Friday, November 23, 2007

Popular Science - 2007 Innovation Of The Year

Nanosolar's approach combines the advantages of thin films with the power of electrically matched cells, resulting in better panel efficiency distribution and yield. Image Credit: Nanosolar

Popular Science - 2007 Innovation Of The Year

PowerSheet is “green”, aluminum silver, and inked all over and comes in as Popular Science’s 2007 Innovation Of The Year.

The PowerSheet represents a new way capturing energy from the sun. What makes the PowerSheet a real innovation is that the manufacturing process does not use the expensive and limiting method of using silicon on which to generate electricity. Basically, Nanosolar, a Silicon Valley based company, was able to sandwich thin layers of paint that has the property to convert light to electricity, in aluminum sheets and deliver solar conversion at a fraction of the cost of traditional solar panels.
Image Credit: Nanosolar

PowerSheet says it all in its name. The new “sandwiched sheet” material can be made into roofing materials, window coatings, and other exterior wraps that will have the ability to grab power from the sun. The technology breakthrough moves the cost from about $3 per watt of energy for traditional silicon solar cells, $1 per watt for coal, to as little as 30 cents a watt for the Nanosolar PowerSheet.

How It Works

This excerpted and edited from Popular Science Magazine -

The New Dawn of Solar
By MICHAEL MOYER – Popular Science - 11-22-2007

Imagine a solar panel without the panel. Just a coating, thin as a layer of paint, that takes light and converts it to electricity.
Consider solar-powered buildings stretching not just across sunny Southern California, but through China and India and Kenya as well, because even in those countries, going solar will be cheaper than burning coal. That’s the promise of thin-film solar cells: solar power that’s ubiquitous because it’s cheap. The basic technology has been around for decades, but this year, Silicon Valley–based Nanosolar created the manufacturing technology that could make that promise a reality.

Accelerated lifetime testing is possible through specialized equipment that performs many –40°C to +85°C heat cycles per day, that exposes solar cells to intense UV light, and that exposes them to intense humidity. This has made it possible for us to study potential degradation mechanisms at accelerated time scale during product development. Image Credit: Nanosolar

The company produces its PowerSheet solar cells with printing-press-style machines that set down a layer of solar-absorbing nano-ink onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil, so the panels can be made for about a tenth of what current panels cost and at a rate of several hundred feet per minute.
Cost has always been one of solar’s biggest problems. Traditional solar cells require silicon, and silicon is an expensive commodity (exacerbated currently by a global silicon shortage). What’s more, says Peter Harrop, chairman of electronics consulting firm IDTechEx, “it has to be put on glass, so it’s heavy, dangerous, expensive to ship and expensive to install because it has to be mounted.” And up to 70 percent of the silicon gets wasted in the manufacturing process. That means even the cheapest solar panels cost about $3 per watt of energy they go on to produce. To compete with coal, that figure has to shrink to just $1 per watt.

Printing is by far the simplest, highest-yield, and most capital-efficient technique for depositing thin films. Printing is extremely fast; the equipment involved is easy to use and maintain; and it works in plain air (no vacuum chamber required). Another key advantage of a printable CIGS ink is that one can print it just where one wants it to be, achieving high materials utilization of the semiconductor material. Image Credit: Nanosolar

Nanosolar’s cells use no silicon, and the company’s manufacturing process allows it to create cells that are as efficient as most commercial cells for as little as 30 cents a watt. “You’re talking about printing rolls of the stuff—printing it on the roofs of 18-wheeler trailers, printing it on garages, printing it wherever you want it,” says Dan Kammen, founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley. “It really is quite a big deal in terms of altering the way we think about solar and in inherently altering the economics of solar.”

