October 06, 2012

SolarCity Files $201 Million IPO and has been helped by the Solar Panel Glut

Forbes - Elon Musk's Solar installation startup SolarCity this afternoon filed with the SEC for a $201.25 million initial public offering.

For the six months ended June 30, the company reported revenue of $71.4 million, including $51.7 from solar energy systems sales, and the rest from operating leases. That’s up from $20.3 million in the comparable year-ago period. In the same period, the company lost $23.1 million. For all of 2011, SolarCity reported revenue of $59.6 million.

CBS News - SolarCity and other installers have benefited in recent months by a plunge in the price of solar panels brought on by a worldwide manufacturing glut. The price plunge has crushed the profits of solar-panel makers, but has made solar electricity more competitive with retail electric rates and helped installers market systems to homeowners and businesses.

By combining federal and state subsidies for renewable energy, SolarCity and others can offer to install solar systems for no upfront payment that will lower customers' overall electricity costs.

Glut of Solar Panels could cost China $18 billion

NY Times - hina in recent years established global dominance in renewable energy, its solar panel and wind turbine factories forcing many foreign rivals out of business and its policy makers hailed by environmentalists around the world as visionaries.

Though worldwide demand for solar panels and wind turbines has grown rapidly over the last five years, China’s manufacturing capacity has soared even faster, creating enormous oversupply and a ferocious price war.

The result is a looming financial disaster, not only for manufacturers but for state-owned banks that financed factories with approximately $18 billion in low-rate loans and for municipal and provincial governments that provided loan guarantees and sold manufacturers valuable land at deeply discounted prices.

China’s biggest solar panel makers are suffering losses of up to $1 for every $3 of sales this year, as panel prices have fallen by three-fourths since 2008.

More Profiles of China's Middle Class

National Geographic - China's middle class is now estimated to number between 100 million and 150 million people. Though definitions vary—household income of at least $10,000 a year is one standard—middle-class families tend to own an apartment and a car, to eat out and take vacations, and to be familiar with foreign brands and ideas.

In 1998, when the government launched reforms to commercialize the housing market, it was the rare person who owned an apartment. Today home ownership is common, and prices have risen beyond what many young couples can afford—as if everything that happened in America over 50 years were collapsed into a single decade.

CNN also had a profile of China's middle class.

The average disposable income of urban Chinese households rose to around $3,000 per capita in 2010, according to an analysis of official government statistics by China Market Research Group. That means a typical family of three earns around $9,000 a year.

First hand experience of China high speed rail and regular rail

National Geographic has an article by Ian Johnson on China's high speed rail. Ian Johnson is a Beijing-based writer who won a Pulitzer Prize.

Riding from Beijing to Shanghai, the experience seems as good as any I'd had in Europe, and possibly even better, given the greater distances. Yes, the finish and the details look cheap compared to German or French trains, and the food is atrocious.

But the trains average 180 miles (290 kilometers) an hour. You rip through the countryside, stopping only twice before pulling into Shanghai's new Hongqiao station on time. As for the price, second class is $90, cheaper than all but the deepest discounted airline ticket, and the total travel time is only about an hour longer than by plane, once you factor in getting out to the airport, going through security, and so on.

Alaska North Slope Oil Could Ramp up Pretty Quickly

Nasdaq - There are some very interesting drill results coming from Alaska's North Slope.

Initial readings indicate that the site could hold two billion barrels of new reserves. But it's still early. Like with the Bakken formation (which was also originally projected to contain two billion barrels of oil), that number could end up being much higher.

The Alaska North Slop oil is going to be cheaper to produce, too.

There are two reasons why: First of all, drilling infrastructure already exists in the region. And, more importantly, the type of rock in the Alaskan shale contains more limestone, which makes it softer. This should significantly reduce energy costs associated with extracting and processing the oil than you'd see with other formations.

Now, I can't say too much more about it at this time. A major oil drilling company is currently examining samples from the drill site. And I should get solid results in a few weeks, which I'll share with you then.

What I can say, though, is that the company is already in early-stage negotiations to stake its claim through some smaller explorers that already have a significant presence in the area.

23 page report on Alaskan oil shale from 2011.

There is a 60 page presentation on Alaska oil and gas opportunities from August, 2012

Shares of California-based Royale Energy surged one week ago following comments by one of its chief executives reaffirming its drilling plans in Alaska's North Slope.

Michael Filloon Addresses Bakken Oil Production

The Oildrum had an article that suggests that North Dakota oil production will plateau at about the current level of 600,000 to 700,000 barrels per day.

Seeking Alpha - Michael Filloon indicates where the Oildrum analysis is not correct

What the Oildrum Red Queen article misses is the geology is only a small part of what makes a good well. There is no doubt Alger and Sanish fields are some of the best Williston Basin acreage, but fields like Westberg and Poe have produced excellent results as well. The author stated that the Liffrig well is the average producer in North Dakota, but that was also a time when the majority of producers were still using twenty stage fracs and getting comfortable with the geology.

