of neural code in which each item is encoded by the strong activation of a relatively small set of neurons. For each item to be encoded, this is a different subset of all available neurons.

As a consequence, sparseness may be focused on temporal sparseness ("a relatively small number of time periods are active") or on the sparseness in an activated population of neurons. In this latter case, this may be defined in one time period as the number of activated neurons relative to the total number of neurons in the population. This seems to be a hallmark of neural computations since compared to traditional computers, information is massively distributed across neurons. A major result in neural coding from Olshausen et al. is that sparse coding of natural images produces wavelet-like oriented filters that resemble the receptive fields of simple cells in the visual cortex.

Kai Yu, who leads Baidu's Artificial Intelligence Lab, has a tutorial on Deep Learning and Sparse Coding. (69 pages)

Baidu open Deep Learning Artificial Intelligence Lab in Silicon Valley

In late January, word arrived that the Chinese search giant was setting up a research lab dedicated to “deep learning” — an emerging computer science field that seeks to mimic the human brain with hardware and software — and as it turns out, this lab includes an operation here in Silicon Valley, not far from Apple headquarters, in addition to a facility back in China. The company just hired its first researcher in Cupertino, with plans to bring in several more by the end of the year.

Baidu calls its lab The Institute of Deep Learning, or IDL. Much like Google and Apple and others, the company is exploring computer systems that can learn in much the same way people do. “We have a really big dream of using deep learning to simulate the functionality, the power, the intelligence of the human brain,” says Kai Yu, who leads Baidu’s speech- and image-recognition search team and just recently made the trip to Cupertino to hire that first researcher. “We are making progress day by day.” Kai Yu, deputy engineering director of Baidu, has a webpage and a list of publications.

In the eyes of CEO Robin Li, Baidu IDL's goal is to become the "AT & T-Bell labs, Xerox PARC this first-class research institutions". If, as Robin Li depicted, this will be the new "Microsoft Asia NARL an important impact on the field of the smart technology. Baidu overall community will benefit from Deep Learning technology advancement with improved search and interface infrastructure.

Predictions for a manned landing on Mars by 2021-2033 and a small permanent Mars Base by 2023-2037

Yesterday I predicted that there would be a permanent base established on Mars by 2037.

This is a prediction where I pad the date to allow for various real life problems to slow down the development. I believe the manned fly by of Mars will happen in 2018.

Robert Zubrin is a highly opinionated and outspoken Mars advocate. A few years ago Robert Zubrin proposed going to Mars by 2016. His proposal was mostly technically feasible (although it was counting on using a Spacex Heavy which will not have its first flight until later this year. Also, the Spacex Heavy will not be man rated for a few years.) No group who actually do what Zubrin proposed has stepped up to it. Zubrin was not even predicting it would be done. Zubrin was basically making the technical argument that it should be done and we should accept risk in adventurous space missions.

Elon Musk's estimate for a manned mission to Mars is 2024-2027

In 2012, Elon Musk told "Nightline" in an interview at SpaceX headquarters in Los Angeles. "I think we'll be able to send, probably, the first people to Mars in roughly 12 to 15 years. That's my estimate."

Note he said that Spacex would be able to send people to Mars around 2024-2027. This is different to saying that they would send people to Mars at that time. He is saying the capability would be there. If Dennis Tito is successful with the Mars flyby in 2018 then it will make it more than 60% likely there would be a human landing on Mars in 2025-2030. However, if the 2018 window is missed the next free return from Mars would be 2031. Therefore, I predicted a Mars colony by 2037. Current technology takes about 250 days to go one way to Mars. The capability will be there by 2027. The manned landing would be by 2024-2033. The base would be by 2028-2035.

Mars One - Could be successful but only if reusable Spacex Rocket is developed to bring the cost down

Mars One plans to establish the first human settlement on Mars by April 2023. The first crew of four astronauts emigrate to their new planet from Earth, a journey that takes seven months. A new team will join the settlement every two years. By 2033 there will be over twenty people living, working and flourishing on Mars, their new home.

The business plan is to use reality TV and other revenue to support the costs of the project.

Mars One has a bold plan, but I think they can only afford it if Spacex is successful with the reusable rocket to lower costs for going to space by 100 times.

