Life Of Navin

Random Musings, Random Bullshit.


Air Travel Goes Fully Online!!

Hurrah!! No more paper tickets for flights!! Starting June 1, thats right, just 2 days down the line, all major airlines across the world, including India, will stop issuing paper tickets and switch to 100% e-ticketing, sticking to the deadline issued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The order which had previously suggested the end of 2007 for this transition, had revised the date after some protests.

Just hear this out....... About 5 billion A4 paper sheets are used to print tickets per year, which is double the amount of paper required for back-office paper work. And it costs $5 to $9 to issue a paper ticket, so the adoption of e-ticketing will result in saving $3 billion per year globally.

The Indian airlines who have introduced 100 percent e-ticketing are: Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines, Air India, and JetLite, while the foreign carriers who've adopted the new system are: British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air France, Lufthansa, Sri Lankan Airlines, Emirates, and GulfAir.

For consumers, it will become convenient to just carry print-outs of the itinerary instead of the bulky paper book each time. And they will have self-service kiosks for check-in, and will be able to enter the airport by just flashing the PNR number on the itinerary print-out (or via an SMS).

This is great news for the industry. However, the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) is protesting the deadline, and urging the Ministry of Civil Aviation to intervene to stop implementation of the ban on paper tickets. They claim that this would result in increase fares in case of interline tickets, which is when while travelling between two destinations a person needs to change the carrier on the way. Whatever!!

Anyways, this ushers in a new and novel way of ticketing which will definitely be welcomed by eco-conscious air travellers worldwide.

EU Pushing For IPv6

The European Union (EU) has today asked for its members to speed up the EU's move to become fully IPv6 ready. The plan has set a target 25% of net users in the EU to be using the new system by 2010.

The EU has warned that internet-based innovation could be derailed as the current pool of addresses is being consumed at a record rate.Europe could face a crisis of sorts when the older system ran out of addresses.

Currently Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) is the widely used to ensure that data from the sender, say a website, displays only on the intended receiver's computer monitor and not on someone else's. Just think what life would be like without it. You'd search for 'Graphene' and you'd most probably end up looking at a page about 'Dragontug'

However there's one problem.The IPv4 scheme makes available about 4.3 billion addresses - a total predicted to run out by 2011!! Seriously speaking, the people who designed IPv4 didn't, even in their wildest imagination, think that the number of net users would reach the level it is at today!! But when they did, they bagan work on a new protocol, the IPv6, which supports virtually unlimited addresses.

Geant, the high-speed data network linking many European research centres, is already 100% IPv6 compatible and plans are on hold to have the top 100 websites in Europe to be reachable by IPv6 by the 2010 deadline. As for India, well lets just say, IPv6 is a early morning dream for most net coders.I hope atleast 5% of Indian net users will be on IPv6 ready by 2012.

Goodbye Carbon, Hello Graphene!!

We've gotten so used to hearing the word 'carbon nanotubes' over the last so many years. From geeky looking researchers boasting about its capabilities to scrawny schoolkids trying to show off their 'smart quotient'.But all that seems set to change!! So goodbye Carbon Nanotubes and hello Graphene-polymers!!

Read this in Nature by the way!!Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a new graphene-polymer hybrid that they claim is a much cheaper alternative to carbon nanotubes. This is achieved by spreading a small amount of graphene, a single flat sheet of carbon atoms, throughout polymers. The great thing is that this hybrid is inexpensive when compared to carbon nanotubes as the main ingredient, graphite, is cheap and easily available whereas carbon nanotubes are very expensive.

Graphene will also raise fewer toxicity concerns they claim. The problem with carbon nanotubes is that there is a possibility that they can mimic asbestos fibers which are thin enough and can cause cancer. Graphene is a nanometer in only one direction, its width. In the other two dimensions, namely height and length, they are relatively large and cannot be absorbed by the blood. Thus, Graphene can be used in a greater range of applications where carbon nanotubes cannot follow owing to toxicity concerns.

Actually, and interestingly enough, graphene, when created, is natural almost 100% perfect - there's a very low chance for any defects in the structure - that's what makes it so great. The trouble with it, and the reason why carbon nano-tubes were "first to the scene" as it were, is that it's somewhat tricky to create - we're talking a 1-atom thick sheet of carbon. But now that scientist are finding ways to produce it easier and cheaper it makes sense that it would replace nano-tubes.

However here's what Wikipedia says: "Graphene is presently one of the most expensive materials on Earth, with a sample that can be placed at the cross section of a human hair costing more than $1,000 (as of April 2008)."

Hmm.... Cheap nano-sheets costing just $1,000 per deci-deci-gram?? Well, lets hope this is mistake!! Or in the near future we'll have to spend a fortune to buy any gadget.

Firefox Aims For World- Record!!

The guys at Mozilla seem to have a LOT of time on their hands. Interested in being part of a world record?? "Set a Firefox world record on Download Day" is the message being trumpeted loud and clear from Mozilla HQ"as the launch of the Firefox 3.0 web browser gets ever closer. It seems that the Mozilla people are serious as well, with talk of an official Guinness World Record ratification for the most downloads of a piece of software in 24 hours being pushed for here. "It’s a whole lot easier and safer than donning a beard of bees or underwater jump roping" proclaims the Mozilla Blog, continuing "with your help the Firefox community can go down in history!"

Now I am not averse to a little innovative marketing, and let's face it Mozilla and Firefox certainly know how to milk the cow when its been fed, but I cannot help but wonder if downloads in a day is the record they should to be aiming at. Surely the only one that really counts is biggest share of the web browser market, and I honestly do not see Microsoft fretting too much about losing that particular place in the Internet record books any time soon. Even with the might of the open source movement behind it, the undeniable public distaste for the Microsoft machine and ongoing security and privacy stories bringing negative publicity to Internet ExploDer Explorer while bigging up the Mozilla product; even with all that going for it Firefox can still only lay claim to barely 22 percent market share in the US and 29 percent in Europe.

Don't get me wrong, those figures are great when compared to expectations of market share a few short years ago when it seemed that Internet ExploDer was totally unshakeable. But is a global share of around 21 percent really enough? Especially when you consider that it is still Internet ExploDer Explorer that still rules the roost as far as market share is concerned

Ok I confess.... I've been an obsessed Firefox fan for many years now. And I'm sure that I won't even need to use all my fingers and toes to count the number of times I have fired up Internet ExploDer Explorer in the last three or four years to be honest.