What is the cost and speed of mass editing of DNA to convert human DNA into Neanderthal DNA ?

Geneticists have long been able to edit individual genes, but using a technique called MAGE/CAGE mass rewriting DNA is possible, turning the entire genome of a bacterium into an “editable and evolvable template”. MAGE and CAGE were described in Discover Magazine and is described in the George Church and Ed Regis book Regenesis

Their success was possible because the same genetic code underlies all life. The code is written in the four letters (nucleotides) that chain together to form DNA: A, C, G and T. Every set of three letters (or ‘codon’) corresponds to a different amino acid, the building blocks of proteins. For example, GCA codes for alanine; TGT means cysteine. The chain of letters is translated into a chain of amino acids until you get to a ‘stop codon’. These special triplets act as full stops that indicate when a protein is finished.

This code is virtually the same in every gene on the planet. In every human, tree and bacterium, the same codons correspond to the same amino acids, with only minor variations. The code also includes a lot of redundancy. Four DNA letters can be arranged into 64 possible triplets, which are assigned to only 20 amino acids and one stop codon. So for example, GCT, GCA, GCC and GCG all code for alanine. And these surplus codons provide enough wiggle room for geneticists to play around with.

Farren Isaacs, Peter Carr and Harris Wang have started to replace every instance of TAG with TAA in the genome of the common gut bacterium Escherichia coli. Both are stop codons, so there’s no noticeable difference to the bacterium – it’s like replacing every word in a document with a synonym. But to the team, the genome-wide swap will eventually free up one of the 64 triplets in the genetic code. And that opens up many possible applications.

MAGE stands for multiplex automated genome engineering. It makes it possible to introduce 10 million genetic modifications into a genome in a reasonable time.

CAGE stands for “conjugative assembly genome engineering”). The technique relies on the bacterial equivalent of sex – a process called conjugation where two cells sidle up, form a physical link between one another, and swap DNA.

MAGE can be used to substitute TAA for TAG in separate pieces of bacterial DNA, and CAGE, which knits the pieces together into a whole genome.

October 05, 2012

Predicted sequence of Antiaging rejuventation

FightingAging.org which closely tracks life extension research provides their educated guess at the sequence of rejuvenation therapies.

1) Destruction of Senescent Cells

A team of Spanish scientists has developed an intelligent nanodevice that lays the foundation for the future development of new therapies against aging. The device consists of nanoparticles that can selectively release therapeutic use substances in aged human cells. Its potential ranging from the treatment of diseases involving cellular degeneration or tissue such as cancer, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, among others, to accelerated aging pathologies (progerias).

"The nanodevice is that we have developed containing mesoporous nanoparticles in the galactooligosaccharide which one outer surface prevents the exit o
f the load and that selectively opens in degenerative phase cells or senescent cells.

2) Selective Pruning and Support of the Immune System

One of the reasons for immune system decline is crowding out of useful immune cells by memory immune cells that serve little useful purpose. Targeted killing of the useless immune memory cells using processes like those mentioned above would be helpful.

"server-sky" concept could put millions of servers in orbit

During the past decade the amount of electricity used by data centers has steadily increased, and data centers now consume almost 3% of worldwide electricity. Despite continuing efforts to increase computing efficiency, power consumption by data centers is continuing to consume ever greater quantities of energy. Keith Lofstrom is an electrical engineer who believes that he may have found a long term solution to the data center problem. Lofstrom wants to put huge number of miniature, solar powered servers (called thinsats) in orbit. This concept, known as "server sky", would be facilitated by a low-cost launch system referred to as "Launch Loop". This loop could put many thousands of tons into space at a small fraction of the cost of using rockets. In an interview with Sander Olson for Next Big Future, Lofstrom describes how the server-sky concept could greatly reduce the need for ground-based data centers, and how Launch Loop might be the best solution to opening up space.

Keith Lofstrom

Question: A number of methods for putting payloads into space without rockets have been proposed. How does the Launch Loop concept compare with other schemes, such as the space elevator, the airship to orbit initiative, or James Powell's Startram concept?

Getting into orbit requires a bit of altitude and lots of velocity. Both require energy. 100 kilometers altitude requires 270 kilowatt hours per ton, about $33 of 12 cent electricity at 100% efficiency. A 10 kilometer per second lunar transfer orbit requires 15 megawatt hours per ton about $1800 of electricity. An inefficient system (like a rocket, a laser powered space elevator, or a hypersonic airship) require far more energy. A launch loop can be about 40% efficient, because energy is transferred in a 14 kilometer per second iron rotor powered by high efficiency linear motors, and delivered to vehicles as magnetic drag. The energy conversion process is very cheap, compared to the switching electronics of a startram mass driver, an airship solar cell and ion engine, or a space elevator climber.

