March 10, 2012

Friedlander's Idea For A Nuclear Hopper

What if the most economical use of a nuclear powered spacecraft is not direct to escape but just to get above the atmosphere? The economics of nuclear thermal rockets

A guest article by Joseph Friedlander

Brian Wang has covered many nuclear thermal rocket ideas from gas-core reactors to NERVA and DUMBO to Liberty Ship and other possibilities.

First let us discuss the dream of nuclear thermal rockets. Powered by a reactor light enough to fly, hot enough and with power enough to energize a reaction fluid (hopefully a light fluid with high exhaust velocity) and efficient enough to carry a large fraction of launch weight as payload to low orbit, high orbit or even escape velocity.

China Official Actual GDP Growth Compared to Targets

Sources: Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China, IMF; as of 03/05/2012. IMF estimated growth rates are based on constant 1990 prices in Chinese yuan

Fisher Investments writing at theStreet.

Historically, China's official growth target has been the lower bound of a range -- an easily attainable threshold they can boast of beating at year-end (under promise, over deliver, as the saw goes).

Real Chinese GDP growth has handily trounced the target every year since 2000 (the earliest official data available), nearly doubling it in 2007. In 2004, the last time China forecast 7.5% growth, GDP grew a robust 10.1%. That's not to say 2012 will match that pace, but growth on par with recent years seems plausible.

Joseph Friedlander's Thoughts Inspired By Alexander Bolonkin's Writings On How To Catalyze Innovation And Technical Progress

Guest Post by Joseph Friedlander

Bolonkin has stated, All useful things, which we see around us everyday, were developed from new concepts, ideas researched in the rather recent past. This fact is gracefully, eloquently, and comprehensively outlined in Robert Friedel’s A CULTURE OF IMPROVEMENT: TECHNOLOGY AND THE WESTERN MILLENNIUM (MIT Press, 2007).

Joseph Friedlander summarizes in his own words (and conclusions) inspired by Bolonkin's ideas on the innovation process as it is, should be and a way to a better process:

1. R&D of new concepts and innovations is vital to national standing in the world.

2. You can't fund everything so you have to get the best results for your tax money spent.

3. The very proposal process can exclude true innovators and innovation. The problem is centered on gatekeepers both personal and bureaucratic.

4. A tiny minority of innovators produces a preponderance of the best results. A tiny minority of students are the future hope of the country for tech leadership. These are your priority, must be your priority—any system that loses sight of this will cost its nation rank in the world. Of course the operators of that educational system may not take that as a priority. Nor the operators of the research funding system once those few talented kids reach maturity, develop talents and apply for funding.

5. Each steering committee and proposal process that a proposal must pass decreases the chance of the projects that do pass being authentic innovations in waiting, and increases the chance of the projects being familiar and pedestrian and well liked.

Synaptic activity has been mapped to microtubule structure

In an article in the March 8 issue of the journal PLoS Computational Biology, physicists Travis Craddock and Jack Tuszynski of the University of Alberta, and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff of the University of Arizona demonstrate a plausible mechanism for encoding synaptic memory in microtubules, major components of the structural cytoskeleton within neurons. Microtubules are cylindrical hexagonal lattice polymers of the protein tubulin, comprising 15 percent of total brain protein. Microtubules define neuronal architecture, regulate synapses, and are suggested to process information via interactive bit-like states of tubulin. But any semblance of a common code connecting microtubules to synaptic activity has been missing. Until now.

PLOS - Cytoskeletal Signaling: Is Memory Encoded in Microtubule Lattices by CaMKII Phosphorylation?

Lunar Silicon vs Helium 3

What if a lunar base could produce and deliver waste silicon cheaper than coal on Earth? The economics of massive lunar exports

A guest article by Joseph Friedlander
There was a lot of talk stirred up lately by Newt Gingrich's lunar base speech, which Brian referred to in a post here.

Many people have been dragging out the corpse of Helium 3, whch was really popular around 1990 or so, to be propped up for some one-sided parlor conversation about an economy on Earth powered by Helium 3.

Yes, the Moon's powdery regolith, over much time, has adsorbed (not absorbed, adhered to the surface of the fine grains) hydrogen, nitrogen and helium from the solar wind, among them Helium 3 atoms.

James Cameron dove to the bottom of the New Britain Trench

Deep Sea Challenge - James Cameron describes the dive to 8000 meters (5 miles) deep. Cameron’s successful 8,221-meter dive to the bottom of the New Britain Trench.

The 8000m dive went very well. Not an unqualified success, since the manip was balky and my push core sediment sample washed out on ascent because the sample door wouldn’t stow all the way, and because of the speed of the flow over the vehicle on ascent (5 knots average). But overall the vehicle performed like a champ. Plenty of power, and even though I lost one thruster, I still had 11 left, so the massive-redundancy approach worked. I never lost functionality. All lights and cameras worked. Sonar was balky… that’s going to need some work.

Bottom time close to 5 hours, range of exploration about 1.5 km horizontal, and about 300m vertical along the trench wall, which was like the Grand Canyon, vertical faces interspersed with angled scree slopes. Dramatic terrain.

The ponded sediment in the center of the trench was the finest I’ve ever seen. When the thrust-wash just barely kissed it, it formed silken veils undulating across the bottom, and then it would rise and hang in tendrils like ectoplasm. Not at all like the typical turbidite plains of abyssal depths. Where I dove the basin of ponded sediment was 1.5 km across, flat as a billiard table, and virtually featureless. It actually ended at a well-defined “beach” where the normal rocks and sediment commenced, terracing upward to the fault scarps. I explored up the scarps onto a plateau.

Making Stargates: The Physics of Traversable Absurdly Benign Wormholes

Extremely short throat “absurdly benign” wormholes enabling near instantaneous travel to arbitrarily remote locations in both space and time – stargates – have long been a staple of science fiction. The physical requirements for the production of such devices were worked out by Morris and Thorne in 1988. They approached the issue of rapid spacetime transport by asking the question: what constraints do the laws of physics as we know them place on an “arbitrarily advanced culture” (AAC)? Their answer – a Jupiter mass of negative restmass matter in a structure a few tens of meters in size – seems to have rendered such things beyond the realm of the believably achievable. This might be taken as justification for abandoning further serious exploration of the physics of stargates. If such an investigation is pursued, however, one way to do so is to invert Morris and Thorne's question and ask: if “arbitrarily advanced aliens” (AAAs) have actually made stargates, what must be true of the laws of physics for them to have done so? Elementary arithmetic reveals that stargates would have an “exotic” density of on the order of 10^22 gm/cm3, that is, orders of magnitude higher than nuclear density. Not only does one have to achieve this stupendous density of negative mass matter, it must be done, presumably, only with the application of “low” energy electromagnetic fields. We examine this problem, finding that a plausible solution does not depend on the laws of quantum gravity, as some have proposed. Rather, the solution depends on understanding the nature of electrons in terms of a semi-classical extension of the exact, general relativistic electron model of Arnowitt, Deser, and Misner (ADM), and Mach's Principle.

The negative bare mass ADM model of the electron can be modified to accommodate quantized spin.

Given some modest amount of everyday type matter, say a few hundred or thousand kilograms, all we have to do is enclose the matter within another presumably thin shell of matter wherein we can change its mass from positive to negative. It would have to become sufficiently negative to null the positive mass of the initial mass of the shell and the matter it encloses. But if we could do that, we would screen the gravitational influence of the matter in the rest of the universe on the matter within the thin shell.

