June 02, 2012

Wall Street Journal Considers Our Superabled Transhumanist Future

WSJ - High-tech implants will soon be commonplace enhancements under our skin and inside our skulls, making us stronger and smarter. Daniel H. Wilson on our 'superabled' future.

"Amped" author Daniel Wilson discusses the emergence, in the not-so-distant future, of a new class of people whose microchip-enhanced mental abilities may raise questions about what it means to be human. He speaks with WSJ's Gary Rosen.

Over 200,000 people have cochlear ear implants.

Neural implants are outpatient procedures with local anesthetic.

Technology will go to the people who need it the most first.

Over the next decade, new implantable technologies will fundamentally alter the social landscape. We are fast approaching a milestone in the eons-long relationship between human beings and their technology. Families once gathered around the radio like it was a warm fireplace. Then boom boxes leapt onto our shoulders. The Sony Walkman climbed into our pockets and sank its black foam tentacles into our ears. The newest tools are creeping still closer: They will soon come inside and make themselves at home under our skin—some already have.

June 01, 2012

Depleted Uranium can be used to provide chemical industry feedstocks from carbon monoxide

A simple three-step chemical reaction which could herald the introduction of new sustainable feedstocks for the chemical industry has been developed by scientists at The University of Nottingham.

Scientists in the School of Chemistry have developed a recyclable system for converting carbon monoxide (CO) directly into more complicated organic molecules using depleted uranium.

The research, funded by the Royal Society and European Research Council, was led by Dr Stephen Liddle, an expert in inorganic chemistry. Details of the new procedure — which can return the molecule that performs the transformation back to its start point — have been published in the prestigious academic journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

PNAS - Homologation and functionalization of carbon monoxide by a recyclable uranium complex

Brillouin funded for $2 million and Acoustic Cavitation Fusion

1. PESN reports that low energy nuclear reaction company Brillouin was funded for $2 million. Brillouin is starting an SRI contract middle of June.

2. Impulse Devices' Extreme Acoustic Cavitation™ from Impulse shows the potential to produce plasma at the super-concentrated cores of the collapsed bubbles, making this technology well-suited for producing acoustic inertial confinement fusion (Acoustic ICF). Acoustic ICF is a variety of “hot” fusion that, if successful, will require far less energy, cost, and resource use than other approaches—such as laser inertial confinement fusion—and solve a major challenge common to these other approaches: heat absorption. Using Acoustic ICF, heat is readily absorbed and transferred due to the fusion reaction occurring within a contained liquid medium.

Impulse’s current experimental data and computations support continued investigation into the possibility of achieving plasma temperatures capable of producing significant fusion yields. Based on current projections and experimental data, Impulse technology may ultimately be capable of creating usable energy at cost levels far lower than all known competing technologies currently available.

Under the $35-million Advanced Cavitation Power Technology (ACPT) contract, Impulse researched transformational new energy sources with military and civilian benefits.

The United States Department of Defense (DOD) required a potential power source that would require less energy, cost and resource use than other sources as well as reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. In 2007, the DOD initiated the Advanced Cavitation Power Technology (ACPT) program, a multi-year effort to investigate the use of Acoustic ICF as a potential power source and selected Impulse as the prime contractor. Acoustic ICF is the subject of an area of energy research and is most similar to laser inertial confinement fusion.

Texas oil production at 1.755 million barrels per day and North Dakota Bakken Experiments with Enhanced Recovery

1. Texas oil production increased in March to 1.755 million barrels per day, which was an increase of 35,000 barrels per day from February.

2. The Bakken petroleum system is noted for low primary recovery rates of 3- to 5 percent of the original oil in place; and, while the jury’s out on exactly how much additional oil can be extracted using secondary and tertiary techniques, the recovery rate in the Bakken likely will be substantially lower than in conventional reservoirs.

“I don’t think you will ever see the kind of rates that you do in the very early production history of these wells,” John Harju, associate director for EERC, said in an interview. “But we are very optimistic that you will be able to increase rates from the very long, slow declines that we see on these wells.”

The EOR technique that is attracting the most new market interest is CO2 injection. In the United States, there are about 114 active commercial CO2 projects that together inject over 2 billion cubic feet of CO2 and produce over 280,000 barrels of oil daily.

Whiting Petroleum operates two large conventional enhanced oil recovery projects in Texas and Oklahoma, where both water and CO2 are injected into the formation.

DARPA developing inexpensive launch capability for small satellites

Avionics Intelligence - Rocket scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., are working with five aerospace companies to develop rapid and inexpensive launch capability to place small satellites in orbit at a cost of less than $10,000 per pound.

The contracts are part of the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, which seeks capability to launch a 100-pound satellite for a total cost of less than $1 million, which is about one-third of today's satellite launch costs.

The goal of ALASA is to develop a significantly less expensive approach for launching small satellites routinely with at least a threefold reduction in costs compared to current military and U.S. commercial launch costs. Small satellite payloads today cost more than $30,000 per pound to launch. ALASA seeks to launch 100-pound satellites for less than $10,000 per pound, or $1 million total, including range support costs.

Note- Planetary Resources has 44 pound space telescopes. So the ALASA system could launch two Planetary Resources space telescopes.

The Arkyd 102 telescope in person (top) and in mocked-up artwork from Planetary Resources (bottom)

Rand Simberg on what the Spacex Success Means

Rand Simberg explains - What is the significance of this successful Spacex flight?

1. Spacex has both a launch system and a capsule that is capable of performing the missions assigned to it.

2. Spacex can now start to fulfill its Cargo Resupply Services (CRS) contract, which helped fund the spacecraft’s development. (About 12 flights @ $130 million per flight)

3. Spacex can not only deliver cargo to ISS, but return it as well, something that no other existing vehicle can do since the shuttle retired last summer.

4. Spacex can deliver not just inert cargo, but cargo requiring pressure and even basic life support (including biological experiments, such as mice).

5. NASA now has a vehicle capable of serving as a lifeboat at the ISS in the event of an emergency necessitating the evacuation of the station, and need no longer rely on the Russians for this service. While it doesn’t have a full life-support system (yet) it does have a pressurized cabin, and in an emergency people could return in it with nothing but scuba tanks for the short duration of the departure and entry. Moreover, it can in theory support the return of seven crew members, and not just three as the Soyuz does. That means that the station crew size could be expanded without having additional safety concerns. Beyond that, if a Soyuz and Dragon were docked at the same time, it means that there is a functional “ambulance” capability — a sick or injured astronaut could be returned to earth without having to abandon the station.