October 04, 2012

How Much will Rethink Robotics Baxter merge with the Foxconn Automation Wave ?

Morning Whistle - Foxconn has has 1.2 million employees, is planning quicker moves to replace human workforce with robots. Foxconn makes most of Apple's gadgets like the iPhone and iPad.

As early as August, Foxconn said it would continue to cut overtime to less than nine hours a week from the current 20. This means one-third fewer hours for the hundreds of thousands of Foxconn workers across China.

WantChinaTimes - Terry Gou, chairman and CEO of Foxconn, had previously said that he was planning to add around 300,000 robots to the assembly line in 2012. The robot plan has not been implemented as smoothly as expected, with the number of robots being used at only about one-twentieth of the proposed 300,000 automatons needed (15,000).

Rethink Robotics is a well funded US startup by Rodney Brooks. They are targeting 300,000 small and medium sized US manufacturers and more of that size throughout the world.

For the next three years, it would seem that Foxconn massive volume and construction of new robot friendly factories will mean faster adoption and use of new robotics than Rethink Robotics.

Foxconn will definitely be inspired by Rethink Robotics to adopt methods that will lower the cost and increase the capabilities of Foxconn robots.

It will be interesting to see if the innovations at Rethink Robotics will enable them to ultimately have a wider impact and higher volume of robots than Foxconn.

Ferroelectric Memristor could be the hardware basis for future neuromorphic computers

Arxiv - Ferroelectric Memristor (24 pages)

HP is planning to commercialize memristors for computer memory to replace flash memory in 2014. Memristors seem like they will cheaply scale to trillions of memristors on a chip. Research seems to show that memristor can also emulate synapses in the human brain. This means that memristors can provide the means to scale brain emulating hardware to human levels and beyond. It seems like a promising path to human level artificial general intelligence and greater than human level AI.

Memristors are continuously tunable resistors that emulate synapses. Conceptualized in the 1970s, they traditionally operate by voltage-induced displacements of matter, but the mechanism remains controversial. Purely electronic memristors have recently emerged based on well-established physical phenomena with albeit modest resistance changes. Here we demonstrate that voltage-controlled domain configurations in ferroelectric tunnel barriers yield memristive behaviour with resistance variations exceeding two orders of magnitude and a 10 ns operation speed. Using models of ferroelectric-domain nucleation and growth we explain the quasi-continuous resistance variations and derive a simple analytical expression for the memristive effect. Our results suggest new opportunities for ferroelectrics as the hardware basis of future neuromorphic computational architectures.

This paper was also published in Nature Materials

CIA and Jeff Bezos Bet on Dwave Systems' Adiabatic Quantum Computing

Technology Review - Bezos and In-Q-Tel (CIA Investment arm) are in a group of investors who are betting $30 million on DWave Systems If the bet works out, some of the world's thorniest computing problems, such as the hunt for new drugs or efforts to build artificial intelligence, would become dramatically less challenging.

D-Wave's supercooled processor is designed to handle what software engineers call "optimization" problems, the core of conundrums such as figuring out the most efficient delivery route, or how the atoms in a protein will move around when it meets a drug compound. "Virtually everything has to do with optimization, and it's the bedrock of machine learning, which underlies virtually all the wealth creation on the Internet," says Geordie Rose, D-Wave's founder and chief technology officer. In machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence, software examines information about the world and formulates an appropriate way to act in the future. It underpins technologies such as speech recognition and product recommendations and is a priority for research by companies, such as Google and Amazon, that rely on big data.

"Our intelligence community customers have many complex problems that tax classical computing architecture," Robert Ames, vice president for information and communication technologies at In-Q-Tel, said in a statement released today. In-Q-Tel's primary "customer" is the CIA, and the National Security Agency is another. Both are known to be investing heavily in automated intelligence gathering and analysis.

The Technology Review article plays up the criticism that DWave received and says that DWave Systems has been publicly quiet.

Nextbigfuture has had 40 articles on Dwave systems and over 80 articles on Adiabatic Quantum Computing. The criticism was wrong and was made without taking the time to understand what DWave was doing. DWAve has continued to make many important developments and announcements. The later work received less attention than the initial coverage. Although IEEE Spectrum and Technology Review have had articles covering Dwave in the intervening years.

Rethink Robotics Baxter Targets 300,000 small and medium sized US manufacturers

IEEE Spectrum - Today, large suppliers and their large customers dominate industrial robotics. But almost any manufacturer can afford a Baxter (or two). In the United States alone, there are roughly 300 000 small and medium-size manufacturers, Brooks points out. So it’s not inconceivable that Rethink could make humanoid robots a normal part of the manufacturing process for businesses of all sizes. And by improving the efficiency of human employees, it could make making things in the industrialized world just as cost effective as making them in the developing world. 

