Future of Engineering

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Swiss Man Proves After 500 Years That Da Vinci’s Parachute DOES Work

I read about an Italian Olivier Vietti-Teppa's daring experiment to prove Lenardo da Vinci right. In order to prove that Da Vinci’s parachute design actually does work, Vietti-Teppa plunged 2000 feet on a parachute design made by Da Vinci over 500 years ago. How’s that for guts?

Got me thinking more on this, and about Da Vinci's actual design.

Which led me to the following BBC article. Looks like the Italian was not exactly the first to prove it, at least not the basic design that Da Vinci had put down. This is what the June 2000 BBC article has to say:"More than 500 years after Leonardo da Vinci sketched his design, a Briton has proved that the renaissance genius was indeed the inventor of the first working parachute.

Adrian Nicholas, a 38-year-old skydiver from London, fulfilled his life's ambition to prove the aerodynamics experts wrong when he used a parachute based on Da Vinci's design to float almost one and a half miles down from a hot air balloon. Ignoring warnings that it would never work, he built the 187lb contraption of wooden poles, canvas and ropes from a simple sketch that Da Vinci had scribbled in a notebook in 1485."


Now, whether it was the Londonder who proved it eight years back or whether it is the Italian who has proved it now, one thing is clear: Da Vinci was a genius who thought far ahead of his time

While we celebrate Da Vinci’s genius we also have to remember the contribution of the rest of the world to the aviation industry.

Contribution of China

The history of the parachute dates back to the 12th century. At that time in China, during court ceremonies jumping stunts were performed with devices that resembled a parachute. The primitive technology closely resembled the umbrella which is by the way a Chinese invention.

Bizarre happenings reported in Chinese parachuting history

  • ca90BC a Chinaman escaped a fire in a tower by jumping with two conical straw-hats as a drag or descent-delay parachute
  • ca290BC-AD250 numerous instances of "man-lifting" kites bearing an observer aloft for military surveillance; as derived from the 5th Century BC Chinese invention of the kite, called a "flying sail" ... greatly anticipating the modern invention of the airfoil glider and ascending parachute
  • ca550-577 Chinese archives document winged-flight experiments imitative of birds ca1000 Chinese officials experimented with parachute designs by compelling condemned prisoners to jump from towers and cliffs, according to archives translated by the French monk Vasson
  • 1192 a Chinese acrobat stole some of the gold ornamentation off the roof of the Islamic minaret in Canton, and escaped by jumping with double umbrellas as a parachute

    Contribution of Islam

    The Western world celebrates Da Vinci, Lilienthal, and the Wright Brothers while discussing the inventions of the aviation industry. Little is said about Abbas Ibn Firnas (Armen Firnas) a 9th century Islamic Spain, who invented a primitive version of the parachute.

    John H. Lienhard described it in The Engines of Our Ingenuity as follows:
    "In 852, a new Caliph and a bizarre experiment: A daredevil named Armen Firman decided to fly off a tower in Cordova. He glided back to earth, using a huge winglike cloak to break his fall. He survived with minor injuries, and the young Ibn Firnas was there to see it."

    “In 875, at an age of 65 years, Ibn Firnas made the first attempt at controlled flight when he invented a hang glider with artificial wings as flight control surfaces, and launched himself from the Mount of the Bride (Jabal al-'arus) in the Rusafa Area, near Córdoba. He apparently managed to fly for quite some time, by some accounts as long as ten minutes. This was the first attempt at controlled flight, as he was able to alter his altitude and change his direction in order to return to where he flew from. The flight was largely successful, and was widely observed by a crowd that he had invited. However, after successfully returning to his starting point, the landing was bad and he eventually crashed to the ground. He injured his back, and left critics saying he hadn't taken proper account of the way birds pull up into a stall, and land on their tails. He'd provided neither a tail, nor means for such a maneuver, and he later said that the landing could have been improved by providing a tail apparatus.”

    Source Wikipedia

    These inventions simply prove that Human beings the masters of the universe were not contented in admiring the flight of the birds. They wanted to explore the skies above. And history shows that men and women separated by space and time embarked on a grand mission that might have appeared quite silly to the uninspired minds.

