Glitter-sized solar photovoltaics

Sandia National Laboratories scientists have developed tiny glitter-sized photovoltaic cells that could revolutionize the way solar energy is collected and used. The tiny cells could turn a person into a walking solar battery charger if they were fastened to flexible substrates molded around unusual shapes, such as clothing. 100 times less silicon generates same amount of electricity

“Eventually units could be mass-produced and wrapped around unusual shapes for building-integrated solar, tents and maybe even clothing,” he said. This would make it possible for hunters, hikers or military personnel in the field to recharge batteries for phones, cameras and other electronic devices as they walk or rest.

For large-scale power generation, said Sandia researcher Murat Okandan, “One of the biggest scale benefits is a significant reduction in manufacturing and installation costs compared with current PV techniques.”

Each cell is formed on silicon wafers, etched and then released inexpensively in hexagonal shapes, with electrical contacts prefabricated on each piece, by borrowing techniques from integrated circuits and MEMS.

Solar concentrators — low-cost, prefabricated, optically efficient microlens arrays — can be placed directly over each glitter-sized cell to increase the number of photons arriving to be converted via the photovoltaic effect into electrons. The small cell size means that cheaper and more efficient short focal length microlens arrays can be fabricated for this purpose.

High-voltage output is possible directly from the modules because of the large number of cells in the array. This should reduce costs associated with wiring, due to reduced resistive losses at higher voltages.


Clock Turned Back on Aging Muscles, Researchers Claim

Scientists have found and manipulated body chemistry linked to the aging of muscles and were able to turn back the clock on old human muscle, restoring its ability to repair and rebuild itself, they said today.

The study involved a small number of participants, however. And the news is not all rosy.

Importantly, the research also found evidence that aging muscles need to be kept in shape, because long periods of atrophy are more challenging to overcome. Older muscles do not respond as well to sudden bouts of exercise, the scientists discovered. And rather than building muscle, an older person can generate scar tissue upon, say, lifting weights after long periods of inactivity.

"Our study shows that the ability of old human muscle to be maintained and repaired by muscle stem cells can be restored to youthful vigor given the right mix of biochemical signals," said study leader Irina Conboy of the University of California, Berkeley. "This provides promising new targets for forestalling the debilitating muscle atrophy that accompanies aging, and perhaps other tissue degenerative disorders as well."



Bell Labs breaks optical transmission record, 100 Petabit per second kilometer barrier

Alcatel-Lucent today announced that scientists in Bell Labs, the company’s research arm, have set a new optical transmission record of more than 100 Petabits per second.kilometer (equivalent to 100 million Gigabits per second.kilometer).

This transmission experiment involved sending the equivalent of 400 DVDs per second over 7,000 kilometers, roughly the distance between Paris and Chicago. This is the highest capacity ever achieved over a transoceanic distance and represents an increase that exceeds that of today’s most advanced commercial undersea cables by a factor of ten. To achieve these record-breaking results the Bell Labs researchers made innovative use of new detection techniques and harnessed a diverse array of technologies in modulation, transmission, and

High speed optical transmission is a key component of Alcatel-Lucent’s High Leverage Network architecture, key elements of which have already been selected by leading service providers.



Scientists Cure Color Blindness In Monkeys

ScienceDaily (Sep. 16, 2009) — Researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Florida used gene therapy to cure two squirrel monkeys of color blindness — the most common genetic disorder in people.

"We've added red sensitivity to cone cells in animals that are born with a condition that is exactly like human color blindness," said William W. Hauswirth, Ph.D., a professor of ophthalmic molecular genetics at the UF College of Medicine and a member of the UF Genetics Institute and the Powell Gene Therapy Center. "Although color blindness is only moderately life-altering, we've shown we can cure a cone disease in a primate, and that it can be done very safely. That's extremely encouraging for the development of therapies for human cone diseases that really are blinding."

About five weeks after the treatment, the monkeys began to acquire color vision, almost as if it occurred overnight.

"Nothing happened for the first 20 weeks," Neitz said. "But we knew right away when it began to work. It was if they woke up and saw these new colors. The treated animals unquestionably responded to colors that had been invisible to them."


On Demand Books Turns Google's eBook Archive Back Into Paperbacks

odb_espresso.pngWhen you think about Google Books, chances are that you are thinking about eBooks and searching books on your desktop. Starting today, however, On Demand Books, the makers of the Espresso Book Machine, will have access to Google's vast library of public domain books, and bookstores that buy an Espresso Book Machine will be able to provide on-demand printing services for any of these close to 2 million books in Google's repository.

The Espresso Book Machine can print out about 145 pages per minute at a cost of about 1 cent per page. The machine itself costs around $10,000 (ed: $100,000). On Demand Books argues that this device can revolutionize the distribution of books by decentralizing the marketplace for the distribution of books and can give libraries and bookstores a potentially unlimited inventory in their shops. In its press release about today's agreement with Google, On Demand Books likens its machine to "an ATM for books."

For now, these printers are only available in a about a dozen locations, including the University of Michigan Shapiro Library in Ann Arbor, MI, and the Bibliotheca Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt. The Harvard Book Store will also soon get one of these machines as well. By early 2010, On Demand Books hopes to have sold about 35 to 40 machines and this new deal with Google will surely help the company to reach this goal.



