January 02, 2010

Red blood cell-mimicking synthetic biomaterial particles

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Red blood cell-mimicking synthetic biomaterial particles

Biomaterials form the basis of current and future biomedical technologies. They are routinely used to design therapeutic carriers, such as nanoparticles, for applications in drug delivery. Current strategies for synthesizing drug delivery carriers are based either on discovery of materials or development of fabrication methods. While synthetic carriers have brought upon numerous advances in drug delivery, they fail to match the sophistication exhibited by innate biological entities. In particular, red blood cells (RBCs), the most ubiquitous cell type in the human blood, constitute highly specialized entities with unique shape, size, mechanical flexibility, and material composition, all of which are optimized for extraordinary biological performance. Inspired by this natural example, we synthesized particles that mimic the key structural and functional features of RBCs. Similar to their natural counterparts, RBC-mimicking particles described here possess the ability to carry oxygen and flow through capillaries smaller than their own diameter. Further, they can also encapsulate drugs and imaging agents. These particles provide a paradigm for the design of drug delivery and imaging carriers, because they combine the functionality of natural RBCs with the broad applicability and versatility of synthetic drug delivery particles

Scientists at UC Santa Barbara, in collaboration with scientists at University of Michigan, have developed synthetic particles that closely mimic the characteristics and key functions of natural red blood cells, including softness, flexibility, and the ability to carry oxygen.

The primary function of natural red blood cells is to carry oxygen, and the synthetic red blood cells (sRBCs) do that very well, retaining 90% of their oxygen-binding capacity after a week. The sRBCs also, however, have been shown to deliver therapeutic drugs effectively and with controlled release, and to carry well-distributed contrast agents for enhanced resolution in diagnostic imaging.

Mitragotri, his research group, and their collaborators from the University of Michigan succeeded in synthesizing the particles by creating a polymer doughnut-shaped template, coating the template with up to nine layers of hemoglobin and other proteins, then removing the core template. The resulting particles have the same size and flexibility, and can carry as much oxygen, as natural red blood cells. The flexibility, absent in "conventional" polymer-based biomaterials developed as carriers for therapeutic and diagnostic agents, gives the sRBCs the ability to flow through channels smaller than their resting diameter, stretching in response to flow and regaining their discoidal shape upon exiting the capillary, just as their natural counterparts do.

In addition to synthesizing particles that mimic the shape and properties of healthy RBCs, the technique described in the paper can also be used to develop particles that mimic the shape and properties of diseased cells, such as those found in sickle-cell anemia and hereditary eliptocytosis. The availability of such synthetic diseased cells is expected to lead to greater understanding of how those diseases and others affect RBCs.

8 page pdf supplemental material

December 31, 2009

Cost and benefits of 2G Superconducting Wire for Transmission

Cost and benefits of current 2G superconducting wire for transmission

* Enhances Efficiency: Superconductor Electricity Pipelines are able to cut power losses by two to three times when compared with conventional transmission options. This results in improved return-on-investment and reduced carbon emissions.
* Resolves Difficult Siting Problems: Conventional overhead transmission lines require new corridors hundreds of feet wide. The time-consuming and potentially litigious process involved to site these lines is a significant roadblock to developing new renewable power in the U.S. Superconductor Electricity Pipelines can carry thousands of megawatts (many gigawatts) of power in a 25-foot-wide corridor and can be placed in existing railroad and highway rights of way.
* Improves Aesthetics: Conventional high voltage towers are more than 100 feet tall and can significantly impact the aesthetics of neighborhoods, national parks and sensitive wildlife areas. Superconductor Electricity Pipelines are out of sight and out of mind. Unlike overhead power lines, they also are free from electromagnetic fields.
* Increases Security: Ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and terrorism are just a few of the threats to overhead power lines. Given their underground location, Superconductor Electricity Pipelines are out of harm’s way.

American Superconductor to Supply Superconductor Wire and Cable System for Tres Amigas SuperStation

Tres Amigas trading hub – which Harris says would be the world’s largest use of superconducting cable – is like an automobile traffic circle. It could bring into the loop up to 5,000 megawatts of power at any one moment from any or all of the three grids. The power would then be sent out to whichever grid needs the electricity.

Tres Amigas will show superconducting technology is indeed a commercially viable alternative and a tremendous step forward in solving the nation’s transmission gridlock,” Harris says. “It should lessen lawsuits. If it’s buried, who cares?”

Eliminating the inefficiencies of traditional copper wires would save around $16 billion a year, estimates the US Department of Energy – and pave the way for long-distance transmission of wind and solar power. Another advantage: Being underground, the cable would be resistant to terrorist strikes.

In papers filed in early December with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Tres Amigas outlined its plans for a $600 million, 15- to 20-mile triangular-shaped hub near Clovis, N.M., constructed using superconducting cable.

“What we’re starting to see is a new phase in commercialization of superconducting cable – not just in this country but globally,” says Daniel McGahn, senior vice president and general manager of American Superconductor in Westborough, Mass

December 30, 2009

Nextbigfuture Highlights for Weeks 46-52 of 2009

This is the seventh set of highlights for Next Big Future for 2009.

Here is the link to the highlights for weeks 39-45

Here is the link to the highlights for weeks 33-38

Here is the link to the highlights for weeks 20-32

Here is the link to the highlights for weeks 13-19

Here is the link to the highlights for weeks 7-12.

Here is the link to the highlights for weeks 1-6

Nanotechnology and nanoscale tech

1. New nanobot designs from Robert Freitas included nutribots that let you eat bad food while staying healthy and a nuclear nanobot for making ATP to replace eating food

2. Boron Nitride nanotubes spun into commercially usable fibers. They have higher usable temperatures than carbon nanotubes and will enable other applications.

3. Singapore has 5 nanometer resolution electron beam

4. Fujitsu labs can form graphene transistors on silicon

5. Switchable DNA nanostructures for energy and data storage

6. DNA origami makes large area of ordered gold nanoparticles

7. Graphene quilts used to cool electronics

8. Taiwan makes 16 nanometer SRAM using nano injection lithography which will compete for 2013 lithography business

9. Self assembled 20 nanometer transistors using diblock coploymer lithography

10. Ultrafast switching of quantum dots could enable lower energy usage optical computers that generate a lot less heat

11. Digital Quantum Batteries would leverage nanocapacitors to store concentrated energy that can be quickly released, and enough of them could rival atomic bombs as weapons.

12. If enough Digital Quantum Batteries could be made they would enable Winterbergs 1 gigavolt nuclear fusion device.

13. Electron-cyclotron Resonance thrusters for space propulsion

14. Maxing out VASIMR plasma rocket performance with vapor core fission reactors or IEC fusion reactors. Both VASIMR plasma rockets and vapor Core fission are enabled with powerful superconducting magnets.

Superconductors and Energy
15. Superconducting wire is improving fast and will enable many applications but lower cost and high volume production of wire is critical. Expect breakthroughs around 2016.

16. Development path for Helion Energy Nuclear Fusion

17. Magneto Inertial fusion development status

18. Hyperion Power generation reactor design. It has been changed from uranium hydride to uranium nitride-fueled, lead bismuth-cooled, fast reactor for their 'launch' design.