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    Thursday, April 17, 2008

    Amazing Chemistry Videos - Thermites, Liquid Nitrogen, Stalagmites

    Fiery explosions, beautiful reactions, and hilarious music videos are great reasons to be excited about chemistry. Here are some cool videos that are favorites of Wired Science editors.

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    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    Future of Astronomy - Trends and Predictions

    Future of Astronomy

    This post @ The Future of Engineering Blog presents web resources that discuss the future trends in astronomy and space science.

    Scientists to discuss future of astronomy from space
    Approximately 150 astronomers from around the country will gather at the University of Chicago for a workshop April 2 to 5 to ponder what sort of orbiting telescope should probe the universe at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths once the Hubble Space Telescope's two-decade mission ends in 2010. The Next Generation Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2009, will scan the skies at infrared wavelengths. The Hubble Telescope studies the universe at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths.

    Australia's Astronomy Future - Mission: To maximise Australia’s engagement in the new generation of optical/infrared and radio telescopes, through world-class scientific research and innovative instrument development programs. The Australian Astronomy Major National Research Facility (MNRF) is a $52m collaborative venture involving nearly all major astronomical institutions in Australia. The specific objectives of the Facility are to Increase Australia’s share of premier optical/infrared telescopes such as the Gemini 8-metre twin telescopes;
    Develop enabling technologies for Australia to play a key role in, and host, the Square Kilometre Array, the centimetre-wave radiotelescope of the future; and

    Visions of the Future: Astronomy and Earth Science - What does the future of science hold? Who is making the discoveries that will help shape this future? What areas of research show the greatest promise? Representing a careful selection of authoritative articles published in a special issue of Philosophical Transactions--the world's longest-running scientific journal--the chapters explore such themes as:
     The Big Bang
     Humankind's exploration of the solar system
     The deep interior of the Earth
     Global warming and climate change
     Atoms and molecules in motion
     New materials and processes
     Nature's secrets of biological growth and form
     Understanding the human body and mind
     Quantum physics and its relationship to relativity theory and human consciousness
     Exotic quantum computing and data storage
     Telecommunications and the Internet Written by leading young scientists

    Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers - The Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers (SARA) is an international society of dedicated enthusiasts who teach, learn, trade technical information, and do their own observations of the radio sky. This organization is a scientific, non-profit group founded for the sole purpose of supporting amateur radio astronomy. SARA was organized in 1981, and today has hundreds of members worldwide. The group consists of optical astronomers, ham radio operators, engineers, teachers and non-technical persons. Many of our members are new to the field, and membership is extended to all who have an interest in radio astronomy.

    Active and future projects - Due to rapid advances in infrared detector technology, the development of adaptive optics for ground based work and the commitment to infrared missions from space organizations such as NASA, ESA and ISAS, the future of infrared astronomy is extremely bright. Within the next decade, infrared astronomy will bring us exciting discoveries about new planets orbiting nearby stars, how planets, stars and galaxies are formed, the early universe, starburst galaxies, brown dwarfs, quasars and interstellar matter. Below is a summary of currently active and future infrared projects. Go through this link to learn more.

    Imagining the future: gravitational wave astronomy - On October 27-30, 2004, a group of 64 gravitational wave astronomers and astronomers from traditional fields of astronomy and astrophysics, representing 20 different institutions, convened at Penn State for a workshop to speculate on the future of gravitational wave astronomy.
    To facilitate discussion and debate oriented toward considering the future of the field, six questions were posed:
    What will it mean to be a ``gravitational wave astronomer''?
    What will be the interplay between gravitational wave astronomy and other, now conventional, forms of astronomy?
    What will be the interplay between instrumentation, observation, and science in the field?
    What will be the role of individual observatories vs. Global networks?
    What will be the critical technologies used in gravitational wave detection?
    What infrastructure will best contribute to broad participation, community growth, and the best possible science?
    A white paper summarizing the key findings and open debates left by the conference is in preparation, and will be posted to arxiv.org when it is completed.

    The future of astronomy - Boundaries of the universe, the depth of all that it contains, and the underlying forces that sustain and motivate it, will one day be fully exposed, comprehended, and ultimately and intimately explained by mankind. Such haughty wisdom is to be seriously doubted.
    What is the real measure of time and space? Where does the boundary of the universe actually lie? Many would say that it is some 12-billion light years from us. Here, then, one simply needs to ask two very destructive questions; "What is on the other side of the boundary. . . And what, preciously, is time? There will be no factual, scientific answers to these questions.
    What, then, is the future of astronomy? It is what it has always been . . . The searching out of, and displaying of, the "observable & quantifiable" universe; the continuing progression into the provable mathematics of the universe; and, yes, the publishing of the many personal "theories" of universal solutions that seem to always abound.
    More from this post.

