Tuesday, March 30, 2004

BBC NEWS | Technology | Digital paper makes device debut

"Sony, Philips and digital paper pioneer E-Ink have announced an electronic book reader that is due to go on sale in Japan in late April for $375 (£204)."
Yea! I've been hearing about electronic paper for a couple of years now. I can't wait until this is actually on the market here (if I can afford it). There are many reasons why this is better than the LCD ebook readers: power consumption, weight, resolution, visibility in bright light...

Pacific Northwest Nat. Lab: Enlisting carbon nanotubes to unmask nerve agents

"Yuehe Lin .. reported.. [a] successful lab test of a disposable OP sensor he fashioned from carbon nanotubes chemically fused to enzymes borrowed from the nervous system-the same enzymes that act as catalysts in neurotransmitters. The 500-nanometer-thick tubes and their bound enzymes finely pepper a 2-by-4 millimeter sensor surface. In the presence of OP, enzyme activity is dampened. The nanotubes, acting as electrodes, sense the inhibition as a muted signal and pass that information to an off-the-shelf electrochemical detector that houses the sensor." This is good but I'm not sure how it would be integrated into a field kit. Also, it's a one-use item, so that might lead to supply issues. Also, in farming areas there might be high enough background levels of OP to create false alarms.

Monday, March 29, 2004

NASA - X-43A Soars on Scramjet Power

3/27/04 (pointed out by Science Daily 3/29/04)

Image above: "A modified Pegasus rocket ignites moments after release from the B-52B, beginning the acceleration of the X-43A over the Pacific Ocean on March 27, 2004. Credit: NASA"

"NASA's second X-43A hypersonic research aircraft flew successfully today, the first time an air-breathing scramjet powered aircraft has flown freely.
The unpiloted vehicle's supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet, ignited as planned and operated for the duration of its hydrogen fuel supply. The X-43A reached its test speed of Mach 7, or seven times the speed of sound."
"Ramjets operate by subsonic combustion of fuel in a stream of air compressed by the forward speed of the aircraft itself, as opposed to a normal turbojet engine, in which the compressor section (the fan blades) compresses the air. In comparison to turbojets, ramjets have no moving parts. Scramjets (supersonic-combustion ramjets) are ramjet engines in which the airflow through the whole engine remains supersonic. Scramjet technology is challenging because only limited testing can be
performed in ground facilities {right now}. Long duration, full-scale testing requires flight test speeds above Mach 8." (from the photo page linked below)
More pictures are available here.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Sandia National Laboratories: New 'inchworm' actuator allows study of friction at the microscale

"ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Creating a tool small enough to measure friction on a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) device is not an easy task. The tool has to be about the width of a human hair.
Yet, researchers at the at the National Nuclear Security Administration's Sandia National Laboratories have developed a new 'inchworm' actuator instrument that provides detailed information about friction at the microscale.
The main objective of the project was to study the validity of Amonton's Law at the microscale. This law, first stated 300 years ago, says friction force is proportional to normal force (normal means perpendicular to the surfaces). Although it remains a good description of friction today, there are interesting deviations from Amonton's Law, especially at low normal forces, where adhesion between the two surfaces is thought to contribute an extra force. Because of the large surface-to-volume ratio at the microscale, these adhesive forces could cause a strong deviation from Amonton's Law. "
There have been many recent articles on use of MEMs in surgery and in sensors so it is important to know about the effect of friction. There are many articles in Compendex when you search ({MICROELECTROMECHANICAL DEVICES}) WN CV) AND ({FRICTION} WN CV). It stands to reason that there would be more at play than Amonton's Law at that scale.

Brookhaven NL: Bright light yields unusual vibes

"MONTREAL, CANADA -- By bombarding very thin slices of several copper/oxygen compounds, called cuprates, with very bright, short-lived pulses of light, Ivan Bozovic, a physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, and his collaborators have discovered an unusual property of the materials: After absorbing the light energy, they emit it as long-lived sound waves, as opposed to heat energy. This result may open up a new field of study on cuprates -- materials already used in wireless communications and under investigation for other applications in the electronics industry. "
I wonder if there are any communications applications for this, I suspect so.

Monday, March 22, 2004

New Scientist: Defusing fertiliser may make bomb-building harder

"Now Speciality Fertilizer Products, a company based in Belton, Missouri, is patenting a water-soluble polymer coating for the fertiliser granules that repels fuel oil. The coating dissolves rapidly in soil, so it would not interfere with ammonium nitrate's main function as fertiliser.
If it works and is widely adopted, the treatment could make it harder for terrorists to turn fertiliser-grade ammonium nitrate into bombs, and could also help prevent industrial accidents."
Making a bomb is pretty easy, but this might at least raise the bar a little. Farmers now have to register and are closely monitored for what fertilzers they buy. Maybe some of those rules could be relaxed if this works and becomes widespread.