Find a way to screen our electron from the gravitational potential due to the rest of the universe, the denominator would become of order unity and the exotic bare mass of the electron – 21 orders of magnitude larger than its normal mass and negative – would be exposed. Do this to a modest amount of normal stuff and you would have your Jupiter mass of exotic matter to make a traversable stargate – if the negative bare mass ADM model of elementary particles is a plausible representation of reality.

Transcranial Direct Stimulation for Enhance Learning

Technology Review - The technique is called Transcranial Direct Stimulation, and while bioethicists are debating whether or not it's ethical to use it to enhance learning in children, hobbyists have figure out how to try it out at home. Think of it as the new Adderrall -- without, apparently, the side effects.

The long term effects of tCDS are unknown, and if you mess up and put orders of magnitude more current through your brain than is typically used in tCDS, obviously, you could kill yourself.

GoFlow is a startup planning to offer tDCS kits for as little as $99.

March 09, 2012

StarTram More Technical Details

This is a follow up on the interview by Sander Olson for Nextbigfuture of the Startram space launch concept

Startram is a mass driver, which means it requires neither rockets nor propellant to launch payload into space. Mass drivers are not a new concept. Early mass drivers were envisioned in fiction in the late nineteenth century, and have been a staple of speculative fiction ever since. Various engineering concepts of the mass driver have been described over the years, but no significant progress towards building a mass driver has been made due to large technical hurdles.

We believe that Startram is the first mass driver design that combines available technology with intelligent implementation of basic physical principles to yield a design that is actually commercially feasible.

There are two proposed configurations of Startram, Generation-1 and Generation-2. Gen-1 Startram is a cargo-only version which does not require levitated tubes (but instead is built up the flank of a tall mountain) and could be built within ten years at a cost of $20 Billion. Gen-2 Startram is a people-capable version which does require levitated tubes and could be built within twenty years at a cost of $60 Billion.

The key technologies enabling Startram are as follows.

1. Maglev for Acceleration of Launch Vehicles

* If maglev is placed in evacuated tubes with very low air pressures, it is possible to run maglev at 1000s of km/h.

2. Magnetically Suspended Superconducting Cables

* It's easy to levitate objects electromagnetically. If you push enough current through two conductors in opposite directions, the conductors will be subject to a force pushing them apart. The more current the greater the force. With the advent of superconducting cables being developed for superconducting power grids, it is now possible to construct cables which can carry hundreds of megamps of current. These amperages are sufficient to supply a levitating force of 4 tons per meter of startram guideway, even when the conductors are separated by 20km

NASA Robotic Refueling Mission Begins With Space Station Robotics

NASA's highly anticipated Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) began operations on the International Space Station with the Canadian Dextre robot and RRM tools March 7-9, 2012, marking important milestones in satellite-servicing technology and the use of the space station robotic capabilities.

The RRM Gas Fittings Removal task represents the first use of RRM tools in orbit. During the task, robot operators at NASA's Johnson Space Center remotely control Dextre to retrieve RRM tools and go through the tasks required to remove representative fittings (located on the RRM module) used on many spacecraft for filling various fluids and gases prior to launch. Subsequent RRM operations include practicing robotic satellite refueling and servicing tasks using Dextre, RRM tools, and the satellite piece parts and interfaces contained within and covering the cube-shaped RRM module.

The Robotic Refueling Mission module, installed on its temporary platform on the International Space Station's Dextre robot (Photo: NASA)

George Miley Upcoming Presentation A Game-Changing Power Source Based on Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENRs)

Ecat Site- George Miley is set to give a presentation on March 23 at the Emerging Technologies for Space conference in The Woodlands, Texas, a suburb of Houston. An abstract of his presentation has been released and can be found here. It is entitled “A Game-Changing Power Source Based on Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENRs).” Miley wants to replace the Plutonium heat source in a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) with a LENR device.

Miley is Guggenheim Fellow and Fellow of the American Nuclear Society, the American Physical Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. He was Senior NATO Fellow from 1994 to 1995, received the Edward Teller Medal in 1995, the IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Science Award in Fusion Technology in 2003 and the Radiation Science and Technology Award in 2004. He holds several patents.

George Miley is also an expert on Inertial Electrostatic Fusion. Professor George Miley of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is director of its Fusion Studies Lab.

Excess heat generation from our gas-loading LENR power cell has been verified, confirming nuclear reactions provide output energy. While there are similarities between ours and the Rossi E-Cat gas-loaded kW-MW LENR cells that have attracted inter-national attention, there are important differences in nanoparticle composition and cell construction. Our experiment has established a remarkable proof-of-principle power unit at ca. 350 Watts per kg under room temperature when using deuterium (D2) gas (H2 can also be employed) with Pd rich nanoparticles, producing 1479J heat, well above the maximum exothermal ener-gy (690J) possible from all conceivable chemical reactions. Neglecting unlikely chemical reaction contributions, the energy gain is virtually unlimited due to negligible power input with gas loading.

Nextbigfuture covered George Miley's LENR work replicating the Patterson cell late last year.

Figure 1 Gas loading power system. A) Experimental apparatus for pressurizing a stainless tube containing nanoparticles and performing calorimetry on the heat production. B) NPRE undergraduates operating the experiment.

Forbes indicates Elon Musk is worth $2 billion

Forbes indicates that Elon Musk is worth $2 billion based on a 25% stock value gain in Tesla.

Solar City will IPO this year and Spacex will likely IPO in 2013

Here is some valuations of car companies.

If Tesla became as successful as Renault then it would be worth three times as much and if it was worth as much as Ford it would be 12 times as valuable. Solar City could conceivable increase three times over the next two years after the IPO.

Lockheed is worth $28 billion. Boeing is worth $60 billion. United Launch Alliance is a joint venture of those two companies.

So in the next three years Elon Musk could conceivably get to $6-15 billion in net worth.

Forbes 2012 list counts an all-time high of 1,226 billionaires worth a record $4.6 trillion.

The top ten billionaires

1  Carlos Slim     $69 B     72       telecom        Mexico
2  Bill Gates      $61 B     56       Microsoft      United States
3  Warren Buffett  $44 B     81       Berkshire Hathaway United States
4  Bernard Arnault $41 B     63       LVMH           France
5  Amancio Ortega  $37.5 B   75       Zara           Spain
6  Larry Ellison   $36 B     67       Oracle         United States
7  Eike Batista    $30 B     55       mining, oil    Brazil
8  Stefan Persson  $26 B     64       H and M        Sweden
9  Li Ka-shing     $25.5 B   83       diversified    Hong Kong
10 Karl Albrecht   $25.4 B   92       Aldi           Germany

New MIT Sawtooth design for a metamaterial could increase solar cell efficiency

Researchers at MIT and elsewhere have found a way to use metamaterials to absorb a wide range of light with extremely high efficiency, which they say could lead to a new generation of solar cells or optical sensors.

The new design uses a pattern of wedge-shaped ridges whose widths are precisely tuned to slow and capture light of a wide range of wavelengths and angles of incidence.

These metamaterials can be extremely thin, saving weight and cost. Fang compares the tapered structures to the cochlea of the inner ear, which responds to different frequencies of sound at different points along its narrowing structure. “Our ears separate different frequencies and gather them at different depths,” he says; similarly, the metamaterial wedges harvest photons at different depths.

