US teen designs compact nuclear reactor


Eighteen-year-old Taylor Wilson has designed a compact nuclear reactor that could one day burn waste from old atomic weapons to power anything from homes and factories to space colonies.

The American teen, who gained fame four years ago after designing a fusion reactor he planned to build in the garage of his family's home, shared his latest endeavour at a TED Conference in southern California on Thursday.

"It's about bringing something old, fission, into the 21st Century," Wilson said. "I think this has huge potential to change the world."

He has designed a small reactor capable of generating 50-100 megawatts of electricity, enough to power as many as 100,000 homes.

The reactor can be made assembly-line style and powered by molten radioactive material from nuclear weapons, Wilson said. The relatively small, modular reactor can be shipped sealed with enough fuel to last for 30 years.

"You can plop them down anywhere in the world and they work, buried under the ground for security reasons," he said, while detailing his design at TED.

"In the Cold War we built up this huge arsenal of nuclear weapons and we don't need them anymore," Wilson said. "It would be great if we could eat them up, and this reactor loves this stuff."

His reactors are designed to spin turbines using gas instead of steam, meaning they operate at temperatures lower than those of typical nuclear reactors and don't spew anything if there is a breach.

The fuel is in the form of molten salt, and the reactors don't need to be pressurised, according to the teenager.

"In the event of an accident, you can just drain the core into a tank under the reactor with neutron absorbers and the reaction stops," Wilson said.

"There is no inclination for the fission products to leave this reactor," he said. "In an accident, the reactor may be toast, which is sorry for the power company, but there is no problem."

Wilson, who graduated grade school in May, said he is putting off university to focus on a company he created to make Modular Fission Reactors.

He sees his competition as nations, particularly China, and the roadblocks ahead as political instead of technical.

Wilson planned to have a prototype ready in two years and a product to market in five years.

"Not only does it combat climate change, it can bring power to the developing world," Wilson said with teenage optimism.

"Imagine having a compact reactor in a rocket designed by those planning to habitat other planets. Not only would you have power for propulsion, but power once you get there."

New Mission aimed at saving Earth from an asteroid (this is just a drill)


Mission saving Earth from an asteroid (this IS a drill)

A joint European/US asteroid deflection mission has now officially a target. The Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission (AIDA) will set course for the binary asteroid system Didymos.

Didymos is a two-body system consisting of an 800m asteroid orbiting a 150m space rock every 11.9 hours. It will come in at about 11 million kms from Earth in 2022, with no chance of hitting us. However, the AIDA mission will target it anyway. As a double-spacecraft mission, it will first observe the orbital and geological properties of the Didymos system.

After that, it will sent a small probe crashing into the smaller asteroid at 22,530kph (the Russian meteor in the Urals "arrived" at 54,000 kph), while another spacecraft will record the collision from close. The smash is planned at that distance from Earth, so that ground-based instruments will be able to provide observations themselves. While the impact will not "blow-up" the asteroid, it will generate a big flash, vaporizing the impact zone and the impactor, and creating a crater.

The main goal is to learn more about how humans could deflect a potentially dangerous asteroid, observing the potential change of course of Didymos. The necessity of developing such a strategy came up again after the unsettling events of mid February with two space objects making the news together at the same day.

In addition, the European Space Agency (ESA) has released a call for ideas on experiments that AIDA could carry in space, with a deadline on March 15.

German student builds electromagnetic harvester to recharge a battery February 12, 2013


it converts electromagnetic fields in the immediate environment into electricity to recharge a common AA battery. The electromagnetic harvester recharges batteries February 12, 2013 a student at the University of the Arts in Bremen, Germany has built what he calls an electromagnetic harvester !!

He's won a 2nd place award in the HfK Bremen Hochschulpreis 2013 competition for Digitale Medien, for his efforts.

Electromagnetism is all around us of course. In addition to natural sources, such as lightning, it's also given off by virtually every electronic gadget, device or machine humans make. Siegel (and many others) have noted that the electromagnetism around us all could be converted to electricity and used for some purpose. The problem of course, is that the comparatively small amount of it in the air around us isn't enough to make much electricity—the device Siegel built takes up to a day to charge a single AA battery.

