July 24, 2010

Softbots that mimic Caterpillars could crawl inside Human intestines and a diarrhea-bot could use human waste for fuel

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1. The journal of Current Biology - Visceral-Locomotory Pistoning in Crawling Caterpillars

The next step for these 'softbots' includes a diverse array of potential uses, such as shape-changing robots capable of engaging in search-and-rescue operations, space applications for which a 'gravity-agnostic' crawler would be highly valued, and medical applications in which a biocompatible, soft robot would reduce incidental tissue damage and discomfort.

The UK Register reports

American boffins say they are poised to invent a new class of shape-shifting "soft bodied robots" which will manoeuvre - perhaps inside the human body - by mimicking the literally gut-wrenching means by which certain species of creepy-crawly get about.

Assembled experts in the States have opened the door to a fearsome new class of "softbots" by probing the very bowels of crawling Manduca sexta caterpillars. These little chaps, according to Professor Jake Socha, move using "a unique phenomenon of gut sliding ... unlike any form of legged locomotion previously reported".

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 11 - modern used Nuclear fuel cannot be used to make a bomb and Fuji Molten Salt Thorium Reactor Fund Raising

1. Dan Yurman's Idaho Samizdat covers Bob Herbert’s hatchet job at the New York Times.

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert did more than peddle fear, uncertainty, and doubt about nuclear energy in his columnpublished July 19 on the newspaper’s OP ED page. In a piece which overflows with florid language, Herbert bought into the anti-nuclear program of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) hook, line, and sinker. It’s too bad he didn’t talk to anyone from the nuclear industry before he hit the keyboard. Maybe if he’d done some independent thinking, or just considered other points of view, the column would have turned over to be different.

2. Dan Yurman also indicates that the UK nuclear renaissance hits the brakes over low carbon taxes and lack of loan guarantees.

A study prepared by KPMG and published July 17 by RWE Power, which wants to build new nuclear reactors in the UK, says forget about it unless the “carbon floor price” is raised to [L]80/ton CO2. Britain's new generation of nuclear power stations will not be built if the Government refuses to support them beyond the current insufficient carbon price mechanisms, the KPMG report said.

The KPMG report called for early decisions to radically change the UK electricity market to get nuclear energy back in the game. It said that measures to bring investors to the table must do more than just raise the carbon tax. While the report only alludes to the concept of loan guarantees, it seems to offer the government a way out of its hard line position of no direct subsidies for new nuclear plants.

My 2010 Singularity University Presentation on the Latest Developments and Current Capabilities in Nanotechnology

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I gave a talk on July 16, 2010 for the Singularity University which going on at a building at the Mountain View, California NASA facility.

Overview of the talk on Latest Developments and Current Capabilities in Nanotechnology-

2D and 3D Nanoscale patterning and manufacturing (the kind of equipment that Singularity University Groups could buy or rent or get access to for Nanotechnology projects)
Quantum dots (Getting commercialized in many areas now - cameras, sensors, displays, etc...)
Self Assembly (strong candidate for enabling the next lithography nodes)
Memristors (HP is developing to beat Flash memory in 3-5 years, uses nanowires and could put memory and processing together)
Sensors and electronics in living cells (examples of something that people used to say and sometimes still say is impossible and mockable. the movie fantastic voyage with Rachel Welch in a submarine in the bloodstream)

Carbon nanotubes & graphene (industrial applications for nanotech)

Note: I did not cover DNA Nanotechnology because other presenters covered this in detail.

Singularity Summit 2010 - August 14 and 15 in San Francisco

The Singularity represents an "event horizon" in the predictability of human technological development past which present models of the future may cease to give reliable answers, following the creation of strong AI or the enhancement of human intelligence.
The Singularity Summit is the place to hear about the Singularity directly from Ray Kurzweil, Anita Nanobiosym CEO, Ben Goertzel (AGI expert) etc...

If you register for the Singularity Summit based on this article then let them know that you were referred by Brian Wang of Nextbigfuture.

When registering and answering
How did you hear about The Singularity Summit? (check that apply) Check Other and include my name.
Pricing is $585 until the event

Special Rates

Students receive a $100 discount on two-day tickets.
All but $35 of your ticket price is a tax-deductible donation.
$100 discount if you book a discounted room at the Hyatt.
MAJOR DISCOUNT: Rooms at the same hotel as the Singularity Summit starting at only $139/night! Best deal available in downtown SF during the Summit.

Every Blackhole with a Hidden Universe

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There was wormhole research that suggests that our universe is located within the interior of a wormhole which itself is part of a black hole that lies within a much larger universe.

Such a scenario in which the universe is born from inside a wormhole (also called an Einstein-Rosen Bridge) is suggested in a paper from Indiana University theoretical physicist Nikodem Poplawski in Physics Letters B.

