October 02, 2010

Fujitu begins shipping computing units for a 10 petaflop supercomputer that will start running in 2012

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Fujitsu begins shipping parts for a 10 petaflop supercomputer that is scheduled to begin operations in 2012

Fujitsu announced that today it began shipping the computing units for Japan's Next-Generation Supercomputer, nicknamed the "K computer". The supercomputer is a central part of the High-Performance Computing Infrastructure (HPCI) initiative(2) led by Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and is being jointly developed with RIKEN, an independent administrative institution under MEXT. The system is being delivered to the Kobe-based Advanced Institute for Computational Science of RIKEN and is expected to begin operations in autumn 2012 following the installation and tuning process.

The supercomputing system will be comprised of more than 800 computer racks, each installed with ultrafast CPUs, in a massively interconnected network, crystallizing Fujitsu's leading-edge technologies for high performance and high reliability.

After 31 Years Goodbye to BIOS and Hello to Faster Booting Computers in 2011 with UEFI

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The age of the Bios was starting to hamper development as 64-bit computing became more common and machines mutated beyond basic desktops and laptops.

Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) frees any computer from being based around the blueprint and specifications of the original PCs. For instance, it does not specify that a keyboard will only connect via a specific port. UEFI should be in most computers in 2011. BIOS tends to take a long time to recognise hardware peripherals on modern computers, effectively operating in the same way it did with older machines

"At the moment it can be 25-30 seconds of boot time before you see the first bit of OS sign-on," he said. "With UEFI we're getting it under a handful of seconds."

China May set trading ranges for all currencies by 2013

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Business Week - If China’s currency reserves were to double again in the next three years and if the foreign-exchange market grows 20 percent, as it did in 2007-2010, China would hold more than the daily trading volume in all currency instruments.

Foreign-exchange market trading in recent years has grown much less rapidly than the currency reserves of the surplus countries that still maintain fixed or managed exchange rates. Over the past three years, China’s reserves doubled to about $2.5 trillion. Brazil’s did, too, though to a more modest $247 billion. Other surplus countries such as Russia, Japan and South Korea recorded increases in the dollar value of their reserves.

Daily trading of all currency-related products in April 2010 averaged almost $4 trillion, a 20 percent increase since the previous survey three years earlier. Such a huge market volume suggests that exchange- rate levels for the currencies whose values are determined on the open markets can hardly be manipulated. Every day, euro- dollar transactions alone amount to a massive $1.1 trillion.

If China decided to actively trade its reserves, it could not only influence the exchange rate of the yuan -- as it has done so far -- but also effectively set if not the level, at least a trading range for other major currencies.

Information Physics as a new technique to derive new physical laws

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Arxiv - Information Physics: The New Frontier provides examples of quantify partially-ordered sets and, in the process, derive physical laws.

At this point in time, two major areas of physics, statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics, rest on the foundations of probability and entropy. The last century saw several significant fundamental advances in our understanding of the process of inference, which make it clear that these are inferential theories. That is, rather than being a description of the behavior of the universe, these theories describe how observers can make optimal predictions about the universe. In such a picture, information plays a critical role. What is more is that little clues, such as the fact that black holes have entropy, continue to suggest that information is fundamental to physics in general.

In the last decade, our fundamental understanding of probability theory has led to a Bayesian revolution. In addition, we have come to recognize that the foundations go far deeper and that Cox's approach of generalizing a Boolean algebra to a probability calculus is the first specific example of the more fundamental idea of assigning valuations to partially-ordered sets. By considering this as a natural way to introduce quantification to the more fundamental notion of ordering, one obtains an entirely new way of deriving physical laws. I will introduce this new way of thinking by demonstrating how one can quantify partially-ordered sets and, in the process, derive physical laws. The implication is that physical law does not reflect the order in the universe, instead it is derived from the order imposed by our description of the universe. Information physics, which is based on understanding the ways in which we both quantify and process information about the world around us, is a fundamentally new approach to science.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 21

1. Nuclear Green has a post that focuses on the Efforts of the Energy from Thorium community to create a Grand Thorium Plan over the last two and a half years. This effort was inspired by an article titled "A Grand Solar Plan," which appeared in Scientific American in January 2008. Despite notable flaws in the Grand Solar Plan, the EfT planning effort persisted for over 500 comments, even though no plan has emerged to date. It would appear that elements of a plan do exist, and that the EfT community has made significant progress in informing the public of the Thorium energy option.

2. Idaho Samizdat reports that Germany has a bill that saves its nuclear reactors but at what price? The move comes with steep taxes on the reactors and a delusional energy policy.

October 01, 2010

Partnerships toward a miniFuji Thorium Molten Salt Reactor

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In July 2010, an industry organisation with members such as Toyota, Toshiba and Hitachi, IThEMS unveiled their plans to build the world's first commercial Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor (Th-MSR) power generator.

They are trying to get $300 million in funding. The first step on the path to commercially available Thorium Energy will be through their 10MW miniFUJI (in 5 years). That will be followed by a larger capacity design called FUJI, delivering 200MW in ten years.

The Fuji Molten salt thorium reactor would generate power at a cost significantly lower than that of current Light Water Reactors (LWR) – at least 30% lower.

