Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Interactive 3D Display: Its Here!

Originally mentioned at Gizmodo as a prototype in 2003, IO2 Technology has just completed the production unit and provided the details behind the revolutionary HelioDisplay which produces interactive 3D dsiplays in thin air (via lasers) from common sources.

The HelioDisplay technology page lists some of its remarkable features:

  • Inputs from most regular sources: PC,TV, DVD, HDTV, Video game consoles
  • Projects a 22″ to 42″ (depending on model) diagonal image that floats above the device
  • It is interactive, like a virtual touch screen: a hand or finger can act as a mouse
  • Although the HelioDisplay uses lasers, the images are not holographic
  • Possible uses for this product include advertising, entertainment facilities, design prototyping, teleconferencing etc. Obviously the applications for such a product are endless. Most importantly it may convince my wife to finally allow the purchase of the Brooke Burke Swimsuit calendar for testing purposes! This of course relies heavily on pricing (TBD) and other more, um, personal matters.

    Apparently the product is ready for release; visit the product page here which looks like its being updated right now.

    Visit the IO2TECHNOLOGY company homepage here.

    Carbon Nanotube Gecko Grippers

    Geckos have an impressive capacity to walk upside down on almost any surface, using just the attractive forces created by their feet to hold on. With this in mind, scientists have attempted to copy the structure of gecko feet to create strongly adhesive materials. The latest version, developed at the University of Akron and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, US, uses multiwalled carbon nanotubes attached to a polymer backing.


    Crocodile's Immune System Kills HIV

    In an ongoing effort to stop the spread of HIV, scientists in Australia have discovered that crocodiles can fight off HIV and kill the virus. This is a major boon to medicine because the crocodile serum can also fight things that are penicillin resistant such as staphylococcus aureus.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    U.S. Okays Virgin Galactic Plans reports that the U.S. Department of State's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls has approved collaboration of technical details between Scaled Composites of Mojave, California and Virgin Galactic of the United Kingdom to build passenger-carrying suborbital spaceliners. The next suborbital ship will be a nine person vessel." From the article: "Details about the new company were unveiled at the Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) AirVenture air show held July 25-31 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The Spaceship Company will build a fleet of commercial suborbital spaceships and launch aircraft. Scaled Composites is to be under contract for research and development testing, as well as certification of a 9-person SpaceShipTwo (SS2) design, and a White Knight Two (WK2) mothership to be called Eve.

    Lab-grown meat "feasible"

    An international research team says that it's possible to mass produce lab-grown meat using today's technology.

    According to BBC News, the researchers say that advances in tissue engineering mean that cells from animals could now be directly grown into meat in the lab.

    "In the long term, this is a very feasible idea," says research team member Jason Matheny of the University of Maryland.

    In order to mass produce meat, Matheny and colleagues suggest growing animal cells on large sheets that are stretched to provide simulated exercise for growing muscles.

    Otherwise, says Matheny, the meat would be mush.

    In a commentary (PDF) in the journal Tissue Engineering, Matheny and colleagues note the following benefits of lab-grown meat:

    With cultured meat, the ratio of saturated to polyunsaturated fatty acids could be better controlled; the incidence of foodborne disease could be significantly reduced; and resources could be used more efficiently, as biological structures required for locomotion and reproduction would not have to be grown or supported.

    Monday, August 15, 2005

    Review of Goals and Plans for NASA's Space and Earth Sciences

    "The main sources of gaps and potential missed opportunities in some roadmaps are a shortage of scientific justification for their stated goals and an overly narrow interpretation of the presidential vision by the NASA roadmap teams."


    Analogical Reasoning in Machines

    Identifying pairs of words that are analogous is easy for humans. For example, most of us can easily understand that the words cat:meow are analogous to dog:bark. Our ability to identify the relational similarity between simple pairs of words is thought to underly many cognitive and linguistic processes. A new paper by Peter D. Turney titled Measuring Semantic Similarity by Latent Relational Analysis (PDF format), describes an algorithm called, you guessed it, Latent Relational Analysis (LRA) that can give machines the ability to measure the relational similarity of words. The algorithm uses a vector space model (VSM) in which words are represented by vectors determined by the frequencies of patterns. The similarity of words is calculated from the cosine of the angle between two word's vectors. The new algorithm was able to achieve human-level performance on analogy questions from a college-level multiple-choice test. For more information see the author's website.

    Friday, August 12, 2005

    Giant virus holds antiaging secrets

    A virus with a huge genome produces a compound that could be used in antiaging treatments.

    Called Emiliania huxleyi virus 86, the virus infects chalk-covered marine algae and uses the compound to slow down its host's aging process.

    Researchers at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge have now decoded the virus's genome.

    They discovered a cluster of genes responsible for producing ceramide, a key component of anti-wrinkle and antiaging creams that can control mechanisms leading to programmed cell death. The genes have only previously been found in animal and plant cells.

    "For an invading virus, the ability to control when your host will die and ensure your own survival is quite incredible," says researcher Willie Wilson in a news release. "Essentially the virus hijacks the cell and slows down the aging process by keeping it healthy for as long as possible. It uses the cell as a kind of factory to replicate itself and eventually takes over completely, killing off the cell."

    The genome of the virus comprises 407,000 letters of genetic code, giving it almost as many as the simple celled organism Mycoplasma.

    The discovery of viral ceramide could be a boon for scientists and industries looking for new sources for medicines and cosmetics.

    The research is reported in the journal Science.

