October 05, 2013

Will mitigations on climate and the environment stay at the city and regional level ?

There is a $20 billion plan to protect New York from rising sea levels.

China is looking to convert coal into synthetic gas which will improve air quality in China but will increase overall climate change gas emissions by 30 to 70%.

Are these examples of wealthier areas being able to afford local and regional mitigation while not being willing to act on the global problems ?

The city and regional level solutions have a clearer connection between the mitigation and the problem to be mitigated. Paying a tax for the $20 billion plan for New York protection is clearly beneficial to people near the water with multimillion dollar homes. $20,000 from one million people or $200,000 from one hundred thousand people can make sense if they are clearly preventing losses that are greater than those amounts.

The politics and self interest for global solutions are more problematic.

Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and other wealthy places can get organized to pay and prevent threats. New Orleans and coastal cities in Africa may be able to pay for regional mitigation and may not be able to convince others in their nation to help them pay for it.

George Church Keynote Speech from Antiaging Conference and Other Videos

In the SENS6 Conference's keynote address, Harvard University's Dr. George Church describes recent advances in genomics and in the reading, writing, and interpretation of -omes fields. He also discusses PersonalGenomes.org, his initiative to glean new medical insights by gathering data on the genotypes, microbiomes, environments, traits, and stem cells of participants. He proceeds to cover various methods of improving RNA sequencing to gather data on transcriptomes, then provides additional detail on engineering therapeutics for individual patients. Before concluding, Dr. Church discusses protective alleles and offers a broad overview of genomic engineering strategies. In particular, he notes the considerable promise the CRISPR approach holds for the field.

Donate to SENS here to advance antiaging research

IPCC indicates worst case climate scenarios very unlikely this century

IPCC now believes that in the 21st Century, Atlantic Ocean circulation collapse is “very unlikely,” ice sheet collapse is “exceptionally unlikely,” and catastrophic release of methane hydrates from melting permafrost is “very unlikely.”

Chapter 12 of the upcoming Fifth IPCC report

Nextbigfuture has indicated that more attention should be focused on particulate and soot air pollution. Researchers used a comprehensive analysis with global modeling methods that looks at relationships between deaths and exposure to particulate matter and ozone air pollution. They found that 500,000 premature deaths per year could be avoided by the year 2030, of which two-thirds would be in China. By 2050, 800,000 to 1.8 million premature deaths could be avoided.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 177

Progress towards better thermoelectric materials

The increasing worldwide energy consumption calls for the design of more efficient energy systems. Thermoelectrics could be used to convert waste heat back to useful electric energy if only more efficient materials were available. The ideal thermoelectric material combines high electrical conductivity and thermopower with low thermal conductivity. In this regard, the intermetallic type-I clathrates show promise
with their exceedingly low lattice thermal conductivities. Here we report the successful incorporation of cerium as a guest atom into the clathrate crystal structure. In many simpler intermetallic compounds, this rare earth element is known to lead, through the Kondo interaction, to strong correlation phenomena including the occurrence of giant thermopowers at low temperatures. Indeed, we observe a 50% enhancement of the thermopower compared with a rare earth-free reference material. Importantly, this enhancement occurs at high temperatures and we suggest that a rattling enhanced Kondo interaction underlies this effect.

October 04, 2013

Spacex reusable rockets and Bigelow Aerospace inflatable stations

Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space stations needs low cost launches that are human rated.

Spacex could have a reusable first stage as early as 2014, but Bigelow needs human rated launch capability. The larger modules need Spacex Heavy launch capabilities which could be proved in 2014 as well. Human rated Spacex launches might take until 2016-2019.

Bigelow has stated on multiple occasions that he is prepared to fund Bigelow Aerospace with about US$500 million through 2015 in order to achieve launch of full-scale hardware.

In December 2012, Bigelow began development work on Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) under a $17.8 million NASA contract. In 2015, BEAM is projected to be transported to ISS inside the unpressurized cargo trunk of a SpaceX Dragon during the SpaceX CRS-8 cargo mission. The spaceflight is intended to test the BEAM module's structural integrity, leak rate, radiation dosage and temperature changes over a notional two-year long mission. At the end of BEAM's mission, the module is planned to be removed from the ISS and burn up during reentry.

Spacex could recover and possibly reuse the first stage of Falcon 9 in 2014

Elon Musk has laid out his plans for recovery and reusability of the first stage of the Falcon 9. SpaceX recover and possibly even reuse the first stage of the Falcon 9 in 2014.

Recovery of the first stage of the Falcon 9 involves a supersonic retro-propulsion with three engines and a second burn involving the center engine that allows the stage to do a precise and controlled landing. These two critical burns for recovery were initiated during the recent mission that lofted the Cassiope satellite into orbit.

All three engines were fired during the first descent burn and the first stage survived re-entry into the atmosphere.

Musk explained at the post flight press conference that this achievement was significant, given that previously SpaceX’s “first stages always essentially exploded upon re-entering the atmosphere due to the extreme forces they encountered.”

The second burn, involving the center engine, was also initiated during the Cassiope mission and was also successful.

However, despite both descent burns being successful, the stage did not achieve a controlled landing. Because the first stage did not have landing gear on this flight to help stabilize it, the stage ended up spinning to a degree that was greater than what could be controlled with the gas thrusters.

Musk explained that the landing gear on the upgraded Falcon 9 does more than just land the first stage, it also acts to stabilize the stage upon descent much like fins do on an aircraft. The spinning of the first stage centrifuged the propellant and caused the stage to run out of propellant before hitting the water.

Ultra-thin insulation coating makes superconducting wires more efficient and ten times thinner

Researchers from the RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies and Chiba University have developed a high-temperature superconducting wire with an ultra-thin polyimide coating only 4μm thick, more than 10 times thinner than the conventional insulation used for high-temperature superconducting wires. By drastically reducing the ratio of insulation to conductor in the wire, the research overcomes one of the key obstacles to the development of more compact superconducting coils for use in a new generation of medical and scientific devices.

Superconductivity is a phenomenon whereby at ultra-low temperatures an electric current can travel through material with zero resistance. Coils made of superconducting wires are used as magnets in a variety of devices including MRI machines, NMR spectrometers and superconducting linear motor trains.

