Senin, 31 Oktober 2011

The Solar Tunnel


  • The first "green train" in Europe to harness solar energy is running between Paris and Amsterdam.
  • Sixteen thousand solar panels produce 3,300 megawatts per hour of electricity.
  • The electricity generated on-site reduces energy losses and transportation costs. 

High-speed international trains linking Paris and Amsterdam as of Monday became the first in Europe to use electricity generated by solar panels installed in a tunnel on the line.
At a cost of 15.6 million euros, project managers say the 3.6-kilometer tunnel crossing Antwerp, in northern Belgium, is fitted with 16,000 solar panels covering 50,000 square meters, roughly eight football fields.

The panels produce 3,300 megawatts per hour of electricity, or the average annual consumption of nearly 1,000 families.
The first "green train" left Antwerp on Monday for the Dutch border. While it was filled as usual with commuters and students, for a dozen or so kilometers, its engines plugged into the solar energy source fitted along the line.
The electricity produced feeds into the line's infrastructure, for lighting, signals and in-train power points, said Frederic Sacre, spokesman for Infrabel, which runs the rail network.
"By using electricity generated on-site, we eliminate energy losses and transport costs," said Steven De Tollenaere, head of project developers Enfinity, which leans on state subsidies backing energy use that meets clean climate goals.

The company hopes the project will allow it to develop new installations in the United States and other parts of the world, citing train hangars as ideal sites for such charging points in the future.
by "environment clean generations"

Resolving the Problem between Wind Turbines and Air Traffic Control


Among the many factors keeping wind power projects from getting their legs is the annoying and sometimes dangerous tendency for moving wind turbines to mimic aircraft on an air traffic controller’s radar screen. The problem has led to the stalling of some wind projects and criticism of others, criticism that isn’t helping the larger roll out of renewable energy resources. But startup Aveillant has a technological fix that could get things rolling again: 3-D holographic radar that can spot even small aircraft flying among wind turbines.

 Traditional radar works by sending out a rotating radar beam that sweeps 360 degrees, scanning for objects in the air and registering their positions on each pass. Holographic radar doesn’t scan, but rather maintains full 360-degree 3-D tracking at all times. As such, it can readily distinguish between a stationary wind turbine and a moving aircraft. And if deployed near existing and potential wind turbine sites, it could be the difference not only between safety and tragedy, but also between a wind project getting wrapped up in red tape and moving forward.

How well does all of this work? We’re not really sure. But the Department of Defense seems to think it works pretty well. Aveillant is a spin-out from Cambridge Consultants, which has been using 3-D holographic radar systems to help the Navy improve the accuracy of its artillery target practice while vastly reducing costs (if you can actually see where a shell lands via radar, you don’t have to use live rounds or so many dummy targets). The U.K.’s Aviation Management Board has also selected the technology as a reliable radar fill-in solution.
Considering the U.S. and the U.K. are the two countries having the biggest problems with wind turbines conflicting with air traffic control, those endorsements are pretty important.
 by "environment clean generations"

Darpa's Flying Humvee


A flying car in mid-2015? There are no guarantees in the world of envelope-pushing, mind-bending military tech, but DARPA says both AAI and Lockheed Martin have produced “feasible designs” for its Transformer (TX) program, known more casually as the “flying Humvee” initiative. Both designs have moved to Phase 2, which requires them to begin work on prototypes for evaluation at the end of fiscal 2012.

 This development also brings us a full phase closer to Phase 3, which is where things get really interesting: ground and flight demonstrations, slated for mid-fiscal 2015 should Phase 2 come off as planned. That’s just four years from right now. Given that we’ve been waiting for our cars to take flight for a century now, four years seems pretty reasonable by comparison.

You may recall from our relentless fawning over the Transformer program that the flying Humvee needn’t just be a roadable aircraft. Its design parameters call for a durable on- and off-road capable vehicle that can take small arms fire in stride and make a speedy shift from ground vehicle to vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft. It also needs to be easy enough to pilot that any grunt with a driver’s license can also grab the sticks of this new flying machine and be expected to pilot it safely (presumably with the help of autonomous computerized flight controls).
So you’re looking at some design incongruities there. It needs to be light enough to lift off vertically under its own power, yet will require a serious power plant (weight) and some kind of wings and/or propellor/ducted fan (more weight). It also needs space for all this extra hardware while still maintaining passenger space for four soldiers (including driver).

Like most of DARPA’s challenges, bringing this one to life won’t be simple. But speaking to a conference recently, DARPA Transformer program manager Stephen Waller told attendees that “we are seeing feasible designs,” Aviation Week’s Ares blog reports. That’s promising. Let’s just hope these things can actually get off the ground.
 by "environment clean generations"

Single-Celled Creatures at the Bottom of the Mariana Trench


In recent decades, deep sea researchers have upended our notions of what can survive at some of the deepest submerged places on Earth, revealing that a panoply of life thrives around seafloor vents and elsewhere in the depths. So we probably shouldn’t be surprised that researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have found giant amoebas living at unprecedented depths in the far reaches of the Mariana Trench. What is surprising is that these single-celled organisms are four inches across.

 Xenophyophores are single-celled animals that live exclusively in deep-sea habitats, but they’ve never been seen in areas this deep before--some 6.6 miles beneath the surface in an area known as the Sirena Deep of the Mariana Trench (which is the deepest region on the planet). The previous depth record for xenophyophores was 4.7 miles.

The researchers found the xenophyophores after deploying untethered free-falling/ascending landers into the Sirena Deep. These landers are basically thick-walled glass spheres capable of sustaining eight tons per square inch of pressure. That tells you something about what the conditions are like down there. The fact that there’s a single-celled organism that often measures more than four inches across--that’s four inches per cell--is pretty remarkable.