There are agreements and the goals but there does not seem to significant levels of real funding. There maybe a million dollars at this point.

Recommendations for a restart of molten salt reactor development by Ralph Moir (16 pages)
Burn (fission) actinide wastes from LWRs in the MSR
• Each MSR burns 1000 kg per year @ 1 GWe
• Each LWR produces Pu (300 kg/GWe/yr), Np+Am+Cm (30 kg/GWe/y)

Tap into waste management fund

We have covered the fuji molten salt reactor in detail before

US Military Has Project to Develop Additive Manufacturing to Make Parts for Military Equipment for in-theater repairs

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Instead of a part breakdown causing a nearly two day outage, the equipment could be working again in about 14 hours

When the military needs a critical piece of equipment for a repair in-theater that isn't readily available, the missing parts could jeopardize an important mission. To get the missing pieces, one traditional solution involves using strategically placed warehouses stocked with replacement gear. Another method is to pay a contractor to make a batch of parts on demand. There is a MITRE research project called MakeOne that would use 3D printing as its core, and which could cut days off getting critical parts to the field. Depending on its use, a part could be made to specifications that are "good enough" for temporary use, or made to more rigid specs for a permanent replacement.

The US military for more timely spare parts and the previously mentioned Airbus effort to develop the ability to print an airplane show that there are deep pocketed efforts to scale up additive manufacturing.

The other effort for large scale printing is the Caterpillar funding of concrete inkjet systems for constructing buildings. There are also european competitors in the print a building space.

A better idea is using a process called additive manufacturing—sometimes called 3D printing—to quickly make replacement parts. Additive manufacturing produces parts by building up layers of a part's cross sections rather than removing material, as with conventional machining operation such as milling, boring, and drilling. A single additive manufacturing machine can produce an extremely wide range of parts—it just needs the computer-aided design (CAD) data to make any given part. Depending on the specific process and materials, the parts can be simple plastic objects, or intricate metal parts for cars and aircraft.

Utopium project to use carbon nanotube enhanced materials with Additive Manufacturing and the Airbus vision to Scale up Additive Manufacturing

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University of Exeter has commercially orientated research in the core themes of advanced manufacturing and materials development.

One of their projects is Utopium.

EADS Innovation Works is the partner and funder of the Utopium project.

The project proposes to investigate the development of unique high potential carbon nanotubes (CNT) polymer composite structures with a high potential for application in aerospace industry.

The research will include growing CNT forests (in the newly developed CNT lab at Exeter) and application of Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) principles and technology for manufacturing of the new CNT composites.

CNTs are of great interest for the next generation of composite materials due to their exceptional mechanical and physical properties.

ALM is highly novel, disruptive technology that will lead to major changes in the way a diverse range of engineering components are manufactured, using direct deposition of materials to create structures in an additive manner. Due to its versatility it is possible to process various polymer, metal and composite materials, constructing complex geometries such as cellular and hierarchical structures. ALM thus has potential for direct manufacture of high performance aerospace components.

The project aims to address: 1. An approach towards making fully aligned and dispersed bulk CNT/polymer composites, which is to date not yet possible. 2. An approach towards the application of an additive layer manufacturing philosophy; with the goal of eventual exploitation in ALM methods and equipment.

Large format 3d Printers - Making large things from Additive Manufacturing and Airbus has Roadmap to use Additive Manufacturing with Carbon Nanotubes to Make Whole Wings

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RedEye On Demand to produces large prototypes such as a large turbo prop using additive manufacturing.

Airbus is targeting sometime beyond 2020 to be able to fabricate an airplane wing using additive manufacturing.

EADS (Airbus) has large-scale structures grown from ALM-enabled (additive layer manufacturing) manufacturing systems on our technology road maps. The prospect is growing a full-sized airliner wing, which we have earmarked for some time beyond 2020. This is not a far-fetched notion. Go to [Airbus wing-making facility] Broughton in North Wales and you’ll see 35 meter-long gantry machining center with CNC (computer numerical controlled machine tools) heads for bespoke machining of whole wing skins. Change the machining head to a laser-deposition head and you can start to see the possibilities straight away.

Airbus has 20 research and development projects that are working towards the goal of printing all the parts of an entire airplane.

The US military is funding efforts to use additive layer manufacturing to print replacement parts for military equipment that at the front lines.

The turboprop was produced by RedEye on both Fortus 3D Production Systems and Dimension 3D Printers.

97% Cost Reduction; 83% Time Reduction

All 188 components were produced in 4 weeks and assembled in 2.5 weeks for a total production time of 6.5 weeks. Using conventional fabrication processes, such as machining and casting (with in-house and outside resources) a manufacturer would expect to spend 9 months or more producing a model like this. Using the FDM process in-house, a manufacturer could expect costs of roughly $25,000, versus an estimated $800,000 to $1 million for conventional processes. These numbers represent about a 97% reduction in production costs and 83% reduction in production time.