Highlight 2007: Parallel construction of factories in California and Germany commences. The product specification is finalized in close collaboration with leading customers. Image Credit: Nanosolar

In San Jose, Nanosolar has built what will soon be the world’s largest solar-panel manufacturing facility.
Right now, the biggest question for Nanosolar is not if its products can work, but rather if it can make enough of them. California, for instance, recently launched the Million Solar Roofs initiative, which will provide tax breaks and rebates to encourage the installation of 100,000 solar roofs per year, every year, for 10 consecutive years (the state currently has 30,000 solar roofs). The company is ready for the solar boom. “Most important,” Harrop says, “Nanosolar is putting down factories instead of blathering to the press and doing endless experiments. These guys are getting on with it, and that is impressive.”
Reference Here>>

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

8 Foot Long Scorpion Found To Live In The Sea

This image is a combination of a computer generated image issued by the University of Bristol in England released on Tuesday Nov. 20, 2007 showing a size comparison between a human an ancient sea scorpion (on the left). A claw fossil found (on the right) in Germany indicates the ancient sea scorpion was once 2.5 metres (8 feet) long, making it the biggest bug ever known to have existed. Image Credit: University of Bristol - Oblate Spheroid (combined images found at The Royal Society website)

8 Foot Long Scorpion Found To Live In The Sea

BUGS, BUGS, BUGS! Ancient life here on the Oblate Spheroid was quite a different proposition.

In a press release from The Royal Society, London, scientists excavating a site in Germany have uncovered a fossil that comes from a scorpion that lived in the oceans.

The fossil was of a claw that is believed to have once belonged to a scorpion that measured approximately eight feet long. The scientists believe that given the oxygen levels that were prevalent here on Earth 390 million years ago, all insects were much larger.

If human life had been here at this time, bugs would think that WE were the pests and that they needed to control us. Terminix would have a decidedly different mission statement.

This item from The Royal Society, London – Science News -

Giant scorpion claw discovered
Press Release - The Royal Society, London - 21 Nov 2007

Nowadays arthropods such as spiders and crabs are considered to be small animals but the discovery of a 390 million year old giant fossil claw, published today in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, shows that they were much bigger than previously thought.

The claw - found in Germany from a sea scorpion (eurypterid) Jaekelopterus rhananine - is 46cm long. This would mean that the scorpion's body was 2.5 metres long making it the largest arthropod ever to have evolved.

Dr Simon Braddy, University of Bristol said, "This is an amazing discovery. We have known for some time that the fossil record yields monster millipedes, super-sized scorpions, colossal cockroaches, and jumbo dragonflies, but we never realised, until now, just how big some of these ancient creepy-crawlies were.

Arthropods have segmented bodies, jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton for example insects, spiders and crabs. Gigantism normally occurs because of high oxygen levels in the atmosphere but it can also result from other factors such as responses to predators, courtship behaviours and competition.

Dr Braddy continues: "There is no simple single explanation. It is more likely that some ancient arthropods were big because there was little competition from the vertebrates, as we see today. If the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere suddenly increased, it doesn't mean all the bugs would get bigger."
Reference Here>>

This excerpted and edited from Associated Press via Yahoo! –

Scientists find fossil of enormous bug

By THOMAS WAGNER, London, Associated Press Writer – 11-21-2007 – 5:00 AM PT

The study, published online Tuesday in the Royal Society's journal Biology Letters, means that before this sea scorpion became extinct it was much longer than today's average man is tall.

Prof. Jeorg W. Schneider, a paleontologist at Freiberg Mining Academy in southeastern Germany, said the study provides valuable new information about "the last of the giant scorpions."

Schneider, who was not involved in the study, said these scorpions "were dominant for millions of years because they didn't have natural enemies. Eventually they were wiped out by large fish with jaws and teeth."

Braddy's partner paleontologist Markus Poschmann found the claw fossil several years ago in a quarry near Prum, Germany, that probably had once been an ancient estuary or swamp.

"I was loosening pieces of rock with a hammer and chisel when I suddenly realized there was a dark patch of organic matter on a freshly removed slab. After some cleaning I could identify this as a small part of a large claw," said Poschmann, another author of the study.