    Future of Astronomy in Canada - Canadian astronomers today released the Report of the Long-Range Planning Panel on Canadian Astronomy and Astrophysics in the 21st Century.
    The Report, entitled "The Origins of Structure in the Universe", outlines areas critical to Canadian astronomy that need to be developed over the next fifteen years to maintain a Canadian role at the forefront of this field.
    Some of the recommendations in their Report include:
    Canada's participation in key international projects in the space-based and ground-based astronomy facilities, the Next Generation Space Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimetre Array
    Enhancement of Canada's ongoing observatory and facility commitments
    Increased training opportunities for new astronomers through fellowship programs and some increase in staff at national laboratories
    Establishing university laboratories for experimental astrophysics
    Improvement in computing for astronomical data interpretation
    An enhanced public outreach program

    What space telescopes of tomorrow will see - Giant-sized telescopes such as Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra offer unprecedented views of the cosmos, but astronomers are eager to put more powerful tools into orbit around the Earth. Without the extra help, said Rachel Somerville, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany, it may be impossible to resolve some of the universe's greatest mysteries.

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    Monday, April 14, 2008

    Millennium Technology Prizes - 4 Finalists to Share Award by Finland

    Four widely divergent scientific innovations are finalists in the international $1.8 million Millennium Technology Prize from the Technology Academy of Finland. The inventions — DNA fingerprinting, biomaterials for human tissue regeneration, key elements in mobile communication and fiber optic networks — were created by six scientists, the academy said Tuesday.

    The winning innovation, to be announced on June 11, will receive $1.2 million, and the three runners up $180,000 each. Sir Alec Jeffreys, a professor in the genetics department at the University Leicester in Britain, is nominated for the invention of DNA fingerprinting." Finalist Robert Langer — an Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who works with the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, a collaborative of the two universities — was cited for "development of innovative biomaterials for controlled drug release and tissue regeneration." The academy said his technology has "saved and improved the lives of millions of people."
    Andrew J. Viterbi, a professor emeritus at the University of Southern California, was chosen for the invention of the Viterbi algorithm, "the key building element in modern wireless and digital communications systems."And three scientists were cited for the fourth innovation, the erbium-doped fiber amplifier, which made possible high-capacity optical fiber networks: Emmanuel Desurvire, with Thales Corporate Research & Technology in France; Randy Giles, with Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J.; and David N. Payne, from a professor at the University of Southampton in Britain.

    More from here


    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Paul Bellezza's Efficient Thermoelectric Generator Invention

    “For more than eight years, Paul Bellezza has been pursuing a dream. His goal: to be able to mass produce his “Highly Efficient Thermoelectric Generator,” an invention that would produce electricity more efficiently than anything now on the market. Bellezza’s generator is built of thermoelectric positive and negative type semiconductor elements between hot and cold paddles connected in series. His development of a toroidal ring has created high DC currents with low voltage in the 2,000- to 5,000-watt AC range. Ongoing work in varying energy design circuits will yield the high AC electrical efficiency outputs from DC thermoelectric power. The generator produces electrical power from any heat source, including high-temperature solar array. The compact generator is capable of being linked in several pairs to increase power output. Bellezza envisions the generator being used for camping, in RVs and as a quieter alternative to today’s generators. It also could improve the efficiency of hybrid automobiles, he believes.

    More from here

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    Fake Nose Hair, Automatic Beds, e-Mail Analyser @ Geneva Inventions Fair

    700 inventors are showing off 1,000 wacky new products at this year's International Exhibition of Inventions, which runs in Geneva.

    From artificial nose hair to a bed that makes itself, the wacky products on show at this year's International Exhibition of Inventions offer all sorts of impractical solutions to problems you may not know you have.

    More than 700 creative minds have set up stands at the word's largest inventions fair to show off products ranging from heavy-duty engineering feats to wacky little gadgets like emoticon-reading robots.

