August 21, 2008
The "holy grail of biofuels"
Gasoline produced from garbage, sewage, and manure is feasible with current technology. The Texas Engineering Experiment Station is on the ball with this one, and a production plant could be built within 18 months.
The advanced process is possibly the only integrated system that converts biomass directly to gasoline. Most other emerging processes convert the biomass into alcohol and then blend it with gasoline. The system is relatively inexpensive and focuses on using biomass waste streams and non-food energy crops rather than food products such as corn.
Additionally, the cost of such a conversion would lie between $1.70 and $2.00 per gallon excluding all government subsidies and tax credits. This cost range is dependent on the type and cost of feedstock as well as the size of the biorefinery. This would provide some much-needed relief for consumers when it comes to fueling their vehicles, whose current options are to pay more or drive less.
Not only is it possible in 2010, it also is cheaper than conventional gasoline.
Wow. It eliminates biological waste, is technologically feasible, and would cost less than conventional gasoline.
Texas. There is a lot of good to be said about a state that has no income tax, does not have burdensome taxes on business, encourages partnerships between academia and business, and facilitates the exploration of new technology.
Ya'll come on down! It's a big state -- we've got plenty of room.
Oh, and . . . gig 'em!
February 21, 2008
It was an unprecedented mission for the Navy, so extraordinary that the final go-ahead to launch the missile Wednesday was reserved for Defense Secretary Robert Gates rather than a military commander.
Cartwright estimated there was an 80 percent to 90 percent chance that the missile struck the most important target on the satellite - its fuel tank, containing 1,000 pounds of hydrazine, which Pentagon officials say could have posed a health hazard to humans if it had landed in a populated area.
Cartwright showed a brief video of the SM-3 missile launching from the USS Lake Erie at 10:26 p.m. EST, northwest of Hawaii, and of the missile's small "kill vehicle" - a non-explosive device at the tip - maneuvering into the path of the satellite and colliding spectacularly.
He said the satellite and the kill vehicle collided at a combined speed of 22,000 mph about 130 miles above Earth's surface.
Asked about the satisfaction felt among those in the military who had organized the shootdown on short notice by modifying missile software and other components, Cartwright smiled widely.
"Yes, this was uncharted territory. The technical degree of difficulty was significant here," Cartwright said. "You can imagine that at the point of intercept there were a few cheers that went up."
China seemed to be unhappy with our success. . .
The elaborate intercept may trigger worries from some international leaders, who could see it as a thinly disguised attempt to test an anti-satellite weapon - one that could take out other nations' orbiting communications and spy spacecraft.
Within hours of the reported success, China said it was on the alert for possible harmful fallout from the shootdown and urged Washington to promptly release data on the action.
"China is continuously following closely the possible harm caused by the U.S. action to outer space security and relevant countries," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at news conference in Beijing. "China requests the U.S. to fulfill its international obligations in real earnest and provide to the international community necessary information and relevant data in a timely and prompt way so that relevant countries can take precautions."
If China's unhappy, then it must have been an impressive achievement.
November 29, 2007
XP beats Vista
After a year and a Service Pack, Windows XP still outperforms Vista in benchmarking test.
Vista's first service pack, to be released early next year, is intended to boost the operating system's performance. However, when Vista with the Service Pack 1 (SP1) beta was put through benchmark testing by researchers at Florida-based software development company Devil Mountain Software, the improvement was not overwhelming, leaving the latest Windows iteration outshined by its predecessor.
Vista, both with and without SP1, performed notably slower than XP with SP3 in the test, taking over 80 seconds to complete the test, compared to the beta SP3-enhanced XP's 35 seconds.
I was almost to the point that I thought it was safe to go to Vista, but I think I'll stick with XP for now.
September 03, 2007
The latest in USAF UAV technology.
August 30, 2007
Popular Science has an article up describing a agile prototype prosthetic arm. Here's how it begins:
More than 130 veterans of the Iraq war now face the daunting challenge of learning to live with a missing arm. To make that transition easier, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, has launched a $55-million project that pools the efforts of prosthetics experts nationwide to create a thought-controlled bionic arm that duplicates the functions of a natural limb. If all goes well, by 2009 the agency will petition the Food and Drug Administration to put the arm through clinical trials. This summer the team hit a critical milestone when it finished Proto 2, a thought-controlled mechanical arm—complete with hand and articulated fingers—that can perform 25 joint motions. This dexterity approaches that of a native arm, which can make 30 motions, and trumps the previously most agile bionic arm, the Proto 1, which could bend at the elbow, rotate its wrist and shoulder, and open and close its fingers. A person wearing a Proto 2 could conceivably play the piano.
