August 27, 2011

DC Comics Tries again to give their Superheros new pants

DC Comics will try to give Superman jeans.

In 2010, they tried to give Wonder Woman a pant suit.

The bestselling monthly comics sell only in the tens of thousands, even though Batman, the X-Men and Iron Man power billion-dollar franchises for Hollywood studios and toymakers.

“We’re trying to move not just the company but even our industry to new areas and new audiences and, hopefully, for a more healthy business — this seemed like the right time and the right moment,” DiDio said. “This is a refocusing of the energies of the company into a way that really pushes the medium toward the widest and best audience possible. This isn’t about turning around a single character or telling a new story. This is about repositioning the company for the future. What we’re trying to accomplish is to widen the breadth of our stories and the appeal of characters and go after different distribution systems.”

UPDATE- I have since found out that the changes and reboot are reactions the courtroom results of lawsuits by the heirs of the original creators of Superman.

Carnival of Nuclear 67

1. ANS Nuclear Cafe by Meredith Angwin - What do Miss Marple, hard-boiled LAPD detective Harry Bosch, and Richard Hannay of The Thirty-Nine Steps have in common? At ANS Nuclear Cafe, Meredith Angwin wrote about their communication lessons for nuclear. Thrillers in the Dog Days, Lessons for Nuclear Communication.

2. Yes Vermont Yankee - Money and the Future of Vermont Yankee: Decommissioning and the Marcellus Shale

In this entry, Meredith Angwin shows that Governor Shumlin's cheerful views of continued employment during decommissioning are mistaken. Further, with the downrating of Marcellus Shale reserves, the expectation of cheap electricity from the gird for the next twenty years is also probably wrong. In short, shutting down Vermont Yankee in 2012 is a big financial mistake for Vermont.

Seasteading Institute's position on the recent Details article

This is a planned (concept) seastead boat, but they will NOT be launching it next year

Seasteading has recently received a lot of media attention after an article published in Details on August 13.

Nextbigfuture also provided coverage of Seasteading

Nextbigfuture also covered David Brins comments

Seastead has some corrections
Not launching a big seastead boat next year

Details indicated- Architectural plans for a prototype involve a movable, diesel-powered, 12,000-ton structure with room for 270 residents, with the idea that dozens—perhaps even hundreds—of these could be linked together. Friedman hopes to launch a flotilla of offices off the San Francisco coast next year; full-time settlement, he predicts, will follow in about seven years; and full diplomatic recognition by the United Nations, well, that'll take some lawyers and time.

While we're researching such architectural plans, there are not any plans to build such a seastead in the near future. Friedman isn't launching an office flotilla next year. However, our former staff members are developing a business that will take place on a ship off the coast of Silicon Valley:

August 26, 2011

Carnival of Space 212

1. Centauri Dreams - Interstellar propulsion expert and solar sail proponent Greg Matloff talks about interstellar flights in worldships, and the possibility of long, slow missions to the stars.

2. Centauri Dreams - The HARPS spectrograph is looking hard at 10 nearby stars for signs of rocky planets. Six have already been identified. This article takes a look at these early finds and speculates about what may turn up around other interesting targets like Tau Ceti and Alpha Centauri B.

Carnival of Space 211

A few days after Steve Jobs retires - Apple is the most valuable company in the world

Economist Arvind Subramanian has a new book Eclipse Living in the Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance

Peterson Institute for International Economics scholar Arvind Subramanian has recently put out analysis that China's economy has already surpassed the economy of the United States on a purchasing power parity GDP basis. Arvind has a new book “Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance”.

1. He sees the probability of U.S. needing an IMF loan as a 10% or 20% possibility by say 2021.

PPP is an important concept, but it has a small weight in my overall formula of economic power. Arvind believe that the resources a country brings to the power table includes resources that are internationally traded and resources that involve people. If the U.S. were to fight against China and 100 Chinese soldiers faced 100 US soldiers, would you say that because the 100 Chinese soldiers earn one 20th of what an American soldier earns that the value of a Chinese soldier is 1/20th the value of American?

Upcoming Solar Sail Launches

Sciencenews - Last year, Japan’s space agency launched the world’s first solar sail into interplanetary space; its metal-coated membrane unfurled and caught the light to begin sunjamming. And with help from tiny “nanosatellites” that allow scientists to pack folded-up sails in spacecraft no bigger than a loaf of bread, NASA this year sent its first sail skipping through Earth orbit.

A particle of light transfers up to nearly twice its momentum to an object it bounces off of. After 100 days, a solar sail could reach 14,000 kilometers per hour; after three years it could be zipping along at 240,000 kilometers per hour. At that rate it could get to Pluto in less than five years, rather than the nine years the plutonium-powered New Horizons spacecraft, now on its way, is taking.

