December 17, 2011

Energy catalyzer planned higher volumes and lowering unit prices

1. ECat World - Rossi says that 10,000 Home-based E-Cats Have Been Ordered The 10,000 unit threshold was required to make small domestic units at 400 Euro/kW viable.

2. Rossi has indicated that the current price of 2000 Euro per kw for the 1 MW plant pays back itself in 3 years. The expected life is 30 years.

They plan to lower the price with the increase of the orders, to allow more economy scale. Our target is to arrive within the year to 1000 Euro/kW

Nanomechanical measurements of 100 times higher resolution on proteins

UCLA physicists have made nanomechanical measurements of unprecedented resolution on protein molecules. The new measurements, by UCLA physics professor Giovanni Zocchi and former UCLA physics graduate student Yong Wang, are approximately 100 times higher in resolution than previous mechanical measurements, a nanotechnology feat which reveals an isolated protein molecule, surprisingly, is neither a solid nor a liquid.

Carnival of Space 228

1. Astroblogger - Comet Lovejoy survived its passage over the Sun

C/2011 W3 Lovejoy in SOHO C3 (16 December UT), astonishingly, it has left its tail behind (the comet the is bright object to the right of the occulting disk).

Physics World Picks Top ten breakthroughs for 2011

The two physics stories that dominated the news in 2011 were questions rather than solid scientific results, namely "Do neutrinos travel faster than light?" and "Has the Higgs boson been found?". However, there have also been some fantastic bona fide research discoveries over the last 12 months, which made it difficult to decide on the Physics World 2011 Breakthrough of the Year.

1. Shifting the morals of quantum measurement

Beam splitting experiment reveal, for example, that a photon detected on the right-hand side of the diffraction pattern is more likely to have emerged from the optical fibre on the right than from the optical fibre on the left. While this knowledge is not forbidden by quantum mechanics, Steinberg says that physicists have been taught that "asking where a photon is before it is detected is somehow immoral".

December 16, 2011

Google Voice Understanding Project Majel is a response to Apple Siri

Androidandme - Google’s response to Apple’s Siri voice assistant is codenamed Majel, which comes from Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, better known as the voice of the Federation Computer from Star Trek.

Majel is an evolution of Google’s Voice Actions that is currently available on most Android phones with the addition of natural language processing. Where Voice Actions required you to issue specific commands like “send text to…” or “navigate to…”, Majel will allow you to perform actions in your natural language similar to how Siri functions.

Speaking of actions, it sounds like only Google search queries will be included with the initial release, that could come as soon as this year. I say this year because I’ve heard that engineers at Google X are working around the clock on finishing the first release and the NYTimes previously reported that one product would be released by Google X this year.

Ted wrote: “It’s definitely as good, or better, than Siri. At least on the tablet you can sort through different answers with these swipe-able trays. Like, if you say “show me the Statue of Liberty” it’ll automatically take you to Google Image results, but another tray beneath it might be its location on Google Maps and then another tray might have a Wikipedia page. It’s also pretty good at giving you succinct answers if you ask it a question. The UI is definitely more powerful than Siri’s, even if a little harder to navigate.

At least at one phase of the development you would activate it by saying “Computer…” It was hard not to use a Jean Luc Piccard accent when doing it!”

Tiny Solar Cell Could Make a Big Difference

The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently validated greater than 41 percent efficiency at a concentration of 1,000 suns for tiny cells made by Semprius — one of the highest efficiencies recorded at this concentration.

Semprius' triple-junction cells are made of gallium arsenide. Low-cost lenses concentrate the sun light onto the tiny cells 1,100 times. Their tiny size means they occupy only one-one thousandth of the entire solar module area, reducing the module cost. In addition, the use of a large number of small cells helps to distribute unwanted heat over the cell's structure, so there's no need for expensive thermal management hardware such as heat fins.

Semprius engineers use the company's patented micro-transfer printing process to allow the micro-cells to be transferred from the growth substrate to a wafer. In a massive parallel process, thousands of cells are transferred simultaneously. This allows the original substrate to be used again and again, dramatically cutting costs. It also provides a way to handle very small cells.

This low-cost approach, which Semprius executives say can cut manufacturing expense by 50 percent, caught the eye of energy giant Siemens, which this year took a 16 percent stake in Semprius, as part of a $20 million investment from venture capitalists.

NREL scientist Keith Emery examines a Semprius solar module at the laboratory's Outdoor Test Facility. NREL helped Semprius characterize and test its tiny solar cells, which are the diameter of a dot made by a ballpoint pen (600 microns wide).
Credit: Dennis Schroeder

Dynamically Tunable Protein Microlenses

Angewandte Chemie International Edition - Proteins in focus: Dynamically tunable protein microdevices were built up by a simple “top-down”, maskless, femtosecond laser direct writing approach with bovine serum albumin. This technique was used to produce biocompatible microlenses that swell and shrink reversibly in response to changes in the pH of the surrounding solution. These responses to environmental stimuli can be used to focus the microlenses.

The researchers used a laser to "write" the desired micrometer-sized lens shape out of a solution of bovine serum albumin, a protein. Methylene blue acts as a photosensitizer, which captures the light energy like an antenna and triggers a crosslinking reaction of the protein molecules. Driven by a computer, the laser cuts out the desired three-dimensional form voxel by voxel. A voxel is a three-dimensional pixel, a tiny segment of volume. The irradiation used is in femtosecond pulses, which lasts on the order of 10^-13 seconds. The crosslinking reaction only takes place in the locations that are irradiated. After the reaction, the protein molecules that have not reacted can simply be rinsed away. What stays behind is a cross-linked, aqueous protein gel in the shapes of micrometer-sized lenses.

Three-year study identifies key interventions to reduce maternal, newborn and child deaths

A new global consensus has been agreed on the key evidence-based interventions that will sharply reduce the 358,000 women who still die each year during pregnancy and childbirth and the 7.6 million children who die before the age of 5, according to a massive, three-year global study. The study, Essential Interventions, Commodities and Guidelines for Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, is designed to facilitate decision-making in low- and middle-income countries about how to allocate limited resources for maximum impact on the health of women and children.

A child's greatest risk of dying is during the first 28 days of life, accounting for 40% of all deaths among children under the age of 5. Half of newborn deaths occur during the first 24 hours and 75% during the first week of life, with preterm birth, severe infections and asphyxia being the main causes.

Some of the interventions include:

* Manage maternal anemia with iron;
* Prevent and manage post-partum hemorrhage;
* Immediate thermal care for newborns;
* Extra support for feeding small and preterm babies;
* Antibiotics for the treatment of pneumonia in children.

"What is new," says Dr. Elizabeth Mason, Director of WHO’s department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health, and an author of the study, "is putting together information in a different way and building consensus among physicians, scientists and professional organizations to lay out an evidence-based path to help women before, during and after birth and their children. Everyone now agrees on the 56 essential interventions."

3-D Photovoltaics Could Revolutionize Solar Power

Technology Review - Engineers say replacing flat panels with three dimensional structures can significantly change the economics of solar power generation.

Marco Bernardi and pals at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge say there is a simple fix that could dramatically increase the performance of photovoltaics. Instead of two dimensional flat panels, Bernadi and co suggest using three dimensional structures.

They've simulated the performance of various shapes and tested several of these on the roof of a building at MIT. Their results indicate that 3D structures can increase the amount of energy that can be generated by a given footprint by as much as 20 times. These structures can also double the number of useful peak hours of generation and reduce seasonal variation to boot.