August 27, 2007
Building a beer brewing machine
Popular Science provides us with the information needed to build the ultimate all-in-one beer brewing machine.
What if there were a machine—a beautiful shiny machine—and all it did, with almost no work from you, was make you beer? Such was the dream that drove PopSci staff photographer John Carnett to spend weeks building what he simply refers to as the Device: a stainless-steel two-cart brewing system that starts by boiling extract—concentrated wort, or pre-fermented beer—and ends with a chilled pint.
For all you home hobbyist beer drinkers . . .
July 24, 2007
Painted-on solar cells
A group at the New Jersey Institute of Technology is developing an organic solar cell.
The science goes something like this. When sunlight falls on an organic solar cell, the energy generates positive and negative charges. If the charges can be separated and sent to different electrodes, then a current flows. If not, the energy is wasted. Link cells electronically and the cells form what is called a panel, like the ones currently seen on most rooftops. The size of both the cell and panels vary. Cells can range from 1 millimeter to several feet; panels have no size limits.
The solar cell developed at NJIT uses a carbon nanotubes complex, which by the way, is a molecular configuration of carbon in a cylindrical shape. The name is derived from the tube's miniscule size. Scientists estimate nanotubes to be 50,000 times smaller than a human hair. Nevertheless, just one nanotube can conduct current better than any conventional electrical wire. "Actually, nanotubes are significantly better conductors than copper," Mitra added.
Mitra and his research team took the carbon nanotubes and combined them with tiny carbon Buckyballs (known as fullerenes) to form snake-like structures. Buckyballs trap electrons, although they can't make electrons flow. Add sunlight to excite the polymers, and the buckyballs will grab the electrons. Nanotubes, behaving like copper wires, will then be able to make the electrons or current flow.
I liked this quote:
"Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers. Consumers can then slap the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power stations."
July 19, 2007
A new development for an old technology: exploding metals.
At press time, Pennsylvania-based DE Technologies said it was weeks away from demonstrating a defensive warhead that can detonate near an incoming grenade, mortar round or missile, spraying it with explosive RM shrapnel. Part of the Army's Active Protection System program, the warhead will detonate threats at a safe distance, while possibly limiting the risk of friendly fire. (Unlike steel shrapnel, RM shards can be made to burn out quickly.)
June 19, 2007
HDTV: fact vs. fiction
Popular Mechanics has a good article about the basics of High Definition Television.
It's the 10-step plan for those who need to know more about the subject.
High-definition television (HDTV) has evolved from an early-adopter indulgence to a mainstream technology in less than a decade. Enthusiasm for HD everything is driving the sales of flat-panel TVs and has inspired a next-gen DVD format war. It’s showing up in camcorders and on your local TV news.
Yet HDTV remains a widely misunderstood technology, muddled with misconceptions and half-truths born of marketing mumbo jumbo and senseless jargon. The advertised specifications read like bewildering mathematical equations with “variables” such as 1080i, 720p, 4:3, 1080p and 16:9. To clear the air of confusion we’ve examined some of the most wrongheaded bits of received wisdom in the world of HD.
It makes for good reading . . .
December 20, 2006
Marines from space
Popular Science has an article outlining a Marine proposal for a Small Unit Space Transport And INsertion (SUSTAIN) capability that would couple the Marine's mission to a suborbital transport in order to deliver US Marines to any location on Earth within two hours.
As any battlefield commander will tell you, getting troops to the fight can be as difficult as winning it. And for modern-day soldiers, the sites of conflict are so far-flung, and the political considerations of even flying over another country so complicated, that rapid entry has become nearly impossible. If a group of Marine Corps visionaries have their way, however, 30 years from now, Marines could touch down anywhere on the globe in less than two hours, without needing to negotiate passage through foreign airspace. The breathtaking efficiency of such a delivery system could change forever the way the U.S. does battle.
November 08, 2006
Be aware of the potential danger in utilizing this normally splendid resource:
Wikipedia allows anyone to create and modify articles, a policy of openness which has often been abused by mischief-makers in the past. Taking advantage of this fact, an article on the German edition of Wikipedia, de.wikipedia.org, was created by hackers claiming to include a link to a fix for a supposedly new version of the Blaster worm. However, the 'fix' was actually a piece of malicious code, designed to infect visitors' PCs.
May 25, 2006
Is your next vote secure?
My brother, Matt, over at Caffeinated, has a post about an alarming vulnerability in Diebold's voting machines.
Go check it out.
April 05, 2006
A workable alternative
to Kyoto, is called the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate Change (AP6).
