December 18, 2010

OECD electricity usage from Jan to Sep 2010

The OECD/IEA electricity report from January to September 2010

Estimated US nuclear fleet capacity increased to 95 percent last week (Dec 6-10, 2010)

January to November 2010, China has generated 66.9 billion kWh of nuclear power China generated 65.7 billion kWh of nuclear in all of 2009. China should generate about 6.7 TWH in December. China should have 7.8-8 TWH more nuclear generation in 2010.

Earthlike planet detection with combination of satellite missions from MIT

MIT researchers increase their odds of detecting an Earthlike planet by working on a combination of satellite missions.

Kepler space telescope’s major drawback is that because the telescope is only focused on a narrow field of the sky, it is observing faraway, faint stars and may be missing closer stars — the kind that will enable the best follow-up observations from the ground.

A team of MIT researchers led by Kavli Senior Research Scientist George Ricker is currently designing a satellite that would use six wide-angled, high-precision cameras to observe a wider region of the sky — one 400 times larger than revealed by Kepler's scope. By surveying some 2.5 million stars, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) could potentially detect between 1,600 and 2,700 planets within two years, including between 100 and 300 small planets, several of which could be Earth candidates.

Carnival of nuclear energy 32

Berkeley Lab Report Shows that the Installed Cost of Solar Photovoltaic Systems in the U.S. Began a Steep Decline in 2010

The decline in solar photovoltaic (PV) installed costs seen by customer-owners of such systems in 2010 follows a significant drop in the wholesale cost for PV modules in 2009. As report co-author Galen Barbose explains, “Based on our data, average installed costs held steady at $7.50/W from 2008 to 2009, even though wholesale module prices dropped substantially over this period. However, that drop in module prices appears to have made its way to customers in 2010.” Modules typically represent about half the installed cost of a PV system.

The full report is here

Setting Up An Industrial Village On The Moon using the nuclear cannon

Hi, this is Joseph Friedlander with a guest post for Next Big Future.

This article will discuss setting up an industrial village on the Moon. And on import substitution and Jane Jacobs economics (transactions of decline and transactions of ascent).

Note- This is a lengthy discussion of a plan for bootstrapping civilization into space.

In brief, Jane Jacobs wrote a number of books on how neighborhoods-- regions-- and countries ascend and decline. 'Transactions of ascent' result in building national wealth like China has done…… 'Transactions of decline' result in dissipating national wealth and even actively tearing it down (sadness for team) like the USA/UK has done.

December 17, 2010

Offtopic MMA Showtime kick

The sensational kick Anthony Pettis used to floor Benson Henderson was inspired by the cult martial-arts classic, "Ong Bak."

It’s “an old school Muay Thai move.” He said fighters are taught in “battlefield Muay Thai” to climb an opponent’s leg and then kick.

“We have a cage and I thought, ‘You know, why not use it?’ You have to be creative and adapt,” trainer Duke Roufus said. “We work on that a lot and Anthony pulled it off at the right time.”

Nuclear bomb preparation and advice to shelter in place

Homeland Security has a new 135 page planning guide related to nuclear bombs.

If people in Los Angeles a mile or more from ground zero of an attack took no shelter there would be 285,000 casualties from fallout in that region.

Taking shelter in a place with minimal protection, like a car, would cut that figure to 125,000 deaths or injuries, he said. A shallow basement would further reduce it to 45,000 casualties. And the core of a big office building or an underground garage would provide the best shelter of all.

“We’d have no significant exposures,” Mr. Buddemeier told the conference, and thus virtually no casualties from fallout.

Nextbigfuture has previously written about re-inventing civil defense by focusing on reinforcing existing buildings with simple things like Hurriquake nails. Keeping buildings standing against the overpressure and reducing fires will save many lives.

Beyond the closest blast radius a nuclear bombs effects become like a hurricane or strong wind combined with some fire and heat problems.

Do not let the mystique of nuclear bombs confuse you -
Overpressure = strong wind
Fire = Fire
Heat = Heat

The same construction improvements that are used against a hurricane (post-Katrina in Louisiana) or ordinary fire would apply to greatly reducing bomb damage. The difference is like construction in Haiti versus construction in Japan versus an earthquake.

A blast-wave overpressure of 5 pounds per square inch, which is associated with winds around 150 miles per hour, is enough to destroy wood-frame buildings and
cause severe damage to brick apartment buildings. However, with simple and cheap construction improvements and retrofits it is possible to enable all wood-frame buildings to survive 5 PSI. Further construction improvements can increase the survivability of buildings and the people inside them.

Hurriquake nails add $15 to the price of a home and make a house 50% more resistant to a hurricane or strong winds (or over pressures from a nuke).

Oracle Optimizing servers for high end transaction processing

Oracle's goal is to be number one in high end systems for high end transaction processing and data warehousing. Oracle has cut Sun Microsystem staff and streamlined the Sun Micro product line to the high end of the market, while engineering those systems to run Oracle's software at optimal levels. Pund-IT analyst Charles King said Oracle has done some "stunning work" on the software side and in developing systems complementary systems, but it still lags behind competitors HP and IBM on the services side.

Suncor plans to increase production to 1 million barrels of oil per day and other canadian oil expansions

1. Suncor (Canadian oilsands oil company) aims to increase production to 1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day by 2020 from 2010 production of about 575,000 boe per day. The company plans to increase oil sands production about 10% per year, with total volumes anticipated to increase 8% per year through the end of the decade. Growth will primarily come from continued development of Suncor's in situ projects, Firebag Stages 3 through 6 and the second stage of MacKay River.