In One Study, a Heart Benefit for Chocolate

Published: September 14, 2009

In a study that will provide comfort to chocoholics everywhere, researchers in Sweden have found evidence that people who eat chocolate have increased survival rates after a heart attack — and it may be that the more they eat, the better.

The scientists followed 1,169 nondiabetic men and women who had been hospitalized for a first heart attack. Each filled out a standardized health questionnaire that included a question about chocolate consumption over the past 12 months. Chocolate contains flavonoid antioxidants that are widely believed to have beneficial cardiovascular effects.

The patients had a health examination three months after their discharge from the hospital, and researchers followed them for the next eight years using Swedish national registries of hospitalizations and deaths. After controlling for age, sex, obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, education and other factors, they found that the more chocolate people consumed, the more likely they were to survive. The results are reported in the September issue of The Journal of Internal Medicine.

Compared with people who ate none, those who had chocolate less than once a month had a 27 percent reduction in their risk for cardiac death, those who ate it up to once a week had a 44 percent reduction and those who indulged twice or more a week had a 66 percent reduced risk of dying from a subsequent heart event. The beneficial effect remained after controlling for intake of other kinds of sweets.

But before concluding that a box of Godiva truffles is health food, chocolate lovers may want to consider some of the study’s weaknesses. It is an observational study, not a randomized trial, so cause and effect cannot be definitively established. The scientists did not ask what kind of chocolate the patients ate, and milk chocolate has less available flavonoid than dark chocolate. Finally, chocolate consumption did not reduce the risk for any nonfatal cardiac event.



Fighting to Allow College Education at $99/Month

Higher education is ready to be re-invented and this re-invention should not be delayed for two decades.

The next generation of online education could be great for students—and "catastrophic" for universities.

StraighterLine is offering online courses in subjects like accounting, statistics, and math. It offers as many courses as you want for a flat rate of $99 a month.

If the USA and other countries truly cared about effectively educating the people, increasing the productivity of economy, then legislative efforts would be made to breakdown the barriers to effective and affordable online education. Funding could be provided to help educational institutions to transition to a new world where they are less land/building intensive and where they have less of an undergraduate cash cow. Some inferior institutions would be shutdown.


Magnetic Monopoles Detected In A Real Magnet For The First Time

ScienceDaily (Sep. 4, 2009) — Researchers from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie have, in cooperation with colleagues from Dresden, St. Andrews, La Plata and Oxford, for the first time observed magnetic monopoles and how they emerge in a real material.

Magnetic monopoles are hypothetical particles proposed by physicists that carry a single magnetic pole, either a magnetic north pole or south pole. In the material world this is quite exceptional because magnetic particles are usually observed as dipoles, north and south combined. However there are several theories that predict the existence of monopoles. Among others, in 1931 the physicist Paul Dirac was led by his calculations to the conclusion that magnetic monopoles can exist at the end of tubes – called Dirac strings – that carry magnetic field. Until now they have remained undetected.

In this work the researchers, for the first time, attest that monopoles exist as emergent states of matter, i.e. they emerge from special arrangements of dipoles and are completely different from the constituents of the material. However, alongside this fundamental knowledge, Jonathan Morris explains the further meaning of the results: "We are writing about new, fundamental properties of matter. These properties are generally valid for materials with the same topology, that is for magnetic moments on the pyrochlore lattice. For the development of new technologies this can have big implications. Above all it signifies the first time fractionalisation in three dimensions is observed."



Children With Autism Use Alternative Keyboard

The OrbiTouch keyboard. (Credit: Blue Orb)

ScienceDaily (Sep. 1, 2009) — Autism can build a wall of poor communication between those struggling with the condition and their families. While a personal computer can help bridge the divide, the distraction and complexity of a keyboard can be an insurmountable obstacle.

Using a unique keyboard with only two "keys" and a novel curriculum, teachers with Project Blue Skies are giving children with autism the ability to both communicate and to explore the online world.

The Project Blue Skies curriculum is based on the functions of the OrbiTouch, which allows a user to input letters, symbols and any other command by independently manipulating two computer-mouse shaped grips forward, back, diagonally and to the sides.

Teachers guide the students and monitor their progress, ultimately helping the kids better communicate with their families. While the primary goal of Project Blue Skies is to help people with autism develop stronger social skills, McAlindon is working with partners to start integrating standard coursework into the program.


Quantum amnesia gives time its arrow

No going back (Image: Mike Kemp/Getty)No going back (Image: Mike Kemp/Getty)

NOTHING in the fundamental laws of physics says that time should only move forwards. Yet we never see any reversal of time - in the form of a shattered egg that suddenly reassembles, say, or an ice cube that forms from a pool of tepid water. Now a new study suggests that the arrow of time is the result of quantum-mechanical amnesia that erases any trace that time has moved backwards.

Our sense of time is captured by the second law of thermodynamics, which says that any closed system - from particles in an isolated box to the entire universe - can only become more disordered. The measure of this disorder, known as entropy, can only increase.

In the world of large-scale objects, increasing entropy is associated with the flow of heat, which always goes from a hot object to a colder one. Change in entropy can also be described as a flow of information: the higher the entropy of a system, the less information it contains.

In the quantum world, a box full of particles gains entropy – and loses information – when it becomes more entangled with the outside world.