With conventional fabrication processes, the full gearbox assembly would be composed of metal. For this turbo-prop model, the components were produced from ABS plastic, which provided the strength to support the large, heavy gear assembly

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics has a new video that explains their recent progress

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Lawrenceville Plasma Physics is almost halfway to their goals of proving out the viability of their Dense Plasma Fusion approach.

Total commercialization and success would mean energy would be clean and 50 times cheaper than today.

The new schedule is to try to achieve proof of commercial viability in 8 months, which is 5 months longer than the previous Dec, 2010 target. The delay was because they did not expect the need to do work and research on switch problems.

A $21,000 Exoskeleton Toy for Kids

September 30, 2010

Centauri Dreams looks at Interstellar Space Missions

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1. ProjectIcarus is the attempt to re-examine the Project Daedalus starship study of the 1970s in light of technological developments in the intervening years

The Icarus team is looking at Uranus for mining helium-3. Getting processed helium-3 to orbit presenting perhaps the biggest technical hurdle. Double-walled hot-air balloons are chosen to keep the processing unit stable in the atmosphere, with a single-stage nuclear-thermal rocket emerging as the best solution for return to orbit. But the Icarus study is young, and the team is also considering tether concepts for atmospheric mining that do not involve braking and descent into the atmosphere at all.

The Daedalus probe needed an annual rate of 1500 tonnes of He3. If the Icarus interstellar probe was 100 times lighter then it would require an annual mining rate of 15 tonnes of He3.

Deuterium/helium-3 could be competitive with the more researched deuterium/tritium fusion alternative when Helium 3 costs between 1 – 10 Billion$ per ton or less.

Facebook and Skype are talking integration and Fortune magazine says Yahoo CEO is Abrasive and Clueless

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1. Facebook and Skype are in talks for tight integration and business partnership.

Published reports say they're expected to combine their services, allowing Facebook members to sign in to Skype using their Facebook Connect accounts. Users could then send text messages, voice chat and video chat with their Facebook friends from within Skype. A deal is expected to be announced within the next few weeks.

2. Fortune roasts Yahoo and CEO Carol Bartz.

Yahoo's stock price is abysmal, employee morale is low, and top-level executives are fleeing. What's left? An Internet property slowly limping to its death and a mouthy CEO with no vision. Her days are numbered.

More disturbing than Bartz's incapacity to handle herself professionally is an apparent lack of vision for the company. Bartz and her recent hire chief product officer Blake Irving have had trouble articulating what Yahoo, as a brand, stands for, even when asked repeatedly.

AllThingsD's John Paczowki called Irving's response "the world's worst elevator pitch," and analysts agree that such a vague, amorphous definition just doesn't cut it

Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that members of Yahoo's board convened an emergency meeting at company headquarters to discuss management issues and how to deal with them. At this point, pundits are speculating the board could appoint a choice second-in-command that would take over for Bartz once her contract runs out in 18 months.

But by then, it may be too late reverse the course for Yahoo, its shareholders and the company's 13,000 employees, into becoming just another historical footnote in the growing list of fallen tech companies

Russian Orbital Technologies Companies targets 2016 space hotel launch

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Russian company Orbital Technologies has announced its plans to launch in 2016 a commercial space station that will be used as a space hotel. It will be able to hold seven people.

Bigelow Aerospace is planing to deploy their inflatable commercial space station in 2014.
* Bigelow Aerospace plans to deploy our space station as early as 2014, ready to serve customers in 2015.
* Bigelow Aerospace clarifies that it will not be a space hotel.
* the first BA330 would hold six people on a long term basis
Because our founder is also in the apartment business, the media sometimes reports that we are building a space hotel. Instead, we anticipate that our clients primarily will be governmental and corporate entities interested in building an astronaut program or performing microgravity research.

Namibia's Uranium production is up 17.7 from the first half of last year

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Namibia's Uranium production improved by 9.9 percent during the second quarter of 2010 compared to the preceding quarter. Similarly, year-on-year, it rose by 17.7 percent. The demand for uranium continued to be high, emanated mostly from China, India and South Korea, coupled with planned nuclear plant programmes across the globe due to increased demand for clean energy.

Here is a four page fact sheet on prior Olympic Dam expansion plans.
Namibia was fourth largest producer of uranium in 2009. Namibia produced 4626 tons of uranium i 2009. A 17.7% increase for the entire year would be 5444 tons.

Despite Commonwealth Games Problems, The Economist remains optimistic about India's economic future

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India’s GDP is expected to grow by 8.5% this year, and could grow even faster. Chetan Ahya and Tanvee Gupta of Morgan Stanley, an investment bank, predict that India’s growth will start to outpace China’s within three to five years. China will rumble along at 8% rather than double digits; India will rack up successive years of 9-10%. For the next 20-25 years, India will grow faster than any other large country, they expect. Other long-range forecasters paint a similar picture.

In India's favor:
* Its dependency ratio—the proportion of children and old people to working-age adults—is one of the best in the world and will remain so for a generation. India’s economy will benefit from this “demographic dividend”, which has powered many of Asia’s economic miracles

* The second reason for optimism is India’s much-derided democracy. India’s individualistic brand of capitalism may also be more robust than China’s state-directed sort.

* Indian capitalism is driven by millions of entrepreneurs all furiously doing their own thing.