Cheap, spray-on solar cells developed by Canadian researchers

Silicon-free solar cells, light and flexible enough to roll up or use as window blinds, are under development at a University of Alberta lab.

The solar cells are made using nanoparticles — microscopic particles just 30 to 40 atoms across — that are very cheap to produce from zinc and phosphorus, said Jillian Buriak, a University of Alberta chemistry professor and senior research officer of the National Institute of Nanotechnology.

“We turn these things into inks or paints that you can spray coat onto plastics,” Buriak told Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald in an interview that airs Saturday.

The efficiency of the solar cells is “not great,” she acknowledged, but that’s something her team is working on.

The fact that they’re “so cheap to make,” she added, means they will only have to reach 7.5 per cent efficiency before they will be commercially competitive with conventional energy sources such as coal-electric generation.

ACS Nano - Solution-Processed Zinc Phosphide (α-Zn3P2) Colloidal Semiconducting Nanocrystals for Thin Film Photovoltaic Applications

Wildcat running robot has reached 16 mph without any tethered cable

WildCat is a four-legged robot being developed to run fast on all types of terrain. So far WildCat has run at about 16 mph on flat terrain using bounding and galloping gaits. The video shows WildCat's best performance so far. WildCat is being developed by Boston Dynamics with funding from DARPA's M3 program.

Boston Dynamics is funded by the DARPA's Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program. They first developed a prototype called Cheetah that broke all speed records for legged robots last year. Cheetah was reached 29 mph (46 km/h), but it was tethered to an external power source and had the benefit of running on a smooth treadmill while being partially balanced by a boom arm.

The eventual goal is to produce a four-legged robot that can run at speeds of up to 50 mph, on “all types of terrain.” While it’s fun to think of WildCat robots chasing down enemy combatants on the battlefield, the main purpose of the M3 (Maximum Mobility and Manipulation) program is simply to investigate how we can create robots that are much more fluid and flexible than they currently are. It would be naive to think that some version of Cheetah/WildCat won’t eventually be used in battle, though. Perhaps to run supplies to the frontline, or perhaps for more aggressive acts, such as a suicidal robotic bomb that runs into the enemy line and explodes.

Boston Dynamics and DARPA now have a complete family of robots:
A human (Atlas)
canine (BigDog)
feline (WildCat)
Mule - Ox (LS3).

The US military might one day field a completely robotic army, with Atlas firing the weapons, BigDog acting as the pack mule, and WildCat providing rapid, highly maneuverable support and flanking. Plus they will a variety of air drones. They will have drone carriers able to lift cars and trucks.

Electrostatic charging of jumping droplets could lead to more efficient power plants

MIT researchers have discovered that tiny water droplets that form on a superhydrophobic surface, and then “jump” away from that surface, carry an electric charge. The finding could lead to more efficient power plants and a new way of drawing power from the atmosphere.

Miljkovic says this was an extension of previous work by the MIT team. That work showed that under certain conditions, rather than simply sliding down and separating from a surface due to gravity, droplets can actually leap away from it. This occurs when droplets of water condense onto a metal surface with a specific kind of superhydrophobic coating and at least two of the droplets coalesce: They can then spontaneously jump from the surface, as a result of a release of excess surface energy.

In the new work, “We found that when these droplets jump, through analysis of high-speed video, we saw that they repel one another midflight,” Miljkovic says. “Previous studies have shown no such effect. When we first saw that, we were intrigued.”

Nature Communications - Electrostatic charging of jumping droplets

October 03, 2013

Coal high in fluorine and iron pyrite makes hydroflouric acid to mess up bones and teeth of people in Guizhou, China

Some coal is high in fluorine and also has iron pyrite. The combination is deadly - when burned it make hydrofluoric acid. (H/T Chris Phoenix

Excess fluorine consumption can often cause dental fluorinosis, a condition in which excess fluorine is deposited in the teeth, discoloring them. In more severe cases, fluorine deposition in the bones can lead to osteofluorosis, which can cause disfigurement, deformity, and chronic pain.

One area in which osteofluorosis is distressingly common is Guizhou, China. Over the past decade, this disease here was linked to the combustion of high Fluorine coal. Studies showed that the clay that was intermixed with the coal was high in F, and a steady stream of recommendations has come along describing how this must be getting aerosolized in smoke ,and adhering to food, particularly corn and chilies hung up in houses to dry.

Flourine appeared inside uncut chilies, and sometimes was associated with silica- particulate matter which should not be able to penetrate food and is biologically inactive.

An adult suffering osteofluorosis in Majiazhuang village in Zhijin County.

Chinese Science Bulletin - Potential release of hydrogen fluoride from domestic coal in endemic fluorosis area in Guizhou, China

Three major vertical farming proposals with Sky City being likely to be built first

Vertical farming is the idea of putting farms inside high rises and skyscrapers.

Unlike traditional farming in non-tropical areas, indoor farming can produce crops year-round. All-season farming multiplies the productivity of the farmed surface by a factor of 4 to 6 depending on the crop. With some crops, such as strawberries, the factor may be as high as 30.

Furthermore, as the crops would be sold in the same infrastructures in which they are grown, they will not need to be transported between production and sale, resulting in less spoilage, infestation, and energy required than conventional farming encounters. Research has shown that 30% of harvested crops are wasted due to spoilage and infestation, though this number is much lower in developed nations.

Despommier suggests that, if dwarf versions of certain crops are used (e.g. dwarf wheat developed by NASA, which is smaller in size but richer in nutrients), year-round crops, and "stacker" plant holders are accounted for, a 30-story building with a base of a building block (5 acres (20,000 m2)) would yield a yearly crop analogous to that of 2,400 acres (9.7 km2) of traditional farming.

French design firm Vincent Callebaut Architects recently unveiled another urban vertical "farmscraper" masterplan concept, this time for the expanding city of Shenzhen, China. Dubbed Asian Cairns, the project consists of six towers of pebble-like structures that have been stacked together to create a productive, mixed-use projects.

Callebaut's proposal is for six sustainable buildings over a 79-acre area and divided into ovular, blob-like sections that look like pebbles polished by years of running water. Each structure would be 1,300-feet high and have 111 floors, and each protruding blob, or floor, built around a central tower, would provide space for growing crops, grass, even miniature forests.

