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Friday, December 7, 2007

Report :A new electrode for cutting the price of making hydrogen

Although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, it's a royal pain to make.

Most industrial hydrogen producers currently make the gas by heating methane and water to 815 degrees Celsius and causing a reaction. Unfortunately, this process generates 9.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every kilo of hydrogen, so it's not environmentally friendly or cheap.

Other companies like Signa Chemistry have come out with chemical catalysts that can strip hydrogen from water.

Then there is electrolysis, which involves cracking water molecules with electricity. Electrolysis doesn't produce any greenhouse gases or chemical residues so it's the most environmentally friendly. It's also expensive and time consuming. QuantumSphere says it has a way around this problem.

It has devised an iron-nickel power for coating an electrode that speeds up the electrolysis process, according to CEO Kevin Maloney. It's a classic nano play. Coating a surface with small, independent particles increases the reactive surface area, which means more simultaneous reactions between molecules. Quantum's Stingray electrodes have more than 2,000 times more catalytic surface area than standard electrodes coated with standard sized particles, he said.

The Stingray can produce 2.4 kilograms of hydrogen in 25 minutes. Standard electrodes can take hours or days, he said. As a result, the Stingray can produce hydrogen at $2.50 to $9 a kilo, not including subisidies. That's in the range that excites the Department of Energy.

No, the hydrogen economy doesn't exist yet. But researchers around the globe continue to ponder ways to produce, store and transport the stuff cheaply. Some car makers still maintain that hydrogen cars will come out within a decade or so.

A spin-out from Caltech, QuantumSphere also makes particles for rocket engines and other industrial applications. We wrote about them a few years ago here.

Bussiness decision :Large businesses shouldn't skip Vista Gartner

A operating system operates the whole business... so its time to consious for the future time what operating system will taken for the business.Have to think the future ,security, reliability

For some companies, it's a tempting option, but they need to consider it carefully, or they could end up feeling some pain down the line, according to analyst group Gartner.

Gartner said companies have "significantly delayed" the start of their Windows Vista migrations, with most planning to begin deployment in late 2008 or even 2009, making some think of skipping Vista altogether.

But Gartner research vice president Michael Silver has warned that the next version of Windows, code-named "Windows 7," may also suffer from the delays that dogged Vista and be just as difficult to adopt.

"Organizations that tried to skip Windows 98, Windows 2000, and Windows XP often had ISV (independent software vendor) support issues, and a difficult and rushed or forced migration. Organizations that try to skip Windows Vista are likely to undergo the same perils," the Gartner research warned.

For example, while Microsoft will support business versions of Windows for at least 10 years, and Windows XP is expected to be supported with security fixes until 2014, many software vendors won't support their products on Windows XP for that long, nor will they support new versions of their software on older operating systems.

For Windows XP, software suppliers will probably start dropping support in early 2010 and, by 2012, it will be common for software vendors not to support Windows XP for their new versions or applications.

Gartner also warned that, while Microsoft said it would deliver Windows 7 about three years after Vista shipped, "Microsoft's track record for shipping new versions of Windows is not good." The research firm pointed to the delays of both Windows 2000 and Vista.

If the next version of Windows--likely to be a fairly major release--ships late, then companies trying to skip Vista will end up running large numbers of Windows XP PCs longer than they would like, and are likely to be forced to adopt Windows 7 before their vendors all support it.

For companies struggling to build a business case for upgrading to Vista, the analyst house suggested bringing in the new operating system on new hardware only--which means it could take a three- or four-year hardware replacement cycle to eliminate an old operating system and bring in a new one.

But Gartner also said skipping Windows Vista might be the right decision for smaller organizations because they don't have the scale to support multiple operating systems on an ongoing basis, making a full-scale "forklift" migration project more efficient.

Gartner also advised that larger organizations with lots of in-house developed applications should consider forklift deployments, because their developers would be responsible for supporting all homegrown applications on multiple operating systems, which would "greatly increase application development costs."

Hackers Get Data of Federal Lab Visitors

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory revealed on Thursday that a "sophisticated cyber attack" over the last few weeks may have allowed personal information about thousands of lab visitors to be stolen.
The assault appeared "to be part of a coordinated attempt to gain access to computer networks at numerous laboratories and other institutions across the country," lab director Thom Mason said in a memo to the 4,200 employees at the Department of Energy facility.
Oak Ridge officials would not identify the other institutions affected by the breach. But they said hackers may have infiltrated a database of names, Social Security numbers and birth dates of every lab visitor between 1990 and 2004.

"There was no classified data of any kind compromised," lab spokesman Bill Stair said Thursday. "There are people who think that because they accessed this database that they had access to the lab's supercomputer. That is not the case. There was no access at all."

The lab currently has the second-fastest supercomputer in the world, an open-research, 101.7-teraflop Cray XT3/XT4 known as "Jaguar," and has plans to build another.

About 3,000 researchers annually visit the facility, a major DOE energy research and high-performance computing center, about 25 miles west of Knoxville.

Officials have sent letters to about 12,000 potential victims. Mason said so far there was "no evidence that the stolen information has been used."

The assault was in the form of phony e-mails containing attachments, which when opened allowed hackers to penetrate the lab's computer security. The practice is called "phishing."

The first fake e-mail arrived Oct. 29. At least six more waves followed.

"At first glance, they appeared legitimate," Mason wrote. One notified employees of a scientific conference. Another pretended to notify the employee of a complaint on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission.

Each one instructed recipients to open an attachment for further information. And when they did, it "enabled the hackers to infiltrate the system and remove data," Mason wrote.

The lab's cyber police determined about 1,100 phony e-mail messages entered the lab's network. In 11 cases, an employee took the bait and opened the attachments.

"Our cyber security staff has been working nights and weekends to understand the nature of this attack," Mason wrote. "Reconstructing this event is a very tedious and time-consuming effort that likely will take weeks, if not longer, to complete."

Meanwhile, the lab will post updates on its Web site at .

"Every year we build bigger and more sophisticated fences around our databases and every year our enemies find new and more sophisticated ways to tunnel under the fence," Stair said. "This is an ongoing challenge that is going to be there as far as we can see in the future."

Google announced the prize , challenging entrepreneurs to "re-conquer the moon" and launch a "Moon 2.0" era of private lunar visits and enterprises.

Entrepreneurs aim for the moon, and 30 million bucks

Odyssey Moon from the Isle of Man stepped forward Thursday as the first private team intent on exploring the moon and claiming Google's 30-million-dollar Lunar X Prize.

Google announced the prize in September, challenging entrepreneurs to "re-conquer the moon" and launch a "Moon 2.0" era of private lunar visits and enterprises.

"People have not really thought through the potential the moon represents," Odyssey Moon chairman Ramin Khadem, a founder of Inmarsat, told AFP after the team's public debut at the Space Investment Summit in San Jose, California.

"The moon is the eighth continent and we need to exploit it in a responsible way. We want to win the Google prize and, if we do, that will be gravy. But either way we are going to the moon."

Google partnered with the X Prize Foundation, which promotes private space exploration, to offer the prize.

The 30-million-dollar offer to the first private team to make it to the moon is good until 2012, when the amount of money drops to 25 million. All the prize money is taken from the table in 2014 if unclaimed.

"The Moon is a stepping stone to the rest of the solar system and a source of solutions to some of the most pressing environmental problems that we face on Earth -- energy independence and climate change," Google says in a posting on its website.
Already, governments from around the world recognize the importance of lunar exploration."

The Google X Prize promises 20 million dollars to the first team to land a privately-funded craft on the moon, move it at least 500 meters and send "Mooncast" video back to Earth.

