Future of Engineering

Friday, March 28, 2008

Parallel Programming Needs to See Beyond Algorithms

Until very recently, commercial high-level tools to support the development of technical computing applications for high-performance systems did not exist. Parallel programming was an esoteric art applied by specialists who focused on achieving maximum performance by using custom setups and low-level libraries and by tuning their applications for specific hardware.

In a 2007 briefing, IDC highlighted the difficulty of scaling beyond a single node because of the lack of appropriate programming environments.[1] Today, as high-performance systems become more prevalent, there is an urgent need to make these systems more readily programmable by all.

To that end, parallel programming solutions must focus beyond custom algorithms and performance. Ecosystems of tools are being developed that assist engineers in the design, development, and debugging of parallel applications and that fully utilize the capabilities of rapidly evolving hardware. To succeed, these new ecosystems, need to do a number of things, which are explained in this report

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Designing Real Life Engineering with Second Life Tools

Unlike Gravina Island, the Public Works Island in Second Life (SL) hosts an entirely different kind of bridge. Created for mere Linden dollars, Avatar TEEX Clary’s virtual bridge symbolizes a bridge that is going somewhere—perhaps the future of civil engineering—using 3D tools in SL for visualization.

The Public Works Island is the brainchild of avatar Pam Renior. In real life, Pam Renoir’s alter ego Pam Broviak is a registered, professional engineer in Illinois. According to Pam, Public Works Island “...has been developed to introduce general citizens to public works and show them what we do—educate them—then it is also a place for those of us in related fields to build community.”

She also sees the island as an on-the-job resource for members of the American Public Works Association and others, “... to train here and develop things we can use in real life on our jobs.”

Full report here

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Timber Housing, Ty Unnos Modular Building Suggested for Future Homes

Timber housing is the future for better homes

Timber housing can help the UK to catch up on the shortage of new homes, construction industry leaders have been told. A conference in North Wales, Sustainable Construction: The Business Benefits and Natural Materials in Construction, was told there is a need to use timber housing if Wales is to meet sustainability targets.

Greater collaboration is needed across the building sector to make the most of new techniques and practices, the briefing told. The Ty Unnos system of modular building, using standard section Welsh Sitka spruce, was cited as another example of systems which offer the opportunity to use locally-sourced timber to meet the construction needs of Wales.

Full report here

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UK Robot To Retrieve Minerals from Moon

A small group of engineering students have taken on the challenge of building a robot designed to retrieve minerals from the moon.

UK's student branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. will enter the robot in an April 5 tournament during the IEEE SoutheastCon conference in Huntsville, Ala.
Several organizations are in competition to retrieve these minerals and return them to earth.
Peter Ferland, an electrical engineering junior and the chair of UK's robot contingent, said the team is composed of half a dozen engineering students. They began building the robot in October.

"The contest offers engineering students a chance to tackle a design problem start to finish, providing valuable experience for future engineers," Ferland said.

In the tournament, each team must build an autonomous robot that will perform on an earth-bound course, collecting colored wooden blocks representing moon minerals and returning them to its home base to score points.


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Nintendo 2008 - Mario Kart, Wii, Super Smash Bros, Brawl, WiiWare

After hinting that it would stagger its major releases in 2008 so that players could digest each one properly before moving onto the next, Nintendo went ahead to confirm that (in North America at least), Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart Wii and Wii Fit would arrive together in a proximity best described as an overdose in gaming goodness. But what of the rest of the year as far as the Wii is concerned? Nintendic has compiled a list of (mostly) what it knows Nintendo to have up its sleeve for the coming months, both for the core and casual audience, providing evidence as to why the motion-sensing console’s unstoppable momentum will continue throughout the year.

Mario Kart

Wii
Super Smash Bros. Brawl

WiiWare

Animal Crossing Wii

Disaster: Day of Crisis

Kirby Wii

Super Mario Stadium Family Baseball

Wii Music

Kid Icarus, Pilotwings, F-Zero, Punch Out!?

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Water Vapor in Enceladus Might Mean Life on Saturn

A sniff test of water vapor spewing from Saturn's moon Enceladus shows it is gushing with organic molecules, increasing the possibility of life existing somewhere in the Saturn system.

Scientists have been intrigued by the moon since the fountain of water was first spotted in 2005. Now they've identified a soup of prebiotic material there, similar to what's found in comets, from an analysis of data collected by the Cassini spacecraft.

Nobody really knows how life began, but astrobiologists guess it required chemicals like those tasted by Cassini, a little liquid water and some unknown spark.

Hunter Waite, a Cassini principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) in San Antonio, said Enceladus' newly understood composition should stir up previous notions of Saturn and its moons.

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PCs for Home Multimedia, Cinema - PCs to Play Key Role in Home Entertainment

A multitude of non-PC devices are expected to play a role in the connected living room of the future, but this does not mean that the PC will fade away. Analysts expect that PCs will play an ever-increasing role in the management, distribution and playback of multimedia content in the home.

ABI Research said that network-connected PC media servers and living room PCs will grow in adoption over time. Audiovisual form-factor home cinema PCs and more traditional home cinema PCs will grow to an installed base of 25 million worldwide by 2013, according to the analyst firm.

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Samsung, Toshiba Lead Electronics Cos' Race to Get Green - Greenpeace

Environmental group Green-peace recently came up with good news: two Asian consumer electronic companies figure at the top of the rankings in Greenpeace's Guide to Green Electronics.

The group first launched its guide in August 2006, as a challenge to electronic companies to "green" their products from production to disposal. The volume of toxic waste from production processes and management of waste and discarded products were points of concern in Greenpeace's guide. The group claimed that since the guide was launched, the world's leading consumer electronic brands have greatly improved in their policies on toxic chemicals and e-waste.

This year, Greenpeace has named Korea's Samsung and Japan's Toshiba as two Asian electronic companies that have shown great improvement in their production process to keep the world green. It said Samsung is consistent in its practices and policies, keeping the company's top ranking with a score of 7.7 out of 10. Toshiba climbed from sixth rank last year to join Samsung at the top by improving its score on electronic waste management. Greenpeace said Toshiba has taken care of its own branded discarded products.

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Hacktory - Where DIY Fans Meet to Share Ideas

And while many tools we buy themselves are under warranty, a little piece of plastic included in the tool might not be. "So I basically have a toolset, $60 or $70 worth of tools, that's useless because I don't have this little 10-cent plastic insert," says a user Lomazoff.

So he had a solution: He'll make one.

To do that, he's been putting in time at a new workspace called the Hacktory (thehacktory.org), assembling a vacuum-forming machine. The device will allow him to pop in a carved mold of what he needs, heat a sheet of plastic over it and suck that down on top of his positive model, creating a new tray.

The vacuum former is the first major machine project for the Hacktory, which is intended be part meeting place, part school and part garage where do-it-yourselfers such as Lomazoff can network and build things.

It's also among a surge of hacker spaces that independently have sprung up across the country and in Europe, says Ed Cummings, who sits on the board of the Hacktory's parent nonprofit group.



The idea to gather such like-minded people together first occurred to Romanoff a couple of years ago, after reading the debut of the do-it-yourselfer quarterly Make magazine. He says he and a friend were kicking back over beers, daydreaming of how great it would be to find others who were into the magazine and into building things.



Recent attendance is consistently topping 50, and the group is planning to hold its 14th meeting Sunday.

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Digital Livingroom - Will Devices Drive Functionality or Vice Versa?

What will be the evolutionary path of the digital living room? Will devices drive functionality, or will it happen the other way around, where functionality dictates the design of devices? Speakers at the Future of Television conference disagreed.

"I think purpose-built devices for particular applications will have a shelf life," BitTorrent president Ashwin Navin said. "Eventually, applications will get incorporated into the boxes with the highest volume."

Eventually, Navin said, you'll see the traditional cable or satellite STB will disappear as well, as the applications it supports get distributed across different devices.

Anton Monk, CTO of the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) thinks network operators will still have a role in determining functionality on a home network.

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Simtrix Swiftpoint Mouse Triped, Slider - Ergonomic, Reduces RSI

Ever get tired of using the oddly-placed touch pad on your laptop or get annoyed with a mouse that can cause wrist pain? Do you get frustrated with a mouse that doesn't exactly work when you happen to be in a place without a desk?

New Zealand based Simtrix introduces the handy Swiftpoint mice. These two mice are small and portable. Stated on the Simtrix Web site, there are six reasons to choose Swiftpoint:
Portable, Intuitive, Efficient, Ergonomic, Accurate, Multi-functional!

The first mouse, the Triped, is primarily used for tablet PC's and multi-touch table-top surfaces. Shaped like, well, a tripod, this mouse fits right into your fingers like a pencil. Basically, you are writing with your mouse.

The second mouse, the Slider, is ideal for portable laptops. Small and easy to use, this mouse is slightly bigger than your thumb and can be used with home multimedia products as well.
These mouse can also reduce the risk of Repetitive Strain injuries caused by lateral arm movements, hand and wrist rotation, and vertical clicking operation.

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World Epoxy Resins Market - Research Report on Challenges, Issues

Reportlinker.com announces that a new market research report related to the Chemicals industry industry is available in its catalogue. World Epoxy Resins Market

This report analyzes the worldwide markets for Epoxy Resins in Thousand Tons. The major end-use segments analyzed are Paints & Coatings (Solvent-based, Water-based, and Powder Coatings), Electrical Laminates, Bonding, Flooring & Paving, and Miscellaneous. The report provides separate comprehensive analytics for the US, Canada, Japan, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and Rest of World. Annual forecasts are provided for each region for the period of 2001 through 2015. A ten-year historic analysis is also provided for these markets with annual market analytics. The report profiles 85 companies including many key and niche players worldwide such as 3M, Aditya Birla Chemicals (Thailand) Ltd, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., Asahi Kasei Chemicals Corporation, Cognis Benelux BV, CVC Specialty Chemicals, DuPont (EI) de Nemours Co., Hexion Specialty Chemicals, Inc., Huntsman Corporation, Kukdo Chemical, Mitsui Chemicals Inc., Nan Ya Plastics Corporation, Polychem Corporation, Reichhold Inc., Spolchemie A.S., Sumitomo Bakelite Co., Ltd., The Dow Chemical Company, Dow Epoxy, and UPPC AG. Market data and analytics are derived from primary and secondary research. Company profiles are mostly extracted from URL research and reported select online sources.

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Sea Cucumbers Inspire Polymers that Change Rigidity When Exposed to Water

A new polymer made to act similarly to a sea cucumber can soften when its contacted by water.

Stealing a trick from a tiny, pickle-shaped creature that dwells in the depths of the ocean, scientists have designed a new polymer that, when exposed to water, can instantly change its rigidity and strength. The inventors say the innovation could be useful in biomedical applications, such as brain implants for patients suffering from Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries or stroke. Those inserts, say some researchers, may fail because they need to be very stiff when they are “installed.”

When contacted by water, the material transforms from a hard plastic, like that of a CD case, to a soft rubber, explains Stuart Rowan, an associate professor of macromolecular science and engineering in the chemistry department at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and a co-author on the new study, which appears in Science.

Sea cucumbers, of course, are always in contact with water. The animals perform their rigid-to-soft "trick" when they sense a threat, hardening up their skin as a sort of body armor.

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Wal-Mart Supercenter in Las Vegas Uses New Tech to Cut Energy Use

Skylights will provide most of the daytime interior lighting at the new Wal-Mart Supercenter. Fluorescent lights that either dim or turn off when the sun is shining will complement the skylights.

The new Wal-Mart Supercenter in southwest Las Vegas, which the retailing giant calls its most efficient yet, uses new adaptations of old technology to cut energy use by 45 %. Soon, most of the technology will be incorporated into traditional Wal-Mart store features. Some of those features include heat-soaking floors that will help cool the 210,000-square-foot store's interior and pipes that run through the concrete floors every six inches. The pipes carry cold water from indirect evaporative coolers on the roof and keep the floor temperature at 67 degrees to 68 degrees.

Wal-Mart has said it is the world's biggest private user of electricity and has huge potential to cut back on greenhouse gases from fossil fuels burned to create electricity

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Nano-imprint Technology - Can Molecular Imprints Circumvent Lithography Altogether?

A small group of players in the lithography industry wants to avoid the whole problem of nanometer optical lithography by doing away with the optical part. Nano-imprint technology typically uses e-beam systems to create a mechanical template, not unlike the tools used to press CDs, but on a much finer scale. These folks make a template that is an exact 1:1 image of a resist pattern. They coat the wafer with a polymer, press the template into it, harden the polymer with either heat or UV light, and withdraw the template. Presto: a pattern in the polymer that can be used to mask portions of the wafer. Stepping and repeating creates a patterned polymer layer across an entire wafer.

In principle, the technique has a great future. It requires only inexpensive equipment, needs no DfM tools, OPC, phase-shifting patterns, or other adjustments to the mask to compensate for optical effects—what you see is actually what you get—and in the lab researchers have demonstrated forming features as small as 3 nm. But there have been disabling problems as well.

The chief among them being but many industry experts feel that these issues can be addressed, and to a great extent have been already.

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Future Trends in Wireless - Predictions, Applications, Challenges

Wireless Future Trends

This post @ the Future of Engineering Blog presents (hopefully) interesting web resources for the future trends in wireless.

Top Trends

The Top 10 Wireless Trends for 2008 -
1. Wireless networks will remain the domain of wireless operators
2. The first android phones hit the market
3. Cameraphones will get even fancier
4. Mobile ads will come to a cell phone screen near you
5. Wimax will become available
6. Openness will continue to dominate the wireless lexicon
7. Nokia will become a major mobile software player
8. Getting lost will get harder
9. More touchscreens
10. Silicon valley will become a wireless industry hot spot

The Seven Top Mobile and Wireless Trends for '07 -
1. More mobile access, more competition
2. The era of 'the big bundle'
3. The democratization of mobile e-mail
4. Search and discovery
5. Mobility gets social
6. Convergence: one phone, many places
7. Media, media, media

Top 10 Wireless Trends -
1. Wireless networks will remain the domain of wireless operators.
2. The first android (google's mobile platform) phones hit the market.
3. Cameraphones will get even fancier.
4. Mobile phone ads will come to a cell phone screen near you.
5. Wimax will become available.
6. Openness will continue to dominate the wireless lexicon.
7. Nokia will become a major mobile software player.
8. Getting lost will get harder.
9. More touchscreens.
10. Silicon valley will become a wireless industry hot spot.

5 Wireless Trends to Watch in 2008 - Wireless communication will see some drastic changes in 2008. The fcc (federal communications commission) will auction off a big chunk of spectrum, and new services will emerge using the existing spectrum. There will be wireless applications of technologies that aren't traditionally wireless, and wireless moves by companies that aren't traditionally in the wireless business. For those who need to know how all these changes will affect their use of wireless devices and applications, here are five trends to keep an eye on.

Nokia Unveils Future Trends in Mobile Tech - Nokia has unveiled plans for its next-generation mobile technology. It's not simply about mobile devices either; preference is also being given to operating systems and software. The plans were put forward at the 'the way we live next' event, an exclusive briefing at the nokia research center in oulu, finland’s northern technology hub.

Future Trends in Wireless and Mobile Communications - As reported in a recent bbc news article, wireless networks are spreading across the UK, with blanket 'wi-fi zones' being rolled out in nine urban centres across the country. But what do these advancements in technology actually mean for the average person in the street? Thankfully, the university of westminster's professor kambiz madani is on hand to explain all.

Future Trends in Wireless Communications - Tremendous changes are occurring in the area of wireless communications, so much so that the mobile phone of yesterday is rapidly turning into a sophisticated mobile device capable of more applications than pcs were capable of only a few years ago. For example, the data rates provided by the initial high speed downlink packet access (hsdpa) extension to 3g networks enable a user to wirelessly access the internet at speeds up to 1.8 mbits/second. Further enhancements in hsdpa modulation schemes will soon increase this speed to greater than 10mbits/second. So downloading your latest e-mails with a 5 mb powerpoint™ attachment outside of the office is no longer a frustrating and time-consuming exercise. In fact, it is just as fast as when you are in the office.

Predictions

Wireless Future - Phones that get you into concerts, tell co-workers not to call now - or even display which friends are at a show. The next phase of the mobile revolution is about to begin

Generation Mobile - As regards what will drive future trends in mobile, it remains to be seen how big an impact user-generated content such as uploading photos, blogging etc will have. But what is certain is the mobile handset’s future as a web platform will be driven by consumer demand for continued innovation and 24/7 access to information. Industry experts and technologists alike tell us the mobile is becoming increasingly like the pc or laptop and that soon we will have the same functionality and computing power in our hands as we have on our desks. Yet customisation of most handsets goes only as far as changing ringtones or wallpaper and the installation of software is severely limited and locked into the handset manufacturer, something which would not be tolerated on a desktop or laptop. This is slowly changing with the release of software developer kits (sdks) by both apple and google.

The Future - How Wireless Communications will Evolve Over the Next 20 Years - Professor William Webb is Ofcom’s head of research and development and senior technologist where he manages a team providing technical advice and performing research across all areas of its regulatory remit. He predicts how the next 20 years will see a very substantial, but steady change in the way we live. Webb points out that little new technology is needed to make us rely heavily on a single device that will manage all our professional and personal communications needs. This evolution will be based on massively enhanced services, turning the mobile phone into an organiser, entertainment device, payment device, security centre and much more. To make this happen webb predicts that one of the greatest changes is that broadcasting and communications will become a seamless network so that any content is available through any channel at any time. He also highlights the areas which will witness significant growth while predicting areas which won’t be so successful in the future.

Mobile Phones May Lead the Charge Out of Our Wire-mired World - Wouldn’t a wireless world be a wonderful thing? The light seems to be shining at the end of the tunnel. We’ve already got cord-free with our phones, remote controls, video game controls and numerous other devices. So what’s with the wires that continue to mire the backs of our tvs, vcrs, stereos and the other things that have become essential parts of our entertainment centers

The Future of Wireless - Wireless network technology may have an impact over the next two years: 802.16, better known as wimax. This technology supports speeds as high as 70mbps and a range of up to 48 kilometres, making it ideal for large corporate campuses and rural areas where cable and dsl broadband service aren't widely available. Intel says that it will begin shipping chips with wimax technology in the second half of this year

The Ultrafast Future of Wireless - Researchers at the university of utah have found a way to control terahertz radiation with more precision than ever before, potentially laying the foundation for a new breed of wireless devices that can take advantage of the previously untapped frequencies. Although still years from commercialization, routers and receivers that use terahertz radiation--which technically ranges from about 100 gigahertz to 10 terahertz--could eventually pack more data onto airwaves, speeding up wireless internet links a thousand times, says ajay nahata, a professor of electrical and computer engineering who led the research

Wi-fi and the Future of Wireless - What started a century ago with marconi's radio and became the now ubiquitous cellphone is now taking shape around a two-way radio technology called wi-fi (short for "wireless fidelity"). It promises to unplug more communications devices by making the internet available just about everywhere and letting people talk to each other more easily than ever before.

Wireless Apps

Future Trends in Miniaturization for Wireless Applications (PDF) - The future of miniaturization of wireless networks is described from the viewpoint of today’s trends in miniaturization, such as microelectromechanical systems and nanotechnology, along with the move away from computer processing–centric systems to distributed networks. The complexity, convergence of technologies, and connectivity of the remote wireless sensor known as the “mote” are discussed in relation to distributed networks. The growth of this technology is compared with growth predicted by moore’s law, which charts a linear progression of technology such as size of a resistor, as well as by the technology S-curve, which charts a logarithmic growth such as that seen by the internet. We show That growth in the number of applications for motes is likely to more closely follow the predictions Of the s-curve. The capabilities of this technology, in terms of functionality, have The potential for the log-linear growth experienced in the modern microcircuit world.

Smartphones Emerge as Future of Wireless - Smartphones, with features such as a voice, contact, appointment, web browsing and e-mail functionality used to be purchased mainly by business people. That's changing rapidly. Manufacturers are now marketing their smarter, full-function handsets to regular consumers and are realizing that the demand is going to be high.

Wireless Future: Ubiquitous Computing (PDF) - Over the last 30 years, we have seen the power of microprocessors double about every 18 months. An equally rapid increase applies to some other technological parameters such as storage capacity and communications bandwidth. This continuing trend means that computers will Become considerably smaller, cheaper, and more abundant – they are becoming ubiquitous, and are even finding their way into everyday objects. This is resulting in the creation of “smart” things that can access the internet and its varied resources, and maybe even cooperate with each other. Mobile phones are a forerunner in this technological field – they are now true computers equipped with a whole range of functionality and may well develop into control centers for a multitude of other personal auxiliary services

Microscopic Radio Hints at Future of Wireless Comms - Us researchers have created a radio using carbon nanotubes so tiny it can fit on a grain of sand, showing how nanotubes could soon be used to make more efficient electronic devices. Professor of materials science and engineering at the university of illinois, tim rodgers, who led the researchers said: "our radio is unique in that it uses nanotube-based transistors for all of the active components of the device, from the resonant antenna to the rf amplifiers, rf mixers and even the audio amplifier." headphones can then be connected directly to the output of a nanotube transistor, he added.

Wizard of the Wireless Future - Jeff hawkins created the first palm pilot (PLMO) digital organizer and then went on to create the handspring visor line as well as the popular new treo 600 combination cell phone, e-mail device, and organizer. His new book, on intelligence, explores the structure of the human brain and how that understanding will help create a new breed of truly intelligent machines. He recently spoke with businessweek correspondent cliff edwards about convergence, the state of innovation in silicon valley, and the technological advances that are exciting to him.

Problems & Challenges

Wireless Hotspots: Current Challenges and Future Directions (PDF) -
In recent years, wireless internet service providers (wisps) established wi-fi hotspots in increasing numbers at public venues, providing local coverage to traveling users and empowering them with the ability to access email, web, and other internet applications
on the move. In this paper, we observe that while the mobile computing landscape has changed both in terms of number and type of hotspot venues, there are several technological and deployment challenges remaining before hotspots can become an ubiquitous
infrastructure. These challenges include authentication, security, coverage, management, location services, billing, and interoperability. We discuss existing research, the work of standards bodies, and the experience of commercial hotspot providers in these areas,
and then describe compelling open research questions that remain.

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The Vertical Farm Project - A Better Land Use Method

The Problem

By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth's population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. At present, throughout the world, over 80% of the land that is suitable for raising crops is in use. Historically, some 15% of that has been laid waste by poor management practices. What can be done to avoid this impending disaster?

A Potential Solution: Farm Vertically

An entirely new approach to indoor farming must be invented, employing cutting edge technologies. Vertical farms, many stories high, will be situated in the heart of the world's urban centers.


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Johnathan Goodwin - an Auto Mechanic Does What Detroit Says is Impossible

This is an interesting story. It centers on Kansas City auto mechanic and inventor Johnathan Goodwin.

Two years ago, Goodwin got a rare chance to show off his tricks to some of the car industry's most prominent engineers. He was driving a converted H2 to the SEMA show, the nation's biggest annual specialty automotive confab, and stopped en route at a Denver hotel. When he woke up in the morning, there were 20 people standing around his Hummer. Did I run over somebody? he wondered. As it turned out, they were engineers for GM, the Hummer's manufacturer. They noticed that Goodwin's H2 looked modified. "Does it have a diesel engine in it?"
"Yeah," he said.
"No way," they replied.
He opened the hood, "and they're just all in and out and around the valves and checking it out," he says. He'd filled it up with grease from a Chinese restaurant the day before and was worried that the cold morning might have solidified the fuel. But it started up on the first try and ran so quietly that at first they didn't believe it was really on

And they're like, 'Is it running? Yeah, you can hear the fan going.'" One engineer turned and said, "GM said this wouldn't work."

Remember -- Detroit tells us it's impossible to increase gas mileage without taking a hit on horsepower. Yet here's Goodwin -- with an eight-grade education -- able to design motors that blow the doors off the conventional wisdom.

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U.S. Engineering Degrees Declining - Fewer Engg Students in Pipeline

The numbers are cause for concern. While enrollment at individual U.S. engineering schools remains stable, the overall number of engineering degrees is declining, according to a report on engineering trends. Just how worrying depends on the degree level—bachelor's, master's or doctorate.

According to a February report by Engineering Trends, U.S. universities are awarding more engineering Ph.D.s than in the past. However, the report's authors predict that those gains will be lost because there aren't enough engineering students in the pipeline.

Small but steady declines in bachelor's degrees have occurred in the past three academic years. In 2004-05, some 76,632 engineering bachelor's degrees were awarded. In 2005-06, the number dropped slightly to 76,301. In 2006-07, it again decreased to 75,113.

Computer and electrical engineering bachelor's degrees were no exception to the rule.

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Telematics Heralds Self-driving Car - Marc de Jong, NXP Semiconductors

Integration of consumer devices is one of the major growth trends in automotive electronics, with telematics as a close second. Both technologies pose significant challenges to electronics designers and at the same time open interesting perspectives for OEMs, tier ones, service providers " and drivers.

At the recent Euroforum Automotive Electronics congress in Munich, EE Times Europe discussed perspectives and obstacles with Marc de Jong, executive vice president and general manager, automotive & identification, NXP Semiconductors.