"Although I did not know if it was more complete or not, I decided to try and get it out. The pieces had to be cleaned separately, dried, and then glued back together. It was then put into a white plaster jacket to stabilize it," he said.

Eurypterids, or ancient sea scorpions, are believed to be the extinct aquatic ancestors of today's scorpions and possibly all arachnids, a class of joint-legged, invertebrate animals, including spiders, scorpions, mites and ticks.
Braddy said the sea scorpions also were cannibals that fought and ate one other, so it helped to be as big as they could be.

"The competition between this scorpion and its prey was probably like a nuclear standoff, an effort to have the biggest weapon," he said. "Hundreds of millions of years ago, these sea scorpions had the upper hand over vertebrates — backboned animals like ourselves."
But the next time you swat a fly, or squish a spider at home, Braddy said, try to "think about the insects that lived long ago. You wouldn't want to swat one of those."
Reference Here>>

Additional Article Here>>

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Suck It Up! – Nigersaurus taqueti Breaks The Rules

Sculptor Tyler Keillor reconstructed a flesh head and neck of Nigersaurus under the direction of paleontologists Paul Sereno and Jeff Wilson. Image Credit: Tyler Keillor - Project Exploration

Suck It Up! – Nigersaurus taqueti Breaks The Rules

Life forms here, found on the Oblate Spheroid, at times, become really baffling.

Out on the Saharan desert landscape in Niger, Paleontologist, Dr. Paul Sereno and his colleagues dug up bones that, at first blush, did not seem to make any sense. The teeth were lined up in a straight row at the very front of the jaw. The jaw itself, had a very unusual shape, in that it was the opposite of most jaw shapes (most shapes are narrow at the front and widen toward the back to provide chewing leverage).

Inside the bizarre jaws of Nigersaurus. Image Credit: M. Hettwer - Project Exploration

The broad front part of the jawbone structure along with the unique structure and placement of the teeth, it was deduced, were perfectly suited for sucking, straining, and grinding potential food substances (ie. vacuum-like) before having the digestible material hit the stomach.

The Nigersaurus taqueti went on display November 15, 2007 at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington D.C. and will remain there until March 2008.

DESERT WASTELAND - The discovery site is located in the sandy Ténéré Desert in the Sahara; 110 million years ago, it was a lush environment with broad rivers. Image Credit: M. Hettwer - Project Exploration

This excerpted from AP via YAHOO! -

Dinosaur found with vacuum-cleaner mouth
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer – Washington, D.C. – 11-16-2007

A dinosaur with a strange jaw designed to hoover-up food grazed in what is now the Sahara Desert 110 million years ago. Remains of the creature that "flabbergasted" paleontologist Paul Sereno went on display Thursday at the headquarters of the National Geographic Society.
"The biggest eureka moment was when I was sitting at the desk with this jaw," he [Sereno] said. "I was sitting down just looking at it and saw a groove and ... realized that all the teeth were up front."

It's not normally a good idea to have all the teeth in the front of the jaw — hundreds in this case.

Sure, "it's great for nipping," Sereno said, "but that's not where you want do your food processing."

"That was an amazing moment, we knew we had something no one had ever seen before," Sereno recalled.
While Nigersaurus' mouth is shaped like the wide intake slot of a vacuum, it has something lacking in most cleaners — hundreds of tiny, sharp teeth to grind up its food.

The 30-foot-long Nigersaurus had a feather-light skull held close to the ground to graze like an ancient cow. Sereno described it as a younger cousin of the North American dinosaur Diplodicus.

Its broad muzzle contained more than 50 columns of teeth lined up tightly along the front edge of its jaw. Behind each tooth more were lined up as replacements when one broke off.

