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The Elegant Universe

In Einstein’s day, the strong and weak forces had not yet been discovered, but he found the existence of even two distinct forces—gravity and electromagnetism—deeply troubling. Einstein did not accept that nature is founded on such an extravagant design. This launched his 30-year voyage in search of the so-called unified field theory that he hoped would show that these two forces are really manifestations of one grand underlying principle. This quixotic quest isolated Einstein from the mainstream of physics, which, understandably, was far more excited about delving into the newly emerging framework of quantum mechanics. He wrote to a friend in the early 1940s, “I have become a lonely old chap who is mainly known because he doesn’t wear socks and who is exhibited as a curiosity on special occasions.”

Einstein was simply ahead of his time. More than half a century later, his dream of a unified theory has become the Holy Grail of modern physics. And a sizeable part of the physics and mathematics community is becoming increasingly convinced that string theory may provide the answer. From one principle—that everything at its most microscopic level consists of combinations of vibrating strands—string theory provides a single explanatory framework capable of encompassing all forces and all matter.

String theory proclaims, for instance, that the observed particle properties—that is, the different masses and other properties of both the fundamental particles and the force particles associated with the four forces of nature (the strong and weak nuclear forces, electromagnetism, and gravity)—are a reflection of the various ways in which a string can vibrate. Just as the strings on a violin or on a piano have resonant frequencies at which they prefer to vibrate—patterns that our ears sense as various musical notes and their higher harmonics—the same holds true for the loops of string theory. But rather than producing musical notes, each of the preferred mass and force charges are determined by the string’s oscillatory pattern. The electron is a string vibrating one way, the up-quark is a string vibrating another way, and so on.

Far from being a collection of chaotic experimental facts, particle properties in string theory are the manifestation of one and the same physical feature: the resonant patterns of vibration—the music, so to speak—of fundamental loops of string. The same idea applies to the forces of nature as well. Force particles are also associated with particular patterns of string vibration and hence everything, all matter and all forces, is unified under the same rubric of microscopic string oscillations—the “notes” that strings can play.

read more – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/everything.html

Car Leaf

SAIC’s latest concept car, the Leaf, will debut at the Beijing Auto Show complete with an odd Leaf for a roof. However strange it may be, the Leaf’s foliage derived roof actually serves a useful purpose with it being able to give of O2 (i.e. Oxygen) instead of Co2 as with a regular automobile.

According to Chinacartimes.com site the leafy roof is also a solar panel which will be able to produce and store electricity, and further more it will be able to move into position to gain the best sun light coverage.

The wheels of the Leaf are very much like the spinners on terrible gang banger cars, they turn with the wind as the car goes forward to develop electricity, giving the Leaf yet another power source.

Whilst the Leaf does have some radical ideas for its power source, its highly unlikely that the Leaf will be put into production.

The cause of the dinosaurs extinction

It’s reported that the new study, conducted by scientists from Europe, the United States, Mexico, Canada and Japan and published in the journal Science, found that a 15-kilometre (9 miles) wide asteroid slamming into Earth at Chicxulub in what is now Mexico was the culprit.

“We now have great confidence that an asteroid was the cause of the KT extinction. This triggered large-scale fires, earthquakes measuring more than 10 on the Richter scale, and continental landslides, which created tsunamis,” said Joanna Morgan of Imperial College London, a co-author of the review.

Tank gets cooler and cleaner

According to RSC.org scientists have improved the performance of ammonia borane as a hydrogen storage material – making it more practical for a fuel tank in hydrogen-powered vehicles. The material was enhanced by the addition of catalytic nanoparticles to the structure, allowing it to release hydrogen more cleanly and at lower temperatures.

Finding ways to store hydrogen to run next-generation fuel cell vehicles is a challenge, since traditional metal canisters filled with compressed or liquefied hydrogen gas are heavy, bulky and expensive. A better solution is to use a solid material, and the most promising candidate for this is ammonia borane (NH3BH3) – a waxy solid consisting largely of hydrogen.

However, there are drawbacks to using this material. Releasing the hydrogen can be tricky, usually requiring heating at over 100°C, which is too hot for polymer-based fuel cells to operate. In addition, the material is prone to become unstable – expanding rapidly or turning into foam – and released hydrogen can be poisoned by other gases released from the heated material.

Now, Ping Chen and colleagues at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, in Dalian, China, have modified the structure of ammonia borane to eliminate these problems. ‘By introducing nanoparticles of cobalt and nickel catalysts into the structure we can hold nearly 6 per cent by weight of hydrogen at a temperature as low as 59°C – with no byproduct and sample foaming,’ Chen told Chemistry World.

via http://www.rsc.org/

Water On the Moon

Experts have long suspected there was water on the moon. Confirmation came from data churned up by two Nasa spacecraft that intentionally slammed into a lunar crater last month.

“Indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn’t find just a little bit. We found a significant amount,” said Anthony Colaprete, the principal investigator for Nasa’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, holding up a white water bucket for emphasis.

The lunar crash kicked up at least 95 liters (25 gallons) and that’s only what scientists could see from the plumes of the impact, Colaprete said.

