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2014 December

Coming to an air conditioner near you
The Economist, Dec 5, 2014

Thank goodness for air conditioning. I can think of a few places I wouldn’t visit if it weren’t for that. Unfortunately, it consumes 15% of energy usage in the United States. Not only is it necessary to cool the air, but the warmer air needs to be pumped someplace. In lieu of that, Dr. Aawath Raman at Stanford came up with a different idea: developing a coating, less than two microns thick, that absorbs heat and changes the wavelength just right so excess heat is radiated easily into space. At the moment, it consists of alternate layers of hafnium dioxide and silicon dioxide. Its backing is silver, 200 nanometers thick. Initial tests decrease temperatures by 5 degrees Celsius. Scaling will be a problem, as the materials are expensive. Tests are underway to replace the hafnium component with titanium dioxide (which is cheaper).

2014 November

Telemedicine may finally be happening
The Economist, Oct. 11, 2014

Seeing the doctor, without seeing the doctor, has been long in discussion, and short on actuality. NASA may have started monitoring astronauts in the 1960’s, but ask your doctor to check your vitals while you’re at home doesn’t happen often. One of the barriers is cost: “virtual” visits are not necessarily paid for by insurance; Sensors to monitor vitals are still not owned by everyone , and security of transmissions and records is an issue: Chinese hackers recently stole data on 4.5 million patients. A bright spot is the third world, that has a shortage of specialists but an internet connection: For example, Rwanda uses American specialists to evaluate tumors of cancer patients.

2014 October

Droning on about drones
The Wall St. Journal, September 29, 2014

The FAA has approved the movie industry to use drones in production, and Governor Brown of California allowed police to use drones without a court order allowing them. Perhaps the police should watch the movie drones, and make a bit more money selling salacious pictures of movie stars to the tabloids. J

2014 September

A poison to be replaced and more sunshine might happen
Scientific American, September 2014.

Cadmium chloride is an essential ingredient in producing solar cells: It's needed to convert the Sun's energy into electricity. Unfortunately, Cadmium is one of those "heavy metals" in "heavy metal poisoning." It is difficult and dangerous to work with, and disposal problems abound. Scientists may now have found a substitute, as several other salts provide the approximate efficiency that cadmium does. That's heavy, man.

2014 August

The Rise of African Scientific Research
The Economist August 9, 2014
Africa is not well known as a beacon of new knowledge. That is changing. South Africa won the bid to build a radio telescope for the Square Kilometer Array, which when connected with others, will be the largest source of data in the world. In 2013, scientific papers published by Africans have tripled to 55,400 in the last decade. IBM has started a research institute in Kenya to develop artificial intelligence to assist non-doctors in diagnosis. Now if they can use all that new knowledge to win the World Cup….

2014 July

A savior for mouse eggs
Scientific American, July 2014
For many years, scientists have been able to implant genes into cells and make them do all sorts of things. Unfortunately though, the process often destroys half the cells being implanted. Now, scientists at Brigham Young University have developed a “silicon lance”. The lance is charged one way to attract the DNA being implanted. The charge is reversed once inside the cell, releasing the DNA. Initial yields have been 72%.

2014 June

Coming to Hologram near You.
Wall St. Journal June 2, 2014
San Diego-based Ostendo Technologies has presented a hologram projector attached to a mobile phone. Using a combination of a chip and project, this tiny device , besides its 3-D capability is its resolution. The Retina display on Apple Inc.'s iPhone, for example, has about 300 dots per inch, Ostendo's chips are at about 5,000 dots per inch 2-D versions are expected on the market the first half of 2015, and 3-D version in the latter half of 2015.

2014 May

The Little Volcanoes that Could
Scientific American, May 2014
There has been a decline in the rate of mean global temperature in the last few years.Why? Apparently, besides all the air pollution from China’s coal-fired power plants, and additional factor increasing the reflectivity of our planet is an uptick in volcanic eruptions on the 20th century. There have been 17 “minor” eruptions between 2000 and 2012.This, in combination with our sun being a bit quieter, has slowed down the global increase in temperature. Relying on volcanoes and the Sun to fix this problem, shall we say, is problematic at best.

2014 April

How to make an organism, one chromosome at a time
.The Economist, March 29, 2014, various
Using the much-used resource of undergrad labor, biologists at John Hopkins University announced they had synthesized the first eukaryotic chromosome. (Eukaryotes are animals that have nuclei and other components, rather than being just a protoplasmic blob like bacteria.) It’s not an exact duplicate, it having fewer redundancies than the original. Soon, we may not only have designer genes, but designer leavened bread as well.

2014 March

Stacking for more efficiency

The Economist, March 4, 2014
Conventional solar cells only convert about 25% of sunlight into useable energy. By stacking different materials, however, the efficiency can be increased up to 42%
The materials are stacked so that the bottom of the band gap(the limit on solar efficiency) of the top layer matches the top of the band gap of the one underneath, and so on down the stack. It’s somewhat like one step catching the leftovers from the previous step and converting into energy. Each layer thus chops off part of the spectrum, converts it efficiently into electrical energy and passes the rest on. These materials are expensive, but do not need to be a solid film, but rather dotted about here and there.

