Intro to External Pulsed Plasma Propulsion (EPPP)

Future Engine

External Pulsed Plasma Propulsion (EPPP)  is something that’s been discussed for some time. In fact, it was originally proposed by Stanislaw Ulam way back in 1947. Unfortunately the public perception of atomic technology as well as pieces of otherwise well meaning legislation have called into question the feasibility of spacecraft that operate using this advanced principle. Read More →

Advances in ‘Channeled Power’ are Accelerating

Image Source: WiTricity

Image Source: WiTricity

Something nearly every sci-fi series has in common: no wires or electrical outlets, and nobody seems to have any problem keeping a charge on their gadgets. While we’ve created better and better wireless technology here in the real world, we still can’t use it to power an entire house—let alone all of those starships we don’t have—and we still can’t charge our devices without being tethered to some kind of wire or dock. Read More →

Environmentally-Friendly Biolamp Concept

Basic RGB

Engineers typically consider the ability to transform pollution into fuel a holy grail of the applied sciences. A Hungarian engineer may have been able to do just that, however. Peter Horvath is attempting to market a device termed a biolamp that lights up the street while simultaneously removing carbon dioxide from the surrounding atmosphere. I think this is a really great idea if it can get off the ground. Read More →

One with the Cosmos: NASA App Review

NASA_App_02

Photo courtesy of NASA via Geek.com

The human collective interest of the final frontier has never reached such high levels today. With news of a successful Mars landing to open applications and marketing campaigns to become astronauts,  we feel like space is inching its way towards the palm of our hands. It may sound a little bit hypothetical, but in this age of smartphones and portable technology, it is very literal. Read More →

Nanodevices for a ‘More than Moore’ World

Nanotech

Moore’s Law – which holds that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit, and hence its processing power, doubles every 18 months – has been the guiding principle of chip design for almost half a century. But with physical limitations to further transistor scaling being reached, Moore’s Law may have met its match. We are entering a ‘More than Moore’ world in which EU-funded researchers are playing an important role. Read More →

Can DNA Template Lead to Future Technologies?

To the right is a honeycomb of graphene atoms. To the left is a double strand of DNA. The white spheres represent copper ions integral to the chemical assembly process. The fire represents the heat that is an essential ingredient in the technique. (Anatoliy Sokolov)

To the right is a honeycomb of graphene atoms. To the left is a double strand of DNA. The white spheres represent copper ions integral to the chemical assembly process. The fire represents the heat that is an essential ingredient in the technique. (Anatoliy Sokolov)

DNA is the blueprint for life. Could it also become the template for making a new generation of computer chips based not on silicon, but on an experimental material known as graphene? That’s the theory behind a process that Stanford chemical engineering professor Zhenan Bao reveals in Nature Communications (citation below). Bao and her co-authors, former post-doctoral fellows Anatoliy Sokolov and Fung Ling Yap, hope to solve a problem clouding the future of electronics: consumers expect silicon chips to continue getting smaller, faster and cheaper, but engineers fear that this virtuous cycle could grind to a halt. Read More →

Examining Minerals Present in Biomass

Image: © Ashley Cooper/Corbis

Image: © Ashley Cooper/Corbis

As the search for low carbon fuels continues, biomass has become increasingly more attractive to various industries. Biotechnology researchers are therefore looking into pyrolysis — gasification and combustion methods that would take regular organic material and convert it into a high-yield energy source. Several substances in ash chemistry influence corrosion and slag creation after combustion has occurred. Researchers are also looking into this to see if anything can be done to increase the amount of thermal energy that industries can get out of these fuels. Read More →

Researchers Turn a Smartphone into a Biosensor

University of Illinois researchers developed a cradle and app for the iPhone to make a handheld biosensor that uses the phone’s own camera and processing power to detect any kind of biological molecules or cells. | Photo by Brian T. Cunningham

University of Illinois researchers developed a cradle and app for the iPhone to make a handheld biosensor that uses the phone’s own camera and processing power to detect any kind of biological molecules or cells. | Photo by Brian T. Cunningham

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers have developed a cradle and app for the iPhone that uses the phone’s built-in camera and processing power as a biosensor to detect toxins, proteins, bacteria, viruses and other molecules. Read More →

When Technological Progress Stirs Up Anxiety

Technology and Anxiety

In many sci-fi movies and novels, human beings create technology in the hopes of simplifying and enriching their lives and instead it ends up ruling them. The “man subsumed by the machine” motif has been appeared in Star Wars, Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, Frank Herbert’s Dune and many other places. Such stories speak to the underlying anxiety that we can feel when reflecting upon our own inventions. Can we learn to trust all this technology that we’re so often reliant upon?

Nowadays many people strongly depend upon things like search engines, social networking technology, digital publishing and so many other marvels of the computer age even though they may not actually understand how such things work. They may not even grasp the basic principles behind many of them.

Some apt statements about the psychological and spiritual ramifications of technology were made by the late great mythologist Joseph Campbell. Campbell pointed out that our culture’s technological progress has outstripped our ability to cope with it on a feeling level. We place our fate in technology’s hands, but do we really understand the bargain we’ve made? Do we know where technology is leading us? Can we sense how it might possibly be changing us?

Getting to the bottom of any form of anxiety typically involves finding and examining the beliefs that may be fueling it. This approach can also work for addressing “techie anxiety”. Here’s a few of the underlying realities that can make people feel uneasy about progress in the modern day:

  • History has taught us to question the motives of those who invent and manufacture technology. An obvious example of this is the phenomenon of splitting the atom, which led to one of the greatest horrors of the modern world: Nuclear weapons.
  • It is easy to blame technology for the rapine of the natural world. Of course, the real issue is our own personal choices, and the uses to which we put our technological knowledge. But we need only look at our litany of modern ecological ills to see the devastation that “progress” can wreak.
  • It all seems to be developing too fast and we feel unable to keep up with it. It’s been estimated that technological progress is occurring 20,000 times faster now than it did in 1900.

The idea that we are ruled by our environment – whether it’s natural or machine-made – is actually a myth. The technology that dominates our culture is merely a reflection of our values, our beliefs and even our fears. It serves as a mirror for us. If we treat it as such, we do not need to feel that it dominates us. It can remain a tool to be used, not to be used by.

Let’s Explore Flywheel Energy Storage Devices

Credit: Flybrid Systems, L.P.

Credit: Flybrid Systems, L.P.

Flywheel energy storage devices could be looked at as a radical application of very traditional technology. They work by maintaining rotational energy by moving a flywheel. This same idea is used to keep a mechanical watch ticking.

A majority of modern FES devices use electricity to put the flywheel in motion, but some researchers are interested in the idea of using mechanical energy to start and stop the wheel. Read More →