At the end of the day, Download Day is a good publicity stunt, but ultimately nothing more. It's not as if there is even an existing record to beat, so even a single download theoretically sets a record, with this will be the first ever Guiness ratified record attempt for 'software downloads in a 24 hour period'. You can join the people pledging support at the download site to get an idea of the likely totals, a figure which is increasing by a few hundred every minute as I write this. But you would be better off explaining why Firefox is a safer and better browser to your family and friends and convincing them to change? Which is absolutely true by the way....

Coloumbia Joins XO Bandwagon!!

Coloumbia has announced that it has joined up with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, which attempts to provide cheap portable laptops to people in developing countries. This signals good news for about 65,000 children in Colombia, who will soon be getting an XO laptop.

OLPC aims to boost the educational prospects of children in developing nations through technology.

Small towns and rural areas will get the first 15,000 XO laptops. The rest will be distributed over the next 18 months to the region's larger towns.

Unveiling the deal Mario Aristizabal, the governor of the Caldas region which will benefit from this deal said the region was "committed to giving each and every child of primary school age the same opportunity to access knowledge as the most privileged children in New York, Berlin or Tokyo".

A separate deal with OLPC is being negotiated to buy XO laptops for schools in and around the state capital Manizales.

In a statement , OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte said the organisation was starting to get "good traction" from countries keen to sign up and buy the new XO laptops in large numbers.

The OLPC's , in its early days, aimed to create a machine that only cost $100 and sold in the millions. So far it has failed to deliver on both those objectives.

Currently, as I had mentioned in this earlier post, each machine costs $188 and OLPC has sold only about 600,000 of them.

In mid-May the OLPC group unveiled a deal with Microsoft to put the Windows XP operating system on the XO. Professor Negroponte said many nations wanted the laptops to run Windows before they signed up. Also the project is set to enter its second stage and has unveiled reference designs for a second generation machine, which will take the form of an e-book with twin touch screens.(read about XO2 here)

Mr Negroponte said he hoped the second generation device could be released in 2010 and cost $75.

India is yet to tie-up with the OLPC initiative. If countries like India and China join hands with the initiative, the prices of the XO's are sure to plummet because of mass production.

Pappu Can't Dance Lyrics

If you're in India and you haven't heard the song "Pappu Can't Dance" from the movie "Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na", then well what can I say, other than......... GO DROWN YOURSELF!! The song and its rocking remix have started gathering a cult status in India. Music by the legendary A.R. Rahman!! It is song 5 of 7 from the movie soundtrack album

Here are somethings I understood from the song....
About the word 'Pappu'
Some moms lovingly call their sons 'pappu', which is often used as a nickname within a household. In friendly Desi slang, it can be equated to 'Pandu'. 'Pappu' is often used to poke fun at a person. The [arguably] offensive part lies in calling a grown man pappu, which implies the weakness of a child or a lack of maturity.

About the word 'Saala'
The literal translation of the word 'saala' is, as I am sure you must know, 'b@$t@rd'. In friendly desi slang it may be considered non offensive. 'Saala' also means brother-in-law, as in wife's brother, but that is most definitely irrelevant here.

Lyrics of the original song:

This is the future man...

[Tir kit dhana tir kit dhana
ti ti dha na Lets Dance] X2

Hai muscular (hai muscular)
Hai popular (hai popular)
Hai muscular, hai popular
Spectacular! He’s a bachelor (he’s a bachelor, he’s a bachelor)
Pappu ki gaadi tez hai, Pappu kudiyon mein craze hai
Pappu ki aankein light blue, Pappu dikhta angrez hai (angrez hai)
’Rado’ ki ghadi hathon mein hai, Perfume ’Gucci’ vaala

[But Pappu can’t dance saala] X2
Haan Pappu naach nahi sakta

[Whenever they see you with a dancer they holler
whenever they see you with a dancer ] X2

[Tir kit dhana tir kit dhana
ti ti dha na Lets Dance
Par Pappu can’t dance saala] X2

[Tir kit dhana dhana dhana
Tir kit dhana na na na] X2

Paida Pappu hua to kismatein chamaki
Aur uske muh mein thi chandi ki chamchi
(hey yeh yeh) Pappu ke paas hai paisa
(hey yeh yeh) Haaton ki mail ke jaisa
(hey yeh yeh) Pappu yaaron ka yaar hai
(hey yeh yeh) Pappu dildaar hai saute hai

[But Pappu can’t dance saala] X2

Haan Pappu naach nahi sakta

[Tir kit dhana tir kit dhana
ti ti dha na] X2

Papa kehte hain bada naam karega
Mera Pappu toh aisa kaam karega
(hey yeh yeh) Pappu ke paas hai MBA
(hey yeh yeh) Karta hai France mein holiday
(hey yeh yeh) Pappu guitar bajata hai
(hey yeh yeh) Jahaan jata hai chhaa jaata hai

Par Pappu can’t dance saala

[Tir kit dhana tir kit dhana
ti ti dha na Lets Dance] X2

Tir kit dhana dhana dhana
Tir kit dhana na na na Par Pappu can’t Dance Saala
Tir kit dhana dhana dhana
Tir kit dhana na na na Par Pappu nach nahi sakta

[Tir kit dhana tir kit dhana
ti ti dha na Lets Dance] X2

(Whenever they....dancer) in Background

[Tir kit dhana dhana dhana
Tir kit dhana na na na] X2

Par Pappu can’t dance saala........


So what say?? Ready to dance??

Monkey Controls Robot, Really!!

In some great news for amputees and paralysis patients, monkeys have been able to control robotic limbs using only their thoughts, scientists report.

The animals were able to feed themselves using prosthetic arms, which were controlled only by brain activity.

Small probes, the width of a human hair, were inserted into the monkeys' primary motor cortex - the region of the brain that controls movement.With the probes inserted into the monkeys' motor cortices, computer software was used to interpret the brain's electrical impulses and translate them into movement through the robotic arm.After some training, two monkeys - who had had their own arms restrained - were able to use the prosthetic limbs to feed themselves with marshmallows and chunks of fruit.

The researchers said that the movements were fluid and natural.

The study shows that fewer than 100 tiny electrical signals generated in the specialised area known as the 'motor cortex' can command even complex arm and hand movements.

Writing in the journal Nature , they said their work could eventually help amputees and people who are paralysed.

The monkeys were able to use their brains to continuously change the speed and direction of the arm and the gripper, suggesting that the monkeys had come to regard the robotic arm as a part of their own bodies.

The success rate of the experiment was a very commendable 61%.

