October 19, 2013

Superbatteries and superconducting engines will enable all electric passenger jets

EADS all electric passenger plane design depends upon batteries achieving 1000 watt hours per kilogram and superconducting engines being developed. High temperature superconducting motors are expected to reach power densities of 7-8 kW/kg with almost no electrical losses. This compares to 7 kW/kg for today’s turboshaft engines. An essential requirement for the VoltAir concept is to have a light and low-drag airframe. Advanced carbon fibre composite materials are used, and an unconventional configuration with an optimum fuselage thickness-to-length ratio is selected to minimize aerodynamic drag while providing a maximum useful internal volume. The fuselage’s generous volume is used for a better integration of the landing gear, significantly improving the aerodynamic properties of the wing-to-fuselage junction.

EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2010, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 45.8 billion and employed a workforce of nearly 122,000.

China getting some of the contracts for Thailand's high speed rail system

China CNR Corp. led gains in shares of Chinese companies that build and supply equipment for railways on speculation they will win contracts for the construction of Thailand’s high-speed train system. China CNR produces passenger cars and wagons.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told reporters on Oct. 11 after meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Bangkok that Chinese train companies had expressed interest in developing the southeastern Asian nation’s high-speed train system. China and Thailand signed six initial agreements during Li’s visit last week covering cooperation in technology, energy, environment and culture.

The first phase of Thailand’s high-speed train system includes total investment of 400 billion baht ($12.8 billion). China, Japan, South Korea and France expressed interest in bidding for contracts to build the network. The Thailand high speed rail system will have a budget of about $75 billion.

Progress to Li-Fi wireless light communication with LED lights which could reach hundreds of gigabits per second and even terabits per second

Chinese scientists have had successful experiments using Li-Fi technology, where wireless signals are sent by lightbulbs, according to Xinhua News.

Four computers under a one-watt LED lightbulb may connect to the Internet under the principle that light can be used as a carrier instead of traditional radio frequencies, said Chi Nan, an IT professor at Shanghai's Fudan University.

She explained a lightbulb with embedded microchips can produce data rates as fast as 150 Mbps, much higher than the average broadband connection in China.

Current wireless signal transmission equipment is expensive and low in efficiency, said Chi.

Cell phones need millions of base stations to strengthen the signal but most of the energy is consumed on their cooling systems. Only 5 percent of the energy is used for actually transmitting the wireless signal.

The Li-Fi Consortium offers the fastest wireless data transfer technology available. Our current solutions cover effective transmission rates of up to 10 Gbit/s, allowing a 2 hour HDTV film to be transfered within less than 30 seconds. Smaller files are transfered instandly.

This high speed technology can be extended to several 100 Gbit/s in later versions.

The development of a series of key related pieces of technology, including light communication controls as well as microchip design and manufacturing, is still in an experimental period.

October 18, 2013

Craig Venter creates Digital Biological Converter device to enable biological teleportation aka synthesize DNA into synthesized cells

Craig Venter created the world's first synthetic life. He is building a gadget that could teletransport medicine and vaccines into our homes or to colonists in space.

"We call it a Digital Biological Converter. And we have the prototype," says Venter from his office and labs at Synthetic Genomics Incorporated (SGI) in La Jolla, California.

Venter has a new book called Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life. It looks at the future Venter is aiming to create through his scientific endeavours in synthetic biology, a kind of turbo-charged version of genetic engineering where scientists design new biological systems – even synthetic life – rather than just tweaking existing organisms by inserting a gene here or there.
Venter, who has a reputation for arrogance, uses his book to describe the nearly 15 years of scientific work that led up to his 2010 breakthrough. It also positions that work at the pinnacle of years of landmark discoveries by the biggest names in biology.

A reader could be forgiven for thinking the book is really aimed at the Nobel prize committee, but Venter claims he just wants more people to understand him. "One of the motivations for the book is to put this in a historical context because of all the confusion out there when we did it," he says. "I think the work that we have done with the first genome in history, the human genome and with the first synthetic cell is certainly of the world calibre that obviously earns big prizes. Nobel prizes are very special prizes and it would be great to get one. The book is not a campaign to get one." Venter also wants people to know about what's coming next – the futuristic home gadget he is building and how it could allow what Venter calls "biological teleportation".

Spacex says China is their main competitor for commercial space launches

As the private spaceflight firm SpaceX works to bring more commercial rocket launches back to the United States, it anticipates some stiff competition from the burgeoning Chinese space program.

"We really feel at SpaceX that the competition is going to be the Chinese space program," Adam Harris (Spacex VP government affairs) said last month during a panel discussion at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Space 2013 conference in San Diego.

The U.S. responsible for just two of the 38 commercial space launches that took place in 2011 and 2012.

Spacex currently has more than 50 missions worth nearly $5 billion on its launch manifest, Harris said, adding that the U.S. government accounts for just 32 percent of that manifest.

The biggest threat to SpaceX's continued success in signing up customers over the long haul is likely not the Ariane 5 or the Proton, Harris said, but Chinese vehicles such as the Long March rocket family.

Elon Musk has bought the James Bond Lotus Submarine Car and plans to make it actually work

A Tesla Motors spokeswoman confirmed that the submarine, modeled after a Lotus sports car, had been bought by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Musk plans to take the movie prop and turn it into an actual car that transforms into a submarine, the very thing it was built to portray in the movie.