In China's favor:
* China’s leaders make rational decisions that balance the needs of all citizens over the long term. This has led to rapid, sustained growth that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. When its technocrats decide to dam a river, build a road or move a village, the dam goes up, the road goes down and the village disappears. The displaced villagers may be compensated, but they are not allowed to stand in the way of progress.

September 29, 2010

44 carbon atoms of polyyne carbon made, polyyne can be 40 times harder than diamond

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Polyyne is believed to be 40 times harder than diamond.

Eric Drexler discusses the synthesis of the longest polyyne chain to date, a chain of 44 carbon atoms.

Peierls instability is the reason that polyyne is so strong and the reason that it is tough to make.

A Peierls transition or Peierls distortion is a distortion of the periodic lattice of a one-dimensional crystal. Atomic positions oscillate so that the perfect order of the 1-D crystal is broken.

Self-Assembled Organic Nanostructures with Metallic-Like Stiffness

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A revolutionary new spherical nanostructure, fully derived from very simple organic elements, yet strong as steel, has been developed and characterized at the laboratories of Ehud Gazit of Tel Aviv University and Itay Rousso of the Weizmann Institute of Science. Lightweight and exceptionally strong, easy and inexpensive to produce, friendly to the environment and biologically compatible, these promising bio-inspired nano-spheres have innumerable potential uses - from durable composite materials to medical implants

Angewandte Chemie International Edition - Self-Assembled Organic Nanostructures with Metallic-Like Stiffness

AFM (atomic force microscope) experiments using a diamond-tip cantilever show that aromatic dipeptide nanospheres (see picture) have a remarkable metallic-like Young’s modulus of up to 275 GPa. This exceptional value places these nanostructures as the stiffest organic materials reported to date, thus making them attractive building blocks for the design and assembly of ultrarigid composite biomaterials

Earth like Planet in the Habitable Zone has been found

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A newfound planet, known as Gliese 581g, is estimated to be 3.1 to 4.3 times as massive as Earth, and makes a complete circuit around its sun in just under 37 days.

If the planet has a rocky composition like Earth's, it would be 1.2 to 1.4 times as wide as our own planet, qualifying it as a "super-Earth." Even more intriguingly, the brightness of the star (much dimmer than our own sun) and Gliese 581g's orbital distance (0.146 AU, less than half the distance between Mercury and our sun) suggest that the planet's average surface temperature is between 10 degrees and minus-24 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 to -31 degrees Celsius).

That means Gliese 581g is right in the middle of a planetary zone that is, in the words of the Goldilocks tale, "not too hot and not too cold, but just right" for water to exist in liquid form.

It was predicted only a few weeks ago that an exoplanet would likely be discovered that was about earth sized and orbiting its star in the habitable zone by May 2011. So this announcement seems to fulfill that prediction.

Hyperion Power Generation will meet tomorrow with the NRC to begin talk on regulatory review

Carnival of Space 171

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Starry Critters is hosting the Carnival of Space 171

This site provided the interview of John Hunter of Quicklaunch.

Quick­launch is hop­ing to cre­ate a method for launch­ing unmanned pay­loads into orbit for $500 per pound. The Quick­launch approach shoots pay­loads into orbit using a large hydro­gen pow­ered cannon.

This site also provided an update of the Reaction Engines work towards the Skylon Spaceplane

Reaction Engines has been undergoing internal preparations for significant events, which are to be covered in their September update. UK officials will meet next week at a special two-day workshop next week, which will investigate how it can be developed commercially.

Sodium Plays Key Role in Regeneration of the spinal cord and muscles and nanoparticles help repair osteoarthritis

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1. Tufts scientists have found a way to regenerate injured spinal cord and muscle by using small molecule drugs to trigger an influx of sodium ions into injured cells.

The approach breaks new ground in the field of biomedicine because it requires no gene therapy; can be administered after an injury has occurred and even after the wound has healed over; and is bioelectric, rather than chemically based.

In a paper appearing as the cover story of the September 29, 2010, issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, the Tufts team reported that a localized increase in sodium ions was necessary for young Xenopus laevis tadpoles to regenerate their tails – complex appendages containing spinal cord, muscle and other tissue.

University of Copenhagen Clean Air Device cuts building energy use by up to 25% and improves indoor air quality

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Heating, cooling and dehumidifying air in buildings currently consumes one sixth of all the energy used in the world. With the "Cleanair" system Professor Matthew Johnson of the University of Copenhagen has created a device that cuts building energy use by up to 25%.

In a real-world test 40 different compounds were removed from a new office building at the University of Copenhagen within minutes of switching on the device.

Every second we pump air into our houses that is too hot, too cold or too moist. And then we spend billions of kilowatts treating that air; cooling it, heating it or dehumidifying it. If we could clean the air, we could recycle air that already has the perfect temperature

Stem Cells help reattach teeth and Self assembled matrix helps regrow tooth enamel

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1. A new approach to anchor teeth back in the jaw using stem cells has been developed and successfully tested in the laboratory for the first time by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The new strategy represents a potential major advance in the battle against gum disease, a serious infection that eventually leads to tooth loss. About 80 percent of U.S. adults suffer from gum disease, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Researchers in UIC's Brodie Laboratory for Craniofacial Genetics used stem cells obtained from the periodontal ligament of molars extracted from mice, expanded them in an incubator, and then seeded them on barren rat molars. The stem cell-treated molars were reinserted into the tooth sockets of rats.