Arxiv - Solar Energy Generation in Three-Dimensions (45 pages)

Nvidia GPU for the next Kindle, 2019 Gaming Systems and Nvidia Servers Speed DNA Sequencing

1. NVIDIA today announced that BGI (Beijing Genomics Institute), the world's largest genomics institute, has slashed the time to analyze batches of DNA sequencing data from nearly four days to just six hours using a NVIDIA® Tesla™ GPU-based server farm.

"The only way for science to reach the $1,000 genome milestone is through technologies that make analyzing DNA data easier, faster and more affordable," said Sumit Gupta, manager of the Tesla business at NVIDIA. "GPU computing enables researchers to achieve game-changing speedups in their scientific applications, which can help reduce the cost and complexity of all types of critical research."

BGI does groundbreaking work in sequencing the genomes of a wide range of life forms, ranging from plants and E.coli to the giant panda, to develop better medicines, improve healthcare and develop genetically enhanced food. BGI's sequencing output is expected to soon surpass the equivalent of more than 700,000 human genomes per year, a dramatic increase over initial efforts, which took 13 years to sequence a single genome.

BGI's NVIDIA(R) Tesla(TM) GPU-based server farm

2. Forbes - Nvidia will supply the application processor in the second version of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, Canaccord Genuity analyst Bobby Burleson asserts in a research note.

The next Fire is expected to have an 8.9-inch screen, larger than the current 7-inch version.

Microwave amplification with nanomechanical resonators fo Quantum Computers

IEEE Spectrum - Quantum computers have the potential to solve seemingly intractable problems in no time flat. But a big stumbling block on the path to practical quantum computing is figuring out how to observe the tiny quantum signals that drive computation. In an advance that may make that observation easier, a group at Aalto University, in Finland, has created a new kind of microwave amplifier based on a mechanical resonator—essentially a nanometer-scale tuning fork.

The Aalto amplifier consists of a meandering microwave cavity [blue] coupled to an aluminum resonator. The two components are separated by a gap just a few nanometers wide.

Nature - Microwave amplification with nanomechanical resonators

DARPA Disc Rotor Helicopter and other projects

CNN has a peak at several DARPA projects

Disc-Rotor Compound Helicopter

The Disc-Rotor is a collaboration between DARPA and Boeing. Hoping to marry the best features of a helicopter and an airplane, the Disc-Rotor program aims to develop a new type of aircraft capable of a seamlessly transitioning from hovering like a helicopter to flying like a plane.

The design is propelled by rotor blades that extend from a central disc, letting it take off and land like a helicopter. But those blades can also retract into the disc, minimizing drag and letting the Disc-Rotor fly like a plane, powered by engines beneath each wing.
The Disc-Rotor program aims to develop a new type of aircraft capable of transitioning from hovering like a helicopter to flying like a plane (artist's impression).

DARPA administrators: Just make it

Agency Director Regina Dugan and Deputy Director Ken Gabriel spoke at MIT about revitalizing U.S. manufacturing. DARPA Director Regina Dugan focused also on the importance of a revitalized national manufacturing mentality. Of DARPA’s perspective on technology development, she said, “We can’t predict the future, but we can build it.” She stressed that the question was not whether manufacturing was essential, but rather how best we can revitalize it.

Both Dugan and Gabriel also addressed the budgetary folly of the Department of Defense’s “buy then make” strategy. They suggested that with a renewed focus on innovation and commitment to weeding out inefficiency and waste, that strategy could be reversed into a much more sustainable “make then buy” approach. If current cost trends continue, Dugan said, by 2064 it will require the entire defense budget to purchase one airplane, and by 2120 that same airplane will require the entire American Gross National Product (GNP).

Tweaking gene PGC-1 increases Fruitfly Lifespan by 50%

Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and their collaborators found that tweaking a gene known as PGC-1, which is also found in human DNA, in the intestinal stem cells of fruit flies delayed the aging of their intestine and extended their lifespan by as much as 50 percent.

"Fruit flies and humans have a lot more in common than most people think," says Leanne Jones, an associate professor in Salk's Laboratory of Genetics and a lead scientist on the project. "There is a tremendous amount of similarity between a human small intestine and the fruit fly intestine."

In young fruit flies (left), the intestinal tissues are highly organized, as shown by the even distribution of different cell types, each represented by a different color. As flies age, this order breaks down, caused by unregulated stem cell activity and inability to form cells with specialized functions. The Salk scientists and their collaborators discovered that activating the fruit fly version of the PGC-1 gene delayed this aging process, while simultaneously extending lifespan. Image: Courtesy of Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Cell Metabolism - Modulation of Longevity and Tissue Homeostasis by the Drosophila PGC-1 Homolog

December 15, 2011

Caltech Chemists Propose Explanation for Superconductivity at High Temperatures

It has been 25 years since scientists discovered the first high-temperature superconductors—copper oxides, or cuprates, that conduct electricity without a shred of resistance at temperatures much higher than other superconducting metals. Yet no one has managed to explain why these cuprates are able to superconduct at all. Now, two Caltech chemists have developed a hypothesis to explain the strange behavior of these materials, while also pointing the way to a method for making even higher-temperature superconductors.

Over the last four years, William Goddard III has published three papers with Jamil Tahir-Kheli, a senior staff scientist at Caltech, building a hypothesis that explains what makes cuprates superconduct. They have been working with a cuprate in which strontium (Sr) atoms are the "dopant atoms," replacing lanthanum (La) atoms. Based on modern quantum-mechanical calculations, Goddard and Tahir-Kheli found that each dopant atom creates a four-center hole on the copper atoms surrounding the strontium, a unit they refer to as a "plaquette." Electrons within the plaquettes form tiny pieces of metal, while those outside the plaquettes are magnetic. This result was completely contrary to the assumptions made by most other scientists about what happens when dopant atoms are added. The problem was, the researchers still did not know how the holes in the plaquettes led to superconductivity

Path of electrons in the Tahir-Kheli-Goddard model of high-temperature superconductors. The red arrow indicates the percolating pathway through the plaquettes. [Credit: Caltech/Tahir-Kheli/Goddard]

Discovery of a ‘Dark State’ Could increase maximum solar cell efficiency from 31% to 66%

he efficiency of conventional solar cells could be significantly increased, according to new research on the mechanisms of solar energy conversion led by chemist Xiaoyang Zhu at The University of Texas at Austin.

The maximum theoretical efficiency of the silicon solar cell in use today is approximately 31 percent, because much of the sun's energy hitting the cell is too high to be turned into usable electricity. That energy, in the form of "hot electrons," is instead lost as heat. Capturing hot electrons could potentially increase the efficiency of solar-to-electric power conversion to as high as 66 percent. [all electrons captured]

* Absorption of a photon in a pentacene semiconductor creates an excited electron-hole pair called an exciton.
* The exciton is coupled quantum mechanically to a dark "shadow state" called a multiexciton.
* This dark shadow state can be the most efficient source of two electrons via transfer to an electron acceptor material, such as fullerene, which was used in the study.
* Exploiting the dark shadow state to produce double the electrons could increase solar cell efficiency to 44 percent. [improved electron capture]

Ball Aerospace developing 20 meter membrane space telescope for DARPA

DARPA has the $37 million MOIRE - Membrane Optic Imager Real-Time Exploitation space telescope project The final 20 meter diameter space telescopes / spy satellites are not to cost more than $500 million each.

Innovation News Daily - DARPA — the Pentagon's research arm — envisions a lightweight optics array made of flexible membrane that could deploy in space. Ball Aerospace has just completed an early proof-of-concept review as part of a DARPA contract worth almost $37 million.

Contrary to Hollywood's ideas, today's spy satellites that orbit the Earth at fast speeds and relatively lower altitudes can only snap photos for the U.S. military and intelligence agencies. Taking live video of a single location would require satellites to hover by matching the Earth's rotation in geosynchronous orbit about 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) high.