"The monkey learns by first observing the movement, which activates its brain cells as if it was doing it. It's a lot like sports training, where trainers have athletes first imagine that they are performing the movements they desire." said one of the scientists.

He said the research could eventually benefit the development of prosthetic limbs for people with spinal cord injuries or for amputees.

He said: "Our immediate goal is to make a prosthetic device for people with total paralysis."

"Ultimately, our goal is to better understand brain complexity."

"This moves the day when patients disabled after spinal cord injuries or amputations can use brain-controlled bionic limbs from the realm of science fiction towards science fact."

The more we understand about the brain, the better we'll be able to treat a wide range of brain disorders, everything from Parkinson's disease and paralysis to, eventually, Alzheimer's disease and perhaps even mental illness. --Dr Andrew Schwartz, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

iPods Going Solar??

Apple has started churning up the rumour mills again.In an almost planned move, employees at Apple filed a patent for integrating solar cells into portable devices by placing them underneath the layers of a touch-sensitive display, according to the filing.

The patent "Solar cells on portable devices" has strongly suggested that Apple is planning to make its products more environment-friendly. If implemented, it may soon be time to say goodbye to the faithful charger which has been blamed for wasting a considerable amount of global electric energy.

However the patent application has also pointed out that after allowing space for buttons, screens and a way to hold the device, only a small area is left on most devices for solar cells.

One of the ways around that suggested in the patent is to stack a touch-sensitive layer, a display and solar panel on top of one another. That could make Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch excellent candidates for such a power supply, as the display occupies almost the entire face of those devices.

Recently, Ugandan Minister for Communications and Information and Communication Technologies Ham-Mukasa Mulira talked about trials of solar-powered charging conducted there, which had showed promise.

After the Macbook Air, it certainly seems like Apple has decided to slide into the eco-friendly product retailers group. Recently Dell had launched what they claim is be the "World's Most Eco-friendly laptop". It certainly seems that Eco-friendly is the buzz word nowadays as far as computer companies are concerned. After all, if its good for the earth, its good for you right??

Move Over MP3, MT9 Is Here!!

The Koreans are at it again!! Before you jump to any conclusions, let me tell you that this post is only to inform you that Korean computer engineers have introduced a new digital music format that has a six-channel audio equalizer and separate controls on the sound volume for each musical instrument, such as guitar, drum, base and voice.

The new format, which has the file extension format of MT9 (eg. pappu_can't_dance.mt9) and a commercial title of "Music 2.0", is supposedly all set to replace the ever so popular MP3 file format as the de-facto standard of the digital music source....... atleast thats what its developers say.

The MT9 technology was selected as a candidate item for the new digital music standard at the last regular meeting of Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG), the international body of the digital music and video industry. Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are both interested in equipping their mobile phones with an MT9 player and their first commercial products are likely to debut early next year.

Unlike other digital formats exclusively used by big companies, Audizen (the venture company behind the development) allows users to copy the MT9 files, making it a more attractive format. In short this means that Music 2.0 is DRM-free.No DRM?? Interesting........

According to a report in a local korean newspaper, MT9 files can be loaded into a special player that features a six-channel audio equalizer (though it looks more like a mixer to us). Each of these channels corresponds to a different part of the arrangement (drums, bass, vocals, guitar etc) and level faders enable you to turn things up or down. I agree that this is an amazingly interesting idea (lightbulb with 'ting' sound). There are so many songs that I would like to listen to instrumentally simply because the singer is crappy, is screaming, makes no sense or just gets in the way of what would otherwise be intricate and beautiful compositions.This could prove to be a boon to DJ's who today have a hard time seperating vocals from tracks that they want to remix.

The MT9 files are served in an album package. Audizen is currently selling a limited choice of albums on its Web site. More albums are being recorded in the format and even very old albums, such as Queen's , can be made into MT9 files if they have a digitally re-mastered music source. Sounds to me like an update to the MOD format except with voice channels. I wonder how hard it would be re-engineer all the tracks to this format? I remember there was quite a market for the reformatting of Stereo sound in films into 5.1 Surround once that format became mainstream a few years ago.And I'm pretty sure from the inventors' interviews that it will be next to impossible to convert your entire collection of tracks or mp3's to the new format in the comfort of your house.

It's like having a CD or cassette tape. Once you buy it, you can lend it to your friends. We don't want to be too fussy about DRM --Ham Seung-chul, chief of Audizen.

Mars Orbiter to Phoenix -"Say Cheese"!!

Well there's not much that I can say in this post..... NASA's Mars Mission just gets more fascinating every second. Today NASA has released pictures of 'Phoenix', taken by its spacecraft, Mars Orbiter.It marks the first time that one spacecraft has imaged another's final descent onto another planet.NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander can be seen parachuting down to Mars, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the Reconnaissance Orbiter on May 25, 2008.It marks the first time that one spacecraft has imaged another's final descent onto another planet. You absolutely HAVE to see this.....

Nice huh??

* Read More about the Mars landing on my older blog entries......
A day before the landing
Just after the historic Descent

Space Dive is a Super flop!!

Up Up and Phoooooosh?? 64 year old French skydiver Michel Fournier's attempt to break the world free fall record failed to get off the ground when his balloon lifted off , unfortunately without him on board!!

Michel had hoped to break four world records, ranging from the fastest and longest free fall, the highest parachute jump to the highest balloon flight, by free falling 25 miles from a balloon in Saskatchewan, Canada.

**You can read more about the historic jump on my older blog entry here.

He hoped to bring back data vital for astronauts and those at high altitudes.

But his helium balloon detached from its capsule as it was being inflated, and drifted away into the sky.

He was planning to jump from a point three-times higher than a commercial jet flies at.

Michael, a former paratrooper, had originally planned to make the jump in France, but the government refused him permission, saying it was too dangerous.

The fall was expected to last around 15 minutes, and Mr Fournier planned to deploy his parachute about 6,000m above ground.

This was his 3rd unsuccessful attempts, the 2 others in 2002 and 2003.

But his preparations were extreme:He was to wear a pressurized suit to protect him from the extreme low pressure and temperatures down to -100C. Sophisticated camera equipment was supposed to record key moments of the jump, particularly when he broke the sound barrier at 35,000m.

Also his parachute was set to open automatically if he lost consciousness during the jump - though there was no facility to eject from the balloon during the ascent.

Sad if you ask me.......I was really fascinated by the video on his website which showed the stages of his MISSION.But I'm pretty sure that he'll try again. So what if he wasn't "3rd time lucky"?? No.4 is the charm........ I hope!!

