Nobel Prize in Physics 2014 Awarded for Work on LED Lights
This year’s Nobel Laureates are rewarded for having invented a new energy-efficient and environment-friendly light source – the blue light-emitting diode (LED). In the spirit of Alfred Nobel the Prize rewards an invention of greatest benefit to mankind; using blue LEDs, white light can be created in a new way. With the advent of LED lamps we now have more long-lasting and more efficient alternatives to older light sources.
When Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura produced bright blue light beams from their semi-conductors in the early 1990s, they triggered a fundamental transformation of lighting technology. Red and green diodes had been around for a long time but without blue light, white lamps could not be created. Despite considerable efforts, both in the scientific community and in industry, the blue LED had remained a challenge for three decades.
They succeeded where everyone else had failed. Akasaki worked together with Amano at the University of Nagoya, while Nakamura was employed at Nichia Chemicals, a small company in Tokushima. Their inventions were revolutionary. Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps.
White LED lamps emit a bright white light, are long-lasting and energy-efficient. They are constantly improved, getting more efficient with higher luminous flux (measured in lumen) per unit electrical input power (measured in watt). The most recent record is just over 300 lm/W, which can be compared to 16 for regular light bulbs and close to 70 for fluorescent lamps. As about one fourth of world electricity consumption is used for lighting purposes, the LEDs contribute to saving the Earth’s resources. Materials consumption is also diminished as LEDs last up to 100,000 hours, compared to 1,000 for incandescent bulbs and 10,000 hours for fluorescent lights.
The LED lamp holds great promise for increasing the quality of life for over 1.5 billion people around the world who lack access to electricity grids: due to low power requirements it can be powered by cheap local solar power.
The invention of the blue LED is just twenty years old, but it has already contributed to create white light in an entirely new manner to the benefit of us all.
Search & Rescue Robot: Hybrid zoobot can travel by air or land
Scientist from University of Pennsylvania Mod Lab team have developed a snake drone-quadcopter, called H.E.R.A.L.D. (Hybrid Exploration Robot for Air and Land Deployment).
“Snakes on a plane” might be a good strategy for building rescue robots. A four-propeller helicopter can carry a wheeled snakelike robot through the air, or connect with two snakebots to speed over flat terrain. On their own, the snakebots can squeeze through a 4-inch tube, drive over gravel and climb stairs. The helicopter can also quickly bring a bot up a flight of stairs. Pairing two snakelike robots with a flying one has let researchers combine the exploring skills of small, ground-based bots with the swift moves of an aerial machine.
Engineers have created search-and-rescue robots before — tanklike machines with heavy-duty treads — but most of these bots muscle over rough terrain with brute force. They can disturb damaged areas and have trouble reaching nooks and crannies within the wreckage.
Read the full story on sciencenews.org: http://ow.ly/BPDCH
Randall Munroe is a bit of a genius and hopefully he doesn’t see this because I’d be embarrassed to have him hear me say it.
He’s one of the greatest science explainers of my generation…possibly the greatest. He does it not by explaining science and math and calculus and biology for the sake of understanding it, but by seeking answers.
And look, that’s why we created biology and calculus and chemistry anyhow. So by searching for answers to really WEIRD questions. Questoins like “Can I build a jetpack out of machine guns” (surprisingly yes, but don’t) and “How much space would all of Google take up if it was on punch cards” (it would bury New England to the height of several kilometers.) And “What would happen if the Earth just stopped spinning but the atmosphere kept moving” (everyone would die, some people less slowly than others.)
To find these answers, Randall does intense amounts of research and also lots and lots of math.
In his “What If?” column he uses this marvelous toolbox that we’ve developed over the last 100,000 years of being a species in such exciting ways that you don’t even know how smart you’re getting as you read it.
Now he’s turned “What if?” into a book and it is SO MUCH FUN. It’s hilarious and fascinating and shows the kind of obsession with the universe that I find infectious. I’ve been devouring it since I got my copy.