Friday, March 12, 2004

New Scientist: 100-metre nanotube thread pulled from furnace

19:00 11 March 04
"A thread of carbon nanotubes more than 100 metres long has been pulled from a fiery furnace. The previous record holder was a mere 30 centimetres long.
Carbon nanotubes are stronger than steel and better conductors than copper, but are often just a thousandth of a millimetre in length. By bundling the nanotubes together into much longer fibres, scientists hope to harness their properties on a larger scale. For example, embedding long carbon nanotube threads in plastic would give tougher composites for airplane hulls."
Woo-hoo. Space elevator, here we come! I wonder about bridges, too. ... mooring lines for ships..... hmmm.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Sandia sensor has potential to help U.S. military eliminate 'friendly fire' during combat

3/10/04 Michael Padilla (Sandia press release found and read via EurekAlert!)
"ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A device to help eliminate friendly fire during military combat has been created by engineers at the National Nuclear Security Administration's Sandia National Laboratories.
Building on more than 10 years of research and development, Sandia engineers have created a radar tag sensor that is mounted on military vehicles and is recognizable to an attack aircraft as a 'friendly.' The device, tracked via aircraft radar, can be used to identify both U.S. and coalition forces during combat to avoid fratricide." Ok, good idea, but... assumes the target/friendly forces tank will be painted by radar prior to being shot at. I'm not sure, but what about laser guided, gps, IR, etc.? The press release goes a step farther and mentions putting this on soldiers... wouldn't it just be cut off POWs and KIAs and redistributed to enemy troops? Also, if each soldier has a radar signature, what will that do for clutter (a large problem already).

ALA | Internet Resources: Gray literature

To blog or to furl... that is the question. I'll do both with this one. This is an article from C &RL News v.65 n.3 (March 2004) by Brian S. Mathews. It's a guide to gray/grey literature sources online. I think I have just about all of these marked in our library's portal but it's a nice article anyway. (thanks Gary and Resource Shelf for the link.)

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Science News Article | Reuters.com Scientists Get a Computerized Grip on Ear Prints

3/8/04 By Patricia Reaney (courtesy of Topix.net)
"LONDON (Reuters) - Criminals are used to trying to avoid leaving fingerprints at a crime scene. But now British scientists have developed a computerized system that allows them to identify ear prints just as easily." So this is not surprising but it will be difficult to clean all the ink off if you ever get arrested. After all, I'm sure nose prints would also help, and what about trying to catch people who copy their butts on photocopiers? Maybe we should keep butt prints, too? Maybe we should just clone criminals so that we can measure whatever we want on them. Seriously, though. There are already problems in the two ways to do fingerprints (roll and press). A problem with the early DNA tests was using fewer datapoints so the certainty of match was not as high. How do we deal with all this data? Is it practical to measure all points of an arrestee? hmm.

Monday, March 08, 2004

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Science closes in on perfect lens

"New designer materials could eventually lead to 'perfect lenses' for optical devices, able to focus on features smaller than the wavelength of light." These could be pretty useful in replacing x-ray applications with something perhaps a little safer.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

New Scientist: Fighting fire with a steam machine

19:00 03 March 04
"A chance discovery has transformed an engine intended for speedboats into a powerful firefighting tool that douses flames with jets of water mist.
When used for boats, the engine works by injecting steam through a rear-facing, ring-shaped nozzle into a cylindrical chamber. As the steam emerges at three times the speed of sound, it rapidly condenses, generating a shock wave that pulls in water through an intake and expels it from the rear, generating thrust (New Scientist, 29 January 2003)." Cool. I remember in firefighting school that we learned to use a mist to beat back certain kinds of fires and protect firefighters. This would be a really quick way to get a layer of AFFF (aqueous film-forming foam) on a class B fire.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Wired News: Underwater Travel Takes Wing

"The U.S. Navy plans to begin testing a prototype for an unmanned underwater glider with a flying-wing design in March, according to the Office of Naval Research, which funds the project. " Cool, makes sense. Maybe schools of these with networked sensors to monitor an entrance or choke point. My problem: "5 nautical mph" -- they're knots! kts.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

e4engineering: New cheaper and quicker microwave imaging for airport security, landmine detection, etc.

From Control & Instrumentation, 02 March 2004, in Machinery & Equipment
"Scientists in the UK are developing a microwave-based technique that can generate high-quality images of hidden objects. The research may lead to the use of microwaves as an alternative to X-rays in airport security checks, building searches, landmine detection and other applications."
As the article says, it isn't that this is a new idea, it's that it could be quicker and cheaper. As we decide that we need to scan everyone everywhere (like at local high schools, etc.) we need to take these things into account. This technology could be a big money maker.

The hole in the floor of the Gulf of Mexico: from thing that killed the Dinosaurs, or 300k years later?

Dinosaur impact theory challenged By Paul Rincon BBC News Online science staff
"The controversy over what killed the dinosaurs may run and run Scientists have cast doubt on the well-established theory that a single, massive asteroid strike killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. New data suggests the Chicxulub crater in Mexico, supposedly created by the collision, predates the extinction of the dinosaurs by about 300,000 years."
BUT... according to scientists on All Things Considered ... the paper isn't well considered, and the author's proof just doesn't prove her point. Read the paper, and see what you think. I guess the controversy isn't solved after all.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Science: Zinc-oxide nanorings circle new applications (via physics web)

Physicists at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US have grown nanorings of single-crystal zinc oxide. Since the material is piezoelectric and semiconducting, the nanostructures could have applications in sensors, resonators and transducers (X Kong et al. 2004
Science 303 1348) (pointed out by PhysicsWeb)