GLASS ACT

Background: Nature recently published a paper on a new technology for windows. In a nutshell: glass has been prepared that selectively absorbs visible and near-infrared light when an electrochemical voltage is applied. This opens the way to ‘smart’ windows that block heat on demand, with or without optical transparency.

Given that residential and commercial buildings account for about 40 percent of energy use and 30 percent of energy-related carbon emissions in the US, this is quite a breakthrough.

Read Composite for smarter windows  (Note: Nature subscription required for this one)

Design challenge: Our goal was to create a graphic that simply and elegantly showed the three limiting optical states of a new smart coating: (a) full transparency, (b) selectively near-infrared (NIR) blocking, and (c) darkened against both visible and NIR light transmission (as labelled in the final graphic, above).

The cover design (also above) showed the three states in one window, but for the graphic we wanted to be more explanatory while still conveying the simplicity of the concept.

A key challenge was to show the layers within the glass, to visually explain how applying a charge to this setup affects the nanocrystals and therefore the optical transparency of the glass matrix. It was drawn in an orthographic projection, with the layered structure of the glass drawn as blowouts using the same projection. This allowed all of the elements to sit nicely within the same visual space.

I experimented by showing more structure around the windows (such as in a brick wall) and by showing more of an external ‘scene’, but found that simple floating windows with a stylized depiction of sky and natural light was all that was needed.

-Nik Spencer

(via freshphotons)

A Boy And His Atom: The World’s Smallest Movie

Scientists are known for loving their work. Biologists tend to their cultures and animals. Physicists polish their exquisite machines like sports car entusiasts treat vintage Ferraris. So do chemists love atoms? Apparently they do. At least enough to write a love story with, and about them.

IBM scientists have created the world’s smallest movie using individual atoms. It’s the story of a boy and his playful atom buddy, drawn in stop motion and with each quantum pixel positioned using a scanning tunneling microscope. Every frame is magnified a stunning 100 million times!

This amazing feat was accomplished by using a charged atomic needle to drag single carbon monoxide molecules (the individual atoms we see are one side of that two-atom molecule) around on a copper substrate. I’ve posted a little bit about these feats of atomic art before, with these “quantum corrals” and “ferrous wheels”

See those ripples around each atom? They remind me of pebbles being tossed into a still pond. They are actually ripples in the electron field of the copper surface below! It’s a reminder that, contrary to many textbooks, electrons behave more like waves than particles following an orbit. And like any other wave, they can form intricate interference patterns. Check out this previous post for more on that.

The hope is that manipulating atomic structures like this may lead to even greater information storage capacity. Imaging all the world’s books and movies on your mobile phone at once!

Here’s a “making of” movie from IBM, featuring the sound of atoms being moved as well as the encouraging sight of several female team members.

This makes me as happy as atom boy there.

Patented technique key to new solar power technology
For years, scientists have studied the potential benefits of a new branch of solar energy technology that relies on incredibly small nanosized antenna arrays that are theoretically capable of harvesting more than 70 percent of the sun’s electromagnetic radiation and simultaneously converting it into usable electric power. The technology would be a vast improvement over the silicon solar panels in widespread use today. Even the best silicon panels collect only about 20 percent of available solar radiation, and separate mechanisms are needed to convert the stored energy to usable electricity for the commercial power grid. The panels’ limited efficiency and expensive development costs have been two of the biggest barriers to the widespread adoption of solar power as a practical replacement for traditional fossil fuels. But while nanosized antennas have shown promise in theory, scientists have lacked the technology required to construct and test them. The fabrication process is immensely challenging. The nano-antennas – known as “rectennas” because of their ability to both absorb and rectify solar energy from alternating current to direct current – must be capable of operating at the speed of visible light and be built in such a way that their core pair of electrodes is a mere 1 or 2 nanometers apart, a distance of approximately one millionth of a millimeter, or 30,000 times smaller than the diameter of human hair.

