February 02, 2006

Next generation bioweapons study and nanotechnology

A press release about the study next gen bioweapons (including nanotech/nanobiotech) is here

The newscientist magazine discusses the report as well

The online report about about the study next gen bioweapons is here

the reports Advanced tech discussion starts here

Recommendations are summarized at this link

The key recommendation is: the entire scientific community should broaden its
awareness that bioterrorism threats now include, for example, new
approaches for manipulating or killing a host organism or for
producing synthetic micro-organisms, the report says. "U.S. national
biodefense programs currently focus on a relatively small number of
specific agents or toxins, but gains in biomedical understanding have
raised major concerns about the next generation of biowarfare agents,"
said committee co-chair David A. Relman, associate professor of
medicine and of microbiology and immunology, Stanford University,
Stanford, Calif. "We need to expand our thinking about the nature of
future biological threats, as well as more fully exploit advances in
the life sciences to create a global public health defense that is
agile and flexible.

The report recommends multidisciplinary measures to identify and
mitigate such dangers over the next five to 10 years. The report, on
"next generation" bioterrorism, was requested by the US government. It
concludes that intelligence agencies are too focused on specific lists
of bacteria and viruses, and are not aware of emerging threats.

Focusing on the list of about 60 "select agents", such as the smallpox
virus and botulism toxin, might simply divert resources from newer and
more dangerous threats, such as RNA interference, synthetic biology or

February 01, 2006

Other tech: Laser acceleration of ions

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno, Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Germany, and the Max-Planck-Institute for Quantum Optics in Germany, have developed a new method for using a laser beam to accelerate ions. The novel method may enable important advances in compact ion accelerators, medical physics and inertial confinement fusion. The new method accelerates ions over a distance of roughly 10 microns. The carbon ion beam researchers created using the Trident laser facility at Los Alamos had an energy level of 3 Megaelectronvolt (MeV) per nucleon, or 36 MeV. In an ICF concept called "fast ignition," the compression and ignition parts are separate and the long-pulse laser is first used to compress the fuel. Then, at the moment of maximum compression, the laser-driven ion beam is used as a "sparkplug" to ignite fusion.

January 31, 2006

Other tech: nanoscale superconducting wire for fast optical communication and long distance quantum encryption

Optical communication in space at 8X ethernet speeds and longer distance quantum encrypted communication could result from a better photon trap

A photon trap. The heart of the detector, which has been around for a couple of years, is a wire 100 nanometers wide that meanders like coils on a refrigerator to increase the area of detection. The wire is cooled to just above absolute zero, at which temperature it becomes a superconductor. When a photon hits the wire and is absorbed, the wire heats up just enough to stop superconducting, creating a detectable jump in resistance.

In the new design, the photons that slip past or reflect off the wire bounce around in the photon trap, giving them more chances to be absorbed by the wire. The trap, with a little help from an antireflective coating, approximately tripled the efficiency of previous detection efforts.

Drop-off in the number of photons limits the range of quantum cryptography to 100-150 kilometers. But, according to Michael LaGasse, vice president of engineering at the Somerville, MA, labs of MagiQ, which is already commercializing quantum cryptography, a detector as efficient as Berggren's could double or triple these distances. Because of cost considerations, however, LaGasse says the new detectors are likely to find only niche markets, such as in military applications.

January 30, 2006

Other Tech: Antimatter harvesting

Giant wire spheres may one day float near Earth, scooping up bits of antimatter for humans to use as space fuel. This is one of 12 recently selected to each receive up to $75,000 from the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. A plan is for antimatter to be collected using three concentric wire spheres. The outermost, spanning 16 kilometres, would be positively charged to repel protons from the solar wind and attract negatively charged anti-protons from space. These anti-protons would then slow down passing through the middle sphere and come to rest inside the smallest sphere, which would measure 100 metres in diameter. An electromagnetic field would trap the exotic particles there.

"Basically, what you want to do is generate a net, just like you're fishing," says Gerald Jackson, the project's principal investigator at Hbar Technologies in West Chicago, Illinois, US. About 80 grams of antimatter may float between the orbits of Venus and Mars, while as much as 20 kilograms could be harvested within Saturn's far-out orbit.

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