But that's not reason enough to not build and use a device, as he has demonstrated. He's added electronics to give the device the capability of capturing electromagnetism in two ranges—one below 100Hz (electrical mains, etc.) and another for capturing those above 100Hz (Blue tooth frequencies etc.). On top is a red LED to indicate how strong the electromagnetism is in the area and on the back is a magnet for affixing the device to a metal surface near a good source. Credit: Dennis SiegelThe particulars of the electronics inside his device haven't been detailed (likely to prevent copycats) with a description only of "coils and high frequency diodes" being put to use to allow for the conversion. But that clearly isn't the point of his device.

Instead, it highlights not only the fact that we live our lives in a constant state of bombardment of electromagnetism, but also that all of the energy from all of the collective devices in use in the world today, is currently going to waste. But, because of small devices like the one Siegel has built, it becomes possible to envision banks of such devices sitting on roofs (or other places) making use of that electromagnetism to add to the electricity generated by other renewable sources, such as solar or wind collection devices—just another way to demonstrate a higher level of intelligent power generation and conservation.

Read more at:



Could Another Russian Scale Meteor Sneak Up on Us?



When a 17-meter asteroid barreled into Earth's atmosphere over central Russia on February 15, releasing a powerful shock wave that injured more than 1,000 people, many observers wondered how such a momentous event could arrive unheralded. The fact is, the object that exploded in a fireball over Chelyabinsk, releasing hundreds of kilotons of energy, was small potatoes. There may be millions of comparably sized objects in the inner solar system, only a small fraction of which have been discovered. The searches to date have been focused on tracking much larger dino-killers and other potentially catastrophic asteroids and comets—those objects larger than about one kilometer. So the door has been open to unpleasant but ultimately survivable asteroid surprises.

Several new and forthcoming projects will amass reams of new data about the near-Earth asteroid (NEA) population, but a comprehensive catalogue of Chelyabinsk-scale objects remains beyond the technological horizon. The asteroids are too numerous, and too faint, to be systematically tracked. Below is a rundown of some of the best tools that researchers currently have for asteroid detection and defense:

The Catalina Sky Survey discovers about 600 NEAs every year from telescope sites in Arizona and Australia. Since the mid-2000s Catalina has been the leading NEA-detection project in existence, helping NASA to reach its goal of cataloguing 90 percent of all near-Earth asteroids larger than one kilometer in diameter. But its pace of discovery is too slow to make a significant dent in the much larger populations of smaller objects. Near-Earth asteroids larger than 100 meters likely number in the tens of thousands, whereas nearby asteroids 10 meters and up number in the millions.

The first of four planned Pan-STARRS telescopes in Hawaii recently came online and is now the second-leading NEA search in existence, in terms of objects detected per year. In 2012, its second full year of operation, Pan-STARRS discovered 251 near-Earth asteroids, according to NASA statistics. It should help discover many asteroids with diameters in the hundreds of meters, but the bulk of smaller objects will remain out of reach.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which should come online toward the end of the decade in Chile, will be a survey telescope of astonishing capability. The 8.4-meter telescope, equipped with a 3-gigapixel digital camera, will scan the skies every few nights to pick up moving objects or transient events. But even the LSST will have trouble picking up asteroids as small as the one that impacted the atmosphere over Russia last week. It will take decades of work (right) before the LSST has catalogued the vast majority of much larger objects—those 140 meters and up—thereby meeting NASA's next asteroid-detection goal.

If an asteroid were detected years in advance, the world's governments could take corrective action—detonating, nudging or tugging a hazardous object onto a safer orbit. The Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) has a much simpler goal: detect asteroids just weeks before impact so as to warn or evacuate the threatened areas. ATLAS, which will comprise several small telescopes in Hawaii, is in development with financial assistance from NASA and may be operational by 2015. Its planners estimate that a 50-meter "city killer" could be detected one week ahead of impact.

The nonprofit B612 Foundation recently unveiled its plans to build the Sentinel Space Telescope, an asteroid spotter that would scan the inner solar system in the infrared from an orbit similar to the planet Venus. If the foundation can raise the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to build Sentinel, the spacecraft would launch in 2018 and make quick work of the truly dangerous asteroids out there. The Sentinel mission design calls for a telescope that would catalogue 90 percent of NEAs bigger than 140 meters over its 6.5-year mission. According to a recent statement from B612, the Sentinel would also spot more than half of the currently undiscovered asteroids larger than about 50 meters.