Tapered ridges, made from alternating layers of metal and insulating material deposited on a surface, can produce a metamaterial that is tuned to a range of specific frequencies of light. Light of different wavelengths is absorbed by the material at different levels, where the light's wavelength matches the width of the ridges. Image: Yanxia Cui

Nanoletters - Ultrabroadband Light Absorption by a Sawtooth Anisotropic Metamaterial Slab

New optical network architecture to enable 10 Gbps Internet using existing infrastructure and some cheap upgrades

Alpha Galileo - A consortium of universities, research institutes, equipment vendors and one telecom operator joined forces in the 'Scalable advanced ring-based passive dense access network architecture' Sardana project to develop pioneering techniques to dramatically improve the scalability and robustness of the fibre-to-home networks that already serve millions of European internet users. Supported by EUR 2.6 million in research funding from the European Commission, the project not only demonstrated connection speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps), around 2,000 times faster than most Internet users experience today, but the researchers showed that such speeds can be achieved at relatively little extra cost using existing fibre infrastructure and off-the-shelf components.

The approach uses existing infrastructure or involves changing components that can be cheaply upgraded to achieve 10 Gbps performance.

Though still in the experimental stages, the fully optical technology, if deployed commercially, would mark a giant leap forward in fibre network performance, directly addressing one of the biggest challenges currently facing service providers and consumers.

SARDANA researchers are proposing a new access network architecture using fibre to the home that provides new functionalities and extended performance.

Tellabs was indicating that SARDANA was nearing a commercial rollout starting in 2013-2014.

Although SARDANA is at least 24 months from commercial rollout (as of Jan 2011), Tellabs and others are already talking about the applications it can enable or dramatically improve. HDTV, UHDV and 3D TV are some potential consumer beneficiaries, along with holographic telepresence and telemedicine in the business market.

The largest, most immediate market opportunity is mobile backhaul, which is struggling to keep up with about 130,000 TB of traffic per month, according to iGR, a research firm. By 2014, the monthly load will hit 990,000 TB.

Pilot Sphere and other Technology of James Camerons Dive to the Marianas Trench

Although the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER is as long as a stretch limo, the pilot’s home will be the pilot sphere. With an internal diameter of 43 inches (109 centimeters) and an interior filled with electronics and life-support equipment, the sphere is so small that while inside the pilot’s legs are tightly bent and he can barely move his arms.

Inside the Pilot Sphere

Photograph by Mark Thiessen. During the descent, James Cameron will occupy the pilot sphere. The sphere is held in position with straps. Green cloth covers the sphere

James Cameron Leading Richard Branson in race to Challenger Deep

Telegraph UK - Hollywood director James Cameron is winning what has been called the "race to inner space" in a futuristic submersile he described as looking like "a clown car". The 57-year-old Canadian-born director this week dived deeper than any other human on a solo mission at a record-breaking 5.1 miles. Cameron, the director of Titanic and Avatar, is trying to dive to the deepest place on Earth to return with specimens and images. His goal is to become the first human for more than 50 years to visit the Mariana Trench's Challenger Deep, which plummets 6.8 miles down in the Pacific Ocean, and bring back data and specimens.

Richard Branson has also built a two-seater sub he says can survive a Challenger Deep descent but it seems Cameron is winning the battle to get there first.

The National Geographic and James Cameron have the Deepsea Challenge site

Deepsea Challenge Site

Reviewing My Old Predictions and Forecasts for China' s GDP and Looking Ahead

Among the predictions that I made in 2006 (about 6 years ago) were two predictions on China's economy.

China second largest economy in straight currency conversion measures   2013-2015
China largest economy in PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) terms            2009-2012

China overtook Japan in 2010 in terms of being the second largest economy in currency conversion measuers. Japan's economy was weaker than I expected.

By 2008, I had realized and forecast that China would pass Japan in 2010.

China Largest based on Purchasing Power Parity

Various economists indicate that based on purchasing power parity China has been the largest economy in the 2009 to 2012 timeframe.

A 37 page paper indicates that China's World Bank 2005 PPP estimate is 50% too low. Their analysis is important, not just because it is carefully done, but also because Professor Feenstra will be leading the effort to produce the next generation of the Penn World Table GDP (PPP-based) estimates.

The latest World Bank estimates of real GDP per capita for China are significantly lower than previous ones. We review possible sources of this puzzle and conclude that it reflects a combination of factors, including substitution bias in consumption, reliance on urban prices which we estimate are higher than rural ones, and the use of an expenditure-weighted rather than an output-weighted measure of GDP. Taking all these together, we estimate that real per-capita GDP in China was 50% higher relative to the U.S. in 2005 than the World Bank estimates.

The current Penn World Tables 7.0 indicate that China is the largest economy on PPP basis in 2012

Resetting the future of MRAM and Spintronics

Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin has developed a new magnetic valve which can enable novel electronic devices. Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) have developed a novel, extremely-thin structure made of various magnetic materials. It is suitable as a kind of magnetic valve for data-storage units of the most recent generation and makes use of effects in the context of so-called spintronics, with which, in addition to the (re-)charging process, magnetic characteristics of the electrons can also be used for information-processing and -storage. The advantage of the new structure: data remain intact even after the electric current has been switched off and the memory can be re-written more or less indefinitely.

A pictorial view of the coupling mechanism between hard and soft ferrimagnetic alloys with perpendicular magnetization. Picture: RUB/Abrudan

Nature Communications - Perpendicular exchange bias in ferrimagnetic spin valves

March 08, 2012

Stem cells beat kidney rejection

BBC News - An injection of stem cells given alongside a kidney transplant could remove the need for a lifetime of drugs to suppress the immune system

Early tests of the technique at US hospitals were successful in a small number of patients.

The journal Science Translational Medicine reports how the majority no longer need anti-rejection medication.

Researchers said it could have a "major impact" on transplant science.

LA Times - The anti-rejection drugs — typically 15 to 20 pills a day — make patients vulnerable to infection, diabetes, hypertension and cancers: they are so toxic, they often overwhelm transplanted kidneys. They have typically cost as much as $20,000 a year, and remain expensive despite the recent availability of generic versions.

And after all that, many patients reject their transplanted organs anyway.

Introducing plug-and-play nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS

Nanosystems Initiative Munich - The measurement of very low concentrations of various agents plays an important role in medicine, pharmacology and food technology. So-called “nanomechanical resonators” – vibrating nanostrings – represent promising candidates for suitable detectors, because their oscillating motion is extremely sensitive to the binding of substances of interest. In recent years scientists have refined these techniques to the point where single atoms can now be detected. These analyses, however, have their shortcomings. They tend to be time-consuming, require expensive instrumentation and frequently operate only at temperatures near absolute zero. Recently, a group of physicists at the LMU developed a compact sensor architecture on the nanometer scale, which is easy to handle and works at room temperature.

Arxiv - Microwave cavity-enhanced transduction for plug and play nanomechanics at room temperature (11 pages

Interim Report-Status of the Study "An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy"

National Academy of Science - Interim Report-Status of the Study "An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy" 60 pages pdf)

In this interim report, the Committee on the Prospects for Inertial Confinement Fusion Energy Systems reached the following preliminary conclusions and recommendations.

Conclusion 1: The scientific and technological progress in inertial confinement fusion has been substantial during the past decade, particularly in areas pertaining to the achievement and understanding of high-energy-density conditions in the compressed fuel, in numerical simulations of inertial confinement fusion processes, and in exploring several of the critical technologies required for inertial fusion energy applications (e.g., high-repetition rate lasers and heavy-ion-beam systems, pulsed-power systems, and cryogenic target fabrication techniques).