Baxter is unlike any other industrial robot. With two arms, each with seven axes of motion—or degrees of freedom, in robotic parlance—and a reach similar to that of a human, Baxter is designed to take over those simple, dumb, mindless tasks that humans hate to perform because they’re so, well, robotic. Whereas traditional industrial robots perform one specific task with superhuman speed and precision, Baxter is neither particularly fast nor particularly precise. But it excels at just about any job that involves picking stuff up and putting it down somewhere else while simultaneously adapting to changes in its environment, like a misplaced part or a conveyor belt that suddenly changes speed.

There are two other major barriers to the adoption of industrial robots that Rethink wants to overcome: ease of use and cost. As for the first, Baxter doesn’t rely on custom programming to perform new tasks. Once it’s wheeled into place and plugged into an ordinary power outlet, a person with no robotics experience can program a new task simply by moving Baxter’s arms around and following prompts on its user-friendly interface (which doubles as the robot’s face). And while a traditional two-armed robot, including sensors and programming, will typically set you back hundreds of thousands of dollars, Baxter costs just $22 000. To achieve that, Rethink designed the robot from scratch. Underneath Baxter’s plastic exterior lie thousands of ingeniously engineered parts and materials that enable the robot to do what it does for the cost of a midsize car.

Nextbigfuture had an interview with Rodney Brooks

Other Nextbigfuture articles on Rethink Robotics and Heartland Robotics (name of Rethink up until a few months ago

Over the next five years, it appears to me that Rethink Robotics will sell fewer robots than Foxconn will deploy into new Foxconn factories.

Fusion Propulsion Z-Pinch Engine Concept

Here is the 46 page paper on the Fusion Propulsion Z-Pinch Engine Concept.

The Z-Pinch dense plasma focus method is a Magneto-Inertial Fusion (MIF) approach that may potentially lead to a small, low cost fusion reactor/engine assembly1. Recent advancements in experimental and theoretical understanding of this concept suggest favorable scaling of fusion power output yield 2. The magnetic field resulting from the large current compresses the plasma to fusion conditions, and this process can be pulsed over short timescales (micro-second). This type of plasma formation is widely used in the field of Nuclear Weapons Effects testing in the defense industry, as well as in fusion energy research. A Decade Module 2 (DM2), ~500 KJ pulsed-power is coming to the RSA Aerophysics Lab managed by UAHuntsville in January, 2012.

The analysis of the Z-Pinch MIF propulsion system concludes that a 40-fold increase of Isp over chemical propulsion is predicted. An Isp of 19,436 sec and thrust of 3812 N-sec/pulse, along with nearly doubling the predicted payload mass fraction, warrants further development of enabling technologies.

This is a followup to a prior article

Skylon Spaceplane Project Troy Mars Mission

Alan Bond from Reaction Engines presents a talk about the latest developments about Skylon and Project Troy. This was one of a series of talks from the UK Mars Society Conference 2012 and was held at the National Space Centre in Leicester on the 25th August.

Skylon is a concept for a totally re-usable single-stage rocket plane that can reach low earth orbit. Project Troy is a concept for a large space-based assembly of a transportation system which can ferry people and cargo from Earth to Mars with all mission infrastructure being totally re-used for any future missions.

Nanoparticles can deliver antiaging therapies

A team of Spanish scientists has developed an intelligent nanodevice that lays the foundation for the future development of new therapies against aging. The device consists of nanoparticles that can selectively release therapeutic use substances in aged human cells. Its potential ranging from the treatment of diseases involving cellular degeneration or tissue such as cancer, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, among others, to accelerated aging pathologies (progerias).

"The nanodevice is that we have developed containing mesoporous nanoparticles in the galactooligosaccharide which one outer surface prevents the exit of the load and that selectively opens in degenerative phase cells or senescent cells. The proof of concept demonstrates for the first time can be selected chemicals released in these cells and not in others, "said Ramon Martinez Máñez, IDM Center researcher at the Technical University of Valencia and CIBER-BBN member.

Angewandte Chemie International - Targeted Cargo Delivery in Senescent Cells Using Capped Mesoporous Silica Nanoparticles

October 03, 2012

Zpinch Nuclear Fusion Pulse Space Propulsion Research

A team of scientists and researchers from UAHuntsville’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Boeing and Marshall Space Flight Center’s Propulsion Engineering Lab are busy putting together a strange looking machine they’re calling the “Charger-1 Pulsed Power Generator.” It’s a key element in furthering the development of nuclear fusion technology to drive spacecraft.

UPDATE - Highlights of the research paper and presentation.

The analysis of the Z-Pinch MIF propulsion system concludes that a 40-fold increase of Isp over chemical propulsion is predicted. An Isp of 19,436 sec and thrust of 3812 N-sec/pulse, along with nearly doubling the predicted payload mass fraction, warrants further development of enabling technologies.

