David Kirkpatrick

June 29, 2012

Just in time …

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:04 pm

… for the weekend (and the 4th of July), good news for all the drinkers out there.

From the Medical Press link:

A new study led by University of Pittsburgh researchers reveals that moderate amounts of alcohol–consumed in a social setting–can enhance positive emotions and social bonding and relieve negative emotions among those drinking.

May 6, 2011

Graphene paper

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:51 am

Pretty cool.

From the link:

A scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image of graphene oxide papers and an analytical model showing the layered structures of graphene sheets, the intralayer and interlayer crosslinks, and an atomic representation of the bridging structure (credit: Yilun Liu et al.)

Scientists at Tsinghua University in Beijing have calculated from first principles what a sheet of graphene might be like.

It’s currently only possible to make graphene in tiny scraps. So they suggest ways to stack these sheets and bond them together to make something larger.

Their model predicts the links between graphene layers will increase the distance between them, thereby reducing the density to about half that of graphite. So graphene paper is not only going to be strong but also very light.

May 5, 2011

Fifty years of US manned spaceflight

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:45 am

A round of applause to NASA and everyone involved in this ongoing adventure. “To infinity and beyond … ,” or something like that.

Hot from the inbox:

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s Statement About the 50th Anniversary of U.S. Human Spaceflight

WASHINGTON, May 5, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA Administrator Charles Bolden issued the following statement Thursday, May 5, about the 50th anniversary of United States human spaceflight:

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)

“50 years ago today, Alan Shepard rocketed into space on America’s first manned space mission. That flight set our nation on a path of exploration and discovery that continues to this day.

“May 5, 1961, was a good day. When Alan Shepard launched toward the stars that day, no American had ever done so, and the world waited on pins and needles praying for a good outcome. The flight was a great success, and on the strength of Shepard’s accomplishment, NASA built the leadership role in human spaceflight that we have held ever since.

“I was a teenager at the time and just sorting out the field of study I wanted to pursue. Though I never dared dream it growing up in segregated South Carolina, I was proud to follow in Alan’s footsteps several years later and become a test pilot myself. The experiences I’ve had would not have been possible without Alan’s pioneering efforts. The inspiration that has created generations of leaders to enlarge our understanding of our universe and to strive toward the highest in human potential was sparked by those early achievements of our space program. They began with Freedom 7 and a daring test pilot who flew the ultimate experimental vehicle that May day 50 years ago.

“Today we celebrate a first — and we celebrate the future. Project Mercury gave our country something new, including an astronaut corps and the space vehicles that began our human exploration efforts.

“I encourage everyone to not only remember that remarkable achievement, but to be reminded that we are still driven to reach for new heights in human exploration.

“At NASA, each first is grown and expanded until we make the next breakthrough. 50 years ago, we sent the first American into space. Today we have a space station flying 250 miles overhead right now on which men and women have lived continuously for more than 10 years.

“With the same spirit of innovation and grit of those early days of space flight, we now move out on an exciting path forward where we will develop the capabilities to take humans to even more destinations in the solar system. With our support and assistance, commercial companies will expand access to that rarefied area Alan Shepard first trod for America, allowing NASA to focus on those bigger, more challenging destinations and to enable our science missions to peer farther and farther beyond our solar system.

“We are just getting started. Our future, as an agency and as a country, holds many more firsts. We know the next 50 years will be just as exciting as the last – filled with discovery, innovation and inspiration.”



Web Site: http://www.nasa.gov

March 11, 2011

Tsunami alerts across Pacific …

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:42 am

… after 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of Japan today.

From link:

An earthquake of 8.9. magnitude struck off the coast of Japan on Friday, the strongest ever recorded in the country. The quake churned up a devastating tsunami that swept over cities and farmland in the northern part of the country and threatened coastal areas throughout the Pacific and as far away the west coast of the United States and South America. Fragmentary early reports of the toll indicate that hundreds of people have been killed. Japanese police officials told the Associated Press that 200 to 300 bodies were found in Sendai, a port city in the northeastern part of the country and the closest main city to the epicenter.

February 26, 2011

Something to ponder …

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:31 pm

… while spending half the day on the cell.

It’s doing something.

From the link:

Radiation from a mobile phone call can make brain regions near the device burn more energy, according to a new study.

Cellphones emit ultra-high-frequency radio waves during calls and data transfers, and some researchers have suspected this radiation — albeit inconclusively — of being linked to long-term health risks like brain cancer. The new brain-scan-based work, to be published Feb. 23 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows radiation emitted from a cellphone’s antenna during a call makes nearby brain tissue use 7 percent more energy.

Image: “A bottom-of-the-brain view showing average use of radioactive glucose in the brains of 47 subjects exposed to a 50-minute phone call on the right side of their head,” – Nora Volkow, JAMA

(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)

February 4, 2011

One more thing to do this Sunday — check out the sun

Hot from the inbox:

NASA Releasing First Views of the Entire Sun on Super SUN-Day

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA will score big on super SUN-day at 11 a.m. EST, Sunday, Feb. 6, with the release online of the first complete view of the sun’s entire surface and atmosphere.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)

Seeing the whole sun front and back simultaneously will enable significant advances in space weather forecasting for Earth, and improve planning for future robotic or crewed spacecraft missions throughout the solar system.

These views are the result of observations by NASA’s two Solar TErrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft. The duo are on diametrically opposite sides of the sun, 180 degrees apart. One is ahead of Earth in its orbit, the other trailing behind.

Launched in October 2006, STEREO traces the flow of energy and matter from the sun to Earth. It also provides unique and revolutionary views of the sun-Earth system. The mission observed the sun in 3-D for the first time in 2007. In 2009, the twin spacecraft revealed the 3-D structure of coronal mass ejections which are violent eruptions of matter from the sun that can disrupt communications, navigation, satellites and power grids on Earth.

STEREO is the third mission in NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Probes program within the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the mission, instruments and science center.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., designed and built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations.

The STEREO imaging and particle detecting instruments were designed and built by scientific institutions in the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland.

To view the image with supporting visuals and information, visit:


For information about NASA and other agency programs, visit:




Web Site: http://www.nasa.gov

December 18, 2010

Science magazine’s breakthroughs of 2010

Number one is the first quantum machine.

From the link:

Physicists Andrew Cleland and John Martinis from the University of California at Santa Barbara and their colleagues designed the machine—a tiny metal paddle of semiconductor, visible to the naked eye—and coaxed it into dancing with a quantum groove. First, they cooled the paddle until it reached its “ground state,” or the lowest energy state permitted by the laws of quantum mechanics (a goal long-sought by). Then they raised the widget’s energy by a single quantum to produce a purely quantum-mechanical state of motion. They even managed to put the gadget in both states at once, so that it literally vibrated a little and a lot at the same time—a bizarre phenomenon allowed by the weird rules of quantum mechanics.

and its publisher, AAAS, the nonprofit science society, have recognized this first quantum machine as the 2010 Breakthrough of the Year. They have also compiled nine other important scientific accomplishments from this past year into a top ten list, appearing in a special news feature in the journal’s 17 December 2010 issue. Additionally, Science news writers and editors have chosen to spotlight 10 “Insights of the Decade” that have transformed the landscape of science in the 21st Century.

