August 19, 2006

$500 million NASA award to two companies, SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler

NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) awards went to SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler. SpaceX, which will receive $278 million in NASA seed money to help fund the development and flight demonstration of Dragon, a ballistic capsule launch atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket currently in development.

Nine SpaceX Merlin engines power the Falcon 9 first stage with 85,000 lbs-f sea level thrust per engine for a total thrust on liftoff of 765,000 pounds. The Falcon 9 tank walls and domes are made from aluminum 2219, the same alloy used by the Saturn V. However, we make use of an all friction stir welded tank, the highest strength and most reliable welding technique available. Like Falcon 1, the interstage, which connects the upper and lower stage for Falcon 9, is a carbon fiber honeycomb structure. The separation system is a larger version of what was used on Falcon 1 – pneumatic pushers with pyrotechnic release bolts.

Rocketplane Kistler, meanwhile, would receive $207 million to help complete the K-1 reusable rocket and develop a cargo module that, like Dragon, could later be modified to carry astronauts to the space station.

SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler are expected to conduct three flight demonstrations before 2010 to prove that they have what it takes to safely deliver pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the International Space Station. At that point, NASA intends to conduct a second open competition for service contracts to supply the space station.

The Kistler K-1 is a two-stage vehicle designed for full reusability. It is 121 feet (36.9 m) in overall length, 22 feet (6.7 m) in diameter and weighs 841,000 pounds (382,300 kg) at liftoff. The vehicle, powered by liquid-propellant engines from Aerojet, is designed to be reused 100 times. It is planned to be able to launch 2500-4000kg.

That competition, Horowitz said, will be open to all comers, not just SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler.

August 18, 2006

electric tweezers for optical microscopes

Manipulation of microscopic objects will be for a few thousand dollars instead of the current $250,000 laser based systems for microscopic manipulation

The tweezers' action occurs on a common glass microscope slide embedded with five electrodes. These electrodes create an electric field that can be used to push, pull, move and spin a selected object in any direction without actual physical contact. Using software Edwards developed, an operator can select an individual object from a microscope image on a computer screen. "Different types of particles respond differently to different frequencies in the electric field," Edwards said. "Once you lock onto the object of interest you can move it however you like."

The electric tweezers take advantage of the phenomenon known as dielectrophoresis, where electric fields impart a force upon a neutral particle. In essence, the object that is selected surfs atop the hills and valleys created by subtly changing the electric field.

Details about Dwave's superconducting quantum computer

Dwave systems is planning to launch a superconducting quantum computer with hundreds of qubits as a service to answer problems suited to quantum computers.

What D-Wave has done is begun with the standard approaches to building metal-based processors and modified them in such a way that these processors use quantum mechanics in order to accelerate computation.

The chip in the middle is 5 square mm in size.

Superconductors are the only type of material that we know of where big lithographically defined devices (like really big. Like centimeter on a side big.) can be built that behave just like they were atomic-sized. The reason for this behavior is highly technical - is has to do with the types of particles in the material. In a superconductor all of the “particles” that carry charge around can exist in the exact same state, so when you look at a whole lot of these particles (many trillions) it can be just like looking at only one (which is “very quantum mechanical”).

This property allows us to build circuits out of superconductors that, if we are really smart and really careful, can be made to act like “circuits of atoms”. We can use the fact that really big things (which we can easily build today using conventional fabrication techniques) can be made to behave like really small things to try to build real quantum computing architectures.


August 17, 2006

Quantum computing and superconductive computing

New quantum computing blog from the CTO of Dwave, vancouver company trying to make a superconducting quantum computer

A pdf from the National Security Agency that assesses the potential of superconducting technology. It includes an assessment of Rapid Single Flux Quantum (RSFQ). RSFQ is a digital electronics technology that relies on quantum effects in superconducting materials to switch signals, instead of transistors. However, it is not a quantum computing technology in the traditional sense. They project 100,000 josephson junctions at 50 GHz by 2010 and then a few years after 250 million jj at 250 GHz.


Better Separation of oil and water: good for oilsands

Oil and water can for the first time be mixed and separated on demand thanks to a new, reversible surfactant. Surfactants are a whole category of specialized chemicals that are used in all kinds of industry (cosmetics and many others) The surfactant could be invaluable for extracting abundant but relatively inaccessible oil deposits, such as those in “oilsands” found in Venezuela and Alberta, in Canada, the team says.