"Space Pistols" Are Fake!!

Another bad news for all you people fascinated by the normality of the abnormal. After having proven that two crystal skulls showcased in London and in Washington DC are in fact fakes (Read full story Here), now science has proven that the much hyped about 'Space Pistols' are also fake!!!

If you don't already know, the space pistols gained popularity (and of course the name) because they were claimed to be "crafted from the iron of a fallen meteorite from the Campo del Cielo crater in Argentina".They were a gift from the commander of a South American region, General Ignacio Alvares, which today is Argentina, to the fourth US president, James Madison.

The set of pistols underwent X-ray fluorescence tests, CT scans, and Neutron bombardment, before scientists concluded that they were infact fakes.

What I find funny is the height to which scientists will go to in the name of science. Neutron bombardments on artifacts?? I thought that neutron bombardments are used only in nuclear bombs and reactors!!Well this is infact what they conducted at the ISIS neutron source in Oxfordshire, UK. You HAVE to read the details of this process:

Protons travelling at nearly 3x10^8 m/s (the speed of light....incase you were sleeping in physics class) are made to strike a tungsten block, thus dislodging neutrons from the tungsten nucleus at a rate of nearly 20,000 trillion neutrons per second (thats 20000 million million or 2x10^16 neutrons per second) which in turn are made to bounce off the study sample (the pistols). the bounced neutrons are collected by sensors which record the energy and position of the neutrons which are studied by the scientists to reveal the atomic arrangements within the sample. Simple huh??

The colossal machine is able to probe matter at the atomic level, giving scientists unique insights into the structure and make-up of materials.

Most importantly, the entire process is non-destructive.

"Without ISIS, we'd have to take a hacksaw and cut chunks out of the artefact to look at under the microscope," explained Dr Evelyne Godfrey, who carried out the study.

And what did they find??
"They were completely different. There were differences in microstructures, there were differences in carbon content, there were differences in chemical composition."

The partially solved mystery could stop there; but the research team have one further mystery to solve.

A third pistol is mentioned in General Alvarez's letter that was also supposedly forged from Campo del Cielo (meteorite) iron. However it hes never been found till date....Perhaps it is this pistol which holds the secrets of the mysterious 'space pistols'!!

Sob Sob.....Another legend I believed in turns out to be fake...The only legend thats real is Santa Claus I guess......What?? He's fake too?? Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!

Hehe!! While searching for some information on the Campo Del Cielo Crater, I stumbled onto this site which is selling meteorites from that crater for as little as $177. Interested??

What my neutron beams tell you are where atoms are and what atoms do.We try to understand at a microscopic level the structure, arrangement and forces that hold materials together -- Professor Andrew Taylor, Director of ISIS

"Isreal Has 150 Nukes" -Carter

Ex-US President Jimmy Carter has said at a press conference at the annual literary Hay Festival in Wales that Israel has at least 150 nuclear weapons in its arsenal. He also described Israeli treatment of Palestinians as "one of the greatest human rights crimes on earth".The Israelis have never confirmed they have nuclear weapons, but this has been widely assumed since a scientist leaked details in the 1980s by Mordechai Vanunu, a former worker at the country's Dimona nuclear reactor (AKA Negev Nuclear Research Center) (picture below)...

Mr. Carter gave the figure for the Israeli nuclear arsenal in response to a question on US policy on a possible nuclear-armed Iran, arguing that any country newly armed with atomic weapons faced overwhelming odds.The US, an ally of Israel, has till this day followed the country's policy of "nuclear ambiguity", neither confirming or denying the existence of its nuclear capabilities.

Former Israeli military intelligence chief Aharon Zeevi-Farkash told Reuters that he considered Mr Carter's comments "irresponsible".

Well I agree Mr. Aharon!! It is certainly irresponsible of you Mr. Carter, especially considering that you are a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and that your thoughts are respected by people around the world. Americans always have this habit of pointing fingers at other nations, from blaming India and China for everything from Global Warming to the Food Crisis, to blaming Iran for world tension (and WW3 if it happens). And who was that who 'CLAIMED WITH UTMOST CERTAINTY' that Iraq had nukes?? I think American "Thinkers" like Mr. Carter should concentrate more on internal issues like the US presidential elections or more importantly the ever weakening dollar which is one of the main causes for the global RISE in oil prices...

The US has more than 12,000 nuclear weapons; the Soviet Union has about the same; Great Britain and France have several hundred, and Israel has 150 or more --Jimmy Carter

'Phoenix' Has Landed!!

"Phoenix has landed - welcome to the northern plain of Mars" a flight controller at NASA's Jet Propulsion Labarotory announced at around 5:23 IST.The reaction from engineers and scientists at JPL was almost as wild as ManU's celebrations when they won the Champions League-They clapped and cheered and hugged and danced..... because they all knew that the final seven minutes of the probe's 10-month journey to Mars were regarded as the riskiest part of the mission.The probe had survived a fiery plunge through the planet's thin atmosphere, slowing from a speed of nearly 21,000km/h (13,000 mph) before it released its parachute, used pulsed thrusters to slow to a fast walking speed, and then descended the last few metres to the Martian soil to land on its three "legs".

Its really amazing when you see history being made in space exploration, which might perhaps put an end to that eternal question... "Are We Alone?". I wouldn't have missed this for the world. Unfortunately our Indian channels were highly ignorant of the entire event....So BBC and CNN had another viewer ...This one from India, among the millions following this event on TV.

A signal confirming the lander had reached the surface was received at 0523 IST on the morning of 26 May.

Phoenix has been sending back photos from the planet's north pole that show signs of there being ice under the surface.

The first images showed the "Arctic plain" where Phoenix came to rest - a region of Mars that has never been seen up close before.

Other shots confirmed that the probe's solar arrays had unfurled successfully, and that it had landed safely on its legs.

As we all know.... Or should know... The probe is equipped with a robotic arm, which is designed to dig below the frozen surface for samples of ice and water.

The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex is one of three tracking stations providing communication links to spacecraft for NASA.

"To a lot of people it may look like a typical red rocky strewn terrain that we've seen previously in Mars but you look at them for a while and you realise no, this is different, this is not a place where maybe there's been a flood, this is a place where there have been ice glaciers and ice caps covering this region," CDSCC's outreach manager, Glen Nagle said.

Over the next few months Phoenix will conduct various experiments on the martian top-soil before the martian "winter" sets in, when it will be engulfed in the permafrost, thus ending its mission. Sad end, even for a probe!!