Foxconn to ship iPad 2 by the end of February 2011 and rumors on IPad 2 features

Digitimes System - Foxconn Electronics' (Hon Hai Precision Industry's) plants in Shenzhen, China have recently been notified they will ship Apple's iPad 2 within the next 100 days with initial shipments to reach 400,000-600,000 units, according to sources from Taiwan-based component makers

Apple originally planned to start mass production in January, but because the device's firmware is currently still in testing, Apple has been postponing the schedule. Since Foxconn's new plants in Chengdu are still in pilot production, iPad 2 will be mainly supplied by its Shenzhen plants, while the company's upstream component partners have all been notified of the shipments schedule.

The rumors are that the iPad 2 will have feature cameras on the front and rear and the new model would be slimmer, lighter and have a better resolution display.

Augmented reality iPhone app Word Lens translates signs

Word Lens is an iPhone app developed by Quest Visual that uses your iPhone’s camera to translate text from one language to another on the fly.

Currently, the app can only translate from Spanish to English (or English to Spanish) but Quest Visual is promising that more language packs are on the way. The application is “free” to download, but each language pack must be purchased within the app for $4.99.

How robotic air taxis and robotic air commuter services could be rolled out

Automated suburban air vehicles (SAV) should be technically ready by 2015 with low noise electric or highly fuel efficient systems. They could be deployed in some moderate volume of a few thousand per year by 2020.

Here I will consider how an air taxi and air commuter service could be rolled out in the San Francisco Bay Area (which includes San Jose, Oakland and other cities).

There are many airports in the area besides the three main international airports.

Increasing healthy lifespan by suppressing aging in our lifetime: Preliminary proposal

Blagosklonny MV. has published in the Cell Cycle journal a proposal to lengthen lifespan using the mTor pathway

Although we do not know everything about aging, we now know enough to start its pharmacologic suppression using clinically approved drugs. Aging turns out to be driven by sensing-signaling pathways (such as the mTOR pathway). Given that some inhibitors of the mTOR pathway are already in clinical use, there is a unique opportunity to suppress aging, while treating and preventing diseases. By itself this will answer some burning questions in gerontology. Here I discuss a proposal, starting from retrospective clinical studies to animal and cellular models to drug screens in order to develop non-toxic and effective schedules and drug combinations for extending healthy life span in our lifetime.

H/T to which also discusses how this represents a lifting of self-censureship on engineering human longevity.

Blagosklonny had another paper in 2010 - Why human lifespan is rapidly increasing: solving "longevity riddle" with "revealed-slow-aging" hypothesis

December 16, 2010

New States of Matter Suggested by New Topological Structures

Arxiv - New States of Matter Suggested by New Topological Structures

We extend the well-known Borromean and Brunnian rings to new higher order versions. Then we suggest an extension of the connection between Efimov states in cold gases and Borromean and Brunnian rings to these new higher order links. This gives rise to a hole new hierarchy of possible states with Efimov states at the bottom.

MIT Technology Review - A link between quantum mechanics and topology implies the existence of an entirely new state of matter. And physicists have already found the first example.

Back in 1970, a young physicist working in the Soviet Union made a counterintutive prediction. Vitaly Efimov, now at the University of Washington in the US, showed that quantum objects that cannot form into pairs could nevertheless form into triplets.

In 2006, a group in Austria found the first example of such a so-called Efimov state in a cold gas of cesium atoms.

Nuclear fusion rockets and commuter airplanes for the masses

Nuclear fusion rockets and spaceplanes would enable
1. Lower cost travel into space
2. Easy around the solar system in dramatically reduced trip times

Mature fusion plasmoid space propulsion could enable speeds of up to 3% of lightspeed.

Nuclear fusion / MHD spaceplanes could be developed by 2025 which would enable frequent single stage flights and bring costs down to $20-100/kg.

bussard fusion space plane

Autopiloted Suburban Air Vehicles for point to point air travel without road commutes to airports

By the time travelers have made their way by ground to their city’s one main airport, and then traveled again by ground from the destination airport to their final destination point, the speed with which the waiting airliner will get them there has been negated. The solution, he explained, is 2 to 4-passenger SAVs (Suburban Air Vehicles) that could ferry people between the main airports and conveniently-located pocket airports.

This is pretty much the vision that I described in 2008 of UAV control applied to electric of high hybrid airplanes.

UPDATE - I look at the issue of a rollout plan and the CAFE foundation studies of relieving ground congestion and specific locations for pocket airports.

The NASA Green Flight Challenge is just the first step in NASA’s plan to develop a new aviation infrastructure, in which quiet, auto-piloted aircraft would deliver people and goods on a point-to-point basis, within communities. In order to qualify for the prize, planes will have to get at least 200 mpg (1.18 L/100km), go at least 100 mph (161 kph), emit no more than 78 decibels from a 250-foot (76-meter) distance, and have a take-off distance, clearing a 50-foot obstacle, of less than 2,000 feet (or a 15-meter obstacle at 610 meters).

The CAFE (Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency) Foundation blog has a lot of information on the Green Flight challenge and the planes being developed that could achieve the goals

Pipistrel is working on a 4 seat hybrid plane that will go at 230 mph.

The Pipistrel Virus SW won the NASA centennial PAV challenge 2007 and NASA GAT centennial challenge 2008.

