December 11, 2010

End of 2010 Review of my predictions from 2006 part 2

New Theory of superconductors predicts room temperature superconductors

Arxiv - Physical Mechanism of Superconductivity (54 pages)

The possibility to achieve the room temperatures superconductivity has been argued for decades in the superconductivity research field. Because the real mechanism of superconductivity has never been revealed, so the estimates about the upper bound on the superconducting transition temperature are all empirical. Based on the superconductivity mechanism proposed in this paper, clearly, the room temperatures superconductivity must lie in the materials in which the three criteria for superconductivity have to be optimally satisfied. For the time being, we cannot predict what the upper bound of the superconducting transition temperature should be, but we assert that it is definitely higher than the room temperatures. We believe that the dream to achieve the room temperatures superconductivity will come true in the near future.

SENS life extension research gets a $500,000 donation and other Breakthrough Philanthropy

1. This week, Arizona-based businessman Jason Hope announced a $500,000 donation to SENS Foundation, a California-based non-profit organization that works to develop, promote and ensure widespread access to rejuvenation biotechnologies which comprehensively address age-related disease.

“I have had great interest in the SENS Foundation and Dr. Aubrey de Grey's work for some time now. I believe their work is essential to the advancement of human medicine and their approach to the overall problem of human aging and its associated diseases (Alzheimer's, Atherosclerosis, Diabetes, etc.) is the only way to go. Their work and the work of others that they support will drive the complete redefinition and reshaping of the healthcare, pharmaceutical, and biotech industries as we know them today. The advancement of rejuvenation biotechnologies is not only extremely important, but it is the future. I am honored to support the SENS Foundation in its efforts, and hope my support helps drive faster results for all of humanity,” said Jason Hope.

IBM lists its next five in five innovations

IBM unveils its fifth annual "Next Five in Five" -- a list of innovations with the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years.

1. Linking all of the simple sensors in cellphones and other devices to provide a realtime view of the world for scientists
2. 3D hologram conferencing
3. Metal air batteries and static electricity harvesting
4. Computers will help energize the city (cogeneration using waste heat from datacenters)
5. Personalized commutes

December 10, 2010

Navy: Dahlgren Railgun test is successful

the Navy has the goal of using the railgun to fire 200 nautical miles with Mach 7 velocity using 64 megajoules with full deployment to ships in about 2020-2025.

The Office of Naval Research said railgun achieved a world-record 33-megajoule shot. That energy measurement means the Navy could fire projectiles at least 110 miles.

Japan could use old cloth dipped in persimmon juice to enable cheaper extraction of uranium and rare earths from seawater

Research has been underway in Japan on technologies to recover traces of uranium contained in seawater. One of the technologies uses a method involving submerging a material that adsorbs uranium in the sea, and chemically separating and refining the collected uranium after the adsorbent material is pulled out of seawater. The cost of recovering uranium through this method is estimated to be about three-fold higher than the current market price of uranium, research and development efforts for cost reduction are also in the works. Costs could be reduced by 40% or more. This would make it about 1.8 times higher than current uranium prices. Plus Japan could get some Vanadium at the same time. Rare earth that they need. Contribution of vanadium would lower uranium costs by $4 per pound.

Genetically engineered seaweed to have the tannins in Perisimmons and with similarities in fiber to the cotton may be a path to affordable large scale uranium from seawater. The seaweed could also have uses for biofuel to help offset costs with another useful biproduct.

UPDATE : The outline of how Japan has considered scaling up ocean mining using either engineered seaweed or treated cotton or polymer adsorpants. They would put a lot of material in the path of an ocean current and scale it to extract thousands of tons of material each year.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) conducted experiments in 1999 and 2001 in the sea off Japan using a uranium adsorbent having an amidoxime structure, which reacts sensitively only with heavy metals. The second experiment succeeded in collecting 1.5 g of uranium for each kg of the adsorbent over a period of 30 days. Based on this result, the cost of recovering 1 kg of uranium can be estimated to be about 32,000 yen, about three times higher than the current uranium price on the market. However, because this method allows vanadium, a rare metal, to be recovered together with uranium, there is a potential for reducing the cost burden, according to JAEA.

US oil and gas proven reserve increased in 2009

US oil and gas reserve estimates increased in 2009 according the Energy Information Administration report of Nov 2010 (28 pages)

Texas’ Permian basin topped North Dakota’s Bakken play as contributors to a 9% increase in US crude oil and condensate reserves in 2009 as shale plays drove gas reserves to the highest since 1971.

Wet gas reserves climbed 11% (28.8 trillion cubic feet) in 2009 to 284 tcf, and oil and condensate reserves hit 22.3 billion bbl (EIA).

Overall shale gas reserves climbed to 60.6 tcf from 34.4 tcf at the end of 2008. Conventional and tight gas reserves climbed to 283.9 tcf from 255 tcf, with most of the increase occurring in the Lower 48 onshore. Coalbed methane reserves fell to 18.6 tcf from 20.8 tcf.

US crude and condensate reserves in 2009 grew 1.5 billion bbl from discoveries and 2.1 billion bbl from revisions mostly the result of extensions to existing fields. Production was 1.8 billion bbl in 2009.

There was a Globe and Mail article that North America could be the new Energy Kingdom

With rising production from shale fields, the U.S. surpassed Russia last year to become the world’s largest supplier of natural gas. Shale now accounts for 10 per cent of the country’s natural gas production – up from 2 per cent in 1990.

Carnival of Space 180

The Carnival of Space 180 is up at Starry Critters

Astronotes writes that Red Dwarf stars could be the most important type of star in the universe.

A G-type star has but a brief window for life to flourish on its planets, before it expands to a red giant in a cosmic eye blink, then spending perhaps a quadrillion years as a cooling white dwarf. In contrast, a red dwarf will shine steadily but faintly on its children across a lifetime perhaps a thousand times that of the Sun. Eventually there will be a time when red dwarfs are the only living stars in the Universe, all the others which gleam so bright today will be dead stellar husks. If thinking beings can arise on the planets of red dwarfs, one day the Universe will belong to them.

The Sun is expected to exist as a main sequence star for some 10 billion years, but a red dwarf one tenth its size ought to shine on for a thousand times longer, ten trillion years.

Red dwarfs not only outnumber every other type of star in the Universe but will outlive every other type of star.

