David Kirkpatrick

March 28, 2010

Believe it or not, Volvo is now a Chinese company

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:07 pm

Sands of time, twists of the wheel, etc. etc. …

From the link:

China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. bought Volvo cars from Ford Motor Co. on Sunday for $1.8 billion, a landmark agreement designed to elevate the Chinese company’s profile onto the global automotive stage.

Geely’s acquisition of Volvo offers the latest illustration of how China’s economic rise is reshaping large swaths of global business, as its huge market and increasingly powerful companies play a growing role in industries from cars to natural resources to telecommunications equipment. The Volvo deal, which comes after China surpassed the U.S. last year as the biggest auto market, puts a Chinese company for the first time in charge of a major global car brand.

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March 26, 2010

Nanotech and safer nuclear power

A very interesting release:

Safer nuclear reactors could result from Los Alamos research

‘Loading-unloading’ effect of grain boundaries key to repair of irradiated metal

Self-repairing materials within nuclear reactors may one day become a reality as a result of research by Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists.

In a paper appearing today in the journal Science, Los Alamos researchers report a surprising mechanism that allows nanocrystalline materials to heal themselves after suffering radiation-induced damage. Nanocrystalline materials are those created from nanosized particles, in this case copper particles. A single nanosized particle—called a grain—is the size of a virus or even smaller. Nanocrystalline materials consist of a mixture of grains and the interface between those grains, called grain boundaries.

When designing nuclear reactors or the materials that go into them, one of the key challenges is finding materials that can withstand an outrageously extreme environment. In addition to constant bombardment by radiation, reactor materials may be subjected to extremes in temperature, physical stress, and corrosive conditions. Exposure to high radiation alone produces significant damage at the nanoscale.

Radiation can cause individual atoms or groups of atoms to be jarred out of place. Each vagrant atom becomes known as an interstitial. The empty space left behind by the displaced atom is known as a vacancy. Consequently, every interstitial created also creates one vacancy. As these defects—the interstitials and vacancies—build up over time in a material, effects such as swelling, hardening or embrittlement can manifest in the material and lead to catastrophic failure.

Therefore, designing materials that can withstand radiation-induced damage is very important for improving the reliability, safety and lifespan of nuclear energy systems.

Because nanocrystalline materials contain a large fraction of grain boundaries—which are thought to act as sinks that absorb and remove defects—scientists have expected that these materials should be more radiation tolerant than their larger-grain counterparts. Nevertheless, the ability to predict the performance of nanocrystalline materials in extreme environments has been severely lacking because specific details of what occurs within solids are very complex and difficult to visualize.

Recent computer simulations by the Los Alamos researchers help explain some of those details.

In the Science paper, the researchers describe the never-before-observed phenomenon of a “loading-unloading” effect at grain boundaries in nanocrystalline materials. This loading-unloading effect allows for effective self-healing of radiation-induced defects. Using three different computer simulation methods, the researchers looked at the interaction between defects and grain boundaries on time scales ranging from picoseconds to microseconds (one-trillionth of a second to one-millionth of a second).

On the shorter timescales, radiation-damaged materials underwent a “loading” process at the grain boundaries, in which interstitial atoms became trapped—or loaded—into the grain boundary. Under these conditions, the subsequent number of accumulated vacancies in the bulk material occurred in amounts much greater than would have occurred in bulk materials in which a boundary didn’t exist. After trapping interstitials, the grain boundary later “unloaded” interstitials back into vacancies near the grain boundary. In so doing, the process annihilates both types of defects—healing the material.

This unloading process was totally unexpected because grain boundaries traditionally have been regarded as places that accumulate interstitials, but not as places that release them. Although researchers found that some energy is required for this newly-discovered recombination method to operate, the amount of energy was much lower than the energies required to operate conventional mechanisms—providing an explanation and mechanism for enhanced self-healing of radiation-induced damage.

Modeling of the “loading-unloading” role of grain boundaries helps explain previously observed counterintuitive behavior of irradiated nanocrystalline materials compared to their larger-grained counterparts. The insight provided by this work provides new avenues for further examination of the role of grain boundaries and engineered material interfaces in self-healing of radiation-induced defects. Such efforts could eventually assist or accelerate the design of highly radiation-tolerant materials for the next generation of nuclear energy applications.

###

The Los Alamos National Laboratory research team includes: Xian-Ming Bai, Richard G. Hoagland and Blas P. Uberuaga of the Materials Science and Technology Division; Arthur F. Voter, of the Theoretical Division; and Michael Nastasi of the Materials Physics and Applications Division.

The work was primarily sponsored by the Los Alamos Laboratory-Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program, which, at the discretion of the Laboratory Director, invests a small percentage of the Laboratory’s budget in high-risk, potentially high-payoff projects to help position the Laboratory to anticipate and prepare for emerging national security challenges. The research also received specific funding through the Center for Materials under Irradiation and Mechanical Extremes, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

About Los Alamos National Laboratory (www.lanl.gov)

Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a team composed of Bechtel National, the University of California, The Babcock & Wilcox Company, and URS for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.

