American Elephants


You Made It! by The Elephant's Child

Atom-Thin, Stronger Than Steel, A New Super-Material Ignites a Patent Rush by The Elephant's Child

Every time you think that all discoveries have been made, all economic progress is over — comes a wonder material: a substance 200 times stronger than steel yet as thin as a single atom — which has sent “companies and universities racing to understand, patent and profit from the skinnier, more glamorous cousin of ordinary pencil lead.”

The material is graphene, and to demonstrate its potential, Andrea Ferrari recently picked up a sheet of clear plastic, flexed it and then tapped invisible keys, triggering tinkly musical notes.

The keyboard made at Dr. Ferrari’s University of Cambridge lab was printed with a circuit of graphene, which is so pliable that scientists predict it will fulfill dreams of flexible phones and electronic newspapers that can fold into a pocket.

It is the thinnest material known. But it is exceedingly strong, light and flexible. It is exceptional at conducting electricity and heat, and at absorbing and emitting light.

Andre Geim, a Russian-born scientist at the University of Manchester in Britain, and Konstantin Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for isolating graphene. Dr. Geim wanted thin graphite to study its electrical properties. A doctoral student suggested using cellophane tape.”They used the tape to peel off layers of graphite until they got to a layer so thin it was transparent. Not only did it not fall apart, it was strong, flexible and possessed astonishing electrical properties.”

It is still far too expensive for mass markets, it doesn’t lend itself in computer-chip circuitry and scientists are trying to find better ways to turn it into usable form. There are still lots of hurdles, but Graphene is a material like steel or plastic or silicon that can change society.

And the race has begun, as of May, there have been more than 9,000 patent applications for graphene. Companies like Apple, Saab, Lockheed Martin, Samsung, Nokia, BASF SE. The potential uses are as broad as filtering salt from seawater, flexible touch screens, anti-rust coatings, sports equipment like tennis racquets,  DNA sequencing devices, and distilling vodka. Everybody is trying to patent everything, so that you have the option of suing your competitors later and stopping them. Labs all over the world are hard at work, as is the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Dr Geim, the Nobel laureate, has said that “Graphene opened up a material world we didn’t even know existed.” Scientists are looking at scores of other two-dimensional materials with unusual properties.

The Wall Street Journal piece is here, it may be behind a paywall. Watch for news stories about this new wonder material as scientists learn more about its possibilities. Think also of the Alaska Gold Rush and the Oklahoma Land Rush, now we have a Patent Rush — this may be the real Twenty-First Century promise.

geim_postcard  geim novoselov_postcard
………….André Geim………………………………Konstantin Novoselov

 



Headline of the Day. by The Elephant's Child

Today’s Headline: Aol

Tim Bartlett Chased by Wolf on Motorcycle in Canadar-WOLF-RUNNING-large570

If you had visions of someone named Tim running, screaming,  down the highway hotly pursued by a wolf riding a motorcycle., Nevermind.  I just thought it was funny.



Greenland by The Elephant's Child


A mode of transportation thousands of years old, a pack of dogs and a dogsled. Notice the way the dogs are harnessed. Quite different from what I’ve seen on the Iditarod.



The Concours de Castells in Tarragona, Spain by The Elephant's Child


The Concours de Castells in Tarragona, Spain is a human tower-building competition. It is a long tradition in the region, castells began at the end of the 18th century. The sport has rules, techniques, and team responsibilities to guard safety and success. The pinya or base is made of a few hundred people that can catch anyone who falls. The tower itself has a variety of different formations. The top three levels are the pom de dalt, made up of children in helmets. This 2010 video by Mike Randolph shows why safety and teamwork are so important.

Strange and interesting sports. I’d be a spectator.



A Picture Worth a Thousand Words. by The Elephant's Child

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This picture hit me harder than the videos of the explosion itself.  A “person of interest” is in custody, and Boston’s police are efficiently following up on every lead, combing through videos and pictures taken at the scene, and through surveillance tapes.

It all seem so pointless. Americans are not cowed by acts of terror, but enraged. Groups that are too small and too weak to gather either notice nor interest think that acts of destruction can—what? Draw interest to their cause? The record would not bear that out. Terrorist groups don’t usually attack conventional security forces, they attack “soft” targets like tired athletes and their supporters that will draw widespread publicity.

In Iraq, al Qaeda operatives are suspected of 12 explosions responsible for killing 55 people across Iraq on the same day as the Boston Marathon. Max Boot, an expert on guerrilla warfare, traveled to Boston yesterday where he was scheduled to speak about the history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism, which he reprised in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those injured and the families of those who were killed. City officials, security people and ordinary bystanders and first responders were magnificent. Bless them all.

 

 



The Centrifuge Brain Project by The Elephant's Child

The Centrifuge Brain Project is a short (fictional !) film by German digital artist Till Nowak about making super imaginative amusement park rides that are divorced from ordinary physics and reality. As Chief Engineer Dr. Nick Laslowicz says “These machines provide total freedom…”

You could consider this a metaphor for the president’s budget released today, only two months late. Divorced from reality. But adventurous.

(h/t: thekidshouldseethis.com)




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