© Vincent Callebaut Architects

Electrowinning process could lower the cost of Titanium by up to 60 percent

A Case Western Reserve University proposal for a low-cost, energy-efficient method to extract the strategic metal titanium from ore has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy for contract negotiations. This one-year project will be funded by ARPA-E at about $675K through the program on Modern Electro/Thermo-chemical Advances in Light-metal Systems.

With a high strength-to-weight ratio and unparalleled chemical stability, titanium is critically important for applications in aerospace, transportation and defense. However, the current process used to refine titanium from ore is extremely energy-intensive, making titanium expensive, thus limiting its widespread use.

"Our project, if successful, will lower the cost of titanium by up to 60 percent", said Rohan Akolkar, associate professor of chemical engineering and the principal investigator on the project.

The CWRU team proposes to use an electrolytic process, called electrowinning, to directly extract titanium from molten titanium salts. A specialized electrochemical reactor will be designed and built at CWRU to facilitate a stable electrowinning process to produce the metal.

Better Protein Creation May Be Secret of Longevity for the World's Longest-Living Rodent

Naked mole rats live long lives—about 30 years—and stay healthy until the very end. Now biologists at the University of Rochester have new insights into the animal's longevity—better-constructed proteins.

Proteins are involved in nearly all functions of an animal cell, and consequently, are essential to all organisms. But before proteins can do their job, they must fold into the appropriate shapes that allow them to connect to and interact with other structures in the cell. Naked mole rats make virtually perfect proteins (40 times fewer errors than regular mice).

Naked mole rats are small, hairless, subterranean rodents native to eastern Africa.

PNAS - Naked mole-rat has increased translational fidelity compared with the mouse, as well as a unique 28S ribosomal RNA cleavage

Foundations of 100 story Broad Group Skyscraper and test sections of the Sky City Building

A site is indicating that the foundations of a Broad Group 100 story (J100) factory mass produced skyscraper has been laid. Broad Group is famous for building 15 story buildings in 6 days and 30 story building in 15 days. They are also getting permits to build a 200+ story skyscraper that would be world's tallest. They are moving ahead with a 100 story skyscraper.

Petawatt femtosecond laser shooting ten times per second in 2016

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), through Lawrence Livermore National Security LLC (LLNS), has been awarded more than $45 million to develop and deliver a state-of-the-art laser system for the European Union's Extreme Light Infrastructure Beamlines facility.

The design goal for the "High repetition-rate Advanced Petawatt Laser System" (HAPLS) calls for peak powers greater than one petawatt (1015 watts, or 1,000,000,000,000,000 watts) at a repetition rate of 10 hertz, with each pulse lasting less than 30 femtoseconds, or 0.00000000000003 seconds. HAPLS combines sophisticated semiconductor diode laser technology with advanced optics, integrated control systems and techniques for managing the production of ultra-short pulses of light delivered at a repetition rate that is well-suited for the various applications planned for study at the facility.

Researchers from LLNL's NIF & Photon Science Directorate will work with scientists from the Czech Institute of Physics to design, develop, assemble and test the system at LLNL. After completion of qualification testing, the HAPLS will be transported to the ELI Beamlines facility in 2016, where it will be commissioned for use by the international scientific community.

10 Terawatt desktop laser

A compact new generation optical amplifier has been constructed by physicists from the Laser Centre of the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Faculty of Physics of the Warsaw University. The apparatus is extremely efficient and small enough to fit on a desktop and is able to generate over 10 terawatt light pulses.

They produce very short (femtosecond) laser pulses with a giant power of 10 terawatt. The new amplifier represents an important step towards construction of compact, portable, relatively low cost high power laser devices that could revolutionize, e.g., anti-cancer therapies.

“Theoretically, the efficiency of parametric amplifiers can reach over 50%. In practice, the best amplifiers of this type are operated at an efficiency of about 30%. We have reached this level already now, and what's more, in a really compact device”, says Dr Yuriy Stepanenko (IPC PAS), the chief constructor of the amplifier, adding: “We still improve our setup. In the coming months we are going to increase the amplifier's efficiency by another a few per cent on one hand, while on the other we intend to increase the power of laser pulses up to a few tens of terawatts”.

US becomes number one producer of oil and gas combined

The U.S. is overtaking Russia as the world's largest producer of oil and natural gas, a startling shift that is reshaping markets and eroding the clout of traditional energy-rich nations.

U.S. energy output has been surging in recent years, a comeback fueled by shale-rock formations of oil and natural gas that was unimaginable a decade ago. A Wall Street Journal analysis of global data (from EIA, Energy Information Administration) shows that the U.S. is on track to pass Russia as the world's largest producer of oil and gas combined this year—if it hasn't already.

The U.S. produced the equivalent of about 22 million barrels a day of oil, natural gas and related fuels in July, according to figures from the EIA and the International Energy Agency. Neither agency has data for Russia's gas output this year, but Moscow's forecast for 2013 oil-and-gas production works out to about 21.8 million barrels a day.

U.S. imports of natural gas and crude oil have fallen 32% and 15%, respectively, in the past five years, narrowing the U.S. trade deficit.

DNA nanotechnology opens new path to super-high-resolution molecular imaging

Researchers create blinking DNA probes that could help overcome longstanding limits of optical microscopy. It is an inexpensive and easy-to-use new microscopy method to simultaneously spot many tiny components of cells.

The DNA-based microscopy method could potentially lead to new ways of diagnosing disease by distinguishing healthy and diseased cells based on sophisticated molecular details. It could also help scientists uncover how the cell's components carry out their work inside the cell.

Wyss Institute scientists have begun programming DNA to help make specific targets in the cell blink. This leads to sharp images of cellular parts that are typically too small to see in a light microscope

Graphene based holographic disk technology could mean denser storage and revolutionary flat screen TV and solar cells

Swinburne University of Technology researchers have shown the potential of a new material for transforming secure optical information storage.

By focusing an ultrashort laser beam onto the graphene oxide polymer, the researchers created a 10-100 times increase in the refractive-index of the graphene oxide along with a decrease in its fluorescence. (The refractive index is the measure of the bending of light as it passes through a medium.)