    NASA Mars orbiter launches

    NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been successfully launched.

    The orbiter's mission is to see if long-standing bodies of water ever existed on Mars. This could help determine whether the planet ever had water long enough to provide a habitat for life.

    The spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 7:43 AM EDT morning aboard NASA's first Atlas V rocket.

    The US space agency reports that it is healthy, performing as designed, communicating with ground stations and unfurling its solar arrays.

    The spacecraft now begins a seven-month journey to Mars, followed by six months of refining its orbit.

    The launch follows two failed attempts. Yesterday's attempt was abandoned because of a fuel sensor problem and Wednesday's was cancelled following concerns over the failure of a gyroscope of the type used in the Atlas V.

    Thursday, August 11, 2005

    The 10th planet

    Zecharia Sitchin Responds:"The announcement, on July 30th 2005, that a new celestial body has been discovered made media news around the world; and because the reports were headlined “Astronomers Claim Discovery of 10th Planet,” my phone started to constantly ring… Some callers shouted “Congratulations!”; others, more cautiously, asked: “Is it Nibiru?” – “Nibiru” being the planet of which I had been writing and talking ever since my book The 12th Planet was published decades ago."


    Safer And Guilt-Free Nano Foods

    Over the past few years, nanotech has rapidly become a significant ingredient in the food industry, in applications ranging from smart packaging to interactive foods. Virtually every major food company is involved in nanotech R&D, and the first wave of products is now hitting the market. This is only the beginning, and it's clear that this is an area where nanotech is going to take hold in a big way.


    LG Roboking V-R4000 Floor Vacuum Robot

    LG has recently launched a floor vacuum robot similar to the iRobot Roomba called Roboking in Korea.

    Outside of Korea the LG floorvac robot is dubbed LG V-R4000 (product page).
    Korean Popco has published a review of the LG Roboking floorvac with many photos. Out of some reason they published the story text as image, making it impossible to translate automatically. Still worth to visit for the images.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005

    NASA NEO News: Deflection Scenarios for Apophis

    Following is an unusually long and technical edition of NEO News. The subject is the deflection options for Apophis (MN4) as described in a new analysis by Donald Gennery, who has kindly made this draft available to NEO News.


    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Launch Postponed

    Launch of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been postponed by at least one day. At present, liftoff is scheduled for no earlier than 7:50 a.m. on August 11.


    Tuesday, August 09, 2005

    One 'cure all' flu jab for life

    Scientists are making a vaccine that could give lifelong protection against all types of flu in a single jab.


    Bacteria Used to Create Nanowires

    Derek Lovley and his colleagues of the University of Massachusetts discovered that the Geobacter bacteria is capable of producing nanowires. The bacteria is normally used to clean up toxic waste. Geobacter does not use oxygen, but metal as its source for power. This probably explains the 3nm to 5nm nanowires it excretes while working. What metal the nanowires are made of is not yet known, but the genetic code responsible for their creation is. This opens up the possibility of modifying the bacteria to create nanowires on chips."

    CMU Delivers Gladiator Robot to Marines

    Roland Piquepaille writes "Two years ago, I told you that the Gladiator Robot will join the Marine Corps. Now, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the six-wheeled combat robot, designed and developed at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), made its debut last week. This new U.S. unmanned fighting vehicle can fire machine guns, nonlethal sting balls or tear gas. It could be used for reconnaissance, surveillance and direct-fire missions. CMU will deliver six prototypes of the three-ton robots by 2007 to the Marine Corps, which could deploy about 200 Gladiator vehicles in combat zones around 2009 if the prototypes work as intended. Each Gladiator should cost between $300,000 and $400,000." For more details see Roland's blog.

    Long Live AI.

    "On My Mind" by Ray Kurzweil. "Many people think the so-called AI winter in the 1980s, when many AI companies folded, was the end of the story. But boom-bust cycles are sometimes harbingers of true revolutions (recall the railroad frenzy of the 19th century), and we see the same phenomenon in AI. Artificial intelligence permeates our economy. It's what I define as 'narrow' AI: machine intelligence that equals or exceeds human intelligence for specific tasks. ... AI programs diagnose heart disease, fly and land airplanes, guide autonomous weapons, make automated investment decisions for a trillion dollars' worth of funds and guide industrial processes. ... So what are the prospects for 'strong' AI, which I describe as machine intelligence with the full range of human intelligence? ... To understand the principles of human intelligence we need to reverse-engineer the human brain. ... The killer app of strong AI, combined with nanotechnology, will be blood-cell-size robots called nanobots. We'll have billions of them traveling in our bloodstream...."


    NASA's Next Leap in Mars Exploration Ready for Launch

    NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is ready for a morning launch on Wednesday, Aug. 10. The MRO will arrive at Mars in March 2006 for a mission to understand the planet's water riddles and to advance the exploration of the mysterious red planet.

    ° Full Story

    Space Shuttle Discovery Lands in California

    Space Shuttle Discovery touched down this morning at Edwards Air Force Base in California to successfully conclude STS-114. This was the first Shuttle mission to fly since the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia and the STS-107 crew on Feb. 1, 2003.


    Major nanotech advance claimed by Ansatus: but is it real?

    A claim of a big nanotech advance has been received at Nanodot, and we pass it along for your review and comment. From the Ansatus website: "The dGrids™ technolgy enables researchers to rapidly integrate self-assembled nanoscale structures into their experiments to leverage precise placement with high yields and all for less than the cost of an exotic enzyme kit."