19. Glitter sized solar photovoltaics generate the same amount of energy using 100 times less silicon

AI and computers
20. Peter Voss was Interviewed by Sander Olson on AGI (artificial general intelligence

21. Nvidia Fermi GPU lowers supercomputing costs by ten times

22. Roadmap for organic and printed electronics

Lasers, Metamaterials and Plasmonics
23. Shattering traditional notions of laser limits with plasmonic lasers

24. Nano-electromagnets turn a cloak of invisibility into a practical possibility

25. MIT is designing optical chips that can be built with existing processes. Success will result in 10-20 times systems performance

26. Spintronics in silicon at room temperature

DARPA and Supersoldier tech
27. DARPA will build and ground test 750 kg 150 kilowatt laser in 2012

28. Super soldier technology update

29. Myostatin inhibiting gene therapy advance in monkeys

30. Reak SARM steroids are available online for purchase

31. CEO of China's Cosco is seriously considering nuclear merchant ships.

32. This would have benefits for military power and civilization resilience by enabling power supplies to be brought to disaster areas

33. Nuclear powered container ships would also provide power for functionalized container shipping modules.

34. China will be the world leader in high speed rail by 2012 with even more by 2020

35. Jacob innovations designs first class comfort in economy class space.

36. Suborbital tourism as a stepping stone around the world hypersonic travel.

Medical Related
37. Fighting fat with brown fat cells

38. Presbyopia laser surgery

39. Immortality Inc extreme life extension effort

40. IBM has silicon chip tests for rapid disease detection

41. Faster and cheaper DNA sequencing

42. 3D bioprinters

43. Blacklight Power plans for 2010-2013

44. Astronomical evidence of what might be parallel universes

45. Possible detection of dark matter particles


Trading Futures
Nano Technology
Netbook     Technology News
Computer Software
Future Predictions

DARPA Flying Car Workshop

Proposer's Day Workshop Announcement for Transformer (TX)

The objective of the Transformer (TX) program is to demonstrate a 1 to 4 person transportation vehicle that can drive and fly, thus enabling the warfighter to avoid water, difficult terrain, and road obstructions as well as IED and ambush threats. The vehicle will be capable of driving on prepared surface and light off-road conditions, while flight functionality will require Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL). In addition, range and speed efficiencies will allow for tactically relevant missions to be performed on a single tank of fuel. The ability to provide the warfighter a platform that enables terrain-independent mobility would significantly affect how distributed operations are performed today. Current transport systems present operational limitations where the warfighter is either anchored to the ground with HMMWVs and thus vulnerable to ambush, or reliant on helicopters, which are limited in flight speed and availability. TX provides the flexibility to adapt to traditional and asymmetric threats by providing the operator unimpeded movement over difficult terrain. In addition, transportation is no longer restricted to trafficable terrain that tends to makes movement predictable. This enables the warfighter to approach targets from directions opportune to them and not the enemy.

Within the TX program, DARPA seeks to: 1) Develop a robust vehicle design that maximizes military utility at a reasonable cost, 2) Identify and mature the critical enabling technologies necessary to vehicle development, and 3) Build a single prototype vehicle that demonstrates the program goals through ground and flight tests. Technologies relevant to the objectives of the TX program can be found in numerous disciplines and areas of research including: adaptive wing structures, ducted fan propulsion, lightweight composite materials, advanced flight control technology for stable transition from vertical to horizontal flight, hybrid electric drive, advanced batteries, and others.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will host a Proposers' Day Workshop in support of a planned Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the Transformer (TX) program. The workshop will occur at 0700-1500 EST on January 14, 2010, at Westin Arlington Gateway.

DARPA has a flying car project

The “Transformer project,” launched by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, would create a vehicle that can travel on land or through the air.

The vehicle would be able to fly like a helicopter, drive off-road and carry up to four people, according to DARPA’s Dec. 23 announcement. The ability to fly would help escape ambushes and land mines and cross rivers.

In DARPA’s terminology, flying and driving, “enables the warfighter to approach targets from directions opportune to them and not the enemy.”

The Transformer also must get good gas mileage, because it’s able to conduct “tactically relevant missions” on a single tank of fuel.

Nextbigfuture recently reviewed the status of flying cars with cars on sale now with commercial delivery in late 2010 or in 2011.

Israeli Airport Security

Boston Globe 2006: what israeli security could teach us"

The safest airline in the world, it is widely agreed, is El Al, Israel's national carrier. The safest airport is Ben Gurion International, in Tel Aviv. No El Al plane has been attacked by terrorists in more than three decades, and no flight leaving Ben Gurion has ever been hijacked.

The Israelis check for bombs and weapons too, but always with the understanding that things don't hijack planes, terrorists do -- and that the best way to detect terrorists is to focus on intercepting not bad things, but bad people. To a much greater degree than in the United States, security at El Al and Ben Gurion depends on intelligence and intuition -- what Rafi Ron, the former director of security at Ben Gurion, calls the human factor.

Israeli airport security, much of it invisible to the untrained eye, begins before passengers even enter the terminal. Officials constantly monitor behavior, alert to clues that may hint at danger: bulky clothing, say, or a nervous manner. Profilers -- that's what they're called -- make a point of interviewing travelers, sometimes at length. They probe, as one profiling supervisor told CBS, for ``anything out of the ordinary, anything that does not fit." Their questions can seem odd or intrusive, especially if your only previous experience with an airport interrogation was being asked whether you packed your bags yourself.

Unlike in US airports, where passengers go through security after checking in for their flights and submitting their luggage, security at Ben Gurion comes first. Only when the profiler is satisfied that a passenger poses no risk is he or she allowed to proceed to the check-in counter. By that point, there is no need to make him remove his shoes, or to confiscate his bottle of water

Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport increased security following an attempted terrorist attack on a flight to the United States. Airline passengers traveling from Israel to the United States will also be subjected to additional questioning

Wikipedia on Ben Gurion Airport Security

Ben Gurion International Airport is one of the world's most heavily secured airports. Security operates on several levels.

* All cars, taxis, buses and trucks go through a preliminary security checkpoint before entering the airport compound. Armed guards spot-check the vehicles by looking into cars, taxis and boarding buses, exchanging a few words with the driver and passengers.

* Armed security personnel stationed at the terminal entrances keep a close watch on those who enter the buildings. If someone arouses their suspicion or looks nervous, they may strike up a conversation to further assess the person's intent. Plainclothes armed personnel patrol the area outside the building, and hidden surveillance cameras operate at all times.

* Inside the building, both uniformed and plainclothes security officers are on constant patrol.

* Departing passengers are personally questioned by security agents even before arriving at the check-in desk. This interview can last as little as five minutes, or as long as an hour if a passenger is selected for additional screening. Luggage and body searches may be conducted. After the search, bags are placed through an X-ray machine before passengers proceed to the check-in counters. All that said, El Al and Ben Gurion airport has for a long time realised that the person is more important than their bags. Therefore, occasionally, if security have assessed a person as a low risk, they will pass them straight through to the check-in desks, bypassing the main x-ray machines. Note that hand baggage is always x-rayed later on.

* After check-in, checked baggage is put in a pressure chamber to trigger any possible explosive devices. Passengers continue through to personal security and passport control, as in other airports. Before passing through the metal detectors and placing hand baggage through the X-ray machine, passports are re-checked and additional questions may be asked. Before boarding the aircraft, passports and boarding passes are checked once again.

* Security procedures for incoming flights are not as stringent, but passengers may be questioned by passport control depending on country of origin, or countries visited prior to arrival in Israel. Passengers who have recently visited countries at war with Israel (all Arab countries except Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania and Qatar) may be subject to further questioning

- Beyer, Lisa. "Is This What We Really Want?". TIME. http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101010924/belal.html.

How do the Israelis do it? For one thing, El Al puts at least one armed, plainclothes sky marshal on all its flights. One such agent foiled a hijack attempt over Holland in 1970. During El Al flights, the cockpit door, made of reinforced steel strong enough to repel fire from a handgun, remains locked. On the ground, the Israelis not only use the standard metal detectors and X-ray machines but also lean on teams of young agents, dressed in blue slacks and white shirts, who interrogate, to varying degrees, every passenger departing Ben Gurion and, in airports abroad, anyone flying El Al. The questions can include: "When did you book this flight?" "Who paid for the ticket?" "Why are you traveling?" "Whom did you meet while in Israel?" Business travelers are asked for documents proving they actually are pursuing a particular deal. Journalists are asked to reveal the stories they are going to cover. One agent will ask questions for a while, then a second will ask many of the same. The two will compare notes, and one or the other will ask a third batch of queries. This process often takes 20 minutes; it can take two hours.