Millions more dollars in "bonus prizes" can we won by completing additional tasks on the moon.

Odyssey Moon is the first team to pay the 10,000-dollar registration fee and qualify to compete.

"We hope the announcement will motivate and inspire even more teams to enter this race," said X Prize Foundation chairman Peter Diamandis.

"I think that people are beginning to stand up and take notice of the fact there are a lot of very smart millionaires and billionaires investing in space."

The roster of technology entrepreneurs backing private space exploration includes Google founders Larry Page and Serge Brin; Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and founder Jeff Bezos, Diamandis notes.

"Explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries who set out to find new worlds were probably asked why they were doing it," Khadem said. "Look at the riches and wonders they discovered."

Odyssey Moon is an international partnership that began the project about three years ago.

"Ours will be a small robot," Khadem said, explaining his team's mission is modest in comparison to manned space travel funded by national governments.

"We are out to complement, not compete with, China, Russia and the US."

Khadem envisions solar power farms on the moon to help sate mankind's hunger for affordable energy. He also sees the moon as a staging ground for deeper space missions.

"I think the returns can be enormous," said Khadem, who is also chairman of the International Space University.

Odyssey Moon has hired Canadian technology firm MDA as its prime contractor on the project.

The Isle of Man, a crown dependency of Britain, has crafted its laws and tax structures to attract private space exploration businesses, according to its director of space commerce, Tim Craine.

Among the firms based there are private space satellite communications company Inmarsat and aspiring space tourism business Excalibur Almaz.

"If you tell people you have offshore banking they nod," Craine said. "But if you say your home to a space program you ignite their interest."

laser can be used to switch a film of vanadium dioxide back and forth between reflective and transparent states without heating or cooling it.

Laser light alone can open, close world's fastest optical shutter without heating or cooling

It’s a rare case of all light and no heat: A new study reports that a laser can be used to switch a film of vanadium dioxide back and forth between reflective and transparent states without heating or cooling it.
It is one of the first cases that scientists have found where light can directly produce such a physical transition without changing the material’s temperature.

It is also among the most recent examples of “coherent control,” the use of coherent radiation like laser light to affect the behavior of atomic, molecular or electronic systems. The technique has been used to control photosynthesis and is being used in efforts to create quantum computers and other novel electronic and optical devices. The new discovery opens the possibility of a new generation of ultra-fast optical switches for communications.

The study, which was published in the Sept. 18 issue of Physical Review Letters, was conducted by a team of physicists from Vanderbilt University and the University of Konstanz in Germany headed by Richard Haglund of Vanderbilt and Alfred Leitenstorfer from Konstanz.

Vanadium dioxide’s uncanny ability to switch back and forth between transparent and reflective states is well known. At temperatures below 154 degrees Fahrenheit, vanadium dioxide film is a transparent semiconductor. Heat it to just a few degrees higher, however, and it becomes a reflective metal. The semiconducting and metallic states actually have different crystalline structures. Among a number of possible applications, people have experimented with using vanadium dioxide film as the active ingredient in “thermochromic windows” that can block sunlight when the temperature soars and as microscopic thermometers that could be injected into the body.

In 2005, a research collaboration teaming Haglund and René Lopez (now at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) with Andrea Cavalleri and Matteo Rini from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory tested the vanadium dioxide transition with an ultra-fast laser that produced 120-femtosecond pulses. (A femtosecond is a quadrillionth of a second. At this time scale, an eye blink lasts almost forever. In the three-tenths of a second it takes to blink an eye, light can travel 56,000 miles. By contrast, it takes 100 femtoseconds to cross the width of a human hair.)
Using this laser, the researchers determined that VO2 film can flip from transparent to reflective in a remarkably short time: less than 100 femtoseconds. This was the fastest phase transition ever measured. However, the mechanism that allowed it to make such rapid transitions remained a matter of scientific debate.

Now, in a two-year collaboration with the Leitenstorfer group, the Vanderbilt researchers have used a laser with even shorter, 12-femtosecond pulses to “strobe” the vanadium dioxide transition with the fastest pulses ever used for this purpose. The result" “This transition takes place even faster than we thought possible,” says Haglund. “It can shift from transparent to reflective and back to transparent again in less than 100 femtoseconds, making the transition more than twice as fast as we had thought.”

In order to identify the driving mechanism for the rapid change of state in vanadium dioxide, Leitenstorfer’s graduate student Carl Kübler developed a method that converts the near-infrared photons produced by their 12-femtosecond pulse laser into a broad spectrum of infrared wavelengths that bracket a well-known vibration in the vanadium dioxide crystal lattice. At the same time, the Vanderbilt researchers figured out how to grow VO2 film on a diamond substrate that is transparent to infrared light.

This allowed the researchers to show that the energy in the laser beam goes directly into the crystal lattice of the VO2, driving it to shift from its transparent, crystalline form to its more compact and symmetric metallic configuration.

The laser light doesn’t produce this shift by heating the VO2 lattice until it melts, as the conventional wisdom about phase transitions suggested. Instead, the researchers found that the stream of photons directly drive the oxygen atoms from one position to another by a process that is rather like pumping a swing in time with its natural frequency.

“People have believed for a long time that what happened in this phase transition was that the electrons get excited and then, somehow or another, the crystal structure changes,” says Haglund. “But it turns out that the change in crystal structure is associated with this coherent molecular vibration.”

Such a rapid transition is only possible because the difference between the metallic and semiconductor geometries is extremely small. “You can think of the movement that results as a breathing motion of the oxygen ‘cage’ that surrounds the vanadium ions,” says Haglund. “That makes it possible for the structure to change from the semiconducting to the metallic states. It’s a little like taking a deep breath to get into last summer’s clothes.”

This mechanism also allows the researchers to trigger the transition without changing the film’s temperature. “We can focus the laser beam on a transparent vanadium dioxide film and create a small reflective spot. We can switch it on and off in less than 100 femtoseconds provided we haven’t dumped so much energy into the film that we’ve heated it up. However, the more laser energy you dump in the VO2, the longer it takes to return to the semiconducting state,” Haglund says.

Caribbean to the Indian Ocean to the central Pacific, global warming and the sea's rising temperatures have been "bleaching" and killing the world's c

Scientists Trying to Save Coral Triangle

For time beyond memory on this remote bay of neon fish and underwater gardens, people have avoided the "masalai," taboo waters, where a monster octopus might lurk or spirits dwell in coral caves. Now it's science that wants no-go zones in Kimbe Bay, and it's because of a new fear.
From the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean to the central Pacific, global warming and the sea's rising temperatures have been "bleaching" and killing the world's coral reefs.

It's here in Kimbe Bay, and in the surrounding triangle of sea stretching from Indonesia up to the Philippines and down to the Solomon Islands, that the strange, beautiful form of life known as coral may someday have to make its last stand.

"The Coral Triangle is going to hold out, and it's tremendously important that it does, because what's holding out is the center of world marine diversity," said marine biologist Charlie Veron, a world-renowned expert on reef-building coral.

The region, epitomized by this gorgeous, volcano-ringed bay on the Pacific's western fringe, shelters more than half of all the world's coral and 75 percent of its hundreds of species, from graceful fan and sprawling table-shaped types, to staghorn, elkhorn and brain coral. Half the world's species of reef fish swim its waters.

Over eons, Veron said, the triangle "has exported this diversity to the rest of the world." In other words, it's coral's homeland.

Veron, Australian author of the three-volume "Corals of the World," spoke with The Associated Press at the U.N. climate conference on the resort island of Bali, where Indonesian and other regional governments this week were announcing a new partnership to protect the Coral Triangle.