Despite these advances, however, many of the technologies needed for an integrated inertial fusion energy system are still at an early stage of technological maturity. For all approaches to inertial fusion energy examined by the committee (diode-pumped lasers, krypton fluoride lasers, heavy-ion accelerators, pulsed power; indirect drive and direct drive), there remain critical scientific and engineering challenges associated with establishing the technical basis for an inertial fusion energy demonstration plant.

Progress to a solid state diamond qubit for future quantum computers

Nanosystems Initiative Munich - A method for manipulating the charge of nitrogen vacancy-centres in diamond – which are thought to be important areas in the creation of qubits in quantum computers – is reported in Nature Communications this week. The approach, which relies on the use of electrolytes similar to those used in batteries, is a step towards achieving more practical realizations of quantum computers.

Electron spins at nitrogen vacancy-centres in diamond are thought to be promising candidates for qubits in quantum computers. However, their unstable charge states are an obstacle to their successful use in large-scale quantum processors. Jose Garrido and colleagues present a method for manipulating the charge state of nitrogen vacancies using an electrolytic gate electrode. By applying a voltage through the electrolyte, they are able to reliably control the spin state of the centres. Because of their potential as qubits, these results could have important implications for quantum computing.

Nature Communications - Charge state manipulation of qubits in diamond

Researchers 'Print' Polymers That Bend Into 3-D Shapes - Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst employed photographic techniques and polymer science to develop a new technique for printing two-dimensional sheets of polymers that can fold into three-dimensional shapes when water is added. The technique may lead to wide ranging practical applications from medicine to robotics.

The technique could be used to direct growth of blood vessels or tissues in the laboratory.

Researchers used a photomask and ultraviolet (UV) light to "print" a pattern onto a sheet of polymers, a technique called photolithography. In the absence of UV exposure, the polymer will swell and expand uniformly when exposed to water, however when polymer molecules within the sheet were exposed to UV light they became crosslinked--more rigidly linked together at a number of points--which prevented them from expanding when water was added. Patterning the amount of crosslinking across an entire sheet allowed researchers to control how much each area swelled. A second exposure to a carefully selected pattern of UV light allowed them to create specific 3-D shapes.

Controlling growth in a polymer system at the micro-scale with a technique akin to half-tone printing, the polymer swells like a sponge when exposed to water. Printing "resist dots" in the polymer substrate creates points that will not swell. When the dot size changes, buckling occurs from the mismatch in growth from one area to another. With a proper half-tone pattern of resist dots, almost any 3-D shape can be achieved. (Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation)

Science - Designing Responsive Buckled Surfaces by Halftone Gel Lithography

Mercedes creates digital camouflage for a car

Japanese Speech-Jamming Gun

Kazutaka Kurihara site - In this paper we report on a system, "SpeechJammer", which can be used to disturb people's speech. In general, human speech is jammed by giving back to the speakers their own utterances at a delay of a few hundred milliseconds. This effect can disturb people without any physical discomfort, and disappears immediately by stop speaking. Furthermore, this effect does not involve anyone but the speaker. We utilize this phenomenon and implemented two prototype versions by combining a direction-sensitive microphone and a direction-sensitive speaker, enabling the speech of a specific person to be disturbed. We discuss practical application scenarios of the system, such as facilitating and controlling discussions. Finally, we argue what system parameters should be examined in detail in future formal studies based on the lessons learned from our preliminary study.

A prototype of the SpeechJammer, an audio device that could zap overly talkative speakers into submission. Photo courtesy Kazutaka Kurihara

Arxiv - SpeechJammer: A System Utilizing Artificial Speech Disturbance with Delayed Auditory Feedback (10 pages)

Broad Group China Plans 100, 150 and 200 story Factory Mass Produced Skyscrapers

LA Times has reviewed the Broad Group of China's assembly of a factory produced thirty story building in 15 days

"This is the tallest building in this county, and it's also the fastest-built," said Rong Shengli, one of the building's planners, looking over the rural sprawl from a helicopter pad on the hotel's roof. "Next we're going to build a 50-story building. Then a 100-story one, then a 150-story one. And they're all going to go up fast."

The time-lapse video provides a glimpse of how the hotel was made. Workers in blue jumpsuits are seen assembling "main boards," the building blocks of Broad's structures -- 13-by-50-foot slabs containing ventilation shafts, water pipes, electric wiring and lighting fixtures sandwiched between ready-made floors and ceilings.

Building this way costs 20% to 30% less than traditional methods, said Jiang Yan, a senior vice president at Broad.

It's also safer, said Zhang Yue, chief executive of Broad Group, because factories are typically less risky environments than construction sites.

Israel may have cut a deal to delay attacking Iran in Exchange for better bunker busters and refueling planes

Reuters Germany - The USA may provide Israel with more powerful bunker buster bombs and in air refueling planes in exchange for a delayed attach on Iran

Maariv - Diplomatic sources said that according to the package deal proposed by Obama and Netanyahu, Israel rejects the attack on Iran in exchange for bunker bombs and refueling planes. Western sources: Obama has presented Israel "almost red light" to attack.

The White House has denied that there is a deal for bunker buster bombs.

Better bunker busters and refueling planes would enable Israel to attack Iran's deep bunker in Furdow.

IBM Labs: Holey Optochip First to Transfer One Trillion Bits of Information per Second could be commercial in year or two

IBM scientists today will report on a prototype optical chipset, dubbed “Holey Optochip”, that is the first parallel optical transceiver to transfer one trillion bits – one terabit – of information per second, the equivalent of downloading 500 high definition movies. The report will be presented at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference taking place in Los Angeles.

Ars Technica - Although IBM itself won't be mass-producing the chips, Schow said they could become commercially available within a year or two. Price points could be in the $100 to $200 range, he speculated.

* It four times as many channels running twice as fast, and the power efficiency is better by at least a factor of four

* The whole chip uses more power than current ones, but transmits much more data, resulting in better efficiency as measured by watts per bit.

• Researchers invent novel technique by fabricating tiny holes in a single quarter-inch chip to boost data transfer rates
• Until now, it was not possible to transport terabits of data for existing parallel optical communications technology
• New prototype compactly and efficiently delivers ultra-high interconnect bandwidth to power future supercomputer and data center applications

With the ability to move information at blazing speeds – eight times faster than parallel optical components available today – the breakthrough could transform how data is accessed, shared and used for a new era of communications, computing and entertainment. The raw speed of one transceiver is equivalent to the bandwidth consumed by 100,000 users at today’s typical 10 Mb/s high-speed internet access. Or, it would take just around an hour to transfer the entire U.S. Library of Congress web archive through the transceiver.

Photomicrograph of IBM Holey Optochip. Original chip dimensions are 5.2 mm x 5 .8 mm.

There will be more 3D Star Wars

Star Wars Phantom Menace 3D will make about $45-50 million domestically. It will make about two times that amount in foreign box office. It is already at $46 million in foreign box office. There will be Blu-ray and other revenue and it re-invigorates toy sales. Toys sales are about 4 times the movie box office money.

It costs about $10-15 million to convert the movie to 3D. Even after other costs and sharing with distributors, this will make 10-30 times its money back.

The original movies (Star Wars, Empire and Jedi) will do better.

I am not saying that this is a good thing.

These are just facts.

Leia quote - If money is all that you love, then that's what you'll receive.
I wonder if he really cares about anything.

Godfather quote - It is not personal, it is strictly business.