Some space policy experts say that makes the moon attractive for exploration again. Having an abundance of water would make it easier to set up a base camp for astronauts, supplying drinking water and a key ingredient for rocket fuel.

Scientists also hope that the water, in the form of ice accumulated over billions of years, holds a record of the solar system’s history.

The satellite, known as Lcross (pronounced L-cross), crashed into a crater near the Moon’s south pole a month ago. The 9,000-kilometers-per-hour impact carved out a hole 20 to 30 meters wide and kicked up the liters of water in the forms of ice and vapor.

The water findings came through an analysis of the slight shifts in color after the impact, showing telltale signs of water molecules that had absorbed specific wavelengths of light. “We got good fits,” Colaprete said. “It was a unique fit.”

For more than a decade, planetary scientists have seen tantalizing hints of water ice at the bottom of these cold craters where the sun never shines. The Lcross mission, intended to look specifically for water, was made up of two pieces—an empty rocket stage to slam into the floor of Cabeus, a crater about 70 km wide and 3 km deep, and a small spacecraft to measure what was kicked up. In the event, the small craft also hit the surface.

“It’s very exciting, it is painting a new image of the moon,” said Gregory Deloy, from the University of California, hailing it as “an extraordinary discovery.”

He theorized that “one of the possible source of water is a comet.”

“We’re unlocking the mysteries of our nearest neighbor and, by extension, the solar system,” said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at Nasa headquarters in Washington.

via http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/

Earth-Type Planets

About 400 “extrasolar” planets orbiting nearby stars have been detected since 1995, starting with a discovery made by the same team, led by Switzerland’s Michel Mayor, of a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting the star 51 Pegasi, 50 light-years away. (One light-year is about 5.9 trillion miles.), usatoday.com reports.

“We are on the good track to detect (indirectly) Earth-type planets within the next five to 10 years,” Udry says. Using the European Southern Observatory’s 11.8-foot-wide telescope at Chile’s La Silla Observatory, the team detects planets by “radial velocity” measure, which reveals the gravitation wobbles induced on stars by their planets.

“Wow — 32 or so planets at once — that certainly is a record for the largest number of new planets announced at the same time,” says planetary scientist Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institute of Washington. “It really shows that the Europeans have taken the lead” in radial velocity planet hunting, he adds.

The team announced the newly discovered planets at a science meeting in Porto, Portugal. They range in size from 5.4 times more massive than Earth to 7.1 times heavier than Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, and their host stars ranged from about 30 to 150 light-years away. Two of the “Super-Earths” — thought to be rocky planets like Earth and not gas giants — orbit stars like our sun, and the other two orbit smaller “M” class stars, dimmer and redder than the sun.

So “we have yet to find firm evidence for a habitable, Earth-mass planet,” Boss says. But he says the Super-Earth detections suggest that upcoming planet hunts, including NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, should find “lots of Earths.”

Nano Technology and Space

According to ScienceDaily there is a new type of rocket propellant made of a frozen mixture of water and “nanoscale aluminum” powder that is more environmentally friendly than conventional propellants and could be manufactured on the moon, Mars and other water-bearing bodies.

The aluminum-ice, or ALICE, propellant might be used to launch rockets into orbit and for long-distance space missions and also to generate hydrogen for fuel cells, said Steven Son, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University.

Purdue is working with NASA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Pennsylvania State University to develop ALICE, which was used earlier this year to launch a 9-foot-tall rocket. The vehicle reached an altitude of 1,300 feet over Purdue’s Scholer farms, about 10 miles from campus.

“It’s a proof of concept,” Son said. “It could be improved and turned into a practical propellant. Theoretically, it also could be manufactured in distant places like the moon or Mars instead of being transported at high cost.”

“It is considered a green propellant, producing essentially hydrogen gas and aluminum oxide,” Pourpoint said. “In contrast, each space shuttle flight consumes about 773 tons of the oxidizer ammonium perchlorate in the solid booster rockets. About 230 tons of hydrochloric acid immediately appears in the exhaust from such flights.”

ALICE provides thrust through a chemical reaction between water and aluminum. As the aluminum ignites, water molecules provide oxygen and hydrogen to fuel the combustion until all of the powder is burned.

“ALICE might one day replace some liquid or solid propellants, and, when perfected, might have a higher performance than conventional propellants,” Pourpoint said. “It’s also extremely safe while frozen because it is difficult to accidentally ignite.”

The research is helping to train a new generation of engineers to work in academia, industry, for NASA and the military, Son said. More than a dozen undergraduate and graduate students have worked on the project.

“It’s unusual for students to get this kind of advanced and thorough training – to go from a basic-science concept all the way to a flying vehicle that is ground tested and launched,” he said. “This is the whole spectrum.”

Research findings were detailed in technical papers presented this summer during a conference of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The papers will be published next year in the conference proceedings.

Leading work at Penn State are mechanical engineering professor Richard Yetter and assistant professor Grant Risha.

The Purdue portion of the research is based at the university’s Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, where researchers created a special test cell and control room to test the rocket. The rocket’s launching site was located on a facility maintained by Purdue’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

“Having a launching site near campus greatly facilitated this project,” Pourpoint said.