The Virus SW has 80 or 100 HP engines and can fly for 5.3 to 6.9 hours with a maximum speed of 287 kph (175 mph) The 100 HP version can takeoff in 95 meters. The Fuel economy is about 30-40 mpg. The Taurus has the fuel economy but has a longer takeoff range.

Plasma-Jet driven Magneto-Inertial Fusion (PJMIF)

The Icarus project blog covers Plasma-Jet driven Magneto-Inertial Fusion (PJMIF)

PJMIF can be called a hybrid approach, trying to take the best of both MCF (Magnetic Confinement Fusion/ Tokamaks / ITER) and ICF (Inertial Confinement Fusion / National Ignition Facility, high-energy laser pulses to compress a solid-state target).

Economist predicts 2019 for China to pass the USA in nominal GDP

The Economist predicts that China will pass the USA in US dollar GDP at market conversion rates in 2019

The Economist provides an online calculator for people to calculate their own date when China will pass the USA

The maximum values are plus or minus 10% for GDP growth, inflation and currency appreciation.

Over the past decade annual inflation (as measured by the GDP deflator) has averaged 3.8% in China against 2.2% in America. And since China ditched its strict dollar peg in 2005 the yuan has risen by an annual average of 4.2%.

I have predicted that China will pass in 2016-2018.

My most likely date is 2017.

Interstellar flyby versus deceleration mission considerations

Icarus Project blog discusses the choice between choosing an interstellar flyby versus deceleration mission.

Is an interstellar flyby worth the effort ?

Project Icarus Study Group decided that we had to go that next step further and consider the difficult challenge of deceleration. With this in mind, this became part of our engineering requirement. Several options are being considered including the use of MagSail technology and Medusa sails – a derivative of Project Orion. Another option being examined is reverse engine thrust, but the problem with this is that if we assume an equal acceleration-deceleration profile then the mass ratio scales as squared compared to a flyby mission and so requires an enormous amount of propellant; definitely a turn-off for a design team seeking efficient solutions.

A cure for baldness ‘could be available in 5 years’

Scientists in Germany have grown hair follicles from stem cells. Professor Roland Lauster at Berlin’s Technical University believes his work could be a step towards providing treatment for the 80 per cent of people who suffer from hair loss worldwide. Lauster claims the treatment – which would probably require the hair follicles to be implanted on to the head – could be available in five years.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch forecasts for China from 2011-2020

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has a report "Asia-Pacific Macro Year Ahead 2011: Certain growth in an uncertain world" Nine pct gdp growth expected to be new normal for Chinese economy.

China GDP Growth Forecasts
2011 9.1 percent
2012 9
2013 8.5
2014 8.5
2015 8
2016 7
2017 7
2018 7
2019 7
2020 7

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 31

Average Capacity Factor for nuclear plants by country and New Reactor Construction

The IAEA reports the last three years Energy Availability Factor for nuclear plants by country. (Includes only operational reactors from 2007 up to 2009)

China's 200 MWe High Temperature pebble bed reactor is now slated to start in 2014.

ATUCHA-2      PHWR  BUENOS AIRES     692  745     2012/07/06 Argentina
QINSHAN 2-4   PWR  ZHEJIANG          610  650     2011/03/28 China
KAIGA-4       PHWR  KARNATAKA        202  220     2010/12/31 India
KUDANKULAM-1  PWR  TAMIL NADU        917  1000    2011/02/28 India
KUDANKULAM-2  PWR  TAMIL NADU        917  1000    2011/08/31 India
SHIMANE-3     BWR  SHIMANE PREF.    1325  1373    2011/12/15 Japan
ASNUPP 2      PWR PUNJAB             300   325    2011/05/31 Pakistan
SHIN-KORI-2   PWR  Busan & Ulsan     960  1000    2011/08/01 S Korea
SHIN-WOLSONG-1  PWR  Gyeongsangbuk-do 960 1000    2011/05/28 S Korea
SHIN-WOLSONG-2  PWR  Gyeongsangbuk-do 960 1000    2012/05/28 S Korea

Click on the image below for a larger view of the table.

Animal cell transplants to humans approved in Russia

Insulin-producing pig cells coated in seaweed (alginate prevents the immune system from attacking) are injected into people and reduces the need for insulin. In patients with unstable diabetes, DIABECELL can eliminate life threatening episodes of a potentially fatal complication known as hypoglycaemic unawareness; this is when a patient has no awareness when their blood sugar is dropping to dangerously low levels.

DIABECELL is a porcine (pig), insulin-producing cell product for the treatment of Type 1 diabetes. These islet cells are self-regulating and efficiently secrete insulin in the patient’s body. The treatment involves introducing encapsulated porcine cells into the abdominal cavity of the patient in a simple laparoscopic procedure. LCT’s unique proprietary encapsulation technology means that this procedure does not require the use of immunosuppression.

The Economist World in 2011 and 2036

The Economist World in 2011 forecasts are up and I have some highlights below

Links to the Economist World in 2011 videos

Economist World in 2011 - China

GDP growth: 8.4%
GDP: $6,460bn (PPP: $11,292bn)
Inflation: 3.5%
Population: 1,345.7m
GDP per head: $4,800 (PPP: $8,390)

H+ TV show Produced by X-Men Director Bryan Singer

Director Bryan Singer has signed on to produce a horror thriller series for Warner Bros. The series is entitled "H+" and Warner Bros. is describing the film as a "futuristic survival tale." This is a story set nine years in the future, where everyone has constant access to the internet through implanted microchips and access to killer viruses.