Bill Gates agrees with the Nextbigfuture about the Deaths per Terawatt Hour Energy Analysis

TechCrunch - Bill Gates spoke at a Wired business conference in New York City. Bill spoke about the benefits of nuclear energy, particularly next-generation designs. The backlash [to Fukushima], he thinks, is overblown. “If you compare it to the amount that coal has killed per kilowatt hour,” he points out, “it is way, way less.” When an accident does occur, however, its effects are much more visible. “Coal kills fewer people at one time, which is highly preferred by politicians,” he says.

Clearly Bill Gates needs to hire me for energy and other analysis at a very high salary.

Why is nuclear power feared more than other energy

I would note that actually coal often kills more people at one time but people have gotten used to it. It is like random shootings or car accident fatalities on the street that happen every day against a broadcast of the movie Saw. The Saw movie has unusual kinds of deaths. They are more shocking. No one actually has died because of the Fukushima nuclear incident that was caused by the Tsunami, but there is concern that cancer deaths for those exposed might go from 30% to 30.1% over a lifetime. The earthquake and tsunami deaths and the fear from that are associated with the problems at the nuclear reactors. There were actual deaths from a dam failure caused the Tsunami, but that had almost no reporting. It can also be more frightening because the radiation exposures can happen so quickly, while the air pollution exposures are over a longer period of time. Coal or oil accidents that can kill hundreds are usually over quickly. It is more rare for a major oil leak, oil fires or coal fires to last a long time and usually any risks of deaths are over in the first few days. Any increased fossil fuel pollution risks are generally ignored.

Nextbigfuture has written several articles related to analyzing energy sources with impartial metrics such as deaths per terawatt hour.

We have also looked at lifetime deaths per terawatt hour.

IEA reports World Oil liquids supply at 90.0 million barrels per day in November

Global oil supply rose by 0.9 mb/d to 90.0 million barrels per day in November from October, driven by lower non‐OPEC supply outages. A yearly comparison shows similar growth, with OPEC supplies standing well above year‐ago levels. Non‐OPEC supply growth averages 0.1 mb/d for 2011 but rebounds to 1.0 mb/d in 2012, with strong gains expected from the Americas.

Updated medium‐term projections show global oil demand rising from
88.3 mb/d in 2010 to 95.0 mb/d in 2016, growth of 1.1 mb/d per year on
average. A stronger global liquids supply outlook now sees upstream capacity
attain 101.5 mb/d by 2016, average yearly growth of 1.3 mb/d, with the
outlook for Iraq, Libya and the Americas stronger than in June. Meanwhile,
global crude distillation capacity additions for 2010‐2016 are trimmed by
0.9 mb/d, but remain a substantial 8.7 mb/d.

In third-degree burn treatment, hydrogel helps grow new, scar-free skin

Johns Hopkins researchers have developed a jelly-like material and wound treatment method that, in early experiments on skin damaged by severe burns, appeared to regenerate healthy, scar-free tissue.

In the Dec. 12-16 online Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers reported their promising results from mouse tissue tests. The new treatment has not yet been tested on human patients. But the researchers say the procedure, which promotes the formation of new blood vessels and skin, including hair follicles, could lead to greatly improved healing for injured soldiers, home fire victims and other people with third-degree burns.

Dextran hydrogel for burn wound healing. (A) Surgery procedure: We placed wounds on the posterior-dorsum of each mouse and performed burn wound excisions after 48 h. We covered wounds with either dextran hydrogels or control scaffold, followed by their coverage with dressing. We covered the control wounds only with dressing. (B) Photo image of wound healing within 21 d demonstrate a more complete wound healing in burn wounds treated with dextran hydrogel than in wounds treated with control scaffolds or dressing alone.

PNAS - Dextran hydrogel scaffolds enhance angiogenic responses and promote complete skin regeneration during burn wound healing

Kazakhstan and Russian Uranium Plans and Kudankulam delayed by protests

1. Asia Times online has a lengthy feature on Rosatom's (AtomRedMetZoloto) Uranium Holding Co, or ARMZ, plans to dominate worldwide uranium production. Rosatom is the Russian uranium company.

Russia treats its nuclear industry as a national resource, and it is aware that the uranium cupboard - at least as it pertains to HEU (highly enriched uranium) and other legacy stocks - will be bare in 10 to 15 years. As a matter of prudence, economics, and national security, it is making plans for the future.

The future includes an expected spike in uranium ore prices from US$55 to $70-$80 a pound as the price of commercially mined ore is no longer depressed by a steady stream of government-owned HEU downblends into the marketplace.

South Korea, India, and China will continue aggressive nuclear power construction programs.

Tissue Growth in 3D without protein matrixes

Now a new technology, pioneered by Houston-based n3D Biosciences, promises to float cells in a 3D matrix made of nothing but magnetism. The secret ingredient is a proprietary mix of nanoparticles the company calls Nanoshuttle. The addition of these particles to a dish of living cells allows them to move in response to magnetic fields that can be varied in three dimensions and across time.

According to an abstract on the work from the just-concluded meeting of the Tissue Engineering International & Regenerative Medicine Society, they've managed to tune this effect until it can create a "BioAssembler" that "leads to rapid formation of levitated 3D cell cultures."

December 14, 2011

Costs of Automobile Air Emissions in U.S. Metropolitan Areas

Automobile air emissions are a well-recognized problem and have been subject to considerable regulation. An increasing concern for greenhouse gas emissions draws additional considerations to the externalities of personal vehicle travel. This paper provides estimates of the costs for automobile air emissions for 86 U.S. metropolitan areas based on county-specific external air emission morbidity, mortality, and environmental costs.

Total air emission costs in the urban areas are estimated to be 145 million/day, with Los Angeles, California, and New York City (each 23 million per day) having the highest totals. These external costs average 0.64 per day per person and0.03 per vehicle mile traveled. Total air emission cost solely due to traffic congestion for the same 86 U.S. metropolitan areas was also estimated to be $24 million per day. These estimates are compared with others in the literature and are found to be generally consistent. These external automobile air emission costs are important for social benefit and cost assessment of transportation measures to reduce vehicle use. However, this study does not include any abatement costs associated with automobile emission controls or government investments to reduce emissions such as traffic signal setting.

Fukushima Exclusion Zone

NY Times covers details on the Fukushima Exclusion zone The exclusion zone is about 30 kilometers wide (18 miles wide) but has an extra section adjoining it.

About 88,000 residents lived in the evacuation zone. By comparison, the area evacuated after the Chernobyl accident was nearly four times larger, and some 300,000 people were displaced in the years after that accident.

Most evacuees now live in temporary housing and rented apartments. There are about 40,000 of these units in Fukushima Prefecture. Nearly half of the people who lived in the most affected towns were 50 or older.

Reactor temperatures have fallen. Tepco, the plant’s operator, expects to reach “cold shutdown” by year’s end. But decommissioning the plant could take 30 years.

New Elemental Cookbook Guides Efficient Thermoelectric Combinations

A materials genome repository developed by Duke University engineers will allow scientists to stop using trail-and-error methods for combining different elements to create the most efficient alloys for a promising method of producing electricity.

These thermoelectric materials produce electricity by taking advantage of temperature differences and are currently being used in such applications as deep space satellites to campsite coolers. In the past, scientists have not had a rational basis for combining different elements to produce these energy-producing materials.

The project developed by the Duke engineers covers thousands of compounds, and provides detailed “recipes” for creating most efficient combinations for a particular purpose, much like hardware stores mix different colors to achieve the desired result. The database is free and open to all (

“We have calculated the thermoelectric properties of more than 2,500 compounds and have calculated all their energy potentials in order to come up with the best candidates for combining them in the most efficient ways,” said Stefano Curtarolo, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials sciences and physics at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. “Scientists will now have a more rational basis when they decide which elements to combine for their thermoelectric devices.”