Color Printing at 100,000 dots per inch at the diffraction limit of visible light

Commercial laser printers typically produce pin-sharp images with spots of ink about 20 micrometers apart, resulting in a resolution of 1,200 dots per inch (dpi). By shrinking the separation to just 250 nanometers — roughly 100 times smaller — a research team at A*STAR can now print images at an incredible 100,000 dpi, the highest possible resolution for a color image. These images could be used as minuscule anti-counterfeit tags or to encode high-density data.

To print the image, the team coated a silicon wafer with insulating hydrogen silsesquioxane and then removed part of that layer to leave behind a series of upright posts of about 95 nanometers high. They capped these nanoposts with layers of chromium, silver and gold (1, 15 and 5 nanometers thick, respectively), and also coated the wafer with metal to act as a backreflector.

Nature Nanotechnology - Printing colour at the optical diffraction limit

April 11, 2013

Concentrated solar power could boost Natural Gas Plants by 20% for Hybrid solar - natural gas plants at 6 cents per kwh by 2020

Natural gas power plants can use about 20 percent less fuel when the sun is shining by injecting solar energy into natural gas with a new system being developed by the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The system converts natural gas and sunlight into a more energy-rich fuel called syngas, which power plants can burn to make electricity.

PNNL's system is best suited for power plants located in sunshine-drenched areas such as the American Southwest.

Installing PNNL's system in front of natural gas power plants turns them into hybrid solar-gas power plants. The system uses solar heat to convert natural gas into syngas, a fuel containing hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Because syngas has a higher energy content, a power plant equipped with the system can consume about 20 percent less natural gas while producing the same amount of electricity.

Natural gas is about 27% of US energy production. Wide adoption of this concentrated solar would add a 1.3% solar energy component (25% of 20%). It would still only work in daylight hours. In theory, this solar would need minimal energy subsidies.

The system is adaptable to a large range of natural gas power plant sizes. The number of PNNL devices needed depends on a particular power plant's size. For example, a 500 MW plant would need roughly 3,000 dishes equipped with PNNL's device.

Unlike many other solar technologies, PNNL's system doesn't require power plants to cease operations when the sun sets or clouds cover the sky. Power plants can bypass the system and burn natural gas directly.

Though outside the scope of the current project, Wegeng also envisions a day when PNNL's solar-driven system could be used to create transportation fuels. Syngas can also be used to make synthetic crude oil, which can be refined into diesel and gasoline than runs our cars.

Wegeng's team aims to keep the system's overall cost low enough so that the electricity produced by a natural gas power plant equipped with the system would cost no more than 6 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2020. Such a price tag would make hybrid solar-gas power plants competitive with conventional, fossil fuel-burning power plants while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

PNNL’s concentrating solar power system for natural gas power plants, installed on a mirrored parabolic dish.

Electronics with Single atom thick Germanane will be ten times faster than silicon electronics

Chemists at The Ohio State University have developed the technology for making a one-atom-thick sheet of germanium, and found that it conducts electrons more than ten times faster than silicon and five times faster than conventional germanium. This will be easier to commercialize than graphene electronics.

The material’s structure is closely related to that of graphene—a much-touted two-dimensional material comprised of single layers of carbon atoms. As such, graphene shows unique properties compared to its more common multilayered counterpart, graphite. Graphene has yet to be used commercially, but experts have suggested that it could one day form faster computer chips, and maybe even function as a superconductor, so many labs are working to develop it.

ACS Nano - Stability and Exfoliation of Germanane: A Germanium Graphane Analogue

Startup Expert - science and technology as strategic asset investments enabled Silicon Valley and now China is following that strategy

Steve who wrote the Startup Owners Manual and founded E.piphany discusses his views on China.

US Post WW2 Strategic Investments Enabled Silicon Valley

The best analogy to describe the relationship of science and technology and the Chinese startup scene is to understand its parallels with the United States during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. During World War II, the U.S. mobilized scientists in a way no other country had. For 45 years – post World War II until the fall of the Soviet Union – the U.S. viewed science and technology as a strategic asset. We made major investments in it, understanding that establishing basic and applied science leadership was necessary for us to build advanced weapons systems to defend our country and deter and if necessary, wage and win a war with the Soviet Union.

