30 April 2007
3-6 Year Olds: More Competence Than the Average College Freshman?
The 3-6 Year Old Montessori training is all about developing basic competencies. The more competent the child, the more confident. Children who are both confident and competent--while taught to work both independently and with others--earn their self-esteem.
The narcissism that is so typical of the modern university student is often an ego defense, created to protect the hollow core of incompetence from exposure. No wonder most students are so susceptible to the indoctrination they face at most universities. It is no wonder that students sign the consent form for their own academic lobotomies. What is surprising is the complicity of their parents.
Forcing Cancer to Revert to Normal Cells
Now, in the American Association of Anatomists’ plenary lecture and symposium, at Experimental Biology 2007 in Washington, DC, Dr. Hendrix describes new research that used an innovative experimental approach to provide unique insights into how scientists can change human metastatic melanoma cells back to normal-like skin cells - by exposing the tumor cells to the embryonic microenvironment of human embryonic stem cells, the zebra fish and the chick embryo.More details at source
Dr. Hendrix’s plenary lecture on April 29 is a highlight of the scientific program of the American Association of Anatomists. Her presentation is titled "the convergence of embryonic and cancer signaling pathways: role in tumor cell plasticity." Plasticity refers to the ability of the tumor cell, like the embryonic cell, to express or change into multiple, different types of cells.
....When aggressive melanoma and other tumor cells (recent findings also report Nodal expression in breast cancer and testicular cancer) regain the ability to express a potent embryonic morphogen like Nodal, the presence of the Nodal and the signals it sends and receives appear to play a key role in tumor cell plasticity and progression.
Most noteworthy, Dr. Hendrix’s team’s also has shown that inhibition of Nodal signaling leads to a reduction in melanoma cell invasiveness and ability to create new tumors. In fact, with inhibition of Nodal, the metastatic melanoma cells are reverted to a more benign skin cell without the ability to form tumors.
After fertilisation of the egg, early cells are unspecialised. With development of the embryo, cells differentiate to form specialised tissues and organs. Recently it has been learned that cells can de-differentiate--or go back to simpler cell types. It is possible to create stem cells from differentiated cells, just as cancer cells can be regressed to normal cells.
There is a startling variety of cell types in the human body. But each cell type possesses essentially the same DNA as all other cell types. Differentiation of cells dictates which genes can be expressed. De-differentiation turns back the clock. From cancer to normal cells. From normal cells to stem cells.
29 April 2007
The Story of Second Life: Google Tech Talks Looks at the Metaverse
Are you curious about where Second Life came from, who is behind it, how it works, how big it can possibly get? Check out this talk at Google by two insiders from Linden Labs.
You want to hear something scary? The stats these guys are giving here are from over a year ago. Since then, Second Life has grown exponentially.
Updated news on Second Life from Reuters.
Lasso the Moon
Carnival of Space--It's About Time
The recent Space Access ‘07 conference focused on private business efforts to get into space. I was surprised by just how close we are to being able to buy a “reasonable” ticket into space.Much more at the source
....The Robot Guy explains What NASA Should Be Doing, But Isn't: DARPA's Orbital Express program is everything that DART should have been, and more – and is exactly the sort of thing NASA doesn't do anymore, due to budget constraints. (Some cool graphics.)
Brian Wang, who blogs at advancednano, writes that Possibly the last NIAC studies are being released. He reviews two of the more interesting recent concepts from NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, NIAC. One is the space bubble concept where bubbles up to 1000 kilometers (!) in size are created and then made rigid. The other concept is using two lightweight lunar Winnebagos to provide a mobile base camp for lunar exploration. Check out the pictures!
Henry Cate attended Space Access '07 and came away inspired to start the Carnival of Space. This may be a small seed in the creation of the human exodus into space. But it is a critical step toward interesting people at the grass roots level--informing them what is being done and what could be done.
So check out the first Carnival of Space. And if you can help Henry keep the carnival new and exciting, do what you can.
Labels: blog carnivals
28 April 2007
IBM Says--Hey Babe, Walk on the Wild Side
But IBM is using many of the same powerful chips that are going into Roadrunner, to build mainframe servers to use for 3-D virtual environments such as Second Life.
The mainframe is an ideal platform for virtual environments, particularly online gaming, because of its ability to run multiple processors for computing-intensive applications, while also handling millions of simultaneous users, according to IBM. "As online environments increasingly incorporate aspects of virtual reality -- including 3-D graphics and lifelike, meaningful real-time interaction among many simultaneous users -- companies of all types will need a computing platform that can handle a broad spectrum of demanding performance and security requirements," Jim Stallings, general manager for IBM System z, said in a statement.Source
By running Cell processors, along with up to 336 RISC processors, the mainframe can parcel the workload to deliver higher computing performance for companies building virtual worlds similar to the popular Second Life online videogame. Second Life also has grown into a place for virtual retail stores, and many large corporations, such as IBM, have set up shop there.
IBM's mainframe sales are growing steadily, just when everyone thought the mainframe was dead. But IBM's system Z mainframes are far from dead--particularly at a time when virtual environments such as SL are growing exponentially.
Machines Blending with Life on a Micro-Scale
The scientists grouped the microorganisms into four areas of use: material synthesis, precise structure formation, as functional devices, and integrated into controllable systems. All the microorganisms studied were less than 1 millimeter in size, and made of one or just a few cells.Source
As the scientists showed, microorganisms have the ability to synthesize at least 64 different inorganic materials used in MEMS technology, in a process called “biomineralization.” Scientists have fossil evidence of this process dating back more than 700 million years. By genetically modifying this process, scientists might be able to produce MEMS materials such as silicon dioxide, biogenic calcite, and magnets.
For example, magnetic bacteria naturally synthesize magnetosome crystals, which act as a compass needle inside the bacteria aligning with the earth’s magnetic field. These bacteria always swim in one direction and accumulate in one side of the water, depending on the hemisphere; however, they can also be controlled by an external magnetic field.
Compared with conventional MEMS synthesis methods, which often involve high temperatures, corrosive gases, vacuums and plasma, synthesis using microorganisms could be done at room temperature, at near-neutral pH, and in aqueous solutions.
Other microorganisms can form intricate structures—such as gold or silver crystals—using a simpler process than conventional photolithography systems. These structures can grow up to three dimensions and be modified with nanoscale precision. Microorganisms can even generate structures a few orders of magnitude larger than themselves, offering the opportunity to interface with the macroscopic world. The scientists mentioned how the spicules in one deep-sea sponge demonstrate excellent fiber-optical properties.