The U.S.-based environmental group Nature Conservancy, working with Veron and other foreign and Papua New Guinean scientists, is leading the way here on New Britain island, with an ambitious plan to establish 15 restricted zones in the 3,300-square-mile Kimbe Bay.

It's one of the first plans for "marine protected areas" dealing specifically with climate change.

The Nature Conservancy's Annisah Supal, after escorting a visiting journalist on a morning's underwater tour, said her Papua New Guinean neighbors don't realize what they have.

"We tell them about the uniqueness of the bay, and they say, `Wow!'," the young conservation officer said. "Kimbe Bay is a paradise, and our job is to preserve that paradise."

Beneath the bay's peaceful surface, "paradise" unfolds before goggled eyes in a rainbow of stunning variety - of hard coral in green and red, purple and white, of vividly striped clownfish and starfish of iridescent blue, of brooding groupers and darting flashes of finned indigo. Many depend on the reefs for food and shelter.

The bay, a vast collection of habitats, including isolated seamounts, coastal mangrove forests and seagrass beds, also is home to sperm whales and sea turtles, sharks and dugong. It has quietly become one of the premier scuba diving destinations on Earth.

Divers are increasingly disappointed elsewhere, as coral succumbs to warming and other ills.

Reef-building coral is a fragile organism, a tiny polyp-like animal that builds a calcium-carbonate shell around itself and survives in a symbiotic relationship with types of algae - each providing sustenance to the other.

Even a 1-degree Celsius - 1.7-degree Fahrenheit - rise in normal maximum sea temperatures can disrupt that relationship, leading to bleaching as the colored algae flee. If prolonged, the warming can lead to coral death.

In a series of landmark reports this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.N. climate-science network, said projected global warming indicates "bleaching will recur more often than reefs can sustain."
That's not necessarily so in Kimbe Bay and the Coral Triangle, Veron said. These arms of the equatorial western Pacific have experienced "pulses" of warm water over millions of years, conditioning coral to climate change, he said.

The key, he said, is to now protect these resources from other damaging pressures - land-erosion runoff, toxic agricultural chemicals, coral harvesting, overfishing and fishing by dynamiting reefs or poisoning reef fish.

For various reasons, chiefly related to New Britain's relatively small, farm-based population, such pressures haven't ruined Kimbe Bay.

"But as land is used up for agriculture, and plots become smaller and smaller, you see people turning their attention to the sea, using the sea," said Ana Ban, head of a local environmental group, Mahonia Na Dari, or Guardians of the Sea.

"Before we get to the point where we can no longer save the marine environment, we should act," she said.

With the aid of an advanced computer program assessing marine resources block by block across Kimbe Bay, the Nature Conservancy over three years developed its plan for 15 protected zones, ranging in size from 2 to 240 square miles, places where fishing, shellfish harvesting and other activities would be banned or restricted.

The political challenge, convincing communities to establish the zones, will be at least as daunting as the scientific one. The island waters of one "area of interest," for example, are shared among nine New Guinean clans, all with a say over its use.

"Working with local communities can be difficult," acknowledged Leo Bualia, the Nature Conservancy project manager here. His group has made progress, however, winning approval for marine management laws from the three local governments around the bay.

But in this poor, tradition-bound nation, only the clans could enforce the laws' prohibitions - their ban on the use of "poison rope," for example, a toxic root traditionally used to kill reef fish. Tradition can be tough to overcome.

"Women harvest giant clams by prying their shells from coral with an iron bar," Supal said. "That damages the coral below. But it's hard to tell them they must change."

The conservationists believe, nonetheless, they'll clear final hurdles to establishing two of the marine protected areas by year's end, and hope next year for six more, out of the 15. In some cases, Supal noted, the new no-go zones incorporate the old - the "masalai" taboo areas.

Ultimately, the Nature Conservancy views Kimbe Bay as a "platform site" for expanding such preserves throughout the Bismarck Sea, a large swath of the Coral Triangle.

In the end, however, even the marine biologists' best efforts may not fend off all the threats, since there's a "gorilla in the cupboard," as Veron put it - the growing acidification of the oceans, from their absorption of excess atmospheric carbon dioxide, the prime global-warming gas.

More acidic waters make it more difficult for coral to produce their calcium carbonate shells. Researchers have yet to fully understand the implications, but the accelerating chemical imbalance in the seas spurred 50 Australian coral reef specialists to appeal urgently for action at the Bali climate conference.

"We call on all societies and governments to immediately and substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions," they wrote in a petition this October. "Without targeted reductions, the ongoing damage to coral reefs from global warming will soon be irreversible."

most ancient evidence of the disease has been found in a 500,000-year-old human fossil from Turkey.

View of the inside of a plaster cast of the skull of the newly discovered young male Homo erectus from western Turkey. The stylus points to tiny lesions 1-2 mm in size found along the rim of bone just behind the right eye orbit. The lesions were formed by a type of tuberculosis that infects the brain and, at 500,000 years in age, represents the most ancient case of TB known in humans. Credit: Marsha Miller, the University of Texas at Austin

Most ancient case of tuberculosis found in 500,000-year-old human; points to modern health issues

Although most scientists believe tuberculosis emerged only several thousand years ago, new research from The University of Texas at Austin reveals the most ancient evidence of the disease has been found in a 500,000-year-old human fossil from Turkey.
The discovery of the new specimen of the human species, Homo erectus, suggests support for the theory that dark-skinned people who migrate northward from low, tropical latitudes produce less vitamin D, which can adversely affect the immune system as well as the skeleton.

John Kappelman, professor of anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin, is part of an international team of researchers from the United States, Turkey and Germany who have published their findings in the Dec. 7 issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. The Leakey Foundation and the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey funded the research.

Prior to this discovery in western Turkey, which helps scientists fill a temporal and geographical gap in human evolution, the oldest evidence of tuberculosis in humans was found in mummies from Egypt and Peru that date to several thousand years ago.

Paleontologists spent decades prospecting in Turkey for remains of Homo erectus, widely believed to be the first human species to migrate out of Africa. After moving north, the species had to adapt to increasingly seasonal climates.

The researchers identified this specimen of Homo erectus as a young male based on aspects of the cranial suture closure, sinus formation and the size of the ridges of the brow. They also found a series of small lesions etched into the bone of the cranium whose shape and location are characteristic of the Leptomeningitis tuberculosa, a form of tuberculosis that attacks the meninges of the brain.

After reviewing the medical literature on the disease that has reemerged as a global killer, the researchers found that some groups of people demonstrate a higher than average rate of infection, including Gujarati Indians who live in London, and Senegalese conscripts who served with the French army during World War I.

The research team identified two shared characteristics in the communities: a path of migration from low, tropical latitudes to northern temperate regions and darker skin color.

People with dark skin produce less vitamin D because the skin pigment melanin blocks ultraviolet light. And, when they live in areas with lower ultraviolet radiation such as Europe, their immune systems can be compromised.

It is likely that Homo erectus had dark skin because it evolved in the tropics, Kappelman explained. After the species moved north, it had to adapt to more seasonal climates. The researchers hypothesize the young male’s body produced less vitamin D and this deficiency weakened his immune system, opening the door to tuberculosis.

“Skin color represents one of biology’s most elegant adaptations,” Kappelman said. “The production of vitamin D in the skin serves as one of the body’s first lines of defenses against a whole host of infections and diseases. Vitamin D deficiencies are implicated in hypertension, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease and cancer.”

Before antibiotics were invented, doctors typically treated tuberculosis by sending patients to sanatoria where they were prescribed plenty of sunshine and fresh air.