After two and four months, the stem cells aligned and formed new fibrous attachments between the tooth and bone, firmly attaching the replanted tooth into the animal's mouth, said Smit Dangaria, a bioengineering doctoral candidate who conducted the research. Tissue sections showed that the replanted tooth was surrounded by newly formed, functional periodontal ligament fibers and new cementum, the essential ingredients of a healthy tooth attachment.

In contrast, tooth molars that were replanted without new stem/progenitor cells were either lost or loosely attached and were resorbed, Dangaria said.

* Our research uncovered the code required to reattach teeth -- a combination of natural tooth root surface structure together with periodontal progenitor cells
* Our strategy could be used for replanting teeth that were lost due to trauma or as a novel approach for tooth replacement using tooth-shaped replicas

2. Tooth enamel regeneration has been improved with an artificial matrix.

Metamaterial-based model of the Alcubierre warp drive to go up to 25% of the speed of light

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Arvix - Metamaterial-based model of the Alcubierre warp drive by Igor I. Smolyaninov of the University of Maryland.

Alcubierre imagined a small volume of flat spacetime in which a spacecraft sits, surrounded by a bubble of spacetime that shrinks in the direction of travel, bringing your destination nearer, and stretches behind you. He showed that this shrinking and stretching could enable the bubble--and the spaceship it contained--to move at superluminal speeds. Igor Smolyaninov at the University of Maryland, points out that if these kinds of bubbles are possible in spacetime, then it ought to be possible to simulate them inside a metamaterial. The metamaterial would only be an emulation, so that we can learn about how the physics work and eventually figure out if we can and how we would build it.

Electromagnetic metamaterials are capable of emulating many exotic space-time geometries, such as black holes, rotating cosmic strings, and the big bang singularity. Here we present a metamaterial-based model of the Alcubierre warp drive, and study its limitations due to available range of material parameters. It appears that the material parameter range introduces strong limitations on the achievable “warp speed”, so that ordinary magnetoelectric materials cannot be used. On the other hand, newly developed “perfect” magnetoelectric metamaterials are capable of emulating the physics of warp drive gradually accelerating up to 25% of the speed of light.

Metamaterial susceptibilities measured experimentally in the 100 GHz range look adequate to emulate the Alcubierre warp drive to achieve 25% of light speed.

September 28, 2010

Swarms of UAVs

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The SMAVNET project aims at developing swarms of flying robots that can be deployed in disaster areas to rapidly create communication networks for rescuers. Flying robots are interesting for such applications because they are fast, can easily overcome difficult terrain, and benefit from line-of-sight communication.
From a software perspective, controllers allow flying robots to work together. For swarming, robots react to wireless communication with neighboring robots or rescuers (communication-based behaviors). Using communication as a sensor is interesting because most flying robots are generally equipped with off-the-shelf radio modules that are low-cost, light-weight and relatively long-range. Furthermore, this strategy alleviates the need for position which is required for all existing aerial swarm algorithms and typically requires using sensors that depend on the environment (GPS, cameras) or are expensive and heavy (lasers, radars).

Nextbigfuture now has a fan page on Facebook

The Debt of Nations

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The future of public debt: prospects and implications by Cecchetti is Economic Adviser at the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and Head of its Monetary and Economic Department, Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic Policy Research; Mohanty is Head of the Macroeconomic Analysis Unit at the BIS; and Zampolli is Senior Economist at the BIS.

Our examination of the future of public debt leads us to several important conclusions. First, fiscal problems confronting industrial economies are bigger than suggested by official debt figures that show the implications of the financial crisis and recession for fiscal balances. As frightening as it is to consider public debt increasing to more than 100% of GDP, an even greater danger arises from a rapidly ageing population. The related unfunded liabilities are large and growing, and should be a central part of today’s long-term fiscal planning.

These debt projections combine with a recent study that debt over 77% of GDP slows GDP growth. So Japan's 197% debt ratio is reducing GDP growth by almost 2% per year. So once a nations debt is around 277%, there is a 3.4% annual reduction in GDP growth and nation is stuck in economic stagnation combined with other large debt problems.

Google CEO sees a future of cloud computers empowering smartphones to augment your brain

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Google CEO Schmidt says that computers will clearly handle the things we aren’t good at, and we will handle the things computers clearly aren’t good at.

Schmidt was speaking at the Techcrunch Disrupt conference

AOL announced today that they are buying Techcrunch for a rumored $30 million.

* computers should be the ones driving cars. It seems to me (Schmidt) like a bug that cars were invented before computers.

* Google Instant provides real-time search results and shaves off microseconds of the search process to give part of your time back

* The search giant’s next step is to index just about everything else — including email and other data that people typically keep close to the chest. Google hopes to access that information “after asking for permission about 500 times” and provide users with an easier way to access the pore through the massive amount of information that a human brain typically couldn’t keep track of.