Several times in the past, Al Fin has reiterated how important it is for nanotechnologists to learn from biology. The co-opting of biology by MEMS research is on a cruder level than I was thinking of, but it is a necessary transition on the way to two things:
- Synthetic Biology
- True Molecular Nanoassembly
Neither of these goals will be easy to achieve, but once achieved, both will lead to revolutionary, massively disruptive change. Humans are not now ready for such change, but we all hope that humans can learn--quickly.
Too Stupid to Know . . . . .
Remember what Islamic Sharia law would mean for you and everyone you know.
"A secularist represents a danger to society and the nation that must be eliminated. It is the duty of the government to kill him."Source
....just this week in the United States ... a Johnstown (western Pennsylvania) area imam Fouad El Bayly openly sanctioned the punishment by death of former Dutch Parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali-born and raised a Muslim in Somalia-for her open avowal of secularism.
"Liberal democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom and attaches all possible value to each man or woman." ... Individualism is not a recognizable feature of Islam; instead the collective will of the Muslim people is constantly emphasized. There is certainly no notion of individual rights, which developed in the West, especially during the eighteenth century.
....large majorities [of muslims] agree with goals that involve expanding the role of Islam in their society. On average, about three out of four agree with seeking to “require Islamic countries to impose a strict application of sharia,” and to “keep Western values out of Islamic countries.” Two-thirds would even like to “unify all Islamic counties into a single Islamic state or caliphate.” [Ed: Spain is considered a muslim country under the rule: once muslim, always muslim]Source
the preponderance of contemporary mainstream Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia, apparently share with their murderous, jihad terror waging co-religionists from al-Qaeda the goal (if not necessarily supporting the gruesome means) of re-establishing an Islamic Caliphate. Polling data just released (April 24, 2007) in a rigorously conducted face-to-face University of Maryland/ WorldPublicOpinion.org interview survey of 4384 Muslims conducted between December 9, 2006 and February 15, 2007-1000 Moroccans, 1000 Egyptians, 1243 Pakistanis, and 1141 Indonesians-reveal that 65.2% of those interviewed-almost 2/3, hardly a "fringe minority"-desired this outcome (i.e., "To unify all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state or Caliphate"), including 49% of "moderate" Indonesian Muslims. The internal validity of these data about the present longing for a Caliphate is strongly suggested by a concordant result: 65.5% of this Muslim sample approved the proposition "To require a strict [emphasis added] application of Shari'a law in every Islamic country."Source
Notwithstanding ahistorical drivel from Western Muslim "advocacy" groups such as the Muslim Association of Britain, which lionizes both the Caliphate and the concomitant institution of Shari'a as promulgators of "a peaceful and just society" , the findings from the University of Maryland/ WorldPublicOpinion.org poll are ominous.
Is It This Easy?
In the design, the researchers reflect light from a digitally controlled array of mirrors, sending the light through a magnifying lens, and then into a sandwich of semiconductor planes, creating (at the interface between two of the planes) as many as 15,000 traps that can be addressed separately. In each of the traps, objects such as biological cells can be studied. Optoelectronic tweezers, which use optical energy to create powerful electric forces in carefully prescribed places, differ from ordinary optical tweezers, which use optical energy to create mechanical forces that can push things around, helping to make the technique potentially easier for laboratories to implement.Source
According to Berkeley's Aaron Ohta, the optoelectronic approach uses much less power than optical tweezers and doesn't need to be as carefully focused. In recent months the Berkeley group has had some success in using their locally controlled electric fields to manipulate the positions of tiny nanorods (100 nanometers in diameter and 1-50 microns long). The rods are suspended in a thin layer of water by sound waves and then transferred to the tweezer apparatus. Ohta says that the lateral-field optoelectronic device will possibly be used to place rods for the sake of building 3-D circuitry or for positioning oblong-shaped cells or cell protrusions with micron-level precision.
More images and movies at http://nanophotonics.eecs.berkeley.edu/.
Combining these techniques with "self-assembly" techniques, as in these self-assembling batteries, should help nano-assembly along just a bit.
Researchers at MIT have designed a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that assembles itself out of microscopic materials. This could lead to ultrasmall power sources for sensors and micromachines the size of the head of a pin. It could also make it possible to pack battery materials in unused space inside electronic devices.Technology Review
Nanotechnology is ages behind biological molecular assembly. But with computing technology advancing so quickly, an age can pass in the blink of an eye.
27 April 2007
Butanol, Ethanol from Cellulose--Better Cellulases Needed
Corn (maize) ethanol just is not going to work. Despite the efforts of big agricultural interests to promote corn ethanol, the economics simply does not work. But cellulosic butanol/ethanol could easily work, if the right cellulases are found--to break down cellulose into simple fermentable sugars.
A critical step in producing cellulosic ethanol involves breaking down a plant's cell wall material and fermenting the sugars that are released. Current technologies use microbial enzymes called "cellulases" to digest the cellulose in grasses and such rapidly growing trees as poplars. The microbial enzymes have a structure that makes them very efficient at binding to and digesting plant cell wall material called lignocellulose (a combination of lignin and cellulose).Source
But now, a new class of plant enzymes with a similar structure has been discovered, potentially offering researchers new properties for producing ethanol even more efficiently.
"The bottleneck for conversion of lignocellulose into ethanol is efficient cellulose degradation," said Jocelyn Rose, Cornell assistant professor of plant biology. "The discovery of these enzymes suggests there might be sets of new plant enzymes to improve the efficiency of cellulose degradation."
The paper appears in the April 20 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Breeanna Urbanowicz, a graduate student in Rose's laboratory, was the paper's lead author.
Here is another approach from UCSD:
To help unlock the cellulose bottleneck, a team of scientists has conducted molecular simulations at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), based at UC San Diego. By using “virtual molecules,” they have discovered key steps in the intricate dance in which the enzyme acts as a molecular machine -- attaching to bundles of cellulose, pulling up a single strand of sugar, and putting it onto a molecular conveyor belt where it is chopped into smaller sugar pieces.Source
“By learning how the cellulase enzyme complex breaks down cellulose we can develop protein engineering strategies to speed up this key reaction,” said Mike Cleary, who is coordinating SDSC’s role in the project. “This is important in making ethanol from plant biomass a realistic ‘carbon neutral’ alternative to the fossil petroleum used today for transportation fuels.”
This field is receiving large infusions of cash, due to the huge potential payoff if biofuels can displace a significant quantity of fossil fuels, in western transportation.
$100 $175 Laptop Save the World's Children?