12 fastest growing economies of 2011

Economy Watch lists the 12 fastest growing economies of 2011

GDP Growth                    Value     2011 forecasted population and GDP
(Constant Prices, 
National Currency)      

Ghana                         20.146 %  (24.3 million people, US$23.4 billion GDP)
Qatar                         14.337 %  (1.5 million people, US$132 billion GDP)
Turkmenistan                  12.178 %  (5.5 million people, US$41 billion GDP PPP)
China                          9.908 %  (1.35 billion people, US$6.0 trillion GDP)
Liberia                        9.003 %  (3.97 million people, US$1.05 billion GDP)
India                          8.43 %   (1.23 billion people, US$1.5 trillion GDP)
Angola                         8.251 %  (18.4 million people, US$ 99 billion GDP)
Iraq                           7.873 %  (32.8 million people , US$93 billion GDP)
Ethiopia                       7.663 %  (87 million people, US$31.7 billion GDP)
Mozambique                     7.548 %  (22 million people, US$10.5 billion GDP)
Timor Leste (East Timor)       7.4 %    (1.13 million people ,US$732 million GDP)
Laos                           7.395 %  (6.62 million people, US$6.9 billion GDP)

US Energy generation additions in 2010 were mostly coal and natural gas

For the first 11 months of 2010, a total of 16,500 MW of capacity came online in the USA:

6,682 MW of coal; [73.6% capacity factor 2007]
6,016 MW of natural gas; [combined cycle 42% capacity factor]
3,119 MW of wind; [36% capacity factor]
454 MW of biomass and waste products;
150 MW of solar;
50 MW of geothermal and
23 MW of hydro. [36% capacity factor]

Also for the first 11 months of 2010, 2,300 MW of capacity retired:
1,879 MW of natural gas;
287 MW of coal;
87 MW of renewable
and 25 MW of oil

Net additions were first 11 months of 2010
6395 MW of coal
4137 MW of natural gas
3,119 MW of wind;
454 MW of biomass and waste products;
150 MW of solar;
50 MW of geothermal
23 MW of hydro.
-87MW renewable
-25MW of oil

Elegant planet formation theory

MIT Technology Review - a new planet formation theory the conventional model on its head.

Planet formation begins at distances in excess of 50 AU from the mother star, when random variations in the density of the protoplanetary gas cloud begin to attract more gas and so grow under the force of gravity.

Inside these loose clumps, called giant planet embryos, any rocky material aggregates at the centre forming a rocky core. These cores all rotate in the same direction as the original gas cloud because they from by the gravitational collapse of the cloud rather than by random collisions.

As the cores are forming, the embryonic planets interact with the mother star's gas cloud causing them to spiral inwards.

When the embryonic planets get closer than this critical radius, they loose their gas envelopes leaving behind terrestrial rocky planets like ours.

Incidentally, at the critical radius, the inspiralling planets discard not only gas but any solids still mixed up in their outer atmospheres. This radius corresponds to the asteroid belt in our system. This new thinking explains for the first time how the belt formed and why it separates the gas giants from the terrestrial planets.

SARTRE project ready to road test car platooning by the end of the year

The Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) project in Europe aims to develop a wireless system that will allow cars on a public highway or motorway to join in a platoon, or semi-autonomous “road train” of vehicles with a professional driver in a single vehicle (such as a bus or truck) at the front driving for all vehicles in the platoon. The project will reach a major milestone of its first on-road tests before the end of this year.

The first year of the project concentrated on refining the concept and investigating the most feasible means of creating a platooning system. Realistic simulations have also been carried out at Tecnalia in Bilbao, Spain, to gauge the reactions of a wide variety of drivers to being placed in a platoon in which they travel at high speed close behind another vehicle but without controlling their vehicle themselves. The simulator also monitored the reactions of drivers who were not part of the platoon, but were driving in the same environment.

In 2011 and 2012 the group aims to demonstrate the system with a five-vehicle convoy as a final goal of the project.

Robotic car advocate Brad Templeton discusses the project. Nextbigfuture also advocates robotic cars.

It’s the easiest way to get a robocar on the highway, but comes with a particularly high risk if it fails — and failure in the earliest stages of robocar projects is very likely.

Monolithic 3D computer chips could have ten thousand times the connectivity of through-silicon-vias

1. EEtimes - True monolithic three-dimensional (3-D) silicon chips will beat die stacked with through-silicon-vias (TSVs) by a factor of 10,000 in connectivity, according to serial entrepreneur Zvi Or-Bach, founder of NuFGA Inc. and a past winner of the EE Times Innovator of the Year Award. Or-Bach will show how to make true monolithic 3-D chips at the 3-D Architectures for Semiconductor Integration and Packaging conference in Burlingame, Calif.

According to Or-Bach, NuPGA's 3-D IC fabrication techniques can be used to stack memory on top of a processor, to stack bit-wide memory chips into byte-wide configurations or just to shrink the die of existing designs by optimizing chip area versus height. Any number of chip layers can be composed, according to Or-Bach, enabling general-purpose monolithic 3-D to reduce chip areas by as much as three times over conventional 2-D.

December 09, 2010

Crowdsourcing and the future of working on your own terms

Trada Founder/CEO Niel Robertson. Niel moderated the panel; "The Human Cloud: Elastic Workforce in the Enterprise".

Crowdsourcing has captured the imagination of people in the enterprise. The concept is that of a "Human Cloud" for labor. While it has proven itself effective, in many cases, modern managers are confused, wondering which everyday tasks can be crowdsourced, how to define the tasks, and under what conditions an elastic workforce is the right decision? In a conversation with three of the leading minds in crowdsourcing, we ask how an elastic workforce can be utilized, and what managers should understand when considering such solutions.

The underlying theme, as Webb noted: people should be able to “work on their terms,” and as Chiarella stated, “technology allows people to have a choice.”

Pure nanotube-type growth edges toward the possible

New research at Rice University could ultimately show scientists the way to make batches of nanotubes of a single type.

A paper in the online journal Physical Review Letters unveils an elegant formula by Rice University physicist Boris Yakobson and his colleagues that defines the energy of a piece of graphene cut at any angle.

Yakobson said it would be a real game-changer if they could, for instance, grow batches of pure armchair nanotubes for use in such projects as armchair quantum nanowire (AQW). As imagined by Rice's late Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley, AQW could revolutionize the nation's power grid by carrying 10 times the amount of electricity as copper at only one-sixth the weight.