'H+' takes viewers on an episodic two-and-a-half hour, apocalyptic journey into the future where technology has gone horrifically wrong. In 2019, 33% of the world’s population uses a radical new piece of technology – an implanted computer system called H +.

UPDATE- The show will start as a digital web series and then could become a TV series and/or movies and/or DVD release.

December 15, 2010

Forward Osmosis could make water desalination cheaper and more energy efficient

MIT Technology Review - The Oasys forward osmosis desalination system requires just one-tenth as much electricity as a reverse-osmosis system because water doesn't have to be forced through a membrane at high pressure. That's a crucial source of savings, since electricity can account for nearly half the cost of reverse-osmosis technology. Not working with pressurized water also decreases the cost of building the plant—there is no need for expensive pipes that can withstand high pressures. The combination of lower power consumption and cheaper equipment results in lower overall costs.

Oasys Water has been demonstrating commercial-scale components of its system in recent months, plans to begin testing a complete system early next year and to start selling the systems by the end of 2011.

The system uses far less energy than thermal desalination because the draw solution has to be heated only to 40 to 50 °C, McGinnis says, whereas thermal systems heat water to 70 to 100 °C. These low temperatures can be achieved using waste heat from power plants. Thermal-desalination plants are often located at power plants now, but it takes extra fuel to generate enough heat for them. The new system, on the other hand, could run on heat that otherwise would have been released into the atmosphere.

H Cannon

Guest Post by Joseph Friedlander

I independently thought of a variant of the Wang Bullet a few years ago (and as the Thunderwell work (which we are trying to find a good reference for-- ) shows, that was not original either-- most young boys get around to putting a can on top of a firecracker, so the idea was basically just a matter of getting a crazy enough boy to put a crazy enough can on a crazy enough firecracker.

Dr. Anthony Zuppero, of >Neofuel fame, told of a nuclear cannon experiment (heard second hand, no confirmation yet...)

c 2009 by Anthony Zuppero inhabit

A review of it is at the register UK
The actual book--- is here

Invisibility for larger than microscopic objects in the visible light range

A calcite carpet-cloak can shield a steel wedge a few centimetres long. Zhang, B. et al.

Until now, physicists have been unable to fabricate a cloak that could hide macroscopic items at visible wavelengths. Two independent groups have now achieved this feat, by building transparent 'carpet cloaks', made from calcite crystals, that lie over the object to be hidden.

Physicists Shuang Zhang at the University of Birmingham, UK, and John Pendry from Imperial College London has built a calcite cloak that can work in air, hiding objects a few centimetres high.

Nature - Baile Zhang and his colleagues at the Singapore–MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Centre in Singapore have built a calcite carpet-cloak that can shield a steel wedge that is 38 millimetres long and 2 millimetres high from red, green and blue visible light3. The team designed their cloak to work under water. "I think that governments could make a lot of use out of a cloak that can hide objects on the seabed — although I won't speculate on exactly what they may want to hide," says team member George Barbastathis, a mechanical engineer also at the SMART Centre.

Nuclear Fusion Space Propulsion

Nuclear fusion space propulsion presentation from 2005

The graphs below show why achieving 100 Kev using dense plasma focus fusion by Lawrenceville Plasma Physics would be such a huge deal. 100 Kev opens up all of the fusion reactions.

Here is a 6 page overview of the Star Thrust Experiment

Deuterium - Helium3 used for field reversed configuration propulsion could achieve 1,000,000 ISP. This is an exhaust velocity of 9800 km/second. About 3% of lightspeed.

Overview of Field Reversed Configuration Propulsion and Materials Research

Overview of FRC Propulsion and Materials Research by David Kirtley, George Votroubek, John Slough and others (38 page powerpoint)

We have developed an advanced thruster concept that works and has wide-reaching payoffs. The current devices can achieve 1000-6000 ISP. Theoretically 1,000,000 ISP is possible with deuterium-helium 3.

* The ELF thruster is a major improvement over traditional electric propulsion, for most power levels and missions
* Neutral entrainment could make it revolutionary – dramatically extending the specific impulse, thrust-to-power, and power ranges.
* Direct innovative application to hypersonic vehicles, air-breathing space propulsion, in-situ propellant utilization, high-altitude recon, propellant sharing (multi mode), and ???.

Fundamental Questions:
Are there unforeseen technology development challenges to a pulsed inductive thruster?
What are the power, specific impulse, geometry and density limits of neutral entrainment?

MSNW is a company set up by John Slough to develop these ideas

At MSNW LLC., we are investigating several techniques for realistic-scale fusion that is applicable to practical energy conversion and energy generators. Our research is focused on pulsed magnetic fusion (pulsed MFE), a middle ground between Tokamak and Laser-driven inertial fusion.

Helion Energy is a second nuclear fusion company set up by John Slough.

Art Carlson describes John Slough's work in this comment at Talk Polywell.

Macron Formed Liner as a Practical Method for Enabling Magneto-Inertial Fusion and space propulsion applications

Centauri Dreams reports on the Advanced Space Propulsion Workshop David Kirtley (MSNW LLC) spoke on the concept of ‘Macron Propulsion’, an idea that involves firing small fuel pellets in front of a spacecraft which would then be utilized by that craft for fuel. This ingenious, yet complex approach is attractive, since it overcomes the Rocket Equation as the fuel is not stored onboard the craft. The talk had very interesting parallels to the Daedalus electromagnetic pellet launcher. MSNW has built and is currently testing a 20 Tesla launcher and also a prototype pulsed power bank.

