December 01, 2006

Superconducting quantum computer update

Dwave systems has decided to push back the demo of their superconducting quantum computer until sometime in Q1/2007. The CTO does claim that In the almost 8 years since we started D-Wave I’ve only celebrated once (last week [Nov 20-26, 2006]), when the whole system was working beginning to end.

The new programming environment includes a declarative language that captures NP (Non-deterministic Polynomial) . In this framework, a programmer states what the solutions to their NP problems look like in first order logic, and our software compiles this “declaration” down to the machine language of our solver system. Declarative languages may be familiar to some of you (prolog) but don’t worry ours is easier to use, more flexible and works much better. The idea is that you won’t need to know anything about how our systems work to use them–you just need to be able to state what properties the solution you’re looking for has.
<logic programming)

Other reading:
My quantum computer long bet prediction that there will be a quantum computer with over 100 qubits of processing capability sold either as a hardware system or whose use is made available as a commercial service by Dec 31, 2010

Superconducting quantum computer details

Survey of quantum computer progress


Colonizing space going slower and closer

Stephen Hawking told a BBC radio audience that if the human race were to survive, it would be necessary to go to another star. Hawking talked about using antimatter powered spaceships to go at about 86% of light speed. This is the second part of my analysis.

In the first part, I talked about going to the stars with lighter ships. Here I will talk about going a bit slower and closer to home. The reason for going lighter or slower is to make the problem over a million times easier. Interstellar travel is very hard. The options for choosing problems that are a million times easier are still hard problems or require money, hard work and the willingness to use nuclear weapons as tools to conquer space.

Going a bit slower or a bit closer

Going at 1-13% of the speed of light instead of 80-90% of the speed of light is a lot easier. Accelerating something to 1% of the speed of light requires 8100 times less energy than accelerating something to 90%. Also, more near term and existing technology can be used to enable the mission. We could use fission power which exists instead of antimatter which is theoretical and requires scaling up antimatter production billions of times. The advanced technology we could use such as antimatter can be done with achievable amounts of antimatter to catalyze nuclear propulsion.

Going up to 3-10% of the speed of light is possible with nuclear pulse propulsion.

A close pass slingshot around the Sun (3 solar radii) with a solar sail allows acceleration to up to 13% the speed of light. Such a close pass allows for someone to just make the solar sail and not have to make a giant laser and lens to accelerate the solar sail to fantastic speed. See page 16 of this pdf for ultralight solar sails Note: you need a really good heat shield to protect you when you go that close to the sun.

Wikipedia has a directory of their own excellent articles about all aspects of space colonization

I believe that we should make orbiting space habitats New designs such as Kalpana One and extensions of the Bigelow space hotels. Note: Bigelow aerospace already launched a one third scale model this year of their inflatable space hotel module.

Buzz Aldrin is a main proponent of turning a space habitat into a cycling transit hub There are many papers that are refining the aldrin cycler or astrotel concept.

Ocean colonization is useful to practice mastering self sufficiency but would not create separate biosphere's to address the survival issue raised by Stephen Hawking.

We should colonize the moon and then the rest of the solar system should be colonized

This can be done far easier and sooner by using nuclear pulsed propulsion whose principles were validated in the 1960's and 70s. Glenn Harlan Reynolds has an article that supports the return to Orion Without Orion (nuclear) technology we will be struggling to get a few dozen people into space but with Orion we can launch 100,000 people at one time.

By more fulling using the resources of the solar system we can easily access one trillion times the power and resources that we currently use Only something that could destroy the sun would be a threat to a civilization that was spread throughout the solar system. Even in that case if the space habitats that orbited the sun had nuclear and antimatter power and propulsion they could being migrations to other star systems when the threat to the sun was identified.

I expect that people will have the sense or courage to go with full nuclear pulse propulsion and super-Orions. The reason is as discussed in the most recent Time magazine. Why We Worry About The Things We Shouldn't...and Ignore The Things We Should Nuclear pulse propulsion is actually not risky. The radiation and fallout issues are not a problem. They would be less than the atmospheric nuclear tests that were performed and did not kill people. Plus we already dump 20,000 tons of uranium and thorium material into the air by burning coal.

