tagged w/ MIT
One suspect in this week's deadly Boston Marathon bombing was killed after a police shootout, and a second suspect, identified by officials as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, remains at large and the subject of a manhunt, police said early this morning.
Tsarnaev, the man the FBI identified Thursday only as Suspect 2 in photos related to the marathon bombing investigation, is on the loose and is armed and dangerous, police said. The 19-year-old is the target of a "massive manhunt," Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said today.
The suspect is believed to be armed with an assault-style rifle and an assortment of other weapons, including bombs, a senior federal law enforcement official said today. There is great concern that Tsarnaev might try to take hostages, the official said.
"We believe this is a terrorist, we believe this is a man that's come here to kill people," Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said early this morning.
The first suspect was killed after exchanging gunfire with police officers, during which multiple explosive devices were detonated, police said. Officials at Beth Israel Hospital reported they received one patient who later died, but would not confirm it was the first suspect.
That patient came in under guard and had suffered blast, shrapnel and so many gunshot wounds that caregivers were "unable to count" them.
Full Screen: http://abcnews.go.com/US/person-custody-watertown-mass/story?id=18994511#.UXE_N6LkuSpOne suspect in this week's deadly Boston Marathon bombing was killed after a... more
All hell is breaking loose in Watertown,Mass. tonight as several bombs went off. A campus police officer from MIT was shot and killed. Suspect also shot. Other suspect got away in a SUV. Police and National Guard on the scene. This is a developing story.
http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/19/17817173-chaotic-scene-in-boston-area-after-explosions-gunfire-fatal-shooting-of-mit-campus-officer?liteAll hell is breaking loose in Watertown,Mass. tonight as several bombs went off. A... more
Dogammit, people, settle down. Just settle down.
::sigh:: I knew it wasn't a good idea to check the news again
" Updated 12:02 a.m.: MIT issued an emergency alert at 10:48 on Thursday night reporting shots fired on the university campus. MIT's school newspaper, The Tech, reports, "Shots fired near 32 Vassar St (Stata Center), police officer down. Please stay inside." That report is backed up by CBS News's Bonney Kapp who reports hearing "officer down" on the police scanner just before the MIT alert went out. The Tech followed up a few minutes later, reporting that the injured officer was a member of the MIT campus police and was taken to Mass. General Hospital. According to the Massachusetts State Police, the officer died from his wounds just before midnight.
For now, details are scarce, but the suspect is on the loose and considered armed and extremely dangerous.
Police and the FBI are on the scene and searching for the suspect, while the university's ordered all students and staff to remain indoors. "
I am SO waiting for the next email from ol Max Baucus, telling me what a great guy he is and asking for money. SOMEBODY is gonna get an earful.
Now the rest of America, have some milk, maybe a couple cookies, and settle the fuck down. NOW! Don't make me come in there.Dogammit, people, settle down. Just settle down. ::sigh:: I knew it wasn't a... more
3 April 2012 Last updated at 18:46
Self-sculpting sand robots are under development at MIT
Test "smart pebbles" The MIT team have built test modules with microprocessors and magnets to prove their theory
Tiny robots that can join together to form functional tools and then split apart again after use might be ready for market in little more than a decade, according to researchers.
A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says it has developed about 30 prototype "smart pebbles" and the software to run them.
The sides of each cube are 1cm (0.4 inches) in length.
Efforts are now focused on creating smaller models.
The researchers from the university's Distributed Robotics Laboratory liken the ultimate product they are trying to develop to "self-sculpting sand".
"We want to have a bag of this material that can form any shape you demand," PhD student Kyle Gilpin told the BBC.
"So if you are in an isolated situation and you need a certain tool, you can tell that to the bag by making a miniaturised model of the tool, drop it into the bag, shake it around - and what you would end up with inside would be a magnified copy of the tool which is usable."
The test cubes have electropermanent magnets embedded into their sides to allow them to stick together. The magnetic effect can be switched on and off and does not require an electric current to remain active.
The cubes also contain a microprocessor to work out which of the magnets should be activated and when.
Each processor can currently store 32 kilobytes of code and has only two kilobytes of working memory - so the algorithm powering the process had to be kept simple.
The solution was to use a "subtractive" method - removing modules rather than adding them.
The first step works out what the original object looks like by covering it with the "pebbles".