Orbital Analysis of Macron Propulsion by Jacob Schonig, Andrew Ketsdever and David Kirtley

Recent advances in energy storage and solid-state switching enabled the use of peristaltic, pulsed inductive acceleration of non-ferritic particles for spacecraft propulsion. Macron Launched Propulsion (MLP) systems electromagnetically accelerate gramsized aluminum particles (i.e. macrons) to achieve exit velocities between 5 and 10km/s, achieving specific impulses between 600 and 1,000s. Research was conducted to analyze this system's potential effects on the orbital debris environment as well as to formulate possible implementations of this technology. Ultimately, the direction, velocity and altitude at which these macrons are fired determine the macron's trajectory and dictate the level of impact upon the orbital debris environment. Research supports the implementation of the technology as a multi-purpose orbital maneuvering system but cautions the use of this system in a manner that could result macrons entering into a stable Earth orbital trajectory.

Macron Formed Liner as a Practical Method for Enabling Magneto-Inertial Fusion by David Kirtley and John Slough

Top ten future weapons and gear for the US Army from 2011 to 2020

1. After years of development, the U.S. Army has unleashed a new weapon in Afghanistan -- the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System, a high-tech rifle that can be programmed so that its 25-mm. ammunition detonates either in front of or behind a target, meaning it can be fired just above a wall before it explodes and kills the enemy. Deployment started in November of 2010 and there will be one XM25 per squad after the first phase.

2. Starting in January 2011, US snipers will be outfitted with the XM2010 rifle, capable of hitting a target from a 3,937-foot distance — about three quarters of a mile. The current sniper rifle, the M-24, has a range of 2,625 feet, by contrast.

3. Darpa will rollout the project “One Shot” that aims to deliver sniper rifles whose accuracy won’t be thrown off by high-velocity winds. Those are supposed to arrive in 2011, too.

December 14, 2010

Squad level support from six-wheeled amphibious ATV robot in 2011

Lockheed Martin’s (LM) Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) has passed a final round of tests at Fort Riley, Kansas, before scheduled deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. The system, which turns a six-wheeled amphibious ATV into a robotic packhorse and charging station, has been subjected to a variety of simulated warzone environments in both remote controlled and fully autonomous modes"

Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) is a robotic platform based on a turbo-diesel powered, high mobility six wheel all-terrain vehicle (ATV) capable of carrying 600lbs (272 kg) of payload. Current platforms are utilizing a commercial platform converted for a surrogate SMSS vehicle. Future versions will utilize specially designed platforms, optimized for the SMSS mission.

Gizmag has coverage

HULC Exoskeleton with Lift Assist Device

HULC is a lower-body, electro-hydraulically-powered exoskeleton designed to lift and carry heavy loads. It transfers weight through the machine’s frame to the ground, significantly reducing operator fatigue and exposure to injury. Additionally, HULC’s self-contained power supply eliminates external power cords or hydraulic lines that restrict deployment.

The HULC Lift Assist Device allows single operators to safely lift heavy loads that currently require two or more people. The Lift Assist Device, easily mounted on the back of the HULC exoskeleton, maintains users’ normal lifting and motion range. This lightweight, power-assisted device has multiple end-effectors that are quickly and easily exchanged to enable lifting and carriage of various boxes, containers and munitions.

Quasi-steady Fusion Reactor based on the Pulsed High Density FRC

The threshold size of a steady state fusion reactor required to achieve ignition, and offer a safe protective shielding will be quite large. Unlike fission, where the first commercial reactor was 50 MW, a DEMO reactor must start operation at multi-gigawatt powers. A Quasi-Steady Fusion reactor (QSFR) based on the FRC provides for a method to significantly reduce the reactor size and thus the associated risk and development time of fusion as an energy source. Quasi-steady here refers to the repetitive regeneration of the fusion plasma with a suitably chosen duty cycle. For a reciprocating burn with a low duty cycle, wall loading can be varied for optimum power loading, and wall erosion can be minimized while maximizing the reactor power density in the blanket. Most importantly, the need for sustainment and auxiliary heating systems, including current drive, are eliminated, which tremendously simplifies reactor operation. With transient burn, the vacuum boundary is much easier to maintain as recycling, fueling and wall gas issues are much easier to handle. Tritium co-deposition, the dominant retention mechanism, is minimized as the tritium residence time in the reactor is only momentary.

Pulsed field-reversed configuration (FRC) thrusters

Pulse Discharge Network Development for a Heavy Gas Field Reversed Configuration Plasma Device

A simple LRC circuit model is used to conduct a parametric study of the effects of charging voltage, capacitance, resistance, and inductance on the current waveform of a pulse forming network for field reversed configuration (FRC) plasma production. Using known waveforms from existing networks, estimates of realistic values of resistance and inductance are established for a base network model. Parametric modification of the base model is used to study the effects of each component of the discharge network. Results indicate that increasing charging voltage causes an increase in peak current, but does not effect rise or reversal times. However, increasing capacitance increases peak current and increases rise and reversal times. Further, optimum circuit parameters are determined for the design and construction of an FRC formation test article. Three main design criteria are used and are based on magnetic diffusion time, auto-ionization of background gas, and peak magnetic field strength. Results indicate that a pulse forming network with charging voltage of 25 kV and capacitance of 1 μF provides the widest range of resistance and inductance values such that the waveform meets the design criteria.