The idea is to turn up inconsistencies in a terrorist's made-up story (or at least rattle him into a panic) and also expose individuals who may be unknowing accomplices. In 1986, El Al security at London's Heathrow airport discovered a bomb sewn into the suitcase of an unwitting Irish woman after she revealed that she had had a romance with a Jordanian, who had bought her the bag.

- "What can we learn from Ben Gurion Airport in Israel to help push aviation security in the U.S. to the next level?". Access Control & Security Systems. http://securitysolutions.com/news/security_exposing_hostile_intent.

- Prada, Paulo; Michaels, Daniel (17 September 2001). "Israel airport is safe but hard to emulate". The Wall Street Journal. http://archives.californiaaviation.org/airport/msg17059.html.

28 MegaVolt Ampere Transformer to be Built by End of 2012, Widespread Adoption Would Save 33% of Electric Grid Losses

SuperPower will optimize their second-generation high-temperature superconducting (2G HTS) wire to provide a unique ‘low ac loss’ conductor that will significantly reduce energy losses in the proposed 28 megavolt ampere utility-scale transformer. It is estimated that 40 percent of the nation’s total grid energy losses are from aging conventional transformers and that the use of superconducting transformers could reduce energy losses on the grid by one-third – equivalent to eliminating about 15 million tons of CO2 annually.

The 28 megavolt-ampere three-phase medium-power transformer will be installed at the Southern California Edison utility substation by the end of 2012 and will integrate Smart Grid communication and control instrumentation. Following installation, a two-year test period will provide real-time data to validate Smart Grid business models, system performance, energy savings and improvements in power quality and reliability.

A transformer that incorporates superconducting wire can eliminate up to half the energy losses of transformers wound with conventional copper wire and results in a device that is about one-half the physical size and weight of a conventional transformer. This enables increased power handling capability without the requirement for more or larger substations in already crowded urban areas.

Beyond the energy savings, there are substantial environmental benefits. According to Drew Hazelton, principal engineer and project lead for SuperPower, “Conventional transformers are filled with toxic and flammable oil for cooling. Approximately one transformer catches fire or explodes each day in the United States. A FCL superconducting transformer mitigates both of these risks because it is cooled with liquid nitrogen, an inexpensive, readily available and benign substance that will result in a safer and ‘green’ device.”

Protecting the electrical grid from faults that result from lightning strikes, downed power lines and other system interruptions is critical to ensure a safe and reliable flow of power for consumers. By incorporating fault current limiting capability, the transformer is better able to handle fault currents that may arise from the Smart Grid goal of accommodating new generation and energy storage options such as renewable energy resources like wind and photovoltaic systems. The fault current limiting feature of the transformer provides critical protection and significantly reduces wear and tear for circuit breakers and other power equipment in existing substations. This reduces capital equipment costs for replacement or upgrade of such equipment and provides flexibility in routing power during emergency situations.


Electricity distribution at wikipedia

How the Power Grid works at Howstuffworks

DOE electricity factsheets

High temp superconductivity at DOE

48 page pdf on benefits of mobile transformers and substations

All power transformers are large, heavy, expensive, and generally use a paper/oil–based or hybrid paper/oil/solid insulation system. High-side voltage levels range from 35 to 765 kV. Prices for even the smallest units approach $100K, and several 100–200 MVA units easily sell for $1M. The large (up to 1100 MVA) GSU and HV transmission units are now approaching $3–5M or higher. Medium-power transformers for use in conventional substations have a nominal price of about $600K for a 50-MVA unit, but prices vary according to specifications, such as desired loss level and associated value of losses (A and B factors), impedance requirements, tap changers, cooling requirements, and accessories.

High-side voltages range from 35 to 245 kV with sizes ranging from 5 MVA to 100 MVA. Estimates by transformer manufacturers indicate that there are roughly 500 to 600 mobile transformers in service (slightly greater than 1% of the medium-power transformer inventory). Some of these transformers are quite old but are still serviceable because the number of hours that the mobile transformers are used is much lower than that of fixed installations.

So about 45,000 medium power transformers in the USA.

Peak electricity demand in the United States in 2004 was 700 GW (NERC, 2005). Assuming that an average of 2.5 medium- or large-power transformations are required from power plant to distribution system and an average size of 35 MVA per transformer, this suggests that there are roughly 50,000 high- and medium-voltage transformers in the United States.

Given a total installed market of 50,000 transformers, a 2% growth rate in electricity demand would require an additional 1000 transformers each year even without a replacement market.

MTS (mobile transformers and mobile substations) systems can serve a vital role in protecting the Nation’s electrical infrastructure. Their flexibility allows them to switch from one purpose to another relatively easily. When needed, the MTS enables temporary restoration of grid service while circumventing damaged substation equipment, allowing time to procure certain long lead-time grid components.

However, for seamless continuity of operation, it is critical that there is virtually a continuous supply of electricity. This can only occur through uninterruptible power supplies (e.g. batteries), redundant power feeds, and on-site generation. Yet, where disruption is prolonged due to equipment failure or total destruction from a war or act of terrorism, and especially where the problems are isolated to the substation, the MTS can play a critical role in reestablishing grid connections.

Russia Investigates a Mission to Deflect Asteroid Apothis

Roscosmos will soon consider a project to prevent a large asteroid from colliding with Earth after 2030, the head of Russia's space agency said on Wednesday.

"A scientist recently told me an interesting thing about the path [of an asteroid] constantly nearing Earth... He has calculated that it will surely collide with Earth in the 2030s," Anatoly Perminov said during an interview with the Voice of Russia radio.

He referred to Apophis, an asteroid that he said was almost three times as large as the Tunguska meteorite. On June 30, 1908, an explosion equivalent to between 5 and 30 megatons of TNT occurred near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in a remote region of Russia's Siberia. The Tunguska blast flattened 80 million trees, destroying an area of around 2,150 sq km (830 sq miles).

Perminov said Russia was not planning to destroy the asteroid.

"No nuclear explosions [will be carried out], everything [will be done] on the basis of the laws of physics," he said.

The Russian space official also said after having considered the project, Russia could invite experts from Europe, the United States and China to join it.

"People's lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred million dollars and design a system that would prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people," Perminov said.

Though Apophis is currently considered the largest threat to our planet, NASA scientists published in October an update of its orbit indicating "a significantly reduced likelihood of a hazardous encounter with Earth in 2036."

In October, NASA dropped the odds of it hitting Earth in 2036 from a 1-in-45,000 to 1-in-250,000.

It said another close encounter in 2068 will involve a 1-in-330,000 chance of impact.

Wikipedia on 99942Apothis

99942 Apophis is a near-Earth asteroid that caused a brief period of concern in December 2004 because initial observations indicated a small probability (up to 2.7%) that it would strike the Earth in 2029. Additional observations provided improved predictions that eliminated the possibility of an impact on Earth or the Moon in 2029. However, a possibility remains that during the 2029 close encounter with Earth, Apophis will pass through a gravitational keyhole, a precise region in space no more than about 600 meters across, that would set up a future impact on April 13, 2036. This possibility kept the asteroid at Level 1 on the Torino impact hazard scale until August 2006. It broke the record for the highest level on the Torino Scale, being, for only a short time, a level 4, before it was lowered

NASA initially estimated the energy that Apophis would have released if it struck Earth as the equivalent of 1,480 megatons of TNT. A later, more refined NASA estimate was 880 megatons. The impacts which created the Barringer Crater or the Tunguska event are estimated to be in the 3–10 megaton range.

The B612 Foundation made estimates of Apophis' path if a 2036 Earth impact were to occur as part of an effort to develop viable deflection strategies. The result is a narrow corridor a few miles wide, called the path of risk, and it includes most of southern Russia, across the north Pacific (relatively close to the coastlines of California and Mexico), then right between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, crossing northern Colombia and Venezuela, ending in the Atlantic, just before reaching Africa. Using the computer simulation tool NEOSim, it was estimated that the hypothetical impact of Apophis in countries such as Colombia and Venezuela, which are in the path of risk, would have had more than 10 million casualties. An impact several thousand miles off the West Coast of the US would produce a devastating tsunami.[ The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa was the equivalent of roughly 200 megatons.