These mushes of oil, water and rock are very difficult to handle. There is as much as two trillion barrels of oil in the Alberta oilsands. It has been costly to get the oil out. After the sand is mined, then the bitumen can be removed by being mixed with hot water and air which creates a froth. (There is already some 4% water around the sand, separating it from the oil and making this separation easier). The froth is fed into a Primary Separation Vessel (the process is shown in this pdf. The cleaned sand drops to the bottom of the vessel, while the oil is fed into the refining part of the plant, where the product is upgraded, and the coke and sulfur removed from the oil. The water is drawn off, and re-used. The sand is put into the parts of the mine where mining is complete, refilling the land so that it can be returned to its earlier condition

The new surfactant could be used first with carbon dioxide to emulsify the oil and water, making the mixture easier to extract. Then, on exposure to air, the oil and water could be separated, enabling the oil to be extracted and the water re-cycled, Jessop explains.

Another important advantage is that the surfactant is not likely to be environmentally hazardous or long-lived, because air will convert it to the inactive form which then breaks down, the researchers say.

Related info:
A pdf that breaksdown the details of oilsand costs and economics

Note: the costs need to be adjusted, it assumes $5/GJ for natural gas and now it is about $8/GJ. About 40% of the costs (oil separation, water treatment, diluent recovery) look like they could be improved by the new surfactant. This will help increase the amount of oil from oilsands, the profitability of the oilsand companies and Canada and Venezuela.

RNA interference advance: getting into the right cells to stop cancer

RNA interference (RNAi) can shutdown bad genes. The problem has been getting them to the right cells. Researchers at Duke University have now designed a simple way to make these therapeutic RNAs and have used them to successfully combat a form of prostate cancer in mice --without adverse effects in other parts of the body. Using the technique, therapeutic RNAs could be designed for many other kinds of cancer and other diseases, according to Bruce Sullenger, chief of experimental surgery at Duke University Medical Center. Sullenger's approach could make it possible to administer RNA therapy through the bloodstream.

The Duke researchers' innovation was to design a region on the RNA itself that directs the therapy to the malignant cells. This directing region is called an aptamer, a section of RNA selected from a large pool of candidates for its ability to bind strongly to a particular molecule -- in this case, a protein that appears on the surface of some prostate cancer cells. The advantage of using such aptamers to direct RNA therapies, says Sullenger, is that manufacturing strands of RNA alone is simpler and less costly than manufacturing strands of RNA attached to something else. RNA also penetrates tissues very well.

After the Duke RNA binds its target on the surface of prostate cancer cells, it is eventually dragged inside the cell. Once inside, the RNA is cleaved in two by a protein native to the cell, freeing the gene-silencing region to find and guide the destruction of its target. RNA interference leads to the destruction of the intermediary between DNA and proteins, called messenger RNA. The Duke therapy destroys the messenger for a gene whose protein prevents prostate cancer cells from dying, even when outside signals tell the cells to do so. With this protection removed, cancer cells died.

Sullenger says that in principle it is possible to use the all-RNA technique to design therapies for many different diseases and infections. Hundreds of tumor markers, for example, are known. Sullenger's lab is engaged in the trial-and-error process of finding RNA sequences that bind protein markers and has found many.

Chemistry: Diesel fuel additive increase mileage by 5-10%

An additive from British nanotechnology specialist Oxonica that helps increase gas mileage by 5 percent to 10 percent and cut down nitrogen-based emissions. The change to fuel consumption also helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The additive, based on cerium oxide (a powder often used for polishing glass lenses), makes the combustion process more efficient.

Hydraulic Hybrids and starRotor engine

Some other alternative car engine technology are the hydraulic hybrid and the jet engine like starRotor. Popular Science discusses these two technologies, the $25 million X prize for a 100mpg car and the previously mentioned Aptera 300mpg car

Hydraulic hybrids use hydraulic and mechanical components instead of electrical ones. A variable displacement pump replaces the motor/generator, and a hydraulic accumulator (which stores energy as highly compressed nitrogen gas) replaces the batteries. The hydraulic accumulator, which is essentially a pressure tank, is potentially cheaper and more durable than batteries. They can recover 80% of the energy used in braking (which is a lot better than the electric regen braking), which is great for vehicles with a lot of stops like UPS trucks, garbage trucks and buses.

The EPA estimates hydraulic hybrids could improve fuel economy up to 55 percent, versus 30 percent to 40 percent for a conventional gas-electric hybrid.
The EPA believes in some ways, hydraulic hybrids will be superior to gasoline-electric hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape Hybrid. One big advantage: they cost less, meaning consumers will see a more immediate financial payoff. The cost of the hydraulic system -- about $1,000 -- would be paid back in nine months of driving, EPA officials say. The EPA is working on pilot projects with Ford Motor Co., the U.S. Army, Eaton Corp. and United Parcel Service to get the
technology into the real world as quickly as possible.

