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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Diamonds may support Earth's space elevator

by Mark Ollig


In 2007, yours truly wrote how a nanotube ribbon-like material, might be used to build a space elevator which would “lift” payloads into Earth orbit.

The idea is, instead of using rockets to get cargo into space, why not build an elevator with a type of unbreakable cable extending from the ground, to a counter-balanced object fixed in a geostationary-orbit many miles above the Earth.

It would be a reusable space elevator, with one end of its ribbon-like cable anchored into the earth, and the other end reaching about 22,000 miles above the Earth.

It would maintain its stability and equilibrium by being attached to a counterweight traveling parallel with Earth’s orbit.

This miles-long ribbon cable, made from strengthened nanotube materials, would be the physical medium on which a conveyor belt would transport from Earth into space (or from space back to Earth), an attached cargo capsule.

All of this sounded like an attainable goal to me; but remember folks; I’ve watched a lot of “Star Trek.”

Famous science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke wrote about a space elevator in his 1979 book, “The Fountains of Paradise.”

Before he passed away in 2008, he was asked when he thought the space elevator would be built.

“My answer is, about 10 years after everyone stops laughing,” he replied.

Well, Mr. Clarke, today some people have definitely stopped laughing.

A revolutionary new strength material called “diamond nanothreads,” has the potential to be used for constructing the super-strong cable strands needed to support a space elevator.

These diamond nanothreads are extremely thin, and yet exceptionally strong.

In fact, it promises to be stronger and more resilient than carbon nanotubes, heavy-duty conventional polymers, and high-strength materials like Kevlar.

I watched a recently made video by John V. Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University, who leads the research team that discovered how to produce these diamond nanothreads.

“We’ve made a tiny thread of diamond,” begins Badding, sitting at a desk next to a computer monitor showing a 3D image of the individual molecule structure of this new diamond nanothread – which has never been seen before.

“It is as if an incredible jeweler has strung together the smallest possible diamonds into a long miniature necklace,” Badding explained.

The video shows one of the key features of this diamond structure as being the carbon atoms linked together by bonds in all three dimensions. Each of the carbon atoms is linked to four other carbon atoms, forming a configuration known as a tetrahedron.

Badding emphasized a diamond “is the hardest material known, to human-kind. It’s just about the strongest material known as well.”

He described cutting a thread out of a diamond structure, and fashioning a diamond nanothread.

The lengthy diamond nanothread image he showed was made up of carbon tetrahedrons having hydrogen atoms connected in a twisting, DNA-like image.

A beautiful, high definition, colorized photo of this diamond nanothread can be seen at:

Diamond nanothreads open up possibilities for a whole new variety of strong, yet light, materials.

For example, new material based on diamond nanothreads, could be used to build lighter, and thus, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Badding also speculated how diamond nanothreads could bring the building of the futuristic geostationary space elevator closer to becoming a reality.

It is believed these diamond nanothread materials will be able to tolerate the incredible stresses a 22,000-mile-high space elevator would need to withstand.

One can only imagine the cost for diamond threads some 22,000-miles long.

Still, the idea of an elevator lifting cargo to the International Space Station, or, whatever science-living quarters humans will have orbiting the Earth in the future – is intriguing.

Building a space elevator would have to be considered humanity’s greatest engineering feat.

Imagine, someday, there may be human-operated spacecraft in orbit around a planet (Mars, for example), sending and receiving equipment to and from the surface using a space elevator.

Here’s a shortened link to the Penn State University YouTube video:

Photo source:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ant-sized chips may connect the 'Internet of Things'

by Mark Ollig

Trillions of tiny radio chip sensors may someday be collecting information on all of Earth’s electronic devices.
Yes, this is quite the prophetic statement by yours truly.

We know of the Internet’s network; the many ways we connect to it, and obtain and share content.

Well folks, the infrastructure of the Internet is preparing to get a lot bigger.

An engineering team at Stanford University has designed and demonstrated an ant-sized model of a communications device to make the “Internet of Things,” or IoT, a reality.

A video I watched described IoT as being how the Internet will evolve from connecting with computers, cellphones, tablets, and smart devices, to also having interconnection with other devices – or things.

These include business and home appliances, transportation networks, healthcare, energy and utility monitoring systems, manufacturer’s plant machinery, and other parts of our infrastructure, such as light bulbs, and even our coffee machines.

Instead of remaining static, these devices will be able to communicate their condition, allowing decisions to be made to better utilize their function, and obtain beneficial information.

“We’ve figured out how to design a radio in which everything . . . all the functionality of the radio, is integrated on a single silicon chip,” said Amin Arbabian, primary designer, and assistant professor of Stanford’s department of electrical engineering.

These radio chips are the latest development in connecting wireless devices to the Internet.

This tiny radio chip, which is a few millimeters, or about 0.119 inches long, includes an antenna array. It will compute, execute, communicate, and carry out logical commands from any location on the planet – when connected to the infrastructure of the Internet.

These chips operate using low-power, ambient radio frequency (RF) waves, instead of a conventional power source.

The circuitry of their architecture allows them to harness the power of incoming signals, and communicate using the 24 and 60 gigahertz frequency bands to transmit and receive.