What’s more, xenophyophores are known to be hosts for a variety of other life forms. That is, where xenophyophores collect there usually turns out to be a pretty diverse ecosystem thriving alongside them. Knowing that, it’s probably unsurprising then that the Scripps team helped yet another species log a new record while its submersibles where down in the Sirena Deep. The dropcams also spied the deepest jellyfish observed to date living down there among the xenophyophores. The more we poke around in one of the harshest environments on the planet, the more we find that it’s a really busy place.

by "environment clean generations"

Laser Orbital Debris Removal


Another week, another scheme to clean up our bourgeoning space debris problem. This one, like many before it, calls for a powerful ground-based laser to remove orbital debris from low earth orbit. Using high-powered laser pulses fired from the ground, the system would create a small plasma jet emanating from the piece of junk itself, essentially turning each piece of debris into its own laser-powered rocket that would remove itself from orbit.

 The system, detailed in a paper released on arXiv last week, would rely on technologies already available or already under development. And unlike other ground-based laser systems proposed in past decades, it would be able to tackle both large and small pieces of space junk. A 33-foot telescope should do the trick, and a powerful enough laser isn’t out of reach, the authors of the paper claim.

Essentially, the heat from the laser--which would have to be targeted very precisely to intercept these extremely small objects whipping around the sky at many thousands of miles per hour--would vaporize a small part of each piece of space junk. The heat would be such that a small plasma jet would form, basically turning that piece of the space junk into fuel for a small jet that would push the debris out of orbit. Small piece of debris would burn up as their orbits decayed. Others would need to be carefully nudged out of orbit such that they end up landing in the Pacific Ocean.
The authors argue that a ground-based laser would obviate the need to launch any space junk-clearing spacecraft into orbit, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Small pieces of junk could be cleared this way for a few thousand dollars. Larger pieces might cost up to $1 million.

Of course, laser-based approaches have been rejected out of hand previously based on the idea that they might also be used to target satellites in space during periods of hostilities. This scheme is likely headed for a similar fate. But at least someone is thinking about the problem, which as you read this is growing unchecked.
 by "environment clean generations"

Newton's first paper online and free


More than 8,000 historical scientific papers from the Royal Society's archives are now accessible online for free.
Visitors to the website will be able to view Isaac Newton's first published scientific paper, Benjamin Franklin's account of his electrical kite experiment and geological work by a young Charles Darwin.


The papers are "fully searchable", adds the Royal Society, and all papers that were published more than 70 years ago are free to view.

The very first edition of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society was published in 1665; and was thus the first ever peer-reviewed journal. Its first editor, Henry Oldenburg, described it as "licensed by the council of the society, being first reviewed by some of the members of the same". Despite a spell in jail for Oldenburg, the Great Fire of London and the outbreak of plague, the journal is still published today.
It continues, says the Society in a press release, along the original design set out by Oldenburg with contributors "...invited and encouraged to search, try, and find out new things, impart their knowledge to one another, and contribute what they can to the grand design of improving natural knowledge, and perfecting all philosophical arts, and sciences."

The announcement follows the news of the launch of Open Biology -- the Royal Society's first open access journal, which is available only online. It will focus upon research in cell biology, developmental and structural biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, neuroscience, immunology, microbiology and genetics.
by "environment clean generations"

Minggu, 30 Oktober 2011

The Forest in the Sky

he ultimate green architecture project is underway in Milan, Italy. These two towers will be the first constructions to house not only people, but living trees. The towers are dubbed Bosco Verticale -- which translates to "Vertical Forest."


The towers, according to the website of the designer Stefano Boeri are "a project for metropolitan reforestation that contributes to the regeneration of the environment and urban biodiversity without the implication of expanding the city upon the territory." Each 27-story tower will house 900 trees including oaks and amelanchier as well as a wide range of shrubs and floral plants.

Were this forest to be on land it would cover a little over six square miles. The towers will use the latest in green technologies including water reclamation, wind and solar.
Beroni's website says, "The diversity of the plants and their characteristics produce humidity, absorb CO2 and dust particles, [while] producing oxygen and protecting from radiation and acoustic pollution; [thus] improving the quality of living spaces and saving energy."
by "environment clean generations"

Sabtu, 29 Oktober 2011

Let's Glide on Air with Supercooled Quantum Levitation


You probably saw that super viral quantum locking levitation video that bounced all over the Web last week (though technically it’s been around since summer) in which a team of researchers plays with some liquid nitrogen, a small superconducting disc, and some strange quantum phenomenon that makes the disc hover above a magnet, no strings attached. This week’s levitation vid taps a similar phenomenon known as the Meisnner effect to achieve this kind of levitation at a decidedly cooler scale: that of the hoverboard.


MagSurf, build by researchers at Universite Paris Diderot in France, flips the strange world of the quantum into a more sci-fi application, essentially turning a skateboard like platform into one big magnetic superconductor. Using liquid nitrogen, the team turn the platform super-cold, creating an electromagnetic field that is expelled from the inside of the board. It’s not quantum locking--the skateboard is too big to mimic that little super-cooled disc--but it provides enough outward magnetic force to float above a rail of permanent magnets.
It’s sort of like a Maglev train, and sort of not. But, says SmartPlanet, one group of researchers in Japan is reportedly working on scaling exactly this kind of technology into better levitating train tech. That sounds somewhat difficult, given the extremely low temperatures needed to make this kind of thing work. For your enjoyment, the quantum locking video--which is really cool if you haven’t seen it--is below.


by "environment clean generations"

Spray Your Food in Any Color


German-based company The Deli Garage has introduced a new addition to its lineup of edible products. Perfect for when you're expecting a Bond villain for dinner or just want to give that roast chicken a truly golden finish, the company is now selling Food Finish coloring spray that lets you coat your meal in a varnish of gold, silver, red or blue.

To create the culinary coloring spray, The Deli Garage teamed up with a small food factory, which supplies high-quality pastry shops with food coloring.

Composed of ethyl alcohol, flavors and several food additives, the food varnish sprays are harmless and tasteless to eat and are sold in 100 ml cans. Just like real paint, the company says the best results will be seen with the application of several thin layers.