The XO machines will be made by Quanta Computer Inc., the world's leading maker of portable computers. Quanta agreed to take a profit of about $3 per machine, less than what it gets from mainstream PC companies, Negroponte said.Source
Even so, the cost of the machine - which boasts extremely low electricity consumption, a pulley for hand-generated power, built-in wireless networking and a screen with indoor and outdoor reading modes - is now $175. The One Laptop project takes an additional $1 to fund its distribution efforts.
.... Even at $175, the computers upend the standard economics in the PC industry. A huge reason for the low cost has been XO's use of the free, open-source Linux operating system, tweaked for this project with the help of one of its sponsors, Red Hat Inc.
The result is that XO's software is highly original, in hopes of making the computer useful as a collaborative tool and intuitive for children who have never before encountered a computer. There are no windows or folders, but rather an interface heavily reliant on pictographic icons.
However, Negroponte disclosed that XO's developers have been working with Microsoft Corp. to make sure a version of Windows can run on the machines as well. It could be the $3 software package that Microsoft announced last week for governments that subsidize student computers. It includes Windows XP Starter Edition and some of Microsoft's "productivity" software.
...Whether the XO machines might someday land in U.S. schools has been an open question. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced at one point that he wanted to buy the machines for students in his state. Some time later, Negroponte said Thursday, One Laptop Per Child decided not to work with American schools because "we've designed something for a totally different situation" - meaning kids in poor countries.
Now, he added, that might change, since 19 state governors have expressed interest. One of them was then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. When Bush first e-mailed and casually signed "Jeb," Negroponte needed to ask his brother, former national intelligence director John Negroponte, whether the query was legitimate.
Not a bad starter laptop for kids, not bad at all. But computers will never make up for a lack of good teachers, lack of good curricula and texts, lack of parental interest and support, and they especially can never make up for the disastrous German 1800s approach to schooling that turns schools into mechanistic assembly lines.
If this laptop can help some children learn to teach themselves, and help them acquire a love for learning and self-teaching, then the money and effort will have been well spent.
North American government schools are a disaster, and laptops will not change that. Whether schools in the third world will benefit from the laptops depends upon how they are presented and situated in the overall teaching scheme.
It is easy to imagine these laptops in madrasas in Pakistan, helping young muslim boys learn to be better suicide bombers or terrorists. It is also easy to imagine the laptops diverted by corrupt governments, and resold on the market to provide cash for Swiss bank accounts. You know it will happen.
The average IQ for humans on Earth is around 89 or 90, using the UK population as the mean of 100. In 50 years, the average IQ for humans is expected to drop to 84, for various reasons of population dysgenics. If the laptops can do anything to reverse that dead-end trend, who would object?
Climatology: Finally Becoming a Science?
New research has the potential to bring climatology up from a religion to a science. First, NASA's AIM satellite was successfully launched.
NASA's Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) spacecraft, the first mission dedicated to the exploration of mysterious ice clouds that dot the edge of space in Earth's polar regions, successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 1:26 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, April 25.Source
The mission will study clouds that are noctilucent, meaning they can be seen from the ground only at night, when they are illuminated by sunlight no longer visible from the Earth's surface.
Noctilucent clouds are increasing in number, becoming brighter and are occurring at lower latitudes than ever before. "Such variations suggest a connection with global change," said Russell.
Clouds strongly affect the amount of radiant heat that is admitted to the atmosphere and allowed to leave the atmosphere. Climatologists generally have no clue about the effect of clouds, and water vapour, on the climate.
Second, better studies of ocean carbon dioxide are filling in some huge gaps in knowledge of the earth's carbon cycle.
the new study, detailed in the April 27 issue of the journal Science, finds that not all of this carbon makes it past the region of the ocean known as the mesopelagic or “the twilight zone”—roughly 300 to 3,000 feet below the surface where there isn’t enough light for photosynthesis—which acts as a gateway to the deep ocean below.Source
Animals and bacteria in the twilight zone often consume and further decompose the sinking marine snow, converting the carbon into dissolved organic and inorganic forms that can find their way back to the surface and then the atmosphere.
And then there are the many excellent studies highlighted in Climate Science Blog which vastly enlarge the scope of investigation into climate change.
It is expected that accounts of studies will be spun to emphasize the likelihood of anthropogenic greenhouse gas influences on climate. But more intelligent persons will read between the lines, even when reading the original studies.
Fortunately, more objective and informed volunteers are serving as climate auditors, to point out the many excesses and deficiencies of the current climate religion-trying-to-become-a-science.
CAGW is a fad in science funding that brings in a lot of grant money. IPCC reports are polished odes to ignorance, largely influenced by political aims.
But science is not content to stop asking questions. Science is all about debate. The debate is just beginning.
Increase Your Lab Productivity One Hundred-Fold
You can observe how quickly the lab technician is able to move about the lab, using the rapid replicating (RepRap) software. A technician in the background moves so quickly it is almost impossible to see him.
The technician in the foreground is building a rapid prototyping machine, for creating quick prototypes of designs stored in CAD files, similar to the way a paper printer can print word processor files.
Personally, I fail to see the point of using the prototyping machine when the augmented technician is able to assemble machines so quickly himself.
Hat tip, the eclecto-Speculist.
26 April 2007
Plasma Shields, Laser Snipers, Perpetual Nuclear Fuel Recycling
The Plasma Acoustic Shield System will eventually combine a dynamic pulse detonation laser with a high power speaking for hailing or warning, and a dazzler light source. PASS has already been demonstrated by the system's makers, Stellar Photonics.Source
"It uses a programmed pattern of rapid plasma events to create a sort of wall of bright lights and reports (bangs) over the coverage area," says Keith Braun of the US Army's Advanced Energy Armaments Systems Division at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, US, where the system is being tested.
...The company has also pitched a portable laser rifle, which would be lethal, to the US Army. It would weigh about fifteen kilograms, would have a range of more than a mile, and could have numerous advantages over existing rifles – better accuracy and the ability to hit a moving target at the speed of light.
It could also be used in non-lethal mode, "offering the individual soldier a first response non-lethal alternative, with the capability to go lethal should the situation call for that level of response", says Braun. But extensive testing of its effects on humans would need to be carried out before it could be legitimately used as a non-lethal weapon.
Meanwhile, Oak Ridge National Lab wants to recycle all that nuclear waste from nuclear reactors, that had been slated for the Yucca Mountain waste disposal site.
The aim of the demo -- part of a controversial $405-million government project called the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) -- is to transform nuclear leftovers into fuel for a new breed of reactors. The new reactor/fuel combo, GNEP officials say, could produce up to 100 times as much energy as conventional reactors and could generate 40 percent less waste.Source
The initiative is a key part of the Bush administration's long-term strategy to meet America's rising demand for electricity -- according to the DOE, it's expected to jump by 45 percent from 4,000 billion kilowatt-hours in 2005 to 5,800 billion kilowatt-hours in 2030 -- without creating more greenhouse gases.