The actual acceleration and performance depends upon how the solar sail is constructed. If the sail can be thin and light enough the acceleration and performance can be a lot better.

Seasteading Discussion

Here is a discussion on Seasteading.
1- The core aim is to escape meddling by any modern states - mostly advanced enlightenment democracies, with their heavy taxes and regulations, while seasteader owner members will still retain full, web-accessed control of their investment portfolios and dividend incomes from those societies.

Vitamin A supplements to save 600,000 lives per year and prevent illness, and blindness in children aged under 5:

British Medical Journal - Vitamin A supplementation is associated with large reductions in mortality, morbidity, and vision problems in a range of settings, and these results cannot be explained by bias. Further placebo controlled trials of vitamin A supplementation in children between 6 and 59 months of age are not required. However, there is a need for further studies comparing different doses and delivery mechanisms (for example, fortification). Until other sources are available, vitamin A supplements should be given to all children at risk of deficiency, particularly in low and middle income countries.

43 trials with about 215 633 children were included.

Seventeen trials including 194 483 participants reported a 24% reduction in all cause mortality (rate ratio=0.76, 95% confidence interval 0.69 to 0.83).

Seven trials reported a 28% reduction in mortality associated with diarrhoea (0.72, 0.57 to 0.91).

Vitamin A supplementation was associated with a reduced incidence of diarrhoea (0.85, 0.82 to 0.87) and measles (0.50, 0.37 to 0.67) and a reduced prevalence of vision problems, including night blindness (0.32, 0.21 to 0.50) and xerophthalmia (0.31, 0.22 to 0.45). Three trials reported an increased risk of vomiting within the first 48 hours of supplementation (2.75, 1.81 to 4.19).

If the risk of death for 190 million vitamin A deficient children were reduced by 24%, over 600,000 lives would be saved each year and 20 million disability-adjusted life years (a measure of quantity and quality of life) would be gained.

Reported - BMJ 2011; 343:d5094 doi: 10.1136/bmj.d5094 (Published 25 August 2011)
Cite this as: BMJ 2011; 343:d5094

Vitamin A supplements for preventing mortality, illness, and blindness in children aged under 5: systematic review and meta-analysis
1. Evan Mayo-Wilson, departmental lecturer
2. Aamer Imdad, senior research officer
3. Kurt Herzer, Marshall scholar
4. Mohammad Yawar Yakoob, senior research officer
5. Zulfiqar A Bhutta, Noordin Noormahomed Sheriff endowed professor and founding chair

Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention, Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford, Barnett House, Oxford OX1 2ER, UK

Division of Women and Child Health, Aga Khan University Hospital, Stadium Road, PO Box 3500, 74800 Karachi, Pakistan

August 25, 2011

IBM Builds 120 Petabyte drive

A data repository almost 10 times bigger than any made before is being built by researchers at IBM's Almaden, California, research lab. The 120 petabyte "drive"—that's 120 million gigabytes—is made up of 200,000 conventional hard disk drives working together. The giant data container is expected to store around one trillion files and should provide the space needed to allow more powerful simulations of complex systems, like those used to model weather and climate.

Memristor memories and nanostores by HP


Memory Trends,Recent Results and research gaps area discussed by HP

Why Memristor-based Memories?

– RRAM with good scaling
• 5 nanometer junctions demonstrated
– Some memristor material systems are nonlinear
• Enables use in crossbars

– Crossbars
• Amortizes current steering transistors over more cells
• Achieve higher bit densities and lower cost than 1T1R

Exascale Supercomputers and Beyond

There was a conference set up by the Dept of Energy to look at the technical issues for building Exaflop supercomputers and beyond.

Presenter Presentation Title
Agarwal, Anant The Road to Exascale: Are We Being Radical Enough?
Bergman, Keren Silicon Photonics for Exascale Computing
Borkar, Shekhar Technology and Design Challenges to Realize Exascale
Dally, Bill Power and Programmability The Challenges of ExaScale Computing
Elnozahy, Mootaz Lessons from HPCS/PERCS
Geist, Al The Path to Exascale What is the Monster in the Closet?
Jouppi, Norman Research Gaps in Photonics, Memristive Memories, and Architecture
Kogge, Peter Update on Current Trends and Roadblocks
Mountain, David An ACS view of the current Exascale efforts
Murphy, Richard Through the Exascale Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There
Resnick, Dave Needs Within and Above the Exascale Program
Resnick, Dave Memory for Exascale and ... Micron's new memory component is called HMC: Hybrid Memory Cube
Shalf, John Exascale: Past, Present, Future
Snavely, Allan Whose job is it to find locality?
Sterling, Thomas Exascale Execution Models

Challenges of Exascale Computing by Nvidia Chief Scientist

Challenges of Exascale Computing by Nvidia Chief Scientist (45 pages)

Instruction level parallelism (ILP) was mined out in 2000.

