September 21, 2013

The Climate change report will confirm that the rate of warming has slowed or been flat since 1998

Climatologists and climate-change deniers agree on at least one thing this week: everyone is awaiting the landmark U.N. report on climate change that will be presented at next week's meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The report will also include data that indicates the rate of warming from 1998 to 2012 slowed to about half the average rate since 1951, citing natural variability in the climate system, as well as cooling effects from volcanic eruptions and a downward phase in solar activity.

What won't be there is a more thorough explanation for the supposed decline in warming.

The lack of warming data has been around for a while.

Barclays Sees China Economy Growing By Less Than 6% By 2020

Recent economic data out of China have pointed to stabilization in the world's second-largest economy, prompting a series of broker upgrades to China’s economic growth forecast for this year. But that’s as good as it’s going to get, according to some estimates.

After market hours on Tuesday, Barclays said it was cutting its 2014 projection on China’s gross domestic product to 7.1 percent from 7.4 percent.

Barclays believes that China’s potential rate of growth is already down to about 8 percent currently and may shift toward 6 percent quickly, partly due to tightening demographic constraints. The days of double-digit growth might be over, especially now that the Chinese government has neither the appetite nor much capacity to implement another big stimulus program.

Molten Air - A new, highest energy class of rechargeable batteries with up to 4.5 times the energy capacity of lithium air batteries

Arxiv - Molten Air - A new, highest energy class of rechargeable batteries

Where are the high energy capacity, cost effective batteries urgently needed for a range of medical, transportation and power generation devices, including in greenhouse gas reduction applications such as overcoming the battery driven “range anxiety” of electric vehicles, and increased capacity energy storage for the electric grid? This study introduces the principles of a new class of batteries, rechargeable molten air batteries, and several battery chemistry examples are demonstrated. The new battery class uses a molten electrolyte, are quasi-reversible (rechargeable), and have amongst the highest intrinsic battery electric energy storage capacities. Three examples of the new batteries are demonstrated. These are the iron, carbon and VB2 molten air batteries with respective intrinsic volumetric energy capacities of 10,000, 19,000 and 27,000 Wh liter-1. These compare favorably to the intrinsic capacity of the well known lithium air battery (6,200 Wh liter-1) due to the latter’s single electron transfer and low density limits.

Higher energy capacity, cost effective batteries are needed for a range of electronic, transportation and greenhouse gas reduction power generation devices. Needed greenhouse gas battery reduction applications include overcoming the battery driven “range anxiety” of electric vehicles, and increased capacity energy storage for the electric grid.

The molten iron air battery. Charging (in this case from dissolved LiFeO2, dissolving 1:1 Li2O to Fe2
O3) forms a thick iron layer on the cathode as described in the text. Rights side: Discharge polarization (following electrochemical charge to form iron) of the air and iron electrodes in 730°C molten lithium carbonate with LiFeO2.

Cygnus spacecraft on track to dock with the International Space Station

Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station. After a flawless launch from the Wallops Island Flight Facility on the Virginia Coast on Tuesday, the spacecraft has performed two of the demonstrations NASA is requiring. Cygnus will continue to close in on the ISS, performing the final eight maneuvers on Sunday before being berthed at the station.

After the Antares rocket boosted Cygnus into a low Earth orbit, the Orbital Sciences team performed three burns of the spacecraft’s engines to raise its orbit and begin the approach to the ISS. The third “delta V” burn occurred yesterday afternoon and lasted 189 seconds, for a 20.7 meter per second change in velocity. The fourth and final scheduled delta V burn is scheduled for this afternoon.

With the orbital burns complete, Cygnus will catch up with and make its approach to the station Saturday and into early Sunday. A little after 5:00 a.m. EDT Sunday, the spacecraft will reach a point 250 meters below the station. Orbital Sciences will perform the final eight demonstration maneuvers, including an aborted approach, before taking the final few steps to the station. The spacecraft will stop 10 meters from the station, where it will be placed in “free drift” mode, meaning the onboard navigation is no longer controlling its location.

The Cygnus spacecraft is an unmanned resupply spacecraft being developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation as part of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) developmental program. It is competing with the Spacex Dragon.

Europe approves breakthrough drug to treat multiple sclerosis by rebooting the immune system

A transformational new treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) - the result of over three decades of research in Cambridge - was approved today by the EU agency responsible for regulating new drugs.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the drug Alemtuzumab, to be known by the brand name Lemtrada and previously called Campath-1H (for ‘Cambridge Pathology 1st Human’), for the treatment of MS.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks nerve fibres and their protective insulation, the myelin sheath, in the brain and spinal cord. The resulting damage prevents the nerves from ‘firing’ properly and ultimately leads to their destruction, resulting in physical and cognitive disabilities.

Alemtuzumab reboots the immune system by first depleting a key class of immune cells, called lymphocytes. The system then repopulates, leading to a modified immune response that no longer regards myelin and nerves as foreign. But in so doing, roughly one third of MS patients develop another autoimmune disease after Alemtuzumab, mainly targeting the thyroid gland and more rarely other tissues especially blood platelets.

Multiple sclerosis affects almost 100,000 people in the UK, 400,000 in the US and several million worldwide. Symptoms of the disease can include loss of physical skills, sensation, vision, bladder control, and intellectual abilities.

Although approved for use in EU, the drug has not yet been assessed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for the treatment of MS.

