Tag Archives for " technology "

a true energy revolutionNuclear fusion, the process that powers our sun

Limitless Clean Energy For The World

 
In a world struggling to kick its addiction to fossil fuels and feed its growing appetite for energy, there’s one technology which is a true energy revolution  in development that almost sounds too good to be true: nuclear fusion

If it works, fusion power offers vast amounts of clean energy with a near limitless fuel source and virtually zero carbon emissions. That’s if it works. In February last year a new chapter of fusion energy research commenced with the formal opening of Wendelstein 7-X. This is an experimental €1 billion (A$1.4bn) fusion reactor built in Greifswald, Germany, to test a reactor design called a stellarator.It is planned that by around 2021 it will be able to operate for up to 30 minutes duration. Which would be a record for a fusion reactor. This is an important step en-route to demonstrating an essential feature of a future fusion power plant: continuous operation.

But the W-7X isn’t the only fusion game in town. In southern France  a $US20 billion (A$26.7bn) experimental fusion reactor ITER is being built. This machine  uses a different design called a tokamak. However, even though the W-7X and ITER employ different designs. The two projects complement each other, and innovations in one are likely to translate to an eventual working nuclear fusion power plant.

Twists and turns

Fusion energy seeks to replicate the reaction that powers our Sun. The resulting fused atom ends up slightly lighter than the original two atoms. The difference in mass is then  converted to energy according to Einstein’s formula E=mc².  The difficulty comes in encouraging the two atoms to fuse,  requiring them to be heated to millions of degrees Celsius. What makes the W-7X particularly interesting is its stellarator design. It comprises a vacuum chamber embedded in a magnetic bottle created by a system of 70 superconducting magnet coils. In these experiments a strong toroidal (or ring) magnetic field creates a magnetic bottle to confine the plasma.

However, in order for the plasma to have good confinement in the doughnut-shaped chamber, the magnetic field needs to have a twist. In a tokamak, such as in the ITER reactor, a large current flows in the plasma to generate the required twisted path. However, the large current can drive “kink” instabilities. In a stellarator, the twist in the magnetic field is obtained by twisting the entire machine itself. This removes the large toroidal current, and makes the plasma intrinsically more stable. The cost comes in the engineering complexity of the field coils and reduced confinement thus  the plasma is less easily contained within the magnetic bubble.

Come together

While the W7-X and ITER use different approaches, most of the underlying technology is identical. They are both toroidal superconducting machines, and both use external heating systems such as radio frequency and neutral beam injection to heat the plasma, and much of the plasma diagnostic technology is in common. In a power plant, heavy isotopes of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium) fuse to form helium along with an energetic neutron. The neutron is has a neutral electric charge, and shoots off into the “blanket” surrounding the plasma. The helium  generates electricity.

A common feature across fusion power is the need to develop materials that can withstand y the fusion reaction. The first wall of a fusion reactor has to withstand a massive bombardment from high energy particles throughout its lifetime. At this stage, it’s too early to tell whether the tokamak design used by ITER or the stellarator used by W-7X will be better suited for a commercial fusion power plant. But the commencement of research operation of W-7X will not only help decide which technology might be best to pursue. Without a  doubt will contribute valuable knowledge to any future fusion experiments, and perhaps one day a true energy revolution.

 

SOURCE…http://www.ibtimes.co.uk

 

China to develop prototype super, super computer in 2017 – Yahoo Singapore Finance

China plans to develop a prototype exascale computer by the end of the year, state media said Tuesday, as it seeks to win a global race to be the first to build a machine capable of a billion, billion calculations per second. If successful, the achievement would cement its place as a leading power in the world of super computing. The Asian giant built the world’s fastest supercomputer, the Sunway Taihu Light machine, in June last year, which was twice as fast as the previous number one.It used only locally made microchips, making it the first time a country has taken the top spot without using US technology.

Exascale computers are even more powerful, and can execute at least one Quintilian (a billion billion) calculations per second.Though a prototype was in the pipeline, a complete version of such a machine would take a few more years to complete, Xinhua news agency cited Zhang Ting, application engineer at the National Supercomputer Center in the port city of Tianjin, as saying.

“A complete computing system of the exascale supercomputer and its applications can only be expected in 2020, and will be 200 times more powerful than the country’s first petaflop computer Tianhe-1, recognised as the world’s fastest in 2010,” said Zhang.The exascale computer could have applications in big data and cloud computing work, he added, noting that its prototype would lead the world in data transmission efficiency as well as calculation speed.