Physical Review X - Assessing the Thermoelectric Properties of Sintered Compounds via High-Throughput Ab-Initio Calculations

Implementation of a Toffoli gate with superconducting circuits

Nature - The Toffoli gate is a three-quantum-bit (three-qubit) operation that inverts the state of a target qubit conditioned on the state of two control qubits. It makes universal reversible classical computation1 possible and, together with a Hadamard gate, forms a universal set of gates in quantum computation. It is also a key element in quantum error correction schemes. The Toffoli gate has been implemented in nuclear magnetic resonance, linear optics and ion trap systems. Experiments with superconducting qubits have also shown significant progress recently: two-qubit algorithms and two-qubit process tomography have been implemented, three-qubit entangled states have been prepared first steps towards quantum teleportation have been taken and work on quantum computing architectures has been done. Implementation of the Toffoli gate with only single- and two-qubit gates requires six controlled-NOT gates and ten single-qubit operations, and has not been realized in any system owing to current limits on coherence. Here we implement a Toffoli gate with three superconducting transmon qubits coupled to a microwave resonator. By exploiting the third energy level of the transmon qubits, we have significantly reduced the number of elementary gates needed for the implementation of the Toffoli gate, relative to that required in theoretical proposals using only two-level systems. Using full process tomography and Monte Carlo process certification, we completely characterize the Toffoli gate acting on three independent qubits, measuring a fidelity of 68.5 ± 0.5 per cent. A similar approach to realizing characteristic features of a Toffoli-class gate has been demonstrated with two qubits and a resonator and achieved a limited characterization considering only the phase fidelity. Our results reinforce the potential of macroscopic superconducting qubits for the implementation of complex quantum operations with the possibility of quantum error correction

Cellular Dynamics creates neurons from stem cells

The Cellular Dynamics Corporation is now offering neurons that have been created from stem cells. These fully functional neurons can be used to study a wide variety of neurological diseases, such as Alzheimers, Parkinsons, and ALS. The press release notes that:

"iCell Neurons exhibit the typical physiological characteristics and responses of the neurons with which we are born. These neurons quickly form connective neuronal networks that are electrophysiologically active, making them useful in a variety of applications commonly used in neuroscience research, including cell viability, ATP production, oxidative stress, neurite outgrowth, electrophysiology, and synaptic neurotransmission assays. CDI’s proprietary manufacturing capabilities enable the production of iCell Neurons in industrial quantities with greater than 95% purity"

The bioengineering corporations are now capable of creating a few select human cells from pluripotent stem cells, but within the next decade every type of human cell should be offered for sale.

If you liked this article, please give it a quick review on ycombinator or StumbleUpon. Thanks

Russian View of China's Nuclear Power Expansion

For the longest time China was regarded as a younger brother by Russia [in the area of nuclear energy]. The Chinese have historically liked talking about the necessity of learning from others but the fact is that this situation is rapidly changing. One can easily distinguish between the Chinese approach towards nuclear power of ten years ago, when the country was eager to obtain any technology on any conditions, and today’s approach characterized as Napoleonic in its size and scope. Starting with a domestic reactor technology of CNP-300 (Chinese Nuclear Power unit), now the country’s strategic objective is to create a CAP-2100 (a reactor type with 2100 MW power capacity) on the basis of American advanced technologies within the next 10 years

Under Secretary Dr. Lael Brainard Says China must transition economy within ten years

Treasury Under Secretary Lael Brainard said China has less than a decade to overhaul its economy and safeguard long-term growth that goes beyond a boom based on cheap labor.

Prior testimony by Lael Brainard gave details on his views of the challenges that China's economy is facing.

China’s current headline growth rate may look enviable right now, but China will face daunting challenges in coming years. We have a tremendous stake in ensuring that China deals with those challenges in a way that fundamentally reorients its growth pattern through greater balance and fairer competition.

China has had remarkable success in lifting hundreds of millions of its citizens out of poverty. But it has come at some cost, including large-scale environmental degradation and an economy that spends much more on investment than goods and services for its people. Chinese leaders understand that, with per capita income of around one-tenth of that of the United States in 2011, and per capita household spending less than one-twentieth of that in the United States, the way China grew in the last two decades will not get them to the next stage of development. Instead, China will face what economists call the “middle income trap.”

Whispering Gallery' stores tiny packets of light for possible optical computing applications

Optics and photonics may one day revolutionize computer technology with the promise of light-speed calculations. Storing light as memory, however, requires devices known as microresonators, an emerging technology that cannot yet meet the demands of computing. A solution is described in a paper published today in the Optical Society's (OSA) journal Optics Letters.

Optic Letters - Surface nanoscale axial photonics: robust fabrication of high-quality-factor microresonators

Recently introduced surface nanoscale axial photonics (SNAP) makes it possible to fabricate high-Q-factor microresonators and other photonic microdevices by dramatically small deformation of the optical fiber surface. To become a practical and robust technology, the SNAP platform requires methods enabling reproducible modification of the optical fiber radius at nanoscale. In this Letter, we demonstrate superaccurate fabrication of high-Q-factor microresonators by nanoscale modification of the optical fiber radius and refractive index using CO2 laser and UV excimer laser beam exposures. The achieved fabrication accuracy is better than 2 Å in variation of the effective fiber radius.
Propagation of light in a SNAP fiber coupled to a tapered regular optical fiber. Courtesy OFS Laboratories.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Hearing has charged testimony

The House Oversight hearing on the leadership of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is today

The word from tweets and emails is that no one is playing nice at the hearing and the testimony is "hair raising".

It appears that compromise will not be possible and that either Jackzo or the four other commissioners will have to go or all of them will be replaced.

Science, Space, and Technology Committee Vice Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun (R-GA), and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD) issued the following joint statement calling for Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko to step down from his post.

Twitter feed with has tag #NRC

ekoppWFED Emily Kopp
#NRC Commissioner Magwood: Jaczko’s behavior “extreme,” esp. to female staff, one "brought to tears." Both are Dems.

ekoppWFED Emily Kopp
#NRC staff told Commissioner Kristine Svinicki, “We were instructed to leave our brains at home,” by Jaczko, she tells House Oversight.

nationaljournal National Journal
Commissioner: #NRC Chair Jaczko verbally abused female employees

DHBerman Dan Berman
Gregory Jaczko colleagues tell of secrecy, 'verbal assaults' - Darius Dixon -… via @POLITICO #NRC

NRC commissioner say Chairman Jaczko damages nuclear agency #nuclear #NRC

This is related to the conflict between the NRC chairman and the four other commissioners.

The White House had issued an apology and tried to defuse the situation, but apparently the situation has not been defused.

Taiwan Semiconductor prepares to create 450-mm wafer fabs starting as early as2013

EETimes - A 50-hectare (about 120 acres) plot of land is being appropriated by the Central Taiwan Science Park in Taichung, Taiwan, on which foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC) could build a 450-mm wafer fab, according a Taiwan Economic News report. A 450-mm pilot line is expected to go into Fab 12 in Hsinchu, Taiwan and be running the 20-nm process technology node by 2013 to 2014.

The report added that the projected cost of the 450-mm wafer fab would involve an investment exceeding NT800 billion (about $26 billion), or nearly three times the cost of TSMC's Fab 15 Gigafab currently being built on the science park.

Stratolaunch press conference highlights and other coverage

1. Hobby Space has highlights of yesterdays Stratolaunch press conference

Rutan - Scaled Composites could build the airframe but would have to use many systems from existing vehicles like 747.