    Labor-saving devices for people averse to such as the self-making bed, artificial nose hair, e-mail analyzer to determine whether a person met in a chat room is a man or a woman...

    More from here


    "Instant Water Boiler" Invention Uses Sound Waves - by Peter Davey, NZ

    Ninety-two-year-old Peter Davey of New Zealand says he invented a unique water boiling gadget 30 years ago. He claims it uses sound waves, not a heating element, to boil water in seconds. Davey noticed as he played the saxophone at home that everything resonated at a different frequency.

    "The glasses will tinkle on one note. Knives and forks in the drawer will tinkle on another note and I realised that everything has its point of vibration," he said. "In the same way, a component in the ball is tuned to a certain frequency."

    A retired engineering professor, Arthur Williamson, was invited to look at the boiler in action. He said:

    "I don't know enough about sound to know whether you can transfer that amount of energy via soundwaves. I doubt it," said Williamson. He did remember an alternative kettle years ago that had two perforated metal plates inside. The power ran between the plates, through the water. "The resistance through the water provided the load. I wonder if it isn't working like that? Without taking it to bits, you can't tell."

    More from here

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    Zero Waste Machines - Tapping into Nature's Genius

    Many experts concur that there is other life in the universe - if not a little than an abundance - including beings much like ourselves who are millions of years more advanced. Whether or not you believe these beings have managed to bridge the distance required to visit us, one distinct thread runs though nearly all UFO reports: silence. Mention of sound is scantly present in the droves of UFO documentation, and if anything it is the absence of sound that is remarked upon, often with exclamatory glee: "Totally silent!" What's notable is that a soundless machine is probably running with almost zero waste, or near 100 percent efficiency - an immaculate system with every part exploited in full and no harm done to the other parts or to the environment. In other words, a system much like those found in nature.

    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.

    More from here

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    Sonicu Neonatal Sound Monitoring System Monitors NICU Sound Levels

    Preemies need quiet so they can learn their mother's voice and their brains can figure out how to process sound, things that normally happen in the last trimester before birth."It's definitely a great idea," Dr. Bob White, a neonatologist at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Ind., said of the monitoring system in Riley's neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU.

    Neonatal Sound Monitoring system inventor Chris Smith hopes doctors nationwide agree with White. He has sold his Sonicu system to several Indiana hospitals and wants to expand nationally.

    Babies born too soon lose the muffling effect of the womb before their ears can filter sound, White said. NICUs are rife with noise from employees, equipment and excited relatives.Smith, a former car mechanic who tinkered in radio and TV electronics in high school, filled hours of spare time researching sound standards and building a system. He hired an acoustical engineer to help. They created a ceiling-mounted system of microphones that pick up sound and funnel data to a large control panel.

    The latest version of Sonicu can feed sound and light data to a computer. It turns on the warning lights and can quickly dim the lighting in a room that gets too noisy.It can also make lighting mimic the sun by brightening it toward noon and then fading it, which also helps babies sleep well. White said he knows of no other NICU monitoring system that sophisticated.

    More from here

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    Wednesday, April 9, 2008

    Electroluminescent, Chemoluminescent Carpets & Rugs to Light Up Nights

    Nightlights, including ones that illuminate when you clap, could be a thing of the past now that two inventors have come up with a new rug that lights up when you step on it. The electroluminescent carpet could keep you from stubbing your toe during a nocturnal walk to the bathroom, guide you to the bedroom after a late-night out and even replace a child's conventional nightlight. The electroluminescent rug uses rechargeable batteries and lights up in response to the weight applied when a person walks across the carpet. Electroluminescence relies on an electric field to generate visible light. Other light producers include photoluminescence, which is used in many glow-in-the-dark toys; and chemoluminescence, which involves light-producing chemical reactions (as in the body of a firefly). So-called responsive surfaces such as Footlume are considered by some experts the next big thing in interiors for fashion-savvy and techie homeowners.

    More from here

    Keywords: Nightlights, electroluminescent carpet, nocturnal, photoluminescence, chemoluminescence, Footlume, fashion-savvy, techie

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    Monday, April 7, 2008

    Will Large Hadron Collider Nail Higgs Boson & Dark Matter?