“No one knew why sunshine was integral to the treatment, but it worked,” Kappelman said. “Recent research suggests the flush of ultraviolet radiation jump-started the patients’ immune systems by increasing the production of vitamin D, which helped to cure the disease.”

Microsoft Releases New Windows Server, Vista SP1 Test Code

Microsoft on Tuesday said that it has reached the "release candidate" with the first service pack for Windows Vista, with plans to make the test software available publicly next week.

It is releasing the test code this week to the 15,000 or so people who have been beta testing SP1 already, and will also make it available on Thursday to those in the MSDN and TechNet developer programs.

"We feel really good and we look forward to receiving feedback from our larger set of testers," said David Zipkin, a senior product manager on the Windows Client team.

Microsoft also said on its Vista blog on Wednesday that it will make available a "blocker" that will allow customers who have Vista and use Windows Update to block SP1 upon its final release to allow for further testing. Microsoft offered a similar option with Windows XP Service Pack 2.

Microsoft also revealed partner resources to prepare customers for the release of the server OS, which the company plans to release to manufacturing on Feb. 27, 2008, the same day as a joint-launch event that also will promote SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008. Combined, the three mark Microsoft's major product release cycle for the year, although the products are not scheduled to be released simultaneously.

Vista SP1 is expected to be available around the same time, but in a two-part release, the company said on Wednesday. According to a post on the Windows Vista Team Blog, a stand-alone installer will be released to the Web in both x86 and x64 versions for the following languages: English, French, Spanish, German and Japanese. About eight to 12 weeks after this release, all of the remaining Vista languages will be released in both x86 and x64 versions.

Both Windows Server 2008 and Vista SP1 are key releases for the business adoption of the Vista client OS, as many companies have been awaiting the release of both its complementary server OS and first service pack to upgrade their desktops. Windows Server 2008 is an especially important technology for enterprise and business customers, who have been waiting for a major update to the OS for nearly five years.

Windows Server 2008 Release Candidate 1 (RC1), the follow-up to Release Candidate 0 in September, can now be downloaded from Microsoft's Web site. According to the company, more than 1.8 million customers have acquired the evaluation code for Windows Server 2008 to date. Windows Vista Service Pack 1 RC1 is available to users through the Microsoft Connect Web site.

More information about the releases can be found on the Windows Server Division Weblog and on the Windows Vista Experience Blog.

Microsoft also has made changes to its Windows Server 2008 software certification program for partners, creating a "Works with Windows Server 2008" program and offering test tools so ISVs can test their applications to ensure they work reliably on the product. The program and tools are available online. Microsoft ran into trouble with Vista because many third-party software vendors didn't have applications ready for the OS in time, causing compatibility headaches for customers.

Partners whose applications pass the "Works with" tests can then submit test results to be validated for "Certified for Windows Server 2008" status, which has higher technical bars for achievement.

New Finding : what makes the solar wind howl ?

World scientist is looking for the ultimate source of power
The solar wind, which whips off the sun and blows past Earth and through the solar system, is unleashed by powerful magnetic waves in electrically charged gas around the sun, scientists said on Thursday.

The mechanisms that cause the solar wind had baffled scientists for decades, but were revealed in observations by a Japanese satellite called Hinode orbiting Earth, the scientists said in research published in the journal Science.

"The magnificent thing about the success of Hinode is its unprecedented view of the dynamics of the sun," Jonathan Cirtain, a solar physicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, who helped in the research, said in a telephone interview.

The research was conducted by Japanese, European and U.S. scientists.

The solar wind is a stream of electrically charged gas -- mostly hydrogen -- blown outward from the sun in all directions at a speed of about a million mph (1.6 million kph).

It buffets planetary atmospheres. On Earth, it can disrupt satellites, power grids and communications, under certain circumstances. Earth's magnetic field protects against the solar wind, creating a bubble around which the wind must flow.

Driving the solar wind are so-called Alfven waves -- strong magnetic waves -- that ripple through the plasma of the sun's atmosphere, or corona, transferring energy from the star's surface and into the solar wind, the researchers said.

The waves are named after Swedish physicist Hannes Alfven, whose prediction of their existence helped earn him a Nobel prize in physics 1970. He died in 1995.

Hinode (pronounced hin-OH-day and named for the Japanese word for "sunrise") showed that two mechanisms appear to power the solar wind, Cirtain said.

The first involves the way the sun's magnetic field undergoes rapid changes in its shape, the researchers said. As the magnetic field changes shape, it generates these Alfven waves along its length that accelerate the charged gas and blow it into space, they said.


Another mechanism powering the solar wind involves the sun's chromosphere, the region sandwiched between the solar surface and its corona. Images from Hinode's Solar Optical Telescope found that the chromosphere is filled with Alfven waves, which when they leak into the corona are strong enough to trigger the solar wind.

"Until now, Alfven waves have been impossible to observe because of limited resolution of available instruments," Alexei Pevtsov, Hinode program scientist for NASA, said in a statement.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency leads the mission, with cooperation from NASA and the European Space Agency.

Hinode has three key pieces of equipment -- the largest optical telescope to observe the sun from orbit, an X-ray telescope and an ultraviolet imaging spectrograph, making continuous observations of the sun.

The existence of the solar wind was first theorized about a half century ago. It existence was confirmed in the 1970s.

Space news : Atlantis delay for Fuel sensors

Fuel sensors force NASA to delay launch until Saturday,
NASA officials worried about tricky fuel sensor readings postponed a planned launch of the space shuttle Atlantis on Thursday, saying it could not go before Saturday at the soonest.

They said they believed a wiring problem caused two of four fuel tank sensors to fail and were trying to determine if it would be possible to either fix the problem or launch the mission safely anyway.

With less than a week of launch window left, NASA has decided to postpone the next attempted liftoff of space shuttle Atlantis to Saturday, after a recurrent fuel-sensor problem scrubbed Thursday's launch.
If Atlantis doesn't blast off before Dec. 14, it will have to wait until early 2008. NASA officials are eager for Atlantis to lift off this year because the shuttle's cargo, a European laboratory, is five years late getting to space.

Further complicating the launch, NASA managers are eager to extend Atlantis's 11-day mission. To do so, the shuttle would have to launch with nearly full fuel tanks. That becomes more difficult with every delay, because the fuel boils off as the spacecraft waits at the launch pad. Replenishing the fuel can take four days.

Extending the mission would let the crew inspect a troublesome joint on the International Space Station.

Shortly after Thursday's launch was canceled, NASA managers said they would try getting Atlantis off the ground today. Later, they opted to give engineers another day of troubleshooting. There's a 40% chance that Saturday's weather will force another delay.

The fuel sensors that forced Thursday's cancellation have delayed launches four times in the past two years. NASA chief Michael Griffin refers to them jokingly as "launch-prevention devices."

Four sensors form a backup system to monitor the amount of hydrogen fuel in the shuttle's giant orange fuel tank. During the loading of the shuttle's fuel Thursday, two of the four sensors gave erroneous readings during a routine test. Sensor malfunctions could have grave results:

•If the sensors signal that the tank is empty when it still contains fuel, the shuttle's engines would shut down and the spacecraft would not reach orbit.

•If the sensors indicate that the tank still has fuel in it when it is actually empty, the engines would keep running, potentially tearing the shuttle apart.

New Era :Internet service in flight

How wondering the fact? really good news
Passengers may soon hear a new in-flight announcement: “You can now log on.”

Starting next week and over the next few months, several American airlines will test Internet service on their planes.
Discounter JetBlue Airways (JBLU) will begin offering on Dec. 11 limited in-flight broadband Wi-Fi service, making it the first U.S. carrier to offer passengers an Internet connection.
The free service lets passengers send and receive e-mail or instant messaging on BlackBerrys and laptop computers.