Now Poplawski is proposing Cosmology with torsion as an alternative to cosmic inflation

The Einstein-Cartan-Kibble-Sciama theory of gravity provides a simple scenario in early cosmol- ogy which is alternative to standard cosmic inflation and does not require scalar fields. The torsion of spacetime prevents the appearance of the cosmological singularity in the early Universe filled with Dirac particles averaged as a spin fluid. Instead, its expansion starts from a state at which the Universe has a minimum but finite radius. We show that the dynamics of the closed Universe immediately after this state naturally solves the flatness and horizon problems in cosmology because of an extremely small and negative torsion density parameter, 10^−69. This scenario also suggests that the contraction of our Universe preceding the state of minimum radius could correspond to the dynamics of matter inside the event horizon of a newly formed black hole existing in another universe.

How would we know if we are living inside a black hole?

Well, a spinning black hole would have imparted some spin to the space-time inside it, and this should show up as a "preferred direction" in our universe, says Poplawski. Such a preferred direction would result in the violation of a property of space-time called Lorentz symmetry, which links space and time. It has been suggested that such a violation could be responsible for the observed oscillations of neutrinos from one type to another

July 23, 2010

MIT 3D Food Printer, Virtuoso Mixer and Robotic Chef

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In order to bring our cooking technologies to the digital age, MIT researchers have developed three concept designs: The Virtuoso Mixer, The Robotic Chef and The Digital Fabricator. The Digital Gastronomy machines attempt to use the most advanced food technologies and techniques to retain the freshness of ingredients, increase the potential for personal creative expression and develop a new and tighter connection between food production and our digital lives.

Each one addresses a fundamental process that lies at the heart of cooking, namely the mixing of ingredients; the physical and chemical transformation of these ingredients into new compounds; and finally their modeling into aesthetically pleasing and delectable textures and shapes. Our hope is that these designs will provide a glimpse at the new aesthetic and cultural possibilities, which can be brought forth by a new, digital gastronomy.

Digital Fabricator

The Digital Fabricator is a personal, three-dimensional printer for food, which works by storing, precisely mixing, depositing and cooking layers of ingredients. Its cooking process starts with an array of food canisters, which refrigerate and store a user’s favorite ingredients. These are piped into a mixer and extruder head that can accurately deposit elaborate food combinations with sub-millimeter precision. While the deposition takes place, the food is heated or cooled by the Fabricator’s chamber or the heating and cooling tubes located on the printing head. This fabrication process not only allows for the creation of flavors and textures that would be completely unimaginable through other cooking techniques, but, through a touch-screen interface and web connectivity, also allows users to have ultimate control over the origin, quality, nutritional value and taste of every meal.

Rapid design and manufacture of novel micro-devices

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The EU microbuilder project has developed a one-stop shop to support companies, especially SMEs, in the rapid design and manufacture of novel micro-devices for use in applications ranging from medical diagnosis to mobile phones.

They have created a set of tools that should reduce the time it takes to get from a good idea for a micro-device to a commercial, sellable product.

The microBUILDER services are focused on microfluidic devices like:

■Lab-on-a-chip systems
■Valves and pumps
■Biomedical devices
■Chemical micro-reactors
■Sensors for instrumentation
■Gas and flow sensors

Millimeter-wave communication Over 84 Kilometer Range Using Panasonic Gallium Nitride Device

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Panasonic has developed a high power Gallium Nitride (GaN) transistor for long-distance communication at millimeter-wave frequencies. A 25GHz wireless transceiver was fabricated using the GaN transistor. The device exhibits a maximum output power of 10.7W at 25GHz which theoretically enables communication over 84km.

25 GHz communication would enable multi-gigabit per second data communication (super fast wireless broadband).

The high power GaN transistor, fabricated on a silicon (Si) substrate is suited for mass production and takes advantages of the large diameter achievable with Si

Infrared Invisibility Cloak Made of Glass

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Michigan Technology University has found ways to use magnetic resonance to capture rays of visible light and route them around objects, rendering those objects invisible to the human eye.

They describe developing a nonmetallic cloak that uses identical glass resonators made of chalcogenide glass, a type of dielectric material (one that does not conduct electricity). In computer simulations, the cloak made objects hit by infrared waves—approximately one micron or one-millionth of a meter long—disappear from view.

Earlier attempts by other researchers used metal rings and wires. “Ours is the first to do the cloaking of cylindrical objects with glass,” Semouchkina said.

