September 11, 2010

China's expected per person purchasing power parity progress through 2024

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China per capita GDP (PPP) from 2010 to 2015 as projected by the IMF

   China PPP per cap   Other Country Matched
2010  7,240             More Algeria 2010, Below Bosnia 2010
2011  8,032             Ecuador 2010, Ukraine 2013
2012  8,932             Thailand 2011
2013  9,930             Thailand 2013
2014 11,039             Brazil 2010
2015 12,255             Brazil 2012

Assuming continued 11% per year growth
2016 13,600             Turkey 2011
2017 15,100             Argentina 2010
2018 16,760             Russia 2011
2019 18,600             Mexico 2015, Poland 2010
2020 20,650             Trinidad 2010 
2021 22,920             Portugal 2012
2022 25,440             Czech Republic 2011, Saudi Arabia 2012
2023 28,242             New Zealand 2011
2024 31,350             Italy 2013

The per capita GDP growth gets more uncertain 3-5 years out and even more so beyond 6 years. However, even if China starts losing a percentage point or more of growth for every three years, China is likely to get to Russia's 2010 level by 2020 and has a reasonable shot at Italy's current level in 2024-2032.

Fabrication and electrical integration of robust carbon nanotube micropillars by self-directed elastocapillary densification

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Vertically-aligned carbon nanotube (CNT) "forest" microstructures fabricated by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) using patterned catalyst films typically have a low CNT density per unit area. As a result, CNT forests have poor bulk properties and are too fragile for integration with microfabrication processing. We introduce a new self-directed capillary densification method where a liquid is controllably condensed onto and evaporated from CNT forests. Compared to prior approaches, where the substrate with CNTs is immersed in a liquid, our condensation approach gives significantly more uniform structures and enables precise control of the CNT packing density and pillar cross-sectional shape. We present a set of design rules and parametric studies of CNT micropillar densification by this method, and show that self-directed capillary densification enhances the Young's modulus and electrical conductivity of CNT micropillars by more than three orders of magnitude. We calculate that densification increases the Young’s Modulus of the micropillars from 1.56 MPa to 2.24 GPa. The reduction in cross-sectional area is 17, the modulus increases by a factor of more than 1400. The great increase in the modulus can be attributed to the change in collective loading mechanism of individual tubes within the forest which is caused by the reduction in CNT-CNT spacingOwing to the outstanding properties of CNTs, this scalable process will be useful for the integration of CNTs as functional material in microfabricated devices for mechanical, electrical, thermal, and biomedical applications.
33 page pdf from Arxiv

Sierra Sciences Have Successfully Lengthened Telomeres Which Could Be Used to Extend Human Lifespan

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Sierra Sciences, in collaboration with TA Sciences, Geron Corporation, PhysioAge, and the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), has announced the first compound ever discovered that activates the enzyme telomerase in the human body - a critical prerequisite for technology that could arrest or reverse the aging process in humans. This compound is a natural product derived nutraceutical known as TA-65. These findings appear as a research article entitled 'A natural product telomerase activator as part of a health maintenance program,' published September 7, 2010 in the peer-reviewed journal Rejuvenation Research.

The full article is here

Another study indicates that the effects of an aging population have been overestimated by five times.

Researchers discovered that TA-65 was associated with a statistically significant "age-reversal" effect in the immune system, in that it led to declines in the percentage of senescent cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells after six to twelve months of use. In addition, further analysis with automated high-throughput confocal microscopy (HT-qFISH) revealed a decline in the percentage of white blood cells with critically short telomeres after twelve to eighteen months of use.

A 1-year health maintenance program consisting of a dietary supplement pack combined with a natural product–derived telomerase activator results in a decreased percentage of short leukocyte telomeres and remodeling of the relative proportions of the circulating leukocytes of CMV+ subjects toward the more “youthful” profile of CMV− subjects.

One of the strengths of our study is the low CMV-positivity rate (54%) in a relatively older population, which allows us to separate the effects of age and CMV status on immunosenescence. It also serves to mitigate one of our study's weaknesses—the lack of a control group—as the subjects were initially unaware of their CMV status and their subsequent knowledge is unlikely to have caused the segregation of many of the effects of the protocol by CMV status.

Several peer-reviewed publications have calculated that humans have a theoretical maximum lifespan of 125 years, but our health declines long before that. Many scientists believe that this limit on lifespan and decline in health is imposed by the gradual shortening of our telomeres, structures at the ends of our chromosomes that shorten with every cell division. Telomere shortening is thought to be the "clock of aging" contained within the human body. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that a human cell that does not undergo telomere shortening will divide indefinitely and is, by all available measurements, immortal.

The publication reports that TA-65 can cause telomerase, an enzyme that lengthens telomeres, to become active in human cells. Telomerase activation by TA-65 was shown to lengthen the shortest telomeres in humans, potentially extending human lifespan and healthspan. Telomerase activation is thought to be a keystone of future regenerative medicine and a necessary condition for clinical immortality.

