Monday, April 30, 2007

Cheaper Solar Power is Finally Coming

The energy that reaches earth from sunlight in one hour is more than that used by all human activities in one year”. - Prof. Ashton Partridge, Diector of Nanomaterials at Massey University (New Zealand) Research Centre

Plastic (organic or flexible) solar cells are extremely desirable because they are inexpensive and light weight compared to silicon, which is bulky and convert up to 12 percent of impinging light to useful electrical power.

Dr. Wayne Campbell and researchers describe green solar cells as more environmentally friendly than silicon-based cells. “The refining of pure silicon, although a very abundant mineral, is energy-hungry and very expensive. And whereas silicon cells need direct sunlight to operate efficiently, these cells will work efficiently in low diffuse light conditions,” Dr .Campbell says. “The expected cost is one 10th of the price of a silicon-based solar panel, making them more attractive and accessible to home-owners.”

Dr Wayne Campbell and researchers in the centre have developed a range of coloured dyes for use in dye-sensitised solar cells.

New Zealand is not without competition. Wake Forest (North Carolina) researchers hope to reach 10 percent efficiency by creating "nano-filaments" within light absorbing plastic, similar to the veins in tree leaves. This allows for the use of thicker absorbing layers in the devices, which capture more of the sun's light even in low-light conditions. Three percent was the highest efficiency ever achieved for plastic solar cells until 2005 when David Carroll, director of the Wake Forest nanotechnology center, and his research group announced they had come close to reaching 5 percent efficiency.

Dr. Carroll's research is partially funded by the United States Air Force, which is interested in more efficient, light-weight solar cells for satellites and spacecraft.

Molten Eagle prediction: Within 5 years, solar cells will exhibit operating efficiencies exceeding 19%. Unless a global manufacturer (Siemens, GE, Fuji, etc.) buys the related patents, costs will be 25% of today's silicon-based panels per watt. Aside from their initial cost, the greatest problem with solar panels is their need for frequent replacement. Much improved durability is required and fragile technologies do not stand up to direct sunlight and inclement weather (e.g. hailstones). The winner will be the technology that works in low-light, and lasts as long as a microwave oven ( over 7 years).


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Ultraquiet Broken?

This is one of the more interesting Cold War submarine stories to re-surface in quite a while: Cold War submariner ends 30+ years of silence.

Was it actually published without due dilligence? It certainly appears that way, but such may not be the case.

Submariners will find a telling remnant of censorship (or self-censorship) in the article, along with some "out of school" commentary.

The curious can read more about Tautog's collision with the Black Lila in the Blind Man's Bluff collection of unofficial submarine stories and anecdotes here, etc. on the web.

Dunn, was the Terrible T's QM1(SS) at the time of its collision. Should we expect to hear from one of its torpedomen next?

Quoting Admiral (Bruce) DeMars: "We belonged to a very elite group," Dunn said.
For those who served in the Cold War submarine service, that was certainly no understatement.

Eliteness applies every bit as much today, although too many now attempt to portray today's submariners as sanctuary seekers, combat cowards or ultrasafe cruise ship sailors for VIPs and dependents. I bid you ask yourselves when and what started these flagrant misconceptions.

How did such nonsense originate in an extraordinarily honorable service of men so fearless they had been thought insane?

Could the balderdash underly persistently ill-advised attempts to assign women sailors to submarines? You be the judge. Both this article's author and one of Blind Man's authors are female journalists who don't seem to be buying into that sort of folly.



Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Godspeed, Boris"

Readers of this post may remember incisive news contributed by 25-year journalist and sometimes Russian reporter Michael Hammerschlag relative to the sinking and rescue of Russia's AS-28 mini submarine in 2005.

Michael was a correspondent in the Soviet Union/ Russia as the largest empire on earth collapsed. He just authored DEATH of a BEAR, a brief opinion piece on the late Boris Yeltsin’s legacy.

Very informative and interesting. A few excerpts:

He was a man of the people, and the most honest and decent leader I’ve seen.

He wasn’t immune- in fact the assassination order had already gone out, but the Alpha commandos had had enough with corrupt old men ordering people to die- they actually joined the Yeltsin side, some tankers turning their tanks around to face outward.

The struggle had grown incredibly vicious- in Russia students don’t eclipse their mentors… they destroy them.

Please read it in its concise entirety.



