U.S. Army Unveils ‘Revolutionary’ XM25 Rifle in Afghanistan

Since the dawn of modern warfare, the best way to stay alive in the face of incoming fire has been to take cover behind a wall. But thanks to a game-changing “revolutionary” rifle, the U.S. Army has made that tactic dead on arrival. Now the enemy can run, but he can’t hide.

After years of development, the U.S. Army has unleashed a new weapon in Afghanistan — the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System, a high-tech rifle that can be programmed so that its 25-mm. ammunition detonates either in front of or behind a target, meaning it can be fired just above a wall before it explodes and kills the enemy.

It also has a range of roughly 2,300 feet — nearly the length of eight football fields — making it possible to fire at targets well past the range of the rifles and carbines that most soldiers carry today.

Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, project manager for the semi-automatic, shoulder-fired weapon system for the U.S. Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier, said that the XM25’s capability alone is such a “game-changer” that it’ll lead to new ways of fighting on the battlefield, beginning this month in Afghanistan.

“With this weapon system, we take away cover from [enemy targets] forever,” Lehner told FoxNews.com on Wednesday. “Tactics are going to have to be rewritten. The only thing we can see [enemies] being able to do is run away.”

via U.S. Army Unveils ‘Revolutionary’ XM25 Rifle in Afghanistan – FoxNews.com.

The Recent Future / November 29, 2010 / SciFi, Tech / 0 Comments

Fermilab Experiment Hints At Existence of Brand-New Elementary Particle

A fourth neutrino could help explain dark matter

Physicists working with a Fermilab neutrino experiment may have found a new elementary particle whose behavior breaks the known laws of physics. If correct, their results poke holes in the accepted Standard Model of particles and forces, and raise some interesting questions for the Large Hadron Collider and Tevatron experiments. The new particle could even explain the existence of dark matter.

Working with Fermilab’s MiniBooNE experiment — the first part of the larger planned Booster Neutrino Experiment — physicists found evidence for a fourth flavor of neutrino, according to a new paper published in Physical Review Letters. This means there could be another particle we didn’t know about, and that it behaves in a way physicists didn’t expect.

Neutrinos have been mystifying physicists since they were first theorized decades ago. They are one of the building blocks of matter, and to the best of our knowledge, they come in three varieties, called flavors: electron neutrinos, muon neutrinos and tau neutrinos. Oscillation is what happens when neutrinos turn from one flavor to another; an electron neutrino might turn into a muon neutrino, and then turn back again. How often they do this tells physicists about the infinitesimally small differences in their masses. Neutrino mass is important because it may lead us to physics beyond the Standard Model. And that is exactly what seems to have happened.

via Fermilab Experiment Hints At Existence of Brand-New Elementary Particle | Popular Science.

The Recent Future / November 22, 2010 / SciFi, Tech / 0 Comments

Cell Phones Powered by Conversation?

Chatty teenagers could be the world’s next renewable energy source.

Scientists from Korea have turned the main ingredient of calamine lotion into a tiny material that converts sound waves into electricity. The research could lead to panels that can charge a cell phone from a conversation or provide a boost of energy to the nation’s electrical grid generated by the noise during rush hour traffic.

“Just as speakers transform electric signals into sound, the opposite process — of turning sound into a source of electrical power — is possible,” said Young Jun Park and Sang-Woo Kim, the two corresponding authors of a new article in the journal Advanced Materials.

“Sound power can be used for various novel applications including mobile phones that can be charged during conversations and sound-insulating walls near highways that generate electricity from the sound of passing vehicles,” the co-authors added.

Harvesting energy from phone calls and passing cars is based on materials known as piezoelectrics. When bent, a piezoelectric material turns that mechanical energy into electricity.

via Cell Phones Powered by Conversation? : Discovery News.

The Recent Future / September 14, 2010 / SciFi, Tech / 0 Comments

Scientists discover tiny solar panels that create themselves

Scientists discover tiny solar panels that create themselves | DVICE.