These investments took the form of building national research organizations, several for basic science (NSF, NIH) and others for applied weapons research (DOD, DARPA, DOE, etc.) Research universities also became an integral part of the military ecosystem as the federal government pumped billions into supporting science.

Startups, entrepreneurship and commercial applications are happy byproducts of those military investments. For example, as the semiconductor business started, the largest customers for Fairchild’s and Texas Instruments new integrated circuits were the Apollo Guidance Computer and the guidance system for the Minuteman II ICBM.

China is following the same path...

Over the last three decades, to achieve strategic parity with the United States and to construct a modern military, the Chinese have made massive investments in building their science and technology infrastructure

Self driving cars and robot truck platoons could start to appear for commercial use by 2018

In February this year, aline-up of four large trucks circled an oval test track in Tsukuba City, Japan to help get so-called “truck platooning” technology ready for real-world use. This technology aims to create semi-autonomous road trains, where convoys of vehicles enter a snaking train of vehicles under the command of the lead vehicle. The drivers of the “drones” are then free to do whatever they like – read a book, take a nap or just sit. When they are ready to leave, the driver takes back control and exits the train. In theory the technology offers several benefits, such as cutting down on accidents and improving fuel efficiency.

The Japanese demonstration was the latest of a couple of projects set up to trial and develop the technology.

* A couple of years ago a project at RWTH Aachen University in Germany operated a platoon of four trucks spaced at 10m (33ft) intervals.

* In the US, research at the University of California, Berkeley put three-truck caravans on the road with spacing from 3 to 6 meters.

* last year, the Scania Transport Laboratory in Sweden tested aspects of truck platooning on a 520km (325 miles) shipping route between the cities of Sodertalje and Helsingborg.

* a recently completed European project led by Volvo called Safe Road Trains for the Environment (Sartre) has explored using cars and lorries simultaneously. Its platoons cruised at 85 km/h (50mph) with a gap between each vehicle of 6m. The study vehicles put in some 10,000 km (6,200 miles) of road, and – like the Japanese study – indicated that platooning could offer substantial benefits.

* The Japanese study was intended to address some of the challenges in making the technology ready for public use by ensuring bulletproof safety and reliability. The Japanese target is to enable both large and small trucks to safely maintain a 4 meters distance between vehicles in single file while driving 80km/h.

What will happen far sooner than other's have recently predicted

The BBC has collected predictions (from 2013 to 2150) and produced odds for their occurrence. Odds were produced by Ladsbrokes a bet maker in the UK.

The BBC predictions are from Jan 2, 2013.

BBC - A successful demonstration of fusion power by 2020.
NBF more power will be produced in a nuclear fusion demonstration than the power input before Dec 31, 2017. NBF tracks fusion energy projects all the time. There are some decent prospects for a breakthrough by Dec 31, 2015. The Lawrenceville plasma physics project, John Slough's tests this summer for fusion propulsion could also be a breakthrough net gain lab demonstration of fusion power. General Fusion in Canada could have a good demo within 3 years. EMC2 fusion and Tri-alpha Energy's work seems to be slower but they are both being secretive.

BBC - Wealthy people are able to select elements of their offsprings genetic makeup by 2050.
NBF - Selection based on genetic makeup will occur by 2023 for pre-implantation and by 2030 for selection of the egg or sperm via non-destructive methods and genetic modification of cells and embroys.

Embryos created with assisted reproduction techniques can already have pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and genetic profiling is becoming more advanced.

The genes that have a positive or negative effect on intelligence will be announced in two months. 750 genes that have an effect on height are known. Full genome sequencing of an embyro, combined with the knowledge of which genes contribute would allow

April 10, 2013

Optimechanical Circuits made from polycrystalline diamond

The application of light for information processing opens up a multitude of possibilities. However, to be able to adequately use photons in circuits and sensors, materials need to have particular optical and mechanical properties. Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have now for the first time used polycrystalline diamond to manufacture optical circuits.

Previously optical circuits have been manufactured using monocrystalline diamond substrates i.e., highly pure crystals with typically no more than one impurity atom to every one billion diamond atoms. Such circuits are bound to be small and their application to optical systems has required sophisticated fabrication methods.