An outsider who observes the box may become more entangled with it. This entanglement – which involves the loss of information in the particles – increases the information available to the observer.

n this context, the unceasing growth of entropy, and hence the second law of thermodynamics, may be just an illusion, an artefact of quantum mechanics, says Lorenzo Maccone of MIT.

The laws of quantum mechanics are time-symmetric, which means that time can flow both forwards and backwards. "But if you analyse [the laws] carefully, you'll see that all the processes where things run backwards can happen, but they don't leave any trace of having happened," he says.

The work also doesn't yet explain a bigger mystery – why the universe was born as such a uniform soup of matter and energy, which has a very low entropy, says Sean Carroll of Caltech. Because entropy is in some measure the probability of a particular configuration, the universe's low entropy initial state is considered extraordinarily unlikely.


Researchers Hope to Mass-Produce Tiny Robots

Researchers Hope to Mass-Produce Robots on a ChipAn illustration of the I-SWARM robot: (1) solar cell, (2) IR-communication module, (3) an ASIC, (4) capacitors, (5) locomotion module. Image credit: Edqvist, et al.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Tiny robots the size of a flea could one day be mass-produced, churned out in swarms and programmed for a variety of applications, such as surveillance, micromanufacturing, medicine, cleaning, and more. In an effort to reach this goal, a recent study has demonstrated the initial tests for fabricating microrobots on a large scale.

The researchers, from institutes in Sweden, Spain, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, explain that their building approach marks a new paradigm of robot development in microrobotics. The technique involves integrating an entire robot - with communication, locomotion, , and electronics - in different modules on a single circuit board. In the past, the single-chip robot concept has presented significant limitations in design and manufacturing. However, instead of using solder to mount electrical components on a printed circuit board as in the conventional method, the researchers use conductive adhesive to attach the components to a double-sided flexible printed circuit board using surface mount technology. The circuit board is then folded to create a three-dimensional robot.

The resulting robots are very small, with their length, width, and height each measuring less than 4 mm. The robots are powered by a solar cell on top, and move by three vibrating legs. A fourth vibrating leg is used as a touch sensor. As the researchers explain, a single microrobot by itself is a physically simple individual. But many robots communicating with each other using infrared sensors and interacting with their environment can form a group that is capable of establishing swarm intelligence to generate more complex behavior. The framework for this project, called I-SWARM (intelligent small-world autonomous robots for micro-manipulation) is inspired by the behavior of biological insects.

Researchers Hope to Mass-Produce Robots on a ChipImages of the robots showing their size proportional to various objects. Image credit: Edqvist, et al.



Microscopes zoom in on molecules at last

Pentacene as you've never seen it before (Image: IBM and Science)Thanks to specialised microscopes, we have long been able to see the beauty of single atoms. But strange though it might seem, imaging larger molecules at the same level of detail has not been possible – atoms are robust enough to withstand existing tools, but the structures of molecules are not. Now researchers at IBM have come up with a way to do it.

The earliest pictures of individual atoms were captured in the 1970s by blasting a target – typically a chunk of metal – with a beam of electrons, a technique known as transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

Leo Gross and his colleagues at IBM in Zurich, Switzerland, modified the AFM technique to make the most detailed image yet of pentacene, an organic molecule consisting of five benzene rings (see picture).

The molecule is very fragile, but the researchers were able to capture the details of the hexagonal carbon rings and deduce the positions of the surrounding hydrogen atoms.

One key breakthrough was finding a way to stop the microscope's tip from sticking to the fragile pentacene molecule because of attraction due to electrostatic and van der Waals forces – van der Waals is a weak force that operates only at an intermolecular level.

The team achieved this by fixing a single carbon monoxide molecule to the end of the probe so that only one atom of relatively inactive oxygen came into contact with the pentacene.

The image is "astonishing", says Oscar Custance of Japan's National Institute for Materials Science in Tsukuba. In 2007, his team used AFM to distinguish individual atoms on a silicon surface, but he acknowledges that the IBM team has surpassed this achievement. "This is the highest resolution I have ever seen," he says.



The Time to Unlearn is Now!

This is the latest iteration of famous "Shift Happens" video with a focus on social media. If nothing else, it should serve as a reminder of to all of us why we must constantly unlearn. Enjoy!

Social Media Revolution


Agile robots, dexterous robots

Agile quadruped robot: Boston Dynamics
Fast dexterous robotic hand: Forget about clumsy, lumbering robots.
Think fast, precise, and acrobatic.

Robotic hand


Artificial life will be created 'within months'

Scientists are only months away from  creating artificial life, it was claimed yesterday.

Dr Craig Venter – one of the world’s most famous and controversial biologists – said his U.S. researchers have overcome one of the last big hurdles to making a synthetic organism.

The first artificial lifeform is likely to be a simple man-made bacterium that proves that the technology can work.

But it will be followed by more complex bacteria that turn coal into cleaner natural gas, or algae that can soak up carbon dioxide and convert it into fuels.

They could also be used to create new vaccines and antibiotics.

The prediction came after a breakthrough by the J Craig Venter Institute in Maryland.

Researchers successfully transferred
the DNA of one type of bacteria into a yeast cell, modified it and then transferred it into another bacterial cell.



Found: first amino acid on a comet

An amino acid called glycine has been found in dust collected by the Stardust spacecraft, which flew by Comet Wild 2 in 2004 (Illustration: NASA/JPL)An amino acid has been found on a comet for the first time, a new analysis of samples from NASA's Stardust mission reveals. The discovery confirms that some of the building blocks of life were delivered to the early Earth from space.