If you remove that anchor, you can end up anywhere

Revealing new research validates the likelihood that a real-life Mr Spock might indeed sacrifice himself for his comrades. In the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock says to Captain Kirk: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one…

Think of the many submariners with whom you served: By their organizational positions, who were the least emotional? And, which tended to be the most emotional?

Antonio Damasio at the UCLA and his colleagues recruited 30 people for a related experiment. Six of the subjects had suffered damage to a region in front of their brains known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC), which regulates emotions. Participants had this brain injury as a result of aneurisms or tumour growth in the VMPC region.

Twelve participants in the study had damage to other parts of the brain but not the VMPC. Also, 12 more subjects had no brain injury whatsoever.

This was one scenario presented to the test subjects:

Personal Moral Scenario: Submarine
You are the captain of a military submarine travelling underneath a large iceberg. An onboard explosion has caused you to lose most of your oxygen supply and has injured one of your crew who is quickly losing blood. The injured crew member is going to die from his wounds no matter what happens.

The remaining oxygen is not sufficient for the entire crew to make it to the surface. The only way to save the other crew members is to shoot dead the injured crew member so that there will be just enough oxygen for the rest of the crew to survive.

Would you kill the fatally injured crew member in order to save the lives of the remaining crew members?

"Emotions are an anchor for our moral systems. If you remove that anchor you can end up anywhere," says de Waal.

Impaired emotional processing affects moral judgements, but not in the ways we might usually expect. Read the full article here.

The study can be misinterpreted to suggest that damage to the brain region regulating emotions explains all self-sacrifice. Interesting, but some of us are not convinced that selfless individuals and heroes are brain damaged. Furthermore, the submarine scenario is nonsensical.

Journal reference: Nature (DOI: 10.1038/nature05631)



Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Global Environment for US Submarine Development

Throughout history, military submarines have remained silent and strange due to the brazen tasks they have been constructed to perform both suddenly and/or with painstaking perfection.

Currently, China, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and the U.K., among others, are modernizing their submarine fleets. This means that that fiscal sacrifices have now been incurred in each country to develope competitive, if not winning, submarine capabilities.

From the standpoint of the United States submarines, the global competition helps assure our current primacy. Once gobs of currency are dedicated to constructing expensive new designs by other sovereign states, maintaining sea worthiness and crew readiness will soak up ever-increasing sums for decades. Fiscal commitment is self-entrapping.

Pakistan, for instance, is now considering purchasing at least three new submarines, in a German contract worth up to $1.5 billion. The U-214/U-212 submarines, which are much more advanced than Scorpene submarines ordered by Indian Navy, have a diving depth of 400 meters (>1200 feet), due to improvements in hull materials. The German subs also incorporate stealth advantages, such as elimination of exhaust heat, making the U-214/U-212 more difficult to detect. Moreover, the AIP fuel cell allows the U-214/U-212 to cruise underwater for weeks without surfacing.

Now, China must catch up to U.S. nuclear submarine supremacy. This may be the only reason for the U.S. to improve its Seawolf and Virginia designs in their very limited numbers.

The bulk of the future U.S. submarine fleet will be based upon revolutionary designs whose technologies, crew complements and ongoing maintenance will be much less expensive per unit than Seawolves, Virginias, SSGNs and Tridents. DARPA is working on these goals as I write.

More importantly, the capabilities of the new U.S. subs will be technologically advantaged and unmatched for decades, despite China's spying eyes, for instance.

Expanded production, smaller crew complements, improved stealth profiles and unmatched force projection capabilities may be on the way (target 2012-2024) without exorbitant budget strains. Now, that is fitting of a world leader in industrial technology, research and development, six sigma methodologies and military primacy.

Molten Eagle expects to be surprised by coming design developments, but not at all by the evolution of a new submarine navy in which archaic distinctions between attack and ballistic submarine crews evaporates.

Tracking The Gotland: The Attendant Mysteries link there.
Shadowy, SSGN Three-card Monte link there.



Monday, April 16, 2007

Spring Break

Thank you for stopping by. Normal posting will resume in about one week from today (unless my wife or children decide to kill me first).

Spring is a big deal for me. After I complete everyone else's tax return and act to keep my family out of big IRS trouble, I usually file an extension and garden like crazy (organically).

This year the weather has been prohibitive, but the Spring bug cast its spell just as potently.
I am currently on annual break. Hope yours is equally great!


Friday, April 13, 2007

What Are the Real Odds? Would Buying a Submarine be Prudent?

