Monthly Archives: October 2016

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Now Fukushima clean-up is impossible with current technology decontamination efforts could take 200 years

The head of Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has admitted in an interview with the Times of London that the technology does not yet exist that would allow the decommissioning of the three remaining melted-down reactors. He has no idea when such technology might be available, and he said it could take as long as 200 years.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has set a goal of 40 years (i.e., by 2051) to clean up the plant following the 2011 meltdowns, which were triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

“There are so many uncertainties involved,” Fukushima chief Akira Ono said. “We need to develop many, many technologies. For removal of the debris, we don’t have accurate information [about the state of the reactors] or any viable methodology.”

Details of problem still unknown

In February, TEPCO took reporters from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on a tour of the plant, complete with special breathing machinery and vacuum-sealed gear. The company told the reporters that radiation levels at the plant have dropped significantly and that real progress was being made toward decommissioning the plant. They highlighted the successful decommissioning of Reactor 4, which had suffered a hydrogen explosion during the tsunami that left nuclear fuel rods at risk of meltdown. The reactor had been offline at the time of the tsunami.

The reporters were not allowed to visit Reactors 1, 2 or 3, which are still so radioactive that they would instantly kill anyone who entered. The reporters’ guide, Kenichiro Matsui, admitted that TEPCO still has only limited information about the situation inside the three melted-down reactors.

“We do not know [the] exact situation in detail,” Matsui said. “Fuel has been melted down but nobody has seen it… We need to develop robotic technology with help from around the world to know the real situation.”

Although robots have successfully managed to locate some of the fuel rods in the three reactors in recent months, any attempt to remove them would still be so dangerous that TEPCO has postponed such efforts until at least 2025.

TEPCO’s efforts keep failing

Without a constant flood of cooling water, Reactors 1, 2 and 3 would immediately resume meltdown and explode again, spewing more radioactivity into the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately, this means that TEPCO is constantly rendering more and more water radioactive by channeling it past the reactors. On top of this, rainwater and groundwater continue to leak into the reactors, exacerbating the problem. To date, more than 500,000 metric tons of radioactive water are being stored at the plant.

The buildup of radioactive water has made vast sections of the plant – even beyond the deadly reactors – incredibly dangerous to enter. TEPCO has identified this as the highest priority for the Fukushima cleanup. Even four years after the disaster, nearly all of TEPCO’s Fukushima cleanup budget and nearly all of the 6,000 workers allocated to it are working to contain the radioactive water.

“The contaminated water is the most pressing issue – there is no doubt about that,” Ono said. “Our efforts to address the problem are at their peak now. Though I cannot say exactly when, I hope things start getting better when the measures start taking effect.”

TEPCO has promoted two technological fixes for the problem of the water. In an effort to stem the buildup of water, the company planned to build an “ice wall” – a network of subfreezing pipes sunk into the ground that would freeze the soil and cut it off from further groundwater infiltration. Widely criticized by the scientific community as unrealistic and unfeasible, this project has now been postponed.

The company has also tested an advanced system for treating the radioactive water, but technical problems and the enormous scale of the issue have caused this project to keep meeting its deadlines.

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This Sound levitation technology could be used for medicine and surgical manipulation of body tissues

The tractor beam, one of science fiction’s most iconic devices, is one step closer to reality, scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Sussex announced recently in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

But while the ability to move entire spaceships without touching them may still be far off, immediate applications of the new technology include the ability to manipulate tiny surgical instruments from outside of a patient’s body.

“What we’ve got is a fully working tractor beam,” said co-lead author Bruce Drinkwater. “We can grab objects, we can twist them, we can rotate them, we can move them. Previously people knew that these forces were present, but it’s another thing to harness them in a stable way.”

Levitating objects is now a reality

Previous research had shown that objects could theoretically be moved using only light or sound waves. In fact, tractor beams have previously been constructed using high-powered lasers, but these devices are only able to move very tiny objects.

Then last year, researchers from the University of Dundee used sound to build a tractor beam capable of moving larger objects — but that device could only function for very short periods of time.

The new study is the first time that researchers have been able to hold up and manipulate objects in mid-air with sound waves alone. They surrounded a 4 mm-wide polystyrene ball with 64 miniature loudspeakers, then used the speakers to create a three-dimensional “acoustic hologram.” The energy from these sound waves was sufficient to levitate the ball.