Txchnologist - The goal would be to have a system flying in 2030 to enable a six week trip to Mars. It would have a speed of 62,600 mph.

Cortez likes to use a colorful analogy to explain the process. “Imagine using a 1-ton TNT equivalent explosive and putting it out the back end of a rocket. That’s what we’re doing here.”

Those pulses come from a bank of large capacitors, known as a Marx bank, which stores electrical charges for release on command. The wires, some composed of lithium 6 and others of lithium deuteride, provide the power pulses.

Multiple sclerosis disease progress stopped in Mice

University of Adelaide scientists have prevented the progression of multiple sclerosis in mice. MS is a progressive disease where the body attacks its own central nervous system, causing nerve inflammation and scarring. It results in the impairment of motor, sensory and cognitive function. Human trials were underway in other labs around the world, but any drug would be at least five years away.

"If this approach works in humans, it would stop the inflammation," she said.

"But it won't undo any damage to the nerves which has already occurred."

In animal trials, Dr Iain Comerford and colleagues at the university successfully prevented the progression of MS by inhibiting the molecule, known as PI3Kgamma, which activates the cells that cause the immune system to attack itself and cause the nerve damage.

China Opens more High Speed Rail

NZWeek - A new high-speed railway connecting central China’s Zhengzhou City and the eastern city of Wuhan opened last Friday. The Zheng-Wu high-speed railway, covers a distance of 536 km and trains will pass along it at a designed speed of 350 km per hour. The Zheng-Wu high-speed railway has cut the travel time from Zhengzhou to Wuhan from four and a half hours to two hours, said Li, integrating the central China economic zone and the Yangtze River Delta.

Investment in the Zheng-Wu high-speed railway hit 69.4 billion yuan (11 billion U.S. dollars), with its construction taking about four years, according to Yu Zhuomin, chief of the Wuhan Railway Station Bureau.

IBM Zurich microscope can see chemical bonds

BBC UK - A pioneering team from IBM in Zurich has published single-molecule images so detailed that the type of atomic bonds between their atoms can be discerned.

Science - Bond-Order Discrimination by Atomic Force Microscopy

ABSTRACT - We show that the different bond orders of individual carbon-carbon bonds in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and fullerenes can be distinguished by noncontact atomic force microscopy (AFM) with a carbon monoxide (CO)–functionalized tip. We found two different contrast mechanisms, which were corroborated by density functional theory calculations: The greater electron density in bonds of higher bond order led to a stronger Pauli repulsion, which enhanced the brightness of these bonds in high-resolution AFM images. The apparent bond length in the AFM images decreased with increasing bond order because of tilting of the CO molecule at the tip apex.

The bonds at centre appear shorter than those at the edges, as more electrons are present in them

Singularity Hub describes the IBM work.

IBM has refined their method to precisely measure the structural details of a single molecule. With their technique, they managed to measure very subtle differences in the distribution of electrons within the molecule’s bonds. How subtle? We’re talking 3 picometers or 0.000000000003 meters. That’s one-hundredth the diameter of an atom!

3Gear is another new gesture interface competitor

Technology Review - San Francisco-based startup called 3Gear has developed a gesture interface that can track fast-moving fingers. This is a competitor to Leap Motion.

Today the company will release an early version of its software to programmers. The setup requires two 3-D cameras positioned above the user to the right and left.

The hope is that developers will create useful applications that will expand the reach of 3Gear's hand-tracking algorithms. Eventually, says Robert Wang, who cofounded the company, 3Gear's technology could be used by engineers to craft 3-D objects, by gamers who want precision play, by surgeons who need to manipulate 3-D data during operations, and by anyone who wants a computer to do her bidding with a wave of the finger.

Cheap and Simply invisibility with plastic

A metal object can be made invisible with the help of ordinary plastic.

The object, however, does not become invisible to the human eye – only to electromagnetic radiation at microwave frequencies. In practical terms, this means that electromagnetic waves travelling, for example, between two antennas, do not detect an object located in their path, allowing the waves to travel the distance between them despite the obstacle, without any disruption to communications.

Previously, a similar effect has only been achieved using complex devices or expensive metamaterials with a right electromagnetic response.

Electronic Letters - Demonstration of electromagnetic cloaking of conducting object by dielectric material cover. (Pekka Alitalo and Constantinos Valagiannopoulos was published on 16 August 2012)

Acoustic cell-sorting chip may lead to cell phone-sized medical labs

A technique that uses acoustic waves to sort cells on a chip may create miniature medical analytic devices that could make Star Trek's tricorder seem a bit bulky in comparison, according to a team of researchers.

The device uses two beams of acoustic -- or sound -- waves to act as acoustic tweezers and sort a continuous flow of cells on a dime-sized chip, said Tony Jun Huang, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics, Penn State. By changing the frequency of the acoustic waves, researchers can easily alter the paths of the cells.