“This year’s Breakthrough of the Year represents the first time that scientists have demonstrated quantum effects in the motion of a human-made object,” said Adrian Cho, a news writer for Science. “On a conceptual level that’s cool because it extends quantum mechanics into a whole new realm. On a practical level, it opens up a variety of possibilities ranging from new experiments that meld quantum control over light, electrical currents and motion to, perhaps someday, tests of the bounds of quantum mechanics and our sense of reality.”


December 4, 2010

Electronic cigarettes are bad for you?

Don’t smoke ’em myself and have no plans to ever start, but these alternatives to actually burning tobacco have the anti-tobacco forces up in arms. Just check out the “results” of this University of California, Riverside, study that declares them possibly dangerous. Of course this non-study will get lots of ink about how bad electronic cigarettes are, even though the actual results say nothing of the sort.

Typical move from anti-tobacco forces. Long on overwrought hype and short on non-statistically skewed clinical results. It really is amazing how many citizens in the “land of the free” want to have control over what their fellow citizens consume, who they marry and where they worship (for those with that inclination.)

From the link:

Talbot, a professor of cell biology and neuroscience, was joined in the study by Anna Trtchounian, the first author of the research paper. Together, they examined the design, accuracy and clarity of labeling, nicotine content, leakiness, defective parts, disposal, errors in filling orders, instruction manual quality and advertizing for the following brands of e-cigarettes: NJOY, Liberty Stix, Crown Seven (Hydro), Smoking Everywhere (Gold and Platinum) and VapCigs.

Their main observations are that:

  • Batteries, atomizers, cartridges, cartridge wrappers, packs and instruction manuals lack important information regarding e-cigarette content, use and essential warnings;
  • E-cigarette cartridges leak, which could expose nicotine, an addictive and dangerous chemical, to children, adults, pets and the environment;
  • Currently, there are no methods for proper disposal of e-cigarettes products and accessories, including cartridges, which could result in contamination from discarded cartridges entering water sources and soil, and adversely impacting the environment; and
  • The manufacture, quality control, sales, and advertisement of e-cigarettes are unregulated.

“More research on e-cigarettes is crucially needed to protect the health of e-cigarette users and even those who do not use e-cigarettes,” said Kamlesh Asotra, a research administrator at UC TRDRP. “Contrary to the claims of the manufacturers and marketers of e-cigarettes being ‘safe,’ in fact, virtually nothing is known about the toxicity of the vapors generated by these e-cigarettes. Until we know any thing about the potential health risks of the toxins generated upon heating the nicotine-containing content of the e-cigarette cartridges, the ‘safety’ claims of the manufactureres are dubious at best.

Okay, doesn’t sound too convincing there. And I encourage more research because if electronic cigarettes pose specific health risks, consumers of the product should know about them to make informed decisions on what they are putting into their bodies.

Now here’s the title from the linked PhysOrg piece, “Electronic cigarettes are unsafe and pose health risks, new study finds.” Does that match the studies results to your mind. Certainly not mine. Note the first observation — the products lack package labeling. Stop the presses!

Who funded this bit of research, “The study was funded by a grant to Talbot from the University of California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP).”

November 26, 2010

Barcoding mouse embryos …

… and people are next.

Sounds pretty creepy, but it seems there’s some actual utility in the process to aid in vitro fertilization right now.

From the link:

Scientists from Spain’s Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), along with colleagues from the Spanish National Research Council, have successfully developed an identification system in which mouse embryos and oocytes (egg cells) are physically tagged with microscopic silicon bar code labels. They expect to try it out on human embryos and oocytes soon.

The purpose of the system is to streamline in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer procedures. If egg cells and embryos can be quickly and easily identified, then things should run much smoother, and success rates should be higher.

The research, published online in Human Reproduction, represents a first step towards designing a direct labeling system of oocytes and embryos. The objective was to develop a system that minimizes risks when identifying female gametes and embryos during in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer procedures, to reduce the phases of the clinical process requiring control and supervision by two embryologists.


November 24, 2010

Holiday air travel food for thought

Not only is the TSA a ridiculous bureaucratic mess that isn’t making anyone any safer at airports or in the skies, plus it’s now turned into an organization demanding organized “legal” molestation. It’s also very possibly damaging your health if you want to avoid the unwanted groping.

From the link:

As millions of U.S. travelers get ready for the busiest flying day of the year, scientists still can’t agree over whether the dose of radiation delivered by so-called backscatter machines is significantly higher than the government says. This is despite months of public debate between the White House, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and independent scientists.

Full-body scanners have been installed at many U.S. airports. The machines use either low-energy, millimeter wavelength radiation, which is harmless, or X-rays, which can potentially be hazardous. X-rays can ionize atoms or molecules, which can lead to cancerous changes in cells. Even if the government has significantly underestimated the dose of radiation delivered by an X-ray scanner, it is likely to be relatively small.

And more:

In April, four scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote a public letter to the White House warning that the government may have underestimated the dosage of ionizing radiation delivered to a person’s skin from a backscatter machine by one or two orders of magnitude. The scientists, who have expertise in biochemistry, biophysics, oncology, and X-ray crystallography, pointed out that the government’s estimate was based on radiation exposure for the entire body. During scanning, the majority of radiation will be focused on the surface of the body, meaning a more concentrated dose of radiation is delivered to the skin.

November 18, 2010

Rare earth mineral news

I’ve blogged about this more than once, but if you need the ultra-quick version — China supplies pretty much the entire world with rare earth minerals, elements that are used to manufacture vital electronics and computing parts, because it’s been doing so very, very cheaply for a long time. Recently the nation has used its rare earth monopoly as an economic bludgeon, most notably against Japan and the United States.

We know the U.S. and Australia, among other countries, have rare earth element resources. Now that we know just how rare earth rich the U.S. is, it’s time to seriously ramp up domestic production and get off the cheap Chinese teat.

From the fourth (and last) link:

Approximately 13 million metric tons of rare earth elements (REE) exist within known deposits in the United States, according to the first-ever nationwide estimate of these elements by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The report describes significant deposits of REE in 14 states, with the largest known REE deposits at Mountain Pass, Calif.; Bokan Mountain, Alaska; and the Bear Lodge Mountains, Wyo. The Mountain Pass mine produced REE until it closed in 2002. Additional states with known REE deposits include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

“This is the first detailed assessment of rare earth elements for the entire nation, describing deposits throughout the United States,” commented USGS Director Marcia McNutt, Ph.D. “It will be very important, both to policy-makers and industry, and it reinforces the value of our efforts to maintain accurate, independent information on our nation’s natural resources. Although many of these deposits have yet to be proven, at recent domestic consumption rates of about 10,000 metric tons annually, the US deposits have the potential to meet our needs for years to come.”