Amino acids are crucial to life because they form the basis of proteins, the molecules that run cells. The acids form when organic, carbon-containing compounds and water are zapped with a source of energy, such as photons – a process that can take place on Earth or in space.

Previously, researchers have found amino acids in space rocks that fell to Earth as meteorites, and tentative evidence for the compounds has been detected in interstellar space. Now, an amino acid called glycine has been definitively traced to an icy comet for the first time.

"It's not necessarily surprising, but it's very satisfying to find it there because it hasn't been observed before," says Jamie Elsila of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, lead author of the new study. "It's been looked for [on comets] spectroscopically with telescopes but the content seems so low you can't see it that way."



First Steps Toward A Machine-Controlled Human Cell

A semipermeable membrane encloses each of your cells, selectively allowing molecules in and out. And now, scientists have figured out how to use nanowires to control the mechanism that makes your cells permeable, thus creating a computer-regulated cell.

A team led by Lawrence Livermore Lab scientists Nipun Misraa and Julio A. Martinez worked on the discovery, and their results were published earlier this week in PNAS. According to a release about the research:

[The researchers] created a biomechanical hybrid in which nanowires are coated in a lipid bilayer-the same type of membrane that envelopes cells and controls the passage of molecules in and out of the cell. The authors incorporated gated channels in this membrane, and used molecular transport through these channels to trigger an electric signal. The researchers show that the nanowire circuit can be used to make the channels open and close as they would in a biological cell. Although their work is currently in an early stage, later versions of the nanowire technology could find applications in biosensing, neuroscience, and medicine.

There are two things that are very exciting about this early-stage research. One, it means that cellular membranes could be incorporated into computerized devices that are designed to respond to molecules in the environment. Essentially, you could have a cellular sensor at the end of a nanowire.


Pacific Biosciences Real Time DNA Sequencing $100 Genomes releasing 2013

Pacific Biosciences has a Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) DNA sequencing, due to be released commercially in 2010 and could enable $100 genome sequencing in 15 minutes in 2013.

The second generation real time DNA reader in 2013 is the one that is expected to hit the $100 genome sequencing price. They will release a product in 2010 but it will not be that cheap.

Instead of inspecting DNA copies after polymerase has done its work, SMRT sequencing watches the enzyme in real time as it races along and copies an individual strand stuck to the bottom of a tiny well. Every nucleotide used to make the copy is attached to its own fluorescent molecule that lights up when the nucleotide is incorporated. This light is spotted by a detector that identifies the color and the nucleotide -- A, C, G, or T.

By repeating this process simultaneously in many wells, the technology hopes to bring about a substantial boost in sequencing speed. "When we reach a million separate molecules that we're able to sequence at once … we'll be able to sequence the entire human genome in less than 15 minutes," said Turner.



Immortality improves cell reprogramming

p53Specialized adult cells made 'immortal' through the blockade of an antitumour pathway can be turned into stem-like cells quickly and efficiently.

The findings — which should make it easier to generate patient-specific cells from any tissue type, including certain diseased cells that have proved difficult to transform — suggest that cellular reprogramming and cancer formation are inextricably linked.

The studies also shed light on the mechanism of tumour formation, says study author Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, a developmental biologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, and at the Center of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona, Spain. Because it's now clear that p53 has a key role in both nuclear reprogramming and cancer development, Izpisúa Belmonte says, tumours can be thought of as cells that acquire more and more stem-cell-like characteristics — such as the ability to keep reproducing themselves forever. "If you connect the dots, you can say that cancer is really a de-differentiation problem," he says.



Artificial brain '10 years away'

Professor Markram at TED

Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project, has already simulated elements of a rat brain.

He told the TED Global conference in Oxford that a synthetic human brain would be of particular use finding treatments for mental illnesses.

"It is not impossible to build a human brain and we can do it in 10 years," he said.

The Blue Brain project was launched in 2005 and aims to reverse engineer the mammalian brain from laboratory data.

In particular, his team has focused on the neocortical column - repetitive units of the mammalian brain known as the neocortex.

"It's a new brain," he explained. "The mammals needed it because they had to cope with parenthood, social interactions complex cognitive functions.

"It was so successful an evolution from mouse to man it expanded about a thousand fold in terms of the numbers of units to produce this almost frightening organ."

And that evolution continues, he said. "It is evolving at an enormous speed."

"It's a bit like going and cataloguing a bit of the rainforest - how may trees does it have, what shape are the trees, how many of each type of tree do we have, what is the position of the trees," he said.

"But it is a bit more than cataloguing because you have to describe and discover all the rules of communication, the rules of connectivity."



Major Genetic Differences Between Blood And Tissue Cells Revealed

ScienceDaily (July 16, 2009) — Research by a group of Montreal scientists calls into question one of the most basic assumptions of human genetics: that when it comes to DNA, every cell in the body is essentially identical to every other cell. Their results appear in the July issue of the journal Human Mutation.

This discovery may undercut the rationale behind numerous large-scale genetic studies conducted over the last 15 years, studies which were supposed to isolate the causes of scores of human diseases.