Historic scaling is at an end! To continue performance scaling of all sizes of computer systems requires addressing two challenges:Power and Programmability. Much of the economy depends on this.

China targets 100 petaflop supercomputer by 2015 and an exaflop by 2020

China is preparing to work on a supercomputer with a capacity of 100 petaflops by 2015 and try to produce the first exascale computer in 2020," said Hu Qingfeng, deputy chief designer of Tianhe-1A, one of the world's top 10 fastest supercomputers.

"We have kicked off the research of some core technologies and manpower cultivation for the plan," Hu, a professor at the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT), told China Daily.

Increasing fuel efficiency with a smartphone

Where previous experimental traffic-light advisory systems used GPS data or data from traffic sensors, SignalGuru uses visual data from cellphone cameras.
Graphic: Christine Daniloff

A network of dashboard-mounted phones can collect data on traffic lights and tell drivers how to avoid inefficient stopping and starting.

Researchers from MIT and Princeton University took the best-paper award for a system that uses a network of smartphones mounted on car dashboards to collect information about traffic signals and tell drivers when slowing down could help them avoid waiting at lights. By reducing the need to idle and accelerate from a standstill, the system saves gas: In tests conducted in Cambridge, Mass., it helped drivers cut fuel consumption by 20 percent.

SignalGuru: Leveraging Mobile Phones for Collaborative Traffic Signal Schedule Advisory (14 pages)

A planet made of diamond 4000 light years away

An artist's visualisation of the pulsar and its orbiting planet. Image credit - Swinburne Astronomy Productions

A pulsar and its diamond planet are part of the Milky Way's plane of stars and lie 4,000 light-years away in the constellation of Serpens (the Snake). The system is about an eighth of the way towards the Galactic Centre from the Earth.

First, it orbits the pulsar in just two hours and ten minutes, and the distance between the two objects is 600,000 km—a little less than the radius of our Sun.

Second, the companion must be small, less than 60,000 km (that's about five times the Earth's diameter). The planet is so close to the pulsar that, if it were any bigger, it would be ripped apart by the pulsar's gravity.

But despite its small size, the planet has slightly more mass than Jupiter.

Kazakhstan uranium production tracking to 19278 tons in 2011

Uranium production volume of the Republic of Kazakhstan for 6 months of 2011 made up 9 148 tU, which is 9% higher in comparison with the same period of the previous year. In accordance with the stated plans, uranium production made by entities of NAC Kazatomprom JSC will reach 10 130 tU in the second half of 2011.

This looks like it will be an easy win for one of three bets that I made involving Kazakhstan uranium production, world uranium production and world nuclear power generation.

The Kazakhstan uranium production bet was made at the Oildrum

Japan should have an economic recovery in 2012 and 2013

The Economist predicts that Japan will have a decent recovery in 2012 and 2013

Private economists are forecasting a boom in 2012 and 2013, as the rebuilding of the devastated Tohoku region in north-eastern Japan acts as a big stimulus, which will offset slower growth in America and Europe. Official estimates put the damage at between ¥16 trillion and ¥25 trillion ($210 billion-330 billion). The government has already budgeted for ¥6 trillion to pay for reconstruction, which has yet to kick in. An additional stimulus package, perhaps as large as ¥10 trillion, is being debated in the Japanese parliament. The surge in public spending means that Japan is almost certain to resume growth in the second half of this year.

The Sinosphere: China's New "Diaspora" Economy

Forbes - The Sinosphere: China's New "Diaspora" Economy

A close examination of the emerging Sinosphere–or Chinese sphere of influence–shows an economy that is globally dispersed, multinational and increasingly focused on the high-tech and service sectors.

Interstellar Travel Implicit assumptions, Risks and Reasons

Future Pundit discusses interstellar travel and asks why would humanity send a manned mission.

Randall Parker and most other people make several mistaken assumptions when they analyze interstellar travel. They implicitly assume that humanity is sending a manned mission with very little changes to our society except that there is the added capability of interstellar space travel sublight or faster than light.

I think that the economy of a country or world that is sending a manned interstellar mission will be 25-200 times or more larger than our current economy. This also means a world with 10-100 times or more greater energy production.

I think that it is clear that societies will spend first on developing the local solar system. So interstellar would be about 0.01 to 0.1% of GDP as most of the space effort would be in the solar system. The local space development should include space telescopes that will enable direct imaging of exoplanets. Some of the developments should also include multiple observation systems at the gravitational lensing point (500 times farther from the Sun than the earth). There should also be some development of the outer solar system, perhaps out to the Kuiper belt or Oort comet cloud. This can mean outposts going out half a light year.