Huang said that since the device can sort cells into five or more channels, it will allow more cell types to be analyzed simultaneously, which paves the way for smaller, more efficient and less expensive analytic devices.

"Eventually, you could do analysis on a device about the size of a cell phone," said Huang. "It's very doable and we're making in-roads to that right now."

Slightly larger than a dime, this cell-sorting device uses two sound beams to act as acoustic tweezers.

New handheld 3d imaging device to aid primary care doctors

Eurekalert - In the operating room, surgeons can see inside the human body in real time using advanced imaging techniques, but primary care physicians, the people who are on the front lines of diagnosing illnesses, haven't commonly had access to the same technology – until now. Engineers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) have created a new imaging tool for primary care physicians: a handheld scanner that would enable them to image all the sites they commonly examine, and more, such as bacterial colonies in the middle ear in 3-D, or monitor the thickness and health of patients' retinas. The device relies on optical coherence tomography (OCT), a visualization technology that is similar to ultrasound imaging, but uses light instead of sound to produce the images.

To monitor chronic conditions such as ear infections, primary care physicians currently rely on instruments that are essentially magnifying glasses, says UIUC physician and biomedical engineer Stephen Boppart, who will present the team's findings at FiO. The new handheld imaging device would give doctors a way to quantitatively monitor these conditions, and possibly make more efficient and accurate referrals to specialists.

The scanners include three basic components: a near-infrared light source and OCT system, a video camera to relay real-time images of surface features and scan locations, and a microelectromechanical (MEMS)-based scanner to direct the light. Near-infrared wavelengths of light penetrate deeper into human tissues than other wavelengths more readily absorbed by the body. By measuring the time it takes the light to bounce back from tissue microstructure, computer algorithms build a picture of the structure of tissue under examination.

This is a schematic and picture of a handheld scanner doctors can use to monitor biofilms in the ear. It also shows a picture of a healthy middle ear and one covered with a biofilm.

Liver Cells, Insulin-Producing Cells, Thymus Tissue Can Be Grown in Lymph Nodes

Lymph nodes can provide a suitable home for a variety of cells and tissues from other organs, suggesting that a cell-based alternative to whole organ transplantation might one day be feasible, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and its McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. In a report recently published online in Nature Biotechnology, the research team showed for the first time that liver cells, thymus tissue and insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells, in an animal model, can thrive in lymph nodes despite being displaced from their natural sites.

Hepatitis virus infection, alcoholic cirrhosis and other diseases can cause so much damage that liver transplantation is the only way to save the patient, noted senior investigator Eric Lagasse, Pharm. D., Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Pathology, Pitt School of Medicine. Children with DiGeorge syndrome lack functional thymus glands to produce essential immune cells, and diabetes can be cured with a pancreas transplant.

Ectopic pancreas generation in the jejunal lymph node after islet transplantation.

Nature Biotechnology - The mouse lymph node as an ectopic transplantation site for multiple tissues

Rice University making reliable 3-D memories from silicon oxide and graphene

Researchers at Rice University are designing transparent, two-terminal, three-dimensional computer memories on flexible sheets that show promise for electronics and sophisticated heads-up displays.

The technique based on the switching properties of silicon oxide, a breakthrough discovery by Rice in 2008, was reported today in the online journal Nature Communications.

The Rice team led by chemist James Tour and physicist Douglas Natelson is making highly transparent, nonvolatile resistive memory devices based on the revelation that silicon oxide itself can be a switch. A voltage run across a thin sheet of silicon oxide strips oxygen atoms away from a channel 5 nanometers (billionths of a meter) wide, turning it into conductive metallic silicon. With lower voltages, the channel can then be broken and repaired repeatedly, over thousands of cycles.

That channel can be read as a “1″ or a “0,” which is a switch, the basic unit of computer memories. At 5 nm, it shows promise to extend Moore’s Law, which predicted computer circuitry will double in power every two years. Current state-of-the-art electronics are made with 22 nm circuits.

Nature Communication - Highly transparent nonvolatile resistive memory devices from silicon oxide and graphene

October 02, 2012

New device uses light to control light could increase Internet download speeds

The University of Minnesota has invented a unique microscale optical device that could greatly increase the speed of downloading information online and reduce the cost of Internet transmission. The device uses the force generated by light to flop a mechanical switch of light on and off at a very high speed. This development could lead to advances in computation and signal processing using light instead of electrical current with higher performance and lower power consumption.

University of Minnesota researchers have invented a novel microscale mechanical switch of light on a silicon chip.

Nature Communication - Multichannel cavity optomechanics for all-optical amplification of radio frequency signals

Europe Proposes Boat to Explore Saturn's moon Titan

Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is one of the most Earth-like bodies in the Solar System. With a thick atmosphere, a diameter between that of Earth and the planet Mercury, and a network of seas, lakes and rivers, it is in many respects more like a planet than a moon like the Earth’s.