Is psychology bunk …

… as a scientific discipline? Couldn’t say, but studies like this don’t help the argument.

The release:

Is it really bipolar disorder?

New study finds widely used screening scale misidentifies borderline personality disorder as bipolar disorder

PROVIDENCE, RI – A study from Rhode Island Hospital has shown that a widely-used screening tool for bipolar disorder may incorrectly indicate borderline personality disorder rather than bipolar disorder. In the article that appears online ahead of print in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the researchers question the effectiveness of the Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ).

The MDQ is the most widely-used and studied screening tool for bipolar disorder. It is a brief questionnaire that assesses whether a patient displays some of the characteristic behaviors of bipolar disorder. It can be administered by clinicians or taken by patients on their own to determine if they screen positively for bipolar disorder. For the purposes of this study, the MDQ was scored by researchers.

Bipolar and borderline personality disorders share some clinical features, including fluctuations in mood and impulsive actions. The treatments, however, will vary depending on the individual and the diagnosis. Principal investigator Mark Zimmerman, MD, director of outpatient psychiatry at Rhode Island Hospital, conducted a study to test the accuracy of the MDQ.

The research team interviewed nearly 500 patients using the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV) and the Structured Interview for DSM-IV for personality disorders. The patients were also asked to complete the MDQ. The research team then scored the questionnaires and found that patients with a positive indication for bipolar disorder using the MDQ were as likely to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder as bipolar disorder when using the structured clinical interview. Further, their findings indicate that borderline personality disorder was four times more frequently diagnosed in the group who screened positive on the MDQ.

Zimmerman says that these findings raise caution for using the MDQ in clinical practice because of how differently the disorders are treated. “An incorrect diagnosis of bipolar disorder will usually lead to a treatment involving medications. If a patient truly has bipolar disorder, that treatment may work. However, at this time there are no approved medications to treat borderline personality disorder.

“Without an accurate diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, we may have many people in treatment who are taking medications that will not work to alleviate the characteristics of the condition from which they really suffer.” Zimmerman, who is also an associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, continues, “In addition, patients with unrecognized borderline personality disorder will not be treated with one of the effective psychotherapies for this condition. It is therefore vital that we develop or identify a more accurate method to distinguish between these two conditions, and adopt it into clinical practice.”

###

About Rhode Island Hospital:

Founded in 1863, Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, RI, is a private, not-for-profit hospital and is the largest teaching hospital of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. A major trauma center for southeastern New England, the hospital is dedicated to being on the cutting edge of medicine and research. Rhode Island Hospital receives nearly $50 million each year in external research funding. For more information on Rhode Island Hospital, visit www.rhodeislandhospital.org.

March 25, 2010

How’s the weather in DC?

Jon Chait nails it.

From the link:

The psychology of victory and defeat is a remarkable thing. A week ago, the Democrats were perceived to have an enormous political problem. Their agenda was stalled in Congress. There was a mass groundswell of public anger they had to contend with.

Suddenly those problems have been flipped on their head. Now Democrats don’t have a problem because they can’t pass anything, Republicans have a problem because they’re obstructing everything. Whereas right-wing grassroots activism represented a public backlash against the Democrats, it’s now seen as an extremist element that discredits the GOP. Political reporters are starting to construct a seamless narrative connecting the over-the-top rhetoric from GOP and conservative leaders, the unusual acts of obstructionism and legislative retribution (like canceling unrelated hearings as revenge for health care reform), and sporadic vandalism and threats of violence. For example, see Dana Milbank’s column today.

Congress working on small business and construction aid

With health care over and done Congress is already looking to boost an ailing Main Street.

From the link:

The House approved 246-178 a bill designed to boost investment in small businesses, which have been reluctant to take on new workers as the economy recovers from the worst recession in 70 years.

The bill would also expand subsidies for state and local construction bonds in an effort to bring down the 9.7 percent unemployment rate ahead of the November congressional elections.

Democrats noted that the popular Build America bond-subsidy program has funded $78 billion in state and local construction projects.

“It’s been an effective tool in job creation,” said the bill’s author, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin.

Corporate belt tightening led to cash reserves

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:38 pm

Of course all this liquidity was wrung out of Main Street and the lifeblood of the economy — the workforce.

From the link:

The brutal recession has left many American families, small businesses and state and local governments in financial ruin or teetering on the brink.

But it’s a much different story for the nation’s biggest companies. Many have emerged from the economy’s harrowing downturn loaded with cash, thanks to deep cost-cutting that helped drive unemployment into double digits.

And although the banking crisis starved countless entrepreneurs for money last year, credit was never scarce for business titans.

