Tag Archives: physics

Cold Fusion Is Hot Again


Twenty years ago it appeared, for a moment, that all our energy problems could be solved. It was the announcement of cold fusion – nuclear energy like that which powers the sun – but at room temperature on a table top. It promised to be cheap, limitless and clean. Cold fusion would end our dependence on the Middle East and stop those greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. It would change everything.

But then, just as quickly as it was announced, it was discredited. So thoroughly, that cold fusion became a catch phrase for junk science. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to oblivion – for many scientists today, cold fusion is hot again.

“We can yield the power of nuclear physics on a tabletop. The potential is unlimited. That is the most powerful energy source known to man,” researcher Michael McKubre told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley.

McKubre says he has seen that energy more than 50 times in cold fusion experiments he’s doing at SRI International, a respected California lab that does extensive work for the government.

McKubre is an electro-chemist who imagines, in 20 years, the creation of a clean nuclear battery. “For example, a laptop would come pre-charged with all of the energy that you would ever intend to use. You’re now decoupled from your charger and the wall socket,” he explained.


Levitation At Microscopic Scale Could Lead To Nanomechanical Devices Based On Quantum Levitation

Magicians have long created the illusion of levitating objects in the air. Now researchers have actually levitated an object, suspending it without the need for external support. Working at the molecular level, the researchers relied on the tendency of certain combinations of molecules to repel each other at close contact, effectively suspending one surface above another by a microscopic distance.

Researchers from Harvard University and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have measured, for the first time, a repulsive quantum mechanical force that could be harnessed and tailored for a wide range of new nanotechnology applications.

The study, led by Federico Capasso, Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), will be published as the January 8 cover story of Nature.

The discovery builds on previous work related to what is called the Casimir force. While long considered only of theoretical interest, physicists discovered that this attractive force, caused by quantum fluctuations of the energy associated with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, becomes significant when the space between two metallic surfaces, such as two mirrors facing one another, measures less than about 100 nanometers.


Nanotechnology – A Boon For Medical Science

Nanotechnology, or more affectionately nicknamed as nanotech, is a field of research that deals with controlling matter on an atomic or molecular level. This has multiple applications that range anywhere from electronics, to energy production, to engineering, to physics, and even to medicine. In the field of medicine alone, nanotech is giving rise to tools and possible applications that are now being streamlined to focus on finding and eradicating cancer cells. This is a particularly timely issue because cancer is now the foremost killing disease of the modern times. As humankind evolves into the new millennia, it seems that cancer cells are evolving as well. As such, there are still no known medicines or medical procedures that can prevent or cure the occurrence of any type of cancer.


‘4-D’ Microscope Revolutionizes The Way We Look At Nano World

More than a century ago, the development of the earliest motion picture technology made what had been previously thought “magical” a reality: capturing and recreating the movement and dynamism of the world around us. A breakthrough technology based on new concepts has now accomplished a similar feat, but on an atomic scale–by allowing, for the first time, the real-time, real-space visualization of fleeting changes in the structure and shape of matter barely a billionth of a meter in size.

Such “movies” of atomic changes in materials of gold and graphite, obtained using the technique, are featured in a paper appearing in the November 21 issue of the journal Science. A patent on the conceptual framework of this approach was granted to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 2006.

The new technique, dubbed four-dimensional (4D) electron microscopy, was developed in the Physical Biology Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology, directed by Ahmed Zewail, the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemistry and professor of physics at Caltech, and winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Zewail was awarded the Nobel Prize for pioneering the science of femtochemistry, the use of ultrashort laser flashes to observe fundamental chemical reactions–atoms uniting into molecules, then breaking apart back into atoms–occurring at the timescale of the femtosecond, or one millionth of a billionth of a second. The work “captured atoms and molecules in motion,” Zewail says, akin to the freeze-frame stills snapped by 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge of a galloping horse (which proved for the first time that a horse does indeed lift all four hooves off the ground as it gallops) and other moving objects.


Physicists Find Dark Matter, or Something Even More Strange

A new experiment may have found the first direct evidence of dark matter particles, a discovery that could begin to unravel one of the biggest mysteries in physics.

Theorists believe that dark matter, made up of of weakly-interacting massive particles, composes 23 percent of the universe, but no one has ever directly detected one of these WIMPs.

Now, physicists have announced they’ve spotted electrons with just about the amount of energy they would have expected to be made by a particular kind of WIMP entering the visible world.

John Wefel of Louisiana State University and colleagues report in Nature Wednesday that they could have detected “Kaluza-Klein” electron-positron pairs resulting from the annihilation of these WIMPS.

The KK particles are predicted by multiple-dimension theories of the universe and have long-been a leading candidate as the substance of dark matter. The new discovery then, if confirmed, would provide evidence that the fabric of space-time has many “compact” dimensions beyond the four that humans perceive.

“If the Kaluza–Klein annihilation explanation proves to be correct, this will necessitate a fuller investigation of such multidimensional spaces, with potentially important implications for our understanding of the Universe,” the authors conclude.


Single Neuron Un-Paralyzes Monkeys in Test

Research are finding that rerouting nerve signals in primates may be surprisingly easy

DailyTech previously covered how monkeys had been wired with brain probes to a mechanical arm, which they learned to control. Now another experiment has taken such concepts, much farther, reversing paralysis in monkeys through neuron implantation.