2014 February

Tired of fighting the Internet? Build your own

The Wall St. Journal, Feb 4, 2014

With Netflix accounting for 32% of peak traffic, Google 22% and Apple 4%, and one Federal Court overthrowing net neutrality, the big boys are building their own infrastructure. Netflix has outsourced its needs to Akami Technologies. Google has over a 100,000 miles of internet backbone, more than twice as Sprint’s mileage. Apple is hiring execs from Comcast , Cable labs and others with expertise in content delivery networks.

2014 January

Cheap medicine

Discover Magazine, January/February 2014

This month’s magazine described two remarkable inventions, designed to provide cheap diagnostic tools to developing countries. Endoscopes, which allow doctors to view a person’s innards through various openings. Unfortunately, they cost upwards of $75,000. A biomedical engineer has developed a much cheaper device, powered by a laptop, that costs less than $2,500. Additionally, an Toronto internist has taped a lens to an Iphone and created a 50X microscope. This is enough power to diagnose parasitic infections in Tanzania.

2013 December

Power Conversion gets a boost.

The Wall St. Journal, 11/19/13

Umesh Mishra, co-founder and chief technology officer of Transphorm, estimates that more than 10% of all energy consumed in the U.S. is wasted during power conversion. The inefficiency, among other things, is a reason for the large size, weight and heat of power supplies used to recharge computers or smartphones, devices often called bricks. It seems that good old silicon is quite as efficient as it might be.

Transphorm recently purchased a portion of Fujitsu that is working on this problem. It seems that gallium arsenide, a component LEDs will do the trick. Mr. Mishra and co-founder Primit Parikh are part of a group of gallium nitride experts at the University of California campus in Santa Barbara, near where Transphorm is based. They estimate that 50% of power conversion costs can be eliminated.

2013 November

Cyclotrons: Coming to a Neighborhood Near You

The Economist, Oct 19, 2013

The Large Hadron Collider(LHC) is the largest particle accelerator in the world, has a diameter of 5.3 miles(8.6 km), and cost $ five billion to make. Making an even larger one using similar technology will cost around $ 25 billion, and have to be even bigger. The reason that size matters is the copper used to push particles faster and faster has to be placed and manufactured to exacting specifications. Even so, moving the copper elements closer to each other causes them to melt. However, Drs. Hommelhoff, Breuer and Byer have come up with a novel solution: Instead of using copper, they used glass and a laser. Initial results are encouraging, and would allow cyclotrons to be made smaller and cheaper. Medical institutions could then develop their own isotopes to combat cancer, without having to buy a whole state to place the cyclotron.

2013 October

The difference between soot, fuel, diamonds and a computer

The Wall St. Journal, September 26, 2013

Engineers and scientists at Stanford have developed the first carbon nanotube-based computer. While limited in processing power compared to today’s silicon-based transitors, it is an important first step in computational technology in getting around the (quantum) limitations in improving today’s silicon-based computers.
Mihail Roco, senior adviser for nanotechnology at the National Science Foundation, which helped fund the work, called the nanotube computer "an important scientific step." If perfected, he said, "this would allow a computer to work faster, and with smaller components and with about one-tenth the energy."

2013 September

Be your Bee’s Keeper

Scientific American, September 2013

Honey bees, the European species brought to the United States in 1620, is responsible for pollinating about 1/3 of all food production in the United States. Unfortunately, colony collapse syndrome(CCN) is threatening this vital partnership. Possibly caused by certain types of insecticide making them vulnerable to disease, this syndrome can lay waste up to 90% of a hive. Many bees are “imported” and transported from agricultural areas in the United States. Studies are ongoing to determine if re-introducing wild-bee populations among crops can help, and whether new species resistant to disease might partly solve the problem.

2013 August

It Takes a Bug to Catch a Bug

Scientific American, August 2013

With drug-resistant germs on the rise, scientists continually look for alternatives. Recent focus has been on M. aeruginosavorus and B bacteriovorus, two bacteria that burrow into other bacteria and act as parasites. They destroyed 14 strains of drug-resistant bacteria and least so far as can be determined, don’t attack human cells. They also have the advantage of still being effective on biofilms of bacteria, the hard-to-penetrate, mechanism bad bacteria use to protect themselves.

2013 July

Lungs on a Chip

Wall St. Journal, June 21, 2013

A combination of silicon, blood, lung cells and air may give scientists a systematic way to assess the effects of drugs on lungs. “"There's a lot of additional work that's needed before these systems can replace our current methods to evaluate a drug's safety or effectiveness. The potential is there, however," says Douglas Throckmorton, deputy director for regulatory science at the FDA's drug division. The lung on a chip doesn't recreate everything a lung does, but replicates many of the important functions. It consists of a see-through strip of silicone rubber about the size of a memory stick, with tiny, hollow channels through which air and fluid can pass. These channels are split by a flexible membrane, whose sides are lined by walls of human lung tissue and blood-vessel cells.” Scientists at Merck’s Boston laboratories are investigating its use in treatments for asthma and other lung diseases.

Forget Lab Rats: Testing Asthma Drugs on a Microchip
Forget lab rats. Some researchers are now testing medicines on a silicon chip that could provide a better read on how a drug will work.
These scientists are building "organs on a chip," spooling together the important cells that make up, say, a lung, and then mimicking the key functions of the organ. Then researchers test to see what kind of impact a potential drug has on this lung-like system, created on a chip that is only a few inches long.

