November 01, 2014

FISO Presentation - Status of the VASIMR solar electric propulsion system

Without funding support, the FISO telecon colloquia is an extracurricular activity. The telecon became less a working group tag-up and more, as it is exclusively now, an opportunity for a wide community to be presented with recent work relevant to in-space operations. It is important to understand that the FISO telecon is not a formal NASA activity: there is no NASA logo on our web pages. That being the case, we are able to set our own criteria for presentations. These presentations are co-chaired by a NASA employee, and the telecon uses a NASA toll-free line that is allocated to that co-chair for multiple uses. But other than that, the telecon has no formal connection with the agency. The website where the presentation materials reside is at the University of Texas with the second co-chair.

The most recent FISO presentation was by Mark Carter. It is an update on the VASIMR solar electric propulsion system.

The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR®) engine is a new type of electric thruster with many unique advantages. In a VASIMR® engine, gas such as argon, xenon, or hydrogen is injected into a tube surrounded by a magnet and a series of two radio wave (RF) couplers The couplers turn cold gas into superheated plasma and the rocket’s magnetic nozzle converts the plasma thermal motion into a directed jet.


Russian Progress on Laser Ablation Rockets

A number of systems have been proposed that can produce laser propulsion. One of the most promising near term possibilities involves a process called laser ablation, in which a pulsed laser beam strikes a surface, heats it up, and burns off material to create what is known as a plasma plume—a column of charged particles that flow off the surface. The outflowing of that plasma plume—essentially, exhaust—generates additional thrust to propel the craft.

In an Applied Optics paper, Rezunkov and Schmidt describe a new system that integrates a laser-ablation propulsion system with the gas blasting nozzles of a spacecraft. Combining the two systems, the researchers found, can increase the speed of the gas flow out of the system to supersonic speeds while reducing the amount of burned fuel.

The researchers show that the effectiveness of current laser-propulsion techniques is limited by factors including the instability of supersonic gases as they flow through the gas nozzle, as well as the production of shock waves that “choke” the inlet of the nozzle, reducing thrust. But those effects can be reduced with the help of a laser-ablation plasma plume that is redirected so that it will flow close to the interior walls of the nozzle. Coupling the ablation jet with supersonic gas flow through the nozzle, they find, significantly improves the overall thrust generated by the nozzle.

“Summarizing the data obtained, we can forecast the application of the supersonic laser propulsion techniques not only for launching small satellites to Earth orbits but also for additional acceleration of supersonic aircrafts to achieve Mach 10 and more,” Rezunkov said.


The effectiveness of current laser-propulsion techniques is limited by the instability of supersonic gas flow, caused by shock waves that “choke” the inlet of the nozzle, reducing thrust. Those effects can be reduced with the help of laser ablation, redirecting the plasma plume so that it flows close to the interior walls of a supersonic nozzle and significantly improving the overall thrust (Image credit: Y.Rezunkov/IOIE)

October 31, 2014

Virgin Galactic Spaceship 2 crashed

SpaceShipTwo's pilot ejected as disaster struck and suffered moderate to severe injuries, it has been revealed. His co-pilot was killed in the crash.

Virgin Galactic's spacecraft SpaceShipTwo has crashed during a test flight following what the firm has called a 'serious anomaly.'

One of the two pilots on board is reported to have died and the other has suffered 'major' injuries during the incident over the Mojave in Calfornia.

It is not yet clear what the "serious anomaly" which happened during the flight was.

An eyewitness has reported that the craft exploded after the rocket was ignited - although this has not been confirmed.


Another candidate for inexpensive cancer detection blood tests

A Hong Kong scientist who invented a simple blood test to show pregnant women if their babies have Down syndrome is now testing a similar technology for cancer.

Yuk Ming “Dennis” Lo says screening for signs of cancer from a simple blood draw could cost as little as $1,000. The test works by studying DNA released into a person’s bloodstream by dying tumor cells.

The prenatal tests work by searching for fetal DNA present in a pregnant woman’s blood. Decoding that DNA can determine whether the baby has too many or too few chromosomes, problems that cause birth defects.

Both Lo and scientists at Johns Hopkins recently used a technique nearly identical to the one used in the prenatal tests to demonstrate that they could scan a person’s blood for evidence of genes that are duplicated, missing, or rearranged, something that is a hallmark of cancer cells.

PNAS - Noninvasive detection of cancer-associated genome-wide hypomethylation and copy number aberrations by plasma DNA bisulfite sequencing

China will become a nuclear triad power this year

A nuclear triad refers to a nuclear arsenal which consists of three components, traditionally strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). The purpose of having a three-branched nuclear capability is to significantly reduce the possibility that an enemy could destroy all of a nation's nuclear forces in a first-strike attack; this, in turn, ensures a credible threat of a second strike, and thus increases a nation's nuclear deterrence.

Russia and the United States possess nuclear forces consisting of land-based missiles, ballistic or long-range cruise missile submarines, and strategic bombers or long-range tactical aircraft.

China is expected to pass a military milestone this year when it sets a different type of sub to sea—a “boomer,” carrying fully armed nuclear missiles for the first time—says the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, or ONI.


China can launch cruise missiles from its HK6 strategic bomber and China has had land based nuclear missiles for a few decades.

HK6 bomber

HP 3D Printer will be ten faster, cheaper with 5 micron precision

Hewlett-Packard finally is making a big bet on 3D printing. Although HP is targeting a crowded market, the company’s inkjet technology — announced today — looks so revolutionary to analyst Terry Wohlers that he predicts “it could even put some other companies out of business.”