Since there is no battery needed, these chips would last for many years.

This reminds me of the crystal radio sets from the early days of amplitude modulated (AM) broadcast radio.

Those crystal sets needed no independent power source, as they operated over the energy received from radio waves in the air captured by the crystal set’s antenna.

Stanford said this device is energy efficient. “It gathers all the power it needs from the same electromagnetic waves that carry signals to its receiving antenna.”

Imagine having one of these chips connected to every electronic device.

These chips would communicate information about the specific device each one was connected to including its operational status, data results received from the device, its geographic location, its operating environment – and more.

It all boils down to having a radio chip responsive to commands, and to control and obtain information from the device they are connected to.

These tiny radio chips could be embedded directly into the electronic gadgets and devices as they were being made in the manufacturer’s facility, or individually installed onto existing devices.

Of course, today, some manufacturers are using radio-frequency identification (RFID) circuit board tags to identify specific products, and track their location as they are shipped to distribution points across the country.

I can see large warehouses with thousands of their stocked items implanted with ant-sized radio chips.

Identification and location of inventory could be viewed using a special Web program, as all of these inventoried items would be connected to the Internet of Things.

These radio chips can be economically mass-produced; it has been estimated to cost only pennies to make one.

So, how will each of these trillions of chips be able to uniquely identify themselves and the devices they are connected to?

When we want to communicate with an individual, we dial their unique 10-digit telephone number.

And, so it will be with these new chips connected to a device; each will have a unique “telephone number” or, in this case, a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address, for communicating with us, or whatever software program they are associated with.

My guess is these chips, and all others comprising the Internet of Things, will be using the IPv6 Internet protocol addressing system – and some sort of encryption for security.

As you know, IPv6 has enough capacity to provide unique IP addresses for a nearly unlimited number of devices.

And that number is 340 trillion, trillion, trillion unique IP addresses, which should be enough to last a long, long, long time.

Alright, it should actually last forever.

The future Internet of Things may be linked, in part, using Stanford’s new, silicon radio chip design.

“The next exponential growth in connectivity will be connecting objects together and giving us remote control through the Web,” said Arbabian.

Yes, indeed, I can see myself in the future; sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop computer, engaged in a conversation over a cup of coffee with my coffee machine.

Stanford University’s Amin Arbabian created a short video which can be viewed at
 Below photo source:

Friday, September 12, 2014

Apple hosts its 'Special event'

by Mark Ollig

“I’m backstage and this is my first tweet from my iPhone 6. It’s amazing. You’re going to love it,” read Apple’s CEO Tim Cook’s message to Twitter, just before his presentation began.

Last Tuesday, Apple held its much anticipated special event inside the Flint Center in Cupertino, CA.

Once the livestream broadcast started, I heard thunderous, hearty applause from the large number of people greeting Cook as he took the stage.

He waved his hand, and while smiling broadly said, “Good morning!”

As this event was being streamed live over the Internet from Apple’s website – a problem occurred.

Frustration: Apple’s livestream stopped working, which left many of us who were watching, scrambling onto Twitter and social media blogs to learn what was happening from those reporting directly inside the Flint Center.

The livestream eventually began working again, and the information about Apple’s new products made it out to the masses.

The next iPhone is, unsurprisingly, named the iPhone 6.

The smaller iPhone 6 model has a 4.7-inch display screen, while the iPhone 6 Plus features a 5.5-inch display screen.

Both come in a silver, gold, or space gray finish case.

There are three storage size configurations: 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB.

The new iPhones have Retina HD (high-definition) screens featuring greater display resolutions.

There was no mention about the much rumored Sapphire display screen for the new iPhones.

I went to Apple’s website, wanting to “look under the hood” so to speak, to see more details of the technology used.

The new iPhones are using the A8 processor chip, which is built on their second-generation 64-bit desktop architecture. They are also using the M8 motion coprocessor.

The A8 is small. This chip is produced using 20-nanometer process technology, which, incredibly, allows it to contain some 2 billion transistors.

This design also reduces power consumption.

One of the feature enhancements on the iPhone 6’s video camera is cinematic video stabilization – it’s like having a steady-cam built into your phone.

A time-lapse video shot allows one to use a quick “tap” to capture a long period of time, while focused on a subject.

Apple’s presentation showed the new iPhone’s video “slow-mo” playback mode, which I thought was pretty cool.

Also, continuous camera autofocus shot using Focus Pixels means the focus changes are automatic and almost undetectable.

A new health app (application) which the Mayo Clinic assisted with, can record and measure a person’s physical activities, and will host other third-party applications.

The new Apple operating system, iOS 8, will be available as a free download Sept. 17 for the new, and most of the previous, iPhones, iPods, and iPad smart devices.

Having the iOS 8 on one’s Apple smart device will allow folks to use Siri (Apple’s voiced personal assistant app) to control smart devices in the home, and assist in using health and fitness apps.

Towards the end of this Apple special event, a brand-new Apple product was introduced.

The audience stood and erupted with cheers as Cook announced there was “one more thing.”