Now, for the first time, the research group headed by Pernice used polycrystalline diamond for the fabrication of wafer-based optomechanical circuits. Even though its crystal structures are more irregular, polycrystalline diamond is robust and thus can be more easily processed. It is due to these specific properties that polycrystalline diamond can be used on much larger areas than monocrystalline material. Polycrystalline diamond conducts photons almost as efficiently as the monocrystalline substrate and is suitable for industrial use. As a matter of fact, monolithic optomechanical components could not have been manufactured without this new material.

Two parallel free-standing waveguides made of polycrystalline diamond serve as mechanical resonators. Optical fields (red/blue) are observed to propagate inside of them. (Graphic: KIT/CFN/Pernice)

Nature Communications - Diamond-integrated optomechanical circuits

Laser Camera using superconducting nanowires takes 3-D Images From 1000 meters away

Using superconducting nanowires and lasers, a new camera system can produce high-resolution 3-D images of objects from up to a kilometer away.

The technology works by sending out a low-power infrared laser beam, which sweeps over an object or scene. Some light gets reflected back, though most is scattered in different directions. A detector measures how long it takes one particle of light, a photon, to return to the camera and is then able to calculate the distance from the system to the object. The technique can resolve millimeter-size bumps and changes in depth from hundreds of meters away.

The new camera takes advantage of superconducting nanowires, materials with almost no electrical resistance that have to be cooled to extremely low temperatures. These superconductors are very sensitive and can tell when just a single photon has hit them.

Although other approaches can have exceptional depth resolution, the ability of the new system to image objects like items of clothing that do not easily reflect laser pulses makes it useful in a wider variety of field situations

Pictures on the right were from 910 meters away

Optical Society - New camera system creates high-resolution 3-D images from up to a kilometer away

April 09, 2013

HP Will ship higher capacity than flash memristor memory by the end of 2013

HP said it expects to ship Memristor storage as a denser (higher capacity in the same space) alternative to flash, by the end of this year in commercial applications. This is a faster schedule than has previously been indicated.

HP has photonic inter-node backplanes coming with an Apollo launch later this year, to speed data transfers between compute, storage and networking nodes in a converged system complex by sending light signals instead of electrical ones

A photonic-integrated fabric architecture might achieve 1TB/min.

Hitachi Data Systems believes it can drive the cost of MLC (2-bit multi-layer cell) flash to parity with high-performance SAS disk drive cost by the end of 2015.

Hitachi Data Systems will launch a 3.2TB flash module within weeks or a low number of months, doubling its current 1.6TB size, and will move to 6.4TB modules in 2014. This is aggressive and will give HDS a huge cost advantage over other flash suppliers.

DNA used to create nanoscale patterns of graphene and could shape graphene circuits

Chemical and molecular engineers at MIT and Harvard University have used folded DNA to control the nanostructure of inorganic materials. After building DNA nanostructures of various shapes, they used the molecules as templates to create nanoscale patterns on sheets of graphene. This could be an important step toward large-scale production of electronic chips made of graphene, a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon with unique electronic properties.

At left, metallized DNA (red) forms letters on a graphene surface. Treatment with oxygen plasma etches the shape of the letters into the graphene, right.
Image: Zhong Jin

Nature Communications - Metalized DNA nanolithography for encoding and transferring spatial information for graphene patterning

Massively parallel DNA nanopores using hybrid DNA origami for faster Sequencing

A sensing system developed at Cambridge is being commercialised in the UK for use in rapid, low-cost DNA sequencing, which would make the prediction and diagnosis of disease more efficient, and individualised treatment more affordable. Researchers have developed a system which combines a solid-state nanopore with DNA origami, for use in DNA sequencing, protein sensing and other applications. The technology has been licensed for development and commercialisation to UK-based company Oxford Nanopore.

Currently, there are two main types of nanopores in use: solid state nanopores constructed by fabricating tiny holes in silicon or graphene with electron beam equipment; and biological nanopores made by inserting pore-forming proteins into a biological membrane such as a lipid bilayer.

Biological nanopores are cheap and easy to manufacture in large quantities of identical pores. It is possible through genetic engineering to define their structure at the atomic level, varying the pores for the analysis of different target molecules. However, they are only suitable for a limited range of applications, and may be replaced over time by solid-state nanopores. At present, solid-state nanopores are difficult to manufacture and are not as sensitive as biological nanopores, as it is difficult to position specific chemical groups on the surface.