Yakobson's work may open a path to do so. A nanotube's chirality is determined by the combination of energies at play in its nucleation. "When it just emerges from the ‘primordial soup’ of carbon, the edge of the tube is essentially the same as the edge of graphene," he said.

"At first, it's just a cap. There's no stem yet. You're frying these caps on a skillet, and they're bubbling," he said. "The probability for different bubbles to emerge is controlled by energy around the edge."

Physical Review Letters - Graphene Edge from Armchair to Zigzag: The Origins of Nanotube Chirality?

Rice University researchers build microbatteries with nanowire hearts

Rice University researchers have moved a step closer to creating robust, three-dimensional microbatteries that would charge faster and hold other advantages over conventional lithium-ion batteries. They could power new generations of remote sensors, display screens, smart cards, flexible electronics and biomedical devices.

The batteries employ vertical arrays of nickel-tin nanowires perfectly encased in PMMA, a widely used polymer best known as Plexiglas. The Rice laboratory of Pulickel Ajayan found a way to reliably coat single nanowires with a smooth layer of a PMMA-based gel electrolyte that insulates the wires from the counter electrode while allowing ions to pass through.

Nanoletters - Conformal Coating of Thin Polymer Electrolyte Layer on Nanostructured Electrode Materials for Three-Dimensional Battery Applications

Scott Adams writer of Dilbert has a hilarious article about Sweden, Julian Assange and wikileaks

Scott Adams, the writer of the Dilbert cartoons, has a hilarious article about Sweden, Julian Assange and wikileaks

Julian Assange simply wanted to release some embarrassing information, have hot sex with a Swedish babe then have hot sex with an acquaintance of that same babe one day later. That's just one example of why the Swedish language has 400 words that all mean "and your cute friend is next."

But things didn't turn out as Assange hoped. The unintended consequence of his actions is that he managed to make Sweden look like a country that's governed by congenital idiots and populated with nothing but crazy sluts and lawyers. And don't get me started about the quality of their condoms.

Fictional starship sizes compared and the cost to transport the materials for them to orbit

Jeremy Keith, one of the instigators of the first Science Hack Day, spent the weekend thinking about the space elevators, a beloved piece of not-yet-existing technology. His hack, Spacelift is an interactive table that compares the costs of getting spacecraft payloads into geosynchronous orbit using a space elevator instead of a traditional rocket. He writes, "By far the trickiest info to track down was the mass of fictional spacecraft," he writes, but "having such smart, helpful people around made the whole exercise a joy. It was quite a pleasure to walk over to a group of hackers, ask 'Is anyone here a rocket scientist?' and have at least one person raise their hand."

The cost calculation is not for developing the technology or for developing and assembling them, but just for how much it would cost to move the weight into orbit using different current or near current modes of transportation.

There is a website that compares the sizes of many fictional starships in pictures and in different scales.

Note - you have scroll over to the right to get ships from Farscape and Star Wars. Below is a tiny sample at the 1X dimension.

TVA and other utilities look to small modular nuclear reactors to replace coal plants

The Economist has a discussion of small modular nuclear reactors

Small nuclear reactor can use existing power-transmission lines without overloading them. mPower and other small reactors can act as a “drop-in replacement” for ageing coal furnaces without the need for costly refurbishment. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), America’s biggest public utility, hopes to put two of the firm’s reactors into an old coal plant. Five other American utilities are also considering replacing coal furnaces with nuclear reactors, according to Philip Moor of the American Nuclear Society, an industry group. He estimates that in America alone perhaps 100 old coal plants could be converted to nuclear within a decade—a trice by the industry’s standards.

The TVA has taken the first steps towards getting six mPower reactors

Air bubbles will reduce drag and improve fuel economy by 5-20% for ships

Economist - If you blow a lot of air bubbles under a ship, and keep them coming, “good things will happen”, says Steven Ceccio, an expert on bubbles at the University of Michigan’s mechanical-engineering department in Ann Arbor. When air is pumped rapidly out of small holes in a ship’s hull, the swarming bubbles will quickly join together and coat the hull with a layer of air a centimetre or two thick. This reduces drag, because air offers far less resistance than water.

Fuel savings of 5-10% are within reach, says Dr Ceccio. He studies air-lubrication systems, as the field is known, for the American navy, even though warships generally have V-shaped hulls, which facilitate fast travel but are unfriendly to bubbles. Almost all cargo vessels, by contrast, have flat bottoms, which allow a larger volume to be kept buoyant for a given amount of hull metal. Bubbles work well on these and, since the cost of fuel is often more than half of a cargo ship’s total operating expenses, the potential savings are huge.

Commercial shipping uses 9% of the worlds oil and causes 60,000 death per year from air pollution. US academic research which showed that pollution from the world's 90,000 cargo ships leads to 60,000 deaths a year in the US alone and costs up to $330bn per year in health costs from lung and heart diseases. One giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50 million cars.

EU funds Electric solar sail project

The European union has selected the Finnish Meteorological Institute to lead an international space effort whose goal is to build the largest and fastest man-made device.

In December 8-9, 2010, the kickoff meeting of the electric sail EU project was held at the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The ESAIL project will last for three years, its EU funding contribution is 1.7 million euros and its goal is to build the laboratory prototypes of the key components of the electric sail.

Esail website

When accelerating, the theoretical limit is the solar wind speed 400-800 km/s (895,000 mph - 1,790,000 mph) which is about 0.1% of speed of light. It might be possible to use an electric sail as a brake for an interstellar probe which has been accelerated to high speed by some other method such as the laser sail.

December 08, 2010

UCSF team develops “logic gates” to program bacteria as computers

A team of UCSF researchers has engineered E. coli with the key molecular circuitry that will enable genetic engineers to program cells to communicate and perform computations.

The work builds into cells the same logic gates found in electronic computers and creates a method to create circuits by “rewiring” communications between cells. This system can be harnessed to turn cells into miniature computers

Nature - Robust multicellular computing using genetically encoded NOR gates and chemical ‘wires’

Space Colonization: A Study of Supply and Demand

Fully Reusable Earth to Orbit Stage (FRETOS) combined with Tether Upper Stage (TUS) provide cheap access to orbit. Credit: Dana Andrews/Roger Lenard.