Although TA-65 is probably too weak to completely arrest the aging process, it is the first telomerase activator recognized as safe for human use.

"We are on the cusp of curing aging," said William Andrews, Ph.D., co-author of this study and President and CEO of Sierra Sciences, LLC. "TA-65 is going to go down in history as the first supplement you can take that doesn't merely extend your life a few years by improving your health, but actually affects the underlying mechanisms of aging. Better telomerase inducers will be developed in the coming years, but TA-65 is the first of a whole new family of telomerase-activating therapies that could eventually keep us young and healthy forever."

Telomerase activation has potential medical applications beyond extending human lifespan. Epidemiological studies have shown that short telomeres in humans are a risk factor for diseases including, among others, atherosclerosis, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and cancer.

The present study also reports encouraging news on the effect of TA-65 on the body's immune system. Infectious diseases lead to telomere shortening in the immune system, as immune cells divide to fight infections. Telomerase activation should prevent this telomere shortening and allow the body's immune system to fight a chronic infection indefinitely.

The present study on TA-65 lends support to this hypothesis. In individuals infected with CMV, a virus which prematurely ages the immune system and significantly reduces life expectancy, TA-65 caused an apparent "age reversal" of approximately 5 to 20 years based on one biomarker of immune aging.

For the same reason, telomerase activation is a potential treatment for AIDS. "We tend to see HIV turning into AIDS when the cells of the immune system develop critically short telomeres," said Andrews. "HIV can essentially cause the immune system to die of old age while the majority of the body is still young. A telomerase activator could theoretically prevent an HIV-positive individual from ever developing AIDS."

September 10, 2010

China Prepares the Chang E2 Lunar Probe

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China's second lunar probe, the Chang'e-2, will fly much faster than its predecessor and reach lunar orbit within a shorter period of time. China is set to launch the Chang'e-2 lunar probe at the end of the year. The country launched its first lunar probe, Chang'e-1, named after China's mythical Moon Goddess, on Oct. 24, 2007, from southwest China's Sichuan Province. The probe ended its 16-month mission on March 1, 2009, when it crashed into the moon's surface. Chang'e-2 can reach lunar orbit within five days, compared to 13 days, 14 hours and 19 minutes for Chang'e-1. Chang'e 2 will orbit 100 km closer to the moon and carry a higher resolution camera. The Chang'e-2 orbiter is designed to test key soft landing technologies for Chang'e-3 and provide high-resolution photo images of the landing area.

Berkeley Labs Developing Stronger Superconducting Magnets

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The CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) dipole magnets are designed to operate at magnetic fields of about eight tesla, or 8 T

These LHC magnets use cables made of superconducting niobium titanium (NbTi), and for five years during its construction the LHC contracted for more than 28 percent of the world’s niobium titanium wire production, with significant quantities of NbTi also used in the magnets for the LHC’s giant experiments.

Berkeley labs is working with the high-temperature superconductor Bi-2212 (bismuth strontium calcium copper oxide) to develop stronger magnets. In experimental situations Bi-2212 has generated fields of 25 T (tesla) and could go much higher. But like many high-temperature superconductors Bi-2212 is not a metal alloy but a ceramic, virtually as brittle as a china plate.

Graphene may hold key to speeding up DNA sequencing

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In a paper published as the cover story of the September 9, 2010 Nature, researchers from Harvard University and MIT have demonstrated that graphene, a surprisingly robust planar sheet of carbon just one-atom thick, can act as an artificial membrane separating two liquid reservoirs.

By drilling a tiny pore just a few-nanometers in diameter, called a nanopore, in the graphene membrane, they were able to measure exchange of ions through the pore and demonstrated that a long DNA molecule can be pulled through the graphene nanopore just as a thread is pulled through the eye of a needle.

University of Kansas researchers show drug can stop debilitating condition of diabetes in mice

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University of Kansas researchers recently published an article showing that KU-32 can stop and even reverse diabetic peripheral neuropathy, or DPN, in mice. The condition leads to death of nerves in the extremities of individuals with diabetes. The drug is still in pre-clinical development. It will likely need another year or two of study, then the researchers hope it could be advanced to clinical trials in humans.

“People with DPN can be very sensitive to light touch, which can cause significant pain,” said Rick Dobrowsky, professor of pharmacology and toxicology and one of the paper’s authors. “The other side is eventually diabetes causes death of the nerves. DPN often leads to loss of feeling in the hands and feet, which can make diabetics susceptible to wounds and infections and often leads to amputations of toes and feet.” DPN is the second leading cause of amputations, after injuries.

ASN Neuro - Inhibiting heat-shock 90 protein 90 reverses sensory hypoalgesia in diabetic mice

Hyperion Power Generation Partners with the Department of Energy Savannah River national laboratory to build demonstration 25 MW fast reactor by 2017 or 2018

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Hyperion Power Generation signed a memorandum of understanding with the Savannah River National Laboratory Thursday to build the first demonstration reactor at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Hyperion is developing a 25-MW fast reactor that uses uranium nitride fuel and lead bismuth eutectic coolant. Hyperion power generation wants to factory mass produce these reactors and to eventually build hundreds each year. Hyperion Power Generation has leters of intent with several other international companies.