* the smartphone revolution has brought to the forefront with mobile apps like Google’s own Maps. LTE, the next generation of wireless networks that promises speeds of up to 50 megabits per second, will open up a whole host of data-intensive applications that will again “do the things that humans just aren’t good at,” Schmidt said. * Schmidt predicts that smartphones will outsell PCs within two years

National Debt Beyond 77% of total GDP starts to slow economic growth

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If a country’s public debt reaches 77 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), bad things start to happen according to a study by North Carolina State University. There is a tipping point for national debt, and if you exceed that point the amount of debt will have a linear relationship to declines in economic growth. The more debt you have, the slower your GDP will grow.

If a country’s GDP is growing at a rate of three percent annually, and it increases its debt from 80 percent to 90 percent, its economic growth will shrink the following year to 2.8 percent.

The Congressional budget office is forecasting a debt ratio of 67% by 2020, but more realistic deficity forecasts show an extra 9 trillion in debt which pushes the debt ratio up to 110%. There would be a -0.56% drag on annual GDP growth.

Magnetic Pulses to the brain could make you grow up left handed

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PNAS - Transcranial magnetic stimulation of posterior parietal cortex affects decisions of hand choice

Deciding which hand to use for an action is one of the most frequent decisions people make in everyday behavior. Using a speeded reaching task, we provide evidence that hand choice entails a competitive decision process between simultaneously activated action plans for each hand. We then show that single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation to the left posterior parietal cortex biases this competitive process, leading to an increase in ipsilateral, left hand reaches. Stimulation of the right posterior parietal cortex did not alter hand choice, suggesting a hemispheric asymmetry in the representations of reach plans. These results are unique in providing causal evidence that the posterior parietal cortex is involved in decisions of hand choice.

Andrew Allen of the Bear Robot Program is Interviewed by Sander Olson

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Here is the Andrew Allen interview by Sander Olson. Mr. Allen is the Project Manager for the BEAR robot program, which is run by Vecna robotics. The BEAR is being designed as a multipurpose, semi-autonomous robot that can escort soldiers into battlefield situations and perform various tasks. When deployed, the BEAR will be able to enter and explore burning/unsecure buildings, climb stairs, pick up and carry wounded soldiers, and transport pallets. The BEAR could work for several hours, even at night. The BEAR has a hydraulic actuator system that makes it one of the strongest robots ever built, but is capable of lifting and holding delicate objects such as light bulbs.

Question: Vecna's flagship robotics program is the BEAR robot. How did this project originate?
Answer: The Bear project began about five years ago, and is funded by the Army. It comes out of research that our CTO, Daniel Theobald, began for small, high power robotics. The Army originally wanted a robot that could extract humans, so the acronym BEAR previously stood for Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot, but now we realize that this robot is far more versatile and useful for a broad range of missions in addition to rescue. So now we just call it “the Bear”.

September 27, 2010

An organic polymer thin film could absorb as much as 10 times more energy from sunlight than was thought possible

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This schematic diagram of a thin film organic solar cell shows the top layer, a patterned, roughened scattering layer, in green. The organic thin film layer, shown in red, is where light is trapped and electrical current is generated. The film is sandwiched between two layers that help keep light contained within the thin film.

Ultra-thin solar cells can absorb sunlight more efficiently than the thicker, more expensive-to-make silicon cells used today, because light behaves differently at scales around a nanometer (a billionth of a meter), say Stanford engineers. They calculate that by properly configuring the thicknesses of several thin layers of films, an organic polymer thin film could absorb as much as 10 times more energy from sunlight than was thought possible.

The key to overcoming the theoretical limit lies in keeping sunlight in the grip of the solar cell long enough to squeeze the maximum amount of energy from it, using a technique called "light trapping." It's the same as if you were using hamsters running on little wheels to generate your electricity – you'd want each hamster to log as many miles as possible before it jumped off and ran away.

Second Generation Exoskeleton - Raytheon XOS 2

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Raytheon’s second-generation exoskeleton (XOS 2), essentially a wearable robotics suit, is lighter, stronger and faster than its predecessor, yet it uses 50 percent less power, and its new design makes it more resistant to the environment. When Raytheon's exoskeletons first become available to the military (planned for 2015), they will also likely be tethered by power cables, followed three to five years later by untethered versions. The ratio between actual and perceived weight lifted is much improved, going from 6:1 in the XOS-1 to a whopping 17:1 in the XOS-2. A 50-pound weight feels like only three pounds, and a 200-pound weight feels like only 12

The wearable robotics suit is being designed to help with the many logistics challenges faced by the military both in and out of theater. Repetitive heavy lifting can lead to injuries, orthopedic injuries in particular. The XOS 2 does the lifting for its operator, reducing both strain and exertion. It also does the work faster. One operator in an exoskeleton suit can do the work of two to three soldiers. Deploying exoskeletons would allow military personnel to be reassigned to more strategic tasks. The suit is built from a combination of structures, sensors, actuators and controllers, and it is powered by high pressure hydraulics.