Except for cancer, samples of diseased tissue are difficult or even impossible to take from living patients. Thus, the vast majority of genetic samples used in large-scale studies come in the form of blood. However, if it turns out that blood and tissue cells do not match genetically, these ambitious and expensive genome-wide association studies may prove to have been essentially flawed from the outset.

Schweitzer is optimistic that this discovery may lead to new treatments for vascular disease in the near to medium term.

"The timeline might be five to 10 years," he said. "We have to do in-vitro cell culture experiments first, prove it in an animal model, and then develop a molecule or protein which will affect the mutated gene product. This is the first step, but it's an important step."



The Mysterious Lizards Who Swim In Sand

When the tiny lizard known as the sandfish moves through sand, it literally dives under the surface of the ground as if swimming. Now physicists have figured out how they do it - and want to build sandfish robots.

Georgia Tech physicist Daniel Goldman and his team observed the sandfish as they swam through sand, using X-rays and tiny sensors placed in the sand that measured how grains were displaced as the lizards moved through them. One thing they discovered right away was that the sandfish were indeed "swimming" - they tucked their legs up next to their bodies and moved in an undulatory wave like fish through water. Another interesting finding was that the lizards could go slightly faster in tightly-packed sand, as long as they varied the frequency of the wave created by the movement of their bodies. Their work is published today in Science.

There are implications for this research that go beyond understanding how lizards move through sand. Goldman and his team think it could help roboticists in designing rescue bots that could worm their way through collapsed rubble. It would also be useful for creating surveillance robots that can swim invisibly under sand, tracking enemy locations or even recording conversations that take place outdoors in sandy regions.



Scientists Discover Light Force with 'Push' Power

Scientists discover repulsive side to light force (PhysOrg.com) -- A team of Yale University researchers has discovered a "repulsive" light force that can be used to control components on silicon microchips, meaning future nanodevices could be controlled by light rather than electricity.

The team previously discovered an "attractive" force of light and showed how it could be manipulated to move components in semiconducting micro- and nano-electrical systems—tiny mechanical switches on a chip. The scientists have now uncovered a complementary repulsive force. Researchers had theorized the existence of both the attractive and since 2005, but the latter had remained unproven until now. The team, led by Hong Tang, assistant professor at Yale's School of Engineering & Applied Science, reports its findings in the July 13 edition of Nature Photonics's advanced online publication.

"This completes the picture," Tang said. "We've shown that this is indeed a bipolar light force with both an attractive and repulsive component."

The attractive and repulsive light forces Tang's team discovered are separate from the force created by light's radiation pressure, which pushes against an object as light shines on it. Instead, they push out or pull in sideways from the direction the light travels.

Using both forces means they can now have complete control and can manipulate components in both directions. "We've demonstrated that these are tunable forces we can engineer," Tang said.

These light forces may one day control telecommunications devices that would require far less power but would be much faster than today's conventional counterparts, Tang said. An added benefit of using light rather than is that it can be routed through a circuit with almost no interference in signal, and it eliminates the need to lay down large numbers of electrical wires.



Facebook growth

facebook-growth-700000It’s been just under 90 days since Facebook announced it has crossed the 200 million active user mark. Today, that number is somewhere around 240 million, perhaps even close to 250 million. If Facebook were a country, it would now have the 4th largest population in the world.

While Facebook has been growing at around 300,00 to 400,000 active users per day for most of the last three quarters, its growth rate seems to have again significantly increased in recent weeks to around 700,000 to 750,000 new users per day based on data we are tracking from Facebook’s advertising tools.

If Facebook continues at this rate, it could reach 300 million active users by November. Keep in mind, however, that as has been the case for most of the last year, about 70% of that growth is happening outside the United States. Nevertheless, Facebook still grew at an 8% monthly clip in the US in May, up to nearly 70 million active users today.



The Value of Real Disease Cures and Inexpensive Tests

A blog makes a point that the healthcare funding battles are like generals fighting the last war. The new healthcare should focus on cures and cheap tests.

This site covered the detailed statistics that most of the healthcare costs are focused on the chronic diseases for the sickest 5% of people.

Curing cancer is worth $50 trillion to the USA alone according to a 2006study by Kevin M. Murphy and Robert H. Topel of the University of Chicago.

- A 10% reduction in cancer death rates has a value of roughly 5 trillion dollars to current and future Americans
- Reducing cancer death rates by 10% would generate roughly 180 billion dollars annually in value for the U.S. population
- These figures don’t even count any gains from reduced morbidity and improved quality of life
- Gains in longevity from 1970 to 2000 were worth roughly 95 trillion dollars to current and future Americans
- This amounts to a gain of over 3 trillion dollars per year (roughly 25% of annual GDP)
-Value of reducing the death rate by 1/10,000 worth roughly $630 to one person
- This corresponds to a value of a statistical life of $6.3 million


Bad eBay picture

Originally uploaded by a2brute
Check your photos carefully before posting them!


Carbon Ring Storage for 1,000x Memory Increase

Attach a couple of cobalt molecules to a ring of carbon and you have the dream memory material.

There's a challenge facing electronics engineers attempting to build magnetic memory that can store data for more than 10 years or so. The density at which this data is stored depends on the size of the magnetic grains used for this process. Engineers have known for some time that they just can't continue to make these grains indefinitely smaller.