Centauri Dreams reports that Dana Andrews proposes a lunar sling for launching metal products to Earth, but goes into greater detail on what any space infrastructure requires going out of the gate: A simple and inexpensive way to get to Earth orbit, what he calls FRETOS — Fully Reusable Earth-to-Orbit Systems. A fleet of five launchers supporting a flight rate of 1000 launches per year using four tethers is at the heart of the proposal. On the space side, a Skyhook capture device located at 300 kilometers orbital altitude is part of a picture that also includes a Low Earth Orbit station at 1000 kilometers, a powered winch module at 1700 kilometers and a counter-balance at 2400 kilometers. The total mass of the space segment is estimated at 190 metric tons, including 2100 kilometers of tether lines, high-speed winches, power generation arrays, counter balances and station-keeping components, all to be launched separately and docked together for assembly.

What kind of resources are we talking about? Andrews enumerates quite a few, a list on which items like rhenium — used in fuel-efficient aircraft engines — stand out. The price of rhenium is now over $11,000 a kilogram, twelve times what it was just four years ago. Reserves of indium, which is used in solar cells and LCDs, are forecast to run out within ten years, and so is the hafnium we use in computer chips and nuclear control rods. Such shortages and accompanying price increases can be the driver for space commercialization. Andrews proposes moving the mining and smelting of key non-renewable resources to the Moon, providing access to high grade ores and transferring potentially polluting mining operations away from our planet.

Many asteroids are richer in most of these precious metals than the richest Earth ores which we mine. Further, these metals all occur in one ore when it comes to asteroids, not in separate ores.

Intel will build 450mm fab and Samsung using 3D chips for more energy efficient memory

1. Samsung announced the development of an eight gigabyte (GB) registered dual inline memory module based on its advanced Green DDR3 DRAM. The new memory module, which has just been successfully tested by major Samsung customers, delivers superior performance, in particular because of its use of a three-dimensional (3D) chip stacking technology referred to as ‘through silicon via' (TSV).

An 8GB RDIMM utilizing Samsung’s 3D TSV technology saves up to 40 percent of the power consumed by a conventional RDIMM. Also, the TSV technology allows for a dramatic improvement in memory chip density that is expected to offset the decrease of memory sockets in next generation server systems. In the face of a 30 percent decrease in memory slots in next-generation servers, the TSV technology will be able to raise the DRAM density by more than 50 percent, making it highly attractive for high-density, high-performance server systems.

Increasingly widespread adoption of the 3D TSV technology is expected to take place from 2012. Samsung plans to apply the higher performance and lower power features of its TSV technology to 30nm-class* and finer process nodes.

One of Ray Kurzweil's predictions for around 2009 was that 3D chips would be common.

Elusive spintronics success could lead to single chip for processing and memory

Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London (UK) and the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) have shown that a magnetically polarised current can be manipulated by electric fields.

This important discovery opens up the prospect of simultaneously processing and storing data on electrons held in the molecular structure of computer chips - combining computer memory and processing power on the same chip.

"This is especially exciting, as this discovery has been made with flexible organic semiconductors, which are set to be the new generation of displays for mobile devices, TVs and computer monitors, and could offer a step-change in power efficiency and reduced weight of these devices," said Dr Alan Drew, from Queen Mary's School of Physics, who led the research

Nature Materials - Engineering spin propagation across a hybrid organic/inorganic interface using a polar layer

Scalable approach to addressing atomic qubits and teleporting quantum entanglement gate

Arxiv - Independent individual addressing of multiple neutral atom qubits with a MEMS beam steering system (9 pages)

One of several promising approaches to quantum computing uses arrays of individual atoms suspended by electromagnetic forces. Pulses of laser light manipulate the internal states of the atoms that represent the qubits, to carry out the calculation. However the lasers must also be focused and aimed so accurately that light meant for one atom doesn't affect its neighbors.

The new system did just that. Tiny micromirrors, each only twice the diameter of a human hair, pointed to each target atom in as little as 5 microseconds, which is about 1,000 times faster than sophisticated beam-steering mirrors developed for optical communications switching, not to mention the still slower units used in light shows. The researchers saw that the laser pulses also correctly manipulated the quantum properties of each target atom – in this case a line of five rubidium-87 atoms -- without disturbing any neighboring atoms, which were separated by just 8.7 microns, about one-tenth the diameter of a human hair.

We demonstrate a scalable approach to addressing multiple atomic qubits for use in quantum information processing. Individually trapped 87Rb atoms in a linear array are selectively manipulated with a single laser guided by a MEMS beam steering system. Single qubit oscillations are shown on multiple sites at frequencies of about 3.5 MHz with negligible crosstalk to neighboring sites. Switching times between the central atom and its closest neighbor were measured to be 6-7 μs while moving between the central atom and an atom two trap sites away took 10-14 μs.

Lasers could be used to create matter and antimatter from vacuum in a theoretical physics breakthrough

Arxiv - Pair Creation in QED-Strong Pulsed Laser Fields Interacting
with Electron Beams (25 pages)

QED-effects are known to occur in a strong laser pulse interaction with a counterpropagating electron beam, among these effects being electron-positron pair creation. We discuss the range of laser pulse intensities of J ≥ 5 · 10^22 W/cm2 combined with electron beam energies of tens of GeV. In this regime multiple pairs may be generated from a single beam electron, some of the newborn particles being capable of further pair production. Radiation back-reaction prevents avalanche development and limits pair creation. The system of integro-differential kinetic equations for electrons, positrons and -photons is derived and solved numerically.

Japan uses induced pluripotent stem cells to enable paralyzed monkeys to walk and jump again

Paralyzed marmoset monkeys are walking again after a Japanese research team transplanted induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) into the animals' spines -- the first time the treatment has succeeded in a primate subject. Getting closer to restoring paralyzed humans. Treatment works best within 9 days of injury, so it will work best to prevent newly injured people from remaining paralyzed. Need to have stem cell bank to enable timely treatment.

Okano and his team began their research with damaging the spinal cords of marmosets, paralyzing them from the neck down. They then transplanted cells that would become nerve tissue, produced from iPS cells, into the damaged area nine days after the injury -- the most effective timing for such transplant treatment.

The researchers found that the marmosets soon began to regain some motor function, and could both stand on their hind legs and grip things with their hands around a month after the transplant. The team believes the transplanted cells did become nerve cells, regenerating the damaged spinal tissue. They used a type of iPS that has little chance of becoming cancerous -- one of the primary challenges of stem cell research -- and none of the marmosets had developed tumors three months after the procedure.

"The marmosets have dramatically recovered from their injuries to the extent that they can repeatedly jump," Okano said, adding that he hoped to proceed with research into transplants using even safer types of iPS cells.