REE are a group of 16 metallic elements with similar properties and structures that are essential in the manufacture of a diverse and expanding array of high-technology applications. Despite their name, they are relatively common within the earth’s crust, but because of their geochemical properties, they are not often found in economically exploitable concentrations.

November 16, 2010

Metamaterials and artificial black holes

Yeah, I know I’m way off the blogging pace these days — just very busy. But, I couldn’t let this release go past.

The release, warm from the inbox:

Artificial Black Holes Made with Metamaterials

Design for Manmade Light Trapping Device Could Help Harvest Light for Solar Cells.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — While our direct knowledge of black holes in the universe is limited to what we can observe from thousands or millions of light years away, a team of Chinese physicists has proposed a simple way to design an artificial electromagnetic (EM) black hole in the laboratory.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20100714/AIPLOGO)

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100714/AIPLOGO)

In the Journal of Applied Physics, Huanyang Chen at Soochow University and colleagues have presented a design of an artificial EM black hole designed using five types of composite isotropic materials, layered so that their transverse magnetic modes capture EM waves to which the object is subjected. The artificial EM black hole does not let EM waves escape, analogous to a black hole trapping light. In this case, the trapped EM waves are in the microwave region of the spectrum.

The so-called metamaterials used in the experiment are artificially engineered materials designed to have unusual properties not seen in nature. Metamaterials have also been used in studies of invisibility cloaking and negative-refraction superlenses. The group suggests the same method might be adaptable to higher frequencies, even those of visible light.

“Development of artificial black holes would enable us to measure how incident light is absorbed when passing through them,” says Chen. “They can also be applied to harvesting light in a solar-cell system.”

The article, “A simple design of an artificial electromagnetic black hole” by Wanli Lu, JunFeng Jin, Zhifang Lin, and Huanyang Chen appears in the Journal of Applied Physics. See: http://link.aip.org/link/japiau/v108/i6/p064517/s1

ABOUT Journal of Applied Physics

Journal of Applied Physics is the American Institute of Physics’ (AIP) archival journal for significant new results in applied physics; content is published online daily, collected into two online and printed issues per month (24 issues per year). The journal publishes articles that emphasize understanding of the physics underlying modern technology, but distinguished from technology on the one side and pure physics on the other. See: http://jap.aip.org/


The American Institute of Physics is a federation of 10 physical science societies representing more than 135,000 scientists, engineers, and educators and is one of the world’s largest publishers of scientific information in the physical sciences. Offering partnership solutions for scientific societies and for similar organizations in science and engineering, AIP is a leader in the field of electronic publishing of scholarly journals. AIP publishes 12 journals (some of which are the most highly cited in their respective fields), two magazines, including its flagship publication Physics Today; and the AIP Conference Proceedings series. Its online publishing platform Scitation hosts nearly two million articles from more than 185 scholarly journals and other publications of 28 learned society publishers.

SOURCE  American Institute of Physics

American Institute of Physics

Web Site: http://www.aip.org

November 12, 2010

Robots with an, ahem, personal touch

Probably got you with the title. Here’s news from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

From the link:

A robot known as “Cody” successfully wiped away blue candy from a test user’s legs and arms without being too forceful, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology (led by assistant professor Charlie Kemp) reported at the 2010 IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) conference last month.

November 5, 2010

Creating terrorists — here comes the science …

Looks like “taking the fight” to the terrorists on their turf to keep them from coming here is a fairly flawed strategy. Studies on phase transition show that action only serves to create many more terrorists than would ordinarily be running around as bad actors (and not in the emoting sense.)

From the link:

Feedback loops are interesting because they lead to nonlinear behavior, where the ordinary intuitive rules of cause and effect no longer apply. So a small increase in one type of behavior can lead to a massive increase in another. In the language of physics, a phase transition occurs.

Sure enough, that’s exactly what happens in August’s model. They show that for various parameters in their model, a small increase in the removal rate of active radicals generates a massive increase in passive supporters, providing an almost limitless pool from which to recruit more active radicals.

What this model describes, of course, is the cycle of violence that occurs in so many of the world’s trouble spots.

That has profound implications for governments contemplating military intervention that is likely to cause “collateral damage.” If you replace the term “active radical” with “terrorist” then a clear prediction of this model is that military intervention creates the conditions in which terrorism flourishes.

They say that this feedback loop can halted only if the removal of terrorists can be achieved without the attendant radicalizing side effects. As August and colleagues put it: “if this happened practically without casualties, fatalities, applying torture or committing terroristic acts against the local population.”

This is an interesting approach. It clearly shows that public opinion and behavior can change dramatically in ways that are difficult to predict.


November 4, 2010

Transparent solar panels?

A very real possibility. This sounds like very promising technology.

The release:

Transparent Conductive Material Could Lead to Power-Generating Windows

Combines elements for light harvesting and electric charge transport over large, transparent areas

November 3, 2010

conjugated polymer honeycombClick on the image to download a high-resolution version.Top: Scanning electron microscopy image and zoom of conjugated polymer (PPV) honeycomb. Bottom (left-to-right): Confocal fluorescence lifetime images of conjugated honeycomb, of polymer/fullerene honeycomb double layer and of polymer/fullerene honeycomb blend. Efficient charge transfer within the whole framework is observed in the case of polymer/fullerene honeycomb blend as a dramatic reduction in the fluorescence lifetime.

UPTON, NY — Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory have fabricated transparent thin films capable of absorbing light and generating electric charge over a relatively large area. The material, described in the journal Chemistry of Materials, could be used to develop transparent solar panels or even windows that absorb solar energy to generate electricity.

The material consists of a semiconducting polymer doped with carbon-rich fullerenes. Under carefully controlled conditions, the material self-assembles to form a reproducible pattern of micron-size hexagon-shaped cells over a relatively large area (up to several millimeters).

“Though such honeycomb-patterned thin films have previously been made using conventional polymers like polystyrene, this is the first report of such a material that blends semiconductors and fullerenes to absorb light and efficiently generate charge and charge separation,” said lead scientist Mircea Cotlet, a physical chemist at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN).

Furthermore, the material remains largely transparent because the polymer chains pack densely only at the edges of the hexagons, while remaining loosely packed and spread very thin across the centers. “The densely packed edges strongly absorb light and may also facilitate conducting electricity,” Cotlet explained, “while the centers do not absorb much light and are relatively transparent.”

Mircea CotletClick on the image to download a high-resolution version.Mircea Cotlet, Ranjith Krishna Pai, and Zhihua Xu (seated at the microscope).

