NASA Successfully Tests First Deep Space Internet

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA has successfully tested the first deep space communications network modeled on the Internet.

Working as part of a NASA-wide team, engineers from NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., used software called
Disruption-Tolerant Networking, or DTN, to transmit dozens of space
images to and from a NASA science spacecraft located about 20 million
miles from Earth.

"This is the first step in creating a
totally new space communications capability, an interplanetary
Internet," said Adrian Hooke, team lead and manager of space-networking
architecture, technology and standards at NASA Headquarters in

NASA and Vint Cerf, a vice president at Google
Inc., in Mountain View, Calif., partnered 10 years ago to develop this
software protocol. The DTN sends information using a method that
differs from the normal Internet's Transmission-Control
Protocol/Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP, communication suite, which Cerf

The Interplanetary Internet must be robust to
withstand delays, disruptions and disconnections in space. Glitches can
happen when a spacecraft moves behind a planet, or when solar storms
and long communication delays occur. The delay in sending or receiving
data from Mars takes between three-and-a-half to 20 minutes at the
speed of light.

Unlike TCP/IP on Earth, the DTN does not
assume a continuous end-to-end connection. In its design, if a
destination path cannot be found, the data packets are not discarded.
Instead, each network node keeps the information as long as necessary
until it can communicate safely with another node. This
store-and-forward method, similar to basketball players safely passing
the ball to the player nearest the basket means information does not
get lost when no immediate path to the destination exists. Eventually,
the information is delivered to the end user.


Water Vapor Confirmed on Alien Planet

The unequivocal signature of water vapor has been found on a
planet beyond our solar system.

Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope,
astronomers detected
the steamy signature of water vapor in the light coming from a large
exoplanet circling around a star about 63 light-years from Earth.
Though it's not the first sign of water vapor around this planet, it's
the strongest evidence yet.

The planet, HD 189733b, is what's called a "Hot Jupiter" — a boiling,
gigantic gas planet more akin to our own Jupiter or Saturn than to a
terrestrial planet like Earth. It's not a good candidate itself for alien
life, but the successful detection of water vapor here, in the
location and quantities that theorists predicted, bodes well for further
studies of more promising locales for extraterrestrial life.

"It means we're starting to understand these objects a
little bit better than we did when we first started," astrophysicist Adam
Burrows of Princeton University told Wired.com. "It’s a trial run for the
much more detailed investigations that will be possible in the years to come as
we take this stepping stone from giant planets to terrestrial planets."

Though water vapor is thought to be fairly common on planets — even
our own Jupiter has it — the discovery of its presence on another world
is significant and points the way toward future discoveries, scientists
say. Yesterday scientists announced that the Hubble Space Telescope
had found carbon dioxide, which under the right circumstances could be
connected to life, on the same planet. The presence of methane has also
been detected.



Proposed Laser ignition Fusion/Fission Hybrid Commercial Power by 2030

LIFE, an acronym for Laser Inertial Fusion-Fission Energy, is an advanced energy concept under development at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

Conceptual design for a LIFE engine and power plant based on National
Ignition Facility (NIF)-like fusion targets and a NIF-like laser
operating at an energy of 1.4 megajoules (MJ) at a wavelength of 350
nanometers (ultraviolet), with a 2.5-meter-radius target chamber and
with the final optics at a distance of 25 meters from the target. The
National Ignition Campaign will begin during 2009, and ignition and
fusion energy yields of 10 to 15 megajoules (MJ) are anticipated during
fiscal years 2010 or 2011. Fusion yields of 20 to 35 MJ are expected
soon thereafter. Ultimately fusion yields of 100 MJ are expected on
NIF. The LIFE system is designed to operate with fusion energy gains of
about 25 to 30 and fusion yields of about 35 to 50 MJ to provide about
500 megawatts (MW) of fusion power – about 80 percent of which comes in
the form of 14.1 million electron-volt (MeV) neutrons with the rest of
the energy in X-rays and ions. This is an approach which would be as
good as and in some ways superior to liquid flouride thorium reactors.
Improvements in lasers and cost reduction with laser components would
meet the requirements of this project if current trends continue. A
success with aneutronic nuclear fusion such as might occur with Bussard
Inertial electrostatic fusion, dense plasma focus fusion would likely
be superior to this. It would be worthwhile to fund several of these
vastly superior approaches to nuclear fission and fusion for a billion
or few billion each in order to get many multiple trillions of payoff
with a homerun energy success. Even partial success with one of these
approaches could deal with all of the current nuclear waste (unburned
fuel) which would cost tens of billions to store in a place like Yucca

A Computer Program That Taught Itself to Draw the Mona Lisa

These images represent four steps in one computer program's progress
towards recreating the Mona Lisa using only 50 semi-transparent
polygons. Swedish programmer Roger Alsing did this simple weekend
project with genetic programming that resulted in a program that could
generate, on its own, a pretty awesome likeness of the famous painting.
So how did he do it?