"Nuclear energy is the biggest source we have for meeting our energy needs without contributing to global warming," says Sherrell Greene, director of the nuclear-technology program at Oak Ridge, one of the 13 potential recycling sites selected earlier this year by the DOE.
Another central GNEP objective is to deal with the nation's growing nuclear-waste problem: The country's 103 nuclear reactors produce 2,200 tons of radioactive waste annually, and there's no good place to put it.
New generations of reactors should be able to utilise the recycled nuclear waste as fuel to generate more gigawatt scale power. While "environmentalists" may wish to have it both ways--no fossil fuels and no nuclear power--it is very unlikely that such "purity" will be achievable for the next thirty years. After that it is possible that nuclear fusion will step in--quien sabe?
And speaking of profitable uses of waste, how about this plasma converter that turns garbage into clean energy?
The radiant energy of the plasma arc is so powerful, it disintegrates trash into its constituent elements by tearing apart molecular bonds. The system is capable of breaking down pretty much anything except nuclear waste, the isotopes of which are indestructible. The only by-products are an obsidian-like glass used as a raw material for numerous applications, including bathroom tiles and high-strength asphalt, and a synthesis gas, or “syngas”—a mixture of primarily hydrogen and carbon monoxide that can be converted into a variety of marketable fuels, including ethanol, natural gas and hydrogen.
Perhaps the most amazing part of the process is that it’s self-sustaining. Just like your toaster, Startech’s Plasma Converter draws its power from the electrical grid to get started. The initial voltage is about equal to the zap from a police stun gun. But once the cycle is under way, the 2,200˚F syngas is fed into a cooling system, generating steam that drives turbines to produce electricity. About two thirds of the power is siphoned off to run the converter; the rest can be used on-site for heating or electricity, or sold back to the utility grid. “Even a blackout would not stop the operation of the facility,” Longo says.
Is it Only a Coincidence That Super-Earth was Discovered in Space the Same Time that Kryptonite is Discovered Underground?
Scientists at the University of Abertay in Dundee, Scotland, have been very quick to size up the implications of these twin "coincidental" discoveries. These Scottish scientists are designing secret underground villages for robots, no doubt with the firm intent of later downloading their consciousness into the robots should it become necessary.
What is more, the ominous disappearance of the honey bees points toward a truly cataclysmic event in the near future. What do the bees know that most humans do not?
Further, could all of this be mere coincidence, occurring so soon upon Al Gore's revelations that Earth's climate has been doomed by man's hubris? Again, I think not. Al Gore has expressed frustration with the slowness of his "thousand person global army crusade" and has hinted to close friends that it may be necessary to clone a thousand copies of himself to get the job done right.
These are all signs that the end is near. It is not for nothing that plans are being made in India and elsewhere to construct colonies on the moon and Mars.
Do not expect everything to be spelled out clearly by the media and government elite. There is only so much room in the escape pods. If you prove yourself worthy, you may be given a slot. If not, perhaps there will be room in the large underground hibernation chambers. Failing that, you may be selected for download to the vast robot village beneath Dundee, Scotland.
There is always hope where there is life.
Labels: apocalypse now
25 April 2007
The Dire Consequences of Sex with Robots
Growing the World's Crops in a High Rise
Crops can be planted and harvested in the system year round without interruption, and without contamination from soil, pesticides, and residue. Since the growing environment is clean and sterile, it greatly reduces the chances of spreading plant disease and infection commonly found in soil and other growing media.Source
The suspended system also has other advantages. Seedlings don't stretch or wilt while their roots are forming. Once the roots are developed, the plants can be easily moved into any type of growing media without the risk of transplant shock, which often sets back normal growth.
Aeroponics systems can reduce water usage by 98 percent, fertilizer usage by 60 percent, and pesticide usage by 100 percent, all while maximizing crop yields. Plants grown in the aeroponic systems have also been shown to uptake more minerals and vitamins, making the plants healthier and potentially more nutritious.
Tomato growers traditionally start their plants in pots, waiting at least 28 days before transplanting them into the ground. Using an aeroponic system, growers can start the plants in the growing chamber, then transplant them just 10 days later. This advanced technology produces six tomato crop cycles per year, instead of the traditional one to two crop cycles.
Successful long-term missions into deep space will require that crews grow some of their own food during flight. Aeroponic crops are also a potential source of fresh oxygen and clean drinking water. But this is about more than a breath of fresh air or taking a quick shower. Each ounce of food and water produced aboard a spacecraft reduces payload weight, allowing space for other cargo that can't be produced onboard.
With advanced high rise building techniques, very large crop producing structures can be built--providing many thousands of acres of growing area with just a few acres footprint on the ground.
It should go without saying that aeroponics will be extremely useful for long duration space missions, for lunar bases, for seasteads, and for undersea and underground habitats. Given water, air and CO2, nutrients, and full-spectrum lighting, you will be good to go.
The Great Robot Invasion
Robots are very useful for tasks that humans are not suited for--deep sea exploration, various military tasks, etc. Robots have replaced thousands of workers on assembly lines, performing tirelessly hour after hour, day after day, year after year.
Robots are now entering more traditional service industries, such as taking over some of the tasks of jewelers. Soon robots may be watching over the kids or the old folks, or just watching over the house.
Robot toys are much more common, and it is inevitable that eventually robots will be able to combine the jobs of babysitter, toy, tutor, and playmate all in one autonomous device.
The sensors that robots will be given, will make them that much more intimidating. Robots will be able to "see" in the full electromagnetic spectrum, smell dangerous chemicals that humans can not, "taste" poisons or microbes in food that might kill or disable humans, seek out explosive devices to stymie suicide bombers and car bombers etc.
Modern robots are often the butt of jokes, but in the future, robots will be respected--if not feared.
You Can Take it Camping Too
- * 12 1.2V NiMH (rechargable) batteries capable of sustained 10 amp draws.
- * An Osram HLX 64623 bulb "over-clocked" to 14+V, to about 140 watts, with an estimated light output of about 4000 lumens. (Compare that to a regular 2D MagLight, which is much, much less than 50 lumens.)
- * There's also a metal reflector.
Second degree hat tip Extreme Geek
Labels: tech hacks
24 April 2007
Junk DNA No More?