IRS “open house” for tax help this Saturday

News straight from the source:

More than 180 Local IRS Offices Open this Saturday to Help Taxpayers

IR-2010-36, March 24, 2010

WASHINGTON — The IRS announced today that Internal Revenue Service offices will be open, nationwide, on Saturday, March 27 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., local time to help taxpayers. The location of participating offices is listed on IRS.gov.

“We are holding these special open houses to give taxpayers who are struggling in these difficult economic times more opportunity to work directly with IRS employees to resolve their tax issues,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.  “We will host more than 180 open houses this Saturday.”

During the expanded open-house hours on Saturday, taxpayers will be able to address economic hardship issues, make payment arrangements or get help claiming any of the special tax breaks in last year’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including the:

  • Homebuyer tax credit – a refundable credit equal to 10 percent of the purchase price up to a maximum of $8,000 ($4,000 if married filing separately). A first-time homebuyer is an individual who, with his or her spouse if married, has not owned any other principal residence for three years prior to the date of purchase of the new principal residence for which the credit is being claimed.
  • American Opportunity Credit — a federal education credit to offset part of the cost of college under the new American Opportunity Credit. This credit modifies the existing Hope credit for tax years 2009 and 2010, making it available to a broader range of taxpayers. Income guidelines are expanded and required course materials are added to the list of qualified expenses. Many of those eligible will qualify for the maximum annual credit of $2,500 per student.
  • Making Work Pay credit — In 2009 and 2010, the Making Work Pay provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will provide a refundable tax credit of up to $400 for working individuals and up to $800 for married taxpayers filing joint returns.
  • Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit – there is now a new tax classification for EITC recipients who have three or more children and a higher credit amount – up to $5,657

In addition to IRS help, community organizations partner with the IRS. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs assist people who earned $49,000 or less and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs assist individuals 60 and over with their 2009 income tax return preparation and electronic filing.   Many of these sites have Saturday hours while others offer assistance at various times during the week.  To locate the partner sites in this area call 1-800-906-9887.

In addition to the open houses this Saturday, the IRS will open many of its offices on three additional Saturdays in the spring and early summer.

March 24, 2010

White House foreclosure plan under watchdog fire

And seems to be for very good reason — the program just didn’t even come close to delivering on alleviating Main Street pain, and to make matters worse for homeowners in need of relief the Treasury Department still claims offering to help with a troubled mortgage counts as a success. Yes, the government is trying to say starting the process is just the same as actually following through and helping someone stay in their home. What a mess.

From the link:

The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said the Treasury Department set targets that weren’t “meaningful,” mismanaged the implementation of the program, and now risks a substantial number of “re-defaults,” with many participants ultimately losing their homes anyway.

The administration’s $75 billion loan modification program may help as little as 1.5 to 2 million people, about half the number Obama said it would when he first unveiled the program in February 2009, the inspector general, Neil Barofsky, wrote in a report.

Recently, Treasury Department officials have come under fire for saying the initial goal applied only to offering trial modifications, as opposed to permanent help.

“Continuing to frame HAMP’s success around the number of “offers” extended is simply not sufficient,” Barofsky wrote, referring to the Home Affordable Modification Program.

Google and China …

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:11 pm

… a good move? Looks like at least some analysts think it’ll help Google’s image.

From the link:

People using Google.cn are now redirected to Google.com.hk, where they are given uncensored search results in simplified Chinese. Google is running Google.com.hk off of servers located in Hong Kong.

“Google made a smart move,” said Augie Ray, an analyst at Forrester. “Rather than unilaterally pulling out, they took an action that puts the ball back into China’s court.”

“While Google feels redirecting Chinese users to their Hong Kong site and search results is ‘entirely legal’, it seems unlikely the Chinese government will see this as anything other than an attempt to bypass their laws and direction. Given the impasse that Google and China came to on the issue of censorship, this move by Google seems a little less brave than inevitable,” Ray said.

Google had taken its lumps for agreeing earlier to follow Chinese law and censor search results in China . That wasn’t a popular move with critics in the West.

Monday’s move, however, may go a long way to cleaning some of that tarnish off its image. “Google is generating a great deal of press for taking on an issue that many in the U.S. care deeply about,” Ray said.

GE getting into thin-film solar field

This can only mean advances in production and manufacturing coupled with a likely cost reduction. A win for the field since GE is going to bring to bear its corporate might on process improvements.

From the link:

GE has confirmed long-standing speculation that it plans to make thin-film solar panels that use a cadmium- and tellurium-based semiconductor to capture light and convert it into electricity. The GE move could put pressure on the only major cadmium-telluride solar-panel maker, Tempe, AZ-based First Solar, which could drive down prices for solar panels.

Last year, GE seemed to be getting out of the solar industry as it sold off crystalline-silicon solar-panel factories it had acquired in 2004. The company found that the market for such solar panels–which account for most of the solar panels sold worldwide–was too competitive for a relative newcomer, says Danielle Merfeld, GE’s solar technology platform leader.