    The realms of the inconceivably huge and the unimaginably tiny will be united later this year in the countryside near Geneva, when the world’s most massive physics experiment gets under way within a 17-mile ring spanning the French-Swiss border. Inside the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), massive, powerful magnets chilled to a few degrees above absolute zero — colder than outer space — will zip beams of superenergetic protons and lead nuclei in a loop at speeds within a hairsbreadth of the speed of light, then collide them head-on. The energy released will be so vast that the impacts will recreate conditions in the universe as they existed just a fraction of a second after the big bang. If the LHC performs as expected, it could at last nail down that holy grail of contemporary physics, the Higgs boson — known as the “God particle” because it is thought to lend mass to matter. It may even finally unveil the secret of dark matter, the mysterious entity that makes up 85 percent of the universe — thereby shedding light on as-yet-unexplainable motions of galaxies.

    See the article and all the comments here @ Popular Mechanics

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    Sunday, April 6, 2008

    10 Trailblazing Scientists About to Change Your Future

    1. Erich Jarvis,
    2. Nathan Wolfe
    3. Emily Oster,
    4. Hiroshi Ishiguro, Roboticist
    5. Jeffrey H. Schwartz, Forensic
    6. Pardis Sabeti, Biological
    7. Thomas A. Jackson, Aerospace
    8. Sebastian Thrun, Probabilistic Roboticist
    9. Nima Arkani-Hamed, Particle Physicist and Applied String
    10. Margaret Turnbull, Astrobiologist

    More from here


    Talons, Eagles and Enforcers - Quantum Tech & Acoustic Sniper Sensors in the New War

    Holographic quantum technology and acoustic sniper sensors may sound like the stuff of science fiction films - but they are actually new defence technologies destined for the battlefield.
    The Future Soldier event at London's National Army Museum blew open the UK's arsenal of the future.

    Some of them on display were the Surveillance Target Acquisition and Weapon Sight system (Staws) and Enforcer Remote Controlled weapon system. The Staws system utilises advanced non-cooled thermal imaging technology.

    Combined with a high-resolution daylight sensor, Staws provides a 24-hour all-weather surveillance and target acquisition capability.

    Enforcer is designed to be fitted to a wide range of combat vehicles and can control anything from a 7.2mm general purpose machine gun to a 40mm automatic grenade launcher

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    25 Hours A Day? - Perhaps, because Earth is Decelerating

    Days are gradually growing longer. To the layman this means that in the northern hemisphere days are longer in summer than they are in winter. But geoscientists interpret this phrase as follows: they found that days grow longer not only in spring time. Days may have 25 hours in near future due to Earth’s decelerating

    When prehistoric proto-animals inhabited Earth 530 million years ago, there were 21 hours in a day. For dinosaurs who lived 100 million years ago days alternated each other every 23 hours.

    About 530 million years ago Earth rotated on its axis faster than it does today, but it rotated about the sun at a steady speed. At that time the year had the same amount of hours as it has today, but there were 420 days in it. According to trustworthy sources, throughout the history of mankind Earth’s rotation has been reducing its speed, Richard Stephenson from Durham University, UK, says for the Journal for the History of Astronomy.

    More from here

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    Aliens Need Not Be Purely Biological - NASA Scientist Steven Dick

    Science fiction is filled with unusual alien species. But apart from the occasional robot, biological life is running the show. But NASA scientist, Dr. Steven Dick, sees a future Universe that has evolved past biology. Where every intelligence is artificial. Consider the likelihood of a postbiological Universe.

    The consequences of discovering other intelligent life would ripple through every aspect of human society, and actually meeting another species would be even more challenging. But are there abundant intelligent life forms out there? Or is the biological life on Earth just a stage? Just a single step towards our inevitable technological existence.

    In a recent paper published in the journal Acta Astronautica, entitled The Post Biological Universe, Dr. Steven Dick notes how every search for extraterrestrial intelligence assumes that life will be biological. And yet, here on Earth we can see that intelligent life develops more and more sophisticated tools over time. And these tools will eventually lead to artificial intelligence that outstrips its makers.

    If extraterrestrials are out there, they likely live in much older civilizations than ours, and have already transitioned through biology and into technology. The majority of worlds out there are already postbiological.

    Interesting perspective!

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    Biomimetics - Five Medical Innovations Inspired by Nature

    Innovation inspired by nature is nothing new, although, stolen from nature would be more accurate. Step forward the humble sea cucumber. Scientists announced last month that by copying the consistency of the skin of these sea-bed dwellers they had developed a material for next-generation medical implants.