 The company - which also produces such appetizing offerings as pasta in the shape of nuts, bolts and screws and chocolate glue - has already received some interesting requests for its edible food spray, including a Sheikh who placed a large order and asked whether it's safe to apply Food Finish on the human skin for a gold banquet.


Personally I'd prefer a chocolate banquet but that's just me.




Food Finish edible sprays retail at EUR24.80 (approx. US$35) and it costs an additional EUR14 (approx. US$20) for international shipping, although only to other European countries.





There's no shipping to the U.S. available at this point due to shipping regulations surrounding aerosols.
by "environment clean generations"                                                                                                     

Artificial Blood is Getting Closer


Researchers at Edinburgh University in Scotland have announced that they believe the type of artificial blood they are working on could be ready for testing in humans in as little as two or three years. Made from growing stem cells taken from adult human bone marrow, the blood they create would be of the rare type “O-negative” that some 98% of people in need could use.


Researchers have for years been experimenting with different processes and materials to recreate what natures provides every individual free of charge; a liquid material capable of carrying oxygen and other nutrients through veins and arteries during times of loss, generally due to injury or surgery. The reason the need is so great is because of the great demand. People are injured every day, and develop problems that require surgery to fix, and sometimes the supply of blood from donors isn’t enough to keep up with demand, especially in less developed countries. Plus, there is the always constant threat of infections transferred via blood transfusions, such as HIV, Hepatitis and vCJD, also known as mad cow disease when it infects people.
The team in Edinburgh, led by Professor Marc Turner, has been working on a technique whereby stem cells are taken from the bone marrow of healthy adults and are then grown in a lab into a material that very closely resembles red blood cells grown normally in the human body. They think their process has been sufficiently refined to predict that their results will be ready for clinical trials in as little as two or three years. The next step would be combing their results with the results of others around the world who are working on ways create a form of artificial hemoglobin. If all goes according to plan, the use of such could become a routine part of emergency medical practices in about ten years time.

The problem with the artificial blood, however, is even if all works out as planned it still wouldn’t be the perfect replacement everyone really wants. Artificial blood, while clearly a lifesaver in medical emergencies would not likely ever be a permanent replacement for blood; it would still be just a stop-gap type measure. This is why research will continue to focus on a true artificial blood that could in theory completely replace all the blood a person needs and function just as their natural blood does, without any advertise side effects or complications.

That is not to say that a stop-gap temporary blood replacement wouldn’t be important. If this new type of artificial blood pans out, millions of lives would be saved the world over. And that certainly, is no small thing.
 by "environment clean generations"

Save Electricity Bills By Using Radiant Barriers

Householders own multitude of choices for enhancement that may bump up the value of their home even as improving its comfort.           

Are you a home owner and thinking to improve your house completely either by repainting a room or have you thought about projects which could add aesthetic value?

Reduce your house’s heat with the help of radiant barrier as it is easy to use, safe to handle and effectual at plummeting heat loss and it can also turn back the extreme rays of the sun during the summer time and keeping the house cooler too.

Radiant barrier is a comparatively latest item for consumption that consumers are gradually becoming aware of. It has a reflective opus placed in your attic that reflects heat before it enters your home. Just by applying a coat of paint under the decking surface heat could be transferred and it also seals up the cracks and crevices in the wall. 

Radiant barriers are materials installed in buildings to condense summer heat gain and winter heat loss, also to cut building heating and cooling energy usage.    

The main advantage of attic radiant barrier is that it helps in reducing air-conditioning cooling in warm or hot climates. Radiant barriers generally consist of a slight sheet or veneer of an extremely reflective material, typically aluminum applied to one or double sides of a number of substrate supplies. These substrates consist of Kraft paper, plastic films, cardboard, plywood sheathing, and air infiltration barrier material.
                                  
It is expected that a radiant barrier have the potential to slab 97% of the radiant heat immersed through a roof's surface; this can result in a 30-degree cutback in attic or creep space temperature.
Spray foam insulation: It is a general and an essential thing that we insulate our homes to condense speed of heat loss. The insulation is carried by using spray foam in the opening, chink and the crevice such that there is no amend of heat linking the walls of the house and the environment.


 Some of the Benefits of Spray Foam Insulation Include:
Reduction in sound diffusion, better environment, Keep Pests Outdoors, reduction in noise levels, Reduction in moisture and the development of Mold, apart from this it also has certain benefits like generating improved environment by plummeting dust, dirt, and pollen, Saving Energy structuring effectiveness & a Green Environment, produces air tight thermal seal, stops air and dampness penetration, Makes your home more comfortable, trim down capacity requirements, maintenance and wear of HVAC equipment.
 
Attic ventilation keeps the loft cooler in the summer and dry in the winter. Attic ventilation keeps the loft cooler in the summer and dry in the winter. Good exposure to air boosts the act of your insulation, expands the life of your HVAC unit and saves you even more money on energy bills.
Benefits of attic ventilation: it extends the life of your roof, cut downs the load on your HVAC system, stops ice damming in colder regions, and diminishes moisture build-up in the loft.
 by "environment clean generations"

Your Lifestyle as a Child may Influence you DNA for Life

Noted geneticist Snoop Dogg once said--and I’m paraphrasing here--that no matter where one goes in life, one’s surroundings during one's formative years stay with one for life. No matter where you go, you can’t change where you’re from (I think Prof. Dogg was actually calling back to an old Comrads lyric from the song Homeboyz--I’m sure you all will correct me in the comments). Findings published today in the International Journal of Epidemiology suggest that he may have been correct--socio-economic status and living standards early in life may actually cause changes to your DNA that you carry with you for life, regardless of how your living conditions change along the way.

In some ways, we already knew that. Some adult diseases--type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, etc.--have been linked to socio-economic disadvantages in early life. But we don’t really know why or how. Researchers in Canada and the UK may have just found the key.

 Their sample size is admittedly small, but what they found was significant. In 40 research patients in the UK that are participating in an ongoing study that has documented many aspects of their lives, researchers looked at differences in gene methylation. Methylation is an epigenetic modification to one’s DNA that changes a gene’s activity, generally reducing that activity within the genome. Various factors can influence methylation, including environmental conditions.