"The idea is that they sense the border of the original shape - if a module detects it doesn't have a neighbour, it assumes it may be on the border of the shape," Mr Gilpin explained.
The cubes then message the shape of the original object to other "pebbles" a fixed distance away. These then define themselves as the perimeter of the duplicate object. If the replicated object is supposed to be five times the size of the original, then each square surrounding the object will map onto five cubes making up the reproduced perimeter.
Inside one of the "smart pebbles" The cubes communicate and share power using "electropermanent magnets" stuck to their sides
All the cubes inside the duplicated border then recognise themselves to be part of the newly created tool.
"Once all those modules within the border have been notified and have confirmed their status, then we start the disassembly process," added Mr Gilpin.
"All the other bonds which are not crucial to the duplicate shape are broken, while the bonds between the modules in the shape are left intact - and so you are left with just the recreated shape when the process ends."
'A decade away'
Mr Gilpin admits a lot more work needs to be done, but he has an ambitious targets.
"It's not something that's going to happen in two years or necessarily five years," he said.
"But in 10 years you might see a product on the market that starts to rival traditional manufacturing approaches. I think we might all be surprised at how quickly this advances once people really start looking at the technology."
More details of the project will be presented to the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in St Paul, Minnesota next month.3 April 2012 Last updated at 18:46 Self-sculpting sand robots are under development... more
The second of five lectures from 1961 - "What A Piece Of Work Is Man?"
MIT engineer warns of nuclear Armageddon, urges preventative measures?
There are nearly 450 nuclear reactors in the world, with hundreds more either under construction or in the planning stages. Imagine what havoc it would wreak on our civilization, and the planet's ecosystems, if we were to suddenly experience not just one or two nuclear meltdowns, but 400. In this article, you will come to understand that unless we take significant preventative measures, this Apocalyptic scenario is not only possible, but probable.MIT engineer warns of nuclear Armageddon, urges preventative measures? There are... more
Los Angeles Times...
John McCarthy dies at 84; the father of artificial intelligence
The mathematician, a longtime professor at Stanford, played a seminal role in defining the field devoted to the development of intelligent machines.
PHOTO: Artificial intelligence pioneer John McCarthy in 1966, when he and his students programmed a computer to play chess with a computer in Russia.
(Chuck Painter / Stanford News Service)
By Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times
October 27, 2011
In the mid-1950s mathematician John McCarthy issued a call for research on "Automata Studies," but the phrase was so bland that few people understood what he meant. So he came up with a more provocative description of the idea he was promoting.
He called it artificial intelligence.
McCarthy, who died at his home in Stanford on Monday at 84, became known as the father of artificial intelligence for his seminal role in defining the field devoted to the development of intelligent machines.
The cause of death was believed to be a heart attack, said his daughter, Susan.
McCarthy, a Stanford University emeritus professor of computer science, also created Lisp, the standard programming language used not only in robotics and other scientific applications but in a multitude of Internet-based services, from credit-card fraud detection to airline scheduling. McCarthy used Lisp to invent one of the earliest computer chess programs.
"He was always focused on the future. Always inventing, inventing, inventing," said Ed Feigenbaum, a Stanford emeritus professor of computer science recruited by McCarthy in the 1960s.
Another major McCarthy innovation was an early system of computer time-sharing or networking, which allowed many people to share data by linking to a central computer.
"The Internet would not have happened nearly as soon as it did except for the fact that John initiated the development of time-sharing systems," said Lester Earnest, a retired Stanford senior research scientist who designed the first computer spell-checker. "We keep inventing new names for time-sharing. It came to be called servers.… Now we call it cloud computing. That is still just time-sharing. John started it."
McCarthy was a young assistant professor at Dartmouth College when he organized the world's first artificial intelligence conference. The objective was to explore ways to make a machine that could reason like a human, capable of abstract thought, problem-solving and self-improvement.
The scientists drawn to the conference would, he wrote, "proceed on the basis of the conjecture that every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it."
McCarthy had no idea at the time how difficult the challenge was. Designing a computer with the intelligence and common sense of a human remains an elusive goal and, according to many leading theorists, an impossible one. Despite the technological leaps forward of the last few decades, computers still cannot perform some mental tasks easily accomplished by a 5-year-old, such as recognizing that a string can pull an object but not push it.