March 23, 2010

Big Bucks Burnett and the Wall Street Journal

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:40 pm

I actually caught the original gallery show at Barry Whistler last fall and it was pretty cool. Of course I have a decent eight-track collection including Kiss, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Wild Cherry (of “Play that funky music white boy” fame) and more. Sadly, I do not own a working eight track player right now.

Congrats, Bucks, on the latest show/temporary museum, the WSJ feature and best of luck with the permanent eight track museum.

From the link:

Last fall, more than 200 people crammed into one of this city’s premier contemporary art galleries for a three-day show. The white walls, accustomed to paintings that sell for thousands of dollars, were home to less rarified fare.

The show? Eight Track Tapes: The Bucks Burnett Collection. “It was packed,” says gallery owner Barry Whistler.

Presiding over the affair was James “Bucks” Burnett, a portly fellow with long gray hair and a white beard. He wore a tailored brown suit covered with images from the album cover of Led Zeppelin’s 1973 Houses of the Holy. Strangers showed up offering boxes of eight tracks, which Mr. Burnett happily pawed through, plucking out dusty rarities and putting them on display.

The positive response “led me to think maybe I’m not insane,” says Mr. Burnett. But it also helped him realize that a brief gallery show simply can’t contain his vision for the hard plastic tapes, one of the clunkiest and most short-lived music formats of all time.

He wants to open an eight-track museum. “There are only two choices. A world with an eight-track museum and a world without an eight-track museum,” he says. “I choose with.”

The NFL changed its playoff overtime rule

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:13 pm

I’m honestly shocked, particularly that the vote was so one-sided — 28-4.

From the link:

The NFL owners voted to change an element in the overtime rule, giving the team that loses the coin toss at the start of overtime to get a possession if the coin-toss winning team scores a field goal with the first possession.

The proposal passed 28-4. As it is written, the rules change applies just for the postseason, but the owners also decided to discuss adopting the changes for the regular season at their next meeting, in May in Dallas.

The Buffalo BillsMinnesota VikingsBaltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals voted against the proposal.

The competition committee recommended the change in a vote of 6-2, and commissioner Roger Goodell supported the plan. He was able to secure enough votes to get the proposal passed on Tuesday, a day before the expected Wednesday vote.

The reason for the change was the increased accuracy of kickers since 1993. In 1994, the NFL moved kickoffs from the 35 to the 30, which created better field position for the teams that won the coin toss and received the kickoffs.

Statistics examined by the committee showed that since 1994, teams winning the coin toss win the game 59.8 percent of the time. The team that loses the toss wins the game 38.5 percent in that 15-year span.

March 21, 2010

Health care reform is going to pass

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:35 pm

Love it, hate it or maybe just sick of hearing about it, this bill will pass today. Obama essentially staked his entire presidency on health care reform this past week, so there’s no shock this thing is going to become a law. Next stop Obama’s desk, and then on to SCOTUS?

Should have taken that $100 bet at Thanksgiving …

March 20, 2010

If you love King Crimson …

Filed under: Arts, Media — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:04 pm

… you should check out Giles, Giles & Fripp.

March 19, 2010

iPads and battery life

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:01 pm

A bit of a problem for the soon-to-be-released tech device.

From the link:

Apple’s iPad $99 battery replacement service is a bit of a misnomer; Apple will replace the entire iPad, not the battery.

Already, the iPad battery has come under fire. The iPad’s 10-inch LCD display requires a battery that’s more than five times the capacity and size of the iPhone 3GS battery. The screen alone consumes roughly 2 watts per hour, Vronko says, and will drain the large battery in 12 hours by itself.

Apple, which claims the iPad has a 10-hour battery life, doesn’t want the iPad to face the kind of vitriolic complaints regarding battery life that the iPhone has endured since its debut.

If your browser is Microsoft’s Internet Explorer …

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:10 am

don’t hit the F1 key.

Just one more reason to go with Google Chrome.

From the first link:

Microsoft Releases Security Advisory to Address VBScript Vulnerability

added March 2, 2010 at 08:36 am
Microsoft has released a security advisory to address a vulnerability in VBScript. The advisory indicates that this vulnerability exists in the way that VBScript interacts with Windows Help files when using Internet Explorer. By convincing a user to view a specially crafted HTML document (web page, HTML email, or email attachment) with Internet Explorer and to press the F1 key, an attacker could run arbitrary code with the privileges of the user running the application.

US-CERT encourages users and administrators to do the following to help mitigate the risks:

  • Review Microsoft Security Advisory 981169.
  • Review the Microsoft Security Research & Defense blog entry regarding this issue.
  • Review US-CERT Vulnerability Note VU#612021.
  • Refrain from pressing the F1 key when prompted by a website.
  • Restrict access to the Windows Help System.