A computer-generated endocast of Nigersaurus' brain was created by CT scanning the well-preserved brain case. Image Credit: Project Exploration

Using CT scans the researchers were able study the inside of the animal's skull where the orientation of canals in the organ that helps keep balance disclosed the habitual low pose of the head, they reported.
The dinosaur's anatomy and lifestyle were to be detailed in the Nov. 21 issue of PLoS ONE, the online journal from the Public Library of Science, and in the December issue of National Geographic magazine.
The research was partly funded by National Geographic where, Sereno said, "you can see the hideous jaw elements in person."

Reference Here>>

Thursday, November 15, 2007

SPACE CHICKEN - Revisited One Year Later

Image Credit: KFC

SPACE CHICKEN - Revisited One Year Later

Kentucky Fried Chicken in a PR inspired marketing effort, decided that it was time to lay down a "first" that no other company can claim. KFC fashioned a company logo on the desert floor outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. A full color logo (made with tiles) that is large enough to be seen from space.

Image Credit: KFC

World's largest logo here on the Oblate Spheroid!

This from Reuters -

KFC targets extraterrestrials with huge logo
Reuters - Tue Nov 14, 2006 2:48pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - From space, extraterrestrials and astronauts can look back to earth and see The Great Wall of China -- and KFC's Colonel Sanders.

The KFC Corp. on Tuesday launched a rebranding campaign with an 87,500 square-foot image of Colonel Sanders in the Nevada desert which the company says makes Kentucky Fried Chicken the world's first brand visible from space.

"If there are extraterrestrials in outer space, KFC wants to become their restaurant of choice," KFC President Gregg Dedrick said in a statement.

The logo consists of 65,000 one-foot by one-foot painted tile pieces that were assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

"If we hear back from a life form in space today - whether NASA astronauts or a signal from some life form on Mars - we'll send up some Original Recipe Chicken," said Dedrick.

The logo also depicts an updated version of KFC icon Colonel Sanders who wears his signature string tie but with a red apron instead of his classic white double-breasted suit.

The logo was built at the remote Area 51 desert near Rachel, Nevada, which KFC said was known as the UFO capital of the world and famous for its association with UFO conspiracy theories.

Reference Here>>

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

IBM Blue Gene Times Three – On The Road To “Petaflop”

Technicians at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California install the world's most powerful computer, an IBM Blue Gene/L supercomputer. The machine is 50,000 times more powerful than a home PC. Image Credit: Livermore National Laboratory

IBM Blue Gene Times Three – On The Road To “Petaflop”

Yesterday, IBM announced that its experimental high-speed computer located at the Livermore Labs in northern California just passed by the world’s fastest calculation processing mark. IBM was able to clobber the speed of processing mark, not by just a little margin … but by three times faster than any other manufactures computer.

Blue Gene Logo - Image Credit: IBM Corporation

The current speed of calculation measurement is called a “teraflop” and this is defined as - (tera FLoating point OPerations per second) One trillion floating point operations per second. To visualize what this means is a little like … well, one can’t! IBM was able to calculate at a speed of teraflop times 478 or 478 trillion calculations per second.

What is probably more amazing, engineers at IBM feel that they will be able to more than double the speed of calculation and processing mark announced today sometime next year. That speed milestone will be measured as a “petaflop” which is defined as - One Quadrillion Floating Point Operations Per Second.

To be honest, we at Oblate Spheroid don’t even know how many zeros a “QUADRILLION” has but we know it has to be way fast.

This announcement and materials were found through The News Market -

IBM Blue Gene Shatters Record as World's Fastest Computer
IBM Corporation Press Release – 12-NOV-2007

IBM’s Blue Gene/L supercomputer is once again the fastest computer in the world, a record it has held for the past four years. The official TOP 500 Supercomputers list, released Nov. 12, reports the machine is now three times faster than its competitors with 478 trillion calculations per second, or 478 “teraflops.”

The Blue Gene/L is housed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. IBM has a record 232 supercomputers on the TOP 500 list, the vast majority built with commodity style, PC microprocessors.

The computer maker also outlined its plans to next year achieve a computing milestone known as a “petaflop” – the ability to process 1,000 trillion calculations per second.