Eberhard Fetz, a professor of physiology and biophysics at the University of Washington, led the research. The researchers began by paralyzing the nerves leading to the monkeys’ arms. They then placed a single wire on a neuron in the monkeys’ neural cortexes. From there they routed the signal to a single neuron implanted in the monkeys’ arm muscles. The computer detected a specific firing pattern in the brain neuron and would then signal the neuron in the arm.

The electric “re-routing” working surprisingly well and the monkeys regained control of their wrists. Their new capability was assessed by a simple video game. The game was controlled by the monkeys’ wrist motions. By moving their wrists, they could move a cursor onscreen and by moving it to a box on the side, they could earn a reward. With the incentive of the reward the monkeys soon learned to move their wrists, even though the motor cortex neuron was selected at random.

Chet Moritz, a senior research fellow at the University of Washington and coauthor of the researchers’ paper states, “We found, remarkably, that nearly every neuron that we tested in the brain could be used to control this type of stimulation. Even neurons which were unrelated to the movement of the wrist before the nerve block could be brought under control and co-opted.”


Hawking: If we survive the next 200 years, we should be OK

Professor Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s great scientists, is looking to the stars to save the human race — but pessimism is overriding his natural optimism.

Hawking, in an exclusive CNN interview, said that if humans can survive the next 200 years and learn to live in space, then our future will be bright.

“I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space,” said Hawking, who is almost completely paralyzed by the illness ALS.

“It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next 100 years, let alone next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn’t have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let’s hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load.”

Hawking is one of the few scientists known to a wide audience outside academia thanks to his best-selling books, a guest spot on “The Simpsons” and an ability to clearly explain the complexities of theoretical physics.

He has 12 honorary degrees, was awarded the CBE in 1982 and since 1979 has been at Cambridge University’s Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, where he is Lucasian Professor of Mathematics — a post once held by Isaac Newton.

Speaking at Cambridge’s Centre for Mathematical Studies, he said: “I see great dangers for the human race. There have been a number of times in the past when its survival has been a question of touch and go. The Cuban missile crisis in 1963 was one of these. Video Watch the interview in full »

“The frequency of such occasions is likely to increase in the future. We shall need great care and judgment to negotiate them all successfully.

“But I’m an optimist. If we can avoid disaster for the next two centuries, our species should be safe, as we spread into space.”


How a single neurotransmitter can provide the basis for the explanation of all social phenomena

Those of you who read this blog for sometime, already know some of my views concerning psychology. I am an avid supporter of “hard science”. Science that is based on solid facts and follows the reductionist paradigm. Even though solid facts are not always the answer and reductionism could be replaced in the following decades by something else, such as a holistic approach that focuses on “systems” rather than “reduction” (read this for example: Sacred Science: Using Faith to Explain Anomalies in Physics from Scientific American), I believe that this paradigm has just started to show its strength in cognitive science. Take this post for example: Neurons, politics and economics

The reason I am writing today is that I found this exciting article in Seed Magazine:

The article speaks of Read Montague, director of the Human Neuroimaging Lab at Baylor College of Medicine in downtown Houston. He has participated in something very interesting researches which I was aware of. I was surprised, because I had forgotten his name, despite the fact that he was the mind behind some recent papers. However, what really suprised me was how all these researches are connected, what this man is studying and how his view on neuroscience coincides with mine. I am going to present the article and then I’ll make a few comments. If you are bored just skip the article. :-)

Read Montague studies the actions of dopamine in the brain. However, his methodology is not an experimental (even though he is a researcher), but rather a theoritical one.


Star Trek warp drive is a possibility, say scientists

Two physicists have boldly gone where no reputable scientists should go and devised a new scheme to travel faster than the speed of light.

The advance could mean that Star Trek fantasies of interstellar civilisations and voyages powered by warp drive are now no longer the exclusive domain of science fiction writers.

In the long running television series created by Gene Roddenberry, the warp drive was invented by Zefram Cochrane, who began his epic project in 2053 in Bozeman, Montana.

Now Dr Gerald Cleaver, associate professor of physics at Baylor, and Richard Obousy have come up with a new twist on an existing idea to produce a warp drive that they believe can travel faster than the speed of light, without breaking the laws of physics.

In their scheme, in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, a starship could “warp” space so that it shrinks ahead of the vessel and expands behind it.

By pushing the departure point many light years backwards while simultaneously bringing distant stars and other destinations closer, the warp drive effectively transports the starship from place to place at faster-than-light speeds.


Nanotech Gets Funding For Diamondoid Mechanosynthesis Experiments

Finally experiments have been funded to test the viability of diamond mechanosynthesis as described in detail by Robert Freitas and Ralph Merkle. This is a major step towards achieving the long held vision of molecular nanotechnology as envisioned by Eric Drexler.

Professor Philip Moriarty of the Nanoscience Group in the School of Physics at the University of Nottingham (U.K.) has been awarded a five-year £1.67M ($3.3M) grant by the U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to perform a series of laboratory experiments designed to investigate the possibility of diamond mechanosynthesis (DMS). DMS is a proposed method for building diamond nanostructures, atom by atom, using the techniques of scanning probe microscopy under ultra-high vacuum conditions. Moriarty’s project, titled “Digital Matter? Towards Mechanised Mechanosynthesis,” was funded under the Leadership Fellowship program of EPSRC. Moriarty’s experiments begin in October 2008.


This is an important step for nanotechnology.

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