He wrote a program that would randomly place shapes on a black
background, and decide whether the abstract pattern looked more or less
like the famous painting. After almost a million tries, the program's
output had evolved to the point where Alsing had the image on the far



No Neanderthal Ancestors for Modern Humans

If ancient homo sapiens got it on with their Neanderthal
cousins, there were no children to show for it. Researchers studying
Neanderthal DNA have sequenced half of the Neanderthal genome, and
shoot down the theory that European humans interbred with the
now-extinct species. And the team says the genome has other things to
teach us about Neanderthal life, including their sexual proclivities.

research team at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthology
presented their findings last week at a human evolution conference. The
researchers have compared the Neanderthal genome to that of modern
humans of European and African descent. Because Neanderthals and modern
humans coexisted in Europe, researchers have theorized that European
genomes would have more similarities with the Neanderthal genome than
would African genomes. However, European and African genomes have a
similar number of differences from the Neanderthal genome, suggesting
that modern humans in Europe outbred rather than assimilated the



Einstein's E=MC2 Finally Proven Right 103 Years Later

PARIS (AFP) - It's taken more than a century, but Einstein's
celebrated formula e=mc2 has finally been corroborated, thanks to a
heroic computational effort by French, German and Hungarian physicists.

A brainpower consortium led by Laurent Lellouch of France's Centre
for Theoretical Physics, using some of the world's mightiest
supercomputers, have set down the calculations for estimating the mass
of protons and neutrons, the particles at the nucleus of atoms.

According to the conventional model of particle physics, protons and
neutrons comprise smaller particles known as quarks, which in turn are
bound by gluons.

The odd thing is this: the mass of gluons is zero and the mass of
quarks is only five percent. Where, therefore, is the missing 95

The answer, according to the study published in the US journal Science on Thursday, comes from the energy from the movements and interactions of quarks and gluons.

In other words, energy and mass are equivalent, as Einstein proposed in his Special Theory of Relativity in 1905.

The e=mc2 formula shows that mass can be converted into energy, and energy can be converted into mass.

By showing how much energy would be released if a certain amount of
mass were to be converted into energy, the equation has been used many
times, most famously as the inspirational basis for building atomic

But resolving e=mc2 at the scale of sub-atomic particles -- in equations called quantum chromodynamics -- has been fiendishly difficult.

"Until now, this has been a hypothesis," France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) said proudly in a press release.

"It has now been corroborated for the first time."



Nearby Solar System Looks Like Our Own at Time Life Formed

A nearby solar system bears a striking similarity to our own solar system, raising the possibility it could harbor Earth-like planets.

Epsilon Eridani, located about 10.5 light-years from our sun, is surrounded by two asteroid belts that are shaped by planets, astronomers at SETI Institute and Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced today.

But it's the possibility that currently undetected smaller planets could lie within the innermost asteroid belt that make the solar system intriguing to astrobiologists.

"This system probably looks a lot like ours did when life first took root on Earth," said SETI's Dana Backman, lead author of a paper on the 850-million-year-old star that will appear next year in The Astrophysical Journal, in a release.

Back then, the Kuiper Belt of space objects beyond Neptune was much larger. Over time, many of those objects fell into the inner solar system during a period about four billion years ago known as the Late Heavy Bombardment. The barrage of large asteroids pockmarked the rocky planets and possibly created our moon when a large object collided with Earth, expelling a huge amount of material into space.

Epsilon Eridani's evolution could provide insight into how universal these processes are. That's important because our solar system contains a planet — Earth — just far enough from the sun not to be fried but close enough to capture enough energy to support life as we know it. Similar systems
could end up with planets orbiting in the same biological sweet spot.

"Epsilon Eridani looks a lot like the young solar system, so it's conceivable that it will evolve similarly," said astronomer Massimo Marengo of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, a co-author of the paper.


Nearby Solar System Looks Like Our Own at Time Life Formed

A nearby solar system bears a striking similarity to our own solar
system, raising the possibility it could harbor Earth-like planets.

Epsilon Eridani, located about 10.5 light-years from our sun, is surrounded by two asteroid belts that are shaped by planets, astronomers at SETI Institute and Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced today.

But it's the possibility that currently undetected smaller planets could lie
within the innermost asteroid belt that make the solar system intriguing to astrobiologists.

"This system probably looks a lot like ours did when life first took root on Earth," said SETI's Dana Backman, lead author of a paper on the 850-million-year-old star that will appear next year in The Astrophysical Journal, in a release.

Back then, the Kuiper Belt
of space objects beyond Neptune was much larger. Over time, many of
those objects fell into the inner solar system during a period about
four billion years ago known as the Late Heavy Bombardment.
The barrage of large asteroids pockmarked the rocky planets and
possibly created our moon when a large object collided with Earth,
expelling a huge amount of material into space.

Epsilon Eridani's evolution could provide insight into how universal these processes are.
That's important because our solar system contains a planet — Earth —
just far enough from the sun not to be fried but close enough to
capture enough energy to support life as we know it. Similar systems
could end up with planets orbiting in the same biological sweet spot.

"Epsilon Eridani looks a lot like the young solar system, so it's conceivable that it will evolve similarly," said astronomer Massimo Marengo of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, a co-author of the paper.



Holographic Television Coming Soon

We use high-definition television, dark rooms, and surround sound to create an immersive media experience. But for those who want television that more closely resembles the holodeck, there’s good news. A University of Arizona research team has made a significant breakthrough in 3-D displays that could put holographic sets on the market in five to ten years.

A team at the university’s Optical Sciences department, headed by photonics and lasers chair Dr. Nasser Peyghambarian, has created the first rewritable holographic displays that operate from memory:

"This is a prerequisite for any type of moving holographic technology. The way it works presently is not suitable for 3-D images," he said.

The researchers produced displays that can be erased and rewritten in a matter of minutes.

These holographic television would offer multiple types of 3-dimensional viewing experiences:

According to Peyghambarian, they could be constructed as a screen on the wall (like flat panel displays) that shows 3-D images, with all the image writing lasers behind the wall; or it could be like a horizontal panel on a table with holographic writing apparatus underneath.