According to him, "Telematics is one of the hottest topics in automotive at the moment. There are enormous perspectives, and in the end – and now I am making a dangerous statement – a vision could be a self-driving car. If you extrapolate the technological developments you will see that it is about moving away from you and me driving a car and being focused on the road and concentrate on driving towards a situation where you will be spending less energy on driving and more having time to communicate and interact by phone and internet, interact with passengers in the car and enjoy the ride. It is this vision that is behind telematics"

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Unified Communications, Network Security Key Networking Trends in 2008

New technologies and practices are sure to impact the network and the VARs that offer networking gear in 2008. Advancements in unified communications, network security, green networking and the addition of an Ethernet switch from a vendor that has yet to offer one, will have the channel reeling with potential. According to Yankee Group senior vice president Zeus Kerravala, a former reseller himself, 2008 will be a big year.

Here are some key trends to expect in the coming year:
1. Unified Communications
2. Network Security...

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Coal Emerging as Feedstock for Plastics - Bad News for Environment?

We all know that crude oil isn't just used to fuel our cars and heat our homes - it is also used to make a range of chemicals, including those in plastics, lubricants and fertilisers. With dwindling oil reserves, coal is emerging as an easy alternative. This could be true for the chemical applications as well.

Why is this a concern? Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel. One megawatt hour of electricity produced from coal produces 974 kg CO2 versus 726 and 469 for oil and natural gas.

Coal becomes an economically attractive option for making plastic when oil sells for $50 per barrel. It ceases to be attractive below $35 per barrel.

So why is coal not already being used? In part because of environmental concerns. Coal gets bad press, and countries that have signed the Kyoto protocol may not be able to "afford" the additional emissions of CO2. Not surprising, then, that coal's potential as a raw material for making chemicals is greatest in China, India and the US -- as yet, none of them have any obligations to reduce their emissions and together, they are home to about half the world's coal reserves.


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Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs) - Metal Hybrids Promise Materials of the Future

Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs), a fairly new class of hybrid materials that combine organic molecules with metal atoms, is thought to have a bright future for various applications, from medicine to the automotive industry. They could be used to create a variety of innovative materials that are described to have a complex architecture, such as thin or thick films, microparticles and fibers, for use for diagnostics or treatment.

So what are the MOFs? The European Science Foundation explains:

MOFs are porous materials with microscopic sized holes, resembling honeycombs at molecular dimensions. This property of having astronomical numbers of tiny holes within a relatively small volume can be exploited in various ways, one of which is as a repository for gases. Gas molecules diffuse into the MOF solid and are contained within its pores. In the case of gas storage, MOFs offer the crucial advantage of soaking up some of the gas pressure exerted by the molecules.

This makes hydrogen derived from non-fossil energy sources such as fuel cells, or even genetically engineered plants, potentially viable as a fuel for cars while the alternative of pressurised canisters is not.

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Systems Biology is Moving Towards Clinical Applications

While it now remains a research tool, systems biology is moving toward clinical applications, including personalized

Imagine going to a doctor's office. your complete genome sequence, which provides a probabilistic prediction of your future health, is part of your medical file. To see how that genetic component is playing out and to obtain a snapshot of your current health status, your doctor orders a standard test of more than 2,000 proteins and metabolites. According to the results of those tests, your doctor recommends ways for you to maintain or improve your health through either medication or behavior modification.

This network illustrates a cause-and-effect model of the mechanisms involved in the transition of prostate cancer from androgen dependence to androgen independence. The colors indicate whether a component increases or decreases (green is observed increase, red is observed decrease, yellow is predicted increase, and blue is predicted decrease). The labels H1 to H5 represent five major hypotheses of mechanisms responsible for the progression of prostate cancer. Sounds futuristic? Perhaps, but it's not as far off as it seems, and systems biology will help make it a reality. Such a personalized approach to medicine is only one of the clinical applications of systems biology on the horizon.

"We've struggled for eons to figure out how to handle biological complexity," says H. Steven Wiley, director of the biomolecular systems initiative at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Biological research has traditionally taken a one-at-a-time approach to studying genes and proteins, the so-called reductionist approach. Now, tools such as DNA and protein microarrays and mass spectrometry have made it possible to study many components and clarify how they work together to regulate and carry out biological processes. The goal of systems biology is to combine molecular information of various types in models that describe and predict function at the cellular, tissue, organ, and even whole-organism levels.

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It's No Longer Zero Carbon, Now Carbon Negative is the Goal

If the world is going to sharply reduce the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by midcentury, then many businesses will have to go carbon neutral, bringing their net emissions of the greenhouse gas to zero.

But some could go even further by removing more CO2 than they produce. Instead of carbon neutral, how about carbon negative?

In academic and industrial labs worldwide, researchers are working on technologies to reach that goal. Success could create the ultimate green business — for example, one that produces fuel whose emissions are more than offset by carbon dioxide stored during production. The businesses would be successful if, as anticipated, Congress puts a tax on emissions or starts a trading plan that makes carbon credits valuable.

For some experts, it’s not a question of whether businesses will go carbon negative but when.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that an 80 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions was necessary to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. But capturing the gas from coal plant smokestacks or switching to fuels that produce less of it when burned goes only so far.

While much engineering work would have to be done to make a business carbon negative, the outlines are clear.

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Using DNA Shuffling, E.coli Gives Hydrogen from Sugar

Texas A&M Professor Thomas Wood and his research team have successfully genetically manipulated Escherichia coli to produce hydrogen fuel from common sugar.

E. coli is commonly associated with food poisoning from uncooked meat, but the bacteria is also found naturally in the human body. Wood said that the average person has eight kilograms (17.6 pounds) of bacteria in their body at any given time. This bacteria naturally produces hydrogen to increase the pH of its surroundings for survival.

Wood has spent the previous 17 years manipulating the bacteria to do different things. Wood said that his research group initially started out with the wrong assumptions, but once the research settled its focus on E. coli, progress began moving along rapidly.

"We have used a process called DNA shuffling, in which we separate and re-splice E. coli genes in random sequences. We eventually found a combination which produced more hydrogen," Wood said


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DARPA's UNIC Program for Sun - Ultraperformance Nanophotonic Intrachip Communication

Sun Microsystems, Inc. has been awarded $44.29 million funding for a five and a half-year research project focused on microchip interconnectivity via on-chip optical networks enabled by Silicon photonics and proximity communication. Part of DARPA's Ultraperformance Nanophotonic Intrachip Communication program, the project commences with an incremental delivery of $8.1 million to Sun Microsystems' Microelectronics and Laboratories divisions

Building on research done under DARPA's High Productivity Computing Systems program, Sun's new project will accelerate the development of lower cost, high performance and high productivity systems. The project presents a unique opportunity to develop supercomputers through interconnecting an array of low-cost chips, with the potential to overcome the fundamental cost and performance limits of scaling up today's large computer systems

"DARPA's UNIC (Ultraperformance Nanophotonic Intrachip Communications) program will demonstrate high performance photonic technology for high bandwidth, on-chip, photonic communications networks for advanced (≥ 10 trillion operations/second) microprocessors. By restoring the balance between computation and communications, the program will significantly enhance DoD's capabilities for applications such as Image Processing, Autonomous Operations, Synthetic Aperture Radar, as well as supercomputing," said Dr. Jag Shah, program manager in DARPA's Microsystems Technology Office.

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Soild Hydrogen Storage System by Stanford Ovshinsky

Hydrogen Solutions to Replace Gasoline Inventor will Keynote nanoTX USA’08

World-famed pioneer in nanostructures, who was once named Time Magazine’s “Hero of the Planet,” is greatly anticipated in the scientific and business community with exciting new advances

Stanford R. Ovshinsky has become a living legend in the scientific and business communities, having once been profiled in a one-hour PBS program on NOVA entitled “Japan’s American Genius.” The most recent exciting advancement is his solid hydrogen storage system, a metal hydride solid which can be stored in a granular, inert form in compact tanks. It's as easy to fuel up a vehicle with this solid hydrogen as it is to gas up a conventional car. When the car needs fuel, a little energy from the battery system heats up the solid and releases hydrogen gas. Solid hydrogen is currently powering some internal combustion engines on modified Toyota Priuses, and the future looks promising for fuel cell implementation.

Full story here

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke Lectures - The Next Billion Years, Emerging Global Brain

Wow, this is an excellent read. It's difficult to write a precis for this, so I suggest you read the entire post - quite a long one, I must warn you, but fascinating, don't worry!

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Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) - The Future of Motoring?

Automotive entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin is convinced that his New York-based company, Visionary Vehicles, will introduce a globally sourced, Chinese-built plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) to the US market in 2009. According to Bricklin, the car will achieve fuel efficiency of at least 100 mpg, boast a level of detail to rival Mercedes, and roll into consumer’s driveways for $35,000. Bricklin sees it as a no-compromise automobile that will embarrass the Prius in the areas of mileage, luxury, and desirability. “This 35-mpg garbage is going to be history,” says Bricklin. “If I have the opportunity to change this industry, I’m going to. And I do have the opportunity to change this industry. So I will.”

The claim brings Bricklin head-to-head with the world’s biggest automakers as they race to develop a technology many are heralding as the future of motoring.

Full story here

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Biochips, Computers Could Lead to Personalized Medicine, Better Drugs

Recently scientists have provided a sneak preview of the future of biomedicine with a range of projects seeking to assemble virtual humans — or parts of them — on computers and “labs on a chip.” Someday, the descendants of these sophisticated new programs and devices could serve as our stand-ins for clinical tests on drugs, cosmetics and toxic compounds.

The increasing ability of computers and biochips to mimic brain chemistry, internal organs, and the interactions between drugs and viruses such as HIV could help reduce the reliance on animal testing to understand the potency and side effects of pharmaceuticals. A more informed leap between experiments on dish-grown cells and lab animals, in turn, could lead to a better drug development process. And eventually, the technology could usher in a new era of personalized medicine in which rapid tests tell doctors which treatments have the best chances of success for individual patients.

Full story here

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The future of biomedicine: virtual humans

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Chemical Brain for Controlling Nanobots, Nano-machines

The researchers have already built larger 'brains'

A tiny chemical "brain" which could one day act as a remote control for swarms of nano-machines has been invented.

The molecular device - just two billionths of a metre across - was able to control eight of the microscopic machines simultaneously in a test. Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists say it could also be used to boost the processing power of future computers. The machine is made from 17 molecules of the chemical duroquinone. Each one is known as a "logic device".

Many experts have high hopes for nano-machines in treating disease.

More from here

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Nanobots Controlled By Chemical Brain

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HyperSpace Laptops Run More than One OS

Tired of Windows? The next generation of laptops may let you jump from one operating system to another to play movies, surf the Web or read e-mail.

Phoenix Technologies, a leading maker of the software that controls the most basic workings of Windows computers, announced this week that it will offer a feature it calls HyperSpace to laptop manufacturers.

User will be able to boot in a few seconds straight into the DVD player, skipping the longer Windows startup, or switch to the DVD player from Windows. If Windows is running at the same time, it can be put in sleep mode, prolonging battery life.

Full story here

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Translating Thoughts into Speech - from Ambient Technologies

Ambient Technologies is offering far more than a penny for your thoughts with a new application that can translate thoughts into speech. Imagine what this means for people suffering from ALS (i.e, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking) and a wide range of neurological disorders who have much to say - and now a new way to say it.

The ability to connect brains and computers has applications in medicine, robotics, defense, security and everyday software. Stretch this a bit further and it’s easy to imagine the effects on retail, marketing, gaming, education, polling, social networking, dating, criminal justice and rehabilitation, training, psychotherapy…anywhere brains and computers meet.

Full story here

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A new device to translate thoughts into speech
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Future 'Quantum Computers' Can Make Credit Card Encryption Technology Obsolete

An unusual observation in a University of Central Florida physics lab may lead to a new generation of quantum computers that will render today's computer and credit card encryption technology obsolete.

The basis for current encryption systems is that computers would need thousands of years to factor a large number, making it very difficult to do. However, if UCF Professor Enrique del Barco's observation can be fully understood and applied, scientists may have the basis to create quantum computers -- which could easily break the most complicated encryption in a matter of hours.

Del Barco said the observation may foster the understanding of quantum tunneling of nanoscale magnetic systems, which could revolutionize the way we understand computation.

According to quantum mechanics, small magnetic objects called nanomagnets can exist in two distinct states. They can switch their state through a phenomenon called quantum tunneling. switch is called quantum tunneling because it looks like a funnel cloud tunneling from one pole to another.

Del Barco published paper shows that two almost independent halves of a new magnetic molecule can tunnel, or switch poles, at once under certain conditions. In the process, they appear to cancel out quantum tunneling. This is somewhat similar in concept to what can be observed when two rays of light run into interference. Once the they run into the interference you can expect darkness.

Essentially, what this simultaneous tunneling means is that quantum tunneling can be controlled. Controlling quantum tunneling shifts could help create the quantum logic gates necessary to create quantum computers.

Quantum computers, if they become a reality, could have such dramatically enhanced processing speeds that some of the operations that are today considered to take an inconsiderably long time can be completed much quicker. This is mostly good, but sometimes such phenomenally faster computers could also create problems. Quantum computers, for instance, can also make much of today's credit card encryption technologies obsolete!

Read a more detailed report here

See also a related report Qutrits Bring Quantum Computer Closer

Related blogposts
Future Quantum Computers Will Offer Increased Efficiency… And Risks
Quantum computers: technological deliverance or the end of security?

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Putting McKinsey's Eight Business Technology Trends into Practice

The McKinsey Quarterly recently published an article on eight business technology trends to watch that was not only quite good, but a good summary of the trends that you should be implementing, appropriately, in your supply chain. In this second part of this two part series, this post from Sourcing Innovation reviews the trends and give you some examples of how you can apply them to improve your sourcing and supply chain practice.

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Putting McKinsey's Eight Business Technology Trends into Practice
McKinsey’s 8 Business Technology Trends to Watch

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McKinsey Quarterly Eight Business Technology Trends To Watch

A recent article at the McKinsey Quarterly "Eight business technology trends to watch" by James Manyika, Roger Roberts and Kara Sprague identified some trends that we as IT leaders need to be thinking about. The trends they identify are:

Managing Relationships

1. Distributing cocreation - use the Internet to collaborate
2. Using consumers as innovators - use "crowdsourcing"
3. Tapping into a world of talent - using the Net
4. Extracting more value from interactions - using technology

Managing Capital and Assets

5. Expanding the frontiers of automation
6. Unbundling production from delivery - use technology to make our fixed assets into reusable components

Leveraging Information in New Ways

7. Putting more science into management - more data-based decisions
8. Making businesses from information - from new markets.

Via: Beyond Blinking Lights & Acronyms

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McKinsey Quarterly - Trends in Business Technology
Business Technology Trends To Watch

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What's Wrong with Stem Cell Research?

What indeed is wrong with stem cell research?

Well, most folks opposed to stem cell research are not exactly opposed to stem cell research. They are opposed to embryonic stem cell research. What is it?

The two broad types of mammalian stem cells are: embryonic stem cells that are found in developing embryos, and adult stem cells found in adult tissues. In a developing embryo, stem cells can differentiate into all of the specialized embryonic tissues. In adult organisms, stem cells and progenitor cells act as a repair system for the body, replenishing specialized cells, but also maintain the normal turnover of regenerative organs, such as blood, skin or intestinal tissues. (source: Wikipedia, see also NIH Stem Cell Info Home Page)

The methods to get embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of discarded human embryos, usually from fertility clinics. These frozen embryos are created by in vitro fertilization, are no longer needed by the families who produced them, such embryos were available for “adoption". Now you can understand the context. (some FAQs that will throw more light on these: From Wired here & here, http://www.whitehead.mit.edu/news/paradigm/spring_2007/faqs.html, Massachusetts General Hospital, NIH, Reasons to Believe, International Society for Stem Cell Research)

Many pro-lifers believe that human life, in the form of an ovum and spermatozoon, becomes a human person at the time of fertilization. Thus, killing an embryo in order to extract its stem cells is a form of homicide. They are generally opposed to such research. Others disagree. They believe that an embryo has the potential to develop into a person, but is not a person itself. They note that an embryo is not sentient; it has no brain, sensory organs, ability to think, awareness of its surroundings, consciousness, internal organs, arms, legs, head, etc. They feel that research using stem cells derived from embryos is ethical.

So where indeed are we heading with regard to stem cell research in general and embryonic stem cell research in particular? What are the various breakthroughs in this domain? What are the experts and politicians and yes, George W Bush saying?

This compilation looks at this important area of research and debate and provides a list of resources that will hopefully give the reader a better perspective of all the views and facts.

Breakthroughs and Inventions

Human Stem Cells May be Produced without Embryos (Jul 2007) - Japan’s leading genetics researcher could be “a matter of months” from reaching the Holy Grail of biotechnology – producing an “ethical” human stem cell without using a human embryo, he has said. The potential of Professor Yamanaka’s breakthrough work – in which the skin cells of laboratory mice were genetically manipulated back to their embryonic state – has been hailed as the equivalent of “transforming lead into gold”. If the research develops in the way he hopes, runs the excited logic, the ethical problems that have swirled around embryonic stem-cell research would disappear. The concept of artificially inducing adult cells to return to a stem-cell state raises equally attractive possibilities for organ transplantation.

Stem Cell Breakthrough Could Stifle Research (Nov 2007) - Last week independent teams of scientists announced a major advance in stem cell research with their discovery of how to turn human skin cells into an "embryonic" state, enabling these cells to grow into nerve, heart or other types of human cells. The method does not require the destruction of discarded human embryos from fertility clinics, currently the only source of embryonic stem cells. Thus, this would bypass the ethical concern that prompted the Bush White House to sharply limit funding on stem cell research. The discovery, albeit promising, might stifle embryonic stem cell research or send it down a dead-end path, for it is now harder than ever to secure funding to study the best source of embryonic stem cells—that is, embryos.

British Team Grows Human Heart Valve from Stem Cells (Apr 2007) - A British research team led by the world's leading heart surgeon has grown part of a human heart from stem cells for the first time. If animal trials scheduled for later this year prove successful, replacement tissue could be used in transplants for the hundreds of thousands of people suffering from heart disease within three years.

Stem Cell Breakthrough to Challenge Bush Objections (Aug 2006) - A stem cell breakthrough by American scientists is set to overturn ethical objections to potentially live-saving research. They have found how to make stem cells from embryos without destroying the embryo in the process - an advance that could open the door to billions of dollars in research funding. A team at the Advanced Cell Technology - a private company - has found that it is possible to create human stem cells using one or two cells from an early embryo, without doing any damage to the embryo
Stem Cells Patch Holes in Brain without Prompting (Dec 2006) - In research that could be harnessed to speed recovery from stroke or blunt-force trauma to the head, scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, report that mice genetically engineered to have holes in a region of their brain recovered due to the work of stem cells in the area.

Stem Cells for Parkinson's Disease: Breakthrough or Hype? - asks this recent post from Wired

Views and Opinions

For Catholics, is Stem Cell Research Worse than Sloth?, asks this March 2008 article in Slate - "The Vatican released a list of seven new sins...Dubbed the "social sins," they include conducting stem-cell research, polluting the environment, and causing poverty. Along with the old standbys—like lust, pride, and greed—these seven are considered to be of the "deadly" variety. What kinds of sins aren't deadly?"...read on

ES Cells without Harming the Embryo (Oct 2005) - scientists have derived embryonic stem cells from a single cell removed from an 8-cell mouse embryo. But they have implanted the remaining seven cells in a female mouse womb and produced apparently normal pregnancies in about half the cases. Hitherto, stem cells have been taken from later stage embryos in a way which destroys their potential to develop any further. This is seen as tantamount to murder by those who regard the early embryo as having the same moral status as a live human baby. If the new method could successfully be done with human early embryos, the researchers say here is a way to obtain embryo stem cells without destroying the embryo. Would this argument work?

Ten Problems with Embryonic Stem Cell Research - A developed stem cell line comes from a single embryo, becoming a colony of cells that reproduces indefinitely. Consider now the following ten problems with Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR).
1. The issue of who or what
2. The deliberate misuse of terminology in defining stem cells
3. ESCR is related to human cloning
4. The current status of ESCR in the U.S. is unsettled at best
5. There is law that could apply to ESCR
6. Polls show that the American people do not approve using public money to destroy human embryos in medical research
7. ESCR puts us on the road to growing humans for body parts
8. Contemporary moral issues often follow the flow of money
9. ESCR currently has major disadvantages
10. The Success and Promise of Adult Stem Cell

For these ten reasons the author's conclusion is that more dollars should be invested in adult stem cell research and the macabre research associated with ESCR should be abandoned entirely.

Stem Cell Research: All Viewpoints - Many pro-lifers believe that human life, in the form of an ovum and spermatozoon, becomes a human person at the time of fertilization. Thus, killing an embryo in order to extract its stem cells is a form of homicide. They are generally opposed to such research. Others disagree. They believe that an embryo has the potential to develop into a person, but is not a person itself. They note that an embryo is not sentient; it has no brain, sensory organs, ability to think, awareness of its surroundings, consciousness, internal organs, arms, legs, head, etc. They feel that research using stem cells derived from embryos is ethical.

Thousands of Adult Stem Cell Deaths Show Urgency of Embryonic Research (Apr 2007) - Steven Edwards in this article says “They're mass murderers, in fact. In only five years between 2000 and 2004, adult stem cells used in some 25,000 bone marrow transplant treatments have been complicit in at least 3,629 American deaths, 624 of which involved children under the age of 18, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. If the trend continues, adult stem cells will claim their 5,000th victim since 2000 this year.” These data, he says, show that more research is required into embryonic stem cells.

Is A Life for a Life Required?

What's Wrong with Embryonic Stem Cell Research? (an old but good article, Jul 2001) - Many people have come out in opposition to stem cell research. Why? Because the major source of stem cells for research today is embryos, and the embryos are destroyed in the process of extracting the stem cells. What's the big deal? Genetically, an embryo is a human being. A very tiny, undeveloped human being, but a human being nonetheless. Even if stem cell treatments ultimately prove successful, embryonic stem cell treatment involves the deliberate killing of a human being in order to use his body parts to treat another human being. Supporters of embryonic stem cell research point to all sorts of good that might result. They paint glowing pictures of the diseases that might be cured and the people who might be helped. But does this justify killing an innocent human being?, asks this article.

Embryonic stem cell research flawed (Mar 2008) - "I've tried to do research to compare ESCR to ASCR (adult stem cell research); I refuse to be bullied into supporting what is obviously the destruction of human tissue just because I have a loved one with a disorder who needs help." - strong words indeed

Pros & Cons of Embryonic Stem Cell Research (from About.com) - Embryonic stem cells are thought by most scientists and researchers to hold potential cures for spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, hundreds of rare immune system and genetic disorders and much more. Over 100 million Americans suffer from diseases that eventually may be treated more effectively or even cured with embryonic stem cell therapy. Some researchers regard this as the greatest potential for the alleviation of human suffering since the advent of antibiotics. Many pro-lifers believe that the proper moral and religious course of action is to save existing life through embryonic stem cell therapy

What is Wrong With Embryonic Stem Cell Research? (from God & Science, a pretty well-detailed and insightful article) - Embryonic stem cell research is a hot topic that seems to pit anti-abortion conservatives against pro-abortion liberals. The conservatives claim that there are better alternatives to embryonic stem cells, while the liberals claim that conservatives are blocking research that will provide cures to many tragic diseases. Much of the rhetoric is designed to muddy the waters to invoke emotional responses of those within each camp. This paper is designed to break through sound-bites and go the heart of the matter - what are the scientific issues that impact the question of stem cell research.

Key Ethical Issues in Stem Cell Research - from the Australian Parliament Reports (PDF)

Facts

What Are The Benefits of Stem Cell Research (Feb 2007)

Stem Cell Basics (from National Institutes of Health, USA) - Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body. Serving as a sort of repair system for the body, they can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell. More from this article

Egg Harvesting and Embryonic Stem-cell Research Pose Serious Threat to Women’s Health (Mar 2007) - A congressional hearing in 2007 raised awareness on the risks to women’s health and fertility by in vitro fertilization (IVF), human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, where experts testified the techniques and drugs involved posed unacceptable risks to women's health.

Research Ethics and Stem Cells (National Institutes of Health, USA) - Stem cells show potential for many different areas of health and medical research, and studying them can help us understand how they transform into the dazzling array of specialized cells that make us what we are. Some of the most serious medical conditions, such as cancer and birth defects, are caused by problems that occur somewhere in this process. A better understanding of normal cell development will allow us to understand and perhaps correct the errors that cause these medical conditions

Stem Cell Research & George Bush

Scientists Sideline Bush Opposition to Stem Cell Research (Jun 2006) - Harvard scientists have said they will bypass President Bush's moratorium on state funding of embryonic stem cell research by using privately sourced cash. It's thought it will be the first non-commercial enterprise to work on human embryos in the US. An executive order from Bush in 2001 banned the use of public money for research on human embryonic stem cells other than just 22 old lines which have since been branded useless because of contamination. Two groups will work on creating new human stem cell lines derived from surplus IVF embryos. They will work towards using the cells to treat diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and blood disorders.