Edison 2 Appears to Have Won the Automotive 100 MPG XPrize in the Mainstream Category With a 120 MPG run over a 200 Mile Range Test

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Edison 2 appears to have won the Automotive 100 MPG Xprize of $5 million in the mainstream category

Edison2’s founder Oliver Kuttner has assembled a team of high caliber employees stemming mostly from sports car racing.

This elite group of professionals has over 19 victories at Le Mans, Sebring, and Daytona. The Very Light Car’s shape was designed by Northrop Grumman’s aerodynamics fellow, Barnaby Wainfan, who met Edison2’s Chief of Design, Ron Mathis, while Ron was working for Audi Sport North America on the R10. Five-time Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro will be driving in the competition along side Brad Jaeger, an up-and-coming endurance racer.

Edison2 entered the PIAXP expecting to build an electric or electric hybrid vehicle. Our early analysis of efficiency, however, pointed to the unequivocal virtues of light weight and low aerodynamic drag. Instead of lugging around hundreds of pounds of batteries, Edison2 chose a more realistic and conventional power source for the Very Light Car: an internal combustion engine running on E85.

The Edison2 is twice as efficient as a Tesla Roadster and more efficient than the Aptera.
The Edison 2 weighs about 750 pounds and is super aerodynamic (0.15 drag coefficient rating). It is built safe by race car team veterans.

Gizmag reports that the second Edison 2 vehicle has just completed the 200 mile range test in the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE – with fuel left in the tank. Nothing is official at this stage and some further hurdles remain before the official presentations in September, but given that Edison 2 is the only team remaining in its class and that the successful completion of Monday's Dynamic Safety testing is almost a formality for the vehicle, it's likely that Oliver Kuttner and his team will become the winners of the $5 million prize for the Auto X PRIZE Mainstream Class.

The car ran at around 120 miles per gallon during the 4 hour / 200 mile test

NASA Kepler Space Telescope has 700 Planet Candidates and Many are Earthlike and the New Estimate is 100 million habital planets in the Milky Way

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NASA's Kepler spacecraft hunting for Earth-like planets around other stars has found 706 candidates for potential alien worlds while gazing at more than 156,000 stars packed into a single patch of the sky.

Kepler will continue conducting science operations until at least November 2012, searching for planets as small as Earth, including those that orbit stars in a warm, habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface of the planet. Since transits of planets in the habitable zone of solar-like stars occur about once a year and require three transits for verification, it is expected to take at least three years to locate and verify an Earth-size planet. The expectation is that Kepler should be able to identify at least 60 habitable earthlike planets in its 500 light year range.

The new estimate is that there are 100 million habitable worlds in the Galaxy. Some may feel negative about this. What about the Fermi Paradox? If there are so many habitable worlds then why haven't some of them had aliens come visit us.

I say get really powerful space telescope arrays and look at those planets in detail. Image them directly at 10 meter resolution or better. More on hypertelescopes below.

India Unveils $35 Tablet PC Prototype and Progress to the $10 PC

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Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal on Thursday launched a $35 computing device that will be made available to ‘learners’ right from primary schools to universities. Aiming at bringing down the price to $10, the Ministry has also begun discussions with global manufacturers to start mass production of arguably the world’s cheapest laptop

This $35 “low-cost computing-cum-access device” is a 5/7/9 inch touchscreen gadget packed with internet browsers, PDF reader, video conferencing facilities, open office, sci-lab, media player, remote device management capability, multimedia input-output interface option, and multiple content viewer.

The Linux based device will also have provisions for running on solar power besides the usual battery- operated systems. The Rs 1,500/$35 computing device is expected to first hit higher education institutions — colleges and varsities starting 2011 — but the government could subsidise 50 per cent of this cost, bringing down the price.

July 22, 2010

Solar Thermal Electrochemical Photo (STEP) Carbon Capture could Reduce Atmospheric CO2 to Pre-industrial Levels in Ten Years

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Solar Thermal Electrochemical Photo (STEP) Carbon Capture can be up to 50% efficient at removing CO2 from the atmosphere using solar power.
* 700 square kilometers (270 square miles) of this system would extract the excess CO2 within ten years
* Research is also looking STEP generation of synthetic jet fuel and synthetic diesel
* Further refinement and scaling of STEP carbon capture
* Developing STEP processes to generate a variety of metals and bleach

The first experimental evidence of a new solar process, combining electronic and chemical pathways, to isolate CO2 (carbon capture) is presented. This solar thermal electrochemical photo (STEP) process is a synergy of solid-state and solar thermal processes, and is fundamentally capable of converting more solar energy than photovoltaic or solar thermal processes alone. Here, CO2 is captured using a 750−950 °C electrolysis cell powered by a full spectrum solar simulator in a single step. The process uses the full spectrum; solar thermal energy decreases the energy required for carbon capture, while visible sunlight generates electronic charge to drive the electrolysis. CO2 can be captured from 34% to over 50% solar energy efficiency (depending on the level of solar heat inclusion), as solid carbon and stored, or used as carbon monoxide to be available for a feedstock to synthesize (with STEP generated hydrogen) solar diesel fuel, synthetic jet fuel, or chemical production.