In collaboration with researchers at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Dr Keyser and his team have developed a hybrid nanopore which combines a solid-state material, such as silicon or graphene, and DNA origami - small, well-controlled shapes made of DNA.

Since complementary sequences of DNA can bind to one another, the origami structures can be customised so that functional groups, fluorescent compounds and other molecular adapters can be added to the DNA strands with sub-nanometre precision, improving sensitivity and reliability. Additionally, hundreds of billions of self-assembling origami structures can be produced at the same time, with yields of up to 90 per cent.

Recent research by the team, published in the journal Lab on a Chip, has shown that up to 16 measurements can be taken simultaneously, allowing for much higher data throughput and screening of different DNA origami structures.

Next Apple IPhone will come in two or three different screen sizes and should launch in July 2013

Apple's next iPhone will be available in two or three different screen sizes and launch in July, says an analyst with Topeka Capital Markets. Topeka analyst Brian White cited information from a meeting with a "tech-supply chain company." He believes Apple will unveil the iPhone 5S in at least two or possibly three different screen sizes.

One model would likely adopt a size larger than 4 inches. That could prove tempting to consumers who might otherwise gravitate to larger-screen Android phones. A second model would stick with the current 4-inch display for people who don't want a change. And a third could go smaller than 4 inches and sell at a lower price.

Snap Proof E-Sail Tether

Space tethers hold intriguing potential for satellite manoeuvring, attitude control and even power generation. But about half of all orbital tether tests have either failed to deploy or snapped, probably due to micrometeoroid impacts.

This scanning electron microscope image shows the new design of an ultra-thin and hopefully snap-proof solar sail tether soon to be tested on Estonia’s ESTCube-1, which is being launched into orbit along with ESA’s Proba-V satellite on the next Vega rocket in April.

Harnessing manufacturing techniques from the microelectronics industry, this aluminium tether measures just 50 micrometres across – across half the diameter of the average human hair – with a smaller 25 micrometre wire interweaved onto it.

United State top total oil producing country at the end of 2012

The US was the top total oil producing country in the month of November and for the last quarter of 2012.

Nextbigfuture had noted that the US probably passed Saudi Arabia in Dec, 2012 based on preliminary weekly statistics. The more thorough monthly statistics indicate it happened a month earlier.

Top All Oil Liquid Producing Countries
1. United States 11.7 million bpd
2. Saudi Arabia 11 million bpd (down from 11.7 earlier in 2012)
3. Russia 10.5 million bpd
4. China 4.5 million bpd
5. Canada 4.0 million bpd

If the refinery gains are not included, then the US is the second highest oil producing country.
If only crude oil is counted then Russia was the top producing country.

The EIA had World total oil production at 89.6 million bpd in Nov, 2012 and crude oil at 75.85 million bpd. The most crude oil production was in April 2012 at 76.0 million bpd.

MIT experiments show Ionic thrust engines produce 50 times more thrust efficiency per kilowatt than jet engines and could be scaled for light aircraft

MIT researchers have run ionic thruster experiments and found they may be a far more efficient source of propulsion than conventional jet engines. In their experiments, they found that ionic wind produces 110 newtons of thrust per kilowatt, compared with a jet engine’s 2 newtons per kilowatt. Steven Barrett, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, envisions that ionic wind may be used as a propulsion system for small, lightweight aircraft. In addition to their relatively high efficiency, ionic thrusters are silent, and invisible in infrared, as they give off no heat — ideal traits, he says, for a surveillance vehicle.

There could be all kinds of military or security benefits to having a silent propulsion system with no infrared signature.

A basic ionic thruster consists of three parts: a very thin copper electrode, called an emitter; a thicker tube of aluminum, known as a collector; and the air gap in between. A lightweight frame typically supports the wires, which connect to an electrical power source. As voltage is applied, the field gradient strips away electrons from nearby air molecules. These newly ionized molecules are strongly repelled by the corona wire, and strongly attracted to the collector. As this cloud of ions moves toward the collector, it collides with surrounding neutral air molecules, pushing them along and creating a wind, or thrust.

The device was most efficient at producing lower thrust.