In their sample, the researchers looked at DNA taken from the subjects at age 45. They chose subjects that had come from either very high or very low standards of living, and they looked at differences in DNA methylation across some 20,000 genes. They found that 1,252 methylation differences were associated with socio-economic circumstances in early life while just 545 were associated with socio-economic circumstances in adulthood, suggesting that where you come from really does make an impact on the very fiber of your biological being.

Moreover, the methylation patterns were clustered together in large swaths of DNA, suggesting an epigenetic pattern linked to humans’ early environments. That’s actually good news. If we know some diseases are linked to a person’t early upbringing, and we can see where there are changes happening in the DNA during early life, then we can narrow the window on where in the genome things like coronary heart disease and diabetes take root. Future research could peg where certain methylation differences are associated with specific diseases, then target those areas with drugs or other treatments.
by "environment clean generations"

Snake's blood makes the heart grow


Snake oil might be best avoided but snake blood may be just what the doctor ordered. Injecting snake-blood plasma into mice increased the size of their heart. The discovery could prove key in the treatment of heart damage.


In humans, an enlarged heart is normally a sign that the body is in trouble. Heart attacks, high blood pressure and defects in heart valves all force the heart to work harder and grow to manage the extra load. Growth can scar the heart and decrease the efficiency of nutrient absorption in heart cells.

The heart of the Burmese python, a subspecies of Indian python, also grows. After eating a large meal, the organ nearly doubles in size to pump recently digested nutrients around its body. This growth, however, has no negative side effects and is reversible.
Similarly, heart growth in humans is not always negative. A hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), produced during exercise, causes the heart to swell in order to meet increased bodily demand for oxygen. When growth occurs in this way, there is no scarring.

After eating, a snake's blood contains a cocktail of fatty acids, some of which Leslie Leinwand from the University of Colorado at Boulder, suspected were causing the heart to grow.
To see if this enriched blood could have the same effect on other animals' cells, Leinwand coated in vitro rat heart-muscle cells with the blood plasma of recently fed snakes and found that they produced a greater volume of IGF-1 while also increasing in size. The cells were able to process fats more effectively and had a faster metabolism. The snake plasma also caused the rat cells to produce less NFAT – a protein created when hearts are stressed.

The team next identified three fatty acids that appeared key to these helpful effects. They injected these fatty acids into healthy mice. After one week, the hearts of these mice had increased in size and showed no sign of scar tissue.

Leinwand believes that the discovery could lead to new treatments to strengthen hearts damaged by heart attack. She now plans to test the fatty acids on mice with heart disease to see if cell death in the heart can be slowed or even reversed.
 by "environment clean generations"

Selasa, 25 Oktober 2011

Energy Form Your Footsteps


Can you imagine the power of 50,000 steps a day? Well, Laurence Kembell-Cook, the director of Pavegen Systems imagined it and created Pavegen tiles - a low carbon solution that aims to bring kinetic energy harvesting to the streets. Not surprisingly, the tile is receiving a great deal of attention as a solution for power-hungry cities with a lot of walking traffic.


 Designed for use in in high foot-traffic areas, the tiles convert the kinetic energy from footsteps of pedestrians into renewable electricity, which can be stored in a lithium polymer battery or used to power low-wattage, off-grid applications like street lighting, displays, speakers, alarms, signs, and advertising.

Each time someone steps on the tile, a central light illuminates, "connecting" the person to the part they play in producing the 2.1 watts of electricity per hour the tiles can generate (and providing self-sufficient lighting for pedestrian crossings).


The tiles are made from nearly 100-percent recycled materials (mostly rubber) and some marine grade stainless steel. They can be retrofitted to existing structures and are waterproof as well as designed to withstand outdoor conditions.

Pavegen tiles were used as a dance floor at Bestival on the Isle-of-Wright and are currently being tested in East London. They have been successfully installed in a school corridor where they are currently being monitored for durability and performance while helping to power the building. Speaking of durability, each tile is claimed to have a life of approximately 20 million steps or 5 years.
In September 2011 Pavegen received its first commercial order for the London 2012 Olympics Site where they will be used in the crossing between the Olympic stadium and the Westfield Stratford City Shopping Center.


Here's the company's product demo:


by "environment clean generations"

Pig-to-Human Transplants Are Closer Than Ever

Two scientists at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute at the University of Pittsburgh discussed the state of xenotransplantation--the use of cells, organs, or tissue from one animal in another--in a review in The Lancet. In that review, they touch on the history of one particular subject: pig-to-human transplants. Their conclusion? Clinical trials of pig-to-human transplants could begin in just a few years.

Pigs that are genetically modified with genes to protect their organs and other inside bits from attack by the human immune system are capable of all kinds of potentially life-saving effects. Research has been conducted until now with non-human primates, and while these primates have not been able to survive for all that long with pig organs--at best, a pig heart-implanted primate survives for around eight months--that could be enough time to serve as temporary lifesavers. Cells and tissue could be used to counteract human diseases like diabetes (as in this example) and Parkinson's, and have actually shown more success than complete organs.


The paper concludes by saying:


With new genetically modified pigs becoming available that are likely to improve the outcome of cellular and corneal xenotransplantation further, we believe that clinical trials will be justified within the next 2-3 years. No safety concerns that would prohibit such clinical trials have been reported...With regard to pig tissues and cells, as opposed to organs, it would seem that clinical xenotransplantation could soon become a reality.


The scientists believe that soon enough, genetically-modified pig organs could be even more capable than mechanical versions, which is surely great news for those who need them.
 by "environment clean generations"

GLORIA the Telescope that can be operated from your home


European project will make 17 networks robotic telescopes available to everyone. The idea is to benefit from the eyes and minds of amateurs, star lovers community by giving them access to data they can process. 

GLORIA stands for "GLObal Robotic-telescopes Intelligent Array". GLORIA will be the first free and open- access network of robotic  telescopes of the world.