July 21, 2010

Uranium Prediction by CRU and China Starts its 65 Megawatt Fast Reactor

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1. Uranium supplies will exceed demand through 2012 and there is “limited upside” to prices for at least six months, London-based research company CRU said.

This year production is expected to rise to 55,000 tons from 50,772 tons last year, according to data from the World Nuclear Association.

Demand is expected to increase by 46 percent over the next decade, mainly driven by China, according to CRU. “China’s propensity for heavy and early stockpiling will also influence the market,” Schodde said in the presentation.

Supplies from dismantled nuclear weapons and other sources not directly from mines will fall to 13 percent of demand by 2020 from 27 percent last year, he said.
Pretty much in agreement with my predictions on uranium

Silicon micro-ring resonator could help advance nanomanipulation

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Schematic illustration of particle revolving around silicon micro-ring resonator, propelled by optical forces.
To trap and hold tiny microparticles, engineers at Harvard have “put a ring on it,” using a silicon-based circular resonator to confine particles stably for up to several minutes.

The advance, published in the June 14 issue of Nano Letters, could one day lead to the ability to direct, deliver, and store nanoparticles and biomolecules on all-optical chips.

“We demonstrated the power of what we call resonant cavity trapping, where a particle is guided along a small waveguide and then pulled onto a micro-ring resonator,” explains Kenneth Crozier, an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) who directed the research. “Once on the ring, optical forces prevent it from escaping, and cause it to revolve around it.”

Nano Letters - Optical Manipulation with Planar Silicon Microring Resonators

We demonstrate optically trapping of microparticles on silicon microring resonators. Once trapped on a microring, a particle can be confined in an optical potential with a depth of 25 kBT over the entire microring’s circumference. The particles are propelled around the microring at hundreds of micrometers per second, producing periodic revolutions at a few hertz. We anticipate that the increased force and highly accurate positioning obtainable with this system will lead to various nanomanipulation applications.

Liverpool scientists self assemble molecular 2 nanometer `knots'

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Scientists at the University of Liverpool have constructed molecular knots with dimensions of around two nanometers

Most molecules are held together by chemical bonds between atoms – ‘nano-knots’ are instead mechanically bonded by interpenetrating loops. Liverpool scientists have managed to create nanoscale knots in the laboratory by mixing together two simple starting materials – one a rigid aromatic compound and the other a more flexible amine linker.

This is an unusual example of ‘self-assembly’, a process which underpins biology and allows complex structures to assemble from more simple building blocks. Each knot is ‘tied’ three times: that is, at least three chemical bonds must be broken to untie the knot. A single knot is a complex assembly of 20 smaller molecules

Red Shifted Radio Wave Map of the Universe Will Be 500 Times Larger

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A new technique might soon enable cosmologists to map the universe even when they can't pick out individual galaxies. If it works, researchers would be able to probe the structure of 500 times as much of the universe as they have studied so far.

* scientists have surveyed only 0.1% of the observable universe
* Instead of searching for the light from individual galaxies with an optical telescope, the team stalked a different quarry, red-shifted radio waves emitted by hydrogen atoms floating in huge clouds within the galaxies.
* Subtracting out radio signals 100,000 times stronger from our own galaxy and from television broadcasts, they detected the blurred 21-centimeter signals from galaxies about 6 billion to 12 billion light-years away.
* To be useful in mapping the universe, the method needs to be refined so that researchers need study only the variations in the 21-centimeter radiation alone. "We’re working on that right now," Chang says. With a purpose-built radio telescope, the approach could map as much as 50% of the observable universe far faster and cheaper than galaxy surveys can

University of Tennessee Researchers Discover More Moon Water. This Time Inside the Moon

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Last fall, researchers, including Larry Taylor, a distinguished professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, discovered “lunar dew” on the moon’s surface — absorbed “water” in the uppermost layers of lunar soil. This discovery of water debunked beliefs held since the return of the first Apollo rocks that the moon was bone-dry.

Now, scientists, including Taylor and Yang Liu, research assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, have discovered that water on the moon is more widespread — on the outside and inside of the moon — with some similarities to water in volcanic systems on Earth.

The Lifeboat Foundation: Battling Asteroids, Nanobots and A.I.

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The Lifeboat foundation was featured in the New York Times. The Lifeboat Foundation: Battling Asteroids, Nanobots and A.I.