Synthesis of Chemically Bonded Graphene/Carbon Nanotube Composites and their Application in Large Volumetric Capacitance Supercapacitors

Chemically bonded graphene/carbon nanotube composites as flexible supercapacitor electrode materials are synthesized by amide bonding. Carbon nanotubes attached along the edges and onto the surface of the graphene act as spacers to increase the electrolyte-accessible surface area. Our lamellar structure electrodes demonstrate the largest volumetric capacitance (165 F cm^-3) ever shown by carbon-based electrodes.

12 pages of supplemental material in Advanced Materials journal.

New hydrophobic material could benefit power plants, cooling systems.

Steam condensation is key to the worldwide production of electricity and clean water: It is part of the power cycle that drives 85 percent of all electricity-generating plants and about half of all desalination plants globally, according to the United Nations and International Energy Agency. So anything that improves the efficiency of this process could have enormous impact on global energy use.

It has been known for years that making steam-condenser surfaces hydrophobic — that is, getting them to repel water — could improve the efficiency of condensation by causing the water to quickly form droplets. But most hydrophobic materials have limited durability, especially in steamy industrial settings. The new approach to coating condenser surfaces should overcome that problem, the MIT researchers say.

The covalent-bonding process the team developed is significantly more stable than previous coatings, he says, even under harsh conditions.

Tests of metal surfaces coated using the team’s process show “a stark difference,” Paxson says. In the tests, the material stood up well even when exposed to steam at 100 degrees Celsius in an accelerated endurance test. Typically, the steam in power-plant condensers would only be about 40 degrees Celsius, Varanasi says.

New sensor could prolong the lifespan of jet engines and other high temperature engines

A new, highly-accurate temperature sensor could save manufacturers millions in maintenance costs, lower fuel consumption, and prolong the lifespan of jet engines, nuclear reactors and other types of large gas turbine engines.

A temperature sensor developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge could improve the efficiency, control and safety of high-temperature engines. The sensor minimises drift –degradation of the sensor which results in faulty temperature readings and reduces the longevity of engine components.

The new sensor, or thermocouple, has been shown to reduce drift by 80 per cent at temperatures of 1200 degrees Celsius, and by 90 per cent at 1300 degrees Celsius, potentially doubling the lifespan of engine components.

Journal of Engineering for Gas Turbines and Power - An Improved Nickel Based MIMS Thermocouple for High Temperature Gas Turbine Applications

Ultra-high mass density carbon nanotube forests on conductive supports

A new approach to growing high-density carbon nanotube forests on conductors can potentially replace and outperform the current copper-based interconnects in a future generation of devices. In the future, more robust carbon nanotube forests may also help improve thermal interface materials, battery electrodes, and supercapacitors.

The work was published in Applied Physics Letters. Researchers are growing ultra-high mass density carbon nanotube forests at 450 °C on Ti-coated Cu supports using Co-Mo co-catalyst. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy shows Mo strongly interacts with Ti and Co, suppressing both aggregation and lifting off of Co particles and, thus, promoting the root growth mechanism. The forests average a height of 0.38 μm and a mass density of 1.6 g cm−3. This mass density is the highest reported so far, even at higher temperatures or on insulators. The forests and Cu supports show ohmic conductivity (lowest resistance ∼22 kΩ), suggesting Co-Mo is useful for applications requiring forest growth on conductors.

DARPA funds improved bullet proof robotic mule as baby steps to the Star Wars imperial walker continue

Robotics experts at unmanned vehicles expert Boston Dynamics will develop an enhanced version of the company's Legged Squad Support System (LS3) robot under terms of a $10 million contract awarded by DARPA. Boston Dynamics is developing the four-legged LS3 to help Army and Marine Corps infantry to carry as much as 400 pounds of a squad’s load, follow squad members through rugged terrain, and interact with troops in a natural way, similar to a trained animal and its handler.

The enhanced version of the LS3 system will have
* increased reliability and usability
* enhanced survivability against small arms fire
* a quiet power supply to support stealthy tactical operations.

China currency will emerge as a global currency by 2037 or with reforms around 2025

While trade has been and can be an important driver for the rise of the RMB as a reference currency, it cannot on its own ensure the eclipse of the dollar globally until the mid-2030s. However, if China reforms its financial and external sectors consistent with ensuring the rise of the RMB as the preeminent reserve currency within the next 10 to 15 years, that would also bring forward the date for the emergence of a global RMB currency bloc, eclipsing the dollar.

Load Following Thorium Molten Salt Reactors

Thorium molten salt(Gen‐IV)reactor technology overcomes the severe problems of conventional uranium PWR plants.

Materials development in molten salt neutronic effects enable high ramp‐rate load following that complements solar PV renewable production.

Enable solar and wind to be considered into a reliable energy source. Solar that gets block by clouds or wind variability messes up the grid.

Utilities have been mandated in some areas to have solar and wind power but they are also mandated or contracted to provide stable power. A reliable load following system is what is needed and thorium molten salt reactors will fulfill that need.

September 20, 2013

A near term lead cooled integral reactor that is passively safe for the Canadian oilsand market

LEADIR-PS100 was presented by Ralph Hart at TEAC5 (Thorium Energy Alliance Conference) in May, 2013. Ralph Hart is Northern Nuclear chief engineer.

LEAD‐cooled Integral Reactor ‐ Passively Safe is being developed for the Canadian oilsand market.

LEADIR‐PS100 has an output of 100 MWth
• Initial market focus is the Canadian Arctic and Western Canadian Oilsands.
• The small LEADIR‐PS100s, while meeting market demands, will serve as demonstration plants.
• The creep, crawl, walk,run approach is adopted.
• Future LEADIR‐PS reactors may have larger capacity, higher temperature capability, operate on a Thorium fuel cycle.