Notably, the researchers were then able to adjust the frequency of sound from the individual speakers the change the shape of the acoustic “force field” manipulating the ball. They were able to create fields in the shape of a cage enclosing the ball, a swirling vortex rotating it, or a pair of tweezers or fingers moving it around.

“Unprecedented acoustic structures shaped as tweezers, twisters or bottles emerge as the optimum mechanisms for tractor beams or containerless transportation,” the researchers wrote.

There is no theoretical obstacle to using the device to levitate living things.

“It’s hard to get across just how weird it is to see things levitating in space, when you can’t see or hear anything,” Drinkwater said. “One minute it didn’t work, and the experiments were the most disappointing you could ever imagine, with little things firing off in the wrong direction – and then suddenly there they were, levitating before your eyes.”

“It was an incredible experience the first time we saw the object held in place by the tractor beam,” agreed co-lead author Azier Marzo. “Finally, after months of beads being spitted uncontrollably from the tractor beam we had success. All my hard work has paid off, it’s brilliant.”

Soon ready for medical applications?

Currently, the device cannot levitate an object any larger than the ball used in the study. Marzo said that such devices — “more powerful tractor beams capable of levitating bigger objects from farther distances” — could be used, for example, to allow astronauts to manipulate external objects from within the safety of a space capsule.

Although scientists are working to scale up the device’s power, this would probably require using very loud sound waves within the human range of hearing.

Even as-is, however, the device has astonishing potential uses.

“Single-beam levitation could manipulate particles inside our body for applications in targeted drug delivery or acoustically-controlled micro-machines that do not interfere with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI),” the researchers wrote.

Other medical uses could involve the non-surgical removal of obstructions such as kidney stones or blood clots, or the manipulation of tiny surgical instruments.

“Sound waves can travel through water and human tissue – that is how ultrasound imaging works,” Marzo said. “Our objective is neither to destroy nor to image, but to manipulate things inside our body.”

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Now Facebook’s ‘teleporter’ technology the final nail in the coffin for humanity’s connection with reality

With their phones in hand, they bow their heads, eyes narrowing in on their pocket screens. No awareness of the now, they wander like intoxicated drivers, veering to the left and the right. Scrolling through their Facebook feed, they try to ignite some kind of spark to keep their dying souls alive in their virtual reality.

Necks craned over, wandering aimlessly, they are unable to feel the real world around them. They stare into pixels for hours on end, forgetting what it was like to look into each others eyes for just a second or two. Trying to recreate closeness through the emoticons in the chat box, they have forgotten the bond only human touch can satisfy.

Everyone is present in the room, but their minds are somewhere else, swept up in a virtual reality. Their energy so distracted and scattered into the wind, like embers blown away. No more warmth, no more comfort, no more light of a blazing fire that crackled and echoed of stories and tales long into the night.

Facebook’s new technology to put an end to human connection

The last vestiges of human connection are dimming as Facebook prepares to take its users into a deeper level of virtual reality. Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer has recently unveiled new “teleporter’ technology that would make users feel like they have been transported to a simulated world that they can interact in. The project was unveiled at a press event at the 2015 Web Summit in Dublin.

Facebook wants to give its users headsets and controllers that allow them to navigate simulated worlds. To do this, Facebook bought out a virtual reality headset company named Oculus for $2 billion. The Oculus technology removes people from reality and lets them travel where they want. This technology may put an end to human communication as we know it. Households with this technology may stop interacting altogether, as family members sit on the couch and put their headsets over their faces.

Brothers and sisters and moms and dads could easily just disown each other and drift off into their virtual worlds where they choose new family members. Virtual reality headsets would invite the most promiscuous circumstances, as spouses drift off into their headset to seek out some sort of simulated affection and affair. (After all, hackers revealed that thousands of government workers had Ashley Madison accounts used exclusively for affairs. With virtual reality headsets, Facebook gives government workers and everyone else a playground to try out their double lives.)

Facebook’s Mr. Schroepfer even told Business Insider that the company’s future plans are to “effectively build a teleporter.”

“Facebook wants to build a device that allows you to be anywhere you want, with anyone, regardless of geographic boundaries,” he said.