Researchers at Texas A&M University have invented the StarRotor engine, which has the potential to achieve more than 80 mpg, with low emissions approaching those of fuel cells, at a cost approaching that of a conventional internal combustion engine ($2000 to $5000).

The StarRotor engine uses the Brayton cycle, the same thermodynamic cycle employed by jet engines.

Being a close relative of jet engines, it has a very high power density, meaning it can pack a lot of power into a light-weight package. The StarRotor engine volume is about 20 to 75% of a conventional internal combustion engine, and its mass is about 20 to 40%. (Note: The wide range depends upon the desired efficiency.) The StarRotor engine has very few moving parts. The StarRotor engine can use any liquid or gaseous fuel, such as gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, alcohols, or methane. Premium high-octane fuels have no benefit to a StarRotor engine, so the least expensive fuel grades can be employed.

The StarRotor engine is projected to be very efficient (45-60%). By simply replacing conventional engines (15-20% efficiency) with a StarRotor engine, fuel economy will double or triple. For example, a conventional luxury car getting about 25 mpg on the highway would get about 75 mpg. A conventional economy car getting 40 mpg would get about 120 mpg.

Do they have a working StarRotor engine? Not yet. The key components of the engine, which are the compressor and expander, have been designed by StarRotor. They currently have a working compressor (which can also be used as a low-temperature expander). They are working on getting a high-temperature expander, recuperator, and combustor in place to complete, assemble, and test the engine.

The first application of a starRotor will be distributed electric power because the utility industry is willing to pay more per kilowatt than the automotive industry. Therefore, they can be profitable at small production rates. Then they can expand to go after the automotive industry, which they are targeting in 2010.

A DARPA white paper discusses scaling the StarRotor engine from 50 W to 50 MW.

Related info:
Hybrid Vehicles at wikipedia

Electron beam used to enable atomic switch

Scientists at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have used a beam of electrons to move a single atom in a small molecule back and forth between two positions on a crystal surface, a significant step toward learning how to build an "atomic switch" that turns electrical signals on and off in nanoscale devices.

The team used a "tunneling noise spectroscopy" technique to determine how long the atom stays in one place. This measurement method was developed by two of the authors based on their 2004 discovery that an atom emits a characteristic scratching sound when an STM is used to move the atom between two types of bonding sites on a crystal** (see

"The two most important new findings," Stroscio says, "are an increased understanding of the science behind atomic switching and the development of a new measurement capability to spatially map the probability of an electron exciting the desired atom motion."

The scientists analyzed what happened to the atom switching rate as changes occurred in the STM voltage and in the current between the STM tip and surface. Above a threshold voltage of about 15-20 millivolts, the probability for switching per electron is constant, meaning that the electrons contain sufficient energy to move the cobalt atom. Higher currents result in faster switching.

The data suggested that a single electron boosts the molecule above a critical energy level, allowing a key bond to break so the cobalt atom can switch positions. The cobalt atom was less likely to switch as the molecular chain was extended in length from two to five copper atoms, demonstrating that the atom switching dynamics can be tuned through changes in the molecular architecture.

Better Self-assembly from UNC

Self-assembly advance able to make pore (0.1 nm-100nm) and film sizes as desired. The finding, reported in the Aug. 18 issue of Science, describes a new mechanism by which complex patterns are generated at the nanoscale – 0.1 to 100 nanometers in size, a nanometer being a billionth of a meter – without any need for expensive processes such as lithography.

Anthraquinone molecules form chains of molecules that weave themselves into a sheet of hexagons on a polished copper surface.

In the future, Pawin and Bartels plan on investigating how chemical modifications of anthraquinone can produce novel patterns. "In addition, we would like to form the hexagonal network at higher temperatures and be able to control the size of the hexagons," Pawin said. "We also want to extend our research to include surfaces other than copper and determine if there are molecules similar to anthraquinone that assemble spontaneously into sheets on them."

Flourine will speed silicon chips to 11Ghz and circuits to 110 Ghz

Diamond MEMS integration project

New Minivan gets 40mpg available in Europe

Futurist Gathering

An article describing a recent Futurist gathering It mentions that some futurists do not think accurate predictions are the main thing but being useful and stimulating creative thinking.

I think that being in tune with technology, business and how society works to be able to make fairly accurate predictions is necessary. Many predictions are dependent upon the actions and choices of people but others are driven by how business works and many different groups chasing personal gain. The overall progress is a measure of that competitive success. Divergence from that path means something big has made the competition more intense or has slowed the whole process. A futurist saying that accurate predictions do not matter is saying that they do not want accountability for their predictions or do not get whats happening and is admitting it.