The parties aim to build an operational prototype by 2017 or 2018, said Mike Nevetta of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, which operates the Savannah River Site. He also said Thursday that the demo reactor will not connect to the grid but will produce electricity for internal use on site.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions is talking with five or six other companies about building prototypes at the complex "in which manufacturers of small reactors can come and prove their technologies," said Nevetta.

(H/T Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat who has a lot of coverage of this development)

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions officials hope to have the reactor built and operational by 2020 at a cost at $100-150 million most of which would be raised from private investors. However, Deborah Blackwell, a spokesperson for Hyperion, told Platts the Hyperion prototype will cost just $50 million or $2,000/Kw. She also said the money would be raised from investors and not come from the government.

Cellphone OS Forecast for 2011 and 2014

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The worldwide mobile operating system (OS) market will be dominated by Symbian and Android, as the two OSs will account for 59.8 percent of mobile OS sales by 2014, according to Gartner, Inc.

Forecast: Mobile Communications Device Open OS Sales to End Users by OS (Thousands of Units)
 OS               2009       2010       2011     2014
Symbian            80,876     107,662    141,279    264,352
Market Share (%)       46.9        40.1       34.2      30.2
Android             6,798.4    47,462     91,938    259,306
Market Share (%)        3.9        17.7       22.2      29.6
Research In Motion 34,346.8    46,923     62,198    102,580
Market Share (%)       19.9        17.5       15.0      11.7
iOS                24,889.8    41,462     70,740    130,393
Market Share (%)       14.4        15.4       17.1      14.9
Windows Phone      15,031.1    12,687     21,309     34,490
Market Share (%)        8.7         4.7        5.2       3.9
Other OS           10,431.9    12,588     26,017     84,453
Market Share (%)        6.1         4.7        6.3       9.6
Total Market      172,374.3   268,784    413,481    875,574
Source: Gartner (August 2010)

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 18

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The 18th Carnival of Nuclear energy is up at the ANS Nuclear Cafe

Nextbigfuture provided an article about the General Atomic EM2 reactor which was presented at the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) meeting held in late August. Nuclear and defense supplier General Atomics announced in February, 2010 that they would launch a 12-year ($1.7 billion) program to develop a new kind of small, commercial nuclear reactor in the U.S. that could run on spent fuel from big reactors.

Nextbigfuture also had an article about NuScale, which is developing a 45 MW light water reactor. Nuscale also gave a presentation to the BRC. The company’s initial pre-application review meeting was held with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on July 2008. NuScale anticipates filing design certification application in 2012. NuScale forecasts the first plant can be online producing electricity from 2018. NuScale’s reactor will be factory built. The entire reactor will be prefabricated and shipped by rail, truck or barge. It will weigh about 300 tons for each module for 60 foot long and 14 foot in diameter cylinder

Pipeline Accidents in the US

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There was a gas pipeline leak and explosion in San Bruno yesterday night that killed at least four people and destroyed 53 homes.

It was likely that the leak was happening for a couple of weaks and saturated the soil before it exploded.

Here is the US department of transportation statistics on pipeline accident property damage and fatalities. there are about 300 significant (at least $50,000 or a fatality or hospitalization) and 50 serious incidents (at least one fatality or hospitalization).

Here is a wikipedia list of natural gas and oil pipeline accidents.

September 09, 2010

Update on Focus Fusion Project

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They are about 2-3 months behind the planned progress in yield
Focus fusion provided an update for the dense plasma focus fusion project of Lawrenceville Plasma Physics

* Sept 1 all 10 switches were fired together
* It is now taking 100 nanoseconds to get to the maximum rate of increase, while with the automotive spark plugs it took 300 nanoseconds.
* Yield is ten times lower than they expected to at this current, close to 1 MA (megaamps) but they think they know how to fix things

E-bikes with 100 Mile Range and another e-bike that goes 60 miles per hour

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German manufacturer Kalkhoff has an e-bike with an 18 amp-hour battery option which can provide 88 mile range and Giant bicycles is employing has a 2011 Twist ebike with two batteries to get 100 mile range.

Eurobike 2010 had a lot of interesting electric bikes.
The conway e-bike is mountain e-bike that weighs 20 kilograms and a motor that can generate 2000 watts (almost 3 horsepower). It runs off a 36-volt lithium-ion battery pack, rated at 626 watt-hours. The battery can recharge up to 80 percent in one hour, 100 percent in three hours, and offers a range of up to 110 kilometers (68 miles) depending on use.

Evidence for variation in one of the physical laws - the fine structure constant

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We previously reported observations of quasar spectra from the Keck telescope suggesting a smaller value of the fine structure constant, alpha, at high redshift.