HP’s Multi Jet Fusion TM technology can offer new levels of part quality, 10 times faster and at breakthrough economics relative to similar systems in the marketplace today. These breakthroughs can power the widespread adoption of 3D design and hardware innovation , creating the opportunity for a digital transformation of manufacturing as widespread and profound as the way HP’s Thermal Inkjet solutions changed traditional printing.

HP hasn’t yet announced prices for its machines, which will be tested with key customers for much of 2015 and won’t be widely available for sale until early 2016. But Nigro said that he’s most interested in reaching big industrial users and service bureaus that carry out jobs for small businesses, rather than focusing on the low-end consumer or hobbyist market. Many industrial 3D printers are priced at $150,000 to $500,000 apiece, and Nigro signaled that HP will probably aim its efforts toward the low end of that band.

HP 3D print heads can operate 10,000 nozzles at once, while tracking designs to a five-micron precision.

October 30, 2014

Uranium from seawater using metal organic frameworks

Metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) are many times lighter than proteins, while still capable of achieving similar local structure. A protein that absorbs one uranium atom extracts less than one-tenth of one percent of its final mass. A MOF cage offers similar three-dimensional connectivity as the protein, but weighs around 100 times less and may have multiple binding sites. MOFs absorbed slightly more than 20 percent of their mass in uranium. The 2013 research won an award.

Enzymes and proteins can have an unusual affinity for specific molecules. The researchers suspected that they could use the three-dimensional structure of the metal-organic frameworks to produce a binding pocket similar to those of the enzymes or proteins. They could then create a more efficient, lightweight version of a molecule that mimics the structure and function of the protein or enzyme.




Roger Shawyer still believes Emdrive will Scale to hundreds of Newtons per kilowatt

Roger Shawyer made a presentation of the controversial EMdrive. At the IAC 2014 conference in Toronto, Roger Shawyer stated that 8 sets of test data have now verified EmDrive theory. These data sets resulted from thrust measurements on 7 different thrusters, by 4 independent organisations, in 3 different countries.


The NASA experiments did not show power scaling with higher Q. Shawyer is combining the data from several different organizations.

The NASA work needs to be replicated multiple times.

More work and testing is needed to validate any mathematical model. The phenomena needs more proof and get an understanding and validated models. Scaling of the effect needs to be proven as well.

EMDrive thrust does not seem to scale with higher Q with these tests


Network of defibrillator drones could boost heart attack survival from 8% to 80%

Graduate student Alec Momont of TU Delft has designed an unmanned, autonomously navigating mini aeroplane that can quickly deliver a defibrillator to where it is needed. A network of such drones could significantly increase the chance of survival following a cardiac arrest: from 8% to 80%.

When the emergency services receive a cardiac arrest call, this unmanned, autonomously navigating aeroplane can quickly deliver a defibrillator to the emergency scene. Via a livestream video and audio connection, the drone can also provide direct feedback to the emergency services and the persons on site can be instructed how to treat the patient. The drone finds the patient's location via the caller's mobile phone signal and makes its way there using GPS. The drone can fly at around 100 km/h, weighs 4 kg and can carry another 4 kg.

Some 800,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest in the EU every year, and only 8% survive,’ Momont explains. 'The main reason for this is the relatively long response time of the emergency services (approx. 10 minutes), while brain death and fatalities occur within 4 to 6 minutes. The ambulance drone can get a defibrillator to a patient inside a 12 square kilometer zone within one minute. This response speed increases the chance of survival following a cardiac arrest from 8% to 80%.


The ambulance drone arrives at the scene in no time, on-board defibrillator, real-time instructions provided by the emergency operator.

China fielding its submarines with nuclear missiles

China is expected to pass a military milestone this year when it sets a different type of sub to sea—a “boomer,” carrying fully armed nuclear missiles for the first time—says the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, or ONI.

Chinese already has nuclear-powered submarines and hunter killer submarines.

China has fulfilled its four-decade quest to join the elite club of countries with nuclear subs that can ply the high seas.

China’s boomer patrols will make it one of only three countries—alongside the U.S. and Russia—that can launch atomic weapons from sea, air and land.


Small, safer pressurized water thorium nuclear reactor design

A team at the University of Cambridge and Georgia Institute of Technology are exploring whether the element thorium could help to meet the new design's fuel needs. As well as being three to four times more abundant than uranium, thorium could potentially produce electricity more fuel efficiently and therefore more cheaply.

The aim of the overall project, initiated by the US Department of Energy, is to design a power plant whose size would be reduced and safety enhanced by breaking with convention and integrating the main heat exchangers inside the secure pressure vessel where the nuclear reactions take place. This innovation gives the design its name: Integral Inherently Safe Light Water Reactor (I2S-LWR).

If all goes to plan, construction of the first I2S-LWRs could begin in around 10 years, making deployment of nuclear power more practical, more cost-effective and more publicly acceptable worldwide."

The I2S-LWR, which could also be constructed off-site, module by module, and then quickly assembled on site, would be suitable for deployment worldwide.

They used 3D printing to explore a model of the reactor design.


Google Deepmind team working on Neural Turing Machine

Arxiv - Google Deepmind researchers have extended the capabilities of neural networks by coupling them to external memory resources, which they can interact with by attentional processes. The combined system is analogous to a Turing Machine or Von Neumann architecture but is differentiable end-to-end, allowing it to be efficiently trained with gradient descent. Preliminary results demonstrate that Neural Turing Machines can infer simple algorithms such as copying, sorting, and associative recall from input and output examples.