So, if this project is realized, you really could have a football match on your coffee table, or horror-movie villains jumping out of your wall.

It’s still a long way away from the multisensory experience of the holodeck, but it could mean that next decade’s first person shooters will have you sniping aliens from behind your sofa.



Two Planets Suffer Violent Collision

ScienceDaily (Sep. 24, 2008) — Two
terrestrial planets orbiting a mature sun-like star some 300
light-years from Earth recently suffered a violent collision,
astronomers at UCLA, Tennessee State University and the California
Institute of Technology will report in a December issue of the
Astrophysical Journal.
"It's as if Earth and Venus collided with each other," said Benjamin
Zuckerman, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy and a co-author on
the paper. "Astronomers have never seen anything like this before.
Apparently, major catastrophic collisions can take place in a fully
mature planetary system."

"If any life was present on either planet, the massive collision
would have wiped out everything in a matter of minutes — the
ultimate extinction event," said co-author Gregory Henry, an astronomer
at Tennessee State University (TSU). "A massive disk of
infrared-emitting dust circling the star provides silent testimony to
this sad fate."


China takes the leap: Emdrive aka Infinite Improbability Drive now in development

While the rest of the world was in some kind of mass coma over the past
year, China decided to have a hand at building the highly controversial
Emdrive (electromagnetic drive) -- an engine that uses microwaves to
transform electrical energy into thrust, all in a comparably
light-weight, efficient package. The end result could mean 41 day
journeys to Mars, not to mention terrestrial vehicle propulsion and
satellite applications. Perpetual motion
malarkey you say? British scientist and originator of the concept,
Roger Shawyer of Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd. (SPR), assures you
it's nothing of the kind, and Chinese Professor Yang Juan concurs.
Research headed by Juan at Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU)
in Xi'an commenced in June 2007, and a thruster now being built based
on Shawyer's theories is scheduled for completion by the end of this
year. Meanwhile in the US: cue the sound of crickets.



A Plane With Wings Of Glass?

ScienceDaily (June 24, 2008) — Imagine a plane that has wings made out of glass. Thanks to a major breakthrough in understanding the nature of glass by scientists at the University of Bristol, this has just become a possibility.

Despite its solid appearance, glass is actually a 'jammed' state of matter that moves very slowly. Like cars in a traffic jam, atoms in a glass can't reach their destination because the route is blocked by their neighbours, so it never quite becomes a 'proper' solid.

For more than 50 years most scientists have tried to understand just what glass is. Work so far has concentrated on trying to understand the traffic jam, but now Dr Paddy Royall from the University of Bristol, with colleagues in Canberra and Tokyo, has shown that the problem really lies with the destination, not with the traffic jam.

Publishing June 22, 2008, in Nature Materials, the team has revealed that glass 'fails' to be a solid due to the special atomic structures that form in a glass when it cools (ie, when the atoms arrive at their destination).

UnoCycle single-wheel bike just might be real


You've seen the Noah, marveled at the Embrio
— isn't it time you saw a one-wheeled motorcycle that might
actually be real? Witness the UnoCycle, a single-wheel, single-rider
(please don't test that limit) vehicle that appears to be based on
gyroscopic tech similar to a Segway and, more importantly, has
photographic evidence of its existence. Of guys riding it and

Still in development, the Uno's top speed is 15 mph, but the
inventor, Ben Gulak, suspects it could go as high as 40. That's no
Harley, but it's faster than a Segway, and remember this is a
battery-powered machine that you never need to fill up. Gulak says he's
getting lots of interest lately — we hope he invests a little of
his incoming finances into a less-skeletal website.


Southern California Hot Spot Hits 812 Degrees, Baffles Experts

The ground is so hot in one part of Southern California it can melt the shoes right off your feet.

An unexplained "thermal anomaly" caused a patch of land in Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles, to reach a temperature of over 800 degrees on Friday, baffling experts who have been monitoring the area for weeks.

The anomaly was discovered after the land got so hot that it started a brush fire and burned three acres last month.

Firefighters were brought to the scene after reports of a blaze, but by the time they arrived only smoldering dirt and brush remained.



Phoenix Lander Has Touched Martian Water For the First Time

NASA just announced that the Phoenix Lander has successfully scooped up a Martian water ice sample and placed it in its oven for scientific analysis. "Mars Odyssey discovered this ice six years ago, but we've now touched it and tasted it, which is something that hasn't been done before," said a scientist at today's press conference. The sample has been dubbed the "Wicked Witch" (because it's meeeelting, meeeelting—get it?) and it will continue to be analyzed over the course of the coming weeks as data trickles in. Exciting, exciting stuff from this very successful mission. More details and new hi-res surface images to follow.

"Major Discovery" From MIT Primed to Unleash Solar Revolution

Scientists mimic essence of plants' energy storage system.

In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn't shine.

Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient. With today's announcement, MIT researchers have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy.

Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. "This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years," said MIT's Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. "Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon."

Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera's lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun's energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.

The key component in Nocera and Kanan's new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity - whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source - runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.

Combined with another catalyst, such as platinum, that can produce hydrogen gas from water, the system can duplicate the water splitting reaction that occurs during photosynthesis.

The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it's easy to set up, Nocera said. "That's why I know this is going to work. It's so easy to implement," he said.



Advance brings low-cost, bright LED lighting closer to reality


Researchers at Purdue University have overcome a major obstacle in
reducing the cost of "solid state lighting," a technology that could cut electricity consumption by 10 percent if widely adopted.