6. It means that, were the Russians to have problems similar to those they experienced last fall, when they had multiple launch failures and couldn’t get to the ISS, NASA now has a way to get to the station in an emergency. While the Dragon doesn’t yet have a launch abort system (this is one of the items being developed as part of the commercial crew activities), it would be preferable to endure the higher risk of a loss of crew without one, than to abandon the hundred-billion-dollar ISS, as they actually contemplated last year. I haven’t polled them, but I’ll bet that, after this week’s flight, and the first two Falcon 9 missions, most if not all of the astronauts at NASA would be willing to take a ride in it right now, abort system or no, if it were an important mission. Their job is to fly in space, and they’re presumably willing to risk their lives to do so, as long as they understand the risk (as they didn’t really with the shuttle).

America has returned to space. The dreaded “gap” caused by the shuttle retirement didn’t even last a year.

Mars One Plans to Start Mars Settlement in 2023

Mars One plans to establish the first human settlement on Mars by April 2023. The first crew of four astronauts emigrate to their new planet from Earth, a journey that takes seven months. A new team will join the settlement every two years. By 2033 there will be over twenty people living, working and flourishing on Mars, their new home.

The business plan is to use reality TV and other revenue to support the costs of the project.

The Mars One team has worked on this plan since early 2011. That first year saw us research the feasibility of the idea extensively and exhaustively, scrutinizing every detail with countless specialists and expert organizations. In this analysis we not only included the technical elements, but also comprehensively discussed the financial, psychological and ethical aspects.

We have met with several established, international aerospace companies who can design and deliver the essential hardware components for the Mars mission. These have written letters of interest that support our plan.

India's Nuclear Energy plans through 2017

Economic Times India - The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) will launch 16 reactors at an outlay of Rs 2.3 trillion ($40 billion) during the 12th Plan period (2012-17), a top official of the atomic power operator said.

The NPCIL currently generates 4,780 MW of power. India's installed nuclear power capacity to 10,080 MW by the end of the 2017.

"We have to launch eight 700 MW pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) and eight light water reactors (LWRs) involving a total outlay of Rs 230,000 crore (Rs 2.3 trillion). The LWRs will be from foreign companies," S K Jain, who retired Thursday as NPCIL chairman and managing director, said in an interview.

According to him, the eight 700 MW PHWRs would come up at Kaiga in Karnataka, Gorakhpur in Haryana's Fatehabad district, Banswada in Rajasthan and Chutka in Madhya Pradesh.

The 16 reactors are in addition to NPCIL's four 700 MW PHWRs under construction - two at the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (units 7 and 8) and two at Kakrapara in Gujarat - at an outlay of Rs 22,000 crore.

This will be three percent of the 300,000 MW generation capacity planned by 2017. India currently generates a little less than 200,000 MW of power.

China should have 1610 GW (1610,000 MW) of installed power by the end of 2016.

China's total installed capacity at the end of 2011 was 1056 GW with 760GW coal, 230 GW hydro, 11.9 GW nuclear, 47 GW wind and about 3.4 GW solar. Among the 3.4 GW installed solar, 2.1 GW is connected to the utility grid.

The US has about 1000 GW of installed capacity.

Large supercomputers to speed up: 100 PFLOPs in 2014, 1 Exaflop by 2017?

VR-zone - The most recent expectations from last year's supercomputing events, of 100 petaflops in 2015 and 1 exaflop in 2018, seems to be too pessimistic, after all. What's enabling the sudden push?

Improvements in processors from Intel, AMD and Nvidia indicate that a 1U or blade HPC server will have 7 TeraFLOPs of peak performance in 2014. 15,000 nodes would be needed for 100 PetaFLOPs. The next generation of chips for 2017 would then be able to reach exaFLOP performance.

There is an upcoming massive jump in CPU FP (floating point) peak performance, and maturing of the add-on accelerators, are what should enable us to see the world's first 100 PFLOP supercomputers some two years from now, and a further 10 times speedup not much more than two years after that.

On the CPU front, from Haswell generation onwards, all Intel CPUs will incorporate fused multiply add (FMA) instructions, allowing for up to 16 double precision on 32 single precision FP ops per core per cycle. On a, say, 10 core Haswell-EP Xeon (or similar Core iXX desktop variant) at 3.2 GHz, that would give you 500 GFLOPs in double precision, or whole round 1 TFLOPs in single precision FP peak performance. Haswell EP processors should be available by early 2014.

Tighter crystals means better graphene

Similar to how tighter stiches make for a better quality quilt, the "stitching" between individual crystals of graphene affects how well these carbon monolayers conduct electricity and retain their strength, Cornell researchers report.

The quality of this "stitching" -- the boundaries at which graphene crystals grow together and form sheets -- is just as important as the size of the crystals themselves, which scientists had previously thought held the key to making better graphene.

The researchers, led by Jiwoong Park, assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology and a member of the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science, used advanced measurement and imaging techniques to make these claims, detailed online in the journal Science June 1.

False-color microscopy images show examples of graphene grown slowly, resulting in large patches with poor stitching, and graphene grown more quickly, resulting in smaller patches with tighter stitching and better performance.

"Supercomputing on demand" becoming a reality

In 2006, Amazon unveiled the Elastic compute cloud, which allowed individual users to rent large numbers of CPUs from Amazon's server farms. Since then Amazon has repeatedly slashed the cost of the CPUs. For organizations requiring supercomputing levels of power, a company called Cycle computing is able to gather tens of thousands of CPUs from Amazon in order to create a "virtual supercomputer". Cycle recently created a 50,000 core cluster for the software company Schrodinger. In an interview with Sander Olson for Next Big Future, Cycle CEO Jason Stowe discusses the burgeoning field of "utility supercomputing", how GPUs will affect cloud computing, and what industries will benefit most from "supercomputing on demand".

May 31, 2012

Sharp Develops Concentrator Solar Cell with World’s Highest Conversion Efficiency of 43.5%

Sharp Corporation has achieved the world’s highest solar cell conversion efficiency of 43.5% using a concentrator triple-junction compound solar cell. These solar cells are used in a lens-based concentrator system that focuses sunlight on the cells to generate electricity.

Compound solar cells utilize photo-absorption layers made from compounds consisting of two or more elements, such as indium and gallium. The basic structure of this latest triple-junction compound solar cell uses Sharp’s proprietary technology that enables efficient stacking of the three photo-absorption layers, with InGaAs (indium gallium arsenide) as the bottom layer.

To achieve this latest increase in conversion efficiency, Sharp capitalized on the ability of this cell to efficiently convert sunlight collected via three photo-absorption layers into electricity. Sharp also optimized the spacing between electrodes on the surface of the concentrator cell and minimized the cell’s electrical resistance.

China approves new nuclear safety plan

China has approved a nuclear safety plan and says its nuclear power plants meet the latest international safety standards, though some plants need to improve their ability to cope with flooding and earthquakes.

State media have said China will likely scale down its 2020 nuclear power generation capacity target to 60-70 gigawatts (GW) compared with earlier expectations of around 80 GW.

The government has not made any decision on when to start approving new nuclear plant projects.