But today, Ruijuan Xiao at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research, in Dresden, Germany, and a few buddies have worked out how to solve the problem. And get this: their fix doesn't just tweak the density of magnetic data storage. They reckon that they can get an improvement of three orders of magnitude.

What Xiao and co have found is a way to trick cobalt dimers into thinking that they're in a hexagonal close packed structure. Their idea is to attach the dimers to a hexagonal carbon ring such as benzene or graphene. In this scenario, one of the pair of cobalt atoms bonds with the carbon ring, and the magnetic field between the cobalt atoms can be switched by applying a weak magnetic field and a strong electric field.

If they're right, carbon ring storage should allow engineers to access this extraordinary stability, and that could lead to fantastically long-lived memory.


Cheap fusion power?

Eric Lerner heads the Focus Fusion Society, which is a charitable organization attempting to create focus fusion technology. He believes that his technique is fundamentally superior to Tri-alpha Energy (Colliding beam fusion in the reverse field configuration) and EMC2 fusion (inertial electrostatic confinement/pollywell fusion) because it results in more of the proton-boron fuel being burned. He is confident that this technology could lead to electricity generation at 2 cents per kilowatt hour. We should know if this technology if feasible or not within the next two years. If it is successful as Lerner hopes, this technology could have a profound impact on the world.


The amazing vanishing head

A trick using the eye's blind spot, plus an additional unknown effect.



A Glimpse of the Future MEMS-based Storage: Totally Green & Thumbnail Size

Khatib MEMS The University of Twente--Enschede, The Netherlands published newly conferred PhD Mohammed Ghiath Khatib's thesis, "MEMS-based Storage Devices: Integration in Energy-Constrained Mobile System". The new MEMS, (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) discovery will allow video camera batteries to increase their charging life approximately 2-1/2 times, consume 1/5th of the energy of disc storage and store 1-Tb on a postage stamp size device. Dr. Khatib expects this new technology to be available to the public within the next five-years.



Intel's Wireless Power Play

(Ed: Vivat Tesla!) Last Thursday, Intel researchers demonstrated 45 research projects, ranging from ray-tracing algorithms for better animation to organic photovoltaics for flexible solar cells, at the Computer History Museum, in Mountain View, CA. But the project that received the most attention by far was the demo of a wirelessly charged iPod speaker. The speaker was attached to a copper coil with a 30-centimeter diameter, and it was powered by magnetic fields produced from a second coil, with double the diameter, nearly a meter away.

Intel's wireless power project, first announced at the company's developer forum last August, bears a strong resemblance to a project announced by researchers at MIT in 2007, which was featured as one of the TR10 top emerging technologies of 2008. Similar to the MIT project led by Marin Soljacic and the prototypes developed by the spinoff startup WiTricity, the Intel project uses magnetic fields to transfer energy; the type of radiation shared between the two coils is nonradiative, which means that it's confined to a short distance of less than two meters.

The idea of wireless power transfer is, of course, not new. Physicist Nikola Tesla proposed it in the late 19th century. However, funding for his projects ran out at about the same time that the modern world decided to take a wired approach. And for more than a century, wires have done the job well enough. But with the advent of portable electronics that seem to need constant charging, wireless electricity is coming back in style, and researchers are exploring ways to make it practical. In addition, plug-in electric vehicles are another motivating factor, as plugging in a car (or forgetting to plug one in) is a burden that consumers may not want to bear.

There are still a number of engineering challenges, says Schatz, including finding the best way to shrink the coils, which are made of copper, so that they can be integrated easily into devices of various shapes and sizes. But he suspects that his company's products will be on the market within the next 18 months.



Bismuth telluride could revolutionize electronics

Physicists at the Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have confirmed the existence of a type of material (bismuth Telluride) that could one day provide dramatically faster, more efficient computer chips.

Bismuth Telluride allows electrons on its surface to travel with no loss of energy at room temperatures and can be fabricated using existing semiconductor technologies. Such material could provide a leap in microchip speeds, and even become the bedrock of an entirely new kind of computing industry based on spintronics, the next evolution of electronics.

This magic is possible thanks to surprisingly well-behaved electrons. The quantum spin of each electron is aligned with the electron's motion—a phenomenon called the quantum spin Hall effect. This alignment is a key component in creating spintronics devices, new kinds of devices that go beyond standard electronics. "When you hit something, there's usually scattering, some possibility of bouncing back," explained theorist Xiaoliang Qi. "But the quantum spin Hall effect means that you can't reflect to exactly the reverse path." As a dramatic consequence, electrons flow without resistance. Put a voltage on a topological insulator, and this special spin current will flow without heating the material or dissipating.

Fortunately for real-world applications, bismuth telluride is fairly simple to grow and work with. Chen said, "It's a three-dimensional material, so it's easy to fabricate with the current mature semiconductor technology. It's also easy to dope—you can tune the properties relatively easily."


Graphene's electrically tunable bandgap means Accelerated Graphene Electronics Timetable

Graphene holds the promise of 10-times faster speed than silicon chips, plus the ability to be integrated with exiting semiconductor fabrication techniques. It was thought that 2017 sub-10 nanometer lithography would be needed to bring Graphene into the semiconductor computer roadmap. Professor Feng Wang at UC Berkeley claims to have demonstrated a technology that can electrically tune graphene's bandgap, enabling it to be used for digital transistors long before lithography hits sub-10 nanometer sizes.