North Dakota Producing 546,000 barrels of oil per day in January 2012 and Texas produced 1,045,816 barrels per day in December 2011

Texas oil

Texas preliminary December 2011 crude oil production averaged 1,045,816 barrels daily, up from the 942,114 barrels daily average of December 2010. Texas increased oil production by over 103,000 barrels per day in 2011.

In January 2012, operators reported 765 oil, 234 gas, 18 injection and three other completions compared to 368 oil, 286 gas, 27 injection and zero other completions in January 2011.

Total well completions for 2012 year to date are 1,020 up from 681 recorded during the same period in 2011.

Operators reported 800 holes plugged and zero dry holes in January 2012 compared to 600 holes plugged and two dry holes in January 2011.

North Dakota Oil

North Dakota is now producing 546,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd), according to preliminary data released Tuesday. That’s an increase of 11,000 bopd from December’s totals. That mark keeps pace with the average increase in production seen in 2011.

North Dakota produced 342911 barrels per day in January, 2011 and 357043 barrels per day in November 2010. There was about a 200,000 barrel per day increase over the 2011.

Total January crude oil production totaled 16.9 million barrels of oil. January natural gas production totaled 17.7 million cubic feet or about 571,500 mcf a day. There were 6,600 wells producing in the month of January. That’s up nearly 200 wells from December. The average rig count held steady in January at 200.

January figures show 212 new “spuds” or new wells drilled, compared to 140 this time last year.

California’s oil output is about 535,000 barrels per day.

Alaska’s production at 593,000.

California has a lot of oil and could be producing a lot more, but has chosen to ban offshore drilling and oil major Occidental Petroleum is choosing to spend efforts developing foreign oil properties where the economics and politics are more convenient

Alaska also has a lot more oil but for political reasons is not developing it.

The preliminary Texas crude oil production figure for December 2011 is 32,420,281 barrels, up from 29,205,524 barrels reported during December 2010.

New femtosecond laser technique for step towards creating 3D bulk metamaterials

Working at a scale applicable to infrared light, the Harvard team has used extremely short and powerful laser pulses to create three-dimensional patterns of tiny silver dots within a material. Those suspended metal dots are essential for building futuristic devices like invisibility cloaks.

"If you want a bulk metamaterial for visible and infrared light, you need to embed particles of silver or gold inside a dielectric, and you need to do it in 3D, with high resolution," says lead author Kevin Vora, a graduate student at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

"This work demonstrates that we can create silver dots that are disconnected in x, y, and z," Vora says. "There’s no other technique that feasibly allows you to do that. Being able to make patterns of nanostructures in 3D is a very big step towards the goal of making bulk metamaterials."

The experimental setup in Prof. Eric Mazur's laser laboratory at Harvard. Using femtosecond lasers, Mazur and colleagues have developed a new nanofabrication process for use in creating metamaterials.

Applied Physics Letters - Fabrication of disconnected three‐dimensional silver nanostructures in a polymer matrix

March 07, 2012

NIST Probes the Promise of Nanomanufacturing Using DNA Origami

Scientists have begun to harness DNA’s powerful molecular machinery to build artificial structures at the nanoscale using the natural ability of pairs of DNA molecules to assemble into complex structures. Such “DNA origami,” first developed at the California Institute of Technology, could provide a means of assembling complex nanostructures such as semiconductor devices, sensors and drug delivery systems, from the bottom up.

While most researchers in the field are working to demonstrate what’s possible, scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are seeking to determine what’s practical.

According to NIST researcher Alex Liddle, it’s a lot like building with LEGOs—some patterns enable the blocks to fit together snugly and stick together strongly and some don’t.

DNA origami: NIST researchers made three DNA origami templates designed so that quantum dots would arrange themselves: (a in the corners, b) diagonally (three dots), and (c in a line (four dots). The researchers found that putting the quantum dots closer together caused them to interfere with one another, leading to higher error rates and lower bonding strength.
Credit: Ko/NIST

Advanced functional materials - Nanomanufacturing with DNA origami: factors affecting the kinetics and yield of quantum dot binding

Feasibility of Ultralow-power all-optical RAM based on nanocavities demonstrated

Nature Photonics - Optical random-access memory (o-RAM) has been regarded as one of the most difficult challenges in terms of replacing its various functionalities in electronic circuitry with their photonic counterparts. Nevertheless, it constitutes a key device in optical routing and processing. Here, we demonstrate that photonic crystal nanocavities with an ultrasmall buried heterostructure design can solve most of the problems encountered in previous o-RAMs. By taking advantage of the strong confinement of photons and carriers and allowing heat to escape efficiently, we have realized all-optical RAMs with a power consumption of only 30 nW, which is more than 300 times lower than the previous record, and have achieved continuous operation. We have also demonstrated their feasibility in multibit integration. This paves the way for constructing a low-power large-scale o-RAM system that can handle high-bit-rate optical signals.

Optical random-access memory device structure and static response.

National Ignition Facility Laser Fusion Project approaches energy break-even point

This could be the year the National Ignition Facility (NIF) finally lives up to its name. The facility, which boasts the world’s largest laser, is designed to trigger fusion by imploding a target pellet of hydrogen isotopes, thereby releasing more energy than will go into the shot. NIF’s managers think that the end of their two-year campaign for break-even energy, or ‘ignition’, is in sight. “We have all the capability to make it happen in fiscal year 2012,” says Ed Moses, director of the US$3.5-billion facility, at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

Is NIF’s laser-based approach the best one? An interim report released on 7 March by a US National Academies panel concludes that it is still too early to tell, and recommends that fusion scientists explore alternative technologies for imploding the fuel.

The NIF team has made steady progress, however. When the push for ignition began 18 months ago, the facility was achieving 1% of the conditions thought to be needed for ignition. Now the figure stands at 10%, and the pace is quickening: a record 57 shots were taken in January alone. The team is also studying an array of tweaks, including encasing the fuel in beryllium or diamond instead of plastic and changing the hohlraum material or its shape. Moses says that it might also be possible to crank up NIF’s peak energy from the 1.8 megajoules estimated to be needed for break-even to 2.2 megajoules.

Engineers inspect the fusion chamber at the National Ignition Facility. LLNL

Economist Arvind Subramanian Calculates that China's PPP GDP is 70% Higher than World Bank Estimates

More than a year ago, Arvind argued that China’s GDP in purchasing power parity (PPP) dollars had overtaken that of the United States in 2010.

* Based on the work of Angus Deaton and Alan Heston, Arvind argued that the International Monetary Fund’s GDP estimate for China for 2005 was understated by 27 percent. In fact, I used for 2005 the number in the Penn World Table (series China, version 2 in PWT 7; available online since June 2011).

* And between 2005 and 2010, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had overstated the increase in the relevant PPP prices in China, and hence understated the increase in GDP between these dates by 20 percent. Conceptually, the “mistake” that the IMF made (and continues to make) is to project these PPP prices based on the evolution of the macroeconomic real exchange rate (changes in a country’s nominal exchange rate vis-à-vis the dollar deflated by changes in aggregate prices between that country and the US dollar). But the computation of the relevant price index for the PPP calculations requires the evolution in the internal real exchange rate, measured as the change in domestic prices of tradable goods to non-tradable goods

Combining these two factors, China's GDP (in PPP dollars) estimate for 2010 for China was greater than that of the IMF by 47 percent.

