Monthly Archives: March 2012

Navy 4 years away from laser guns

Danger Room reports that the Office of Naval Research is close to having a solid state laser with military value in about 4 years. The article talks to the difference between solid state and free electron lasers. The difference is of great effect because a solid state laser of 100Kw can deal with a few threats, but still has a dwell time on a target of many seconds to nearly a minute, demanding on the target and the conditions. This means you can’t deal with many more targets than you have lasers.

The Free Electron laser, with 10 times the power or more, can deal with many more targets than lasers – the holy grail of shipboard missile defense – a high power “shield” that makes a vessel virtually immune to missile attack. The power for this will likely require going back to nuclear power plants on surface ships to provide the necessary power, and a new generation of power handling equipment to deal with moving several Megawatts of power around a ship.

So in the near term, lasers have the potential to provide defense against a handful or 2 of small boats or a single enemy ships typical salvo of anti-ship missiles. Given that the future is likely going to see a return of Cold war era massive saturation sraids of scores of missiles against a carrier battle group, the SAM will not be made obsolete until an air defense ship has 10 Mw of power and a man battery of 4 to 6 Free electron lasers.

Mystery of the lightening bolt neutrons

Ars Technica reports on one of the many little mysteries that keep physicists up at night.

Why do lightening strikes produce low energy free neutrons?

One explanation was related to cosmic rays, another to gamma rays produced by the bolt.

Neither explanation matches the data Russian scientists recently recorded.

As the article opines, this is not likely to be the harbinger of a revolution in physics, but reminds us that the more we seem to know about the universe, the more we find we don’t yet know.

Unmanned Drones first mission – Taco delivery!

Singularity Hub reports on a practical use for all the gyrations Quadcopters have been doing on the web.

OK, as the site speculates April 1st is right around the corner, and despite H. R. 658 titled “FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012″ which passed in February, allowing for the commercial development of UAVs, the bar is tremendously high, and quadcopters do have 4 rapidly spinning blades – each a lawsuit waiting to happen.

The article also discusses matternet a vision that takes the idea of delivering food with UAVs from a web gimmick, to a potential lifeline for millions. Are roads days numbered?

Apple provides a “religious experience”

PC Mag reports on research that shows that the use of Apple products stimulates the same centers of the brain responsible for “religious experiences” in at least one fan.

The study will be reported tonight in the UK in a BBC documentary called “Secrets of the Superbrands,” which examines the relationship between consumers and brands that shape our lives.

On a related note, “The Church of Kopimism, whose principal tenant is the right to file-share, has been formally recognized as a religious organization in Sweden.”

“For the Church of Kopimism, information is holy and copying is a sacrament,” it said in a statement. “Information holds a value, in itself and in what it contains, and the value multiplies through copying. Therefore, copying is central for the organization and its members.”

“Hopefully, this is one step towards the day when we can live out our faith without fear of persecution,” Gerson said in a statement.

Unfortunately, the recognition as a religion has no effect on the illegality of copyright infringement…Well, they can always join the Raelians…

Communicate through anything…even a planet!

The University of Rochester has demonstrated a communication technology that can be used through rock, water, even through the moon to its dark side using neutrinos. THe process:

The apparatus required is incredibly large and complex, but it demonstrated in principle that communicating by modulating a beam of neutrinos is possible.

IBM opens door to terahertz computing

A press release from IBM reports on a hybrid optical/silicon chip that can send and receive data at terahertz rates on a single chip. Seperately, the University of Pittsburgh has reported on techniques that can transmit at 100 tera hz using a “spectral comb” that isolates combinations of the natural oscillations in silicon atoms. Theoretically the technique could be refined to focus on electrons vice a crystal lattice of atoms, multiplying the effect by 1000 to peta-hz frequencies.

The potential of the discoveries to increase processing speeds of processing chips by 1000 to 1,000,000 times – a Moore’s law blowing proposition. coupled with IBM’s discovery to move data around at similar speeds, the combination could result in a revolution in both processing and communications using lasers for long-haul data transfer rather than microwaves currently used.

University of Texas at Dallas adds other pieces to the puzzle.

This would provide the backbone required to employ post 4G wireless technologies on a widespread basis, allowing cellular technology to potentially rival wired plant solutions for consumers.

And to make matters worse…Old memories interfere with new ones!

So not only does it take energy to erase information, if you don’t “your brain gets full”.

Well not exactly, but according to this article when the pattern of brain activity for the older memory was stronger, the participants were more likely to fail to correctly recall the newer memory, the team reports. Even when a person successfully reported the new memory, traces of the old memory were called to mind. What’s more, when the new and old memory strengths were evenly matched, the participants took longer to answer. “We’re seeing evidence of things people are trying to not remember,” Kuhl says.

It takes energy to forget

Information theory has maintained that it does not necessarily take energy to create information, but it takes energy to delete it. This article at Science News.

According to the article, the discovery confirms a 1961 prediction by IBM physicist Rolf Landauer. It links information and heat flow in ways that keep the universe from breaking the second law of thermodynamics. Landauer was investigating Maxwell’s thought experiment about a “demon” who, according to Maxwell:

… if we conceive of a being whose faculties are so sharpened that he can follow every molecule in its course, such a being, whose attributes are as essentially finite as our own, would be able to do what is impossible to us. For we have seen that molecules in a vessel full of air at uniform temperature are moving with velocities by no means uniform, though the mean velocity of any great number of them, arbitrarily selected, is almost exactly uniform. Now let us suppose that such a vessel is divided into two portions, A and B, by a division in which there is a small hole, and that a being, who can see the individual molecules, opens and closes this hole, so as to allow only the swifter molecules to pass from A to B, and only the slower molecules to pass from B to A. He will thus, without expenditure of work, raise the temperature of B and lower that of A, in contradiction to the second law of thermodynamics….

Landauer calculated that erasing a bit of information always releases at least a tiny amount of heat — no less than 3 billionths of a trillionth of a joule (at room temperature).