Path of risk where 99942 Apophis may impact Earth in 2036. The exact effects of any impact would vary based on the asteroid's composition, and the location and angle of impact. Any impact would be extremely detrimental to an area of thousands of square kilometres.

Path of risk where 99942 Apophis may impact Earth in 2036. The exact effects of any impact would vary based on the asteroid's composition, and the location and angle of impact. Any impact would be extremely detrimental to an area of thousands of square kilometres

Historical Colonization Was by Countries with Smaller GDP

Rocketpunk Manifesto has an interesting article that references my article "Historical Colonization versus Historical Navies and Future Spaceships"

In 1600 the economies were estimated at :

China and India and other nations had larger GDP but it was Spain, Portugal, France, Netherlands and Britain that were the players in colonizing the Americas.

Region / Country GDP (PPP)
mill. of International dollars GDP Share percentage (%)
World 329,417 100
Ming China 96,000 29.2
Mughal India 74,250 22.6
Far East (excluding China, India,
Japan, Russia) 24,088 7.3
Africa 22,000 6.7
Spanish Empire 20,789 6.3
France 15,559 4.7
Italian States 14,410 4.4
Ottoman Empire 12,637 3.8
Germany 12,432 3.8
Russia and Central Asia 11,447 3.5
Japan 9,620 2.9
Eastern Europe (excluding Russia) 8,743 2.7
Spain 7,416 2.1
British Isles 6,007 1.8

It was not mainly about gold, it was about pepper. Europeans used a lot of it, and went to enormous efforts to get their hands on it.

Henry the Navigator's establishment at Sagres was not a 15th century NASA, and the Portuguese caravel was not a nautical revolution (though it was developed amid an ongoing revolution in nautical technology). In fact the lateen-rigged caravel turned out to be a bit of a technological dead end that faded away in the 16th century.

Christopher Columbus was just trying to go one better on the Portuguese, armed with a gross underestimate for the size of the Earth and sublime ignorance that there was a continent in the way. Unlike the great treasure junks the caravels were small, perhaps 20 meters long and 50 tons capacity - about a third the length and a thirtieth the displacement of their Chinese contemporaries.

China had perhaps 50 times the resources of Portugal. Sending out a few hundred men aboard a squadron of caravels was as heavy a burden on Portugal as sending 30,000 men aboard a treasure fleet was for China.

Why did Portugal's program of exploration succeed, while China's was cancelled and forgotten? The reason can't be things like decentralization versus centralization or government versus private initiative. Both were more or less the same on those counts, pushed by government factions and supported by the merchants, shipbuilders, and such who benefited.

There are no doubt a host of other factors. The Chinese court eunuchs had domestic rivals who wanted to cut them down to size, while Henry the Navigator was a royal younger son who seemed out to make none of the trouble that royal younger sons can make.

But I believe the more important reason is that the Chinese treasure fleets had absolutely nothing to do with broader Chinese concerns of the time. The Indian Ocean produced nothing that the Chinese wanted the way Europeans wanted pepper, and it was irrelevant to the empire's security concerns. (Whereas central Asia was all too relevant.) Seafaring itself was incidental to most of China's population.

It was much different with Portugal, a small country with a substantial fishing population that would readily go to sea for anything more profitable. More important, Portugal shared the reconquista heritage and crusading enthusiasm of neighboring Castile, and shared with much of Western Europe a late medieval fascination with knighthood and quests that gave us Sir Thomas Malory's Le Mort d'Arthur.

What is needed ?

* you need enough economy to afford the effort of colonization
* you need to have good enough ships and technology to do it
* you need to have the will (right attitude) in the people involved in the projects to do it
* you need a good enough business plan to get worthwhile products (spice or silver or furs) or modern services (satellite television, communications)

Just because you can do it, does not mean that you will do it.
China could have colonized America easily but did not.

So you have to have the initial conditions of basic affordability and sufficient technology and some kind of workable and sustainable plan. Then you need the people and groups who are willing to put it all together and actually do it.

Kazatomprom Declares 13900 tons of Uranium Production in 2009

Kazakhstan mined 13,500 metric tons of uranium as of Dec. 21 and will mine at least another 400 tons before the end of the year, Almaty-based, Kazatomprom said in a statement e-mailed today.

The press release also discussed Australia and Canada production from second hand source quotation. Actual quarterly and annual reports should be available within two weeks for Cameco in Canada and the Australian companies.

Kazakhstan's Kazatomprom is still saying they will boost uranium production 29 percent next year to 18,000 tons.

As far as the nuclear industry develops and supply from secondary sources diminishes, we are expecting a shortage of natural uranium in the world since 2016. To cover such anticipated deficit, Kazakhstan is planning to increase its uranium production to 18,000 tons by 2010. At that, Kazakhstan will be a top uranium producer in the world in the period of peak demand for uranium».

Mr. Nurlan Ryspanov emphasized that a strategic target of NAC Kazatomprom is to establish a vertically integrated company involved in all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle to turn out export-oriented high-value added products, whereby making maximum profit per kilogram of uranium produced in Kazakhstan at all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle. At present, NAC Kazatomprom is implementing this strategy based on agreements reached with key players in the nuclear market.

In 2010, NAC Kazatomprom will start implementing new hi-tech projects, in particular, science-intensive and technology-intensive operations based on rare and rare-earth metals and elaboration of alternative energy installations in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Social projects to develop uranium mining regions and adjacent areas will continue. In 2010, NAC Kazatomprom plants to invest over KZT 3 billion in such programs.

December 29, 2009

Rumors that Iranian Leader May be Readying to Flee Iran

Gateway pundit shows a letter published on the Iranian websites claims that Ayatollah Khamenei is planning a possible escape to Russia.

Radio Netherlands reports indicate that the Supreme National Security Council has ordered a complete check-up of the jet which is on standby to fly Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei and his family to Russia should the situation in Iran spiral out of control

LA times: Iran slayings point to increasingly desperate regime

The killing of a nephew of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi and the arrests of other dissidents signal a government fearful of losing its grip even as it seems to court civil war.

UK Guardian: Iranians' green revolution refuses to wither and die

Amid ominous signs that political tensions were reaching breaking point, reformist websites reported that special forces fired teargas and attacked crowds gathered in some of Tehran's main thoroughfares to begin two days of commemorations for one of Shia Islam's holiest figures. The opposition website Rah-e Sabz reported confrontations in Enghelab, Haft-e Tir and Imam Hossein Squares. Unconfirmed accounts told of disturbances breaking out between Ferdowsi Square and Valiasr crossroads and between Choobi Bridge and Shahmirzadi Hosseinieh.

Deutsche Welle's Farsi-language website carried reports of further clashes in Isfahan, Tabriz, Kermanshah and Ahvaz.

Times UK Online: Analysts heralded the start of what could be a bloody endgame as hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters poured on to the streets of Tehran and other cities and fought running battles with the security forces. Opposition websites claimed that some policemen had refused to fire on demonstrators.

The opposition claims that the unrest is spreading across Iran, and to every social class. It senses victory, but activists fear a bloodbath first. “The security forces, especially the Revolutionary Guards, are prepared to fight until the end as they have nowhere to go,” one member said

Wall Street Journal Opinion piece by AFSHIN ELLIAN

These dissident ayatollahs—such as the late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who in a famous fatwa last summer declared the regime neither Islamic nor a republic—are no longer alone in turning against Khamenei. Even religious scholars who until recently did not openly defy the regime, have now joined the calls of the opposition. There is the well-respected Ayatollah Yussuf Sanai, for example, who was a friend of Khamenei, who went so far as to state that Khamenei's continuing struggle for power is against Sharia law. There is Ayatollah Mousavi Ardebili, the former president of the judicial branch of Iran, who this summer openly declared his solidarity with the dissident Ayatollah Montazeri. And there are the ayatollahs Bayat Zanjani, Dastghaib, and Taheri who have aligned themselves with the protesting masses. Even Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in neighboring Iraq—who is held in great esteem by Shiites also in Iran—has declared that the oppression of the demonstrators is un-Islamic.