2013 June

TRMing a Virus' Sails

The Wall St. Journal, May 24, 2013

It used thought the two immune systems of the body (so called “Tcell mediated immunity” and “cell-mediated immunity”) were two partners that didn’t dance together. They operated independently, and there was little thought otherwise. This thought was so prevalent that papers suggested otherwise were often not allowed into peer-reviewed journals. However, Leo James, William McEwan and their colleagues at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge found that a molecule called TRM21 is activated when a virus/antibody combination enters a cell. This creates and alarm response in the cell, and activates its own defense system. As the AIDS virus uses a getaround to avoid activating TRM21, this discovery may help in reducing HIV infections and all related viruses.

2013 May

Take Two Bacteria and Call me in the Morning

Scientific American, May 2013

Halitosis, aka, bad breath, is something we all occasionally live with. It seems the main cause is a bad mix of bacteria ruminating around you. Onions and the like don’t help, and current “cures” either mask the problem or kill all bacteria, something like tossing the baby out with the (smelly) bathwater. It seems that S. mutans, the bacteria behind tooth decay may be the main culprit. Adding a touch of Streptococcus salivarius being investigated to fight again S. mutans.

2013 April

Printing Human Embryonic Stem Cells

Live Science website, March, 2013, CNN website

Stem cells, those magical cells that can develop into many different kinds of tissue in the body, can now be printed, at least in the lab. In a study published Feb. 5, 2013, in the journal Science, researchers from the University of Edinburgh describe a valve-based cell printer that spits out living human embryonic stem cells. The cells could be used to create tissue for testing drugs or growing replacement organs, the scientists report.

The ear, which looks and functions like a normal human ear, was created by squirting living cells into an injection mold. Over the course of three months, each ear grew cartilage in the shape of its mold. These ersatz ears could replace the ears of children with congenital deformities, researchers report online today (Feb. 20) in the journal PLOS ONE.

2013 March

Stress Gives you a Shorter Cap

Scientific American Mind, April 2013, p. 17

Our genes are wrapped into bundles called chromosomes. Though we usually focus on what genes may make us smarter, live longer or succumb to alcohol
addiction, chromosomes as a whole play a role as well. Every time cells divide, the "caps" on chromosomes grows shorter, allowing potentially nasty things to happen to its structure. It turns out that stress, anxiety, and depression are correlated with shorter chromosomal caps. What is cause, and what is effect is an open question. In case stress is a cause of this, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, reducing exposure to pollutants and reacting to problems as a challenge rather than as a threat are helpful. They are not quite as much fun as a drunken night on the town after a lobster meal, but oh, well.

2013 February

Doubts About the Next Magic Bullets

Scientific American, February 2013. The Economist, January 2013.

Stem cells, those type of cells that can morph into many different types (cardiac, skin, neural tissue) etc. may not yet be ready for prime time. Very few systematic studies have been done to assess their affects, despite a number of anecdotal claims by professional athletes. In addition, the “free radical” theory of aging is under fire. Promulgated 60 years ago, this theory suggests that free radicals resulting from oxidation inside the body cause aging. As a result, many have taken anti-oxidants such as vitamin E, fish oil, etc. as a way to keep the grim reaper at bay. However, new animal studies suggest that some free radicals encourage the body to renew itself, and that a high dose of these anti-oxidants may be harmful.

2013 January

China’s March to Prominence

R&D Magazine, December 2012

Global research and development (R&D) spending is fore­cast to grow by 3.7%, or $53.7 billion in 2013 to $1.5 tril­lion, according to the closely watched forecast by Battelle and R&D Magazine. While much remains uncertain about the future of the U.S. R&D enterprise, China’s march to prominence increases, with that country being responsible for $23 billion of that increase.

2012 December

Coming to an Electronics Store in your Home

Science Daily, November 21, 2012

“The University of Warwick researchers have created a simple and inexpensive conductive plastic composite that can be used to produce electronic devices using the latest generation of low-cost 3D printers designed for use by hobbyists and even in the home.
The material, nicknamed 'carbomorph', enables users to lay down electronic tracks and sensors as part of a 3D printed structure -- allowing the printer to create touch-sensitive areas for example, which can then be connected to a simple electronic circuit board.
So far the team has used the material to print objects with embedded flex sensors or with touch-sensitive buttons such as computer game controllers or a mug which can tell how full it is.”

Table of Contents

2012 November

Flopping to a Benchmark

CNN website, Oct. 29, 2012

The Department of Energy accepted into use Titan, its upgrade to its supercomputer. It has over 299,000 microprocessors, and is one of the world’s fastest computers, with speeds in the petaflop (quadrillion) operations per second. Can we perhaps now have an accurate weather forecast?

2012 October

Lasers from a printer near you

S&T News Bulletin, September 28, 2012

Using a custom inkjet printing system, researchers at Cambridge printed hundreds of small dots of LC materials on to a substrate covered with a wet polymer solution layer. As the polymer solution dries, the chemical interaction and mechanical stress cause the LC molecules to align and turn the printed dots into individual lasers. This simple process can form lasers on virtually any surface, rigid or flexible, and can potentially be applied using existing printing and publishing equipment (similar to the ones used to print papers or magazines). “The process has been developed initially to produce compact, tuneable laser sources and high-resolution laser displays. However, it can also be used to print fluorescence tag-based “lab-on-a-chip” arrays used extensively in biology and medicine.”

2012 September

Gold as a safe haven (protectant??)