Fusion Plasmoid Space Propulsion

Centauri Dreams covered the recent Advanced Space Propulsion Workshop. The ASPW is focused on low Technology Readiness Level (TRL) concepts ranging from TRL 1 to 3. John Slough gave a presentation on his research at the University of Washington on Inductively Driven Liner Compression of Fusion Plasmoids. His was the only team at the conference working on pulse propulsion concepts. Initial systems should be able to achieve 200 km/second speed and more advanced versions 1000+ km/second.

The basic concept involves pulsing fusion fuel plasma at high rates into a reaction chamber where it would undergo fusion via use of metal liners to accomplish compression of a magnetized plasmoid. Although remarkable, the only purpose of the fusion would be to drive the next round of plasmoid firing. Propulsion would be achieved through momentum transfer occurring between the electromagnetic gun and the accelerating plasmoid. In other words, all the fusion gain would be put back into driving the next cycle. This differs markedly from the idea behind Daedalus, where a large fraction of the exploding fusion material itself transfers the momentum.

Update- A Deuterium-Helium 3 version of FRC plasmoid propulsion could achieve 1,000,000 ISP. Exhaust velocity would be 3% of lightspeed.

A presentation of the state of Field Reversed Configuration propulsion is summarized at this link

Jim Rodgers, legendary commodity investor, on India and China GDP Growth

Question: What kind of growth do you see in China?

Jim Rodgers Answer - I have no idea. I know that it's booming. I know that every time I go to China, and I've being going to China for 26 years -- the first time I went it was 1984 -- and I assure you China is growing very rapidly and doing a lot of things right. Whether it's 8% or 12%, I mean you look at the Indians. Who can believe the Indian [growth] number; certainly not me.

I've been going to India for many years too and I know they're not growing as fast as China but they claim to be. The Indians wait for the Chinese to announce their growth numbers and then they announce theirs. They want to make sure they are in the same league. But all of these numbers are made up; you must understand that by now.

The alternative China bearish case is laid out here (summarizing Jim Chanos case on China real estate)

* In 2009, Chanos found out that China was embarking on 30 billion square feet of new construction (half was office space)
* construction is 60% of Chinese GDP
* there are empty cities

Economically viable multigigabit wireless networking enabled by plasma antennas

Antennas that use plasma to focus beams of radio waves could bring multi-gigabit wireless networks The Wi-Gig standard is expected to go up to between 1 and 7 gigabits per second - fast enough to download a television programme in seconds. Wi-Gig requires higher radio wave frequencies : 60 gigahertz rather than the 2.4 GHz used by Wi-Fi. Plasma antennas could enable affordable Wi-gig over longer ranges to assist with lastmile issues. PSiAN could be commercially available within two years.

UK researchers are working on a solid-state plasma antenna called Plasma Silicon Antenna, or PSIAN. This uses beam forming technology and the same manufacturing process currently used for silicon chips. That makes it small enough to bung into smartphones.

PSiAN consists of thousands of diodes on a silicon chip. When activated, each diode generates a cloud of electrons - the plasma - about 0.1 millimetres across. At a high enough electron density, each cloud reflects high-frequency radio waves like a mirror. By selectively activating diodes, the shape of the reflecting area can be changed to focus and steer a beam of radio waves. This "beam-forming" capability makes the antennas crucial to ultrafast wireless applications, because they can focus a stream of high-frequency radio waves that would quickly dissipate using normal antennas.

Bureaucracy, Corruption and Incompetence

Bureaucracy, corruption and incompetence in government and in the processes of a nations system are closely related to the overall effectiveness and efficiency of a nation.

What costs more bureaucracy or corruption or incompetence ?

Depending upon the situation they can all be the dominant cost and they work together to increase costs to society and to projects.

Bureaucracy and incompetence increased costs by 700% (from $780 million to over $6.3 billion) on the San Francisco Bay Bridge repair. If China levels of corruption increases costs by 30%, then the US should considering trading bureaucracy and incompetence for corruption. The Bay Bridge had a 10+ year delay in getting started had resulted in the project running into commodity inflation in steel and concrete which would not have been a problem 10 years earlier. There were ongoing delays and cost increases. There were continuing delays from bureaucratic flip-flopping on what was to built.

Political lobbying is also a systemic inefficiency.

Corruption means that people give money to politicians to make them do something.

Lobbying means that people spend money to convince politicians to make them do something

Lobbying/election fund raising are just less efficient corruption.

Incompetence means that success costs a lot more or success is impossible.

Taiwan invents world's 9 nanometer RRAM architecture

A micro resistive random-access memory (RRAM) developed by the Taiwan National Applied Research Laboratories (NARC) has a world record 9 nanometer half-pitch.

The functional RRAM has a data storage capacity 20 times larger than flash memory, but consumes 200 times less power, said Ho Chia-hua of National Nano Device Laboratories under the NARC. The invention is expected to enter the phase of mass production within five to 10 years, Ho said.

New weapons for the US military in 2011

In 2011, US army snipers will be outfitted with the XM2010 rifle, capable of hitting a target from a 3,937-foot distance — about three quarters of a mile. The current sniper rifle, the M-24, has a range of 2,625 feet, by contrast.

Wikipedia on the XM2010

The Army expects to begin fielding 250 upgraded weapons to deployed U.S. Army Snipers by January 2011. The XM2010 is considered a "total conversion upgrade", by which the chambering, barrel, stock, magazines, muzzlebrake, suppressor, and even the optics will be changed.