All this is significant because it broadens the protests to a truly popular movement. The students and educated class don't need fatwas to turn against the regime. But due to the criticism by prominent ayatollahs, the regime is losing its moral legitimacy even in the eyes of less educated and more pious Iranians.

The regime is not only losing the clergy but also the military. The communiqués from opposition groups and those that reach me personally all indicate that a large part of the Revolutionary Guards is no longer willing to be used as an instrument of oppression. Video images from nearly every demonstration show Revolutionary Guards members joining ranks with the protesters. A declaration signed by air force and army officers and published on the Internet warned radical Revolutionary Guards members to "Stop the violence against your own population."

This rift also explains why the much-anticipated "China Model" of ruthless and widespread use of force against the population, with thousands of deaths and executions in a matter of days, never happened. If Khamenei could have been sure about the loyalty of the military, he would have used it a long time ago to crush the rebellion for good. The only element of the Revolutionary Guards which still seems to be loyal to the regime is the Quds division, a hodge-podge of terrorists from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and other regions.

This does not mean this regime will go out with a whimper. During these past six months, the Iranian regime has undergone a dramatic change of character. It has eliminated all pragmatic forces within its ranks. For religious support, they rely on a small but extremely radical group of ayatollahs such as Mesbah Yazde and Ahmad Janati. These are apocalyptic worshippers of the twelfth Imam, or Mahdi. Understanding this group is of the utmost importance for Western policymakers. The Mahdi is viewed as a Messiah-like figure whose return will bring peace on Earth. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad frequently refers to him in his speeches, including those held before the United Nations. While most twelver imam Shiites believe that the Mahdi will appear by his own accord, this radical group believes that his appearance can be triggered by creating the apocalyptic conditions necessary for his emergence. Iran's nuclear weapons program must be seen in this context. Ahmadinejad and the radical fringe group to which he belongs see themselves as the army of the Mahdi in his final jihad.

Foreign Policy: Be careful what you wish for: Would ‘regime change’ help Iran?

This is not to say that American-Iranian rivalry is inevitable no matter who is in power in Tehran (or Washington), or that Obama's efforts to reopen dialogue with Iran's current government is misplaced. It is rather to suggest that reform (or even revolution) in Iran is not a magic bullet that will suddenly cause all sources of friction to disagree, and to raise the possibility that a smarter and more capable Iran might turn out to be more of a challenge than the government we are dealing with today.

Estimated H1N1 Deaths in the USA are over ten thousand and Adjuvants would Have Tripled Vaccine Available. Did Thousands Die From Adjuvant Decision?

All laboratory confirmed cases are an undercount of H1N1 deaths. Actual deaths are up to five times higher.

Swine flu deaths at wikipedia

Hurricane Katrina had 1836 confirmed deaths

The Center for Disease control's weekly update on H1N1 flu

Since April 2009, CDC has received reports of 285 laboratory-confirmed pediatric deaths: 241 due to 2009 H1N1, 42 pediatric deaths that were laboratory confirmed as influenza, but the flu virus subtype was not determined, and two pediatric deaths that were associated with seasonal influenza viruses. (Laboratory-confirmed deaths are thought to represent an undercount of the actual number. CDC has provided estimates about the number of 2009 H1N1 cases and related hospitalizations and deaths.

Using the same methodology CDC has updated the estimates to include the time period from April through November 14, 2009.

CDC estimates that between 34 million and 67 million cases of 2009 H1N1 occurred between April and November 14, 2009. The mid-level in this range is about 47 million people infected with 2009 H1N1.

CDC estimates that between about 154,000 and 303,000 2009 H1N1-related hospitalizations occurred between April and November 14, 2009. The mid-level in this range is about 213,000 H1N1-related hospitalizations.

CDC estimates that between about 7,070 and 13,930 2009 H1N1-related deaths occurred between April and November 14, 2009. The mid-level in this range is about 9,820 2009 H1N1-related deaths.

The ten thousand death estimate and the estimate that Adjuvants would have tripled vaccine availability and the successful use of adjuvants in Europe suggests that five thousand or more deaths could have been avoided by choosing to use adjuvants.

The researchers tested the vaccine in three different doses, with or without MF59 (adjuvant), in 176 adults between the ages of 18 and 50. Three weeks after the initial dose, volunteers who received the adjuvanted vaccine showed stronger immune responses than those who received the nonadjuvanted formulation.

MF59 has been used for years in Europe, but no adjuvanted flu vaccine has ever been licensed in the United States, and bringing one to market would require clearing regulatory hurdles or getting an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

There seems to be no controversy or issue in the mainstream media with what looks like a clear case of about 5,000+ excess H1N1 flu deaths (Katrina and 9/11 deaths combine to about 5000) based on a policy decision to not use adjuvants. Difficulty in explaining the science of adjuvants and the statistics of flu death estimation. Also, many in the media were telling people not to vaccinate against H1N1.

Yale newsletter explaining H1N1 vaccine and adjuvants

Last spring and summer, as the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) worked to rapidly produce an H1N1 vaccine, one key policy decision it made was about the use of vaccine additives known as adjuvants, enhancers that help improve the vaccine's effectiveness. HHS decided against using adjuvants in H1N1 vaccine, but to have a supply on hand to add to the vaccine if it became necessary as an emergency provision. HHS weighed a number of factors in making this decision, including what strength of vaccine would be needed to deliver an adequate immunologic response, and the safety, effectiveness and availability of the H1N1 vaccine supply. When production problems reduced the supply of vaccine this fall, there was renewed media focus on the question of adjuvants. So just what are adjuvants and why was this decision important?

Why are vaccine adjuvants used?
Because vaccine adjuvants improve the body’s immune response, their use often allows for smaller amounts of the inactivated virus or bacterial components (the parts of the vaccine that prompt an immune response) to be used. This can stretch a vaccine supply, which can be important if supply is limited due to manufacturing problems.

According to the National Institute of Allergy an Infectious Diseases (NIAID), other important benefits from pairing adjuvants and vaccine are:
• To boost the immune response in certain age groups or in people with underlying health conditions who cannot mount an adequate immune response to a vaccine made without an adjuvant
• To broaden the immune response to the vaccine to provide better protection against a virus if it mutates.

Why is there a shortage of H1N1 vaccine and how might the use of adjuvants help alleviate it?

Earlier this fall, long lines formed as people tried to get the limited supply of H1N1 vaccine as it became available. Some 61 million doses of the vaccine had been used or were available to order in the US, far less than needed to vaccinate the original target groups which consisted of 159 million people. Drug manufacturing companies have struggled with an unpredictable virus that does not grow well in lab settings. Had adjuvants been used in the manufacturing process, some studies suggest the supply of H1N1 vaccine to date could have been tripled. For example, GlaxoSmithKline found a single shot of its H1N1 vaccine using an adjuvant and just 5.25 micrograms of antigen protected ninety-eight percent of volunteers. A standard dose without adjuvant takes 15 micrograms of antigen to provide similar effectiveness.

Why doesn’t the current
H1N1 vaccine contain an adjuvant?
The decision not to use an adjuvant was based on a number of factors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Effectiveness was one factor and clinical trials showed the H1N1 vaccine without adjuvant provided a good immune response, with a single dose providing protection for most healthy adults and older children.

Public perception of safety was also a factor. Producing the vaccine without adjuvant allowed H1N1 vaccine to be manufactured the same way as seasonal influenza vaccine, thereby avoiding the risk that public perception of anything new or “experimental” in the production process would cause people to decide against vaccine use, especially for children. Another factor was that the type of adjuvant proven effective in influenza vaccines is an oil-in-water emulsion-based adjuvant, which has not previously been approved for use in the US and would therefore require the FDA Commissioner to declare a public health emergency to clear the way for its use.