Joe Eck has made his seventh room temperature superconductor and has found a theory for why his method and materials work

Superconductors.ORG (Joe Eck) reports the 38 C superconductor discovered in July 2013 has been reformulated to produce a Meissner transition near 42 Celsius (107F, 315K). This was accomplished by substituting tin (Sn) into the lead (Pb) atomic sites of the D212 structure (shown below left), changing the formula to Tl5Sn2Ba2SiCu8O16+. Multiple magnetization plots clearly show diamagnetic transitions consistently appearing about 4 degrees higher than with Pb in the same atomic site(s). This is the seventh material found to superconduct above room temperature.

A theory put forth nearly 20 years ago seems to explain why planar weight disparity correlates so strongly with high temperature superconductors.

In the mid 1990's Howard Blackstead of Notre Dame and John Dow of A.S.U., postulated that oxygen located in the "chain layer" of a crystal lattice was being compressed into a metallic superconducting state.

"Experimental evidence indicates that the holes of the hypocharged oxygen in the charge-reservoir regions contribute primarily to the superconductivity, contrary to most current models of high- temperature superconductivity, which are based on superconductivity originating in the cuprate-planes. The data suggest that a successful theory of high-temperature superconductivity will be BCS-like and will pair holes through the polarization field, perhaps electronic as well as vibrational polarization."

Hypercharged copper, hypocharged oxygen, and high-temperature superconductivity

Pearl River Delta Megacity Growing faster than planned

Guangzhou already had more than 16 million people in 2012 instead of a plan for 15 million in 2020.

There is plan to integrate the nine major cities of the Pearl River Delta along with Hong Kong and Macau. The Greater Pearl River Delta has about 60 million people in it now. The GDP of the area is about US$1.1 trillion (2013 est). By 2020, the pearl river delta region could have a population of 100 million and a GDP of $2 to 2.5 trillion. The GDP figure would put it into the range of France or the UK.

Guangdong province had a population of 106 million in 2012 instead of plans for 102 million in 2015.

September 19, 2013

3D Printing of a lunar base using lunar soil will print buildings at 3.5 meters per hour

Setting up a lunar base could be made much simpler by using a 3D printer to build it from local materials. Industrial partners including renowned architects Foster + Partners have joined with ESA to test the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar soil.

This is a case where 3d printing would win out over regular manufacturing. Most of the material is lunar dirt but with added magnesium oxide and a binding ink. This greatly reduces the weight of the material to be brought to the moon. There has been previous work on using carbon nanotubes and epoxy to make lunar concrete.

Foster + Partners devised a weight-bearing ‘catenary’ dome design with a cellular structured wall to shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation, incorporating a pressurised inflatable to shelter astronauts.

A hollow closed-cell structure – reminiscent of bird bones – provides a good combination of strength and weight.

The base’s design was guided in turn by the properties of 3D-printed lunar soil, with a 1.5 tonne building block produced as a demonstration.

The UK’s Monolite supplied the D-Shape printer, with a mobile printing array of nozzles on a 6 meter frame to spray a binding solution onto a sand-like building material.

“First, we needed to mix the simulated lunar material with magnesium oxide. This turns it into ‘paper’ we can print with,” explained Monolite founder Enrico Dini.

“Then for our structural ‘ink’ we apply a binding salt which converts material to a stone-like solid.

“Our current printer builds at a rate of around 2 meter per hour, while our next-generation design should attain 3.5 meter per hour, completing an entire building in a week.”

Photonic laser thrusters video and research papers

Young Bae recently received a $500,000 NASA phase 2 NIAC grant for Propellant-less Spacecraft Formation-Flying and Maneuvering with Photonic Laser Thrusters

Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT)

A photonic laser thruster bounces a laser between mirrors to boost the momentum transfer by recycling the photons.

Dr. Y.K. Bae demonstrated a Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT) built from off-the-shelf optical components and a YAG gain medium, and the maximum amplified photon thrust achieved was 35 µN for a laser output of 1.7 W with the use of a HR mirror with a 0.99967 reflectance. This performance corresponds to an apparent photon thrust amplification factor of ~3,000. More importantly, in the experimental demonstration, the author accidentally discovered that the PLT cavity is highly stable against the mirror motion and misalignment unlike passive optical cavities. In fact, in the demonstration experiment by Dr. Bae, the full resonance mode of the PLT was maintained even when one of the HR mirror was held by a hand. In a more systematic experiment, the PLT cavity was demonstrated to be stable against tilting, vibration and motion of mirrors. Subsequent theoretical analysis by the author showed that PLT can indeed be used for propulsion applications, and proposed Photonic Laser Propulsion (PLP), the propulsion with PLT. The reason for the observed stability results from that in the active optical cavities for PLT and PLP the laser gain medium dynamically adapts to the changes in the cavity parameters, such as mirror motion, vibration and tilting, which does not exist in the passive optical cavities.

Here was a paper from 2007 on the Photonic laser thruster (PLT)

Solid State Batteries could double the range of electric cars

Solid Power LLC is a Colorado University spinoff company founded for the development and commercialization of an innovative solid-state rechargeable battery. Solid Power was recently awarded a $3.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy for the purpose of creating a battery that can improve electric vehicle driving range.

The rechargeable batteries that are standard in today’s electric vehicles—as well as in a host of consumer electronics, such as mobile phones and laptops—are lithium-ion batteries, which generate electricity when lithium ions move back and forth between electrodes in a liquid electrolyte solution.