“Combining these traits and achieving large-scale patterning could enable a wide range of practical applications, such as energy-generating solar windows, transparent solar panels, and new kinds of optical displays,” said co-author Zhihua Xu, a materials scientist at the CFN.

“Imagine a house with windows made of this kind of material, which, combined with a solar roof, would cut its electricity costs significantly. This is pretty exciting,” Cotlet said.

The scientists fabricated the honeycomb thin films by creating a flow of micrometer-size water droplets across a thin layer of the polymer/fullerene blend solution. These water droplets self-assembled into large arrays within the polymer solution. As the solvent completely evaporates, the polymer forms a hexagonal honeycomb pattern over a large area.

“This is a cost-effective method, with potential to be scaled up from the laboratory to industrial-scale production,” Xu said.

The scientists verified the uniformity of the honeycomb structure with various scanning probe and electron microscopy techniques, and tested the optical properties and charge generation at various parts of the honeycomb structure (edges, centers, and nodes where individual cells connect) using time-resolved confocal fluorescence microscopy.

The scientists also found that the degree of polymer packing was determined by the rate of solvent evaporation, which in turn determines the rate of charge transport through the material.

“The slower the solvent evaporates, the more tightly packed the polymer, and the better the charge transport,” Cotlet said.

“Our work provides a deeper understanding of the optical properties of the honeycomb structure. The next step will be to use these honeycomb thin films to fabricate transparent and flexible organic solar cells and other devices,” he said.

The research was supported at Los Alamos by the DOE Office of Science. The work was also carried out in part at the CFN and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Gateway to Los Alamos facility. The Brookhaven team included Mircea Cotlet, Zhihua Xu, and Ranjith Krishna Pai. Collaborators from Los Alamos include Hsing-Lin Wang and Hsinhan Tsai, who are both users of the CFN facilities at Brookhaven, Andrew Dattelbaum from the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Gateway to Los Alamos facility, and project leader Andrew Shreve of the Materials Physics and Applications Division.

The Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Gateway to Los Alamos facility are two of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRCs), premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge and Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.


November 3, 2010

A 3D printed car?

Filed under: Business, et.al., Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:57 pm


From the link:

The Urbee — an electric/liquid-fuel hybrid that will get the equivalent of over 200 mpg on the highway and 100 MPG in the city — is the first prototype car ever to have its entire body 3D printed, according to a Stratasys press release.

All exterior components — including the glass panel prototypes — were created using Dimension 3D Printers and Fortus 3D Production Systems, using fused deposition modeling (FDM), an additive rapid prototyping process in which a plastic filament is liquefied and extruded to form layers of a model.


November 2, 2010

Cool nanotech image — growing nanowires

Cool image and interesting process

nanotechnology image
In the growth of sapphire nanowires using the vapor-liquid-solid method, scientists have observed that a facet at the liquid-solid interface alternately grows and shrinks, which promotes nanowire growth. These images are from the video below. Image credit: Sang Ho Oh, et al.

From the link:

Nanowires can be grown in many ways, but one of the lesser-understood growth processes is vapor-liquid-solid (VLS) growth. In VLS, a vapor adsorbs onto a liquid droplet, and the droplet transports the vapor and deposits it as a crystal at a liquid-solid interface. As the process repeats, a nanowire is built one crystal at a time. One advantage of the VLS process is that it allows scientists to control the nanowire’s growth in terms of size, shape, orientation, and composition, although this requires understanding the growth mechanisms on the atomic scale. In a new study, scientists have investigated the steps involved in VLS growth, and have observed a new oscillatory behavior that could lead to better controlled nanowire growth.

Hit the link for a video of the process.

October 26, 2010

World’s largest solar installation coming to California

Via KurzweilAI.net — That’s some serious solar capacity.

US approves world’s biggest solar energy project in California

October 26, 2010 by Editor

The U.S. Department of Interior approved on Monday a permit for Solar Millennium, LLC to build the largest solar energy project in the world — four  plants at the cost of one billion dollars each — in southern California.

The project is expected to generate up to 1,000 Megawatts of energy, enough electricity to annually power more than 300,000 single-family homes, more than doubling the solar electricity production capacity of the U.S.

Once constructed, the Blythe facility will reduce CO2 emissions by nearly one million short tons per year, or the equivalent of removing more than 145,000 cars from the road. Additionally, because the facility is “dry-cooled,” it will use 90 percent less water than a traditional “wet-cooled” solar facility of this size. The Blythe facility will also help California take a major step toward achieving its goal of having one third of the state’s power come from renewable sources by the year 2020.

The entire Blythe Solar Power Project will generate a total of more than 7,500 jobs, including 1,000 direct jobs during the construction period, and thousands of additional indirect jobs in the community and throughout the supply chain. When the 1,000 MW facility is fully operational it will create more than 220 permanent jobs.

Adapted from materials provided by Solar Millennium, LLC.




October 22, 2010

Cool nanotech image — graphene transistors

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:34 am

The article connected to the image is pretty good, too.

Triple transistor: Single graphene transistors like this one can be made to operate in three modes and perform functions that usually require multiple transistors in a circuit.
Credit: Alexander Balandin

Also from the link:

Researchers have already made blisteringly fast graphene transistors. Now they’ve used graphene to make a transistor that can be switched between three different modes of operation, which in conventional circuits must be performed by three separate transistors. These configurable transistors could lead to more compact chips for sending and receiving wireless signals.

Chips that use fewer transistors while maintaining all the same functions could be less expensive, use less energy, and free up room inside portable electronics like smart phones, where space is tight. The new graphene transistor is an analog device, of the type that’s used for wireless communications in Bluetooth headsets and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags.


October 21, 2010

The latest moon facts from NASA

Pretty interesting facts at that …

The release very hot from the inbox:

NASA Missions Uncover the Moon’s Buried Treasures

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Nearly a year after announcing the discovery of water molecules on the moon, scientists Thursday revealed new data uncovered by NASA’s Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO.

The missions found evidence that the lunar soil within shadowy craters is rich in useful materials, and the moon is chemically active and has a water cycle. Scientists also confirmed the water was in the form of mostly pure ice crystals in some places. The results are featured in six papers published in the Oct. 22 issue of Science.

“NASA has convincingly confirmed the presence of water ice and characterized its patchy distribution in permanently shadowed regions of the moon,” said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This major undertaking is the one of many steps NASA has taken to better understand our solar system, its resources, and its origin, evolution, and future.”

The twin impacts of LCROSS and a companion rocket stage in the moon’s Cabeus crater on Oct. 9, 2009, lifted a plume of material that might not have seen direct sunlight for billions of years. As the plume traveled nearly 10 miles above the rim of Cabeus, instruments aboard LCROSS and LRO made observations of the crater and debris and vapor clouds. After the impacts, grains of mostly pure water ice were lofted into the sunlight in the vacuum of space.