US-CERT will provide additional information as it becomes available.

DVD recommendation — “Red Cliff”

Filed under: Arts, Media — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:04 am

I’m going to go way out on a limb here and recommend John Woo’s “Red Cliff” before I’ve even finished watching the film. It’s a two-parter that clocks in somewhere in the ballpark of five hours, so I’ve only finished part one. That much is enough to highly suggest you check this out. The tale is epic in every sense of the word — the battle scene action is excellent, the storyline is great and the movie itself is gorgeous. If you don’t see an update to this post sometime tomorrow night it means part two was not a let down. I don’t expect it to be.

More news on laser-heated nanoparticles and cancer

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:53 am

There’s been a lot of blog-worthy news on cancer research and nanotech lately, particularly on heating nanoparticles with low-intensity lasers to zap cancer cells. I first blogged on this tech a couple of years ago, but lately a number of institutions have released different research results on the process so I’m guessing it is really getting somewhere. This amount of news release activity makes me wonder if this is getting close to actually treating people. This latest release — the third this month — is from the University of Florida. This particular laser-excited nanoparticle tech does go beyond medical usage

The release:

Engineers: Weak laser can ignite nanoparticles, with exciting possibilities

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida engineering researchers have found they can ignite certain nanoparticles using a low-power laser, a development they say opens the door to a wave of new technologies in health care, computing and automotive design.

A paper about the research appears in this week’s advance online edition of Nature Nanotechnology.

Vijay Krishna, Nathanael Stevens, Ben Koopman and Brij Moudgil say they used lasers not much more intense than those found in laser pointers to light up, heat or ignite manufactured carbon molecules, known as fullerenes, whose soccer-ball-like shapes had been distorted in certain ways. They said the discovery suggests a score of important new applications for these so-called “functionalized fullerenes” molecules already being developed for a broad range of industries and commercial and medical products.

“The beauty of this is that it only requires a very low intensity laser,” said Moudgil, professor of materials science and engineering and director of the engineering college’s Particle Engineering Research Center, where the research was conducted.

The researchers used lasers with power in the range of 500 milliwatts. Though weak by laser standards, the researchers believe the lasers have enough energy to initiate the uncoiling or unraveling of the modified or functionalized fullerenes. That process, they believe, rapidly releases the energy stored when the molecules are formed into their unusual shapes, causing light, heat or burning under different conditions.

The Nature Nanotechnology paper says the researchers tested the technique in three possible applications.

In the first, they infused cancer cells in a laboratory with a variety of functionalized fullerenes known to be biologically safe called polyhydroxy fullerenes. They then used the laser to heat the fullerenes, destroying the cancer cells from within.

“It caused stress in the cells, and then after 10 seconds we just see the cells pop,” said Krishna, a postdoctoral associate in the Particle Engineering Research Center.

He said the finding suggests doctors could dose patients with the polyhdroxy fullerenes, identify the location of cancers, then treat them using low-power lasers, leaving other tissues unharmed. Another application would be to image the locations of tumors or other areas of interest in the body using the fullerenes’ capability to light up.

The paper also reports the researchers used fullerenes to ignite a small explosive charge. The weak laser contained far less energy than standard electrical explosive initiators, the researchers said, yet still ignited a type of functionalized fullerenes called carboxy fullerenes. That event in turn ignited comparatively powerful explosives used in traditional blasting caps.

Mining, tunneling or demolition crews currently run electrical lines to explosives, a time-consuming and expensive process for distant explosives. The experiment suggests crews could use blasting caps armed with the fullerenes and simply point a laser to set them off.

“Traditional bursting caps require a lot of energy to ignite — they use a hot tungsten filament,” said Nathanael Stevens, a postdoctoral associate in the Particle Engineering Research Center. “So, it is interesting that we can do it with just a low-powered laser.”

The researchers coated paper with polyhyroxy fullerenes, then used an ultrahigh resolution laser to write a miniature version of the letters “UF.” The demonstration suggests the technique could be used for many applications that require extremely minute, precise, lithography. Moudgil said the researchers had developed one promising application involving creating the intricate patterns on computer chips.

Although not discussed in the paper, other potential applications include infusing the fullerenes in gasoline, then igniting them with lasers rather than traditional sparkplugs in car engines, Moudgil said. Because the process is likely to burn more of the gasoline entering the cylinders, it could make cars more efficient and less polluting.

The researchers have identified more than a dozen potential applications and applied for several patents. This week’s Nature Nanotechnology paper is the first scientific publication on the discovery and the new technique.

-30-

March 18, 2010

3D invisibility cloak

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:59 pm

It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to blog about invisibility cloak tech (seven months on the dot, to be exact), but here’s the latest from Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

From the second link:

Researchers at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology report they were able to cloak a tiny bump in a layer of gold, preventing its detection at nearly visible infrared frequencies.