What it means is that a worldwide network of 17 robotic telescopes crossing 4 continents, ran by 13 partner groups from Russia, Chile, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland and Spain will be available online to everyone.


    Locations of the Telescopes (photo)
 
The main purpose of the project is to make astronomic research benefit from all the eyes of amateurs . As the GLORIA website puts it: “Research in astronomy can only benefit from attracting many eyes to the sky - to detect something in the sky requires looking in the right place at the right moment. Our robotic telescopes can search the sky, but the vast quantities of data they produce are far greater than astronomers have time to analyze. GLORIA will provide a way of putting thousands of eyes and minds on the problem.”

But hands will have a play too. The community is open to “to anyone with an interest in astronomy” and, more important, “The community will not only generate content, as in most Web 2.0, but will control telescopes around the world, both directly and via scheduled observations.”

The European project draws on the experience of the Montegancedo Observatory, located at the Facultad de Informática. The Montegancedo Observatory is the first free open access astronomical observatory in the world. The observatory is remote controlled using Ciclope Astro software, maintained by the UPM's Ciclope group. This software will be used by the world robotic telescope network.

Gloria will also organize educational activities, such as broadcasting astronomical events, to attract new users. For this purpose, it will sponsor the next four Sky Live Internet television missions.

If well designed, this project could be one of the most interesting crowdsourcing experiment of the Internet. It will in any case please any star lover around the world.
by environment clean generations"

China Rushing to the Moon


Is China on course to surpass the United States as the world's space superpower and stake a claim on the moon in the next 15 years? Billionaire space executive Robert Bigelow is deeply worried about that scenario — and he says Americans need a "kick in the ass" to respond to the challenge.

 A scale model shows Bigelow Aerospace's proposed lunar colony, made from inflatable modules, with a fleet of lunar landers in the background.

Bigelow delivered that kick today at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, N.M. — but the general consensus among experts on China policy is that it's a bit too early to start rattling the sabers.

The founder of the Budget Suites hotel chain and Bigelow Aerospace promised to "cause a stimulation" with his remarks at the ISPCS conference, and delivered on that promise by laying out an argument for China's growing space dominance. He said the trend could conceivably lead to a lunar takeover in the 2022-2026 time frame.

Bigelow characterized China as "the new gunslinger in Dodge" when it came to space exploration.
The way he sees it, China is progressing along a slow, steady path toward space proficiency. The steps in that path include follow-ups to the Shenzhou 8 spacewalk mission in 2008, the unmanned Chang'e lunar missions and last month's Tiangong 1 space lab launch. In the coming years, China will have plenty of cash for great leaps forward in space, while the United States will be hamstrung by higher debt and tighter budgets.

Why the moon?

Why would China want to lay claim to the moon? Bigelow referred to some of the long-discussed potential benefits, including the moon's abundance of helium-3, which could someday be used as fuel for nuclear fusion (although that idea has been oversold in the past). The moon's raw material could also be turned into the water, oxygen, building materials and rocket fuel needed for human exploration. But Bigelow said the biggest payoff would come in the form of international prestige, just as it did for the United States after the moon landings.

 "This would endure for a very long time," he said. "It’s priceless. ... Nothing else that China could possibly do in the next 15 years could produce as great a benefit."
Bigelow speculated that China could conduct detailed surface-based surveys of the lunar surface in the mid-2020s, setting the stage for the country to withdraw from the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and formally claim possession of the moon. China could then conceivably insist on being paid for lunar concessions, Bigelow said.
He said the Chinese challenge could serve as a "fear factor" to energize the efforts of NASA and its space partners. "It's the best kick in the ass that you can have," he told reporters after his talk. He also doubted that the Chinese would be content with taking on the status of a partner in the U.S.-led space "family," even if they were invited to join. "They want to have their own family," he said.

Bigelow Aerospace's Robert Bigelow worries that China will lay claim to the moon in the 2020s. (photo)
Bigelow proposed diverting 10 percent of the U.S. defense budget to the space effort, which he said would provide an annual boost of $60 billion. It may turn out to be "too late" for a space race to the moon, he said; Bigelow suggested that a U.S.-led consortium should target Mars instead.

What do the experts say?


Bigelow said his analysis was based on two years of observing the space policy landscape, rather than personal discussions with the Chinese. Generally speaking, experts on Chinese space policy say that it's too early to judge the nation's long-term intentions.

"I think it is a little bit of a stretch to think about whether the Chinese will be laying claim to the moon," Dean Cheng, a research fellow at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, told me today. "I would be very surprised if they had any plans one way or the other."

Cheng said the Chinese were clearly interested in lunar exploration. "They will have all the pieces in place in the 2021-2025 time period to think about putting a man on the moon," he said. But he doubted that China would try to do anything inflammatory — for example, rolling up the American flag at Tranquility Base and putting a Chinese flag in its place. "Incendiary stuff, not likely," Cheng said.

It's more likely that China would want to see an international body such as the United Nations in charge of lunar exploration and exploitation, Cheng said. He pointed to the example of the Law of the Sea Convention, which governs the use of marine resources but has not yet been ratified by the U.S. Senate.

Cheng said the Chinese would prefer to see lunar resources controlled by an intergovernmental body rather than private-sector entities. He said they'd definitely oppose an arrangement in which non-governmental entities are in charge, such as the system set up by ICANN, the Internet's governing body.