Asked, as he frequently was, when the breakthrough might come, he said "five to 500 years," but he never said never.
McCarthy showed genius at a young age. Born in Boston to Irish and Lithuanian immigrants on Sept. 4, 1927, he was a sickly child and started school a year late but still managed to skip several grades. After his family moved to Los Angeles for his health, he taught himself college calculus and graduated from Belmont High School two years early. He entered Caltech in 1944.
According to the 2002 book "Arguing A.I.: The Battle for 21st Century Science" by Sam Williams, McCarthy was expelled from Caltech for failing to attend physical education classes. He served in the Army before returning to Caltech and earning his undergraduate degree in mathematics in 1948.
At Caltech he heard Princeton University mathematician John von Neumann give a speech about machines that can create copies of themselves. The notion fascinated McCarthy, who wound up receiving his doctorate in mathematics from Princeton in 1951.
He taught briefly at Princeton and Stanford before accepting a job at Dartmouth. The chief accomplishment of his artificial intelligence conference there in the summer of 1956 was to focus the energies of a few key researchers, including Marvin Minsky, who became one of the leading theorists of artificial intelligence.
McCarthy won a fellowship to MIT for the 1956-57 academic year. Minsky, who was then at Harvard, soon joined him at MIT. In 1959 they co-founded the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
In 1962 McCarthy moved to Stanford, where he founded its artificial intelligence lab in 1965 and received the A.M. Turing Award, computer science's highest honor, in 1971. He retired from Stanford in 1994 but continued to write and lecture, most recently on the feasibility of human interstellar travel.
In addition to daughter Susan of San Francisco, he is survived by his third wife, Carolyn Talcott, of Stanford; a daughter, Sarah McCarthy, of Nevada City, Calif.; a son, Timothy Talcott McCarthy, of Stanford; a brother, Patrick, of Los Angeles; and two grandchildren.
With an unruly shock of white hair, brushy brows and a goatee, McCarthy was a distinctive presence on the Stanford campus. He also was notoriously brusque.
"He didn't like to deal with stuff that wasn't interesting," Earnest, his former colleague, said.
In 1966 McCarthy and his students programmed a computer to play chess with a computer in Russia in a series of highly publicized games. McCarthy's team lost two matches and drew two.
During the match, reporters descended on McCarthy in his office and began asking questions.
"He answered some of them," Earnest recalled. "Most of them were pretty silly questions. John started pacing back and forth. I could tell what was going to happen. He went out the door."
.Los Angeles Times... . John McCarthy dies at 84; the father of artificial... more
Los Angeles Times...
The space shuttle's Southland legacy
The space shuttle program helped carry Southern California's aerospace industry for four decades, bequeathing new aeronautical technology — and jobs — to the local economy.
By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
July 5, 2011
Bob Kahl slips in through a side door of the vast, abandoned hangar and looks at what's left of the assembly plant where he worked for nearly 40 years.
He remembers the hum of power tools, the biting aroma of cutting oil, swarms of workers plugging away on a labyrinth of yellow scaffolding. All that's left is a few piles of broken concrete and a sea of colorless dust that coats a Palmdale factory floor the size of two football fields.
"Welcome to the birthplace of America's space shuttle fleet," said Kahl, 60, smiling. "I never really thought it could come to this."
Photos: The shuttle's legacy in Southern California
Amid the odes to a shuttle program that ends with the last mission of the last shuttle, Atlantis, scheduled for liftoff Friday, is an awareness that the space plane helped carry Southern California's aerospace industry for four decades. It staved off decline after the end of the moon landings, bequeathing new generations of aeronautical technology — and jobs — to the regional economy.
"Building the space shuttle fleet enabled a historic chapter in NASA's space program," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former shuttle commander. "Southern California has a strong place in shuttle history as a key site where the spacecraft were built and often landed."
Constructing the shuttle fleet was testament to how advanced Southern California's aerospace engineering and labor workforce had become by the 1970s — and assured that the vast assemblage of brainpower and engineering know-how would not be lost in the Southland.
The history of the shuttle program may be linked forever to the flights of Challenger and Columbia, its two deadly tragedies. But the shuttle era will also be remembered for advancing technology, including reusable rocket engines and computerized guidance systems, that changed manned flight.