JetBlue's service will start small: just one Airbus A320. But the airline plans to roll it out to the rest of its fleet on an undetermined schedule. As owner of the wireless spectrum on which the system operates, JetBlue also plans to sell the service to competitors.

Live TV, the JetBlue unit that operates the system, is rolling it out in partnership with Yahoo (YHOO) and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIMM). Users can send and receive e-mail from any type of account on two models of BlackBerry, 8820 and 8320. Laptop users are limited to using only Yahoo e-mail and Yahoo's instant messaging application. The companies haven't signed exclusive deals, and JetBlue may opt to include other popular web-based e-mail accounts in the future, such as Hotmail or Gmail.

“I think 2008 is the year when we will finally start to see in-flight Internet access become available, but I suspect the rollout domestically will take place in a very measured way,” said Henry Harteveldt, an analyst with Forrester Research. But “in a few years time, if you get on a flight that doesn’t have Internet access, it will be like walking into a hotel room that doesn’t have TV.”

The airlines’ goal is to turn their planes into the equivalent of a wireless hot spot once the aircraft reaches its cruising altitude. It will not be available on takeoff and landing.

Virgin America even plans to link the technology to its seat-back entertainment system, enabling passengers who are not traveling with laptops or smartphones to send messages on a flight. The network can also potentially be used for communications within the plane, like food and drink orders — something Virgin America already does with its seat-back system.

While the technology could allow travelers to make phone calls over the Internet, most carriers say they have no plans to allow voice communications. Many travelers find the prospect of phone calls much less palatable than having a seatmate quietly browsing e-mail.

Onboard phone calls are “one of those ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’ types of technologies,” Mr. Harteveldt said. “The last thing you want is to be in a crowded tube at 35,000 feet for two or three hours with some guy going on and on about his trip to Vegas.”

While companies have been promising airborne Internet service for years — the aircraft manufacturer Boeing offered a system that was adopted by a few international carriers but is now defunct — JetBlue will be the first carrier in the United States to offer access to the Web, at least in a limited way.

But if a test flight on Wednesday is any indication of the challenges airlines and their technology partners face in trying to offer Internet connections at 35,000 feet and 500 miles an hour, travelers can initially expect an experience reminiscent of the days of dial-up access — slower and more prone to glitches than on the ground.

“Sometimes you just have to put things out there and see what happens when people try to use it,” said Nate Quigley, chief executive of LiveTV, a JetBlue subsidiary responsible for the airline’s Internet service as well as its in-flight entertainment system. “We’ll find the bugs and eventually get them worked out.”

After years of false starts, LiveTV is one of several companies aiming to introduce in-flight Internet access in 2008. LiveTV’s air-to-ground cellular system, however, functions only over the continental United States. It also involves a hand-off process between cell sites as the plane travels across the country.

Since LiveTV’s proprietary network uses a spectrum licensed from the Federal Communications Commission that was once reserved for seat-back phones, it does not interfere with cellphone service on the ground. But the hand-off process does create the potential for the airborne equivalent of a dropped call — a problem that occurred during the test on Wednesday.

It is also one of the reasons JetBlue is not charging passengers to log on.

“Why charge for something that doesn’t work very well yet?” said David Neeleman, JetBlue’s founder and chairman, a self-described BlackBerry addict.

JetBlue and LiveTV are betting that their messaging capability is more important to travelers than surfing the Web, which requires more bandwidth and therefore a fee.

But other companies are convinced that plenty of travelers will pay for more robust Web access and are considering fees of around $10 a flight. .

That view is bolstered by a recent survey by Forrester Research that found that 26 percent of leisure travelers would pay $10 for Internet access on a two-to-four-hour flight and 45 percent would pay that amount for a flight longer than four hours.

“I think that the airlines will see that the demand is there,” Mr. Harteveldt said, adding that besides sharing the revenue from these fees, airlines could potentially earn money from advertising on these services or use the cabin’s Wi-Fi network to enhance their operations.

“The airlines can justify the cost if only for their own operational efficiencies,” said Jack Blumenstein, president and chief executive of Aircell, which is developing its own air to ground cellular network.

Aircell has already arranged partnerships with American Airlines and Virgin America and plans to install its equipment on an American 767-200 aircraft later this month.

The airlines would not predict a date it would become available, but Mr. Blumenstein estimated that it was likely to ready to go by early spring next year.

A third company competing to offer airborne Internet service is Row 44, which is developing a satellite-based system that will also function over oceans and internationally, though the plan is to offer service in North America first, said John Guidon, Row 44’s chief executive.

So far, Row 44 has signed a deal with Alaska Airlines, and Mr. Guidon hopes to have the equipment installed on an aircraft — either with Alaska or another partner — by the second quarter of 2008. That schedule essentially fits Alaska’s plan.

“We’re going to test the system on a single aircraft in the spring, and based on the outcome of that trial our plan is to equip our entire fleet by the end of 2009,” said Amanda Tobin Bielawski, an Alaska Airlines spokeswoman.

One potential pitfall, from a regulatory and technical standpoint, is that the connectivity would make it possible to make voice-over-Internet phone calls using services like Skype. American and Alaska will not allow phones calls with their services, but Charles Ogilvie, director of inflight entertainment and partnerships for Virgin America, said, “We’re definitely not automatically ruling anything out.”

That may send chills down the spines of frequent travelers, many of whom are strongly opposed to the prospect of dozens of chatty passengers in a confined space, which was one of the reasons the F.C.C. decided against lifting the ban on cellphone calls in planes.

“I absolutely would not be in favor of voice,” said Jeff Haber, a real estate lawyer in Los Angeles who added that he would like Internet access in the air, even if he had to pay for it. “One of the things that’s nice about airplanes is that people aren’t on cellphones all the time.”

IBM Advances Supercomputer-On-A-Chip Technology

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - IBM (IBM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) says it has made a breakthrough in converting electrical signals into light pulses that brings closer the day when supercomputing, which now requires huge machines, will be done on a single chip.

In research published on Thursday in the journal Optics Express, IBM said it had produced electro-optic modulators 100 to 1,000 times smaller than comparable silicon photonics modulators and small enough to fit on a processor chip.

IBM on Thursday unveiled a technical advancement related to the use of light to carry large amounts of data quickly among cores within a microprocessor, taking the company closer to developing a chip that may one day run notebooks with the horsepower of today's supercomputers.
The breakthrough revolves around a device used to transform electrical impulses into beams of light. The device, called a modulator, is similar to what's used today in optical networks built by telecommunication companies. IBM scientists say they have found a way to shrink the modulator to a size where it can fit within a multi-core CPU.

The achievement, published in the journal Optics Express, is not all that's needed to one day bring data-carrying light beams to processors. However, it is an important first step toward production, which is about 10 to 15 years away, William Green, lead scientist on the project, told InformationWeek. "We've been working on this for sometime at IBM, and there's still a lot of work to do," he said. "It's one of the pieces within this larger network that we're designing and building."

The potential benefits of IBM's work to businesses and consumers are huge. For companies, it would mean having smaller computers that are far more powerful than today's machines, yet produce far less heat. Among the problems facing businesses today are the size and number of servers needed to process an ever-growing amount of data, which means larger expensive data centers. In addition, today's computers generate a lot of heat, requiring companies to spend more on power to cool them.

On the consumer side, a supercomputer in a box in the home could handle far more chores. Those tasks could range from operating lights and heating systems to processing and distributing video and more realistic computer games, which could include 3D environments in which characters move about seamlessly.