There is one big obstacle to ionic wind propulsion: thrust density, or the amount of thrust produced per given area. Ionic thrusters depend on the wind produced between electrodes; the larger the space between electrodes, the stronger the thrust produced. That means lifting a small aircraft and its electrical power supply would require a very large air gap. Barrett envisions that electrodynamic thrusters for aircraft — if they worked — would encompass the entire vehicle.

PNAS - On the performance of electrohydrodynamic propulsion

2014 the beginning of solid state battlefield lasers for the US Navy and Air force

Navy leaders announced plans Apr. 8 at the Sea-Air-Space exposition to deploy for the first time a solid-state laser aboard a ship in fiscal year 2014 (October 1 2013 through September 30 2014). The laser will be added to the USS Ponce which is stationed in the Persian Gulf.

The Air force previously announced plans to install a solid state 150 kilowatt laser into a fighter plane in 2014.

There is a navy program to develop 2500 pound or less 50 kilowatt lasers for mounting on trucks.

The announcement to deploy the laser onboard USS Ponce (AFSB[I] 15) comes as Navy researchers continue to make significant progress on directed energy weapons, allowing the service to deploy a laser weapon on a Navy ship two years ahead of schedule. The at-sea demonstration in FY 14 is part of a wider portfolio of near-term Navy directed energy programs that promise rapid fielding, demonstration and prototyping efforts for shipboard, airborne and ground systems.

"Our conservative data tells us a shot of directed energy costs under $1," Klunder said. "Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to fire a missile, and you can begin to see the merits of this capability."

The Laser Weapon System (LaWS) was temporarily installed aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) in 2012

Following the USS Ponce demonstration, the Navy and DoD will continue to research ways to integrate affordable laser weapons into the fleet.

Will Google Gigabit Internet Fiber go National ?

A local ABC affiliate confirmed last week today is to announce Google Fiber in Austin. The Google Fiber service offers gigabit Internet service for $70 per month and another tier that includes TV service for $120 per month.

In its last earnings call in January, CFO Patrick Pichette said “we really think that we should be making business — a good business — with this opportunity, and we’re going to continue to look at the possibility of expanding.”

Some analysts doubt that Google will move in the next few years to a full national rollout. If the Kansas rollout cost $94 million, then 20 million people would cost $11 billion.

However, Google would make about $100 million in each year from the internet service. If the margin was 50%, then each rollout would pay for itself after about two years.

1100 Cities competed for Google internet services. Those cities could choose to adopt the Kansas City rules that enable Google to more effectively deploy service.

North Korea's Nuclear Threats Could Trigger Other Countries to get nuclear weapons

North Korea is threatening America with nuclear attack and Iran is closer to its own atomic arsenal, and the world is edging ever closer to a dangerous new era of nuclear proliferation.

South Korea

Chung Mong-joon, a prominent member of South Korea's ruling party, has called for the U.S. to return tactical nuclear weapons to the peninsula. George H.W. Bush withdrew them from South Korea in 1991 in a gesture to stop North Korea from going nuclear.

"Some say that the U.S. nuclear umbrella is a torn umbrella. If so, we need to repair it," Mr. Chung said in February, adding that if the U.S. refuses South Korea should develop its own nuclear weapons. A recent poll found that 66% of South Koreans support a home-grown deterrent.

April 08, 2013

Scientific and statistical insight into the Potential of Data Driven Eugenic Selection for Intelligence in China from Project Insider

Professor Steve Hsu has given a Google Tech Talk on human intelligence (presentation in 2011). Steve has worked with the BGI(Beijing Genomics Institute). BGI has been sequencing over 2000 people with an IQ over 160 and 4000 people with an average IQ distribution (controls). The project is trying to determine the exact genetic components of intelligence.

Intelligence is as inheritable as height

Intelligence is broadly 80% inherited and 60% for positive inheritance.

The Near Future

Expect full sequencing (not just SNP genotyping) of 100,000 to 1 million individuals within next few years. (BGI reached a rate of 1000 per day in 2012.) Probably paid for by science agencies of national governments. (Total cost roughly US $1billion or so ... comparable to first genome sequenced by Human Genome Project.)