The Practical Futurist asks What if society decides they don’t want to pay the bills to make baby boomers a permanent fixture of the American landscape? (referring to radical life extension.)

Then baby boomers who cannot pay for radical life extension treatments will not get them initially, but there will be big incentive to make it affordable for everyone. (think Aids drugs). Just as now we have high cost medical intervention that not everyone can afford. However, radical life extension treatments will mainly not be high cost and nearly last minute intervention procedures. It will be perform once or infrequent gene therapy, iRNA and daily therapies and drugs.

Aubrey de Grey writes about why it will not only be for the rich People will want it too badly to let it be restricted, forcing laws and rules to be changed. There will probably be about ten years of lead time for society to adjust and for a society wide push to occur.

Societies will adjust or the blockages will be circumvented. If people are given the choice of circumventing or dieing, they will go to extreme measures to circumvent.

So it is important to know specifically how it will done, how it will be developed, where we are at now and what are the historical parallels.

Either the Practical futurist does not get it or he is not really thinking about it.

More on the 330mpg car

Designed by Accelerated Composites, the Aptera seats two and weighs a scant 850 pounds, with guts that combine hybrid technology with a super-efficient diesel engine. The goal is to get a 330-miles-per-gallon vehicle on the road in the next two years for under $20,000.

Construction has begun

Ballistic Deflection Transistors: another possible new computing paradigm

"Ballistic Deflection Transistors" are a new design that coud replace regular transistors. (Thanks to reader Sigma for pointing it out). Instead of running electrons through a transistor as if they were a current of water, the ballistic design bounces individual electrons off deflectors as if playing a game of atomic billiards. Such a chip would use very little power, create very little heat, be highly resistant to "noise" inherent in electronic systems, and should be easy to manufacture with current technologies. All that would make it incredibly fast. The National Science Foundation granted the University of Rochester team $1.1 million to develop a prototype.

The team has already had some luck in fabricating a prototype. The ballistic transistor is a nano-scale structure, and so all but impossible to engineer just a few years ago. Its very design means that this "large" prototype is already nearly as small as the best conventional transistor designs coming out of Silicon Valley today. Feldman and Diduck are confident that the design will readily scale to much smaller dimensions.

The Ballistic Deflection Transistor (BDT) should produce far less heat and run far faster than standard transistors because it does not start and stop the flow of its electrons the way conventional designs do. It resembles a roadway intersection, except in the middle of the intersection sits a triangular block. From the "south" an electron is fired, as it approaches the crossroads, it passes through an electrical field that pushes the electron slightly east or west. When the electron reaches the middle of the intersection, it bounces off one side of the triangle block and is deflected straight along either the east or west roads. In this way, if the electron current travels along the east road, it may be counted as a zero, and as a one if it travels down the west road.

Added (pointer from Roland Piquepaille Technology trends): In today's silicon-based transistors, only 35 percent of the input current flows, via the channel, from a transistor's "source" to its "drain;" the remainder scatters as it collides with the rough edges of the insulating layer. The 1999 version of the BDT had 85 percent of the current being transmitted from the source to the drain, which yields the ballistic transport. So 5 times less heat should be generated. However, whenever a computing operation is performed heat is still generated. This heat can be reduced via reversible computing.

The reduction of heat from inefficient current flows seems like a necessary thing to do. There probably are several technical ways to do this. This may or may not be the best way. It looks like an important large incremental improvement.

Related info:
A past article that I had discussed the physical limits of computing. Ballistic action was discussed as a cooling mechanism and the amount of computing it would allow based on heat from computation. It is 100 to 1 billion times more than fractal cooling. Fractal cooling is 100 times better than current passive cooling.
Slow atomic ballistic (theoretical 1 m/s coolant) flux 10 ** 26 bits/s cm**2

Fast atomic ballistic (theoretical relativistic speed coolant) flux 3 * 10 ** 33 bits/s cm**2

By using ballistic action to run cooler that would also increase the theoretical maximum and enable a transition to a superior architecture when they get it working.
When an architecture shift does happen, they should also try to get reversible computing worked in as well.

Press release from Rochester

August 16, 2006

UA Physicist Discovers Exotic Superconductivity

UA Associate Professor of Physics Andrei Lebed has discovered that strong magnetism changes the basic, intrinsic properties of electrons flowing through superconductors, establishing an "exotic" superconductivity.

UA physics graduate student Omjyoti Dutta and Lebed are now collaborating on more detailed theoretical studies of exotic superconducting phases. They have very recently discovered that "time-reversal" symmetry also breaks down in exotic Cooper pairs.

Time reversal symmetry is the idea that most fundamental physical laws would not change if time ran backwards instead of forward.