Patented technique key to new solar power technology

For years, scientists have studied the potential benefits of a new branch of solar energy technology that relies on incredibly small nanosized antenna arrays that are theoretically capable of harvesting more than 70 percent of the sun’s electromagnetic radiation and simultaneously converting it into usable electric power. The technology would be a vast improvement over the silicon solar panels in widespread use today. Even the best silicon panels collect only about 20 percent of available solar radiation, and separate mechanisms are needed to convert the stored energy to usable electricity for the commercial power grid. The panels’ limited efficiency and expensive development costs have been two of the biggest barriers to the widespread adoption of solar power as a practical replacement for traditional fossil fuels. But while nanosized antennas have shown promise in theory, scientists have lacked the technology required to construct and test them. The fabrication process is immensely challenging. The nano-antennas – known as “rectennas” because of their ability to both absorb and rectify solar energy from alternating current to direct current – must be capable of operating at the speed of visible light and be built in such a way that their core pair of electrodes is a mere 1 or 2 nanometers apart, a distance of approximately one millionth of a millimeter, or 30,000 times smaller than the diameter of human hair.

IBM 2012 Tech Trends Report now available
IBM has published its 2012 Tech Trends Report: Fast Track to the Future based on a survey of over 1,200 IT professionals worldwide.  Mobile is featured prominently in the report.  Key insights from the study:
Only one in 10 organizations surveyed reported that they have all the skills they need for the four emerging technologies (cloud computing, business analytics, mobile computing and social business)
Business analytics and mobile are leading in deployment with roughly 50 percent of survey respondents having deployed
49 percent of respondents have deployed mobile
Top three barriers to adoption of mobile according to those surveyed: Security (61 percent); integration of Mobile with existing infrastructure and data (44 percent); and difficulty extending existing applications to Mobile (38 percent)
69 percent plan to increase mobile investment in the next two years, with 35 percent planning to increase it 10 percent or more
Over the next two years, 31 percent of respondents will start allowing BYOD – making it the norm for 76 percent of respondents
43 percent of respondents say their IT security policies don’t meet the needs of mobile computing

IBM 2012 Tech Trends Report now available

IBM has published its 2012 Tech Trends Report: Fast Track to the Future based on a survey of over 1,200 IT professionals worldwide.  Mobile is featured prominently in the report.  Key insights from the study:

  • Only one in 10 organizations surveyed reported that they have all the skills they need for the four emerging technologies (cloud computing, business analytics, mobile computing and social business)
  • Business analytics and mobile are leading in deployment with roughly 50 percent of survey respondents having deployed
  • 49 percent of respondents have deployed mobile
  • Top three barriers to adoption of mobile according to those surveyed: Security (61 percent); integration of Mobile with existing infrastructure and data (44 percent); and difficulty extending existing applications to Mobile (38 percent)
  • 69 percent plan to increase mobile investment in the next two years, with 35 percent planning to increase it 10 percent or more
  • Over the next two years, 31 percent of respondents will start allowing BYOD – making it the norm for 76 percent of respondents
  • 43 percent of respondents say their IT security policies don’t meet the needs of mobile computing
  Belgian Hackers Let You Build Circuit Boards on the Web | Wired Enterprise | Wired.com
The rise of low-cost, hacker-friendly electronics is fueling a new wave of hardware hobbyists. Using programmable boards like the Arduino and dirt-chip computers like the Raspberry Pi, you can build everything from your very own supercomputers to an internet-connected beer fermentation refrigeration system.
But Belgium startup called Circuits.io wants to take this trend even further. It wants to give you the power to build your own custom circuit boards.
Historically, that’s been expensive and difficult for hobbyists to do, but Circuits.io wants to change that by offering a web-based circuit board design system made especially for hobbyists complete with library of open source component designs. And soon it will also offer a CafePress-style print-on-demand service for circuit boards.

  Belgian Hackers Let You Build Circuit Boards on the Web | Wired Enterprise | Wired.com

The rise of low-cost, hacker-friendly electronics is fueling a new wave of hardware hobbyists. Using programmable boards like the Arduino and dirt-chip computers like the Raspberry Pi, you can build everything from your very own supercomputers to an internet-connected beer fermentation refrigeration system.

But Belgium startup called Circuits.io wants to take this trend even further. It wants to give you the power to build your own custom circuit boards.

