Daily Archives: March 3, 2011

Hidden Treasures of M78

M78M78 isn’t really hiding in planet Earth’s night sky. About 1,600 light-years away and nestled in the nebula rich constellation Orion, the large, bright, reflection nebula is well-known to telescopic skygazers. But this gorgeous image of M78 was selected as the winner of the Hidden Treasures 2010 astrophotography competition. Held by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the competition challenged amateur astronomers to process data from ESO’s astronomical archive in search of cosmic gems. The winning entry shows off amazing details within bluish M78 (center) embraced in dark, dusty clouds, along with a smaller reflection nebula in the region, NGC 2071 (top). Yellowish and even more compact, the recently discovered, variable McNeil’s Nebula is prominent in the scene below and right of center. Based on data from ESO’s WFI camera and 2.2 meter telescope at La Silla, Chile, this image spans just over 0.5 degrees on the sky. That corresponds to 15 light-years at the estimated distance of M78. more> http://tinyurl.com/6x7unb3

Credit: ESO / Igor Chekalin

Problem is lack of a functioning market for technology rights

By George Mattathil – There are two basic deficiencies in the U.S. patent system:

1. Overemphasis of patent as a legal instrument, and
2. Inadequacy of systems for its use as industrial property right.

This result is caused by lack of a functioning market for technology rights embedded in patents and patent derivatives. Without a streamlined market for technology rights, the economic and commercial activities based on the underlying technologies are delayed or inhibited.

The “Land of Tinkerers” has a well developed market for music rights, but does not have even a primitive one for technology rights!


Social Networks: Cautious Engineers and Collaboration-Focused Suppliers

Social network useBy Beth Stackpole – Facebook, Twitter and other social media venues are fast becoming staples of day-to-day personal life, but engineers, particularly veteran professionals, remain leery of the technology and have not outwardly embraced the platforms for substantive product development work.

While social network usage ranked highest for knowledge sharing, as a resource for tapping into customer requirements (62.7 percent) and as a vehicle for networking (63.3 percent), only slightly more than a third (34.3 percent) of survey respondents said they were interested in the technology as a platform for collaborative engineering.

“What’s missing for a lot of social media platforms is the context focused on product development,” Chad Jackson, president of Lifecycle Insights says. more> http://tinyurl.com/4qgdxts

Are Invisibility Cloaks Hiding Around the Corner?

Elena SemouchkinaNSF – While no one yet has the power to put on a garment and disappear, Elena Semouchkina, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Technological University, has found ways to use magnetic resonance to capture rays of visible light and route them around objects, rendering those objects invisible to the human eye. Her work is based on the transformation optics approaches, developed and applied to the solution of invisibility problems by British scientists John B. Pendry and Ulf Leonhardt in 2006.

“Imagine that you look at the object, which is placed in front of a light source,” she explains.

“The object would be invisible for your eye if the light rays are sent around the object to avoid scattering, and are accelerated along these curved paths to reach your eye undistinguishable from direct straight beams exiting the source, when the object is absent.”

At its simplest, the beams of light flow around the object and then meet again on the other side so that someone looking directly at the object would not be able to see it–but only what’s on the other side.

“You would see the light source directly through the object,” said Semouchkina. “This effect could be achieved if we surround the object by a shell with a specific distribution of such material parameters as permittivity and permeability.”

She and her collaborators at the Pennsylvania State University, where she is also an adjunct professor, designed a nonmetallic “invisibility cloak” that uses concentric arrays of identical glass resonators made of chalcogenide glass, a type of dielectric material–that is, one that does not conduct electricity.

Multi-resonator structures comprising Semouchkina’s invisibility cloak belong to “metamaterials”–artificial materials with properties that do not exist in nature–since they can refract light by unusual ways. In particular, the “spokes” of tiny glass resonators accelerate light waves around the object making it invisible.

Until recently, there were no materials available with the relative permeability values between zero and one, which are necessary for the invisibility cloak to bend and accelerate light beams, she said. However, metamaterials, which were predicted more than 40 years ago by the Russian scientist Victor Veselago, and first implemented in 2000 by Pendry from Imperial College, London, in collaboration with David R. Smith from Duke University, now make it possible, she said.

Metamaterials use lattices of resonators, instead of atoms or molecules of natural materials, and provide for a broad range of relative permittivity and permeability including zero and negative values in the vicinity of the resonance frequency, she said. Metamaterials were listed as one of the top three physics discoveries of the decade by the American Physical Society. more> http://tinyurl.com/4duw7o6

The FCC’s neutral Net

FCCEditorial – The GOP’s argument is that the Internet has thrived without government regulation, so there’s no reason to start now. That’s a fine sentiment, but the point of the rules is to protect the Net from being manipulated by the handful of giant phone and cable TV companies that dominate the market for home broadband services. Reversing the commission’s order would invite those companies to pick winners and losers among websites and services, potentially strangling the openness and innovation that has been vital to the Internet economy.

House Republicans already voted to bar the FCC from enforcing the order, and two telecommunications companies have asked an appeals court to overturn it. But that’s apparently not enough. Soon, a House committee is expected to approve a resolution of disapproval that seeks to block not just the order but any similar FCC action. more> http://tinyurl.com/4w535w3