"I was disappointed to learn that it can't actually transform," Musk said in a statement provided by Tesla. "What I'm going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real."

Reinventing air travel with VTVL electric passenger planes with Airports as common and compact as subway stations

The EADS promises the VoltAir, a hypersonic all electric airliner that could be flying within 25 years. If we could combine the capabilities these planes: electric propulsion, and add vertical take-off landing ability to create the ultimate airline passenger, how would airports adapt to this change?

Volvo just announced batteries shaped into body panels for cars. This would also make electric passenger planes more feasible. They would be lighter and longer range.

Elon Musk has also talked about creating a vertical take and landing (VTOL) supersonic electric passenger plane.

This new vision of transportation would fit better into what people in the United States would want. Space within cities will become available assuming a shift to robotic cars frees up parking lots for other uses.

Once the plane docks, the plane charges its fuel cell, that are powered by wind mills that harvest high altitute air and converts it to electricity

Volvo makes new carbon fiber batteries into body panels for lighter, roomier and more efficient electric cars and hybrid cars

Volvo Car Group has developed a revolutionary concept for lightweight structural energy storage components that could improve the energy usage of future electrified vehicles. The material, consisting of carbon fibre, nano structured batteries and super capacitors, offers lighter energy storage that requires less space in the car, cost effective structure options and is eco-friendly.

They can also replace both the rally bar, a strong structural piece that stabilizes the car in the front, and the start-stop battery. This saves more than 50% in weight and is powerful enough to supply energy to the car’s 12 Volt system. It is believed that the complete substitution of an electric car’s existing components with the new material could cut the overall weight by more than 15%. This is not only cost effective but would also have improvements to the impact on the environment.

The Breakthrough

The answer was found in the combination of carbon fibres and a polymer resin, creating a very advanced nanomaterial, and structural super capacitors. The reinforced carbon fibres sandwich the new battery and are moulded and formed to fit around the car’s frame, such as the door panels, the boot lid and wheel bowl, substantially saving on space. The carbon fibre laminate is first layered, shaped and then cured in an oven to set and harden. The super capacitors are integrated within the component skin. This material can then be used around the vehicle, replacing existing components, to store and charge energy.

The material is recharged and energized by the use of brake energy regeneration in the car or by plugging into a main electrical grid. It then transfers the energy to the electric motor which is discharged as it is used around the car.

The breakthrough showed that this material not only charges and stores faster than conventional batteries can, but that it is also strong and pliant.

October 17, 2013

Babylon 5 memorial video

There was a 20th anniversary memorial video that listed those who were involved with the TV show Babylon 5 (1994-1998) who have passed away. The list of 16 actors and five who were involved behind the camera.
Johnny Seka (1934-2006)
Lois Nettleton (1929-2008)
Greg McKinney (1957-1998)
Roy Brocksmith (1945-2001)
Jeff Corey (1914-2002)
Silvana Gallardo (1953-2012)
Robin Sachs (1951-2013)
Tim Choate (1944-2004)
Turhan Bey (1922-2012)
Paul Winfield (1939-2004)
Malachi Throne (1928-2013)
Majel Barrett-Roddenberry (1932-2008)
Jeff Conaway (1950-2011)
Michael O'Hare (1952-2012)
Richard Biggs (1960-2004)
Andrew "Andreas" Katsulas (1946-2006)
Howard Block (1946-1994)
John McPherson (1941-2007)
John Stears (1934-1999)
Richard Compton (1938-2007)
Peter Ledger (1945-1994)

Cyborg roaches could be used to map collapsed buildings

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed software that allows them to map unknown environments – such as collapsed buildings – based on the movement of a swarm of insect cyborgs, or “biobots.”

“We focused on how to map areas where you have little or no precise information on where each biobot is, such as a collapsed building where you can’t use GPS technology,” says Dr. Edgar Lobaton, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper on the research.

A swarm of biobots, such as remotely controlled cockroaches, would be equipped with electronic sensors and released into a collapsed building or other hard-to-reach area. The biobots would initially be allowed to move about randomly. Because the biobots couldn’t be tracked by GPS, their precise locations would be unknown. However, the sensors would signal researchers via radio waves whenever biobots got close to each other.

Remote control cyborg cockroach from the movie The Fifth Element

Once the swarm has had a chance to spread out, the researchers would send a signal commanding the biobots to keep moving until they find a wall or other unbroken surface – and then continue moving along the wall. This is called “wall following.”

The researchers repeat this cycle of random movement and “wall following” several times, continually collecting data from the sensors whenever the biobots are near each other. The new software then uses an algorithm to translate the biobot sensor data into a rough map of the unknown environment.

“This would give first responders a good idea of the layout in a previously unmapped area,” Lobaton says.

Topological Mapping of Unknown Environments using an Unlocalized Robotic Swarm

Human Clinical trials nearing for Brain interfaces to enable prosthestics that provide real sense of touch

Chicago researchers seek to produce an advanced prosthetic limb that will not only provide robust movement, but also authentic sensations. Trailblazers in brain stimulation, Bensmaia’s team works with rhesus macaque monkeys whose sense of touch is nearly identical to that of humans. “They use their hands to manipulate objects and to explore their environment the same way we do,” he says.