There is no telling what discoveries we'll be seeing over the next 90 days -- Dr Charles Elachi, Director of JPL

'Phoenix' Set to Land!!

A small run for Phoenix, a large leap for Mars exploration!!

NASA's Phoenix lander, which was launched on 4 August 2007 on a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, is due to touch down at the far north of the red planet on Monday, after a 423-million-mile journey from Earth.

The probe is equipped with a robotic arm to dig for water or ice thought to be buried beneath the surface.

Scientists say the mission should give the clearest indication yet of whether Mars could once have harboured life.

The final seven minutes of the probe's ten-month journey is regarded as "the riskiest" part of the mission.

After it enters the top of the Martian atmosphere at nearly 5.7km/s (13,000 mph), the probe must perform a series of manoeuvres.....obviously with point precision, to come safely to rest.

It will 1. release a parachute,
2. use pulsed thrusters to slow to a fast walking speed, then
3. come to a slow halt on three legs.

If all goes to plan, the Phoenix lander will reach the surface of Mars at 0623 IST tomorrow.

NASA has said that they will be able to determine success or failure within about 15 minutes of the landing .

David Catling from the University of Bristol is a co-investigator on the mission. He said the landing phase would be one of the most exciting and tense parts of the journey, with so much riding on Phoenix's safe descent.

If all goes to plan, Phoenix will begin a three-month mission to search for ice beneath the Martian surface.It will use a robotic arm to dig through the protective topsoil layer and lift samples of both soil and ice to its deck for scientific analysis.

Dr Tom Pike of Imperial College says,"The main goal of the mission is to get below the surface of Mars to where we are almost certain there is water. The orbiters that are around Mars have already surveyed in great detail the area in which we are landing and we know that there is ice - solid water - 10cm, or maybe even less, below the surface."

Landing on Mars has been amazingly difficult for NASA. Of the 11 missions that have tried to land probes on Mars since 1971 - only five have succeeded!!You can read about all of them here.
In September 1999, the Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft crashed into the Red Planet following a navigation error caused when technicians mixed up "English" (imperial) and metric units.

A few months later, another NASA spacecraft, the Mars Polar Lander (MPL), was lost near the planet's South Pole.

And this time the mission targets the far north of Mars.... So the risk is far greater!!
Here's a map showing the other Mars missions...

So now all we can do is pray that Phoenix lands safely!!Fly Phoenix, Fly!!

Water, of course, is of critical importance because it is one of the building blocks - one of the essential habitats we need - for life --Dr Tom Pike of Imperial College

Report Says "No" To Vacations !!

This is perhaps a report that will cause a furore among the student community. OK so get ready for this..... A report has said that long school holidays should be abolished to prevent children falling behind in class!!

So now you're looking for the d-ckhead that said this??Well It gives me great displeasure to introduce you to The Institute for Public Policy Research , which in its report has said that studies suggested pupils' reading and maths abilities regressed because the summer break was too long.

In place of a single vacation , the institute has suggested that the school year could have five eight-week terms, with a month off in the summer and two weeks between the rest of the terms.

The report said the change could benefit pupils, parents and teachers.

Report author Sonia Sodha said: "There have been many positive gains in education over the last decade, but in recent years results have plateaued.

"If we are serious about continuing to improve outcomes for all children, we need long-term reform that better gears our school system around the needs of children and young people."

She said there were two strong arguments for making a change.

"The first is that children regress with respect to their academic skills. Their reading and maths skills tend to decline when they're away from school and this is particularly true for children from poorer backgrounds.And that actually brings us on to the second reason. Not all children have the same access to out of school activities during the summer holidays and kids from more advantaged backgrounds are the ones who are most likely to get to go to these activities."

She added that towards the end of the current 16-week autumn term both children and teachers "get worn out".

"We're saying that there should be the same amount of holiday, it should just be more evenly spaced throughout the year," Ms Sodha said. Oh!! If you're reading this perhaps you're dismantling your sniper!!

Naah!! I'm happy with the current vacation scheme. I've had it for fourteen years and I know my '2+2=5" .......... Bad at math huh?? Go on IPPR, stop messing up our lives!! We're messed up enough already!!

Improving results can't just be about focussing on maths, English and science --Sonia Sodha

"Streets Of Mumbai" - Desi Racing!!

Okay! This is news for all you people who've ever said that India's game development scenario is never going to take off...Well frankly, I've said that perhaps a million times over the last few years!!But now, Trine studios has had enough....They're all set to launch India's first 3 dimensional game that has versions applicable in personal computers as well as the PS2 and will feature online multi-player game play as well. Most Interestingly, it has been developed entirely in India.

The game, "Streets of Mumbai" based on the actual topography of the 'city that never sleeps' has managed to rake in quite a bit of attention.The game promises to get you racing on the streets of Mumbai in cars that are true blue Indian. Trine Studios claims they've designed environments drawing upon actual references.So you can surely expect to be zooming across the Air India building or Marine Drive. Or driving straight into the Gateway of India. That'll be fun!!

The game, was slated for release on May 20 but has been now pushed to July 15 because of "production delays"....Whatever that's supposed to mean.Trine had demo’ed the game at the NASSCOM Animation and Gaming India conference in Mumbai last year. Trine currently has three other games under its belt, Trash, Wings of Control and Legends of Great India.

The game is set to a budget of almost Rs 4 crore but will be extremely well priced at under Rs 500 (when was the last time you got an 'original' game CD for under Rs.500??) and will allow gamers to download tracks and new cars from the Web site for a predetermined sum of $$$.

Other features include:
-Over seven twin-directional tracks offering a total of 14 playable tracks panning across various parts of Mumbai
-Over 10 customizable Indian cars with a variety of customizable options such as Paint, Spoilers, Rims, Hoods, Lights, Side Skirts, Bumpers, and more.
-Night rain theme to bring in the real feel of Mumbai
-customizable music player (GTA ishtyle) allowing players to listen to their own songs while playing.

The makers of the game believe that the game is just as good as the games developed anywhere else.Ya right.Play GT and then compare it to SoM.But the only thing I didn't understand is why they're designing a game for the PS2 when next-gen consoles like the PS3 and Xbox 360 are already pretty well settled....Or what about SoM on the Wii??Lets just hope the game lives up to its name.

A lot of funny elements are there in the game like random constructions going on, dug up Mumbai roads, autorikshawallas driving like maniac and dogs chasing your car--Sangam Gupta, CEO of Trine Studios

"Crystal Skulls" are Fakes!!