China's nuclear supply and construction companies have extra construction capacity and are now aggressively looking overseas for growth opportunities

The Chinese Academy of Engineering is pushing for the 70 Gigawatt target.

Paralyzed Rats Walk Again

Technology Review - Spinal stimulation combined with assisted walking therapy generates new neural circuits and restores voluntary leg movement.

Rats paralyzed by spinal-cord injury can learn to control their hind limbs again if they are trained to walk in a rehabilitative device while their lower spine is electrically and chemically stimulated. A clinical trial using a similar system built for humans could begin in the next few years.

Researchers in Switzerland used electrical and chemical stimulation to excite neurons in the lower spinal cord of paralyzed rats while the rodents were suspended by a vest that forced them to walk using only their hind legs. The rehabilitative procedure led to the creation of new neuronal connections between the movement-directing motor cortex of the brain and the lower spine.

Plans are under way to develop a human-sized version of the training system and to test its effects in clinical trials in Europe. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and other European institutions are also working on an improved, implantable version of the electrical spinal stimulation system that may find its way into humans next year.

After training in a supportive robotic device while receiving spinal stimulation, a rat paralyzed by a spinal-cord injury regained enough control of its hind limbs to climb stairs.
EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)

China Buys Spanish Assets in Brazil

WSJ - A debt-laden Spanish construction firm became the latest European company to unload assets onto eager Chinese buyers, as Europe's debt woes force firms to look to China for cash.

State Grid Corp., China's government controlled power-grid operator, said Tuesday it would buy high-voltage electricity transmission assets in Brazil from Spain's Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA for 1.86 billion reais ($938.2 million), including debt. The deal is State Grid's second investment in Brazil and its fourth major investment overseas, and is the most recent in a string of deals in which a European company has looked to exit an investment.

China has already bought resource related assets in Africa and Canada. China has also been buying cheap assets in Greece

China is also buying all assets in North and South America

Japan Appears Likely to Begin Restarting Nuclear reactors in 3 to 4 Weeks and Germany will take longer to phase out Nuclear

1. WSJ - After an uncertain couple of weeks, more and more signs are now suggesting that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will give a formal order to restart two nuclear reactors at the Oi plant in western Japan next week. It would then take two or three weeks to get each one up and running.

A key turning point came Thursday morning, when Toru Hashimoto — mayor of Osaka and Japan’s most popular politician — effectively backed down from his previous position of opposing the Oi restarts, and gave his “approval” to bringing the reactors back on line — albeit, he said, just “temporarily.”

One week ago, I had laid out my odds for the Japan restart of nuclear reactors

I think the two Oi reactors have a 40% chance to start in June and 65% chance to start by the end of July

Wireless Power Transfer to a Quadcopter UAV

The purpose of a Nimbus Labs project is to develop a wireless power transfer system that enables unmanned areal vehicles (UAVs) to provide power to, and recharge batteries of wireless sensors and other electronics far removed from the electric grid. We do this using wireless power transfer through the use of strongly coupled resonances. We have designed and built a custom power transfer and receiving system that is optimized for use on UAVs. We are investigating systems and control algorithms to optimize the power transfer from the UAV to the remote sensor node. In addition, we are investigating energy usage algorithms to optimize the use of the power in networks of sensors that are able to be recharged wirelessly from UAVs.

When everything works perfectly, the quadrotor can wirelessly transfer about 5.5 watts of power with an efficiency of 35 percent, which is easily enough to power a light.

IEEE Spectrum - The type of wireless power that these quadrotors are beaming out is based on what's called "strongly coupled magnetic resonances." Basically, you've got two coils of wire: one on the quadrotor, and one on whatever you want to power or charge (we'll call this the receiver). The quadrotor drives a current in its coil, which generates an oscillating magnetic field. When the quadrotor gets close enough to the receiver, the receiver's coil starts to resonate with the magnetic field transmitted by the quadrotor. That resonance induces a voltage in the coil, which the receiver can use to power its electronics or charge its battery.

Geoengineering: Whiter Skies?

One proposed side effect of geoengineering with stratospheric sulfate aerosols is sky whitening during the day and afterglows near sunset, as is seen after large volcanic eruptions. Sulfate aerosols in the stratosphere would increase diffuse light received at the surface, but with a non-uniform spectral distribution. We use a radiative transfer model to calculate spectral irradiance for idealized size distributions of sulfate aerosols. A 2% reduction in total irradiance, approximately enough to offset anthropogenic warming for a doubling of CO2 concentrations, brightens the sky (increase in diffuse light) by 3 to 5 times, depending on the aerosol size distribution. The relative increase is less when optically thin cirrus clouds are included in our simulations. Particles with small radii have little influence on the shape of the spectra. Particles of radius ~0.5 µm preferentially increase diffuse irradiance in red wavelengths, whereas large particles (~0.9 µm) preferentially increase diffuse irradiance in blue wavelengths. Spectra show little change in dominant wavelength, indicating little change in sky hue, but all particle size distributions show an increase in white light relative to clear sky conditions. Diffuse sky spectra in our simulations of geoengineering with stratospheric aerosols are similar to those of average conditions in urban areas today.

Carnegie Institution for Science - Using advanced models, Kravitz and Caldeira—along with Douglas MacMartin from the California Institute of Technology—examined changes to sky color and brightness from using sulfate-based aerosols in this way. They found that, depending on the size of the particles, the sky would whiten during the day and sunsets would have afterglows.

If the US Economy Could Keep Up with the Canadian Economy

Is it too high a standard for the United States to try to keep up with the Canadian economy ?

Index Mundi keeps track of the GDP for countries based on the average real exchange rate in that year. Index Mundi has that information for the United States and for Canada.

The GDP and GDP growth for 5 Year Intervals for the last 30 years

        USA  5yr growth   Canada   5 year GDP growth 
1980    2788.2            268.9 
1985    4217.5   51%      355.7     32%
1990    5800.5   38%      582.7     64%
1995    7414.6   28%      590.5      1.3%
2000    9951.5   34%      724.9     23%
2005   12623.0   27%     1133.7     56%
2010   14526.6   15%     1577.0     39%

             USA           Canada
Last 30 yrs  421%          487%
Last 25 yrs  244%          343%
Last 20 yrs  150%          171%
Last 15 yrs   96%          167%
Last 10 yrs   46%          118%
Last 5 yrs    15%           39%
If the USA kept up with Canada the GDP in 2010 would have been (instead of 14.5 trillion)

Last 30 yrs  16.35 trillion   (1.8 trillion more)
Last 25 yrs  18.7 trillion    (4.2 trillion more)
Last 20 yrs  15.7 trillion    (1.2 trillion more)
Last 15 yrs  19.8 trillion    (5.3 trillion more)
Last 10 yrs  21.6 trillion    (7.1 trillion more)
Last 5 yrs   17.6 trillion    (3.1 trillion more)

The Canadian dollar was basically on par with the US dollar in 2011.