In his lab, Bensmaia has taught these primates to differentiate the location and force of touches applied to their skin. As the animals perform these tasks, electrodes implanted in the touch area of their brains record the neural activity evoked by each different sensation. The goal is ultimately to reproduce that activity through electrical stimulation delivered through these same electrodes.

The first human trials are set to begin soon. “If the human trials are successful, we may see people with terminator-like robotic arms walking around or sitting next to us on the bus,” he says. “This is a radical step toward the future where these machines will actually become extensions of our brains. We’re at the beginning stage, but the possibilities are staggering.”

PNAS - Restoring the sense of touch with a prosthetic hand through a brain interface

Our ability to manipulate objects relies fundamentally on sensory signals originating from the hand. To restore motor function with upper-limb neuroprostheses requires that somatosensory feedback be provided to the tetraplegic patient or amputee. Accordingly, we have developed approaches to convey sensory information critical for object manipulation—information about contact location, pressure, and timing—through intracortical microstimulation of somatosensory cortex. In experiments with nonhuman primates, we show that we can elicit percepts that are projected to a localized patch of skin, that track the pressure exerted on the skin, and that signal the timing of contact events. We anticipate that the proposed biomimetic feedback will constitute an important step in restoring touch to individuals who have lost it.

Offtopic - The name of the Washington NFL team

There has been a lot of controversy over the name of the Washington Football team. Washington Redskins.

I have suggestion for a new name for the football team.

Washington Redtape

The Washington Redtape defensive tackle wraps up the receiver.

Silicon Atomic Quantum Dots Enable Beyond-CMOS Electronics and they can fabricate 100 atom quantum dot patterns in 1 minute with 80% yield

Robert Wolkow and his team reviews their recent efforts in building atom-scale quantum-dot cellular automata circuits on a silicon surface. Note - published papers are usually summarizing work that is 2-3 years old. I saw Robert Wolkow summarize this work at the Foresight Technical conference early this year but could not report upon it until the paper was released just days ago. BTW that is a reason to go the next Foresight conference in 2014. Get the latest news in nanotechnology before it can be publicly released.

* yields of a tiny fraction of 1% have jumped to 80%
* they were producing 100 atomscale quantum dot structures in 1 minute
* In a day with continuous operation 100,000 atomscale quantum dot structures could be built
* they also lay out the case why their dangling bond approach is better than Michelle Simmons' phosphor atom qubits (it is the 21st century so there are competing atom scale quantum dot and atom scale qubit approaches)

Our building block consists of silicon dangling bond on a H-Si(OO1) surface, which has been shown to act as a quantum dot. First the fabrication, experimental imaging, and charging character of the dangling bond are discussed. We then show how precise assemblies of such dots can be created to form artificial molecules. Such complex structures can be used as systems with custom optical properties, circuit elements for quantum-dot cellular automata, and quantum computing. Considerations on macro—to—atom connections are discussed.

There are two broad problems facing any prospective nano-scale electronic device building block. It must have an attractive property such as to switch, store or conduct information, but also, there must be an established architecture in which the new entity can be deployed and wherein it will function in concert with other elements. Nanoscale electronic device research has in few instances so far led to functional blocks that are ready for insertion into existing device designs. In this work we discuss a range of atom-based device concepts which, while requiring further development before commercial products can emerge, have the great advantage that an overall architecture is well established that calls for exactly the type of building block we have developed.

The atomic silicon quantum dot (ASiQD) described here fits within ultra low power schemes for beyond CMOS electronics based upon quantum dots that have been refined over the past 2 decades. The well known quantum dot cellular automata (QCA) scheme due to Lent and co-workers achieves classical binary logic functions without the use of conventional current-based technology.

Kurzweil prediction of blood cell sized supercomputer would likely need full blown molecular nanotechnology

Ray Kurzweil has recently repeated a prediction that we will have blood cell sized supercomputers within 25 years.

My Android phone is literally several billion times more powerful, per dollar, than the computer I used when I was a student. And it’s also 100,000 times smaller. We’ll do both of those things again in 25 years. It’ll be a billion times more powerful, and will be the size of a blood cell.

Based upon past reviews by Ray of his own predictions, Ray Kurzweil intends for his predictions to be accurate to the decade. This means blood cell sized supercomputers can happen anytime from 2033-2044 and Kurzweil would consider it to be correct. Ray could even say plus ten years around the 2038 date and anytime before (2014-2048). The implication and context of Ray's prediction is that these blood cell sized supercomputers would be as common as Android cellphones and as affordable. However, the number of units is implied, so having a one off example that cost millions of dollars might still qualify.

How could various technological developments fulfill a petaflop of computing power in a blood cell?

It would definitely need to be precisely constructed to the nanometer in a 3D volume.
A red blood cells has roughly 7800 X 7800 X 2500 cubic nanometers. 152 billion cubic nanometers or 152 cubic microns.

Memristors can be formed from the intersection of nanowires that are about 2.5 nanometers thick. Memristors can form memory and compute elements. HP is trying to create nanostore architectures which would be memristors with memory and computing together. Assuming 3D crossbar computing could be created and operated and cooled at full density then this would enable perhaps 1 billion 3D crossbar elements. They are also trying to develop memristors with photonic communication. If they elements were massively parallel and operating at megahertz frequencies then they would produce 1 petaflop. A million parallel elements operating at a gigahertz would also achieve a petaflop.