"The unique feature of the giant refractive-index modulation together with the fluorescent property of the graphene oxide polymer offers a new mechanism for multimode optical recording," Professor Gu said.

To demonstrate the feasibility of the mechanism, the researchers encoded the image of a kangaroo in a computer generated hologram. The hologram was then rendered as a three-dimensional recording to the graphene oxide polymer. The encrypted patterns in the hologram could not be seen as a normal microscope image, but could be retrieved in the diffracted mode.

"The giant refractive index of this material shows promise for merging data storage with holography for security coding," Professor Gu said.

"This exciting feature not only boosts the level of storage security, but also helps to reduce the operation costs of big data centres that rely on multiple physical duplicates to avoid data loss."

The researchers say it could also revolutionise flat screen TV and solar cell technology.

"The giant refractive index we discovered shows the promise of graphene to merge electronics and photonics for the platform of the next generation information technologies."

The researchers say they’ve reached a density of around 0.2 terabits per cubic centimeter, or 3.2 terabits per cubic inch. It’s hard to compare holographic to non-holographic storage, but hard drives are slowly creeping towards 1 terabit per square inch, while Blu-ray discs are a few orders of magnitude less, in the gigabits-per-square-inch range.

Nature Scientific Reports - Giant refractive-index modulation by two-photon reduction of fluorescent graphene oxides for multimode optical recording

Genetically Modified Bacteria Produce 50 Percent more Biofuel

Conventional biofuels are either too expensive to compete with fossil fuels or they release so much carbon dioxide that they’re hardly worth making—or both.

The UCLA advance, which increases the amount of biofuel that can be made from sugar by 50 percent, could make it cheaper to produce biofuels from a variety of sources, especially biomass such as wood chips and grass.

Since the new approach produces more ethanol from sugar, less land would be needed to produce corn or biomass. And that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions involved in farming (such as from clearing land and using diesel to power farm equipment).

The biggest cost savings will be for cellulosic ethanol derived from biomass. Sugar from cellulosic sources is much more expensive than sugar from corn or sugarcane, so there are greater benefits to getting more biofuel out of that sugar.

Researchers still need to demonstrate that it’s possible to grow organisms with the genetic changes at a large enough scale to produce commercial biofuels.

Nature - Synthetic non-oxidative glycolysis enables complete carbon conservation

Heading to 5.9 nanometers gates in 2026 and new tunneling transistor designs and materials

The 2012 Semiconductor Industry roadmap is forecasting that gates will be just 5.9 nanometers long in 2026. There will be big issues to overcome in terms of handling the leakage from tunneling electrons.

Tunneling FETs (TFETs) would be an option to magnify and use the tunneling as part of the design. Tunneling is already used in flash chips but new TFETs would need to use different materials. There is a lot of research on new tunneling FETs that is described in IEEE Spectrum.

89% of Americans do not bother to save 15-30% on their home heating bill

A study from Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory [PDF] found that 89 percent of survey respondents rarely or never used the thermostat to set a weekday or weekend program. Seventy percent were not set at all.

The energy savings for software-based, digital thermostats range from about 15 to 30 percent.

The first generation of two-way digital smart thermostats was often sold through utility channels and the cost was too high. But with the proliferation of smartphones and lower costs, smart thermostats have started to catch on.

The recent popularity has also come from smart-thermostats makers partnering with other players, particularly home security companies and service providers, both of which want to provide end-to-end home automation services for a monthly fee.

October 02, 2013

Even if the solar industry stays flat based on dollar volume, lower costs should triple installations by 2020

Annual solar installations are predicted to expand at a rate of 18 percent in 2014, reaching 41 GW and firmly marking the end of the solar industry’s two-year slowdown. IHS reaffirms its prediction made in early 2013 that installations this year will amount to 35 . Global photovoltaic (PV) installations are forecast to rise at the fastest pace in three years in 2014, exceeding 40 gigawatts (GW) for this first time and generating installation revenue of more than $86 billion, according to IHS.

The Energy Department’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently issued a new report, “Non-Hardware (‘Soft’) Cost-Reduction Roadmap for Residential and Small Commercial Solar Photovoltaics, 2013–2020,”PDF funded by DOE’s SunShot Initiative and written by NREL and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). The report builds off NREL’s ongoing soft-cost benchmarking analysis and charts a path to achieve SunShot soft-cost targets of $0.65/W for residential systems and $0.44/W for commercial systems by 2020.

Mobile phones help get world closer universal access to clean water by helping monitor and speed repairs

Making clean drinking water globally accessible is one of the biggest challenges of this century. Yet a new study by Oxford University contends that this goal is achievable if the key elements of good governance and management are adopted.

The problem of providing clean water is most acute in developing countries, particularly in Africa, where creaking infrastructures struggle to keep pace with fast-growing urban populations; in rural areas, millions of water pumps stand unused waiting to be repaired. Despite hitting the Millennium Development Goal for drinking water access in 2012, over 780 million people still do not have safe and reliable drinking water, says the report, resulting in largely preventable health problems that most affect women and children.

Mobile phones help monitor and speed repairs and help with bill payment

The study suggests that a critical factor in all cases is to have a good system for maintaining existing water supplies. Additionally, new information systems were found to be important for improving the way the quality of service was monitored. In West Africa, for instance, a structured crowd sourcing platform is used by water scheme managers to input weekly data via a mobile phone application; in East Africa, a mobile-enabled monitoring system is leading to faster repair times for water pumps.

Late bills are still a huge problem in developing countries, so consequently there is often a failure to recoup the service costs needed to invest in the infrastructure. The study highlights a successful mobile water payment system adopted in one Kenyan city, which was the preferred way of paying bills for 85% of customers who would otherwise often have to queue in water company offices.

Survey measures Africa's poverty

Despite continued reports of economic growth in Africa, much of the continent remains wracked by poverty, with roughly one in five citizens saying they frequently lack food, clean water and medical care, according to the largest survey of African citizens.