Spacex has launched the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon capsule

Spacex has launched the Falcon 9 and a Dragon cargo capsule

MSNBC and other report a perfect launch into orbit.

Musk has said the really "risky bit" is still to come, when the Dragon is due to descend after making two or three orbits at an altitude of 186 miles (300 kilometers). Splashdown could come as early as 2:02 p.m. ET. If the thrusters don't work just right, or if the craft's heat shield fails, the Dragon could literally go down in flames. But even then, the SpaceX team would be able to chalk up today's flight as a "75 percent success,"

UPDATE: A successful return to earth is being reported as well.

CNN and many other places have coverage

Space Exploration Corp.'s Dragon spaceship blasted off from Cape Canaveral at 10:42 a.m. Wednesday morning atop a Falcon 9 rocket, beginning a groundbreaking test for the commercial spaceflight industry.

If the entire mission goes as planned, it will mark the first time a private company has launched and re-entered a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit -- and could signal a new stage in NASA's plan to privatize the spaceflight industry.

SpaceX currently holds a $1.6 billion contract from NASA to transport cargo into space but not people.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, said in July that if all goes well after a series of test flights, SpaceX will be ready to begin flying cargo to the space station next year.

Musk says they can begin ferrying astronauts to the space station within three years.

Quasi-liquid memristors might make better brain implants

Researchers at North Carolina State University have demonstrated new "soft" electronic components, built from liquid metals and hydrogels. The scientists hope that such components—quasi-liquid diodes and memristors—will work better than traditional electronics to interface with wet squishy things, such as the human brain.

Ju-Hee So, a graduate student in chemistry at NC State, described a quasi-liquid diode at the fall meeting of the Materials Research Society in Boston last week. The device’s electrodes are made of an alloy—75 percent gallium and 25 percent indium—that is highly conductive and liquid at room temperature. The electrode is housed within a plastic casing. Sandwiched between the electrodes are two films made of agarose, a hydrogel commonly used in biochemistry that is more than 90 percent water by weight. Each film is doped with electrolytes; one contains polyacrylic acid (PAA), and the other holds polyethyleneimine (PEI), which is a base.

December 07, 2010

Cloud computing will add 1 trillion in productivity over the next five years and cloud services enable streaming of games like world of warcraft to smartphones

1. Cloud computing will boost job creation in the European union, and add 763 billion euros ($1,019 billion) in productivity to the top economies over the next five years, according to a study from the Centre of Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

"We believe cloud computing will impact to tune of 177 billion euros (a year) by 2015," said Andrew Moloney, a director at U.S.-based IT firm EMC Corp. (EMC.N), which commissioned the study.

A 360° camera that sees in 3D like the eye of a fly

Surround sight has come to the camera. Inspired by the eye of a fly, EPFL scientists have invented a camera that can take pictures and film in 360° and reconstruct the images in 3D. Over one hundred cameras, similar to those used in mobile phones, are crowded onto a metallic hemisphere the size of an orange. Because they are so close together, their range of vision overlaps slightly. A second, miniature prototype has also been developed. It’s about the size of a golf ball and has 15 cameras.

It will be the ideal tool for videoconferences, video surveillance, movie making, and creating backgrounds for video games. Researchers from two EPFL laboratories have invented a revolutionary camera that can film everything around it, simultaneously and in real time, and then reproduce the images in three dimensions, distortion-free. A patent application has been filed.

Graphene and other Ultracapacitors

Researchers at Nanotek Instruments in Dayton, Ohio, have now made graphene electrodes that could lead to ultracapacitors with more than five times the energy density of commercial devices. By using graphene--atom-thick sheets of carbon--Nanotek increases the surface area of the electrodes in the ultracapacitors, boosting the amount of charge that they can store.

Shanghai 15 year olds score highest in math, science and reading but China needs education and immigration reforms to maximize needed talent

The province of Shanghai, China, took part in a OECD eduction study for the first time and scored higher in reading than any country. It also topped the table in maths and science. More than one-quarter of Shanghai’s 15-year-olds demonstrated advanced mathematical thinking skills to solve complex problems, compared to an OECD average of just 3%

Korea and Finland top the OECD’s latest PISA survey of reading literacy among 15-year olds, which for the first time tested students’ ability to manage digital information.

ABC news reviewed the international eduation rankings.

The 2009 PISA data demonstrate the rise in the quality of education in Asia -- among the top performers were Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and Korea

The full report is here

A Forbes article indicates that China needs better higher education to cement superpower status

What those scores represented, though, was not Chinese educational superiority but an unhealthy focus on standardized testing.

To cement its superpower status, China needs to improve its educational system so it doesn't just produce great academic research and innovation but also attracts the world's top students. All great powers draw in the world's best and train the future leaders of their allies and vassal states. That is soft power at its finest. The British have had Eton and Oxford, the U.S. St. Paul's and Harvard. China needs its own global centers of learning.

What should be done? China should continue to encourage students to go abroad to gain expertise to bring back, but it also needs to strengthen its education system internally. Aside from introducing more liberal arts at the university level, as I have written before, reform needs to start at the primary school level.

25 most valuable blogs in America according to 24/7 Wall Street

24.7 Wall Street has an updated estimate of the 25 most valuable blogs in America

Blogs that were on previous lists that were sold include Ars Technica and Last year we ranked TechCrunch as the fifth most valuable blog with a value of $32 million. Based on recent media reports, AOL acquired the blog for $25 million to $40 million. 24/7 had estimated its revenue at $9.5 million and operating profit at $3 million.

1. Gawker value $240 million
The sites have about 235 million pageviews a month, and CPMs average $19 per page. This means the company’s revenue is $53.6 million.

2. The Huffington Post.
Valuation: $150 million.

The large news and information blog has more than 20 million unique visitors and 24/7 estimates pageviews per month of 180 million. Attempts by the company’s new management and sales staff to raise the quality of the site have worked. Average CPMs on each page is up to $13. Huffington’s revenue for 2010 will be close to $28 million. Expensive business model with 150 employees.

3. Drudge report - Value $50 million
Drudge revenue in 2010 will be nearly $13 million. The site’s unique visitors are higher than last year, up about 30% to 13 million.

Using new diamond-like materials to make more reliable nanoelectromechanical systems

Researchers at Northwestern University, the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies at Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, and Binghamton University have found a way to dramatically improve the reliability of carbon nanotube-based nanoelectromechanical (NEMS) systems. Their results are published in the journal Small.

