Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Water Has Memory

New Wind Turbine Systems

Broadstar 10kW/hr VAWT

Wind Tamer

Venger 2kW/he VAWT

Everwind 10kW/hr VAWT
Ropatec 20kW/hr VAWT

Urban Green Energy 4kW/her VAWT

Eolico 5kW VAWT

FCTEnergy 10kW/hr VAWT

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

5 Energy Crisis Solutions Clearly Designed by a Supervillain


As humanity is getting increasingly desperate for power sources, it's time to think outside the box, even if that means turning to methods that would previously have only been employed by supervillains. Who thinks outside the box more than they do? Sure, these potential power sources we're tapping into would normally be considered ridiculous, cartoony or just plain evil. But are they worse than coal?

#5. A Battery That Runs Off of Human Blood

After trying for years to perfect a way to get power from stealing people's souls and then, when that didn't work, their tears, mad scientists have finally settled on getting electricity from human blood.

Scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have invented a battery that is strong, flexible and, yes, powered by blood. And it even looks like a curled up old scab!

We didn't have to resist the urge to eat it, because we were never that kid.

This is actually just the latest step in a series of batteries called bio-batteries. They can run off of a number of bodily fluids, like sweat, urine or -- ah, there it is -- tears. So they can get power from all of the bodily fluids humans release in response to extreme terror. It's really a fear-powered battery, we guess. Hey, Monsters, Inc. was real!

Oh, also, it has to be implanted under the skin to work.

Even if it looks like a hunk of charred skin from a hot dog, it's actually an amazingly advanced little device. It has the texture of paper, but it draws electrolytes from your fluids and channels them through nanotech carbon tubes to create a usable energy supply.

Still, it's cooler than the alternative, which uses blood-feeding yeast.

The goal is not, apparently, to make a huge one and power it with a lake of blood from conquered human victims, but rather to help power medical implants. The papery nature of the batteries means they could be printed in sheets and easily cut to the size and shape needed for the patient. Then, once the thing is drawing juice from your natural fluids, you don't have to worry about changing the battery. It also seems like you could replace the mat in a UFC ring with this stuff and power the whole stadium with the sweat and blood from fighters, but we haven't heard of any prototypes for that yet.

Apparently broken teeth short circuit the whole thing.

By the way, as creepy as this seems, it's still less hardcore than the old way of powering devices like pacemakers: they used to use nuclear power. They would have a little hunk of plutonium inside the battery, and as it decayed, it released enough heat to power the device. Whenever a patient passed away, they'd have to ship her freaking pacemaker to Los Alamos to safely dispose of the nuclear material inside.

"Should you worry about the radioactivity? I wouldn't say so. Not with a heart like that."

#4. Harvesting Human Body Heat

Whatever else you may think about The Matrix, you have to admit there weren't all that many useful lessons to be learned (too many of us have found out that dodging bullets is WAY harder than the movie makes it look, for instance). But in Sweden, a group of engineers watched it and said, "Hey, that's right! We should harvest human body heat for our own needs! Thanks, movie!"

Turns out dystopian sci-fi is just an elaborate instruction booklet.

They don't need to round up crowds of people and shove them into a power plant, however -- the people do it themselves. The Stockholm Central Station is a huge train station that acts as a hub for travel all over Sweden, and some 250,000 people pass through it every single day. And, as we learned from The Matrix, the human body generates about 400 BTUs of heat an hour, or 117 watts.

Multiply that by a quarter of a million people and you have a building that stays hot -- too hot -- even in frigid Stockholm.

The lights are powered by smug passengers who got on the train you just missed.

So instead of just opening a window and wasting all of that energy, they installed heat converters in the ventilation system that would suck all of that extra body heat from the air, use it to heat water, and then send it across the street to heat an office building. We're assuming you can't just pump the air directly over there because it would smell like sweaty train travelers and Swedish hobos.

It worked; it wound up knocking 25 percent off the other building's heating bill. The best part? There's no reason that this method couldn't be used elsewhere. Energy costs are soaring, and it's not like our cities are short on packed buildings full of moving crowds.