Historically, that’s been expensive and difficult for hobbyists to do, but Circuits.io wants to change that by offering a web-based circuit board design system made especially for hobbyists complete with library of open source component designs. And soon it will also offer a CafePress-style print-on-demand service for circuit boards.

joshbyard:

The Gamification of Synthetic Biology Continues: Creators of FoldIt Follow up With RNA Transformation Game

Meet eteRNA, your new internet addiction. Not only is it a super-fun way to procrastinate on that thing you should be doing, it also helps to advance biology’s understanding of RNA and its synthesis- in a big way.

Scientists from Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon University have developed eteRNA as a successor to Foldit, a popular internet-based game that proved the pattern-matching skills of amateurs could outperform some of the best protein-folding algorithms designed by scientists.

They’re hedging their bets that eteRNA will work similarly - and are even funding the real-life synthesis of the weekly winner’s RNA molecule to see if it really does fold the same way the game predicts it should. 

The scientists hope to tap the internet’s ability to harness what is described as “collective intelligence,” the collaborative potential of hundreds or thousands of human minds linked together.

Using games to harvest participation from amateurs exploits a resource which the social scientist Clay Shirky recently described as the “cognitive surplus” - the idea that together, as a collection of amateurs, we internet people make a very good algorithm because we react to information presented in a game, get better at it as we go along, and make informed decisions based on what has or hasn’t worked for us in the past. 

“We’re the leading edge in asking nonexperts to do really complicated things online,” says Dr. Treuille, an assistant professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon and one of the original masterminds behind the game. “RNA are beautiful molecules. They are very simple and they self-assemble into complex shapes. From the scientific side, there is an RNA revolution going on. The complexity of life may be due to RNA signaling.”

“This [project] is like putting a molecular chess game in people’s hands at a massive level,” he continues. “I think of this as opening up science. I think we are democratizing science.”

And, so far, the democratisation is working. Although the creators warn that game players may start to see legal and ethical issues in gameplay down the road, for now, the collective intelligence is trumping professionally designed algorithms. Significantly, not only do humans outperform their computer adversaries, but the human strategies developed during the course of the game are significantly more flexible and adaptable than those of the algorithms they’re pitted against.

fuckyeahmolecularbiology:

Watch 131 Years of Global Warming in 26 Seconds | Climate Central
While temperatures have been blistering this summer, this video takes the longer historical view. It comes to us from our friends at NASA and is an amazing 26-second animation depicting how temperatures around the globe have warmed since 1880. That year is what scientists call the beginning of the “modern record.” You’ll note an acceleration of those temperatures in the late 1970s as greenhouse gas emissions from energy production increased worldwide and clean air laws reduced emissions of pollutants that had a cooling effect on the climate, and thus were masking some of the global warming signal. The data come from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures. As NASA notes, “in this animation, reds indicate temperatures higher than the average during a baseline period of 1951-1980, while blues indicate lower temperatures than the baseline average.” 

Watch 131 Years of Global Warming in 26 Seconds | Climate Central

While temperatures have been blistering this summer, this video takes the longer historical view. It comes to us from our friends at NASA and is an amazing 26-second animation depicting how temperatures around the globe have warmed since 1880. That year is what scientists call the beginning of the “modern record.” You’ll note an acceleration of those temperatures in the late 1970s as greenhouse gas emissions from energy production increased worldwide and clean air laws reduced emissions of pollutants that had a cooling effect on the climate, and thus were masking some of the global warming signal. The data come from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures. As NASA notes, “in this animation, reds indicate temperatures higher than the average during a baseline period of 1951-1980, while blues indicate lower temperatures than the baseline average.” 

courtenaybird:

How Tech Has Changed How We Cook - The Atlantic

The cooking site AllRecipes was founded 15 years ago by a group of food-loving anthropology grad students. In 1999, the then-two-year-old site surveyed its users, asking them questions about why and when and how they cook. Now, to commemorate its birthday, AllRecipes re-conducted that same survey, asking its current users the same questions it asked back in 1999. 

courtenaybird:

How Tech Has Changed How We Cook - The Atlantic

The cooking site AllRecipes was founded 15 years ago by a group of food-loving anthropology grad students. In 1999, the then-two-year-old site surveyed its users, asking them questions about why and when and how they cook. Now, to commemorate its birthday, AllRecipes re-conducted that same survey, asking its current users the same questions it asked back in 1999. 

(via thenextweb)