Stem Cell Pioneer Does a Reality Check (Jun 2005) - Thomson, a developmental biologist and veterinarian at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, made history in 1998 when he and fellow researchers derived the first embryonic stem cell lines from frozen human embryos. The breakthrough came after the news that a sheep named Dolly was born as the first cloned mammal — and together, the two announcements hinted at a brave new world of medical possibilities and moral debates. Since then, five of the university's cell lines have been approved for federal funding under the terms of the Bush administration's stem cell compromise of August 2001. Not surprisingly, Thomson believes that President Bush should call off his threat to veto the legislation — and that the federal government should put more money into embryonic stem cell research. Critics point out that embryonic stem cells are not being used in any clinical applications yet, while alternatives such as adult stem cells figure in scores of therapies

Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ Convinced Bush To Ban Embryonic Stem Cell Research (Dec 2007) - Shortly after taking office, President Bush announced a policy allowing federal funding of research only on existing stem cell lines, despite the urging of several of his advisers and the scientific community for expanded funding. Bush has nevertheless remained stubborn, twice vetoing legislation that would have lifted the restrictions. In a new piece in Commentary magazine, Jay Lefkowitz — who advised Bush on stem cells — reveals how the President formulated his 2001 policy. While Bush heard from a variety of groups on both sides of the issue, the turning point appeared to come when Lefkowitz read from Aldous Huxley’s fictional novel, Brave New World, and scared Bush: "A few days later, I brought into the Oval Office my copy of Brave New World, Aldous Huxley’s 1932 anti-utopian novel, and as I read passages aloud imagining a future in which humans would be bred in hatcheries, a chill came over the room"

Bush's Stem Cell Veto: What's Wrong With This Picture? (Jul 2006) - In the first ever veto of his administration, President Bush has killed legislation that would have expanded federal support of stem cell research by making available to scientists new “lines” of such cells that experts generally agree are needed to move forward in finding treatments for spinal cord injury, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and other life threatening diseases.

Scientists Excited Bush Stem Cell Research Policy May Change After Elections (Mar 2008) - Scientists who engage in stem cell research are excited that the policy President Bush has put in place about the practice could be overturned with the election of a new president. See also this related news report

Related Useful Resources

Stem Cell Resources Stem Cell Basics

And some fun - First Lady Laura Bush's Take on Stem Cells

Here's a huge 2001 Time Magazine resource on stem cells

Stem Cell Research home page

Moral relativism is absolutely great

Evolution or Exodus?

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Innovations that Could Change Manufacturing

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) announced a new initiative called Innovations That Could Change The Way You Manufacture. This member-driven initiative outlines the emerging technologies that are making a positive impact on manufacturing. It also provides an educational framework for SME members and manufacturing practitioners to keep up-to-date on the industry's latest and greatest innovations. These innovations, which include such "what's hot" advancements as Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM); "what's now" like self- assembling nanotechnology and "what's green or eco-friendly" like ultracapacitors will be showcased at the upcoming Competitive Manufacturers Conference. The Conference, scheduled for June 17-19 at the Chicago Marriott Schaumburg, is designed to connect manufacturing professionals to leading industry experts.

The Innovations initiative was born out of a series of meetings, e-mail exchanges and other communications between SME's Technical Community Network (TCN) and the larger manufacturing community. The TCN requested nominations for ideas from the community, kept some and eliminated others, and then presented its findings to SME's Manufacturing Enterprise Council (MEC) for review. The Council collaboratively selected five "innovations that could change the way you manufacture" based on such criteria as universality across industries, positive impact on manufacturing, current availability for integration, and overall industry value. These innovations include:
o Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM)
o Ultracapacitors o Self-Assembling Nanotechnology
o Intelligent Device Integration (IDI)
o Integrated 3-D Simulation
o Modeling/Desktop Super Computers...

Full report here

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Biodegradable Plastic Markets with high growths to 2015 over 6 Billion US Dollar and 12.5 bn 2025

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Reverse Engineering Our Brains

Recently, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) unveiled 14 grand challenges for the 21st century. One of the challenges, is "Reverse-engineer the brain" with the subtext that "The intersection of engineering and neuroscience promises great advances in health care, manufacturing, and communication."...

An excerpt from the site:
"
For decades, some of engineering’s best minds have focused their thinking skills on how to create thinking machines — computers capable of emulating human intelligence.

Why should you reverse-engineer the brain?
While some of thinking machines have mastered specific narrow skills — playing chess, for instance — general-purpose artificial intelligence (AI) has remained elusive.

Part of the problem, some experts now believe, is that artificial brains have been designed without much attention to real ones. Pioneers of artificial intelligence approached thinking the way that aeronautical engineers approached flying without much learning from birds. It has turned out, though, that the secrets about how living brains work may offer the best guide to engineering the artificial variety. Discovering those secrets by reverse-engineering the brain promises enormous opportunities for reproducing intelligence the way assembly lines spit out cars or computers."

Interesting!

Via: Cognitive Computing Blog

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Reverse engineering the brain

Stacked Package - MIniaturization, Package-in-package (PiP), Package-on-package (PoP)

Stacked package is a promising solution offering high integration that leads to miniaturization. Among stacked packages, package-in-package (PiP) and package-on-package (PoP) are increasingly becoming important in the packaging industry, especially in mobile phone applications, as they enable the stacking of high-density logic devices. PoP solutions feature two packages with one placed above the other; solder balls are used to bond both these packages. This type of packaging results in the integration of logic and memory components in separate packages. For example, the integration of the application processor and the memory in mobile phones is achieved by using PoP solutions.PoP solutions contain two to four memory dies stacked on the top-package and one or two logic devices stacked on the bottom-package. The package height for the PoP solution depends on the number of dies encapsulated within that package. Presently, mobile handsets and digital cameras are stacking two packages for logic and memory architecture, while flash memory modules and high-density dynamic random access memory (DRAM) are stacking up to four packages more.

Full report from here

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Very Small Microchip To Aid in Future Disease Diagnosis

A tiny, highly sensitive device that could give medics a head start in testing for a range of diseases is being developed by engineers at the University of Leeds. The Leeds device is more than ten times smaller than existing models while offering the accuracy and sensitivity required for clinical diagnostics - and the researchers believe the technology could allow them to reduce the size much further still.

The inventors used an array of electrodes as the base of their device rather than the conventional glass slide. The individual electrodes are created using the same technology used to produce modern microchips, so are very small and very closely spaced.

Conventional techniques use antibodies as receptors on their sensors to bind to the target proteins – but these are not very stable when attached to a sensor and tend to lose their specificity. So the developers created an artificial robust antibody called a ‘peptide aptamer’ that is so stable that it can be attached to the electrodes and still bind to a specific target protein.

Full report here

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Microchip Could Aid In Future Disease Diagnosis

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Three Key R&D Priorities for Future US Manufacturing

A new report published today identifies and describes research and development priorities for the future of three critical, high-tech U.S. manufacturing areas – hydrogen energy technologies, nanomanufacturing, and intelligent and integrated manufacturing. The report, Manufacturing the Future: Federal Priorities for Manufacturing R&D, was prepared by the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Manufacturing R&D of the National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC) Committee on Technology.

Competing successfully in today’s fast-paced global community requires rapid innovation, research and production methods to cost-effectively bring products to market. The report describes the significance of each of the three critical manufacturing R&D areas, details the challenges essential for progress, discusses existing interagency collaborations and provides recommendations for future research.

These manufacturing areas also correspond to existing priorities established by the federal government through the President’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, the National Nanotechnology Initiative and the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program.

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The 25 Potential Technology, Environment Threats to UK

These are the 25 technological advances and environmental changes that could pose a potential threat to Britain, according to scientists.

1. Nanotechnologies
2. Invasive impacts of artificial life and biomimetic robots
3. Unintended consequences of pathogens developed by modern biotechnology
4. Direct impact of novel pathogens
5. Impacts of control efforts for novel pathogens
6. Facilitation of non-native invasive species through climate change
7. Large-scale restoration for iconic wildlife and habitats
8. Action to facilitate species range change in the face of climate change
9. Frequency of extreme weather events
10. Geo-engineering the planet to mitigate the effects of climate change
11. Implications for biodiversity of the adoption of an ecosystem approach
12. Increased fire risk
13. Increasing demand for biofuel and biomass
14. Step change in demand for food and hence pressure on land for agriculture
15. Ocean acidification
16. Reduction of coldwater continental shelf marine habitats
17. Significant increase in coastal and offshore power generation
18. Extreme high-water coastal events
19. Sea level rise resulting in loss of coastal and intertidal habitats
20. Dramatic changes in freshwater flows
21. Nature conservation policy and practice may not keep pace with environmental change
22. Internet and new e-technologies connect people with information on the environment
23. Decline in engagement with nature
24. Adoption of monetary value as the key criterion in conservation decision-making
25. Public antagonism towards wildlife due to perceived human health threat

Source: Telegraph, UK

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25 environmental threats of the future

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Superionic Stamping, Dip-pen Nanolithography - 2 New Nanofabrication Techniques

Two new and exciting scanning-probe techniques have been developed recently. The field is moving closer to being able to build 3D engineered atom-precise structures. Neither of these techniques does this yet, and one may not be able to, but... read on and see why this is an exciting time to be in nanotech.

Superionic stamping is a technique that uses a solid material in which metal ions can move around when directed by electricity. Push the stamp into a substrate, run a current, and some metal moves from the stamp onto the substrate.

The second technique uses dip-pen nanolithography to build artificial lipid bilayers, like the ones that make up cell membranes. The developers, which include Chad Mirkin, inventor of DPN, have been able to "deposit multiple phospholipids in precise patterns

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How Not to Design Software - 5 Mistakes to Avoid

Some ideas to avoid while designing software:

1. Design a Perfect Solution
2. Build for Scalability
3. Use the Best Tool for the Job
4. Commit to Your Decisions
5. Fight Through the Pain

Interesting, and a must-read for software designers.

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Peter Zandstra - Stem Cell Research from Mouse to Man

For more than a decade, Peter Zandstra has been working at the University of Toronto to rev up the production of stem cells and their descendants. The raw materials are adult blood stem cells and embryonic stem cells. The end products are blood and heart cells – lots of them. Enough mouse heart cells that they form beating tissue.

To do this, he has been applying engineering principles to stem cell research – work that has just earned him recognition by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Starting with computer models of stem cell growth and differentiation (the process by which a stem cell matures into its final form), Zandstra has moved on to develop more sophisticated culture methods that fine-tune the microenvironments to guide the generation of the different cells types that make up the mature cells in our tissues: heart cells for the heart or blood cells for blood.

Dr. Zandstra, the Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Bioengineering, also held a prestigious NSERC Steacie Fellowship. The Steacie prize - which goes to six select Canadian professors annually – allowed Zandstra to extend his work from mouse to man.

“There's only so much we can do with mouse cells,” notes Dr. Zandstra. “Now if we can also figure out how to get human embryonic stem cells to differentiate on command to generate functional adult-like cells, you can begin to think about the kinds of medical conditions you could treat with them.”


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Boeing Looking Beyond B-1B, B-52, Super Hornet...Towards F/A-XX

By 2018, the Air Force says, it wants a new bomber to replace aging B-1Bs and B-52s — likely something that can fly 4,000 miles and carry 14,000 to 28,000 pounds of weaponry. Rivals Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp. have teamed up to bid on the job. They're expecting competition from Northrop Grumman Corp., although that company has made no formal announcement that it will bid.

The Air Force still is considering exactly what it wants in the bomber, but Boeing began brainstorming a couple of years ago, and Davis even has a scale model of a prototype on the conference table in his office. Boeing has been testing different ideas and capabilities in the 70,000-square-foot Virtual Warfare Center battle simulator on its campus in Hazelwood, and figuring out what it would take to build the craft most effectively.

They're also starting to think about what comes after the Super Hornet. The Navy is beginning to think about how it will replace its main fighter jet in a few decades, and Boeing is studying what kind of technology that plane, called the F/A-XX, will require.

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Energy Saving National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office in Las Vegas Energy

From the outside, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s administrative office in Las Vegas looks like any other concrete building dotting the landscape of most American cities. But inside a technological revolution has occurred, putting the 1980s building on a path to become the greenest facility in Nevada and one of the greenest in the country. By using state-of-the-art automation to monitor and control lighting, heating, cooling and air quality — and making other ecologically smart choices, such as buying recycled office furniture and planting desert-friendly landscaping — the once-nondescript office building should serve as a model for energy-efficient building design across government. “This is going to be what I consider a demonstration building. It’s going to be one of the most technological buildings of its kind,” said Gillian Silver-Rodis, community relations manager for National Security Technologies, the NNSA contractor that works out of the facility. NNSA’s 3,000 contractor employees and 100 federal employees who work in Nevada manage the Nevada Test Site, a restricted-access location larger than Rhode Island where nuclear weapons were once tested and where experiments now are conducted on conventional weapons, hazardous materials and environmental technologies.

The overhauled building is just the type of green workspace the Energy Department has pledged to deliver throughout its bureaus and program offices in a quest to become the energy-efficiency leader in government. All agencies are under orders by Congress and the Bush administration to cut overall energy use and water consumption and increase their use of renewable energy.

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Supercompressed Silicon, Hydrogen Superconducts at Room Temperature

A new superconducting material fabricated by a Canadian-German team has been fabricated out of a silicon-hydrogen compound [after supercompression, 96-120GPa] and does not require cooling. They had to keep the material under pressure (100GPa) in order to get it to superconduct.

The press release talked about not using refrigerant and EEtimes said room temperature superconductor. They believe that the new silane / hydrogen compounds could reach room temperature superconducting levels. The temperature at which superconductivity occurs exhibits some interesting behavior. It hangs around 5-10K for most of the pressure range (50-200GPa), but in a small range between 100-125GPa, it increases quite sharply. Although the researchers only have five data points in the range and never observed a critical temperature higher than 20K, the shape of the curve indicates that, for some small range of pressures, a very high critical temperature might be achieved. So they still have to investigate the critical pressure range and possibly other compounds and still get them to work after pressure is removed. The other unpressurized material which could be superconducting at 185K are closer to being possible improved application, but they need some more independent confirmations.

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14 Things to Make Life Better acc to Engineering, Scientists

Committee of scientists and engineers compile list of challenges

At the top of many personal wish lists you might find a new car or a Caribbean vacation. But scientists have compiled a global wish list of 14 things that would make life better for everyone.
A committee of scientists and engineers gathered by the National Science Foundation met several times over the last year to compile a list of engineering challenges that, if met, would improve how we live. They announced their final choices on Feb. 20.
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In no particular order, the resulting wish list is:
— Make solar energy
— Provide energy from
— Develop carbon sequestration
— Manage the nitrogen
— Provide access to clean
— Restore and improve urban
— Advance health
— Engineer better
— Reverse-engineer the
— Prevent nuclear
— Secure
— Enhance virtual
— Advance personalized
— Engineer the tools for scientific discovery

The committee decided not to rank the challenges. The public can vote on which one they think is most important and leave comments at the project Web site, http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/.

The final choices fall into four themes that the panel thinks are essential for humanity to flourish — sustainability, health, reducing vulnerability and joy of living

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Manufacturing in the Era of Design-Art-Technology

The sad consequences of manufacturing’s scale is that it defaults to the least common denominator.

Customization as a manufacturing process has not moved much beyond Henry Ford’s Model T color. True customization means materializing one’s own designs, one’s own imagination.

How does this different kind of manufacturing integreate with design and digital arts? It relies on “toolkits” consisting of digital software and hardware, fab machines, CNC “Robodrills” and 3D modeling. As importantly, the toolkits are also the far-flung networked communities of craftspeople and designers, artists and technologists sharing ideas and insights

The “tooling” for this practice includes open-source firmware for inexpensive microcontroller-based kits like the Arduino; hacked Nintendo Wii controllers; low-cost, rapid-turnaround printed circuit board production houses; free development environments like Processing; online knowledge sharing communities; parts suppliers with no minimum orders, and so forth.

Digital art is ready to move beyond the confines of keyboard, screen and mouse. If there is a “new materiality” to digital arts, it will emphasize material interactions in physical space, embodied experiences and contexts beyond the typically sedentary confines of the screen/keyboard/mouse/network assemblage.

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Optimal Cross Aisle and Fishbone Aisles Design - New Warehouse Design Concepts

An innovative, alternative warehouse-design concept developed by a University of Arkansas researcher and his colleague at Auburn University has been implemented by a Wisconsin generator manufacturer. In its newly designed warehouse in Whitewater, Wis., Generac Power Systems built a non-traditional aisle and rack system based on concepts created by Russell Meller, professor of industrial engineering, and Kevin Gue, engineering professor at Auburn.

In 2006, Meller and Gue announced two novel designs - the optimal cross aisle design and the fishbone aisles design - as alternatives to conventional warehouse layout in which storage racks are laid out to create rows of parallel picking aisles with one or more cross aisles in the middle. The researchers' alternative designs included V-shaped diagonal cross aisles that improved order-picking travel times by 10 to 20 percent.

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Metal Hydrides, Alanates, Borohydrides & Hydrogen Cars’ Efficiency

Hydrogen-powered cars seem to be the best solution to the problem of fossil fuels pollution.

David S. Sholl, a professor of chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University is conducting a new research to identify a new class of materials to be used in making hydrogen engines more efficient than ever.

“We are currently studying the use of metal hydrides, such as alanates and borohydrides, to find materials that could ultimately improve the efficiency of hydrogen cars and curb pollution,” said Sholl.

They’re trying to create new materials that are able to store large amounts of hydrogen in a compressed gas tank and then release it to power the fuel cells of the future cars.

Full report here

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ecoNEW Program Recycles / Resells Electronic Waste, E-waste to Cash

Leave it to the gadget industry to turn concern over electronic waste into a sales opportunity. Simply put, they're offering to buy back old devices to recycle or resell, in return for cash or in-store credit.

Coming to consumer electronic retailers nationwide this spring is the ecoNEW program from NEW Customer Service Cos., the company that provides extended warranty plans and protection programs for such retailers as Best Buy and Wal-Mart.

Under the program, consumers can return any electronics products they own to participating retailers (which have not yet been announced) -- even if they weren't purchased at the store. In return they'll receive an in-store credit gift card for a predetermined amount based on the type and condition of the device. EcoNEW handles all the collection and evaluation details and issues the gift cards directly.

Full report here

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Nader Engheta - Metananocircuits Electronics' Next Frontier

A University of Pennsylvania professor is exploring an approach to nanotechnology that will allow circuit theory to operate in an entirely new regime--one where "current" is no longer defined as the movement of electrons and holes, but instead as an electromagnetic wave.
If Nader Engheta's theories prove successful in practice--and researchers are already working on experiments to test this--then the work could strike the elusive balance between finding new technologies that can reliably operate at nanometer scales and ensuring that the technologies can bootstrap on decades of knowledge about more-conventional electronics.

For one thing, Engheta said he is interested the possibility of creating switches from metananocircuitry. They could lead to a new kind of optical information processing and, perhaps, a new form of nanoscale computational unit, said Engheta, the H. Nedwill Ramsey Professor of electrical and systems engineering at Penn.


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US Auto Makers Getting Aggressive on Hybrids, Fuel-efficient Cars

While vehicle sales and economic growth in the North American automotive industry remain strong, the automotive sector landscape is also fundamentally changing. Escalating gasoline prices and growing environmental concerns are facilitating a shift in vehicle needs among consumers, creating demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles such as gasoline-electric hybrids. According to the Electric Drive Transportation Association, sales of hybrids increased to over 330,000 in 2007, up from over 9,000 in 2000.

Toyota has been the most successful company to tap into this eco-trend. In 2006, a decade after the first Prius went on sale, Toyota’s global sales of hybrid vehicles hit one million. Targeting another market, Toyota is releasing its A-BAT, a hybrid truck with an oversized grill and rugged body, this year.

This type of innovative thinking is part of the reason Toyota surpassed Ford in U.S. auto sales to become the second largest car producer in the world, not far behind GM, the current global automotive leader. It has also driven U.S. automakers to launch aggressive plans, focusing on innovation, to help boost sales. Ford and GMC launched their first hybrids, and other carmakers, including Dodge, have revealed plans to produce their own lines of hybrids. Saturn is releasing a 2009 Vue Green Line “two-mode” hybrid, which combines towing capacity with fuel savings.

Many experts believe that the automotive industry will see continued growth and sales in other types of fuel-efficient vehicles.

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Telematics Heralds Self-driving Car

Integration of consumer devices is one of the major growth trends in automotive electronics, with telematics as a close second. Both technologies pose significant challenges to electronics designers and at the same time open interesting perspectives for OEMs, tier ones, service providers and drivers.

At the recent Euroforum Automotive Electronics congress in Munich, EE Times Europe discussed perspectives and obstacles with Marc de Jong, executive vice president and general manager, automotive & identification, NXP Semiconductors.

Full details of the discussion here

Related blogposts
Transportation Communications Newsletter

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Composites Has Huge Demand from Aerospace, Wind Turbines, Oil & Gas Cos

The composites industry today is seeing strong double-digit growth, with gross margins in the range of 21 to 23 percent and research and development spending in the range of 2 to 5 percent. By my reckoning, the use of carbon fiber in wind turbine blades will be the second largest application after aerospace by 2010. Other major drivers include offshore oil and gas, pressure vessels (particularly those for hydrogen storage), military defense and sports.

The overall market outlook for the next 20 years is positive, despite the uncertain economy and the weakness of the dollar against the euro and the yen. Here’s a rundown on the fiber industry as well as the overall composites industry and market demand.

There has been a paradigm shift in aircraft design at Boeing and Airbus, with composites now specified for primary structures. This is a significant change. All future wide-body airplanes shipped from both manufacturers are based on the new paradigm. Both Boeing and Airbus are projecting multibillion-dollar markets for new airplanes over the next 20 years, particularly in Asia.

The industrial market, which can include basically everything outside of the aerospace/military sector and sporting goods, has a 15 percent CAGR. Sporting goods checks in at 7 percent growth. The primary consumers are the U.S., Europe and Japan. China, Taiwan, India, Bangladesh and Vietnam have started using carbon fiber and are driving demand upward. Global demand estimates through 2020 for carbon fiber are presented in the Table.

Meeting this burgeoning demand for carbon fiber are seven major manufacturers: Cytec, Hexcel, Mitsubishi Rayon, SGL, Toho-Tenax, Toray and Zoltek. Three of these, Toray, Toho-Tenax and Mitsubishi, control 70 percent of the market

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Product Development Tends and Innovations - Steven Eppinger

Product-development planning remains crucial to organizations' survival and prosperity. Here we revisit some key trends in the process, based on a recent address from one of the world's leading experts in the field of engineered product development.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management Deputy Dean Steven Eppinger, whose textbook Product Design and Development is used by university students all over the world, recently identified and discussed with Eng-Tips.com what he sees as the top six trends and innovations in product development.

His list of trends, based on a transcript from the recent Eng-Tips.com interview:

1. Development Speed occurs more quickly through digital design, analysis and collaboration tools to get products to market faster.
2. Platform Flexibility results from using modular product architecture to provide more product variety to customers.
3. Complexity Management involves engineering complex systems through analysis of interaction networks.
4. Outsourcing and Offshoring permit optimizing supplier skills and capacity, international operations and new markets.
5. Lean Principles allow for improving product development’s efficiency by applying lean production ideas to the organization’s design process.
6. Customer Involvement becomes more easily achieved by using the Internet to bring customers’ ideas into the product design process.

Full details here

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Reality Mining - Data from Cell Phones, Mobiles Yield Intelligent Patterns

Data from the use of cell phones and other mobile devices yield patterns of movement that can help public agencies and businesses

Researchers say they can get a more accurate picture of what people do, where they go, and with whom they communicate from a device they carry than from more subjective sources, including what people say about themselves. In short, people lie—cell phones don't. Or so the thinking goes.

These ubiquitous mini-computers not only log calls and messages, but when equipped with GPS chips can record a person's whereabouts. Using Bluetooth, the short-range technology that forges wireless connections between electronics, the phone can also keep tabs on the user's proximity to other holders of similar phones, and as more people use wireless handsets to make purchases, the phone gathers data on spending patterns, too.

Reality mining can also help city planners unravel traffic snarls and public health officials track and prevent the spread of illnesses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

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Computational Fluid Dynamics for Improved Bioreactor Design, 3D Culture

The complex relationship between the hydrodynamic environment and surrounding tissues directly impacts on the design and production of clinically useful grafts and implants. Tissue engineers have generally seen bioreactors as 'black boxes' within which tissue engineering constructs (TECs) are cultured. It is accepted that a more detailed description of fluid mechanics and nutrient transport within process equipment can be achieved by using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) technology. This review discusses applications of CFD for tissue engineering-related bioreactors - fluid flow processes have direct implications on cellular responses such as attachment, migration and proliferation. We conclude that CFD should be seen as an invaluable tool for analyzing and visualizing the impact of fluidic forces and stresses on cells and TECs.

See full abstract here

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Shipborne Voyage Data Recorders (VDR) & Ship Safety, Efficiency

The use of Shipborne Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) in the commercial maritime industry can raise both safety and operation efficiency levels. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has recently passed the resolution A.861(20) Performance Standards for Shipborne Voyage Data Recorders. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is currently finalizing the technical specification of the VDR for type approval. Carriage requirements are now under discussion at IMO and will become a reality in the near future.