Although when we start taking photos of these places, we often get our bags searched for explosives.

Maybe you could even hire unemployed people to sit in a small container, or "pod" if you will, and just provide free energy. Of course you wouldn't want them to get bored, so you could provide them with some VR entertainment. You could even get robots to guard them and make sure they don't leave.

And then just, like, cover them with goo. No reason.

#3. Volcano Power


No supervillain is complete without his volcano super base, where he hides from the law while harnessing energy to fuel his death ray. Volcanoes have thus become the symbol of supervillains from Sauron to L. Ron Hubbard.

But it turns out that the volcano base, even one carved into the shape of a skull, is a really smart idea when it comes to power generation. Most power plants today operate by heating up water and making steam. Well, hell, if it's heat that you need, why not go to a giant hole spewing molten rock from the center of the Earth?

How can we make the fires of hell work for us?

Green energy claims are notoriously inflated, but even by modest projections, it's estimated that the United States could power 25 percent of the country using just this method. And for volcanic-activity-heavy places like Indonesia where 35 percent of the population lacks electricity, this could be a godsend. That's why they are harnessing their volcanoes to produce 4,000 megawatts (or if you prefer, "four shitloads") of power by 2014. To put that in context, the world's largest solar plant produces just 400 megawatts a year, and the largest wind plant clocks in at a measly 800 megawatts.

What the hell is wind good for, if not to harness it like a God?

Iceland managed to provide power to 95 percent of their population using this method, and this method alone, and they have plans to start selling power garnered from volcanoes to other countries. These guys are taking the same volcanoes that screwed up everyone's air travel just months ago and making them work for us instead of against us.

Another problem caused by wind. Screw you, wind.

Of course, it wouldn't be a good supervillain plan if there wasn't some risk. Power has been interrupted before when the volcanoes they were trying to tap into erupted, which volcanoes are apt to do. And even when it's not exploding in your face, there are still risks, like drilling into the ground and releasing a cloud of super-heated steam that makes your equipment explode and forms a crater 100 feet deep and 100 feet wide (yes, it's happened a few times). But you're trying to subdue a freaking volcano and make it your servant here, it's going to fight back.

First we tamed the lightning, now we take on the volcanoes, then we blow up the sun.

#2. Unleashing the Electric Eels

This is more "cartoon supervillain" than actual supervillain. Looking at an electric eel and saying, "I'll just put a bunch of them in a tank and use them to power my lair!" is the kind of thing a 12-year-old would think works. Or the Japanese.

It's the kind of person who would run a sound system on the static from cat fur.

At the Kamakura Aquarium south of Tokyo, they've set up a demonstration of a single, huge electric eel powering -- wait for it -- a Christmas tree. Yes, they used the evil henchmen from The Little Mermaid to power a freaking Christmas tree, the epitome of all that is good and right.

Our happy, tingling feeling smells like burnt flesh.

Electric eels generate electricity similar to batteries, wherein sodium and other components such as electrolytes are lined up in such a manner that they are capable of producing an actual electric shock. The eel-powered Christmas tree works in as straightforward a manner as you'd think: They put an eel in a tank, and each time it moves it generates power. Some electrodes feed the current to a Christmas tree, and just like that you've got ... a somewhat erratically powered Christmas tree.

In perhaps the most uncreative vision of the future in the history of mankind, the eel tree's inventor is quoted as saying, "If we could gather up all the electric eels from all around the world we would be able to light up an unimaginably large Christmas tree." Solve the global energy crisis? Naaah. Huge Christmas tree.

"I wish I had all the money in the world. Think of the size of wallet I would get to make!"

Still, we guess it's better than the alternative, like if he dreamed of a ten thousand square mile pit of electric eels. Or, breeding one Godzilla-sized eel. Of course if you were working your way up to either of those things, you probably wouldn't admit it. You'd probably cover it up by saying you were doing it for the greatest cause of all, something no one would question. Like, say, Christmas.