In the latest advancement, IBM has managed to shrink the modulator to a size in which one can be assigned to each core in a chip, a requirement in using light. Green expects to one-day see hundreds to thousands of cores on a single piece of silicon, so the size of the modulator is important. The latest device is 100 to 1,000 times smaller than previous versions in the lab.

Communications between processor cores today, which include quad-core chips from Intel and AMD, and IBM's nine-core Cell processor, is handled through copper wire that moves electrical impulses. IBM hopes to eventually replace that wire with a light beam that follows a tiny silicon strip, called a silicon nanophotonic wave guide, to its destination. Light carries more data in the same amount of time as copper by being 100 times faster.

In terms of power consumption, IBM has managed to reduce the usage of its tiny modulators in the lab from several hundred millowatts to 50 millowatts, Green said. IBM is working to bring power consumption down even further.

But the bigger problem in eventually taking light-driven chips to market will be in manufacturing, Green said. Equipment and processes used today have evolved over decades around the use of copper. Introducing light technology means new equipment and a whole new way of production. Such a major transformation will take time. "That could be one of the primary challenges," Green said.

Wii ninja game- diffrent game

Every day new games are coming with new new concept.
More than a year ago, game-development veteran David Luntz saw the Nintendo Wii, and he saw one of his dreams finally coming true.

He saw, at last, how he could make a game about being a ninja that was different from all the other ninja games out there. After all, the world already has "Ninja Gaiden," "Shinobi," "Tenchu," sequels to those games and plenty more. But his ninja game — the newly announced "Ninja Reflex" — would be different.

"Those games are, although awesome games, I felt that that road of 'Let's go around and kill people' had been fairly well explored," Luntz told MTV News in an interview last week. "My focus was less on the killing aspect of martial arts as on the path of skill."

Luntz wanted a game that emphasized the ninja traits of moving with undetectable speed, a test of reflexes beyond any first-person shooter, racing game or anything else that requires a gamer's finely honed ability to twitch. The Wii's motion control could do this, he thought, and time players down to the milliseconds.

The upcoming game, set for release in March, consists of six mini-games: nunchuck swinging, katana sword-fighting, shuriken-throwing, firefly-catching, fish-catching (by "hand") and ensnaring flies with chopsticks. Each involve just the Wii's remote controller (not, ironically, the secondary nunchuck) and can be played in multiplayer.

To catch flies, players point at the insects, squeeze buttons on the Wii remote (the A on top and the B underneath) and put them in little rice bowls. In multiplayer, they should only try to catch flies of their color. The shuriken-throwing has players locking on to targets and flicking the remote to toss the throwing stars. The nunchuck game requires players to swing the remote in a small, sideways figure-eight, snapping that swing when objects are thrown at them.

Luntz's idea for "Ninja Reflex" didn't come from some dry marketing meeting. He's had a longtime interest in martial arts and developed many of the concepts during a six-week trip last yea, during which he visited and, in some cases, studied with a range of practitioners, from Shaolin Monks in China to kyudo archers in Japan.

(Check out pictures from Luntz's inspirational trip here.)

The concept for the katana sword-fighting mini-game, for example, jelled when Luntz went to Kyoto, Japan. "I was in a bamboo forest and I had just come from Tokyo and been in a training center where they were practicing kendo. If you hear kendo in person, the practitioners, before they attack each other, let out a blood-curdling scream that pretty much paralyzes you, as best as I can tell. I saw them doing that and the next day I found myself in the middle of this bamboo forest. So I started getting this concept for a katana game of oni [Japanese demons] attacking you in the middle of a bamboo forest. And they let out these battle shouts that are very much like what a kendo-ist does. The metaphor for that game is overcoming your fears. ... You learn how to confront them and strike them down."

The fish-catching game came from Tokyo. In the game, the player needs to point the Wii remote at a pond of fish. The longer they can track the movement of a fish, the closer it gets to the surface for a split-second opportunity to grab it. Tracking big, slow fish is fairly easy. Catching small ones is tough. The fish that gamers will see in that part of "Ninja Reflex" are based on ones photographed by Luntz, who captured about 5GB of footage during his tour of Asia. "All the reference footage I took out of the Ninomaru garden at the Imperial Palace Garden in East Tokyo," he said. "The emperor has his koi there; they're stunning and spectacular and visually mesmerizing to watch."

Some of the things Luntz saw that didn't make "Ninja Reflex" might make it in a sequel, if he gets the chance. For instance, there was the Japanese archery, which he was invited to try in a class taught by someone he was told was the private instructor of the emperor: "It was thrilling and it was fun and it was unbelievably difficult. The bows are literally 6 feet tall, much taller than me, much taller than my wife. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to pull the bow back. And you shoot these tiny targets that are far away — they looked roughly a football field away. When the class started and people stepped up with the bows, I thought, 'They are never going to hit these.' The first guy went 'thwunk.' I just couldn't believe it.

Luntz's small publishing company, Nunchuck Games, which is basically him and his wife, is working with developers at Sanzaru Games. The game will be co-published by Nunchuck and Electronic Arts. He hooked up with EA, one of the biggest publishers out there, this year. EA liked it, Luntz said, because, "I showed them a concept, not just at the idea level but very far along, almost at beta. They understood the concept and thought that the general concept of martial arts and ninjas are cool, and it has stuff that you just haven't seen in a game before."

The mini-game-collection scene on the Wii is fairly crowded, including Wii pack-in game "Wii Sports" and the year's best-selling Wii game, "Wii Play," to say nothing of "Carnival Games," "EA Playground," "Mario Party 8" and several others. Luntz isn't worried because he thinks "Ninja Reflex" exhibits one of the best qualities of the best of those: "You can take any of the six mini-games in 'Ninja Reflex,' and they are complete in and of themselves. You can jump in and do something with fun and intensity and focus and then get out."

For all his interest in authentic martial arts, Luntz assures, naturally, that "Ninja Reflex" will not make its players a ninja. "It doesn't purport to be the substitute for learning a martial art. It's about having fun playing a game and getting exposed to the core ideas that underlie martial-arts training. Those ideas involve calm, effortless mastery and, maybe most important of all, a sense of humility.

"I trained a little with a guy in Hong Kong who is 80 and moves faster than a 16-year-old," Luntz said. "I've got an Olympic gold medal [winning] tae kwon do teacher a mile from my house. It doesn't matter who I talk to. They would say the same underlying theme about progress and training and mindset that I wanted to try to introduce people to." That underlying principle? "In general, I like the martial arts as a metaphor as a way to live: the concept in martial arts of your progress being a path," he said. "The belt you get in the end is just a piece of cloth and maybe a milestone for something, but in the end, you're always a student and you're always improving. The people who are the best in the world in any given martial art will tell you flat out, 'I'm just learning. I'm still a student.' That to me is a good way to live in general."

"Ninja Reflex" is set for release in March on the Wii and in a stylus-controlled version for the Nintendo DS.

Why Memory Fades with Age

As we age, it becomes harder and harder to recall names, dates—even where we put down our keys. Although we may fear the onset of Alzheimer's, chances are, our recollective powers have dulled simply because we're getting older—and our brains, like our bodies, are no longer in tip-top shape.

But what is it that actually causes memory and other cognitive abilities to go soft with senescence? Previous research has shown that bundles of axons (tubular projections sent out by neurons to signal other nerve cells) wither over time. These conduits, collectively referred to as white matter, help connect different regions of the brain to allow for proper information processing.

Now, researchers have found that these white matter pathways erode as we age, impairing communication or "cross talk'' between different brain areas.