A Neural Turing Machine (NTM) architecture contains two basic components: a neural network controller and a memory bank.


Neural Turing Machine Architecture. During each update cycle, the controller network receives inputs from an external environment and emits outputs in response. It also reads to and writes from a memory matrix via a set of parallel read and write heads. The dashed line indicates the division between the NTM circuit and the outside world.

Giant Plasmene Nanosheets, Nanoribbons, and Origami could lead to new optical effects like invisibility cloaks

ACS Nano - Giant Plasmene Nanosheets, Nanoribbons, and Origami

Monash University researchers have developed Plasmene— in analogy to graphene—as free-standing, one-particle-thick, superlattice sheets of nanoparticles (“meta-atoms”) from the “plasmonic periodic table”, which has implications in many important research disciplines. Here, they report on a general bottom-up self-assembly approach to fabricate giant plasmene nanosheets (i.e., plasmene with nanoscale thickness but with macroscopic lateral dimensions) as thin as ∼40 nm and as wide as ∼3 mm, corresponding to an aspect ratio of ∼75 000. In conjunction with top–down lithography, such robust giant nanosheets could be milled into one-dimensional nanoribbons and folded into three-dimensional origami. Both experimental and theoretical studies reveal that our giant plasmene nanosheets are analogues of graphene from the plasmonic nanoparticle family, simultaneously possessing unique structural features and plasmon propagation functionalities.


Russia approves construction of 150 Megawatt MBIR fast reactor

Russia has given the financial and regulatory go ahead to build the multi-purpose fast neutron reactor (MBIR) The total, fully equipped cost is estimated to be $1 billion. Of that, the Russian budget has already provided $300 million. MBIR will use vibropacked mixed-oxide (VMOX) fuel, a Russian variant for MOX fuel production, in which blended (U, Pu) O2 and UO2 powders are loaded and compressed directly into the cladding tube. The VMOX for MBIR will have a plutonium content of 38%.

The design for the MBIR was finalized earlier in the year.

Picture from 2010 IAEA presentation on the MBIR reactor

GDP by Province in China

Here is an update on the GDP nominal and purchasing power parity (PPP) for the different provinces within China. The figures are for 2013 and have the PPP adjustment from April 2014 by the IMF and World Bank.

Nextbigfuture projections for total China GDP in RMB were off by 3.5%. 57 trillion yuan instead of 59 trillion. The yuan is also not strengthening as much as Nextbigfuture was expecting. China's GDP growth is looking to about 7.3% in 2014 and 7.0% in 2015. The yuan will be at about 5.9 to 6.05 to the US dollar in 2015.


Identifying higher potential states and cities in India

McKinsey finds that eight high-performing states in India will account for some 52 percent of India’s incremental GDP growth from 2012 to 2025. Along with four very high-performing city-states, these eight will have 57 percent of India’s consuming-class households in 2025. Rapid urbanization and the associated income growth will propel the high-performing states to per capita income levels similar to those of today’s middle-income nations. In 2025, for instance, Maharashtra’s 128 million residents will have a purchasing-power parity similar to Brazil’s today. Goa’s and Chandigarh’s 2025 purchasing-power parity will mirror that of Spain today.

India’s economic geography in 2025: states, clusters and cities Identifying the high potential markets of tomorrow (76 pages)



Low-dose Rapamycin anti-aging drugs tests in pet dogs to advance antiaging research beyond mice

Researchers are proposing a different approach to animal testing of life-extending drugs: trials in pet dogs. Their target is rapamycin, which is used clinically as part of an anti-rejection drug cocktail after kidney transplants and which has also been shown to extend the lives of mice by 13% in females and 9% in males.

The compound’s effect on lifespan has not yet been tested in people — human trials are expensive and it takes a long time to learn whether a drug can extend a human life. Furthermore, rapamycin is no longer patentable, so pharmaceutical companies are unwilling to invest effort in it. The drug can also cause some serious side effects that might rule it out as a pharmaceutical fountain of youth. It has, for example, been linked to an increased risk of diabetes in people who have had kidney transplants. But at low doses, researchers suspect that the drug will not be a problem for healthy dogs.

The researchers hope to test rapamycin in large dogs that typically live for eight to ten years; they would start giving the drug to animals aged six to nine. A pilot trial would involve about 30 dogs, half of which would receive the drug, and would allow the researchers to dose the dogs for a short time and observe effects on heart function and some other health measures. The trial could be completed in as little as three years, but researchers will know long before that — perhaps in months — whether rapamycin improves cardiac function or other aspects of health.

Life extension with Rapamycin in mice

China ramping up production of J15 fighter jet and HK6 bomber with cruise missiles

New photos that have appeared on Chinese aviation websites suggest that mass production of the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-15 carrier-based multirole fighter is gathering pace.

Two new J-15 aircraft, numbered 104 and 105, are ready for delivery by SAC to the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF). The new additions take the total of known J-15 aircraft to 11, including prototypes.

Two new Shenyang J-15 aircraft, numbered 104 and 105, are ready for delivery by SAC to the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF). Source: via Chinese internet

At the same time testing continues with the J-15S, the twin-seat variant of the J-15. New photos show a bright yellow prototype conducting flight tests. The aircraft appears to be very close to production status.