It would also be foolish to send manned missions before sending robotic missions. Some of the robotic missions can send systems for scouting, preparing and developing the landing site.

August 24, 2011

Progress to unlocking over 800 billion barrels of oil shale

Red Leaf Resources, Inc. has developed the EcoShale™ In-Capsule Technology to economically and environmentally produce high quality liquid transportation fuels from oil shale, oil sands, coal, lignite and bio-mass. (H/T Al Fin)

The EcoShale™ In-Capsule Technology involves heating mined shale in a closed surface impoundment, or capsule. The process relies on conventional mining and construction methods and produces a bottomless oil product that requires no coking. The process produces a shale oil with a much higher concentration of middle distillate than West Texas intermediate crude. Two synthetic shale oil products are produced: (1) prompt oil of approximately 29 API gravity; (2) condensate oil of approximately 39 API gravity. The oil and condensate produced with this process have no fines and have very low acid numbers.

The technology requires no process water, protects groundwater and vegetation, uses low temperatures for heating and allows for rapid site reclamation.

The EcoShale™ In-Capsule Technology process is expected to produce commercially attractive returns to investment at oil prices greater than about US$45-per-barrel.

It is estimated that the average water usage across oil shale technologies is one-three barrels per barrel of oil produced. Red Leaf Resources anticipates that approximately eight gallons, or one-fifth a barrel of water, will be required to produce a barrel of oil using the EcoShale™ In-Capsule Technology. Test pilot results support this calculation.

TomCo Energy is a London-based company which owns leases on over 3000 acres of oil shale land in Utah’s Uintah Basin. The Uinta Basin is the site of the massive Eocene Green River Shale formation – potentially the largest reservoir of unconventional petroleum in the world. With total reserves estimated at up to 1.3 trillion barrels, and ultimately recoverable reserves of 800 billion barrels or more , this formation holds three times or more the amount of Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves.

Evolve objects and 3d print them

Endless forms is trying to enable more people to benefit from 3D printing by exploring object designs by choosing those you like. Evolution produces objects in the next generation that are variants of those you choose, similar to how animals are bred and naturally evolve.

Technology Review has coverage

The site demonstrates a technology that designers could use to create new products and accelerate the broader adoption of 3-D printing.

People can use EndlessForms without any prior 3-D design experience. The user begins by choosing an object from a randomly generated gallery. The site creates a new gallery of variants of the chosen object, and the user selects one of the variants. The process repeats, gradually refining the design into the shape the user desires. Users can share this shape with other users and, if they wish, send the object to a 3-D printing service to render it in a variety of materials, including plastic, silver, and gold-plated steel. A five-to-seven-centimeter plastic model typically costs less than $10.

Inexpensive chips harvest mechanical energy to charge batteries for wireless sensors

This prototype wireless-sensor battery (top) incorporates four energy-harvesting chips. A close-up of one chip (bottom) shows a vibrating cantilever that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy.
Credit: MicroGen Systems

MicroGen Systems is developing
energy-harvesting chips designed to power wireless sensors like those used to monitor tire pressure and environmental conditions. The chips convert the energy from environmental vibrations into electricity that's then used to charge a small battery. The chips could eliminate the need to replace batteries in these devices, which today requires a trip to a mechanic or, for networks of sensors that are widely distributed, a lot of legwork.

The core of MicroGen's chips is a one-centimeter-squared array of tiny silicon cantilevers that oscillate when the chip is jostled. At the base of the cantilevers is a bit of piezoelectric material: when it's strained by vibrations, it produces an electrical potential that can be used to generate electrical current. The cantilever array is mounted on top of a postage-stamp-sized, thin-film battery that stores the energy it generates. The current passes from the piezoelectric array through an electrical device that converts the current to a form compatible with the battery. When the chip is shaken by, say, the vibrations of a rotating tire, it can produce about 200 microwatts of power.

Micro-explosion reveals new super-dense aluminium

The method to create high-density phase by the ultrashort laser pulse triggered and spatially confined microexplosion. A tightly focused femtosecond pulse generates hot plasma in sapphire, which in turn produces a strong shock wave, which compresses the material against the surrounding pristine Al2O3 crystal into a densified amorphous phase

Researchers including scientists from The Australian National University have created a new, super-dense version of aluminium that could lead to efficient production of new super-hard nanomaterials at a relatively low cost.In a paper published today in Nature Communications, the group has described how they discovered a way to produce body-centred-cubic aluminium, which is 40 per cent more dense. Super-hard aluminium was predicted to exist more than 30 years ago but has never before been observed.