The AP6 was announced last summer and includes China, India, South Korea, Japan, Australia, and the United States. The goal of the AP6 is to address climate change by focusing on creating and deploying technologies that emit less greenhouse gas such as carbon dioxide.
. . . the AP6 members aim to use technological innovation and cooperation to improve their energy security, reduce air pollution, and address climate change.
What an innovative approach, eh? Go read the rest.
March 20, 2006
You gotta admire this new multiple grenade launcher that has recently come out for our troops.
The M-32 MGL looks like something straight out of an action movie or a weapon ginned up by designers of futuristic video combat games. Itâ€™s a bare-bones, shoulder-fired weapon with a bulging six-barreled cylinder. Thereâ€™s no bones about it. This thingâ€™s all business when the trade is knocking out bad-guys at a distance.
â€śYou can put six rounds on target in under three seconds."
[Hat tip to Annika.]
February 17, 2006
Space elevator music
How about the research going on to build a space elevator?
A slim cable for a space elevator has been built stretching a mile into the sky, enabling robots to scrabble some way up and down the line.
LiftPort Group, a private US company on a quest to build a space elevator by April 2018, stretched the strong carbon ribbon 1 mile (1.6 km) into the sky from the Arizona desert outside Phoenix in January tests, it announced on Monday.
The company's lofty objective will sound familiar to followers of NASA's Centennial Challenges programme. The desired outcome is a 62,000-mile (99,779 km) tether that robotic lifters â€“ powered by laser beams from Earth â€“ can climb, ferrying cargo, satellites and eventually people into space.
The recent test followed a September 2005 demonstration in which LiftPort's robots climbed 300 metres of ribbon tethered to the Earth and pulled taut by a large balloon. This time around, the company tested an improved cable pulled aloft by three balloons.
This definitely has a very high geekiness quotient!
January 04, 2006
Mars rovers like the Energizer bunny
Death-Defying Mars Rovers Keep Surprising Scientists
Updated 8:14 PM ET January 3, 2006
Just getting the Spirit rover to Mars was an accomplishment for NASA to celebrate.
Two years ago today, the little robot landed on Mars wrapped in a pyramid of air bags. And three weeks later, the rover Opportunity landed the same way, intact and ready to go to work. The two rovers were supposed to last for 90 days each.
At the time, scientists believed, if they were lucky, the rovers would go for 120 Martian days, which are 40 hours longer than Earth days. But then the rovers lasted for 180 days, then 360, then 500. No one quite knows when these days will end.
"Every day is like a brand new mission to us, because the rovers move," said John Callas, science manager for the project. "And so we are in different locations, there is different terrain, there is different geology, there is something new to explore. We're like Lewis and Clark going upriver and every day there's new phenomena to see."
Spirit and Opportunity still send back valuable information about Mars to Earth. "Some of our most significant discoveries came well after the initial 90-day prime mission," Callas said.
The rovers have discovered there was once water on Mars, as their cameras captured ripple-like marks left by water flowing over rocks. They also found simple salt, which is a residue of water.
The rovers have had their problems; bad wheels, failed motors, worn parts and Martian dust that covered their solar collectors. Spirit wore out its diamond drill bit. Opportunity had a bad shoulder joint and last spring spent a month trapped in sand.
They have also had some good luck. Unexpected Martian winds have repeatedly dusted off the solar collectors, giving both rovers more power and longer life.
These amazing little machines survive in a harsh climate. Temperatures can swing in one day from the melting point of ice to 150 degrees below zero.
Callas said there is no way for scientists to know exactly how long the rovers will last. "Something could just break and that will be it for the rover. There could be one day when the rover has a massive stroke and it will be over."
Talk about geeky goodness! A success story that NASA needs to keep trumpeting. This is what NASA is best at -- low (relatively) budget unmanned exploration missions.
December 12, 2005
November 18, 2005
Former military intel officer Bill Tierney talks about his experiences as an UNSCOM inspector and counter-infiltration officer in Iraq.
What he has to say is pretty scary. Where did the WMDs go, anyway?
September 30, 2005
Here is a neat article about a small step toward someday building a space elevator in order to more economically move people and materials to and from Earth orbit.
LiftPort Group Inc., of Bremerton, Wash., has successfully tested a robot climber â€” a novel piece of hardware that reeled itself up and down a lengthy ribbon dangling from a high-altitude balloon.
The test run, conducted earlier this week, is seen as a precursor experiment intended to flight validate equipment and methods to construct a space elevator. This visionary concept would make use of an ultra-strong carbon nanotube composite ribbon stretching up to 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) from Earth into space.
This really appeals to my geeky side!
[Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.]