Two of the best known crystal skulls, once thought to be the work of ancient American civilisations - are modern fakes, a scientific study has shown.

Crystal skulls have come into focus thanks to the latest Indiana Jones film.

But experts say the artifacts showcased at the British Museum in London and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC are complete FAKES!!

Their results show that the skulls were made using tools not available either to the ancient Aztecs or Mayans.

Researchers say the work, which is published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, has finally ended decades of speculation over the origins of these controversial objects.

A team from the British Museum in London and the Cardiff University used sophisticated techniques to work out how the two skulls had been made.

"There are about a dozen or more of these crystal skulls. Except for the British Museum skull and one in Paris, they seem to have entered public awareness since the 60s, with the interest in quartz and the New Age movement," Professor Freestone of the team said .

"It does appear that people have been making them since then. Some of them are quite good, but some of them look like they were produced with a Black & Decker in someone's garage."

He added: "There seems to be the assumption that if it is roughly worked, it is more likely to have been made by a traditional society. That's untrue of course, because people were quite sophisticated. They might not have had modern tools, but they did a good job."

The researchers used an electron microscope to show that the skulls were probably shaped using a spinning disc-shaped tool made from copper or another suitable metal.

This "rotary wheel" technology was almost certainly not used by pre-Columbian peoples. Genuine Aztec and Mixtec artifacts show that they were crafted using tools made from stone and wood.

The British Museum skull was worked with a harsh abrasive such as Corundum or Diamond. But X-ray diffraction analysis showed a different material, called Carborundum (Silicon Carbide) , was used on the artefact in the Smithsonian.

Carborundum is a synthetic abrasive which only came into use in the 20th Century: "The suggestion is that it was made in the 1950s or later," said Professor Freestone.

Who made the skulls is still a mystery. But, in the case of the British Museum object, some suspect it was 19th Century French antiquities dealer called Eugene Boban.

Contemporary documents suggest Mr Boban was involved in selling at least two of the known crystal skulls - the one held in London and another in Paris.

Despite the findings, a spokeswoman for the British Museum said the artifact would remain on permanent display to the public.

The skull held by the Smithsonian was donated to the museum anonymously in 1992, along with a note saying it had been bought in Mexico in 1960.

OK so now Indy's running after perhaps something thats not as freakishly cool as some of the artifacts in his past movies..... But will that seriously stop Indy from being the best file of the year?? I doubt it!!

Dope Tests Before Exams??

The days of dope tests conducted only before sport meets may be over. If experts are to be believed, schools and universities may soon have to test examinees for performance anhancing drugs before exams.

The Academy of Medical Sciences in a statement has said drugs for diseases such as Alzheimer's were being used by healthy people to boost alertness and memory.

The experts said if it became more of an issue, urine drug tests may be needed......For students!!

They added that brain science technology also held the key to more effective addiction and mental illness drugs.

The academy had set up a working group in 2006 led by Cambridge University neuroscience expert Sir Gabriel Horn after being asked by ministers to look at the use of psychoactive drugs - those which impact on the workings of the brain.

It said future drugs had huge potential thanks to greater understanding of the workings of the brain.

Brain enhancers are drugs for treatments such as Alzheimer's already thought to be used by healthy people to boost alertness and memory function. Regulation may be needed in future to limit unfair advantages in exams.

The experts, who consulted the public via focus groups during their research, said these breakthroughs had, as yet, led to limited progress in drug treatment.

They said most existing medicines for drug addiction focused on replacing the substance with something less addictive and hazardous, such as methadone for heroin, instead of curing the addiction.

The group's report said vaccines could be developed to neutralise addiction, pointing to the work currently being done on a jab for smoking as evidence that is was possible.

However, the experts warned this would only be achieved with more investment and better co-ordination, which could be achieved through more partnership work between industry and government.

The team also turned its attention to drugs which improve brain performance, so-called cognitive enhancers.

The experts pointed out brain enhancers, such as caffeine, had been used for a long time.

But they warned there was anecdotal evidence drugs such as Aricept, a treatment for Alzheimer's, Ritalin, used for attention deficit disorder, and Modafinil, which targets day-time sleepiness, were also being used by otherwise health people to boost alertness and memory.

They said that in the future, regulation may have to be introduced to stop these treatments and future ones from giving people an unfair advantage in examinations and tests.

A spokesman for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said in the industry's defence: "These drugs are prescription drugs and therefore you need to go to the doctor to get them. I don't think the system is that open to abuse."

Just imagine......... Giving out urine samples before answering exams!! Where is this world heading??The competition just got tougher

We see similarities in the future use of cognition enhancers with the current use of performance enhancing drugs in sport. --Sir Gabriel Horn

Bacterial Computer Works!!

Bacteria have been turned into "living computers" and used to successfully solve a mathematical problem.Karmella Haynes and colleagues from the biology and the mathematics departments of Davidson College, North Carolina and Missouri Western State University, Missouri published their results in the Journal of Biological Engineering.
The feat by the American team has shown that living cell computing is feasible, opening the door to a number of applications such as data storage.

The research is part of an effort in "synthetic biology" to improve on four billion years of evolution and turn bacteria into living machines to do our calculations for us. The Team added genes to an innocuous form of the bacterium Escherichia coli, widely used in genetics research, creating bacterial computers able to solve a mathematical problem. The showcased the power of the living computer through the solution of a problem called the "Burnt Pancake" problem. The problem is fitting considering that the bacteria are found in the Human gut.

In this experiment, the researchers used fragments of DNA as the pancakes, and added genes from a different type of bacterium to enable the E. coli to flip the DNA 'pancakes'. They also included a gene that made the bacteria resistant to an antibiotic, but only when the DNA fragments had been flipped into the correct order.

"The system offers several potential advantages over conventional computers" says Dr Haynes. "A single flask can hold billions of bacteria, each of which could potentially contain several copies of the DNA used for computing. These 'bacterial computers' could act in parallel with each other, meaning that solutions could potentially be reached quicker than with conventional computers, using less space and at a lower cost."

Bacterial computing also has the potential to utilize repair mechanisms and, of course, can evolve after repeated use. This is an elaborate version of conventional genetic engineering methods that have been used for three decades.

The team recently participated in the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM). Through the efforts of hundreds of competitors they are developing a library of DNA snippets, each with a specific function, that have been engineered to snap together with other library parts like genetic Lego bricks.

These "biobricks" are created according to strict guidelines so that each one is compatible with others in the collection, which is officially called the Registry of Standard Biological Parts. The registry contains about 2,000 biobricks.