Nanowerk, August 29, 2012

Researchers at the University of Central Florida found that nanoclusters developed by adding atoms in a sequential manner could provide interesting optical properties. It turns out that the gold nanoclusters exhibit qualities that may make them suitable for creating surfaces that would diffuse high intensity lasers. Coating aircraft and displays with such material could reduce the damage caused by exposure. Gold-colored suits, anyone?

2012 August

Oh, my beating jellyfish heart

The Wall St. Journal, July 23, 2012

Harvard bioengineers have coaxed rat cells and silicon into a consistently contracting jellyfish like mechanism. After observing jellyfish in a local aquarium, they noticed similarities between how jellyfish swim and the beating of a human heart. Attaching rat heart cells onto a silicon matrix, they made an artificial (but non-living) approximation of a swimming jellyfish.

2012 July

Particles for Peace

Scientific American, July 2012

It seems physicists are a bit ahead of the politicians. A particle accelerator called SESAME is being built in Jordan by through a collaboration of Iranian, Israeli, Turkish and Arab physicists. Its primary purpose is to develop radiation sources for chemistry, biology, and pharmaceutical development. As CERN was created by a group from many European countries in 1954, perhaps SESAME will open a political door or two as well.

2012 June

They are bugging you more than you think

Scientific American, June 2012

Most of us view bacteria as harmful little beasties, causing you all sorts of discomfort. A few are helpful, like those that make cheese, right. It turns out there are a bit more present in our bodies that you might think; Bacteria outnumber our own cells 10 to one. If it weren’t just one species, you digest oranges, apples, potatoes or wheat germ. Some, thought to be only nasty, such as H. pylori (the cause of stomach ulcers in some), usually regulate how much acid your stomach produces. Others regulate regulatory T cells. Without them, potentially, autoimmune reactions, such as diabetes, Chrohn’s disease and muscular dystrophy may result. Unfortunately, some of us live in ultra-clean environments, and have taken anti-biotics way too many times without cause. This may leave us vulnerable to other diseases we would rather avoid.

2012 May

Flipping fingers may do something more than piss off people

The Economist, March 3-9, 2012

Many of you are familiar with Kinect, the add-on to Microsoft’s Xbox video game. It detects gross motions of the game player, making characters on the screen act the same way the player does. Chris Harrison, a researcher at the Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, has moved it one step(or gesture) farther. Called Armura, it projects interactive displays onto nearby surfaces, including hands. The accompanying software identified different arrangements of the user’s arms, hands and fingers. The trick is to distinguish between the tens of thousands of gestures that humans make. It seems though, that some gestures are quite clear, though they may be anatomically impossible.

2012 April

An eyeful of genes

Scientific American, April 2012

Gene therapy, where somatic cells’ genes are altered (but the result is not inherited), have had a spotty at best record for success. In previous studies, gene therapy has made patients worse. In a most recent case, though, there is cause for hope. Leber’s congenital amaurosis (LSA), is a disease where photoreceptors in the eye degenerate from birth, leaving victims close to blindness by adulthood. Jean Bennett, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, tried gene therapy on this condition, with exciting results. Treating just one eye as a precaution, sight noticeably improves after gene therapy. In this case the genes implanted allowed victims to process retinal A properly. Sight improved significantly, and did the same with the patient’s second eyes. Not only were the eyes more sensitive to light, but the brain was more responsive to optical stimuli. Adults administered this therapy did not wholly regain their eyesight, but it is hoped that younger patients would be able to.

2012 March

Flitting in the Shadow web

Scientific American, March 2012

As was demonstrating during the Egyptian revolution last year, all it took was four phone calls to shut down the entire country’s internet. Partly in response to this, the attempted filtering of internet material in repressive countries, and the anarchic elements among the Web community, a shadow internet is being born. Going under the names of mesh networking or community networking, it sets up a parallel network with occasional interaction with the “real” internet. This has some pluses and minuses to it, among them: the ability of those trying to get out information is increased when under a repressive regime (which is why the State Department is funding the “internet in a box); the ability for pedophiles and terrorists to communicate; and the inability of the authorities to shut it down. The common problem for establishing these networks has been its establishment and maintenance among non-techies. However, with the advent of cheap, easy to use alternatives such as Freedom Box, and the use of people’s existing computers and smartphones, this barrier is being lowered.
And what will the consequences be?

2012 February

Stellar cognition vs the Queen's Gambit

Scientific American, February 2012

It used to be that cognitive scientists used chess as a way of figuring out the difference between the best and the rest. It seems though, that the Starcraft 2 videogame may be used as well. It is especially suited to assessing one of the worst things that humans do: multitask. "I can't think of a cognitive process that's not involved in StarCraft," says Mark Blair, a cognitive scientist at Simon Fraser University. "It's working memory. It's decision making. It involves precise motor skills. Everything is important, and everything needs to work together." Thousands of these gamers are now contributing to a project under Blair's watch, called SkillCraft, to learn what separates experts from novices when it comes to attention, multitasking and learning. By comparing how the best compare to the rest of us, he can perhaps discern how to make the rest of us quite not so easy to (virtually) kill.