"What we were looking at was the communication or cross talk between different regions of the brain," says study co-author Jessica Andrews-Hanna, a Harvard University graduate student. "The degree to which white matter regions are actually stable predicts the degree to which other regions are able to communicate with each other."

Andrews-Hanna and other Harvard researchers (along with collaborators at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and Washington University in St. Louis) concluded that white matter naturally degrades as we age—causing disrupted communication between brain regions and memory deficits—after conducting a battery of cognitive tests and brain scans on 93 healthy volunteers, ages 18 to 93. Participants fell into two age groups: one 18 to 34 and the other 60 to 93 years of age.

Scientists asked study subjects to perform several cognitive and memory exercises, such as determining whether certain words referred to living or nonliving objects. As they answered, researchers monitored activity in the fronts and backs of their brains with functional imaging magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine whether those areas were operating in sync. The results, published in Neuron: communication between brain regions appeared to have "dramatically declined" in the older group.

They fingered the potential reason for the dip by doing further brain scans using diffusion tensor imaging, an MRI technique that gauges how well white matter is functioning by monitoring water movement along the axonal bundles. If communication is strong, water flows as if cascading down a celery stalk, says Randy Buckner, a cognitive neuroscientist at Harvard; if it is disrupted, the pattern looks more like a drop of dye in a water bucket that has scattered in all directions. The latter was more evident in the older group, an indication that their white matter had lost some of its integrity.

The older crowd's performance on memory and cognitive skill tests correlated with white matter loss: The seniors did poorly relative to their younger peers. The researchers note that the white matter appears to fray more over time in the forebrain than in the brain's rear. They speculate that age-related depletion of neurotransmitters (the chemical signals sent between neurons) as well as the shrinking of gray matter (the tissue made up of the actual nerve cell bodies and supporting cells) also contribute to dimming memory and cognitive skills.

Buckner says that the team now plans to examine how aging affects white matter as well as gray matter and neurotransmitters. "We want to know," he says, "is this an important factor in why some people age gracefully and others age less gracefully?"

More brain facts
Though the left brain / right brain lateralization is a well-established fact, documented by the research of Nobel-winner Roger Sperry, many people misunderstood what this really means.

While there are definite differences between the functions of the left brain and the right brain, these differences pale in significance when compared with the differences between the Old Brain and the New Brain.

The task of a salesperson or marketer is not to just reach the right brain or the left brain, which are both parts of the New Brain, but to reach the Old Brain which is the seat of emotion and emotional response.

If you want to read the long detailed explanation written by internationally renowned neuroscientists Júlio Rocha do Amaral, MD & Jorge Martins de Oliveira, MD, PhD, follow this link: Limbic System: The Center of Emotions.

The practical, condensed version continues below.

The primitive or Old Brain one is responsible for self-preservation. It is there that the mechanisms of aggression and repetitive behavior are located.

Middle Brain or limbic system, which developed with the emergence of the primitive mammals, commands certain behaviors that are necessary for the survival of all mammals. It is where emotions and feelings, like wrath, fright, passion, love, hate, joy and sadness reside.

The third cerebral unit, the cortex or New Brain, is a highly complex net of neural cells capable of producing a symbolic language, thus enabling man to exercise skillful intellectual tasks such as reading, writing and performing mathematical calculations.

What does all of this have to do with influencing and persuading others? First we must realize that buying decisions are made more with the reptilian old brain and the limbic middle brain than the cortex.

That is why when asked how or why they made a purchase most people can’t explain it. It is an unconscious, emotional process that is not easily understood or explained. To be successful marketers and sales professionals would do well to study the emotional underpinnings of why people buy what they buy. People do not buy products and services; they buy the emotional attachments associated with those products or services.

Take buying a Hummer for example. There is no logical reason for ninety-nine percent of the American public to own a Hummer. Yet why are they such a hit? According to Market Research Guru and former child psychiatrist, Clotaire Rapille, “The Hummer is a car with a strong identity. It’s a car in a uniform. For women, they say it’s a new way to scare men. Wow. And women love the Hummer. They’re not telling you; buy a Hummer because you get better gas mileage. You don’t”.

Yes buying a Hummer is “not logical” as Mr. Spock would say but it sure does appeal to the old reptilian brain’s need to dominate and survive.

What reptilian appeal does your product or service have?

If you can’t answer that you are in trouble, you just don’t know it.

NASA Delays Shuttle Launch

NASA postponed the launch scheduled for Thursday of the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis to resolve a fuel sensor problem but officials expressed hope they could make a second try on Friday.

Launch of the shuttle and Europe's Columbus science laboratory was retargeted for 4:09 p.m. EST Friday after two sensors in the shuttle's external tank failed a routine check early on Thursday.

Engineers believe the problem, which cropped up while the shuttle was being filled with fuel for the 8.5-minute sprint to orbit, was due to an open circuit.

Dec. 6 — NASA officials delayed the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis for at least 24 hours today following problems with a pair of fuel sensors.

Technicians were about 80 percent finished with loading 500,000 pounds of propellants into the shuttle’s large external fuel tank when tests indicated problems with two of four sensors at the base of the liquid hydrogen section of the tank.

Since flight rules require that at least three of the four sensors be working to launch, officials at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida scrubbed the flight for the day and began preparations to try again on Friday.

Atlantis and its crew of seven had been scheduled to left off at 4:31 p.m. today on a mission to deliver a large European science laboratory called Columbus to the International Space Station. Weather conditions were close to ideal and no major technical problems had emerged prior to the fuel sensor issue.

“Of course, we’re a little disappointed in the events today,” said Launch Director Doug Lyons. “But we’re certainly working to resolve our issues and make an attempt as soon as we possibly can.”

Mr. Lyons said a preliminary analysis indicated that the problem involved an open electrical circuit somewhere in the sensor system and that it might not be in the sensors themselves. Technicians were trying to locate the source of the problem to determine if it could be resolved to make another launch attempt on Friday at 4:09 p.m., he said.

Weather forecasters are predicting favorable conditions for a Friday flight.

The shuttle’s fuel tank will be drained and mission managers are to meet later this afternoon to determine the nature of the problem and when next to try to launch Atlantis.

“We’re keeping all our options open,” Mr. Lyons said.

The fuel sensors are part of a backup system that ensures the shuttle’s three main engines do not cut off too soon or burn too long during launch. Premature cutoff during the more than eight-minute dash to space could cause the shuttle to fail to reach orbit and having the engines keep running if fuel is exhausted could result in a disastrous explosion, experts said.

NASA previously experienced problems with the fuel sensors on several flights following the Columbia disaster in 2003, when the shuttle system went through numerous modifications. The sensors caused a two-week delay in July 2005 of the first flight after Columbia and again caused a mission postponement in September 2006.

The primary goal of Atlantis’s scheduled 11-day mission is to install the European Space Agency’s new Columbus laboratory to the growing station. The 22,700-pound module, measuring 23 feet long and 15 feet in diameter, will significantly increase the station’s research capability and represents the chief European contribution to the international project.