The fifth round of the Afrobarometer, which comes out every several years, was released today in Johannesburg. Thirty-four countries were surveyed – up from 20 countries during the last round of surveys in 2008-9 – making it the most comprehensive look at life in Africa since the Afrobarometer was started in 1999.

According to the current findings, 17 percent of Africans say they frequently go without food, 22 percent lack clean water on a regular basis, and 20 percent often go without medical care. About 50 percent do without these necessities at least occasionally. The problem is particularly striking in West Africa and East Africa, and less so in the northern and southern regions of the continent.

The findings come despite the fact that Africa’s gross domestic product grew by an average of 4.8 percent between 2002 and 2011. This would be about 3% per capita after factoring in population growth. Also, the economic gains are not evenly distributed.

The Fastest Train in the USA does not qualify as high speed rail per international standards

In the United States, Amtrak’s Acela Express tops the speed charts, with three services sprinting between Wilmington and Baltimore Penn on the Northeast Corridor at 169.4 km/h (105 mph over about 360 miles). China now has a high speed (over 200 km/h or 120 mph) across 10,000 kilometers (6000 miles) of high speed track.

The International Union of Railways, the European Union defines high-speed rail as lines specially built for speeds greater than or equal to 250 km/h/155 mph, or lines that are specially upgraded with speeds greater hhan 200 km/h or 124 mph. The U.S. defines high-speed differently. Emerging rail has speeds of 145 to 177 km/h (90 to 110 mph) ; Regional rail has speeds of 177 to 241 km/h (110 to 150 mph); and Express rail has speeds of at least 241 km/h (150 mph).

By 2015, China should have 18,000 km (over 11,000 miles) of high speed rail and 40,000 km (almost 25,000 miles) of express rail (around 160 km/h or 100 mph). China currently has express service that averages 120 km/k (75 mph). China is speeding up the express service with top speeds of 200 km/h instead of 160 km/h.

The Railway Gazette International compiles in tabular form the fastest timetabled start-to-stop journeys between different pairs of stations in countries around the world. Most of the fastest timings occur between intermediate stations, where average speeds are not impeded by slow approaches to major city hubs.

Looking at the overall results, China, France, Spain, Japan and Taiwan are the top tier with their best start-to-stop timings averaging more than 250 km/h.

Saving $1 trillion per year with a systemic approach to infrastructure

Insufficient or inadequate infrastructure—and the resulting congestion, power outages, and lack of access to safe water and roads—is a global concern.

Mckinsey has identified practical steps could boost productivity in the infrastructure sector—a long-time laggard—by as much as 60 percent, thereby lowering spending by 40 percent for an annual saving of $1 trillion. Over the next 18 years, this would be the equivalent of paying $30 trillion for $48 trillion worth of infrastructure

1. Optimize project portfolios. One of the most powerful ways to reduce the overall cost of infrastructure is to avoid investing in projects that neither address clearly defined needs nor deliver sufficient benefits. Choosing the right combination of projects and eliminating wasteful ones could save $200 billion a year globally.

2. Streamline delivery. This area presents an opportunity to save up to $400 billion annually and accelerate timelines. To streamline delivery, it will be necessary to speed up approval processes, invest heavily in the early stages of project planning and design, and structure contracts to encourage time and cost savings. Contracts can lead to costs savings by, for example, encouraging the application of lean manufacturing to construction and the adoption of advanced construction techniques such as prefabrication and modularization.

3. Make the most of existing infrastructure. Rather than invest in costly new projects, governments can address some infrastructure needs by getting more out of existing capacity. Boosting asset utilization, optimizing maintenance planning, and expanding the use of demand-management measures can generate savings of up to $400 billion a year.

To spur change programs and capture potential savings, governments must move beyond a project-by-project view and upgrade systems for planning, operating, and delivering infrastructure.

Nanosys ships two tons of quantum dot concentrate

Nanosys, enabling a new generation of perfect-color fidelity, energy-efficient displays with its quantum-dot technology, today announced that it has passed a major production milestone at its recently opened 60,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Milpitas, CA. The shipment of more than 2000kg of Nanosys Quantum Dot Concentrate™, used to make Quantum Dot Enhancement Film (QDEF™), represents a significant step forward in the adoption of quantum dot technology for displays.

Based on a new generation of quantum dots from Nanosys, the 55-inch set on display in Korea achieves about 40% higher color gamut than commercially available white-LED based 4k televisions while reducing power consumption by more than 35%.

October 01, 2013

Casimir Force Reduced to Lowest Recorded Level through metallic surface nanostructuring

A research team that includes a physics professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) has recorded a drastically reduced measurement of the Casimir effect, a fundamental quantum phenomenon experienced between two neutral bodies that exist in a vacuum.

The experiment revealed the Casimir pressure was reduced at more than twice the expected levels when the sphere and the grating surface were separated from one another by up to 500 nanometers.

Nature Communication - Strong Casimir force reduction through metallic surface nanostructuring

Silicon Photonics breakthroughs could extend Moore's law for many years

A pair of breakthroughs in the field of silicon photonics by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Micron Technology Inc. could allow for the trajectory of exponential improvement in microprocessors that began nearly half a century ago—known as Moore’s Law—to continue well into the future, allowing for increasingly faster electronics, from supercomputers to laptops to smartphones.

The research team, led by CU-Boulder researcher Milos Popovic, an assistant professor of electrical, computer and energy engineering, developed a new technique that allows microprocessors to use light, instead of electrical wires, to communicate with transistors on a single chip, a system that could lead to extremely energy-efficient computing and a continued skyrocketing of computing speed into the future.

Popovic and his colleagues created two different optical modulators—structures that detect electrical signals and translate them into optical waves—that can be fabricated within the same processes already used in industry to create today’s state-of-the-art electronic microprocessors.

Energy-Efficient Neuromorphic Computers

Arxiv - Spin Neurons: A Possible Path to Energy-Efficient Neuromorphic Computers

Nano-scale spin-torque switches as "neurons" can make energy-efficient neuromorphic computers. Using simple device-circuit analysis researchers showed that spin neurons provide essential terminal characteristics like low input impedance and transfer characteristics like high-transimpedance-gain and fast state-switching. These properties combined with ultra-low voltage operation of compact spin-neurons can facilitate the design of ultra low-energy and high-performance bio-inspired computing systems.