    Bully Beef and Antimatter

    While some may be concerned about global dominance, a couple of army logistics researchers, somewhat closer to the front describe the RAMP (Revolution in Atoms, Molecules, and Photons) project in an article entitled “Nanotubes and Antimatter: Energy Resupply for the Future Battlefield.”


    There's Money in Them Thar Nanobots

    There’s money to be had from nanobots, at least for students taking part in the Microsoft sponsored Imagine Cup.


    Medicine in miniature

    Imagine if you could swallow a doctor, have him look around inside you and fix anything that's wrong. It sounds ridiculous but nanotechnology, the science of the very small, might make it possible.

    The recent discovery of cancer 'smart bombs' - tiny particles that can seek out and destroy tumours while leaving healthy tissue alone - is only the tip of a potentially very large (or should we say very small) iceberg.


    Nano power

    Norm Wu: In Parts One and Two of this series, I discussed some of the exciting nanotech opportunities that venture capitalists see in the marketplace today or expect to ramp up over the next three to five years. The impact of these investments will be quite broad – from instruments and innovative materials to sensors, displays and semiconductors.

    Some of the most exciting, highest impact nanotech developments, however, will require a longer gestation cycle – perhaps even ten or more years to really hit their stride.


    Nuvera Fuel Cells, Inc. Second Generation Automotive Fuel Cell Sets New Standards in Performance

    MILAN and CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Nuvera Fuel Cells, Inc., a leading designer, developer and manufacturer of fuel cell power systems today announced its next-generation automotive fuel cell stack, called Andromeda II, achieved several major milestones during recent qualification tests conducted at the company's facility in Milan, Italy. The new stack, which is capable of generating 125 kW of power (168 horsepower) and is currently available for delivery to qualified customers developing fuel cell vehicles, exceeded key product milestones for power density, cold-start capability, system efficiency, durability, and high-volume production cost.

    The announcement follows the signing of the US Energy Policy Act of 2005 by President Bush during his visit to Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico. According to the Committee on Energy and Congress, the Energy Act will authorize $2.15 billion over the next 5 years toward the advancement of hydrogen-power automobiles and an infrastructure to provide for the safe delivery of hydrogen fuels.

    "We believe Andromeda II has now risen to the forefront of the industry by combining many of the customer requirements for operability, reliability, and cost today," said William Mitchell, Nuvera's Vice President of Marketing. "With this new technology and our track record of continuous innovation, Nuvera is uniquely positioned to support automotive OEMs to accelerate the development -- and successful demonstration -- of fuel cell vehicles."

    Specifically, Andromeda II demonstrated the following product milestones:

    * 1.6 kWe/liter power density at high pressure, 1.3 kWe/liter at low pressure

    * Low pressure (<>

    * No external humidification for fuel or air

    * Repeatable freeze start from -30 degrees C reaching 50% power in 30 seconds

    * Greater than 1,500 hours steady-state operation with a 10 microvolts/hour/cell decay rate

    * 100,000 cycles during operation with no measurable decay

    * Non-coated stainless steel bipolar plate construction for low cost

    According to Giovanni Bruni, Nuvera's Automotive Platform Leader, the advancements are significant because they address critical challenges to the commercialization of fuel cell vehicles. "Andromeda II was engineered with the entire power system in mind. By rethinking the stack engineering, we were able to significantly reduce system humidity and pressure, which enables faster cold-start capabilities and lowers parasitic power demand, thus increasing reliability and overall system efficiency."

    Nuvera is a global leader in the development and advancement of multi-fuel processing and fuel cell technology. With offices located in Italy and the USA, Nuvera is committed to advancing the commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell power modules for industrial vehicles and equipment and stationary applications by 2006, natural gas fuel cell power systems for cogeneration applications by 2007, and on-board gasoline fuel processors and fuel cell stacks for automotive applications by 2010. Nuvera Fuel Cells Europe is ISO 9001:2000 certified for "Research, Development, Design, Production and Servicing of Fuel Cell Stacks and Fuel Cell Systems."

    Bubble power holds key to micro-pumps

    Making tiny gears and valves to miniaturise that most basic of machines, the pump, is a major headache for engineers developing micro-devices such as fuel cells for cellphones. Now scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, have side-stepped the problem by using collapsing bubbles to drive liquid around a device small enough to be integrated into a chip.

    Zhizhong Yin created the "blinking-bubble" pump in a 120-micrometre-wide liquid channel by warming a section towards one end of the channel to form a vapour bubble. As the bubble grows, it splits the liquid into two unequal parts. Then the heat is turned off, the bubble collapses and the two columns of fluid rush towards each other to fill the gap. Because the shorter column is lighter, it picks up more speed than the longer end. "It's counter-intuitive because the shorter liquid column pushes the longer one each time, like a hammer hitting a nail," says team member Andrea Prosperetti. The "blinking" as new bubbles grow and collapse creates the pumping action.

    "Any miniaturised hydraulic system needs a micro-pump," says Prosperetti. And while "lab-on-a-chip" devices have to be chained to macro-sized syringe pumps at the moment, micro-pumps could make them portable.

    The blinking-bubble pump could be used in a variety of applications, says Surya Raghu of Advanced Fluidics in Maryland, a company which makes micro-fluidic devices. It could be used to drive methanol and water around micro fuel cells that might one day replace batteries in portable electronic devices, he says. "It gets past the hurdle of having to assemble many pump components on such a small scale - a real challenge in the development of mmicro fuel cells."