2012 January

IBM’s Technology Predictions for the Five Years

CIO Magazine, December 20, 2011

I sure hope these happen:

Multi-factor biometrics instead of passwords: How about voice and retinal recognition being widespread, keyed to your individual identity; 2. Mind-reading by computers(not available on dates or social occasions with your wife);3. The elimination of the digital divide, with 5.6 billion internet-enabled devices, and only 7 billion people.4; The elimination of junk mail( but what will all those Nigerian scammers do – apply for unemployment?; 5 Kinetic power-based devices become widespread, so you can charge your cell phone while bicycling to Starbucks.

2011 December

10 to Grow On

Scientific American, December 2011

This month, Scientific American published 10 potentially revolutionary technologies on the cusp of reality. Among them are:

The Forever Health Monitor which essentially uses your smartphone to detect, transmit and provide feedback on vital health measures. AliveCore, for example, is anticipating FDA approval of Iphone ECG, which measures heart health by placing the phone between your palms or on your chest.

Wallet in Your Skin. The Fujuistu Palm Secure system, in testing at schools in Florida, recognizes students by the unique pattern of veins on their hands. Wait time at the cash register during lunch time has been cut in half.

Metals extraction via Bacteria. Mining firms can now extract 85% of metals from ores with less than 1% metal concentration. Desulvibrio and Desfotomaculum bacteria neutralize acids in mining runoff. Unfortunately mine tailings, the residuals of mining, are not so amenable to eliminating all toxic materials.

Nano-Size Germ Killers. IBM materials Scientist Jim Hedrick, working with Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, have developed nano-sized particles that attach themselves to charged bacteria and implode them. Given human cells don’t have these charges, they pass right through human cells.

2011 November

Statin-stically speaking, Statins aren’t all they’re cracked up to be

Scientific American, November 2011

Perhaps many of us have been told by our physicians that our cholesterol levels are not so good. Our LDL levels are too high, and our HDL levels are too low. Brightening at the thought of just taking a pill make this problem go away, we begin taking statins. It turns out though, that although people with good cholesterol values have fewer heat attacks and strokes, changing these numbers with medications don’t always work. 20% of those taking statins and whose cholesterol levels are under control still have heart attacks and strokes. Many were looking for more insight from the ENHANCE studies, comparing a variety of other drugs that try to increase HDL levels. Unfortunately, there was little beneficial effect, and also called into question whether statins really decrease the chances of a cardiovascular event. A study due in 2013 will evaluate this question.

2011 October

Two parts of a feedback loop help diabetics

Scientific American, October 2011

For several years, diabetics have had insulin pumps that allow a continuous feed of insulin to be administered, rather a quick injection of a large amount of insulin. Unfortunately, This device doesn’t change how much insulin is delivered based on how much a body needs. However, Medtronic, a large US-based medical device maker, has combined such a pump with glucose sensors, which then tell the pump how much insulin to inject. Using a prototype device, 85% type I diabetics kept at desired glucose levels at night. Significant trials still need to demonstrate its utility and reliability to the Food and Drug Administration.

2011 September

Eternal Growth

Scientific American, August 2011

I'm sure that most of you have looked at various articles in the last several years about progress in treating cancer. It seems, however, that models of how at least some tumors work may be flat-out wrong. Most oncologists worked on the assumption that most tumor develop from a single cell that begins to produce an abnormal number of copies of itself. As a result, any descendent of this single cell has the chance to break off and form a new growth elsewhere in the body. However, a new theory suggests that only a small number of tumor cells can multiply indefinitely. These "cancer stem cells" are the ones that survive in the tumor, with most of the other tumor cells dying over time, especially "liquid" tumors of the blood and lymphatic systems, as well as those in the lungs. Though controversial at the moment, this theory suggests that differing diagnostic tests be performed, with the aim of determining which tumors are more aggressive (have more cancer stem cells), and which should be treated accordingly.

2011 August

Could we remember without memory? Technological advances in transistor design.

The Economist, July 16, 2011

The small problem with many transistors is they have Alzheimers: remove power from them, and all they remember they quickly forget. You can add “non-volatile” memory to them to keep what they should know stored during power downs. Unfortunately, memory takes time to use, space, and money to put in place. Wouldn’t it be nice to design a transistor that wouldn’t need them? They go by the names of an “atomic” transistor and a “nano-electro-mechanical” transistor. The former uses copper atoms to slip through the tantalum pentoxide material of the transistor. The mechanical transistor uses a voltage across two aluminum electrodes . Apply a charge, and an electron flips in one direction or the other, and stays put until additional charge is applied. These two types of transistors can be mixed and matched to make the proper number and type of transistors(that is “n” and “p” transistors.)

2011 July

Cures Without a Sugar Coating

The Wall St. Journal, June 27, 2011

The number of adults with diabetes has doubled world-wide over the last three decades to nearly 350 million and increased nearly threefold in the U.S., a sign that the epidemic will impose an ever-greater cost burden on health systems. Type I diabetes, largely inherited, is thought to be an autoimmune disease, the body fighting itself, slowly destroy pancreatic cells. Few thought that these cells could start producing again. However, in a serendipitous note, a vaccine researcher found that an experimental tuberculosis vaccine caused to these cells to reproduce insulin again, even after 15 years after the disease’s onset. Type II diabetes, generally age-, diet- and weight-related is quite difficult to treat. Treatment is often difficult, as it requires dietary and habit changes of patients. A new diabetes drug from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and AstraZeneca PLC was effective in lowering blood sugar, but patients had a higher rate of certain infections, the companies said.

