+40 to Solar Power

What if your windows could double as transparent solar panels? Free energy with your sunny view! Scientists at MIT have developed a solar concentrator in the form of a dye that can be applied to windows. The dye redirects sunlight toward the edges of the window, where solar cells pick up the energy. The obvious benefit of such a system is an unobstructed view through glass also generating solar power. Additionally, scientists claim that the dye can be applied to existing solar panels to increase efficiency significantly. (source)

PV Diagram (click to enlarge)

The dye presents a solution to certain bureaucratic barriers preventing solar energy from growing. Where I live, roof mounted solar panels are not allowed. Windows, on the other hand, are allowed. I am confident most other residential and commercial zones also permit the use of windows in buildings (hah), so I see no reason why this dye and solar cell system couldn’t be used in every building. Last time I checked, cars also had windows. Can anyone say free air conditioning? This technology will be implemented in three years, hopefully that means it will be entering the consumer market at the same time.

Hand-Held Diagnosis

House No SpeakResearchers at Harvard have developed a hand-held device capable of detecting anything, anywhere. The device’s primary application will be diagnosis of disease. It borrows technology used in MRI machines, known as NMR, or Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. In an MRI, NMR generates images by exposing the atomic nuclei in your body to magnetic fields and then bombarding them with radio waves, causing a telltale wobble in the atom detected by a current induced in special coils. The new device, instead of generating an image with this data, simply detects if the molecules are present. It does this by taking a small blood sample and carrying it through detector coils. Each coil is filled with a few magnetic nanoparticles bonded to special detector nanoparticles.

Large NMR machines have been around for awhile but have had limited application due to their low sensitivity. The new hand-held NMR device is 800 times more sensitive than its large progenitors, allowing it to detect very minute signs of affliction.

The Harvard scientist in charge of the project, Dr. Weissleder, has already filed for a patent and set up a new corporation, T2 Biosystems, in order to market the new device. Word from T2’s CEO is that the device will “hit shelves” 2 years from now. (source)


A local commentator (Lone) brings up a good point, “Not only is this REALLY cool, but this is one of the most helpful systems I have even seen. However, wouldn’t this put some med students out of the job, sorta? I mean the only reason to have a doctor after this point is to get a prescription for whatever it is you might have…”

My take:

Technically, yes, this could theoretically do away with some diagnosis work, but doctors are still extremely important in compiling a final diagnosis and course of treatment. The practice of self-diagnosis using the internet is an indicator of what could happen. Some people may be better educated, but many others will often do significant damage to themselves or bombard their doctor with useless and often fraudulent research.

At this point, it is very easy to diagnose a broken bone, but would you attempt to set and pin it together on your own? (yes, Lone, I know you would, but I am addressing normal people).

Microwave Death Ray or Shop at Walmart

Microwave TankGet ready for your heads to explode! The U.S. military is funding a new weapon that utilizes microwaves to deter violence called MEDUSA – Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio.  The device makes use of a “microwave auditory effect” which has been well-documented by scientists in the laboratory. Microwave beams aimed at pitchfork wielding activists or enemy combatants interact with the bones in the skull to create a debilitating, screaming noise. One might imagine MEDUSA having a “crispy flesh” side-effect, but the real damage could result from the high-intensity shock waves rocking around your brain, causing permanent neurological damage. If the microwave is used at low power, it may also be possible to transmit auditory messages directly into the skulls of consumers. While the messages would be too faint to be picked up by conscious minds, they could wreak havoc on the subconscious, causing you to yearn for a Coke from the local Walmart for no discernible reason. I hope they don’t sell this technology to advertisers: subconscious spam would ensure the downfall of humanity. Think about it, everyone (including women) getting thousands of Viagra ads beamed directly into their heads 80 times a day.

What evil hath we wrought upon ourselves?!


Tornado Power

Tornado and LightningTemperature gradients are the basis of thermoelectric generators. The potential difference allows for the creation of electrical current. What does this have to do with Tornadoes?

One scientist, Louis Michaud, plans on harvesting a by-product of large scale temperature gradients – tornadoes – to generate electricity. The core of his proposed power plant, called the Atmospheric Vortex Engine (AVE), will generate a tornado and harvest energy from the resulting air currents. In order to supercharge and sustain the vortex, the power plant will feed it waste heat generated by the turbines. This creates a cutoff switch in case of emergency, such as if a giant, permanent tornado next door to your house escapes its earthly bondage to reign destruction upon its human oppressors. If the waste heat is cut off from the vortex, the vortex dries up.

Early calculations by Michaud predict a possible 200 megawatt output from such a power plant, enough to power a small city. (source)

Alaska to generate power from Volcanoes!