Their cloaking device also worked in three dimensions, while previously developed cloaks worked in two dimensions, lead researcher Tolga Ergin said.

The cloak is a structure of crystals with air spaces in between, sort of like a woodpile, that bends light, hiding the bump in the gold later beneath, the researchers reported in Thursday’s online edition of the journal Science.

In this case, the bump was tiny, a mere 0.00004 inch high and 0.0005 inch across (100 microns x 30 microns), so that a magnifying lens was needed to see it.

“In principle, the cloak design is completely scalable; there is no limit to it,” Ergin said. But, he added, developing a cloak to hide something takes a long time, “so cloaking larger items with that technology is not really feasible.”

“Other fabrication techniques, though, might lead to larger cloaks,” he added in an interview via e-mail.

Nano RFID

Sounds like this would make a trip to the grocery store a snap. These tags are based on a carbon-nanotube-infused ink for ink-jet printers.

Rice researchers, in collaboration with a team led by Gyou-jin Cho at Sunchon National University in Korea, have come up with an inexpensive, printable transmitter that can be invisibly embedded in packaging. It would allow a customer to walk a cart full of groceries or other goods past a scanner on the way to the car; the scanner would read all items in the cart at once, total them up and charge the customer’s account while adjusting the store’s inventory.

More advanced versions could collect all the information about the contents of a store in an instant, letting a retailer know where every package is at any time.

RFID tags printed through a new roll-to-roll process could replace bar codes and make checking out of a store a snap. Credit: Gyou-Jin Cho/Sunchon National University

Lumosity.com …

… is becoming one of my favorite spots for brain-feeding online games.

This is from the site’s “about” page:

Lumos Labs

Lumos Labs is a cognitive neuroscience research and development company that builds software tools for improving brain health and performance. Lumosity is the first general brain fitness program from Lumos Labs. We specialize in creating innovative applications of the latest developments in brain science in order to help people lead better lives. Since its formation in the spring of 2005, Lumos Labs has been consistently focused on researching and developing the most effective cognitive training applications.

Payroll services company sees small business bounce

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:50 pm

And that is a very good thing for the economy.

States looking for their cut of e-tailing

Filed under: Business, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:20 pm

It’s a terrible idea for a lot of reasons, but this bit from the link pretty much sums up why individual states forcing out-of-state e-tailers to cough up taxes just is not feasible:

Mary Osako, a spokeswoman for Amazon.com Inc., the largest online retailer by revenue, said state-by-state laws are creating a “very complex sales tax regime,” and that the company would only support a “simplified system, fairly applied to all business models.” Amazon is in favor a national streamlined sale-tax effort that would mandate sales tax collection by out-of-state retailers in 23 states that have voluntarily signed on to the program. “We aren’t opposed to collecting sales tax within a constitutionally permissible system applied even-handedly,” Ms. Osako said.

A 1992 Supreme Court ruling prohibits states from forcing retailers without a physical presence in the state to collect sales tax on their behalf. Many states technically require local residents to pay so-called use tax on such purchases, but most taxpayers ignore those rules.

Hookers and social media

This blog hasn’t been shying away from the controversial the last couple of days, so why not a bit on prostitution and web 2.0

From the link:

“Over the past decade, the Internet has become an increasingly important vehicle for sharing information about prostitution,” say Luis Rocha at Umea University in Sweden and a couple of buddies. That makes it possible to study the network of links between buyers and sellers at a level of detail that has never been possible before. Today, Rocha and co reveal the results one such study of prostitute-related activity in Brazil.

The community they look at is a public online forum with free registration, financed by advertisements, in which men grade and categorise their sexual encounters with female escorts. The community appears large with over 10,000 buyers and more than 6000 sellers all of whom use anonymous nicknames. The study covers a period of 6 years from when the community was set up in 2002 until 2008.

The Catholic church is an international criminal organization

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:37 pm

It’s now been fully exposed as a criminal organization that systemically damages children everywhere it operates and uses its power, influence and secrecy to protect its leadership beyond any other ideal. Take children out of that equation and I’ve just provided a blanket description of every other international organized crime cabal. It’s high time for the international court system to dig into, and dig into hard, the Vatican, and criminally charge and punish the pedophiles — and their protectors in the church, including the Pope — to the fullest extent of the law.

This statement from Monsignor Maurice Dooley in Ireland could be “exhibit A” for the prosecution on why to pursue this matter criminally. Catholic omerta, the pedophilic priest’s best friend (emphasis mine in the blockquote):

Mgr Dooley was asked what action he would take if a paedophile priest approached him now to confide his crimes.

I would not tell anyone,” he said. “That is his responsibility. I am considering only my responsibility. My responsibility is to maintain the confidentiality of information which I had been given under the contract of confidentiality.

“There must be somebody else aware of what he is up to, and he could be stopped. It is not my function.