"The prospect of the Chinese having to deal with the space equivalent of ICANN is their worst nightmare," he told me.
Other observations from Robert Bigelow:

  • For years, Bigelow has been working on inflatable space modules based on technology developed by NASA, and two of the modules have been lofted into orbit by Russian rockets. Bigelow said the Genesis 1 and 2 modules were no longer providing useful data, but that they were designed to stay in orbit for 12 years. That suggests that the modules would make their re-entry no earlier than the 2018-2019 time frame. 
  • Bigelow had planned to make habitable orbital modules available to international clients starting in late 2014. But today, he told reporters that the schedule has been put on hold, due to the economic downturn as well as questions about the availability of private spaceships capable of servicing the habitats. Once the decision is made to resume the project, it would probably take no more than three years to launch the modules, Bigelow said.
  • Bigelow said the workforce at Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace has been reduced from 115 workers to 51, due to the slowdown in work on the inflatable modules.
  • Bigelow Aerospace has its own plan to put a colony on the moon. In the ISPCS exhibit hall, the company displayed a scale model of a base made up of inflatable modules that Bigelow said could be assembled in deep space and then transported to the lunar surface. "What was once a station lands as a base," he explained. For now, however, there are no plans to turn the concept into an actual base.
by "environment clean generations"

Cold Fusion is Big Ahead


Rossi, an Italian inventor, claims to have come up with the Holy Grail of power generation, an "Energy Catalyser" or E-Cat, which produces limitless energy. He has already carried out laboratory demonstrations in front of scientists and the Italian media, and in October he plans to unveil a one-megawatt power plant in the US. If it works, the E-Cat is the biggest thing since atomic power, bringing an inexhaustible supply of cheap energy. It looks much too good to be true and many dismiss it as an obvious scam, but Rossi has powerful support from some surprising quarters.

The E-Cat is deceptively simple: hydrogen is passed over a special catalyst based on nickel in a container about a litre in size, and enough heat is produced to boil water. A demonstration in January appeared to show a several kilowatts of output from a four hundred watt input. The catalyst is secret, but Rossi says it can be produced at low cost. The two questions that matter: does it really work? And what are the implications if it does?

The E-Cat is the latest incarnation of cold fusion, an area long shunned by respectable scientists. In 1989, researchers Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann claimed to have produced a small amount of energy by nuclear fusion on a lab bench via electrolysis. This was unprecedented and appeared to contradict accepted science, as fusion only occurs at temperatures of millions of degrees in the Sun and stars.

Other scientists failed to replicate this cold fusion, and the whole field was soon labelled bad science at best. Few journals will cover it these days. In science terms, an interest cold fusion is up there with astrology and alchemy.
A few scientists do still work in this field, notably at the US Naval Research Laboratory. Occasional papers are published claiming positive results in the area of "Low Energy Nuclear Reactions" and "excess heat generation". Nobody calls it cold fusion, and this is an area led by experiment rather than theory. But some scientists are breaking cover.

Frank Acland has been following Rossi's work closely, and has a website, E-Cat World, tackling the latest developments. He reels off a list of scientists who have examined the E-Cat for themselves and verified what was happening.

"They have all gone on the record to say that they believe that there is a nuclear reaction taking place, " says Acland, "that the levels of energy output the E-Cat produces could not come from a chemical reaction."
The demonstrations appear to show a lot more heat is coming out of apparatus than goes in. Two Swedish scientists from NyTeknik magazine ruled out any hidden power source and concluded: "The only alternative explanation is that there is some kind of a nuclear process that gives rise to the measured energy production." Unlike the Pons and Fleishman experiments, where the excess heat was tiny, this is on a massive scale. Rossi even claims to have been heating a factory using E-Cats. It's a big effect -- or a big hoax.

Rossi's heavyweight supporters include 1973 physics Nobel prize winner Brian Josephson. Josephson also supports telepathy research. Dennis Bushnell, chief scientist at Nasa's Langley Research Centre, appears to be a believer in the E-Cat, commenting in a recent interview with Electric Vehicle World that the science was being worked out and, "I think this will go forward fairly rapidly now". However, Nasa scientists are still at the stage of exploring whether there is valid physics behind the E-Cat rather than actually buying them.
Darpa, the Pentagon's advanced science wing, has also been involved in this field. Budget documents reveal a longstanding interest in low energy nuclear reactions, and the plan for 2012 includes the line "Establish scalability and scaling parameters in excess heat generation processes in collaboration with the Italian Department of Energy."

Ex-Darpa chief Tony Tether told New Energy Times that "If it is a hoax, it's a damned good one."
Inventors often complain that their technology could change the world if investors would just give them a few million to produce it. Rossi will get his chance. The one-megawatt device Rossi plans to soon demonstrate was originally meant to be made by combining 300 small E-Cats. It will now comprise 52 larger E-Cats.
What will it mean if it does work? The E-cat will provide a lightweight source of cheap energy, without any CO2 emissions. (And unlike nuclear fission, there is also no radioactive waste.) This could turn the world upside-down, and trigger a new industrial revolution which would shift away from fossil fuels and into an era of clean, plentiful energy.

The simplest application would use the steam or hot water from an E-Cat for heating. An E-Cat could heat your home so you would never need gas, oil or coal again. It could be scaled to heat offices, factories, or other buildings. Rossi eventually hopes to make 300,000 E-Cat modules a year.

The E-Cat could also bring back the steam engine. The steam car powered by an E-Cat could replace the electric car as green transport. The idea is not as peculiar as it might sound; steam cars have a long pedigree, and speed record for this type of vehicle is held by the British Steam Car team who achieved an impressive 149 mph in 2009. It might not make the sort of noise beloved of Jeremy Clarkson, but you'd never have to stop at a petrol station again, just top up with water at intervals.

Electricity generation is more challenging. Rossi says the E-Cat only runs at about 500 degrees for safety reasons; modern power plants run at higher temperatures, which are more efficient. Rossi says he is working on the problem, and reckons that E-Cats could produce electricity for about 2,000 Euros per kilowatt initially, with costs falling dramatically when economies of scale kick in. Combined heat and power units would be most economical, and domestic E-Cats could see people selling to the grid rather than buying from it. Energy prices would plummet, and it could create a new type of economy.

"Many people go to work every day to have enough money to fuel their cars, pay the light and heat bills, and to pay for goods whose cost is largely made up of the energy required to produce and transport it," says Acland. "If energy prices go down across the board, theoretically goods will become much cheaper, and people won't need to work in the same way that they do now just to survive."