Canada's GDP in 2011 was $1.72 trillion.

The US had 15.1 trillion in GDP at the end of 2011

Canada moved up 8.9% on a real GDP basis and the US went up 3.9%. So Canada had another 5% increase over the US in 2011.

Boulder Ionics liquid electrolytes could double storage of ultracapacitors and improve batteries by up to ten times

Boulder Ionics’ ionic-liquid-based electrolytes enable a new generation of energy storage devices with superior performance, improved safety and lower costs. The company’s novel high-throughput synthesis process produces electrochemical-grade materials in minutes rather than days. This dramatic reduction in processing time enables a very low capital cost for the production equipment, minimizes labor costs, and improves safety.

Boulder Ionics’ patent-pending intellectual property covers novel reactor designs, methods of synthesis, synthetic routes and compositions of matter. Our synthesis platform technology scales from kilograms to hundreds of metric tons.

Technology Review - Boulder Ionics—is developing a type of electrolyte that would enable high-performance batteries. The electrolyte, made from ionic liquids—salts that are molten below 100 C—can operate at high voltages and temperatures, isn't flammable, and doesn't evaporate. Ionic liquids are normally expensive to produce, but Boulder Ionics is developing a cheaper manufacturing process.

Replacing conventional electrolytes with ionic liquids could double the energy storage capacity of ultracapacitors by allowing them to be charged to higher voltages. That could make it possible to replace a starter battery in a car with a battery the size of a flashlight, Martin says.

The electrolytes could also help improve the storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries, the kind used in electric vehicles and mobile phones; and they could help make rechargeable metal-air batteries practical. In theory, such batteries could store 10 times as much energy as conventional lithium-ion batteries.

South Korea Funds Graphene Commercialization

South Korea has approved a roadmap for graphene commercialization with $200 million budget for the next 6 years.
They are also looking at a research institute that they would fund with $200-300 million per year.

Korean government has approved a plan for commercializing graphene technologies, including;
1) graphene-based touch panels
2) organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs)
3) electro-chromic smart windows
4) secondary batteries for electronic vehicles
5) high-voltage high-power supercapacitors
6) ultra-light and strong composites
7) high-performance gas barrier films,
8) electro-magnetic interference shielding, and
9) environmentally friendly anti-oxidation steel plates.

These items have been carefully selected considering economic efficiency and technological feasibility. In addition, Korea is also planning a “Korean Graphene Hub” project that is focusing on the fundamental sciences of graphene and related 2D materials, separately.

$200 million budget for 6 years. (Part private and part government money)

Europe is currently in a pilot project for graphene which could become a 1 billion euro over ten year flagship project.

40 page presentation (looking at major revenue in the 2019-2025 timeframe)

May 30, 2012

3 nanometer by 7 nm DNA Origami Tiles are Pixels in any 310 Pixel Shape

Nature - Complex shapes self-assembled from single-stranded DNA tiles

Programmed self-assembly of strands of nucleic acid has proved highly effective for creating a wide range of structures with desired shapes. A particularly successful implementation is DNA origami, in which a long scaffold strand is folded by hundreds of short auxiliary strands into a complex shape. Modular strategies are in principle simpler and more versatile and have been used to assemble DNA or RNA tiles into periodic and algorithmic two-dimensional lattices, extended ribbons and tubes three-dimensional crystals, polyhedra11 and simple finite two-dimensional shapes. But creating finite yet complex shapes from a large number of uniquely addressable tiles remains challenging. Here we solve this problem with the simplest tile form, a ‘single-stranded tile’ (SST) that consists of a 42-base strand of DNA composed entirely of concatenated sticky ends and that binds to four local neighbours during self-assembly. Although ribbons and tubes with controlled circumferences have been created using the SST approach, we extend it to assemble complex two-dimensional shapes and tubes from hundreds (in some cases more than one thousand) distinct tiles. Our main design feature is a self-assembled rectangle that serves as a molecular canvas, with each of its constituent SST strands—folded into a 3 nm-by-7 nm tile and attached to four neighbouring tiles—acting as a pixel. A desired shape, drawn on the canvas, is then produced by one-pot annealing of all those strands that correspond to pixels covered by the target shape; the remaining strands are excluded. We implement the strategy with a master strand collection that corresponds to a 310-pixel canvas, and then use appropriate strand subsets to construct 107 distinct and complex two-dimensional shapes, thereby establishing SST assembly as a simple, modular and robust framework for constructing nanostructures with prescribed shapes from short synthetic DNA strands.

DNA shapes (Image: Bryan Wei, Mingjie Dai and Peng Yin, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University)

Self-assembly of molecular shapes using single-stranded tiles.

Superconducting 50 Tesla magnet revolution for future accelerators

Fermilab Today - The Department of Energy recently presented an Early Career Research Award to Fermilab scientist Tengming Shen, a 2010 Peoples Fellow working to spur the next magnet revolution.

DOE awarded Shen $500,000 per year for five years for his research into engineering high-field superconducting materials for advanced accelerator technology. If his team succeeds, the work could pave the way for the construction of high-field superconducting magnets for future accelerators such as Fermilab's proposed muon collider, for energy upgrades of the Large Hadron Collider and for the development of new medical imaging devices.

Shen's strategy is to search for a better magnet-making material. Scientists currently use two niobium-based materials, NbTi and Nb3Sn.

Scientists cooled magnets in the Tevatron with liquid helium to 4.2 Kelvin; they reached a magnetic field strength of 4.3 Tesla. The scientists who built the Large Hadron Collider cooled their magnets with superfluid liquid helium to an even colder 1.9 Kelvin and almost doubled that performance to 8.3 Tesla. Fermilab and other U.S. laboratories have recently developed new technology using niobium-tin, Nb3Sn, which scientists hope will help them make the jump to 12- to 13-Tesla magnets.

The next step, according to Shen, is to push the limit of superconducting magnet technology by exploring new materials beyond the niobium family. This would allow scientists to more than double the energy reach of the LHC without increasing the size of the accelerator, he said.

Shen plans to study a group of high-field superconductors, in particular Bi2Sr2CaCu2Ox. He expects he could use this material to build magnets with a reach of up to 50 Tesla.

Even better, the new material could be used to construct 1- to 5-Tesla magnets that operate at higher temperatures. Whereas current superconducting magnets must be cooled with liquid helium, Shen's magnets could potentially be cooled with a simpler refrigeration unit.

Fish study raises hope for spinal injury repair

Scientists (Monash University Australia) have unlocked the secrets of the zebra fish’s ability to heal its spinal cord after injury, in research that could deliver therapy for paraplegics and quadriplegics in the future.

A team from Monash University’s Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI), led by Dr Yona Goldshmit and Professor Peter Currie, discovered the role of a protein in the remarkable self-healing ability of the fish.