Three years ago, a team at Princeton University programmed the e.Coli to communicate with each other and produce various motifs. In one experiment, the cells glowed green when they sensed a higher concentration of a certain signal chemical and red when they sensed a lower concentration.

Together, in a Petri dish, they formed a bull's-eye pattern -- a green circle inside a red one. Earlier work inserted three interacting genes (dubbed a repressilator) in a way that gave the e.coli a green twinkle so they can blink on and off (sort of like Christmas lights). And a team at Boston University made a genetic switch, endowing each modified bacterium with a rudimentary digital memory. Using the switch, they have wired up bacteria to assemble and form communities called biofilms under the glow of ultraviolet light.

Phishers Target Quake Relief Funds

Since the Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Internet has gradually turned into a haven for opportunists waiting to cash in on disasters or natural calamities. With China still recuperating from the devastating earthquake in Sichuan that claimed lives and inflicted untold damage across the country, it's now time for unscrupulous cyber criminals to make their moneys out of someone else's misery.

These fraudsters are siphoning off relief money pouring in from all parts of the world, and how? They've created a phishing Web site posing as a representatives of organisations like the Red Cross -- complete with numerous fake accounts at different banks - for donors to wire-in their donations. International cyber security engine Websense says the phishing Web site was hosted within China itself, and has been down ever since an alert was issued.

Typically, phishing attacks are all about getting personal details such as passwords and credit card accounts of victims. In this case though, it's too premature to determine for how long the scam has been going on, and how much money has been transferred to the fraudulent accounts.

All said, this isn't the only such case of fraud in China in the wake of the earthquake. Just after disaster struck the Chinese, a flurry of SMSes requesting assistance and moneys to be deposited in private accounts hit mobile phones across the country. One such fake SMS that my friend received read: "My family was injured in the earthquake. Dad and mum urgently need money. Send whatever money you can. Deposit it in our friend's account in Bank of China Account number- XXXXXXXXX."

Those wanting to make Donations , please make sure that your moneygoes into the right hands. Our brothers in China need our help.Here are some "real" sites you can visit to donate money for the Quake relief.....

CHINA 512 QUAKE RELIEF FUND (Online Donation)
Contact Details:
Phone: 571-239-9958 or 240-432-2912


Contact Details:
GlobalGiving ,1816 12th Street NW - 3rd Floor,Washington, DC 20009
Phone: (202) 232-5784
Fax: (202) 232-0534

Google Earth Shows 2100 A.D.

We've seen pictures and videos of the effects of climate change. C'mon accept it. We've even wanted to do something about it. But then.....Well, we all kind of forgot!! Climate change is redrawing world boundaries, and its impact is already being felt everywhere; as sea levels rise, crops fail, weather becomes more and more extreme, and more areas get prone to drought and flooding, more and more efforts are undertaken to show the people of this planet that they're going to have to roll up their sleeves and start working to improve the conditions that our planet is in.

And Google has come up with a path-breaking (well..... almost) idea to show the people the destruction unleashed upon the earth through their popular programme, Google Earth. Instead of focussing on short-term destruction they're simply showing you the effects of climate change in the longer run......100 years to be precise.

So now you can see the earth that your grandchildren will be born into....if you keep polluting the Earth.If you want to see how your country looks like in 2100, try Google's new navigation tool on Google Earth.

Through a new project called "Climate Change in Our World", Google Earth users around the world will now be able to see how climatic change can affect the planet and its people over the next century.

The project, a collaboration between Google, the Government of UK, the Met Office Hadley Center, and the British Antarctic Survey, is explained in two new layers or animations on Google Earth.

One draws on the UK Met Office Hadley Center to show world temperatures through the next hundred years, under medium projections of greenhouse gas emissions, along with stories of how people are already affected by changing weather patterns. Information can also be accessed on action that can be taken by individuals, communities, businesses, and governments to tackle climate change.

The other layer, developed by the British Antarctic Survey, shows the retreat of Antarctic ice shelves since the 1950s, highlighting the importance of Antarctica in affecting climate change.

I for one was amazed by the BAS map which makes even an environment dum-dum like me want to get out there and stop global warming.

Check it out as soon as possible

New Use For 'Nuts'!!

Another example of people with way too much time on their hands...

What say??

OLPC Launches $75 Laptop

Definitely you've heard of Nicholas Negroponte. A man with a vision. A vision to provide every child with access to the net. Thats why he launched the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) programme. The first step was to design a $100 laptop. Unfortunately the end result of a much touted about project was a srappy looking device, the XO which cost $188. Now the second version of this laptop has been launched at MIT by Nicholas Negroponte himself.Nicknamed the XO-2, the revamped machine looks like an e-book and has had its price slashed to $75 per device.

The new version loses the green rubbery keyboard, sporting instead a single square display hinged at its centre. This allows the device to be split into two touch screens that can either mimic a laptop with keyboard or the pages of a book. The new machine will also be more energy efficient, half the size of the first generation device and lighter to carry.

It will continue to sport the XO logo in a multitude of colours so that children can personalise them.

Here's an image of the new XO.....Presenting the XO-2

"It is a totally new concept for learning devices." said Prof Negroponte. "Over the last couple of years we've learned the book experience is key," he said.

So far OLPC has only sold about 600,000 machines. Prof Negroponte he said he expected a further 400,000 orders in the next "60 to 90 days".

Many countries have been reluctant to buy the machines because they did not run Microsoft's Windows operating system so in mid-May OLPC announced a deal with Microsoft to make Windows available on the XO.

Previously the machines used a version of open source Linux operating system. He also said a dual-boot XO laptop that will run Windows and Linux is in the works.

Prof. Negroponte also announced the resumption of the Get-One-Give-One (G1G1) programme to allow people in wealthy nations buy two XO laptops and donate one to a child in a developing country.

Largest Flare Spotted!!

A tiny star named EV Lacertae recently unleashed what is considered the brightest burst of light ever seen in the universe from a normal star, astronomers announced today.

Shining with only 1 percent of the sun's light and possessing just a third of the sun's mass, the star previously was nothing to special about it. However on April 25, the red dwarf star, unleashed a mega-flare, packing the power of thousands of solar flares. Since the star is located 16 lya, the Super-super flare actually occurred 16 years ago.

The flare was first seen by the Russian-built Konus instrument on NASA's Wind satellite in the early morning hours of April 25. Two minutes later, Swift's X-ray Telescope caught the flare. The star remained bright in X-rays for eight whole hours before settling back to normal.