Sculpted 3-D particles could aid diagnostics, tissue engineering

MIT researchers have reported a technique to create microparticles with a granular texture
MIT engineers have used ultraviolet light to sculpt three-dimensional microparticles that could have many applications in medical diagnostics and tissue engineering. For example, the particles could be designed to act as probes to detect certain molecules, such as DNA, or to release drugs or nutrients.
The new technique offers unprecedented control over the size, shape and texture of the particles. It also allows researchers to design particles with specific chemical properties, such as porosity (a measure of the void space in a material that can affect how fast different molecules can diffuse through the particles).
"With this method, you can rationally design particles, and precisely place chemical properties," said Patrick Doyle, associate professor of chemical engineering. Doyle is one of the authors of a paper on the work appeared in the Dec. 3 issue of the journal Angewandte Chemie, published by the German Chemical Society.
The research team started with a method that Doyle and his students reported in a 2006 issue of Nature Materials to create two-dimensional particles. Called continuous flow lithography, this approach allows shapes to be imprinted onto flowing streams of liquid polymers. Wherever pulses of ultraviolet light strike the flowing stream of small monomeric building blocks, a reaction is set off that forms a solid polymeric particle. They have now modified that method to add three-dimensionality.
This process can create particles very rapidly: Speeds range from 1,000 to 10,000 particles per second, depending on the size and shape of the particles. The particles range in size from about a millionth of a meter to a millimeter.
The team's new process works by shining ultraviolet light through two transparency masks, which define and focus the light before it reaches the flowing monomers. The first mask, which controls the size and shape of the particles, is part of the technique reported last year by Doyle and his students. The second mask, which is based on MIT professor Edwin Thomas' work in multibeam lithography, adds three-dimensional texture and other physical traits, such as porosity.
The collaboration sprung from a conversation between Ji-Hyun Jang, a postdoctoral associate in Thomas' lab, and Dhananjay Dendukuri, a recent Ph.D. recipient in Doyle's lab, who are also authors on the paper.
"It's very easy to integrate the (second) phase mask into the microfluidic apparatus," said Thomas, Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. "Professor Doyle was controlling the overall shape, and now what we're doing is controlling these inner labyrinth networks."
Adding inner texture is desirable because it increases the particles' surface-to-volume ratio, which means if the particle is loaded with probes, there are more potential binding sites for target molecules.
In a paper published in Science earlier this year, Doyle and MIT graduate student Daniel Pregibon showed that the particles can be used as probes to identify DNA and other molecules.
Other applications for the particles include tissue engineering. For example, they could form a scaffold that would both provide structural support for growing cells and release growth factors and other nutrients. The particles can be designed so diffusion occurs in a particular direction, allowing researchers to control the direction of nutrient flow.
Alan Hatton, the Ralph Landau Professor of Chemical Engineering Practice, is also an author on the paper.
This research was funded by the U.S. Army Research Office through the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies.

Zwierlein wins physics award for discovery in superfluidity

Worked with MIT Nobel laureate Wolfgang Ketterle

Martin Zwierlein, assistant professor of physics, was recently awarded one of Germany's premier awards for young scientists.
The 100,000 euro Klung-Wilhelmy-Weberbank Prize for physics was presented to Zwierlein at a ceremony on Nov. 16 at the Free University of Berlin.
Zwierlein, 30, was honored for work he did in atomic physics as an MIT graduate student. Working with MIT physics professor Wolfgang Ketterle, Zwierlein discovered a new form of superfluidity in ultracold gases, in which pairs of atoms can flow without any friction.
The scientists observed superfluidity in a gas of lithium atoms, a million times colder than interstellar space and a million times thinner than air.
The substance serves as a valuable model system for superconductors and spurs hopes for a material that can transport current at room temperature without the usual energy loss. Indeed, scaled to the density of electrons in a metal, the new form of superfluidity would occur already far above room temperature.
"Germany loses at the moment more than 5 percent of its energy production through frictional losses in the transport of current--in the U.S.A. it is even about twice as much," calculates Zwierlein, a native of Bonn, Germany. "This lost energy would be sufficient to power entire countries. The exchange of normal wires with superconductors would thus allow enormous savings."
Ketterle, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for physics, delivered the laudatio (laudatory speech) at the award ceremony, describing the work that led to Zwierlein's prize.
The Klung-Wilhelmy-Weberbank Prize is annually awarded to a top young German scientist, alternating between a physicist and a chemist. Five of the previous awardees have since received the Nobel Prize: The physicists Theodor W. Hänsch, Gerd K. Binnig, Horst L. Störmer and Johann Georg Bednorz, and the chemist Hartmut Michel.
The prize is sponsored by the Otto-Klung Foundation at the Free University of Berlin, the Dr. Wilhelmy Foundation and the Society for the Promotion of Science of the Weberbank Actiengesellschaft

Microcredit pioneer Yunus is MIT's 2008 Commencement speaker

Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, will deliver MIT's 2008 Commencement address on June 6.
Yunus won the Nobel Prize for pioneering the microlending movement, which seeks to improve the lives of the poor by offering credit without collateral. The bank he founded, Grameen Bank, has provided credit to 7.3 million poor people in villages in Bangladesh.
"Muhammad Yunus has given thousands of people struggling in poverty the tools to transform their lives. In the process he has proved vividly that economic empowerment is essential to promoting peace and human rights," said MIT President Susan Hockfield. "Like so many members of the MIT community itself, Dr. Yunus is a practical visionary. Our graduates will be inspired to hear how social entrepreneurship and technical expertise can, together, change the world. I can think of no better choice for our 2008 MIT Commencement speaker."
Yunus started making personal loans to poor basket weavers in Bangladesh in the mid-1970s, and in 1983 he founded Grameen Bank, which now operates in nearly 80,000 rural Bangladeshi villages. Ninety-seven percent of the bank's clients are women, and their rate of repayment is 98 percent.
In announcing his 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel Committee wrote, "Muhammad Yunus has shown himself to be a leader who has managed to translate visions into practical action for the benefit of millions of people, not only in Bangladesh, but also in many other countries."
"I am thrilled with the selection of Dr. Muhammad Yunus as MIT's Commencement speaker," said Eric Grimson, head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and chair of the Commencement Committee. "I believe his message that technical innovations can be used to impact the daily lives and future well-being of people around the world is one that will resonate strongly with our students. I hope that his speech challenges our graduates to seek opportunities to use their MIT education to make an impact on the lives of others."
Yunus received a Ph.D. in economics from Vanderbilt University in 1970 and taught at Middle Tennessee University from 1969 to 1972. After returning to Bangladesh, he joined the University of Chittagong as head of the Economics Department.
He also holds honorary doctorate degrees from dozens of universities around the world.
Phi Ho, president of the senior class, said Yunus is a perfect choice to address the graduates.
"Graduates of MIT are global leaders who will, no doubt, go on to catalyze and create impact across many industries. No one else embodies these ideals of global leadership and social commitment more than Dr. Yunus," said Ho.
Martin Holmes, president of the Undergraduate Association, agreed. "Dr. Yunus's development of microcredit has had a tremendous impact by elevating the world's poor--giving opportunity to those who need it most. His contributions to society perfectly align with MIT's core mission and values, and he, like the students of MIT, is a problem-solver who addresses the world's challenging issues with ingenious solutions," Holmes said.
Yunus has won dozens of international awards, including the Simon Bolivar Prize, the Indira Gandhi Peace Prize, the Seoul Peace Prize and the Freedom Award of the International Rescue Committee. He has also been appointed as an International Goodwill Ambassador for UNAIDS by the United Nations and inducted as a member of France's Legion d'Honneur.
From 1993 to 1995, Yunus was a member of the International Advisory Group for the Fourth World Conference on Women, a post to which he was appointed by the U.N. secretary general. He has served on the Global Commission of Women's Health, the Advisory Council for Sustainable Economic Development and the U.N. Expert Group on Women and Finance.
In addition to Grameen Bank, Yunus has created numerous other companies in Bangladesh to address poverty and development issues. Those companies are involved in a range of industries, including mobile telephony, Internet access, capital management and renewable energy.
Recent MIT Commencement speakers have included MIT President Emeritus Charles M. Vest, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, former U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell and National Institutes of Health Director Elias Zerhouni.

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