The findings, detailed in The Journal of Neuroscience, could eventually lead to ways to stimulate spinal cord regeneration in humans.

Scientists discovered the role of a protein in the remarkable self-healing ability of the fish

Journal of Neuroscience - Fgf-Dependent Glial Cell Bridges Facilitate Spinal Cord Regeneration in Zebrafish

Verizon Raising Fiber Speed and Prices

Fixing the US and Getting to Higher GDP Growth

The US economy should have 4-5% GDP growth.

Matching Korea's Broadband would be a 2.5% GDP boost

Arthur D. Little and Chalmers University of Technology study shows that doubling the broadband speed for an economy increases GDP by 0.3%. A 1000 times increase in broadband speed should mean a 3.0% boost in GDP.

If the US were to build out 1 gigabit per second internet, there should be a one time boost of about 2.5% in GDP.
This would be $375 billion each year and increasing with further GDP increases. The US has an average broadband speed of about 4-5 mbps.

Since 1991 to 2010, the telecom companies have pocketed an over $320 billion --- that's about $3,000 per household.
This money was supposed to be used to keep the communications network up to date.

In 2009, the FCC's National Broadband plan claimed it will cost about $350 billion to fully upgrade America's infrastructure.

South Korea, a country of 48 million people, spent $24 billion to rollout gigabit per second internet that is completing this year. It is gbps in large cities while rural areas have 50-100 mbps.

Other Infrastructure

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates the U.S. needs $2.2 trillion dollars of infrastructure spending during the next 5 years, of which $1.18 trillion has not been budgeted.

Snakebots with Tools crawl in bodies for surgery

Imagine a tiny snake robot crawling through your body, helping a surgeon identify diseases and perform operations.

Scientists and doctors are using the roboticized endoscopic-like tools to perform surgery on hearts, prostate cancer, and other diseased organs. The snakebots carry tiny cameras, scissors and forceps, and even more advanced sensors are in the works. For now, they're powered by tethers that humans control. But experts say the day is coming when some robots will roam the body on their own.

Carnegie Mellon University professor Howie Choset stands behind a robot demonstrating how it climbs up a tubular armature at their lab on campus in Pittsburgh. Photo: AP

Medrobotics is the company formed to commercialize this work. They have raised about $30 million in funding

May 29, 2012

Numbers show China Still Working and Chinas Geographic Rebalancing

1. WSJ Real Time - In the midst of gloom about China’s economic outlook, new labor market data provides an optimistic counterpoint — and a possible explanation for why a long-anticipated stimulus has been slow to arrive.

Data for 2011 shows private sector wages growing 18.3% year-over-year, up from 14.1% in 2010. Wages in the all-important manufacturing sector rose 20.1%.

That’s good news for two reasons. First, it shows China’s labor markets are tight, with strong demand for labor – a sign the economic engine is not sputtering out.

Second, 2011 was the first year in the short history of the data series that China’s private sector wage growth exceeded growth in nominal GDP. That means household income is growing faster than the economy as a whole, a crucial part of China’s rebalancing agenda.

The bad news is that higher wages dent the competitiveness of China’s exporters, and firms in low value-added sectors like textiles and tools are already suffering.

But China’s wages are starting from a low base, 4.2% of the level in the U.S. in 2008 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means rapid growth can run for a while before China’s low-wage status is eroded.

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics has a collaboration deal with Iran Plasma Physics Research Center

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc. (LPP), a research firm in Middlesex, NJ, announced today that they had signed a contract on May 20 with the Plasma Physics Research Center (PPRC) of I. Azad University in Tehran, Iran, committing the two institutions to collaboration “in the Creation and Publication of Scientific Papers in the Fields of Aneutronic Fusion and the Dense Plasma Focus”. “This agreement can greatly aid the development of aneutronic fusion, a potential source of cheap, safe, clean and unlimited energy,” said LPP’s President and Chief Scientist, Eric J.Lerner. “While we all publish our results in scientific journals already, this new systematic collaboration in data exchange, analysis, and design of experiments will substantially accelerate the creation and publication of scientific results. The PPRC has large resources of highly trained personnel, and LPP can offer its many years of experience as a leading center in aneutronic fusion.”

The Plasma Physics Research Center (PPRC) has over 150 graduate students, including 50 PhD students. By comparison, there are currently only about 90 plasma physics PhD students in the entire US. Iran is the only country at present, other than the US, which has a substantial research program in aneutronic fusion. Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, while a small firm, has been a world leader in research on aneutronic fusion, recently publishing the achievement of temperatures of 1.8 billion degrees, suitable for burning aneutronic fusion fuels.

HP Vision of memristor products in 2014 or 2015

PCWorld - The first memristor products are in the works: HP has been working with memory manufacturer Hynix to produce them. Apostolopoulos says that the first memristor-containing products will appear in 2014 or 2015.

When it comes to display technology, HP's SAIL technology (self-aligned imprint lithography) is being used to create thin film displays that are lighter, thinner, and most importantly, bendable.

When you combine the memristor and the curves lte transparent displays allowed by SAIL, what you get is a super thin and power-efficient tablet that is transparent.

To that, HP intends to bring environmental sensing and augmented reality from the recent purchase of Autonomy, a company that makes an augmented reali product called Aurasma. It hopes to blend the physical world with augmented worlds in this way.

The uses extend to education as well as business. An example given at HP's Shanghai event earlier this month was of students using a tablet to design a bridge which they could then position virtually onto an existing environment and test for earthquake-resistance and similar.

Carnival of Space 251

Intel Doubles Cable Gateway Speed to 1 Gigabit per second

May 21, Intel Corporation previewed its first DOCSIS* 3.0 cable gateway solution that is capable of 1 gigabit per second (Gbps). The Intel® Puma™ 6 technology solution will help enable service providers to meet consumer demand and offer new services while extending their extensive network investments. A test program by South Korea’s SKbroadband is targeting production deployment of 1Gbps in 2013.

3D blood vessels could aid artificial organs

University of Washington bioengineers have developed the first structure to grow small human blood vessels, creating a 3-D test bed that offers a better way to study disease, test drugs and perhaps someday grow human tissues for transplant.

Zheng first built the structure out of the body's most abundant protein, collagen, while working as a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University. She created tiny channels and injected this honeycomb with human endothelial cells, which line human blood vessels.

During a period of two weeks, the endothelial cells grew throughout the structure and formed tubes through the mold's rectangular channels, just as they do in the human body.

When brain cells were injected into the surrounding gel, the cells released chemicals that prompted the engineered vessels to sprout new branches, extending the network. A similar system could supply blood to engineered tissue before transplant into the body.

Y. Zheng, U. of Washington. Researchers made a functional microvessel that spells the letters "UW." The white bar measures 100 micrometers, about the width of a human hair

New Scientist - Growing artificial organsMovie Camera might help solve the transplantation shortage, but one major hurdle still exists: it is difficult to get blood vessels to grow all the way through a large organ. A gel that allows blood vessels to grow in precise shapes and respond to human cells in a manner similar to natural vessels might help jumpstart that process.