Lab experiments on producing high pressure and temperature generally use a diamond anvil with a point on one end to produce high pressure but this is limited by the strength of the diamond, which in the case of aluminium, is not hard enough to crush into a new state

Nature Communications - Evidence of superdense aluminium synthesized by ultrafast microexplosion

Floating Microcountries

"Big ideas start as weird ideas," Patri Friedman, an ex-Googler and the grandson of the late economist Milton Friedman, recently told Details. And Friedman's idea is weirder than most. The libertarian blogger is tired of the restrictions he feels are imposed on him by American society. The solution? Floating chains of micro-countries, each little colonies in the vast Petri dish of the sea, and each an experiment in a new form of government. The idea, which Friedman terms "seasteading," caught the eye of PayPal founder Peter Thiel who sunk $1.25 million into the idea.

I saw Patri Friedman at a Singularity University event giving a talk on the idea of seasteading as a means of experimenting with government.

Land based charter cities (like new laws passed in Honduras) will enable more experimentation with governance to find ways to achieve maximum economic efficiency.

Microcountries are really more accurately thought of as city states.

Singapore is a prime example of success as were the Chinese economic development zones.

Patri Friedman was thinking to start with the economic and governing rules of Texas and then experiment with variations from that point.

August 23, 2011

Just felt an earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area

It was a short sharp jolt. I am in San Ramon, California. Part of the San Francisco Bay area about 30 miles east of the San Francisco Airport.

Twitter confirmation of a short sharp earthquake in the San Francisco bay area a few minutes ago

USGS reports it was a 3.6 quake.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 11:36:54 PM at epicenter
Location 37.748°N, 122.137°W
Depth 9.1 km (5.7 miles)
4 km (3 miles) NNE (19°) from San Leandro, CA

So 100 times weaker than the 5.9 earthquake that hitthe east coast/Virginia 12 hours ago.

Peptide based fluid stimulates tooth regeneration to revolutionize treatment of cavities in teeth

Researchers at the University of Leeds who have developed a revolutionary new way to treat the first signs of tooth decay. Their solution is to arm dentists with a peptide-based fluid that is literally painted onto the tooth's surface. The peptide technology is based on knowledge of how the tooth forms in the first place and stimulates regeneration of the tooth defect.

"The results of our tests so far are extremely promising," said Professor Paul Brunton, who is overseeing the patient testing at the University of Leeds Dental Institute. "If these results can be repeated on a larger patient group, then I have no doubt whatsoever that in two to three years time this technique will be available for dentists to use in their daily practice."

Human gait could soon power portable electronics

In a paper appearing this week (Aug. 23) in the journal Nature Communications, Krupenkin and Taylor, both engineering researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, describe a new energy-harvesting technology that promises to dramatically reduce our dependence on batteries and instead capture the energy of human motion to power portable electronics.

They have novel energy-harvesting technology known as "reverse electrowetting," a phenomenon discovered by the Wisconsin researchers. The mechanical energy is converted to electrical energy by using a micro-fluidic device consisting of thousands of liquid micro-droplets interacting with a novel nano-structured substrate.

This technology could enable a novel footwear-embedded energy harvester that captures energy produced by humans during walking, which is normally lost as heat, and converts it into up to 20 watts of electrical power that can be used to power mobile electronic devices. Unlike a traditional battery, the energy harvester never needs to be recharged, as the new energy is constantly generated during the normal walking process.

University of Sydney's Dr. Salvatore Babones makes pessimistic case for China Economic Growth

Salvatore Babones is Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

China’s economic growth has been unprecedented, even miraculous. But the country is unlikely to keep up its breakneck pace. Instead, China’s growth should level out soon, returning to rates more like those of comparable middle-income countries, such as Brazil, Mexico, and Russia. Salvatore is more pessimistic than other predictions about China economic future.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Fogel believes that China will grow at an average annual rate of eight percent until 2040, by which time it will be twice as rich as Europe (in per capita terms) and its share of global GDP will be 40 percent (compared with 14 percent for the United States and five percent for the European Union). Other economists are slightly more cautious: Uri Dadush and Bennett Stancil of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace predict that China will grow by 5.6 percent per year through 2050.

I disagree with Salvatore and have predicted continued strong economic growth in China. I believe that the 2-4% per year GDP boost from urbanization will continue for another 20 years.

Researchers reach world-record 97.4 Tesla magnetic field

In a three-second span on Friday, August 19, researchers and engineers at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Los Alamos National Lab created a 97.4 Tesla magnetic field—the highest non-destructive magnetic field in the world.

The previous record, 91.4 Tesla, was set in June of this year by the High Magnetic Field Laboratory Dresden. "Tesla" is a measurement of the strength of a magnetic field; 1 Tesla is equal to 20,000 times the Earth's magnetic field.