October 29, 2014

Army wants Soft Exoskeletons for 90% of the Soldiers

DARPA's Warrior Web program's goal is to create a soft, lightweight undersuit to help reduce injuries and fatigue, while improving mission performance. DARPA is responsible for the development of new technologies for the U.S. military.

Researchers from Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering spent the past two years developing a biologically inspired smart suit that aims to boost efficiency through a new approach. A series of webbing straps contain a microprocessor and a network of strain sensors.

"The suit mimics the action of leg muscles and tendons so a Soldier's muscles expend less energy," said Dr. Ignacio Galiana, a robotics engineer working on the project.



Army evaluates DARPA's futuristic soft exosuit. Army researchers evaluate a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Warrior Web prototype at the Soldier Performance and Equipment Advanced Research facility, at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Oct. 2, 2014.

Scientists make human stomach tissue with stem cells

Scientists used pluripotent stem cells to generate functional, three-dimensional human stomach tissue in a laboratory -- creating an unprecedented tool for researching the development and diseases of an organ central to several public health crises, ranging from cancer to diabetes. Scientists used human pluripotent stem cells -- which can become any cell type in the body -- to grow a miniature version of the stomach.

The grown tissue will allow researchers to better study illnesses of the stomach, like those that cause ulcers and even cancer. The tissue may even be used as a treatment in and of itself by way of tiny grated patches that would grow over ulcerated stomachs.

The technique could be used within five years or so to create "patches" of tissue to repair ulcers and other stomach damage according to the lead researcher.


Jim Wells, PhD, Divisions of Developmental Biology and Endocrinology at Cincinnati Children’s, explains how the first-time molecular generation of 3D human gastric organoids (hGOs) presents new opportunities for drug discovery, modeling early stages of stomach cancer, studying the underpinnings of obesity related diabetes, and potential tissue regeneration for therapy. Credit: Image courtesy of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Nature - Modelling human development and disease in pluripotent stem-cell-derived gastric organoids

US Crude Oil Production higher than at any times since 1973

US oil production continues to increase. The 8.97 million barrels per day of crude oil is higher than the peak in the 1980s of 8.969 million barrels per day in 1985. So all weekly numbers back to the beginning of 1983 have been passed. Oil production was lower from 1974 to 1982. So the new peak is the highest since 1973.

In 1973 Nixon was president.


The USA had not finished the Vietnam war (which ended in 1975).
1973 is 41 years ago.
In 1973, Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby.
Marlon Brando won best actor for the Godfather.
In 1973, Bruce Lee had a mysterious death.

Gasoline was about 60 cents per gallon in 1974 and 30 cents in early 1973. Adjusting for inflation, the most a barrel of oil cost during the 1973 oil crisis was about $115. Oil is now $80-85 per barrel depending upon whether it is West Texas Intermediate or Brent.

The boom in US oil production is keeping the per barrel price low and should keep it low for two more decades. Gasoline prices are below $3 per gallon in parts of the USA and should be around $2.50 in 2015 and should stay around that level for many years.

The combined crude oil and natural gas liquids production is over 12 million barrels per day.
The all oil liquids (including ethanol and refinery gains) is over 14 million barrels per day.


Global infrastructure and Anti-Pollution Projects can extend China's Investment Growth model

Michael Pettis has made the case that China's growth has to slow because the investment fed growth model that China has used is running out of projects with good returns. Therefore, China has to transition to primarily domestic consumption for future growth

China’s total outbound investment is estimated to increase from about $100 billion in 2013 to $600 billion in 2025. This would provide China with 2-3% of GDP growth and high return projects to apply investment. During 2011-12, the global infrastructure market rebounded from the global financial crisis, and will continue to grow between 6-7% yearly to 2025. Increasing the quality and productivity of infrastructure in Asia, Europe, America and Africa will increase the market sizes particularly in developing countries. This will boost the export and trade that China has with those countries.

China will shift its $4 trillion of reserves from portfolio investment (much of which goes into US treasuries) towards higher-yielding direct investment. ODI is also good for trade. In countries where China invests the most, Chinese exports have also gained market share at a faster-than-average rate (with the exception of some European countries due to EU tariffs). Demand and jobs do not follow ODI out of China: indeed, ODI creates larger external markets for China’s exports. Finally, increased capital and trade flows both help in China’s quest to internationalize its currency, the renminbi.

Fast and High Temperature Reactors

There is a high temperature reactor conference at the site of China HTR-PM (pebble bed reactor) from Oct 27-31. The HTR-PM is under construction.

* Single zone, pebble bed
* Super heat steam turbine (higher temperature for more efficiency)
* Like conventional turbine in fossil plant
* 1 turbine with 2 reactors
* More reactors are possible in future
* Modular concept : Inherently passively safety
* Simplified safety system
* Standard design
* Duplicable for future

Roles of HTGR in China
* Supplementary for electricity generation to the big pressure water reactors PWR
- Suitable for process heat application
- Suitable for international market
- SMR is more flexible for developing countrie


Launchable Anchor for Rapid Bridging and Picosat links to improve radio communication

Tethers Unlimited has several other projects besides SpiderFab for NASA NIAC. They are working on a rapid bridging system, improved radiation shielding and using picosats for better radio communications.


1. The US Army Awarded Tethers Unlimited (TUI) a $1 Millon contract to develop launchable anchor for Rapid Bridging Operations. The ARMY SBIR Program has awarded TUI a $1M Phase II contract to develop the "Remote Anchoring Module" (RAM). The RAM is designed to launch across rivers, ravines, and other obstacles using a standard mortar system, deploying a high-strength tether in between the launch site and the landing site. Upon landing, it will self-right itself and then drive an anchor into the surface, providing high anchoring forces to facilitate bridging operations and equipment transport.