* NEMS have a tendency to stick shut, burn or fracture after only a few cycles.

* To date, carbon nanotube-based nanoelectromechanical devices have ubiquitously used metal, thin-film electrodes

* They replaced these electrodes with electrodes made from diamond-like carbon (an electrically-conductive and mechanical robust material), which suppressed the onset of failure

Bristol University Developing the real life Sonic Screwdriver which is a key Dr Who Gadget

Ultrasonic engineers at Bristol University and The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair are uncovering how a real life version of the fictional screwdriver - which uses sonic technology to open locks and undo screws - could be created.

Professor of Ultrasonics, Bruce Drinkwater, who is working with The Big Bang to inspire young scientists of the future, says the answer lies in ultrasonic sound waves. Ultrasonics can be used to apply forces to objects.

World Economic Trends through 2100 and Quadrillion dollar economies

Currently the world economy is $74 trillion on a purchasing power parity basis. the IMF is forecasting about 6% per year growth through 2015 for a world economy of $99 trillion.

Goldman Sachs has projected a world economy of over $200 trillion in 2050

Robert Fogel, nobel prize winning economist has projected China to have 123 trillion GDP in 2040 China's share of global GDP -- 40 percent -- will dwarf that of the United States (14 percent) and the European Union (5 percent) 30 years from now. So the World economy he is projecting is $307 trillion in 2040.

A world economy ten times larger will be a quadrillion dollar economy. Inflation and using future dollars will accelerate that milestone.

Increasing growth every 20 years
Year    flat 6% 6-11%   6-18%
2015    100     100     100    (trillions of dollars, World GDP PPP)
2020    134     134     134  
2030    241     241     241    2.5 times energy
                               30K per cap  
2040    431     474     571    3-4 times energy
                               50-70K per cap 
2050    770     940    1390    5-10 times
                               80K-140K per cap 
2060    1380   2000    4300    10-20 times energy
                               140K-430K per cap
2070    2500   4500   13700    15-40 times energy
                               250k-1.37 Million per cap
2080    4400  11600   56000    20-80 times energy
                               440K-5.6 M per cap  
2090    8000  30000  230000    35-200 times energy
                               800K-23 M percap     

2100   14000  86000 1200000    60-500 times energy
                               1.4M - 120 Million per cap

OECD report compares nuclear, gas, coal, solar and wind costs

The bottom third shows the costs in China and Korea and Asia where most of the construction of new power generation of any kind is happening.

An OECD report compares nuclear, gas, coal and wind costs.

The whole OECD energy cost report is here

The executive summary has the LCOE (levelised cost of electricity) of solar photovoltaic at $215 to 600/MWH and solar thermal $136-243/MWH.

For nuclear $43-54 /MWH for the main asian (China and South Korea) countries that are building most of the new reactors (10% discount rate) and $68/MWH for russia.

New nuclear build in South Korea and China and Russia are very cheap. That is where most of the reactors (nuclear and other new power) will be built. China will also build almost twice as much hydro from 2010-2020 (almost 200 GWe of hydro and a lot of coal.)

Interview of Gene Sequencing expert William Andregg of Halcyon Molecular by Sander Olson

Here is the William Andregg interview by Sander Olson. Mr. Andregg is the CEO and founder of Halcyon Molecular. Along with his brother, Michael, William invented the core polymer placement technology which allows rapid and inexpensive sequencing of DNA. Mr. Andregg is confident that by 2015 complete human genomes will be sequenced for only $1,000. He believes that DNA sequencing will eventually become sufficiently sophisticated, automated, and inexpensive that scientists will be able to sequence every tree in a forest, and may lead to advanced nanotechnology.

In a recent episode of TechCrunch TV’s “Speaking Of..”, Halcyon Molecular CEO William Andregg spoke about his dream to extend human lifespans long enough to travel to other star systems. William explains how his early focus on astronomy and physics eventually gave way to intense study of biology for that reason. In the video, he says how he is fascinated by long-living creatures like the Galápagos tortoise and bowhead whale, and expresses optimism about how advanced biotechnology could determine their longevity-relevant molecular differences and use that knowledge to develop life-extension therapies for humans.

Question: How much does it currently cost to sequence ones genome?

Answer: Depends on what you mean by “sequence ones genome”. If you want a truly complete sequence, you can’t get that now. You could spend millions of dollars and you still wouldn’t have even a single truly complete human genome. There are much cheaper options to get something far less accurate and useful- getting down to about $10,000 currently. But we’re hoping that in five years when people talk about “sequencing ones genome”, they really mean it- really sequencing the whole thing, not just seeing part of it.

Using the Tobacco mosaic virus to self assemble lithium ion battery components and increase energy capacity by ten times

Engineers have discovered that they can harness the characteristics of Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) to build tiny components for the lithium ion batteries of the future

The rigid, rod-shaped Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), which under an electron microscope looks like uncooked spaghetti, is a well-known and widespread plant virus that devastates tobacco, tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetation. Engineers can modify the TMV rods to bind perpendicularly to the metallic surface of a battery electrode and arrange the rods in intricate and orderly patterns on the electrode. Then, they coat the rods with a conductive thin film that acts as a current collector and finally the battery's active material that participates in the electrochemical reactions.

The researchers can greatly increase the electrode surface area and its capacity to store energy and enable fast charge/discharge times. TMV becomes inert during the manufacturing process; the resulting batteries do not transmit the virus. The new batteries, however, have up to a 10-fold increase in energy capacity over a standard lithium ion battery.

One acre of tobacco can be used to produce one pound of TMV.

ReWalk robotic exoskeleton to go on sale January 2011 to help parapalegics walk

ReWalk can help paraplegics to stand and walk - using crutches for stability - when they lean forward and move their upper body in different ways.

Regular usage of the device, which costs about $100,000, would prevent costly complications that often arise in people who can't walk, including pressure sores and urinary, digestive, circulatory, and cardiovascular problems.

The ReWalk weighs 15 kg (33 lbs.) and is designed to serve as a physical training device for those undergoing rehabilitation. By maintaining users upright on a daily basis it also helps alleviate many of the health-related problems associated with long-tern wheelchair use such as urinary, respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive problems.

The ReWalk has been undergoing clinical trials in Israel and the U.S. for several years and Argo Medical Technologies now plans to start selling the device to rehabilitation centers around the world from January 2011 for a cost of around US$100,000.