Engineers and chemists have long known that using lithium metal as the anode in a rechargeable battery—as opposed to the conventional carbon materials that are used as the anode in conventional lithium-ion batteries—can dramatically increase its energy density. But using lithium metal, a highly reactive solid, in conjunction with a liquid electrolyte is extremely hazardous because it increases the chance of a thermal runaway reaction that can result in a fire or an explosion.

The critical innovation added by Lee and Stoldt that allows their solid-state lithium battery to out-perform standard lithium-ion batteries is the construction of the cathode, the part of the battery that attracts the positively charged lithium ions once they’re discharged from the lithium metal. Instead of using a solid mass of material, Lee and Stoldt created a “composite cathode,” essentially small particles of cathode material held together with solid electrolyte and infused with an additive that increases its electrical conductivity. This configuration allows ions and electrons to move more easily within the cathode.

“The real innovation is an all-solid composite cathode that is based upon an iron-sulfur chemistry that we developed at CU,” Stoldt said. “This new, low-cost chemistry has a capacity that’s nearly 10 times greater than state-of-the-art cathodes.”

Specific attributes of the solid state battery technology includes:

* A specific energy (Wh/kg) that is nearly 3-times greater than current Li-ion batteries
* Low-cost ceramic ceramic precursor materials
* Materials that are inherently non-volatile and non-flammable

US Crude oil production could be over 10 million bpd by the of 2015 and 12 million bpd by 2020

Texas oil production from just two fields, the Eagle Ford shale and the Permian Basin, is likely to total well over 2 million barrels of oil per day (MMbopd) this year, if recent output trends continue, and could approach 2.5 MMbopd sometime in 2014.

Production in the Eagle Ford play was about 599,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd) during the first six months of 2013, according to figures from the Texas Railroad Commission. Projections by the Wall Street Journal are that output will reach 930,000 bopd sometime this year. The Eagle Ford is expected to move well past the 1-million barrels-of-oil-per-day threshold by mid-2014.

Meanwhile, output in the Permian Basin, which contains both shale plays and conventional plays, was about 890,000 bopd during the first half of 2013. Output is projected reach as high as 1.4 million bopd sometime in 2013, according to Stephen Shepherd for investment banking firm Simmons & Co. International.

The current pace of annual increase in Texas was 30 percent or more, indicating production could surpass 3 million barrels per day by early 2014 and reach 4 million barrels per day by 2015.

A jewel-like geometric object simplifies particle interactions calculations from something difficult for a supercomputer to pen and paper calculations

Physicists have discovered a jewel-like geometric object that dramatically simplifies calculations of particle interactions and challenges the notion that space and time are fundamental components of reality.

The amplituhedron looks like an intricate, multifaceted jewel in higher dimensions. Encoded in its volume are the most basic features of reality that can be calculated, “scattering amplitudes,” which represent the likelihood that a certain set of particles will turn into certain other particles upon colliding

The revelation that particle interactions, the most basic events in nature, may be consequences of geometry significantly advances a decades-long effort to reformulate quantum field theory, the body of laws describing elementary particles and their interactions. Interactions that were previously calculated with mathematical formulas thousands of terms long can now be described by computing the volume of the corresponding jewel-like “amplituhedron,” which yields an equivalent one-term expression.

“The degree of efficiency is mind-boggling,” said Jacob Bourjaily, a theoretical physicist at Harvard University and one of the researchers who developed the new idea. “You can easily do, on paper, computations that were infeasible even with a computer before.”

Illustration by Andy Gilmore. Artist’s rendering of the amplituhedron, a newly discovered mathematical object resembling a multifaceted jewel in higher dimensions. Encoded in its volume are the most basic features of reality that can be calculated — the probabilities of outcomes of particle interactions.

Arxiv - Scattering Amplitudes and the Positive Grassmannian

Etzioni will be executive director of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence

Billionaire Paul G. Allen hired Dr. Oren Etzioni as the Executive Director of his artificial intelligence institute.. Etzioni will be in charge of expanding the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence with new hires, and directing and developing a wide range of AI initiatives.

Etzioni joins Allen's institute from the University of Washington's Computer Science Department, where he was the Washington Research Foundation Entrepreneurship Professor and Director of the Turing Center. His research has focused on solving fundamental problems in AI, with an emphasis on automatic learning of knowledge from text.

Regular Manufacturing is over 2000 times bigger than the 3D Printing market and regular 2D desktop printing sales are down

Many futurists and forecasters project that 3D printing will become dominant in manufacturing. Yet additive manufacturing is more than 2000 times smaller than the overall manufacturing industry. Overall 2D desktop printing sales have been falling since 2010. Here is an analysis of relative market sizes and the likely impact of 3D printing out to 2025.

China generated $2.9 trillion in manufacturing output in 2012 (UN statistics) and the US generated $2.43 trillion as the world’s second-largest manufacturing economy. World manufacturing was about $9 trillion in 2012. In 2011, China’s manufacturing output surged by 23 percent while manufacturing output in the U.S. only increased by 2.8 percent,” the American Enterprise Institute explains.

The combined sales revenue (including global sales) of the top 500 US-based manufacturing firms in 2012 was $6.01 trillion, which was a 17.2% increase over 2011 sales of $5.13 trillion. Basically measured by sales revenue manufacturing has a larger economic value.