Virgin Galactic on track for commercial flights within 18 months

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Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson said Monday that Virgin Galactic is on track to offer commercial space travel within 18 months (by March 2012), and that space hotels are next on the drawing board.
(H/T Instapundit

"We just finished building SpaceShipTwo. We are 18 months away from taking people into space," Branson told a business conference in Kuala Lumpur, adding that the fare will start at 200,000 dollars.

Virgin Galactic, which aims to become the world's first commercial company to promote space tourism, has already collected 45 million dollars in deposits from more than 330 people who have reserved seats aboard the six-person craft

Virgin galactic made the first solo crewed flights of VSS Enterprise (SpaceShipTwo) on July 15th, 2010

Injection of quantum dots to a cell's nucleus

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University of Illinois researchers developed a nanoneedle that releases quantum dots directly into the nucleus of a living cell when a small electrical charge is applied. The quantum dots are tracked to gain information about conditions inside the nucleus. | Image courtesy Min-Feng Yu

University of Illinois researchers who have developed a tiny needle to deliver quantum dots right to a cell’s nucleus.

Researchers have been exploring a class of nanoparticles called quantum dots, tiny specks of semiconductor material only a few molecules big that can be used to monitor microscopic processes and cellular conditions. Quantum dots offer the advantages of small size, bright fluorescence for easy tracking, and excellent stability in light.

Getting any type of molecule into the nucleus is even trickier, because it’s surrounded by an additional membrane that prevents most molecules in the cell from entering. Researchers developed a nanoneedle that also served as an electrode that could deliver quantum dots directly into the nucleus of a cell – specifically to a pinpointed location within the nucleus. The researchers can then learn a lot about the physical conditions inside the nucleus by monitoring the quantum dots with a standard fluorescent microscope.

World nuclear energy for 2010

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There are now 441 nuclear power reactors in operation with a total net installed capacity of 374.692 GW(e)

China's 13th reactor Ling Ao 3 (Unit 1 of the second phase of the Ling Ao nuclear power plant in Guangdong province, China) has entered full commercial service.

The first of 157 fuel assemblies was loaded into the reactor on 21 April after state approval for the operation to begin. The unit achieved first criticality on 9 June and was connected to the grid on 15 July. By 15 September, Ling Ao Phase II unit 1 had successfully completed 168 hours of trial operation, with an average capacity factor of over 92%

Single-shot readout of an electron spin in silicon

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Journal Nature - Single-shot readout of an electron spin in silicon

The size of silicon transistors used in microelectronic devices is shrinking to the level at which quantum effects become important. Although this presents a significant challenge for the further scaling of microprocessors, it provides the potential for radical innovations in the form of spin-based quantum computers and spintronic devices. An electron spin in silicon can represent a well-isolated quantum bit with long coherence times because of the weak spin–orbit coupling7 and the possibility of eliminating nuclear spins from the bulk crystal8. However, the control of single electrons in silicon has proved challenging, and so far the observation and manipulation of a single spin has been impossible. Here we report the demonstration of single-shot, time-resolved readout of an electron spin in silicon. This has been performed in a device consisting of implanted phosphorus donors9 coupled to a metal-oxide-semiconductor single-electron transistor10, 11—compatible with current microelectronic technology. We observed a spin lifetime of ~6 seconds at a magnetic field of 1.5 tesla, and achieved a spin readout fidelity better than 90 per cent. High-fidelity single-shot spin readout in silicon opens the way to the development of a new generation of quantum computing and spintronic devices, built using the most important material in the semiconductor industry.

Quantum Signals Converted to Telecommunications Wavelengths

Towards superconductor-spin ensemble hybrid quantum systems

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Example of how spin packets in a condensed matter system can be accessed and studied, adapted from Kubo et al. A diamond slab containing nitrogen-vacancy center spins (arrows) is positioned above a microfabricated superconducting resonator. A magnetic field BNV is applied as shown to tune the NV centers. A microwave signal excites a mode in the resonator with magnetic field Br to manipulate and probe the spin ensemble.

Ensembles of dilute spin impurities in condensed matter systems can be accessed using microelectronic circuits and therefore may offer a way for long-term storage and enhanced processing of quantum information.

The results of three separate papers on supercondutors and electron spin (described by Kubo et al., Schuster et al., and Wu et al.) point the way towards more complex models of solid-state quantum information processing and unique possibilities for studying novel quantum phenomena at the interface between heterogeneous physical systems. The coupling of mesoscopic quantum bits, which work at microwave frequencies, to atomic systems, which have optical transitions, may also lead to coherent coupling of single-photon microwaves to those of visible light, therefore enabling distributed quantum information processing.

Sumitomo Electric Develops Superconductive Cable With 50% More Current Capacity

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Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd. has developed wiring than can conduct about 50 percent more current than existing superconductive cables, targeting power producers and medical equipment makers seeking more efficient delivery of electricity.

Sumitomo, whose customers include Tokyo Electric Power Co., Asia’s biggest power producer, in 2004 started producing wires capable of delivering up to 200 amperes. So the new cable should handle 300 amperes. Bismuth-based high-temperature superconductors can transmit 200 times the electrical current of copper cables when cooled with liquid nitrogen, resulting in less wiring being needed to transmit power.