"This is the most fundamental symmetry in physics and breaks down only in some rare processes in high energy, or elementary particle, physics," Lebed said.

But the UA physicists find that time-reversal symmetry is broken because of the simultaneous rotating and non-rotating average spins of exotic Cooper pairs. "Half of the exotic Cooper pair electrons 'see' time directed from the past to the future, whereas the other half 'see' time directed from the future to the past," Lebed said.

It's important to note that our theoretical results are very general," he said. "They are based on a mathematical theorem and have to be experimentally applied to most kinds of existing superconducting materials, including high-temperature superconductors."

The UA physicists are designing simple experiments for observing exotic superconductivity.

"We hope that our discovery of the exotic behavior of superconductivity in high magnetic fields eventually improves our understanding of how to most efficiently produce strong persistent currents in superconductors," Lebed said.

Quantum computers - Electron Spin Breakthrough

Researchers have also created qubits from the "up" or "down" spin-states of electrons on quantum dots. But they lacked the ability to control these states well enough to perform calculations using them. A team at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands has now created a device that can manipulate these states using conventional microchip fabrication technology.

Schematic diagram of the Loss & DiVincenzo computer.

AFM Image of a double quantum dot, integrated with quantum point contacts on both sides.

"This is a breakthrough experiment," says Guido Burkard, a physicist at the University of Basel in Switzerland, who was not involved in the research. "The major benefit of making a qubit using this method is that they are built upon existing semiconductor technology."

The Dutch team's device was made using conventional microchip lithography. It consists of two electrodes that apply voltage across two semiconducting quantum dots - pieces of gallium arsenide each 100 nanometres across - to form a simple circuit.

The voltage causes electrons to hop between the dots. However, each dot can only accommodate one electron at a time and electrons with matching spin states cannot jump onto the same dot.

Burkard says electron-spin qubits could now rapidly catch up with more established methods of quantum computing. "I see no roadblocks to moving towards the first implementation of small quantum algorithms using electron-spin qubits," he says.

Related info:
Introduction to quantum algorithms

Ion trap quantum computers also can scale and are compatible with silicon technology

other tech: Common brain cells may have stem-cell-like potential

They can coax mature human brain cells to produce large amounts of new brain cells in culture, with one cell theoretically able to begin a cycle of cell division that does not stop until the cells number about 10 to the 16th power.

"We can theoretically take a single brain cell out of a human being and - with just this one cell - generate enough brain cells to replace every cell of the donor's brain and conceivably those of 50 million other people," said Dennis Steindler, Ph.D., executive director of UF's McKnight Brain Institute. "This is a completely new source of human brain cells that can potentially be used to fight Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, stroke and a host of other brain disorders. It would probably only take months to get enough material for a human transplant operation."

The findings document for the first time the ability of common human brain cells to morph into different cell types, a previously unknown characteristic, and are the result of the research team's long-term investigations of adult human stem cells and rodent embryonic stem cells.

In addition to using the cells in treatments to repair or replace damaged brain tissue, the ability to massively expand cell populations could prove useful in efforts to test the safety and efficacy of new drugs. It is also possible to genetically modify the cells to produce neurotrophins - substances that help brain tissue survive, researchers said.

Maybe 3 new Planets, Plutons

August 15, 2006

FPGA architecture tutorial

A tutorial to help newbies understand FPGA

table of FPGA programming technologies compared

Discovery Hints at a Quadrillion Space Rocks Beyond Neptune

Starting to discover Quadrillion Trans-Neptunian Objects by spotting the dips in light from a star when the object pass in front.

The researchers estimate that the number of TNOs reaches around a quadrillion, rather than the mere billions to a trillion as previously thought.

This shows an extremely dense disk of material at the outer edges of the solar system mostly populated by smaller bodies, Cooray said. "Since these are leftover material from the solar system formation process, it says that the original disk from which the planets formed was more massive at distances around Neptune than previously suggested and in strong conflict with some of the early models for the formation of Kuiper Belt Objects."

More accurate measurement of characteristic of atoms

High resolution cameras available now

Better Light makes several high resolution cameras

E models use recycled CCD and video PC boards
Model 4000E-HS 56 megapixels MSRP $6,495
Model 6000E-HS 144 megapixels MSRP $9,495
Model 6000-HS 144 megapixels MSRP $12,495
Super 6K-HS 216 megapixels MSRP $14,995
Super 8K-HS 384 megapixels MSRP $17,995
Super 10K-HS 614 megapixels MSRP $22,995

Note: these are scanbacks and you will need a camera like the Linhof 4X5 for about $4,000 to 10,000.

Better Light’s digital scanning backs do not capture an image of the subject in front of the camera all at once, but rather by physically moving a unique, highly-optimized trilinear color image sensor smoothly across the image plane, building up the image one line per color at a time.