Personalized Vaccine for Lymphoma Patients Extends Disease-Free Survival by Nearly Two Years

A personalized vaccine is a powerful therapy to prevent recurrence among certain follicular lymphoma patients (University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine).

Vaccination with IgM but Not IgG Idiotype (proteins) Prolongs Remission Duration In Follicular Lymphoma Patients.

Individuals who responded to initial chemotherapy and remained in remission for at least six months were eligible to continue in the trial, and received either a personalized idiotype vaccine plus an immune-stimulating agent called GM-CSF, or placebo vaccine plus GM-CSF. When researchers analyzed the patients who received at least one dose of personalized vaccine, they saw a 14-month improvement in disease-free survival, compared to those who received the placebo. The 76 patients treated with the vaccine had a median disease-free survival of 44.2 months, compared to 30.6 months for the 41 patients treated with the placebo.

December 06, 2010

Medieval England had $1000 per capita income and an earlier ramp up for the Industrial Revolution

New research led by economists at the University of Warwick reveals that medieval England was not only far more prosperous than previously believed, it also actually boasted an average income that would be more than double the average per capita income of the world’s poorest nations today.

In a paper entitled British Economic Growth 1270-1870 published by the University of Warwick’s Centre on Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) the researchers find that living standards in medieval England were far above the “bare bones subsistence” experience of people in many of today’s poor countries.

This new figure of $1,000 is not only significantly higher than previous estimates for that period in England – it also indicates that on average medieval England was better off than some of the world’s poorest nations today

The research shows that the path to the Industrial Revolution began far earlier than commonly has been understood. A widely held view of economic history suggests that the Industrial Revolution of 1800 suddenly took off, in the wake of centuries without sustained economic growth or appreciable improvements in living standards in England from the days of the hunter-gatherer. By contrast, we find that the Industrial Revolution did not come out of the blue. Rather, it was the culmination of a long period of economic development stretching back as far as the late medieval period

This relates to technology singularity economics.

Robin Hanson has a theory related to shifts in economic growth rates.

Mode      Doubling   Date Began   Doubles  Doubles  Transition
  Grows     Time (DT)  To Dominate  of DT    of WP    CES Power
----------  ---------  -----------  ------   -------  ----------
Brain size   34M yrs    550M B.C.     ?       "16"      ?
Hunters     224K yrs   2000K B.C.    7.3      8.9       ?
Farmers      909 yrs    4856 B.C.    7.9      7.6      2.4
Industry     6.3 yrs    2020 A.D.    7.2     >9.2      0.094   

The Medieval England (1500-1730) doubling period was 100 years.
From 1730-1910 doubling period was 58 years.
From 1910-2010 there has been a doubling period of about 15 years.

The 15 year doubling time is 4.7-4.8% GDP growth. An improvement of doubling time by 3-5 times would indicate another level of progress that is line with the long term historic trend.

A pre-singularity phase with two doublings at a more modest improvement level would be to the 9-12% per year growth level that China is experiencing. Technology could enable that level for the entire world. Then 15% for 3-4 doublings and then 20-25% for the singularity level.

Sea Based Launch Option for the Nuclear space launch cannon

Joseph Friedlander had a brainstorm on how to launch the Wang Bullet (project Orion pulsed propulsion variant) from under the sea. The core idea for the nuclear verne launch gun is simple though dramatic: Dig a kilometers deep shaft—a salt layer would be easiest to penetrate (some exist 3.5 kilometers thick) —build at the bottom a giant shell, from components lowered into place, layer by layer enclosing its internal payloads with external structures (such as a supporting sabot) and sealing the unit to flight-ready status. Place sets of guide rails around the perimeter of the shaft with ‘slippers’—metal contact shoes—touching the rails from the edges of the Wang Bullet. Finally, after all is in readiness, pump reaction mass through an access shaft under the sabot into a prepared chamber and place a thermonuclear explosive device in the midst of the reaction mass.

The reaction mass (in our conceptual model, water, but many other substances would work) not only becomes the propulsive hypersonic plasma and impulsive gas but also serves as an accelerative, radiation (boron included against neutron flux) and impact shield relative to the extreme violence of the blast chamber. So it is not the nuclear blast that directly accelerates. The blast acts on the propellant and filler.

Terms -
Nuclear Verne BlowGun - the entire system, the hole, the nuclear device, the cistern of propellant and the projectile
Wang Bullet - the projectile being launched
Friedlander Sabot - the base of the projectile

One of the biggest objections to the nuclear cannon concept has to be the idea of a radioactive hole left behind. It is an emotional feeling.

Suppose the launch tube and setup at sea costs $75 million, and the Wang Bullet and thermonuclear device all together, including launch and payload costs $200 million. That is less than a shuttle launch. But instead of 15 tons to orbit (the equivalent of 3 tons to the Moon) we are talking probably 1000 tons to the Moon. That is $200000 a ton to the Moon, or $100 a pound. The benefit would remain very low cost to launch material and payloads that are resistant to high G forces and no radiation in the atmosphere and no radiation in the ground. The sea would disperse the radiation from the underwater explosion. The underwater explosion will make it easier to prevent radiation from getting to the atmosphere.

* Nuclear bombs exist and there is no question that they work and there are thousands that have built, paid for and in storage
* There were tests which showed that nuclear bombs can launch heavy metal objects at high speed and the objects survive
* The system is taking material and using a nuclear bomb to provide the energy to make it into more energetic propellent. Chemical propellant maxes out at lower speed and energies. Nuclear take the same chemicals and ups the heat (100 million degrees instead of a few thousand) for more speed and energy
* the Ocean already contains 3.5 billion tons of Uranium

The current space capability versus the proposed system is the difference between starting a colony and industry with the supplies you can put in a pickup truck or what you can put into a container ship.

Nuclear effects would not get into the air, what will be in the water is safe, hundreds of times more supplies at one hundred times lower cost for space using technology that exists.

Carbon Nanotubes enable a rubbery material over a tempurature range from –196° to 1000°C

Journal Science - Carbon Nanotubes with Temperature-Invariant Viscoelasticity from –196° to 1000°C The material seems like it will be great for things like O-rings (a part that failed in the Space Shuttle).