“I would tell (the priest) to stop abusing children,” he added.

“But I am not going to go to the police or social services in order to betray the trust he has put in me,” said Mgr Dooley who was speaking on BBC Radio Ulster.

(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)

SculptCAD Rapid Artist — Heather Gorham

This post is the second in an ongoing series highlighting the artists behind the SculptCAD Rapid Artists Project. (Hit this link for all posts related to the project.)

Heather Gorham is a Dallas-based artist represented by the Craighead Green Gallery and shows her work across the United States. Unlike many of the project participants, Heather has previous experience with the haptics device and 3D technologies although this is her first use of those technologies in artwork.

How did you get involved with the RAPID Artists project?

I’ve known Nancy Hairston (project founder) and worked with Sculptcad for several years now. When she first had the idea for fine artists to create work using digital sculpting and asked me if I’d like to participate, I jumped at the chance.

Is this your first experience with 3D/digital sculpting technology and tools?

I have been working with 3D digital sculpting for several years now with Sculptcad, working on all sorts of different projects. This is my first real experience with creating my own vision using digital technology.

How have these technologies changed the way you approach your process?

Surprisingly, not so much. Despite the high tech nature I’m approaching this work much like I would in a more traditional medium. For me, it has become another tool in my toolbox. Albeit, a really, really cool one.

Are these digital tools having an effect on the work you are creating? Are the tools aiding/adding to/hindering the process?

So far, working digitally has mostly positive qualities. I think the only frustrating thing is the inability to actually touch, with your own hands, what you are creating. Feeling for imperfections or the perfect curve, getting that tactile feedback from your work.

The positives are the ability to try out different ideas and possibilities with a piece without having to permanently commit. You can test drive so many different ways to solve a problem and see all of your possible outcomes first.

What are your thoughts on the SculptCAD Rapid Artists Project?

I love the SRCA project, after working on projects other than my own, getting to create my own work digitally has been a real pleasure. I can feel that my own relationship to this process has grown and become more personal through working on my own art.  I’ve really embraced it.

Also, seeing other artists being introduced to this whole process and their excitement about it and what they can create. Their excitement has been contagious.

Looking beyond the project, what do you have coming up in the near future art-wise? Do you have any shows or projects planned?

I’m working on a large scale installation piece with about 150 rats, should be fun.

I always have work at the Craighead Green Gallery (in Dallas) with a big group show coming up on March 27th.

How can people interested in your work get in touch with you?

You can see more work or contact me at HeatherGorham.com.

Do you have any final thoughts on the Rapid Artists Project?

Can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with.

Here is Heather’s prelimary sketch for the project piece:

Technical Specs My piece will be created combining stainless steel and bronze alloy for the body of the hare with the possibility of using a separate material, resin for the exposed internal bone structure. The size is approximately 25” x 15” x 12”.

Statement I wanted to use animal imagery for my sculpture, for me it was a way to insure the relatability of my work while using the digital process. I chose the hare because of the old world, romantic idea of beauty and nature it represents, juxtaposed with this new world, digital way of creation. I’m challenged by the innate sense of conflict this presents. The rabbit’s coat is intertwined and layered with sculptural shapes and text creating an extra layer of narrative within the animal’s fur. I’ve created negative cutouts around the body allowing the viewer to see some of the animal’s internal workings. This study of contrasts, old vs. new, metal to fur, nature and technology, exterior and interior are some of the paradoxes most enticing to me in creating this work.

Head below the fold for images of Heather’s digital work in process: (more…)

Graphene may be key to storing hydrogen

Needless to say this will have a major impact on using hydrogen as a power source in fuel cells or other applications.

The release:

Layered graphene sheets could solve hydrogen storage issues

IMAGE: A graphene-oxide framework (GOF) is formed of layers of graphene connected by boron-carboxylic “pillars.” GOFs such as this one are just beginning to be explored as a potential storage medium…

Click here for more information.

Graphene—carbon formed into sheets a single atom thick—now appears to be a promising base material for capturing hydrogen, according to recent research* at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Pennsylvania. The findings suggest stacks of graphene layers could potentially store hydrogen safely for use in fuel cells and other applications.

Graphene has become something of a celebrity material in recent years due to its conductive, thermal and optical properties, which could make it useful in a range of sensors and semiconductor devices. The material does not store hydrogen well in its original form, according to a team of scientists studying it at the NIST Center for Neutron Research. But if oxidized graphene sheets are stacked atop one another like the decks of a multilevel parking lot, connected by molecules that both link the layers to one another and maintain space between them, the resulting graphene-oxide framework (GOF) can accumulate hydrogen in greater quantities.

Inspired to create GOFs by the metal-organic frameworks that are also under scrutiny for hydrogen storage, the team is just beginning to uncover the new structures’ properties. “No one else has ever made GOFs, to the best of our knowledge,” says NIST theorist Taner Yildirim. “What we have found so far, though, indicates GOFs can hold at least a hundred times more hydrogen molecules than ordinary graphene oxide does. The easy synthesis, low cost and non-toxicity of graphene make this material a promising candidate for gas storage applications.”