Gill Bejerano, PhD, assistant professor of developmental biology and of computer science at Stanford, found more than 10,000 nearly identical genetic snippets dotting the human chromosomes. Many of those snippets were located in gene-free chromosomal expanses once described by geneticists as "gene deserts." These sections are, in fact, so clogged with useful DNA bits - including the ones Bejerano and his colleagues describe - that they've been renamed "regulatory jungles."Source
"It's funny how quickly the field is now evolving," Bejerano said. His work picking out these snippets and describing why they might exist will be published in the April 23 advance online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It turns out that most of the segments described in the research paper cluster near genes that play a carefully orchestrated role during an animal's first few weeks after conception. Bejerano and his colleagues think that these sequences help in the intricate choreography of when and where those genes flip on as the animal lays out its body plan. In particular, the group found the sequences to be especially abundant near genes that help cells stick together. These genes play a crucial role early in an animal's life, helping cells migrate to the correct location or form into organs and tissues of the correct shape.
The 10,402 sequences studied by Bejerano, along with David Haussler, PhD, professor of biomolecular engineering at UC-Santa Cruz, are remnants of unusual DNA pieces called transposons that duplicate themselves and hop around the genome. "We used to think they were mostly messing things up. Here is a case where they are actually useful," Bejerano said.
Junk DNA is very controversial in some quarters. Some people believe much of junk DNA comes from extraterrestrial sources. They claim junk DNA is lying latent, waiting for a special signal to spring to life and transform the human species. Well, it is late . . .
About half of human DNA is made up of transposons, or the jumping genes of Barbara McClintock. Transposons act like viruses in many ways, and may have come from viruses--or a relative of viruses.
Whatever junk DNA is doing, it is likely that its secrets will be discovered in the coming decades--thanks to growing gene databases and increasing sophistication of fast computers and sophisticated gene analysis software.
Retinal Bypass Prosthetic Vision--Lateral Geniculate Nucleus
Researchers at Harvard Medical Schools' Neurobiology Department are attempting to develop a prosthesis to restore vision in patients without a functioning retina or optic nerve.
Because the new technique completely bypasses the retina, it suggests the possibility of developing neural prostheses that can restore vision to patients with extensive retinal damage due to congenital conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. In such patients, conventional retinal implants, which are already in the clinical phase of development, are of little or no use, because they require at least some properly functioning retinal cells.Source
The LGN is a structure found deep in the brain with the thalamus. It can be thought of as a “relay station” in the visual pathway, because it receives electrical signals about visual stimuli from the eye, via the optic nerve, and then relays them to the primary visual cortex in the occipital lobe of the brain. In the LGN, the visual fields from both eyes are represented somatotopically; that is, the visual scene impinging on the retina is mapped in a straightforward manner onto the LGN tissue, such that adjacent points in the visual field stimulate adjacent LGN neurons. The receptive fields of LGN neurons are similar to those of retinal cells; they are simple and well characterized. Structurally and functionally, the LGN is subdivided into a number of “streams” - the parvocellular and magnocellular pathways. Cells in the former pathway have small cell bodies, and process colour information slowly, while cells in the latter have large cell bodies, process information slowly and do not carry colour information.
Because previous studies have shown that electrical stimulation of the visual cortex in blind people can elicit visual sensations, and because the structure of the LGN is so well characterized, John Pezaris and R. Clay Reid sought to determine whether or not similar sensations could be elicited by stimulation of the LGN. They first trained two adult macaque monkeys to quickly direct their gaze towards points of light presented to them on a computer screen. Individual microelectrodes were then embedded into the LGN through small craniotomies. In response to electrical stimulation applied to specific regions of the LGN, the animals shifted their gaze to the corresponding part of the computer screen. This suggested that the monkeys’ visual systems registered spots of light, despite the absence of any external visual stimuli. The researchers then implanted two electrodes in different parts of the LGN, and stimulating one and then the other in quick succession; in response to this, the monkeys quickly turned their heads from one direction to the other. Thus, the electrodes were successfully used to generate artificial visual percepts; from the observed responses of the monkeys, these percepts were indistinguishable from spots of light entering the eye.
The researchers now aim to build a visual prosthetic device consisting of a small digital camera mounted in the lens of a special pair of glasses (left). The camera would gather images and send them to an external signal processor, which would translate the images into electrical impulses and then send them wirelessly to a device that stimulates an electrode array embedded in the LGN. However, the research is still in the early stages, and much work remains to be done before such a device can be developed.
Neurophilosophy blog is notable not only for the informative and thoughtful postings, but for the blog carnivals he organises, such as Encephalon and Gene Genie.
Superconducting Electric Motors Half the Size and Weight of Ordinary Motors
Motors over 1,000 hp utilize approximately 25 percent of all electric power generated in the United States. The Department of Energy estimates that the lower electrical losses of HTS motors could save U.S. industry billions of dollars per year in electrical operating costs.Source
....American Superconductor's prototype 5,000-hp HTS motor is about the size of a household refrigerator. It is as little as half the size and weight of a conventional 5,000-hp motor. Its net electrical losses, including losses associated with cryogenic cooling of the HTS wires, are up to half the electrical losses of a conventional motor.
The most significant energy losses in motors come from resistive heating in the windings, so superconducting motors with almost no electrical resistance in the windings could realize important efficiency gains. To be able to build such motors required significant advances in the design, fabrication, and winding of HTS wires in geometries required for motor winding.Source
In addition to industrial motors, the new technology would be useful in generators, transmission cables, and superconducting magnetic energy storage systems. It also has potential applications in x-ray lithography, ion implantation, medical cyclotrons, magnetically levitated trains, magneto-hydrodynamic ship propulsion systems, and magnetic separation for materials processing and ore recovery. Indeed, opportunities abound for reducing electric energy use via applications of the ATP-funded technology.
Advances in superconducting materials over the past two decades allows superconducting wire to be cooled by inexpensive liquid nitrogen, rather than the much more expensive and difficult to contain liquid helium. The goal, of course, is the development of room temperature and higher superconductors that retain superconductivity under high magnetic flux.
South Korean company Doosan is currently working on a 1300 HP motor using AMSC's HTS wire.
The motor produced by Doosan and KERI utilizes approximately 5,000 meters of AMSC's HTS wire and is capable of generating 1,300 horsepower at 3,600 revolutions per minute. The system is significantly smaller, lighter, quieter and more efficient than the traditional motors sold today of the same power rating, which are made with copper coils.Source
Work on this motor program began in 2004 with the help of government research and development funding. Doosan plans to begin production of motors for the military and commercial markets in the 2010-2011 timeframe. AMSC estimates that the annual worldwide market for industrial motors with ratings of 1,000 horsepower or higher is over $1 billion.