The new plans, called the Titan Lake In-situ Sampling Propelled Explorer, proposes a boat-probe, propelled by wheels, paddles or screws. The probe would land in the middle of Ligeia Mare (the biggest lake, near Titan’s north pole), then set sail for the coast, taking scientific measurements along the way. The mission would last around six months to a year.

"The main innovation in TALISE is the propulsion system," says Igone Urdampilleta (SENER), a member of the TALISE team. "This allows the probe to move, under control, from the landing site in the lake, to the closest shore. The displacement capability would achieve the obtaining of liquid and solid samples from several scientific interesting locations on Titan's surface such as the landing place, along the route towards the shore and finally at the shoreline."

This rendering of the proposed TALISE probe shows one possible means of propulsion: paddle wheels on either side of the probe.

V3Solar spinning solar cone solves many concentrated solar design issues

V3solar’s Spin Cell is a spinning photovoltaic and specialized optics device with remote communication capabilities to enable efficient and cost effective electrical power generation.

By design, the Spin Cell has features that stand out in the solar industry and will assist market penetration, such as:

Built in solar tracking Graduated cooling Minimize wind sheer Increased power density Remote management Lower cost per watt produced

The Spin Cell is comprised of a conical shaped outer lens concentrator that provides efficient light concentration at a consistent focal width and focal range. Due to the patented conical shape, the Spin captures the optimum amount of sunlight during daylight hours eliminating the need for solar tracking and increasing electricity output, by design.

The lens concentrators are made up of a series of interlocking rings that connect to each other. The tubular lens produce substantial concentration of available light in light bands which effectively sweep over the moving PV. The lenses can be produced in a range of sizes to suit a variety of market needs reducing costs associated with developing Spin Cells with different power outputs.

Extreme heat normally associated with light concentration onto static PV material is avoided by the PV cycling in and out of the concentrated bands of light.

* Approximately a meter high and a meter wide and producing over 1kWp of electricity, the Sentinel can be used in a variety of configurations to suit solar farm deployments, industrial roof mounts or home installations.

* the power that holds 10 Spin Cells, or 10KWp, in a footprint of 10 square feet

Broad Group J220 Sky City Funded with Dec, 2012 Construction Start

Globe and Mail - Broad Group’s chairman Zhang Yue told The Financial Times last month that financing was in place for Sky City One, architects are finishing blueprints and construction is to begin in December, 2012.

The Sky City plan is for a 838-meter tall, 220 story, multi-use tower with 1 million square meters of floor space.

Local reports suggest some government approvals are outstanding and a spokeswoman for Broad Group, contacted by phone, offered no new details. “Construction in the project hasn’t started,” said Zhu Linfang, the company’s media manager. “All is going as planned. But we cannot arrange interviews on this project now, and I have no more information to release … We will do it when all is set.”

We had recently provided information on the SkyCity project from Wired Magazine coverage

While Jiang focuses on bringing Broad buildings to the world, her boss is fixated on the company’s most outlandish plan—the J220, a factory-built 220-floor behemoth that would just happen to be the tallest building in the world. It’s hard to say for sure that the 16-million-square-foot plan isn’t entirely a publicity stunt. But Zhang has hired some of the engineers who worked on the current height-record holder, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, and Broad has created two large models of “Sky City” (as the J220 has been nicknamed). The foundation is scheduled to be laid in November at a site in Hunan; if everything goes well, the building will be complete in March 2013. All in all, including factory time and onsite time, construction is expected to take just seven months. Again, that’s assuming it really happens: When my guide at the T30 plugs in one of the models and the lights flicker on, he tells me, “My chairman says we have to attract eyes. We have to shock the world.”

But if all Broad ever does is build 30-story skyscrapers—in 15 days, at $1,000 per square meter, with little waste and low worker risk, and where the end result can withstand a 9.0 quake—it will have shocked the world quite enough.

October 01, 2012

Carnival of Space 269

1. The Meridiani Journal - The Curiosity rover has confirmed what previous evidence from orbit seemed to indicate - that a river once ran through Gale crater.

Elevation map showing the ancient streambed called Peace Vallis, where it cut through the rim of Gale crater and emptied into the crater floor. The rover’s landing site is marked by the +. Click for larger image. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

2. Centauri Dreams looks at ways to represent interstellar distances, with particular emphasis on a major extension to the Sagan Planet Walk in Ithaca, NY, one that takes us all the way to Hawaii (and Alpha Centauri)

Smart Phones and Tablets reach 50% market penetration in the US and will have HDTV screen quality in Next generation smartphones

1. Detroit Free Press - Half of all adult Americans now own either a tablet computer or a smartphone, and one-third use their mobile devices to view news stories and video clips at least once a week. That's according to a survey by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, which polled more than 9,500 adults from late June to early August.