“Seeing mostly pure water ice grains in the plume means water ice was somehow delivered to the moon in the past, or chemical processes have been causing ice to accumulate in large quantities,” said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “Also, the diversity and abundance of certain materials called volatiles in the plume, suggest a variety of sources, like comets and asteroids, and an active water cycle within the lunar shadows.”

Volatiles are compounds that freeze and are trapped in the cold lunar craters and vaporize when warmed by the sun. The suite of LCROSS and LRO instruments determined as much as 20 percent of the material kicked up by the LCROSS impact was volatiles, including methane, ammonia, hydrogen gas, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

The instruments also discovered relatively large amounts of light metals such as sodium, mercury and possibly even silver.

Scientists believe the water and mix of volatiles that LCROSS and LRO detected could be the remnants of a comet impact. According to scientists, these volatile chemical by-products are also evidence of a cycle through which water ice reacts with lunar soil grains.

LRO’s Diviner instrument gathered data on water concentration and temperature measurements, and LRO’s Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector mapped the distribution of hydrogen. This combined data led the science team to conclude the water is not uniformly distributed within the shadowed cold traps, but rather is in pockets, which may also lie outside the shadowed regions.

The proportion of volatiles to water in the lunar soil indicates a process called “cold grain chemistry” is taking place. Scientists also theorize this process could take as long as hundreds of thousands of years and may occur on other frigid, airless bodies, such as asteroids; the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, including Europa and Enceladus; Mars’ moons; interstellar dust grains floating around other stars and the polar regions of Mercury.

“The observations by the suite of LRO and LCROSS instruments demonstrate the moon has a complex environment that experiences intriguing chemical processes,” said Richard Vondrak, LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “This knowledge can open doors to new areas of research and exploration.”

By understanding the processes and environments that determine where water ice will be, how water was delivered to the moon and its active water cycle, future mission planners might be better able to determine which locations will have easily-accessible water. The existence of mostly pure water ice could mean future human explorers won’t have to retrieve the water out of the soil in order to use it for valuable life support resources. In addition, an abundant presence of hydrogen gas, ammonia and methane could be exploited to produce fuel.

LCROSS launched with LRO aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on June 18, 2009, and used the Centaur upper stage rocket to create the debris plume. The research was funded by NASA’s Exploration Systems Missions Directorate at the agency’s headquarters. LCROSS was managed by Ames and built by Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, Calif. LRO was built and is managed by Goddard.

For more information about LCROSS, a complete list of the papers and their authors, visit:


For more information about the LRO mission, visit:




Web Site: http://www.nasa.gov

October 20, 2010

Fresh drinking water through solar power

This has the potential to be a real game changer. Among all the other problems out there, one very pervasive issue that gets intermittent lip service is potable, or the lack thereof, water. A portable desalination device could save lives in a variety of situations.

From the link:

The portable system could also be used in remote areas where supplying energy and clean water can be logistically complex and expensive, such as desert locations or farms and small villages in developing countries.

Led by Steven Dubowsky, a professor in both the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and graduate students Amy Bilton and Leah Kelley, the group built a small prototype of the system last spring to test algorithms they had developed to run it. They have since demonstrated that the prototype is capable of producing 80 gallons of water a day in a variety of weather conditions. They estimate that a larger version of the unit, which would cost about $8,000 to construct, could provide about 1,000 gallons of water per day. Dubowsky and his students also estimate that one C-130 cargo airplane could transport two dozen desalination units — enough to provide water for 10,000 people.

The team presented a paper reporting preliminary results about its prototype system last week at the EuroMed 2010-Desalination for Clean Water and Energy Conference.

October 19, 2010

Mass producing graphene

News from the University of Houston:

University of Houston professor taking next step with graphene research

The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics went to the two scientists who first isolated graphene, one-atom-thick crystals of graphite. Now, a researcher with the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering is trying to develop a method to mass-produce this revolutionary material.

Graphene has several properties that make it different from literally everything else on Earth: it is the first two-dimensional material ever developed; the world’s thinnest and strongest material; the best conductor of heat ever found; a far better conductor of electricity than copper; it is virtually transparent; and is so dense that no gas can pass through it. These properties make graphene a game changer for everything from energy storage devices to flat device displays.

Most importantly, perhaps, is graphene’s potential as a replacement for silicon in computer chips. The properties of graphene would enable the historical growth in computing power to continue for decades to come.

To realize these benefits, though, a way to create plentiful, defect-free graphene must be developed. Qingkai Yu, an assistant research professor with the college’s department of electrical and computer engineering and the university’s Center for Advanced Materials, is developing methods to mass-produce such high-quality graphene.

Yu is using a technology known as chemical vapor deposition. During this process, he heats methane to around 1000 degrees Celsius, breaking the gas down into its building blocks of carbon and hydrogen atoms. The carbon atoms then attach to a metallic surface to form graphene.

“This approach could produce cheap, high-quality graphene on a large scale,” Yu said.

Yu first demonstrated the viability of chemical vapor deposition for graphene creation two years ago in a paper in the journal Applied Physics Letters. He has since continued working to perfect this method.

Yu’s initial research would often result in several layers of graphene stacked together on a nickel surface. He subsequently discovered the effectiveness of copper for graphene creation. Copper has since been adopted by graphene researchers worldwide.

Yu’s work is not finished. The single layers of graphene he is now able to create are formed out of multiple graphene crystals that join together as they grow. The places where these crystals combine, known as the grain boundaries, are defects that limit the usefulness of graphene, particularly as a replacement for silicon-based computer chips.

Yu is attempting to create large layers of graphene that form out of a single crystal.

“You can imagine how important this sort of graphene is,” said Yu. “Semiconductors became a multibillion-dollar industry based on single-crystal silicon and graphene is called the post-silicon-era material. So single-crystal graphene is the Holy Grail for the next age of semiconductors.”



Yu is conducting his research in collaboration with UH Ph.D. students Wei Wu and Zhihua Su as well as postdoctoral researcher Zhihong Liu. These efforts have been supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, SEMATECH and the UH Center for Advanced Materials.


October 18, 2010

DARPA’s shooting for the stars


From the link:

NASA Ames Director Simon “Pete” Worden revealed Saturday that NASA Ames has “just started a project with DARPA called the Hundred Year Starship,” with $1 million funding from DARPA and $100K from NASA.

“You heard it here,” said Worden at “Long Conversation,” a Long Now Foundation event in San Francisco. “We also hope to inveigle some billionaires to form a Hundred Year Starship fund,” he added.

“The human space program is now really aimed at settling other worlds,” he explained. “Twenty years ago you had to whisper that in dark bars and get fired.” (Worden was in fact fired by President George W. Bush, he also revealed.)

But these ambitious projects will need whole new concepts for propulsion, Worden advised. “NASA needs to build a true starship, probably using electric propulsion, probably also using solar energy and nuclear energy.