This was reminiscent of what Steve Jobs would say at the close of a keynote address, before revealing a new product or technology.

I think most of us watching, and those in attendance, knew what was coming.

Yes, it was the announcement of Apple’s wearable smart-watch.

And no, Apple didn’t call it the iWatch.

It’s simply called: Apple Watch.

Personally, I would have preferred “iWatch.”

Of course, this ergonomically-fashionable Apple Watch has all sorts of cool bells and whistles; including the way one navigates within the apps with the user interface, via manipulation of the “digital crown,” which resembles the metal turning-wheel used to set the time on a regular watch.

During the presentation, it was noted how the user interface for the original Macintosh computer was a mouse, the first iPod used a click wheel, and the first iPhone used a multi-touch interface on its screen.

For Apple’s brand-new smart watch, we will need to learn how to operate a very small mechanical metal turning-wheel, in order to control and use the apps.

Alright, I am not so thrilled about this, but I suppose trying to navigate, zoom in on, and open individual apps using finger “tap and swipe” on the small surface of a glass watch is not very practical.

Apple smartly explained this digital crown “answers the fundamental challenge of how to magnify content on a small display.”

The Apple Watch will be tethered to, and will communicate with the iPhone, allowing it to send and receive messages, and answer phone calls.

The sensors under the watch will send muscle-vibration haptic feedback signals to the user for various notifications. They will also be used for gathering information by Apple’s health app, such as the wearer’s heart beat and pulse.

The Apple Watch allows one to customize its screen appearance, and a person can choose from a variety of stylish, interchangeable wrist bands.

Oh, and this new smart watch tells the time, too.

It was disclosed we will need to wait until early 2015 to get the Apple Watch.

Apple’s YouTube channel includes videos on their new iPhones, Apple Watch, and more:

 Apple fans inside the Flint Center

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Woz may be right

By Mark Ollig

In light of the recently stolen celebrity data files from a popular cloud-based storage server, I recall the words of Apple’s co-founder.

Steve (Woz) Wozniak gave us a warning about using cloud-based storage two years ago.

“I really worry about everything going to the cloud. I think it’s going to be horrendous. I think there are going to be a lot of horrible problems in the next five years,” Wozniak predicted.

In 2009, when public cloud-based computing was being discussed, yours truly wrote how moving our applications and data to the cloud seemed inevitable.

At the time, it appeared cloud-based servers were to be the next logical progression in how we would store and access our data and programs.

Our computing was moving onto the Web.

I believed backing up the data inside our computing devices to the cloud made sense.

Isn’t having our data stored and accessible from an offsite location, within a data server cabinet, inside a highly-secured room, the wave of the future?

We are told there is no danger of losing our data. The cloud-based servers will keep our data file information safe and secure.

Today, we are learning the real danger is having our cloud-based data accessed by unauthorized computer hackers.

It was from inside Apple’s iCloud storage servers where celebrities’ personal data (including scandalous photos) were hacked into and stolen.

Apple, however, confirmed they found no evidence of any widespread problems with its iCloud storage service.

“After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords, and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet,” Apple said in their media advisory statement.

Apple advised its users “to always use a strong password and enable two-step verification.”

For more information on how to secure your Apple ID accounts, visit:

The targeted attack on Apple’s cloud-based servers is no doubt giving some pause to the users of iCloud.

A user’s data stored in the iCloud is “safe and secure” insofar as the chance of it becoming lost or unretrievable is concerned.

However, this data can be, as Apple stated, “compromised” via unauthorized access by a computer hacker.

This latest data breach of data from the iCloud, along with the recent intrusions into various well-known corporate data servers containing customer account numbers and passwords, does not bode well for consumer confidence regarding cloud-based storage of their personal data.

Even though cloud-based data is stored securely, a potential hacker, or some complex, algorithmic software program, has the potential to gain access to a private user’s data files.

Years ago, when a cloud was considered a white, puffy thing floating in the sky, we were backing up our computer files onto external hard drives, 3.5-inch diskettes, rewritable CDs, and those 5.25-inch thin floppy disks we stacked like vinyl 45 rpm records.

Today, many of our computing and smart mobile devices automatically sync and upload our files to an Apple iCloud, or other cloud-based data storage service provider such as: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Carbonite, Mozy, or Dropbox.

Being our computer files would now be automatically stored off-site, we thought we no longer needed to worry about losing our data. The future was looking to be all wine and roses.

It is mind-boggling when one considers the large amount of personal information being stored inside the cloud.

Think of all the photos, text, and video we have uploaded to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and all those other social networks we are using.

Chromebook users are truly using cloud-computing, as they access their programs being stored inside Google’s cloud-based servers.

As we continue to send our data into online social networks and cloud-based backup dataservers, we need to be asking more questions, instead of just trusting everything will be alright.

Who is authorized to access our data?

What additional layers of security can be added to user accounts in order to be better protected from their being hacked into and compromised?

How are the cloud-based account password and security settings managed?

We need to investigate how cloud-based service providers are securing our online information.

The Woz may be right, but it is up to us to take action to ensure our online data is as protected as possible.

Let’s start examining more closely the safeguards being used to store and protect our cloud-based data.