Other researchers previously have used aluminum particles in propellants, but those propellants usually also contained larger, micron-size particles, whereas the new fuel contained pure nanoparticles.

Manufacturers over the past decade have learned how to make higher-quality nano-aluminum particles than was possible in the past. The fuel needs to be frozen for two reasons: It must be solid to remain intact while subjected to the forces of the launch and also to ensure that it does not slowly react before it is used.

Initially a paste, the fuel is packed into a cylindrical mold with a metal rod running through the center. After it’s frozen, the rod is removed, leaving a cavity running the length of the solid fuel cylinder. A small rocket engine above the fuel is ignited, sending hot gasses into the center hole, causing the ALICE fuel to ignite uniformly.

“This is essentially the same basic procedure used in the space shuttle’s two solid-fuel rocket boosters,” Son said. “An electric match ignites a small motor, which then ignites a bigger motor.”

Future work will focus on perfecting the fuel and also may explore the possibility of creating a gelled fuel using the nanoparticles. Such a gel would behave like a liquid fuel, making it possible to vary the rate at which the fuel is pumped into the combustion chamber to throttle the motor up and down and increase the vehicle’s distance.

A gelled fuel also could be mixed with materials containing larger amounts of hydrogen and then used to run hydrogen fuel cells in addition to rocket motors, Son said.

The Sun "Announced" Global Cataclysm

Canadian scientists reported about the sun intensive nuclear fusion. The researchers recorded the acceleration of fusion reaction of light nuclei into heavier nuclei, which occurs at ultra-high temperature and accompanied with a huge amounts of energy.
According to scientific concepts, the main source of energy of the sun and other stars is nuclear fusion reaction. In terrestrial conditions, this reaction carries out like the explosion of the hydrogen bomb. Such solar nuclear fusion links to the upcoming a new cycle of stars. Traditionally, the solar cycle lasts 11 years, As a result of increasing activity of the star, the energy generated by the Sun, will bring next few years the splash of global warming.
The last solar activity was recorded in 1998 and accompanied with unusual daily limit temperature.
By the way at the beginning of April this year, American scientists from American Academy of Sciences (NASA) figured out a hypothetical scenario entitled “Threats to Space Weather: social and economic consequences’, where researchers predicted that the “doomsday” will happen on Sept. 22, 2012.
On that day, the study’s authors believe, the sun will be occurred a series of heavy outbreaks. The consequence would be unheard of geomagnetic storms on the planet.
The alarm signal from the satellite observing the Sun has to come to the center of space research in Houston. At the disposal of mankind will be just a few minutes, the researchers said, but all efforts will be futile.
As they say, people will see lights, like the Arctic ones, but much brighter. As far as all power transformers will come down only in the U.S. in 90 seconds after the sun’s impact will be destroyed up 300 key transformers then more than 130 million people would be without electricity will.
Nobody dies in that very moment, just shutting water, petrol station, oil and gas pipelines. Independent power systems will work for three days then also stop. But later, as a result, millions people will die because of the global paralysis of the economy.

The Smallest Robot in the World

Bruce Donald and his colleagues, engineers and computer scientists from Dartmouth College have built the smallest robot in the world which is the thickness of human hair and shorter than the sharp point of a thumb tack, integrated in a small package, wireless powered and controlled. However, the robot takes over ten thousand steps a second and continue their motion for over half an hour with no sign of fatigue, with net motion of over one foot in length. That represents over 30 million steps; a human taking that many steps would go over half way around the world.

Features:

60x250x10 micro-meter robot made of polycrystaline silicon and chromium
Utilizes surface micromachining (MEMS) with stress engineering to produce out-of-plane curl.
Monolithic fabrication from poly-silicon includes on-board:
power and control signal pickup,
decoding and state memory (electro-mechanical), and
locomotion and turning.
Two gaits:
forward walking: MEMS Scratch Drive propulsion only, and
turning: Propulsion and Turning Arm both deployed.
12nm average step size.
Operation demonstrated at 16kHz (not an intrinsic speed limit).
Teleoperation alows motion anywhere on a plane.
Moves on an insulated substrate with submerged interdigitated electrodes.
Control is one-wire (plus ground) with four level logic, and is independent of robot position or orientation on substrate surface.

One day we will run out of oil

Independent has published an interview with Dr Fatih Birol, the chief economist at the respected International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris where he said that the public and many governments appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the oil on which modern civilisation depends is running out far faster than previously predicted and that global production is likely to peak in about 10 years – at least a decade earlier than most governments had estimated.

“One day we will run out of oil, it is not today or tomorrow, but one day we will run out of oil and we have to leave oil before oil leaves us, and we have to prepare ourselves for that day,” Dr Birol said. “The earlier we start, the better, because all of our economic and social system is based on oil, so to change from that will take a lot of time and a lot of money and we should take this issue very seriously,” he said.

“The market power of the very few oil-producing countries, mainly in the Middle East, will increase very quickly. They already have about 40 per cent share of the oil market and this will increase much more strongly in the future,” he said.