    Biomimetics is a more formal name for the abstraction of design from nature. It is a field that involves an enormous range of scientists and has huge attractions, as recent advances have demonstrated. Professor Andrew Parker leads a research team specialising in biomimetics at the Natural History Museum in London. “Nature is multipurpose. A butterfly wing is iridiscent but it is also self-cleaning and flexible,” he says, clearly excited by the latest medical advances inspired by nature.

    Flies - the new buzz in hearing aids - Scientists announced recently the development of a microphone that can pinpoint exactly where a sound is coming from. This technology could be added to hearing aids, making them more efficient.

    Butterflies - causing a beauty flutter - The complex 3-D structure of butterfly scales, combined with the dual layers, creates the shimmering colours of the insect's wing. Dr Ingram is working with a leading cosmetics company to see if butterfly technology can be copied or adapted to create more luminescent, sparkling eye shadows, lipsticks and foundation.

    Sea cucumbers - implants - When these squishy sea creatures are threatened, their skin suddenly becomes rigid. Research suggests that this trick is achieved by chemicals secreted by the animal when in danger, which stiffen fibres embedded in their soft bodies. Material scientists from Cleveland, Ohio, have copied this, adding fine cellulose fibres to a rubbery mixture. The fibres make the mixture soft when wet, but hard when dry, potentially alleviating the damage caused by stiff electrodes.

    Geckos and mussels - sticking power - One of the most interesting innovations from nature is “geckel”. It is a glue that combines the sticky powers of gecko feet, which allow the lizard to walk upside down on ceilings, with the adhesive that mussels produce to hold them fast to wet surfaces. The glue works on wet and dry surfaces and can be re-used many times.

    Spiders - spinning sutures - Spider silk has strength, amazing stretch and is also, some studies seem to indicate, ignored by the human immune system, making it a perfect suture material. Biologists at the University of California made headlines last year when they isolated the gene coding for two key proteins in dragline silk. Bacteria could then be genetically engineered to produce spider silk by the mile.

    We are moving beyond simply copying to using nature directly in applications.

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    How Science Fiction is Influencing the Creation of More Scientific Geniuses

    Science fiction could turn the geeks of today into tomorrow's geniuses, one of Scotland's leading authors has claimed. Ken Macleod, a writer once described as a "Trotskyist libertarian cyberpunk", has penned several award-winning visions of the future since graduating from Glasgow University with a degree in zoology.

    He gave a speech at the recent Glasgow Science Festival that explored the influence sci-fi has had on actual scientists.

    Science is an integral part of any sci-fi novel, he claimed, and as a consequence youngsters who bury themselves in books or films are more likely to be familiar with concepts such as space travel, nanotechnology or genetic engineering.

    He said: "Science fiction fans often tend to start reading in their early teens, if not childhood, so they assimilate quite a lot of scientific concepts that other people don't. One thing science fiction does, however implausible, is make people aware that there is a big, big, big universe out there that we discover through science. I think the main way that SF contributes is by revealing the world of science to the public in a way that no other form does."

    Several high-profile scientists have had a lifelong interest in sci-fi. Several of the NASA team that worked on the moon landings were keen readers of Robert A Heinlein, who the space agency eulogises on its website as an "author, futurist, and patriot". The whole basis of the internet was famously inspired by William Gibson's book Neuromancer and Isaac Asimov, who recently died, "invented" earth-orbiting satellites in one of his tales.

    More from here


    Saturday, April 5, 2008

    Solar Flares Cause Quakes, Oscillations on Sun

    Scientists have determined that solar flares in the Sun's outer layers that causes quakes, produce strong oscillations throughout the star the same way as the entire Earth is set ringing for several weeks after a major earthquake.

    Christoffer Karoff and Hans Kjeldsen of the University of Aarhus in Denmark, came out with the new theory.

    According to a report in Nature News , the possibility that post-quake vibrations also occur in the Sun, was first proposed in the 1970s, but has not been demonstrated until now.

    Full report from here

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    Space Elevator, Atomic Travel, Brain Backup - Arthur Clarke Predictions

    The imagination of the science fiction author Sir Arthur C Clarke bubbled over with ideas about the future of science, technology and human society. Here, BBC science and technology staff look at some that came true, and some that did not.