Beyond better efficiencies and size/weight improvements in motors and generators, high temperature electric cable has the potential to rejuvenate the entire urban landscape.
Hat tip advanced nano blog.
One Pill to Treat 1800 Genetic Diseases?
As well as offering hope of a first effective treatment for two conditions that are at present incurable, the drug has excited scientists because research suggests it should also work against more than 1,800 other genetic illnesses.Source
PTC124 targets a particular type of mutation that can cause very different symptoms according to the gene that is disrupted. This makes it potentially useful against a range of inherited disorders.
The same drug could be given to patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most serious form of the muscle-wasting condition, cystic fibrosis, which mainly affects the lungs, and haemophilia, in which the blood does not clot. It can be taken orally, and safety trials have not revealed any major side effects.
“There are literally thousands of genetic diseases that could benefit from this approach,” Lee Sweeney, of the University of Pennsylvania, who is leading the research, said. “What’s unique about this drug is it doesn’t just target one mutation that causes disease, but a whole class of mutations.”
....PTC124 works by binding to a part of the cell called the ribosome, which translates genetic code into protein, and allows it to ignore nonsense mutations. The gene can be read straight through and a normal protein is produced.
The beauty of the drug is that it should be useful with any disease caused by a nonsense mutation, no matter what its outward effects. The error is not corrected, but ignored. Patients would have to take the pill throughout their lives.
PTC124, which is made by PTC Therapeutics, has been staggeringly successful in animal models. A study published today in Nature shows that in mice with a nonsense mutation that causes Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the drug starts dystrophin production and restores their muscles to health.
The drug has passed safety trials in humans, and the results of phase-two trials on cystic fibrosis and Duchenne muscular dystrophy will be published shortly.
This ribosome targeting approach may eventually palliate between 5% - 15% of genetic disorders. Other approaches to gene therapy would target different parts of the gene expression network. This drug reveals how many possible approaches to treating genetic conditions there must be.
Using viral and non-viral vectors to replace faulty DNA in the nucleus is the most straightforward approach. But the potential for gene therapy exists from nuclear DNA to transcription factors and enzymes to RNA in coding and noncoding forms, to proteomics, to glycomics, etc.
Pharmaceutical companies exist to make a profit. If crusading politicians are allowed to remove the profitability from the pharma business, the number of approaches taken in the laboratory to solve these disease problems will drop significantly. In other words, we will be stuck with "local optima," when better possibilities existed but were not pursued for lack of backing.
In a market, profit-driven economy, multiple approaches are taken. In a state-planned economy, singular approaches are taken. Watch your politicians closely to determine which type of economy they favour.
23 April 2007
Bigger than You Imagine? Bigger than You CAN Imagine!
Two years ago, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley found the marine fossil record shows that biodiversity—the number of different species alive on the planet—increases and decreases on a 62-million-year cycle. At least two of the Earth’s great mass extinctions—the Permian extinction 250 million years ago and the Ordovician extinction about 450 million years ago—correspond with peaks of this cycle, which can’t be explained by evolutionary theory.Source
Now, a team of researchers at the University of Kansas (KU) have come up with an out-of-this-world explanation. Their idea hinges upon the fact that, appearances aside, stars are not fixed in space. They move around, sometimes rushing headlong through galaxies, or approaching close enough to one another for brief cosmic trysts.
In particular, our Sun moves toward and away from the Milky Way’s center, and also up and down through the galactic plane. One complete up-and-down cycle takes 64 million years— suspiciously similar to Earth’s biodiversity cycle.
....Scientists know the Milky Way is being gravitationally pulled toward a massive cluster of galaxies, called the Virgo Cluster, located about 50 million light years away. Adrian Melott and his colleague Mikhail Medvedev, both KU researchers, speculate that as the Milky Way hurdles towards the Virgo Cluster, it generates a so-called bow shock in front of it that is similar to the shock wave created by a supersonic jet.
“Our solar system has a shock wave around it, and it produces a good quantity of the cosmic rays that hit the Earth. Why shouldn’t the galaxy have a shock wave, too?” Melott said.
The galactic bow shock is only present on the north side of the Milky Way’s galactic plane, because that is the side facing the Virgo Cluster as it moves through space, and it would cause superheated gas and cosmic rays to stream behind it, the researchers say. Normally, our galaxy’s magnetic field shields our solar system from this “galactic wind.” But every 64 million years, the solar system’s cyclical travels take it above the galactic plane.
“When we emerge out of the disk, we have less protection, so we become exposed to many more cosmic rays,” Melott told SPACE.com.
It is politically correct in the media and on campus to say that only human activity can affect life on earth. It is a type of blindness to the universe that only good doctrinaire orthodoxies can manage.
Persons with more intelligent perspective maintain a broader outlook when seeking causes for important phenomena. Unfortunately, human beings do not typically live long enough to acquire the type of broad outlook that is required to solve large mysteries. Humans are congenitally small minded. That will not change until humans can acquire longer life, higher intelligence, and far better educational methods and tools.
In the meantime, those who can look farther--if only for short distances and periods of time--should enjoy the view.
Tidal Generation of Electric Power in East River NYC
Thanks to lessons learned by wind turbine designers, tidal power is already economically competitive, producing electricity at prices similar to wind power, according to feasibility studies by the Electric Power Research Institute, an industry R&D consortium. And it offers a big advantage over wind and other renewables: a precisely predictable source of energy. As a result, developers in the United States have laid claim to the best sites up and down the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. In the past four years the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC, has issued preliminary permits for tidal installations at 25 sites, and it is considering another 31 applications.Source
.... "The whole point of doing kinetic hydro is to have a very small environmental footprint," says Dean Corren, Verdant's director of technology development, who designed the tidal turbines in the early 1980s while conducting energy research at New York University.
Corren's team installed its first two turbines in the East River in December. One has been delivering a maximum of 35 kilowatts of power to New York City, swiveling to generate power as the river swells with the high tides and empties with the low. The other turbine delivers performance data that Corren says will be crucial to refining the blades and gearbox, generator, and control system to optimize power generation.
This month Verdant added four more 35-kilowatt turbines. Corren says Verdant is now working on a next-generation design that will be cheaper to mass-produce, in anticipation of installing a farm of at least 100 turbines at the East River site.
Although the absolute quantity of electric power available from the East River may not compare with a large coal or nuclear power plant, the potential is not insignificant. New nuclear power plants will be needed, but adding incremental sources such as wind, tidal, and wave power will help round out the symphony of power sources.