Facebook intends to do this by first designing virtual worlds that mimic real world places. Then they want to create an interface that convinces users the simulated world is a real place. The interface would have to allow users to see their own hands and feet. The final goal is to empower users to create their own worlds and explore them how they wish.

The first prototype is set to release in 2016 – a VR-visor named Rift. It will be accompanied by the release of Oculus Touch, which is a set of controllers that allow users to see their own hands and interact with the simulated worlds. In late 2016 a third technology is set to come out to allow users to create virtual 3D objects to use and navigate in their artificial worlds.

If this technology becomes as popular as Facebook itself, it is bound to destroy whatever bit of human interaction that still exists today. Those who wish to live in the real world may have no choice but to get together, run away, and move to some remote part of the world, perhaps in a rain forest, where they can start a new tribe that connects on a natural, human level.

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70 years after providing key technology to Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich Now IBM is lending computing power to U.S. drone strikes that kill civilians

More than seven decades after the defeat of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi-inspired Third Reich on battlefields that left much of Europe in shambles, U.S. technology giant IBM – which played a major role in all phases of the Holocaust – is once again in the business of killing.

As reported by investigative news site The Intercept, a secret brief discussing the Pentagon’s drone strike program in Somalia and Yemen dated February 2013 was produced for the Defense Department by IBM analysts.

“On its surface, it’s simply an analysis by the Defense Department’s Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Task Force of the ‘performance and requirements’ of the U.S. military’s counterterrorism kill/capture operations, including drone strikes, in Somalia and Yemen,” The Intercept reported. “However, it’s also what a former senior special operations officer characterized as a ‘bitch brief’ – that is, a study designed to be a weapon in a bureaucratic turf war with the CIA to win the Pentagon more money and a bigger mandate.”

It’s a safe bet to assume that the study outlined in the brief was an opportunity for IBM to show that it is capable of producing quality analyses specific to the Defense Department as well as for current Pentagon employees to network with a potential future employer.

Building target packages like a corporation tracks customers

However, experts say there is more to the presentation. For one, it’s a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the military-industrial complex, where assassination technologies and corporate sales merge, shrouded in lifeless language as dead as the target of a “kinetic engagement.”

The IBM-Defense Department drone strike analysis relationship likely began in earnest in 2010, when IBM employees delivered a talk at the tech giant’s Analytics Solution Center in Washington, D.C. Titled “An Introduction to Edge Methods: Business Analytics and Optimization for Intelligence,” the intended audience was “Defense and Intelligence communities.” The company’s goal was to demonstrate how IBM could assist with “managing large volumes of data” to derive “invaluable” insights. The company already had an existing governmental customer: the ISR Task Force

The Intercept further noted:

Although buried in reams of corporate management gobbledygook (IBM, it turns out, is “Mission Focused” and “Performance Driven”), the talk’s key theme was that IBM was offering prospective new government clients its “expertise in integrating business and technology services” using its “commercial consulting methods.” That is, IBM was bringing what it had learned from managing Big Data for corporate America to the military and intelligence worlds.

Some things never change

As is evident in the secret brief, the Pentagon’s drone program is utilizing data analytics in nearly the exact same way that IBM encourages corporations to track customers. The only difference, of course, is that at the end of the drone process, the “customer” is killed.

The Pentagon’s drone infrastructure employs Big Data to “build target packages” for high-value individuals. Drones try “to maintain 24/7 persistent stare,” like corporations need “to get a 360 view of the customer.”

After he retired from the Army, Gen. Stanley McChrystal made a sobering statement about the U.S. drone strike program: “…[A]lthough to the United States, a drone strike seems to have very little risk and very little pain, at the receiving end, it feels like war. Americans have got to understand that. If we were to use our technological capabilities carelessly – I don’t think we do, but there’s always the danger that you will – then we should not be upset when someone responds with their equivalent, which is a suicide bomb in Central Park, because that’s what they can respond with.”

As for the Nazis and IBM, The Huffington Post reported in July 2012 that newly released (at the time) documents showed the company played a “pivotal role” in the Holocaust in “all six phases: identification, expulsion from society, confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, and even extermination.” In fact, the company’s president at the time, Thomas J. Watson, was personally involved.

Some horrific things never change, it appears.