The Recent Future / September 8, 2010 / Nature, Tech / 0 Comments

Electricity collected from the air could become the newest alternative energy source

Imagine devices that capture electricity from the air ― much like solar cells capture sunlight ― and using them to light a house or recharge an electric car. Imagine using similar panels on the rooftops of buildings to prevent lightning before it forms. Strange as it may sound, scientists already are in the early stages of developing such devices, according to a report presented today at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

“Our research could pave the way for turning electricity from the atmosphere into an alternative energy source for the future,” said study leader Fernando Galembeck, Ph.D. His research may help explain a 200-year-old scientific riddle about how electricity is produced and discharged in the atmosphere. “Just as solar energy could free some households from paying electric bills, this promising new energy source could have a similar effect,” he maintained.

“If we know how electricity builds up and spreads in the atmosphere, we can also prevent death and damage caused by lightning strikes,” Galembeck said, noting that lightning causes thousands of deaths and injuries worldwide and millions of dollars in property damage.

The notion of harnessing the power of electricity formed naturally has tantalized scientists for centuries. They noticed that sparks of static electricity formed as steam escaped from boilers. Workers who touched the steam even got painful electrical shocks. Famed inventor Nikola Tesla, for example, was among those who dreamed of capturing and using electricity from the air. It’s the electricity formed, for instance, when water vapor collects on microscopic particles of dust and other material in the air. But until now, scientists lacked adequate knowledge about the processes involved in formation and release of electricity from water in the atmosphere, Galembeck said. He is with the University of Campinas in Campinas, SP, Brazil.

via Electricity collected from the air could become the newest alternative energy source.

The Recent Future / August 27, 2010 / Nature, SciFi, Tech / 0 Comments

Flywheel power grid storage project gets DOE loan

Beacon Power on Monday said it has closed a $43 million loan guarantee with the Department of Energy for a project to use flywheels to buffer 20 megawatts of power on the grid.

The loan covers 62.5 percent of the estimated $69 million needed to construct the flywheel storage plant in Stephentown, N.Y. The New York Energy Research and Development Authority is also providing $2 million in funding for the plant which is now under construction.

Once done, Beacon Power said that the plant will be the only one of its kind in the world. Rather than use a large battery, it will use a network of 200 flywheels to store electricity from the grid as kinetic energy and disperse it in quick bursts of up to 15 minutes.

Right now, grid operators typically use natural gas power plants to maintain a balance between supply and demand and keep a steady frequency of 60 cycles per second. The Stephentown project, expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter next year, will be able to provide 10 percent of the frequency regulation services in New York needed on a typical day.

The project is significant step up for the technology, which so far has been used in smaller-scale installation of about one megawatt of power.

via Flywheel power grid storage project gets DOE loan | Green Tech – CNET News.

The Recent Future / August 18, 2010 / SciFi, Tech / 0 Comments

Star Trek-like Heisenberg Compensators!??!

A quantum memory may be all scientists need to beat the limit of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, according to a paper published in Nature Physics. According to a group of researchers, maximally entangling a particle with a quantum memory and measuring one of the particle’s variables, like its position, should snap the quantum memory in a corresponding state, which could then be measured. This would allow them to do something long thought verboten by the laws of physics: figure out the state of certain pairs of variables at the exact same time with an unprecedented amount of certainty.

Our ability to observe particles at the quantum level is currently limited by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Heisenberg noticed that when someone measured one variable of a particle, such as its position, there were some other variables, like momentum, that could not be simultaneously measured with as much precision—there was a small amount of uncertainty applied to one or both of the measurements.

The physical reasoning behind this is hard to follow. But Paul Dirac, another physicist, made up a scenario to illustrate why some variables have this contentious relationship.