The shuttle is considered the world's most advanced flying machine because it blasted into space like a rocket, behaved in orbit like a floating laboratory, buzzed to and from the International Space Station with astronauts and supplies, and landed back on a runway like an airplane.
Before the shuttle, astronauts reached space by squeezing into a small capsule launched atop a massive rocket. By the time the shuttle was in design, the space program was looking for ways to keep as many as seven astronauts in orbit for weeks at a time in relative comfort.
To do this, scientists and engineers had to rethink nearly every aspect of the endeavor, notably flight controls, rocket engines and protection from searing heat generated by reentry.
"The shuttle was unlike anything that preceded it, so there were always new questions to answer," said Dwight Woolhouse, a shuttle engineer from the beginning of the program to this day.
The shuttle — large and aerodynamically unstable — needed sophisticated computer controls to guide the flight. The system, known as "fly by wire," is common on today's aircraft, but it was a rarity in flying machines in the 1970s. Engineers in Downey developed the computer-aided autopilot flight controls similar to today's systems that allow mammoth Boeing 747 jumbo jets to almost fly themselves.
.Los Angeles Times... The space shuttle's Southland legacy The space... more
Called the Father Of Modern Economics - a Meet The Press Interview with Dr. Paul A. Samuelson in 1961.Called the Father Of Modern Economics - a Meet The Press Interview with Dr. Paul A.... more
An artificial leaf that can turn sunshine into electricity was showcased last week at a chemistry meeting.
Its inventors hope they have overcome a key obstacle to making a cheap technology that could provide the poor with energy using just sunshine and water as inputs.
Daniel Nocera, a chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, told a meeting that he has built a silicon 'leaf' that is about the size and shape of a playing card. It is coated on both sides with catalysts and needs to be immersed in water to work.
When the silicon absorbs the sunlight, it passes the energy to the catalysts which split the water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules. The resulting hydrogen molecules can be collected and either burned directly or converted to electricity via a fuel cell. In either case the byproduct is water, so the leaf has the potential to create a cheap, clean and readily available source of fuel.
"You literally walk outside, hold it up and it works," said Nocera, who presented his unpublished work at the biannual meeting of the American Chemical Society.
"It's spectacular", Robert Grubbs, a chemist at the California Institute of Technology, told Science.
Nocera, who is also a founder of a spinoff company, Sun Catalytix, said that he hopes to commercialise the technology within 2–3 years.
He is also joining forces with Ratan Tata, chair of Tata Group, an Indian conglomerate, in the hope of producing a refrigerator-sized power plant that can convert sunlight and water into electricity.An artificial leaf that can turn sunshine into electricity was showcased last week at... more
A practical artificial leaf that can turn sunlight and water into energy as efficiently as the real thing has long been a Holy Grail of chemistry, and researchers at MIT may have finally done it.A practical artificial leaf that can turn sunlight and water into energy as... more
Japan reactor core may be leaking radioactive material, official says
By the CNN Wire Staff
March 25, 2011 1:35 p.m. EDT
Click picture to play video
Japan nuclear core may be leaking
NEW: Japan nuclear agency: Screeners have examined 87,813 people for exposure
NEW: Work stops at two other reactors with high radiation levels in water, utility says
Discovery of contaminated water suggests nuclear core leak, Japan officials say
Three workers who stepped in the water were exposed to radiation
Tokyo (CNN) -- Authorities in Japan raised the prospect Friday of a likely breach in the all-important containment vessel of the No. 3 reactor at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a potentially ominous development in the race to prevent a large-scale release of radiation.
Contaminated water likely seeped through the containment vessel protecting the reactor's core, said Hidehiko Nishiyama of the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
Three employees working near the No. 3 reactor Thursday stepped into water that had 10,000 times the amount of radiation typical for a nuclear plant, Nishiyama said. An analysis of the contamination suggests "some sort of leakage" from the reactor core, signaling a possible break of the containment vessel that houses the core, he said.
The workers have been hospitalized and work inside the reactor building has been halted, according to the agency.
Work inside two other reactor buildings also had to stop and workers had to be pulled back Friday after the discovery of high levels of radiation in water at those locations, a Tokyo Electric Power Company official said Saturday. Water is still being pumped into the containment vessels, the utility official said.
Nuclear power experts cautioned against reading too much into the newest development, saying the workers exposed to radioactive water might not suffer injuries any more serious than a sunburn.