Google nanoparticles could enable early diagnosis of cancer and heart attacks

Google is attempting to develop a pill that would send microscopic particles into the bloodstream in an effort to identify cancers, imminent heart attacks, and other diseases.

Andrew Conrad, the head of life sciences inside the company’s Google X research lab, revealed the project on Tuesday morning at a conference here in Southern California. According to Conrad, the company is fashioning nanoparticles—particles about one billionth of a meter in width—that combine a magnetic material with antibodies or proteins that can attach to and detect other molecules inside the body. The idea is that patients will swallow a pill that contains these particles, and after they enter the bloodstream—attempting to identify molecules that would indicate certain health problems—a wearable device could use their magnetic cores to gather them back together and read what they’ve found.

Google's ambition is to constantly monitor the blood for the unique traces of cancer, allowing diagnosis long before any physical symptoms appear.


October 28, 2014

Toxin-secreting stem cells to treat brain tumors

Scientists from Harvard Medical School have discovered a way of turning stem cells into killing machines to fight brain cancer.

In experiments on mice, the stem cells were genetically engineered to produce and secrete toxins which kill brain tumours, without killing normal cells or themselves.

Researchers said the next stage was to test the procedure in humans.

Toxin-secreting stem cells can be used to eradicate cancer cells remaining in mouse brains after their main tumor has been removed. The stem cells are placed at the site encapsulated in a biodegradable gel. This method solves the delivery issue that probably led to the failure of recent clinical trials aimed at delivering purified cancer-killing toxins into patients’ brains. Shah and his team are currently pursuing FDA approval to bring this and other stem cell approaches developed by them to clinical trials.



Stem Cells - Engineering toxin-resistant therapeutic stem cells to treat brain tumors

India has some low hanging fruit for higher GDP growth

The World Bank has an India development update (31 pages)

Implementing GST and dismantling inter-state check posts are the most critical reforms needed for Indian manufacturing.

The potential gains of more efficient and reliable supply chains are enormous. Simply halving the delays due to road blocks, tolls and other stoppages could cut freight times by some 20-30 percent, and logistics costs by even more, as much as 30-40 percent. This would be tantamount to a gain in competitiveness of some 3-4 percent of net sales for key manufacturing sectors, helping India return to a path of high growth and enabling large-scale job creation.

According to the Update, a twice yearly report on the Indian economy and its prospects, India’s economic growth is expected to rise to 5.6 percent in FY15, followed by further acceleration to 6.4 percent and 7.0 percent in FY 2016 and FY 2017.

According to the Update, India’s longer term growth potential remains high due to favorable demographics, relatively high savings, recent policies and efforts to improve skills and education, and domestic market integration. Improved growth prospects in the US will support India’s merchandise and services exports, while stronger remittance inflows and declining oil prices are expected to support domestic demand.

Potential GDP growth is at 10%, so India is expected to be significantly underperforming relative to what India could be doing.


Orbital Science Antares Rocket Exploded at Launch today

The Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket lifted off to start its third resupply mission to the International Space Station, but suffered a catastrophic anomaly shortly after liftoff at 6:22 p.m. EDT.

AKA the rocket exploded.


It was unmanned. There was a Planetary Sciences test satellite for a small new asteroid spotting space telescope. It had no telescope but just was testing the electronics and other parts.



Near Future for Vastly Increasing Space Capabilities - SpiderFab and Spacex

1. Spiderfab can reduce costs by ten times or more and enable vastly larger structure in space. Larger structures such multi-kilometer solar sales, antennas or mirrors can transform space capabilities.

In March, 2014, NASA awarded Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) a $750,000 contract to continue development of its “Trusselator” technology. The Trusselator is a device for in-­space additive manufacture of high-­performance truss structures for systems such as large solar arrays and antennas.

Tethers Unlimited is developing a set of technologies called SpiderFab™ to enable on-­orbit fabrication of spacecraft components. The SpiderFab architecture integrates elements of 3D printing, automated composite layup, and robotic assembly to create large, light-weight structures. The SpiderFab robotic systems will integrate these structures with solar cells, reflectors, and other elements to create football-­stadium sized antennas, multi-­hundred kilowatt solar arrays, and other large components for space systems.

NASA has given a phase 2 NIAC contract to Tethers Unlimited. The NIAC contract is for developing techniques to enable robotic systems to assemble these trusses into larger structures, such as antenna dishes and solar arrays


DARPA terahertz chip for high resolution imaging, advanced radar and sensors

Officials from Guinness World Records today recognized DARPA’s Terahertz Electronics program for creating the fastest solid-state amplifier integrated circuit ever measured. The ten-stage common-source amplifier operates at a speed of one terahertz (10^12 Hz), or one trillion cycles per second—150 billion cycles faster than the existing world record of 850 gigahertz set in 2012.

“Terahertz circuits promise to open up new areas of research and unforeseen applications in the sub-millimeter-wave spectrum, in addition to bringing unprecedented performance to circuits operating at more conventional frequencies,” said Dev Palmer, DARPA program manager. “This breakthrough could lead to revolutionary technologies such as high-resolution security imaging systems, improved collision-avoidance radar, communications networks with many times the capacity of current systems and spectrometers that could detect potentially dangerous chemicals and explosives with much greater sensitivity.”