The GOFs can retain 1 percent of their weight in hydrogen at a temperature of 77 degrees Kelvin and ordinary atmospheric pressure—roughly comparable to the 1.2 percent that some well-studied metal-organic frameworks can hold, Yildirim says.

Another of the team’s potentially useful discoveries is the unusual relationship that GOFs exhibit between temperature and hydrogen absorption. In most storage materials, the lower the temperature, the more hydrogen uptake normally occurs. However, the team discovered that GOFs behave quite differently. Although a GOF can absorb hydrogen, it does not take in significant amounts at below 50 Kelvin (-223 degrees Celsius). Moreover, it does not release any hydrogen below this “blocking temperature”—suggesting that, with further research, GOFs might be used both to store hydrogen and to release it when it is needed, a fundamental requirement in fuel cell applications.

Some of the GOFs’ capabilities are due to the linking molecules themselves. The molecules the team used are all benzene-boronic acids that interact strongly with hydrogen in their own right. But by keeping several angstroms of space between the graphene layers—akin to the way pillars hold up a ceiling—they also increase the available surface area of each layer, giving it more spots for the hydrogen to latch on.

According to the team, GOFs will likely perform even better once the team explores their parameters in more detail. “We are going to try to optimize the performance of the GOFs and explore other linking molecules as well,” says Jacob Burress, also of NIST. “We want to explore the unusual temperature dependence of absorption kinetics, as well as whether they might be useful for capturing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and toxins like ammonia.”

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The research is funded in part by the Department of Energy.

* J. Burress, J. Simmons, J. Ford and T.Yildirim. “Gas adsorption properties of graphene-oxide-frameworks and nanoporous benzene-boronic acid polymers.” To be presented at the March meeting of the American Physical Society (APS) in Portland, Ore., March 18, 2010. An abstract is available at http://meetings.aps.org/Meeting/MAR10/Event/122133

Beautiful space image — dust in the solar neighborhood

Very nice. And yes, I’ve been posting more space and nanotech images than usual of late.

The image spans about 50° of the sky. It is a three-colour combination constructed from Planck’s two highest frequency channels (557 and 857 GHz, corresponding to wavelengths of 540 and 350 micrometres), and an image at the shorter wavelength of 100 micrometres made by the IRAS satellite. This combination visualises dust temperature very effectively: red corresponds to temperatures as cold as 10° above absolute zero, and white to those of a few tens of degrees. Overall, the image shows local dust structures within 500 light-years of the Sun.

Credits: ESA/HFI Consortium/IRAS

Hit the link up there for the full release on this image

March 17, 2010

Amazing nanotech image — nanoparticle ribbons twisted by light

Truly amazing finding to go along with a very cool image:

After 72 hours of exposure to ambient light, strands of nanoparticles twisted and bunched together. Credit: Nicholas Kotov

Be sure and hit the link up there for the full release on this news, and for a very, very large version of this image.

DNA nanotubes as a drug delivery system

Medical nanotech news from McGill University.

The release:

DNA nanotechnology breakthrough offers promising applications in medicine

McGill researchers create DNA nanotubes able to carry and selectively release materials

This release is available in French.

A team of McGill Chemistry Department researchers led by Dr. Hanadi Sleiman has achieved a major breakthrough in the development of nanotubes – tiny “magic bullets” that could one day deliver drugs to specific diseased cells. Sleiman explains that the research involves taking DNA out of its biological context. So rather than being used as the genetic code for life, it becomes a kind of building block for tiny nanometre-scale objects.

Using this method, the team created the first examples of DNA nanotubes that encapsulate and load cargo, and then release it rapidly and completely when a specific external DNA strand is added. One of these DNA structures is only a few nanometres wide but can be extremely long, about 20,000 nanometres. (A nanometre is one-10,000th the diameter of a human hair.)

Until now, DNA nanotubes could only be constructed by rolling a two-dimensional sheet of DNA into a cylinder. Sleiman’s method allows nanotubes of any shape to be formed and they can either be closed to hold materials or porous to release them. Materials such as drugs could then be released when a particular molecule is present.

One of the possible future applications for this discovery is cancer treatment. However, Sleiman cautions, “we are still far from being able to treat diseases using this technology; this is only a step in that direction. Researchers need to learn how to take these DNA nanostructures, such as the nanotubes here, and bring them back to biology to solve problems in nanomedicine, from drug delivery, to tissue engineering to sensors,” she said.

The team’s discovery was published on March 14, 2010 in Nature Chemistry. The research was made possible with funding from the National Science and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

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On the Web: http://www.hanadisleiman.com

Video link: http://snurl.com/uw2q1

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