    Raghu also suggests that the micro-pump would be ideal for pumping coolant fluids over electronic chips, which would be more efficient than using air fans for cooling. The lack of moving parts means that the micro-pump would also be reliable and cheap to make, he adds.

    Monday, August 08, 2005

    Quantum Information Can be Negative

    In a development that would probably even puzzle Claude Shannon, information can be negative -- at least when the information is quantum. The discovery, by Horodecki, Oppenheim, and Winter, appears in the current edition of the leading journal Nature. If I tell you negative information, you'll know less. Apparently, researchers hope to use this to gain deeper insights into phenomena such as quantum teleportation and computation, as well as the very structure of the quantum world. More details can be found here and here A popular account of the article can be found on Oppenheim's homepage, and a free version of the article can be found in the arxiv for those of us without subscriptions to Nature.

    Growth factors could maintain memory with aging

    Diminished production linked to fewer neurons in the hippocampus of older brains


    Do We Really Need Space Weapons?

    The U.S. military is developing technology to disable, jam, and even destroy enemy satellites. But are space weapons necessary? No, says Michael Krepon, director of the Stimson Center's Space Security Project. He argues that developing space weapons is a surefire way to launch a new space weapon race.

    Robot Catches High Speed Objects

    Engineers at the University of Tokyo in Japan have created a robot that can catch a ball moving faster than 186 miles per hour (300 kph) - more than 270 feet per second. It uses an array of photodetectors to directly control the three finger actuators - which can rotate 180 degrees in 0.1 seconds. It's only catching softballs at the moment, but operators are optimistic for it to soon catch other objects and grasp moving things. A video with odd sci-fi TV-series (coral cache) accents is available."

    Sunday, August 07, 2005

    The Inteli-Tube Pneumatic Transportation System

    Imagine a city uncluttered with paved roads, where vegetation grows between the buildings, cooling and taming the urban environment. Parkways and parking lots become just parks. Imagine animals never having to risk their lives crossing a busy freeway or interstate, the sight of road kill as unexpected as the sight of horse manure is today. Imagine goods being delivered to businesses quickly and efficiently -- even automatically when needed. Imagine never having to deal with traffic, or getting lost, or refueling your vehicle, or wasting time driving when you could be putting the finishing touches on your report that is due. Imagine every home with a tube-port instead of a garage, every apartment building with a tube-shaft instead of an elevator, allowing people to get into a pod in their home and travel to anywhere that is hooked into the tube network. Imagine the entire world networked together with pneumatic tubing.


    Carmack's Throatless Rocket Engine

    John Carmack is working a potentially disruptive technology: A throatless rocket engine. Its made from plain aluminum pipes with few machined fittings. Carmack says: "The great thing about these engines is that it only takes me two nights to machine the parts, so we can test two engines a week if necessary." It scales too: "If this line of tube engine development works out, we can make a 5,000 lbf engine with very little more effort than the test engine." This is what makes disruptive technology development work: Cheap, fast turnaround on on redesign producing technologies that scale. If this works, the NASCAR guys may really start entering space competitions like the X-Cup.

    'Thoughts read' via brain scans

    Scientists say they have been able to monitor people's thoughts via scans of their brains.


    Saturday, August 06, 2005

    NASA Set To Reveal Exploration Architecture Plans

    According to senior NASA sources, the space agency will begin briefing the major conclusions of the combined 60-day exploration architecture studies the week of August 15th.


    Europe's Next Industrial Revolution

    The world may be on the brink of another industrial revolution -- and Europe is leading the way. A combination of network communications and hydrogen power may usher in a whole new era of civilization.


    Engineering Tiny Machines

    As we've said before, ask 100 people to define nanotechnology and you'll get 11 different answers: 90 people will say "I don't know anything about it", and the other ten will give you varying definitions.

    At CRN, we have been using this definition: Nanotechnology is the projected ability to make things from the bottom up, using techniques and tools that are being developed today to place every atom and molecule in a desired place.


    Researchers Create Radio Controlled Humans

    Say goodbye to remote-controlled cars, say hello to remote-controlled people. (disclosure: I work there) sent a lucky reporter (further disclosure: I am jealous it was not me) to the SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference in Los Angeles, where NTT researchers debuted a device designed to exploit the effects of Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation. As the story explains, when a weak electrical pulse is delivered to the mastoid behind your ear, your body responds by shifting your balance towards it. If the current is strong enough, it not only throws you off balance, but alters the course of your movement. Reading about it really doesn't do it justice -- you have to check out the crazy video of a remotely controlled woman. (Realvideo)

    Friday, August 05, 2005

    Best-Kept Secrets:Quantum cryptography has marched from theory to laboratory to real products

    At the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Laboratory, Charles Bennett is known as a brilliant theoretician--one of the fathers of the emerging field of quantum computing. Like many theorists, he has not logged much experience in the laboratory. His absentmindedness in relation to the physical world once transformed the color of a teapot from green to red when he left it on a double boiler too long. But in 1989 Bennett and colleagues John A. Smolin and Gilles Brassard cast caution aside and undertook a groundbreaking experiment that would demonstrate a new cryptography based on the principles of quantum mechanics.