Unexpected adhesion properties of graphene may lead to new nanotechnology devices

An artist's rendering of an array of pressurized graphene membranes. A CU-Boulder team recently discovered that graphene has surprisingly high adhesion properties, findings that may help lead to the development of new graphene-based mechanical devices like gas separation membranes. (Illustration courtesy Victor Tzen and Rex Tzen.)

graphene has surprisingly powerful adhesion qualities -- are expected to help guide the development of graphene manufacturing and of graphene-based mechanical devices such as resonators and gas separation membranes, according to the CU-Boulder team. The experiments showed that the extreme flexibility of graphene allows it to conform to the topography of even the smoothest substrates.

Nature Nanotechnology - Ultrastrong adhesion of graphene membranes.

Bullseye nanoparticle based gene therapy for lung cancer

A Kansas State University professor is trying to create a patient-friendly treatment to help the more than 220,000 people who are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. Tamura has focused his research on peptide nanoparticle-based gene therapy, which is the process of treating diseases by introducing therapeutic genes. His research team is collaborating with University of Kansas researchers to develop a way to treat cancer other than current chemotherapy practices.

Michael Rose talks about different aging theory

Michael Rose key point - Since Aristotle, virtually everyone who has worked on the biology of aging has conceived of it in terms of an underlying cumulative physiological process. But Michael Rose does not think aging is a cumulative process anymore. Michael Rose bred long lived fruit flies that live 4 to 5 times longer than normal fruit flies.

His present view is also not one generally held, at least not yet, even by most evolutionary biologists who work on aging.

Theory - Aging processes can be halted and deathrates can plateau. This level can be manipulated.

My turning on the Road to Damascus started one day in 1992 when my good colleague Larry Mueller showed me two articles from the journal Science, articles from the laboratories of our colleagues Jim Curtsinger and Jim Carrey. The data in those articles were mind-blowing. They showed the complete cessation of the acceleration in age-specific death-rates that evolutionary biologists like Larry and myself regarded as the hallmark of aging. It looked as if aging came to a stop.

August 22, 2011

My Position on the Three Major Singularity Views

There are three major schools of thought: Accelerating Change, the Event Horizon, and the Intelligence Explosion. There is also those who do not think a Technological Singularity will happen.

Event Horizon:

Core claim: For the last hundred thousand years, humans have been the smartest intelligences on the planet. All our social and technological progress was produced by human brains. Shortly, technology will advance to the point of improving on human intelligence (brain-computer interfaces, Artificial Intelligence). This will create a future that is weirder by far than most science fiction, a difference-in-kind that goes beyond amazing shiny gadgets.

I think that the current understanding of physics will still apply. There could be some Mach Effect Propulsion breakthroughs that would be accelerated with far greater than human artificial intelligence (AGI). However, we could also get that even without AGI.

I also think that we will be living through the rampup to any great acceleration in development. So the changes will be mostly understandable and somewhat predictable to those who are paying close attention. It is difficult to make accurate predictions now beyond 5-10 years in many areas. Faster changing technological areas have predictable aspects but less predictability in certain new applications. The internet and communication speeds and deployment are predictable but social media was less predictable as they emerged but then they settled into predictability again. Disruptions are not predictable but the period between disruptions should remain predictable. I do not think the pace of disruptions for science will get to the point where people will not be able to follow it. It may be difficult for people to contribute to the advancement but it should remain understandable to those who currently are on top of scientific developments.

Rice University developing solid-state, nanotube-based supercapacitors

Carbon nanotube bundles are at the center of supercapacitors developed at Rice University. Arrays of nanotube bundles are coated via atomic layer deposition to create thousands of microscopic devices in a single array. The electron microscope images at right show the three-layer construction of one of the supercapacitors, which are about 100 nanometers wide.

A Rice team grew an array of 15-20 nanometer bundles of single-walled carbon nanotubes up to 50 microns long into a supercapacitor

Carbon journal - Three dimensional solid-state supercapacitors from aligned single-walled carbon nanotube array templates

Tunable laser table top plasma accelerator

A laser pulse through a capillary filled with hydrogen plasma creates a wake that can accelerate an electron beam to a billion electron volts in just 3.3 centimeters. The same LOASIS accelerating structure has been modified to tune stable, high-quality beams from 100 to 400 million electron volts. (Photos by Roy Kaltschmidt, Berkeley Lab Public Affairs)

Laser plasma accelerators offer the potential to create powerful electron beams within a fraction of the space required by conventional accelerators – and at a fraction of the cost. The LOASIS team has demonstrated a simple way to tune highly stable beams through a wide range of energies.