A new paper, Who Shrunk China? Puzzles in the Measurement of Real GDP by Robert C. Feenstra, Hong Ma, J. Peter Neary, D.S. Prasada Rao argue that IMF’s estimate of China’s GDP for 2005 was 50% too low. (37 pages)

Their analysis is important, not just because it is carefully done, but also because Professor Feenstra will be leading the effort to produce the next generation of the Penn World Table GDP (PPP-based) estimates.

If they are right, and if I therefore might have underestimated China’s 2010 GDP (PPP dollars) by about 20 to 23 percent, three conclusions follow.

This implies China’s 2010 GDP PPP exceeded $17 trillion and in 2012 will reach $20 trillion.

Pitt Research Team Says Communication Technologies Including Smartphones and Laptops Could Now Be 1,000 Times Faster

The Pitt team has generated a frequency comb with more than a 100 terahertz bandwidth as a means to process communications data at a remarkably rapid speed.

Many of the communication tools of today rely on the function of light or, more specifically, on applying information to a light wave. Up until now, studies on electronic and optical devices with materials that are the foundations of modern electronics—such as radio, TV, and computers—have generally relied on nonlinear optical effects, producing devices whose bandwidth has been limited to the gigahertz (GHz) frequency region. (Hertz stands for cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon, in this case 1billion cycles). Thanks to research performed at the University of Pittsburgh, a physical basis for terahertz bandwidth (THz, or 1 trillion cycles per second)—the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum between infrared and microwave light—has now been demonstrated.

Nature Photonics - Frequency comb generation at terahertz frequencies by coherent phonon excitation in silicon
Schematic of refractive index modulation in silicon.

New iPad will be $499-829 and Apple iPad 2 will be $399

CNET - Apple unveiled the iPad HD (aka iPad 3).

In January 2012, Nextbigfuture covered the correct rumors of screen resolution and 4G data.

New iPad (aka iPad 3 aka iPad HD) screen resolution to a 2048x1536 resolution that exceeds any current tablet or laptop.

New iPad minor upgrades are a faster processor, the upgrade to 4G data and the improved camera.

- 5-megapixel camera with 1080p video recording and backside illumination.

Today, iPad 2 will start at $399

New iPad - 16 GB wifi will be $499
New iPad - 32 GB wifi will be $599
New iPad - 64 GB wifi will be $699

New iPad - 16 GB wifi + 4G will be $629
New iPad - 32 GB wifi + 4G will be $729
New iPad - 64 GB wifi + 4G will be $829

DARPA Flying Hummer should have Phase 2 Design Reviews in 2012 and Prototype Vehicle in 2015

Aviation Week - "Flying Humvees" being designed by AAI and Lockheed Martin have made it through to the second phase of DARPA's Transformer (TX) program - but the sheer scale of the challenges in producing a fly-drive tactical vehicle is becoming clear.

Transformer is not simply a roadable aircraft - it is a four-seat vehicle that must be able to drive off-road, survive small-arms fire, and rapidly reconfigure into an aircraft that can take off and land vertically and be flown without pilot training.
Concept: Lockheed Martin and Piasecki Aircraft

US 2012 Election and InTrade Predictions

About one third of the way through the Republican Primary (731 delegates awarded out of 2286), Mitt Romney has 55% (404 out of 731)

Romney also has various unpledged delegates and there are super-delegates.

However, basically if Santorum, Gingrich and Ron Paul can combine to contain Romney to less than 47% of the delegates in the remaining primaries then there would be brokered convention.

Gingrich and Santorum need some more timely surges in support and be able to dominate more in southern states.

Intrade prediction market has Romney at 89% to win the Republican nomination

Intrade has
60% that Obama wins a second term
63% Republican majority in the House
59% Republican majority in the Senate
10% that there will be no party majority in the Senate (a few independents and the VP would hold control)

2,321 Kepler Telescope planet Candidates around 1790 host stars

NASA - 1,091 new transiting planet candidates have emerged from analysis of Kepler spacecraft data spanning May 2009 to September 2010, bringing the total count to 2,321 Kepler planet candidates orbiting 1,790 host stars. A clear trend toward smaller planets at longer orbital periods is evident with each new catalog release. This suggests that Earth-size planets in the habitable zone are forthcoming if, indeed, such planets are abundant.

March 06, 2012

Next-generation Toyota Small Hybrid Concept

Toyota Motor Corp unveiled the "FT-Bh" a lightweight, next generation small gasoline-electric hybrid concept car, here today at the 82nd Geneva International Motor Show

By pursuing weight reduction, a more-efficient powertrain and reduced air resistance, the FT-Bh boasts a fuel efficiency of 2.1 liters per 100 kilometers under the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), with CO2 emissions of just 49 g/km—less than half the current average for B-segment cars.

Adopting a small fuel tank placed under the rear seat together with the hybrid system's lithium-ion battery gives the vehicle a low center of gravity, thus contributing to improved driving performance, which is the basic appeal of any car.

In addition to the FT-Bh on display, TMC has conceived two alternative versions: a compressed natural gas (CNG) hybrid version with CO2 emissions of 38 g/km and a plug-in hybrid version with CO2 emissions of just 19 g/km.

Five Elements of Ultra-Low Fuel Consumption

* Reduced mass
The curb weight3 of the FT-Bh is a mere 786 kg. Assuming a mass-produced fuel-efficient vehicle, the FT-Bh body structure makes greater use of high-tensile-strength steel and does not require expensive materials such as carbon fiber for weight reduction. In addition, a new high-expansion foam material is used inside the vehicle to improve interior thermal management and reduce the weight of interior components. This allows other components, including the body frame, chassis and powertrain, to be made lighter.

Rapidly Increased Wireless Capacity from Light Radio Cubes

A gadget invented at Bell Labs—a programmable, pint-sized transmitter that requires no new traditional cell towers—could rapidly add capacity and thus help avoid data bottlenecks. The gadgets are known as light radio cubes. Measuring just six centimeters on each side, they are miniature transmitters and receivers that can be programmed to work flexibly in different contexts to add capacity.

Two devices together can serve a compact area such as a stadium or train station—handling just as much traffic, in that compact area, as a whole cell tower can serve a wider area. A cluster of 10 to 20 of them can form an array that replaces the transmitters atop a typical cell tower. They can boost capacity in part by collectively reshaping the radio beam in real-time toward the incoming signals to optimize performance.

The demands on mobile networks are expected to explode over the next four years. Bell Labs has estimated that traffic will grow by a factor of 25, while Cisco says it will grow 18-fold by 2016. Either way, the system will have to be remade to accommodate the traffic.

Radiohead: This cube, just six centimeters on a side, is a potential building block for smarter and higher-capacity wireless networks. Alcatel-Lucent

New Nuclear reactors orders expected from UAE, Turkey, Vietnam and other countries

1. The United Arab Emirates is expected to place orders for four more nuclear power plants next year beside the four units currently being built by a Korean consortium, Knowledge Economy Minister Hong Suk-woo said.

There is already a site large enough for four units next to the plants under construction, according to a ministry official.

“Since all the neighboring infrastructure will be built based on the Korean standard nuclear power plant, there is a good chance Korea could win the additional orders,” the official said.

Hong also said that Korea was the most likely winner of orders for nuclear power plants in Turkey and other countries.

“We also have a good chance in Vietnam,” the minister added. “The United States, France, Canada, Russia, Japan and Korea can build nuclear power plants, but the U.S. lags behind in technology as it hasn’t built one for 20 to 30 years. This is a good time for us to speed up (atomic power plant construction).