This means that scanning backs are typically used only for photographing relatively stationary subjects illuminated by continuous light. Continuous advancements in image sensor and processing hardware and software over the past decade have made these high-resolution capture devices much faster and easier to use, but scanning backs will probably not be used for fashion or sports photography any time soon.

Frequently asked questions about the cameras

A place for getting the cameras for 20-30% less than MSRP

Other high resolution professional cameras
Hasselblad H2D-39 is about $30,000

Hasselbald H2D-22 are about $20,000

Canon has a 16.7 megapixel camera for about $7,000

An article that discusses a product comparison testing of super high resolution cameras

Building your own high resolution (120-490 megapixel) camera using a flatbed scanner as a backend. Costs about $1000-1300. The 490 megapixels is based upon 2400dpi scanners. Currently 6400dpi is available for flatbed scanners So the resolution of a DIY system would be over 2 gigapixels.

the DIY 122-490 megapixel camera

Related info:
111 megapixel CCD on a single chip

Imaging with 50 times less power and other efficiency improvements

Aerial, Satellite and gigapixel photography

Understanding current and expected high resolution photography is important for understanding future privacy and sousveillance.

What is commercially available for aerial surveys?

12.5 cm aerial survey (commercially available. Higher resolutions from lower passes)

What does the military have ?
Satellite image resolutions and restrictions

Imagery from the most recent intelligence satellites launched by the United States government, is believed to have a resolution of about 2 cm.

List of past, current and planned satellite imaging systems and capabilities.

Details on the KH12 spy satellite. (Think Hubble Space telescope pointed at the earth)
More on the Keyhole spy satellites

What resolution is needed?
What are youResolutionNeeded for
looking atDetectionGeneral IDPrecise IDTech Analysis
Vehicles1.5meter0.6m0.3m (30cm)0.045m (4.5cm)
Aircraft 4.5 m1.5m1.0m 0.045m (4.5cm)
Nuke parts2.5 m1.5m0.3m (30cm)0.015m (1.5cm)
Rockets1.0 m0.6m0.15m (15cm)0.045m (4.5cm)
C&C HQ3.0 m1.5 m1.0 m0.09m (9 cm)

PDF on facial recognition security You need about 12X16 pixels (192 pixels) for a reasonable facial identification.

At 5 meters, 130-degree field of view
Resolution average face
640X480 6X4 pixels
1280X960 12X8 pixels
2650X1920 24X16 pixels
5300X3840 48X32 pixels (24X16 at 10m)
10600X7680 96X64 pixels (24X16 at 20m)
21200X15260 192X128 pixels (24X16 at 40m)

10 to 20 times optical zoom is common.
A gigapixel camera would be able to identify faces from 50 to 100 meters away without telescopic lens. This would almost all of the faces on one side of a football stadium from one photo.

Gigapixel photography either from combining many regular photos or from special cameras.

ten gigapixel photos and cameras and projects

August 14, 2006

Nanoparticles and nanowires for better explosive detectors

Researchers at Hewlett-Packard and the University of California at Irvine say they have a process that uses basic semiconductor manufacturing to fabricate arrays of nanoparticles in minutes. Ultrasensitive chemical sensors based on nanoparticles have the potential to detect a single molecule of an explosive or other hazardous chemical.

Gold nanowires on silicon (colorized for better contrast). A simple and inexpensive process, developed by Hewlett-Packard researchers, for making such nanowires and nanoparticles could be used to detect trace amounts of various explosives and dangerous chemicals

Stem cells turned into retinal cells, could cure blindness

From MIT Technology Review:Scientists are taking the first major step in using stem cells to replace retinal cells lost to degenerative eye diseases such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. According to findings published today, researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle can reliably make retinal cells from embryonic stem cells. The researchers are now implanting the cells into blind animals to see if the cells can restore vision.

The researchers don't yet know if the cells can actually integrate into the complex circuitry of the eye to restore vision, but early results are promising. The transplanted cells do express many of the proteins needed to respond to light, and they make neural connections when grown in a dish with other retinal cells. However, the true test will come with Reh's current experiments: transplanting the cells into blind animals. "We should know within the next year if the cells can restore vision," says Reh.

Other groups are also developing stem cell therapies for the retina. Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), a stem cell biotechnology company based in Alameda, CA, has developed a way to turn embryonic stem cells into pigment epithelial cells, another cell type lost in macular degeneration.

When implanted into the eyes of animal models, the cells protect against further degeneration of the photoreceptors and improve vision, says Robert Lanza, vice president of research and scientific development at ACT. The company plans to file for permission from the Food and Drug Administration to start human trials of the therapy by the end of next year, he says.