I am the Director of Research for the Lifeboat Foundation and this is a website that is affiliated with the Foundation.

Three to Five Terrorists Probably from Chechnya and Dagestan attacked a Russian Hydroelectric Dam and Killed Two People

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OAO RusHydro, Russia’s largest hydropower company, will halt its Baksanskaya plant in the North Caucasus for at least six weeks after an attack on the facility left two people dead

A group of three to five people broke into the station, killed two guards and assaulted two workers before planting explosives on the premises, the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General’s Office said today on its website. Four devices detonated and a fifth was defused, investigators said

Nanotech coatings produce 20 times more electricity from sewage

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Engineers at Oregon State University have made a significant advance toward producing electricity from sewage, by the use of new coatings on the anodes of microbial electrochemical cells that increased the electricity production about 20 times.

The findings, just published online in Biosensors and Bioelectronics, a professional journal, bring the researchers one step closer to technology that could clean biowaste at the same time it produces useful levels of electricity – a promising new innovation in wastewater treatment and renewable energy.

Engineers found that by coating graphite anodes with a nanoparticle layer of gold, the production of electricity increased 20 times. Coatings with palladium produced an increase, but not nearly as much. And the researchers believe nanoparticle coatings of iron – which would be a lot cheaper than gold – could produce electricity increases similar to that of gold, for at least some types of bacteria.

Nimbus Data Systems Enterprise Flash Memory Drives for $10,000 per Terabyte

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HPCWIRE feature on Nimbus and Nimbus press release - Nimbus will make and sell enterprise flash memory drives for $10,000 per Terabyte.

Nimbus Data Systems has unveiled its new high-density enterprise flash memory system, delivering 10 terabytes of solid state capacity per 2U shelf. The S1000 can scale up to 250 TB per system

The company has managed to collect about 200 customers, the largest being the US Department of Defense. They've also corralled OEM wins with IBM Tivoli and AMC

The S1000 10 TB model with a full HALO storage operating system license is $99,995. The FlexConnect option in either optical fibre or copper can be added for $9,995.

China Plans to spend 5 Trillion Yuan on CLean Energy Projects This Decade

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China may spend about 5 trillion yuan ($738 billion) in the next decade developing cleaner sources of energy to reduce emissions from burning oil and coal.

The government will submit plans to develop cleaner energy, including nuclear power and gas from unconventional sources, in 2011 to 2020 to the State Council, or Cabinet, for approval, Jiang Bing, head of the National Energy Administration’s planning and development department, said in Beijing today.

China needs between 500 billion and 600 billion yuan annually to develop energy-conservation and low-carbon technologies, according to the government’s 2050 China Energy and CO2 Emissions Report published last year. The country attracted $11.5 billion of asset financing in clean-energy technology in the second quarter, more than Europe and the U.S. combined

July 20, 2010

A US DOE Roadmap for Nuclear Energy and Uranium Through 2100

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Here is a 20 page presentation of a DOE roadmap of nuclear energy and uranium through 2100. There is an assumption that reactors can use up to 35 million tons of regular uranium and uranium in phosphate resources. The plan is to shift to breeder reactors at about 2040 or as the cumulative usage of uranium gets to about 4 million tons.

2010 Redbook Report on Uranium Sees Conventional Supplies Lasting 100 Years or More

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The latest Red Book Uranium report (Uranium 2009: Resources, Production and Demand - A Joint Report by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency) is out.

Worldwide uranium resources, production and demand are all increasing, according to the latest edition of the Red Book. However, total identified uranium resources will last for over 100 years at current consumption rates.

The amount of uranium identified that can be economically mined rose to some 6.3 million tonnes, a 15.5% increase compared with the last edition of Uranium 2009: Resources, Production and Demand - commonly known as the Red Book - published every two years by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The high-cost category (under $100 per pound of U3O8 which is the same as (less than USD 260 per kilogram) was reintroduced into the new edition of the Red Book for the first time since the 1980s in response to the generally increased market prices for uranium in recent years (despite the decline since mid-2007), as well as increasing mining costs and expectations of increasing demand as new nuclear power plants are being planned and constructed.

IAEA projections for the future of nuclear power see it expanding from 375 GWe today to between 500 and 785 GWe by 2035. Such growth would cause an increase in uranium demand from 66,500 tonnes per year to between 87,370 and 138,165 tonnes.

Lunar Space Elevator is Feasible for Deployment within 7 Years

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Universe today features a proposed lunar space elevator that is feasible to be built in 5-7 years

Michael Laine believes a lunar elevator – a space elevator from the surface of the Moon – could be created with materials that are available now. With more research and the right amount of capital, Laine says a lunar elevator could be built within a decade.