Some progressive shipping companies have already started to install VDR as part of an advanced Integrated Bridge System (IBS). Although the primary purpose of the VDR is for accident investigation after the fact, innovative uses of the VDR by the operators both in real-time and post voyage modes have demonstrated VDRs can improve safety as well as efficiency of operations. The concept is similar to the use of flight recorder to store engine data for maintenance in the aircraft industry. This paper describes several areas of proactive use of VDRs for central alarm management, performance efficiency monitoring, heavy weather damage avoidance and seamanship skill training.

The full paper here @ Robin Storm

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Are Signs to Make Roads Safer Making them More Dangerous?

Wired Magazine published an article in 2004 about Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman, and a trend he started to improve roadway safety by making things appear more dangerous.

The theory goes like this. Putting up signs and designing to remove all possible things that interfere with traffic makes roads appear safer than they really are. Drivers react by becoming more relaxed and less vigilant, resulting in accidents. But if you make roads appear dangerous, for example, by removing signs, people pay more attention and there are less accidents.

Monderman has several real life examples. A quote:

"Riding in his green Saab, we glide into Drachten, a 17th-century village that has grown into a bustling town of more than 40,000. We pass by the performing arts center, and suddenly, there it is: the Intersection. It's the confluence of two busy two-lane roads that handle 20,000 cars a day, plus thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians. Several years ago, Monderman ripped out all the traditional instruments used by traffic engineers to influence driver behavior - traffic lights, road markings, and some pedestrian crossings - and in their place created a roundabout, or traffic circle. The circle is remarkable for what it doesn't contain: signs or signals telling drivers how fast to go, who has the right-of-way, or how to behave. There are no lane markers or curbs separating street and sidewalk, so it's unclear exactly where the car zone ends and the pedestrian zone begins. To an approaching driver, the intersection is utterly ambiguous - and that's the point.

Monderman and I stand in silence by the side of the road a few minutes, watching the stream of motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians make their way through the circle, a giant concrete mixing bowl of transport. Somehow it all works. The drivers slow to gauge the intentions of crossing bicyclists and walkers. Negotiations over right-of-way are made through fleeting eye contact.

It applies to things other than roads as well. Any system with extensive safety measures and procedures becomes at some point prone to catastrophic failure!"

Interesting perspective...

Mored from here

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Global Valves and Actuators Market – Future Trends?

Demand for valves and actuators have increased as a result of huge investments and expansions in various process industries. The Asian and rest of the world markets are expected to see good growth compared to their European and North American counterparts. Among the various end-user criteria, aftermarket service assumes the highest importance.

A report from Frost & Sullivan report provides an insight into the dynamics guiding this market, and includes market challenges, drivers, restraints and avenues of opportunity for growth. Highlights of the briefing include analysis on different kinds of valves and actuators across regions worldwide, challenges and future trends of the market. The briefing will give an insight on the global perspective and trends in different regions which will benefit the various valves and actuator manufacturers, distributors & OEM’s.

Full details on the report here

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After Arthur Clarke, Who are Science Fiction's Visionaries?

Whether Arthur C. Clarke is measured by such enduring science-fiction novels as “2001: A Space Odyssey,” in which he conceived of a space-travel program before man walked on the moon, or purely scientific papers like “Extraterrestrial Relays,” in which he described geosynchronous communications satellites two decades before one ever orbited the earth, the author, who died Wednesday at age 90, will long enjoy a legacy as a titan of speculative thought, seemingly capable of willing innovations into existence simply by imagining them.

Yet Mr. Clarke’s passing poses a challenge to the current generation of science-fiction writers: in a world where technology evolves so rapidly that the present already feels like the future, will a modern-day author ever inherit Mr. Clarke’s aura of prescience? Do any of his successors share his apparent talent for envisioning technological breakthroughs before they are realized?

Read more on this topic from this NY Times article

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After Arthur Clarke, Who are Science Fiction's Visionaries?

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Nanochip Flash Memory Tech Breaks Moore's Law

Nanochip's new flash memory technology applies to USB drives, solid-state disk drives, and even enterprise servers. A new kind of flash memory technology with potentially greater capacity and durability, lower power requirements, and the same design as flash NAND is primed to challenge today's solid-state disk products.

Fremont, Calif.-based Nanochip said it has made breakthroughs in its array-based memory research that will enable it to deliver working prototypes to potential manufacturing partners next year. Three investors, including Intel Capital, recently put $14 million into the company, which has been developing the technology since its founding in 1996.

"It's a technology that doesn't depend on Moore's Law," says Gordon Knight, CEO of Nanochip. "This technology should go at least 10 generations."

Full report from here

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Future of Robotics - Robots Uses, Trends, Applications

The bots, until a decade back, used to be just fun and were more toys for tinkerers and scientists (except in Japan of course). But now the robots are beginning to be seen in many social places. We are used to chuckling at stories from Japan of robots serving coffee and greeting visitors to homes. But know what, these mechanical humans are here with us now, in London, in New York and whoa! even in my country, India. And when I read about predictions that robots in future could love and gasp!, go even one step beyond, I felt it was time I compiled a list of resources for what the future held in store for robotics. What are scientists predicting for the bots' future? What do the experts think? And who do those always fascinating sci-fi writers and futurists say after gazing at their crystal balls?

This compilation is divided into sections more for reading convenience than for any logical reason. Please let me know your thoughts and predictions on robots and their future roles by using the comments section below. Thanks!

Industrial, Professional & Military Applications

Robots: The Future is Now - Robots are already a part of our lives. Industrial robots widely used in manufacturing. Military and police organizations use robots to assist in dangerous situations. Robots already have a significant role in medicine. Robots are helping doctors achieve more precision in the operating room, performing safer, less invasive techniques

Future of Robotics for Civil Use - Caterpillar plans to develop remote controlled machines and expects to develop fully autonomous heavy robots by 2021. Some cranes already are remote controlled It was demonstrated that a robot can perform a herding task. Robots are increasingly used in manufacturing (since 1960s). In auto industry they can amount for more than half of the "labor". There are even "lights off" factories such as an IBM keyboard manufacturing factory in Texas that are 100% automated. Robots such as HOSPI are used as couriers in hospitals, etc. Other hospital tasks performed by robots are receptionists, guides and porters helpers, (not to mention surgical robot helpers such as Da Vinci) Robots can serve as waiters and cooks.

Bots on The Ground - The most effective way to find and destroy a land mine is to step on it. This has bad results, of course, if you're a human. But not so much if you're a robot and have as many legs as a centipede sticking out from your body. That's why Mark Tilden, a robotics physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, built something like that.

Surgical Robotics - Surgical Robots towards autonomy:
* Current surgical robots are tactical: every move authorised by a surgeon
* Telesurgery already requires local autonomy
* Miniaturisation and new MIS techniques lead to strategic robots

* Robotics will become ubiquitous in future

Applications for Robot

Applications for robot insects are
* Tasks on terrain unsuitable for wheeled robots
* Animal modelling
* Remote handling
* Remote location exploration
* Entertainment/home projects
* Robot insects could be used for tasks that involve transportation, exploration and surveillance, especially for tasks that are inhospitable for humans.

Mobile Robot Suits Material Handling Applications - Employing Industrial Mobile Robotics technology, vision-guided Model GT3 moves through manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution operations utilizing stereo cameras to build 3D map of environment. It then uses map and its own reasoning ability to navigate predetermined path to complete assigned transport task. Designed to free up skilled employees, GT3 pulls carts, delivers palletized materials, and positions supplies without wire guides, magnets, or lasers.

Military Robots of the Future - Since Robby the Robot first appeared on screen in 1956’s Forbidden Planet, science fiction in print, film and on television has pushed the limits of our imagination regarding machines of the future and their abilities to perform human tasks.

Social Bots

Robots! More robots! And They're in Your House! - Robots of the future will look nothing like R2D2 in Star Wars, but resemble computer chips embedded in everyday appliances, such as vacuum cleaners and cell phones, if companies like Evolution Robotics Inc. have anything to do about it.The Pasadena-based company produces vision-based robotic technology. With it, you can point your cell phone at a movie poster, take a picture, and the technology will go out to the Web and download the movie's trailer to your phone.

'Love+Sex with Robots': Our Future? - Don Oldenburg says “I've seen the future of sex, and its name is Robot — as in humanoids designed and programmed to satisfy our every psychological and sexual need, want and desire. At least that's what artificial-intelligence expert David Levy contends in his controversial and troublingly arousing book about sexuality 50 years hence.” His prediction: Falling in love with and making love to artificial but remarkably human-like robots will become a socially accepted alternative

Robotic Rats Will get a Sense of Touch - An international team composed of robot designers and brain researchers is looking at nature to develop a new generation of robots with active touch sensing abilities. The BIOTACT (’Biomimetic technology for vibrissal active touch’) project is developing whiskered robot rats which might help in rescue or search missions under conditions of restricted visibility, and even for planetary research

Roomba Robotic Vacuum Cleaner - The Roomba 530 is easy to set up and use (it even has a talking tutorial/demo mode). Simply unpack it, install the battery and place it on its charging station. Several hours later, you’re good to go, using either standard mode or the spot-cleaning mode. Spot cleaning is best for small areas, while the Clean mode will cover several standard-size rooms. The Verdict: The Roomba 530’s clever design means dirt and dust won’t pass through the robot’s vacuum workings, which make it both easy to maintain and a great choice for dust-allergy sufferers. The Roomba 530 is also value for money; at $599 it’s not much more than a reasonably good vacuum cleaner.

Home Robots Grow In Popularity - We are moving beyond the stage where robots were used only in controlled and therefore relatively simple factory environments. The home and the surgical operating table are both much more complicated environments with more unplanned and unexpected elements that can show up. Recent advances in robotic vehicles demonstrate the potential for robotic systems to handle complex environments outside of factories. The success of robots in the mass market will provide revenue flows to fund the development of more robotic products. We should expect the introductions of new kinds of home and workplace robots in the next few year. Robots are a growing part of our everyday lives.

Robot Future Poses Hard Questions - Scientists have expressed concern about the use of autonomous decision-making robots. As they become more common, these machines could also have negative impacts on areas such as surveillance and elderly care, the roboticists warn. The development and eventual deployment of autonomous robots raises difficult questions. The more pressing and serious problem is the extent to which society is prepared to trust autonomous robots and entrust others into the care of autonomous robots

Future Vision: Cheap Robots Change the World - Virtual Travel: People will be able to visit each other without traveling. They will do this by taking control of a robot at their desired vacation destination, and use the Internet to transmit all the sensory information back and forth
* Housekeeping
* Machines will do the routine chores around the house
* Robots will be inexpensive

Exotic Stuff

Self-healing Mini Robots for Search and Rescue Operations - It is believed that the self-healing robots will be able to dock with each other, share energy, and co-operate to maximise their abilities to achieve different tasks. Researchers from 10 universities are associated with the project. They say that future applications include search and rescue missions, space exploration, and medicine. "A swarm could be released into a collapsed building following an earthquake. They could form themselves into teams searching for survivors or to lift rubble off stranded people"...Hmmm...

Robots Fly into Antarctic Skies - A pair of lightweight, robotic planes have made the first unmanned flights over Antarctica's icy expanses. Driven by propeller, the machines made 20 low-altitude sorties, including four over the Weddell Sea. The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were launched by catapult but flew autonomously until landing.During some of the test flights the machines were fitted with miniaturised instruments to collect data for use in predictive climate models

Thought-controlled Robot Picks up Green or Red Block………and more such interesting info

Brain Machine Interface - In January, Miguel A. L. Nicolelis announced that his team completed the first steps toward a brain machine interface that might make it possible for paralyzed people to walk by directing devices with their thoughts. The team's monkey, in North Carolina, demonstrated the power of the technology when she used her brain signals to make a robot in Japan walk.

Future Predictions

Future Trends in Robotics This brief report from AI Depot cites some interesting articles discussing trobotics trends...Guardian's feature on a recent experiment in evolutionary robotics, NY Daily report on Honda's Humanoid Robots, and the BBC News report on Robot Pets.

Bill Gates Stumps for Robotic Future - Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates lays out the robotic future in the cover story of January's Scientific American magazine, which has a C-3PO type robot on the cover. In the story, Gates argues that the robot industry is akin to the PC industry 30 years ago. Robots lack standards and don't have a common OS, processor or code base. And guess who wants to be that standard OS? Microsoft.

iRobot CEO Talks Past, Present and Future of Robotics Very few people know more about the practical robotics industry more than iRobot CEO Colin Angle. This article is based on a chat with Colin Angle earlier today about the state of the robotics industry, why iRobot is essentially the only company doing what they're doing in the field, what kind of robots are coming in the future and why robots are necessary for the human race to survive. Why are so few people getting into the robotics industry now? Colin says it's because the market is incredibly hard, the margins are terrible, and very few companies have the collective knowledge necessary to enter the market. More in the article.

Robotics - What Next? - The robotics industry, while in development for half a century, is still relatively in its infancy and faces a number of challenges in the years ahead. Besides the technological and cultural hurdles to overcome, questions remain unanswered regarding their economic and environmental impacts as well as the ethical issues of human and robot interaction. What is obvious is that robots, whatever form they take, will increasingly play a role in societies around the world and that the ecosystem of services and capabilities will offer increasing opportunities for designers in the years to come

Bots with Brains: Future Robotic Overlords? - Science fiction has portrayed machines capable of thinking and acting for themselves with a mixture of both anticipation and dread, but what was once the realm of fiction has yet again become the subject of serious debate as robots become more intelligent. In 1981, Kenji Urada hopped a safety fence at a Kawasaki plant to carry out maintenance work on a robot. While working on the machine, the robot reached out and pushed 37-year-old Japanese factory worker into a grinder with its powerful hydraulic arm. Urada’s death is often said to mark the first recorded victim to die at the hands of a robot, although Robert Williams was killed by a robot two years earlier. Since both deaths, and despite the introduction of improved safety mechanisms, there have been many more gruesome industrial fatalities involving robots crushing humans, smashing their heads and even pouring molten aluminum over them. So will the robots be our future overlords, overstepping the bounds that humans had prescribed for them?

Predictions and Trends - The Robotics Industry - RobotWorx President Keith Wanner attended the 15th Annual Robotics Industry Forum in Orlando, Florida last year. Wanner said the casual atmosphere at the Forum provided the perfect setting for him to talk with top executives from major robot manufacturing companies and connect with suppliers. Some thoughts from him based on his discussions...

Robotics Technology Trends - Despite the wishes of robot researchers to emulate human appearance and intelligence, that simply hasn't happened. Most robots still can't see – versatile and rapid object recognition is still not quite attainable. And there are very few examples of bipedal, upright walking robots such as Honda’s P3, mostly used for research or sample demonstrations. Today, simple pattern matching vision sensors can be purchased for under $2,000 from Cognex, Omron and others. The price reductions reflect today's reduced computing costs, and the focused development of vision systems for specific jobs such as inspection.

Some Nice Articles on Robots - Israel is developing a robot the size of a hornet to attack terrorists. And although the prototype will not fly for three years, killer Micro Air Vehicles, or MAVs, are much closer than that. More on such stuff from here.

The Future of Robotics - From vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers to military landmine detectors, robots are becoming increasingly present in our daily lives. Living on Earth’s Bruce Gellerman visits MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to meet a humanoid robot named Domo, its creator, PhD student Aaron Elsinger, and the man behind all the magic, CSAIL director Rodney Brooks.

How Robots Will Affect Future Generations - The future for robots is bright. But, how will robots affect future generations? Sometimes you can get ideas for the future by looking into the past and thinking about the changes we've seen as a result of other great inventions, like the cotton gin, airplane or Internet. Perhaps one day we will have true robotic ''helpers'' that guide the blind, assist the elderly. Maybe they'll be modular devices that can switch from lawn mower to vacuum cleaner, to dish washer and window washer.

What Does the Future Hold for Robot Applications? - If you ride in a car, an industrial robot helped build it. If you eat cookies, such as the Milano brand from Pepperidge Farm, there are robot assembly lines to help make and pack them. The computer you use to send e-mails and use for research almost certainly owes its existence, in part, to industrial robots. Industrial robots are even used in the medical field, from pharmaceuticals to surgery.

And the Rest

Bot Junkie - And here's a fascinating blog on the bots!

Microsoft's Announcement on Robotics - Microsoft's announced earlier this summer (late June) that it was launching a development platform for folks building robots. Microsoft historians may know Trower as a 24-year-plus Microsoft veteran who has worked on a variety of Microsoft projects, ranging from Visual Basic to Microsoft Agent technology. He has also served as a member of Chairman Bill Gates' strategic planning staff during his tenure. It was in that capacity that Trower discovered the robotics community and its growing prominence in the tech landscape. What persuaded the Microsoft power elite, which had just shunned a grid-computing initiative, to back Trower's robotics play? Two words: The future. Trower believes that robots are the natural successor to PCs, and he's convinced his bosses to adopt his view, or so it would appear.

Some related blog posts on robotics trends & future

Robots may soon protect people, places and things

It’s a Great Time to be in Robotics

Future of robotics: The Road

Future of Robotics

iRobot CEO Talks Past, Present and Future of Robotics

The Future of Robotics in the BattlefieldThe future of robotics

Future of robotics: The road ahead

World's strongest robot is put through its paces at HANNOVER MESSE 2008

NSF/CCC/CRA Roadmapping Workshop for Medical and Healthcare Robotics

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New Nanofabrication Techniques - Superionic Stamping and More

Two new and exciting scanning-probe techniques have been developed recently. The field is moving closer to being able to build 3D engineered atom-precise structures. Neither of these techniques does this yet, and one may not be able to, but... read on and see why this is an exciting time to be in nanotech.

Superionic stamping is a technique that uses a solid material in which metal ions can move around when directed by electricity. Push the stamp into a substrate, run a current, and some metal moves from the stamp onto the substrate.

The second technique uses dip-pen nanolithography to build artificial lipid bilayers, like the ones that make up cell membranes. The developers, which include Chad Mirkin, inventor of DPN, have been able to "deposit multiple phospholipids in precise patterns."

Full story here

Related blogposts
Solid-state superionic stamping offers a new approach to nanofabrication techniques

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Pick the Engineering Challenges - National Academy of Engineering

What needs to be done in manufacturing, medicine and other fields where engineering plays a role? The (US) National Academy of Engineering is soliciting suggestions for "Grand Challenges."

America's big names in engineering, as well as millions of Internet users around the world, are being asked to weigh in with their picks for the greatest technological challenges of the next century — a nine-month process that could give birth to new research initiatives.

The project, called the "Grand Challenges for Engineering" program, is aimed at gathering up all those ideas and distilling them into a list of 20 puzzles for engineers to solve — in fields ranging from energy to communications to aerospace to advanced materials.

Full story here

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Hydrogen on Demand Using Aluminium & Gallium

Purdue professor Jerry Woodall, center, and researchers Charles Allen and Jeffrey Ziebarth display hydrogen gas created by adding water to an alloy of aluminum and gallium.

A Purdue University engineer and National Medal of Technology winner says he's ready and able to start a revolution in clean energy.

Professor Jerry Woodall and students have invented a way to use an aluminum alloy to extract hydrogen from water — a process that he thinks could replace gasoline as well as its pollutants and emissions tied to global warming.

Woodall says the method makes it unnecessary to store or transport hydrogen — two major challenges in creating a hydrogen economy. The hydrogen is generated on demand. So instead of having to fill up at a station, hydrogen would be made inside vehicles in tanks about the same size as today's gasoline tanks. An internal reaction in those tanks would create hydrogen from water and 350 pounds worth of special pellets.

Read the full story from here

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Hydrogen On Demand

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Roadmap for SMC - Sound and Music Computing

A European consortium has drafted a roadmap for the future of sound and music computing (SMC), which provides the core technologies for the burgeoning electronic music industry

Drawing on inspiration from hard sciences like physics and engineering, social sciences like psychology and musicology, and the creative arts, digital musical instruments, CDs, MP3s and other innovative ICTs owe a great debt to SMC.

The new roadmap published by the S2S² project aims to maximise SMC's growth potential.

Five key challenges have been identified by the roadmap:

Design better sound objects and environments (improving the sounds produced by objects present in our environment to enhance their emotional character).
Understand, model and improve human interaction with sound and music.
Train multidisciplinary researchers in a multicultural society.
Improve knowledge transfer.
Address social concerns.

Full report from here

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NASA Future Space Suits - Bio-suites for Pumpkin Suits, EMU?

In the coming months, NASA is due to select one team to provide the suit that astronauts will wear for the next series of giant leaps.

Currently, NASA astronauts use one type of suit during the space shuttle's launch and re-entry (the orange-colored get-up nicknamed the "pumpkin suit") and another type of suit for spacewalks (the Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or EMU). Both are heavy stuff...Spacesuits are built to protect the body from the near-vacuum of space - and the traditional spacewalking suit does that through internal air pressurization. Currently, 70 to 80 percent of the energy expended by a spacewalker goes to bending the suit's joints against that pressure.

In contrast, the Biosuit does the same job through mechanical counterpressure. The result is a garment that provides a stiff skeleton while preserving much more of a person's mobility. Some experts figure that the Biosuit could be ready for prime time in 10 years.

Other groups such as Orbital Outfitters, are designing togs for suborbital space tourists - who wouldn't need the level of protection required for spacewalks or lunar surface operations.

More from here

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Multi-core Research Gets Funding from Microsoft, Intel

Microsoft and Intel are donating $20 million to two U.S. universities for parallel-computing research.

Imagine a man you know but whose name you can't remember approaches you, and your mobile phone uses face-recognition capability to give you his name and information about him before he says hello. This is the kind of application that researchers hope will be developed from US$20 million Microsoft and Intel are giving two U.S. universities for research on parallel computing.

The companies are donating the money to Universal Parallel Computing Research Centers (UPCRCs) at the University of California Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The centers are aimed at tackling the challenges of programming for processors that have more than one core and so can carry out more than one set of program instructions at a time, a scenario known as parallel computing.

Full report here

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IBM Research Gets More Aggressive

IBM's director of R&D is shifting the tech giant's focus—and making a few enormous bets

IBM is already considered one of the world's best corporate research labs. Yet John Kelly, a 27-year IBM veteran who took over as research director in July, is planning surprisingly dramatic changes. "We have to do bolder things, bigger things," he says, speaking about his plans publicly for the first time. "If we don't fail a third of the time, we're not stretching enough. On the other hand, when we win, we need to win big."

What does Kelly have in mind? For starters, he's focusing on four top research priorities, rather than spreading investments too thin. The four bets are enormous, though. Each of the projects will get $100 million over the next two to three years, in hopes of generating at least $1 billion, each, in new revenue. The projects: inventing a successor to today's semiconductor, designing computers that process data much more efficiently, using math to solve complex business problems, and building massive clusters of computers that operate like a single machine—an approach called "cloud" computing. Central to the effort will be even more emphasis on basic scientific research, such as physics, chemistry, and math.

Full report here

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3-D camera with 12,616 lenses developed by Stanford researchers

Stanford electronics researchers, lead by electrical engineering Professor Abbas El Gamal, are developing such a camera that makes a 2-D photo with an electronic "depth map" containing the distance from the camera to every object in the picture, a kind of super 3-D.

They built it around their "multi-aperture image sensor." They've shrunk the pixels on the sensor to 0.7 microns, several times smaller than pixels in standard digital cameras, and have grouped the pixels in arrays of 256 pixels each, and they're preparing to place a tiny lens atop each array.

Full story here

Via: Next Big Future

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3D Camera with 12,616 Lenses being developed by Stanford Researchers
3D Camera with 12616 Lenses developed by Stanford - TechShout!

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Engineering Safer Tobacco - Removing A Gene Reduces Carcinogens

Knocking out a specific gene in burley tobacco plants significantly reduces harmful carcinogens in cured tobacco leaves, scientists at a North Carolina university have shown.

The findings could lead to less-harmful tobacco products, particularly smokeless forms such as chewing tobacco. The research was sponsored by the tobacco company Philip Morris and conducted at North Carolina State University.

More from here

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Genetically Engineered E.coli Bacteria a Future Source of Energy?

For most people, the name “E. coli” is synonymous with food poisoning and product recalls, but a professor in Texas A&M University’s chemical engineering department envisions the bacteria as a future source of energy, helping to power our cars, homes and more.

By genetically modifying the bacteria, Thomas Wood, a professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, has “tweaked” a strain of E. coli so that it produces substantial amounts of hydrogen. Specifically, Wood’s strain produces 140 times more hydrogen than is created in a naturally occurring process, according to an article in “Microbial Biotechnology,” detailing his research.

Though Wood acknowledges that there is still much work to be done before his research translates into any kind of commercial application, his initial success could prove to be a significant stepping stone on the path to the hydrogen-based economy that many believe is in this country’s future.

Full report here

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Engineered E. Coli strain boosts biohydrogen production from sugar 140 times compared with wild type

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cooling Computers Through Biochemistry

Bruno Michel has experienced climate change firsthand. As a mountaineer who treks up snow-capped peaks in the Swiss Alps on skis covered with goat skins, he has watched the famed Aletsch Glacier shrink year after year. That's a prime motivator for his work as a researcher at IBM's (IBM) Zurich Lab.