AT&T eventually stepping up to match Googles Gigabit Fiber but only in a City Where Google Fiber is offered

Earlier this year, Google announced that Austin, Texas would be the second city to receive its ultra-fast Google Fiber service, and AT and T isn’t far behind. It quickly followed Google’s announcement with news that it too would offer gigabit fiber internet in the city, and today, the telecoms giant detailed what the service will look like.

Starting in December, some Austin residents will be able to order the company’s AT&T U-verse with GigaPowerSM. At first, the service will provide only 300 Mbps speeds, but the company promises an upgrade to a full 1 gigabit connection in the middle of next year.

AT and T's eventual gigabit offering has no announced pricing and does not have a committed deployment schedule.

SpaceX Now Has “All the Pieces” For Truly Reusable Rockets

A successful flight test of the Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket on Sunday demonstrated booster-return capability on a flight to orbit. The technology could enable reusable orbital launch vehicles as early as February, 2014

Spacex Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast carrying the Canadian CASSIOPE scientific satellite, as well as a trio of small, university-built satellites. But the big success for Elon Musk's space venture came when some of the rockets succeeded in refiring their engines, a major step toward a reusable Falcon 9.

Ground controllers at the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., restarted the engines on both rocket stages after dropping off the satellites. The second stage booster failed to ignite as planned, but three of the nine engines on the first stage fired up again as intended. The restart allowed the booster to reenter the atmosphere at supersonic speed without damage—first stage booster rockets more typically disintegrate on reentry.

"We now believe we have all the pieces of the puzzle," Musk said on the press call. "If you take the Grasshopper tests, where we were able to do a precision takeoff and landing of a Falcon 9 first stage, and you combine it with the results from this flight—where we were able to successfully transition from vacuum through hypersonic, through supersonic, through transonic, and light the engines all the way and control the stage all the way through—we have all the pieces necessary to achieve a full recovery of the boost stage."

The first stage booster on Sunday's flight survived for a second relight, this time just of the center engine, as planned. At that point, however, the booster was spinning so fast it pushed propellant away from the fuel lines, shutting the engine down prematurely. Consequently, the booster came down harder than expected and broke up on impact with the Pacific Ocean. Musk said that had the booster on Sunday's flight had the landing legs of the Grasshopper used in flight tests at McGregor, the legs would have stabilized the rocket enough to keep the engine running longer, potentially enabling the booster to remain intact.

Reusable Rocket Vision

The Falcon 9.1.1 will be able to launch 25.8% more payload to low earth orbit than the Falcon 9. The Falcon 9.1.1 will reduce the price to LEO to $4109 per kilogram ($1870 per pound).

The Spacex Falcon Heavy will also use the Merlin 1D and will bring costs down below $1000 per pound to LEO.

Full success with reusable rockets would bring costs down by 100 times.

Saving the fuel to perform a controlled landing on water requires sacrificing 15 percent of the potential payload; returning to land will take a 30 percent cut. Musk said the boost stage is about three-quarters of the total cost of the rocket, so being able to reuse it would provide a substantial net gain.

A launch with a reusable first stage could have a 25% reduction in cost.

Mobile Health Could Save developed countries $400 billion by 2017

A PricewaterhouseCoopers report this year estimated that mobile health technology could help save developed countries $400 billion by 2017. About half of American adults have some kind of chronic condition, including obesity, arthritis, or diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wireless devices could let more of their health care happen at home. To proponents of mobile health, like Don Jones, Qualcomm Life’s head of global marketing and strategy, this means that unnecessary visits to clinics and emergency rooms will plummet, people will refine their use of medicine, and doctors and nurses will have more time to focus on their neediest patients.

Patients want convenience and control. Payers are interested in mHealth's value for money. Yet doctors are resistant — 64% worry that mHealth makes patients too independent. 59% of those who use mobile Health (mHealth) already say it has replaced visits to doctors or nurses.

According to the PwC and GSMA report, Touching lives through mobile health: Assessment of the global market opportunity, global mHealth revenues will increase nearly six-fold by 2017, with monitoring services and applications representing 65% of the market. Most of the market share will be in Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions with 30% of share each, followed by North America with 28%. Latin America and Africa are expected to have smaller markets with estimated shares of 7% and 5% respectively.

Chronic disease management and post acute care monitoring services will comprise a large proportion of the opportunity with nearly US$10.7 billion in revenue in 2017, with a majority of revenues contributed by the former. Independent ageing solutions also offer a large opportunity with potential revenue of US$4.3 billion in 2017.

Key opportunities in chronic disease management will also vary across countries dependent on the prevalence of various diseases. For instance, monitoring of patients with metabolic conditions such as obesity and diabetes is expected to comprise about 39% of revenues in chronic disease management in the US. This is followed by approximately 23% in Germany, 20% in Brazil, and 12% and 10% in Japan and China respectively. Similarly, monitoring patients with cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension, coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure is expected to contribute about 47% to chronic disease management revenues in the US and about 79% in China.

Diagnostic services are expected to comprise nearly 15% of the mHealth market with US$3.4 billion in revenues in 2017.

Network coding on top of Multipath TCP could be used to boost data speeds by 20 times on smartphones and tablets

Right now, as any smartphone owner knows, a phone or tablet will either use Wi-Fi or 4G or 3G—and never at the same time. So your streaming video may cut out because the network you were using dropped, even though there’s another signal available.

Multipath TCP could change this by divvying up those video bits across two or more networks. “Multipath” refers to using more than one wireless route, and TCP refers to the protocols used by most Internet traffic. Then, to use a simplified explanation—all “odd” packets (units of data that make up an Internet transmission) get sent over Wi-Fi and “even” ones over 4G. Then these “odd” and “even” packets get woven back, zipper-like, on the phone.

But in practice, it’s not that simple. The problems start with the fact that data-transmission takes longer from a cell tower than it does from a Wi-Fi router. Throw satellite streams in and the transmission delays are even longer.

Multipath TCP makes up for this by tweaking transmission speeds. But matters get more complicated if you are moving around, meaning those timings are always changing—and worse still, if some packets drop out. When those things happen, the computation required for multipath processing can get so complex that it actually slows down the overall speeds, says Medard.