The companies are hoping to market the drug, dapagliflozin, as the first in new class of pills designed to lower blood sugar by increasing the amount of glucose excreted in the urine.

The drug is under review at the Food and Drug Administration, and an FDA advisory panel will consider the drug at a meeting July 19.

2011 June

Saran Wrap for your Heart and Brain

Scientific American. Retrieved from

Scientists are creating flexible, stretchable, and waterproof circuits and electrodes that mimic the properties of human tissues. These new methods can also monitor and control biological electrical activity more naturally and easily. Electrodes developed using the process can wrap around organs, just like Saran wrap. One scientist has developed such a mechanism that wrap around the heart and its electrical nodes. Once in place, the hope is to control atrial fibrillation, a condition that affects a large percentage of males. Another application would be around areas of the brain that cause epilepsy, allowing a diffusion of the electrical storm of that disease.

2011 May

Rise of the Superweeds

Scientific American. Retrieved from

The sounds on many farms today hark back to older times: It is the sound of hoeing, the back-breaking labor of manually tearing out weeds. Besides being labor intensive, hoeing tends to cause fertile soil to disappear more quickly. Why, do you ask, are farmers starting this again: It is the rose of glycophate(aka Roundup)-resistant weeds. The nice part of glycophates is they kill anything that is green, and they have a low toxicity profile for those of us who aren’t plants. And thanks to Monsanto, varieties many food crops are genetically engineered to resist the insecticide.
Just to be clear, we aren’t talking about your household-variety of weed: these are truly monsters, with some ragweeds, horseweeds, Johnsongras and Palmer amaranth can grow over 10 feet high, and can reduce the yield of a soybean crop by half.

Independently of human’s house of Roundup, these weeds have evolved a way to concentrate Roundup into their leaves, and away from the growing portion of the plant – the meristem. And also unfortunately, farmers have used Roundup-resistance as a “silver bullet”, expecting it to fix many of their pesty problems. This short-sighted, non-systemic view of the problem will have significant economic results. Older pesticides have worse toxicity profiles, so it will remain to be seen whether an approach focused on selective breeding, new methods of weed control and farming methods will stem the tide of weed.
Best regards,

2011 March

Mobile Medicine Moves Mountains

Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

Don’t like your doctor? That’s ok, don’t see him at all. A number of new mobile devices are allowing physicians, emergency personnel and hospital employees to remotely monitor how you’re doing Among them, Vscan, a GE device allows the doctor and patient to directly see the heart, looking at muscles valves and blood flow. A wireless ambulance-monitoring system allows emergency personnel to transmit vital data to the emergency room, something critical in long ambulance rice. The Mobiel MIM system, just approved by the US FDA, let’s doctors use Iphones to view MRIs and CT scans. “Sensor mats” are being placed under patients in the hospital to provide information to nurses without being “hooked up” to wires and cables. AT&T is developing “smart slippers” to detect changes in gait and posture. I wonder if they come in green?

2011 February

Arpa-e, son of Darpa;

See link for reference

Darpa, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has been an encourager of innovation from the 1950’s. Among other significant innovations, it fostered the Internet and GPS. Ne of its descendants, ARPA-e, focuses on energy research. Among the projects it is fostering includes making internal combustions engines more efficient by capturing waste heat, all with a twisted wire; lithium-and seawater batteries; ceramic batteries sprayed onto surfaces(highlighted in our previous Journal); and a chip that can convert infra-red energy into electricity. To see a summary of these projects, along with some neat pictures, see, and

2011, January

Printing Energy Storage

The Economist. Retrieved from

I imagine by now that just about everyone has heard of Lithium-ion batteries – those ubiquitous little things that power everything from your cell phone to your hybrid car. There are a few problem though: They are heavy, and 40% of a car-battery’s weight doesn’t generate power – it’s there for insulation and protection. Make a lighter, more efficient battery that charges more quickly, and people will pay attention quickly. That’s where a printer comes in.

Planar energy has come up with a way to “print” a battery. Instead of ink, it squirts a ceramic electrolyte onto a sheet of metal or plastic. The secret is that this material( a lithium superionic conductor) turns into a solid, but a rather unique one: It automatically forms a gridwork when solidified that allows electrons to travel and hence create current. If scalability tests work out, production will start in 18 months. The batteries store two to three times more energy than standard lithium-ion batteries and will last for tens of thousands of charging cycles.

2011, January

Once broken, now twice as fast fixed…

The Economist. Retrieved from

DARPA, a government agency that fosters research, has funded development of new materials that may fix a broken bone in a week. A chemical based on polopropylene fumarate, is a glue-like material that can be injected into the gap between the broken parts of bone. It may eventually replace the screws, pins and plates so often necessary to get bone to heal right. The fumarate is impregnated with silicon that releases stem cells, growth factors, pain suppressing drugs and antibiotics. Apparently rats and sheep are the first test subjects for this novel method. As reported in the January 2011 Economist.

2010, November

Flowing with the fishes via a MacArthur grant winner.

Scientific American. Retrieved from

Dr. John Dabiri, a MacArthur (“genius grant”) winner, has a few ideas about how to improve technology via biomimicry – the copying some functionality from plants and animals, and improving technology with it. Among them are:

“Schooling” fish arrange themselves to minimize the amount of energy that a school collectively require to move from point A to point B. Flip this idea, and you can design a wind turbine with 10 times the energy density of current designs.