Michel, who has a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Zurich, uses biological principles to deal with the problem of heat in computing. He is designing devices that cool chips using liquid delivered through capillary-like circulation systems—much as the human vascular system cools our bodies.

Full report here

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Energy from "Tornadoes"?

Retired scientist Louis Michaud has plans to generate tornadoes near power plants that could provide a 40% increase in the plants' power output. If the concept works, it could dramatically cut down on the need for building new power plants, instead creating energy from the waste heat of existing plants.

His "atmospheric vortex engines" are large cylindrical structures with an open top, and works similar to a fireplace and chimney. To create a tornado, warm air mixes with cold air. In Michaud's set-up, the warm air comes from the waste heat of a coal plant - but heat could also conceivably come from the sun or other ambient heat source.

When the hot air enters the large cylinder, it rises through the central chamber due to convection. As it rises, the hot air passes through angled ducts that cause the air to rotate like a tornado. Turbines positioned on the sides of the chamber convert the upward wind into electricity.

Because the conditions can be tightly controlled, the energy that could be produced by a tornado vortex would be much greater than the energy from normal winds captured by wind turbines. In fact, Michaud predicts, the cost of electrical energy produced with a vortex engine could be just half the cost of any other alternative energy system.

Full report here

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Salt Energy - Is Salt the Next Energy Source?

Salt power is a tantalising if distant prospect as high oil prices make alternative energy sources look more economical.

Two tiny projects to mix sea and river water - one by the fjord south of Oslo, the other at a Dutch seaside lake - are due on stream this year and may point to a new source of clean energy in estuaries from all over the world.

The experiments, which seek to capture the energy released when fresh and salt water are mixed, build on knowledge that has been around for centuries. The science at the heart of the projects is the fact that when salt and fresh water mix at river mouths, they are typically warmed by 0.1 degree Celsius. Dutch scientists say such energy at all the world's estuaries is equivalent to 20% of world electricity demand.

Full report here

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Hydrogen Energy from H2 Stored in Buckyballs

Rice University have discovered that it's possible to store hydrogen inside buckyballs. Hydrogen can be an excellent power source, but it is notoriously difficult to store. The buckyballs can contain up to 8% of their weight in hydrogen, and they are strong enough to hold it at a density that rivals the center of Jupiter.

Using a computer model, a research team has tracked the strength of each atomic bond in a buckyball and simulated what happened to the bonds as more hydrogen atoms were packed inside. The model promises to be particularly useful because it is scalable, that is it can calculate exactly how much hydrogen a buckyball of any given size can hold, and it can also tell scientists how overstuffed buckyballs burst open and release their cargo.

Full report here

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Top Energy Advances from 2007

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Electricity from Waste Heat Now A Reality

A company has been formed to commercialize the thermoelectric research. Researchers at Boston College and the Massachusetts Institute of technology have found a way to more efficiently convert electricity from heat, a breakthrough they claim could make a wide range of products more energy-efficient.

The thermoelectric effect has been understood for a long time, but the researchers were able to use nanotechnology to make the process of generating electricity from heat far more efficient. The company's first product is a material that can withstand temperatures of about 400 degrees Fahrenheit used in a range of industrial products. Cars that are partly powered from the heat of their exhaust systems are a good application of the technology, but the company intends to first target utility-scale power plants, which give off a great deal of waste heat.

Full report here

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Recent Advances and Potential Synergies for a Technology-based approach to Fighting Global Warming (CCS, HAS, ZIFs and CHP)

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Emission-free Cars Thanks to Carbon Recyling Technology

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a strategy to capture, store and eventually recycle carbon from vehicles to prevent the pollutant from finding its way from a car tailpipe into the atmosphere. Georgia Tech researchers envision a zero emission car, and a transportation system completely free of fossil fuels.

Technologies to capture carbon dioxide emissions from large-scale sources such as power plants have recently gained some impressive scientific ground, but nearly two-thirds of global carbon emissions are created by much smaller polluters — automobiles, transportation vehicles and distributed industrial power generation applications (e.g., diesel power generators).

The Georgia Tech team’s goal is to create a sustainable transportation system that uses a liquid fuel and traps the carbon emission in the vehicle for later processing at a fueling station. The carbon would then be shuttled back to a processing plant where it could be transformed into liquid fuel.

Full report here

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Random Nanostructure Boosts Thermoelectric Power

Engineers and scientists in Massachusetts have managed to greatly boost the efficiency of a common material used for thermoelectric cooling that has not been improved upon in 50 years. The researchers at Boston College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who reformulated the material—bismuth antimony telluride, or BiSbTe—say that not only will the change boost the efficiency of current uses but it will also open the way to operating automobile systems on waste heat from the engine and possibly provide an alternative to solar cells for converting the sun's energy to electricity.

The team, Zhifeng Ren and Gang Chen, reported on their work in today's Science Express. They say that by breaking the bulk material into tiny chunks—from 5 to 50 nanometers across—they've increased a key measure of thermoelectric conversion, called the ZT of the alloy, from 1 to 1.4.

The relationship between the ZT of a material and the conversion efficiency of a device based on it is not linear, so that translates into an improvement in thermoelectric conversion efficiency of between 15 percent and 30 percent...

Full report here

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Nanotechnology provides a cost-effective way to improve performance of thermoelectric materials

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Energy We Consume and What To Do About It

The average American uses 11400 Watts of power continuously. This is the equivalent of burning 114 x100 Watt light bulbs, all the time. The average person globally uses 2255 Watts of power, or a little less than 23 x100 Watt light bulbs.

What are the consequences of us all using this much power?

What is the implied challenge of global warming in terms of how we produce power?

What are the things we do as individuals in terms of using power that we might change?

Wattzon.org hosts a document that gives us a framework for thinking about these challenges, and how we might change our behaviours as individuals as well as our collective behaviour as societies and global citizens, if we are to meet the great challenge of the 21st century - how to live in a world where we increasingly understand the resources to be finite, and the consequences of our actions complex & inter-twined.

Via: O'reilly

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Nanotechnology Conductors - Clean & Efficient

By crushing a widely used semiconductor into nanoparticles, researchers said on Thursday they have created a compound that could lead to cleaner, more efficient refrigerators, solar power plants and other devices.

The crushed material makes it possible to conduct electricity without conducting so much heat, solving a problem that has baffled engineers for 50 years.

Writing in the journal Science, the teams at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston College said their method provides a cheap way to achieve a major increase in thermoelectric efficiency.

Full report here

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Cheap, Efficient Thermoelectrics

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Small Battery-powered Electric Cars Could Catch On Soon

Within four years, at least two Japanese automakers plan to have all-electric cars on American roads. Several other automakers from around the world, including Ford Motor Co., are mulling similar vehicles.

When they arrive, the new electrics won't be big or inexpensive, and they won't go far -- probably no more than 90 miles without recharging. But with better battery technology, tougher environmental laws and growing demand for oil-free forms of transportation, auto executives say there's a niche for electric cars to thrive.

Full report here

Related blogposts
Battery powered cars

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Blending Pest Control with Green Buildings

Pest control is often ignored by architects who design green buildings - those certified under the Leadership in Energy Environmental Design rating system, Merchant said. But it shouldn't.

As interest in green architecture grows, architects should consider including pest management features in their plans, said Michael Kawecki, chair emeritus with the U.S. Green Building Council North Texas Chapter, the group that certifies green buildings.

Some experts in pest management, architecture and engineering agreed at a three-day seminar recently hosted by AgriLife Extension in Dallas. These experts discussed how integrated pest management concepts could be blended with green-building designs.

Full story here

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Destroyiong Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria - MIT Graduate Invents Knock-out Punch

MIT graduate student and synthetic biologist Timothy Lu is passionate about tackling problems that pose threats to human health. His current mission: to destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The 27-year-old M.D. candidate and Ph.D. in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology received the prestigious $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for inventing processes that promise to combat bacterial infections by enhancing the effectiveness of antibiotics at killing bacteria and helping to eradicate biofilm – bacterial layers that resist antimicrobial treatment and breed on surfaces, such as those of medical, industrial and food processing equipment.

Lu explained that fewer pharmaceutical companies are inventing new antibiotics due to long development times, high failure rates and large costs. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are also becoming more prevalent. His inventions enable the rapid design and production of inexpensive antibacterial agents that can break through the defenses of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and bacterial biofilms.

Full report here

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MIT Student Invents Knock-out Punch for Antibiotic Resistance

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Learning Industrial and Machine Design from Nature's Genius

If building zero-waste machines is one aspect of achieving interstellar travel, we may one day look back at the turn of the 21st century as the time when humans began to look at industrial design in such a way as to make this possible. How? By consulting the ultimate teacher - Mother Nature.

Some of the most advanced work in the field is being done here, on both the corporate and academic level. Students and teachers at local universities are exploring biomimicry research and education as companies such JDS Uniphase in Milpitas and Qualcomm in San Jose turn to nature's ingenuity for their designs. All this is just a microcosm of what's going on globally, where biomimicry is a burgeoning science.

Full report here

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Space Elevator - Will Arthur Clarke be Proved Right Again?

"It's definitely my most important contribution," Arthur Clarke told a journalist a couple of months before this death, about his prescient idea of communications satellites. And he added, "And maybe in a generation or so the space elevator will be considered equally important."

The space elevator - basically a huge cable connecting the Earth to space, along which payloads can be launched using electromagnetic vehicles - is another thing that Clarke has championed. He first wrote about it in 1978. Current plans call for a cable about 50,000 kilometers long.

"The chief expense of space travel when you build the space elevator is entertainment and in-flight movies," joked Clarke to the journalist. It is very sad that the sci-fi genius is no more...

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Methane Discovered on Extrasolar Planet

Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have for the first time found the telltale signature of methane, an organic molecule, in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system.

Methane is one of the chemicals of life, an organic compound in the class of molecules containing carbon. However, no life is likely to exist on the large, gaseous planet known as HD 189733b. Its daily temperatures can reach 1,340 degrees Fahrenheit.

Full report here

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Methane and water discovered on extrasolar planet
Methane found on distant world

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Evidence for Ocean Found at Saturn's Moon Titan

An ocean seasoned with the chemical ingredients of life may lie hidden beneath the icy surface of Saturn's moon Titan.

The evidence? The entire surface of Titan appears to be sliding around, scientists say, like cheese over tomato sauce on a slice of pizza.

Titan is the largest of the more than 50 known moons orbiting Saturn, and is in fact bigger than the planet Mercury. Titan possesses a thick, planet-like atmosphere — the only moon in the solar system known to have one. And the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and its moons revealed a surface at Titan covered with icy mountains, oily lakes and seas and what might be "cryovolcanoes" that spew plumes of water and ammonia.

Scientists had long suspected that an underground ocean might exist on Titan, much as Jupiter's moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa do.

Full story here

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Evidence of ocean found by scientists on saturn’s moon ‘Titan’
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Photonic technology boosts microwave signals

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have investigated the possibility of using fibre optic technology to generate and distribute microwave signals in future wireless networks. This technology is important to meet the increase in demand for mobility and high data rates. Using optical fibre for the distribution of microwave signals has several benefits compared to using electrical cables. Optical fibre has low loss and frequency-independent attenuation. It is also insensitive to electromagnetic interference, low in weight, small in size and low in cost.

In a new PhD thesis by Andreas Wiberg at the Photonics Laboratory at Chalmers, research is presented which deals with optical generation, modulation and distribution of signals in micro- and millimetre-wave applications. The results obtained include demonstrations of transportation of 40 GHz signals over 44 km of optical fibre modulated with 2.5 Gbit/s data, transmitted through a wireless link in a laboratory environment.

Full report here

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Seegrid Unveils GT3 Industrial Mobile Robot for Material Handling

Seegrid Corporation (www.seegrid.com) unveils GT3, the first vision-guided industrial mobile robot recently. Designed specifically for material handling in manufacturing, warehousing and distribution...

The vehicle employs Seegrid's Industrial Mobile Robotics (IMR) technology which enables it to move through manufacturing, warehousing and distribution operations utilizing stereo cameras to build a reliable 3D map of the environment. The GT3 then uses the map and its own reasoning ability to navigate a predetermined path to complete its assigned transport task

Full report here

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Seegrid Unveils GT3, the First Vision-Guided Industrial Mobile

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Automation Drives 'Mine of the Future' @ Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto, a mining giant in North American and Australia, has found a way to eliminate the stresses and strains experienced by Australian miners: automated operations. The company's chief executive, Tom Albanese, announced these initiatives recently:

* Mine operations in the Pilbara iron ore region will be controlled 1,300 kilometers away at a new center in Perth
* Driverless trains will carry iron ore on most of 1,200 kilometers of track
* A driverless "intelligent" truck fleet will be deployed
* Remotely controlled "intelligent" drills will be used

Albanese called this vision "the mine of the future" in a Perth speech and said it is part of Rio Tinto's drive to maintain its position as Australia's leading iron ore producer.

Full report here

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Wearable Biomechatronic Exoskeletons: the Future is Already Here

Press release

Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c84816) has announced the addition of “Wearable Robots: Biomechatronic Exoskeletons” to their offering.

A wearable robot is a mechatronic system that is designed around the shape and function of the human body, with segments and joints corresponding to those of the person it is externally coupled with. Teleoperation and power amplification were the first applications, but after recent technological advances the range of application fields has widened. Increasing recognition from the scientific community means that this technology is now employed in telemanipulation, man-amplification, neuromotor control research and rehabilitation, and to assist with impaired human motor control.

Logical in structure and original in its global orientation, this volume gives a full overview of wearable robotics, providing the reader with a complete understanding of the key applications and technologies suitable for its development. The main topics are demonstrated through two detailed case studies; one on a lower limb active orthosis for a human leg, and one on a wearable robot that suppresses upper limb tremor. These examples highlight the difficulties and potentialities in this area of technology, illustrating how design decisions should be made based on these.

As well as discussing the cognitive interaction between human and robot, this comprehensive text also covers:

-the mechanics of the wearable robot and it’s biomechanical interaction with the user, including state-of-the-art technologies that enable sensory and motor interaction between human (biological) and wearable artificial (mechatronic) systems;

- the basis for bioinspiration and biomimetism, general rules for the development of biologically-inspired designs, and how these could serve recursively as biological models to explain biological systems;

- the study on the development of networks for wearable robotics.

Wearable Robotics: Biomechatronic Exoskeletons will appeal to lecturers, senior undergraduate students, postgraduates and other researchers of medical, electrical and bio engineering who are interested in the area of assistive robotics. Active system developers in this sector of the engineering industry will also find it an informative and welcome resource.

Contents:

Foreword

Preface

List of Contributors

1 Introduction to wearable robotics

2 Basis for bioinspiration and biomimetism in wearable robots

3 Kinematics and dynamics of wearable robots

4 Human–robot cognitive interaction

5 Human–robot physical interaction

6 Wearable robot technologies

7 Communication networks for wearable robots

8 Wearable upper limb robots

9 Wearable lower limb and full-body robots

10 Summary, conclusions and outlook

Index

For more information visit http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c84816

Contacts
Research and Markets
Laura Wood, Senior Manager
Fax: +353 1 4100 980

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Future of Robotics - Resources and Web Links

Here's a useful resource dwelling on the future of robotics...nice introduction, resources and web links

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Automotive Opportunities in a Green Economy

Many experts believe that the automotive industry will see continued growth and sales in many types of fuel-efficient vehicles. This is due in part to stiff emission standards proposed by several U.S. states and continued investment in other types of advanced technology. This includes one of the most exciting new developments in U.S. car manufacturing: Tesla Motors’ new, revolutionary all-electric sports car. Innovations like this point to a changing, yet continuously growing and competitive industry, with doors opening for new opportunities.

Locations across North America are trying to seize these opportunities, and are often willing to dole out generous incentives to get a piece of this attractive industry. After all, investments by automotive companies mean prodigious economic growth for an area. Here’s a look at some locations that are helping to shape the future of the automotive industry.

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Adhesives research used for solar photovoltaic modules

Adhesives and sealants products manufacturer for industry sectors Henkel is investigating and testing a number of options to increase energy efficiency with solar panels and associated adhesives worldwide.

Henkel is active in energy- saving technologies and has a global solar team that deals with solar technologies and renewable energy.

Some of the solar-related initiatives include solar modules on steel frames, development of flexible solar modules and thin-film technology as well as crystalline silicone cell modules.

Full report here

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Wireless Home Automation Wakes Up

ZigBee and other wireless home automation technologies have zigged and zagged in recent years as they've struggled to achieve success, but the future appears more straightforward, says an ABI Research study. Standard-based technologies such as ZigBee and Z-Wave are removing past market constraints, according to ABI.

Four years ago, ABI predicted huge success for the leading wireless home automation standard, ZigBee. The market has yet to awaken, however. The obstacles to success, says ABI, have included the expense of luxury custom-installed systems, and the unreliability of low-end DIY products using older technologies, such as powerline-based X10 set-ups.

According to ABI, two trends are sparking renewed interest in the technologies: reduced prices, and the debut of managed services offered by broadband and telco service providers.

Full report here

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What's in Store Next for the Games Fans?

If you are a gaming fan, you might be justified in feeling that you are living in the best of times.

There are many who believe that we are at the threshold of paradigm shifts in gaming, with consoles and PCs coming with extra-ordinarily powerful processors and with concepts such as social gaming expected to take gaming to a different level.

Ray Kurzweil, renowned inventor and futurist, believes that games are driving much of the innovation happening in the world today - don't be surprised if virtual reality becomes real reality in 20 years.

The next-gen consoles — Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 — inspired a bumper crop of innovative new games in 2007. And games were the bright spot in an otherwise dreary holiday retail season, with revenues of $4.82 billion in December 2007 alone.

Some broad expectations for gaming during in the next 5-10 years include: Source: MSNBC

1. Wii games will enter mass market. The assumption earlier was that gamers would want to figure out complicated button combinations on their PlayStation controller. But that’s no longer a safe assumption. Expect games to be more easy to play and developed for a more mass audience.

2. Creating community - Gamers have definitely evolved since the early days. With the high-speed Internet connections that are so cheap now, everybody is online, and they want the online community aspects to their games. Expect social games as much as individual games.

3. Downloadable content - the most important thing for the industry in a broad sense. It allows for a relatively small portion of a fan base to support a product in a way that it could never have been supported before. Expect more niche games that will never remotely get the volumes that popular games today get and still can make a profit!

Other predictions and opinions on where the gaming domain is going:


Mobile & Wireless Gaming - Mind the Road, Son!

Is Wii the future of gaming? - asks this post @ Game Devotion. Virtual Reality is a widely discussed topic. Gaming Companies have to try and switch over to the Future. The reason for the Success of the Wii is not its Graphic abilities but the way we interact with the game, the way we actually GET INTO the game. Nintendo realized this and made big bucks and therefore the Wii is the highest sold Next-Gen Console!

Two mobile publishers are branching out into DS and Xbox 360 development. What does this pattern mean for the games industry as a whole? Does it mean that the mobile games almost 'there', asks this post

Namco Networks says casual games will be the future of mobile gaming

And while on mobiles, this is the take of an expert on iPhone games. The best way for Apple's iPhone to get in on the gaming market is to develop a popular game, says he. Hmmm...that's really saying the obvious, isn't it?


Gaming Gets Social (Too)

The God of Gaming Shigeru Miyamoto thinks housewives (gasp!) are the future of gaming...well, he should be knowing!

Of course nobody knows for sure what the future of human interfaces and gaming will look like, but Andrew Fentem—who went from working on classified missile systems to developing multi-touch human interfaces, kinetic surfaces and motion sensing technologies before almost anyone else in the planet—gave us a fascinating vision on where we are headed in this exclusive interview.

Fun is an experience best shared. Exhilaration, elation and excitement, too. And so it goes that Social Gaming intertwines those things, while the Internet extends them on a global scale, and so the future must belong to social gaming, right? And here's another interesting take on the social gaming future...The future of connected gaming is local, not global, says this post. So you will be looking forward more to beating your friends, not the world!


PC Gaming - Bigger & Better or End of an Era?

Cliff Bleszinski, the lead designer at Epic Games, better known as CliffyB, has recently made some comments critiquing PC gaming. Is Cliff Bleszinski right or wrong in his predictions? Is PC gaming becoming a thing of the past? Are the new console games like PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 going to be the new future in gaming? Won't it be great to have the crystal ball right in front of us!

There is someone who might not agree with Cliff though. According to Wild Tangent CEO Alex St. John, PCs make better platforms for games than even the consoles, but "the shame of it is, the PC's a fantastic gaming platform, superior to anything anybody's every imagined, superior to every console, and Microsoft and Intel put crap in the PC that make it not so good. And so if you see a PC that is not denuded by things interfering with it by Microsoft and Intel, in many cases like an Intel crappy graphics chip, or a bloated Vista operating system, it's a fantastic gaming platform"...hmmm

Based on the progress associated with Moore’s Law and nanotech, futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that advances in electronics will continue, with shrinkage/performance advancing 100,000-fold in the next 25 years. That, of course, means that graphics and everything associated with gaming will become far better. It means that we’ll be putting little electronic devices inside our blood streams, extending our life spans, and thereby necessitating longer video games.


And Just Where's the Money, Honey?

Or is the future of gaming "Free"? muses http://www.thebbps.com/blog/2008/02/29/behold-the-true-future-of-gaming/ - The Battlefield series is immensely popular, so there’s a built in audience. Offering the game for free is going to draw in a huge number of people to at least try it out. This is the future of gaming, this is where it’s all heading.

You got to mention Gamasutra at least once while you are discussing games, and so here it is. On the issue business model for making moolah, Gamasutra feels in this article that microtransactions could drive gaming in the future

And can you afford to forget China either, whatever you do and wherever you are? The future of on-line gaming might be in China, says this post. "A recent study details the way in which the Chinese on-line game market is developing and provides a few very interesting numbers regarding money spent on games. The highlight of the Pearl Research study is the statement that in 2010, the Chinese on-line game market will be worth 3 billion dollars."

So there you are. If you are a gaming fan, just tighten your virtual seatbelts and get set for the thrill ride - the takeoff is fast approaching.

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IBM Predicts Five Future Trends That Will Drive Unified Communications

IBM predicted five future trends that will increase demand for the fast-growing unified communications market and reshape the way businesses and workers communicate and collaborate worldwide.

The predictions, made in a keynote address by Mike Rhodin, General Manager of IBM Lotus software, at the VoiceCon conference here, include:

1) The Virtual Workplace will become the rule. No need to leave the office. Just bring it along.

2) Instant Messaging and other real-time collaboration tools will become the norm, bypassing e-mail.

3) Beyond Phone Calls to Collaborative Business Processes. Companies will go beyond the initial capabilities of IM to deep integration with business processes and line-of-business applications.

4) Interoperability and Open Standards will tear down proprietary walls across business and public domains.

5) New meeting models will emerge. Hang up on routine, calendared conference calls. 3-D virtual world and gaming technologies will significantly influence online corporate meeting experiences to deliver more life-like experiences.

IDC estimates the unified communications market will reach $17 billion in worldwide revenue in 2011, growing at 38 percent compounded annually from 2007. As such, IBM sees unified communications as the next significant frontier for technology growth. To meet these demands, IBM is investing significantly in a range of resources, including software, services and research.

Part of this investment also covers a significant expansion of IBM Lotus Sametime software products. Work has also begun on blending IBM's social software expertise into the real-time environment.

Source

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"Goodbye Earth" in About 7.59 Billion Years

If nature is left to its own devices, about 7.59 billion years from now Earth will be dragged from its orbit by an engorged red Sun and spiral to a rapid vaporous death. That is the forecast according to new calculations by a pair of astronomers, Klaus-Peter Schroeder of the University of Guanajuato in Mexico and Robert Connon Smith of the University of Sussex in England.

Their report is the latest and gloomiest installment yet in a long-running debate about the ultimate fate of our planet. Only last year, the discovery of a giant planet orbiting the faint burned-out cinder of a star in Pegasus had suggested that Earth could survive the Sun’s death.

Dr. Smith called the new result “a touch depressing” in a series of e-mail messages. But “looked at another way,” he added, “it is an incentive to do something about finding ways to leave our planet and colonize other areas in the galaxy.”

Full report here

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Recipe for Saving the Earth from the Sun - Move It!

I was reading an interesting article (quote old by our standards, 7 years, but very new by astronomical standards)...here is the excerpt:

Experts give the sun some 7 billion years, when it will turn into a bloated red giant. Earth would be first engulfed in heat and light, then vaporized.

Well before then, things will turn real nasty. In just a billion years, the Sun could be 11-percent brighter, scientists say, rendering Earth an inhospitable greenhouse. In 3.5 billion years, the Sun could be 40-percent brighter than it is today.

With our demise so clear on the cosmic horizon, astrophysicist Fred Adams of the University of Michigan and NASA's Gregory Laughlin got to wondering in recent years how the planet might be saved by gravitational interaction with a passing star. They ran computer simulations of possible encounters over the next 3.5 billion years, finding last year that the odds of the Earth being completely ejected from the solar system are one-in-100,000.