#1. The Giant Invisible Energy Death Ray

Let's face it, wires are pretty old technology. Having to physically connect your charger to a power station through a series of cords, power lines and transformers is an overly complicated system that is essentially the same method they were using 100 years ago. Shouldn't we be able to, you know, just beam the energy to where we need it?

While you're at it, Scotty, beam us a beer.

Yes, and on a small scale you already have harmless products like this that let you charge your phone without plugging it in, and here's another one that uses the same technique for a computer mouse. Surely somebody out there is thinking much, much bigger, right?

The 2009 Space Elevator Games
"And then Ted was like, 'Why don't we make a giant laser that's also a dick?"

Yep. That's why these scientists have built a laser that can transfer power nearly a mile into the sky, maybe one day making America's crumbling power grid (and yes, is it crumbling -- the American Society of Civil Engineers gave it a D+) even more obsolete. That project was done as part of a NASA contest, awarding teams for innovations in beaming invisible power over distances. The winning team was able to wirelessly beam enough power to command a robot to climb a 4,300 foot cable up to a helicopter.


The article doesn't say if the robot then climbed into the helicopter and threw out the pilot like Robert Patrick in Terminator 2. What matters is that the experts are already thinking of ways to proceed directly to the supervillain doomsday scenario stage.

For instance, another team of researchers has outlined plans for a gargantuan solar sail in space or a Dyson-Harrop satellite that, in theory, would pick up solar winds from outer space and beam them to Earth -- there's enough such energy flying through space to power the Earth many times over. They just need to perfect the beaming technology to transmit the mind-boggling amount of energy toward the planet, and to get somebody to fly a bunch of missions into orbit to build the thing. And then it will be revealed to actually be a Death Star.

Or at least a Death Pop-Tart.

Monday, October 17, 2011



The inner workings of the brain can now be read using low cost hardware

You don't have to be a Jedi to make things move with your mind.

Granted, we may not be able to lift a spaceship out of a swamp like Yoda does in The Empire Strikes Back, but it is possible to steer a model car, drive a wheelchair and control a robotic exoskeleton with just your thoughts.

"The first thing is to clear your mind…to think of nothing," says Ed Jellard; a young man with the quirky title of senior inventor.

We are standing in a testing room at IBM's Emerging Technologies lab in Winchester, England.

On my head is a strange headset that looks like a black plastic squid. Its 14 tendrils, each capped with a moistened electrode, are supposed to detect specific brain signals.

In front of us is a computer screen, displaying an image of a floating cube.

As I think about pushing it, the cube responds by drifting into the distance.

Admittedly, the system needed a fair bit of pre-training to achieve this single task. But it has, nonetheless, learned to associate a specific thought pattern with a particular movement.

The headset, which was developed by Australian company Emotiv for the games industry, has been around for some time. But it is only now that companies such as IBM are beginning to harness the wealth of data that it can provide.

Using software developed in-house, researchers have linked the Emotiv to devices such as a model car, a light switch and a television.

Control signals come from two main sources; electroencephalography (EEG) measurements of brain activity, and readings of nerve impulses as they travel outwards to the muscles.

MindSet headsetThere is now a variety of brainwave-reading headsets on the market, mostly used for video gaming
Restoring movement

New techniques for processing such information are enabling sophisticated real world applications.

Already the team has used the system to help a patient with locked-in syndrome, whose healthy, active mind became trapped in a motionless body following a stroke.

Start Quote

We linked the headset to the IBM middleware, and when he pushed the cube on the screen, that behaved like a click of the mouse”

Kevin BrownIBM

"We linked the headset to the IBM middleware, and when he pushed the cube on the screen, that behaved like a click of the mouse - so he was able to use the computer," explained IBM's Kevin Brown.

Many commercial mind control technologies are designed to restore physical ability to those who have lost it.

At Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), researchers have applied brain-computer interface technology to create thought-controlled wheelchairs and telepresence robots.

"A disabled patient who can't move can instead navigate such a robot around his house to participate in the social life of the family," explains the team leader, Professor Jose del Millan.

"To do that, a helmet detects the intention of some physical movement and translates it into action."