Moreover, evidence of radioactivity in the water around the plant is not necessarily surprising given the amount of water sprayed onto and pumped into the reactors, said Ian Hutchinson, professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts institute of Technology.
"I am not particularly alarmed," he said.
The reactor thought to be leaking contaminated water is the same one cited in the dramatic evacuation last week of a small crew of workers who had stayed behind after the plant's owner pulled most employees from the area. The workers were pulled back March 16 after white smoke began billowing from the reactor and radiation levels spiked.
At the time, the Japanese nuclear safety agency said it suspected damage to No. 3's containment vessel, but a government spokesman the next day said there had been no indication of a "major breach of containment."
That reactor is of particular concern, experts have said, because it is the only one at the plant to use a combination of uranium and plutonium fuel, called MOX, that is considered to be more dangerous than the pure uranium fuel used in other reactors.
Plant workers were also carefully watching the plant's No. 1 reactor, concerned that an increase in pressure noted inside that reactor could be a troublesome sign. Earlier, buildups of hydrogen gas had driven up pressure that led to explosions at three of the nuclear plant's reactors, including the No. 1 unit.
Nishiyama conceded that "controlling the temperature and pressure has been difficult" for that reactor, which on Friday had been declared stable.
The hospitalized employees were working to reconnect power to the No. 3 reactor building when they encountered water that was about 5 inches (15 centimeters) deep. Water rushed over the boots of two workers, who may have received what is called a "beta burn." The third worker had taller boots but was hospitalized as a precaution, according to Nishiyama.
The men were exposed to the water for 40 to 50 minutes, said Tokyo Electric, which owns the plant. The workers may have ignored alarms on devices intended to measure radiation levels, believing the readings to be wrong, said the International Atomic Energy Agency, citing Japanese authorities.
The two workers whose skin was exposed to the contaminated water had the highest levels of radiation recorded so far, the power company said.
One, in his 30s, was exposed to 180.7 millisieverts and the other, in his 20s, tested at 179.37 millisieverts.
Nishiyama said the third man -- who was exposed to 173 millisieverts but at first did not go to the hospital because his boots were high enough to prevent water from touching his skin -- has also gone to the same research hospital out of "an abundance of caution."
CONTINUED...Japan reactor core may be leaking radioactive material, official says By the CNN Wire... more
Mike Cahill hit pay dirt with his first feature film, Another Earth, a sci-fi story about an MIT student who discovers a planet previously hidden behind the sun.
The movie debuted Monday at the Sundance Film Festival and sparked a feeding frenzy among studios’ specialty divisions. Fox Searchlight bought Another Earth for an estimated $1.5 million to $2 million, according to Variety.
Cahill, a former National Geographic documentary maker, co-wrote the script with Brit Marling (pictured), who stars as the young astrophysicist who makes the startling discovery. Another Earth has an additional Sundance screening Thursday and is expected to be released theatrically later this year.
http://www.wired.com/underwire/2011/01/another-earth/Mike Cahill hit pay dirt with his first feature film, Another Earth, a sci-fi story... more
The New York Times
December 21, 2010
A Scientist, His Work and a Climate Reckoning
By JUSTIN GILLIS
MAUNA LOA OBSERVATORY, Hawaii — Two gray machines sit inside a pair of utilitarian buildings here, sniffing the fresh breezes that blow across thousands of miles of ocean.
They make no noise. But once an hour, they spit out a number, and for decades, it has been rising relentlessly.
The first machine of this type was installed on Mauna Loa in the 1950s at the behest of Charles David Keeling, a scientist from San Diego. His resulting discovery, of the increasing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, transformed the scientific understanding of humanity’s relationship with the earth. A graph of his findings is inscribed on a wall in Washington as one of the great achievements of modern science.
Yet, five years after Dr. Keeling’s death, his discovery is a focus not of celebration but of conflict. It has become the touchstone of a worldwide political debate over global warming.
When Dr. Keeling, as a young researcher, became the first person in the world to develop an accurate technique for measuring carbon dioxide in the air, the amount he discovered was 310 parts per million. That means every million pints of air, for example, contained 310 pints of carbon dioxide.
By 2005, the year he died, the number had risen to 380 parts per million. Sometime in the next few years it is expected to pass 400. Without stronger action to limit emissions, the number could pass 560 before the end of the century, double what it was before the Industrial Revolution.