So Adams and Laughlin, along with Don Korycansky of the University of California, began to discuss consider how human intervention might bring about a more suitable long-term orbit, one that gradually expands with the aging Sun.

Interesting! Read more from the article

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Green Datacenters - Datacenter Archtecture for Environmental Sustainability

In the past, the cost of physical space was a primary consideration in data center design. More recently, the cost of power and cooling has risen to prominence. Data center managers now must prioritize investment in efficient power and cooling systems to lower the total cost of operating (TCO) of their facilities.

Microsoft responded to this shift by adopting the following top 10 best practices for energy efficiency in Microsoft data center operations:

* Engineer the data center for cost and energy efficiency
* Optimize the design to assess multiple factors
* Optimize provisioning for maximum efficiency and productivity
* Monitor and control data center performance in real time
* Make data center operational excellence part of organizational culture
* Measure power usage effectiveness (PUE)
* Use temperature control and airflow distribution
* Eliminate the mixing of hot and cold air
* Use effective air-side or water-side economizers
* Share and learn from industry partners

Learn more details on each of these practices from this report

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Hydrogen energy, nanotechnology and intelligent networks needed for US manufacturing

Future high-tech manufacturing research and development needs to focus on three critical areas: hydrogen energy development, nanomanufacturing, and intelligent and integrated networks and computing.

Advanced products on those areas will help the US compete in the fast-paced global community requires rapid innovation, research and production methods to cost-effectively bring products to market, according to a 102-page report issued recently (PDF) titled “Manufacturing the Future: Federal Priorities for Manufacturing R&D.” The report was authored by the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Manufacturing R&D of the National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC) Committee on Technology.

Via: Network World

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Is Geoengineering the Solution for Global Warming?

For most environmentalists, the answer to reducing global warming is to keep pushing the same message harder: cut carbon and cut it now. But a few scientists are beginning to quietly raise the possibility of cooling the planet's fever directly through geoengineering. The principle behind it is straightforward — compensate for an intensified greenhouse effect by reducing the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth — but the techniques seem like pure science fiction. Just a few: using orbital mirrors to bounce sunlight back into space, fertilizing the oceans with iron to amplify their ability to absorb carbon and even painting roofs white to increase solar reflection.

Geoengineering has long been the province of kooks, but as the difficulty of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions has become harder to ignore, it is slowly emerging as an option of last resort.

Read more from this Time article

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organic farming + genetic engineering = The new organic?

The future of food may depend on an unlikely marriage: organic farmers and genetic engineering.

Beginning in 1997, an important change swept over cotton farms in northern China. By adopting new farming techniques, growers found they could spray far less insecticide over their fields. Within four years they had reduced their annual use of the poisonous chemicals by 156 million pounds, cotton yields in the region climbed, and production costs fell. Strikingly, the number of insecticide-related illnesses among farmers in the region dropped to a quarter of their previous level.

But the hero in this story isn't organic farming. It is genetic engineering. The most important change embraced by the Chinese farmers was to use a variety of cotton genetically engineered to protect itself against insects. The plants carry a protein called Bt, a favorite insecticide of organic farmers because it kills pests but is nontoxic to mammals, birds, fish, and humans. By 2001, Bt cotton accounted for nearly half the cotton produced in China.

As we all know, the organic farming movement has shown that it is possible to dramatically reduce the use of insecticides. But organic farming also has serious limits - there are many pests and diseases that cannot be controlled using organic approaches (at least not today), and organic crops are generally more expensive to produce and buy. And if you have been going through statistics and data, you will already know that the % of farming that is under organic farming today is a rather small percentage, owing to the two reasons mentioned above as well as a few others.

There is no question that organic is the way to go, but increasingly, agricultural scientists and environmentalists have begun to ask whether organic should go it alone or whether it requires a visionary new approach: combining genetic engineering and organic farming.

Read a nice dialogue on this topic @ Boston Globe here

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Lab Rats Could be Replaced by High-Tech Alternatives

Medical advances ranging from polio vaccines to artificial heart valves owe a debt to lab rats, mice, rabbits, dogs monkeys and pigs. These Animals are still routinely used to test the toxicity of chemical compounds.

The lab rat of the future, however may have no whiskers and no tail — and might not even be a rat at all. With a European ban looming on animal testing for cosmetics, companies are giving a hard look at high-tech alternatives like the small, rectangular glass chip professor Jonathan Dordick holds up to the light in his lab at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The chip looks like a standard microscope slide, but it holds hundreds of tiny white dots loaded with human cell cultures and enzymes. It's designed to mimic human reactions to potentially toxic chemical compounds.

Could these chips, already going by the moniker "lab-on-a-chip", replace the mice and other guinea pigs that are regularly used for testing?

Not so fast, says the research community. Animal testing also still has an essential role in making sure new pharmaceutical products are safe and effective for humans. Animal studies generally are needed before the federal FDA approves clinical trials for a drug. So no one expects the chips to totally replace animals just yet. At the same time, even in the near future the ability of these chips and other emerging alternatives to flag toxins could spare animals discomfort or death. At the end of the day, it is likely that you will have fewer animals being tested.

Alternatives to animal tests include synthetic skin substitutes and computer simulations. But in vitro products show the most promise because they can are efficient, fast and easy to manipulate. So expect more and more of preliminary testing to be done in-vitro, literally meaning "in glass".

Read a detailed story on this topic @ MSNBC here

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Some Japan Homes Run on Fuel Cells

Some 2,000 homes in Japan get electricity and heat water — with power generated by a hydrogen fuel cell. The technology is more commonly seen in futuristic cars with tanks of hydrogen instead of gasoline, a key culprit in pollution and global warming.

Developers say fuel cells that use natural gas to get hydrogen produce one-third less of the pollution that causes global warming than conventional electricity generation does.

So is this trend of fuel cells in homes that has started in Japan likely to spread to the rest of the world? Read on...

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Coal as Chemical Feedstock for Oil and Polymers?

Dirty solutions to the price of oil are beginning to ramp up. A troubling new article in the chemical industry trade mag, Chemical and Engineering News, reports that coal is making in-roads as a feedstock for bulk chemical production.

Running directly counter to “green chemistry” companies like one funded in November Novomer, some in the chemical industry are exploring gasifying coal into methanol, which is a step away from the building blocks of bulk chemicals, ethylene and propylene. The economics seem to indicate that crude oil over $50 a barrel will make coal an economical option.

Full story here

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Can a Supercomputer Think Like a Brain?

Computers have long been thought of as "electronic brains", but most scientists of course smirked at that term because the machines were very crude representations of our brains for the most part. A fairly significant number of intelligent scientists have been convinced that it could take many more generations, if at all, before we can come up with machines that can think like humans. For one, it might require far more computing power than what even the highest end computers of today have on offer; for another, the human brain is far too complex, and it is not clear to everyone that we have understood its functioning even remotely. Such thoughts however do not deter some determined folks.

In the basement of a university in Switzerland sit four black boxes, each about the size of a refrigerator, and filled with 2,000 IBM microchips stacked in repeating rows. Together they form the processing core of a machine that can handle over 20 trillion operations per second. This is Blue Brain. As their web site explains, "The Blue Brain project is the first comprehensive attempt to reverse-engineer the mammalian brain, in order to understand brain function and dysfunction through detailed simulations." This is done using a computer that has phenomenal computing power - a supercomputer, in layman's terms.

The name of the supercomputer is literal: Each of its microchips has been programmed to act just like a real neuron in a real brain. The Blue Brain team started with a neuron, a nanoscale pipette, and added some really bold thinking and advanced electronic design, and wow, they have ended up with something really commendable. The behavior of the computer replicates, with surprising precision, the cellular events unfolding inside a mind. "This is the first model of the brain that has been built from the bottom-up," says Henry Markram, a neuroscientist at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the director of the Blue Brain project.

This is hardly the first time scientists have made efforts to make computers mimic the brain. All of us saw how Deep Blue, the IBM supercomputer, even beat the then world champ Gary Kasparov in the famous chess championship. But most of these efforts were aimed at computers trying to replicate human thought processes in a very narrow domain, and these domains were often dominated by quantitative logic rather than qualitative ones.

Blue Brain can certainly be thought of as being only the next effort in this continuum, but the difference is this one is biologically much closer. With previous basic structures, scientists have been able to unveil physical details, molecules, chemical pathways, enzymes and genes that power the brain. These efforts and experiments offered insights that enabled scientists in understanding what the brain does, but not how it does it. This experiment however emulates chemical signaling and actually functions as a real brain. The current simulation uses 400 segments for each neuron and they have precisely researched individual ion channels and biological functions to precisely generate the simulation.

What has been most difficult even for supercomputers so far is to understand "experience". Blue Brain, if it is to simulate our brains, needs to somehow figure out what "experiencing something" means. (A nice quote from the philosopher David Chalmers, “Experience is information from the inside; physics is information from the outside.” - Thank you, Clusterflock ). The Blue Brain team intends to succeed in this by deciphering the connection between the sensations entering the machine and the flickering voltages of its brain cells. Once the team has been able to get this correlation right (and I'm not sure this will be easy!), reversing this process should be relatively easy. If they are able to complete this cycle, the supercomputer should be in a position to generate "experieces". Fascinating!

Analogous in scope to the Genome Project, the Blue Brain will provide a huge leap in our understanding of brain function and dysfunction and help us explore solutions to intractable problems in mental health and neurological disease.

By the end of 2006, the Blue Brain project had created a model of the basic functional unit of the brain, the neocortical column. At the push of a button, the model could reconstruct biologically accurate neurons based on detailed experimental data, and automatically connect them in a biological manner, a task that involves positioning around 30 million synapses in precise 3D locations.

In November, 2007, the Blue Brain project reached an important milestone and the conclusion of its first Phase, with the announcement of an entirely new data-driven process for creating, validating, and researching the neocortical column. Blue Brain has currently simulated one column of a neocortex of a rat with 10,000 neurons and 30 million synapses - a human neocortex column has 60,000 neurons.

Impressive!

Read a nice story on Blue Brain here, more updates from the Blue Brain Project web site, and the Blue Brain IBM/EPFL page @ IBM


Other Related Web Resources

Blue Brain @ Wikipedia
Blue Brain - success?
The Blue Brain Breakthrough
Blue Brain Status and the Future of Whole Brain Simulation
A 2005 article from The Speculist
A 2005 BusinessWeek article

There's a whole range of fascinating resources on the topic of computers and human brains. We try to list some that we found most useful and interesting:

Why People Think Computers Can't - by Marvin Minsky, the renowned AI pioneer. "Today, surrounded by so many automatic machines, industrial robots. and the R2-D2's of Star Wars movies, most people think AI is much more advanced than it is. But still. many `'computer experts" don't believe that machines will ever "really think." I think those specialists are too used to explaining that there's nothing inside computers but little electric currents. This leads them to believe that there can't be room left for anything else-like minds or selves. And there are many other reasons why so many experts still maintain that machines can never be creative. intuitive. or emotional, and will never really think, believe, or understand anything. This essay explains why they are wrong. (see this article in PDF format)

Brain vs. Computers @ Neuroscience for Kids - well, this has been written for kids, but precisely for that reason, the language is so simple and easy to understand that all of us can learn something from it!

Brains Don't Learn Using 0s and 1s, but They Learn Through Shades of Grey - The processors, in our brain or in a cluster of computers, is supposed to act sequentially. Not so fast! According to a new study from Cornell University, this is not true, and our mental processing is continuous. By tracking mouse movements of students working with their computers, the researchers found that our learning process was similar to other biological organisms: we're not learning through a series of 0's and 1's. Instead, our brain is cascading through shades of grey."

Computer Intelligence in the Extra-ordinary Future - One requirement for the extraordinary future is that computers will be as smart as humans. Actually, the authors who present the extraordinary future clearly think that within the next century computers will far surpass humans in intelligence. In this chapter the writer describes their reasons for making this claim and considers whether it is plausible. In order to do this the writer considers related issues such as the nature of human intelligence, how the brain works, how computers work, realistic projections of increases in computer processing speed, and different understandings of the concept of thought.

The Chinese Room - A person inside a room gets input in the form of Chinese characters on cards, and produces output in the form of Chinese characters by looking up the input Chinese characters in a rule book (written in English) that shows him what Chinese characters to give back.? It turns out that the input Chinese characters are meaningful questions and the output Chinese characters are appropriate answers to the questions, so to an outside observer, it looks as if whatever's inside the room understands Chinese. But he doesnt: he's just following rules. MORAL: computers are like the rule-follower.? They don't understand anything, even if they appear to do so. Brief but interesting stuff discussed here titled Can Computers Think?...see a related article by John Searle Is The Brain a Digital Computer?

Most neuroscientists adhere to the pixel view of neurons, arguing that individual cells can't possibly be clever enough to make sense of subtle concepts; after all, the world's fastest supercomputers have difficulty performing that pattern-recognition feat. But Itzhak Fried, a neurosurgeon who leads this UCLA research program, believes he has found "thinking cells" in the brains of his subjects. If he's right, neuroscientists may be forced to overhaul their view of how the human brain works, says this 2005 article from MIT titled "Can A Single Brain Cell Think?"

In a new MIT study (2007), a computer model designed to mimic the way the brain itself processes visual information performs as well as humans do on rapid categorization tasks. The model even tends to make similar errors as humans, possibly because it so closely follows the organization of the brain's visual system. More from here

Human Brain Region Functions Like Digital Computer - ScienceDaily Oct., 2006 - A region of the human brain that scientists believe is critical to human intellectual abilities surprisingly functions much like a digital computer, according to psychology Professor Randall O'Reilly of the University of Colorado at Boulder. In a review of biological computer models of the brain that appeared in the Oct. 6 (2006) edition of the journal Science, O'Reilly contends that the prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia operate much like a digital computer system. More from here

10 Important Differences Between Brains and Computers - this is a phenomenally useful and entirely readable article. Please make sure you read it sometime, you will understand why we should take any claims to mimicing the brain with a huge tablespoon of salt.

An interview with John McCarthy, an AI pioneer and the person credited with coining the term Artificial Intelligence

Researchers at the MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research have used a biological model to train a computer model to recognize objects, such as cars or people, in busy street scenes. Their innovative approach, which combines neuroscience and artificial intelligence with computer science, mimics how the brain functions to recognize objects in the real world.

When will computer hardware match the human brain? ( a 1997 paper) - This paper describes how the performance of AI machines tends to improve at the same pace that AI researchers get access to faster hardware. The processing power and memory capacity necessary to match general intellectual performance of the human brain are estimated. Based on extrapolation of past trends and on examination of technologies under development, it is predicted that the required hardware will be available in cheap machines in the 2020s.

Jeff Hawkins and his colleagues have been focused on researching the brain's neocortex, and have made significant progress in understanding how it works. Using their theory, called Hierarchical Temporal Memory, or HTM, they have created a software platform that allows anyone to build HTMs for experimentation and deployment. You don't program an HTM as you would a computer; rather you configure it with software tools, then train it by exposing it to sensory data. HTMs thus learn in much the same way that children do. HTM is a rich theoretical framework and this article provides a high level overview of the theory and technology. Details of HTM are available at Numenta. An interview with Jeff here

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Busting Ethanol - Here Come Butanol and Second Gen Biofuels

In 2007, ethanol fuel production rose more than 34% in the United States, reaching a record-high of 6.5 billion barrels. Industry groups expect similar growth rates for this year. The ethanol industry should savor the time, however--this could be as good as it gets.

A handful of small companies, including Pasadena, Calif.-based start-up Gevo, are scrambling to commercialize second-generation biofuels such as butanol that they believe will be cheap and clean enough to put ethanol out of business. These new fuels are even designed to be produced by the same refineries that are cranking out ethanol now.

Full story here

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New Membrane Could Improve Fuel Cell Efficiency

A new type of membrane based on tiny iron particles appears to address one of the major limitations exhibited by current power-generating fuel cell technology. While there are many types of fuel cells, in general they generate electricity as the result of chemical reactions between an external fuel -- most commonly hydrogen -- and an agent that reacts with it. The membrane that separates the two parts of the cell and facilitates the reaction is a key factor in determining the efficiency of the cell.

Researchers at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering have developed a membrane that allows fuel cells to operate at low humidity and theoretically to operate at higher temperatures.

Full story here

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Nanominerals (Mineral Nanoparticles) Influence Earth Systems Significantly

The ubiquity of tiny particles of minerals - mineral nanoparticles - in oceans and rivers, atmosphere and soils, and in living cells are providing scientists with new ways of understanding Earth's workings. Our planet's physical, chemical, and biological processes are influenced or driven by the properties of these minerals.

So states a team of researchers from seven universities in a paper published recently in the journal Science: "Nanominerals, Mineral Nanoparticles, and Earth Systems." The way in which these infinitesimally small minerals influence Earth's systems is more complex than previously thought, the scientists say.

Full story here

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Pininfarina Sintesi Sports Car - Liquid Packaging, Starting with the Passengers!

The Sintesi is a sports car with four doors and four seats, developed by an innovative approach: it does not consider the car as a shape that covers the mechanicals, but one that gives a shape to the mechanicals around the passengers, starting from the latter. This approach, which is known as "Liquid" Packaging, tends to improve weight distribution and lower the centre of gravity, important elements for driving dynamics.

Pininfarina made this possible by close collaboration with Nuvera, which developed the Quadrivium Fuel Cells system, the various components of which were distributed around the car, with four fuel cells positioned near to the wheels. The result is that the space for passengers is much more generous - in proportion to the total volume of the car - without detracting from the sporty line with its relaxed, elegant profile which is sleek, tapered and aerodynamic

Full story here (and nice pics too)

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Birds Do it Better than Aircraft - Mysteries of Flight

The fact that heavy planes full of people can stay aloft is incredible. Even experts admit there is a lot we don't know about flight, including why animals do it so much better than our best aircraft.

When it comes to flexibility and efficiency in the air, birds, bats and insects easily outperform airplanes. Researchers hope studying animals more closely may reveal some of the secrets behind flight.

Full story here

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

US Schools Relying More on Robots for Teaching

Several Tucson(Arizona)-area schools are relying on robots to help teach students math and science principles, computer skills, engineering, teamwork and leadership.

Schools with robotics teams have transformed the after-school activity into a part of the school's curriculum by creating science and computer elective classes that teach robotics, while other schools have integrated robotics into regular science classes.

Full story here

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Emergency Room of the Future

Next door to the old and crowded emergency department of Washington Hospital Center is a bright oasis of calm. Backed by a $2.2 million federal grant and drawing on 600 different ideas from a task force of experts, the hospital is putting in what emergency department chairman Dr. Mark Smith hopes will be a first draft of the emergency department of the future.

It is designed to handle a sudden influx of mass casualties from a natural disaster, biological attack or a pandemic, and at the same time prevent the ongoing disaster of hospital-acquired infections.

Full story here

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How X-rays Can Detect Cocaine or Semtex in a Suitcase

Bob Cernik likes using x-rays to probe the nature of materials. The Manchester University professor has been working at the Diamond Light Source synchrotron in Oxfordshire to develop a prototype 3D colour x-ray system to detect hidden explosives, drugs, or even cancer. But wait a moment ... x-rays, in colour and three dimensions?

How does a hospital x-ray CAT scanner produce colourful 3D body images? It's a process called "false colour", where shades of grey are converted to a corresponding colour in the normal spectrum. This gives you a high spatial resolution density contrast image that is often false coloured to aid diagnosis. But it is a false colouration.

There are other x-ray techniques, including diffraction, that allow scientists to identify materials.

All these current imaging systems do not however use all the information contained in the x-ray beam. This extra information can be used to fingerprint the material present at each point in a 3D image.

To do this with x-rays, Cernik's system uses "tomographic energy dispersive diffraction imaging" - or TEDDI. He works with "voxels" (volumetric pixels) which represent points in three-dimensional space. TEDDI measures voxels throughout a sample so that each contains an x-ray diffraction pattern - the key to identifying a material's atomic structure and chemistry.

Many experts think TEDDI is excellent work which produces very accurate results.

Some related work is going on to develop the world's first "scatter-enhanced" 3D x-ray security scanner. This method also uses x-ray diffraction but concentrates on the high-speed identification of substances in cluttered scenes - like the insides of suitcases.

Typically, X-rays pass through and are scattered by the contents but, compared with the primary beam, the scattered signals are extremely weak. These new techniques to produce 3D x-ray images with materials to quickly identity information in them.

Read more about these new techniques from here

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Nokia Nanotech Phone Concept

Mobile handset giant Nokia has given the first glimpses of the research it is doing in collaboration with the University of Cambridge when it unveiled a shape changing mobile device concept based on nanotechnology.

Dubbed Morph, the joint nanotechnology concept was designed to demonstrate the possible future benefits of nanotechnology for mobile devices. Morph is both stretchable and flexible, but Nokia suggests nanotechnology could also allow future mobile phones to include self-cleaning surfaces and see-through electronics.

More from here

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Ubuntu Mobile - A Guide to the Future of Mobile Internet

One of the fastest growing areas of cell phone development at the current time is in the area of mobile Internet connectivity. Unfortunately, the developments in this area have been limited so far; the mobile Internet just doesn’t look a whole lot like the Web 2.0 environment that you have gotten used to using. The limitations of handheld devices in terms of online media entertainment and mobile web page development have made it so that the online experience that you currently may have on your mobile phone differs considerably from that which you are accustomed to using on your full-sized laptop or your desktop computer. This is starting to change and Ubuntu Mobile is a leader in that changing world. Using a Linux-based operating system, Ubuntu Mobile aims to bring the full Internet experience to handheld mobile devices.

Learn more about Ubuntu Mobile from this comprehensive resource page

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Mobile Security - Biggest Challenges

Former White House Cyber Security Adviser Howard Schmidt was asked to detail the biggest challenges a company or organization might face in mobile security. He said the biggest hurdle is in convincing leaders how important mobile security is to their organization. Beyond that, companies need to retune and restructure their organization to tie security into the day-to-day operations of the business, he said. And finally, consumers must understand the level of responsibility they carry as well.

Any company looking to further protect its mobile data should look at five components, he said: engineering and architecture, day-to-day operations, education and awareness, ability to investigate and the data connection source.

Full report here

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Speedo’s Hydrodynamic Swimsuit for the Beijing Olympics

Aerospace engineering techniques contributed to dramatic improvements in surface-friction and form drag associated with Speedo’s latest high-tech swimsuit.

In competitive swimming, where hundredths of a second can separate winners from losers, hydrodynamic drag really is a drag. So the world’s top swimmers now take to the water in drag-reducing suits that cover more skin, leaving the skimpy swimsuits to the sunbathers. Speedo yesterday launched the latest of these sleek racing suits, the FASTSKIN LZR Racer.

Speedo made a splash with its first FASTSKIN swimwear at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Made from a knitted biomemetic fabric designed to emulate the hydrodynamic characteristics of shark skin, these suits were worn in 80 percent of Sydney’s medal-winning performances. The technology in the LZR Racer, which will be worn by members of the U.S. Swim Team in the upcoming Beijing Olympics, makes FASTSKIN even faster.

Full report here

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Simulation Reveals Secrets of the Origin of the Universe

As part of the "Horizon Project," a team of French scientists, led by Romain Teyssier, an Astrophysicist at CEA (the French Atomic Energy Commission), has completed the largest simulation ever carried out of structure formation in the universe. This simulation will enable astrophysicists to compare their models with astronomical observations with an unprecedented level of realism. The aim of the project is to get a better understanding of the moment when the universe started to form structures under the influence of gravity: how small primordial density fluctuations grow by gravitational instability and finally form galaxies and galaxy clusters we observe today.

Full article here

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Airbus, CSIR (South Africa) Ally to Research Aircraft of the Future

Airbus and South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will spend about R1.5 million on research into next-generation aircraft.

Airbus said it had joined forces with the CSIR to conduct research into new technologies and processes in the area of computational fluid dynamics (CFD).

The one-year agreement between the leading commercial aircraft manufacturer and the CSIR aims to define and research technologies in numerical modelling that can contribute to the design of clean and efficient next-generation jetliners.

Full story here

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New coal power stations should be carbon-capture (CCS) ready - IEA

All new coal plant the world over should be built in such a way that they are ready to capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which are seen as the main cause of global warming and climate change, says International Energy Agency (IEA) Greenhouse Gas Research Programme GM John Gale.

He says that coal will probably be the biggest component of the world's considerable increase in primary energy demand to 2030, and that the opportunity should be taken to create space for CCS even when minor modifications are undertaken at existing coal-fired plant.

Full story here

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Ray Kurzweil Sees Bright Future for Solar Energy

He predicted the fall of the Soviet Union. He predicted the explosive spread of the Internet and wireless access.

Now futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil is part of distinguished panel of engineers that says solar power will scale up to produce all the energy needs of Earth's people in 20 years.

There is 10,000 times more sunlight than we need to meet 100 percent of our energy needs, Kurzweil says, and the technology needed for collecting and storing it is about to emerge as the field going to advance exponentially...

Full story here

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Carnegie Mellon Electricity Conference - Future Energy Systems, Overtaxed Power Grid

Coming on the heels of the recent massive blackout in Florida which left millions without power, the fourth annual Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Conference is dedicated to finding cheaper and more reliable ways to deliver electricity to customers in an era where the nation's power grid is overtaxed with ever greater demand.