Another is retrofitting Navy vessels to act more like jellyfish. No, we won’t see any slimy blobs for military vessels, but expect shapes to change to make water flow around an object like it does with jellyfish.

2010, October

Coming soon to a Gene Near You

Today’s tools to modify the progression and symptoms of mental disorders are often shotgun like, spreading the results of anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and anti-epileptics across all neurons in the brain Until recently, psychiatrists and doctors have had little choice but to use them, with the results being marginal at best. However, November’s Scientific American describes the advent of something new in the toolbox. It turns out that very simple organisms, such as certain species of alga and bacteria, react to specific wavelengths of light. These “opsin” genes, in combination with the curious sensitivity of neurons to light and the delivery of these genes using a harmless virus, allows scientists to turn on specific neurons, patterns of neurons, and specific areas of the brain. Though still in the investigative phase, these tools will allow for much more precise stimulation of the brain, with all its positive and ethical consequences. Welcome to the new “optogenetics”.

This article discusses SOLAR power technology and its progress since it was first introduced. Solar power has been groundbreaking in its domain and a very efficient source of energy. With global warming and other environmental destruction's that are irreversible, Solar power technology has proven to be resource

2010, October 5

The Wall St. Journal announced last week its 2010 Technology Innovation Awards

Among the winners is Industrial Technology Institute for creating the first commercially viable flexible digital display; Nokia’s augmented reality browsers that lets users get information about objects by pointing a camera phone; Receivables software for allowing small and mid-sized businesses to auction their receivables; InEntec’s plasma gasification technology that produces synthetic fuel from waste, and simultaneously takes the waste residue and creates a material suitable for construction material; Solexant’s ultrathin inorganic photovoltaic cells; Active Water Science’s portable, self-contained wastewater treatment system that meets EPA standards; a US federal agency (Health and Human Services) for developing Connect that enables health-care providers to electronically exchange patient information; and Novachem’s cement production pumps that absorb 100 kg of CO2 per metric ton, instead of producing 800 kg per metric tons with common “Portland” cement.

2010, September 1

What goes around can come around in stem-cell research

As reported in Scientific American, the currently debated anxiety about using embryonic stem cells in research into a variety of diseases has another side. It turns out that adult pluri-potent stem cells can be turned into embryos, and hence clone the adult. Though this may sound far-fetched, it has already been done in mice. Previously, adult stems cells have been thought to be a politically “safer” alternative to embryonic stem cells, as no embryos are destroyed in the process.

2010, April 15

Growing Pains

The Economist. Retrieved from

This article discusses SOLAR power technology and its progress since it was first introduced. Solar power has been groundbreaking in its domain and a very efficient source of energy. With global warming and other environmental destruction's that are irreversible, Solar power technology has proven to be resourceful.

The article continues to state that Solar power has been around for a couple of years and its cost was expensive when it was first introduced to the public. It is still very expensive and its cost stands as a major problem for the government to make solar power more effective to the masses. In today’s market the cost has decreased significantly, which is not rare because the value of technology decreases as time passes. However, solar power is expensive for the average individual.

2010, April 5

Braille Displays Promise to Deliver the Web to the Blind

Scientific American. Retrieved from

Those who are blind can only experience the web one line at at time. Braille displays connect to a computer and relay information through pins controlled mechanically and electrically through a software run on on the operating system. Freedom, Scientific, Inc located in Saint Petersburg, FL make several braille displays that are configured in standard single row. The single row configuration costs more than a $1000 for a low end display.

Braille displays are now being created to combat the single line translation. Recent developments would translate the displayed content up to 25 rows and 40 cells side by side. This is much faster for the Braille user and provides the ability to read content faster, move back and forth from page to page and review content with much ease. The drawbacks to this new technology is that how will the manufacture approach the spacial recognition. Some of these approaches consist of hydraulic pressures to raise and lower each of the pins in the cell, the second is to place the pin in a silicon tube that raise the pin up when filled with solution.

2010, February 26

A Lazy Man's Guide to Cutting Energy Costs

The Economist. Retrieved from

Colin Calder, the founder of Passive Systems, a small company in England, created an intelligent system that reduces energy bills up to 28%. This system monitors energy activity in one’s home. Monitoring energy consumption is a learned process by this. It learns when the occupants are home, when they are sleeping, when they momentarily go away, and when they go away for extended periods of time.

The intelligent wireless hub integrates sensors attached to the HVAC system, the boiler, and all other electrical appliances. Once this system is set up in one’s home, ti can then relay energy information to individual accounts. Once the information is sent to the user of the account, the user can see the information on their personal computer or smart phone.

The intellect system is said to cost a little under $1000. This includes the hub, various sensors, and the installation. Once the system is in place, it is estimated to pay for itself in three years.

2010, January 27

Reaching for the Height of Radio

Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

High Definition has made its way to Am and FM radio. iBiquity Digital Corporation has developed the innovative technology for HD radio and also provides licenses to broadcasters and manufactures of radio. HD radio offers more then high quality signal, it offers a multitude of channels over and beyond what you would hear on regular radio stations. In addition, not only does it broadcast current AM and FM channels but it provides additional content on commercial free channels.
HD radio allows local broadcasters to transmit content via digital signals using current frequencies for AM and FM radio. the added benefit of digital signals is encryption and elimination of static that is normally heard in analog broadcasting. The drawbacks to digital is that the frequencies take longer to be decoded as much as five seconds longer on the HD radio receivers. There are over 2,000 HD radio stations with over 1,100 sub channels that can be heard in all of the United States and Puerto Rico. Currently, HD radio devices are available. The service is free but the device is where the cost lies.