With limited resources, asteroid spotters have naturally focused on the largest asteroids that could cause the most mayhem. But the smaller, more frequent arrivals to our planet are likely to remain unpredictable for the foreseeable future. On the bright side, no deaths have been reported as a result of the Chelyabinsk incident, and the odds of the next significant meteor exploding over such a populous area are slim.

And, fortunately, impacts on the scale of the Chelyabinsk meteor are predicted to occur only once a century. So perhaps humankind will have figured out better techniques for discovery and tracking by the time the next one

By John Matson | February 20, 2013| 6


Talk about a close shave. On Feb. 15th an asteroid about half the size of a football field will fly past Earth - "This is a record-setting close approach"

Talk about a close shave. On Feb. 15th an asteroid about half the size of a football field will fly past Earth only 17,200 miles above our planet's surface. There's no danger of a collision, but the space rock, designated 2012 DA14, has NASA's attention.

"This is a record-setting close approach," says Don Yeomans of NASA's Near Earth Object Program at JPL. "Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, we've never seen an object this big get so close to Earth."

A new ScienceCast video previews the close flyby of asteroid 2012 DA. Play it

Earth's neighborhood is littered with asteroids of all shapes and sizes, ranging from fragments smaller than beach balls to mountainous rocks many kilometers wide. Many of these objects hail from the asteroid belt, while others may be corpses of long-dead, burnt out comets. NASA's Near-Earth Object Program helps find and keep track of them, especially the ones that come close to our planet.

2012 DA14 is a fairly typical near-Earth asteroid. It measures some 50 meters wide, neither very large nor very small, and is probably made of stone, as opposed to metal or ice. Yeomans estimates that an asteroid like 2012 DA14 flies past Earth, on average, every 40 years, yet actually strikes our planet only every 1200 years or so.

The impact of a 50-meter asteroid is not cataclysmic--unless you happen to be underneath it. Yeomans points out that a similar-sized object formed the mile wide Meteor Crater in Arizona when it struck about 50,000 years ago. "That asteroid was made of iron," he says, "which made it an especially potent impactor." Also, in 1908, something about the size of 2012 DA14 exploded in the atmosphere above Siberia, leveling hundreds of square miles of forest. Researchers are still studying the "Tunguska Event" for clues to the impacting object.

"2012 DA14 will definitely not hit Earth," emphasizes Yeomans. "The orbit of the asteroid is known well enough to rule out an impact."

A schematic diagram of the Feb 15th flyby. More

Even so, it will come interestingly close. NASA radars will be monitoring the space rock as it approaches Earth closer than many man-made satellites. Yeomans says the asteroid will thread the gap between low-Earth orbit, where the ISS and many Earth observation satellites are located, and the higher belt of geosynchronous satellites, which provide weather data and telecommunications.

"The odds of an impact with a satellite are extremely remote," he says. Almost nothing orbits where DA14 will pass the Earth.

NASA's Goldstone radar in the Mojave Desert is scheduled to ping 2012 DA14 almost every day from Feb. 16th through 20th. The echoes will not only pinpoint the orbit of the asteroid, allowing researchers to better predict future encounters, but also reveal physical characteristics such as size, spin, and reflectivity. A key outcome of the observing campaign will be a 3D radar map showing the space rock from all sides.

During the hours around closest approach, the asteroid will brighten until it resembles a star of 8th magnitude. Theoretically, that's an easy target for backyard telescopes. The problem, points out Yeomans, is speed. "The asteroid will be racing across the sky, moving almost a full degree (or twice the width of a full Moon) every minute. That's going to be hard to track." Only the most experienced amateur astronomers are likely to succeed.

Those who do might experience a tiny chill when they look at their images. That really was a close shave.

For more information about 2012 DA14 and other asteroids of interest, visit NASA's Near-Earth Object Program web site:



360 degree view from the world's tallest building in Dubai - click on link

360 degree view from the world's tallest building in Dubai

An interactive image has been created of the 360 degree view from the top of Dubai's Burj Khalifa - the world's tallest building.

Not recommended for vertigo sufferers, the image has been stitched together from 70 separate 80 megapixel images taken from the top of the 2,722 ft tower.

It is possible to zoom in on details of the city, with views both inland and out to sea.

