Meatball in the sky, a little fun for the day.

Worship of the meatball monster in the sky..

Touched by his noodly appendage

Scientists have discovered gene to turn

on/off homosexuality in fruit flies

I didn't ASK to be a gay fly!

Fruit flies, officially known as Drosophila melanogaster, who have their homosexuality turned off will now just be called flies.

Gangsta Flowcharts

I'm SLEZE and I'm built to last!

More proof that abstract art is bullshit – UK art afficienados fooled into buying Toddler art

Abstract art is bullshit

“To the untrained eye, they appear to be simple daubs that could have been created by a two year old. Which is precisely what they are.”

First Air Force Aircraft Carrier undergoing Sea Trials

Golf course first...ask for more runway...

Deaf people want genetically engineered deaf children

Deaf people want genetically engineered deaf children

Genetic engineering will be VERY good for some things...

While most normal people (and most deaf people) would want to make sure their offspring would have as few genetic flaws as possible, some deaf people are arguing they should have the right (when techonology allows) to ENSURE their children are deaf so that they don’t feel like freaks have a better family life.

Locust: stupid moronic liberals.

Congress Holds Hearings on Unobtainium

Congress Holds Hearings on Unobtainium


For a while now, the Pentagon has been concerned about U.S. dependence on rare-earth metals. Precision weapons, Priuses and iPhones depend on components made from rare earths like terbium, dysprosium, yttrium and thulium. And the dependence threatens more than just national security: It’s a major issue when it comes to developing renewable energy sources.

The House Committee on Science and Technology’s investigations and oversight panel is holding a hearing today on rare-earth metal supplies, focusing on China’s near-monopoly on the stuff. As we’ve reported here before, China has raised concerns by threatening to limit exports. And to make matters more complicated, U.S. mining companies are dependent on China for processing. As a recent LiveScience story points out, U.S.-based Molycorp Minerals has to ship rare earths to China for final separation.

Testimony is embargoed until the hearing begins today at 2 p.m., but you can read a hearing overview (.pdf) and watch a live webcast once the hearing begins.

The hearing will include testimony from Mark Smith, the CEO of Molycorp Minerals, which is trying to restarting a mine in Mountain Pass, California, which is the primary source for rare earth minerals in the United States. (That mining operation closed in 2002.)

It’s not all doom and gloom: China has reportedly backed away from a sweeping ban on the export of some rare earths. And the United States is sitting on significant reserves of rare-earth metals (.pdf), as a U.S. Geological Survey report points out. Perhaps more importantly, policymakers and politicians are now catching on to their strategic value.

Image: Google Earth

Locust: finally someone on capital hill has some brains, and realizes we may Lose (and by lose I mean due to war) our source of rare earth minerals from China.

Contact lenses with circuits, lights a possible platform for superhuman vision

Contact lenses with circuits, lights a possible platform for superhuman vision

Movie characters from the Terminator to the Bionic Woman use bionic eyes to zoom in on far-off scenes, have useful facts pop into their field of view, or create virtual crosshairs. Off the screen, virtual displays have been proposed for more practical purposes – visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go.

The device to make this happen may be familiar. Engineers at the University of Washington have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.

Caption: A researcher holds one of the completed lenses.

Credit: University of Washington

“Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is generating superimposed on the world outside,” said Babak Parviz, a UW assistant professor of electrical engineering. “This is a very small step toward that goal, but I think it’s extremely promising.” The results were presented today at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ international conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems by Harvey Ho, a former graduate student of Parviz’s now working at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif. Other co-authors are Ehsan Saeedi and Samuel Kim in the UW’s electrical engineering department and Tueng Shen in the UW Medical Center’s ophthalmology department.

There are many possible uses for virtual displays. Drivers or pilots could see a vehicle’s speed projected onto the windshield. Video-game companies could use the contact lenses to completely immerse players in a virtual world without restricting their range of motion. And for communications, people on the go could surf the Internet on a midair virtual display screen that only they would be able to see.

“People may find all sorts of applications for it that we have not thought about. Our goal is to demonstrate the basic technology and make sure it works and that it’s safe,” said Parviz, who heads a multi-disciplinary UW group that is developing electronics for contact lenses.