A new sample of 153 measurements from the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), probing a different direction in the universe, also depends on redshift, but in the opposite sense, that is, alpha appears on average to be larger in the past. The combined dataset is well represented by a spatial dipole, significant at the 4.1 sigma level, in the direction right ascension 17.3 +/- 0.6 hours, declination -61 +/- 9 degrees. A detailed analysis for systematics, using observations duplicated at both telescopes, reveals none which are likely to emulate this result.

The results suggest a violation of the Einstein Equivalence Principle, and could infer a very large or in finite universe, within which our `local' Hubble volume represents a tiny fraction, with correspondingly small variations in the physical constants.

Five Week Journey to Regenerate tip of Finger

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CNN describes woman's five-week odyssey -- one that involved defying doctors, e-mailing specialists around the country -- to get the tip of her finger regenerated.

1. The tip of Deepa Kulkarni's finger cut of by a door
2. An orthopedic surgeon and ER doctor said they could not reattach and indicated they would need to amputate even more of the finger so it would heal properly.
3. Found website and email for Dr. Stephen Badylak, the University of Pittsburgh physician, who pioneered finger tip regeneration (was featured on 60 minutes and Oprah)

Effects of population aging have been exaggerated

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Dependency ratios. Authors’ calculation. OADR and POADR are based on UN, World Population Prospects: The 2008 revision (WPP). ADDR are based on both UN WPP and European Health Expectancy Monitoring Unit Survey Data (see references in article). The lower age boundary in all denominations is 20.

Due to increasing life-spans and improved health many populations are ‘aging’ more slowly than conventional measures indicate.

Many people over 65 are not in need of the care of others, and, on the contrary, may be caregivers themselves. The authors provide a new dependency measure based on disabilities that reflect the relationship between those who need care and those who are capable of providing care, it is called the adult disability dependency ratio (ADDR). The paper shows that when aging is measured based on the ratio of those who need care to those who can give care, the speed of aging is reduced by four-fifths compared to the conventional old-age dependency ratio.

This also highlights the importance of using technology to counteract the level of frailty in the elderly.

Muscle boosting in the elderly is important for maintaining health and independence.

IBM's light-powered links overcome the greatest speed bump in supercomputing: interconnect bandwidth

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IBM has developed a first-of-its-kind optical data-transfer system, or bus, built right onto the circuit board. IBM will unveil computer systems 100 times as fast as anything available today. Scientists will be able to use those system to be able to visualize things in detail: how the climate will react to man-made greenhouse gases, how neurons organize to form a brain, how to custom design a drug to treat an individual patient.

1000-petaflop (Pflop) or one exaflop systems will require 400 million optical links. Supercomputer processing rates have been going up tenfold every four years. So you can expect 10-Pflop, 100-Pflop, and 1000-Pflop (exaflop) systems to emerge in 2012, 2016, and 2020, respectively. The Blue Waters system—starting at 10 Pflops, and scalable to 16 Pflops—is slightly ahead of the trend, with a scheduled production date of 2011.

Vietnam could have a lot of uranium and has big nuclear energy plans

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Vietnam plans to mine uranium in the central province of Quang Nam to help support its nuclear power plans. The site targeted in Quang Nam may hold about 8,000 metric tons, while Vietnam’s nationwide uranium reserves may reach into the hundreds of thousands of tons. Vietnam’s Atomic Energy Institute signed an agreement with Canada’s NWT Uranium Corp. to assess the uranium potential of the Southeast Asian nation.

Beyond uranium, Vietnam has a three-phase plan to introduce nuclear power on a large scale. Up to 2015, it will approve investment and locations, select contractors and train managers and technicians.

DARPA Working on Mind Modifying Ultrasound not Mind Control Lasers

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A microcontroller device will direct ultrasound to stimulate different brain regions to boost troop alertness and cognition, relieve stress and pain, and protect them against traumatic brain injuries. Transcranial pulsed ultrasound can stimulate targeting deep brain regions that are as small as two or three millimeters. Older techniques cannot target smaller than one cubic centimeter or access the brain without some level of skull and brain surgery.

DARPA Working on Neurophotonics - optical fiber connections between the brain and robotics

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Here is a 19 page pdf presentation by Marc Christensen on the approach, methods, challenges and issues with neurophotonics.

Physorg has coverage.

Funded by a Department of Defense initiative dedicated to audacious challenges and intense time schedules, the Neurophotonics Research Center will develop two-way fiber optic communication between prosthetic limbs and peripheral nerves.

This connection will be key to operating realistic robotic arms, legs and hands that not only move like the real thing, but also "feel" sensations like pressure and heat.

Successful completion of the fiber optic link will allow for sending signals seamlessly back and forth between the brain and artificial limbs, allowing amputees revolutionary freedom of movement and agility.

This can also lead to medical breakthroughs like brain implants for the control of tremors, neuro-modulators for chronic pain management and implants for patients with spinal cord injuries.