As of last June, China for the first time had more top-ranked supercomputers than the US, with 167 compared to 165, according to a survey by supercomputer tracking website Top500.org. Of the top 10 fastest computers, two are in China and five in the US as of November, the ranking said. Others are in Japan and Switzerland.China has poured money into big-ticket science and technology projects as it seeks to become a high-tech leader.But despite some gains the country’s scientific output still lags behind, and its universities generally fare poorly in global rankings.

 

SOURCE…sg.finance.yahoo.com

The New Black Plague…. “Electronic Screen Syndrome”.

 The new black plague “Electronic  Screen Syndrome” Studies have also shown that using computers, smartphones or tablets before bedtime disrupts sleep.Sir Anthony Seldon the Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham and former master of Wellington College said screen time was a ‘very significant concern’.“Intelligent use of computers can enhance the life of teenagers but overall they are spending vastly too much time online,” he added.“Real people, real exercise, real environments and above all real relationships in the flesh are what young people need to develop into healthy adults.“I’m extremely worried by the extensive and indiscriminate exposure of adolescents to computers. It should be a very significant concern.”

The researchers of the new study agreed that electronic devices could be harmful if youngsters were using them to avoid exercise, sleep or avoid making friends. But they also said they could actually be beneficial for development.Co-author Dr Netta Weinstein of Cardiff University said: “To the extent that digital activities either enrich teenagers’ lives or displace more rewarding activities, they should have either positive or negative effects on their mental well-being.

“There have been theories that digital use is disrupting more satisfying pursuits. However, the role of digital technology has a central role in everyday life and online gaming is now a shared way of playing for teenage boys.“There is good reason to think digital technology used in moderation is not disruptive and may even support development.’

Commenting on the research, Dr Pete Etchells, senior lecturer in Biological Psychology, Bath Spa University, said: “The study shows that certain levels of technology use may actually be beneficial to children.”Where negative effects do exist, these are in fact quite weak, compared to other factors such as getting a decent night’s sleep which have previously been shown to have an influence on well-being. “Taken altogether then, the study shows that we need to drastically reconsider the way we think about screen time – there is an alarming  negative correlation between using digital technology and well being.

 

 

SOURCE…www.telegraph.co.uk

The New Black Plague…. "Electronic Screen Syndrome".

 The new black plague “Electronic  Screen Syndrome” Studies have also shown that using computers, smartphones or tablets before bedtime disrupts sleep.Sir Anthony Seldon the Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham and former master of Wellington College said screen time was a ‘very significant concern’.“Intelligent use of computers can enhance the life of teenagers but overall they are spending vastly too much time online,” he added.“Real people, real exercise, real environments and above all real relationships in the flesh are what young people need to develop into healthy adults.“I’m extremely worried by the extensive and indiscriminate exposure of adolescents to computers. It should be a very significant concern.”

The researchers of the new study agreed that electronic devices could be harmful if youngsters were using them to avoid exercise, sleep or avoid making friends. But they also said they could actually be beneficial for development.Co-author Dr Netta Weinstein of Cardiff University said: “To the extent that digital activities either enrich teenagers’ lives or displace more rewarding activities, they should have either positive or negative effects on their mental well-being.

“There have been theories that digital use is disrupting more satisfying pursuits. However, the role of digital technology has a central role in everyday life and online gaming is now a shared way of playing for teenage boys.“There is good reason to think digital technology used in moderation is not disruptive and may even support development.’

Commenting on the research, Dr Pete Etchells, senior lecturer in Biological Psychology, Bath Spa University, said: “The study shows that certain levels of technology use may actually be beneficial to children.”Where negative effects do exist, these are in fact quite weak, compared to other factors such as getting a decent night’s sleep which have previously been shown to have an influence on well-being. “Taken altogether then, the study shows that we need to drastically reconsider the way we think about screen time – there is an alarming  negative correlation between using digital technology and well being.

 

 

SOURCE…www.telegraph.co.uk

The Culprit of Bad Sleep

About a decade ago Los Angeles–based software developer Lorna Herf decided to try her hand at oil painting. She and her husband, Michael, also a computer programmer, eventually installed bright fluorescent lights in their apartment’s loft so that Lorna could paint at night and still have an accurate sense of what colors on the canvas would look like during the day. Late one evening Lorna descended to the living room, where computer screens were aglow. Now that she had become more attuned to differences in lighting, she noticed just how much the bright light from the computer screens clashed with the soft warmth of the incandescent bulbs that surrounded them. She remembers thinking the electronic screens were “like little windows of artificial daylight,” spoiling the otherwise gentle ambience of the room.

The tech-savvy couple engineered a crafty solution to minimize the discrepancy. They wrote some code to change the number and wavelength of the photons emitted by their computer screens as a day progressed. The Herfs’ goal was to mimic natural shifts in ambient light as closely as possible, transitioning from the bright, bluish-white light characteristic of morning and afternoon sunshine to a dim, orange glow in the evening.