Because it does not produce carbon dioxide, the E-Cat solves the CO2 emission problem at a stroke. Transport, manufacturing and heating will all switch over to E-Cat because of the lower costs, and fossil fuels would become a thing of the past. Britain's reliance on imported gas would end, and oil imports would all but cease, being confined to a few niche applications. Oil companies, and oil-based economies, would collapse.
It's an appealing vision -- unless you happen to be working in one of the sectors that would be affected -- but until later this month we can't tell if it's for real.

Skeptics point to the lack of published science, and the way that Rossi keeps details of his special catalyst secret. They also point to his past involvement in Petroldragon, a company involved in converting organic waste into fuel, which collapsed in the 1990's amidst allegations of dumping toxic waste. (Rossi maintains that he was the victim in this complex case).

And the E-Cat development has thrown up its own scandal. Until August of this year, Rossi was planning his big launch in Greece, and an E-Cat factory was being built in Xanthi. But the deal has somehow fallen through for unexplained reasons, vaguely blamed on pressure from "international energy interests" who may be threatened by the invention.

The megawatt E-Cat will be unveiled in America. Rossi has licensed the technology to a start-up called Ampenergo. Though new, the company has credentials; one of its founders is Robert Gentile, Assistant Secretary of Energy for Fossil Energy at the US Department of Energy (DOE) in the 90's.
Rossi claims the demonstration will be attended by high-level scientists and science journalists, unlike previous occasions which have had little mainstream coverage. They have not so much attacked his claims as ignored them.

Surprisingly enough, Rossi's most severe critic is Steven Krivit, editor of the New Energy Times. Krivit has had years of experience at looking at all sorts cold fusion devices which have been claimed to produce power. His team have carried out a very thorough analysis of Rossi's demonstrations and they have their doubts.

"According to my analysis, his claim has no scientific credibility," Krivit told Wired.co.uk. The device he claimed to heat a factory in Bondeno seems to exist only on paper."
Krivit's analysis looks at the amount of steam that actually comes out of the device and the way it is measured. He concludes that the E-Cat does not have nearly the output he suggests, and may not even be producing excess energy.

Krivit's answer to the question of whether Rossi's demonstrations support his claims is: "Definitely no."
There is some irony at work here: we apparently have a number of mainstream scientists backing an outlandish project which inves, tors are putting money into, while the most vocal critic comes from the world of cold fusion.
Who's right? The only way to find out will be to watch out for what Rossi does later this month.
by "environment clean generations"

Energy form Soldier's Underware

Soldiers: Your underwear of the future will do more than prevent crotch rot. It'll protect you from injuries, monitor your vitals, and even "harvest" your energy. That is, if a new project from Darpa's Defense Sciences Office works out as planned. That's an illustration, above, of what Darpa thinks its "Warrior Web" onesie might look like.

So far, the project is still in the draw-a-cartoon-with-a-six-pack-in-tights stage -- a long way off from the "adaptive, compliant, nearly transparent, quasi-active joint support suit," which can "mitigate musculoskeletal injury caused by discrete dynamic events while maintaining soldier performance," dreamed up by Darpa. An introductory meeting of potential researchers is set for mid-October, 2011.


Musculoskeletal injuries (a blanket term for anything from pain caused by overuse to stress fractures and joint derangements) are a real problem in the military.

 According to a 2010 study, there were 743,547 injury-related musculoskeletal conditions amongst military personnel in 2006. In 2004, 44 percent of military fatalities resulted from unintentional injuries. These Achilles tendon strains, torn meniscuses, and sore labrums slow our soldiers down, rendering them less effective and placing them in more danger.

But protecting their knees is just the start of what Warrior Web aims to do. Darpa says it's looking for experts in the following fields for the Warrior Web:
• Joint support and musculoskeletal injury mitigation
• Dynamics of soldier action and external load
• Biomechanical and joint modeling and testing
• Efficient and compliant actuation
• Energy regeneration and harvesting
• Dynamic structural stiffness tuning
• Adaptive sensing and control for biomechatronics
• Materials, fabrics, and structures to enhance the human-to-equipment interface

Wait --- "musculoskeletal injury mitigation"? "Energy regeneration"? Is this glorified pair of long underwear supposed to reduce inflammation and heal stress fractures while it pumps B-12 (or maybe amphetamines) into the blood stream? Sounds, uh, ambitious. And if I were a soldier, I'd be wary of modeling any garment that is going to "harvest" anything from me.

This isn't the military's first  crazy-suit pipe dream. (In 2003, MIT bragged that they would soon show us  a nanotech-made muscle suit that can heal and deflect bullets. In 2010, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon each showed off hydraulic-powered  exoskeleton suits designed to help soldiers carry heavier loads while putting minimal strain on their joints and ligaments.

And of course, let us never forget the super-strength cyborg penguin suit  of 2008.) So Warrior Web may not be an entirely original concept, but it's certainly the most ambitious. After all, it's basically underwear with strengthening and healing powers.
by "environment clean generations"

Senin, 24 Oktober 2011

Oxygen Issue for Military’s Most Advanced Dogfighter: F-22 Raptor


F-22 Raptor stealth fighters at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia have been grounded after a pilot experienced oxygen loss mid-flight. It’s the second stand-down this year for the U.S. military’s most sophisticated dogfighter, and a foreboding sign for the Pentagon as it struggles to modernize its aerial armada.

Problems with the on-board oxygen system have vexed the $150-million-a-copy F-22 for more than a year. On May 3, the Air Force locked down the entire Raptor fleet while it investigated reports of pilot blackouts and disorientation — problems that might have contributed to a fatal F-22 crash in Alaska in November.


Investigators suspected a design flaw in the Raptor’s oxygen generator that was allowing high levels of unbreathable nitrogen to leak into the pilot’s air supply.

But they could never pin down the precise flaw, and last month the Air Force brass ordered the 170 F-22s — accounting for nearly half of the Pentagon’s air-superiority force — back into the air.

“We now have enough insight from recent studies and investigations that a return to flight is prudent and appropriate,” said Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff.
As added insurance, Raptor squadrons installed an extra air filter on the radar-evading jets built by Lockheed Martin. But the filter appears not to have solved the problem, if the Virginia incident is any indication.
The Air Force is being cagey about the new grounding.