The two-day conference -- held on March 10-11 at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon -- focussed on efficiency, security and control in future energy systems, from cyber-physical to wind-generated. It addressed topics such as micro-grid generation, industry and policy challenges, advanced technologies for generation and environmental issues.

See a preview press release of the conference here

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Celestica, Microsoft Collaborate on BEE3 platform prototype development

Celestica Inc., a global provider of innovative electronics manufacturing services (EMS), today announced it has collaborated with Microsoft on the design of the BEE3,
Berkeley Emulation Engine 3rd version, to improve the ability of Microsoft and
other companies to conduct computer architecture research.

Microsoft's BEE3 development platform enables emulation of a multi-core
processor environment with at least 1000 cores. This is accomplished by four
interconnected field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) linked to a variety of
high-speed interfaces. The platform can scale smoothly from a single board to
64 boards or 256 FPGAs. The BEE3 platform enables large-scale architectural
research in areas such as ECAD tool acceleration, scientific computing and
computer architecture emulation.

Full story here

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Future of engineering courses in the UK in doubt, say academics

Future of engineering courses in the UK in doubt, say academics

The Engineering and Technology Board (ETB) and the Engineering Professors' Council (EPC) claim the sustainability and the future quality of teaching is under threat because of the imbalance between the amount of public funding universities get and how much it actually costs them to teach engineering.

A study by JM Consulting commissioned by ETB and EPC looked at differences in the costs of four universities in England in 2005-06, covering a wide range of engineering disciplines.

It found that equipment was often old and out of date and universities are increasingly depending on fees from non-EU students to make up the shortfall in funds.

Full story here

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Bill Gates Asks Youth to Think about the Poor

The Microsoft billionaire asked teenagers and twenty-somethings to do something he hadn't done that much, at least as a young university student -- think about the poor.

"I encourage you to have a much better awareness during your university years of the situation of those people than I had," Gates said recently to a theatre full of students at the University of Waterloo.

But at least one student said that while he's impressed with Gates' focus on charitable work, his first goal is finding a job.

Full story here

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Univ of Arizona shooting for the moon in $30M contest

University of Arizona scientists and students are reaching for the moon in a quest for a $30 million payoff.

The UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Department have teamed with Raytheon Missile Systems and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to design, build, fly and operate a robotic lunar lander mission.
The team, called Astrobotic Technology Inc., is competing with nine other groups for the the Google Lunar X Prize, which offers a $30 million purse for the first private robotic mission to the moon that meets operational specifications.

Full story here

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

JPL Helps Shoot for the Moon, Stars, Planets and More

A giant telescope, galaxy maps, and laser beacons on Mars are only a few of the ideas that teams selected by NASA will study for the next generation of astronomy and astrophysics missions. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., will help usher in this new era by playing an active role in 15 of the 19 science teams chosen to look at new concepts for future missions.

The 15 teams will explore concepts for missions to hunt for planets orbiting other stars (exoplanets) and to answer various astrophysics questions. JPL will manage six exoplanet and five astrophysics mission concepts and contribute to another four astrophysics mission plans managed from other NASA centers by aiding engineering and mission design, refining the science goals and supporting cost estimates.

The final reports will be put up for review in front of the Decadal Survey Committee, which sets the priorities for astronomy and astrophysics studies every 10 years, said Michael Werner, the chief scientist for astronomy and physics at JPL.

Full report here

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What will fuel future global development?

By Jeffrey Sachs, The Scotsman

The goal is to focus attention on the potential of technology to help the world address poverty and environmental threats. The list includes potential breakthroughs such as low-cost solar power, safe disposal of from power plants, nuclear fusion, new educational technologies, and the control of environmental side-effects from nitrogen fertil.

We are used to thinking about global cooperation in fields such as monetary policy, disease control or nuclear weapons proliferation. We are less accustomed to thinking of global cooperation to promote new technologies, such as clean energy, a malaria vaccine or drought-resistant crops to help poor African farmers.

By and large, we regard new technologies as something to be developed by businesses for the marketplace, not as opportunities for global problem-solving. Yet, given the enormous global pressures that we face, including vastly unequal incomes and massive environmental damage, we must find new technological solutions to our problems.

Full story here

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Oregon Researchers Processing Bio-Fuels From Algae

Researchers at Oregon State University are working to find an efficient method of processing bio-diesel fuel and ethanol from one of the world’s most plentiful organisms – algae – which could lead to breakthroughs in reducing the world's dependency on petroleum.

Applying the findings to mass-produce algae and extract its oils could be five to 10 years in the future, but the advantages are worth the wait, according to Ganti Murthy, assistant professor of biological and ecological engineering at OSU.

Full story here

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Disappearing honeybees threaten food security, biofuels

Diminishing numbers of honeybees necessary for the pollination food and biofuel crops, are threatening food security and biofuel production worldwide.

Since the end of 2006, beekeepers in the US, Europe, Canada, South America, Central America, and Asia, have reported honeybee colony losses of between 30% and 90%.

This means that many bees do not return to the spring pollination areas. The occurrence has been termed colony collapse disorder (CCD).

Full story here

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Engineering fungal resistance in rice

Often a considerable amount of crop yield is lost due to infection from plant pathogens. Fungi are the largest group of plant pathogens. They can infect almost all crop varieties. One fungus responsible for extensive damage to rice crop is Magnaporthe grisea. M. grisea causes the most devastating damage of rice crops worldwide, Rice Blast.

However, using genetic engineering, Min Shao and his collaborators at Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, USA and Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, China were successful in incorporating genes into rice varieties that are responsible for triggering natural plant defense mechanisms. The end result yielded a rice variety that effectively protects against several plant pathogens. Their work is published in a recent issue of Plant Biotechnology Journal.

Full story here

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"Doomsday Seed Vault" in the Arctic & Bill Gates

Bill Gates is investing millions in a seed bank on the Barents Sea near the Arctic Ocean, some 1,100 kilometers from the North Pole. Svalbard is a barren piece of rock claimed by Norway and ceded in 1925 by international treaty (see map).

On this God-forsaken island Bill Gates is investing tens of his millions along with the Rockefeller Foundation, Monsanto Corporation, Syngenta Foundation and the Government of Norway, among others, in what is called the ‘doomsday seed bank.’ Officially the project is named the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, part of the Svalbard island group.

The seed bank is almost ready for ‘business’ according to their releases. The bank will have dual blast-proof doors with motion sensors, two airlocks, and walls of steel-reinforced concrete one meter thick. It will contain up to three million different varieties of seeds from the entire world, ‘so that crop diversity can be conserved for the future,’ according to the Norwegian government. Seeds will be specially wrapped to exclude moisture.

Full story here

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Origin Agritech Announces World's First Genetically Modified Phytase Corn

Origin Agritech Limited, a leading technology-focused supplier of crop seeds and agri-biotech research in China, announced it has licensed a new genetically modified corn to officially introduce the next generation of corn product into China. Origin's phytase corn is expected to be one of the first transgenic corn approved and sold commercially into the domestic marketplace. Transgenic phytase corn is expected to be commercially launched in 2009.

Phytase is currently used as an additive in animal feed to breakdown phytic acid in corn, which holds 60% of the phosphorus in corn. Phytase increases phosphorus absorption in animals by 60%. Phosphorus is an essential element for the growth and development of all animals, and plays key roles in skeletal structure and in vital metabolic pathways. Phytase, as an additive for animal feed, is mandatory in Europe, Southeast Asia, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan for environmental purposes.

Full news release here

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Social Networking Wireless Monitoring - RFID Ecosystem Project

If you are searching for some information, there is of course Google. But if you’re hunting down a person, a computer is not much help. This may soon change, thanks to some experiments being conducted at universities in the US that explore the concept of trackable humans.

Walk around the University of Washington's (UW) computer science building and eventually you will cross paths with a researcher whose every movement is tracked by computer. Two hundred RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) antennas have been fitted into the ceilings, and individuals taking part in the trial wear RFID tags round their necks and on their possessions. Volunteers will wear electronic tags on their clothing and belongings, enabling RFID readers to monitor their whereabouts. Their location is followed in real time, but unlike many Orwellian deployments of such technology - where hidden overseers know what we're all doing, but individuals don't - each participant in the RFID Ecosystem can also access the data

This social networking+RFID pilot project has commenced in March, 2008 at the University. The RFID Ecosystem project will provide long-term, in-depth research of user-centered RFID systems in relation to fields such as society and technology.

"What if RFID readers were everywhere, and everything had RFID tags? What are the pluses and minuses? What do you do with all that data?" asks Gaetano Borriello, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University. One of the main questions this research faces is whether or not the utility aspect of this monitoring system outweighs the participants' potential loss of privacy.

Two additional features are being tested in this project; the first is a tool that records the volunteer's movements in Google Calendar; the second is the RFIDder – a friend finder that sends e-mails or text messages to approved people indicating the whereabouts of their monitored friends. In addition, the system links to Twitter.

More information about the RFID Ecosystem project can be found on the RFID section of UW here and the project news page.

Via TFOT

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Professor Foresees Taking Crops to Mars and Moon

Just as European settlers brought seeds to grow crops in America, humankind will one day take crops to the moon, Mars and beyond. So believes Gene Giacomelli, a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, and director of the UA's Controlled Environment Agriculture Program. Reading this here got me interested enough to read a bit further.

Giacomelli emphasizes that technology will create efficient crop production in an environment where nature largely discourages growth. While growing controlled-environment crops is costlier and uses 10 to 100 times more energy than conventional production methods, ultimately it is a priceless consideration for future space explorations, according to him.

While it sounds rather fascinating, I'm wondering whether this is something that can happen (if at all) only far too much into the future. We haven't even had humans go remotely near any planet (other than our own that is) even for brief exploration. In such a scenario, doesn't it sound implausible that we will need to grow crops on Mars in our generation or the next for sustaining ourselves? Quizzical, I ventured to search for any other mention of such extra-planetary farming and food ideas.

I did not have to look for long, before I came across the following tidbit:

"Japanese researchers have proposed a diet that provides the maximum nutrition for the smallest amount of resources for astronauts living for extended periods on Mars. The problem? The smell. Of the seven 'wonder' foods suggested, Azolla or mosquito fern is incredibly nutritious but the smell, the researchers noted, "might cause a problem of acceptance as food material."..."

A bit more of focussed searching and I came across an article that made me realise that folks are really serious about colonizing Mars and doing something with the planet...In this paper, "the economic viability of colonizing Mars is examined. It is shown, that of all bodies in the solar system other than Earth, Mars is unique in that it has the resources required to support a population of sufficient size to create locally a new branch of human civilization. It is also shown that while Mars may lack any cash material directly exportable to Earth, Mars' orbital elements and other physical parameters gives a unique positional advantage that will allow it to act as a keystone supporting extractive activities in the asteroid belt and elsewhere in the solar system." Serious, isn't he? This appears to have been written over ten years back, so not sure if Mr. Zubrin is still as optimistic.

And finally, there was this page from The Caves of Mars that was again focussed on the types of crops that are ideally suited for Mars. "Bioregenerative life support on Mars will require more than your 'garden variety' crops. Some the features we should be looking for is rapid growth, low light requirements, wide pH range and high nutrition with minimal wastes. And the simpler the required infrastructure, the better." The crops suggested by the Caves of Mars? Duckweed, (Lemna minor) and Water Fern, (Azolla filiculoides).

I'd have thought there would be more, but I was not able to gather much more information from the web - surprising, I admit. I am going to keep an eye out on this topic, never knew there were people around the world who could be interested in figuring how folks would eat on Mars. I'd have thought they should have been more interested in finding out what could eat off humans in Mars, but then that's why I'm called a pessimist in a writer's clothing.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Taking Lubricant Cleanliness to the Next Level

Lubricant cleanliness refers to the absence of contamination. Microscopic particles are the most harmful form of contamination in lubricants. They can irreversibly damage bearing surfaces, shorten the service life of equipment and cause unexpected breakdowns. The concentration of particles in new "as supplied" drums of lubricant can differ by as much as a factor of 1,000, and some bulk lubricants may contain even higher concentrations of particles. This article looks at how microscopic particles contaminate lubricants and damage machinery, and recommends methods to improve lubricant cleanliness.

Full article here

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Surface Dislocation Nucleation: Strength Is But Skin Deep At The Nanoscale

For centuries, engineers have bent and torn metals to test their strength and ductility. Now, materials scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science are studying the same metals but at nanoscale sizes in the form of wires a thousand times thinner than a human hair. This work has enable Penn engineers to construct a theoretical model to predict the strength of metals at the nanoscale. Using this model, they have found that, while metals tend to be stronger at nanoscale volumes, their strengths saturate at around 10-50 nanometers diameter, at which point they also become more sensitive to temperature and strain rate. Such prediction of different strength regimes of nano-solids is important for future application and engineering design of nanotechnology.

Full story here

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Gold Can Be Made Magnetic On The Nanoscale Through Oxygenation

Physicists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have made two important findings regarding gold on the nanoscale. They found that applying an electrical field on a surface-supported gold nanocluster changes its structure from a three-dimensional one to a planar flat structure. In another paper, they relate their discovery that gold in this size regime can be made magnetic through oxygenation of gold nanowires.

They also found that up to a certain length, oxygenated gold nanowires behave as a conducting metal, but beyond that, they become insulators. This marks the first time on the nanoscale that such a metal-to-insulation transition has been found on the nanoscale. Both findings are important predictions that could some day be implemented as control parameters governing the chemical and physical material properties employed in nanotechnology.

Full story here

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Maerogel - Rice Husk to Aerogel, Insulator - Halimaton Hamdan

A Malaysian scientist says she has discovered a cheap way to turn discarded rice husks into a high-tech material that could reduce electricity bills, protect buildings from bomb blasts and make airplanes and tennis rackets lighter.

Aerogel, the lightest solid known to man, was invented in 1931 by an American scientist, but its high cost has limited its use.

Halimaton Hamdan, a University of Cambridge-trained chemistry professor, said her process cuts the cost of producing aerogel by 80 percent, making it so affordable that it could become a commonplace material with widespread use.

So what is aerogel and what are its interesting properties in the first place?

Nicknamed "frozen smoke" because of its cloudy appearance, aerogel is made from silica, the basic ingredient in sand, and is over 95% per cent air by volume. The result is a nearly weightless and translucent material with a white powder that seems to float inside.
Aerogel can withstand mechanical pressure 2,000 times its own weight, making it suitable for bomb-proof panels. It also makes good sound-proofing material. Additionally, aerogel can also absorb oil spills and pollutants in the air - NASA fitted a space probe in 1999 with a mitt packed with the substance to catch the dust from a comet’s tail.

Summary of aerogel properties

1. Space Age nanomaterial (top 10 materials of the millenium)
2. Gel filled with air
3. Fourth state matter
4. Frozen smoke
5. Lightest solid – 3 times the density of air
6. Consists of 96% air
7. Porous amorphous solid with pore diameter of 1-30 nm
8. Large surface area – 600-900 m2 per g
9. Dielectric material – thermal, electrical and acoustic insulator

And what is Maerogel?

It is a silica aerogel produced from rice husk

It is a novel nanomaterial of a highly divided state and exhibits unconventional properties which offers more cost effective methods of production and application.

Aerogel has been around since 1931, but its high cost has limited its use. The new process to make Maerogel cuts the cost of producing aerogel by 80 per cent, making it so affordable that it could become a commonplace material with wide use.

Comparison between Maerogel and Aerogel

1. Maerogel is more superior in quality than the current commercial aerogel. Being an inert, non-toxic and environmentally friendly amorphous material, Maerogel possesses established physico-chemical properties which can be modified for specific applications.
Silica aerogel has been used as a catcher’s mitt in spacecraft to
2. Cheaper alternative of precursor
3. Silica aerogel from rice husk
4. Simpler preparation technique

Product Features & Physical Properties of Maerogel

Product Features

1. Merogel contains pores and properties which are smaller than the wavelength of light and is the lightest solid material
known.
2. A nanomaterial of a highly divided state and exhibits unconventional properties which offers more cost effective methods of
production and application.

Physical Properties

Apparent density 0.03 g/cm3
Internal Surface Area 800-900 m2/g
Mean Pore Diameter 20.8 nm
Thermal Tolerance to 500 oC, mp > 1200 oC
Thermal Conductivity 0.099 Wm-1 K-1

Some useful applications of Maerogel:

1. Dust capture for space applications - capture dust from a comet.
2. Because of being nearly weightless, aerogel is an excellent thermal insulator; particularly for the space crafts industry, where in the vacuum of space, Maerogel provides seven-fold better insulation then fiberglass. also applications in vacuum and heat insulation of hot water tanks, boilers, and refrigerators
3. It is a dielectric with potential applications as support in computer chips, active electronic materials and battery components. Also spacers in computer chips – double the speed of computers
4. Ultracapacitor technology
5. Nanocatalysts
6. Ultralightweight composites, sensors, lenses
7. Window panes – 1” layer of aerogel provides the same insulation value as 15 standard thermopanes
8. A promising material for translucent roofing and particularly potential applications in computer chips, active electronic
materials and battery components.

Sources: ZNMG & this (PDF)

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Low-cost production: Industry attention riveted on India

Tata Group's (India) “one-lakh” or $2,500 car, launched in Jan 2008, showcased the ability of Tata – and, more broadly, India’s emerging carmakers – to develop, engineer, launch, and sell a car at rock-bottom cost, allowing for entry-level costs affordable to the developing world’s legions of new carbuyers.

Established carmakers continue to find ways of saving costs in every part of the production process. At its Takaoka site in Japan, Toyota – the industry’s most admired manufacturer – is building a plant whose lines will be half the length of their predecessors, but be able to produce eight rather than three models, says Andrew Lee, research analyst with automotive consultancy Frost & Sullivan.

Bosch, the German automotive and industrial group, estimates low-cost vehicles priced at less than €7,000 ($10,600) could reach a 13 per cent share of the world market – or about 10m vehicles – in 2010. Toyota, Renault/Nissan, and other big carmakers are developing cars for the segment. India has riveted the global industry’s attention on the low-cost market recently for three reasons.

Full story here

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Tomorrow's Clever Cars - Auto Technology in Future

The average new car coming off the production line today has the same amount of electronic systems as a commercial airliner did two decades ago. Hard to accept perhaps, but true if auto-makers are to be believed.

Growth in automotive embedded systems (software and electronics) has been exponential since the early 1990s and the trend is predicted to continue. In 2002, electronic parts comprised 25 percent of a vehicle’s value – by 2015, car manufacturers predict this will hit 40 percent.

More from here

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Online Guide to Airplane Pollution

The Ultimate Web Guide to Green Airplanes and Aircraft Pollution

While pollution from aircraft is currently less than 3% of the total environmental pollution, increased air travel is likely to increase this share significantly in future. As a result, now is as good a time as any to explore the domain of aircraft / airplane pollution and see what the airline industry, aircraft companies and the relevant authorities are doing about this. This online guide is a comprehensive compilation of resources pertaining to airline pollution and the efforts by airlines and aircraft companies to make the industry more green.

Airplane Pollution

Aircraft Pollution Destroying Our Skies - According to the Center for Climate Change and Environmental Forecasting, CO2 constitutes roughly 70% of aircraft engine emissions, amongst other harmful emissions and particulates. It goes on to list the initiatives being undertaken to reduce emissions in the future, although it appears to me it will be some time before something somewhat definitive and effective is implemented as an industry standard, for more “bio-friendly” skies.

Targets to cut aviation pollution - Aircraft manufacturers, airports and airlines aim to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced by new aircraft over the next 15 years by half

Are aviation pollution claims a flight of fancy? - A new report by the European Low Fares Airline Association concludes that aviation is being unfairly blamed for CO2 emissions. Airline bosses have been quick to respond with some strong words of their own

Asia Pacific Region Officials Agree to Curb Aviation Pollution - Governments in the Asia-Pacific region have now agreed to curb airline pollution through a range of measures such as reducing the number of planes circling airports as they wait to land. Australia had announced that it was introducing traffic control changes at its airports to enhance aviation fuel efficiency.

Elements of aircraft pollution - This book is an attempt to place the subject aircraft pollution in the context of aerospace engineering by bringing together the most relevant sciences and technologies, which cover the problem

Pollution reducing aircraft propulsion - Aircraft engine exhaust is mixed with air and fuel and recombusted. Air is drawn into the secondary combustion chamber from suction surfaces on wings. Exhaust of the secondary combustion chamber is blown over wing and fuselage surfaces

Growing world aircraft fleet and increasing pollution - As competition among airlines around the world intensifies, more and more people find it convenient to travel by air for business and leisure. But the rapid growth of commercial aviation is having a significant impact on global warming and the Asia-Pacific region, the world's fastest expanding market for air travel, is starting to feel the heat. In its latest forecast of aviation growth, European aircraft maker Airbus said this month that the world's fleet of large passenger jets (more than 100 seats) would double in the next 20 years to nearly 33,000 aircraft

Airline Pollution: The Sky Has Its Limits - There are less degenerate ways to solve the problem of airplane noise, an annoyance rapidly evolving into a menace. But do not look to the FAA or the aviation industry to help. The expansionist logic of airlines and airports assumes that the air around and above us has an infinitely absorptive capacity and can tolerate any pollution. We used to think that about rivers. It isn't true, in either case. Industries that pollute rivers have been forced to change, to clean up. The people who worry about pollution from planes are no longer Luddite crackpots

Worried about airline pollution? - Aircraft account for about 5% of carbon dioxide emissions and air travel is forecast to double within 25 years. There are fears that cheap flights could hamper efforts to fulfil Britain's commitments agreed at the Kyoto summit in tackling climate change. The aviation industry favours an emissions trading scheme, allowing airlines to buy and sell carbon dioxide allocations

Plane Pollution - In regulating aircraft and airports, several compelling interests compete: safety, international commerce, and environmental quality. Of these, safety issues receive perhaps most of the attention, garnering large headlines in the wake of airplane accidents. But the issue of the effect of airports on the environment and human health has heated up in recent years as public interest and citizen groups contest airport expansion on environmental and health grounds, and the airline and airport industries attempt to meet increasingly stringent regulations in these areas

Airlines are defending their record over pollution - Manufacturers are using lighter materials to build airliners and powering them with more fuel-efficient jet engines. Airlines are pressing air controllers and airports to shorten and simplify routes and landing approaches. The aim is not just to save the planet. It is also to save jet fuel, a major operating cost

Charge airlines for pollution - Airports operator BAA will urge the UK Government to introduce a radical new system of charging airlines for their contribution to global warming. The proposal will be contained in a report to be sent to the Treasury which will say that aviation "should meet the external costs of its activities

Pollution from jets - Besides carbon dioxide, jet engines emit many pollutants into the atmosphere, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, soot and even water vapor. Carbon dioxide and water vapor are called greenhouse gases, because they trap heat and contribute to global warming. Some pollutants emitted from engines during flight warm the Earth by adding to the heat-trapping gases, both natural and man-made, already in the atmosphere. Also, jet contrails — the vapor trails they leave in the sky — add to cloud cover and may contribute to the warming of the planet

Airlines face pollution limits - A landmark accord brings aviation into the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme, making air travel subject to restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions in recognition of the sector's impact on the environment. The "polluter pays" system provides flexibility within an unbreakable maximum national CO2 allocation

EU airline pollution permits too high - The European Union is aiming too high with plans to make all airlines flying into and out of the bloc buy pollution permits and it risks a backlash from other regions

Growing world aircraft fleet and increasing pollution - According to Airbus, the air transport industry contributes just 2 per cent of global man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, but it acknowledged that a big rise in the number of planes would mean more greenhouse gas emissions and therefore increased pressure on manufacturers to cut pollution

Aircraft pollution – a futuristic view - Impacts of NOx, H2O and aerosol emissions from a projected 2050 aircraft fleet are investigated using the Oslo CTM2, with emissions provided through the EU project SCENIC. The aircraft emission scenarios consist of emissions from subsonic and supersonic aircraft. In particular it is shown that aerosol emissions from such an aircraft fleet can have a relatively large impact on ozone, and possibly reduce the total atmospheric NOx by more than what is emitted by aircraft

Aviation unit maintenance pollution prevention guide - The purpose of this pollution prevention (P2) guide is to identify opportunities to reduce pollution generated by unit-level aviation maintenance operations (AVUM). This guide also provides template calculations showing waste reduction estimates and economic analyses for each P2 opportunity. These calculations are based on material usages, waste generations, and disposal fees of an average light infantry aviation unit maintenance facility

Aircraft pollution - Emissions from aircraft are difficult to quantify once they are airborne; once they exceed 1000 metres from the ground the effects of high altitude winds disperse the emissions. Below 1000 metres, the exhaust gases are principally oxides of nitrogen, nonmethane volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide. The level of emissions depends on the type of aircraft

Aviation pollution set to go sky-high - Aviation will account for 5% of world’s common emissions by 2050, according to climate change study by researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University(MMU

Advisory group for aeronautical research and development - As part of the growing concern in many developed countries with questions of ecology and environment, aircraft are being heavily criticized as contributing a significant share of pollution. Although the major objection is to noise, objections are also raised concerning smoke, fumes, and smells ascribed to aircraft.