Prof. Sankai, CYBERDYNE, Inc./Univ. of TsukubaBrain-controlled Cyberdyne's Hal suit allows disabled patients to walk again

Japanese company Cyberdyne is helping people who cannot walk to regain mobility by dressing them in a full-body robotic suit called Hal.

Just as some of IBM's readings come from nerve impulses, rather than brain waves, Cyberdyne uses tiny sensors on the limbs to measure the subject's intention to move, even if the physical act is impossible.

Start Quote

A disabled patient who can't move can instead navigate such a robot around his house to participate in the social life of the family”

Prof Jose del MillanEPFL

The robot body responds by moving its arms or legs. Webcams and computer screens enabling the user to pilot their machine and communicate with friends and family through their proxy body.

Outside the healthcare field, another implementation, being developed by EPFL in partnership with car maker Nissan, is an intelligent vehicle that can use brainwave data.

Supported by numerous external sensors and cameras, brain wave sensors read what the driver is planning to do next.

Having anticipated their intentions, the car takes over, eliminating the need for tedious and time consuming physical movement.

For those who prefer pedal power, Toyota is working with Saatchi & Saatchi, Parlee Cycles and DeepLocal to develop a bicycle which can shift gear based on its rider's thoughts.

Prototype of an intelligent carIn future, cars might be able to assist the drivers by reading their brainwaves
Suits and microchips

Headsets and helmets offer cheap, easy-to-use ways of tapping into the mind. But there are other, more invasive techniques being developed.

Start Quote

Imagine some kind of a wireless computer device in your head that you'll use for mind control - what if people hacked into that”

Prof Noel SharkeyUniversity of Sheffield

At Brown Institute for Brain Science in the US, scientists are busy inserting chips right into the human brain.

The technology, dubbed BrainGate, sends mental commands directly to a PC.

Subjects still have to be physically "plugged" into a computer via cables coming out of their heads, in a setup reminiscent of the film The Matrix. However, the team is now working on miniaturising the chips and making them wireless.

BrainGate is developing ways of using the output to control a computer cursor, on-screen keyboard, and even manipulate robotic arms.

After testing it on monkeys, the scientists have now started human trials. Lead researcher Prof John Donoghue hopes that one day, his groundbreaking research will help people with spinal cord injuries or locked-in syndrome to walk again just by thinking of moving their limbs.

Cyclist, mind-controlled bicycleMind controlled bikes would change gear at the flick of a thought
Robot warriors?

But extracting information from the brain, be it by internal or external sensors, is only part of the story.

Much of the current research effort is looking at how to efficiently process and utilise the vast streams of data that the brain produces.

Turning analogue thoughts into digital information links human beings directly to electronic information networks, such as the internet. The brain becomes becomes yet another sensor to be analysed and interrogated.

And as techniques for crunching that output get more sophisticated, the technology it drives will move beyond simple device control.

"People like data," said IBM's Ed Jellard. "So if you can see patterns of data, the geekier people will be very interested to see what is going on in their brain and how it is changing over time.

"I would be interest to know if my brain is getting stronger and if I have more intense thoughts. Things like that could be useful."

Start Quote

If you can see patterns of data, the geekier people will be very interested to see what is going on in their brain and how it is changing over time”

Ed JellardIBM

While it is possible to translate brain waves into machine processable data, there remains something unique and special about those signals that rocket around inside our skulls.

They are not the same as lasers in a fibre optic cable or electrons in a microprocessor, and tapping the mind will raise philosophical and ethical questions, according to Prof Noel Sharkey.

"Once the military get a hold of it, they will push it very hard," he explains.

"At the moment they are filling the airspace in Afghanistan with drones that only one person can control - but if they get the helmets well enough developed, they'll be able to control a number of planes or robot warriors directly with their thoughts."

There are also questions about what form cyber crime would take in the age of the wired mind?

"Imagine some kind of a wireless computer device in your head that you'll use for mind control - what if people hacked into that, what could they do to you and your property?," continues Prof Sharkey.

"And what if you are forced to wear a device and someone controls you with his thoughts, making you do things?..."

The possibilities, both positive and negative, are literally mind boggling.

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