    The team put together an experiment in which photons moved down a 30-centimeter channel in a light-tight box called "Aunt Martha's coffin." The direction in which the photons oscillated, their polarization, represented the 0s or 1s of a series of quantum bits, or qubits. The qubits constituted a cryptographic "key" that could be used to encrypt or decipher a message. What kept the key from prying eavesdroppers was Heisenberg's uncertainty principle--a foundation of quantum physics that dictates that the measurement of one property in a quantum state will perturb another. In a quantum cryptographic system, any interloper tapping into the stream of photons will alter them in a way that is detectable to the sender and the receiver. In principle, the technique provides the makings of an unbreakable cryptographic key.
    Today quantum cryptography has come a long way from the jury-rigged project assembled on a table in Bennett's office. The National Security Agency or one of the Federal Reserve banks can now buy a quantum-cryptographic system from two small companies--and more products are on the way. This new method of encryption represents the first major commercial implementation for what has become known as quantum information science, which blends quantum mechanics and information theory. The ultimate technology to emerge from the field may be a quantum computer so powerful that the only way to protect against its prodigious code-breaking capability may be to deploy quantum-cryptographic techniques.
    The challenge modern cryptographers face is for sender and receiver to share a key while ensuring that no one has filched a copy. A method called public-key cryptography is often used to distribute the secret keys for encryption and decoding of a full-length message. The security of public-key cryptography depends on factorization or other difficult mathematical problems. It is easy to compute the product of two large numbers but extremely hard to factor it back into the primes. The popular RSA cipher algorithm, widely deployed in public-key cryptography, relies on factorization. The secret key being transferred between sender and receiver is encrypted with a publicly available key, say, a large number such as 408,508,091 (in practice, the number would be much larger). It can be decrypted only with a private key owned by the recipient of the data, made up of two factors, in this case 18,313 and 22,307.
    The difficulty of overcoming a public-key cipher may hold secret keys secure for a decade or more. But the advent of the quantum information era--and, in particular, the capability of quantum computers to rapidly perform monstrously challenging factorizations--may portend the eventual demise of RSA and other cryptographic schemes. "If quantum computers become a reality, the whole game changes," says John Rarity, a professor in the department of electrical and electronics engineering at the University of Bristol in England.

    Unlike public-key cryptography, quantum cryptography should remain secure when quantum computers arrive on the scene. One way of sending a quantum-cryptographic key between sender and receiver requires that a laser transmit single photons that are polarized in one of two modes. In the first, photons are positioned vertically or horizontally (rectilinear mode); in the second, they are oriented 45 degrees to the left or right of vertical (diagonal mode). In either mode, the opposing positions of the photons represent either a digital 0 or a 1. The sender, whom cryptographers by convention call Alice, sends a string of bits, choosing randomly to send photons in either the rectilinear or the diagonal modes. The receiver, known as Bob in crypto-speak, makes a similarly random decision about which mode to measure the incoming bits. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle dictates that he can measure the bits in only one mode, not both. Only the bits that Bob measured in the same mode as sent by Alice are guaranteed to be in the correct orientation, thus retaining the proper value.


    Tiny infrared laser holds promise as weapon against terror

    The difficulty of detecting the presence of explosives and chemical warfare agents (CWAs) is once again all too apparent in the news about the London bombings.
    In a significant breakthrough, researchers at Northwestern University's Center for Quantum Devices have demonstrated a specialized diode laser that holds promise as a weapon of defense in both civilian and military applications. Once optimized, the tiny laser could quickly detect explosives and CWAs early and warn against possible threats.
    Northwestern team, led by center director Manijeh Razeghi, became the first to create a quantum cascade laser (QCL) that can operate continuously at high power and at room temperature with an emission wavelength of 9.5 microns and a light output of greater than 100 milliwatts.

    Existing standard diode lasers, such as those used to read compact discs or barcodes, do not operate effectively in the longer wavelengths that are required to detect CWAs. The challenge for researchers around the world has been to develop a portable laser that operates in the far-infrared (wavelengths of 8 to 12 microns). Every chemical has a unique "fingerprint" because it absorbs light of a specific frequency, and most CWAs fall in the 8 to 12 micron region.

    "Our achievement is critical to building an extremely sensitive chemical detection system," said Razeghi, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "One of the key elements in a successful system is the laser source. Both mid- and far-infrared diode lasers need to operate at room temperature, have high power -- greater than 100 milliwatts -- and be extremely small in order to keep the system portable. We have now demonstrated such a laser in the far-infrared wavelength range."

    This research is part of a three-year program called Laser Photoacoustic Spectroscopy (LPAS) funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The goal of the program is to develop a man-portable system that can warn against a large number of potential threats using mid- and far-infrared diode lasers. Once optimized, such lasers would be a very reliable means of detecting explosives and chemical warfare agents while distinguishing them from benign chemicals present in the atmosphere.

    During the next two years Razeghi and her team will work to put together a detection system based on the center's far-infrared laser. The system will then be evaluated by DARPA for use by the military.

    Northwestern is a world leader in high-power QCL research. The Center for Quantum Devices was the first university research lab in the world to successfully grow, fabricate and test quantum cascade lasers back in 1997. By utilizing quantum mechanical design principles and advanced crystal growth techniques, the QCL is able to demonstrate high-power and high-temperature operation.

    After the initial demonstration of room-temperature pulsed lasers in 1997, the primary efforts of Razeghi and her colleagues over the past several years have been to increase the laser's operating temperature, power output and efficiency in order to achieve the continuous operation necessary for sensitive chemical analysis.

    In 2003 the center was the first to demonstrate high-power mid-wavelength infrared continuous wave QCLs operating above room temperature. (Like the far infrared, standard diode lasers cannot access this mid-infrared range.) At present, individual devices with output powers of several hundred milliwatts have been demonstrated in the 3 to 5 microns wavelength range.