Viscoelasticity describes the ability of a material to possess both elasticity and viscosity. Viscoelastic materials, such as rubbers, possess a limited operational temperature range (for example, for silicone rubber it is –55° to 300°C), above which the material breaks down and below which the material undergoes a glass transition and hardens. We created a viscoelastic material composed from a random network of long interconnected carbon nanotubes that exhibited an operational temperature range from –196° to 1000°C. The storage and loss moduli, frequency stability, reversible deformation level, and fatigue resistance were invariant from –140° to 600°C. We interpret that the thermal stability stems from energy dissipation through the zipping and unzipping of carbon nanotubes at contacts.

High-Temperature Rubber Made from Carbon Nanotubes

Sprint will modernize its network to integrate wimax and CDMA and phase out Nextel

Sprint has separate equipment for its 800 megahertz and 1.9 gigahertz bands, and for the 2.5 gigahertz band it uses through its relationship with Clearwire Corp. for fourth-generation service. The upgrades will allow the carrier to use all three technologies and others on a single band. The improvements open the possibility for Sprint to incorporate a competing fourth-generation technology, known as Long-Term Evolution, that both AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless will use.

Sprint at wikipedia

Sprint will spend as much as $5 billion to upgrade its network in the next three to five years.

Lasers let scientists watch red blood cells in living mice and an alternative to biopsies

Seeing Red: A new imaging technique produces video-quality images of red blood cells in living tissue. Researchers used the technology to observe red blood cells (shown) moving through the capillaries of live mice.
Credit: Sunney Xie/Harvard University

MIT Technology Review reports that scientists at Harvard University have developed a noninvasive imaging technique that captures images at the molecular level so quickly that they can "watch" red blood cells move through the capillaries of a live mouse. The team is working to adapt the techniques to MRI which would enable scans of the surface of deeper tissues and organs to enable for screening for colon cancer and other diseases.

The system uses two laser beams set at different frequencies to excite specific types of molecules in the skin. A custom-designed detector picks up the excited molecular signal and translates it into an image.

Sunney Xie, professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard, says the technique could be a noninvasive alternative to often painful and time-consuming skin biopsies.

December 05, 2010

China is considering investments of up to $1.5 trillion over five years in seven strategic industries

China is considering investments of up to $1.5 trillion over five years in seven strategic industries, sources said, a plan aimed at accelerating the country's transition from the world's supplier of cheap goods to a leading purveyor of high-value technologies.

1. Alternative fuel cars

China's vehicle fleet has turned to many other power sources, including fuel cells, compressed natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas and even liquefied natural gas, which is most commonly associated with huge storage tanks aboard ocean-going tankers.

In June the government launched a pilot program in five cities to subsidize electric and hybrid cars

China has over 200 gigawatts of hydropower now and targets 325 Gigawatts for 2015 and 390 gigawatts for 2020

Normal hydropower capacity would grow to 284 gigawatts (GW) and pumped storage hydropower capacity to 41 GW by 2015, and to 330 GW and 60 GW, respectively, by 2020, Ouyang was quoted as saying by the 21th Century Business Herald.

China's wind and solar power sectors could see their expansion moderating in the coming five years as the government focuses on cheaper hydropower, Ouyang Changyu, deputy general secretary of the China Electricity Council was quoted as saying by local media.

Because of wind and solar power's high generating costs and weak competitiveness, their development would be curtailed, Ouyang was quoted as saying by Caixin Media at an event on Tuesday organised by the influential industry association.

Coal-fired power capacity will reach 933 GW by 2015 and nuclear power is set to rise to 42.94 GW by 2015 and 90 GW by 2020, the newspaper reported, citing Ouyang.

Ouyang headed a research project on the next five-year power industry plan that was expected to be published in the second half of this month after government approvals, the newspaper said.

Development of clean energy including wind and solar power would leap forward after 2020

Foodtubes wants to make an internet of things - success would fulfill the Series of Tubes quote

Automatically routed canisters could replace lorries (truck) with an Internet of things, says Foodtubes.

The late Senator Ted Stevens had a quote about the internet

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material

The Foodtubes group wants to put goods in metal capsules 2 meters (6 feet) long, which are shifted through underground polyethylene tubes at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, directed by linear induction motors and routed by intelligent software to their destinations.

The group, which includes an Oxford physics professor and logistics experts, wants £15 million to build a 5 mile test circuit, and believes the scheme could fund itself if used by large supermarkets and local councils, and could expand because it uses an open architecture.

China has an 850 meter long tube maglev system for moving coal. Magplane Technology also wants to move people and freight.

Eni achieves key production milestone in the Zubair field, in Iraq by increasig 18,000 barrels per day to 201,000 barrels per day

70 Online Databases that Define Our Planet

MIT Technology Review - 70 Online Databases that Define Our Planet If you want to simulate the Earth, you'll need data on the climate, health, finance, economics, traffic and lots more. Here's where to find it.

Arxiv - From Social Data Mining to Forecasting Socio-Economic Crisis

Socio-economic data mining has a great potential in terms of gaining a better understanding of problems that our economy and society are facing, such as financial instability, shortages of resources, or conflicts. Without large-scale data mining, progress in these areas seems hard or impossible. Therefore, a suitable, distributed data mining infrastructure and research centers should be built in Europe. It also appears appropriate to build a network of Crisis Observatories. They can be imagined as laboratories devoted to the gathering and processing of enormous volumes of data on both natural systems such as the Earth and its ecosystem, as well as on human techno-socio-economic systems, so as to gain early warnings of impending events. Reality mining provides the chance to adapt more quickly and more accurately to changing situations. Further opportunities arise by individually customized services, which however should be provided in a privacy-respecting way. This requires the development of novel ICT (such as a self- organizing Web), but most likely new legal regulations and suitable institutions as well. As long as such regulations are lacking on a world-wide scale, it is in the public interest that scientists explore what can be done with the huge data available. Big data do have the potential to change or even threaten democratic societies. The same applies to sudden and large-scale failures of ICT systems. Therefore, dealing with data must be done with a large degree of responsibility and care. Self-interests of individuals, companies or institutions have limits, where the public interest is affected, and public interest is not a sufficient justification to violate human rights of individuals. Privacy is a high good, as confidentiality is, and damaging it would have serious side effects for society.

Dirk Helbing is the driving force behind a European project to simulate the Earth and the man who will lead it if he gets the EUR 1 billion he needs from the European Commission.

It turns out that there are already numerous sources of data that could provide the necessary fuel to power Helbing's Earth Simulator. "In the past, collecting data of human activity has been largely obstructed by financial, technological and ethical issues," say Helbing and Balietti. That is no longer the case.

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