Aircraft Pollution - Pollutants from more than five million civil and nearly 2,800 military flights each year are destroying Earth’s protective ozone layer and stealing blue skies, while accounting for more than 10% of global greenhouse warming.

Aircraft Emissions

Atmospheric effects of aircraft emissions - Present commercial aircraft fly at altitudes of 8-13 km. The emissions from such air traffic can change the atmospheric composition: Directly: by emitting carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx = NO + NO2), water vapour, unburnt hydrocarbons, soot, and sulfate particles. Indirectly: by a chemical reaction chain similar to smog-formation the greenhouse gas ozone (O3) can be formed. In this reaction chain nitrogen oxides act as a catalyst under the influence of sunlight. As a result of these chemical reations also the concentration of methane (CH4), another greenhouse gas, decreases

Emission Standards and Test Procedures - In this action, EPA is proposing to amend the existing United States regulations governing the exhaust emissions from new commercial aircraft gas turbine engines. It is proposing new emission standards for oxides of nitrogen (NOX) for newly certified commercial aircraft gas turbine engines. This action proposes to adopt standards equivalent to the latest (effective in 2004) NOX standards of the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and thereby bring the United States emission standards into alignment with the internationally adopted standards

PC Emissions Close To Matching Airline Pollution - Carbon emissions from computing are now approaching those of aviation, according to new research. IT now accounts for 10% of the UK's annual energy consumption. That is the equivalent of four nuclear power station's worth of electricity and 1 billion tonnes of CO2 worldwide

Marine Smoke Pollution Law - The IMO Marine Environmental Protection Committee has an on-going agenda in amending MARPOL Annex VI to further tighten-up the emission from ships. The focus being on further reducing SOx level, either by imposing strict limit in the sulfur content of fuel or by new technology in engine exhaust treatment. The issue has caused heated debate between the shipping and the petroleum industries, and further research is needed before a more effective approach can be agreed. Once adopted, the new MARPOL Annex VI amendments will affect HK ships trading worldwide and other ships within HK waters.

Share of aviation CO2 in total CO2 Pollution - The environmental effects caused by aviation are emissions such as CO2, VOC, NOx contrail and water vapour. Although the contribution is lower than other industries, the current main environmental issue from air transport is the contribution to global warming. In order to be aligned with Kyoto Protocol Targets, the air transport industry should reduce its CO2 contribution

Climate Pollution From Aviation Increasing - Scientists estimate that the effect of aviation emissions on the climate is up to five times the impact of emissions occurring on the ground. But again, the Council failed to address this problem, in direct contrast to the European Parliament who agreed to apply a ‘multiplier’ of 2 on allowances bought by airlines from other sectors. The multiplier of 2 means that for every tonne of CO2 emitted above the cap, airlines would have to buy 2 allowances from other land based sectors within the wider Emissions Trading Scheme

Noise Pollution

Military Aircraft Noise Pollution - newer models of commercial aircraft are more quiet, newer models of military aircraft are often MUCH noisier. The folks who are most unfairly and adversely affected by this are those people who purchased homes outside of the published noise zones and now find themselves effectively within the noise zones because the newest airplanes are much louder than their

Norms proposed to monitor aircraft noise pollution - the Indian civil aviation ministry, directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA), Airports Authority of India (AAI) and other concerned agencies would have to strictly follow the proper, uniform procedure for monitoring ambient noise level caused by aircraft. This has been necessitated following rapidly increasing air traffic from 126 airports and further addition due to upcoming new airports and the modernisation/upgradation of existing ones

Aircraft Noise Pollution - Air pollution from commercial aircraft exhaust has long been recognized as an environmental problem, but what about noise pollution? Noise from planes flying over residential areas impairs people's ability to work, learn in school and sleep, and consequently also results in lowered property values in affected areas. As passenger volume increases and new and larger airports are built, noise is becoming even more of a concern

Smooth aircraft approach cuts noise pollution - Noise nuisance from aircraft can be reduced significantly by changing the way the planes come in to land. Lining up with the runway as far as 70 kilometres away and making a steady descent can more than halve the acoustic energy that reaches the ground, an international research consortium has found

Aviation creates massive noise pollution - The World Health Organisation has expressed concern about the impact of aviation on human health. Long term (5-30 years) exposure to air traffic noise levels averaging 65 to 75 decibels increases blood pressure and the risk of hypertension. Sleep disturbance leads to fatigue, hypertension, greater risk of heart and respiratory problems, poor concentration in work and school, increased risk of accidents, depression, anxiety and higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse. (Greenskies Alliance

Alternative Energy in Airlines and Aircraft

Biofuel likely as Kiwis go green - AIR New Zealand is reducing carbon emissions with a series of innovative programs like use of biofuels. The airline is working with aircraft and engine manufacturers to explore new technologies and alternative fuels. Airways New Zealand is also looking at turning off auxiliary power units when the planes are on the ground and moving to ground power as quickly as possible. The airline is also looking at an engine wash program to clean blades, which can improve fuel efficiency. Modifications to aircraft aerodynamics are expected to improve fuel efficiency on some types. Minimising weight on board encompassing everything from magazines to carpets is another step.

Hydrogen-burning Hypersonic Airliner - This hydrogen-burning hypersonic airliner could fly more than twice as fast as the 1,350mph Concorde—and its passengers would travel absolutely guilt-free. European Union's Long-Term Advanced Propulsion Concepts and Technologies project (Lapcat) wants an airliner that can fly from Brussels to Sydney in less than four hours. If built, the A2 will do just that—without producing a trace of carbon emissions. Engineers created the A2 with the failures of its doomed supersonic predecessor, the Concorde, very much in mind. The A2 engine has two modes. Those two modes—a combination of turbojet and ramjet propulsion systems—would both make the A2 efficient at slower speeds and give it incredible speed capabilities.

Air travel switches to electricity - The dream of inexpensive, ecofriendly aviation has come closer to reality after a French test pilot achieved the first flight in a conventional light aircraft powered by an electric motor. The Electra, is a wood-and-fabric single-seater. The APAME group, founded to develop green aviation, said that the flight showed that nonpolluting, quiet light aviation was within reach.

Solar technology could reduce aircraft noise pollution - BP Solar has installed panels on the roof of a church hall under a Heathrow flight path. These panels not only generate 23000 kWh of electricity per annum, but also insulate against aircraft noise. The south-facing roof, which is designed to prevent the passage of resonant sound, is covered by 174 solar panels.

Eco-friendly Airlines

Fly an Eco-Friendly Airline - Environmentally friendly airline uses the electric tugs to transport planes to the runway, instead of using the plane's own power. Most efficient aircraft, like the Bombardier C Series use such environmentally friendly actions not only during flight, but also ground practices

Airlines Jet into the Eco-Friendly Age - On the commercial flying front, Virgin Atlantic is leading the charge to a more eco-friendly airline industry. Customers can purchase carbon offsets through the Virgin website to help alleviate their impact on the environment. A trial of bio-jet fuel just happened. Continental Airlines offers a carbon offset program as well, and has reduced approximately 75 percent of its nitrogen oxide emissions from ground equipment at their largest hub in Houston, by making the switch to electric for ground service equipment and embracing other new technologies.

Selecting Your Airline - All airlines are not the same and in certain aspects some are more eco-friendly than others. Sometimes the opportunity will arise for the eco-friendly traveller to make choice – but how do you go about making that decision? This resource explains

US Travellers 'prefer Eco-friendly Providers' - More than half of US holidaymakers are more likely to select an airline, rental car or hotel that is environmentally friendly, according to a survey by the Travel Industry Association (TIA) and Ypartnership

Silent, Eco-friendly Plane - Public concern about noise is a major constraint on expansion of aircraft operations. Plans are on to develop a conceptual design for an aircraft whose noise was almost imperceptible outside the perimeter of an airfield in an urban environment. The conceptual design addresses both the engines and the structure, or airframe, of a plane. Half of the noise from a landing plane comes from the airframe. Other key features of the design include an overall shape that integrates body and wings, elimination of the flaps, or hinged rear sections on each wing, and engines embedded in the aircraft with air intakes on top of the plane rather than underneath each

Japanese firms develop eco-friendly airplane seat - All Nippon Airways Co and Osaka Gas Chemical Co have jointly developed a safer and more environment-friendly seat cushion for airplanes. Instead of urethane, the new seat cushion is made from a mat of processed carbon fibers. Carbon fibers feature superior heat resistance, and even if they were to catch fire, they would not release toxic fumes like urethane.

Flybe to switch to eco-friendly aircraft - Low-cost airline Flybe has made a £500 million investment in environmentally friendly Embraer 195 aircraft. The new planes will deliver what Flybe calls a "five-star" standard of environmental performance and will offer "unparalleled passenger comfort". The Embraer 195s use more than 20 per cent less fuel than the BAe 146 aircraft that they are replacing in the Flybe fleet. This will lead to significantly fewer emissions of greenhouse gases

Green Air Travel - This page provides a summary of all work which has been performed to date on the prospect of a global sale of green air travel supported using biodiesel

UK's green strategy - Greenhouse gas emissions from UK air travel has doubled in 13 years, damaging the UK government's claims to be a world leader in reducing carbon dioxide emissions

Green drive forum to save ozone layer - After bagging the Montreal Protocol Public Awareness Award, instituted by the United Nations, for its efforts in protecting the ozone layer, state-owned carrier Air India, is now planning to rope in other airlines into its environment-friendly drive

Green Air Travel - The overwhelming evidence shows us that consumers are not ready to cut air travel out of their lives altogether (yet!), so here is some practical advice to help reduce the damage resulting from our love affair with jet setting.

Green Air - Green Air Online, launched in November 2007, is dedicated to publishing independent and informative news, features and statistics on the impact of air travel on global warming and the environment in general. Green Air focuses on what can be done to minimize the effects. Green Air takes no particular side but promotes a dialogue where fact can be separated from fiction.

The dream of cheap and eco-friendly aviation - French test pilot flew Electra, a single seater aircraft that runs on an electric motor. Electra is a conventional light weight aircraft made of wood and fabric. The French test pilot flew this eco-friendly plane for 48 minutes for a distance of 50km in the Southern Alps. Electra uses battery power in a standard aircraft with fixed wings. The Electra uses light weight batteries of the lithium-polymer type.

Flying Saucer - ideal Eco-Friendly Aircraft - aviation engineers are designing a more environmentally sustainable airplane that may overturn long-held notions of flight engineering.

Fly the Eco-friendly Skies - Environmentalists and everyday air travelers alike are growing increasingly aware of the airline industry's greenhouse-gas problem. As demands for greener air travel grow, will technology come to the rescue of the jumbo jet

The 'silent aircraft' - MIT and Cambridge University researchers will unveil the conceptual design for a silent, environmentally friendly passenger plane. The 'silent aircraft' can help address this concern and thus aid in meeting the increasing passenger demand for air

Green wing: eco friendly flying? - Next time you board a plane and jet off on holiday to somewhere hot, spare a thought for the fact that by flying there you are probably helping to make that somewhere even hotter. The aviation industry has become a notable contributor to atmospheric carbon pollution -- pollution that is in turn helping to accelerate global warming and climate change. To give a specific example, a single trans-Atlantic flight will consume a whopping 60,000 liters of fuel -- more than the average motorist uses in 50 years -- and add approximately 140 tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere

Is it possible to make a eco-friendly jet engine? - After the Hindenburg accident, hydrogen and aviation don't seem to mix well. Also, hydrogen is only as clean as the method used to separate it from water, which requires electricity. And then, you would have to find some system of storing the hydrogen on the plane.

Green Aircraft - The major aircraft companies have realised that alternative fuel powered aeroplanes need to be developed now even though we may only need to start using them in 20-30 years time. One possible alternative fuel is hydrogen. Hydrogen fuel can be prepared by electrolysis of water (i.e. passing an electric current through it) to dissociate it into its component parts of hydrogen and oxygen. There are a number of modifications required to current aircraft engines and aircraft structures before hydrogen fuel can be used. Hydrogen contains 3 times as much energy per Kg as kerosene which means that only a third as much fuel by weight needs to be carried to cover a certain range

Green aircraft research - Plans for a new generation of green aircraft took a step closer to becoming reality today with the launch of a €1.6bn (£1.19bn) Europe-wide research programme. The Clean Sky project, a joint technology initiative (JTI), is a public-private partnership involving universities and research centres, and small and large industry. The aim of the programme is to make air travel more environmentally sustainable by developing greener technologies. The programme, which will run for six years, will carry out research in six key areas including wing technologies, low weight aircraft, rotor blades and engine installation for noise reduction and energy efficient engines

Passenger jets get a radical green makeover - If passenger jets were a different shape, they would produce far less CO2. Danny Bradbury meets the high-fliers who are leading a green revolution at 35,000ft.Boeing is experimenting with test flights with a scaled-down X-48B, an aircraft that almost does away with the fuselage altogether and makes it part of the wing. The aim is to slash fuel consumption and carbon emissions. The problem with flying-wing designs is that traditionally they have been difficult to keep in the air

Eco Friendly Air Travel of the Future - The next time you plan a vacation that involves boarding a plane, consider what you can do to minimize the impact of your travel on the planet. Implementing even small changes will, in turn, also minimize your impact on economies and societies around the world.

Other Resources

Carbon Neutral Air Travel - The Green My Flight program is a unique service that allows travelers, corporations and responsible travel service providers to work together to address climate change by offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions from air travel activities.
Operationally, the Green My Flight program consists of three components
(1) Emissions of greenhouse gases from an air travel itinerary are calculated using a methodology from the Canadian Standards Association and Environment Canada’s Environmental Choice Program
(2) Travelers are provided with the opportunity to purchase an equivalent quantity of emission reduction offset credits.
(3) Emission reduction offset credits are sourced from projects that meet the internationally-recognized Gold Standard certification. These offset credits are then retired on behalf of the traveler.

Air Travel and Climate Change - Air transport is currently contributing around 3.5% to total human caused global warming but is forecast by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) to rise to as much as 15% by 2050. So far aviation has been counted out of calculations on climate, but perhaps it is time that this changed.

Environmentally-friendly solutions - It is comforting to know that while it seems all corporations and governments are under pressure from their customers and constituents to be green, the airplane market is absolutely no exception.

Flying less - What's wrong with air travel - The Government is planning a massive growth in air travel - increasing problems like: Noise for people living nearby, More road congestion near airports, and Damage to the countryside as airports expand

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Sunday, March 2, 2008

In Singapore, the Future is Underground

In Singapore, the Future is Underground

With land above ground exploited almost to the point of extinction, the only way for Singapore to grow is downwards.

Pressed by circumstances, the 21st Century Singaporean is spending more and more time underground – working, driving, eating and shopping – and the trend is for more of it. For years the government had been burrowing deep into the bowels of Singapore to squeeze out more use of its limited land area. From a simple car-parking idea long ago, the subterranean concept has rapidly expanded in scope to reach almost every aspect of life.

The convenience has become an urgent solution to over-crowdedness that is expected to worsen by the proposed future population of 5.5 million people, says this story

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Home Cinema Screens - what are the trends?

Home Cinema Screens - what are the trends?

With growing interest in high definition and larger displays, the home cinema projector market is hotting up. But there is no point in having a great projector if the screen and environment lets it down, and not everyone has the luxury of a spare room that can be dedicated to a home theatre. In order to make the most of the projector and the room it finds itself in, an ordinary screen will often not do, and how it looks aesthetically can be as important as how it performs technically.

To find out how the custom install industry is responding to these challenges, Hidden Wires asked a number of manufacturers, suppliers and installers what the trends are in terms of projection screens, and what recent innovations in the residential market they think are important. Here are their replies.

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No Cooling System, Lower Power Consumption, Smaller Size Make New Scanning Electron Microscope Environmentally Friendly

No Cooling System, Lower Power Consumption and Smaller Size Makes New Scanning Electron Microscope Environmentally Friendly

The TM-1000 Tabletop Microscope from Hitachi High-Technologies is measurably kinder to the environment than the company's previous entry-level scanning electron microscope. As part of an evaluation across Hitachi's range of consumer, commercial and scientific products, measurements have been made in terms of contribution to the prevention of global warming and use of resources.

Full story here

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Scientists Measure Force Required To Move Individual Atoms

Scientists Measure Force Required To Move Individual Atoms

IBM researchers – with help from the University of Regensburg –have taken the extraordinary step of measuring the tiny forces needed to manipulate the atoms. These findings will be published in the February 22 issue of Science magazine. This fundamental measurement provides important information for designing future atomic-scale devices: computer chips, miniaturized storage devices, and more.

Understanding the force necessary to move specific atoms on specific surfaces is one of the keys to designing and constructing the small structures that will enable future nanotechnologies. The problem is akin to what scientists and engineers needed to learn about construction at macroscopic sizes many decades ago. For example, building a modern bridge would be impossible without first measuring the strength of different materials, understanding the relevant forces, and comprehending how everything interacts.

Full story here

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Nanotech gets cleantech boost from IBM, Saudi Arabia

Nanotech gets cleantech boost from IBM, Saudi Arabia

Tiny research got a big boost as Saudi Arabia teamed up with Armonk, N.Y.'s International Business Machines (NYSE: IBM) on a new project to look into nanotechnology for cleantech applications.

The multi-year project will see Saudi scientists and engineers working together with their IBM counterparts on advanced nanotechnology programs in the fields of solar energy, water desalination and petrochemical applications such as recyclable materials

Full story here

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BioForce Nanosciences' Nano eNabler System Called ``Disruptive Technology'' by Frost & Sullivan

BioForce Nanosciences' Nano eNabler System Called ``Disruptive Technology'' by Frost & Sullivan

BioForce Nanosciences Holdings, Inc., a producer of integrated biological and mechanical systems for life science researchers at the micro and nano scales, announced that its Nano eNabler™ molecular printer was called a “disruptive technology” in a recent report by Frost and Sullivan. The report highlighted key advantages over existing technologies for the deposition of biological materials via printing and lithography at ultramicro and nano levels. These capabilities are a critical step in the development and production of new types of miniaturized biosensors for detecting pathogens or screening biomarkers.

“The Nano eNabler system improves upon DPN by expanding the patterning area from 100 micrometers to 50 mm. Nanopipettes suffer from unfortunate clogging problems due to their small inside diameter. The surface patterning tools used on the Nano eNabler system utilizes an open channel microfluidic design that prevents clogging,” the report states.

Ink jet printers can clog if the solution is not well-filtered and cannot achieve the small volumes that the Nano eNabler can.

The key advantages of the Nano eNabler system are printing small volumes of biomolecules, precision, speed, and multiplexing, which enables biosensors to detect multiple analytes. These same advantages are also driving robust interest in cell biology applications from scientists in tissue engineering, neuroscience, stem cell research, and pharmaceutical compound screening.

Full news release here

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Nokia Tinkers With Morphing Phone Concept

Imagine what you'd get if you crossed Gumby with a smartphone, and you've got some idea of what a new, nanotech handset from Nokia could be like.

The new nanotech mobile called Morph, which was jointly developed by the Nokia Research Center and the University of Cambridge in England, is a bendable, flexible and stretchable device that can be folded into pocket size and used as a handset, or unfolded and opened up to display more detailed information. Users could fold or unfold the device to suit their immediate purpose, whether it's to talk on the phone or use input devices such as keyboards or touch pads. Even the electronics integrated into the device, from interconnects to sensors, would be flexible. (Nanotech's use in mobiles is fast on the rise and a study estimates that the nanotech components for mobiles market could be a 15 billion $ market by 2012)

The Morph was unveiled recently as part of the "Design and the Elastic Mind" exhibition that runs through May 12 at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

How's this morphing structure produced? Nokia's technology uses Fibril proteins (but biodegradable materials could also be used in future) woven into a 3-D mesh that reinforces thin elastic structures. The resulting elasticity enables the devices to change shapes and configure themselves to adapt to the task at hand.

Morphing phones are not exactly new. Design firm Alloy exhibited its Polygon morphing phone as early as June 2006. But morphing mobiles have seen significant acceleration in the past few months.

Nokia's Morph is also seen as a part of a broader ongoing trend toward transformable devices. Other product trends in a similar direction are Motorola's Rokr E8 (a nice review here), Polymer Vision's Readius, Modu Phones from an Israeli company, and BenQ S670C.

Read more on these morphing mobiles from the following news reports: Tech News World, Rediff, PocketLink

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Fulfillment: The Unexpected Key to Successful E-Commerce

e-commerce gives consumers a lot of what they want: broad assortment and convenient shopping any time from anywhere. These characteristics of Internet retailing are driving the e-commerce supply chain to be as flexible, fast and low-cost as the Internet itself. The ironic challenge of e-tailing is that the things making it attractive to consumers are exactly the things that make order fulfillment and DC (distribution center) operations difficult. The problem is that anachronistic material handling approaches are not well suited for the demands of Internet retailing, presenting a bottleneck in the enterprise value chain. Clearly, 21st century e-commerce operations will not succeed when simply duct-taped to 20th century automation.

To compete effectively, e-commerce must figure out how to transform the distribution function from a cost center into a competitive asset. This article takes a look at why fulfillment processes in their current state hold e-commerce back from its full competitive potential, and offers some insights about a new approach.

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Robot Assisted Surgery by da Vinci

Robot Assisted Surgery by da Vinci

Ever been operated on by a robot? Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci surgical system isn't autonomous by any means, but the surgeon certainly isn't holding the scalpel in his or her hand.

The da Vinci system has electromechanical arms for holding a dual lens, dual 3-CCD sensor camera (for depth perception), and all the tools required for surgery from Intuitive Surgical (most called EndoWrist Instruments) including scalpels, needle holders, scissors, graspers, cauterization tools and other instruments. Although the specifics are not detailed, each arm sends force feedback to the controls and the camera produces what Intuitive Surgical calls a 3D image.

Full story here

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Social Robots Being Developed by Japanese

Social Robots Being Developed by Japanese

At a university lab in a Tokyo suburb, engineering students are wiring a rubbery robot face to simulate six basic expressions: anger, fear, sadness, happiness, surprise and disgust. Hooked up to a database of words clustered by association, the robot — dubbed Kansei, or "sensibility" — responds to the word "war" by quivering in what looks like disgust and fear. It hears "love," and its pink lips smile.

While robots are a long way from matching human emotional complexity, the country is perhaps the closest to a future — once the stuff of science fiction — where humans and intelligent robots routinely live side by side and interact socially.

Full story here

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United Space Alliance Innovates for Future Space Operations

United Space Alliance Innovates for Future Space Operations

United Space Alliance has introduced a technology innovation designed to provide astronauts and ground controllers quick and easy access to a depth of information about their spacecraft systems, procedures and troubleshooting – crucial capabilities for future exploration missions.

It has announced the receipt of a patent for Attentus, an Integrated Data Management technology that can be used for spacecraft design, development, processing and operations. Attentus organizes information from all spacecraft lifecycle phases into an operations-friendly format based on visual search and retrieval cues. The tool allows users to navigate rapidly to stored content such as spacecraft flight hardware data, ground processing facilities or mission operations procedures by clicking through visual, physical or topical zones.

Full story here

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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Lean, green, open source machine

Lean, green, open source machine

A French company is selling a desktop computer to those people for whom size really does matter.

The Linutop is a pocket size desktop PC, the size of a paperback novel. It does not have an internal hard disk drive, but instead its open source operating system resides on a USB key. The aluminium case measures just 9.3 x 2.7 x 15 cm (or 3.66 x 1.06 x 5.9 inches in old money) and weights a mere 280 grams (9.9 oz). And it only consumes just 5 watts of power, making it "one of the most energy efficient on the market."

Full story here

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Looking at data center power of the future

Looking at data center power of the future

Researcher Parthasarathy Ranganathan foretells a future in which power management features will be built into the processor, memory, server, software and cooling systems. Coordination will be paramount. "What happens if you turn all these elements on at the same time?" the principal research scientist at HP Labs asks. "How do I make sure that the system doesn't explode?"

Power management systems will have to operate holistically, without one component conflicting with another, Ranganathan says. Ranganathan is just one of many researchers at the tech industry's biggest labs researching on how future data centers will handle increasing demands for processing capability and energy efficiency while simplifying IT.

Full story here

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Could Waste Heat From Car Exhausts Be Recycled To Help Power Cars?

Could Waste Heat From Car Exhausts Be Recycled To Help Power Cars?

Professor Mike Rowe's long term research interest at the Cardiff School of Engineering has been in thermoelectric generation - employing thermocouples to convert heat into electricity. Now Professor Rowe aims to use this technology to generate electricity from the waste heat in vehicles.

Professor Mike Rowe, OBE School of Engineering said: "The main interest in cars is to decrease the petrol consumption and reduce CO2 emissions. If you can utilise the exhaust heat you could replace the alternator. This would provide a 5 per cent saving in fuel straightaway."

Full story from here

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Student Awarded for New LED

After learning that traditional LEDs actually produce polarized light but existing LEDs did not capitalize on the light’s polarization, Martin Schubert, a PhD student in electrical, computer and systems engineering @ Cornell University devised an optics setup around the LED chip to enhance the polarization.

His invention hinges on better control of the direction and polarization of the light being emitted. With better control over the light, less energy is wasted producing scattered light, allowing more light to reach its desired location.

More from here