The technology, called light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, is about four
times more efficient than conventional incandescent lights and more
environmentally friendly than compact fluorescent bulbs. The LEDs also
are expected to be far longer lasting than conventional lighting,
lasting perhaps as long as 15 years before burning out.

"The LED technology has the potential of
replacing all incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs, which would
have dramatic energy and environmental ramifications," said Timothy D.
Sands, the Basil S. Turner Professor of Materials Engineering and
Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The LED lights are about as efficient as compact fluorescent lights, which contain harmful mercury.


The crowd within

THAT problem solving becomes easier when more minds are put to the task is no more than common sense. But the phenomenon goes further than that. Ask two people to answer a question like “how many windows are there on a London double-decker bus” and average their answers. Their combined guesses will usually be more accurate than if just one person had been asked. Ask a crowd, rather than a pair, and the average is often very close to the truth. The phenomenon was called “the wisdom of crowds” by James Surowiecki, a columnist for the New Yorker who wrote a book about it. Now a pair of psychologists have found an intriguing corollary. They have discovered that two guesses made by the same person at different times are also better than one.

That is strange. Until now, psychologists have assumed that when people make a guess, they make the most accurate guess that they can.

Ask them to make a second and it should, by definition, be less accurate. If that were true, averaging the first and second guesses should decrease the accuracy. Yet Edward Vul at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harold Pashler at the University of California, San Diego, have revealed in a study just published in Psychological Science that the average of first and second guesses is indeed better than either guess on its own.

The two researchers asked 428 people eight questions drawn from the “CIA World Factbook”: for example, “What percentage of the world’s airports are in the USA?” Half the participants were unexpectedly asked to make a second, different guess immediately after they completed the initial questionnaire. The other half were asked to make a second guess three weeks later.

Dr Vul and Dr Pashler found that in both circumstances the average of the two guesses was better than either guess on its own. They also noticed that the interval between the first and second guesses determined how accurate that average was. Second guesses made immediately improved accuracy by an average of 6.5%; those made after three weeks improved the accuracy by 16%.



Laughter May Outlive Humans—and Even Numbers

Futurologists envision a world a million years from now in which the entire solar system has been turned into computronium
and nanobots transform our garbage into foie gras. But in my
experience, the repeated sin of futurologists is that they often
extrapolate from what is new rather than from what is old. Computers
and nanotechnology, impressive though they are, are things of
relatively recent origin. As such, they are unlikely to be around for
very long.

To find something that will pretty certainly endure into the distant
future, we are obliged, paradoxically enough, to go back much farther
into the past. And if we could cast a look back several million years,
we would see, among other things, laughter and numbers. So we can be
pretty confident that laughter and numbers will survive long after most
of what we’re familiar with is gone.

The insight that old things tend to last and new things tend to disappear flows from the Copernican principle.
This principle says, in essence, “You’re not
special.” Before Copernicus, we imagined that we occupied a very
special place at the center of the universe. Now we know better: We are
on an average planet in an average galaxy in an average cluster. But
the Copernican principle applies to time as well as to space. If there
is nothing special about our perspective, we are unlikely to be
observing any given thing at the very beginning or the very end of its
existence. And that rather obvious point can lead to some interesting

Consider the longevity of the human race. If there is nothing
special about the moment at which we observe our species, then it is 95
percent certain that we are seeing Homo sapiens in the middle 95
percent of its existence—not the first fortieth (2½
percent) or the last fortieth (2½ percent). Humans have already
been around for about 200,000 years. That means we can, with 95 percent
confidence, expect the species to endure for at least another 5,100
years (1/39 x 200,000) but for no more than 7.8 million years (39 x

It was Richard Gott III, an astrophysicist at Princeton University,
who pioneered this sort of reasoning. In a paper published in Nature on
May 27, 1993, “Implications of the Copernican Principle for Our Future Prospects,”
Gott noted that the Copernican-based calculation gives H. sapiens an
expected total longevity comparable to that of other hominid species
(H. erectus lasted 1.6 million years) and of mammal species in general
(whose average span is 2 million years). It also gives us a decent shot
at being around a million years from now.

What else might be around in the Year Million? Consider something of
recent origin, like the Internet. The Internet has existed for about 25
years now (as I learned by going on the Internet and looking at Wikipedia).
By Copernican reasoning, this means we can be 95 percent certain that
it will continue to be around for another seven-plus months but that it
will disappear within 975 years. So in the Year Million, there will
almost certainly be nothing recognizable as the Internet. (This is,
perhaps, not a terribly surprising conclusion.) Ditto for baseball.
Ditto for what we call industrial technology, which, having come into
existence a little more than two centuries ago, is likely to be
superseded by something strange and new in the next 10,000 years.


The Web Time Forgot

MONS, Belgium — On a fog-drizzled Monday afternoon, this fading
medieval city feels like a forgotten place. Apart from the obligatory
Gothic cathedral, there is not much to see here except for a tiny
storefront museum called the Mundaneum, tucked down a narrow street in
the northeast corner of town. It feels like a fittingly secluded home
for the legacy of one of technology’s lost pioneers: Paul Otlet.

In 1934, Otlet sketched out plans for a global network of computers (or
“electric telescopes,” as he called them) that would allow
people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents,
images, audio and video files. He described how people would use the
devices to send messages to one another, share files and even
congregate in online social networks. He called the whole thing a
“rĂ©seau,” which might be translated as
“network” — or arguably, “web.”