J Storrs Hall is on BlogTalk Radio tonight

J Storrs Hall, president of Foresight joins FFR to continue their special series leading up Foresight 2010. The conference, January 16-17 in Palo Alto, California, provides a unique opportunity to explore the convergence of nanotechnology and artificial intelligence and to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Foresight Institute.

10:00 Eastern/9:00 Central/8:00 Mountain/7:00 Pacific.

Blog talk radio Call-in Number: (347) 215-8972

Blog talk radio chat link

Speculative Design For Freitas Nuclear Nanobot to Replace Food

Michael Anissimov, at Accelerating Future, nuclear powered nanorobots for replacing food. The concept is briefly described in the Futurist magazine. The Futurist magazine has a solutions page which includes the Freitas work

Check out Robert Freitas' Nanomedicine, Nanorobotics, Nanofactories, Molecular Assemblers and Machine-Phase Nanotechnology publication page.

Here’s how these would work: the only reason people eat is to replace the energy they expend walking around, breathing, living life, etc. Like all creatures, we take energy stored in plant or animal matter. Freitas points out that the isotope gadolinium-148 could provide much of the fuel the body needs. But a person can’t just eat a radioactive chemical and hope to be healthy, instead he or she would ingest the gadolinium in the form of nanorobots. The gadolinium-powered robots would make sure that the person’s body was absorbing the energy safely and consistently. Freitas says the person might still have to take some vitamin or protein supplements but because gadolinium has a half life of 75 years, the person might be able to go for a century or longer without a square meal.

A Len Holmes Presentation on Nanotechnology to a Biochemistry Class in 2005 provided the likely mechanism and function of the nuclear nanobot food replacer. Above is a page that describes ATP synthase.

“Nutribots” floating through the bloodstream would allow people to eat virtually anything, a big fatty steak for instance, and experience very limited weight or cholesterol gain. The nutribots would take the fat, excess iron, and anything else that the eater in question did not want absorbed into his or her body and hold onto it. The body would pass the nurtibots, and the excess fat, normally out of the body in the restroom.

A nanobot Dr. Freitas calls a “lipovore” would act like a microscopic cosmetic surgeon, sucking fat cells out of your body and giving off heat, which the body could convert to energy to eat a bit less.

Where can you read more about Robert Freitas’s ideas? In the January-February 2010 issue of THE FUTURIST magazine, Freitas lays out his ideas for improving human health through nanotechnology.

As mentioned:
Check out Robert Freitas' Nanomedicine, Nanorobotics, Nanofactories, Molecular Assemblers and Machine-Phase Nanotechnology publication page.

1. Damian G. Allis, Robert A. Freitas Jr., Ralph C. Merkle, “Single-Atom Radical-Exchange Mechanosynthetic Transfer Reactions for Period 1,2,3,4 Elements using Monosubstituted Adamantane Tools and Workpieces,” J. Comput. Theor. Nanosci. 7(2010). In preparation.

2. Colin Weatherbee, Robert A. Freitas Jr., “Nanoscale Robot Navigation of the Human Kidney,” 2010. In preparation.

3. Robert A. Freitas Jr., “Chapter 23. Comprehensive Nanorobotic Control of Human Morbidity and Aging,” in Gregory M. Fahy, Michael D. West, L. Stephen Coles, and Steven B. Harris, eds, The Future of Aging: Pathways to Human Life Extension, Springer, New York, 2010. In press. Publisher's book website ..... Publisher's book flyer

4. Denis Tarasov, Natalia Akberova, Ekaterina Izotova, Diana Alisheva, Maksim Astafiev, Robert A. Freitas Jr., “Optimal Tooltip Trajectories in a Hydrogen Abstraction Tool Recharge Reaction Sequence for Positionally Controlled Diamond Mechanosynthesis,” J. Comput. Theor. Nanosci. 6(2009). In press.

5. Tad Hogg, Robert A. Freitas Jr., “Chemical Power for Microscopic Robots in Capillaries,” Nanomedicine: Nanotech. Biol. Med. 5(2009). In press. (Arxiv Preprint)

Here is the link to the 7 page pdf “Chemical Power for Microscopic Robots in Capillaries,”

6. Robert A. Freitas Jr., “Welcome to the Future of Medicine,” Studies in Health Technol. Inform. 149(2009):251-256. PubMed Abstract (HTML) ..... Full Paper (HTML)

This chapter describes the negative consequences of medical technology development and commercialization that is too slow, and makes the case for an immediate large scale investment in medical nanorobots to save 52 million lives a year. It also explains the essence of nanotechnology, its life-saving applications, the engineering challenges, and the possibility of 1000-fold improvement over our current human biological abilities. Every decade that we delay development and commercialization of medical nanorobotics, half a billion people perish who could have been saved.

7. Robert A. Freitas Jr., “Medical Nanorobotics: The Long-Term Goal for Nanomedicine,” in Mark J. Schulz, Vesselin N. Shanov, YeoHeung Yun, eds., Nanomedicine Science and Engineering, Artech House, Norwood MA, 2009, Chapter 14, pp. 367-392. In press.

8. Robert A. Freitas Jr., “Chapter 15. Computational Tasks in Medical Nanorobotics,” in M.M. Eshaghian-Wilner, ed., Bio-inspired and Nano-scale Integrated Computing, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 2009, pp. 391-428. Purchase Hardcover (Amazon) ..... Full Chapter Text (PDF, 5.2 MB)

9. Robert A. Freitas Jr., “Meeting the Challenge of Building Diamondoid Medical Nanorobots,” Intl. J. Robotics Res. 28(April 2009):548-557. (DOI: 10.1177/0278364908100501) IJJR Abstract (HTML) ..... Full Paper (HTML, 1.0 MB)

39 page pdf : the Challenge of Building Diamondoid Medical Nanorobots

* The first theoretical design study of a medical nanorobot ever published in a peer-reviewed medical journal (in 1998) described an artificial mechanical red blood cell or ‘‘respirocyte’’ made of 18 billion precisely arranged atoms —a bloodborne, spherical 1-micron diamondoid 1000-atmosphere pressure vessel [1e] with active pumping powered by endogenous serum glucose, able to deliver 236 times more oxygen to the tissues per unit volume than natural red cells and to manage carbonic acidity, controlled by gas concentration sensors and an onboard nanocomputer

* A second theoretical design study of a medical nanorobot describes an artificial mechanical white cell or ‘‘microbivore’’— an oval-shaped device measuring a few microns in size and made of diamond and sapphire—that would seek out and digest unwanted bloodborne pathogens

* Another theoretical design study describes an artificial mechanical platelet or ‘‘clottocyte’’ that would allow complete hemostasis in as little as B1 second, even in moderately large wounds. This response time is on the order of 100–1000 times faster than the natural hemostatic system.

* The chromallocyte is a hypothetical mobile cell-repair nanorobot whose primary purpose is to perform chromosome replacement therapy (CRT)

Meeting the Challenge of Building Diamondoid Medical Nanorobots

The technologies that are needed for the atomically precise fabrication of diamondoid nanorobots in macroscale quantities at low cost require the development of a new nanoscale manufacturing technology called positional diamondoid molecular manufacturing, enabling diamondoid nanofactories that can build nanorobots. Achieving this new technology will require the significant further development of four closely related technical capabilities: (1) diamond mechanosynthesis1 (2) programmable positional assembly1 (3) massively parallel positional assembly1 and (4) nanomechanical design. The Nanofactory Collaboration is coordinating a combined experimental and theoretical effort involving direct collaboration among dozens of researchers at multiple institutions in four countries to explore the feasibility of positionally controlled mechanosynthesis of diamondoid structures using simple molecular feedstocks, which is the first step along a direct pathway to developing working nanofactories that can fabricate diamondoid medical nanorobots.