DARPA’s Terahertz Monolithic Integrated Circuit (TMIC) is the first solid-state amplifier demonstrating gain above 1 THz (1012 GHz). This achievement, recognized by Guinness World Records, could open up new areas of research and unforeseen applications in the sub-millimeter-wave spectrum and bring unprecedented performance to circuits operating in more conventional bands.

Marvel Films Through 2019 include two part Avengers Infinity War

Marvel has announced their movie schedule through 2019.

The Marvel movies are

Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 on May 4, 2018
Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 on May 3, 2019

The Infinity War was a six issue series in the comics which had conflict between Thanos, Magus, Warlock and all of the main Marvel Heroes.

Although the movies are called the Infinity War, the movies would have some elements of the Infinity Guantlet comics.

More likely is that the writers will only take some references and nearly totally rework the stories for the movies. The Power levels for the comics would not translate well for movies.

The Age of Ultron movie is dealing with the start of Ultron and changed that origin.


Differences from the comics will be that there will be no X-men. X-men are licensed to a different company. Fantastic Four will also not be in the stories for the same reason. Inhumans appear likely to substitute for mutants in the main Marvel movie and television universe.
There may not be Adam Warlock.

Correction : Adam Warlock seems likely to introduced. Adam Warlock's cocoon was in Guardians of the Galaxy and there is no legal reason there would not be Adam Warlock. Jim Starlin was prevented from writing a new Warlock / Thanos comic, which suggests this is being reserved for the movies.

Nuclear powered dredges could be used for future canal projects

Large canal projects like the Nicaragua canal or the Thailand (kra) canal could see the utilization of floating nuclear reactors (like the Russian reactors) to power barge dredgers. Seven floating nuclear reactors are expected by 2015. The floating power stations need to be refueled every three years while saving up to 200,000 metric tons of coal and 100,000 tons of fuel oil a year.

Nuclear power dredge designs have been proposed. One concept is based on a seagoing, self-propelled, hydraulic cutter-head dredge capable of sailing under its own power to Thailand. The greatest advantage over all existing barge-like floating dredges is due to the absence of large onboard oil bunkers and freshwater tanks. Heavy minerals (columbite, magnetite, ilmenite, rutile, zircon) – identified and sorted during post-excavation spoils distribution – can then be pumped via flexible pipelines or floating conveyor-belts from or to bank-side portable extraction machines (with appropriate holding bins), making it unnecessary to have any onboard bulk material storage accommodation.

Each vessel would be equipped with 4 retractable cutter-head dredge pumps that can be enclosed by streamlined bow doors as on extant car ferries. A nuclear reactor would power the dredge and the other equipment.



China could be biggest global investor by 2025 and gain geopolitically

China is expected to invest $169bn in infrastructure in the UK between 2014 and 2025, according to a report by law firm Pinsent Masons. Most of this money, $70bn, will go into Britain’s energy sector, with property and transport expected to receive $58bn and $31bn respectively.

The most likely investment route for Chinese capital is through joint ventures, and the ultimate aim is to increase the market for China’s manufacturing industries, in particular heavy engineering and building materials.

The UK is third in attracting infrastructure investment from China, behind the US and Japan. China’s total outbound investment is estimated to increase from about $100 billion in 2013 to $600 billion in 2025.

If China moves to outbound foreign direct investment of $600 billion in 2025 then this would likely surpass the US level of foreign investment unless the US nearly doubles outbound investment

Paper strip tests for Ebola for 4 to 65 cents each

James Collins, a synthetic biologist at Boston University, says he’s been able to print the ingredients for simple DNA experiments on paper, freeze dry them, and use them as much as a year later. It could lead to cheap diagnostic tests for viruses like Ebola.

The idea of inexpensive paper-based diagnostics isn’t new. But so far, these tests have relied on traditional chemistry like pregnancy tests do. Collins says his work now extends the idea to precisely engineered genetic reactions.

Each paper detection strip would cost only between 4 and 65 cents, and could be designed and produced in a day or so.

Collins showed the system could detect the Ebola virus, whose genetic code consists of RNA. When his team added bits of Ebola RNA to paper test strips, the genetic material completed a “circuit” allowing production of a protein which stained the paper, causing it to turn dark purple in about an hour.


Journal Cell - Paper-Based Synthetic Gene Networks

US Energy Independence by 2025

Wood MacKenzie forecasts that the US will have achieved energy independence goal by 2025, marking the first time since 1952 that the country will export more energy than it imports.

Energy Independence could happen even faster:

1. Crude export ban lifted would boost production up to 400,000 barrels per day

if the crude export ban is lifted then it is likely that energy independence will be attained before 2025. The move would increase the price realized by domestic upstream producers as they would be able to access higher priced international markets. Receiving an additional US$5 per barrel could result in a production increase of 350-400,000 barrels per day.

2. US vehicle fleet is forecast to become 40% more efficient by 2030. Any further vehicle efficiency improvement would reduce US oil demand and, consequently, net oil imports.

3. New production techniques that could boost recovery rates of tight oil and shale gas. Refracturing existing wells is one potential technique

There are various technologies for enhanced oil recovery


Economic Reasons that Thai Canal Will Eventually be Built

The trade route to the Indian Ocean through the Malacca Strait has the problems of pirates, shipwrecks, haze, sediment and shoals. Its rate of accidents is twice as high as the Suez Canal and four times higher than the Panama Canal.