When the researchers pumped blood into the system, it moved through the microvessels without sticking. It could even flow smoothly around 90 degree bends.

Spacex Future Missions, Falcon 9 with Upgraded Engines and Spacex Heavy

SpaceFlight Now - SpaceX has been successful in amassing a backlog of about 40 launches worth about $4 billion.

The flights are for a mix of commercial and government customers, and the manifest is dominated by launches for NASA and Iridium, a mobile communications satellite operator.

Spacex has made modifications to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral.

Musk: The extension to the existing hangar is for payload processing and it's also for Falcon 9 version 1.1, which is longer. It's about 50 percent longer than version 1. We need a little bit of extra length and some extra facilities for the satellites that are coming.

NOTE: Falcon 9 v1.1 is an upgraded version of the Falcon 9 rocket with more powerful Merlin 1D engines and lengthened propellant tanks. It will also be the core for SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, a colossal booster formed from three first stages strapped together. Falcon Heavy's first test launch is expected as soon as mid-2013.

Question: When will the first Falcon 9 v1.1 fly?

Musk: We'll certainly be vertical on the pad at Vandenberg [Air Force Base in California] by the end of the year. Launch could be early next year. The launch date depends on how the final phase of testing goes for the next-generation Falcon 9.

May 28, 2012

Field effect transistors using graphene and hexagonal boron nitride on a 75-millimeter wafer

Graphene is the wonder material that could solve the problem of making ever faster computers and smaller mobile devices when current silicon microchip technology hits an inevitable wall. Graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms in a tight hexagonal arrangement, has been highly researched because of its incredible electronic properties, with theoretical speeds 100 times greater than silicon. But putting the material into a microchip that could outperform current silicon technology has proven difficult.

The answer may lie in new nanoscale systems based on ultrathin layers of materials with exotic properties. Called two-dimensional layered materials, these systems could be important for microelectronics, various types of hypersensitive sensors, catalysis, tissue engineering and energy storage. Researchers at Penn State have applied one such 2D layered material, a combination of graphene and hexagonal boron nitride, to produce improved transistor performance at an industrially relevant scale.

A team of Penn State researchers has developed field effect transistors using graphene and hexagonal boron nitride on a 75-millimeter wafer, a significant step toward graphene-based electronics.

ACS Nano - Integration of Hexagonal Boron Nitride with Quasi-freestanding Epitaxial Graphene: Toward Wafer-Scale, High-Performance Devices

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 106

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 106 is up at Atomic Power Review

Gail Marcus looks in detail at "Energy that could be too cheap to meter"

Firstly, too cheap to meter does not necessarily mean free or very cheap electricity.

Some pro-nukes today feel that "too cheap to meter" may yet be possible. Their point is that the cost of metering may not be worth the effort. By the way, this is also the case for hydro, solar, and wind systems, where the cost of the "fuel" is zero. But this does not mean that the utilities would go into the business of giving electricity away. They would charge a flat rate (or one of several flat rates, based on load).

The modern equivalent are some flat rate pricing for cellphone service. Previously there was charges for minutes of long distance phone usage and for minutes of other phone usage.

When could flat rate pricing work for energy ?

Improved Fracking Technology

Alberta Oil Magazine - Somewhere between 70 and 80 per cent of frack jobs in the world are performed in North America, providing producers with access to oil trapped in hard rock formations, shale in particular. In its World Oil Outlook 2011, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries estimates production from shale reserves will help drive global production of unconventional oil from 2.3 million barrels per day in 2011 to 8.4 million barrels per day in 2035. Canada and the U.S. could supply 6.6 million barrels per day, the cartel predicts.

Oil service heavyweights like Weatherford, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger are quietly refining an earth-shattering extraction technique that has rewritten the global energy playbook.

If the past five years could be summed up in a word, it would be more. The ascent of unconventional drilling techniques has been defined by more horsepower, more fluid, more proppant, more days spent on a well site, more expensive equipment and labor. But with those higher costs, Andersen says, comes higher production; somewhere in the range of 25 times higher than a conventional completion.

Drilling Mud Technology

Alberta Oil Magazine - Drilling mud has always been a critical part of drilling a well – but never more than today, amidst a technological revolution that is sending drill bits farther and farther underground in search of oil and gas reserves once considered impossible to extract.

Mud, once a boring necessity, has become an increasingly prominent part of oil and gas extraction operations, enabling the drilling of holes that grow more complex by the year. Mud research has become a key driver for the companies that make it – several of them Canadian, and growing fast – as drillers seek products that enable underground feats.

In the oily depths several kilometers beneath the surface, it’s easy for things to go seriously wrong. Drill bits can get stuck. Friction can build up, halting progress. Trapped hydrocarbons can surge to surface in a blowout. Holes can cave in, trapping millions of dollars of equipment. One product can help manage all of those problems. It is drilling fluid or, as it’s known across an industry dependent on chemical cocktails to smooth progress underground, mud.

Super-sensitive Tests could enable early disease detection

Scientists have developed an ultra-sensitive test that should enable them to detect signs of a disease in its earliest stages, in research published today in the journal Nature Materials.

The scientists, from Imperial College London and the University of Vigo, have created a test to detect particular molecules that indicate the presence of disease, even when these are in very low concentrations. There are already tests available for some diseases that look for such biomarkers using biological sensors or ’biosensors’. However, existing biosensors become less sensitive and predictable at detecting biomarkers when they are in very low concentrations, as occurs when a disease is in its early stages.

In today’s study, the researchers demonstrated that the new biosensor test can find a biomarker associated with prostate cancer, called Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). However, the team say that the biosensor can be easily reconfigured to test for other diseases or viruses where the related biomarker is known.

Kickstarter and Crowdfunding

Kickstarter is the world's largest funding platform for creative projects. Every week, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields.

Technology Review - Kickstarter, a New York City–based website originally founded to support creative projects, has become a force in financing technology startups. Entrepreneurs have used the site to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time to develop and produce products, including a networked home sensing system and a kit that prints three-dimensional objects.

This crowdfunding model offers an alternative to traditional means of raising startup funds for some types of businesses, such as Web or design firms. Startups keep their equity, maintain full control over strategy, and gain a committed community of early adopters to boot.

While most projects ask for relatively small amounts, several have exceeded the $1 million mark. Most notably, Double Fine Productions raised over $3 million to develop a video game. That's well beyond the typical angel stake, which generally tops out at $600,000, and into the realm of the typical venture capital infusion.

Overall, Kickstarter users pledged nearly $99.3 million for projects last year—an amount roughly equivalent to 10 percent of all seed investment in the United States, which PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates at $920 million.