Their promise for the future includes not only compact high-energy colliders for fundamental physics but diminutive sources of intensely bright beams of light, spanning the spectrum from microwaves to gamma rays – a new kind of ultrafast light source for investigating new materials, biological structures, and green chemistry. Compared to today’s giant science facilities, “table-top” laser plasma accelerators may eventually be able to do equally powerful research with minimal environmental impact.

To reach these goals, laser plasma accelerators must be able to produce high-quality, stable electron beams and tune those beams to the users’ needs. The LOASIS program at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has already demonstrated high-quality beams up to a billion electron volts in a mere 3.3 centimeters; the BELLA project will reach 10 billion electron volts in a single meter.

Nature Physics - Tunable laser plasma accelerator based on longitudinal density tailoring

Are substrate-independent minds possible?

AI researchers have been speculating for decades that it might be possible one day to create substrate independent minds. In 1999 Ray Kurzweil published The Age of Spiritual Machines in which he predicted that minds would be uploaded to computers in the latter part of the 21st century. The subject of Artificial General Intelligence has garnered increasing attention during the last decade as researchers such as Ben Goertzel, Itamar Arel, and Peter Voss have done groundbreaking work in the field. In an interview with Sander Olson, AI researcher Randal Koene discusses how developments in the field of AI are accelerating, how low-cost DNA sequencing could become critical to AI development, and how the first substrate-independent minds
could emerge within the next twenty years.

Randal Koene

Question: You have just returned from AGI 2011. How did that go?

AGI 2011 was a complete success. Peter Norvig, who is the head of research at Google, attended this event, and he literally wrote the book on AI. The large number of presenters and obvious excitement that AGI 2011 generated clearly indicates that interest in this topic is increasing.

Sub-picosecond phase-sensitive optical pulse chip will speed communication on the internet

Time-Frequency contour plot

A revolutionary new chip that uses little energy and operates at ultrafast speeds for telecommunications and computing is set to replace the power-hungry, expensive and bulky equipment that currently resides at the core of the internet.

Developed by an international team led by University of Sydney physicist Associate Professor David Moss, the chip uses technology called Spectral Phase Interferometry for Direct Electric-Field Reconstruction, or SPIDER.

The internet uses high-speed signals that exploit the coherence of light to transmit information. Until now it has only been possible to accurately measure the intensity and phase of optical pulses with bulky and expensive laboratory equipment

SPIDER on-chip: a subpicosecond phase sensitive optical oscilloscope

We report a CMOS-compatible monolithic device for the amplitude and phase characterization of ultrafast optical pulses based on FWM. It operates at 100mW pulse peak powers, with less than 700 femtosecond accuracy and over a 100 picosecond time window.

New Antennas in your Clothes with four times the range of conventional antennas

John Volakis, Director of the ElectroScience Laboratory, holds a prototype communications antenna embroidered into cloth. Photo by Al Zanyk, courtesy of Ohio State University.

To make communications devices more reliable, Ohio State University researchers are finding ways to incorporate radio antennas directly into clothing, using plastic film and metallic thread. They report a new antenna design with a range four times larger than that of a conventional antenna worn on the body – one that is used by American soldiers today. The Ohio State system takes elements from previous research and combines them in a new way, with the addition of a unique computer control device that lets multiple antennas work together in a single piece of clothing.

Journal IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters - Omnidirectional Vest-Mounted Body-Worn Antenna System for UHF Operation

We present an omnidirectional UHF body-worn antenna specifically designed for vests worn by law enforcement agencies. Typically, body-worn antennas suffer from pattern nulling that decreases communication reliability. The proposed antenna system consists of a compact diversity module (79 × 41 × 28 mm3) and four antennas mounted on a typical body-worn vest to achieve an omnidirectional pattern. Each antenna element is carefully designed for body-worn mounting onto fitted vests and can operate at UHF frequencies with reasonable on-body gain. Radiation patterns are calculated and validated via measurements. Performance is also evaluated in an indoor environment for several realistic human activities. Comparison to a simple whip monopole antenna is also provided.

Small energy efficient lens could make smartphone projectors mainstream

Alps Electric's tiny new lens might just be the key to bringing on-board smartphone projectors to the mass market.

The FLGS3 Series is a highly efficient 1 × 1mm square aspherical glass lens—the industry’s smallest. Alps harnessed technologies accumulated through more than 20 years serving the optical communication market—in the areas of optical design, mechanical design, mold and die manufacturing, molding, and simulation—to expand the effective numerical aperture (NA) to 0.65 × 0.13 (from 0.5 × 0.1) while retaining the industry’s smallest size, and as a result raise optical coupling efficiency, which is a measure of light transmission efficiency, to 73% from 68%. With low loss, the light input required for a given output is smaller. This contributes to low power consumption, and also restricts heat generation, thereby enabling application in low-price modules that do not require Peltier devices*1 or other cooling components. The lens is also ideal for high-brightness projector applications.