If sufficient phenotype data is collected about these individuals, will have very well-powered GWAS (Genome Wide Associative Study) studies within next few years – enough statistical power to capture a good fraction of total additive variance (about .6 for intelligence)

BGI is expected to announce the results of the analysis of sequencing 2000 geniuses and 4000 controls in two months)

Navy program for 50 Kilowatt truck mounted lasers for shooting down drones

The US Navy has a truck mounted laser weapons program.

The Laser Weapon System has the following requirements -
* lasing profile including full-power lasing for up to 120 seconds followed by a 20 minute
recharge to 80% of total capacity (power and thermal) - this lasing period is cumulative
between recharges, and may be continuous.

* Laser Weapon System total weight not to exceed 2,500 lbs., and fully contained within vehicle’s cargo area, including:

Humanoid Robot movement is now very close to human movement

The PETMAN robot was developed by Boston Dynamics with funding from the DoD CBD program. It is used to test the performance of protective clothing designed for hazardous environments. The video shows initial testing in a chemical protection suit and gas mask. PETMAN has sensors embedded in its skin that detect any chemicals leaking through the suit. The skin also maintains a micro-climate inside the clothing by sweating and regulating temperature. Partners in developing PETMAN were MRIGlobal, Measurement Technology Northwest, Smith Carter, CUH2A, and HHI

Elon Musk focuses on Superior car experience, Service and new models

Elon Musk was interviewed by Engadget The cheapest Model S was scrapped because it was only 4% of sales.

"Customers recognized that it (40KWh version of the Telsa Sedan) was really a hobbled car, the equivalent of a hobbled horse," Musk tells us. He believes that people want the Model S to be their primary car, and a car with such limited range wouldn't fill that role.

The cheapest Tesla Model S one can buy is the $70,000, 60 kWh option.

Elon Musk doesn't want to build mediocre cars, which means the third-gen car, the one that will sell for half as much as a Model S will be a challenge.

"That's about three to four years out," says Musk. "Hopefully 2016, but I would say no later than 2017." To get there, the company has a significant engineering task ahead of it, having to reduce the cost of the battery pack and the electric drivetrain by 50 percent just to have a chance. "Economies of scale will help with that, and it'll be a slightly smaller car, so that'll help too ... Going from the Roadster to the Model S the cost dropped by about half, and I think we can do that again."

The Tesla X SUV was delayed a year but Elon says the Tesla Model X is definitely going to be a better car. It will be more smoothly executed as a result of our experience with the S. But, right now, we're highly focused on quality, production efficiency and service.

April 07, 2013

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 151

1. At Entreprenuclear, the time scale for an investment in Nuclear Power Generation to pay off is compared to the planting of apples trees. While neither will provide immediate benefits, both are likely to be greatly appreciated by future generations.

2. ANS Nuclear Cafe - Ted Rockwell, Atomic Pioneer and Tireless Campaigner for Facts

On Sunday, March 31, Theodore (Ted) Rockwell passed away. Dr. Rockwell was a founder of the Atomic Age, and a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society and recipient of the Society’s first Lifetime Achievement Award. Rod Adams recounts some of the legendary accomplishments of this inspirational figure in nuclear history.

Carnival of Space 296

Welcome to the Carnival of Space 296. This week there is coverage of astronomy of Galaxies, trips to Mars, space technology and more.

1. Andrew Fraknoi highlights a remarkable image by Robert Gendler, a physician and amateur astronomer, assembled from Hubble and other data, that shows a galaxy like our own, but 50 million lightyears away.

NGC 7731

2. In the wake of Dennis Tito's Inspiration Mars announcement, Cheap Astronomy delivers a podcast on some of the practicalities of really doing a manned Mars mission.

3. NExtbigfuture covered the work of John Slough and his team who have calculating the potential for 30- and 90-day expeditions to Mars using a rocket powered by fusion, which would make the trip more practical and less costly. Is this really feasible? Slough and his colleagues at MSNW have demonstrated successful lab tests of all portions of the process. Now, the key will be combining each isolated test into a final experiment that produces fusion using this technology. The research team has developed a type of plasma that is encased in its own magnetic field. Nuclear fusion occurs when this plasma is compressed to high pressure with a magnetic field. The team has successfully tested this technique in the lab. The team is working to bring it all together by using the technology to compress the plasma and create nuclear fusion. Slough hopes to have everything ready for a first full fusion tests at the end of the summer, where they expect to achieve net gain (more energy out than they put in).

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