A phonon laser in ultra-cold matter

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Europhysics letters - A phonon laser in ultra-cold matter
It is shown that the possible excitation of a phonon laser instability in an ultra-cold atomic gas confined in a magneto-optical trap. Such an effect results from a negative Landau damping of the collective density perturbations in the gas, leading to the coherent emission of phonons. This laser instability can be driven by a blue-detuned laser superimposed to the usual red-detuning laser beams which usually provide the cooling mechanism. Threshold conditions, instability growth rates and saturation levels are derived. This work generalizes, on theoretical grounds, the recent results obtained with a single-ion phonon laser, to an ultra-cold atomic gas, where real phonons can be excited. Future phonon lasers could thus adequately be called phasers.

Laser beam uses heated gas to move particles 100 times larger than optical tweezers

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Researchers from the Australian National University have announced that they have built a device that can move small particles a meter and a half using only the power of light.

The technique needs heated gas to push the particles around, it can't work in the vacuum of outer space like the tractor beams in Star Trek. But on Earth there are many possible applications for the technology. The meter-long distances that the research team was able to move the particles could open up new avenues for laser tweezers in the transport of dangerous substances and microbes, and for sample taking and biomedical research.

Light Slowed 1200 times on a chip holds promise for optical communications

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small stuff (left) adds up to a 4-inch silicon wafer with 32 atomic spectroscopy cells (right). Nature Photonics
A tiny optical device built into a silicon chip has achieved the slowest light propagation on a chip to date, reducing the speed of light by a factor of 1,200 in a study reported in Nature Photonics (published online September 5 and in the November print issue). The ability to control light pulses on an integrated chip-based platform is a major step toward the realization of all-optical quantum communication networks, with potentially vast improvements in ultra-low-power performance

Nature Photonics - Slow light on a chip via atomic quantum state control

The ability to slow down the propagation of light touches both fundamental aspects of light–matter interactions and practical applications in photonic communication and computation. Optical quantum interference can substantially reduce the speed of light while offering additional dramatic optical effects based on the ability to control electronic quantum states. Recent efforts are increasingly being directed towards harnessing these effects in integrated photonic structures. Here, we report the first demonstration of slow light and electromagnetically induced transparency in a self-contained, planar atomic spectroscopy chip. Using hot rubidium atoms in hollow-core waveguides, we demonstrate 44% optical transparency with a group index of 1,200, or more than sevenfold slower light than in photonic-crystal waveguides8. Optical pulse delays of 16 ns with a delay-bandwidth product of 0.8 are observed. This implementation of atomic quantum state control in integrated photonic structures will enable coherent photonics at ultralow power levels.

Portable Laser Backpack Revolutionizes 3D Mapping

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A portable, laser backpack for 3D mapping has been developed at the University of California, Berkeley, where it is being hailed as a breakthrough technology capable of producing fast, automatic and realistic 3D mapping of difficult interior environments.

The backpack is the first of a series of similar systems to work without being strapped to a robot or attached to a cart. At the same time, its data acquisition speed is very fast, as it collects the data while the human operator is walking; this is in contrast with existing systems in which the data is painstakingly collected in a stop and go fashion, resulting in days and weeks of data acquisition time. Using this technology, Air Force personnel will be able to collectively view the interior of modeled buildings and interact over a network in order to achieve military goals like mission planning.

September 08, 2010

General Atomics to Develop Energy Multiplier Module Reactor for 2022

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Nuclear and defense supplier General Atomics announced in February, 2010 that they would launch a 12-year ($1.7 billion) program to develop a new kind of small, commercial nuclear reactor in the U.S. that could run on spent fuel from big reactors.

The General Atomics reactor, which is dubbed EM2 for Energy Multiplier Module, would be about one-quarter the size of a conventional reactor and have unusual features, including the ability to burn used fuel, which still contains more than 90% of its original energy. Such reuse would reduce the volume and toxicity of the waste that remained. General Atomics calculates there is so much U.S. nuclear waste that it could fuel 3,000 of the proposed reactors, far more than it anticipates building.

The EM2 would operate at temperatures as high as 850 degrees Centigrade, which is about twice as hot as a conventional water-cooled reactor. The very high temperatures would make the reactor especially well suited to industrial uses that go beyond electricity production, such as extracting oil from tar sands, desalinating water and refining petroleum to make fuel and chemicals.

General Atomics intends to complete a preliminary design for the reactor and demonstrate that it can manufacture fuel elements in the next few years. It wants to be in a position to seek NRC design certification within five years, and, if no big problems emerge, to gain required approvals to sell reactors and make fuel assemblies by 2022

There was a presentation at the commission on America's Nuclear future (10 page pdf)

Nuscale Presentation at Commission on America's Nuclear Future

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Dr. Paul Lorenzini, CEO of Nuscale presented on the planned NSSS reactor on Aug 30, 2010

Initial pre-application review meeting was held with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on July 2008. NuScale anticipates filing Design Certification application in 2012. NuScale forecasts the first plant can be online producing electricity from 2018.