    10th PLANET

    Astronomers have found a new world bigger than Pluto in the outer reaches of the solar system. Some are calling it "the 10th planet." Amateur astronomers can see this new world, temporarily named 2003 UB313, through backyard telescopes--but don't expect much. At a distance of 97 AU from the sun, 2003 UB313 looks like a dim 19th-magnitude speck:

    "After reading about 2003 UB313, I could not resist trying to take an image of it," says Eric J. Allen of
    Champlain, Qu├ębec. He used his 14-inch telescope and a CCD camera to capture the image above on July 31st. The 10th planet is circled in red.


    Don't forget, the Perseid meteor shower peaks on Friday morning, August 12th. No matter where you live, the best time to look will be during the hours before local dawn when the constellation Perseus is high in the sky


    Paving the Way for the Hydrogen Future

    Pressurized hydrogen cylinders take up a lot of volume in a car. They don't leave much room for luggage if you want to drive 300 miles without refueling," says Jeff Long of Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division. "Hopefully that will change, but for now it is difficult to store a lot of hydrogen in a small volume without cooling it or placing it under very high pressure."

    Long heads a group of nine Berkeley Lab scientists who are investigating new classes of materials that can efficiently store hydrogen — a very light and volatile gas — aboard cars under less extreme temperatures and pressures. The team is among the recipients of $64 million in DOE funding aimed at making hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and refueling stations available, practical, and affordable for U.S. consumers by 2020.


    Telomeres don't dictate lifespan, worms show

    Researchers are claiming to have found "conclusive evidence" that the link between longevity and chromosome caps called telomeres is more complicated than thought.

    The shortening of telomeres, which cap the end of all human chromosomes and diminish with cell division, has been linked to aging and physical decline. Preventing this shortening has been seen as one approach to extending healthy lifespan.

    Jan Karlseder, Andrew Dillin and colleagues at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have now shown in Caenorhabditis elegans roundworms, however, that this connection isn't so direct.

    The researchers have shown that the worms can succumb to old age despite having long telomeres and can move youthfully despite having short telomeres.

    "Some long-lived species like humans have telomeres that are much shorter than the telomeres in species like mice, which live only a few years. Nobody yet knows why. But now we have conclusive evidence that telomeres alone do not dictate aging and lifespan," says Karlseder.

    The roundworms are ideal for the study because they spend most of their adult life without having a single dividing cell, yet they still show signs of old age.

    This raises questions such as whether telomeres in non-dividing cells erode slowly over time.

    "Even in very old people, blood cells, which divide continuously, don't have critically short telomeres," says Karlseder. "In humans and, as we know now, in worms, telomere length is certainly not a limiting factor for lifespan."

    The study is reported in the journal PLoS Genetics, and is available online.

    Wednesday, August 03, 2005

    Robo-doc' to treat seriously ill

    BBC News. "An intelligent computer system which can imitate doctors' decisions about treatment for intensive care patients is being developed by scientists. ... Team leader [University of Sheffield] Professor Mahdi Mahfouf said the system's ability to learn, adapt and make informed decisions was unique. Intelligent decisions 'This new system not only monitors and treats critical patients, but it can also learn from the experiences of medical staff, who can override the machine at any time,' he said. If overridden, the system assimilates the doctor's input and uses the new information to make decisions about similar cases in the future."

    A.I. Conference is going on right now.

    World's artificial intelligence experts gather for conference. Edinburgh Evening News. "Edinburgh is playing host to [IJCAI] the world's largest and most prestigious conference on artificial intelligence. Thousands of experts from around the world are convening in the Capital in what is a major coup for Scotland. The distinguished turnout for the event at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre highlights the country's growing reputation in this field of scientific research."

    Victhom Bionic Leg is One Step Closer

    A Red Herring article gives a fairly complete story about the conception, design, and realization of the Victhom Bionic leg prosthesis. We've reported on the Victhom leg before. Victhom Bionics claims their leg, the first active, microprocessor controlled prosthetic leg, will revolutionize prosthetics. Skeptics are not so sure and point out that the C-Leg, a passive microprocessor controlled leg is real and available now. The C-Leg is also much less expensive than the Victhom leg, which is now expected to retail in the $50,000 range rather than $25,000 as earlier articles suggested. For more information on how bionic joints compare to tradition prosthetic joints, there is a article titled A Comparison of Different Prosthetic Knee Joints During Step-over-Step Stair Descent (PDF format).


    "Smart" bio-nanotubes could deliver drugs and genes

    "Smart" bio-nanotubes have been developed that could be used for drug or gene delivery.

    According to a news release from the University of California, Santa Barbara:

    The nanotubes are "smart" because in the future they could be designed to encapsulate and then open up to deliver a drug or gene in a particular location in the body. The scientists found that by manipulating the electrical charges of lipid bilayer membranes and microtubules from cells, they could create open or closed bio-nanotubes, or nanoscale capsules.

    Researchers including materials scientist Cyrus R. Safinya and biochemist Leslie Wilson used microtubules purified from the brain tissue of a cow for their experiments. As the news release describes:

    Microtubules are nanometer-scale hollow cylinders derived from the cell cytoskeleton. In an organism, microtubules and their assembled structures are critical components in a broad range of cell functions—from providing tracks for the transport of cargo to forming the spindle structure in cell division. Their functions include the transport of neurotransmitter precursors in neurons...