Can politicians be expected to back up their Global Warming scare prophesies with sound property and investment management techniques, like selling their $3 Million coastal estates?

Apparently not. Do the Gores, Clintons and McCains also have valuable beach property? (HINT: It is a really great investment).

We know one candidate has island property on North Carolina's coast despite Edwards Urges Action In Fight Against Global Warming on his John Edwards 08 web site.

We can now conveniently bet (NOT RECOMMENDED) on global warming's possible coastal impact. An online gambling service accepts long odds on whether rising waters will inundate Virginia's Cape Henry and Cape Hatteras on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Currently offered are 200-to-1 odds that Cape Henry will be submerged by 2015, and 300-to-1 odds that Cape Hatteras would be flooded by then. Source here, for more. Perhaps the Hollywood types are more honest than the politicians...

ROME, Italy (AP) - Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are treating themselves to an Italian luxury yacht fitted with a swimming pool, a heliport and a submarine. Now, if you really believe the seas are rising quickly, doesn't a submarine purchase make more sense than a beach home?



Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bubbleheads' Nemesis



Sunday, April 08, 2007

Attention, Bystanders! "Instant Autotransfusion for Heart Attack Victims"

Qualified submariners are definitively biased toward action, rather than bystanding.
Here is a new way to volunteer...

From my favorite MD, on the New CPR...

Cardiac-only resuscitation by bystanders is the preferable approach to resuscitation for adult patients with witnessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, especially those with apnoea, shockable rhythm, or short periods of untreated arrest.

And if there's someone around not doing anything or unable /unwilling to perform chest compressions, have them lift both the victim's feet off the ground, up to the holder's waist level: that autotransfusion of 40% of the blood volume from the legs into the central circulation may be what enables CPR to succeed.

Read the whole thing posted in BehindTheMedspeak: 'New' CPR by bookof joe on April 8th as well as related background he posted during March.



Sunday, April 01, 2007

Submarine Mystery: No Photo Available and other Rarities

Record Holder- The deepest fish
In the Puerto Rico Trench at a depth of 27,460 feet (5.2 miles). The fish is a species of cuskeel designated as Abyssobrotula galatheae ["Abby Gals"], about which scientists apparently know very little other than the detailed classification here. The species was classified by Nielsen in 1977. Almost 30 years have elapsed, now. Why is no photo of this deepest denizen available? More of story linked here.

Port Security WMD Cargo Problem
The media has reliably reported solutions, or just potential problems? You be the judge.
From the 2005 R&D Awards: Adaptable Radiation Area Monitor (ARAM).
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) reported that on July 20, 2006, a large rig passing through a California-Nevada border check point triggered the radiological alarm on the ARAM system detector. The alarm prompted action from the Truckee Fire Protection District and the Nevada County Health Services, as well as the Truckee Fire’s Hazardous Materials Unit, which conducted the inspection and finally cleared the vehicle for release.
More of story linked here.

Is that the last solution? By no means. New but not news in 2007
Nuclear Resonance Fluorescence Imaging detects uranium, radioactive materials, nerve agents, and high explosives. More about this technology linked here.

A drug to fend off radiation - The US government plans to award a contract for the treatment for acute radiation syndrome later this month under its revamped BioShield fund for civilian defences against chemical, biological and nuclear threats.
People exposed to radioactive material often die weeks later of acute radiation syndrome, as blood cells vital to clotting and fighting infection die off, and bone marrow cells killed by radiation cannot replace them. There is currently no preventive treatment.
Hollis-Eden Pharmaceuticals of San Diego, California, now reports that 5-androstenediol (AED), an adrenal gland hormone that stimulates marrow-cell growth, cuts the death rate among monkeys exposed to 6 grays of radiation - usually enough to kill 32 per cent of them - to 12 per cent, mainly by boosting blood platelets (International Immunopharmacology, vol 7, p 500).
More of story linked here. Prediction: will be added to US Submarine pharmacopeia (onboard medical treatments) in the near future.

Less Scientific Consensus, please
UK impact crater debate heats up
A deep scar under the North Sea thought to be the UK's only impact crater is no such thing, claims a leading geologist. Professor John Underhill, from the University of Edinburgh, says the Silverpit structure, as it is known, has a far more mundane explanation. Detailed surveys reveal nine similar vast chasms in the area, he says.

The group that discovered the structure in 2002 stands by its original theory of a cataclysmic asteroid or comet impact about 60-65 million years ago. I bet that they are global warming fanatics, as well. More of story linked here.