If we don't do that then we will have to wait for more advanced nanotechnology and more advanced z-pinch technology for
advanced minimag Orion systems Improved launch systems could reduce the cost of getting into orbit by 200 times or more down to $1-10/kg. Full Orion systems could then be built in orbit or on the moon.

Advanced minimag Orion could use sub-critical nuclear power to make a scaled down Orion system that would still be highly efficient. It could use a lot of smaller explosions. Nanotech could improve the rate of explosions. New materials can lighten the overall system. We could get fusion or highly energy dense power but with absolutely no concerns of any leaked radiation or fallout.

Metamaterials could boost the power and efficiency of the z-pinch I think the system could approach the performance of a fusion power system and could even transition into being a full fledged fusion power system with a post-ignition z-pinch.

New nanostructured (superthread, Carbon nanotube solid and carbon nanotube arrays and nanostructured metals) material is already being produced in small quantities that would be far stronger and lighter which will increase the percentage of payload and overall launch system performance.

Wikipedia has a lot of information about space colonization
Further reading:
Al Globus has interesting writing and plans for space colonization he is focused on orbital and artificial space station colonies.

Space colonization links

A long pdf 170 pages that advocates space colonization Note: I have not read it all but I have scanned it. I think it has some interesting ideas and useful research references. I probably disagree with some of the political views and the timeline and the specific plan.
This site by the same guy as the writer of the pdf has some nice space colonization pictures


Colonizing space going lighter

Stephen Hawking told a BBC radio audience that if the human race were to survive, it would be necessary to go to another star. Hawking talked about using antimatter powered spaceships to go at about 86% of light speed.

It would take a lot of power to send a space ship with people to another star. Wikipedia discusses the ideas around interstellar travel There are two main ways to make the problem far easier.

1) Some theoretical ships are more achievable if they are far lighter. You make things millions of times easier if you make your ship a million times lighter. I will discuss this option in this article.
2) Another way to go is to go slower. The next article will discuss that option. This option will discuss not going as far, by achieving what we want by staying inside the solar system.

Going to the stars but Go Lighter

Starwisp like concepts could send very light sensor arrays to other stars. The starwisp concept itself has flaws but instead of needing tons of antimatter to move 1000 tons of space ship the energy requirements could be reduced by 1 million to only send 1 kilogram or less of payload.

Frank J. Tipler, Professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane University, discusses sending quantum computers with uploaded or simulated people around the universe

Wikipedia has information about embryo space colonization as a theoretical interstellar space colonization concept that involves sending a robotic mission to a terrestrial planet (having a biosphere) transporting frozen early-stage embryos. Again the mass of the ship can be small making it a million or more times easier.

Mind uploading has the problem of developing powerful computers and understanding of the brain sufficiently to enable uploading to work. Embryo ships require the development of fully autonomous robots, Artificial Wombs, and computer hardware that can function reliably over long periods of time. Furthermore, a propulsion system would be required that could accelerate the small ship to a fraction of light speed and then slow it down again. Finally this depends on the existence of an exoplanet qualifying for colonization within a few hundred light years of Earth.

Finding exoplanets can be enabled by proceeding with the New worlds imaging project and hypertelescopes.

Magsails can be used to slowdown at the target solar system

There are some recent ideas for being able to generate several grams to kilograms of antimatter

Magnetically inflated structures in space could create kilometer size telescopes are larger within a decade.

Wikipedia has a lot of information about space colonization

November 30, 2006

Improving Future Air and Ship Transport

Here is a pdf of a 2005 Congressional Budget Office study of improved strategic mobility

It has options for buying more exising air transports like the C17 and more of the LMSR (Large medium speed roll on/roll off ships)

The more interesting options are the development of improved airlift and sealift systems. For airlift, they examine heavy lift hybrid airships, which are blimps that also have dynamic lift. The airships would have 500 plus ton cargo capacity with 80-120 knot speed (100knot average).

All programs were for about 11 billion total cost including development, procurement and operations.

The high speed ships they are examining are NAVSEA Trimaran concept with 55 knot/hour speed, 5000 ton payload capacity, 360 MW of installed power, 8,700 nautical mile range and 8 days to transit 10,000 nautical miles.

