Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wonky or Watery...

Source: BBC link below

Mimas is the so-called "Death Star" moon because, well...go pull up some You Tube videos of Episode IV: "A New Hope" if you need to come up to speed.

I'm not so sure I'd use the term "wonky" in a sentence, but this is the BBC where all things Star Trek TNG is in endless syndication due to no doubt Sir Patrick Stewart.

I am sincerely hoping for water and a few microbes. That would be mankind's encounter with extraterrestrials that didn't involve ray guns or "live long and prosper" greetings.

Mimas is nicknamed the Death Star because it resembles the infamous Star Wars space station.

It has a tell-tale wobble that is twice as big as expected for a moon with a regular, solid structure.

The researchers offer two explanations: either it has a vast ocean beneath its surface, or a rocky core with a weird shape resembling a rugby ball.

The study appears in Science Magazine.

Its authors are astronomers in the US, France and Belgium, who based their calculations on high-resolution photos of Mimas snapped by the Cassini spacecraft.

BBC News: Death Star moon may be 'wonky or watery', Jonathan Webb

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Stretching Silicon...

Courtesy: M M Hussain
A new way to stretch single-crystal silicon (which is a rigid, brittle, material) to 10 times its original length without using a polymer support has been developed by researchers at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. The feat will be an important step towards making stretchable and foldable electronics and photovoltaics, as well as structures like “smart skin” for robotics applications and biomedical sensors.

Inorganic single-crystal silicon is the basic building block of around 90% of all modern technology but it is intrinsically brittle and rigid and so cannot be stretched without mounting it on a polymer support first. And even in this case, it can only be stretched to about 3.5 times its original length. This means that silicon can not easily be used in flexible electronics – an area that is becoming more and more important with the advent of the “Internet of Things”, wearable electronics and novel applications like electronic paper-like displays and artificial skin.

A team led by Muhammad Hussain has now succeeded in fabricating a single-crystal silicon network of hexagonal islands connected through spiral springs that can be stretched to 10 times its original length and 30 times its original surface area. The technique might be applied to other inorganic semiconductor-based electronic materials too, says Hussain.

Nanotech Web: Silicon Gets Stretched

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Back to Emmett Brown...

Source: Back to the Future Wikia

Marty: "Wait a minute, what are you doing, Doc?"
Doc: "I need fuel!"
— Marty and Doc while Doc refuels Mr. Fusion with garbage

Yes, I flashed back to the end of the first in the trilogy - I saw it with my cousin in Atlanta, Georgia just after graduation and commission in the US Air Force. It was 1985...I was young...I had hair...
Largely due to previous reports of cold fusion back in the late 80's and being a fan of the National Ignition Facility, I casually viewed this story with some a considerable distance.

However, Lockheed is not a fly-by-night outfit as aerospace defense contractor, and I doubt their reactor will use ordinary garbage. The claim that it could develop a portable "Mr. Fusion" if successful will address energy needs, potentially diffuse global tensions over resources and unfortunately, bring out the less than savory that will mount a clear defense against it in favor of the current fossil fuel/scarcity economy status quo. This is similar to the spirited defense Thomas Edison gave of direct current by showing the dangers of alternating current electrocuting elephants. Tesla: 1; Edison: 0, and we are all using alternating current with no deleterious effects. I sincerely hope it doesn't come to that inhumane extreme.

I will reserve some skepticism and guarded optimism: the division of Lockheed working on this is "Skunk Works." It has a registered trademark, so I don't think it's a Nerd prank, just a PR faux pas. Link below; stay tuned... Lockheed Martin pursues compact fusion reactor concept, Nancy Owano

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fear Bola and Duct Tape...

"Sell the fear": it was the instruction I received in a very uneventfully short career as a sales representative for an electronics security firm. Part of the memorized script I recited that entailed sharing horrid crime stats to wearied prospective buyers was "how did that make you feel?" It was of course, supposed to make you feel afraid, very afraid...for your lives and reaching for your checkbooks. At an appointment scheduled through the office, before I could launch into my memorized banter, the woman said: "I was just burglarized last night." Undoubtedly, the fastest sale I ever had. She knew exactly how she felt: violated, angry and afraid.

It is interesting then, that this definition is put forth. All the networks do this: posing simultaneously as the voice of reason and prophets of doom. It looks for answers while promoting doubt post "X-Files" that the "truth is out there." It makes a rational discussion and discourse almost impossible to attain.

This fear is unfortunately the byproduct of 9-11, reminiscent of the fear of Anthrax attacks that spurred the prodigious purchases of duct tape (I'm sure like manufacturers appreciated the bump in sales). Currently, a mint is being made in HAZMAT suits and other emergency supplies, just in time for Halloween. The governors of Illinois, New Jersey and New York are now competing in the silly season on which can suspend the Civil Rights of medical professionals the fastest, NJ and NY's main men potential presidential candidates in 2016, but I'm sure that has nothing to do with it. Both have used the now bipartisan, feckless dodge "I'm not a scientist" to defend inaction on climate change and fracking (NJ's chief executive selective ignorance notable after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and his previous complaints of congressional inaction).