Variety and Movie Industry Analysts Agree China's Movie Box Office heading to $5 -10 billion in 2017

BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research estimates the Chinese box office could yield $5 billion in value potential for Hollywood studios by 2017 vs. approximately $2.2 billion today, including imported and local productions (with this figure potentially doubling under further relaxed regulatory conditions).

Yesterday, Nextbigfuture forecasted that China could pass the US+Canada box office of about $10.8 billion by 2016. China had $1.8 billion in box office in the first 6 months of 2013. Matching performance in the second half of 2013 would be $3.6 billion for the full year. More box office hits and growth could reach $4 billion for all of 2013.

China’s domestic theatrical market has transformed into a rapidly growing priority for U.S. film studios — a concept nearly unheard of just five years ago. From 2007-12, China’s box office has improved at a compound annual growth rate of 47%, to $2.7 billion (becoming second largest in the world), fueled by a 30% CAGR in screens, as well as loosened foreign import quotas and a fast-developing local production market.

Ray Kurzweil Predicts Radical Life Extension and blood cell sized supercomputers in 25 years

Ray Kurzweil—futurist, inventor, entrepreneur, bestselling author, and now, director of engineering at Google— wants to live forever. He spoke to a magazine in Canada about it.

Ray sees biology as software

Biology is a software process. Our bodies are made up of trillions of cells, each governed by this process. You and I are walking around with outdated software running in our bodies, which evolved in a very different era. We each have a fat insulin receptor gene that says, “Hold on to every calorie.” That was a very good idea 10,000 years ago, when you worked all day to get a few calories; there were no refrigerators, so you stored them in your fat cells. I would like to tell my fat insulin receptor gene, “You don’t need to do that anymore,” and indeed that was done at the Joslin Diabetes Center. They turned off this gene, and the [lab mice] ate ravenously and remained slim. They didn’t get diabetes; they didn’t get heart disease. They lived 20 per cent longer. They’re working with a drug company to bring that to market.

Ray sees blood cell size supercomputers in 25 years

Life expectancy was 20 a thousand years ago; 37, 200 years ago. We’re now able to reprogram health and medicine as software, and that [pace is] going to continue to accelerate. We’re treating biology, and by extension health and medicine, as an information technology. Our intuition about how progress will unfold is linear, but information technology progresses exponentially, not linearly. My Android phone is literally several billion times more powerful, per dollar, than the computer I used when I was a student. And it’s also 100,000 times smaller. We’ll do both of those things again in 25 years. It’ll be a billion times more powerful, and will be the size of a blood cell.

Spacex shows pictures of the re-ignition of the rocket engine over the ocean which was a step towards reusable rockets

Spacex reviewed the September 29th, 2013 launch of the upgraded falcon rocket. They included a picture of the first stage re-igniting its ending just above the ocean. This was to demonstrate using the engines to slow down and land for reusable rockets.

Though not a primary mission objective, SpaceX was also able to initiate two engine relights on the first stage. For the first restart burn, we lit three engines to do a supersonic retro propulsion, which we believe may be the first attempt by any rocket stage. The first restart burn was completed well and enabled the stage to survive reentering the atmosphere in a controlled fashion.

SpaceX then lit the center engine for a single engine burn. That relight also went well, however we exceeded the roll control authority of the attitude control thrusters. This particular stage was not equipped with landing gear which could have helped stabilize the stage like fins would on an aircraft. The stage ended up spinning to a degree that was greater than we could control with the gas thrusters on board and ultimately we hit the water relatively hard.

However, SpaceX recovered portions of the stage and now, along with the Grasshopper tests, we believe we have all the pieces to achieve a full recovery of the boost stage.

IBM's goal is a petaflop computer the size of a large backpack and not a basketball court

IBM has the goal of a 1 petaflop computer in a 10 liter size (10 liter kitchen garbage bags and waste containers are common). 1 petaflop means a computer can complete a quadrillion floating-point mathematical operations per second. Today's top supercomputer clocked in at 33.86 petaflops, but it uses 32,000 Xeon processors and 48,000 Xeon Phi accelerator processors.

IBM is using the brain as a template for breakthrough designs such as the idea of using fluids both to cool the machine and to distribute electrical power. That could enable processing power that's densely packed into 3D volumes rather than spread out across flat 2D circuit boards with slow communication links.

It's all part of what IBM calls the cognitive systems era, in which computers aren't just programmed, but also perceive what's going on, make judgments, communicate with natural language, and learn from experience. It's a close cousin to that decades-old dream of artificial intelligence.

IBM has a new yardstick: operations per liter. The company is judging success by how much data-processing ability it can squeeze into a given volume. Today's computers must be laid out on flat circuit boards that ensure plenty of contact with air that cools the chips.

"In a computer, processors occupy one-millionth of the volume. In a brain, it's 40 percent. Our brain is a volumetric, dense, object," said Bruno Michel, a researcher in advanced thermal packaging for IBM Research, who got his Ph.D in biophysics.

Common 10 liter kitchen garbage container

Similar in size to tower PC servers that were about 10 liters in volume

$800 human sized general purpose robot

A team of students at Columbia University, led by Jason Ravel, has designed a human-sized general purpose robot called Talos. Built for just US$800, this low cost robot has arms, a face, and can answer voice commands.