A near-term high speed ship with less technical risk with 45 knot/hour speed, 10,000 ton payload capacity, 250 MW of power, 5,000 nm range and 9 days to transit 10,000 nm.

A hydrofoil company that makes personal hydrofoils that can go at 100knots/hour has a design for a 100 knots/hour 300 person passenger ferry.

Reduce drag for faster and more efficient ships

The New Scientist, examines the efforts to reduce ship drag using tiny bubbles, slippery polymers and trapped sheets of air.

As a ship moves through water it encounters three types of drag: wave drag, pressure drag and frictional drag. Wave resistance is mainly a problem at high speed, and can be minimised with a carefully designed hull. Streamlining can also almost eliminate pressure drag - the backwards pull generated by the pressure difference between the bow and stern as the water through which a ship passes divides and then recombines. The greatest component of drag, and the main problem to ship designers, is frictional drag. This comes from the interaction between the hull and the water around it. Its effect, says Kodama, means that a ship pulls a large body of water along with it as it moves.

Japan is working on the Super-Eco-ship project aims to reduce a ship's greenhouse gas emissions by a quarter while increasing its cargo capacity by 20 per cent, through a whole series of propulsion, control and design changes. so far Sea trials have shown a net drop in drag of only 3 per cent and reduction of less than 10 per cent in scale models.

Air pockets sandwiched between the boat and the water should make a highly effective lubricant. Tests on models show it is possible to create stable cavities that cut drag by a factor of 5. Yet the project aims to reduce hull contact with water by a whopping 80 per cent, and to sustain these air cavities at all speeds and in all sea conditions.

Experiments currently show microbubbles were the least efficient, saving just a few per cent. The air film was better, and the air cavities performed the best.

A patent from 2001, looks to use air cavities to create a 100 knot/hour hydrofoil surface ship military transport.

DBI Thorium Reactors

In 1968 DBI initiated research on the packaging of thorium in order to produce hydrogen as an energy carrier, and thus create a new commodity in thorium as an energy source. DBI has continued advancing its thorium program, beginning its ongoing concentrations on nuclear vessels and biomass to produce a commodity for the replacement of gasoline.

DBI has a portable reactor concept where small energy booster modules get integrated into existing nuclear and fossil fuel power generation plants The low cost is assisted by using the host company’s existing Environmental Impact Report to operate under a conditional permit. DBI won’t ask the host plant for any money; instead, DBI will pay the host plant to assist in monitoring the plant facilities, connection to the power grid, and as incentive just to implement the technology.

As an example of magnitude, a conventional 10-MW steam power plant circulating 300,000 lbs./hour will produce a certain amount of air pollution, as determined by combustion efficiency and type of fuel used. If that same plant is supplied with 90,000 lbs./hour by the portable DBI Thorium Reactor program and only 210,000 lbs./hour by burning other fuels, the reduction in air pollution from combustion products could be as much as 30%. It would also reduce the production of global warming gases.

Although the DBI design is not the ideal thorium design it would be superior to uranium nuclear power with 90% less waste, no refueling, improved safety, non-proliferation benefits and lower costs.

Gene Transfer : could treat asthma and erectile disfunction

A recent study of 11 men was performed to show the safety of gene transfer procedure and it also showed effectiveness for treating erectile disfunction Gene transfer could also treat asthma, overactive bladder and irritable bowel syndrome. Gene transfer is gene therapy lite, because it does not change your DNA but adds protein production to your cells for months to years.

Small pieces of DNA reach the nuclei of cells and this causes them to increase production of particular proteins. The DNA is mixed into blood plasma and injected into the body.

A possible advantage of gene transfer is that a single treatment could last for months. In the current study, improvements were maintained through the 24 weeks of study.

November 29, 2006


Swarmanoids are a follow up to swarmbots

Will initially have eye-bots, hand-bots and foot-bots

Swarm robotics is inspired by the social insect metaphor, and emphasises aspects such as decentralisation of control, limited communication abilities among robots, use of local information, emergence of global behaviour, and robustness. Most current studies in swarm robotic systems have focused on robotic swarms in which individuals are physically and behaviourally undifferentiated.