China High Speed Rail Present and Future

Times Online UK: Continental Europe now has 3,600 miles of high-speed line in operation, with a further 2,000 under construction. China will have 6,000 miles open by 2012.

NY Times: China is investing $292.9 billion (2 trillion RMB) in a nationwide high-speed, energy efficient rail network.

China accelerated its high-speed-rail development plan last year in the wake of the global financial crisis, saying it would increase the passenger network by a third to 16,000 kilometers, or about 10,000 miles, by 2020. The centerpiece of the service is a 1,318-kilometer line with 16 kilometers of tunnels that will cut the trip between Beijing and Shanghai to five hours from 10. The Beijing / Shanghai high speed line is set to open 2012.

The Chinese Railway Ministry says that the new system makes economic sense: A two-track bullet train can transport 160 million people a year, compared with 80 million for a four-lane highway.

The 1,069 kilometer-long section of the Wuhan-Guangzhou line began test operations Saturday, with trains recording a top speed of 394.2 kilometers per hour, the fastest in the world. The railway has cut the travel time between the two cities from 10 hours to two hours and 46 minutes, effectively making China a smaller place. Beijing is also pushing an ambitious project to link itself to Hong Kong by high-speed rail over the next several years. The plan is to slash travel time from 27 hours to just eight hours.

This network will give the domestic air travel industry a run for its money. The Wuhan-Guangzhou express train service line charges a standard fare of 490 yuan (RM246.61) for a one-way trip. Travelling by air — which takes 1.5 hours — costs between 280 yuan and 930 yuan for a one-way ticket.

China will have 86,000km of railway by the end of this year, making it second only to the United States, which has 260,000km. By 2012, the figure will increase to 110,000km, including 13,000km of high-speed tracks serving 42 passenger lines.

Within three years, passengers will be able to use that express railway network to go from Beijing to most provincial capitals within eight hours.

Four lines traversing each of this vast country’s arteries will connect most major transport hubs, including Shanghai, Guangzhou, Taiyuan and Nanjing.

And by 2020, China plans to have high-speed railways covering 80 per cent of the current domestic flight network and 70 per cent of the country’s key cities, said the paper, citing a Ministry of Railway blueprint.

State media reported that the State Council, or Cabinet, last week also approved plans for 22 Chinese cities to build subways at a cost of 882 billion yuan.

So while it might be a while yet before the Chinese have an integrated subway, inter-city rail and high-speed national rail system, that network is well on the way, said Ng.

“The Chinese government has the Japanese model in mind. In about 15 to 20 years, China’s rail transport system might look very much like Japan’s.”

Some have criticized the plans, saying that Chinese passengers will not pay the premium price for high speed rail versus regular rail. The government could always subsidize ticket prices if ridership is low. There could be a period of time where the high speed rail is overbuilt, but a substantial amount of the $292 billion will be useful infrastructure as opposed to larger amounts in the US to prop up banks and financial institutions.

US High Speed Rail Plans

US railroad administration

The US is spending an initial $8 billion as part of stimulus funds.
California has $10 billion in bonds for high speed rail and the california section of high speed rail is currently estimated at $42.6 billion (and climbing). The new plan accounts for inflation costs between 2012 and 2020, when it anticipates construction would take place.
A 4 page pdf on the california high speed rail project

The Washington Post, citing a GAO study, says construction costs vary from $22 million a mile to $132 million a mile for high speed rail. Once completed, the line will transport passengers from San Diego to Sacramento in 3 hours and 38 minutes, covering 588 miles for an estimated cost of $68.
If the 42.6 billion budget is enough then the cost would be $72.5 million per mile.

China's $300 billion would buy 2273 to 13636 miles of high speed rail line in the USA according to the GAO estimate.

40 states submitted 278 pre-applications for various high-speed passenger rail projects, amounting to $102.5 billion in requests.

Nuclear Plans Around the World

1. Nuclear power plans in Africa, Middle East

* Algeria aims to build its first commercial nuclear power station by around 2020 and to build another every five years after that, energy minister Chakib Khelil
* Egypt announced plans to build several nuclear reactors to meet rising power demand in 2007
* Russia plans to start up Iran's first nuclear power station in March 2010 to coincide with the Iranian New Year.
* Jordan plans to build a nuclear power plant by 2017
* Kenya's energy minister said in September 2008 the country was seeking investors to build a small nuclear plant to meet growing electricity needs
* Kuwait is considering developing nuclear power to meet demand for electricity and water desalination.
* Moscow and Libya said in November 2008 they were negotiating a deal for Russia to build nuclear research reactors for the North African state and supply fuel.
* Namibia plans to build a nuclear plant to supply the domestic market and the region
* Niger plans to build a nuclear power station to help solve an energy shortage in the region, an advisor to the minister of energy said in February (asking South Africa for help)
* France and Saudi Arabia said earlier this year they were close to finalising a civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreement, while the United States and Russia are also interested in helping the world's top oil exporter to develop nuclear energy.
* South African government expects the country's next nuclear power plant to be up and running by 2020
* United Arab Emirates on Sunday awarded a South Korean consortium the contract to build four power plants with total capacity of 5,600 megawatts. The contract calls for the first plant to come on line in 2017 and for all four reactors to be completed by 2020

2. A landmark plan by the UAE to build its first nuclear facilities for power generation will allow it to save its oil wealth, boost crude exports and cut electricity costs in the long term

The construction agreement could grow to $40 billion if Seoul provides nuclear fuel, helps manage the plants and conducts maintenance over the next 60 years. The UAE contract with South Korea calls for the first plant to come on line in 2017 and for all four reactors to be completed by 2020.

The $20 billion agreement between a consortium led by the state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) and Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. calls for the building of four 1,400-megawatt light water nuclear reactors by 2020 near Sila on the Persian Gulf 330 kilometers west of Abu Dhabi. With post-construction maintainance and management contracts the deal could reach $40 billion, officials said.

The reactors are to be the indigenously developed APR-1400 units currently being built in South Korea.

In the past, only the United States, France, Canada, Russia and Japan have won overseas deals to build nuclear reactors, with South Korea only managing to sell components used for reactors and nuclear facilities.

South Korea is the fifth largest operator of nuclear power in the world with 20 commercial reactors accounting for 36 percent of all electricity generated in the country. It plans to build 12 new reactors by 2022 with eight to be in operation by 2016.

South Korea has been able to construct a reactor in about 52 months in the past, while in the United States it took 57 months (fastest - most take longer) and 60 months for France.

3. Australia debates plan to build 10 nuclear reactors by 2030

Virtual Microfluidics

A new method of moving tiny particles using magnetic polymer beads and magnetic fields could find uses in microchips and in medicine.

Alfredo Alexander-Katz, the Merton C. Flemings Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, his doctoral student Charles Sing, and researchers at Boston University and in Germany, devised a system that uses so-called superparamagnetic beads — tiny beads made of polymers with specks of magnetic material in them — suspended in liquid.

Due to the heavy magnetic material content, these beads sink to the bottom of the liquid. They placed the whole system inside two pairs of magnetic coils and used them to apply a rotating magnetic field, which caused the beads to spontaneously form short chains that began spinning. This motion created currents that could then carry along surrounding particles — even particles as much as 100 times larger than the beads themselves.

Alexander-Katz refers to the microscopic assembly of beads — each just a few microns (millionths of a meter) in size — as “micro-ants,” because of their ability to move along while “carrying” objects so much larger than themselves. A paper describing the research will appear the week of Dec. 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Controlled surface-induced flows from the motion of self-assembled colloidal walkers

Biological flows at the microscopic scale are important for the transport of nutrients, locomotion, and differentiation. Here, we present a unique approach for creating controlled, surface-induced flows inspired by a ubiquitous biological system, cilia. Our design is based on a collection of self-assembled colloidal rotors that “walk” along surfaces in the presence of a rotating magnetic field. These rotors are held together solely by magnetic forces that allow for reversible assembly and disassembly of the chains. Furthermore, rotation of the magnetic field allows for straightforward manipulation of the shape and motion of these chains. This system offers a simple and versatile approach for designing microfluidic devices as well as for studying fundamental questions in cooperative-driven motion and transport at the microscopic level.