MIT, Yale and USC have a better max-flow algorithm which improve networks and logistics

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The maximum-flow problem, or max flow, is one of the most basic problems in computer science. MIT researchers, together with colleagues at Yale and the University of Southern California, have demonstrated the first improvement of the max-flow algorithm in 10 years. For an internet scale networking or logistics problem (100 billion nodes) then the new algorithm is 100 times faster. The new algorithmic approach will allow improvements to other algorithms.

The max-flow problem is, roughly speaking, to calculate the maximum amount of “stuff” that can move from one end of a network to another, given the capacity limitations of the network’s links. The stuff could be data packets traveling over the Internet or boxes of goods traveling over the highways; the links’ limitations could be the bandwidth of Internet connections or the average traffic speeds on congested roads.

More technically, the problem has to do with what mathematicians call graphs. A graph is a collection of vertices and edges, which are generally depicted as circles and the lines connecting them. The standard diagram of a communications network is a graph, as is, say, a family tree. In the max-flow problem, one of the vertices in the graph — one of the circles — is designated the source, where all the stuff comes from; another is designated the drain, where all the stuff is headed. Each of the edges — the lines connecting the circles — has an associated capacity, or how much stuff can pass over it.

Researchers able to slow and trap neutral atoms which could lead to quantum computers and femtotech

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University of Otago scientists are the first in the world to consistently isolate and capture a single neutral atom - and the first to take a photograph of Rubidium 85.

The next step is to try and generate a “state of entanglement” between the atoms, a kind of atomic romance which lasts the distance, he says. “We need to generate communication between the atoms where they can feel each other, so when they are apart they stay entangled and don’t forget each other even from a distance. This is the property that a quantum computer uses to do tasks simultaneously,” says Dr Andersen.
Nature Physics - Near-deterministic preparation of a single atom in an optical microtrap

September 26, 2010

Suspended animation for surgery to convert near certain death to 90% survival

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Previously we discussed the work of Lance Becker from his Singularity Summit talk on using supercooling for surgery.

The UK Telegraph reports on surgeons pioneering the method of inducing extreme hypothermia in trauma patients so that their bodies shut down entirely during major surgery, giving doctors more time to perform operations.

* If you drop the body's core temperature and brain temperature down to 15 degrees C or 10 degrees C you are talking about 60 minutes and even 190 minutes of protection.

* By cooling rapidly in this fashion we can convert almost certain death into a 90 per cent survival rate

* Pump are connected to the major blood vessels around the heart to remove the warm blood in the body and replace it with cold saline solution.

* the body cools by around 2 degrees C every minute, rapidly causing the body's tissues to shut down (previous techniques took 8 hours for 3 degrees of cooling)

Battery-fuel cell hybrid system for electric bicycles and batteries and other fuel cell vehicles

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-Pedego®, Electric Bikes and SiGNa Chemistry have developed a battery-fuel cell hybrid system that is compatible with all existing Pedego bicycles and batteries. For every 1.5 lbs. of weight a rider carries, an additional 700 watt-hours of energy is available. An ultra-high performance lithium-polymer battery to provide the same power would weigh 14 lbs (over 9 times the weight).

Nvidia predicts ARM smartphones will eclipse the x86 PC and Tegra 2 phones by end of 2010, Tegra 3 for 2011 and Tegra 4 by 2012

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ARM will triumph over Intel as smartphones and tablets disrupt the x86 PC industry, said Jen-Hsun Huang, chief executive of Nvidia.

* ARM will be the most important CPU architecture of the future, and it already is the fastest growing processor architecture

* The PC of the future will be made by new OEMs, sold through new distributors and use a new instruction-set architecture

* Nvidia CEO Huang does not remember in the past 30 years this much change being about to happen

Hexus reports Nvidia is about "two-thirds" focused on parallel and high-performance computing. This leaves 30 per cent of its resources for visualisation - including consumer graphics-cards - and around five percent for mobile products, namely Tegra.

Talking to press after his GTC keynote speech, company CEO Jen-Hsun Huang revealed that the next-generation Tegra 3 mobile SoC was almost finished.

Tegra 3 should be in portable devices by the end of 2011.

LG will have the Tegra 2 for the optimus smartphone

There are rumors that Motorola will release a Droid T2 smartphone using the Tegra 2 and running on the Verizon network.

The NVIDIA Tegra 2 features a number of mobile "firsts": the first mobile dual core CPU, the only ultra-low power NVIDIA GeForce GPU and the first 1080p HD mobile video processor. Taking full advantage of the two speedy 1GHz processors sharing the workload in Tegra 2, users are promised up to 2x faster Web browsing and up to 5x faster gaming performance over single core processors running at 1GHz. The NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor is also said to deliver flawless 1080p HD video playback, console-quality gaming and amazing 3D capabilities

The new Motorola smartphone will also be the first to offer Android Gingerbread. This version of Android will for instance offer built-in support for Adobe AIR applications. The blog says Gingerbread is likely version 2.5 of Android, while Honeycomb will be version 3.0. The latter is expected to be powering the upcoming Motorola tablet for Verizon Wireless, which is scheduled for release in Q1 2011.

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