NSSS will be factory built:
* Entire NSSS prefabricated and shipped by rail, truck or barge (it will weigh about 300 tons for each module for 60 foot long and 14 foot in diameter cylinder)

• Natural Circulation Cooling:
* Inherently safe – Eliminates major accident scenarios
* Improves economics - Eliminates pumps, pipes, valves

• Large natural heat sink
* Simplifies and enhances safety case
• Proven Technology
• Below Ground
* Enhances security and safety

The use of thorium in the NuScale plant was briefly explored during studies in 2002-3. A thorium fuel core could be installed and, as expected, plutonium inventories in spent fuel would be reduced. Core design issues would arise due to the reduced delayed neutron fraction, with implications for control rod designs. In addition, new fuel areas would need to be designed for higher radiation levels. Even though these matters have not been explored in depth, we see no technical issues that would preclude the design and installation of a thorium fueled core in a NuScale plant

Two Asteroids to Pass by Earth Wednesday

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Two asteroids, several meters in diameter and in unrelated orbits, will pass within the moon's distance of Earth on Wednesday, Sept. 8.
There are an estimated 50 million unknown asteroids. A 33-foot-wide near-Earth object could pass harmlessly between Earth and the orbit of the moon every day. Such an asteroid might hit Earth's atmosphere once every 10 years, but because of its small size, it would pose no substantial threat to the people or property below. They break up in the atmosphere and only meteorites might hit the ground.

NASA has an asteroid watch webpage to keep up to date on all asteroid related news

Both asteroids should be observable near closest approach to Earth with moderate-sized amateur telescopes. Neither of these objects has a chance of hitting Earth. A 10-meter-sized near-Earth asteroid from the undiscovered population of about 50 million would be expected to pass almost daily within a lunar distance, and one might strike Earth's atmosphere about every 10 years on average.

Curved, twisted and overhanging microscopic structures have been made with carbon nanotubes

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Curved, twisted and overhanging microscopic structures have been made by US researchers from carbon nanotubes by exploiting capillary action. The technique can be used to make patterns of multiple different shapes at the same time and opens up new possibilities for tunable surfaces.

John Hart and his team from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, have used the forces generated by capillary action of a solvent as it condenses and evaporates between carbon nanotube fibres to pull, bend and twist forests of fibres into cones, domes, helices and other unique shapes. 'These sorts of shapes are difficult to make from any material, let alone in carbon nanotubes,' says Hart, adding that with other microfabrication techniques it's traditionally hard to make things that are curved, twisted or generally overhanging without making them one at a time.

Nano-Architectured Aluminum is as Strong as Steel but has lower weight

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A North Carolina State University researcher and colleagues have figured out a way to make an aluminum alloy, or a mixture of aluminum and other elements, just as strong as steel.

That’s important, says Dr. Yuntian Zhu, professor of materials science and the NC State researcher involved in the project, because the search for ever lighter – yet stronger – materials is crucial to devising everything from more fuel-efficient cars to safer airplanes.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, Zhu and his colleagues describe the new nanoscale architecture within aluminum alloys that have unprecedented strength but also reasonable plasticity to stretch and not break under stress. Perhaps even more importantly, the technique of creating these nanostructures can be used on many different types of metals.

Tony Blair was interviewed on Charlie Rose

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Tony Blair was interviewed on Charlie Rose tonight. Some key statements he made: Q: what are the things that you have learned since leaving office that you would have wished to have known when you governed ?

A: The power in shifting east and fast. This is absolutely clear now. Also, I now have a clearer understanding of how global extremism operates.

He also indicates that if sanctions and diplomacy fail then military action will be needed to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

September 07, 2010

The future with a frugal and broke Superpower

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Thomas Friedman discusses the effect of the world’s only superpower getting weighed down with a lot of debt

* “The Frugal Superpower: America’s Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era” is the title of a new book by Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert

* U.S. power has been the key force maintaining global stability, and providing global governance, for the last 70 years. That role will not disappear, but it will almost certainly shrink.

Great powers have retrenched before: Britain for instance. But, as Mandelbaum notes, “When Britain could no longer provide global governance, the United States stepped in to replace it. No country now stands ready to replace the United States, so the loss to international peace and prosperity has the potential to be greater as America pulls back than when Britain did.”

After all, Europe is rich but wimpy. China is rich nationally but still dirt poor on a per capita basis and, therefore, will be compelled to remain focused inwardly and regionally. Russia, drunk on oil, can cause trouble but not project power. “Therefore, the world will be a more disorderly and dangerous place,” Mandelbaum predicts.

After Gingerbread Google Android 3.0 there will be Honeycomb Google Android 3.5 in 2011

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Samsung is already hard at work on next-generation tablets that will run on Google’s upcoming Android 3.5 Honeycomb platform.

Unlike Gingerbread, which is supposed to take Android 2.2 [also known as FroYo, short for Frozen Yoghurt] all the way up to version 3.0 and promises to include a radically new user interface that takes full advantage of the advanced graphics rendering capabilities in upcoming smartphones, Honeycomb is supposed to be to Gingerbread what FroYo was to Éclair.

Honeycomb is expected nothing more than a point release. Intmobile believes that Google’s Chrome OS will be what powers tablets and that Android 3.X will eventually trickle down into manufacteres midrange portfolios.