An alternative shorter route is to build a canal at Kra Isthmus, Thailand. It will save shipment costs and time as the route is shortened by 1,000 km. In March 2014, China's Daily reported that LiuGong Machinery Co. Ltd and XCMG, and private Sany Heavy Industry Co Ltd were beginning preparations on the Kra Isthmus Canal but this was then denied by the companies.

Economically it seems likely that the Thai canal project will get started at some point in the five to ten years.

China trade with ASEAN is nearing $500 billion per year.

In 2011 dollars, the Thai Canal could hypothetically reduce annual oil shipping costs by $49 billion if the entire traffic of the competing straight were diverted, disregarding canal fees and the return trip costs of the empty tanker.


October 27, 2014

Virtual cores and virtual threaded chips could boost chip performance by 4 times and restore performance per watt scaling

Soft Machines (startup with $125 million in funding and working with Samsung and AMD) developed new VISC™ (Virtual Instruction Set Computing) Architecture (19 page presentation)

Soft Machines demonstrated a 28nm dual-core version of their virtual core approach at the Linley Processor Conference. The 300-400MHz prototype chip ran 32-bit ARM software at performance levels that suggest its technology could provide a leap over current approaches. It looked impressive and could be the gist of a first product.

The startup aimed for 10x improvements but on average expects to deliver still respectable 4x gains. The good news is its technology could be applied to a broad range of chips, from IoT and mobile SoCs to server processors.

The next big target is a quad-core version running at about 1.5 GHz.

• Extracting ILP has significant complexity
• OoO complexity increases quadratically with machine width
• VISC complexity increases linearly with number of virtual cores
• VISC Performance/Watt utilizes linear scaling



New Multicore Optical Fiber allows for 21 times more bandwidth

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in the Netherlands and the University of Central Florida (CREOL) in the USA, have successfully transmitted at a record high 255 Terabits per second over a new type of fiber allowing 21 times more bandwidth than currently available in communication networks. This new type of fiber could be an answer to mitigating the impending optical transmission capacity crunch caused by the increasing bandwidth demand.

The new fibre has seven different cores through which the light can travel, instead of one in current state-of-the-art fibres. This compares to going from a one-way road to a seven-lane highway. Also, they introduce two additional orthogonal dimensions for data transportation – as if three cars can drive on top of each other in the same lane. Combining those two methods, they achieve a gross transmission throughput of 255 Terabits per second over the fibre link. This is more than 20 times the current standard of 4-8 Terabits per second.


Few-mode multicore fibre characteristics

Nature Photonics - Ultra-high-density spatial division multiplexing with a few-mode multicore fibre

Spacex will attempt to land Falcon 9 boost December 9th on a floating platform and then reuse it

Elon Musk spoke at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department's 2014 Centennial celebration. The October 22-24 Centennial Symposium featuring some of the most illustrious names in aerospace reflecting on past achievement, celebrating today’s innovative research and education, and offering their perspectives on what lies ahead.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said his company will make a first attempt to land the booster stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating platform during the upcoming ISS resupply mission. If the attempt is successful, the company plans to refurbish and reuse the booster stage, making spaceflight history and paving the way for a significant reduction in the cost of access to space.

Propellant only makes up a tiny percentage (in the case of a Falcon 9 rocket, about 0.3 percent) of the cost of the craft, so being able to reuse all the hardware for multiple flights could potentially slash the cost of spaceflight by a factor of 10 or more.



Ebola Survivors sign up to work at Treatment Units

Ebola survivors like Camara are joining an association in Guinea that assists the growing number of people who recover and seeks ways for them to help combat the disease.

Survivors are believed to have immunity from Ebola thanks to antibodies in their blood, making them a powerful weapon in a fight against the virus.

In Liberia and Sierra Leone too, survivors are signing up to work in Ebola Treatment Units, to care for children orphaned by the disease, and to provide counseling to victims in an attempt to break the taboo surrounding the outbreak.

There is hope that blood from survivors can also be used as a serum to treat the disease. In Liberia, plans are underway to store survivors' blood and the World Health Organization has said that treatment could start as early as December.

Crafting a HeroX Xprize for Cheaply and Quickly Stopping Ebola

Ebola is running rampant over West Africa and Yale and Toronto Epidemiologists forecast that there could be 1.75 million cases before it burns out in 2016. This includes current levels of intervention and the 2.5 undercount factor.

The HeroX Challenge Breakthrough

Create cheap Ebola protection using materials that are commonly available in West Africa to meaningfully slow or stop the spread of Ebola.

A women used Garbage bags and other materials while she treated her family when they had Ebola.

Fatu covered herself with layers of trash bags and a rain coat to make sure she is properly protected. She wore a garbage bag on her socks and tied it to her leg. She then wore a rubber boot and covered it again with trash bag. She covered her hair with a stocking and a trash bag while on her body; she wore a rain coat and four layers of gloves on her arms. After that, she made sure she wore a mask.


Without more intervention the world is on track to stop Ebola in 2016 after about 1 million deaths

A new model by David Fisman and Ashleigh Tuite of the University of Toronto in Canada – the first to take account of efforts to fight infections – suggests that if things continue as they have been up until now, 700,000 people could have had the virus by the time the epidemic in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone subsides – in early 2016. Fisman's prediction is based on reported cases of Ebola. (The previous prediction of more than a million cases by this coming January had assumed that the actual number of cases is 2.5 times the reported cases. Factoring in underreporting results in Fisman's model having 1.75 million cases. 50-70% of those cases would result in death so around 900,000-1.23 million deaths.