Microwave thermal propulsion (Kevin Parker)


October 16, 2010

Cool nanotech image — graphene

Filed under: et.al., Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:12 am

Actually the accompanying article is pretty cool, too, so do take the time to check it out.

But now, the image …

This image of a single suspended sheet of graphene taken with the TEAM 0.5, at Berkeley Lab’s National Center for Electron Microscopy shows individual carbon atoms (yellow) on the honeycomb lattice.

Also from the link:

In the current study, the team made graphene nanoribbons using a nanowire mask-based fabrication technique. By measuring the conductance fluctuation, or ‘noise’ of electrons in graphene nanoribbons, the researchers directly probed the effect of quantum confinement in these structures. Their findings map the electronic band structure of these graphene nanoribbons using a robust electrical probing method. This method can be further applied to a wide array of nanoscale materials, including graphene-based electronic devices.

“It amazes us to observe such a clear correlation between the noise and the band structure of these graphene nanomaterials,” says lead author Guangyu Xu, a physicist at University of California, Los Angeles. “This work adds strong support to the quasi-one-dimensional subband formation in graphene nanoribbons, in which our method turns out to be much more robust than conductance measurement.”

One more bit from the link, from the intro actually:

In last week’s announcement of the Nobel Prize in Physics, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences lauded graphene’s “exceptional properties that originate from the remarkable world of quantum physics.” If it weren’t hot enough before, this atomically thin sheet of carbon is now officially in the global spotlight.

So expect to hear a lot more about graphene in the coming months. Of course if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve been getting a pretty steady (aside from the last month of light blogging) diet of graphene since almost day one (since February 2008 to be exact).

October 13, 2010

3M is improving solar panels

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:34 am

This sounds like a pretty significant breakthrough.

From the link:

For years solar companies have wanted to make lightweight, flexible panels that are cheap to ship and easy to install (by unrolling them over large areas). But they’ve been held up by a lack of good and affordable glass substitutes.

Now 3M thinks it’s found a solution. This week the company unveiled a plastic film that it says can rival glass in its ability to protect the active materials in solar cells from the elements and save money for manufacturers and their customers.

The protective film is a multilayer, fluoropolymer-based sheet that can replace glass as the protective front cover of solar panels, says Derek DeScioli, business development manager for 3M’s renewable energy division. Manufacturers laminate the sheets onto the solar panels to seal them tight and shield them from moisture and other weather elements that can be deadly to the solar cells inside.

Solar protection: This polymer film seals out water far better than other plastics—it can protect solar panels for decades.
Credit: 3M


October 2, 2010

The Geological Society of America goes 3D

I think the title says it all …

The release:

GSA Press Release – October 2010 Geosphere Highlights

Boulder, CO, USA – This month’s themed issue, “Advances in 3D imaging and analysis of geomaterials,” edited by Guilherme A.R. Gualda, Don R. Baker, and Margherita Polacci, features papers from the 2009 AGU Joint Assembly session “Advances in 3-D Imaging and Analysis of Rocks and Other Earth Materials.” Studies include 3-D imaging and analysis techniques for Wild 2 comet material returned from the NASA Stardust mission and the first 3-D X-ray scans of crystals from the Dry Valleys, Antarctica.

Keywords: Voxels, microtomography, fractures, NASA Stardust Mission, Wild 2, aerogel, Dry Valleys, Antarctica, geophysics, microearthquakes, Mexico, zircon dating, database, InSAR.

Highlights are provided below. Review abstracts for this issue at http://geosphere.gsapubs.org/.

Non-media requests for articles may be directed to GSA Sales and Service, gsaservice@geosociety.org .

Introduction: Advances in 3D imaging and analysis of geomaterials
Guilherme A.R. Gualda, Vanderbilt University, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Station B #35-1805, Nashville, Tennessee 37235, USA

Excerpt: Beginning in the 1970s, the availability of computers led to the development of procedures for computer-assisted acquisition and reconstruction of 3-D tomographic data, in particular using X-rays. X-ray tomography is now a mature technique that is used routinely. It has been applied to a wide array of geomaterials, from rocks to fossils to diverse experimental charges, to name a few. The ability to create 3-D maps with millions to billions of volume elements (voxels) created the challenge of processing and analyzing such large amounts of data. While qualitative observations in 3-D yield significant insights into the nature of geomaterials and geological processes, it is in the pursuit of quantitative data that 3-D imaging shows its greatest potential. The continued improvements in computer capabilities have led to ever more sophisticated procedures for 3D image analysis. The papers in this issue encompass a wide range of topics, from applications of established techniques to a variety of materials, the development of new imaging techniques, and the description of improved imaging and analysis techniques.

3D imaging of volcano gravitational deformation by computerized X-ray micro-tomography
M. Kervyn et al., Dept. of Geology and Soil Science, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281/S8, 9000 Gent, Belgium

Volcanoes are known to be unstable constructs that can deform gravitationally when they build upon weak sedimentary layers. The structures and velocity of deformation depend on the volcano loading and the properties of the underlying layers. These processes can be studied with scaled laboratory experiments in which volcanoes are simulated by a mixture of sand and plaster. Silicone is used to simulate the weak underlying layers. This team from Belgium and France, lead by M. Kervyn of Ghen University, presents the results of imaging such experiments with X-rays. The micro-tomography technology used in imaging these experiments enables the virtual re-construction of the 3-D shape of the deformed experiment. Virtual cross-sections through the experiment provide a new way to characterize the faults and fissures forming within the experimental volcano during its deformation. Results from a range of experiments with different geometrical characteristics provide a better understanding of the impact of such gravitational deformation, currently recorded at several well-known volcanoes on Earth (e.g. Etna, Kilauea), on the construct’s structure at depth and its potential zones of weakness.

Three-dimensional measurement of fractures in heterogeneous materials using high-resolution X-ray computed tomography
Richard A. Ketcham et al., Dept. of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of Geosciences, 1 University Station C1100, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712-0254, USA

When present, fractures tend to dominate fluid flow though rock bodies, and characterizing fracture networks is necessary for understanding these flow regimes. Specialized CAT scanning has long been an important tool in imaging fractures in 3-D in rock samples. However, a number of factors have reduced the fidelity of such data, including the natural heterogeneity of real rocks and the limited resolution of CAT scanning. Richard A. Ketcham of The University of Texas at Austin and colleagues present new, general methods for overcoming these problems and extracting the best-quality information possible concerning fracture aperture, roughness, and orientation, even in highly heterogeneous rocks. The methods are also general enough that they can be applied to similar situations, such as measuring mineral veins. This work was funded in part by U.S. National Science Foundation grants EAR-0113480 and EAR-0439806.