Historians typically trace the origins of the World Wide Web through
a lineage of Anglo-American inventors like Vannevar Bush, Doug
Engelbart and Ted Nelson. But more than half a century before Tim
Berners-Lee released the first Web browser in 1991, Otlet (pronounced
ot-LAY) described a networked world where “anyone in his armchair
would be able to contemplate the whole of creation.”

Otlet’s proto-Web relied on a patchwork of analog technologies
like index cards and telegraph machines, it nonetheless anticipated the
hyperlinked structure of today’s Web. “This was a Steampunk
version of hypertext,” said Kevin Kelly, former editor of Wired,
who is writing a book about the future of technology.


RiTdisplay develops OLED touch panels

Taiwan-based RiTdisplay has developed OLED panels with touch functionality, which is now ready for volume production once orders are received, according to the company.

The OLED capacity touch panel adopts STMicroelectronics' controller IC, and currently three sizes – 1.1-, 1.8- and 3.1-inch –have been developed, the company said.

RiTdisplay is a leading supplier of OLED panels, with its focus on the passive matrix type. It said 70% of its clients are brand name vendors.

RiTdisplay OLED touch panel


Scientists develop fastest computer

WASHINGTON - Scientists unveiled the world's fastest supercomputer on Monday, a $100 million machine that for the first time has performed 1,000 trillion calculations per second in a sustained exercise.

The technology breakthrough was accomplished by engineers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and IBM Corp. on a computer to be used primarily on nuclear weapons work, including simulating nuclear explosions.

The computer, named Roadrunner, is twice as fast as IBM's Blue Gene system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which itself is three times faster than any of the world's other supercomputers, according to IBM.

"The computer is a speed demon. It will allow us to solve tremendous problems," said Thomas D'Agostino, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees nuclear weapons research and maintains the warhead stockpile.

But officials said the computer also could have a wide range of other applications in civilian engineering, medicine and science, from developing biofuels and designing more fuel-efficient cars to finding drug therapies and providing services to the financial industry.

To put the computer's speed in perspective, it has roughly the computing power of 100,000 of today's most powerful laptops stacked 1.5 miles high, according to IBM. Or, if each of the world's 6 billion people worked on hand-held computers for 24 hours a day, it would take them 46 years to do what the Roadrunner computer can do in a single day.


New 'super-paper' is stronger than cast iron

Punching your way out of a paper bag could become a lot harder,
thanks to the development of a new kind of paper that is stronger than
cast iron.

new paper could be used to reinforce conventional paper, produce
extra-strong sticky tape or help create tough synthetic replacements
for biological tissues, says Lars Berglund from the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

its great strength, Berglund's "nanopaper" is produced from a
biological material found in conventional paper: cellulose. This long
sugar molecule is a principal component of plant cell walls and is the
most common organic compound on Earth.

Wood is typically about half cellulose, mixed with other structural compounds.

Support network

plant cell walls individual cellulose molecules bind together to
produce fibres around 20 nanometres in diameter, 5000 times thinner
than a human hair. These fibres form tough networks that provide the
cell walls with structural support.

nanofibres are the main reinforcement in all plant structures and are
characterised by nanoscale dimensions, high strength and toughness,"
Berglund told New Scientist.

is extracted from wood to make paper, is the basis of cellophane, and
has also recently been used by materials scientists developing novel
plastic materials. But they have used it only as a cheap filler
material, ignoring its mechanical properties.

the mechanical processes used to pulp wood and process it into paper
damage the individual cellulose fibres, greatly reducing their
strength. So Berglund and colleagues have developed a gentler process
that preserves the fibres' strength.

Tough as iron

new method involves breaking down wood pulp with enzymes and then
fragmenting it using a mechanical beater. The shear forces produced
cause the cellulose to gently disintegrate into its component fibres.

end result is undamaged cellulose fibres suspended in water. When the
water is drained away Berglund found that the fibres join together into
networks held by hydrogen bonds, forming flat sheets of "nanopaper".

testing shows it has a tensile strength of 214 megapascals, making it
stronger than cast iron (130 MPa) and almost as strong as structural
steel (250 MPa).

paper has a tensile strength less than 1 MPa. The tests used strips 40
millimetres long by 5mm wide and about 50 micrometres thick.



Say goodbye to paper tickets

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has bid farewell to
the paper ticket on the eve of the industry’s conversion to 100%
electronic ticketing.

“Today we say goodbye to an industry icon,” said Giovanni
Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “The paper
ticket has served us well, but its time is over. After four years of
hard work by airlines around the world, tomorrow marks the beginning of
a new, more convenient and more efficient era for air travel.”

Paper tickets date back to the 1920s. Each airline used a different
form with varying rules. Airlines soon recognised the need for
standardisation of traffic documents, regulations and procedures to
support the growth of an industry that spanned the world. In 1930, the
IATA Traffic Committee developed the first standard hand-written ticket
for multiple trips. These same standards served the industry into the
early 1970s.

The organisations says a paper ticket costs an average of US$10 to
process versus US$1 for an electronic ticket. With over 400 million
tickets issued through IATA’s settlement systems annually, the
industry will save over US$3 billion each year.

To complete the conversion IATA has contacted 60,000 travel agents in
more than 200 countries to collect the remaining unused paper tickets
in the system – some 32 million worldwide. These will be securely
reclaimed, destroyed and recycled. “An era has ended. If you have
a paper ticket, it’s time to donate it to a museum,” said


New York And London Finally Connected Via Undersea Tunnel

The telectroscope, a looking-glass tunnel connecting New York and
London has been completed at last, over 100 years after it was
abandoned. The tunnel, which starts in Brooklyn, was designed and
partly executed by late 1800s inventor Alexander Stanhope St. George. A
series of mirrors, cameras and a large underground tunnel, connects the
two cities. More details about the scope and gallery after the jump.