7 page pdf, supplemental material

The new method could provide a simpler, less-expensive alternative to present microfluidic devices, a technology involving the precise control of tiny amounts of liquids flowing through microscopic channels on a chip in order to carry out chemical or biological analysis of tiny samples. Now, such devices require precisely made channels, valves and pumps created on a silicon chip using microchip manufacturing methods, in order to control the movement of fluids through them. But the new system could offer such precise control over the movement of liquids and the particles suspended in them that it may be possible to dispense with the channels and other plumbing altogether, controlling the movements entirely through variations in the applied magnetic field.

In short, software rather than hardware could control the chip’s properties, allowing it to be instantly reconfigured through changes in the controlling software — an approach Alexander-Katz refers to as “virtual microfluidics.” This could reduce the cost and increase the flexibility of the devices, which might be used for such things as biomedical screening, or the detection of trace elements for pollution monitoring or security screening. It might also provide even finer spatial control than can presently be achieved using conventional channels on chips.

Consider donating to SENS Life Extension Research Before Dec 31, 2009

Rethinking Air Travel and Air Security and Could Air Taxis Finally Takeoff

Airlines reported lengthy delays on international flights to the U.S. over the weekend amid heightened security after Friday's alleged terrorism incident on a trans-Atlantic flight, but domestic passengers were largely unaffected by the new measures.

AMR Corp.'s American Airlines said passengers and their luggage were being subjected to an extra round of screening at many foreign airports before boarding flights to the U.S., contributing to delays of up to four hours in some instances.

Passengers arriving in the U.S. from abroad cited other security restrictions while in the air -- including not being allowed to get up from their seats or place objects such as blankets or laptops on their laps during the final hour of flights. According to the Justice Department, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian suspect who allegedly tried to blow up a Northwest plane on Friday, went to the plane's restroom for about 20 minutes as the plane neared Detroit. After returning to his seat he pulled a blanket over himself and soon afterward tried to detonate an explosive device, according to U.S. authorities.

New security restrictions swiftly implemented following a botched attempt to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day are making air travel more burdensome and could discourage some business fliers, key customers for the airlines.

Some business travelers could jump from the major airlines to smaller business jets to avoid wasting hours in the terminal every time they fly, said airline consultant Robert Mann. The new security measures are "just going to add to the overall onerous way we have to conduct travel," said Kevin Mitchell, president of the Business Travel Coalition. "No doubt it will dampen demand."

Could Air Taxis / Very Light Jets Finally Takeoff in a Big Way ?

A very light jet study from 2008

Very Light Jet
Weigh less than 10,000 lbs (4540 kgs)
Seat 3 to 6 people
1-2 jet engines
Cruise at 340-420 knots
Operate from short airstrips (3000 ft / 900 m)
Range of 1100 – 2000 nm
Single pilot operation
Cost $1million to $3 million (Boehmer 2006)

Inexpensive to buy and operate
Offers on demand point-to-point service
Utilizes regional airports
More productive use of consumer time

Strain on a congested aviation system
Impacts regional airports and the environment
Higher fares than commercial airlines
Possible government user fees and surcharges
Weather problems in certain areas
On-demand scheduling is difficult

* 70% of domestic commercial air traffic is concentrated at 30 major hub airports (Sharkey 2008)
* Over 5,300 regional public-use airports and 19,000 airstrips in the U.S. (Department of Transportation)
* 85% of the U.S. population lives within 30 minutes of regional airports (Craver 2006)
* As many as 16,000 people per day fly out of the regional airports (Loyalka 2005)
* VLJs use more fuel per person
* High carbon output per passenger mile

In the last decade a mix of startup airlines and aircraft manufacturers have torched some $1.5 billion hoping to ferry last-minute business customers among tiny U.S. airports.

Kavoo, an air taxi service launched in April, 2009. A majority of Kavoo's 2,400 competitors (double the 1999 number) are tiny companies with a single plane. Only Satsair in Greenville, S.C., with 20 planes, has any kind of regional presence, let alone a national brand.

Their passengers will fly in single-engine Cirrus SR-22s with four seats and no bathrooms. Customers pay by the plane rather than by the seat; if Kavoo can find flyers for the return flight, the price per leg drops. Assuming no such luck, a 300-mile trip from White Plains, N.Y. to Buffalo would cost $1,500, or $5 a mile. If all three seats are filled, the trip is $500 per person, one way. Chartering a roomier, five-seat Cessna Citation I jet from a competitor would cost perhaps $4,125 (or $1,375 for each of the same three passengers). A last-minute coach seat on JetBlue from nearby John F. Kennedy Airport would be only $140 to $180

After burning through about $240 million, his company, DayJet, went Chapter 7 in November; Eclipse followed a few months later. Another air taxi service, called Pogo Jet, brainchild of former American Airlines ( AMR - news - people ) chief Robert Crandall and People Express founder Donald Burr, shut down in April after its light-jet supplier, Adam Aircraft Industries, went bankrupt and funding dried up.

SATS Air ( air taxi service ) ceased operations as of October 24, 2009.

The vision of very light jets is there are more than 5,000 small, underused airports in the United States. You could fly many small jets at 300-600 mph between those small airports. Security would be less and lines and traffic would be distributed from the large airports. You could fly from Redwood City or Concord, California in the San Francisco Bay area directly to say Glendale in Los Angeles. You could avoid 2 hours of traffic getting to San Francisco International and out of Los Angeles International and avoid security lines. If security was breached any bomb would only kill ten people or less and running a small plane into a skyscraper would not cause the skyscraper to collapse.

Europe air taxis service providers.

Demand for air taxis has been weak in the weak economy

The demise of DayJet had shown that prospective passengers can be quick to say that they intend to use a new service like air taxi but slow to do so.

London Executive Aviation (LEA), has a much more conservative outlook on the VLJ sector two years after integrating the type into its fleet of larger jets. “In 2002, this [VLJ air-taxi] concept was being sold to bankers as the EasyJet [Europe’s major low-cost airline] of business aviation with stunning business plans that saw each aircraft flying up to 1,200 hours per year,” said CEO Patrick Margetson-Rushmore. “But seven years on it is clear that this is wrong because we cannot expect such high hours. We were wrong because VLJs offer lower costs, but they are still not that low, and so their charter rates are lower but not that low.”

In the current climate, he believes that even a target of 600 revenue hours per year is proving to be unrealistic and that most VLJs are actually logging no more time than the larger jets they are supposed to be challenging. LEA’s Mustangs are currently averaging 356 flight hours per year. “The market simply isn’t as sweet and rosy as some have been telling us, but I do hope the start-ups [such as Blink and JetBird] are right,” he concluded.

The LEA chief executive also claimed that the Mustang is not achieving its promised range and performance and that the aircraft needs another 150 to 200 nm in range to serve LEA’s core business area. However, his counterpart at Blink insisted that its Mustangs are achieving greater-than-promised range.Another UK-based VLJ start-up that is due to take to the air before year-end is Ambeo.

Reflecting on lessons learned in the first few years of the VLJ generation, Edwin Brenninkmeyer of London-based investment advisory group Oriens Advisors said that it could take as long as 10 years for a “disruptive business” such as VLJ air taxi to get established. “The last few years have taught us that cash flow is king, as seen when the funding dried up at DayJet and Eclipse,” he commented. “You must be conservative to start because we estimate that it will cost ?27,000 per week [to stay in business] if the aircraft aren’t flying–based on an operator with three aircraft like the Eclipse 500.”

In the future, there is also likely to me be more electric planes which now have performance and range for travel around a metropolitan area.

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