Devices based on Google Inc.'s Android platform are gaining momentum. Pew found that just over half of tablet owners reported owning Apple's iPad, compared with 81% a year ago. Forty-eight percent now own an Android-based device, including Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle Fire.

2. Gigaom - Starting this month, Sharp will have a full production line producing full HD displays for smartphones. The 5-inch LCD screens will support 1920 x 1080 resolution, which is the highest found on HDTVs that are in stores today. That works out to an eye-popping 443 pixels per inch, or a pixel density roughly 30 percent higher than the Retina display used on Apple’s iPhone.

Construction of Japanese Ohma Nuclear reactor to resume

World Nuclear News - The Japan Electric Power Development Corp (J-Power) will resume construction of the Ohma nuclear power plant in Aomori prefecture. It will be the first Japanese nuclear construction project to restart since all such projects were suspended following the Fukushima accident.

Work to build the 1383 MWe (gross) Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) in Aomori prefecture was 40% complete in March 2011 when a tsunami caused the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co's (Tepco's) Fukushima Daiichi plant. An extended hiatus followed, during which Japan developed a new energy strategy.

The start of construction of the Ohma plant was originally due in August 2007, with commercial operation planned for March 2012. However, the imposition of more stringent seismic regulations put back the start of construction May 2008 and commercial operation to November 2014. J-Power said that it has not yet scheduled a new date for the start of operation "but intends to review the matter in the future based on progress in construction."

In addition to the Ohma plant, construction was also suspended of unit 3 of Chugoku Electric Power Co's Shimane plant, while the start of construction of unit 1 of Tepco's Higashidori plant has been deferred from the original April 2011 date.

Canada Revises GDP Statistics upwards by 2.6%

Statistics Canada revised Canada's historical GDP statistics from 1981 to 2012

Revisions to the growth in GDP over the revision period were not substantial. Over the entire 1982 to 2011 period, the mean absolute revision to the annual nominal growth rate in GDP was 0.15 percentage points, while the mean absolute revision to the annual real growth rate in GDP was 0.14 percentage points.

In 2007 (the new base and reference year for the Canadian economic accounts), the nominal level of GDP was revised upward by $36.4 billion, or 2.4% of the previous estimate of GDP.

ActionForex - As a result of these changes, the level of GDP, in nominal terms, is 2.6% higher than previously reported in the second quarter of 2012. The most significant contributor to this upward revision was the inclusion of R&D expenditures and military weapons systems in business and government investment.

The revisions imply a slightly faster pace of growth in recent quarters. This greater momentum could prompt some upward revisions to 2012 GDP forecasts.

Canada's population should pass 35 million by the end of 2012

Canada's GDP in Q2 2012 is C$1.81 trillion

Extra cost for Hybrid cars is down to $2500

Technology Review - an accumulation of improvements have lowered the cost premium on hybridcars from $6000 to $2500. The extra cost is about 40% of what it was a few years ago.

The drop in cost is due to an accumulation of incremental technology improvements, along with economies of scale. And advances going forward—better batteries, electric motors, and power electronics and transmissions—could cut costs by another 50 percent.

At Toyota, for example, the company shifted from a 500-volt electrical system to a 650-volt one, a decision that produced "a host of benefits," says Justin Ward, advanced power-train program manager at the Toyota Technical Center. The company was able to reduce the cost and weight of copper wiring, use cheaper power transistors in the electronics that control the hybrid system, and make the electric motor cheaper and smaller.

September 30, 2012


Psy is the Korean rapper who has exploded onto the internet with his "Gangnam style" video. It is not yet the most viewed video on Youtube. However, it will likely crack the top ten this week.

The tenth most popular video is Enimem - "Not Afraid" at about 360 million views. Gangnam Style is at 334 million (after 60 days) and is increasing its views by about 5 to 10 million each day. A Justin Bieber video is number one with about 780 million views. By the end of 2012, it will probably take 1 billion views to be number 1 on Youtube.

For those who have not seen it.

The elevator scene - the person in the elevator was a friend of Psy who visited during the shooting of the video. They improvised that scene.

From a comment - The word "oppa" (literally older brother) is an informal title like "daddy" and "mommy" in English. This title, "oppa," can be used only by a girl when she calls out to or talks to either (1) her real older brother in her family, or (2) a male friend slightly older than she is (not older than, very roughly, 10 years, in which case the title "a-jo-ssi," literally uncle, would be more appropriate). For the second use, the older male friend does not necessarily have to be her boyfriend, although he can be. "Oppa" conveys a sense of warm friendship, so all Korean guys love to be called "oppa" by younger girls--especially by those they find attractive. As for what the difference between "oppa" and "oppan" is, "oppan" simply means "oppa is." So "Oppan Gangnam style" means "(girls!) Older brother is Gangnam style,"

Gangnam is the richest district in Korea full of expensive condos many of which are well over US $2 million dollars.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 124

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