China: Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Technology Has Been Mastered

3:23:31 AM, Friday, January 07, 2011

“BEIJING — Chinese scientists have mastered the technology for reprocessing fuel from nuclear power plants, potentially boosting the supplies of carbon-free electricity to keep the country's economy booming, state television reported Monday.

The breakthrough will extend by many times the amount of power that can be generated from China's nuclear plants as fissile and fertile materials are recovered to be new fuel, CCTV said.

Several European countries, Russia, India and Japan already reprocess nuclear fuel – the actual materials used to make nuclear energy – to separate and recover the unused uranium and plutonium, reduce waste and safely close the nuclear cycle.

The CCTV report gave no details on whether or when China would begin reprocessing on an industrial scale.

China overtook the United States as the world's largest energy consumer in 2009, years before it was expected to do so, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

But it is heavily dependent on coal, a major pollutant. It has 13 nuclear power plants in use now and ambitiously plans to add potentially hundreds more.

Reprocessing nuclear fuel costs significantly more than using it once and storing it as waste. It is also controversial because extracted plutonium can be used in nuclear weapons, although China has long had a nuclear arsenal.

U.S. commercial reprocessing of plutonium was halted by then-President Jimmy Carter because of nuclear proliferation worries. Then-President George W. Bush proposed a resumption, but the National Research Council found it not economically justifiable. President Barack Obama scrapped the Bush effort…”

-- China, China, China...

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Dana Carvey - Cat on the Piano & Choppin' Broccoli

11:30:21 PM, Thursday, January 06, 2011

-- Classic!

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The AI Revolution Is On

9:49:14 PM, Thursday, January 06, 2011

“The computers are in control. We just live in their world.

Diapers.com warehouses are a bit of a jumble. Boxes of pacifiers sit above crates of onesies, which rest next to cartons of baby food. In a seeming abdication of logic, similar items are placed across the room from one another. A person trying to figure out how the products were shelved could well conclude that no form of intelligence—except maybe a random number generator—had a hand in determining what went where.

But the warehouses aren’t meant to be understood by humans; they were built for bots. Every day, hundreds of robots course nimbly through the aisles, instantly identifying items and delivering them to flesh-and-blood packers on the periphery. Instead of organizing the warehouse as a human might—by placing like products next to one another, for instance—Diapers.com’s robots stick the items in various aisles throughout the facility. Then, to fill an order, the first available robot simply finds the closest requested item. The storeroom is an ever-shifting mass that adjusts to constantly changing data, like the size and popularity of merchandise, the geography of the warehouse, and the location of each robot. Set up by Kiva Systems, which has outfitted similar facilities for Gap, Staples, and Office Depot, the system can deliver items to packers at the rate of one every six seconds.

The Kiva bots may not seem very smart. They don’t possess anything like human intelligence and certainly couldn’t pass a Turing test. But they represent a new forefront in the field of artificial intelligence. Today’s AI doesn’t try to re-create the brain. Instead, it uses machine learning, massive data sets, sophisticated sensors, and clever algorithms to master discrete tasks. Examples can be found everywhere: The Google global machine uses AI to interpret cryptic human queries. Credit card companies use it to track fraud. Netflix uses it to recommend movies to subscribers. And the financial system uses it to handle billions of trades (with only the occasional meltdown)…”
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Transparent Cement Lets in Light

8:23:32 PM, Thursday, January 06, 2011

"Not many people would use the word "transparent" to describe cement. But transparent cement made its debut at the Italian Pavilion during the World Expo last year in Shanghai, and its qualities are pretty remarkable.

The complete process has not been revealed by manufacturer Italcementi, but the technology is based on a matrix of cement embedded with resins that are designed to allow a certain amount of light through without compromising the material's integrity..."

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WTF of the Day: Funky Forest - After School Club

5:04:27 PM, Wednesday, January 05, 2011

-- Best movie ever. Watch this gem at your own risk! I forgot I've added this to to my YouTube faves awhile back. Might cause recurring nightmares! Hmm... I guess it's safe for work?!?

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A Typical Day of Air Traffic - Each Dot Represents an Airplane

1:15:40 PM, Wednesday, January 05, 2011
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'Liquid Biopsy' Blood Test Could Revolutionise Cancer Treatment

8:02:59 PM, Tuesday, January 04, 2011

"A new “liquid biopsy” blood test that could revolutionize the way doctors monitor and tackle the spread of cancer is being developed by scientists.

The test is sensitive enough to detect a stray cancer cell among a billion blood cells, which would indicate that an existing tumour has spread elsewhere in the body or is likely to.

It also shows if the level of blood-borne cancer cells falls in response to treatment, giving doctors a clearer gauge of success, and analyses the cells’ biological makeup to inform predictions of their next move.

The test could replace the painful tissue sampling currently used to monitor the growth of tumours, and could eventually be used instead of procedures like mammograms or colonoscopies to screen for new cancers.

Four large cancer hospitals across the US will begin testing the procedure this year. They will use the test to discover more promptly whether their treatments of patients’ existing cancers are proving effective.

Dr Daniel Haber, one of the test’s inventors, said: “If you could find out quickly, ‘this drug is working, stay on it,’ or ‘this drug is not working, try something else,’ that would be huge..."”

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Penguin Takes a Risky Path, Uses Seal as Stepping Stone

7:56:52 PM, Tuesday, January 04, 2011

-- Like a BOSS!

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Landart Trigram by Otik Skalicky

7:47:54 PM, Tuesday, January 04, 2011
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Astronomers Find First Evidence Of Other Universes

2:06:53 PM, Tuesday, January 04, 2011

“Our cosmos was "bruised" in collisions with other universes. Now astronomers have found the first evidence of these impacts in the cosmic microwave background.