At first, they simply intended to harmonize the lighting scheme in their home. But they soon began to suspect that their new app, dubbed f.lux, might offer some health benefits as well. “After we’d been using it for a while, we started to notice it seemed easier to wind down at night,” Lorna recalls, making it easier to fall asleep when they turned off their electronic devices. They are not the only ones who have appreciated the calming effect. Since the Herfs released the program for free in 2009, f.lux has been downloaded more than 20 million times.

By following their aesthetic taste, the Herfs had stumbled on a curious twist in the way the body controls how we sleep. Researchers have known for several decades that strong light of any kind can suppress melatonin, the hormone the brain produces at night to induce sleepiness. But more recent studies show that blue light suppresses melatonin more effectively than any other visible wavelength, potentially leaving people more alert when they would otherwise start feeling drowsy.

As it happens, smartphones, laptops and all kinds of electronic screens have become brighter and bluer over the past couple of decades because of the addition of powerful blue LEDs. During the day, when blue light is already naturally plentiful, a little extra exposure from electronic screens should not make much of a difference to anyone’s physiology. The problem is that people are increasingly staring into bright screens long into the night.

Nearly everyone in a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in 2011, for example, used a television, computer, cell phone or similar device within an hour of going to bed at least a few nights a week. In 2014 the same organization determined that 89 percent of adults and 75 percent of children in the U.S. have at least one electronic device in their bedroom, with a significant number of them sending or answering texts after they had initially fallen asleep. Motivated by such research, engineers and computer programmers are trying out various solutions to keep an already sleep-deprived population from losing more zzz’s because of their electronic devices. The solutions range from tinted eyeglasses to naturalistic lighting systems for the home and office.

“If people can figure out ways to simulate changes in sunlight across the day, that would be perfect,” says Christian Cajochen, head of the Center for Chronobiology at the University of Basel in Switzerland. “The ideal would be to have the same light throughout your home as outside of it.” It remains to be seen how effective these remedies are, however, especially when compared with simply shutting the devices off.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

The light emanating from electronic devices was not always such a hindrance to restful sleep. The current state of affairs can be traced to the 1992 invention in Japan of the high-brightness blue LED. By combining the new blue LEDs with older green and red ones or coating blue LEDs with chemicals that reemit other wavelengths, technology manufacturers could generate full-spectrum white LED light for the first time. Because LEDs are much more energy-efficient than their fluorescent predecessors, they soon became ubiquitous in TVs, computer screens, tablets and certain e-readers, infusing homes and offices with much brighter blue light than ever before.

Researchers did not begin amassing concrete evidence that blue LEDs can disrupt sleep until about 15 years ago, but they have had a good idea of the probable mechanism for quite some time. Scientists had discovered back in the 1970s that a tiny brain region dubbed the suprachiasmatic nucleus helps to control the body’s sleep cycles, alertness, temperature and other daily fluctuations. Studies showed that the suprachiasmatic nucleus prompts the brain’s pineal gland to produce melatonin every evening.

Earlier this century biologists uncovered exactly how this signaling process happens. As it turns out, the missing link was a previously unknown type of light-sensitive cell in the human eye, distinct from the familiar rods and cones that are responsible, respectively, for night and color vision. This third so-called photoreceptor tracks the amount of blue light in the environment and reports back to the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Thus, when there is a lot of blue light (as when the sun is overhead), this particular photoreceptor prompts the suprachiasmatic nucleus to tell the pineal gland not to make much melatonin, and so we stay awake. When the sun begins to set, however, the amount of blue light diminishes, triggering a surge in melatonin levels, prompting us to fall asleep.

Among the studies offering evidence that screens with blue LEDs might confuse the brain at night is a 2011 investigation by the University of Basel’s Cajochen and his colleagues. In that work, volunteers exposed to an LED-backlit computer for five hours in the evening produced less melatonin, felt less tired, and performed better on tests of attention than those in front of a fluorescent-lit screen of the same size and brightness. Similarly, for subjects in a 2013 study led by Mariana Figueiro of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, interacting with an iPad for just two hours in the evening was enough to prevent the typical nighttime rise of melatonin. And in a two-week trial at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, published in 2014, volunteers who read on an iPad for four hours before bed reported feeling less sleepy, took an average of 10 minutes longer to fall asleep and slept less deeply compared with those who read paper books at night. Cajochen and others have also shown that these effects are especially pronounced in teens and adolescents, for reasons that remain unclear.