The researchers speculated that a new kind of graphene gate array would be possible using the technique to dynamically reconfigure millions of gates, each with both top and bottom electrodes, by retuning their bandgaps on-the-fly.

"All you need is dual gates at all positions, then you could change any location to be either a metal or a semiconductor electrically," said Wang.

Wang used exfoliation to fabricate two parallel graphene monolayers atop each other, then attached gate electrodes to the top and bottom of the bilayers. Electrical connections for the source and drain were made along the edges of the bilayer sheets. By varying the gating voltages on the top and bottom gates independently, the team was able to demonstrate an electrically tunable bandgap that varied between zero (a metal) and 250 milli-electron volts (a semiconductor). That was only a fraction of the size of bandgaps in current semiconductors (germanium and silicon have bandgaps of 740- and 1,200-meV, respectively) but wide enough to fabricate digital circuitry.

(ed. Wow! How about a cellphone that can change its own circuitry based on the program you are running!)



Anti-Recession Fiber Internet for Multi-Trillion Boost to the Economy

High speed fiber internet is being implemented with greater speed and higher penetration around the world than in the United States. The 5-10+% [700 billion to 1.4 trillion per year initially. A nextbigfuture article that covers many studies that connect broadband to economic stimulus] boost to the GDP that would come from 100+mbps symmetrical access would quickly pay for initial subsidies. Implementation by say Japan means that other countries the United States could also have them by adjusting policies and rules to prevent incumbent companies and groups from blocking successful rollout. The first example is super-broadband. The economic benefits for super-broadband have been shown. It is to the benefit of a economic benefit of country and its people to enable super-broadband (at least 100 mbps both up and down). Having a system set up that slows and prevents this rollout is stupid.

Japan is rolling out 10 gigabit per second (symmetrical, upload and download) fiber internet connections. Speeds up to 160 gigabit per second have been demonstrated and 200+ gigabit per second speed is possible. Wireless speeds of 10 gigabits per second over distances have been demonstrated.

There is no societal or technological reason to settle for lesser connection speed targets.


The Physical Basis of Atomically Precise Manufacturing

by Eric Drexler on June 12, 2009

The section below, adapted from a longer work, discusses the physical basis for understanding atomically precise fabrication systems: first, a very general class of systems, and second, the specific characteristics of high-throughput systems of a kind several technology levels above where we are today. (In my previous post, “A Telescope Aimed at the Future” I said a bit about science, modeling, and as-yet-unimplemented technologies.)

Regarding next-stage objectives for laboratory research and the trajectory of technology development, I’ve previously discussed:

Current understanding of potential systems for atomically precise manufacturing (APM) is based on long-established science, not on speculations regarding new or poorly understood physical phenomena. Molecular machinery in biological cells demonstrates the fundamental physical principles and operations that enable APM.

(ed: an outline follows in the document -- please follow the link)



Apollo 11 Owners' Workshop Manual

Apollo 11 Owners’ Workshop Manual coverOn 20th July 1969, US astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon. But it had taken 400,000 men and women across the United States to put him and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin there. Achieving technical miracles and overcoming bureaucratic battles, daunting setbacks and tragedies, Apollo’s engineers and scientists worked out how to transport human beings and their home comforts across a quarter of a million miles of hostile space, to live and work on the surface of an unexplored alien world.

The fact that all this was achieved before the age of micro-computers, mobile phones and the internet, when slide rules were still in every engineer’s top pocket, is even more exceptional. The seven million engineered parts invented to fly a single mission all had to work perfectly.

Forty years on, the reality of just how difficult it was to achieve a lunar landing in the mid-20th century is recounted in Apollo 11 Owners' Workshop Manual. Presented in the successful Haynes Manual format with original NASA technical illustrations and stunning archive photographs- some previously unpublished, the down-to-earth text takes the reader behind the scenes to look at every aspect of the Apollo 11 mission, from the raw fire-breathing power of the Saturn V rocket to the development of the astronauts’ space suits. Unique ‘how it works’ and ‘how you fly it’ guides give an insight into launch procedures, ‘flying’ and landing the Lunar Module, walking on the Moon, and the Earth re-entry procedure. A fascinating book, Apollo 11 Owners' Workshop Manual chronicles the audacity of the engineers who dared to dream that such a voyage was possible and then made it happen.


Popular Giant Star Shrinks Mysteriously

A massive red star in the constellation Orion has shrunk in the past 15 years and astronomers don't know why.

Called Betelgeuse, the star is considered a red supergiant. Such massive stars are nearing the ends of their lives and can swell to 100 times their original size before exploding as supernovae, or possibly just collapsing to form black holes without violent explosions (as one study suggested).

Betelgeuse, one of the top 10 brightest stars in our sky, is a popular target among backyard skywatchers and was the first star ever to have its size measured, and even today is one of only a handful of stars that appears through the Hubble Space Telescope as a disk rather than a point of light. It was the first star (besides our sun) to have its surface photographed (by Hubble).

In 1993, measurements put Betelgeuse's radius at about 5.5 astronomical units (AU), where one AU equals the average Earth-sun distance of 93 million miles, or about 150 million km. Since then it has shrunk in size by 15 percent. That means the star's radius has contracted by a distance equal to the orbit of Venus.

"To see this change is very striking," said Charles Townes, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of physics. "We will be watching it carefully over the next few years to see if it will keep contracting or will go back up in size." (Townes won the 1964 Nobel Prize in physics for inventing the laser and the maser, a microwave laser.)