Blue Gene is an IBM Research project dedicated to exploring the frontiers in supercomputing: in computer architecture, in the software required to program and control massively parallel systems, and in the use of computation to advance our understanding of important biological processes such as protein folding.

And this from IBM –

Blue Gene – About This Project
Last updated 27 Jun 2007

The full Blue Gene/L machine was designed and built in collaboration with the Department of Energy's NNSA/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, and has a peak speed of 360 Teraflops.

Blue Gene systems occupy the #1 (Blue Gene/L) and #4 (Blue Gene Watson) positions in the TOP500 supercomputer list announced in June 2007 and a total of 4 of the top 10. IBM now offers a Blue Gene Solution.

IBM and its collaborators are currently exploring a growing list of applications including hydrodynamics, quantum chemistry, molecular dynamics, climate modeling and financial modeling.
Additional Photo And Information Materials

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

VIVA, Las Vegas! – It’s A Whole New (blog) World!

Image Credit:

VIVA, Las Vegas! – It’s A Whole New (blog) World!

From LA, it’s just a short four hour drive across the desert with the “FM 98&99 - The Highway Stations" filling in on the background while we, at Oblate Spheroid press across the winding road to Las Vegas. Starting Wednesday, and continuing through to Friday, a “First Ever” tradeshow catering to individuals and businesses that tie at least some of their efforts to the process of communication and commerce through the computer and the internet.

Featured exhibiting enterprises include weblog advertising agencies, news source aggregators, web-metrics analysis companies, digital to analog (and back) publishers, broadcasting/podcasting audio and video enterprises, search engine and front page information tools businesses, virus security protection companies, investment opportunity enterprises, special interest blog communities, communications associations, application software developers, employment agencies, transportation companies, and website development entrepreneurs.

Beginning Wednesday, a one day conference entitled Executive & Entrepreneur Conference – followed Thursday and Friday by blogworld & New Media EXPO will highlight all that the this brave new digital communications world has to offer.

The Executive & Entrepreneur Conference will host sessions that will explore subjects from “The Importance of Blogging & New Media In Your Organization/Strategic Marketing” to Search Engine Optimization: Best Practices, and includes “Going Global with New Media”.

blogworld& New Media EXPO conference continue with two more days of sessions on “Citizen Journalism & Mainstream Media” to “Smart Ways To Monetize Your Blog”, and includes “The Cult of Blogging” featuring radio talk show host, Hugh Hewitt and Blog Entrepreneur, Arianna Huffington.

On the exposition floor, recognizabe WWW. names such as YAHOO!, Microsoft, AOL, Pajamas Media, CAMPAIGNS & ELECTIONS, CLIQ, GodblogCon 2007, ibnma (International Blogging & New Media Association), Kithbridge, podango, PRWeb, SharedBook, SOUTHWEST Airlines, sphere, Technorati, and Townhall to mention a few will all be trying to capture the attention of and create a greater sense of community with - The Blogger.

Surrounding activities include a private pre-release movie premiere of Grace Hill Media’s “Kite Runner” with a question and answer session with the star of the movie moderated by respected movie critic and radio talk show host, Michael Medved.

This from Grace Hill Media -

Image Credit: ecj via Grace Hill Media

And a major sponsor pajama party at “The Joint” at the Hard Rock Hotel!

This from Pajamas Media -

What Happens at Blog World Stays at Blog World
Posted At Pajamas Media 11-07-2007

On Thursday and Friday, bloggers and blog readers will assemble at the Las Vegas Convention Center for the first annual Blog World Expo. In addition to the non-stop panels, a “Pajama Party” will be held Thursday night at the Hard Rock Hotel. Among the Pajamahadeen on hand: Glenn Reynolds, Roger L. Simon, Rick Moran, Stephen Green, Ed Driscoll and Aaron Hanscom.