IN A NEW LIGHT

Given the accumulating evidence that artificial screens in general and blue lights in particular spoil sleep, scientists have begun investigating various remedies. Several studies have shown that wearing orange-tinted plastic goggles, which filter out the blue light emanating from electronic devices, helps to prevent melatonin suppression. Similar glasses are now commercially available for as little as $8 or as much as $100. A more expensive option is a so-called dynamic lighting system, which promises to re-create “the full range of natural daylight in an interior space” for hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the size of one’s home or office.

The most affordable countermeasures are computer programs such as f.lux. This past March, Apple introduced a function called Night Shift for the iPhone and iPad, which mimics f.lux in shifting the screen’s emitted light “to the warm end of the spectrum” around sunset. So far no researchers have tested f.lux or Apple’s Night Shift in a controlled study, but Figueiro says she is planning to conduct such experiments, and Michael Herf says he is collaborating with university scientists to examine the effects of f.lux in everyday environments outside the laboratory. “F.lux in my view is still a hypothesis,” Herf adds. “We think it probably helps a lot of night owls, but we still need to support the anecdotes with data.”

Researchers emphasize, however, that eliminating blue light is not a fail-safe solution. Even dim, orange screens make it tantalizingly easy to stay awake and read, watch movies or play games at night, keeping your brain alert when it should be winding down. “It’s as if you’re completely in the dark, but you drink coffee,” Figueiro explains. “It’s still going to have an effect.”

Ultimately the surest solution is electronic abstinence: shutting off all screens and bright lights for at least a few hours before bedtime. The inescapable fact is that humans evolved to rise and sleep with the sun. “Before we had all this technology, before electricity and artificial lighting, we would be awake in daylight, have a little bit of fire in the evening, and then sleep,” says Debra Skene, a chronobiologist at the University of Surrey in England. Artificial light has been enormously beneficial over the centuries. But there are times, especially at the end of the day, when it can be too much of a good thing.

 

SOURCE..www.scientificamerican.com

Oh Great, Your Smartphone Is Making You Physically Weaker

 

If your phone is permanently affixed to your hand, we have some bad news.

A new study published in the Journal of Hand Therapy  found that millennials’ hand grips are getting weaker, especially in men, due to all that texting, scrolling and gaming on their smartphones, according to study coauthor  Elizabeth Fain , an assistant professor of occupational therapy at Winston-Salem State University.

Fain and coauthor Cara Weatherford, a student at the time of the study who is now an occupational therapist in pediatrics, measured participants’ grip strength and “lateral pinch strength,” or with how much force a person can push his thumb into his pointer finger. They tested a group of 237 healthy people (83 men and 154 women) between the ages of 20 and 34, then compared their findings to data taken from a similar group in 1985.

Fain and Weatherford found that the entire group of men had both weaker grips and weaker lateral pinches, while the same was true for women between the ages of 20 and 30. Women between 30 and 34 did not exhibit weaker grips or lateral pinches, which Fain attributes to their status as “millennial outliers.”“[They] have not been as fully immersed in the technology typically, therefore [they’re] more likely to be engaged in more physically demanding tasks/roles,” she said.In other words, the eldest female millennials don’t have the same tech habits as their male counterparts and younger members of their generation.

Not only is grip important for everyday life, it is also used as an indicator for overall fitness and a potential predictor of health problems and disabilities, Fain explained. In fact, research has even found that a weak grip could be a harbinger of higher mortality rates. A 2015 study published in the journal Lancet found that a lack of grip strength is a strong predictor of all-cause mortality  around the world.But this study doesn’t necessarily mean that millennials are at greater risk for health problems. Instead, researchers may need to update what is considered a normal grip strength for a healthy millennial so that doctors can accurately measure grip strength later in life.

In one area, the data showed an advantage for millennials, who apparently have stronger thumbs than the older generation. But even this isn’t quite as wonderful as you might think, as the thumb muscles are small, Fain pointed out.“Frequent texting and minimal rest breaks will inflame the small muscles going to the thumb, similar to carpal tunnel,” she said. The most likely risk is for De Quervains tenosynovitis , a painful condition that affects the tendons on your thumb’s side that is onset by repetitive movements in your thumb and wrist, she said.

So how much time away from your phone should you get? Fain recommends taking 3- to 5-minute “minibreaks,” warming your thumb up and stretching it into the “L” position, two to three times an hour. If you have tenderness, she recommends using a cold compress until the area is temporarily numb from the ice.And if you’re a Pokemon Go fiend, take note: The next time you fire up your phone and head to the next PokeStop, maybe you don’t try to catch them all. While the study was conducted before Pokemon Go existed, Fain said, your habit isn’t helping.

READMORE… HuffingtonPost