"But we do not know why the star is shrinking," said Edward Wishnow, a research physicist at UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory. "Considering all that we know about galaxies and the distant universe, there are still lots of things we don't know about stars, including what happens as red giants near the ends of their lives."


Getting a theory of everything by ditching tenet of physics

Every article on quantum gravity begins the same way. On the one hand we have quantum mechanics—excellent at describing the very small and intrinsic lumpiness of the universe—and on the other hand we have general relativity—excellent at describing gravity, but it relies on a smooth universe. At some point the two meet, and just like Manchester United supporters and Liverpool fans, they just don't get along. Luckily for the universe, tire irons haven't been deployed to settle this incompatibility.

A pair of unrelated papers, which appeared in Physical Review Letters, and a News and Views article in Nature Physics all indicate that progress is occurring, but it is coming at the expense of a long-cherished tenet of physics, called the Lorentz Invariance.

Until recently, the general consensus was that string theory was the great hope, but physicists have been rocked by the discovery that string theory still requires a bunch of fine-tuned values to get to the universe we observe.

This depressing state of affairs has led to reappearance of the anthropic principle, which, while begin very deep and meaningful, also finds itself in the embarrassing position of stating the bleeding obvious. Which leads us nicely to a paper by one Petr Hořava, brought to my attention and nicely explained in the Nature Physics News and Views article. Hořava takes advantage of a recent finding that, in quantum mechanics, the universe behaves as if it has four dimensions at larger scales, but this can be reduced to two dimensions as the scale is reduced. This implies that space and time may be fractal in nature—not a new idea, but it's always nice to have evidence to support the idea.

To summarize the reduction procedure, space and time are treated separately, which would normally cause all sorts of problems in quantum mechanics. However, by treating space and time differently as well as separately, the infinities in the quantum mechanics equations vanish, and gravity behaves as it should. 

Interestingly, space remains the same in all directions, while time does not. This appeals to me, because it points to fabric of the universe supplying time with a preferred direction. One of the downsides, though, is the failure of Lorentz invariance.

To understand why physicists might be loath to give up Lorentz invariance, let's take a quick look at it. A key idea, going way back to Galileo is that all accurate observations are equally valid and must agree. A simple example of this is cars on a motorway. I am cruising along at 120km/h but, to me, my car appears to be standing still. An overtaking car appears to me to be traveling at 20km/h, while a person on the side of the road will see speeds of 120km/h and 140km/h. Now, although we all disagree on the speed of each car, we can, given some information, understand each other's results and reach an agreement. These sorts of transformations, based on Lorentz invariance, are a key part of physics and are founded on a certain conception of space and time.


Free-floating black hole may solve space 'firefly' mystery

The object responsible for the mysterious brightening seen in 2006 (right) is ordinarily too dim to detect (left) (Image: Barbary et al.)

A wandering black hole may have torn apart a star to create a strange object that brightened mysteriously and then faded from view in 2006, a new study suggests. But more than three years later, astronomers are still at a loss to explain all the features of the strange event.

The object, called SCP 06F6, was first spotted in the constellation Bootes in February 2006 in a search for supernovae by the Hubble Space Telescope. The object flared to its maximum brightness over about 100 days, a period much longer than most supernovae, which do so in just 20 days.

Further analysis of the object's spectrum in 2008 offered no more clues: SCP 06F6 seemed to resemble no known object, and astronomers couldn't even say whether the event originated in the Milky Way or beyond.

Examining the work over coffee, Boris Gaensicke of the University of Warwick in Coventry, UK, and colleagues noticed that dips in the object's light spectrum looked familiar. They resembled those created when light passes through a relatively cool area that is rich in carbon. "These wiggles are basically the fingerprints of carbon molecules," Gaensicke says.

Gaensicke and colleagues envision two scenarios that might explain the object. In one, a carbon-rich star gets too close to a middle- or heavy-weight black hole, which tears the star apart. Some of this material is absorbed by the black hole, and some is blasted away in a flare that was eventually seen from Earth as SCP 06F6.

Such flares brighten and dim with the same leisurely pace seen in SCP 06F6, and they also produce X-rays with a similar brightness to those the team found at the location of the firefly-like event.



A Telescope Aimed at the Future

The IBM Blue Gene supercomputer
Our time in history is unique in that physical knowledge and computational methods enable partial understanding of technology levels
above our own — and in some areas, far above. Because we
understand the universal physical laws that govern matter and energy,
we understand the physical laws that will govern the material
structures of future technologies.

Our time is also unique in that growing computational capacity can
enable us to simulate systems that have not yet been built: New
aircraft typically fly as expected, new computer chips typically
operate as expected. These same capabilities can also be used to
simulate systems that cannot yet be built. These systems
include some of the products and processes that will be enabled by
higher levels of technology. Indeed, in semiconductor technology, a
company must design chips before they can be made, or lose to its
The Schrodinger equation
Using computational simulation this way is like the earlier use of
telescopes to view planets that spacecraft could not yet reach. Like a
telescope, it does not provide a detailed picture — that is the
role of spacecraft. But like a telescope, it can identify potential
targets and help engineers plan how to reach them. And likewise, the
easiest targets to see are not necessarily the easiest targets to reach.