Laser scanning confocal microscopy of comet material in aerogel
Michael Greenberg and Denton S. Ebel, Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, New York 10024, USA

The NASA Stardust mission returned extraterrestrial material from the comet Wild 2 — the first solid sample-return mission since the Apollo era. Particles from the tail of Wild 2 were captured in aerogel, low-density, translucent, silica foam at a relative velocity of 6.1 km per second. Upon impact into the aerogel, particles from the tail of the comet were fragmented, melted, and ablated, creating cavities, or tracks — each of which is unique to the original particle before capture. Michael Greenberg and Denton S. Ebel of the American Museum of Natural History present nondestructive 3-D imaging and analysis techniques for comet material returned from the NASA Stardust mission. The methods described in this paper represent the highest resolution 3-D images of Stardust material to date. The procedures described here will easily extend to other translucent samples in the geosciences.


Quantum dots may lead to ultraefficient solar cells

This sounds promising.

From the link (emphasis mine):

Although researchers have steadily increased the amount of electricity that solar cells can produce, they face fundamental limits because of the physics involved in converting photons to electrons in semiconductor materials. Now researchers at the University of Wyoming have demonstrated that by using novel nanomaterials called quantum dots, it might be possible to exceed those limits and produce ultraefficient solar cells.

The theoretical limitation of solar cells has to do with the widely varying amounts of energy from photons in sunlight. The amount varies depending on the color of the light. No matter how energetic the incoming photons are, however, solar cells can only convert one photon into one electron with a given amount of energy. Any extra energy is lost as heat. Scientists have hypothesized that quantum dots, because of their unusual electronic properties, could convert some of this extra energy into electrons. They’ve calculated that this approach could increase the theoretical maximum efficiency of solar cells by about 50 percent.

Solar dots: A micrograph shows lead-sulfide quantum dots, each about five nanometers across, coating an electrode of titanium dioxide.
Credit: Science

September 30, 2010

Metamaterials and warp drives

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:20 pm

It’s almost time to call metamaterials simply that science fiction stuff. Usually you hear about metamaterials around these parts in posts about actual invisibility cloaking technology, and here’s one about metamaterials and warp drives. Metamaterials — turning science fiction into science fact …

From the link:

That means physicists can use metamaterials to simulate the universe itself and all the weird phenomenon of general relativity. We’ve looked at various attempts to recreate black holes, the Big Bang and even multiverses.

But there’s another thing that general relativity appears to allow: faster than light travel. In 1994, the Mexican physicist, Michael Alcubierre, realised that while relativity prevents faster-than-light travel relative to the fabric of spacetime, it places no restriction on the speed at which regions of spacetime can move relative to each other.

That suggests a way of building a warp drive. Alcubierre imagined a small volume of flat spacetime in which a spacecraft sits, surrounded by a bubble of spacetime that shrinks in the direction of travel, bringing your destination nearer, and stretches behind you. He showed that this shrinking and stretching could enable the bubble–and the spaceship it contained–to move at superluminal speeds.

Today, Igor Smolyaninov at the University of Maryland, points out that if these kinds of bubbles are possible in spacetime, then it ought to be possible to simulate them inside a metamaterial.

September 16, 2010

NASA’s LRO finds diversity in the moon’s past

Here’s a release hot from the inbox. (I’m in light blogging mode for the middle of this week due to multiple projects, so I’m taking the easy way out here. Of course presenting the entire release is standard procedure with this blog anyway, so, um, enjoy!)

The release:

NASA’s LRO Exposes Moon’s Complex, Turbulent Youth

GREENBELT, Md., Sept. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The moon was bombarded by two distinct populations of asteroids or comets in its youth, and its surface is more complex than previously thought, according to new results from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft featured in three papers appearing in the Sept. 17 issue of Science.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)
(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)

In the first paper, lead author James Head of Brown University in Providence, R.I., describes results obtained from a detailed global topographic map of the moon created using LRO’s Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA). “Our new LRO LOLA dataset shows that the older highland impactor population can be clearly distinguished from the younger population in the lunar ‘maria’ — giant impact basins filled with solidified lava flows,” says Head. “The highlands have a greater density of large craters compared to smaller ones, implying that the earlier population of impactors had a proportionally greater number of large fragments than the population that characterized later lunar history.”

Meteorite impacts can radically alter the history of a planet. The moon, Mars, and Mercury all bear scars of ancient craters hundreds or even thousands of miles across. If Earth was subjected to this assault as well — and there’s no reason to assume our planet was spared — these enormous impacts could have disrupted the initial origin of life. Large impacts that occurred later appear to have altered life’s evolution. The approximately 110-mile-diameter, partially buried crater at Chicxulub, in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, is from an impact about 65 million years ago that is now widely believed to have led or contributed to the demise of the dinosaurs and many other life forms.

Scientists trying to reconstruct the meteorite bombardment history of Earth face difficulty because impact craters are eroded by wind and water, or destroyed by the action of plate tectonics, the gradual movement and recycling of the Earth’s crust. However, a rich record of craters is preserved on the moon, because it has only an extremely thin atmosphere — a vacuum better than those typically used for experiments in laboratories on Earth. The moon’s surface has no liquid water and no plate tectonics. The only source of significant erosion is other impacts.

“The moon is thus analogous to a Rosetta stone for understanding the bombardment history of the Earth,” said Head. “Like the Rosetta stone, the lunar record can be used to translate the ‘hieroglyphics’ of the poorly preserved impact record on Earth.”

Even so, previous lunar maps had different resolutions, viewing angles, and lighting conditions, which made it hard to consistently identify and count craters. Head and his team used the LOLA instrument on board LRO to build a map that highlights lunar craters with unprecedented clarity. The instrument sends laser pulses to the lunar surface, measures the time that it takes for them to reflect back to the spacecraft, and then with a very precise knowledge of the orbit of the LRO spacecraft, scientists can convert this information to a detailed topographic map of the moon, according to Head.

Objects hitting the moon can be categorized in different “impactor populations,” where each population has its own set of characteristics. Head also used the LOLA maps to determine the time when the impactor population changed. “Using the crater counts from the different impact basins and examining the populations making up the superposed craters, we can look back in time to discover when this transition in impactor populations occurred. The LRO LOLA impact crater database shows that the transition occurred about the time of the Orientale impact basin, about 3.8 billion years ago. The implication is that this change in populations occurred around the same time as the large impact basins stopped forming, and raises the question of whether or not these factors might be related. The answers to these questions have implications for the earliest history of all the planets in the inner solar system, including Earth,” says Head.

In the other two Science papers, researchers describe how data from the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment instrument on LRO are showing that the geologic processes that forged the lunar surface were complex as well. The data have revealed previously unseen compositional differences in the crustal highlands, and have confirmed the presence of anomalously silica-rich material in five distinct regions.

Every mineral, and therefore every rock, absorbs and emits energy with a unique spectral signature that can be measured to reveal its identity and formation mechanisms. For the first time ever, LRO’s Diviner instrument is providing scientists with global, high-resolution infrared maps of the moon, which are enabling them to make a definitive identification of silicate minerals commonly found within its crust. “Diviner is literally viewing the moon in a whole new light,” says Benjamin Greenhagen of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., lead author of one of the Diviner Science papers.