The danger of these draconian measures will be eventually discouraging military and medical professionals from doing what we did after 9-11 (paraphrase): "fighting terrorists/Ebola over there before they/it comes over here." What nurse or doctor will WANT to volunteer for hazardous duty when instead of a hero's welcome, they get thrown in a gulag? Kaci Hickox has tested negative, NEGATIVE for Ebola 2X! The protocol for self monitoring has worked successfully since developed for dozens of volunteers that have come to our shores after duty since 1976, when the virus was first reported on the continent of Africa. Nina Pham (RN), Amber Vinson (RN) both of Texas Presbyterian and Doctor Craig Spencer are medical professionals that knew these protocols and reacted to them swiftly. Could they be tightened? I'm for lowering the standard of the 103 degree temperature to any low-grade fever when you've deployed to an affected area along with the self-monitoring/isolation and reporting to medical authorities when anything changes. Ms. Vinson was diagnosed with a low-grade fever of 99.5 degrees after travel, and not infectious (a TV host in New York got explicitly graphic on the unlikelihood of casual infection). It does appear catching the infection prior to any forthcoming vaccine early is the key to survival.

The problem with this lack of appreciation for STEM fields, atomizing humanity to islands of xenophobia in our Solar System's outer asteroid belt (a mythical "over there" that will magically not affect us); tying the hands and feet that must combat Ebola [actually] "over there" that will tragically affect us, the inevitable outcome is the very thing no one wants: a modern plague, first in Europe then in America. We will fair better as currently not being torn asunder by Civil War (imagine the impact if this struck us during our actual Civil War). As a nation, we seem determined to do the stupid, and swiftly.

Friday, October 24, 2014


I'll be here till Sunday. In light of the 1st case of Ebola in NY, I have a post I was preparing called "Fear Bola and Duct Tape." The short answer is: I'm not at all worried. Click on yesterday's link, specifically the link in the article for R0.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Apps and Ebola...

Technology Review
Perhaps the sanest proposal I've heard so far, using technology to get people to the necessary treatment, track patients accurately; contain and control a pathogen before its R0 of 2 out of apathy based on xenophobia and tribalism grows exponentially to Bubonic proportions. With this country's current disastrous love affair with austerity, I'm not talking about the ubiquitous "there"...

"We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology." Carl Sagan.

Nigeria is Ebola is Senegal, largely due to both countries having enough infrastructure and concerted effort to combat it, proving it can be contained and conquered. Thomas Eric Duncan has died, and two nurses that worked his case have been affected and are receiving the best treatment available. But, we've been exquisitely conditioned via initially pamphlets, chat rooms, talk radio and the Internet to not trust the government or technology - the moon landing never happened; a stateless cabal rigs every election to their desired outcome, not voter apathy, suppression-cum-"integrity" or Supreme Court judicial activism; "jack-booted thugs" will come, in black helicopters to intern us all in FEMA camps taking our guns and freedoms. The wondrous beauty of most conspiracy theories is they never have to be proven, and actual plots can be conveniently ignored.

In this election season especially, fear must be sold from those with no other plan than to just be afraid; Nigeria and Senegal's good news you'd never have known.

TECHNOLOGY REVIEW: Back in July, Cedric Moro started a crowdsourced mapping service to keep track of the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Moro is a risk consultant who has created several crowdsourced maps of this kind using the openStreetMap project Umap.

Anyone can enter information about suspected or confirmed Ebola cases while hospitals and other health facilities can tell people whether they are open and functioning and how many spare beds they have.

The site tracks other information to such as unsafe burials, hostility towards health workers and links to information about the disease. It even tracks the movement of infected individuals to see how the disease spreads.

Moro’s work has been hugely important in helping to link potential victims with appropriate healthcare facilities and giving a broader overview of the tragedy as it unfolds.

But it also has an important limitation. Anyone hoping to contribute must have access to a computer or smartphone to upload their information. That means the system is accessible only to a relatively small portion of the population.

Today, Mohamad Trad from Doctors Without Borders in Paris, France, and a couple of pals outline plans to build on Moro’s approach and make this kind of information available purely through ordinary mobile phones. “We propose building a recommendation system based on simple SMS text messaging to help Ebola patients readily find the closest health service with available and appropriate resources,” they say.


We propose to utilize mobile phone technology as a vehicle for people to report their symptoms and to receive immediate feedback about the health services readily available, and for predicting spatial disease outbreak risk. Once symptoms are extracted from the patients text message, they undergo complex classification, pattern matching and prediction to recommend the nearest suitable health service. The added benefit of this approach is that it enables health care facilities to anticipate arrival of new potential Ebola cases.

Guiding Ebola Patients to Suitable Health Facilities: An SMS-based Approach

Mohamad Trad, Raja Jurdak, Rajib Rana

Related link:
World Science Festival: Everything You Need to Know About Ebola