Remington got an open-ended contract to revamp the M-24s into longer-range XM2010s, with an eye to making 3,600 guns in all — about 1100 more of them than the Army has snipers.

XOS exoskeleton needs to get to less than 1000 watts of power usage and less than half the weight

More information about the Raytheon XOS 2 exoskeleton

Dr. Fraser Smith, Vice President of Operations at Raytheon Sarcos, hopes a XOS2 type system could be fielded within five years.

XOS 2 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. The suit uses up to 3.5 kilowatts of power. Reducing 47% of the suite weight will reduce power demands.

Energy consumption needs to get down to one kilowatt or less and the hydraulics need to be even more efficient.

December 13, 2010

Stuxnet Worm Still Out of Control at Iran's Nuclear Sites

Fox News - Iran's nuclear program is still in chaos despite its leaders' adamant claim that they have contained the computer worm that attacked their facilities, cybersecurity experts in the United States and Europe say.

Eric Byres, a computer expert who has studied the worm, said his site was hit with a surge in traffic from Iran, meaning that efforts to get the two nuclear plants to function normally have failed. The web traffic, he says, shows Iran still hasn’t come to grips with the complexity of the malware that appears to be still infecting the systems at both Bashehr and Natanz.

“The effort has been stunning," Byres said. "Two years ago American users on my site outnumbered Iranians by 100 to 1. Today we are close to a majority of Iranian users.”

UCSB Team Advances Digital Manufacturing

A team from the University of California, Santa Barbara, led by Professor Frank Zok has successfully modeled correlations in digital manufacturing processing (DM) that may lead to advances in manufacturing and cut costs for the Department of Defense.

They won a DARPA challenge to develop models that predicted the maximum compressive load that could be supported by digitally manufactured titanium spheres and polymer cubes.

China GDP numbers and Wikileaks

Many internet pundits pounced on the latest WikiLeaks allegation that China's GDP figures were "man-made." and Jim Trippon at Seekingalpha sets China's GDP record straight.

* The source of the wikileak quote was none other than vice premier Li Keqiang, the very man slated to become China's next premier, after Wen Jiabao steps down
* Li's comments referred only to provincial GDP figures.
* Every year, China's provinces publish their local growth figures, and the end result is a mathematical impossibility. Last year all but two provinces exceeded the national growth rate.
* provincial GDP figure are discarded when China's national GDP performance is measured

Pill for restoring the aging immune system to a more youthful state

UCSF researchers have identified an existing medication that restores key elements of the immune system that, when out of balance, lead to a steady decline in immunity and health as people age. The team plans to begin larger-scale clinical trials in 2011 to test the drug’s effectiveness and hopes for broader availability within a few years.

The team found that extremely low doses of the drug lenalidomide can stimulate the body’s immune-cell protein factories, which decrease production during aging, and rebalance the levels of several key cytokines – immune proteins that either attack viruses and bacteria or cause inflammation that leads to an overall decline in health.

The initial study, which was designed to define the dose range of such a therapy in a group of 13 patients, could lead to a daily pill to boost immunity in the elderly

North Korea threatens South Korea with nuclear war and other moves in the region

Washington Post - North Korea warned Monday that U.S.-South Korean cooperation could bring a nuclear war to the region, as the South began artillery drills amid lingering tension nearly three weeks after the North's deadly shelling of a South Korean island.

A South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff officer tried to play down the significance of this week's drills, saying they are part of routine military exercises and would not occur near the disputed western Korean sea border where last month's attack took place. The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of office policy, gave no further details.

North Korea, however, lashed out at Seoul, accusing South Korea of collaborating with the United States and Japan to ratchet up pressure on Pyongyang.

That cooperation "is nothing but treachery escalating the tension between the North and the South and bringing the dark clouds of a nuclear war to hang over the Korean peninsula," Pyongyang's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

Hydropower now and in the Future

Worldwide there is an installed capacity of 777 GWe supplied 2998 TWh of hydroelectricity in 2006. This was approximately 20% of the world's electricity, and accounted for about 88% of electricity from renewable sources. There is an esimated 8500 TWh commercializable hydropower in the world based on current technology and prices. Current projects in China and the rest of the world appear likely to have 4000 TWh of hydropower in 2020.

There are a few large hydroelectric projects in India, Burma, Russia, Brazil, and Venezuela but most are in China.

China's 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. China generates 580-700 TWH from about 200 GWe of hydro. Doubling the hydropower that amount would be about 1200-1400 TWh (an additional 580-700 TWh). China is expected to add about 100 GWe of nuclear power by 2020 which would generate about 700-800 TWh. The nameplate GWe does not closely compare the TWh generation for wind, solar, hydro and nuclear.

China may increase the hydropower target to 430 GWe in 2020

Thermal Energy Storage for concentrated solar power

Thermal Energy Storage for concentrated solar power research 21 pages)

* One of the Solar Program goals is to reduce the cost of thermal energy storage to $15/kWh thermal
* Capital cost of storage could be reduced with new concepts

* Thermal energy storage (TES) is a key performance advantage of CSP
* TES enables increased annual energy production
* TES improves dispatchability

A Different video of the 33 Megajoule railgun test shots

Prediction that I made in 1985 technically fulfilled

I made a set of public predictions for the Honeywell Canada Futurist Essay competition of 1985. One of the predictions in the essay was that there would be movies in 2010 where the audience could choose aspects of the plot. This has been technically achieved and a movie with this capability has been screened by audiences.