1990 World $1.25 per day Poverty level was cut in half by 2010

World Poverty has been cut in half since 1990 according to the World Bank

* At the current rate of progress there will still be around 1 billion people living below $1.25 per day in 2015.

* Most of the 649 million fewer poor by the $1.25 per day standard over 1981-2008 are still poor by the standards of middle-income developing countries, and certainly by the standards of what poverty means in rich countries

* In China alone, 662 million fewer people living in poverty by the $1.25 standard, though progress in China has been uneven over time. In 2008, 13% (173 million people) of China’s population still lived below $1.25 a day.

Terrafugia Transition Roadable Plane has 100 reserved orders

The Terrafugia Transition® (flying car / roadable plane) can take off or land at any public use general aviation airport with at least 2,500' of runway. This represents the majority of the over 5,000 public airports in the United States. On average, you're within 30 miles or less of one of these fields anywhere in the country.

A Sport Pilot license is needed to fly it. This requires a minimum of 20 hours of flight time and passing a simple practical test in the aircraft. You will also need a valid driver's license for use on the ground. Terrafugia will provide familiarization training to every customer.

The Transition® has the advantage of modern engines, composite materials, and computer-based avionics. Terrafugia’s philosophy is to design a vehicle for pilots that brings additional ground capability to an airplane instead of attempting to make a car fly.

The anticipated base purchase price is $279,000.
First delivery is scheduled for late 2012.

Skylon Spaceplane project working on pre-cooler and heat exchanger

Reaction Engines is continuing testing and work on their pre-cooler for the Skylon rocket plane

Progress has been made on the helium loop, liquid nitrogen cooling system and the Viper engine ready for pre-cooler testing to commence.

Helium Loop at the B9 Test Area.

The heat exchanger is the key piece of equipment of the Skylon space plane. There has not been any results announced about the heat exchanger work yet.

Reaction insists the heat exchanger works, but trials set to run to year-end are needed to demonstrate to waiting investors that the technology is viable. Then, the company says, its investors are ready to release £200 million ($325 million) for a 2012-14 project phase to build an engine demonstrator. If successful, a further £7.5 billion ($10 billion) should be forthcoming to develop the airframe for service from 2020, says the company.

Newt Gingrich has won Georgia, Romney won six states Santorum won three on Super Tuesday Results

CNN reporting the Super Tuesday republican primary results.

Romney won

- Virginia
- Vermont
- Idaho
- Massachusetts
- Ohio
- Alaska

Santorum won

- North Dakota
- Tennessee
- Oklahoma

In early voting there is a close three way race between Romney, Santorum and Ron Paul in Vermont.

Extensions and Modifications of the EMC2 Fusion IEC Fusion Contracts

Talk Polywell covers the contract extensions and modification for EMC2 Fusion (project that is trying to develop Robert Bussard IEC Inertial Electrostatic Confinement fusion).

Is a listing of the current contract, listing the estimated completion date of June 2012, and an ultimate completion date for optional items of Dec 31st 2013. It is dated 22 June 2011. It lists a starting contract value of $7,855,504.14 and an ultimate contract value of $12,310,580.74.

is a listing of current contracts outstanding with EMC2, 11, with dates contracted (ranging from Jan 2010 to Sept 2011) and some $6,600,000 in current outstanding funding obligations.

Reading between the lines in these, they seem to be regularly adding new contract extensions, with funding of multiple $Millions. That says to me that there is progress being made, regardless of whether or not we know what it is on the outside.

There is a navy contract (March 10, 2012 to March 10 2013) to work some anomalies on how the electrons are fed into the IEC fusion device

An extension and increase funding for additional tasks on Contract N68936-09-C-0125 is necessary to provide continuation of research that is directly in scope with the current requirement and it will complete the concept exploration and technology demonstration of the Plasma Wiffleball 8. During the course of the contracted study several anomalies related to how electrons were fed into the device were discovered. These anomalies must be characterized and solutions created if the device is to be made functional. To solve these anomalies, the additional effort will require the incumbent contractor to further their studies by employing independently powered electron gun arrays operating at up to 10 kilovolt (kV) to inject high energy electrons onto the Plasma Wiffleball 8 core and control the WB formation process. Additionally, a separate pulsed power system with minimum 100 amperes current rating will be utilized to power the electron gun arrays.

EMC2 also has a unique body of knowledge regarding the operation and performance of the Plasma Wiffleball 8, which will allow them to continue the basic research to develop an operational Plasma Wiffleball 8 device. Continued research is critical, as the long term goal is to achieve a clean nuclear energy source for the Navy and DoD. Award of the contract modification is expected on or about 29 March 2012.

100A power supply for 10 Kvolt electron guns. So one megawatt for the electron guns.

Martin Jetpack selling Pre-production Jetpack to Flight Schools and Aero Club

Martin Jetpack is currently accepting enquiries from commercial customers. Please email your initial enquiry through the site and we will contact you directly.

The Jetpacks will sell for US$86,000 and have been flown to 5000 foot altitude.

In 2011, the Martin Jetpack shot into the sky over the Canterbury Plains (New Zealand) at a climb rate of 800ft per minute, reaching an altitude of 5,000ft (previous record 100ft/min and 50ft altitude) before safely deploying the first ballistic jetpack parachute.

Sales of Martin Jetpacks to private individuals will take place once we have completed the development and refinement of unmanned and manned vehicles for early commercial applications.

If you would like to register your interest in purchasing a Martin Jetpack for private use or for your flight school or aero club, or if you wish to secure an early production position, please Order a Jetpack today.

GPU Computing and the Road to Extreme-Scale Parallel Systems

In this 46 minute video, Nvidia's Steve Keckler describes the evolutionary path of GPU computing and where it's heading on the road to Exascale computing. Keckler is part of the team working on the Echelon research project, which is looking into technologies that will eventually enable an Exaflop computer to operate at under 20 Megawatts.

The Echelon extreme-scale computing project is partly funded by DARPA under the Ubiquitous High Performance Computing (UHPC) program

HP Preps On-chip photonic communication for 10 to 20 terabytes a second communication and ten teraflops for 2017

Wired - By 2017, HP hopes to build a computer chip that includes 256 microprocessors tied together with beams of light. Codenamed Corona, this laser-powered contraption would handle ten trillion floating points operations a second. In other words, if you put just five of them together, you’d approach the speed of today’s supercomputers. The chip’s 256 cores would communicate with each other at an astonishing 20 terabytes per second, and they’d talk to memory at 10 terabytes a second. That means it would run memory-intensive applications about two to six times faster than an equivalent chip made with good old fashioned electric wires.

Corona is just one of several efforts to build superfast chips that can bust through the exascale barrier, including Intel’s Runnemede, MIT’s Angstrom, NVIDIA’s Echelon,and Sandia’s X-calibur projects. All seek to use integrated photonics in some way, but the technology is the heart of the matter for HP’s 256-core Corona.

An electron microscope image of the "micro-ring photonic device" used by the Corona project (Photo: HP Labs)

A 12 page paper on the HP Corona chip (from ISCA 2008)

Back in 2008, Nextbigfuture reported on how onchip photonic communication was critical for getting power usage and communication speeds needed for zettaflop supercomputers

Various reports that the Nvidia Kepler GK104 GPU will be released March 23

Quantum biology on the transition of chaos increase coherence times by orders of magnitude

A new mechanism in quantum biology could be exploited to enable lossless quantum coherent energy and information processing devices at room temperature.