Apple may be using the technology to simply enable Siri to switch back and forth between them without user intervention, so it can avoid having to retransmit your spoken request, a source of delays.

North Dakota oil production could nearly double again from 875000 barrels per day in July to 1.55 million barrels per day in 2015

Current projections for North Dakota oil production is to achieve about 1.55 million barrels per day in 2015.

The latest North Dakota production is at 874681 barrels per day.

This is roughly in line with a Harvard forecast where oil booms in North Dakota and Texas. Maugeri, author of a 2012 report forecasting rapid growth of global oil production and belying the notion that oil output has “peaked,” argues in his new paper that the boom in U.S. shale oil production is central to the overall U.S. oil surge. If oil prices remain close to today’s levels, total U.S. production of all forms of oil [all liquids includes natural gas liquids and ethanol] could grow from 11.3 12.3 million barrels per day in Sept, 2013 to 16 million barrels per day by 2017.

The latest September oil production numbers are 12.3 million barrels per day of all liquids oil production in the USA.

Older Monthly oil production numbers

Regular broadband is a garden hose and Google Fiber is a firehose

Google Fiberhoods will be coming to Provo, UT October 2013

Several gene therapies are or will soon be in late-stage human trials

Though many gene therapies have been tested in patients around the world in hopes of curing hereditary diseases, few governments have approved their sale, and none has been approved in the United States. That could change in coming years as several therapies enter advanced trials.

Experts say it is likely to be a few years before a treatment is approved in the U.S. With its European approval in hand, UniQure may have good chance of also getting the first U.S. approval, but the company says it has not yet submitted an application to the FDA.

Like most gene therapies, UniQure’s treatment uses a modified virus to deliver a working copy of a gene to patients who lack a healthy version. In this case, the gene is needed for the body to break down fats; without it, patients can develop painful and even fatal inflammation of the pancreas. UniQure uses a modified version of a virus that most of us already carry. The choice of virus used to deliver a gene therapy depends in part on where the treatment needs to go in the body and whether the viruses are intended to replicate themselves. Some viruses, for instance, are designed to spread throughout the body to kill cancer cells.

September 30, 2013

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 176

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 176 is up at Hiroshima Syndrome.

Yes Vermont Yankee - The Safety of Nuclear versus Gas: A guest post by N Nadir

Who remembers the Piper Alpha? Who remembers all the accidents and disasters caused by fossil fuels. "Nuclear energy need not be perfect; it need not be risk free to be better than everything else, it merely needs to be better than everything else, which it is.

Megatall versus Supertall Skyscrapers

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat recently published The Tallest 20 in 2020: Entering the Era of the Megatall. Within this decade, the World’s first kilometer-tall building will be constructed, along with many other buildings over 600-meters tall. “The term “supertall” (which refers to a building over 300 meters) is thus no longer adequate to describe these buildings: we are entering the era of the “megatall (over 600 meters).

The list does not include the Broad Group Sky City or any other potential Broad Group skyscrapers.

Broad Group already has the architectural designs for a 636 story super Sky City that would be 2000 meters tall.
This would be beyond the megatall category and would be supermega building over 1200 meters tall. It would be approaching the next category that is two categories beyond megatall which would be buildings over 2400 meters tall.

World’s First Commercially Viable Remote Wireless Power System

Ossia Inc came out of its stealth mode on the main stage of TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco by showcasing its groundbreaking wireless power technology dubbed Cota. The Cota technology, the first commercially viable remote wireless power system, redefines wireless power by automatically delivering targeted energy to multiple devices from as far away as 30 feet, without requiring line of sight. A 30 foot range is enough distance to cover an average two-story home, establishing a new paradigm in power distribution that allows people to use Cota to charge or power a wide range of devices well beyond smartphones, to include remote controls, cameras, video game controllers, flashlights, smoke detectors and more.

Carnival of Space 321

September 29, 2013

Terrafugia First Flying Car now with 2016 delivery estimate and second vertical takeoff flying car targets 2025

There are 5000 public use airports in the USA. On average people are a 30 minute drive fro one of those airports. The Terrafugia transition will be to takeoff from one of those airports. The flying car will cost $279,000. It uses premium gasoline and not jet fuel. They have been flying the vehicles but have had issues getting the regulators to certify them.

Originally planned for a 2011 delivery. The latest delivery date estimate is 2016.

The next flying car will be the TF-X Development of the TF-X is expected to last 8-12 years.

Almost 30,000 passenger and freighter aircraft will be needed by 2032

According to Airbus’ latest Global Market Forecast (GMF) in the next 20 years (2013-2032), air traffic will grow at 4.7 per cent annually requiring over 29,220 new passenger and freighter aircraft valued at nearly US$4.4 trillion. Some 28,350 of these are passenger aircraft valued at US$4.1 trillion. Of these, some 10,400 will replace existing aircraft with more efficient ones. With today’s fleet of 17,740 aircraft, it means that by 2032, the worldwide fleet will double to nearly 36,560 aircraft.

Increasing urbanisation will lead to a doubling of mega cities from 42 today to 89 by 2032, and 99 per cent of the world’s long-haul traffic will be between or through these.

Traffic growth has led to average aircraft size ‘growing’ by 25 per cent with airlines selecting larger aircraft or up-sizing existing backlogs. Larger aircraft like the A380 combined with higher load factors make the most efficient use of limited slots and contribute to rising passenger numbers without additional flights as announced by London’s Heathrow Airport. A focus on sustainable growth enabled fuel burn and noise reductions of at least 70 per cent in the last 40 years and this trend continues with innovations like the A320neo, the A320 Sharklet, the A380 and the A350 XWB.

Spacex reusable rocket re-ignition was not successful but Spacex believes they can fix for next luanch

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says the Falcon 9 rocket accomplished all of its primary objectives on today's launch, placing its payloads in an accurate orbit over Earth's poles and successfully demonstrating the launcher's upgraded engines, flight computer and stage separation system.

But two secondary objectives on the flight were not met.

SpaceX programmed the Falcon 9's first stage to fire its engines two more times after separating from the Falcon 9 upper stage about three minutes after liftoff.