Read more about the festivities, prizes, and (yes) showgirls…

TRUEVIEW EVENTS - Murder Mystery days, Murder Mystery dinners, Murder Mystery teambuilding events. Film Making days, Advert making days, Treasure Hunts, and many more teambuilding activities. Image Credit: Trueview Events in association with Pajamas Media

It’s Vegas, after all, and when in Rome…

Showgirls wearing Pajamas Media sashes. At the Pajamas Media booth, comic Evan Sayet will be holding forth as the “White House Press Secretary” twice a day. Visitors to the booth get a free Pajamas Media sleep mask. And those who are bold enough to hold their own Press Conference have a chance to win an iPod!
Reference Here>>

The point of all of this is to allow the people who participate in this relatively new pursuit of weblog-ing and associated world wide web activity to come together as a community and share in this like minded effort to mix/mingle and communicate. It's kind'a like a "Woodstock for Wordsmiths" ...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Eye(s) Have It! – A Genetic Switch

Eyes are organs of vision that detect light. Different kinds of light-sensitive organs are found in a variety of organisms. The simplest eyes do nothing but detect whether the surroundings are light or dark, while more complex eyes can distinguish shapes and colors. -- Scientists believe they could grow eyeballs from stem cells in the lab, the process would be a boon to individuals with damage to cells within the eye, including retinal disorders. Image Credit: Wikipedia

The Eye(s) Have It! – A Genetic Switch

An enzyme that researchers have isolated leads to replacement therapy procedures for the eye and replacement parts for the eye.

In a new study released through the journal, Nature, a nitrogen-bearing molecule is the key to setting off a series of steps that result in eye formation in frogs.

The researchers think the same mechanism for triggering eye development can apply across a wide range of species, including human beings. It is interesting to note, mutations to the human equivalent of this enzyme lead to severe head and eye defects in humans.

When researchers injected a specific enzyme into frog embryos, the resulting tadpoles showed an extra eye (right image). The left image shows normal tadpole eye development. Image Credit: Masse, K., Bhamra, S., Eason, R., Dale, N. and Jones, E./Nature

This excerpted from LifeScience -

Scientists Envision Growing Human Eyeballs
By Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Staff Writer -- posted: 24 October 2007

A genetic switch that gives tadpoles three eyes could allow stem-cell scientists to eventually grow human eyeballs or at least create replacement parts needed for repair jobs.

If scientists could grow eyeballs from stem cells in the lab, the process would be a boon to individuals with damage to cells within the eye, including retinal disorders.

"If you knew all the genes, and how to turn them on, that you needed to make an eye, you could start with very early embryonic cells and turn on all the right genes and grow an eye in a dish," said co-leader of the study Nicholas Dale, a neuroscientist at the University of Warwick in England.

"What I think is the more realistic possibility is to make precursor cells for different bits of the eye, which could then be transplanted and differentiate in-situ to replace damage to the retina or the lens or iris," Dale told LiveScience.

Scientists already had established the amphibian genes that initiate and direct eye development, which they refer to as Eye Field Transcription Factors (EFTFs). How these genes get activated in the right location at a certain time during development had been cloaked in mystery.
Dale and University of Warwick developmental biologist Elizabeth Jones, along with colleagues, discovered the eye-switch while investigating how "ectoenzyme" molecules located on the external surface of cells contributed to the development of locomotion in the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis). The biologists injected the molecules into frog embryos that comprised just eight cells.

One of the ectoenzymes triggered wonky eye development. When added to cells that would eventually form the head, the resulting tadpole sported three eyes instead of two. An even stranger sight resulted when they injected the ectoenzyme into other developing body cells. The molecule caused an additional "ectopic" eye, leading to tadpoles with a spare peeper growing out of the side, abdomen or even along the tail.

On a molecular level, the scientists say the enzyme converts a burst of the energy-carrying molecule ATP into ADP, which ultimately turns on the embryo's eye-making machinery.

The researchers think the same mechanism for triggering eye development applies across a wide range of species, including us. Mutations to the human equivalent of this enzyme lead to severe head and eye defects in humans.
Reference Here>>