Lancet - Dynamics and control of Ebola virus transmission in Montserrado, Liberia: a mathematical modelling analysis

Ebola: no time to waste

Carnival of Space 377

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 232

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 232 is up at Fukushima Commentary

Nuke Power Talk – The Grid and Solar Power: Getting the Incentives Right

Gail Marcus looks at how some of the pricing rules for solar energy lead to suboptimal outcomes. We are all familiar with the negative prices that some nuclear plants have incurred because of market pricing provisions. However, the incentives that lead to owners orienting solar panels to achieve maximum total output do less to meet peak needs than orientations that produce less total power when it is needed most

Test Version of Planetary Resources Space telescope Scheduled to Launch Today

Planetary Resources is a leader in developing asteroid mining. More than 1,500 are as easy to reach as the Moon and are in similar orbits as Earth. Asteroids are filled with precious resources, everything from water to platinum.

An Orbital Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft destined for the International Space Station (ISS) under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA is scheduled for lift-off at 6:45 p.m. EDT (22:45 UTC) from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia.

UPDATE: The Orbital Antares rocket exploded

The Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket lifted off to start its third resupply mission to the International Space Station, but suffered a catastrophic anomaly shortly after liftoff at 6:22 p.m. EDT.

AKA the rocket exploded.

Planetary Resources will have to try again on another launch

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Planetary Resources plans to launch an Arkyd 3. It will test the systems for an Arkyd 100 space telescope but without the space telescope.

It is a 33-centimetre-long, 10-centimetre-wide spacecraft.

October 26, 2014

Lower oil prices will provide $1.1 trillion per year in stimulus to the global economy

<a href="http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/10/16/citigroup-sees-1-1-trillion-stimulus-from-oil-plunge/ target=blank>The lowest oil price in four years will provide stimulus of as much as $1.1 trillion per year</a> to global economies by lowering the cost of fuels and other commodities, according to Citigroup Inc.<br /> <br /> Brent, the world’s most active crude contract, closed at $83.78 a barrel in London yesterday. That’s more than 20 percent below its average for the past three years, amounting to savings of about $1.8 billion a day based on current output ($660 billion per year), Citigroup estimates. Savings will climb to $1.1 trillion annually as the slide cuts costs of other commodities, leaving consumers and companies with extra cash to spend and bolstering growth, according to Ed Morse, the bank’s head of global commodities research in New York.<br /> <br />

Future of Work - Limo drivers, Limo Passengers and Business Jet Passengers

Those who work at Uber typically make far more money than those who drive for Uber.

The benefits and actual jobs have a huge difference Also, the future prospects for the category of work is an important matter for career and life planning.

Prospects will be worse and worse being told by computers what to do

Driving for Uber = peon
- pay your own insurance
- no guaranteed work
- No health benefits
- Dropped at a moment's notice.
- ultimately will be replaced by self driving cars

like fuedal serf except less benefits.



Prospects are far better if you create the algorithms and business models for the computers

Work for Uber = aristocracy
- Stock options and bonuses
- Free lunch
- Unlimited Uber travel
- Uber employees can commute every day using Uber rides
- unlimited vacation
- full medical/dental, vision
- free gym


Canada's Oilsand costs beat US tight oil in Texas and North Dakota

Scotiabank research had an analysis of crude oil production costs in Canada and the United states. Saskatchewans Bakken oil is the cheapest at $44 per barrel. Canada's oilsands are $60-65 per barrel (both including 9% after tax return). They are a bit cheaper than crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken and Texas tight oil.



Dog Cloning for Tibetan Mastiffs Today and for Perfectly Marbled Ribeyes and Pandas Tomorrow

Hwang Woo Suk runs the only facility [Sooam Research of Korea] on earth that clones dogs for customers willing to pay $100,000. He led the team that cloned the first dog in 2005, and he’s produced more than 550 cloned puppies since, increasing the efficiency of a complicated process to a point where he can guarantee an exact genetic copy of a client’s dog, provided he has healthy tissue to work with.

Tibetan mastiffs, a breed of ancient, aloof guard dogs so hallowed in China that owning the best specimens is an assertion of status almost without rival. The donor of the cells used to clone these puppies was an 8-year-old champion stud from Qinghai province whose owner turned down a $5 million offer for him last year. He can earn nearly that much in one breeding season. Earlier this year, a developer paid $2.6 million for a single, gold-colored puppy, and a scarcity of top-quality puppies in China means that the run on mastiffs costing more than mansions is unlikely to abate anytime soon.




Beyond the symbolic importance of the breed, Chinese officials wanted the operation staged in Weihai because it provided a backdrop for the announcement of a partnership between Sooam and BoyaLife, a fast-growing Chinese biotechnology company with 28 subsidiaries and operations in 16 provinces. Sometime early next year, ground will be broken for a 667,000-square-foot research laboratory on a spectacular plateau of yellow grass and scrubby pines facing the Yellow Sea. There, scientists from both companies will operate China’s first commercial animal cloning facility on grounds landscaped to look like a park.

“Dogs are the entry point,” he says. The far larger and more important focus will be cloning cows to help China deal with a growing appetite for beef. Currently the Chinese favor pork and consume just 5 kilograms (11 pounds) a year of beef per capita, half the global average and one-tenth what Americans consume. But the population is acquiring a taste, so Xu wants to “expedite the production of high-quality beef” through cloning.

In 2014 researchers were reporting cloning success rates of eight out of ten but in 1996 it took 277 attempts to create Dolly.



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