Modified nanoscale transistor could dramatically speed up the detection of DNA sequences

The detector consists of a quantum dot with a piece of DNA attached. It only allows current to flow when a matching sequence of DNA binds to the attached piece and could provide a simple, faster way to detect viruses or to track gene expression.

Researchers at Quantum Logic Devices, in Texas, US, constructed the detector by modifying an existing transistor design. This features a 5-nanometre-wide gold particle flanked by three electrodes.

Currently label DNA molecules using fluorescence, but that can take around 24 hours to produce a result. The new detector can detect a piece of DNA in less than 30 minutes. The detector would be ideal for diagnosing viruses quickly.

It can detect a single matching sequence. Sample purity becomes important, if you've got one bit of crud in there it could interfere.

The team at Quantum Logic Devices are currently developing a chip containing thousands of individual quantum dot transistors, manufactured using conventional semiconductor technologies. These could keep track of levels of combinations of genes in a biological sample

$16 million Synthetic Biology funding

The Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center at the University of Berkeley, California was funded by the NSF for $16 million Synthetic biology today is where chips were 50 years ago. A researcher who discovers, say, a potentially useful DNA fragment has no reliable way of mass producing it. Instead, to create large quantities, she must rely on a collection of laborious, hit-and-miss processes, which is the best the field has to offer.

Prof. Keasling says he envisions a day when a biologist can concentrate on difficult science questions and leave production and engineering matters to others. That's the way many chip companies work, creating the designs for their chips themselves, but then shipping off the patterns to "fabs" to get the products made.

Drew Endy, an MIT professor in structural engineering who is involved in the effort, says researchers like himself have learned from the computer industry the importance of three main ideas: standardization, decoupling and abstraction.

Standardization is the process of establishing a technical standard among competing entities in a market. In Synthetic Biology it is what is happening at biobricks and the Registry of Standard Biological Parts

Decoupling refers to splitting a task into multiple parts, the way the computer industry has different suppliers for disk drives, memory and CPUs. Currently, says Prof. Endy, most biology labs do everything themselves.

Abstraction takes a cue from what has happened in programming languages over the decades; software has advanced to the point where programmers increasingly are able to use English-like statements in their code, as opposed to the 1s and 0s of the early days of computing. Prof. Endy says he hopes that future biologists won't need to work on the sort of molecule-by-molecule basis that is used today.

The parts in the Registry of standard biological parts currently have an average of about 1000 base pairs

Nanoscale cancer diagnostic and treatment tools

Nanoscale cancer diagnostics being developed for Ovarian cancer At Illinois Institute of Technology, a research team is using an atomic force microscope, a very-high resolution microscope that can investigate the interaction of individual protein molecules. With this microscope the research team can study the molecular structure of cancer versus non-cancer cells and compare the stiffness. Cancer tissues are more stiff than healthy tissues. Instead of removing the ovary to determine if cancerous tissue is present, a probe is currently under development to follow the tissue stiffness in vivo to diagnose cancer.

A second area of research involving nanotechnology uses viral particles as templates to fabricate uniform, nanometer imaging probes and drug carriers. The research team is extracting the DNA from viral particles and replacing it with imaging agents. The goal is to have the viral capsule adhere to a cancer cell and inject the imaging or a therapeutic agent into the cell. This technology could lead to early diagnosis and the development of targeted drug therapy that kills cancer cells while leaving the rest of the body unharmed.

"The development of a smart probe and carrier complex will provide significant advantage to the clinicians as they can locate the tumor, monitor the drug delivery vehicle and control drug release using imaging techniques," said Chen.

Another avenue of nanotechnology research at Rush is to develop nanometer sized contrast agents with ultrasound to diagnose ovarian cancer. Such nano ultrasonographic contrast media can pass through the smallest capillaries. These tiny bubbles light up on ultrasound and may be able to show the earliest vascular changes associated with ovarian malignancy. If this is successful, further research will be conducted to study targeted imaging as well as targeted therapy.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth-most common cancer among American women and claims the lives of more North American women each year than all other gynecologic malignancies combined. About 75 percent of patients are not diagnosed until the disease is in its later stages, and current therapies are not effective enough to successfully treat the disease in such advanced stages.

New Optical microscope with 20 nanometer resolution

A new type of microscopy invented by Xiaowei Zhuang and colleagues at Harvard University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute delivers spatial resolution more than 10 times better than that of conventional optical microscopes, putting scientists tantalizingly close to the first crisp, ultra-resolution, real-time imaging of living biomolecules and cells. Zhuang, along with Michael J. Rust and Mark Bates at Harvard, describes stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy, or STORM. They use fluorophores, glowing molecules that can be driven between a fluorescent and a dark state hundreds of times with repeated exposure to light with different colors.