The telectroscope's inventor, St. George, was passionately committed to
the idea of being able to connect London and New York without having to
move. He constructed parts of a great shaft which unfortunately
collapsed on many of his workers in 1892. The project was never
completed. His ancestor Paul St. George stumbled upon the original
blueprints and details and brought the telectroscope to life.


Estimated World Population to Pass 6,666,666,666 Today

The estimated population of the world will pass 6,666,666,666 today.
No doubt an interesting number for people everywhere (not referring to
any religion connotations). 5,555,555,555 was passed about 14 years
ago. You may not realize that only a 80 years ago, the population of
the Earth was only around 2 billion.
This shows how the population of the world has increased at an alarming
rate in recent times. Although the growth rate is almost half what it
was at its peak in 1963, when it was 2.2%. Unrelated but also an
interesting coincidence, the estimated number of available IPv4
addresses is getting very close to 666,666,666. It should cross over today as well.



Physicists discover the 'superinsulator'

An international team of researchers has discovered what it describes as the reverse side of a superconductor — a “superinsulator” that indefinitely retains electrical charge.

Christoph Strunk of Regensburg University in Germany, whose team includes Valerii Vinokur of Argonne National Laboratory in the US and other colleagues from Germany, the US and Belgium, found the state in thin films of titanium nitride cooled towards absolute zero in a magnetic field. Although the material is usually a superconductor, in which electrical current can propagate without resistance, the team have found that in these conditions the material’s resistance rises to infinity (Nature 452 613).

“In the 1990s it became apparent in a number of measurements that a quantum phase transition — that is, a transition between two ordered states at zero Kelvin — is a great place to look for new kinds of ordered states,” says Stephen Julian, a low-temperature physicist at the University of Toronto, Canada. “This [research] seems to be quite an unexpected and beautiful example of this: a superinsulator on the boundary between the ordinary insulator and the superconducting ground state.”



DARPA-Funded Big Dog Robot Moves Almost Like a Real Dog

Check out this DARPA prototype of a 4-legged robot that can navigate rugged, complex and slippery terrain. It is very odd to see something so alive moving around so normally minus a head, lungs and tail. Expect this product to soon be adapted for war, entertainment and then eventually commercial purposes. (Props to mathew ingram for the awesome and, as he puts it, creepy link.)



Glimpses Of A New Mathematical World

ScienceDaily (Mar. 17, 2008)
— A new mathematical object was revealed yesterday during a lecture at the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM). Two researchers from the University of Bristol exhibited the first example of a third degree transcendental L-function. These L-functions encode deep underlying connections between many different areas of mathematics.

The news caused excitement at the AIM workshop attended by 25 of the world's leading analytic number theorists. The work is a joint project between Ce Bian and his adviser, Andrew Booker. Booker commented that, "This work was made possible by a combination of theoretical advances and the power of modern computers." During his lecture, Bian reported that it took approximately 10,000 hours of computer time to produce his initial results.

"This breakthrough opens a door to the study of higher degree L-functions," said Dennis Hejhal, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Minnesota and Uppsala University.

"It's a big advance' added Harold Stark of the University of California, San Diego, who, 30 years ago was the first to accurately calculate second degree transcendental L-functions.

"I thought we were years away from doing this. The geometry of what you have to do and the scale of the computation are orders of magnitude harder."

There are two types of L-functions: algebraic and transcendental, and these are classified according to their degree. The Riemann zeta-function is the grand-daddy of all L-functions. It holds the secret to how the prime numbers are distributed, and is a first-degree algebraic L-function.



Mathematicians Find New Solutions To An Ancient Puzzle

ScienceDaily (Mar. 14, 2008) — Many people find complex math puzzling, including some mathematicians. Recently, mathematician Daniel J. Madden and retired physicist, Lee W. Jacobi, found solutions to a puzzle that has been around for centuries.

Jacobi and Madden have found a way to generate an infinite number of solutions for a puzzle known as 'Euler's Equation of degree four.'

The equation is part of a branch of mathematics called number theory. Number theory deals with the properties of numbers and the way they relate to each other. It is filled with problems that can be likened to numerical puzzles.

"It's like a puzzle: can you find four fourth powers that add up to another fourth power" Trying to answer that question is difficult because it is highly unlikely that someone would sit down and accidentally stumble upon something like that," said Madden, an associate professor of mathematics at The University of Arizona in Tucson.

Equations are puzzles that need certain solutions "plugged into them" in order to create a statement that obeys the rules of logic.

For example, think of the equation x + 2 = 4. Plugging "3" into the equation doesn't work, but if x = 2, then the equation is correct.



Stealing Our Future: Conservatives, Foresight, and Why Nothing Works Anymore

Brad DeLong once said that "'Nobody could have foreseen ______' is
the Bush administration's version of 'The dog ate my homework.'" It
does seem to be their handy-dandy Swiss Army Knife, all-purpose
explanation for the various disasters that have happened on their

We first heard this excuse all the way back in May 2002, when
Condoleezza Rice blithely dismissed Congressional queries about 9/11 by
saying, "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people
would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take
another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use
an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile."

A nation of Tom Clancy fans — and those who remembered Sam
Byck's too-close-for-comfort White House flyover back in the 70s
— wondered what on God's green earth these idiots were thinking.
But the Bushies decided they were onto something.