I’ve flown out to San Francisco to interview Randall on the Vlogbrothers channel (Colbert just did an interview with him last week so I guess I’m in good company.) His understanding of the world is extremely deep so he’s able to share only the bits that are either hilarious or fascinating. I’m nervous to spend a bunch of time with him, but very excited to bring his work (I hope) to more people and ideally help sell some copies of his book (which I’m sure is doing just fine without me.)
The Hangout starts in about two hours and I’m gonna go hang out in the chat for it right now.
XKCD is a favourite of many of the Engineering Is Awesome contributors.
Extruding concrete to create 3D-printed buildings isn’t entirely novel. It has been proposed to quickly create inexpensive housing in poverty-stricken areas and even to build infrastructure on Mars before the arrival of astronauts. However, those buildings were designed to be fairly simple and lacked architectural details. Though it was really just a matter of time before a castle was created in this manner, it’s doubtful anyone expected it to come from Minnesota.
- To accept responsibility in making decisions consistent with the safety, health, and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment;
- To avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest whenever possible, and to disclose them to affected parties when they do exist;
- To be honest and realistic in stating claims or estimates based on available data;
- To reject bribery in all its forms;
- To improve the understanding of technology; its appropriate application, and potential consequences;
- To maintain and improve our technical competence and to undertake technological tasks for others only if qualified by training or experience, or after full disclosure of pertinent limitations;
- To seek, accept, and offer honest criticism of technical work, to acknowledge and correct errors, and to credit properly the contributions of others;
- To treat fairly all persons and to not engage in acts of discrimination based on race, religion, gender, disability, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression;
- To avoid injuring others, their property, reputation, or employment by false or malicious action;
- To assist colleagues and co-workers in their professional development and to support them in following this code of ethics.
These life lessons are from retired astronaut Chris Hadfield who has a degree in mechanical engineering. These are some of the lessons that he learned while training and being an astronaut. You should check out his book "An Astronaut’s guide to life on Earth".
1. Have an attitude
In NASA terminology, your attitude is your orientation relative to two positions, for example your spaceship relative to the Earth and a satellite. Losing your attitude is bad, because you could end up drifting, lost and alone in outer space.
Chris Hadfield also thinks of life trajectory like attitude control – you need to stay on the right path to achieve your goals. It’s always not in your control whether you get there or not, but you can do everything in your power to make it happen. In life, losing your attitude – drifting from your path – is way worse than not reaching your destination.
2. Aim for zero
In any given situation, according to Hadfield, you’re either a ‘plus-one’, a ‘zero’ or a ‘minus-one’. If you’re a plus-one, you’re actively adding value. If you’re a zero, you’re generally competent and don’t get in the way. Being a minus-one sucks, because you’re a liability and actively cause problems.
However, if you’re a plus-one and you walk into a situation trying to prove how great you are, you can go from a plus one to a minus one – your ‘I got this’ mentality might easily irritate and prove detrimental to the dynamic.
So the best thing to do in a new situation? Aim for zero. Listen. Observe. Offer advice. Don’t try to take control of everything. If you know what you’re doing, you won’t need to tell people you’re a plus one. They’ll know it.
3. Utilize the power of negative thinking
‘Negative thinking’ sounds pessimistic. Defeatist. But when you think about it, planning for the worst can actually be energizing and confidence-boosting. How? Well, if you always prepare a contingency for every scenario you’ll never be caught off-guard.
Chris Hadfield’s approach is to ask: “What’s the next thing that could kill me?” It sounds exhausting and masochistic. But actually, it isn’t. By thinking about what could go wrong in any specific situation, you preempt problems with your own solutions.
And that means you can actually relax and enjoy life, knowing you’re ready to act if things go wrong.
4. Sweat the small stuff
“An astronaut who doesn’t sweat the small stuff is a dead astronaut,” says Hadfield. The lesson: averting disaster isn’t about making one-off life-or-death decisions – it’s about learning and understanding all the little things that develop into a bigger issue. An example of astronaut small stuff is knowing the ‘boldface’ – the tried-and-tested instructions that make up NASA’s Flight Rules manual.