* the Moon's gravity is only one sixth that of Earth, it drastically reduces the requirements of the ribbon. A material that is available now, a synthetic polymer material called Zylon (poly(p-phenylene-2,6-benzobisoxazole) which has high strength and excellent thermal stability, could be used.

Heusler Compounds for spintronic applications, Solar Energy, Thermoelectrics and Quantum Computers

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Ternary intermetallic Heusler compounds, originally discovered by a German mining engineer and chemist in 1903, may show exotic topological insulator behaviour unknown to science just five years ago. Heusler alloys are described at wikipedia.

A Heusler alloy is a ferromagnetic metal alloy based on a Heusler phase. Heusler phases are intermetallics with particular composition and face-centered cubic crystal structure. They are ferromagnetic—even though the constituting elements are not—as a result of the double-exchange mechanism between neighboring magnetic ions.

It is a historical fact that most of the key discoveries in condensed-matter physics and materials science have been made by experimentalists (think superfluidity, superconductivity, the quantum Hall effect, to name but a few). From time to time, theorists make paradigm-shifting predictions that lead to fundamentally new phenomena.
(Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz) However, this was not the case with topological insulators. In 2006, Professor Zhang of Stanford predicted that a new quantum state of matter would be identified in nanostructures of the familiar semiconductor mercury cadmium telluride (HgTe). One year later, this was confirmed in experiments carried out by the Würzburg team led by Professor Laurens Molenkamp. Completely new mathematical concepts are required to understand the physical aspects of what has been discovered.

The new work from Nature Materials on Heusler materials are paradigm shifting. Calculations have uncovered a new quantum state of matter in Heusler compounds, which opens up previously unimagined usage possibilities. Heusler compounds can behave like topological insulators (TI).

For almost five years now, TIs have been a hot topic in the field of solid state and material physics. Characteristic of topological insulators is the fact that the materials are actually insulators or semiconductors, although their surfaces or interfaces are made from metal - but not ordinary metal. Like superconductors, the electrons on the surfaces or interfaces do not interact with their environment - they are in a new quantum state. In contrast with superconductors, topological insulators have two non-interacting currents, one for each spin direction. These two spin currents, which are not affected by defects or impurities in the material, can be employed in the futuristic electronics field of 'spintronics' and for processing information in quantum computers.

It is now supposed that Heusler materials may have the same capabilities. Heusler compounds are made up of three elements, which often have semiconductor or magnetic properties. This compound class was discovered by Fritz Heusler back around 1900. One special feature of these compounds is that they exhibit characteristics other than those that might be expected in view of the elements of which they are composed. The first Heusler compound, for example, was made from the non-magnetic elements copper, manganese, and aluminium. Yet, Cu2MnAl acts as a ferromagnet, even at room temperature. On the other hand, a semiconductor can result when three metals are combined. New semiconductors can be designed in the class of Heusler materials with regard to the field of renewable energies; they can be used in solar cells or in thermoelectric applications, for converting heat into electricity. Mainz is internationally renowned as a major location for the design and synthesis of Heusler materials. Important discoveries with regard to Heusler compounds, their properties, and their uses in a wide range of potential applications have been made in Mainz.

The news that Heusler materials are now being considered as possible topological insulators has met with excitement all over the world. "There are two reasons for this," explains Professor Felser. "On the one hand, this large material class with over 1,000 known representatives contains more than 50 compounds that bear the hallmark of TIs. And on the other hand, it is now possible to design completely new physical effects. As the materials are made up of three elements, they can offer a range of other interesting features in addition to the topological quantum state." It is now possible to combine two quantum states such as superconductivity and topological surface effects. This paves the way for completely new and as yet undiscovered characteristics, some of which have already been predicted. "It was previously not considered possible to combine all these possibilities in just one material," explains Professor Felser.

Nature Materials - Tunable multifunctional topological insulators in ternary Heusler compounds

Recently the quantum spin Hall effect was theoretically predicted and experimentally realized in quantum wells based on the binary semiconductor HgTe. The quantum spin Hall state and topological insulators are new states of quantum matter interesting for both fundamental condensed-matter physics and material science. Many Heusler compounds with C1b structure are ternary semiconductors that are structurally and electronically related to the binary semiconductors. The diversity of Heusler materials opens wide possibilities for tuning the bandgap and setting the desired band inversion by choosing compounds with appropriate hybridization strength (by the lattice parameter) and magnitude of spin–orbit coupling (by the atomic charge). Based on first-principle calculations we demonstrate that around 50 Heusler compounds show band inversion similar to that of HgTe. The topological state in these zero-gap semiconductors can be created by applying strain or by designing an appropriate quantum-well structure, similar to the case of HgTe. Many of these ternary zero-gap semiconductors (LnAuPb, LnPdBi, LnPtSb and LnPtBi) contain the rare-earth element Ln, which can realize additional properties ranging from superconductivity (for example LaPtBi) to magnetism (for example GdPtBi) and heavy fermion behaviour (for example YbPtBi). These properties can open new research directions in realizing the quantized anomalous Hall effect and topological superconductors.