The Talos robot is built on an iRobot Create robot platform, which provides locomotion and an ability to sense walls and stairs.

Talos can follow, retrieve, act as a telepresence, respond to voice commands, and be controlled via a Microsoft Surface.

Ravel sees the robot project as an open source hardware platform that other robotics students could expand and modify as the software is built on an open architecture that allows for expansion and the addition of new abilities. His team see Talos as a model for a lower-cost humanoid robot that can function in a home or office environment.

Next steps in the project will be improving the object recognition and retrieval capability. The team will also be working on new navigation functions that use landmarks and can make maps as the robot roams around.

October 16, 2013

Babcock and Wilcox will work with Lightbridge on metal fuel for enhanced uprates

Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Energy (B&W NE) is to work with nuclear technology company Lightbridge in developing a pilot plant for manufacturing metal fuel for light water reactors.

Lightbridge has developed an advanced metallic fuel, made from a zirconium-uranium (Zr-U) alloy, which uses a unique composition and fuel rod geometry enabling it to operate at a higher power density than uranium oxide fuels in use today. Current fuel comprises of uranium oxide pellets encased in zirconium alloy cladding which are bundled into fuel assemblies. The new fuel, the company says, can enable pressurised water reactors (PWRs) to operate at higher power outputs while also extending operating cycles, improving economics as well asproviding safety and fuel performance benefits.

Lightbridge president and CEO Seth Grae described the collaboration as an "important milestone" for the commercial advancement of the fuel.

According to a 2012 paper published in the American Nuclear Society's peer-reviewed journal Nuclear Technology and reproduced on Lightbridge's website, the alloy used in the fuel contains a zirconium content of nearly 50% by weight, but requires uranium enrichment levels of up to 20% - far in excess of typical uranium oxide fuels for PWRs, which are typically enriched up to 4.8% uranium-235. Reactor safety is enhanced thanks to the lower fuel temperature, increased heat transfer characteristics and improved cladding integrity offered by the fuel.

The company acknowledges that the fuel would not be suitable for use in all existing PWRs, citing constraints due to the size of existing reactor containments, but says that new-build projects could easily accommodate the necessary changes to allow them to use the innovative fuel.

When China passes North America as the biggest movie market in 2016 then how many chinese actors will be cast Avengers 3 ?

For the first half of 2013, China's movie box office was $1.79 billion which was a 36% increase from the first half of 2012.

China had movie box office of $2.06 billion in 2011 and 2.7 billion in 2012. A strong second half of 2013 could result in nearly $4 billion in box office. This would be about double the market of 2011 and double the third place national market of Japan.

China's most recent week shows a second half blockbuster "Young Detective Dee" which had a $55 million take on one weekend.

Global movie box office was $34.7 billion in 2012 and $10.8 billion in North America. North America has about 1% growth from the prior year.

China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, will spend over $8 billion to create an Oriental Movie Metropolis, set to span 376 hectares (1.44 square miles), in the eastern port city of Qingdao. It will house 20 studios that will turn out 100 films a year, including 30 foreign productions.

Gartner list of ten strategic technologies is a subset of McKinsey's twelve disruptive technologies

Gartner has released its top 10 strategic technology trends for 2014 and there is a lot of overlap with the McKinsey list of 12 disruptive technologies that was released about 6 months ago.

Gartner defines a strategic technology as one with the potential for significant impact on the enterprise in the next three years. Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to IT or the business, the need for a major dollar investment, or the risk of being late to adopt.

The McKinsey Global Institute identifies 12 technologies that could drive truly massive economic transformations and disruptions in the coming years. Applications of the 12 technologies discussed in the report could have a potential economic impact between $14 trillion and $33 trillion a year in 2025. Nextbigfuture covered the Mckinsey list in May, 2013.

The Gartner list is a subset of the McKinsey list. Gartner restates and subdivides 5 of the items from the McKinsey list.

1. Mobile Internet
2. Automation of Knowledge work
3. Internet of Things
4. Cloud
9. 3D Printing

October 15, 2013

Hollow Nanoparticles to boost lithium-ion battery performance

Hollow carbon nanoparticles are strong, conduct electricity well and have a remarkably large surface area. They show promise in applications such as water filtration, hydrogen storage and battery electrodes — but commercial use would demand reliable, low-cost ways for their production.

Xu Li of Singapore’s A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering and co-workers have developed a simple manufacturing technique that offers precise control over the size and shape of hollow carbon nanospheres.

Chemistry of Materials journal - Hollow Carbon Nanoparticles of Tunable Size and Wall Thickness by Hydrothermal Treatment of α-Cyclodextrin Templated by F127 Block Copolymers

Specialized switch that controls light can regulate the flow of optical data for faster computers

Long-distance communication increasingly relies on networks of fiber-optic cables that carry data encoded in nimble beams of light. Conventional computer circuits, however, still use relatively sluggish electronic circuits to process this data.

Hong Cai of the A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics in Singapore and her co-workers have now developed a device that could help computers reach light speed. Their tiny mechanical system can switch a light signal on or off extremely quickly, potentially enabling all-optical computing and simplifying the interface between electronic and optical networks. “All-optical devices could enable a large number of components to be housed on a single chip,” says Cai.