Not sweating the small stuff runs counter to conventional wisdom, yet there’s truth in it. Yes, an astronaut’s work environment is radically more hostile and dangerous than most people’s. But the point is that paying attention to the granular details – like physical health symptoms or signs of car trouble – makes you incrementally safer.
5. Do care what others think
It’s hard to accept we’re not in control of our own destiny. But the fact is other people have more influence over the course of our careers and lives than we do. Chris Hadfield has been to space three times – in 1995 and 2001 on the Space Shuttle and 2013 on the ISS. Yet no matter how hard he worked, it was always someone else’s decision to put him on a mission.
Which means it makes sense to care what people think about you and your performance. So get feedback. Learn from it. Improve. If the only opinion you’re worried about is your own, you’re probably going to limit your progress.
6. When the stakes are high, preparation is everything
We can’t always control what happens to us in life when big moments come around. But we can control how prepared we are. It might seem obvious to prepare if you’re planning to pilot a Soyuz rocket to the ISS, but many of us fail to prepare for normal stuff in life – even if we know there are big moments are coming up.
So whether it’s a big exam, a job interview or sports final, when the high-stakes situations arise planning for success is key. In most scenarios, Hadfield argues that you’ve passed or failed before you even begin, depending on your level of preparation.
7. Good leadership means leading the way, not bullying other people to do things your way
Some people are very successful at intimidating people into going along with their plans. It’s the brute force approach to getting things done. But leading through coercion and bullying others means you’re building your leadership credentials on very weak foundations.
Chris Hadfield reckons the better way to lead is by proving the best course of action. Setting an example. It’s the consensus-building approach. By showing people the right path, you’re creating a stronger platform for teamwork and leadership. People will follow you because they want to, not because they have to.
8. Put groupthink at the core of your teamwork
For Hadfield, the key question to ask when you’re part of a team is: “How can I help get us to where we need to go?” It’s beautifully simple: put the team before yourself, and you’re more likely to win.
Hadfield argues that you really don’t need to be a superhero to be a valuable member of a team – empathy and a sense of humor are often more important. He also suggests that searching for ways to lighten the mood is never a waste of time, because it encourages expeditionary spirit – everyone pulling together in extraordinary circumstances to collectively accomplish a shared goal.
Conversely, while sharing common gripes can create a bond between team mates, excessive whining is corrosive and the antithesis of expeditionary behavior.
9. Criticize the problem, never the person
Chris Hadfield believes that if you need to make a strong criticism, it’s better to pinpoint the problem rather than attack the person. Yes, it can be frustrating when you suffer for someone’s mistake, but ridiculing or berating a colleague is counter-productive. ‘Work the problem’ is a core mantra of NASA culture. It’s not about ego.
In fact, Hadfield advocates going out of your way to help colleagues improve in all areas. This seems strange coming from the hyper-competitive world of NASA, but Hadfield argues that promoting colleagues’ interests helps you stay competitive. Plus you have a vested interest in your colleagues’ success – the better they are, the more they can help you succeed.
10. Be ready. Work Hard. Enjoy it!
Ultimately, Chris Hadfield’s life lessons boil down to being the best that you can be through hard work and preparation. This approach has taken him from being a fighter pilot and test pilot right through to a 20-year astronaut career. It’s not a ground-breaking philosophy, admittedly, but then how often do we truly earn the things we want by working for them? How often do we just wish or hope they’d happen?
PS: Sorry for the lack of posting lately! - Justin
Humans have spent the last 10,000 years mastering agriculture. But a freak summer storm or bad drought can still mar many a well-planted harvest. Not anymore, says Japanese plant physiologist Shigeharu Shimamura, who has moved industrial-scale farming under the roof.
Working in Miyagi Prefecture in eastern Japan, which was badly hit by powerful earthquake and tsunamis in 2011, Shimamura turned a former Sony Corporation semiconductor factory into the world’s largest indoor farm illuminated by LEDs. The special LED fixtures were developed by GE and emit light at wavelengths optimal for plant growth.
