R. Stephen White debunks the misinformation claiming nuclear power is not “safe.”

Safety is judged incrementally, not categorically.

Take a silica gel filled with water and replace the water with carbon dioxide. What do you get? A solid that is lighter than air. It is a super-absorbant that can dry materials, absorb pollutants, provide insulation and can be used for armor. It is called “Frozen Smoke” and it may be a revolutionary new material. It has practical uses for home construction, space travel, body armor, and more.

Dafydd ab Hugh takes a closer look at silica aerogels.

I recommend Marc Levinson’s economic history – The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

It’s the history of a box. And it is the most fascinating history of a box you’ll ever read.

Hopefully, he will write the history of food stored in tin cans and the revolutionary effect it had on our lives. And it will be just as fascinating. Containers play such a major role in human history – from pottery, to tin cans, to cargo containers. Transportation and storage is pointless without good boxes.

Popular Mechanics reports a new super-adhesive tape that uses nanotubes instead of glue.

a team at Ohio’s University of Akron has produced a new kind of “gecko tape” that mimics the thousands of hairs on the gecko’s footpad, each of which splits into hundreds of smaller nanohairs. The tape uses bundles of setae—strong but flexible carbon nanotubes—which, like the gecko hairs, create an electrostatic attraction with a surface.

One inch of tape can hold 50 pounds. Since it has no glue, it does not lose adhesiveness. It’s scifi space tape made real. And it will be used… in space. Of course.

Ground-based telescopes with Lucky Imaging can now take images that are twice as clear as Hubble. Space telescopes will still have uses, but improved ground telescopes cost only 0.01% as much.

This is awesome:

It’s from earlier this year, but if you’re interested, Popular Mechanics gives a good overview of the proposed upgrades. They also republished their original 1913 article on the canal.

5% of ocean cargo passes through the canal. The canal is maxed out and cannot handle the current load, much less the expected future increases. Many modern cargo ships cannot even fit in the canal. And so they’re trying to upgrade it to double capacity and allow larger cargo ships to pass.

GaN is a potential superconductor which can replace silicon. DARPA is funding a project to develop GaN communications. (via DefenseTech)

BAE Systems will build a 160-watt solid-state, gallium nitride (GaN) power amplifier for communications, electronic warfare, and radar applications. The solid-state technology will replace older vacuum tubes, called traveling wave tubes, currently used to produce high-power radio frequency signals.

DARPA’s support will help fund new ways of manufacturing GaN to lower the costs.

Lifeboat offers a list of 10 future Transhumanist Technologies.

Nano-Boric acid mixed with regular motor oil can greatly reduce friction in engines. This leads to increased fuel efficiency. (via Terrestrial Musings)

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have begun to combine infinitesimal particles of boric acid — known primarily as a mild antiseptic and eye cleanser — with traditional motor oils in order to improve their lubricity and by doing so increase energy efficiency.

We’re looking at a 5% increase in fuel efficiency through a simple chemical modification.

UGV technology continues to improve. The new armed SWORDS robots are being deployed to Iraq.

Video below

The FAA is experimenting with a GPS system to track aircraft instead of ground-based radar.

This is a good solution to problems with ATC. There has been an increase in near-misses, overworked controllers, and problems with radar. This causes congestion around airports.

The GPS can reform the system. It helps pilots navigate and it gives controllers accurate information about traffic.

The Army armed UGVs with rifles. In the past, the Army used the ground robots to defuse IEDs, scout buildings and sort through rubble. It was only a matter of time until someone figured out how to mount a weapon on them and use them for combat missions. These are literally remote controlled M249 SAWs.

The Air Force went through a similar transition with the Predator UAVs. At first, they were a simple recon drone designed to supplement air operations. Then they armed them with Hellfires. The newest UAVs like the Reaper virtually replace fighter-bombers.

Scientists invented super-strong  Carbon-based Paper.

NYTimes describes advances in robots technology and artificial intelligence. New robots are recognizing their environment, like people’s faces, voices and objects. They are trained to mimic human responses to environmental conditions.

It’s not exactly real artificial intelligence, but it shows us how far robot technology has advanced.

The Soviet economy failed for many reasons. One key reason is that centralized command and control economics suppresses adaptation. No one in the system can add new technology or adapt to environmental circumstances. One example of this is the Soviet refusal to create plastic bags for bread.

Moscow was a city of 9 million in the 1980s. It needed 2,500 tons of bread every day. Bakeries made the bread the night before or morning of and sent it to the shops. The loaves only stay fresh for one day, so any delays would result in stale bread. Since this was the Soviet Union, there were many, many disruptions and delays.

The bread was wrapped in paper, if at all. The Soviets almost never used packaging. In the US, plastic bags and packaging were in widespread use and this extended the freshness of bread and made transportation easier.

There has been a breakthrough in solar power. A new design of solar cells achieves 42.8% efficiency. This may make Solar a viable energy source that can compete with nuclear and fossile fuel.

The current junk models are in the range of 10% efficiency. The weakness of solar power was due to its low efficiency. It required a large number of expensive cells, lots of manufactoring resources, and lots of space.

So-called green technology sounds better on paper than in practice.

Windmills, ethanol, and other sources of energy require vast amount of lands and are inefficient energy sources. Ethanol is particularly bad, since it harms our food supply.

Nuclear is the only true environmentally friendly energy source.

Gregg Easterbrook calls Norman Borlaug the greatest American alive.

Borlaug created the “Green Revolution.” Biotech improved agricultural productivity. New strains of wheat, corn and other crops helped save millions from starvation. Borlaug’s work in Mexico, Pakistan, India and China allowed their populations to grow without facing severe famine and starvation.

The Green Revolution was one of the more important events of the 20th century.

Popular Mechanics describes the latest advances.

PHEVs will outperform normal hybrids without suffering the deficiencies of old-style electrical cars. You can plug them in overnight to charge the battery then drive 20 miles, afterwards, it works like a normal hybrid.

Environmentalists should not cheer. Regular hybrids and Plug-in Electric cars are worse for the environment than gasoline-powered cars.

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