The image was created by photographer Gerald Donovan to celebrate the second Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Photography Award (HIPA), which will take place in Dubai in March.

The photographs were taken from the very top of the building - 200 hundreds metres above the 160th floor, which is highest point reachable by elevator.

The observation deck is on the 124th floor. The journey to the very top involves a steep ladder climb within the 200 metre spire at the top of the building.



Of the 461 new planet candidates, 51 of them are in the so-called "habitable zone," the Goldilocks region around the star that's at just the right temperature for liquid water to exist

This is Kepler's field of view superimposed on the night sky.

LONG BEACH, Calif.—Look up on a starry night. Almost every one of those tiny pricks of light is home to an unseen world. Our Milky Way galaxy is full of planets—100 billion or more—and many of those planets are Earth-like rocks (although our solar system still appears to be an oddball). Such are the major findings that astronomers are announcing here at the semi-annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society, where the halls are crackling with excitement as we all bear witness to a hidden, rocky universe beginning to coalesce out of the darkness.

The great explosion of planetary information is coming courtesy of the Kepler telescope, which has been peering at one small slice of the night sky to search for momentary dips in brightness that happen when a planet passes in front of its host star. Kepler scientists announced that they have found an additional 461 planet candidates, bringing the total number of such Kepler-found candidates to 2,740. (These objects all look like planets, but could potentially turn out to be something else like a double-star system upon further examination. "It's likely that 90 percent or more of these candidates are going to be bona fide planets," according to astrophysicist Natalie M. Batalha of NASA Ames Research Center.)

Most of Kepler's new planet candidates aren't the big Jupiter-like planets that early planet scans were sensitive to—they're Earth-like planets or so-called "super-Earths," planets about twice the diameter of Earth.

Of course, Kepler can only find planets that are aligned just so—the planet must pass directly between its host star and us. There's no reason to think that most planets are lined up this way. "For every transiting planet that we identify there are 10 to 100 more that aren't transiting," said Batalha. The question becomes: how many planets are out there that we don't see? The answer: lots.

"Almost all sun-like stars have a planetary system," said Francois Fressin, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who has been exploring statistical models of Kepler data. "If you travel to a sun-like star it will have a planet. We can't say if it will be welcoming, but it will have a planet." What would an unwelcoming planet be? Something very close to its star, and therefore very hot. Those close-up planets whip around their stars in a matter of days or weeks, which means that Kepler has seen them cross in front of their stars many times by now. Fressin's recent work has shown that about one in six stars is home to a rocky, Earth-like planet that orbits its star within 85 days or less. For longer-period planets, we just have to wait for more observations.

What about Earth-like planets with Earth-like orbits? Of the 461 new planet candidates, 51 of them are in the so-called "habitable zone," the Goldilocks region around the star that's at just the right temperature for liquid water to exist. And one of these new planet candidates has all three of the qualities we're looking for in a twin Earth: it's in the habitable zone, it's only 1.5 times the size of Earth, and it's orbiting a sun-like main sequence star.

This last attribute is important, because most stars are not, in fact, like our sun. Most stars in the galaxy are so-called red dwarfs¬¬–small, dim, cool stars that are our galaxy's "silent majority," according to John Johnson of the California Institute of Technology. Red dwarfs make up 70 percent of all stars in the galaxy, and these are absolutely full of planets, says Johnson–on average, about one per star. Summing up all the red dwarfs in the galaxy and all the planets that they host, we can estimate that the Milky Way is home to at least 100 billion planets. "Our solar system is rare among the galaxy's population of planetary systems," says Johnson, "because our star is not a red dwarf." But with 100 billion possibilities to choose from, who would bet that there's one not like us peering back through that darkness?

Earth-Like Planets Fill the Galaxy

By Michael Moyer | January 8, 2013| 21

How many people have been cryogenically frozen?


Cryonics, freezing people in the hope that they might one day be brought back to life once technology has made it possible, is only legal once a person has been legally declared dead.

So technically, it's only corpses that are frozen, not people. The Alcor Life Extension Foundation currently has 111 frozen bodies and heads in storage.

But human embryos are routinely frozen during in vitro fertilisation; 7,200 in 2010 in the UK alone.

Len Wheeler, Glasgow BBC Focus Magazine