The Last Word on Global Warming
In the real world, the debate on the drivers of climate is just beginning. Conventional GCM models such as the IPCC use, leave out more relevant information than they include. If climate science can get past the current inquisitional witch hunting crusade, it may begin making some genuine progress in understanding the complex climate of Earth.
Certainly if Laurie David says the debate is over it must be over. If she says that Al Gore will answer all my questions if I will only watch "An Inconvenient Truth," I must simply watch it over and over again until all my questions are answered. Laurie David has such an air of authority, of absolute truth.
Sheryl Crowe is a popular music celebrity who may not understand very much, but she does look good and has a pleasant voice. That should count for something.
People who declare "the debate is over" and point you to where you can find absolute truth, are people who believe in cultism, not science. I have observed Al Gore for a long time, and although you can learn many things from Al Gore, "the truth" is not likely to be one of those things.
Hat tip Reference Frame.
In the recent motion picture "Idiocracy," the average IQ of the population declined because more intelligent people had stopped having babies. This phenomenon is referred to as dysgenics. It is happening in Europe.
The number of highly educated women who are starting families has plummeted in the past decade, according to findings that provide the most detailed insight yet into education and fertility.Source
While some women are making a conscious decision not to have children, others are simply leaving it too late after taking years to build their careers, buy a home and find the right partner. Graduates who do become mothers are having fewer children, and later.
If the low birth rate trend continues, then the eventual rate of childlessness among graduates now aged in their twenties is likely to be even higher than a third.
The findings come from a ground-breaking study into more than 5,000 women born in 1970 and tracked throughout their lives by researchers at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, based at the Institute of Education in London.
It revealed that 40 per cent of the graduate women were childless at age 35. The researchers forecast that by the time they reach the likely end of their child-bearing years at 45, about 30 per cent will still be childless.
In Europe, the void left by the failure of the educated classes to have children is filled by mostly uneducated muslim immigrants. While persons with the ambition to emigrate from the third world may have higher IQs than the population average of their home country, it is not as high as the average IQ in their adopted countries. Such immigration into a population void tends to have a dysgenic effect.
Nanofibres Help Heal Injured Spines
Dr. Samuel I. Stupp, director of the Institute of BioNanotechnology in Medicine at Northwestern University, is one of a new breed of scientists combining nanotechnology and biology to enable the body to heal itself -- and who are achieving amazing early results. Dr. Stupp’s work suggests that nanotechnology can be used to mobilize the body’s own healing abilities to repair or regenerate damaged cells.Source
In a dramatic demonstration of what nanotechnology might achieve in regenerative medicine, paralyzed lab mice with spinal cord injuries have regained the ability to walk using their hind limbs six weeks after a simple injection of a purpose-designed nanomaterial.
A video of Dr. Stupp discussing his groundbreaking research with collaborator John Kessler is available on April 24 at www.nanotechproject.org/114.
"By injecting molecules that were designed to self-assemble into nanostructures in the spinal tissue, we have been able to rescue and regrow rapidly damaged neurons," said Dr. Stupp at an April 23 session hosted by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. "The nanofibers – thousands of times thinner than a human hair – are the key to not only preventing the formation of harmful scar tissue which inhibits spinal cord healing, but to stimulating the body into regenerating lost or damaged cells."
Stupp’s work hinges on a fundamental area of nanotechnology – self-assembly – that someday should enable medical researchers to tailor and deliver individualized patient treatments in previously unimaginable ways. Stupp and his coworkers designed molecules with the capacity to self-assemble into nanofibers once injected into the body with a syringe. When the nanofibers form they can be immobilized in an area of tissue where it is necessary to activate some biological process, for example saving damaged cells or regenerating needed differentiated cells from stem cells.
This same work also has implications for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, both diseases in which key brain cells stop working properly.
Advances in regenerative medicine will likely come from many directions--including stem cells and nanotechnology.
Too Stupid To Know When Someone Is Trying To Kill You--Reprise
Analogous to the neurologic phenomenon of "face blindness" or "emotion blindness," is the broader social pathology of civilisation danger blindness. While the sufferer of emotion blindness is unable to read the emotions of others around her--so she cannot anticipate when someone is likely to cause her harm--the sufferer of civilisation danger blindness is unable to recognise people and groups of people who represent a mortal danger to their freedoms and civilisation.
With that fashionable sociopathology in mind, I offer once again Dan Simmons' April 2006 message.
Science fiction authors have the ability to place themselves out of the context of current reality, into possible realities that could occur. "Constraint propagation" is a concept useful in certain types of computer programming. It is also useful in predicting future events.
Some science fiction authors are better than others at this. In my humble opinion, Dan Simmons and Orson Scott Card are two of the best at projecting the future based upon current events. They have suffered untold flak from their fans and others, but have taken the honourable course of risking a loss of readership to tell what they believe to be the true danger we face.
Contrast that courage with the cowardice of hip hop artists who state that even if they knowingly lived next door to a mass murderer, they would never inform authorities of a killer's whereabouts--not even to save lives. The explanation they give, is that it would be bad for business!
Virtual Learning: Getting an Education in Second Life
You can learn about genetics in Second Life, you can visit the doctor or hospital in Second Life, and eventually will probably be able to go to "medical school" in the virtual environment.
There is the Second Life library. There is also a Second Life medical library and a health library.
Second Life (SL) can function as a "mirror world", where real world people and organisations function normally in a virtual environment, or it can serve as a fantasy world escape from reality. Such a large scale virtual environment can serve as a superset of virtual environments. Any number of virtual games such as WOW could occur within SL. In fact, if I were WOW, I would hurry to establish a presence on SL before SL begins running competitive environments that draw WOW players.
Hat tip Neurophilosophy's Gene Genie bioscience carnival
22 April 2007
Still Believing in Molecular Assembly--Robert Freitas Jr. and the Diamondoid Age
LF[Anissimov]:.... What makes hydrocarbons preferable to other carbon-containing molecules, such as carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or carbonate rocks?Much more at the source
RF: That's a very good, fundamental technical question to ask. It's true that any feedstock molecule containing carbon atoms can, in principle, be used as a source of carbon atoms for construction of diamondoid objects. But diamond is essentially a large hydrocarbon molecule, so it should not be surprising that chemically similar hydrocarbons are the most efficient precursor material.
Oxygen-rich carbon feedstock generally requires much more energy to convert to diamond than hydrogen-rich feedstock, and can also lead to significant amounts of waste products if there are lots of unused extra atoms in the feedstock. The Merkle-Freitas hydrocarbon assembler, the first zero-emissions (non-polluting) bottom-up replicator ever proposed, uses acetylene feedstock as its sole carbon and hydrogen source. Dealing with noncovalent feedstocks (e.g., ionic-bonded minerals such as calcium carbonate) presents additional complications.