Tel Aviv University lets you change the course of a film with the click of a button.

A new movie format developed by Tel Aviv University lets the viewer decide.

Utilizing complicated video coding procedures, the new format provides smooth interaction and transition between scenes as audience members watch — and determine the plot of — Turbulence, created by Prof. Nitzan Ben Shaul of Tel Aviv University's Department of Film and Television. Made with his unique scene-sequencing technique, Turbulence recently won a prize at the Berkeley Video and Film Festival for its technological innovation.

December 12, 2010

Colloidal Lithography for patterning nonplanar surfaces

For the first time, a simple molecule that each time it chemically reacts with a surface prepares a hospitable neighbouring site at which the next incoming molecule reacts. Accordingly, these molecules, when simply dosed (blindly) on the surface, spontaneously grow durable 'molecular-chains'. These molecular chains are the desired prototypes of nano-wires.

Development of a Colloidal Lithography Method for Patterning Nonplanar Surfaces

A colloidal lithography method has been developed for patterning nonplanar surfaces. Hexagonal noncontiguously packed (HNCP) colloidal particles 127 nm−2.7 μm in diameter were first formed at the air−water interface and then adsorbed onto a substrate coated with a layer of polymer adhesive 17 nm thick. The adhesive layer plays the critical role of securing the order of the particles against the destructive lateral capillary force generated by a thin film of water after the initial transfer of the particles from the air−water interface. The soft lithography method is robust and very simple to carry out. It is applicable to a variety of surface curvatures and for both inorganic and organic colloidal particles.

An artificial bone-like material could speed up recovery from injury

MIT Technology Review - Thomas Webster, an associate professor of engineering at Brown University, has developed a nanomaterial that quickly solidifies at body temperature into a bone-like substance. This week, Brown announced a deal with medical device maker Audax Medical of Littleton, Massachusetts, to further develop the material and launch trials in animals.

The material contains the same nucleic acids as DNA, Webster says. Each molecule has two covalent bonds and links with other molecules to form a tube. Hence it's called a "twin-base linker." (Audax will develop it under the name Arxis.)

Advance for zinc finger tools for precise DNA manipulation

A team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers has developed a faster way to engineer synthetic enzymes that target specific DNA sequences for inactivation, repair or alteration. The report from the MGH Molecular Pathology Unit, being published online in Nature Methods, describes a highly effective but less labor-intensive way to generate powerful tools called zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs).

Pluripotent stem cells turned into intestinal tissue

Nature - Human intestinal tissue grown in the lab Wells and his collaborators are working on approaches to create intestinal nerve cells in the cultures and transplant the tissue in mouse models of intestinal disorders.

They also plan to produce iPS cells from patients with congenital abnormalities and use the culture system to pinpoint what goes wrong during intestinal development. Then they might be able to correct the defect and restore the tissue in patients. "This is a good first step toward generating replacement tissue for people with degenerative diseases of the intestine," Wells says.

The technique could be used to study disease and tailor therapies. By mimicking stages of embryonic development, scientists have prodded human stem cells to produce three-dimensional (3D) organ tissue that resembles the intestine and recapitulates its major cell types.

The work, reported today in Nature, represents the first example of human embryonic stem cells being coaxed into forming a specific 3D organ tissue in culture, says lead investigator James Wells, a developmental biologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio. Scientists can use the protocol to investigate the molecular basis of human intestinal development and disease, design drugs that get absorbed better and grow tissue for transplantation therapies, he says.

Wells and his team used human embryonic stem cells, which can turn into any type of tissue, as well as human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells — adult cells that have been reprogrammed to behave like embryonic cells. The researchers enticed these cells to transform into intestinal cells and then into 3D structures by using a sequence of growth factors — substances that promote cell growth and specialization

Debate about the patterns in the microwave background radiation

There is continuing debate about Penrose/Gurzadyan claim of evidence of a universe before the big bang

Nature - three groups reproduced Gurzadyan's analysis of the WMAP (microwave background) data and all agree that the data do contain low-variance circles. Where they part company with the earlier work is in the significance that they attribute to these circles.

* the WMAP data clearly show that there are far more hot and cold spots at smaller angular scales, and that it is therefore wrong to assume that the microwave sky is isotropic. All three groups searched for circular variance patterns in simulations of the cosmic microwave background that assume the basic properties of the inflationary Universe, and all found circles that are very similar to the ones in the WMAP data.

China fighter jet clones and longer range missiles and nuclear powered missile submarines

Wall Street Journal - China has reached a tipping point: It now can produce many of its own advanced weapons—including high-tech fighter jets like the Su-27—and is on the verge of its own aircraft carrier Chinese engineers cloned the prized Su-27's avionics and radar but they are fitting it with the last piece in the technological puzzle, a Chinese jet engine. China is starting to export much of this weaponry, undercutting Russia in the developing world, and potentially altering the military balance in several of the world's flash points. China accounted for 2% of global arms transfers between 2005-2009, putting it in ninth place among exporters, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The J-11B, a Chinese fighter that Russian officials allege is a direct copy of the Su-27, a one-seat fighter that was developed by the Soviets through the 1970s and 1980s as a match for the U.S. F-15 and F-16. The J-11B looked almost identical to the Su-27, but China said it was 90% indigenous and included more advanced Chinese avionics and radars.

From 1992-2008, Russia was China's biggest arms supplier, providing $20 billion to $30 billion of fighters, destroyers, submarines, tanks and missiles.

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