Stratolaunch will offer a cost advantage for medium size payloads

Paul Allen expects at least order of magnitude more than in SS1. (He put about $30M into SS1). So at least $300 million from Allen.
They will be using proven technologies as components and are not starting from scratch

For suborbital, air launch allows for much smaller rocket vehicle.
Ari launch advantage means a 5-10% smaller rocket stage, but for orbital, 5-10% improvement is great.

James Benford works out the details around economic rules for scaling power beaming space sails

Arxiv - Starship Sails Propelled by Cost-Optimized Directed Energy by James Benford (25 pages) (H/T - Centauri Dreams)

Microwave propelled sails are a new class of spacecraft using photon acceleration. It is the only method of interstellar flight that has no physics issues. Laboratory demonstrations of basic features of beam-driven propulsion, flight, stability ('beam-riding'), and induced spin, have been completed in the last decade, primarily in the microwave. It offers much lower cost probes after a substantial investment in the launcher. Engineering issues are being addressed by other applications: fusion (microwave, millimeter and laser sources) and astronomy (large aperture antennas). There are many candidate sail materials: carbon nanotubes and microtrusses, graphene, beryllium, etc. For acceleration of a sail, what is the cost-optimum high power system? Here the cost is used to constrain design parameters to estimate system power, aperture and elements of capital and operating cost. From general relations for cost-optimal transmitter aperture and power, system cost scales with kinetic energy and inversely with sail diameter and frequency. So optimal sails will be larger, lower in mass and driven by higher frequency beams. Estimated costs include economies of scale. We present several starship point concepts. Systems based on microwave, millimeter wave and laser technologies are of equal cost at today's costs. The frequency advantage of lasers is cancelled by the high cost of both the laser and the radiating optic.
Carbon sail lifting off of rectangular waveguide under 10 kW microwave power at 2 gees (four frames, first at top) in vacuum chamber [5]. Sail heats up, lifts off, and in the bottom frame the sail has flown away.

Small nuclear reactors and the US Energy Future

A newly released study from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) concludes that small modular reactors may hold the key to the future of U.S. nuclear power generation.

It would be a huge stimulus for high-valued job growth, restore U.S. leadership in nuclear reactor technology and, most importantly, strengthen U.S. leadership in a post-Fukushima world, on matters of nuclear safety, nuclear security, nonproliferation, and nuclear waste management,” the report said.

The reports assessed the economic feasibility of classical, gigawatt-scale reactors and the possible new generation of modular reactors. The latter would have a generating capacity of 600 megawatts or less, would be factory-built as modular components, and then shipped to their desired location for assembly.

The full reports can be downloaded at the Energy Policy Institute website:

December 13, 2011

Pictures and Information from the Stratolaunch Press Kit

The Stratolaunch press kit has 11 pages

Stratolaunch Systems, a Paul G. Allen project, is developing an air-launch system that will revolutionize space transportation by providing orbital access to space at lower costs, with greater safety and more flexibility. Delivering payloads in the 10,000lbm class [13,500 pounds into low earth orbit, the system allows for maximum operational flexibility and payload delivery from several possible operational sites, while minimizing mission constraints such as range availability and weather.

The air-launch system is made up of four primary elements: a carrier aircraft, a multi-stage booster, a mating and integration system, and an orbital payload. Initial efforts will focus on unmanned payloads; however, human flights will follow as safety, reliability, and operability are demonstrated.

Carrier Aircraft

The carrier aircraft, built by Scaled Composites, weighs more than 1.2 million pounds and has a wingspan of 385 feet – greater than the length of a football field. Using six 747 engines, the carrier aircraft will be the largest aircraft ever constructed. The air-launch system requires a takeoff and landing runway that is, at minimum, 12,000 feet long. The carrier aircraft can fly over 1,300 nautical miles to reach an optimal launch point.

Paul Allen, Spacex and Burt Rutan are teaming up for Stratolaunch

Cosmiclog MSNBC - software billionaire Paul Allen and aerospace guru Burt Rutan are teaming up with SpaceX and other top-flight rocketeers to create an air-launched orbital delivery system. They say the venture will require the construction of the largest aircraft ever flown.

The new venture is significant for the revival of the Allen-Rutan partnership, with the addition of California-based SpaceX and Alabama-based Dynetics as suppliers.

Other players include Gary Wentz, a former chief engineer at NASA, who will serve as Stratolaunch's CEO and president; and former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, who is on the board. "We believe this technology has the potential to someday make spaceflight routine by removing many of the constraints associated with ground-launched rockets," Griffin said in the news release.

The Stratolaunch systems website is here. It may be down as it is getting overloaded with hits

Stem cells will soon be harvested to create any type of human cell

Induced Pluripotent stem cells are human cells that can become any kind of cell. During the past several decades, the technology for harvesting stem cells has increased to the point where several different functional human cell types can now be created using stem cells. Within the next decade, virtually every type of cell in the human body will be harvested using pluripotent stem cells. The Cellular Dynamics corporation is at the forefront of this technology. In an interview with Sander Olson, Cellular Dynamics Vice-President Chris Parker describes how this new technology could be used to treat a wide variety of diseases, and how the frenetic pace of innovation within this field could even increase.

Chris Parker

Question: What are induced pluripotent stem cells, and why do they hold so much potential?

Pluripotent stem cells are stem cells that can differentiate into any type of cell in the human body. In contrast, adult stem cells have already chosen their differentiation path - so an adult cardiac stem cell can only turn into a type of cardiac cell. We derive induced pluripotent stem cells by taking blood samples from patients and extracting CD34+ cells from the blood. These cells are induced by a reprogramming process to a pluripotent stem cell state, at which point they can be differentiated into any cell type. Thus far we have made about a dozen different cell types, but plan to eventually have the capability to make any cell type found in the human body in any quantity desired. We are currently selling these cells as research tools, but this technology will eventually be used for a plethora of applications.

Question: How exactly does this process work?

We inject two or three plasmids containing the genes discovered to cause reprogramming into an adult cell, like skin or blood, and the plasmids reprogram the cells to turn into induced pluripotent stem cells. Importantly, the presence of these plasmids is transient; that is, they do their job of reprogramming and then leave the cell without manipulating the cell’s DNA. During early development, human stem cells follow three distinct developmental pathways to form the primary germ cell layers: mesoderm, ectoderm, and endoderm. These three germ cell layers then further differentiate to become all the tissues in the human body, and CDI has made cells from each of these germ layers. Researchers have created dozens of different types of terminally differentiated cells as proof of principle from iPSCs, including heart cells, neurons, liver cells, retinal epithelial cells, muscle cells, blood cells, skin cells, and more.

Question: How many different types of cells does Cellular Dynamics currently offer?

We currently offer four cell types - cardiac cells and endothelial cells are available to customers today, neurons will be commercially launched this month, and hepatic cells will be available next year. These cells are fully functional. Within the next five years, we will be producing the majority of human cells that are of research interest. Within the next decade, we expect to be able to make all types of cells in the human body.

Question: And these could be cells from any individual?

Yes, we would simply take a blood sample from any individual, and from that single sample we could derive any cell type, in any quantity desired. Moreover, the cells are neither aged nor diseased. We have actually made fully functional stem cells from a 92 year old woman.

Question: At what point will doctors be able to inject these differentiated cells directly into a human body?

Clinical trials are already in place whereby these cells are injected directly into the human body. For example, Geron has put embryonic stem cell-derived neurons into individuals with spinal cord injuries. The difficulty is in understanding the effect of these cells. Continuing research will ensure that we have a better understanding of the effects, which will allow us to treat a wide variety of diseases.

Question: So it is only a matter of time before an individual suffering from liver failure will be able to have stem cell derived hepatic cells injected into their liver?