The farm is nearly half the size of a football field (25,000 square feet). It opened on July and it is already producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day. “I knew how to grow good vegetables biologically and I wanted to integrate that knowledge with hardware to make things happen,” Shimamura says.
The farm uses 17,500 LED lights spread over 18 cultivation racks reaching 15 levels high.
The LED lights are a key part of the farm’s magic. They allow Shimamura to control the night-and-day cycle and accelerate growth. “What we need to do is not just setting up more days and nights,” he says. “We want to achieve the best combination of photosynthesis during the day and breathing at night by controlling the lighting and the environment.”
Shimamura says that the systems allows him to grow lettuce full of vitamins and minerals two-and-a-half times faster than an outdoor farm. He is also able to cut discarded produce from 50 percent to just 10 percent of the harvest, compared to a conventional farm. As a result, the farms productivity per square foot is up 100-fold, he says.
By controlling temperature, humidity and irrigation, the farm can also cut its water usage to just 1 percent of the amount needed by outdoor fields.
Shimamura got the idea for his indoor farm as a teenager, when he visited a “vegetable factory” at the Expo ’85 world’s fair in Tsukuba, Japan. He went on to study plant physiology at the Tokyo University of Agriculture, and in 2004 started an indoor farming company called Mirai, which in Japanese means “future.”
The concept took off in 2011, when GE approached Shimamura with an idea for using advanced LED lights to illuminate the farm. The LEDs last longer and consume 40 percent less power than fluorescent lights. The companies started testing the technology in March 2012 and came up with the final design a year later.
The farm is producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day.
GE engineers used proprietary technology to make the lights thin enough to fit inside the stacks, provide uniform light and endure the high humidity inside. “That way, we can put in more growing racks and increase productivity dramatically,” says Tomoaki Kimura, country manager for GE Lighting Japan.
The GE Japan team believes that indoor farms like the one in the Miyagi Prefecture could be a key to solving food shortages in the world. Mirai and GE are already working on “plant factories” in Hong Kong and the Far East of Russia. Says Shimamura: “Finally, we are about to start the real agricultural industrialization.”
Shigeharu Shimamura shows his produce.
Toyota recently showed a prototype engine that does just that. It’s called the Free Piston Engine Linear Generator (FPEG). “Free” refers to the fact that the piston isn’t attached to a crankshaft; instead, as the piston is forced downward during its power stroke, it passes through windings in the cylinder to generate a burst of three-phase AC electricity. The FPEG operates like a two-stroke engine but adds direct gasoline injection and electrically operated valves. It can also be run like a diesel, using compression rather than a spark plug to ignite its fuel mixture.
Toyota says this mechanically simple engine achieves a claimed thermal-efficiency rating of 42 percent in continuous use. Only the best, most complicated, and most expensive of today’s gas engines can come close to that number, and only in specific circumstances.
Verizon’s new #InspireHerMind campaign wants to point out the importance of teaching young girls about STEM. To do that, they put out this commercial about how deeply ingrained gender expectations influence the way we raise our children, which in turn influences what they become interested in when they grow up–and not necessarily for the better. Geez, Verizon, heartbreaking much?
While I’m not sure that I’m all that happy with the big sad ~reveal~ of the commercial (lipgloss doesn’t always have to be the villain, guys!), the message is definitely worth examining. As it says at the end of the video, 66% of fourth grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18% of college-aged women end up majoring in STEM programs. One commercial might not be able to bridge that gap, but the more we talk about it, hopefully the more we’ll be able to overcome it as a community.
The Verizon #InspireHerMind site has some suggestions for ways to get your kids into science and math, if you’re so inclined. Which, you know, you should be. Science is awesome.
Stephanie Kwolek, a pioneering female chemist at DuPont who invented the exceedingly tough fibers widely used in Kevlar body armor, has died, colleagues said Friday. She was 90.