July 19, 2010

Nanoparticles and Stem Cells Reduced Arterial Plaque volume by 56.8 Percent over 6 Months in Pigs

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A 56.8% reduction in arterial plaque and healing of the arteries would reverse the course of Atherosclerosis by 10-20 years. The treatment could be repeated to stave off Atherosclerosis indefinitely.

Atherosclerosis (also known as arteriosclerotic vascular disease or ASVD) is a condition in which an artery wall thickens as the result of a build-up of fatty materials such as cholesterol. Cardiovascular diseases are the world’s largest killers, claiming 17.1 million lives a year. Total world deaths are 55 million per year. So about 30% of all deaths are from cardiovascular disease.

A study from the American Heart Association's Basic Cardiovascular Sciences 2010 Scientific Sessions - Technological and Conceptual Advances in Cardiovascular Disease reports that a new technique that combines nanotechnology with adult stem cells appears to destroy atherosclerotic plaque and rejuvenate the arteries. Nanoburning in combination with stem cell treatment promises demolition of plaque and functional restoration of the vessel wall. Nanoparticles (microscopic particles with at least one dimension less than 80 nm) were infused into the heart of pigs along with adult stem cells. After the nanoparticles were heated by laser light, they burned away arterial plaque

The greatest reductions in plaque volume occurred in the treatment groups that received stem cells in addition to the nanoparticles. Also, both groups that received stem cells showed signs of new blood vessel growth (neovascularization) and restoration of artery function

Gallium arsenide signal processing at terahertz speeds

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Devices made from gallium arsenide could enable optical communication that is 1000 times faster than today's electronic communication.

Solid State Electronics journal - Ultrafast nonlinear optical effects in semiconductor quantum wells resonantly driven by strong few-cycle terahertz pulses

Intraexciton transitions in semiconductor quantum wells are modulated by strong and tunable few-cycle terahertz pulses. Time-resolved terahertz-pump and optical-probe measurements demonstrate that the 1s heavy-hole and light-hole exciton resonances undergo large-amplitude spectral modulations when the terahertz radiation is tuned near the 1s–2p intraexciton transition. The strong nonlinear optical transients exhibit the characteristics of Rabi sidebands. The spectral features also reveal the dephasing properties of the optically dark 2p states. A microscopic theory shows that the 2p-dephasing rate is three times that of the 1s-state. The ultrafast nonlinear optical effects and their quantum nature suggest promising applications to ultrahigh-speed optical signal processing and quantum information processing in the THz region.

Global Model Confirms: Cool Roofs Can Offset Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Mitigate Global Warming

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A new study by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that is the first to use a global model to study the question has found that implementing cool roofs and cool pavements in cities around the world can not only help cities stay cooler, they can also cool the world, with the potential of canceling the heating effect of up to two years of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.

Because white roofs reflect far more of the sun’s heat than black ones, buildings with white roofs will stay cooler. If the building is air conditioned, less air conditioning will be required, thus saving energy. Even if there is no air conditioning, the heat absorbed by a black roof both heats the space below, making the space less comfortable, and is also carried into the city air by wind—raising the ambient temperature in what is known as the urban heat island effect. Additionally, there’s a third, less familiar way in which a black roof heats the world: it radiates energy directly into the atmosphere, which is then absorbed by the nearest clouds and ends up trapped by the greenhouse effect, contributing to global warming.

Scientists Call for a Biomedical Apollo Project to Avert Global Aging Crisis

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We stand at a cusp of an unique demographic transition. For the first time in human history, the whole planet is aging: within a few decades, people that have been made sick, dependent, or unproductive by the damage of aging will outnumber the young and healthy. The diseases of aging will rob the world of some of our most productive citizens, and rapidly drive up the cost of healthcare and the budgets for public and private pensions. Given “aging as usual,” the sheer size of the aging generation sets the stage for global economic catastrophe.

A report (The Demographic and Biomedical Case for Late-Life Interventions in Aging) highlights three key approaches to the challenge that must all be met to meet the goal of maintaining the health and productivity of today’s generations: (1) expand public health measures to help citizens avoid suffering prematurely from age-related disease; (2) develop new medicines that boost the body’s ability to maintain health and productivity longer by slowing down the degenerative aging process; and (3) use the principles of regenerative engineering, the special focus of SENS Foundation, to create therapies that remove, replace, repair, and neutralize the cellular and molecular damage that accumulates in aging bodies, and thus restore youthful structure and function to the tissues and lives of aging citizens.