In fact, they liked this excuse so much that they trotted it out
again after Katrina. As New Orleans' Ninth Ward vanished under the mud
of Lake Ponchartrain, W went on the national airwaves to insist, "I
don't think anybody anticipated the breech of the levees."

That was wrong, too, of course: everyone from the City of New
Orleans to the Army Corps of Engineers had seen this one coming for
decades. In fact, the New Orleans Times-Picayne had done an entire
series on just this subject as recently as 2002. You’d think that
the coast-to-coast derision that followed might have alerted Bush and
crew they were reaching for an excuse that no self-respecting
third-grader would touch.

<a href='http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/stealing-our-future-conservatives-foresight-and-why-nothing-works-anymore'>link</a>

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Text of SJM 8016 2007-08

We, your Memorialists, the Senate and House of Representatives of
the State of Washington, in legislative session assembled, respectfully
represent and petition as follows:
WHEREAS, The citizens of Washington state expect and require their
highest elected officials be subject to the laws of the land, like any
citizen, and uphold the constitutional oath taken by them upon assuming
office; and
WHEREAS, The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
guarantees Americans privacy and freedom from warrantless search; and
WHEREAS, In 1967, the Supreme Court held in Katz v. United States,
that the monitoring and recording of private conversations constitutes
a "search" for Fourth Amendment purposes, and that the government must
obtain a warrant before domestic wiretapping; and
WHEREAS, In 1978, Congress passed a law making it a criminal
offense to eavesdrop on Americans without judicial oversight; and
WHEREAS, In 2001, the President signed a secret executive order
authorizing warrantless surveillance of American citizens in direct
conflict with the United States Constitution and United States law; and
WHEREAS, The President both demonstrated knowledge of the law he
was breaking, and lied about breaking the law by stating on April 20,
2004, "... a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the
way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking
about getting a court order before we do so."; and
WHEREAS, The President again demonstrated knowledge of the law he
was breaking and again lied about his lawlessness by stating on July
20, 2005, "Law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission
to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone, or to track his calls, or to
search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of
the tools we're talking about."; and
WHEREAS, On December 12, 2005, the New York Times published a
government leak that revealed the unlawful surveillance program,
stating that according to government officials: "Months after the
September 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National
Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United
States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-
approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying."; and
WHEREAS, Five days later, on December 17, 2005, the President said,
"I have reauthorized this program more than thirty times since the
September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for as long as our
nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups.";
WHEREAS, The Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell,
indicated in a letter to Senator Arlen Specter that the President's
executive order in 2001 authorized additional secret surveillance
activities and undisclosed activities beyond the warrantless
surveillance of e-mails and phone calls that Bush had confirmed in
December 2005; and
WHEREAS, The President denied the necessary security clearances to
investigators from the Office of Professional Responsibility in the
Justice Department who were to have investigated this matter, but could
not and did not; and
WHEREAS, On March 10, 2004, Alberto Gonzales and the President's
Chief of Staff, Andrew H. Card, Jr. tried to bypass Acting Attorney
General James Comey by meeting directly with a sick Mr. Ashcroft in his
hospital bed. According to the testimony of James Comey before the
Senate Judiciary Committee, the purpose of this visit was to
reauthorize the secret wiretapping program, which Comey had refused to
reauthorize; and
WHEREAS, The President subsequently appointed Mr. Gonzales to the
Attorney General post, who continued to reauthorize the warrantless
surveillance program until he tendered his resignation on August 26,
2007, under threat of impeachment; and
WHEREAS, The secret surveillance program uses a "splitter" to send
a copy of internet traffic and phone calls to a secure room operated by
the NSA in the San Francisco office of AT&T, according to the testimony
of Mark Klein, the retired AT&T communications technician who admitted
to connecting the "splitter" that copied the data in 2003; and
WHEREAS, Mark Klein also indicated that similar spy rooms were
being constructed in other cities, including Seattle, Washington, and
San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego; and
WHEREAS, On August 17, 2006, the United States District Court for
the Eastern District of Michigan, in ACLU v. NSA, ruled that the NSA
wiretapping program violated privacy and free speech rights,
constitutional separation of powers, and the 1978 Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act, and stated that "It was never the intent of the
framers to give the President such unfettered control, particularly
where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated
in the Bill of Rights"; and
WHEREAS, This unwarranted and unlawful, and seemingly
unconstitutional surveillance program is still being used to spy on
American citizens; and
WHEREAS, United States and international law forbid invading a
foreign country without provocation; and
WHEREAS, International laws ratified by Congress are part of United
States law according to Article VI of the United States Constitution,
which states "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States
which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or
which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be
the supreme Law of the Land"; and
WHEREAS, The United Nations Charter was ratified by the United
States in 1945 and requires that member states, including the United
States, not attack or threaten attack of another country without
explicit Security Council approval except for self-defense against an
armed attack; and
WHEREAS, There was no armed attack upon the United States by Iraq,
and the United Nations Security Council did not vote to approve the use
of force against Iraq; and
WHEREAS, On September 16, 2004, the Secretary General of the United
Nations Kofi Annan, commented on the United States invasion of Iraq by
stating: "It was not in conformity with the United Nations charter.
From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was
illegal."; and
WHEREAS, In October 2002, Congress authorized the President to use
his discretion to decide whether or not to use force against Iraq; and
WHEREAS, The President and Vice President mislead Congress and the