Dirac pointed out that one of the only ways to measure a particle’s position is by bouncing a photon off of it, and seeing where and how that photon lands on a detector. How the photon lands completely describes the particle’s position, but by hitting it, the measurement changes the particle’s momentum.

Likewise, a measure of momentum would change the particle’s position. Because of this quirk, scientists thought it was impossible to know certain pairs of variables that affect one another at the same exact time with a very high degree of precision.

Then along came entanglement. When two particles are entangled, reading even one variable of one of the particles collapses the wavefunction of both particles, giving finite values to all related variables.

The cadre of scientists behind the current paper realized that, by using the process of entanglement, it would be possible to essentially use two particles to figure out the complete state of one. They might even be able to measure incompatible variables like position and momentum. The measurements might not be perfectly precise, but the process could allow them to beat the limit of the uncertainty principle.

Quantum memory may topple Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

The Recent Future / August 2, 2010 / Star Trek Did It!, Tech / 0 Comments

Video: Is Steve Durnin’s D-Drive the holy grail of infinitely variable transmissions?

Ready for a bit of a mental mechanical challenge? Try your hand at understanding how the D-Drive works. Steve Durnin's ingenious new gearbox design is infinitely variable – that is, with your motor running at a constant speed, the D-Drive transmission can smoothly transition from top gear all the way through neutral and into reverse. It doesn't need a clutch, it doesn't use any friction drive components, and the power is always transmitted through strong, reliable gear teeth. In fact, it's a potential revolution in transmission technology – it could be pretty much the holy grail of gearboxes… if only it wasn't so diabolically hard to explain. We flew to Australia's Gold Coast to take a close look at the D-Drive – and it looks to us like Durnin has pulled a rabbit out of his hat. Check out the video after the jump and see if you can work out if there's a catch.

via Video: Is Steve Durnin’s D-Drive the holy grail of infinitely variable transmissions?.

The Recent Future / May 15, 2010 / Tech / 0 Comments

With Lasers and Flyovers, a Solar Map of New York

While most residents were sleeping, a twin-engine Shrike Commander flew serial missions over the city recently, cruising low like Superman and back and forth like a lawn mower. Equipped with a laser system, the plane collected highly precise images of the city, its rooftops, trees, wetlands and much of what lies in between.

The early morning flyovers are expected to yield the most detailed three-dimensional picture of New York City to date, with an emphasis on structures, elevations, sun and shade, and nooks and crannies relevant to the city’s emergency response system and its environmental goals.

The data will be used, among other things, to create up-to-date maps of the areas most prone to flooding, the buildings best suited for the installation of solar power and the neighborhoods most in need of trees. An advisory panel of experts formed by the mayor has warned that the city must prepare for more rain and an increased risk of coastal flooding in the coming decades as a result of global climate change.

via With Lasers and Flyovers, a Solar Map of New York – NYTimes.com.

The Recent Future / May 10, 2010 / Tech / 0 Comments

US Navy Wants to Field Cyber-Attack System

In 2018, the U.S. Navy hopes to take a major step toward fielding a cyber-attack system on a tactically survivable, fighter-size aircraft.

Although researchers are cautious about discussing their cyberwarfare and electronic attack projects, one company states that it is “developing a weapon system that can deliver cyber-effects through free space into an aperture.”

That opaque explanation refers to a cyber-weapon, sized for a tactical aircraft or UAV, that can create a long-range data stream — most likely from an active, electronically scanned array (AESA) emitter. The emitter will function both as radar and the source of these uniquely tailored data streams that could be used for electronic attack and cyber-invasion.

The data beams would be packed with specialized waveforms and algorithms that work like keys to open networks. They would be manufactured by an exciter or techniques generator that functions as part of the radar. The beam is fired into an antenna that electronic surveillance indicates is attached to the target network. It could connect an air defense system, a command-and-control center or a flight of aircraft.

via US Navy Wants to Field Cyber-Attack System.

The Recent Future / April 3, 2010 / Star Trek Did It!, Tech / 0 Comments