The silicon ring is a fast and effective switch for a beam of light skimming close to its edge. © 2013 A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics

Three critical government interventions that speed up economic development

There is a new book How Asia Works; Success and Failure in the World's Most Dynamic Region.

The policy prescription for rapid economic development was confused for a time in east Asia by the presence of other fast-growing economies that did not conform to the pattern of Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the World Bank seized on the performance of the offshore financial centres of Hong Kong and Singapore, and the suddenly faster-growing south-east Asian economies of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, to argue that economic development was in fact fostered by laissez-faire policies, with a minimal role for government. Despite the fact that the offshore centres, with their tiny, dense populations and absence of agricultural sectors to drag on productivity, are not really comparable to regular countries

There are three critical interventions that governments can use to speed up economic development. Where these interventions have been employed most effectively in east Asia – in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and now China – they have produced the quickest progressions from poverty to wealth that the world has seen. When, by contrast, other east Asian states have set off with the same ambitions and equal or better endowments, but have not followed the same policies, they have achieved fast growth for a period but the progress has proved to be unsustainable.

1. The first intervention – and the most overlooked – is to maximise output from agriculture, which employs the vast majority of people in poor countries. Successful east Asian states have shown that the way to do this is to restructure agriculture as highly labour-intensive household farming – a slightly larger-scale form of gardening.

What is the monetary value of the ocean ?

Professor Robert Diaz of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science is a co-editor of "Valuing the Ocean" a major new study by an international team of scientists and economists that attempts to measure the ocean's monetary value and to tally the costs and savings associated with human decisions affecting ocean health.

The study estimates that if human impacts on the ocean continue unabated, declines in ocean health and services will cost the global economy $428 billion per year by 2050, and $1.979 trillion per year by 2100. Alternatively, steps to reduce these impacts could save more than a trillion dollars per year by 2100, reducing the cost of human impacts to $612 billion.

The world economy in todays dollars (without inflation) should be at least $200 trillion in 2050 and $400 trillion in 2100.

The $428 billion in 2050 would be about 0.2% of GDP in 2050 and 0.5% of GDP in 2100.

He notes that the study is unique in stressing the interactions between and among multiple threats, which include acidification, low-oxygen "dead zones," overfishing, pollution, sea-level rise, and warming.

So this includes global warming, pollution and overfishing.

North Dakota Oil Production record with 911,496 barrels per day in August

North Dakota hit another oil production record with 911,496 barrels per day in August.

Aug Oil 28,248,511 barrels = 911,242 barrels/day (preliminary)(NEW all-time high)
Aug Gas 31,009,441 MCF = 1,000,305 MCF/day (preliminary)(NEW all-time high)

There will be no oil statistics from the EIA (US DOE Energy Info Administration until the shutdown is over)

October 14, 2013

An unbiased economic scorecard shows that global warming provides a net 1.3% GDP gain so far

How Much have Global Problems Cost the World? A Scorecard from 1900 to 2050 was editted by Bjørn Lomborg with many contributors They use an unbiased or at least a consistent methodology to assess the impact of global problems from 1900 to today and project forward to 2050.

There are often blanket claims that the world is facing more problems than ever but there is a lack of empirical data to show where things have deteriorated or in fact improved. In this book, some of the world's leading economists discuss ten problems that have blighted human development, ranging from malnutrition, education, and climate change, to trade barriers and armed conflicts. Costs of the problems are quantified in percent of GDP, giving readers a unique opportunity to understand the development of each problem over the past century and the likely development into the middle of this century, and to compare the size of the challenges. For example: how bad was air pollution in 1900? How has it deteriorated and what about the future? Did climate change cost more than malnutrition in 2010? This pioneering initiative to provide answers to many of these questions will undoubtedly spark debate amongst a wide readership.

* Unique, quantitative assessment and comparison of ten of the biggest challenges to human development, ranging from 1900 through to 2050
* Written by a selection of the world's top economists, brought together in one book by Bjørn Lomborg
* Challenges readers and invites debate, asking the fundamental question about humanity's scorecard: 'Are things getting better or worse?'

How much have world problems cost is a product of the copenhagen consensus.

All ten global problem assessment reports are at the Copenhagen consensus.

The above graph is only indicative as there is bound to be significant multiple counting (double, triple etc., like when deaths due to air pollution also count under health). However it is likely that the the proportion of multiple counting remains relatively constant across time, making the graph shape a reasonable proxy for the actual development.

Carnival of Space 323

The Carnival of Space 323 is up at the Urban Astronomer.com

Universe Today - NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Returns 1st Flyby images of Earth while Sailing On to Jupiter by Ken Kremer

This reconstructed day side image of Earth is one of the 1st snapshots transmitted back home by NASA’s Juno spacecraft during its speed boosting flyby on Oct. 9, 2013. See the original raw image below taken by the probes Junocam imager and methane filter at 12:06:30 PDT and an exposure time of 3.2 milliseconds. Juno was due to be flying over South America and the southern Atlantic Ocean. Credit: NASA/JPL/SwRI/MSSS/Ken Kremer

Big Hong Kong Financial CEO expects fully convertible yuan in 2017 and Another says after full convertibility Hong Kong Could Switch to the Yuan

The Chinese yuan may become fully convertible in 2017, providing ample business opportunities for Hong Kong, Taiwan and other places aiming to become offshore yuan trading hubs.