The greatest question in climate science is: What will that do to the temperature of the earth?
Scientists have long known that carbon dioxide traps heat at the surface of the planet. They cite growing evidence that the inexorable rise of the gas is altering the climate in ways that threaten human welfare.
Fossil fuel emissions, they say, are like a runaway train, hurtling the world’s citizens toward a stone wall — a carbon dioxide level that, over time, will cause profound changes.
The risks include melting ice sheets, rising seas, more droughts and heat waves, more flash floods, worse storms, extinction of many plants and animals, depletion of sea life and — perhaps most important — difficulty in producing an adequate supply of food. Many of these changes are taking place at a modest level already, the scientists say, but are expected to intensify.
Reacting to such warnings, President George Bush committed the United States in 1992 to limiting its emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. Scores of other nations made the same pledge, in a treaty that was long on promises and short on specifics.
But in 1998, when it came time to commit to details in a document known as the Kyoto Protocol, Congress balked. Many countries did ratify the protocol, but it had only a limited effect, and the past decade has seen little additional progress in controlling emissions.
Many countries are reluctant to commit themselves to tough emission limits, fearing that doing so will hurt economic growth. International climate talks in Cancún, Mexico, this month ended with only modest progress. The Obama administration, which came into office pledging to limit emissions in the United States, scaled back its ambitions after climate and energy legislation died in the Senate this year.
Challengers have mounted a vigorous assault on the science of climate change. Polls indicate that the public has grown more doubtful about that science. Some of the Republicans who will take control of the House of Representatives in January have promised to subject climate researchers to a season of new scrutiny.
One of them is Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California. In a recent Congressional hearing on global warming, he said, “The CO2 levels in the atmosphere are rather undramatic.”
But most scientists trained in the physics of the atmosphere have a different reaction to the increase.
“I find it shocking,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the government monitoring program of which the Mauna Loa Observatory is a part. “We really are in a predicament here, and it’s getting worse every year.”
As the political debate drags on, the mute gray boxes atop Mauna Loa keep spitting out their numbers, providing a reality check: not only is the carbon dioxide level rising relentlessly, but the pace of that rise is accelerating over time.
“Nature doesn’t care how hard we tried,” Jeffrey D. Sachs, the Columbia University economist, said at a recent seminar. “Nature cares how high the parts per million mount. This is running away.”
CONTINUED…The New York Times December 21, 2010 A Scientist, His Work and a Climate Reckoning... more
Elections 2010 outcome:GOPers, Tea Partiers readying to further entrench, spread the williwas of Texas Red…….It’s not as if GOPers need a reason to rob the poor to give to the rich nor that Tea Partiers need a reason to cling to their guns and bibles or to demand smaller government and the right to be let alone. It is part of their DNA. Their respective predecessors were here in 1776 and probably in Europe and England before that.
Already we have “ Texas Red: a cratered landscape of prisons, deplorable apartheid public education, lack of healthcare and politicians and majority population intent on keeping it that way.”
http://www.examiner.com/bexar-county-elections-2010-in-san-antonio/elections-2010-outcome-gopers-tea-partiers-readying-to-further-entrench-spread-the-williwas-of-texIt’s not as if GOPers need a reason to rob the poor to give to the rich nor that... more
About one in eight humans do not have access to clean drinking water, according to the World Health Organization. That's approximately 884 million people.
The repercussion of this reality are a daily reality in developing nations: an estimated 1.4 million children perish each year due to diarrhea brought on by waterborne bacteria. In spite of breathtaking advances in human technology, over 97 percent of the world's water is still undrinkable.
This full-scale rendering may represent the future of clean water for those who have none.
And while salty or impure water can be cleaned through existing water desalination technologies, the facilities needed are massive and consume vast amounts of energy. It's costly, too: purifying sea water can cost "over $1,000 per acre-foot," according to the US Geological Survey. Even worse, of the roughly 12,500 desalination plants operating as of 2002, their combined total output was equal to less than 1 percent of humanity's daily water consumption.
All of these factors combine to effectively place clean water out of reach for most of the world's poor.
Enter the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Field and Space Robotics Laboratory, which has developed and successfully tested a portable, solar-powered water desalination system that has the potential to save millions of lives the world over.