Lists of Current and Future Android Smartphones and Tablets

Engineered nano-sized disks or sulphuric acid are two new geoengineering approaches from the University of Calgary

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University of Calgary climate scientists have two new geoengineering studies for countering global warming

Releasing engineered nano-sized disks or sulphuric acid, a condensable vapour, above the Earth are two novel approaches that offer advantages over simply putting sulphur dioxide gas into the atmosphere, says Dr. David Keith, a director in the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy and a Schulich School of Engineering professor

UCSD robotics lab head Thomas Bewley interview by Sander Olson

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Here is the Thomas Bewley interview by Sander Olson. Dr. Bewley heads the Coordinated Robotics Lab at the University of California San Diego. The UCSD lab's specialty is using feedback control to impart stability to robots. Dr. Bewley is an expert on simulation, optimization, and control issues relating to robotics, and he is currently writing a textbook on this subject. Dr. Bewley's lab is improving their robots at a rapid pace, and is developing updated versions of robots every year.

Question: You lead the Coordinated Robotics Lab at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). What makes this lab unique?
Answer: The Coordinated Robotics Lab is fundamentally a dynamics and control shop that does robotics; most other such labs are robotics shops that sometimes do control. We emphasize up front the modeling and control of dynamically unstable systems – we have found that creative, minimalist robotic designs which sacrifice open-loop stability can often achieve greatly enhanced maneuverability. We endeavor to create small, minimalist robots that can overcome large, complex obstacles via clever leveraging of advanced feedback control strategies.

Japan Makes a Microwave-Powered Rocket Fly Without Fuel

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Japanese researchers demonstrated launching a 126 gram rocket powered by a Gyrotron - essentially a maser - at the Naka Fusion Institute of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

Using this beam, the scientists were able to send pulses of microwave energy into the bottom of their hollow 126 gram rocket model, heating the air within to 10,000 degrees Celsius and resulting in its rapid expansion.

A combinatorial approach to speed discovery of metamaterials

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Combinatorial library, meta-molecules and resonant modes. (a) Schematic of a combinatorial metamaterial library. (b) Schematic of the metamaterial unit cell. (c) and (d) show scanning electron micrographs of metamaterial unit cells of size s = 500 nm with small and large gap position asymmetries, = 1/7 and 1. (e) Characteristic I symmetric and II-III antisymmetric modes of excitation associated with the absorption resonances for asymmetries = 1/7 and 1. The plotted field distributions correspond to excitation wavelengths of 820, 1025 and 1200 nm, respectively.

A combinatorial approach to metamaterials discovery has been developed to test dozens of metamaterial combinations at one time.

We report a high through-put combinatorial approach to photonic metamaterial optimization. The new approach is based on parallel synthesis and consecutive optical characterization of large numbers of spatially addressable nano-fabricated metamaterial samples (libraries) with quasi-continuous variation of design parameters under real manufacturing conditions. We illustrate this method for Fano-resonance plasmonic nanostructures arriving at explicit recipes for high quality factors needed for switching and sensing applications.

Combinatorial chemistry is used to test thousands of different but structurally related molecules to speed drug discovery and now this related technique will speed up the discovery of metamaterials with unusual electromagnetic properties.

Personal Subs Able to go to 1000 meters

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Dutch Uboat Worx is making the C-Explorer 2 which can accommodate a trained pilot and one passenger. The submersible was designed for a maximum depth of 1,000 metres and comes equipped with modern lithium-ion batteries which allow it to remain submerged for up to 12 hours at a time. Its powerful air-conditioning system, iPod stereo installation and champagne cooler are indicative of the luxurious surroundings from where the underwater world can be observed. Personal submarines that can seat up to five people are being marketed to scientists, research organizations, luxury superyacht owners, aquatic tourism ventures and private explorers.

Prices range from 280,000 to 840,000 euros (about 380,000 to 1.1 million dollars).

September 06, 2010

Selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM) proving to be an effective yet safe steroid

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GTx, Inc. (Nasdaq: GTXI) announced in June 2010 that Ostarine™ (GTx-024, formerly MK-2866) increased lean body mass and leg press strength in a head to head study evaluating Ostarine and another selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM), MK-3984, in postmenopausal women.

This was the third Ostarine clinical study that measured lean body mass and physical performance endpoints, and Ostarine has consistently demonstrated the ability to increase muscle mass and strength.

After 12 weeks of treatment in post menopausal women, Ostarine 3 mg and MK-3984 significantly increased total lean body mass. Compared to placebo, mean differences from baseline for lean body mass were observed with increases of 1.54 kg (about 3.4 pounds) for both Ostarine 3 mg and 50 mg of MK-3984 and an increase of 1.74 kg (3.8 pounds) for 125 mg of MK-3984.

Mean leg muscle strength at 12 weeks for Ostarine 3 mg treated subjects increased by 22 pounds from baseline. Old women were able to increase their leg press by 22 pounds.

GTx is pursuing a partner company to bring this to market to treat muscle wasting related to cancer.