....Employing saturated hydrocarbons of increasing chain length (CH4, C2H6, C3H8, ...) as feedstock also somewhat improves net reaction energy. Note that using CO2 as the carbon source costs 8 times more input energy than for natural gas (CH4) feedstock, or 20 times more input energy than for propane (C3H8). Taking apart calcium carbonate minerals such as limestone, marble, calcite, or aragonite to extract their carbon content is even less energy efficient. But if you're willing to spend the extra energy and create lots of waste products in the process, it could probably be done.
LF: What do you think are the first products that nanofactories will build?
RF: The first products will almost certainly be more nanofactories, nanofactory components and manufacturing tools, in order to ramp up total productive capacity as quickly as possible.
Once sufficient productive capacity exists, the nature of the next products to be made will be dictated by a multitude of factors such as: (1) how quickly the nanofactory can fabricate products, (2) the range of elements from which the nanofactory can fabricate products (hydrocarbons only, or other atoms?), (3) the size range of products that can be made, (4) the cost per kilogram of assembled products (early products using the first primitive nanofactories may still be extraordinarily expensive), (5) the utility of the products, (6) who's paying for the R&D and holds the patent/licensing rights (e.g., private company, NIH, university, military?), (7) how much funding is available, and so forth.
But I think a good case can be made for medical nanorobots being among the early consumer products. That's because:
(1) even relatively small (milligram/gram) quantities of medical nanorobots could be incredibly useful;
(2) nanorobots can save lives and extend the human healthspan, thus will be in high demand once available;
(3) manufacturers of such high value products (or of the nanofactories, depending on the economic model) can command a high price from healthcare providers, which means nanorobots should be worth building early, even though early-arriving nanomedical products are likely to be more expensive (in $/kg) than later-arriving products....
Most commercial and academic research efforts are oriented toward more modest goals than the universal molecular assemblers that Freitas is trying to build. But it is the "diamondoid" and quasi-diamondoid assemblers such as those that Freitas designs, that have the greatest long-term potential for both good and ill. Molecular assemblers are a disruptive technology in the most profound sense of the term.
If you have not yet read Eric Drexler's Engines of Creation, take a look at the online version available at Drexler's website.
Be sure to visit the Lifeboat Foundation website regularly, to keep informed on the many important issues that are followed there.
HIV Replication: Five Minute Animated Tutorial
These biological animations provide insights to biomedical students that would otherwise be beyond reach. More realistic mental pictures of biomedical phenomena allow more accurate mental projection of other possibilities.
Hat tip Biosingularity blog.
Lesson One: Stem Cell Characteristics
Snowcrash at Biosingularity presents four videos on stem cell characteristics. This is the first video of the series. Go to Biosingularity or YouTube for the other three.
Computer animated videos are becoming a powerful educational tool for visualising activities that are very small, very fast, or otherwise difficult to see with the human eye.
21 April 2007
Nanotechnology: The Business
Zyvex creates a multi-functional “bridge” between the CNT sidewalls and the host material or solvent.Source
This “bridge” contains two major components. One component adheres to the nanomaterials; the other easily customizes to any application. This technology allows Zyvex to quickly adapt to our customer’s needs, providing early adopters with rapid time to market — and a very unique product. We have designed our additive for numerous solvents and host materials.
The structure sitting atop the carbon nanotube pictured above is "the bridge." By providing a connecting link between the nanotube and other products such as pharmaceuticals, antibodies, genetic material, radioactive isotopes, etc., Zyvex provides other companies and laboratories with a tool for solving many problems of nanotube research. These problems include phase separation, aggregation, poor dispersion within a matrix, and poor adhesion to the host. Zyvex has also developed other improvements that should aid labs and companies in incorporating nanotubes into their products.
One particularly intriguing product from Zyvex is the Nanolock Structure, a Lego-like structural component for building in the micro scale. As structural building component systems become ever smaller, the prospects for home rapid prototyping and "molecular" assemblers become more clear.
Thanks again to Advanced Nanotechnology Blog for its careful coverage of nanotechnology and other critical areas impacting the future.
20 April 2007
Hardness: When Nothing Else Will Do
Diamond powder is used for oil drills and machines that build roads and cut holes in mountains. Diamond cannot be used, however, to cut steel without ruining the diamond blade.Source
Cubic boron nitride is a diamond substitute used to cut steel; it is made synthetically under very high-temperature, high-pressure conditions, and is even more expensive than diamond, Kaner said.
....At low applied forces, the hardness of rhenium diboride is equivalent to cubic boron nitride, the second-hardest material known, Kaner said. At higher applied forces, rhenium diboride is a little bit below that.
"Our material is hard enough to scratch diamond, and much harder than osmium diboride,” he said.
While other super-hard materials, including diamond and cubic boron nitride, are made under expensive, high-pressure conditions, "our material is made in a simple process without applying pressure,” Kaner said.
With humans likely to expand their domain into outerspace and undersea, stronger and harder materials are mandatory. If humans are ever forced underground for an extended stay--by an inconvenient asteroid, comet, or ice age--stronger and harder materials will likewise be required.
Hat tip Advanced Nanotechnology Blog. You may want to make Advanced Nano one of your daily web stops.
Labels: materials science
Hormone Replacement Therapy Alarmism--Mind the Hype
Women were advised yesterday to think “very carefully” about taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after evidence was published showing that it has killed 1,000 women in Britain since 1991 by increasing their risk of ovarian cancer.
HRT increases the risk of the disease by 20 per cent, the biggest investigation of links between HRT and cancer has found. Although the absolute risk is low, millions of women took HRT in the 1990s and so the total impact is large: an extra 1,300 cases of the disease and 1,000 deaths between 1991 and 2005, according to the Million Women Study.
The Times bases its "20%" increase in risk on the relative risk attributed to HRT for ovarian cancer by the Million Women Study in Britain, 1.2. (see also here) A relative risk of 1.2 is generally seen by most epidemiologists as not significant, given the large number of potential confounders in this type of study.
The excellent number auditor Numberwatch also has some serious concerns about the history of the study author, and the hyperbolic conclusions attached to the study results.
Many thousands of newsworthy stories go unreported in the mainstream news every day, yet "journalists" feel it necessary to report pseudostories as if they were major breaking news. Perhaps mainstream media should require journalists who report on science and medicine to actually be trained in science and medicine? That approach may very well reduce some of the more egregious blunderings. Unfortunately the hyper-partisan political approach of most of the media virtually guarantees that this sort of nonsense will continue for the indefinite future.