    The predictions discussed:

    1. Space elevator
    2. Space guard
    3. Atomic travel
    4. Millennium Bug
    5. Communications satellites
    6. Earthquake prevention
    7. Brain backup
    8. People freezing

    Full report here

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    Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    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.

    More from 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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    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

    Related blogposts
    A new device to translate thoughts into speech
    Neckband Detects User Thoughts And Translates to Speech

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    Sunday, March 23, 2008

    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.

    More from here


    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

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

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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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    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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    Saturday, March 22, 2008

    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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    Friday, March 21, 2008

    "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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    Thursday, March 20, 2008

    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


    Friday, February 22, 2008

    Technology's Grand Challenges for Engineering

    Humans will learn to halt and reverse the effects of ageing, collect all the energy they need from the sun, and develop fully realistic virtual reality during the 21st century, a leading technologist has predicted.

    American inventor and futurologist Ray Kurzweil said mankind is on the brink of radical advances in computer science and medicine that will see tiny robots or "nanobots" embedded in people's bodies, fending off disease and boosting our intelligence.

    Mr Kurzweil's predictions are just a small part of a vision of the future set out by a committee of 18 leading technology thinkers at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, held in Feb 2008.

    Full report on the conference here

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    Monday, February 18, 2008

    Most Intense Laser Beam in the Universe Lasts 30 Femtoseconds

    Most intense laser beam in the universe created

    February 16th, 2008

    Scientists at the University of Michigan say that they have devised a way to produce a laser beam about as intense as a concentrated ray of the entire sunlight shining towards Earth would be if it were focussed onto one grain of sand.

    The pulsed laser beam lasts just 30 femtoseconds (a millionth of a billionth of a second). The Michigan team believes that such intense lasers may be helpful in developing better proton and electron beams for radiation treatment of cancer, among other applications

    Full story here

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    Sunday, February 17, 2008

    Greatest Technological Research Challenges of the 21st Century

    Panel identifies greatest technological research challenges of the 21st century

    A panel of 18 maverick thinkers, convened by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), today identified what they consider to be the greatest technological research challenges facing society in the coming century.

    Notable panelists on the NAE committee include former director of the National Institutes of Health Bernadine Healy; Google co-founder Larry Page; geneticist and businessman J. Craig Venter, Nobel Laureate Mario Molina, inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, and climate change expert Rob Socolow.

    The list of the 14 Grand Challenges:

    Engineering better medicines;
    Advancing health informatics;
    Providing access to clean water;
    Providing energy from fusion;
    Making solar energy economical;
    Restoring and improving urban infrastructure;
    Enhancing virtual reality;
    Reverse engineering the brain;
    Exploring natural frontiers;
    Advancing personalized learning;
    Developing carbon sequestration methods;
    Managing the nitrogen cycle;
    Securing cyberspace,
    Preventing nuclear terror.

    See the full interview here with Socolow, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University

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    Robotics Expert Daniel Wilson Says Earth is Unprepared for Alien Invasion

    Robotics Expert Daniel Wilson Says Earth is Unprepared for Alien Invasion

    In his latest book, How to Build a Robot Army, robotics expert Daniel Wilson offers a humorous but scientifically-accurate account of how people would fight aliens, giant monsters, and more mundane enemies (like other humans) with robot armies. Unafraid to tackle science fictional questions with real science, Wilson is also the author of the award-winning How to Survive a Robot Uprising.

    Check out the interview here

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    Saturday, February 16, 2008

    Robert Socolow Helps Identify Greatest Technological Challenges

    Socolow helps identify greatest technological challenges

    Princeton professor Robert Socolow is one of 18 leading thinkers who served on a National Academy of Engineering (NAE) panel that released a report Feb. 15 identifying the greatest technological challenges facing society in this century.

    The panel's Grand Challenges of Engineering fall into four key categories: sustainability, health, vulnerability and joy of living.

    "Engineering has delivered many successes: our electrified world, indoor plumbing, air travel -- we take these things for granted but we shouldn't," said Socolow, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. "Without investments made by previous generations, we would not enjoy the seemingly invisible infrastructure that makes our modern lives possible. We hope that by identifying these grand challenges we can help spur public debate about the appropriate future goals of humanity and how science and technology can best enable their realization."

    More from here

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