Making Microscopic Machines Using Metallic Glass

Elsevier - A new manufacturing technology allows researchers to mass produce components for use in next-generation computer storage devices and disposable medical and chemical test kits.

Researchers in Ireland have developed a new technology using materials called bulk metallic glasses to produce high-precision molds for making tiny plastic components. The components, with detailed microscopically patterned surfaces could be used in the next generation of computer memory devices and microscale testing kits and chemical reactors.

In their article published in the latest edition of the open access journal Materials Today, Michael Gilchrist, David Browne and colleagues at University College Dublin explain how bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) were discovered about thirty years ago. These materials are a type of metal alloy, but instead of having a regular, crystalline structure like an everyday metal such as iron or an alloy like bronze, the material's atoms are arranged haphazardly. This disordered, or amorphous atomic structure is similar to the amorphous structure of the silicon and oxygen atoms in the glass we use for windows and drinking vessels.

(a) Illustrative biological length scales. Using this technology, features from cm scale (dog-bone in pane (c)) down to virus’ diameters can be replicated on polymers at high-speed. (b) Ion-beam machining of common fine-grained crystalline tool steel with features below the length scale of the grains results in an ill defined pattern on the tool. Using amorphous metal, which has no limiting micro-structural length scale, a sharply defined pattern can be produced. (c) A series of grooves and channels and the UCD crest machined into a BMG dog-bone shaped tool. The maximum channel width is 2 μm and smallest width is 250 nm. The width of the harp strings on the crest is 150 nm. The tool is used to injection mold 20.9 mm long dog-bone shaped parts. The FIB machined features, including the 150 nm wide harp strings illustrated, are well replicated without much optimization of the molding process.

Materials Today - Towards nano-injection molding

New Pronghorn pay zone increases North Dakota Bakken recoverable oil estimate to 45 billion barrels

Bismarck Tribune - Continental — a leader in prognosticating Bakken oil reserves — said it now believes there is as much as 27 billion to 45 billion barrels of oil recoverable from the Bakken based on production from two previously untapped bench zones in the resource.

Whiting’s chief executive officer, Jim Volker, said his company is going there, too, by developing a new field between Dickinson and Belfield called the “Pronghorn area,” in the Pronghorn sands.

Volker said the Pronghorn sands are between the Bakken shale and the Three Forks and that he expects 500 wells will be drilled in the Dickinson to Belfield region, its deepest probe into southwestern North Dakota. It has 30 wells there now.

Lynn Helms, North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources Director, says their estimates were at 10-14 billion barrels and Continental had previously estimated 24 billion barrels.

The state’s population is estimated at 683,932 and oil production is 575,000 barrels a day as of last month. Three of the Bakken’s biggest hitters say the play is here to stay and estimates of 1 million barrels of oil a day and 1 million people here in just a few years are not off the chart.

Both Continental and Whiting say the boom will keep rolling while they tap production in relatively new zones of the Bakken formation, zones they refer to as “benches” and “sands” that are saturated with crude from the Bakken source.

Graphene control cutting using an atomic force microscope based nanorobot

Scientia Sinica Physica - Graphene control cutting using an atomic force microscope based nanorobot

The electrical properties of graphene strongly rely on its size,geometry and edge structure.Therefore,the ability of fabricating graphene into desired configuration is one of the enabled techniques to manufacture graphene-based nanodevices and push it into practical applications.However,there is no effective way to achieve this goal till today. In this paper,an Atomic Force Microscopy(AFM)based mechanical cutting method is developed to meet the urgent need of graphene fabrication. Theoretical analysis between cutting force and lattice cutting angle is carried out,which reveals that the value of the cutting force is related with the graphene cutting direction.Different graphene shapes are fabricated to demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of the proposed method. Furthermore,after many times of cutting experiments with the rotation sample method, we proved that the cutting forces do vary with the lattice cutting direction.The experimental results keep consistent with the theoretical analysis.This discovery makes it possible to build a close-loop fabrication method with real-time force as sensor feedback.It also lays the foundation of theory and experiments on controllable graphene cutting with lattice precision.Combining parallel multi-tip technology,the proposed method makes it possible to fabricate large-scale graphene-based device at low cost and high efficiency.

Caption: This shows graphene cutting results based on a nanorobot. Credit: ©Science China Press

Eurekalert - Graphene Cutting Results Based on a Nanorobot

Under the right circumstances, solar cells from Semprius could produce power more cheaply than fossil fuels

Technology Review - this past winter, a startup called Semprius set an important record for solar energy: it showed that its solar panels can convert nearly 34 percent of the light that hits them into electricity. Semprius says its technology, once scaled up, is so efficient that in some places, it could soon make electricity cheaply enough to compete with power plants fueled by coal and natural gas.

Semprius uses gallium arsenide, which is better than silicon at turning light into electricity (the record efficiency measured in a silicon solar panel is about 23 percent). But gallium arsenide is also far more expensive, so Semprius is trying to make up for the cost in several ways.

By combining the world’s most efficient multi-junction solar cells with superior module design, Semprius holds the world record for module efficiency, reaching 33.9 percent, as confirmed by the Instituto de Energía ­Solar at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Semprius modules are two-to-three times more efficient than traditional silicon and thin-film modules, delivering more than 300 watts per square meter.

Semprius website provides details

May 27, 2012

Village-scale DC solar grids provide power for lighting and cell phones

Technology Review - Nearly 400 million Indians, mostly those living in rural communities, lack access to grid power. For many of them, simply charging a cell phone requires a long trip to a town with a recharging kiosk, and their homes are dimly lit by sooty kerosene-fueled lamps.

Nikhil Jaisinghani and Brian Shaad cofounded Mera Gao Power. Taking advantage of the falling cost of solar panels and LEDs, the company aims to build and operate low-cost solar-powered microgrids that can provide clean light and charge phones. Microgrids distribute electricity in a limited area from a relatively small generation point. While alternative solutions, such as individual solar-powered lanterns, can also provide light and charge phones, the advantage of a microgrid is that the installation cost can be spread across a village. The system can also use more efficient, larger-scale generation and storage systems, lowering operational costs.

For a cost of $2,500, a hundred households, in groups of up to 15, can be wired up to two generation hubs, each consisting of a set of solar panels and a battery pack. The grid uses 24-volt DC power throughout, which permits the use of aluminum wiring rather than the more expensive copper wiring required for higher-voltage AC distribution systems. The village is carefully mapped before installation to ensure the most efficient arrangement of distribution line.

Each household gets 0.2 amps for seven hours a night—enough to power two LED lights and a mobile-phone charging point—for a prepaid monthly fee of 100 rupees (a little less than US$2, current exchange 55 rupee to 1 US dollar); kerosene and phone charging generally cost 100 to 150 rupees a month.
A typical installation uses two banks of solar panels, located on different rooftops. Credit: Anna Da Costa

This business model and technology will enable everyone in the world to have basic electricity and along with low cost $10-20 smartphones, everyone will have a computer and mobile communication.