The first burn went well, placing the empty rocket stage on a trajectory back into the atmosphere. Musk said mission control received data from the rocket throughout re-entry, but a second engine restart put the rocket into a spin, causing its engine to prematurely cut off. The stage crash into the Pacific Ocean a few hundred miles south of Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Going into the flight, Musk put low odds on a successful retrieval of the first stage intact on Sunday's launch. He told reporters a few minutes ago that recovery crews picked up parts of the Falcon 9's interstage, engine section and composite overwrapped pressure vessels.

After releasing the mission's satellite payloads, the Falcon 9's second stage Merlin 1D engine was supposed to reignite to test its ability to restart in space. But the engine detected a problem during the restart and aborted the burn.

Musk said SpaceX engineers believe they understand the problem and it could be fixed in time for the Falcon 9's next launch with the SES 8 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The SES 8 mission requires two upper stage burns to put the spacecraft into an oval-shaped geostationary transfer orbit.

Elon Musk tweeted - Between this flight and Grasshopper [reusable rocket] tests, I think we now have all the pieces of the puzzle to bring the rocket back home.

Spacex has a successful launch of its upgrade falcon 9 rocket

SpaceX launched an upgraded, more powerful version of its Falcon 9 rocket Sunday -- a booster the company hopes will someday carry astronauts to the space station -- placing a modest Canadian science satellite into orbit along with five smaller research payloads.

The Falcon 9 version 1.1 features more powerful engines, a longer first stage to accommodate larger propellant tanks, a new payload fairing and a triply redundant flight computer system, improvements intended to boost the rocket's payload capability while improving safety and reliability.

The 224-foot-tall rocket also featured simplified stage attachment mechanisms, a new circular engine arrangement for the first stage and a beefed up first stage heat shield. The company eventually hopes to recover spent stages for refurbishment and reuse.

The upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 has engines that are 60 percent more powerful than previous versions, longer fuel tanks, new avionics, new software and other features intended to boost lift capacity and simplify operations for commercial service.

Privately owned SpaceX has contracts for more than 50 launches of its new Falcon 9 and planned Falcon Heavy rockets.

Ten of those missions are to fly cargo to the International Space Station for NASA. The other customers are non-U.S. government agencies and commercial satellite operators.

Spaceflightnow updates

John Insprucker, the Falcon 9 product manager at SpaceX, says the flight looked great. The rocket flew down the middle of the ground track and appeared to reach the planned orbit, he said.

We're standing by for word on separation of the mission's six passengers and the outcome of the first stage re-entry and splashdown experiment.

The Cassiope team reports the six-sided satellite had a nominal separation and is healthy in orbit following its first ground station pass over Antarctica.

Orbital Sciences Completes First Flight to Space Station as Astronauts Capture Cygnus Spacecraft

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) used a robotic arm to capture and attach a Cygnus cargo resupply spacecraft Sunday, marking several spaceflight firsts for NASA and its partner, Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.

The station's Expedition 37 crew reported the spacecraft -- loaded with about 1,300 pounds (589 kilograms) of cargo -- berthed at 8:44 a.m. EDT, following an 11-day journey to the orbiting laboratory.

Orbital's Cygnus was launched on the company's Antares rocket on Sept. 18 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. This was the first flight of a spacecraft to the space station from the state.

The maiden flight of Cygnus included a number of systems tests prior to rendezvous with the station. The cargo includes student experiments, food and clothing, which will be unloaded by the station crew following hatch opening Monday.

Future Cygnus flights will ensure a robust national capability to deliver critical science research to orbit, significantly increasing NASA's ability to conduct new science investigations to the only laboratory in microgravity.

Jetpack with 20 mile range is targeting mid-2014 commercial sales to fire and rescue with individual sales to follow

Martin Jetpack has redesigned their jetpack. The first commercial sales, now expected in mid-2014, will be for first responder applications, such as rescue, fire, and police missions. According to the company, sales to individuals will follow shortly after the initial models are vetted in field use.

Manned test flights will take place again later in the year as part of the full test schedule. Previous prototypes have flown manned so this is not a big step for us although the performance of P12 is considerably greater than any other prototype and it will be the basis for our pre-production model.

We have received authorisation from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority for us to conduct manned flight tests on P12 with the jetpack currently being classified as a Class 1 microlight aircraft.

Changing the position of the ducts has vastly improved the jetpack’s performance, especially its manoeuvrability. Also, the new design requires less maintenance.

As part of our testing programme we are making some modifications to the jetpack’s V4 engine. We are currently developing the engine to extend the Time Between Overhaul (TBO). This development work is focusing on the bottom end of the engine and improving the crankshaft design, including going to a single piece crank. There are also other areas where we are looking to make small improvements, which will make the engine more durable and decrease the maintenance requirements. We hope to have the engine fitted to P12 by the end of the year.

While the Martin Jetpack will qualify as a microlight aircraft in much of the world, this is not the case in the US, as it is too heavy. It will be a light sport plane, and as such a Sport Pilot's license will be needed to fly the Jetpack. Although not required by law, Martin also offers a training course that would be a very good idea to include in one's preparations for the first Jetpack flight.

While Martin hopes eventually to sell its Jetpack for $100,000 (plus shipping, duties, and taxes) in the US, the initial price is expected to be more in the $150-200K range.

China's car purchases are in line with countries with 50-60% of GDP Consumption

1. Quartz.com examines China's consumption statistics. There is a lot of concern that China's economy is unbalanced with too much investment and not enough consumption. There are reasons to suspect that China’s consumption is nowhere near as low as the official data suggest, as Stephen Green and Wei Li at Standard Chartered highlight. For one, there’s “grey income,” cash that’s exchanged under the table, which escapes the notice of the state statisticians. In addition, the Chinese government undercounts how much people pay in rent.

That kind of spending is hard to confirm. So Green and Li looked at a single, relatively large purchase that is much clearer and easier to collect: car sales. Even as consumption’s contribution to GDP has dropped over the last decade, China’s car sales as a percentage of GDP rose steadily.

Standard and Chartered researchers compared the value of car sales as a proportion of GDP with overall household consumption versus GDP, and plotted China’s data alongside those of other major countries.

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