“Part of our protocol is to allow units to pause operations whenever they need to analyze information collected from flight operations to ensure safety,” the flying branch said in a statement. “That is what is happening at Langley at the moment, and we support that decision.”

Considering the Raptor’s ongoing safety woes and continuing delays, cost overruns, maintenance woes and production cuts in the F-35 stealth fighter program, the Pentagon’s next-generation air arsenal is looking more and more like history’s most expensive hangar decoration. With many of the latest fighters unflyable, old-school F-15s and F-16s dating from the 1980s could be forced to hold the line for years to come.

You Could Probably Live For 1000 Years


According to Richard Seymour, founder of design agency Seymourpowell: "The future's a secret". And if he told us anything that he has learnt from the companies he has worked with, he would have to kill us.

"The future's here, it's just packed away in places where the majority can't see it." How many of us in the audience, for example, know Apple's plans for the next seven years? Companies are pathologically guarding their plans, and Seymour is one of the people who gets to see what they think the future will hold.

 Siri (Apple's new voice-controlled software in iOS 5) is one of the developments that he lauds but adds that if such "proxies" are going to rise, they need to be with their "owner". "I want it with me, not in the cloud. It doesn't live behind the glass, it lives with me," he says.

But, it is genome sequencing that is set to have the biggest impact on design in the coming decades, says Seymour. Pulling from his pocket a slide containing "an entire human" (pictured), he explained how this one slide has gone from costing thousands to hundreds of pounds; and could, in the next couple of years, "be available on the back of a cereal packet". Already, he said, we have DNA-based cosmeceuticals, and the subsequent scrum to buy these products is evidence of their potential.
We may also need their powers if we continue to live longer and longer. "The first person to live for a thousand years is possibly already alive", says Seymour. And, of those of us sitting at Wired 2011 aged between 20-30, there "will certainly" be some who reach 130 years old. This, he says, "will have an instantaneous and catastrophic effect on the world population".

To solve the space problem, we could take to the skies in the Aircruise airship concept -- a clipper for the clouds that Seymourpowell showed Wired.co.uk in February 2010, and which Seymour says could become a reality. "I try to maintain an altitude in what I do," he says, adding that much of the technology to create the Aircruise was available 80 years ago. As Seymour states, bringing us back down the ground with a bump, "Technology doesn't hold us back, it's our lack of imagination".
"by environment clean generations"

LEDs Saving More Electricity than Solar can Produce


LED lighting can save more electricity than solar will produce, according to LED pioneer Roland Haitz, former chief technology officer, semiconductor products group, Hewlett-Packard (later Agilent).

 
"20 percent of the world's electricity that's generated is used for lighting. Three quarters of that can be saved by using LEDs; 15 percent of today's electricity consumption can be saved," he said at the Economist's Innovation Summit.

He said that there was a lot of noise around green technology and that projects relating to solar cells and wind energy tend to get a lot of government funding. However, he believes that focusing on technologies such as LEDs could make a bigger difference. Solar energy currently accounts for 0.5 percent of the world's supply, although some have predicted that it could  provide as much as 22 percent by 2050.
Haitz is in a good place to comment, as he has had the LED equivalent of Moore's Law named after him. Haitz's Law states that every decade, the cost per lumen falls by a factor of 10, the amount of light generated per LED package increases by a factor of 20 for a given wavelength of light.

Haitz says that LED lighting will be made extremely cheaply, with much better light output than the current 200 lumens per watt which are currently possible, compared with a standard 100 watt incandescent lightbulb which has an efficiency of around 17 lumens per watt.
by "environment clean generations"

Can Extremophiles Survive on Europa?


A team of astrobiologists from Argentina have recreated the conditions of Jupiter moon Europa, to see if extremophile bacteria could survive the unwelcoming conditions of the Jovian system.


Interplanetary space is generally considered lethal to organisms thanks to high levels of radiation, intense vacuum conditions and extreme temperatures. But the team, lead by Ximena Abrevaya at the University of Buenos Aires, wanted to see if any hardy critters could tough it out.

Finding a likely candidate would certainly help recent research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where researchers used a computer simulation to find if life could spread into space, hitchhiking on space-faring rocks.


That team found that particles ejected from the Earth could reach as far as Jupiter and one of its 64 moons, Europa, which astronomers reckon has a huge salt water ocean underneath its icy crust. A good breeding ground for life. But could anything survive the trip?


The team from Buenos Aires created a vacuum with conditions similar to those which exist on the surface of Europa. They then placed three organisms in it: the hypersaline-tolerent Natrialba magadii, the salt-obsessed Haloferax volcanii and the ultra-hardy, all-around survivor Deinococcus radiodurans.


The researchers then blasted these critters with ultraviolet radiation at levels that might occur on Europa. After three hours of extensive radiation, the results came back: none of the H. volcanii survived, but small numbers of D. radiodurans and N. magadii could tough out the toxic rays.


D. radiodurans are well-known survivors, often called the world's toughest bacteria for their ability to shrug off extremely low temperatures, a complete lack of water, deadly vacuums and acid. In a past experiment using simulated Martian soil, 30 percent of a community of D. radiodurans survived for 10 days. These guys are tough.


But now astrobiologists will want to take a closer look at N. magadii, to see if they're as hardy as D. radiodurans. The team writes, in the paper: "Much longer exposure times need to be tested to see if at least a small number of cells of N. magadii and D. radiodurans could survive the V-UV and vacuum damages present in space without any protection."


Studying to see if microbes have the ability to survive in space conditions has many applications in astrobiology. "For example, it is important to develop planetary protection procedures, life support systems and energy fuel cells based on a number of microbial species," the team writes.


"It is also important to avoid forward contamination," they conclude. You don't want to discover life on Europa, claim it's aliens, but later find out it's just life from Earth that's hitched a ride to Jupiter on a meteorite or a spaceship.
 by "environment clean generations"