The Additive manufacturing (3D Printing) industry is expected to continue strong double-digit growth over the next several years. By 2015, Wohlers Associates believes that the sale of AM products and services will reach $3.7 billion worldwide, and by 2019, surpass the $6.5 billion mark.

$3.7 billion for Additive manufacturing in 2015 is more than 2000 times smaller than $9 trillion for regular manufacturing in 2012.

2D Desktop printing sales are down about 30% since 2010.

Google Moonshots : Radical Life Extension, Robotic Cars, Asteroid Mining, Cheap Space Telescopes, Quantum Computing, Machine Learning

Google or the Google Founders are making well funded attempts to conquer big technological challenges. Success in these major endeavors will alter the trajectory of the future of humanity.

Here is the list of technologies and technological challenges which Google or the Google Founders are taking on.

Radical Life Extension

Radical life extension via the new startup Calico. Even the announcement has brought more legitimacy to radical life extension. Aubrey de Grey of SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence - repairing the damage of aging) has indicated that it will make his fund raising efforts easier. Art Levinson, x-CEO of Genentech is leading Calico. Genentech was bought by Roche for $47 billion in 2009. Biotech and pharma companies will take notice of goals laid out by Calico.

Robotic Cars

Google made robotic cars legitimate. There was already the University research and the DARPA challenge, but robotic cars were not being seriously pursued by any car company. Anyone might talk about self driving cars but they would be targeting 20 years away, which would basically be never. They would be car show demos forever. Tesla is now pushing for 90% self driving cars within three years. States and countries are making them legal and are working out the regulations. Mostly self driving cars within 5 years only happens because Google made serious efforts to push it into reality and commercialization.

Just in the U.S., self driving cars can generate $2 trillion a year in revenue and even more market cap.

Driverless car technology has the very real potential to save millions from death and injury and eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars of costs. Google’s claims for the car, as described by Sebastian Thrun, its lead developer, are:

* We can reduce traffic accidents by 90%.
* We can reduce wasted commute time and energy by 90%.
* We can reduce the number of cars by 90%.

September 18, 2013

Superhuman hearing is the beginning of Upgraded Cyborg body parts

Michael Alpine has created an ear that is a great proof of concept for combining biological and electrical systems. The ear is one of the simpler organs with no vasculature, it’s pure cartilage. This is the first of many upgradeable body parts. “What I’m most excited about is using these 3-D printers, interwoven with advances in material science, and adding biology to them—not just taking the ear to the next level.”

This will give us the ability to hear outside of our normal 20-20,000hz spectrum, giving us the ability to hear what bats or dolphins hear.

Aubrey de Grey Welcomes Google to the War on Aging

To paraphrase Churchill’s words following the Second Battle of El Alamein: Google‘s announcement about their new venture to extend human life, Calico, is not the end, nor even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

As little as 20 years ago, when Aubrey de Grey joined the pitifully small band of academics who call themselves biogerontologists, the prospects for defeating aging were so bleak that it was widely considered unscientific even to discuss it: according to the respectable view, our only option was to continue discovering more about the nature of aging until, by some miracle in the distant future, our body of knowledge took sufficient shape to reveal a route to intervention. A string of advances in the late 1990s, mostly made by researchers not focused on aging per se, changed that: it allowed, for the first time, the formulation of a realistic divide-and-conquer strategy against mankind’s most formidable foe. Many components of this strategy were at a dauntingly early stage of development, but all could be described in sufficient detail to offer hope for foreseeable success. As so often in science, many established luminaries voiced skepticism, and some still do; but the plan progressively attracted the support of world-leading experts in all the relevant disciplines, and as it has done so, funding —albeit far too little to maximise the rate of progress —has materialized too.

Google, Elon Musk, China are raising the bar on competition and forcing more aggressive technological target setting

Google is using Solve for X and major projects like self driving cars and Google Glass to attempt to leapfrog the competition to achieve radical improvement. Google's latest effort is to legitimize efforts to achieve radical life extension with their new company Calico. This will force more aggressive target setting from biotech companies.

Elon Musk is taking a handoff from Google's self driving car effort to push for a 90% hands free driving experience within 3 years.

Before Google the major car companies were not pushing for self driving cars.
The major car companies starting shooting for self driving cars in the 2020-2025 timeframe.
Now Elon Musk could force car companies to get far more aggressive with self driving cars and robotic assisted driving.

DARPA trying to make a Mach 10+ unmanned spaceplane that can fly ten times in ten days

DARPA has established the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program. The program aims to develop a fully reusable unmanned vehicle that would provide aircraft-like access to space. The vehicle is envisioned to operate from a “clean pad” with a small ground crew and no need for expensive specialized infrastructure. This setup would enable routine daily operations and flights from a wide range of locations. XS-1 seeks to deploy small satellites faster and more affordably, while demonstrating technology for next-generation space and hypersonic flight for both government and commercial users.

XS-1 envisions that a reusable first stage would fly to hypersonic speeds at a suborbital altitude. At that point, one or more expendable upper stages would separate and deploy a satellite into Low Earth Orbit. The reusable hypersonic aircraft would then return to earth, land and be prepared for the next flight. Modular components, durable thermal protection systems and automatic launch, flight, and recovery systems should significantly reduce logistical needs, enabling rapid turnaround between flights.

Key XS-1 technical goals include flying 10 times in 10 days, achieving speeds of Mach 10+ at least once and launching a representative payload to orbit. The program also seeks to reduce the cost of access to space for small (3,000- to 5,000-pound) payloads by at least a factor of 10, to less than $5 million per flight.