Alaska is getting geothermal. Modern estimates indicate that at least 25% of Alaska’s energy needs could be drawn from geothermal sources, including one active volcano, Mount Spurr. Accordingly, Alaska has begun surveys of the volcano and is leasing surrounding area to geothermal ventures.


If geothermal sources around the US were fully tapped, they could provide about 25% of the entire nation’s energy needs! Geothermal sources include hot springs and volcanoes, heat is extracted for use in creating steam to run electric generators. How exactly this is done, I’d like to know myself.

Some estimates claim 80% of the USA’s geothermal sources have yet to be discovered. (source)

No Ice in the North Pole

North PoleAccording to scientists, the North Pole could be devoid of ice this year for the first time in human history.

Pros: Ship passage through the fabled Northern Passage (the top of the world) that could accelerate trans-Atlantic shipping. Canadian/Icelandic beachfront property.

Cons: Affirmation of Global Warming? Destruction of Santa Claus.

Ironically, there are abundant oil reserves under the North Pole, which would be accessible after a meltdown.

More information on the subject available here.

Spray-on Skin!

Skin SprayAFIRM (Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine) has made several advances in the past several years. Notably, they took a ‘pixie dust’ manufactured out of pig bladders to regrow the fingertips of two patients. The dust signals growth factors in scar tissue, causing small limbs, such as fingertips, to grow back fully (nail included).

Other regenerative research includes work by Anthony Atala, a Wake Forest University tissue engineer, who has developed an ink-jet printer capable of manufacturing entire organs one cell layer at a time. While he has managed to print an entire rat heart, applications in skin regeneration look extremely promising in human patients. Also, mobile versions of the printer could regrow critical organs in combat zones.

AFIRM has developed a spray that would serve same solution, regrowing burned and scarred skin. The spray utilizes a patient’s own keratinocytes, immature skin cells. Trials on 16 patients have been extremely promising, showing results comparable to more complicated (yet effective) skin grafting procedures.

Soon enough, these military medical technologies will make their way into civilian medicine, making us into invincible super soldiers capable of world domination. Happy Friday!


I often write glowingly about solar panels and how great it would be for me to control a giant laser beam. My plans for a solar powered empire work fine when the solar array is built in space, but odds are any significant solar arrays will be built first on Earth. So, after the sun goes down the power goes out! Our primary means of energy storage, what we need in order to light our nights, are chemical batteries. DeathStar

Batteries have gotten us pretty far, allowing us to carry mobile phones, laptops, flashlights, etc. But all these things work on a small scale. Sure, we have car batteries to jump start our engines, but in the end they aren’t built to do much else on a reliable basis. Chemical batteries are volatile, toxic, and have a short lifespan. They wouldn’t be able to power a solar civilization when the sun goes down, not until we see some chemical battery breakthroughs.

Till then we have the flywheel. Flywheels work like mechanical batteries, storing energy kinetically rather than chemically. They do this using a spinning wheel or disk. When energy is added to the flywheel, the wheel/disk is spun by a motor, when energy needs to be subtracted or utilized, the motor engages the spinning disk, generating electricity. A heavier disk adds a linear amount of potential energy storage. A disk capable of higher speeds, on the other hand, adds a squared amount of potential energy storage. Thus, disks meant to store a large amounts of energy must be able to spin at very high speeds (16,000 RPM, for instance). The trouble is, normal materials spinning at this speed explode due to the extreme forces acting on their surfaces. This is why modern flywheels are built using materials such as carbon fiber.Battery Container

Several companies have started making large scale flywheels, but these days the most common use for a flywheel is power regulation. A large flywheel installation can smooth out bumps in the energy grid caused when power demand and supply fall out of sync. In the worst cases, a desynced power grid will cause a brownout or blackout, shutting down power completely. Residents of New York and more commonly, California, suffer from these disturbances. Unlike a generator, a flywheel can instantly respond to dips and jumps in an energy grid, preventing a frequency shift great enough to shut down the system.

Point is, while smoothing out our grids is a great idea anyway, I think flywheels could also be used to store and generate energy overnight. They aren’t toxic, they recharge very quickly, they last for a long time, etc. Plus, they spin really really really really fast.

Water on Mars!

NASA has just confirmed the existence of water on Mars. After staring at a pair of before and after shots, from the newly landed Mars Pheonix Lander, scientists concluded that the white powdery-looking substance in the images was water! Their evidence, the powdery substance, seems to have sublimated (turned from solid to gas) in the Martian Atmosphere. In other words… MELTING/EVAPORATING ICE! *cue Martian music* Don’t believe me? Here is their evidence.

Ice on Mars


Hydrogen is Awesome. I saw a TV commercial and drank some water, now I’m a big fan!

Hydrogen Bomb

Hydrogen Burning Sun

Hydrogen Powered Car