Ridley Scott will Direct a New Blade Runner Film and making Prometheus an Alien Prequel

Ridley Scott is set to helm a follow up to his own ground-breaking 1982 science fiction classic “Blade Runner” for Warner Bros-based financing and production company Alcon Entertainment (“The Blind Side,” “The Book of Eli”).

Alcon has not revealed whether the new Blade Runner will be a sequel or prequel to the original, and all options would appear to be open.
Blade Runner had stunning and imaginative visuals and a plausible look to its imagined future (although it was set in 2019 which did not make sense)

Scott's forthcoming return to the Alien universe, Prometheus, is being touted as a film with "DNA" from the original movie rather than a direct prequel, an intriguing prospect which has created enormous buzz round the project.

Progress at General Fusion

General fusion aims to develop an acoustically driven magnetized target fusion (MTF) reactor. Two spheromaks are made to merge in the center of a 3 meter diameter sphere full of liquid lead-lithium. 200 pneumatic pistons hit the outside of the sphere and launch an inward going spherical pressure wave that focuses and compresses the merged spheromak (or FRC) to thermonuclear condition.

We have so far built one of the two spheromak generators and achieved 40 cm outside diameter, 2E16 cm-3, 20 eV and 80 microsecond life.

Our target is 40 cm outside diameter, 1E17 cm-3, 100 eV and 100 microsecond life. We have built two pneumatic pistons.

The impact timing accuracy achieved by servo control is +/-5 microsecond. Simulation indicates that we need +/- 10 microsecond. We have successfully sent the pressure wave in liquid lead. Finally, in order to prove MTF faster without building the large and expensive sphere, we started a program with high explosive compression. Metal jetting into the collapsing chamber was observed. This might disrupt the plasma. We are changing the design of the compression chamber to address this issue.

In the next year, we are planning to collapse liquid metal cavity with 14 pistons to check the symmetry achieved. We also plan to compress in 100 microsecond with high explosive the spheromak plasma from our generator from an initial 40 cm, 1E17 cm-3, 100 eV, 100 us life to a final 4 cm, 1E20 cm-3, 10 keV, 10 us life and therefore demonstrate break-even conditions. We presently have 24 M$ in the bank and 47 employees (and still hiring) to achieve these goals.

August 21, 2011

Tri-Alpha Energy - A Well-Confined Field-Reversed Configuration Plasma Formed by Dynamic Merging of Two Colliding Compact Toroids in C-2

Tri-alpha Energy nuclear fusion C2 experiment looks a lot like what Helion Energy has been doing

19 page presentation by Tri-alpha Energy (H/T Talk Polywell)

Highlights of Scientific Achievements:

* Demonstration of long-lived FRCs by dynamic merging Compact Toroids (CTs)

* Active control of n=2 mode rotational instability by (1) quadrupole fields and (2) electrode biasing

* Reduction of background neutrals by wall conditioning (Titanium or Lithium getterings)

* Improvement in flux confinement / transport properties

Helion Energy work has been described in detail.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 66

Updated paper - metamaterial warp drive simulator

Example of a non-reciprocal bi-anisotropic metamaterial geometry, which explicitly violates spatial and time reversal symmetries. An elementary unit of the split ring-based “perfect magnetoelectric metamaterial” design is supplemented with a magnetized ferrite particle. The particle is magnetized and shifted along the x-direction with respect to the center of the split ring. The particle magnetization is proportional to the required gx in a given location.

Arxiv - Metamaterial-based model of the Alcubierre warp drive (15 pages accepted to Physical Review B)

Electromagnetic metamaterials are capable of emulating many exotic space-time geometries, such as black holes, rotating cosmic strings, and the big bang singularity. Here we present a metamaterial-based model of the Alcubierre warp drive, and study its limitations due to available range of material parameters. It appears that the material parameter range introduces strong limitations on the achievable "warp speed", so that ordinary magnetoelectric materials cannot be used. On the other hand, newly developed "perfect" bi-anisotropic non-reciprocal magnetoelectric metamaterials should be capable of emulating the physics of warp drive gradually accelerating up to 1/4c.

The work was reviewed here last year

SpaceX Plans To Be Top World Rocket Maker

Aviation Week - California-based SpaceX is ramping up plans to become the world’s largest producer of rocket engines in less than five years, manufacturing more units per year than any other single country.

Outlining SpaceX’s ambitious growth strategy, President ­Gwynne Shotwell says a production increase is aimed at supporting the assembly of engines for the coming flurry of Falcon 1 and 9 launches. The company also continues to bolster its workforce, passing the 1,500-employee mark for the first time at the start of August after seeing a 50% uptick in payroll last year.

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