XS-1 would complement a current DARPA program already researching satellite launch systems that aim to be faster, more convenient and more affordable: Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA). ALASA seeks to propel 100-pound satellites into orbit for less than $1 million per launch using low-cost, expendable upper stages launched from conventional aircraft.

Tesla plans 90% hands free self driving car within three years

Electric car company Tesla Motors is working to produce a car capable of running on "auto-pilot" within the next three years, CEO Elon Musk said, joining tech giant Google and rival carmakers in the race to roll a driverless car into the market.

The California-based company's autonomous car would allow the driver to hand 90 percent of the control of the car over to the vehicle's computer system, Musk said in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper.

Fully autonomous cars would take longer to develop, he said.

The self-driving car would be developed in-house using Tesla's own technology, not that of another company, Musk said in comments confirmed by a Tesla spokesperson.

Google is launching Calico an antiaging company which will be led by Art Levinson who was CEO of Genentech

Google is launching Calico, a new company that will focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases. Art Levinson, Chairman and former CEO of Genentech and Chairman of Apple, will be Chief Executive Officer.

Moonshot thinking to be applied to antiaging

Announcing this new investment, Larry Page, Google CEO said: “Illness and aging affect all our families. With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives. It’s impossible to imagine anyone better than Art—one of the leading scientists, entrepreneurs and CEOs of our generation—to take this new venture forward.” Art said: “I’ve devoted much of my life to science and technology, with the goal of improving human health. Larry’s focus on outsized improvements has inspired me, and I’m tremendously excited about what’s next.”

A major Calico initiative will be significantly expanding human lifespan. The September 30th issue of Time magazine will have its cover page article on Calico and this Google initiative.

Google is keeping its exact plans close to the vest. But it is likely to use its data-processing might to shed new light on age-related maladies. Sources close to the project suggest Calico will start with a small number of employees and focus initially on researching new technology.

Space based antimatter production for scaling to grams of antimatter per year

Positron Dynamics has seed funding from Paypal billionaire Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs. Initial simulations show that as much as 10 micrograms of positrons could be produced each week with a linear accelerator," says co-founder Ryan Weed, PhD, a physicist and former cryogenic engineer for Jeff Bezos’s space flight company Blue Origin. We could see the beginning of the age of commercial antimatter within five years.

There have been other space based antimatter production concepts, which could scale to a gram of antimatter per year using about 11 GWe of power. This would be about 2000 times the production of what Positron Dynamics would try to produce from one linear accelerator (520 micrograms per year)

Also storage of antimatter in the vacuum of space could be easier. Storage and handling of significant amounts of antimatter are a greater unknown than the larger scale production of antimatter.

Proposed orbital antimatter storage using superconducting rings

A Plasma Magnet concept for capturing antimatter trapped in planetary magnet fields consists of a relatively small (10-100 meter) four-loop antenna situated within a neutral plasma. By supplying current to opposing loops with a relative phase difference, a rotating magnetic field (RMF) is established near the antenna. The RMF is operated at a sufficiently high frequency so as to elicit a response in the electron population, while the motion of the proton population (due to their relatively high mass) may be ignored. The resulting current due to the electron motion sustains a large-scale magnetic field within the plasma. The principle driver of performance is the RMF antenna’s ability to influence the electron population; the more electrons driven by the RMF, the stronger the resultant magnetic field. We can quantify this by establishing a magnetization criterion, and determining a penetration depth for the RMF that will depend on (i) the antenna coil radius; (ii) the antenna operating current; and (iii) the temperature of the bulk plasma.

Overall antiproton collection rates exceed micrograms per year for typical systems that are just 100m in size while drawing just a few hundred kilowatts of power. This implies that the complete device could be inserted into its operational orbit with a single launch.

Though the plasma magnet significantly reduces the need for high current wires, RF coils would still benefit from higher current densities. High temperature superconductors with current densities much greater than 10^10 A/m2 at 90K will enable far more compact and mass-efficient systems.

US crude oil production at 7.827 million bpd

US crude oil production have reached another new post-1989 record of 7.827 million bpd.

All liquids oil production is at 12.395 million bpd
Crude oil and natural gas liquids is at 10.325 million bpd
Crude oil and natural gas liquids and ethanol/biofuels is 11.243 million bpd.
Net oil imports are at about 6.2 million bpd which is about half the peak levels in 2005.

Saudi Arabia has been producing about 11.5 million bpd of Crude oil and natural gas liquids while Russia has been at about 10.3 million bpd.

Crude oil production for the leading three countries
Russia 10.0 million bpd
Saudi Arabia 9.6 million bpd
USA 7.827 million bpd

September 17, 2013

AIDS vaccine candidate appears to completely clear virus from the body

An HIV/AIDS vaccine candidate developed by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University appears to have the ability to completely clear an AIDS-causing virus from the body. The promising vaccine candidate is being developed at OHSU's Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute. It is being tested through the use of a non-human primate form of HIV, called simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV, which causes AIDS in monkeys. Following further development, it is hoped an HIV-form of the vaccine candidate can soon be tested in humans. These research results were published online today by the journal Nature. The results will also appear in a future print version of the publication.

"To date, HIV infection has only been cured in a very small number of highly-publicized but unusual clinical cases in which HIV-infected individuals were treated with anti-viral medicines very early after the onset of infection or received a stem cell transplant to combat cancer,” said Louis Picker, M.D., associate director of the OHSU Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute. “This latest research suggests that certain immune responses elicited by a new vaccine may also have the ability to completely remove HIV from the body.”