Mera Gao Power website

Quality, dependable light transforms lives; children are able to study at night, adults are able to earn additional income, and indoor air quality is improved. Our services benefit women who traditionally spend more time working indoors and children who accidentally drink kerosene and inhale its fumes. With a commercial model, MGP expects to scale up its services to reach 1,000,000 people by 2017.

Tesla Motors on track for profitability in 2013

Tesla Motors is on track for profitability in 2013. Tesla is using an aging factory and second-hand equipment. With the going price to build a North American auto plant averaging $1 billion, Tesla may have spent less than a third that much to buy, renovate and equip its factory. It paid $42 million for the plant in 2010, spent $17 million for some of its presses and machinery, and got other used equipment at a “fraction” of the original cost from parts suppliers including Tower Automotive Inc., said Passin, 51. Tesla is on schedule to build about 5,000 cars this year in Fremont and 20,000 in 2013, Passin said. Output may grow to about 40,000 vehicles annually after that with the addition of the Model X electric sport-utility vehicle and other projects.

Google's Larry Page talks about Looking Beyond Today

Larry’s 20-minute talk presents some insights into the Google worldview, both in terms of where the company invests its energy and how it is shaping the future. But his real message extended beyond Google’s accomplishments and aimed squarely at encouraging people to make bold dreams that take advantage of the amazing opportunities modern technology provides and is capable of. The moments in his talk when his excitement came through earmarked an insider’s vision of a rapidly approaching reality that will be amazing.

Larry Page - With more ambitious goals we can double the rate of human progress. The world has enough resources.


How strong is China’s economy?

Economist Magazine - Despite a recent slowdown, the world’s second-biggest economy is more resilient than its critics think.

Rapid development can look messy close up, as our special report this week explains; and there is much that is going wrong with China’s economy. It is surprisingly inefficient, and it is not as fair as it should be. But outsiders’ principal concern—that its growth will collapse if it suffers a serious blow, such as the collapse of the euro—is not justified. For the moment, it is likely to prove more resilient than its detractors fear. Its difficulties, and they are considerable, will emerge later on.

* Money has been borrowed from China's own people and not foreigners (far less risk of capital flight)
* China's banks are highly liquid
* China's government has the financial resources to fix any insolvency that develops

RNA breakthrough transforms idea of gene control

New Scientist - It has been long known that DNA can be altered "epigenetically" – where changes occur without altering the sequence of DNA but leave chemical marks on genes that dictate how active they are by adding chemical methyl groups that silence genes, for example. Numerous environmental factors, such as stress and smoking, have been shown to influence these epigenetic marks.

Now, researchers have discovered that messenger RNA, the mirror-image copy of DNA from which all proteins are manufactured, can be methylated too.

Jaffrey's team found that around a fifth of the RNA produced in cells from rat brains and human kidneys contained methylated versions of adenosine, one of the four building blocks of our genetic code. "It was exciting to find that 20 per cent had methyl groups, so it must be a pretty fundamental regulatory mechanism," says Jaffrey.

Separate analyses of assorted rat tissues demonstrated that the methylated RNA was concentrated in the brain, liver and kidneys. Also, samples from rat embryos showed that concentrations rose 70-fold in the brain as it reached the final stages of growth, therefore they are likely to play a fundamental role in development.

The team also discovered that the methyl groups are stripped off the RNA by an enzyme linked with obesity. The enzyme is made by a gene called FTO, one variant of which raises the risk of obesity by 70 per cent. People with an overactive copy of the gene are most at risk, suggesting that stripping the methyl groups from RNA might somehow alter our metabolism.

The researchers found that methylated adenosine tended to cluster close to the point on the RNA strand where protein manufacture reaches completion, and on regions where other proteins bind to the strand to alter or halt production. The suggestion is that methylation may therefore dictate how much protein gets made, and when. "It's not changing what would be made, but it might govern how much and when it's made," says Jaffrey. This, he says, could in turn have a big impact on a multitude of physiological processes and disease.

Cell Journal - Comprehensive Analysis of mRNA Methylation Reveals Enrichment in 3′ UTRs and near Stop Codons

Technical Highlights
* m6A is a widespread RNA modification in many tissues with high levels in the brain
* MeRIP-Seq identifies m6A in 7,913 genes encoding both coding and noncoding RNAs
* m6A is enriched near stop codons and within 3′ UTRs in both mouse and human mRNAs
* The transcriptome-wide landscape of m6A provides important insights into m6A function

Mechanical metamaterials with negative compressibility transitions

It’s not magic, but new materials designed by two Northwestern University researchers seem to exhibit magical properties. Some contract when they should expand, and others expand when they should contract.

When tensioned, ordinary materials expand along the direction of the applied force. The new metamaterials (artificial materials engineered to have properties that may not be found in nature) do the opposite when tensioned -- they contract. Other materials designed by the researchers expand when compressed.

New Scientist - Miniaturised versions that work on similar principles could one day be used as protective coatings for military vehicles, says Christopher Smith at the University of Exeter, UK. "If a blast hit the side of your vehicle, it would push back and try to cancel out some of the effect," he says.

Nature Materials - Mechanical metamaterials with negative compressibility transitions

When tensioned, ordinary materials expand along the direction of the applied force. Here, we explore network concepts to design metamaterials exhibiting negative compressibility transitions, during which a material undergoes contraction when tensioned (or expansion when pressured). Continuous contraction of a material in the same direction of an applied tension, and in response to this tension, is inherently unstable. The conceptually similar effect we demonstrate can be achieved, however, through destabilizations of (meta)stable equilibria of the constituents. These destabilizations give rise to a stress-induced solid–solid phase transition associated with a twisted hysteresis curve for the stress–strain relationship. The strain-driven counterpart of negative compressibility transitions is a force amplification phenomenon, where an increase in deformation induces a discontinuous increase in response force. We suggest that the proposed materials could be useful for the design of actuators, force amplifiers, micromechanical controls, and protective devices.

A metamaterial that stretches when compressed and contracts when pulled could one day lead to materials that offer protection against blasts

Democracy Flaws - You have to be relatively intelligent to realize your areas of incompentence

Live Science - The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.

Research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people's ideas. For example, if people lack expertise on tax reform, it is very difficult for them to identify the candidates who are actual experts. They simply lack the mental tools needed to make meaningful judgments.

Daily Mail UK - Scientists claim voters lack the sophistication to recognize good ideas. Some voters simply do not know what is happening.

The controversial research has even been backed by Month Python star John Cleese.

In a YouTube video he says: 'You have to be relatively intelligent to realise how stupid you are - and David Dunning, who I am proud to call a friend, has done some research into this. This explains not just Hollywood but almost the entirety of Fox News.'

Форма для связи


Email *

Message *