Arxiv - Quantum biology on the edge of quantum chaos (6 pages)

We give a new explanation for why some biological systems can stay quantum coherent for long times at room temperatures, one of the fundamental puzzles of quantum biology. We show that systems with the right level of complexity between chaos and regularity can increase their coherence time BY orders of magnitude. Systems near Critical Quantum Chaos or Metal-Insulator Transition (MIT) can have long coherence times and coherent transport at the same time. The new theory tested in a realistic light harvesting system model can reproduce the scaling of critical fluctuations reported in recent experiments. Scaling of return probability in the FMO light harvesting complex shows the signs of universal return probability decay observed at critical MIT. The results may open up new possibilities to design low loss energy and information transport systems in this Poised Realm hovering reversibly between quantum coherence and classicality.

Technology Review - this is an interesting mechanism that, if verified experimentally, could have an important impact on quantum engineering. The critical transition that Kauffman and co talk about is also known as the the metal-to-insulator transition, which allows the transport of quantum information and energy. If that can be made to work at room temperature, as Kauffman and co suggest, all kinds of new quantum devices may be possible.

"The results may open up new possibilities to design low loss energy and information transport systems," they say.

March 05, 2012

Spacex has a full launch simulation

Discovery News -Spacex 'wet dress' rehersal saw a full launch simulation with a planned abort at T-minus 5 seconds. If the next launch and docking is successful, the Dragon will begin supplying the International Space Station.

The five-hour launch readiness test, held at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, went through full countdown procedures, including fueling, for the next Dragon test flight, which is slated for late April. It was designed to check out any potential issues with SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, Dragon and associated ground systems.

Why China Is Okay With 7.5 Percent GDP Growth

Business Week - For years, there’s been one constant for people talking about the Chinese economy: GDP growth would exceed 8 percent. It didn’t much matter what happened in the rest of the world—the U.S. and other export markets might be thriving or might be struggling, but China would grow at least 8 percent, year in and year out. The country needed to create enough jobs for the millions of young people entering the workforce every year, and the Chinese leadership decided that anything below 8 percent would put job creation in jeopardy.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on March 5 announced that the government has a GDP target of 7.5 percent this year. China hasn’t had a growth target that conservative since 2004.

And what about the job-creation imperative that made the 8 percent target so critical for so long? China is going through a major demographic shift, thanks to fast economic growth and the one-child policy. As the population starts to age, job creation for millions of young people isn’t so vital anymore. While China needed 10 million new jobs a year in the early 2000s, today it needs just half that number, says Jian Chang, China economist in Hong Kong with Barclays Capital. “The labor force as a whole is barely growing now,” says Stephen Green, head of Greater China research for Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong. As a result, Chinese policy makers “just don’t need to create as many jobs as they [once] did.”

Sixteen 16 square inches of DARPA Geckskin can stick to glass and support 700 pounds

The Z-Man programs aims to develop biologically inspired climbing aids to enable warfighters to scale vertical walls constructed from typical building materials, while carrying a full combat load, and without the use of ropes or ladders.

Geckos, spiders and small animals are the inspiration behind the Z-Man program. These creatures scale vertical surfaces using unique systems that exhibit strong reversible adhesion via van der Waals forces or hook-into-surface asperities. Z-Man seeks to build synthetic versions of these biological systems, optimize them for efficient human climbing and use them as novel climbing aids.

“Geckskin” is one output of the Z-Man program. It is a synthetically-fabricated reversible adhesive inspired by the gecko’s ability to climb surfaces of various materials and roughness, including smooth surfaces like glass. Performers on Z-Man designed adhesive pads to mimic the gecko foot over multiple length scales, from the macroscopic foot tendons to the microscopic setae and spatulae, to maximize reversible van der Waals interactions with the surface.

Recent activities include:

* Fabrication of Geckskin (stiff fabric impregnated with an elastomer) that “drapes” over a surface to maximize compliance with the surface while reducing compliance in the load direction, thus enabling increased adhesion.

* A proof-of-concept demonstration of a 16-square-inch sheet of Geckskin adhering to a vertical glass wall while supporting a static load of up to 660 pounds.

AMHERST, Mass. - For years, biologists have been amazed by the power of gecko feet, which let these 5-ounce lizards produce an adhesive force roughly equivalent to carrying nine pounds up a wall without slipping. Now, a team of polymer scientists and a biologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have discovered exactly how the gecko does it, leading them to invent "Geckskin," a device that can hold 700 pounds on a smooth wall.

Advanced Materials - Biomimetics: Looking Beyond Fibrillar Features to Scale Gecko-Like Adhesion

DARPA’s “Cheetah” Runs at 18 miles per hour for a new Legged Robot speed record with a goal of over 70 mph

If the current limitations on mobility and manipulation capabilities of robots can be overcome, robots could much more effectively assist warfighters across a greater range of missions. DARPA’s Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program seeks to create and demonstrate significant scientific and engineering advances in robot mobility and manipulation capabilities.

This video shows a demonstration of the “Cheetah” robot galloping at speeds of up to 18 miles per hour (mph), setting a new land speed record for legged robots. The previous record was 13.1 mph, set in 1989.

The ultimate goal to run as fast — or faster — than an actual cheetah (70 mph).
Business Week coverage - Raibert thinks the cat-bot could clock speeds of nearly 40 mph once key design and technical features are further refined. “We’ve solved a lot of the engineering problems,” he says. Raibert declined to say when such a technology would be ready for the battlefield, but he says this sort of machine could someday serve as a “scout robot” and “maybe deliver some payload.” This kind of machine could also be useful in emergency rescue and civilian disaster.

In the latest speed test, the Cheetah was tethered to a hydraulic pump for power and relied on a boom-like device to help maintain balance. “It’s a lot like training wheels,” says Raibert. Those come off later this year when Boston Dynamics will start testing a free-running robot that will have an internal gas-powered engine and software capable of handling 3D movements. The Boston Dynamics research team is working with Dr. Alan Wilson, an expert on the dynamics of fast-running animals at London’s Royal Veterinary College.

While the Cheetah won’t be combat-ready for some time, its technology may be more immediately useful in improving other Boston Dynamics bots

Cheaper and more capable flying drones will have more impact on privacy and the military

Slate considers how perfected quadcopters and future drones will impact privacy and future militaries.

Unmanned drones have allowed the American military to use fewer and fewer ground forces during combat. But today’s military drones have many shortcomings—they can only operate from very high up, they can only spy or kill, and they frequently kill civilians. You can imagine swarming nano drones allowing for much better performance: They could take the place of on-the-ground Special Forces troops, and even of covert operatives.

The technology is not standing still. Down the road are insect-sized drones that could be mistaken for a housefly or spider, which could slip in under a door-sill to record conversations, take photos or even inject a lethal toxin into an unsuspecting victim. Systems such as these are under development by the Army’s Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (Mast) programme, in partnership with a variety of corporations and university labs. Further into the future are nanobots, particle-sized robots that could enter people’s blood streams or lungs.

A near term change that will drastically lower production costs are 3d pop up MEMS Drones will be printed by the sheet.

Once the design is complete, though, fabrication can be fully automated, with accuracy and precision limited only by the machining tools and materials.

"The alignment is now better than we can currently measure," says Sreetharan. "I've verified it to better than 5 microns everywhere, and we've gone from a 15% yield to—well, I don't think I've ever had a failure."

The Harvard Monolithic Bee (or "Mobee") pops up within an assembly scaffold, which performs more than 20 origami assembly folds. Photos courtesy of Pratheev Sreetharan.

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