2010, January 7

Climate Change: No Hiding Place?

The Economist. Retrieved from

Meteorological science has predicted that 2010 will be the hottest year on record, in spite of the fact that these first few days of the year have been wintery for most regions. The tropical Pacific is currently dumping heat, a phenomenon known as El Niño. In addition, the heat of the sun fluctuates, generally peaking in 11-year cycles. Finally, greenhouse gases have contributed to the heat-trapping ozone layer. The result of these three factors may contribute to uncharacteristically warm weather, though many are skeptic.

2010, January 4

Tokyo Exchange Girds for Tech Race

Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

The Tokyo Stock Exchange set to launch a high-tech replacement to its creaky trading platform and move the technology war between brokers in Japan.

Although Tokyo is the world's No. 2 stock market by market value, is hoping to attract investors who depend on sophisticated software to make split-second trades. It also hopes to make more advanced technology in the U.S. and Europe and fast-growing markets in places such as Shanghai.

2010, January

The Next 20 Years of Microchips

Scientific American. Retrieved from

According to Moore's Law, microchips double in complexity every two years, making technology obsolete rapidly. The increasingly small and capable microchips and processors. Most obviously, this will lead to slimmer machinery, such as laptops that are still able to not overheat. The next generations of microchips will also be more energy-efficient. Perhaps most exciting is that biological computing may be able to create circuitry that will function in a living cell.

2009, November 27

Can the S.C. AG Prosecute Gov. Mark Sanford? He Says He Can

Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

Mark Sanford is the Republican governor of South Carolina. On June 24, 2009, he held a news conference in which he admitted to having an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina, after being confronted by a reporter as he got off a plane from Buenos Aires. He later disclosed other flirtations.

Mr. Sanford is facing ethics charges he broke state laws more than three dozen times by violating rules on airplane travel and campaign money, according to details of the allegations.

It's up to the state attorney general to decide whether to file criminal charges. Mr. Sanford's lawyers have claimed the allegations involve minor and technical aspects of the law.

2009, November 4

Putting Green Technology into Bricks

Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

This article provides information on the “green” construction market. “Green” Technology has discovered an innovative way to the traditional brick manufacturing we have known in the past. Manufacturing of bricks by the use of clay has been the norm for years yet a company called CalStar Products Inc. has decided to change the way we view brick creation. This start-up company, based out of Newark CA is making bricks using fly ash; a residue created from the burning of coal. In just eight short hours the fly ash and numerous other chemicals are steamed to the point where the ash hardens and can be molded into a brick used for construction.

While the construction industry has hit hard times due to the decline of personal and commercial real estate, the construction using “green” technologies have actually seen marketable increases. This new type of brick uses more than 80% less energy than previous brick making strategies and is equal in comparison to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. The new bricks are being installed in buildings as soon as 2010.

2009, October

Boosting Vaccine Power

Scientific American. Retrieved from

This article discusses how vaccines work and the development of the next generation of vaccines. Because of vaccines, modern society has had to worry relatively little about what are formerly feared illnesses such as malaria and polio. Vaccines have received more attention recently due to the H1N1 pandemic and the vaccine introduced to counteract it.

Newer vaccines will contain other components such as bacterial DNA, antigen-carrying viruses, and various plant-extracts. These new components may increase the effectiveness of the new vaccines, which are currently being developed for ailments such as HPV, Hepatitis A & B, and influenza.

2009, September 4

Energy Push Spurs Shift in U.S. Science

Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

The Obama administration's push to solve the nation's energy problems, a massive federal program that rivals the Manhattan Project, is spurring a once-in-a-generation shift in U.S. science. The government's multibillion-dollar push into energy research is reinvigorating 17 giant U.S.-funded research facilities, from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory here to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. After many years of flat budgets, these labs are gearing up to develop new electricity sources, trying to build more-efficient cars and addressing climate change.

In fiscal 2009, the Obama administration increased the funding by 18%, to $4.76 billion, to the Department of Energy's Office of Science, which oversees 10 national labs and funds research at another seven. The office will receive $1.6 billion in government stimulus spending, as well, much of which it will also channel to these laboratories.

The Office of Science estimates its bigger budget allowed it to create nearly 1,400 research jobs at the 10 labs it oversees in the fiscal year ending in September, up 11% from the previous year's staffing levels. It estimates it created another 1,400 science jobs at universities. In addition, it says, funds from the Obama administration's stimulus package created hundreds more government lab jobs. As a result, the balance of U.S. science is shading a few degrees -- away from the pure research typically practiced at universities, and toward applied science.

2009, November

A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030

Scientific American. Retrieved from

An upcoming meeting involving leaders from around the world will discuss the topic of sustainable energy and how to reach that goal within the next 20 years. This is an enormous feat that faces many hurdles presently. Coal had been the previous go-to source for energy due to its low cost. These cost savings are passed down to consumers and affect the global economy.

In order to get other, cleaner technologies to near the cost of coal, money must be invested in materials, research, and facilities for sources of energy which have fewer emissions, including wind farms and geothermal plants. The money is a political issue, as well as the effects clean energy initiatives will have on the coal industry.


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