Under the guidance of Profs. Steven Dubowsky and Richard Wiesman, the group created a small, reverse-osmosis system that's capable of producing up to 80 gallons of clean water per day. A scaled-up version of the system could produce up to 1,000 gallons per day, according to David Gabriel, writing for the Environmental News Network.
One of the military's C-130 cargo planes could theoretically carry up to 24 of these systems, Gabriel noted. With 24,000 gallons of clean water per day, that's enough to sustain a population of approximately 10,000.
"The system is designed to be cost effective," he explained. "It is made from standard parts such as PVC pipe and basic electronic components. It can be assembled and operated by local people who do not need advanced technical training. The units can also operate efficiently in a wide range of weather conditions. They have built in computers with sensors that can change certain variables if it gets cloudy. For example, the computer can adjust power going to the pump or the position of the valves to ensure the system will always produce water."
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/10/researchers-create-portable-solarpowered-water-desalination-system/About one in eight humans do not have access to clean drinking water, according to the... more
Using carbon nanotubes (hollow tubes of carbon atoms), MIT chemical engineers have found a way to concentrate solar energy 100 times more than a regular photovoltaic cell. Such nanotubes could form antennas that capture and focus light energy, potentially allowing much smaller and more powerful solar arrays.
"Instead of having your whole roof be a photovoltaic cell, you could have little spots that were tiny photovoltaic cells, with antennas that would drive photons into them," says Michael Strano, the Charles and Hilda Roddey Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and leader of the research team.
Strano and his students describe their new carbon nanotube antenna, or "solar funnel," in the Sept. 12 online edition of the journal Nature Materials. Lead authors of the paper are postdoctoral associate Jae-Hee Han and graduate student Geraldine Paulus.
Their new antennas might also be useful for any other application that requires light to be concentrated, such as night-vision goggles or telescopes.
Solar panels generate electricity by converting photons (packets of light energy) into an electric current. Strano's nanotube antenna boosts the number of photons that can be captured and transforms the light into energy that can be funneled into a solar cell.
The antenna consists of a fibrous rope about 10 micrometers (millionths of a meter) long and four micrometers thick, containing about 30 million carbon nanotubes. Strano's team built, for the first time, a fiber made of two layers of nanotubes with different electrical properties — specifically, different bandgaps.
In any material, electrons can exist at different energy levels. When a photon strikes the surface, it excites an electron to a higher energy level, which is specific to the material. The interaction between the energized electron and the hole it leaves behind is called an exciton, and the difference in energy levels between the hole and the electron is known as the bandgap.
The inner layer of the antenna contains nanotubes with a small bandgap, and nanotubes in the outer layer have a higher bandgap. That's important because excitons like to flow from high to low energy. In this case, that means the excitons in the outer layer flow to the inner layer, where they can exist in a lower (but still excited) energy state.
Therefore, when light energy strikes the material, all of the excitons flow to the center of the fiber, where they are concentrated. Strano and his team have not yet built a photovoltaic device using the antenna, but they plan to. In such a device, the antenna would concentrate photons before the photovoltaic cell converts them to an electrical current. This could be done by constructing the antenna around a core of semiconducting material.
While the cost of carbon nanotubes was once prohibitive, it has been coming down in recent years as chemical companies build up their manufacturing capacity. "At some point in the near future, carbon nanotubes will likely be sold for pennies per pound, as polymers are sold," says Strano. "With this cost, the addition to a solar cell might be negligible compared to the fabrication and raw material cost of the cell itself, just as coatings and polymer components are small parts of the cost of a photovoltaic cell."
Strano's team is now working on ways to minimize the energy lost as excitons flow through the fiber, and on ways to generate more than one exciton per photon. The nanotube bundles described in the Nature Materials paper lose about 13 percent of the energy they absorb, but the team is working on new antennas that would lose only 1 percent.Using carbon nanotubes (hollow tubes of carbon atoms), MIT chemical engineers have... more
We live in a strange world that lets us do just about anything on a phone, and now MIT researchers have developed a prototype Android app that lets users check their eyesight and create an eyeglasses prescription all on their own. There’s no need for an appointment, it’s cheaper than an eye exam and the whole process takes about three minutes.
Read more: http://www.whitespace.bz/ws/web/forms/pulse/PulseMainArticle.aspx?id=501We live in a strange world that lets us do just about anything on a phone, and now MIT... more