There are three main challenges to that scenario. First, one must find a way to get the cells to the affected organ - simply injecting the cells via syringe may not be the best way to do that. Second, the cells need to be grafted onto the organ. Third, the underlying problem with the organ needs to also be addressed. So implanting new beta cells into a patient suffering from type 1 diabetes, which is an auto-immune disease, won't help because the body will simply attack those new cells as well.

Question: Is there a risk that these stem cells could start dividing and turn cancerous?

That is a risk, since this process involves extensive cell manipulation. We are doing numerous animal studies to ensure that this doesn't happen. We are doing myriad tests to ensure that these cells do what we program them to do and no more.

Question: Cellular Dynamics injects plasmids (snippets of DNA) into cells in order to turn genes on and off. How exactly does this work?

A plasmid is bacterial machinery that is replicating DNA. Plasmids are specifically designed to produce gene products that in turn trick the cell into reprogramming itself back to a pluripotent state. Previously retroviruses, which would integrate into the human cell DNA, were used to inject DNA into cells, and this has been one of the major concerns related to using iPSC-derived cells as cell therapy. Plasmids do not integrate into the DNA and eventually disappear from the cells, eliminating the risk that foreign DNA will induce additional transformation of the cells. To date, eight gene products or transcription factors have been identified, as well as other small molecules and proteins, that can reprogram cells. We use six of these gene products and have also boosted the efficiency of the process, so that we only need to use tiny amounts of material to begin with.

Question: What is "forward programming"?

Forward programming involves directly turning a cell from an induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cell into a non-proliferating, terminally functioning cell without taking the cell through a series of intermediary steps. A similar method is transdifferentiation, which involves directly turning an already terminally differentiated cell into another terminal cell type. However, these concepts are further out and may take a decade to perfect.

Question: What role do stem cells play in degenerative diseases?

Our bodies have normal turnover to replace lost cells, by using adult stem cells to change into the appropriate cell type. As we age, the process slows down, making us susceptible to degenerative diseases. Many companies are focused on regenerative therapeutics - looking for molecules that could accelerate this adult stem cell to terminal cell transition more efficiently.

Question: What role could IPSCs play in treating cancer?

One of the reasons that bone-marrow transplants fail is that we don't get sufficient cells after ablation into the individual to regenerate the entire blood system. With IPS cells, we have the potential to eliminate the rejection and create an unlimited quantity of autologous needed cells. We could literally dose a patient with their own bone-marrow cells, giving a much higher chance of curing the disease.

Question: The field of molecular biology is advancing quite rapidly. How long can this pace of innovation continue?

I think it will continue at the current pace, if not increase. It took fifteen years to sequence the first human genome. Now we can sequence a human genome within a day, and we will be able to know all genetic aspects of that individual within a very short time. DNA was the operating system of genetics. Stem cells will be the new operating system for understanding biology. There is still quite a bit of guessing in drug development, and the process is inefficient and cumbersome. Stem cells provide another tool to derive insights into the remaining mysteries of biology.

Question: Gene therapy was once touted as having the potential to transform medicine, but is now little more than a niche field. Are you concerned that stem cell treatments might not live up to their potential?

Gene therapy was huge in the mid 1980s and 1990s, but all it took was one person to die to devastate the field. As a result, the funding evaporated and the researchers left to pursue other options. The field of gene therapy isn't dead but it is moribund. We need to be careful to ensure that we rigorously test to make sure that all research is safe, ethical, and conforms to scientific standards.

Question: Where will the field of bioengineering be in 2021?

By 2021 there should be thousands if not millions of IPS lines created from individuals. We won't simply be making cardiac cells in a petri dish, but will be actually growing organs such as hearts and livers. We aim to replace organ donors by having patients grow their own organs. Eventually, elderly patients will have their failing organs replaced by younger organs. It is not an exaggeration to say that stem cell technology will utterly transform the field of healthcare within the next several decades.

If you liked this article, please give it a quick review on ycombinator or StumbleUpon. Thanks

Quantum PageRank Algorithm Outperforms Classical Version

A quantum version of Google's famous search algorithm could one day make web searches faster

Giuseppe Paparo and Miguel Martín-Delgado at The Complutense University in Madrid reveal a contender- a quantum version of the original algorithm.

This approach is motivated by the progress being made towards quantum networks in which information is stored transmitted and routed as quantum bits, or qubits, rather than as classical bits. In this world, the information stays in superposition of states, dramatically changing the way it can be processed.

Trillion-frame-per-second video

By using optical equipment in a totally unexpected way, MIT researchers have created an imaging system that makes light look slow.

MIT researchers have created a new imaging system that can acquire visual data at a rate of one trillion exposures per second. That’s fast enough to produce a slow-motion video of a burst of light traveling the length of a one-liter bottle, bouncing off the cap and reflecting back to the bottle’s bottom.

Media Lab postdoc Andreas Velten, one of the system’s developers, calls it the “ultimate” in slow motion: “There’s nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera,” he says.
Ripples of Waves: A time-lapse visualization of the spherical fronts of advancing light reflectected by surfaces in the scene.

Picosecond Camera for Time-of-Flight Imaging

Slow art with a trillion frames per second camera

How will the world look with a one trillion frame per second camera? Although such a camera does not exist today, we converted high end research equipment to produce conventional movies at 0.5 trillion (5· 10^11) frames per second, with light moving barely 0.6 mm in each frame. Our camera has the game changing ability to capture objects moving at the speed of light. Inspired by the classic high speed photography art of Harold Edgerton [Kayafas and Edgerton 1987] we use this camera to capture movies of several scenes.

Quantum Dot OLED for paper thin displays

OLED (organic light emitting diode) displays have been getting market share with thinner displays than LCD, lower energy usage and are competitive on cost. Quantum dots(QDs) are a new alternative form of light emitting technology and incorporating them into OLED displays brings many added benefits.

• Better colour purity : the colour produced by QDs is a considerable improvement over competing OLED technologies, which provides for an improved viewing experience for the end user.

• Added flexibility : QDs are soluble in both aqueous and non-aqueous solvents, which provides for printable and flexible displays of all sizes, including large area TVs (QD TV™)

• Improved lifetime : QDs are inorganic; as such they offer the potential for improved lifetimes when compared to alternative OLED technologies.

UK Nanoco are producing a full colour range of displays using our proprietary quantum dots including cadmium free dots. Nanoco, the company is now cooperating with unnamed Asian manufacturers (it’s been speculated that this includes Sharp, Sony, LG, Samsung and others) to bring quantum dot displays to the market place in the next three years.

White House get Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Jackzo to Apologize

Idaho Samizdat - Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko has issued an apology via the White House to the other four commissioners who jointly signed a letter complaining about his management practices.

A hearing by the House Oversight Committee scheduled for Wednesday December 14 will not see the fireworks that were expected as a result of the heated accusations that were exchanged today between committee chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) on the MSNBC TV network. Their verbal fireworks threatened to derail any effort to contain the conflict.

Now, it is more likely that the hearing will include acts of contrition and pledges for better communication among the five commissioners. Skeptics think it won't last much longer than the late night news coverage, but stranger things have happened in DC.

Higgs and Mach Effect

James Woodward view on Higgs

We now know that at cosmic scale space is flat, so critical cosmic matter density obtains. That means that phi [the total scalar gravitational potential] equals c^2. So, in Einstein's second law c^2 can be replaced by phi, and now m * phi = E. It takes no genius to read this to say that E is the total gravitational potential energy -- and that the origin of E in SRT is due to the gravitational interaction. Since m arises from E (irrespective of whether E is due to zero or non-zero restmass stuff), the origin of mass is the gravitational interaction [not the Higgs process].