Nature - Immune clearance of highly pathogenic SIV infection

Asia Pacific forecasted to add 103 nuclear reactors by 2025

The Asia-Pacific region is scheduled to install around 103 nuclear reactors by 2025, in order to both meet rising power demands and lower carbon emissions, according to the latest forecast from research and consulting firm GlobalData.

Turkey and Vietnam plan to install six reactors each by 2025.

Other regions will also see an increase in installations, with 88 reactors in Europe, 24 in North America, eight in the Middle East and Africa, and three in South and Central America during the forecast period.

China may add double the hydro power Three Gorges Dam every year until 2030 to fight coal pollution

China is expected to spend more than $3.9 trillion on installing 88 GW of new power stations every year between now and 2030 – and more than half of them will be hydropower plants according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. China’s power capacity will more than double by 2030 and renewables including large hydro will account for more than half of new plants, eroding coal’s dominant share and attracting investment of $1.4 trillion. China’s power sector carbon emissions could be in decline by 2027.

By 2015, China’s hydro power installations are targeted to reach around 325 GW, and with a newly revised target of 430 GW (up from 380 GW) by 2020. This is adding hydro power at about 25 GW per year. The Three Gorges Dam produces 22 GW (80 TWh per year)

Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysed China’s power sector based on four separate scenarios — Traditional Territory, New Normal, Barrier Busting, and Barrier Busting with Carbon Price.

In the central scenario, dubbed ‘New Normal’, China’s total power generation capacity more than doubles by 2030, with renewables including large hydro contributing more than half of all new capacity additions.

This, together with an increase in gas-based generation, would drive the share of coal-fired power generation capacity down from 67% in 2012 to 44% in 2030. In absolute terms, however, even in this scenario, coal will continue to grow rapidly until 2022, adding on average 38GW per year – equal to three large coal plants every month. It will then grow at a much lower rate, installing on average only 10GW per year until 2030.

If China is able to reduce coal power to 44% of its energy mix that would be a little better than the share of coal power that the US had in 2008 before the surge in natural gas.

China currently has about 260 GW of hydro power producing about 900 TWh of electricity.

China has hydropower potential of about 2400 TWh.

44 GW of hydropower for 17 years seems to be beyond the hydro potential of China. The 800 TWh available in Siberia would seem to be needed as well

Carnival of Space 319

The Carnival of Space 319 is up at Dear Astronomer.

TheSpacewriter investigates whether alien moons could offer habitable environments.

Exomoons orbiting planets similar to Neptune, Saturn or Jupiter in the habitable zone of a 0.7-solar-mass star (that is, a star that is 70 percent the mass of the Sun) and with orbital eccentricities typical for solar system moons will be shielded by their planet’s magnetic field, but only if they are closer than the runaway greenhouse edge. That means that they are protected, but their atmospheres will run wild. Ultimately, it means an exomoon can be shielded inside its planet’s magnetosphere, or it can be habitable. But it can’t be both.

So, this is not so good news for future Pandorans around gas giants similar to our own. But, if you play with the variables and come up with a Neptune-like world that is very rocky, there’s a chance it might have habitable worlds AND a giant magnetosphere to shield them.

Millionaires and Billionaires did great in 2012 while the 99% wait for trickle down improvement

Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management released the 2013 World Wealth Report (WWR), including new insight into the world’s high net worth individuals (HNWIs)—those with US$1 million or more in investable assets.

The world’s population and aggregate investable wealth of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) grew strongly in2012, reaching record levels. HNWI population increased by 9.2% to reach 12.0 million, after remaining flat in 2011. Meanwhile, aggregate investable wealth increased 10.0% to US$46.2 trillion, after declining slightly in 2011. HNWI wealth in 2012 represented a new level of strength,going well past the historical high of US$42.7 trillion set in 2010. Relatively stronger growth rates in higher wealth bands (US$5 million or more) led the growth of overall investable wealth globally.

North America and Asia-Pacific, the two largest HNWI regions, drove global growth, expanding 11.5% and 9.4% respectively in HNWI population, and 11.7% and 12.2% in wealth. North America reclaimed its position as the largest HNWI market as its market share of 3.73 million HNWIs overtook Asia-Pacific’s 3.68 million. However, Asia-Pacific is home to the majority of the fastest-growing HNWI country markets and is expected to surpass North America again in the near future.

HNWI wealth is forecasted to grow by 6.5% annually to US$55.8 trillion by 2015, driven mainly by growth in Asia-Pacific HNWI wealth.

September 16, 2013

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 174

1. ANS Nuclear Cafe - ANS (American Nuclear Society) Will Enter the Climate Change Dialogue.

In the past, the American Nuclear Society has not formally engaged in energy policy debates on the issue of climate change for a variety of reasons.

However, the results of a members' poll on climate change are in, and it is clear that ANS members are ready for the Society to participate in this important policy discussion.

A message from American Nuclear Society President Donald R. Hoffman on the results of this poll, and next steps.

2. At Nuke Power Talk this week, Gail Marcus looks at the recent molasses pipeline leak in Hawaii and notes that the reports about its potential environmental, ecological, and even human impacts bear strong similarities to discussions of the potential impacts of oil spills and radioactive releases. She also notes that this is not the first "molasses disaster," pointing to the fact that potential risks come from many of our modern activities.

World Bank expects China to hit GDP growth target

China should hit its GDP growth target of 7.5 percent this year, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said on Sunday.