Lunar geology can be roughly broken down into two categories – the anorthositic highlands, rich in calcium and aluminium, and the basaltic maria, which are abundant in iron and magnesium. Both of these crustal rocks are what’s deemed by geologists as ‘primitive’; that is, they are the direct result of crystallization from lunar mantle material, the partially molten layer beneath the crust.

Diviner’s observations have confirmed that most lunar terrains have spectral signatures consistent with compositions that fall into these two broad categories. However they have also revealed that the lunar highlands may be less homogenous than previously thought.

In a wide range of terrains, Diviner revealed the presence of lunar soils with compositions more sodium rich than that of the typical anorthosite crust. The widespread nature of these soils reveals that there may have been variations in the chemistry and cooling rate of the magma ocean which formed the early lunar crust, or they could be the result of secondary processing of the early lunar crust.

Most impressively, in several locations around the moon, Diviner has detected the presence of highly silicic minerals such as quartz, potassium-rich, and sodium-rich feldspar — minerals that are only ever found in association with highly evolved lithologies (rocks that have undergone extensive magmatic processing).

The detection of silicic minerals at these locations is a significant finding for scientists, as they occur in areas previously shown to exhibit anomalously high abundances of the element thorium, another proxy for highly evolved lithologies.

“The silicic features we’ve found on the moon are fundamentally different from the more typical basaltic mare and anorthositic highlands,” says Timothy Glotch of Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y., lead author of the second Diviner Science paper. “The fact that we see this composition in multiple geologic settings suggests that there may have been multiple processes producing these rocks.”

One thing not apparent in the data is evidence for pristine lunar mantle material, which previous studies have suggested may be exposed at some places on the lunar surface. Such material, rich in iron and magnesium, would be readily detected by Diviner.

However, even in the South Pole Aitken Basin (SPA), the largest, oldest, and deepest impact crater on the moon — deep enough to have penetrated through the crust and into the mantle — there is no evidence of mantle material.

The implications of this are as yet unknown. Perhaps there are no such exposures of mantle material, or maybe they occur in areas too small for Diviner to detect.

However, it’s likely that if the impact that formed this crater did excavate any mantle material, it has since been mixed with crustal material from later impacts inside and outside SPA. “The new Diviner data will help in selecting the appropriate landing sites for potential future robotic missions to return samples from SPA. We want to use these samples to date the SPA-forming impact and potentially study the lunar mantle, so it’s important to use Diviner data to identify areas with minimal mixing,” says Greenhagen.

The research was funded by NASA’s Exploration Systems Missions Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. LRO was built and is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. LOLA was built by NASA Goddard. David E. Smith from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NASA Goddard is the LOLA principal investigator. The Diviner instrument was built and is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. UCLA is the home institution of Diviner’s principal investigator, David Paige.

For images and more information about LRO, visit:


Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO
PRN Photo Desk photodesk@prnewswire.com
Source: NASA

Web Site:  http://www.nasa.gov/

September 13, 2010

Singularity University’s Graduate Studies Program student projects

Via KurzweilAI.net — I blogged about today’s webinar last week, and here’s a summary of the student projects from this year’s Singularity University.

From the first link:

Singularity University webinar today: sneak preview

September 13, 2010 by Edito

Former astronaut Dan Barry, M.D., PhD, faculty head of Singularity University, will join Singularity University co-founders Dr. Ray Kurzweil and Dr. Peter H. Diamandis on Monday, September 13, at 9:30am PT/12:30pm ET, in a live video webinar briefing to unveil this summer’s Graduate Studies Program student projects.

The projects aim to impact a billion people within ten years.

A Q&A session will follow the briefing. The briefing is free and is open to media and the public — visit http://briefing.singularityu.org/ to register.

Here are some of the team projects to be profiled in the webinar.

Achieving the benefits of space at a fraction of the cost

The space project teams have developed imaginative new solutions for space and spinoffs for Earth. The AISynBio project team is working with leading NASA scientists to design bioengineered organisms that can use available resources to mitigate harsh living environments (such as lack of air, water, food, energy, atmosphere, and gravity) – on an asteroid, for example, and also on Earth .

The SpaceBio Labs team plans to develop methods for doing low-cost biological research in space, such as 3D tissue engineering and protein crystallization.

The Made in Space team plans to bring 3D printing to space to make space exploration cheaper, more reliable, and fail-safe (“send the bits, not the atoms”).  For example, they hope to replace some of the $1 billion worth of spare parts and tools that are on the International Space Station.

The Cheap Access to Space team is working with NASA Ames and CalTech engineers and scientists on a radical space propulsion system using beamed microwave energy to dramatically reduce the cost of a space launch by a factor of ten.

Solving key problems for a billion people on Earth

Back on Earth, a number of teams are working on solving global problems of waste, energy, hunger, and water.

The three Upcycle teams have developed synergistic solutions to eliminate waste and reduce energy use.

The Fre3dom team is planning to bring 3D printing to the developing world to allow local communities to make their own much-needed spare parts using bioplastics.

The BioMine team is developing environmentally regenerative, safe, efficient and scalable biological methods for the extraction of metals from electronic waste. This is a multidisciplinary team with technical expertise ranging from synthetic biology and chemical engineering to computer science and biotech IP, and they are leveraging exponential advances in bioengineering, functional genomics, bioinformatics and computational modeling.

The i2cycle team focuses on developing global industrial ecosystems by upcycling one manufacturer’s waste (such as glass and ceramics) into raw material for another manufacturer (such as manufacturing tiles), conserving resources and energy in the process.


The AmundA team is developing a Web-based tool that offers data such as electricity demand and energy resources  to guide suppliers in finding optimum, lower-cost, energy generation solutions.  They hope to  help 1.5 billion potential customers in the developing world gain access to electricity.

The H2020 team is building an intelligent, web-based platform to provide information on water to people. For example, they will use smart phones to crowd-source data about water problems,  such as pollution or shortages, in communities at the “bottom of the pyramid,” and will use AI to match problems with solutions.

The Naishio (“no salt” in Japanese) team, inspired by lecturers such as Dean Kamen, plans to use nanofilters to achieve very low cost and compact, but high-volume desalination. They have a designed a filtration cube measuring just 6.5 inches per side that could produce 100,000 gallons of purified water per day.

The Food for Cities program is planning to grow all the vegetables you need in a box barely larger than your refrigerator, using “aeroponics,” which could feed a billion people healthy food at low cost.

And the Know (Knowledge, Opportunity, Network for Women) team seeks to empower young women across the world by providing them with mentors and resources.

Full disclosure: writer and KurzweilAI editor Amara D. Angelica is an advisor to Singularity University.

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