Real Sarm steroids have been available online since 2009.

Myostatin inhibitors are being pursued as another safe method to treat muscle loss.

Mobile charging stations for electric and plug in hybrid cars

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New Scientist magazine reports that Zafer Sahinoglu at the Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are developing a network of portable charging stations, which can be moved to wherever the demand for recharging is greatest.

To determine where the stations are needed, in-car sensors would monitor the level of charge in the battery and periodically report this to a central operations centre, which would flag areas where most cars run low on juice. The stations can then be deployed wherever the low-charge "hotspots" are at that time. Just five mobile stations would be needed to cover 100 electric cars on a 100-kilometre stretch of highway, the team says.

Large Area Solar Cells with over 19% Efficiency

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Imec presented several large-area silicon solar cells with a conversion efficiency above 19%. Two types of cells were realized namely with Ag-screenprinted contacts and plated Cu-contacts. Efficiencies of cells with screenprinted contacts were up to 19.1% whereas 19.4% was obtained with Cu-plated contacts. These high efficiencies were obtained thanks to several factors amongst which a combination of improved texturization and optimized firing conditions. The results were achieved on large-area cells (148cm^2 which is 22.94 square inches. About 6 inches by 4 inches) with 170µm thickness, proving the industrial viability of the process.

Canada, Scandinavia, Russia and the northern United States Will Thrive in Globally Warmer Future

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UCLA predicts that global warming will have positive economic effects for Canada, Scandinavia, Russia and the northern United States.

Laurence C. Smith writes in "The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization's Northern Future" (Dutton Books), scheduled for publication Sept. 23. 2010.

While wreaking havoc on the environment, global warming will liberate a treasure trove of oil, gas, water and other natural resources previously locked in the frozen north, enriching residents and attracting newcomers, according to Smith. And these resources will pour from northern rim countries — or NORCs, as Smith calls them — precisely at a time when natural resources elsewhere are becoming critically depleted, making them all the more valuable.

Car Ownership in China will be over 200 million in 2020

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China's car ownership will be over 200 million in 2020. Car sales in China rose 45 percent in 2009 to 13.79 million units. There are about 76 million cars in China at the end of 2009.

It is more likely that China will add 15-25 million cars per year from 2010-2020. So it is more likley that China will have 225 to 300 million cars by 2020.

Clearly it would be best if as many of those cars as possible were very light electric vehicles.

Concord Coalitions August 2010 Plausible Budget Baseline shows $15.2 trillion in Federal Deficits from 2010-2020

The Concord Baseline makes some key assumption changes to the CBO baseline. CBO is required to assume that congressional appropriations continue increasing only at the rate of inflation for the 10 year baseline.

They also extend emergency supplemental at their "current" level plus inflation over the duration of the baseline. For tax legislation, they assume current law will govern--so if there are tax cuts that have sunsets (as the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts have), CBO is required to project revenues assuming the tax cuts expire as written in the legislation. They also project economic growth in a very conservative fashion--they do not try to anticipate major changes in the economy, either recessions or accelerations.

Currently neither the Democrats or Republicans are proposing to eliminate the Bush tax cuts completely. Obama is proposing to continue $2 trillion of the Bush tax reductions out of a total of about $2.7 trillion (lower taxes over the 2010-2020 decade). There are some Tea Partiers, Alan Greenspan and few others who oppose extension of the tax cuts.

On the opposite end is Paul Krugman, who advocates running the national debt to $30 trillion in order to replicate a non-war spending equivalent of World war 2

It will take a change from historically government budget trends to actually reduce the US deficit below $1 trillion per year again.

MIT researchers create new self-assembling photovoltaic technology that repairs itself

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This is a closeup of the test cell the team built to measure the properties of the self-assembling photosynthetic system.
MIT researchers have created a novel set of self-assembling molecules that can turn sunlight into electricity; the molecules can be repeatedly broken down and then reassembled quickly, just by adding or removing an additional solution.

Their paper on the work was published on Sept. 5 in Nature Chemistry.

Germany Extending Some Nuclear Plants by Eight Years and Others by Fourteen Years

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No German reactor are now be expected to shut before 2016. The next five pre-1980 reactors could close by 2020. Eleven further units will get 14 more years, with the last to operate being Neckarwestheim 2 - due for closure in 2036.

here will be a tax of €145 ($186) per gram of nuclear fuel, which works out at around €2.3 billion ($2.9 billion) per year. This will be paid into Germany's central budget for six years to aid austerity measures. It is seen as notionally supporting the costs of radioactive waste management work at Asse.

German nuclear utilities will also be called upon to make annual payments of €300 million ($386 million) in 2011 and 2012 to support renewable development, with this lowering to €200 million ($257 million) for the period to 2016. Beyond that, there is to be a tax on every megawatt-hour of nuclear energy produced that will be placed in a 'renewable fund'. Sources said this would be less than the tax on nuclear fuel.

Gearbox will Finish and Ship Duke Nukem Forever in 2011 - Really

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