The Swarmanoid project proposes a highly innovative way to build robots that can successfully and adaptively act in human made environments. The Swarmanoid project will be the first to study how to design, realise and control a heterogeneous swarm robotic system capable of operating in a fully 3-dimensional environment.

The main scientific objective of the proposed research is the design, implementation and control of a novel distributed robotic system comprising heterogeneous, dynamically connected small autonomous robots so as to form what we call a swarmanoid. The swarmanoid that we intend to build will be comprised of numerous (about 60) autonomous robots of three types: eye-bots, hand-bots, and foot-bots.

Eye-bots are specialised in sensing and analysing the environment from a high position to provide an overview that foot-bots or hand-bots cannot have. Eye-bots fly or are attached to the ceiling. Hand-bots are specialised in moving and acting in a space zone between the one covered by the foot-bots (the ground) and the one covered by the eye-bots (the ceiling). Hand-bots can climb vertical surfaces of walls or objects located in the environment. Foot-bots are specialised in moving on rough terrain and transporting either objects or other robots; they are based on the robotic platform developed within the European Swarm-bots project. The combination of these three types of autonomous agents form an heterogeneous robotic system that is capable of moving in a 3D space.

In addition to the construction of the robots, important scientific contributions will be in the development of distributed algorithms for the control of the swarmanoid and in the study and definition of distributed communication protocols that will make it possible to let the swarmanoid act in a distributed, robust, and scalable way.

A collection of specialized robots that work together to work with people and perform complex tasks. Eventually with micro or nano versions of swarmaniods they could assemble like the Replicators in Stargate.

Swarmanoids could also lead to utility fogs and foglets

Researchers Grow 7 mm Carbon Nanotube Array

In conjunction with First Nano (FN), a division of CVD Equipment Corporation, University of Cincinatti has grown an array on FN’s EasyTube Carbon Nanotube system that is longer than 7 mm.

The harmonious combination of substrate, alloy catalyst and process conditions was found to consistently produce nanotube arrays more than 7 mm long” says Professor Vesselin Shanov, co-director of Smart Materials Nanotechnology Laboratory at the University of Cincinnati (UC).

Thorium Energy meetings

Thorium Power co is talking to India about their Thorium energy technology.

Thorium Power and DBI are involved in putting on a forum in DC to inform the washington media and others about Thorium Nov 30, 2006 at the National Press Club in Washington DC

Clean Nuclear Energy: Thorium 2006
DBI, a California-based aerospace company involved in the research and development of thorium-fueled reactors, will host a forum on Thursday, November 30, from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on thorium as an abundant source of clean energy to meet the world's growing energy needs.

The forum will address the role of thorium in three key areas: the environmental benefits of thorium; the safety and national security aspects of thorium; and the economic benefits and commercial applications of thorium. A detailed agenda and list of speakers can be found below.

DBI, a California-based company established in 1965 and involved in the research and development of thorium-fueled reactors joined by Thorium Power, Ltd., of Virginia

Forum on thorium as an alternative source of clean nuclear energy

National Press Club
529 14th Street, N.W.
Holeman Lounge (13th Floor)

This conference is being organized by D'Auvergne Brothers Industries (DBI), a leader in aerospace and thorium reactor design for over 30 years. DBI has been developing a new type of small thorium-fuelled reactors which could complement the work Thorium Power has been doing with its proprietary thorium-based fuels for existing and new types of medium to large scale reactors.

Carbon nanotube solid created

Researchers have succeeded in creating a carbon nanotube 20 times more densely packed than existing tubes, a discovery that could accelerate the practical application of nanotubes. The carbon nanotube solid has over 99.9 percent carbon purity, is easy to process and is expected to be applied to long-duration high-performance batteries.

The team focused on surface tensions made when drops of alcohol evaporate. They soaked carbon nanotubes with alcohol, dried them and confirmed the tubes had been drawn together by surface tension, becoming highly dense aggregates of high purity.

With existing technology, when carbon nanotubes are densely packed, their structure is destroyed. But with the new method, carbon nanotubes can be engineered into various shapes, such as needles and thin films, without destroying their strength or electrical characteristics. The production costs are lowered to a fraction of the present level, and stable mass production is possible.

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