Kwolek died Wednesday at a hospital in Wilmington where she had lived, said her friend Rita Vasta, a chemist who also worked at DuPont. Vasta said Kwolek had been ill about a week though she didn’t know the cause of death.
Kwolek made her discovery in the mid-1960s while working on specialty textile fibers, according to DuPont’s website. She invented a liquid crystalline solution that could be spun into the exceptionally strong fibers now used worldwide in police and military protective equipment.
In 2007, Kwolek told The (Wilmington) News Journal that the discovery launched an exciting period in her career as the chemical company explored uses for her discovery.
DuPont management “didn’t fool around,” she told the newspaper at the time. “They immediately assigned a whole group to work on different aspects.”
DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman said in a statement that Kwolek was a creative, determined chemist as well as a pioneer for women in science.
Supernumerary Robotic Limbs (SRLs) are robotic limbs that, when worn, give you more limbs than you’d normally have. In other words, they’re not robotic limbs designed to replace biological limbs that you might be missing, but rather robotic limbs designed to augment the number of limbs that you have already.
MIT researchers have been developing SRLs that can help you do stuff that would be annoying, uncomfortable, or impossible to do on your own. Today at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Hong Kong, they presented their latest SRL prototypes, with one model featuring a pair of limbs that spring from your shoulders and another with limbs that extend from your waist.
ListenTree: Live streaming sound from an outdoor ecological monitoring sensor network to an urban audience by Gershon Dublon at the MIT Media Lab:
A visitor to the installation notices a faint sound appearing to emerge from a tree (or several), and might feel a slight vibration under their feet as they approach. By resting their head against the tree, they are able to both feel and hear crystal clear sound through bone conduction. To create this effect, a specialized audio exciter transducer is weatherproofed and attached to the underground base of a tree (or trees), transforming the tree into a living speaker that channels audio through its branches and provides vibrotactile feedback. Any kind of sound can be played through the tree, including live audio or pre-recorded tracks. In one deployment, we used Arboreal Telepresence to display live streaming sound from an outdoor ecological monitoring sensor network, bringing an urban audience into contact with a faraway wetland restoration.
Our intervention is motivated by a need for forms of display that fade into the background, inviting attention rather than requiring it. We consume most our of our digital information through devices that often alienate us from our immediate surroundings; Arboreal Telepresence points to a future where digital information might become enmeshed in material.
3D-printed casts (an idea that’s been around for a couple years now) could alleviate the odor and itch issues caused by plaster casts, but even though they’re not widely available yet,Turkish student Deniz Karasahin has already taken the idea a step further. winner of the 2014 Golden A’Design Award, Karasahin’s Osteoid cast prototype uses tiny ultrasonic vibrations to speed up bone healing time by up to 40 percent.
The bone healing capabilities of low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) have been known for decades, but the treatment is difficult to administer because it requires ultrasound leads to be placed on the skin, directly over the injured area of the bone. With traditional plaster casts this is basically impossible, but a 3D-printed cast that leaves patches of skin open would make it easy. Osteoid’s simple, skeletal design allows ultrasonic drivers to be built directly into the cast.
It’s still just a design prototype at this point, but given the rapid pace at which 3D scanning and printing technologies are progressing, we wouldn’t be surprised to start seeing these kinds of casts adorning the arms of reckless people all over the globe within the next year or two.
This is pretty impressive. I could see a future where a car sharing system could be combined with Google’s self driving cars, which would make owning your own car almost obsolete. When ever you are ready to leave a destination you give a voice command into your smart watch or glasses - then a car pulls up, you tell it where you want to go and it drops you off, and then drives away looking for the next person to pick up.
I guess it’s more like affordable driverless cabs than anything..
"Google has been working on its self-driving car project for a few years now with the goal of transforming how people drive cars. The company’s automated cars are equipped with tools designed to make them safe and efficient, like cameras, radar sensors, laser range finders, and software that enable the cars to navigate through the streets."