There's something exciting afoot in the world of cosmology. Last month, Roger Penrose at the University of Oxford and Vahe Gurzadyan at Yerevan State University in Armenia announced that they had found patterns of concentric circles in the cosmic microwave background, the echo of the Big Bang.This, they say, is exactly what you'd expect if the universe were eternally cyclical. By that, they mean that each cycle ends with a big bang that starts the next cycle. In this model, the universe is a kind of cosmic Russian Doll, with all previous universes contained within the current one.

That's an extraordinary discovery: evidence of something that occurred before the (conventional) Big Bang.

Today, another group says they've found something else in the echo of the Big Bang. These guys start with a different model of the universe called eternal inflation. In this way of thinking, the universe we see is merely a bubble in a much larger cosmos. This cosmos is filled with other bubbles, all of which are other universes where the laws of physics may be dramatically different to ours.

These bubbles probably had a violent past, jostling together and leaving "cosmic bruises" where they touched. If so, these bruises ought to be visible today in the cosmic microwave background…”

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An Example of Truly Impressive Engineering: Highest HP 4g63 Engine

12:06:56 AM, Tuesday, January 04, 2011

-- I do not usually post build threads like this, but this is definitely worth a look if you are at all into cars. This ridiculousness is an example of unlimited budget! The crank alone was ~$31,000.

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Bumble Bees In U.S. Suffer Sharp Decline, Joining Countless Other Species Disappearing Worldwide

8:55:48 PM, Monday, January 03, 2011

"North American bees are disappearing at a rapid rate, signaling a dire threat to the production of countless food sources. The Guardian reports that four common species of U.S. bumble bees have declined 96 percent in recent decades, and scientists allege that disease and inbreeding are responsible.

Honey bees have long been known to be in decline, suffering from the enigmatic colony collapse disorder, and the latest research on U.S. bumble bees only exacerbates concerns over future food production, as bees are responsible for pollinating 90 percent of the world's commercial plants, from fruits and vegetables to coffee and cotton.

While a correlation between the Nosema bombi fungus infection and the declining bumble bee populations was discovered, the culprit isn't clearly defined. One of the study's researchers told LiveScience that the data doesn't necessarily verify that the disease is driving the decline, and other factors -- like reduced adaptability to environmental changes as a result of inbreeding -- are likely at play.

The bees join other pollinating insects that have been suffering increasing declines since the end of the 20th century, including moths and hoverflies, and the U.S. findings mirror similar studies examining bee declines around the world, with everything from increasing city development to pesticide use suggested as contributing causes..."

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Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

8:19:36 PM, Monday, January 03, 2011

“When it comes to brain size, bigger doesn't always mean better. As humans continue to evolve, scientists say our brains are actually getting smaller.

The downsizing of human brains is an evolutionary fact that took science writer Kathleen McAuliffe by surprise.

"I said, 'What? I thought it was getting bigger!'" she tells NPR's Jacki Lyden. That was the story up to 20,000 years ago, she learned. Then, the brains of our ancestors reversed course and started getting smaller — and they've been shrinking ever since.

Cro-Magnon man, who lived in Europe 20,000 to 30,000 years ago, had the biggest brains of any human species. In comparison, today's human brain is about 10 percent smaller. It's a chunk of brain matter "roughly equivalent to a tennis ball in size," McAuliffe says.

The experts aren't sure about the implications of this evolutionary trend. Some think it might be a dumbing-down process. One cognitive scientist, David Geary, argues that as human society grows increasingly complex, individuals don't need to be as intelligent in order to survive and reproduce.

But not all researchers are so pessimistic. Brian Hare, an anthropologist at the Duke University Institute for Brain Sciences, thinks the decrease in brain size is actually an evolutionary advantage…”

Image by Mateu Velasco

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SUVs May be Banned in Paris

7:42:56 PM, Monday, January 03, 2011

“By late 2011 or early 2012 the city of Paris will begin testing restrictions on vehicles that emit a certain amount of CO2, meaning large, polluting vehicles such as SUVs. An environmental official with the mayor’s office said, “I’m sorry, but having a sport utility vehicle in a city makes no sense. Sell it and buy a vehicle that’s compatible with city life.” (Source: Detroit Free Press) Or, even better, sell it and ride Le Metro, or ride a bike.

Due to the current high levels of congestion and air pollution, similar restrictions will be tested at the same time in other French cities such as Lyon, Grenoble, and Aix-en-Provence. The cities where the large car ban will be tested will be called Priority Zones for Action against Air Pollution.

SUVs and other large vehicles will probably still be allowed to drive freely in the urban areas around the city of Paris, but not allowed inside. The population of the city is a little over two million, but the population of the Paris metro area is over ten million. The Paris Metro (subway) carries over four million passengers a day, so you can imagine potentially how many cars could be on the roads at the same time.

Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, has been a longtime green campaigner and pledged to reduce traffic congestion by 40 percent by 2020. One of the ideas he has supported is a bike rental program which now provides 20,000 bikes in the city for residents and tourists to move around without having to use cars. With the program, called Vélib, a bike can be rented for a week for about nine dollars. The city also has about 230 miles of bike lanes…”

-- What if I do have those 10 kids I drive around in my Suburban?!

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The Big Picture: A New Year Rolls In

7:26:20 PM, Sunday, January 02, 2011

-- Photos of New Year celebrations around the world. I want that bear mask/costume the kids in Romania got!!!

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