    [The researchers use] the example of water beading up or coating a car, depending on whether or not the car has been waxed. Likewise the lipid will either bead up on the surface of the microtubule, or flatten out and coat the whole cylindrical surface of the microtubule, depending on the charge.

    The inner space of the nanotubes in the experiments measures about 16 nanometers in diameter while the whole capsule is about 40 nanometers in diameter.

    Drugs that could be delivered with the nanotubes include Taxol. The researchers are already using Taxol in their experiments to stabilize and lengthen the lipid-protein nanotubes.

    The research is reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. An abstract is available online.

    South Korean Scientists Clone Dog

    According to the BBC and Reuters, South Korean scientists have created the world's first cloned dog, an Afghan hound. The research purpose of the research is ostensibly to produce research animals and not for commercial purposes. Dogs are especially difficult to clone, but the scientists were able to extract DNA from a skin cell, inject it into an egg, and implant the egg into a surrogate mother.

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    Is Microsoft stealing linux code ?

    After having seen the reviews of Windows Vista,
    The thought has occured to me,
    specifically the icon previews in explore are startingly like those in KDE 3.x my suspicions where increased by this article from Microsoft Watch .

    Nanoscale beacons signal disease

    Nanoscale beacons have been created that light up when encountering a common hallmark of cancer, atherosclerosis and other diseases.

    The beacons, created by researchers from Rice University's Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology, are activated by proteases, whose expression is altered in such illnesses.

    "The idea is to develop a 'smart' nanostructure that is dark in its original state but lights up very brightly in the presence of enzymatic activity associated with a particular disease process," says study lead author Jennifer West. "Other groups have used targeted nanostructures including quantum dots for molecular imaging, but they have never been able to adequately solve the problem of clearly distinguishing between the 'cancer is here' signal and the background light which arises from nanostructures not specifically bound to their molecular targets."

    The new beacons use quantum dots, which give off light in the near-infrared spectrum. Gold nanoparticles are tethered to the quantum dots to inhibit their luminescence. The tether holds the nanoparticles close enough to prevent the quantum dots from giving off light. The idea is for the tether to be cleaved to expose light in the presence of disease biomarkers.

    In their test system, the Rice researchers used a peptide tether that is cleaved by the enzyme collagenase. This dimmed the light by 70% until the nanostructures were exposed to collagenase.
    Ultimately, the researchers hope to pair a series of quantum dots to an index of linker proteases.

    The research is reported in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.

    Sohgo Guard-Robo C-4 gets a Fuel Cell

    There's a Japan Today press story on about the latest plans for the Sohgo Guard-Robo C-4 security robot. Previously powered by a lead-acid batteries, the new version of the robot will use a hydrogen fuel cell. We reported on the C-4 back in 2003 when the company made the claim it would be the first fuel cell robot. The security robot currently has no weapons. It responds to intruders by flashing lights at them and shouting "thief!" repeatedly. There are also plans to equip the robot with a paintball gun that marks intruders for later identification by human security personnel. But the robot's maker say it will never use deadly force. "We have no intention of developing dangerous tools that will cause physical harm, even to thieves" Tosaka said. "Robots must not have the capability of attacking human beings." You can pick up a C-4 for 9.4 million yen (about $84,000 US).


    Apple reinvents the mouse

    Hot on the heels of the announcement of x86 Macs, Apple announced a multi-button mouse, known as the Mighty Mouse. It appears that the entire surface is touch-sensitive, allowing the mouse to be programmed as a single-button, multi-button or scrolling device.

    Monday, August 01, 2005

    Hacker forced new planet discovery out of the closet

    10th planet found two years ago

    BOFFINS WHO discovered that there was a 10th planet in our solar system, had been sitting on the news for years until a hacker turned over their servers.

    Michael Brown, a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology, announced the discovery over the weekend. But according to the South African Sunday Telegraph, here, the briefing was hastily arranged after Brown received word that his secure website containing the discovery had been hacked. The unnamed hacker was threatening to release the information.

    It transpired that Brown and his friends had been sitting on the information since 2003 when they snapped it with a 122cm telescope at the Palomar Observatory. However they couldn’t confirm much about it until it was analysed again last January. So in the time honoured tradition of boffins everywhere they decided to keep the data from the common people until they knew a bit more.

    Brown said that data is still being processed and it will take at least six months before astronomers can determine the planet’s exact size. The planet seems to be about 1.5 times the size of Pluto, which is usually dubbed a planetoid because it is so small.

    The find should further stuff up modern astrologers - they still have not got the hang of Uranus

    Old Computer parts for sale

    If you want to know what i have than email me .

    rogers city welfare

    "John Keller"
    CC:"Douglas A. Gilmet" , "Doug McCombs"
    Subject: Re: who is or are you ?
    Good Morning,

    My name is John Keller and I am
    Doug Gilmet's Supervisor. If you
    wish to speak with me you may
    call me either in the Rogers City Office or
    my Alpena Office. I am in Alpena
    today at 989-354-7264 and tomorrow I
    will be in Rogers City at 989-734-5126.

    Lastly it is NOT illegal for a child
    to be home-schooled in the state
    of Michigan. Further any concerns
    about a child and educational
    concerns are not a part of the Michigan
    Child Protection Law and we do not
    investigate these matters. I would
    refer you to the local school district
    in which the children reside should you
    have any other concerns.

    Should you have any other concerns you
    may call me at the above
    referenced numbers.

    John D. Keller, MSW
    Services Supervisor

    Presque Isle Department of Human Services

    Beta 1 Exposed Part 1: First Thoughts, Part 1 of a Series

    There is a disscussion about Windows Vista Beta 1 over at OS Beta Archive.