“We expect yuan to be fully convertible in 2017 in terms of meeting trade settlement and investment needs,” said Anita Fung, HSBC Hong Kong chief executive officer.

At present, only 12 percent of cross-border trade in China is settled in yuan, Fung said. The ratio may rise to more than 30 percent in 2015 since more than 50 percent of Chinese companies are willing to offer price discounts in return for using yuan to settle trade, she said, adding that the yuan may grow to account for 50 percent of trade settlements in the Asia-Pacific region during the same period.

Most people in the business community believe the US dollar peg has served Hong Kong well.

The question is whether the city should remain pegged to the US dollar, or switch to linking to the yuan. Hong Kong is increasingly tied to the cycles of the mainland's economy, so it might as well adopt the mainland's interest rates, according to some analysts.

What will it take to be the Columbus of the Space Age ?

Today is Columbus Day (the first Monday after October 12th). Many countries in the New World and elsewhere celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas, which happened on October 12, 1492, as an official holiday. The landing is celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States, as Día de la Raza in many countries in Latin America, as Discovery Day in the Bahamas, as Día de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional in Spain, as Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity) in Argentina, and as Día de las Américas (Day of the Americas) in Belize and Uruguay.

I believe the successful measure of explorers like Lief Ericson and Christopher Columbus is the start of successful and lasting permanent colonization.

Columbus founded La Navidad in what is present day Haiti on his first voyage. After it's destruction by the indigenous Taino people, the town of Isabella was begun in 1493, on his second voyage.

In 1496 his brother, Bartholomew, founded Santo Domingo. By 1500, despite a high death rate, there were between 300 and 1000 Spanish settled in the area. The local Taíno people continue to resist; refusing to plant crops and abandoning their Spanish-occupied villages. Their rebellion progressed from disobedience to violence. Eventually European diseases, slavery, and ritual infanticide and suicide (meant to avoid adult and infantile enslavement) eradicated most of the Taíno people.

In 1502, 2500 more Spanish settlers arrived. By 1508 there were 10,000 Spaniards living in 15 new settlement. It has been estimated that in the 16th century about 240,000 Spaniards emigrated to America, and in the 17th century about 500,000, predominantly to Mexico and Ecuador.

Spain colonization was also followed by France, Britain, Netherlands, Portugal and other nations.

Lief Ericson did land in North America but none of the follow up attempts at colonization succeeded. The successful colonies in Greenland and Iceland were set up by other Norsemen.

GE gets traction with the industrial internet which is incorporating sensors, big data and cloud to make industry more efficient

On Wednesday GE said that it has brought in $290 million so far this year from products built using this industrial internet philosophy and booked an anticipated $400 million in revenue. That may not seem like much for a company that had sales of $147.36 billion last year, but this is a two-year-old effort inside GE. GE also expanded the line of product offerings it has in its Predictivity line from 10 to 24, announced Intel, Cisco and AT&T as its latest partners and detailed its platform for building out the industrial internet, called Predix. Think of it as Amazon Web Services for the industrial internet.

* Predix is a platform for industrial applications. Applications can be built for any system or machine — from jet engines to MRI scanners — and be remotely managed while connected to the internet. So far there are four components to the platform, for the sensors themselves, analytics, management of the connected devices, and a vague one called Predix Experience.

* Next year GE plans to offer a developer program that lets third parties integrate Predix platform technologies into their own services.

* Of the new partners, AT&T will handle connectivity via cellular, wireline and perhaps even Wi-Fi management techniques courtesy of AT&T’s Wayport division.

* Cisco and GE will continue an existing business relationship to “include collaboration in industries that may include oil and gas, transportation, healthcare, and power generation.”

* GE says it will work with Intel to “embed virtualization and cloud-based, standardized interfaces within the GE Predix platform.”

The Predix platform and Predictivity products are simply a way for GE to get even better data while offering the real advantages of the internet of things to its clients.

In November, 2012, GE announced it would invest $1.5 billion in efforts to fine-tune its machines’ performance and capture big efficiency gains by connecting them to its enterprise software and to the wider Internet. GE thinks that cheaper computing power and sensors are now poised to usher in a new era of big data for industry. Jeff Immelt, GE’s CEO, has called the idea a revolution, and the company’s top economist has suggested it could help increase worker productivity by as much as 1.5 percent a year.

Leading Economist Predicts Governments and Big Banks Will Attack Bitcoin

Governments and established financial institutions are likely to launch a campaign to quash the decentralized digital currency Bitcoin, according to a leading economist and academic. Simon Johnson, a professor of entrepreneurship at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, expects Bitcoin to face political pressure and aggressive lobbying from big banks because of its disruptive nature.

The system of cryptographic software behind Bitcoin represents a significant technical advance, and the currency has inspired many cyber-libertarians (see “What Bitcoin Is and Why It Matters”). Mathematical and computer networking principles are used to underpin a system through which financial transactions can be made digitally, without the need for any central authority or financial institution.

The code that supports and regulates the Bitcoin network is built into the software needed to use the currency. It works in a distributed network across the Internet to confirm transactions and prevent counterfeiting. Adding to the mystique, the technical expert or experts who developed the Bitcoin protocol are still unknown.