Their solution, described this week in Nature Methods, is to only activate a small fraction of the fluorophores at a time, imaging them and determining their location to nanometer resolution.

Rust and Bates attached fluorophores to antibodies, which can be engineered to attach in turn to many types of biomolecules. Exposure of a fluorophore-bound biological sample to successive flashes of light of varying wavelengths activates different subsets of fluorophores, revealing their locations. After many such still images are taken, they are merged into a single image -- a sea of glowing fluorophores clearly resolvable, for instance, along a strand of DNA or protein filament.

The whole STORM imaging process currently takes several minutes to create a crisp imaging of a biological sample. They are fairly confident that we can ramp up the speed to virtually real-time. The next step is a molecular resolution, multi-color, real-time STORM for live object imaging.

August 13, 2006

More efficient conversion of radiation to electricity

Tritium batteries can provide power to devices for decades The BetaBatt will not be the first battery to harness a radioactive source, or even the first to use tritium, but the new cell will have a unique advantage - the half-millimeter-thick silicon wafer into which researchers have etched a network of deep pores. This structure vastly increases the exposed surface area, creating a device that is 10 times more efficient than planar designs.

Betabatt discusses the advantages here. The first and second generations of tritium-powered BetaBatteries are expected to produce 50- and 125-micro-Watts per cubic centimeter of active device volume

PC Magazine looks at future technology

Power time shifting for solar and alternative energy

Serious about saving fuel costs ?

The lowest cost ways to save on fuel costs is to increase telecommuting, bicycle and public transportation convenience and usage. This can be done individually and city, state and national levels.

Transportation statistics from bicycle universe More bicycle statistics are in this pdf

Some points:

A Canadian study by Auto-Free Ottawa found that 86 percent of the American workforce commutes to work by car, and more than 90 percent of those commuters park for free. The average national value for a parking space is approximately $1,000, so that means $85 billion in annual subsidies. Ending these free subsidies would reduce the number of solo commuters by as much as 81 percent.

Studies should be done on increasing bicycle and public transportation usage.
I think subsidizing electrical bikes and folding bikes would be useful.

One could replace an automative commute with an electric folding bike and use public subways and lightrail and buses to help on longer commutes.

One could also park farther from a downtown area (where it is probably more expensive to park) and use the electric folding bike to go the rest of the way.

The electric folding bike would allow the commuter to still have a larger range to go to multiple destinations (restaurants, errands, work, etc...)
Conversion to electrical assisted bikes.

The fuel to power the electricity of an electric bike converts to 500+mpg. If the USA could get bicycle usage as high as the Netherlands (28%) from its current 1% and public transportation usage up from 2% to 7% then driving would be reduced to 62% of the current level.

other: Optimistic oil production projection

Cambridge Energy Research Associates’ (CERA) July, 2006 projects global oil productive capacity rising from 88.7 mbd in 2006 to 110 mbd in 2015. 94.8 mbd by 2008, 102mbd by 2010. About two thirds of the increase would be from OPEC.

They identified five primary factors affecting strong capacity growth:

* High oil prices and strong competition for access to reserves and pressures on the service sector
* The search for new sources of conventional crude and non-traditional supply
* Increasing global gas productive capacity driving up the volumes of associated liquids
* The pace and scale of deepwater discoveries and development
* E&P company diversification

Here is a critique of this projection at one of the peak oil sites

other tech: Burt Rutan interview

Burt Rutan has a goal of getting to the moon. The suborbital and orbital ships he is building are smaller fundable steps to get there

His hunch is that by profitably flying people by the tens of thousands, the funding pump will be primed, and the recognition fostered that breakthroughs are needed for a high-risk orbital spaceship research program.

“I’m getting a commercial system going for one reason: I don’t think anybody else will,” Rutan explained. “I think it’s really important for me to build a lot of them,” he added, not just a few for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, “but a lot of them.”

Taking a long look out to the next ten to twelve years, Rutan predicted that “there’s going to be some very good news and some very bad news.”

The bad news, Rutan advised, is related to the government space programs. “I hate to say that, but the reason is that they are just structured so there will be a lot of money spent and they are not likely to reap the benefits that are going to help us.”

The good news, Rutan suggested as a guess, is that there will be breakthroughs forthcoming, stemming from what happens after the first generation of suborbital craft—including competitors, now known and unknown—take to the sky.

“We need what amounts to natural selection to work. Nobody is smart enough to know ahead of time whether something is the right answer. You’ve got to field the good ones and bad ones for the good ones to float to the top,” Rutan said.

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