American people about the potential threat of Iraq; and
WHEREAS, The President and Vice President were either deliberately
deceitful or willfully ignorant about the potential threat of Iraq; and
WHEREAS, On March 19, 2003, the President, acting on his sole
discretion, ordered the illegal invasion of Iraq, according to his
letter to Congress dated March 21, 2003, stating "I directed U.S. Armed
Forces, operating with other coalition forces, to commence combat
operations on March 19, 2003, against Iraq."; and
WHEREAS, United States law, 18 U.S.C Sec. 2340A forbids a United
States citizen from committing or conspiring to commit the offense of
torture outside of the United States; and
WHEREAS, International law forbids torture and the United States
has bound itself to this unconditional prohibition by the American
Convention on Human Rights signed in 1977, the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights signed in 1977 and ratified in 1992, and
the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment signed in 1988 and ratified in
1994; and
WHEREAS, In 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer,
Yukio Asano, with war crimes for waterboarding a United States
civilian; and
WHEREAS, In March 2006, the United States Department of State's
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor released a 2005 report on
human rights practices in Tunisia in which it formally recognized
"submersion of the head in water" as torture; and
WHEREAS, The CIA has confirmed using waterboarding and former CIA
agency official, John Kiriakou, has told news agencies that the White
House and Justice Department knew of and authorized the use of new
harsh questioning techniques, including waterboarding; and
WHEREAS, The President, acting with the support of the Vice
President and the same former Attorney General who resigned under
threat of impeachment, authorized the abusive treatment of prisoners;
WHEREAS, The President and Vice President used "war on terror" as
part of their justification for authorization of the abusive
techniques; and
WHEREAS, The CIA has reportedly used waterboarding on Abd al-Rahim
al-Nashiri, one of the prisoners; and
WHEREAS, In November 2005, the CIA destroyed video evidence of
their interrogations of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri; and
WHEREAS, All the details Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri made of his claims
of torture were redacted from his transcript; and
WHEREAS, Federal attorneys defended the abusive treatment of
prisoners by arguing that antitorture provisions did not apply to
Guantanamo Bay captives; and
WHEREAS, When Congress sought to reaffirm the United States
prohibition on torture by passing a 2005 antitorture law, the President
signed the law with a signing statement that effectively states that
the President has the right to torture at his discretion because, "The
executive branch shall construe...the Act, relating to detainees, in a
manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to
supervise the unitary executive branch..."; and
WHEREAS, The abusive techniques authorized by the President were
inflicted on people the President declared "enemy combatants"; and
WHEREAS, The abusive techniques authorized by the President were
committed during an armed conflict; and
WHEREAS, The abusive techniques authorized by the President have
previously been classified as torture and prosecuted as a war crime by
the United States; and
WHEREAS, International law defines torture during an armed conflict
as a war crime; and
WHEREAS, International law defines that a commander involved in
ordering, allowing, or insufficiently preventing and prosecuting a war
crime is criminally liable under the Command Responsibility doctrine;
WHEREAS, The President appears to be guilty of war crimes by simple
application of the Command Responsibility doctrine to the publicly
known facts; and
WHEREAS, Based on the overwhelming evidence that has been presented
to the American people as established in this resolution, numerous
grounds for impeachment appear to exist; and
WHEREAS, Illegally authorizing torture in violation of United
States and international laws, and committing war crimes would seem to
constitute an impeachable offense; and
WHEREAS, The President's authorization and subsequent lies about an
unwarranted, unlawful, and apparently unconstitutional surveillance
program would seem to constitute an impeachable offense; and
WHEREAS, Misleading the Congress and the American people to justify
invading another country in direct violation of international and
United States laws would seem to constitute an impeachable act; and
WHEREAS, Such offenses, if committed, are subversive of
constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law
and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of Washington
state and of the United States of America; and
WHEREAS, Petitions from the country at large may be presented by
the Speaker of the House according to Clause 3 of House Rule XII; and
WHEREAS, Jefferson's Manual section LIII, 603, states that
impeachment may be set in motion by charges transmitted from the
legislature of a state; and
WHEREAS, Impeachment is a process defined in the United States
Constitution by which charges are brought against a President or Vice
President or civil officers of the United States in the House of
Representatives; and
WHEREAS, The filing of these charges is followed by a trial in the
United States Senate that determines guilt or innocence; and
WHEREAS, If the President or Vice President committed such
offenses, ignoring these offenses would undermine core American values
of truth and justice; and
WHEREAS, Failing to impeach the President and Vice President if
they have committed such offenses would signal tacit approval of these
activities and sanction their use by future administrations; and
WHEREAS, Failing to impeach the President and Vice President simply
because they are serving their second term would signal future
administrations that any high crime or misdemeanor, if committed or
covered up until their second term, will be tolerated until an upcoming
election; and
WHEREAS, Freedom and liberty, and the laws and the Constitution of
the United States of America can only be protected by Americans; and
WHEREAS, America has only until January 20, 2009, to signal to
history that America will not sanction torture, America will not
sanction unprovoked war, and America will not sanction illegal spying;
WHEREAS, America will defend herself from all enemies foreign and
domestic; and
WHEREAS, America will protect the integrity of the Constitution and
the Executive branch; and
WHEREAS, We, your Memorialists, have each sworn an oath to protect
the United States Constitution;
NOW, THEREFORE, Your Memorialists, exhort our Representatives in
the United States Congress to charge President George W. Bush and Vice
President Richard B. Cheney with the above offenses and commence a full
investigation and trial in the United States Senate.
BE IT RESOLVED, That copies of this Memorial be immediately
transmitted to the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker
of the House of Representatives, and each member of the United States

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