Several investment banks upgraded near-term forecasts for China's growth after a run of strong data for August, including factory output and exports, and many now have full-year growth above the government's official target of 7.5 percent.

UBS, Deutsche Bank, CICC and Nomura were among the banks to upgrade their growth forecasts for 2013 after the recent data, and now all have it 7.6 percent or higher.

Kim was in Shanghai as part of a four-day tour focusing on expanding collaboration with China on climate change.

Power consumption in China, the world's top energy user, is expected to grow more than 9 percent this year, faster than the 5.5-percent growth rate in 2012, the State Electricity Regulatory Commission said in January.

Much of that consumption is driven by inefficiently designed and poorly insulated buildings

North Dakota Oil Production reaches a record 874681 barrels per day in July

Voyager passed the heliopause which is the solar wind dominated region of space one year ago and the New Horizons Pluto Probe will not pass Voyager ever

The Voyager team put the new data together with information from the other instruments onboard, they calculated the moment voyager 1 escaped the solar system occurred on or about 25 August, 2012. Sensors on Voyager had been indicating for some time that its local environment had changed.

Voyager is now embedded in the gas, dust and magnetic fields from other stars. Voyager still feels a gravitational tug from the Sun, just as some comets do that lie even further out in space. But to all intents and purposes, it has left what most people would define as the Solar System.

The data that finally convinced the mission team to call the jump to interstellar space came from the probe's Plasma Wave Science (PWS) instrument. This can measure the density of charged particles in Voyager's vicinity.

Readings taken in April/May this year and October/November last year revealed a near-100-fold jump in the number of protons occupying every cubic meter of space.

Graphene could be used to make cheaper optical chips

Researchers at MIT, Columbia University and IBM’s T. J. Watson Research Center describe a promising new application of graphene, in the photodetectors that would convert optical signals to electrical signals in integrated optoelectronic computer chips. Using light rather than electricity to move data both within and between computer chips could drastically reduce their power consumption and heat production, problems that loom ever larger as chips’ computational capacity increases.

Optoelectronic devices built from graphene could be much simpler in design than those made from other materials. If a method for efficiently depositing layers of graphene — a major area of research in materials science — can be found, it could ultimately lead to optoelectronic chips that are simpler and cheaper to manufacture.

“Another advantage, besides the possibility of making device fabrication simpler, is that the high mobility and ultrahigh carrier-saturation velocity of electrons in graphene makes for very fast detectors and modulators,” says Dirk Englund, the Jamieson Career Development Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, who led the new research.

In a new graphene-on-silicon photodetector, electrodes (gold) are deposited, slightly asymmetrically, on either side of a silicon waveguide (purple). The asymmetry causes electrons kicked free by incoming light to escape the layer of graphene (hexagons) as an electrical current.

September 15, 2013

Gliese 1214b likely has a water-rich atmosphere.

Gliese 1214b is about 2.7 times Earth’s diameter and is almost 7 times as massive. It is located 42 light years away in the constellation Ophiuchus.

The Japanese researchers used the 8.2 meter Subaru telescope to make the find.

Super-earths are an emerging population of extrasolar planets whose masses and radii lie between those of the Earth and the Uranus/Neptune. The nature of super-Earths, such as internal structure and atmospheric compositions, remains almost unknown since there is no super-Earth in our Solar System. Transiting super-Earths are thus invaluable targets for observations to learn the nature of super-Earths in details.

GJ 1214b discovered by Charbonneau et al. (2009) is the first-ever transiting super-Earth around an M dwarf which enables us to study its atmosphere through so-called transmission spectroscopy, thanks to the small host star’s size (1/5th the radius of our sun).

Arxiv - Multi-Color Transit Photometry of GJ 1214b through BJHKs-Bands and a Long-Term Monitoring of the Stellar Variability of GJ 1214

The article is also in the Astrophysical journal

International space station extension to 2028 would likely cost at least $24 billion so larger inflatable space stations would be a better option

Boeing, the prime contractor, is trying to prove that the station’s components can hold up through at least 2028. Three years ago, Congress extended funding for the station through 2020, and NASA’s international partners — Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency — have made a similar commitment. But behind the scenes, NASA officials are working to persuade the White House to make a decision, pronto, to keep the orbital laboratory flying after 2020.

The alternative is to crash the massive structure into the South Pacific.

The decision needs to be made in 2014, said William Gerstenmaier, the top NASA official for human spaceflight.

Russia is talking of starting a second-generation space station on its own. China has launched two crews to its first space laboratory module, Tiangong 1, and plans to construct a 60-ton space station by 2020.

The odds are heavily against the continuation of the station post 2020. Japan or Europe are unlikely to contribute money for the ISS after 2020.

ISS annual operating costs are over $3 billion. Assuming no new additional costs extending the space from 2020 to 2028 would cost $24 billion.

Scientific proof for quantumness for a special quantum system that does not yet exist

DWave Systems 512 qubit quantum annealing system was mentioned in an article that mainly talks about a new proof of quantumness for a specially built and as yet non-existent two qubit system. So the researchers are saying if you build a quantum system in the way that they describe then it would be easy to prove that it is or is not quantum. But their method is useless for the systems. So they mention the Dwave System controversy but present a proof which will do nothing to settle that argument.

Dwave has many research papers that provide proof of quantum entanglement and other quantum aspects to their calculations. However, many quantum researchers dispute speedup over classical and how much and how useful the quantumness that does exist contributes.

There is new work that would provide an improved error corrected system for Dwave like quantum annealers

Arxiv - Error corrected quantum annealing with hundreds of qubits

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