The prototype device contains an electric circuit as well as red light-emitting diodes for a display, though it does not yet light up. The lenses were tested on rabbits for up to 20 minutes and the animals showed no adverse effects.

Ideally, installing or removing the bionic eye would be as easy as popping a contact lens in or out, and once installed the wearer would barely know the gadget was there, Parviz said.

Building the lenses was a challenge because materials that are safe for use in the body, such as the flexible organic materials used in contact lenses, are delicate. Manufacturing electrical circuits, however, involves inorganic materials, scorching temperatures and toxic chemicals. Researchers built the circuits from layers of metal only a few nanometers thick, about one thousandth the width of a human hair, and constructed light-emitting diodes one third of a millimeter across. They then sprinkled the grayish powder of electrical components onto a sheet of flexible plastic. The shape of each tiny component dictates which piece it can attach to, a microfabrication technique known as self-assembly. Capillary forces – the same type of forces that make water move up a plant’s roots, and that cause the edge of a glass of water to curve upward – pull the pieces into position.

The prototype contact lens does not correct the wearer’s vision, but the technique could be used on a corrective lens, Parviz said. And all the gadgetry won’t obstruct a person’s view.

Caption: Contact lenses with metal connectors for electronic circuits were safely worn by rabbits in lab tests.

Credit: University of Washington

“There is a large area outside of the transparent part of the eye that we can use for placing instrumentation,” Parviz said. Future improvements will add wireless communication to and from the lens. The researchers hope to power the whole system using a combination of radio-frequency power and solar cells placed on the lens, Parviz said.

A full-fledged display won’t be available for a while, but a version that has a basic display with just a few pixels could be operational “fairly quickly,” according to Parviz.

Berkeley Bionics Human Exoskeleton

Berkeley Bionics Human Exoskeleton

Berkeley Bionics™, designs and manufactures lower extremity exoskeletons to augment human strength and endurance during locomotion. Berkeley Bionics exoskeletons increase wearer’s strength.


Lockheed Unleashes ‘HULC’ Super-Strength Gear

For years a pair of brilliant scientists have been locked in a nasty fight to see who could build super-strength suits for the U.S. military.  In that battle Sarcos’ Stephen Jacobsen had a key advantage over his arch-rival, Berkeley Bionics’ Hami Kazerooni: Jacobsen had defense contracting giant Raytheon on his side. Which meant government contacts. Engineering know-how. And an ability to manufacture the exoskeletons in quantity, if need be.

Then, last month Kazerooni announced that he had teamed up with a defense-industrial giant, too. Yesterday, at the Association of the United States Army’s winter conference, Lockheed and Berkeley Bionics showed off their exoskeleton, the Human Universal Load Carrier exoskeleton — “HULC.” (This video is similar to a one we highlighted last Spring; newer footage in on the Defense News site.)

The super-strength suit attaches to the wearers’ legs, augmenting their power while shadowing their movement. According to Lockheed, HULC enables the wearer to carry up to 200 pounds without much effort — and sprint up to 10 miles per hour in short bursts. Lithium-ion batteries will keep the wearer walking at a normal pace for an hour. The companies also claim that there’s a “long-range extended 72-hour mission model,” which relies on JP8 jet fuel. But they didn’t appear to show it off at the conference.

HULC won’t boost arm strength, like Sarcos’ all-body exoskeleton.
But a shoulder strap does help with heavy lifting. And HULC doesn’t need to be tethered to a power source, like Sarcos’ suit does. Which means wearers can crawl and scamper around, uninhibited. HULC is also fairly easy to get on and off — the thing “can be removed in 30
seconds,” according to Defense News.

“The HULC can be fitted with armor plating, heating or cooling systems, sensors and ‘other custom attachments,’” Lew Page notes. “We particularly liked that last one: our personal request would be a powered gun or missile mount of some kind above the shoulder, linked to a helmet or monocle laser sight.”

Not so fast, Pagey. For now, the joint Lockheed-Berkeley team is just gearing up for “full-scale trials with the Army” in the standard super-suit, “beginning in January 2010.”