Lacertae's constellation, Lacerta, is visible in the spring for only a few hours each night in the Northern Hemisphere.

This is not the first time that this star has shown a flare but it was a treat for scientists this time.

Giant flares like this one are similar to solar flares, but stellar flares are hundreds and sometimes thousands of times more powerful. The extra power likely comes from the stars' magnetic fields. For instance, EV Lacertae rotates in a four day cycle, much faster than the sun's four-week rotation. The star's quick rotation generates stronger localized magnetic fields (Much Much Stronger) , about 100 times as powerful as the sun's.

"These flares are ultimately related to the twisting and tangling of magnetic fields that are poking out of the surface of the star, and stars like it," said

EV Lacertae is covered in spots, which move around during outbursts and rearrange themselves during the course of a flare. The spots on the star cover a much larger fraction of the surface than they do on the sun, so the resulting change of the spots would be even more dramatic.

Since EV Lacertae is 15 times younger than the sun, it provides a window into our solar system's early history, scientists say. Younger stars rotate faster and generate more powerful flares. Scientists claim that in its first billion years, the sun too must have let loose millions of energetic flares that would have profoundly affected formation of the planets.

Here's a small, cool star that shot off a monster flare --Rachel Osten,Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt

Are you an Online Jacka$$??

Everyone has a little online jackass in them; some of us add people on Orkut who we have no clue about, some of us beg for votes on Digg, some make white whines on Twitter. But these behaviors can lead to more annoying habits, like constantly bugging people to blog you, getting hooked on Yelp, or writing drug metaphors. Thank god online jackassery can be summed up in a condescending online quiz. Take it below!

For each time you did the following in the last thirty days:

1 point

* Asked for a digg
* Added someone on Orkut/Facebook the day you met them
* Visited MySpace
* IMed someone asking who they are
* Messaged someone on a site like Facebook when you could have called or e-mailed
* Used a "Sent from my Blackberry/iPhone/etc." e-mail signature
* Discussed an Apple rumor
* Made a joke about fonts

2 points

* Commented on a blog just to say you liked or hated something
* Posted a Craigslist missed connection
* Used MySpace
* Submitted your own blog post to Digg
* Asked someone to blog you
* Added to a Wikipedia talk page
* Bought a Threadless T-shirt

3 points

* Told a personal story in a Yelp review
* Used Tumblr
* Gave a bad review on Amazon to a book written over thirty years ago
* Added a celebrity on Facebook
* Made a YouTube response video
* Twittered about your blog
* Got fake-married on Facebook
* Friended someone on MySpace, LinkedIn, Friendster, or Yahoo 360
* Asked anyone to tag anything

4 points

* Invited someone to add their photo to a Flickr group
* Invited someone to a Facebook app
* Vlogged
* Made a Facebook event that wasn't really an event
* Blogged about dealing with someone in the service industry
* E-mailed a press release
* Wrote "why do I care" in a blog comment

Death Round: 20 points

* Sent an unneeded "reply to all"
* Sold someone's contact info
* Played Second Life
* Rickrolled someone
* Reviewed your own book on Amazon
* Complained that someone reblogged a third party's content without crediting you for finding it first
* Said the word "microcelebrity"
* Invited your whole address book to something
* Talked like a LOLcat in real life

Results (Drumroll please........)
0-10: Get the hell off my blog. But first digg my story.
11-15: You must feel great about yourself. Add twenty points for taking the quiz.
16-25: Very mediocre. Why are you reading this on your Playstation? Go play GTA IV.
26-40: All your Tumblr posts are stolen from other people's blogs. Your Twitters are about Twitter. But somehow all the YouTube clips you IM me are two years old.
41+: All my base are belong to you. Oh god, you probably laughed at that. You can haz the finger, jackass.

So how did U fare....In case you wanted to know , I got a score of 56!!!

Source: Gawker

Boost for Laser Aided Fusion

The Vulcan laser is an 8-beam 2.5 kJ per 2 nanosecond pulse infrared neodymium glass laser at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory's (RAL) Central Laser Facility.It is the world's most powerful laser and now it managed to heat matter to 10 million Celsius, hotter than the surface of the Sun!!

The laser concentrated energy equivalent to 100 times the world's electricity production into a spot measuring just a few millionths of a metre.In proper terms,the Vulcan laser focused one petawatt (1,000 trillion watts) of power into a spot about one tenth of the width of a human hair.
The pulse lasted for one picosecond (one trillionth of a second), heating the target to 10 million Celsius, one tenth of that required for nuclear fusion.

A special high-speed camera probed the fleeting moment.

Scientists now say they could create the conditions required for Fusion for fractions of a second.

The experiments demonstrated concepts which could be key to building a future nuclear fusion reactor.

Scientists have proposed an even more powerful laser facility, called Hiper (High Power laser Energy Research), which will move one step forward in the studies of the feasibility of laser fusion as a potential future energy source.

Nuclear fusion ,which uses deuterium and tritium, two heavier forms of hydrogen, as fuel, is looked on as a panacea in a world that demands ever increasing amounts of energy.

When these isotopes are combined at extremely high temperatures, a small amount of mass is lost and an amazingly huge amount of energy is released. By-products are barely radioactive.

We do know that the process of fusion occurs in stars such as the sun where huge gravitational pressure allows this to happen at temperatures of around 10 million Celsius.

At the much lower pressures on our planet, temperatures to produce fusion would need to be much higher - above 100 million Celsius.

Ultra powerful lasers like Hiper, have been proposed as one method for reaching these extreme conditions, although many remain sceptical about the technique.

National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California is expected to demonstrate energy production from laser driven fusion between 2010 and 2012.

If proven, the technology could rival the current favoured technique for initiating fusion which uses superconducting magnets to contain and fuse the hydrogen nuclei.

This technique will be used in the 10bn-euro International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) currently being built in southern France.

Here is the method the scientists at RAL have described for laser aided fusion.
1. Powerful lasers irradiate a fuel capsule causing the outer layer to rapidly expand.

2. The fuel capsule's core increases in density, converging at the tip of a gold cone.
three men

3. An intense ignition laser is fired into the gold cone producing energetic electrons.
a ship at sea

4. Electrons bombard the fuel raising its temperature to 100 million Celsius, initiating fusion.

We wanted to understand the basic interaction of matter with these laser pulses-- Professor Norreys (RAL)


Finally after all these years, here's to the beginning of what was there, what is there and hopefully what will remain!! So here are my thoughts & words -Online!!

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