After several years as a nerdy curiosity, the currency has recently gained momentum as a legitimate means of payment. Many Bitcoin-based businesses are springing up, some backed by major Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

He believes they will be egged on by established financial institutions, which will likely seek to quash the currency. Bitcoin enables very rapid, cheap transfers and payments that could compete with existing fee-based ways of moving money around. “Any bankers watching this should be very afraid,” said Johnson.

October 13, 2013

Paper generators get power when you touch them so you do not need batteries

Disney Research presents a new energy harvesting technology that generates electrical energy from a user's interactions with paper-like materials. The energy harvesters are flexible, light, and inexpensive, and they utilize a user's gestures such as tapping, touching, rubbing and sliding to generate energy. The harvested energy is then used to actuate LEDs, e-paper displays and other devices to create interactive applications for books and other printed media.

This new approach to energy harvesting uses electrets, materials with special electrical properties that already are used in microphones and in tiny MEMS devices. This latest application, developed by researchers at Disney Research, Pittsburgh and at Carnegie Mellon University, could make possible new types of interactive applications involving books, posters and other printed materials that require no batteries or external power.

The design of a Paper Generator is simple: one approach is to sandwich a thin, flexible sheet of polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE – best known by the brand name Teflon® –between two conductive layers, such as sheets of metallized polyester, that serve as electrodes. Electrical charge accumulates on the PTFE sheet when paper is rubbed against it. Then, if the electrodes are made to move relative to each other against the PTFE, a tiny, alternating electrical current is generated. This electrical current can be used to power a broad variety of devices such as LED arrays, e-ink displays, sound buzzers and infrared communication devices.

“Though the fundamental principles of operation remain the same, it’s possible to build Paper Generators that respond to a number of different gestures, such as tapping, touching, rubbing or sliding,” said Ivan Poupyrev, director of Disney Research, Pittsburgh’s Interaction Group. “We can imagine any number of ways to use this to add sights, sounds and other interactivity to books and other printed materials inexpensively and without having to worry about power sources.”

Paper Generators: Harvesting Energy from Touching, Rubbing and Sliding (8 pages)

Ultrahaptics provide touch feedback via ultrasound

Ultra-Haptics is a system for creating haptic feedback in mid-air. Waves of ultrasound displace the air, creating a pressure difference. By causing many waves to arrive at the same place simultaneously, a noticeable pressure difference is created at that point. With this method, we are able to create multiple, concurrent points of haptic feedback in mid-air.

New Scientist has coverage of a system that uses an array of 320 ultrasound speakers set behind a touchscreen to generate beams of high-frequency sound waves. The waves are linked to the software running the displayed content and interact to create hotspots that give different sensations as people move their hands.

"What you feel is a vibration. The ultrasound exerts a force on your skin, slightly displacing it. We then turn this on and off at a frequency suited to the receptors in your hand so that you feel the vibration," says Carter.

"A 4-hertz vibration feels like heavy raindrops on your hand," he says. "At around 125 Hz it feels like you are touching foam and at 250 Hz you get a strong buzz."

UltraHaptics could be used to make invisible sliders for in-car entertainment systems, Carter says, so drivers could feel their way to the desired volume. And people whose hands are often dirty, like chefs or mechanics, could use invisible haptics to flip through manuals or recipes.

UltraHaptics: Multi-Point Mid-Air Haptic Feedback for Touch Surfaces

Neutron microscope could improve neutron imaging by 50 times

Researchers at MIT, working with partners at NASA, have developed a new concept for a microscope that would use neutrons — subatomic particles with no electrical charge — instead of beams of light or electrons to create high-resolution images. The device could open up new areas of research on materials and biological samples at tiny scales.

Among other features, neutron-based instruments have the ability to probe inside metal objects — such as fuel cells, batteries, and engines, even when in use — to learn details of their internal structure. Neutron instruments are also uniquely sensitive to magnetic properties and to lighter elements that are important in biological materials.

Schematic layout of the focusing-mirror-based SANS instrument.

Nature Communications - Demonstration of a novel focusing small-angle neutron scattering instrument equipped with axisymmetric mirrors

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 178

1. At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus adds to the chorus of voices saying that the electricity pricing policies that were put in place to encourage the development of renewable energy sources just don't make sense. In fact, they are counterproductive, as they are leading to the shutdown of nuclear power plants--and the consequent replacement of that power by fossil fuel sources.

Energy markets “were physically designed by reliability engineers, intellectually designed by economists, and all disputes are resolved by lawyers,” said Robert E. Curry Jr., a former member of the New York State Public Service Commission. “It’s the worst of all possible worlds".

“Looking at a market in the long run, you want to maintain a diverse portfolio, so you properly mitigate all your risk,” Mr. Mohl of Entergy said. “You don’t want to move to where you’re overly reliant on a single fuel.”

So far, though, that is not a consensus position, and what is likely to replace Vermont Yankee and other aging reactors is power generated by natural gas.

Bill Mohl, the president of wholesale electricity sales at Entergy, said it was a mistake for the market to force decisions about which plants to keep alive or scrap based on the everyday cost of power.

“Their market design is flawed because it doesn’t take a long-term look at the portfolio of assets,” he said. That portfolio should provide long-term grid reliability, and environmental and economic sustainability, he said — all benefits that nuclear power provides.

But nuclear gets no extra money for being carbon-free. It turns out that the cheapest way to achieve reductions in soot, acid rain and smog precursors is shutting down coal plants in favor of natural gas.

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