The Higgs is irrelevant to the Mach considerations. The Higgs is NOT the origin of mass-energy (as Wilczek has repeatedly pointed out). It is a process that confers RESTMASS on otherwise zero restmass particles. Those zero restmass particles, via m = E/c^2, have mass if they have energy. The origin of mass is the question of the origin of mass-energy. Mach's principle does have something to say about that.

December 12, 2011

Realization of a micrometre-sized stochastic heat engine

"We've developed the world's smallest steam engine, or to be more precise the smallest Stirling engine, and found that the machine really does perform work," said Clemens Bechinger, a physicist at the University of Stuttgart and Fellow of the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany. The research team plans to explore the range of its power output. And use it, perhaps, to power a micromachine.

The achievement surprised even the researchers. That's because the tiny engine — just 3 micrometers in size (1 micrometer being 0.001 of a millimeter) — runs into new problems in its microscopic world that cause it to sputter.

The engine even ran with the same efficiency as its full-size counterparts under full load. "Although our machine does not provide any useful work as yet, there are no thermodynamic obstacles, in principle, which prohibit this in small dimensions," Bechinger said.

Accelerating Adoption of Agricultural Technology

Research shows that it takes about eight years from the time public research funds are invested in technology development to the time the technology is first implemented. However, in the agricultural sector it can take as long as 15 years before full adoption by stakeholders occurs. Because many technologies in the agricultural world become obsolete in 15 years, it becomes increasingly important to find ways to move technology more rapidly from research to adoption.

A paper analyzed survey responses obtained from attendees at tree fruit meetings in the Pacific northwestern and eastern United States. Results showed that many of the misgivings about new automated technologies, such as equipment cost and reliability of harvest assist, sensor systems, and fully automated harvest machinery, were consistent across the country. The results indicated subtle differences between the eastern U.S. and Pacific northwestern U.S. responses, including justifiable equipment price points and irrigation and pest concerns. “These are likely attributable to regional differences in climate, operation size and scale, and marketing strategies”, said the researchers.

Orchard owners and managers identified fuel costs, labor regulations, labor costs, insurance costs, and market conditions as the most important external influences on their businesses. Water availability/cost and quarantine regulations were least important. These responses have implications for future research and outreach efforts; studies that emphasize economic analyses with evidence of increased returns and workforce productivity will be important.

Spacex and the future of the EELV program

Space Review - the next round of procurement for the Department of Defense’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, and has been the subject of a fiercely contested battle.

For the last five years, United Launch Alliance (ULA), the joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, has been the sole source provider of launch services to Department of Defense (DoD) and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) for medium and heavy lift. Despite steadily rising launch costs, the company has maintained its position based on the performance and reputation of its two vehicles, Atlas V and Delta IV, and the lack of viable competition. That position is now under threat, principally from SpaceX and its own EELV-class vehicle, the Falcon 9. With two successful flights under its belt, and a third high-stakes flight now scheduled for February, the Falcon 9 offers a compelling alternative to the ULA products both in terms of pricing and its 100% US production.

Gene Therapy has success in Clinical Trial Against Hemophilia B

Time - Patients with hemophilia need to receive infusions of FIX two to three times per week in order to prevent them from bleeding spontaneously or bleeding too much from even slight cuts and wounds — a potentially fatal condition. But in the new study, four of the six patients who received gene therapy were able to make FIX on their own, enough to stop their regular treatments. The other two patients also benefited: they weren't able to abandon their infusions altogether, but they didn't need as many sessions as before the gene therapy.

Led by Amit Nathwani at University College London, scientists introduced the working gene for FIX to patients by injecting them with cold viruses that were engineered to carry the gene in, infect cells, and start producing the needed clotting protein. This is the standard technique used in gene therapy, but often it fails because the immune system kills off the cold viruses before they can do their work.

Nathwani's team was able to figure out a more efficient way to install the new genes. At the start of the study, all of the participants had less than 1% of normal levels of FIX in their blood. By the end of the study, which followed patients for as long as six to 16 months, most had FIX levels that were 3% to 11% of normal values. Two patients each received low, intermediate or high doses of the gene therapy in an IV-like infusion in the arm.

New England Journal of Medicine - Adenovirus-Associated Virus Vector–Mediated Gene Transfer in Hemophilia B

A Portable, Benchtop Photolithography System Based on a Solid-State Light Source

A portable and compact photolithography system based on a solid-state light source of UV light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is described. Solid-state photolithography can achieve high-quality patterns over a wide range of length scales at a fraction of the cost of contact mask aligners. 2D nanoscale and 1D microscale patterns can easily be created.

A new portable technology for solid-state photolithography that utilizes less energy and is more cost-efficient.

While photolithography has enabled the development of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and other "micro machines", the extremely high-cost of producing such structures has limited further advances. The lab of Teri Odom has addressed these limitations by using GaN-based LEDs in place of inefficient and expensive Hg-vapor lamps for solid-state photolithography. This advance substantially lowers both the up-front cost of the equipment as well as the operational costs associated with maintaining and powering these systems. The Odom group has shown that this benchtop photolithography system can produce patterns as small as 200 nm over 4 in. Si wafers in a single exposure and has already used this technology to create a multitude of patterns and devices.

Nanowerk - The solid-state photolithography system (SSP) is a low-cost (as low as $30 for 2 inch wafers) and compact (about 0.003 m3 and less than 1 kg) system that can be built from off-the-shelf parts and operated on the bench-top. A 200-LED system can be used with industry standard 4-in wafers (at a cost of $400).

Carbon nanotubes best for 3D electronics

Researchers at Chalmers have demonstrated that two stacked chips can be vertically interconnected with carbon nanotube vias through the chips. This new method improves possibilities for 3D integration of circuits, one of the most promising approaches for miniaturization and performance promotion of electronics.

Three dimensional integration is a hot field within electronics since it offers a new way to package components densely and thus build tiny, well-functioning units. When stacking chips vertically, the most effective way to interconnect them is with electrical interconnects that go through the chip (instead of being wired together at the edges) – what are known as through-silicon vias.

The industry thus far has primarily used copper for this purpose; however, copper has several disadvantages that can limit the reliability of 3D electronics. Another major issue involves cooling when the chips get hot. The excellent thermal qualities of carbon nanotubes can play a decisive role in this respect.

Thus a research team at Chalmers is working with carbon nanotubes as conductive material for through-silicon vias. Carbon nanotubes – or tubes made of graphene whose walls are only one atom thick – are going to be the most reliable of all conductive materials if it is possible to use them on a large scale

Two chips have interconnects that are filled with thousands of carbon nanotubes. The chips are then bonded with adhesive so that the carbon nanotubes are directly contacted. A connection using two such interconnects is pictured to the right.
Image credit: Teng Wang, Kjell Jeppson, Lilei Ye, Johan Liu. Carbon-Nanotube Through-Silicon Via Interconnects for Three-Dimensional Integration. Small, 2011, Volume 7, pages 2,313–2,317. Copyright Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH and Co. KGaA.

Small Journal - Carbon-Nanotube Through-Silicon Via Interconnects for Three-Dimensional Integration

Advanced Materials - Ultrafast Transfer of Metal-Enhanced Carbon Nanotubes at Low Temperature for Large-Scale Electronics Assembly

Corruption American Style

Rolling Stone Matt Tiabbi reviewed the shadow budget of the United States back in April, 2011 This was a description of some of the $7.7 trillion given out at 0.1 to 0.25% interest. Banks and other well connected people reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates.

A huge roaring river of cash flowing out of the Federal Reserve to destinations neither chosen by the president nor reviewed by Congress, but instead handed out by fiat by unelected Fed officials using a seemingly nonsensical and apparently unknowable methodology.