    Nanofactories, molecular nanotechnology to be debated in UK

    The Institute of Nanotechnology is sponsoring a nanotech debate at the Surface Science Summer School in the UK.


    Cancellation: Exploration Systems Mission Directorate - Innovative Partnerships Program - Technology Transfer Transformation

    The Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) is hereby canceling the Technology Transfer Transformation (TTT) Request for Proposal (RFP)."

    ° Full Story

    Fuel cell progress is slow

    Fuel cells have been used for decades to provide power for astronauts riding aloft in the nation's space capsules. But here on Earth, use of the cells has barely gotten off the ground in cars and power generation.

    Although the technology for fuel cells has existed since the late 1830s, the costs of producing the units and the drawbacks of making the fuel they use — hydrogen — has restricted their acceptance as sources of power for cars, trucks, hospitals, hotels, commercial building and even laptop computers, cell phones and hand-held computers. The Edison Materials Technology Center, a state-backed organization that funds Ohio research for new materials and manufacturing processes, is trying to help remedy that by underwriting research to develop materials to make fuel cells more useful and cheaper, and to make it safer and more practical to produce and store the hydrogen needed as fuel.

    Fuel cells electrochemically combine hydrogen and oxygen without burning, giving off heat and water vapor rather than the noxious fumes of gasoline-burning engines. With no moving parts, fuel cells operate similarly to batteries and can even be used to keep batteries operating longer by providing them with supplemental energy.

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has used fuel cells for on-board power during the Gemini and Apollo missions and on the space shuttles, said Jack Brouwer, associate director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center based at the University of California, Irvine. Brouwer said that military interest in fuel cells, which could be used on unmanned aerial surveillance craft or to power battlefield communications or weapon guidance systems, could help spur development for civilian uses, much as military development of jets benefited civilian aviation.

    "We're making steady progress. But it just hasn't been pushed by this strategic drive or tactical drive," said Brouwer, whose agency promotes fuel cell technology.

    Edison Materials Technology Center officials say they expect to see fuel cells begin appearing more commonly in the next few years to power laptops and cell phones, because they provide quiet and efficient energy.

    EMTEC gets funding from state, federal and private sources and doles out grants typically in the range of $75,000 to $150,000 annually to companies that often work with universities and laboratories. The Kettering-based center has invested about $3.7 million since 1995 as seed money to attract other grants totaling at least $10 million to support fuel cell research that could create products for the market, its officials said.

    A Columbus company, NexTech Materials Inc., has received nearly $1 million in continuing EMTEC research support. A grant announced in April for $674,875 is intended to help a Toledo researcher, Midwest Optoelectronics, work with the University of Toledo and others on a process to make a photovoltaic panel that produces hydrogen from water, using sunlight.

    EMTEC is sponsoring conference in Dayton in August to meet with organizations interested in a new round of grants.

    There is plenty of room for progress. Only in recent years have automakers including Honda, Toyota, General Motors, Ford, Daimler Chrysler, Nissan and BMW rolled out prototype, fuel cell-powered cars that cost as much as $1 million apiece to build. Auto manufacturers are still deciding which fuel cell technology would work best, or how to store hydrogen on board. Internal combustion engines are still far cheaper to produce than fuel cells to power cars, Brouwer said.

    The hydrogen needed for fuel cells is typically produced from gasoline, natural gas, propane or coal, which leaves a waste by-product of carbon dioxide, the "greenhouse gas" that contributes to global warming.

    The Columbus suburb of Westerville, helped by an $800,000 state grant, kicked in an additional $400,000 for a permanent fuel cell plant started up last fall to generate electricity. It was a first for Westerville, which previously purchased all its power on the open market. The fuel cell plant still generates only about 1 percent of the power needed for the city of 37,000 people, but has pleased residents who want Westerville to use alternative energy sources, city spokesman Scott McAfee said.

    The Bush administration has more than doubled fuel cell research funding, from $124 million five years ago to the $269.7 million budgeted for the current fiscal year, Energy Department spokesman Tom Welch said. The intent is to help start new research, rather than investigate technology already known to industry, Welch said.

    Sierra Club spokesman Dan Becker said that his organization would rather see the government promote energy efficiency in the short term by pressuring the auto industry to further develop demonstrated technologies such as hybrid cars or advanced transmissions. Plenty of fossil fuels will be consumed while researchers spend years trying to adapt fuel cells for widespread use, Becker said.

    "Clearly, fuel cells work. You get electricity and drinkable water out the other end. That's great," Becker said. "But the devil is in the details about how you ramp up to produce on a large scale."

    EMTEC officials said they are focusing on technologies for which the basic research has already been done and which could result in products for the market in six years or less, leaving the Department of Energy to underwrite the startup research. EMTEC officials envision fuel cells being used as backup power sources for hospitals or computer data storage operations, to supplement power generating plants and to power accessories like air conditioning, radios or commercial-grade refrigeration in passenger cars or long-haul trucks. That could allow truck operators to shut down diesel-powered rigs rather than leaving them idling for long periods.

    International Truck and Engine Corp., which builds long-haul trucks in Canada and medium-duty trucks in Springfield, is waiting to see whether fuel cells will prove affordable enough for use as on-board power, company spokesman Roy Wiley said.

    "It just hasn't come to fruition yet," Wiley said. "Cutting down the idling time would be a tremendous asset, because that burns a lot of fuel."