And to meet that goal, the report is a call for dramatic, targeted investments by the National Institutes on Health (NIH) and other public and private biomedical research organizations to bring forward new therapies against the degenerative aging process.

Carnival of Space 163 - Interstellar Beacons

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The Carnival of Space 163 is up at the Planetary Society.

At Centauri Dreams, there is analysis of SETI detection that goes beyond the Duncan Forgan and Robert Nichol paper on detecting extraneous emissions from an extraterrestrial civilization using technology like the Square Kilometer Array.

James Benford (Microwave Sciences) has some thoughts on the issue growing out of his own work with brother Gregory on interstellar beacons and SETI reception in general. The Forgan & Nichol paper on detection of leakage radiation does neglect our continuing use of microwave beams not only for radar, but also for likely future beaming of power for space purposes, such as power transfer.

To follow the latest Benford thoughts on SETI matters, see James Benford, Gregory Benford and Dominic Benford, “Messaging with Cost-Optimized Interstellar Beacons,” Astrobiology Vol. 10, No. 5, pp. 475-490 ( preprint), and the same authors’ “Searching for Cost-Optimized Interstellar Beacons,” Astrobiology Vol. 10, No. 5, pp. 491-498

Honda will have a Plug in Hybrid and an All-Electric Car in 2013 and Other Japanese Hybrid Sports Cars and Electric Cars

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Honda will produce both a plug-in hybrid car and an all-electric vehicle in 2013.

Honda is considering building its Insight and two other hybrids in the U.S. and plans to expand its lineup of hybrids to five or so by 2013. It also said the electric car will roll out first in the U.S.

Applying the Pseudogap Electrno Difference to Get to Closer Room Temperature Supercondutors

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The discovery of asymmetries in the formation of liquid crystals eventually led to their control. The result was the liquid-crystal display. Now, researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory believe they have found similar asymmetries in the formation of superconductors, potentially leading to their control and subsequent room-temperature operation.

>Detecting a difference in electron behavior at the two oxygen sites within each copper-oxide unit at the pseudogap energy may be a very significant step toward identifying exactly what the pseudogap state is and how it affects superconductivity.

Next, the researchers said they plan to investigate how the change in asymmetry affects the resistance-less flow of electricity in potential room-temperature superconductors. They then hope to find a method for enabling them to maintain their superconductivity at higher temperatures.

Navy Laser Shoots Down Drones by Crippling Remote Pilot Systems

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A laser mounted on a warship's gun turret obliterating a remotely piloted drone

Built by Raytheon Missile Systems of Tuscon, Arizona, the 32-kilowatt infrared laser is shown illuminating and heating the wingtip and then the underside of what looks like a radar-seeking drone – until its remote pilot loses control and the aircraft catches fire and plummets into the ocean.

* the laser has to fire from a moving, rolling ship, with salt-laden air severely weakening its beam.
* the laser operate on the US navy and coastguard's standard ship defence system, Phalanx which usually fires gatling guns

China Approves Two More Nuclear Plants and Nanoscience to Improve Nuclear Plant Efficiency

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1. A two-reactor nuclear power plant at Fangchenggang in autonomous Guangxi province has been approved by Chinese officials.

Having already completed site preparation, project lead China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation is expected to officially start construction later in July and put the reactors into operation in 2015 and 2016. Fangchenggang will feature two domestically developed CPR-1000 units producing 1037 MWe each for a grand total of 24 billion yuan ($3.5 billion), with four more planned to follow.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 10

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1. Energy from Thorium has Energy cheaper than from coal

* nations with per capita electricity of 2,000 kWh/year (1/6 US use and an average power of 230 W) do achieve GDP of $7,500 per capita, which leads to sustainable birthrates.

* LFTR (Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors) capital cost targets of $2/watt are supported by simple fluid fuel handling, high thermal capacity heat exchange fluids, smaller components, low pressure core, high temperature Brayton gas turbine power conversion, simple intrinsic safety, factory production, the learning curve, and new technologies already under development. A levelized $2/watt capital cost contributes $0.02/kWh to the power cost. With plentiful, inexpensive thorium fuel, LFTR can generate electricity at <$0.03/kWh, underselling power generated by burning coal. Producing one LFTR of 100 MW size per day could phase out all coal burning power plants worldwide in 38 years, ending 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions from coal plants now supplying 1,400 GW of electric power. Low LFTR costs are vital to this coal replacement strategy, achievable if this goal is maintained during every design choice. Inexpensive electric power can also assist developing economies to improve prosperity, encouraging lifestyles with sustainable birthrates

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