The Fed sent billions in bailout aid to banks in places like Mexico, Bahrain and Bavaria, billions more to a spate of Japanese car companies, more than $2 trillion in loans each to Citigroup and Morgan Stanley, and billions more to a string of lesser millionaires and billionaires with Cayman Islands addresses.

The Federal Reserve handed them both low-interest loans of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars through a complicated bailout program that virtually guaranteed them millions in risk-free income to two wives of powerful people. Christy is the wife of John Mack, the chairman of Morgan Stanley. Susan is the widow of Peter Karches, a close friend of the Macks who served as president of Morgan Stanley's investment-banking division. Neither woman appears to have any serious history in business, apart from a few philanthropic experiences.

Intel has 14-nm process running in the lab

Intel already has 14nm circuits up and running in the lab, this was revealed by Pat Bliemer, Managing Director Intel Northern Europe, in an interview with NordicHardware. Bliemer says that even though the manufacturing technology is becoming all the more complicated Intel is well in phase with current roadmaps.

"We need to keep going and you can trust me that in our labs we actually have the next generation after 22nm running, so we need to keep going.... I cannot really disclose more about that other than that in a laboratory environment, absolutely we do have the path, our engineers do have the path to actually go and produce 14-nm products," the report quoted Bliemer as saying.

A 2D (planar) transistor compared to a 3D (tri-gate) transistor

Synthesis of nanospring structures

Nature Asia Materials - Electrochemical co-deposition of two metals followed by the selective etching of one allows for the synthesis of nanospring structures.

In order to exploit the particular material properties that appear at the nanoscale, it is first necessary to fabricate materials with nanoscale structures in a controlled and repeatable fashion. Reliable methods for the fabrication of simple shapes such as nanorods, nanocubes and nanotubes are now available, but more complex shapes still pose a challenge. Sungho Park and co-workers from Sungkyunkwan University in Korea have now reported a promising method for the synthesis of palladium nanosprings

Nanoletters - Wet-Chemical Synthesis of Palladium Nanosprings

December 11, 2011

Storage mechanism for entangled photons

Nature Asia - A storage mechanism for entangled photons with narrow wavelength distribution is another major step toward memory devices for quantum computers.

While commonplace in conventional computers, storage of data in memory has persisted as one of the main obstacles to the construction of a viable light-based quantum computer. The issue is not only to keep photons in one place, but also to maintain a specific quantum state throughout. Researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei in collaboration with colleagues in Germany and Austria have now demonstrated a system that allows photons to be entangled and stored in a manner suitable for quantum computing.

A schematic illustration of the proposed quantum information storage scheme
© 2011 NPG

Multi-purpose photonic chip paves the way to programmable quantum processors

A multi-purpose optical chip which generates, manipulates and measures entanglement and mixture - two quantum phenomena which are essential driving forces for tomorrow's quantum computers - has been developed by researchers from the University of Bristol's Centre for Quantum Photonics. This work represents an important step forward in the race to develop a quantum computer.

The fundamental resource that drives a quantum computer is entanglement - the connection between two distant particles which Einstein famously called ‘spooky action at a distance’. The Bristol researchers have, for the first time, shown that this remarkable phenomenon can be generated, manipulated and measured entirely on a tiny silica chip. They have also used the same chip to measure mixture - an often unwanted effect from the environment, but a phenomenon which can now be controlled and used to characterize quantum circuits, as well as being of fundamental interest to physicists.

Artist’s impression of the quantum photonic chip, showing the waveguide circuit (in white), and the voltage-controlled phase shifters (metal contacts on the surface). Photon pairs become entangled as they pass through the circuit.
Image by University of Bristol's Centre for Quantum Photonics

Nature Photonics - Generating, manipulating and measuring entanglement and mixture with a reconfigurable photonic circuit

Desalting The Oceans--The Next Forty Thousand Years

A guest post by Joseph Friedlander

Once in a while you read a statistic that gets you thinking. What I read was that the volume of salt in the oceans was the volume of the land of the African continent above the waterline.

That sounded amazing to me. I had to run the figures to see if it was true.

Volume of the oceans-- about 1.4 billion cubic kilometers. Estimates range from 1.3 to 1.5 billion cubic kilometers. A recent satellite based estimate is 1.332 billion km3

The total mass of the hydrosphere is about 1,400,000,000,000,000,000 metric tons (1.5×10^18 short tons) or 1.4×10e21 kg, about 0.023 percent of the Earth's total mass.

Percentage of the oceans that is salt--3.5 %

McCarthy's Skywire System And The Future Of Cities

A guest post by Joseph Friedlander

Professor John McCarthy, who died recently, had many innovative ideas.

He was an original thinker with many surprising insights-- and he had an idea for an amazing transportation system as well: We quote first in his own words from his site (which we hope will be maintained) at:

Skywires are a scheme for fast transportation within cities. Here are its features. Throughout the city there are poles a few hundred feet high. I don't know the best height. Between the poles are strung cables. Hanging from the cables are wires capable of carrying 400 kg. There are motors capable of moving the wires along the cables and up and down. Mechanisms are provided for transferring a wire from one cable to another so it can travel about the city. Hanging from the wires are carriers; the most obvious kind is a cabin that can hold two to four people, but there are also one person open carriers. The whole system is computer controlled. A person wanting to travel requests a carrier with his cell phone. When the cabin descends at his location, he or they get in and enter the destination. The cable reels up the carrier high enough to clear obstacles, transports it horizontally to the destination, and lets it down.The performance that can be achieved depends greatly on the strength to weight ratio of the materials used. I hold great hopes for carbon nanotube materials, but steel might be good enough. It also depends on the performance of the motors and of the control systems.In order to avoid oscillation, it may be desirable to suspend the carrier on three wires attached to different cables. Skywires has the advantage that it can be tried out in a limited area. Moreover, the construction of a skywires system does not tie up much land. How much visual space it takes will depend on how thin the towers, cables and wires can be made.

A Square Mile of B-52s

A guest article for Next Big Future by Joseph Friedlander

When history, tech and industrial capacity studies collide, you get an awesome venue for geeky statistical comparisions.

I was just comparing the bomber forces of the USA during World War II and the Cold War and trying to come up with a measure of just how big they were (dwarfing those of today) and I think I have come up with such a measure: A square mile of aircraft. (Or square kilometer). This is measured, for purposes of this article by the simple square of the wingspan times the length, and taking that square as 'Wingtip to Wingtip Square Area' for purposes of measurement of a hypothetical giant array ('All in One Ground Formation Area') of every model of that aircraft ever built (Of course in a real aircraft production history, particularly for the long construction runs, many early examples will be long gone by the time the last one rolls off the line, so this is a strictly theoretical measure)
Field of B52

How to Feed the World in 2050

Net investments of $83 billion a year must be made in agriculture in developing countries if there is to be enough food to feed 9.1 billion people in 2050 according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN

By 2050 the world’s population will reach 9.1 billion, 34 percent higher than today. Nearly all of this population increase will occur in developing countries. Urbanization will continue at an accelerated pace, and about 70 percent of the world’s population will be urban (compared to 49 percent today). Income levels will be many multiples of what they are now. In order to feed this larger, more urban and richer population, food production (net of food used for biofuels) must increase by 70 percent. Annual cereal production will need to rise to about 3 billion tonnes from 2.1 billion today and annual meat production will need to rise by over 200 million tonnes to reach 470 million tonnes.

This report argues that the required increase in food production can be achieved if the necessary investment is undertaken and policies conducive to agricultural production are put in place. But increasing production is not sufficient to achieve food security. It must be complemented by policies to enhance access by fighting poverty, especially in rural areas, as well as effective safety net programmes.

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