Truth Code: technology
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Δευτέρα, 19 Δεκεμβρίου 2016

Rimac





By Jelor Gallego

These electric bikes can get you to and from work for under $0.03 per day.

Those savings may take quite a long time to add up to the hefty $9,400 price tag of previous models.

Tesla and electric vehicles are certainly the most popular in terms of transport options that run on electricity, but they are far from the only options available. Everything from electric motorcycles to electric trikes are on the market and are only getting better, faster, and more energy efficient.

One such e-bike has recently been unveiled. Rimac, an automobile manufacturer out of Croatia, has announced the latest iteration of its “Greyp” electric bikes, the G12H, which boasts the longest range for any e-bike.

Its older brother, the G12S, already has impressive specs, a 1.5 kWh battery pack and a range of 120 km (75 miles). Its 70 km/h (44 mph) engine also makes it one of the faster e-bikes around.

The G12H model does trade some of that power for range. It has a more modest speed of 45 km/h (28 mph), but can run an impressive 240 km (150 miles) on a single charge of its 3kWh battery pack. Charging the bike takes around 80 minutes, according to New Atlas.

Rapid development in making electric bikes better signals a new era in transportation. Likely fueled by the re-urbanization of the world’s cities, people are looking for cheaper, greener, and more convenient ways of getting around.

However, the upfront cost is still quite daunting. While energy consumption may only cost you pennies per day, the current model (the Grep G12S) retails around $9,400, which is about the cost of a decent used car. Prices of the new models have yet to be released but will depend on the battery power of a given model.

References: Engadget, New Atlas

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Παρασκευή, 16 Δεκεμβρίου 2016


Photo credit: Lawrence Lawry



By June Javelosa

In a trial conducted by Nokia Bell Labs, Deutsche Telekom T-Labs and Technical Univeristy of Munich just achieved one terabyte transmission rate over fiber optics using realistic network conditions. The trials used a new modulation technique to make data transfer more efficient.

FIBER OPTIC TECHNOLOGY

Fiber optic technology, since it was first introduced, has been synonymous to faster internet connections. The technology, which uses optical fiber instead of copper wires, has proven itself more efficient and effective, particularly for long-distance and high-volume applications.

Unfortunately, despite years of research and advancement in the field, creating the infrastructure to make this technology more accessible still proved to be difficult given the complexity and cost of the fiber optic system. So while the possibility of terabit speed fiber optic technology is just around the corner, the reality of it being rolled out for commercial use is a little more difficult.

Perhaps the newest tests from Nokia Bell Labs, Deustche Telekom T-Labs, and Technical University of Munich will mark new possibilities of bringing this exciting upgrade into widespread use.

PROBABILISTIC CONSTELLATION SHAPING

In a field trial conducted by the organizations, results show that they have successfully achieved 1Tbps data speed. This had previously been achieved in lab conditions but now the testing simulated real network conditions and traffic levels. In a press release, Nokia discussed their use of Probabilistic Constellation Shaping (PCS) as the key factor in the test’s success. Basically, PCS is a new modulation technique which works by having the system choose networking constellation points with lower amplitudes. This makes it less prone to interruption and noise, versus the traditional method (which uses all points), thus allowing transmission rates to be tailored specifically for the transmission channel.

The results are indeed promising and could be the solution needed to meet the ever rising demand for core networks and bandwidth—especially as streaming becomes more popular, and with 5G cellular data coming in the near future. With more and more “smart devices” using wireless signals to connect to a network, current capabilities will not be able to keep up with the demand. As Inverse explains, although 5G is wireless, the network requires a wired infrastructure to carry data to a cell tower. If cellular networks are looking to meet the capabilities being proposed, up to 100 Gbps, the infrastructure is going to need some major upgrades.

It seems recent advances are increasing networking capabilities at the, figurative, speed of light. With this development and others like it, we will be able to match the increasing demand and set ourselves up to continually handle the growth.

References:  EngadgetNokiaInverse
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Τετάρτη, 30 Νοεμβρίου 2016


Getty Mina De La O



Scientist have developed an ingenious means of converting nuclear power plant waste (76,430 metric tons in the US alone) into sustainable diamond batteries.
These long-lasting batteries could be a clean and safe way to power spacecraft, satellites, and even medical devices.

NUCLEAR DIAMONDS

Scientists from the University of Bristol Cabot Institute are hitting two birds with one stone, thanks to their lab-made diamond that can generate electricity and is made from upcycled radioactive waste.

In nuclear power plants, radioactive uranium is split in a process called nuclear fission. When the atoms are split, heat is generated, and that heat then vaporizes water into steam that turns electricity-generating turbines.

A severe downside of this process is the creation of dangerous radioactive waste, which ultimately deposits in the graphite core that it is housed in. Today, this nuclear contamination is safely stored away until it stops being radioactive…and with a half-life of 5,730 years, that takes quite a while.

The scientists found a way to heat the radioactive graphite to release most of the radioactivity in a gaseous form. The gas is subjected to high temperature and low pressures that turn it into a man-made diamond.

When these diamonds are placed near a radioactive field, they generate a small electrical current. The developers enclosed the diamond battery in another non-radioactive diamond to absorb the harmful emissions, which in turn allowed for the generation of even more electricity, making the battery nearly 100 percent efficient.

POWERING THE FUTURE

The nuclear diamond battery has an incredible lifetime, and will only be half used up by the year 7746. This makes it an ideal power solution for “situations where it is not feasible to charge or replace conventional batteries,” said Tom Scott, a materials science professor at Cabot Institute.

Flight times of planes, satellites, or spacecraft could increase with such a lasting battery. Medical devices like pacemakers and the artificial pancreas could become more reliable, empowering users to live their lives more fully.

The development also presents an incredibly efficient way to treat radioactive waste. Within the past 40 years, the US has amassed 76,430 metric tons (84,250 tons) of this waste.

Supplying the Earth with electricity is a daunting task even without a focus on sustainability. Now, it looks like experts are on the right track with this nuclear-powered diamond battery. It’s almost like the holy grail of electricity generation, or as Scott puts it, “no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation.”

References: Phys.org, University of Bristol

Via: futurism.com
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Τετάρτη, 23 Νοεμβρίου 2016


Professor Stephen Hawking.Bryan Bedder/ Getty Images



At the launch of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (CFI), the famed scientist warned of a potentially grave future given the rise of AI.

The work done at CFI could have far-reaching implications for the future of AI, helping shape how the technology is used and regulated.

A TECHNOLOGICAL REVOLUTION

Speaking at the launch of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (CFI) in Cambridge, science icon Stephen Hawking warned listeners about the future of artificial intelligence (AI) and humanity.

“Success in creating AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization,” Hawking acknowledged, noting the unprecedented and rapid development of AI technology in recent years, from self-driving cars to a computer playing (and defeating humans) in a game of Go. “But it could also be the last,” he warned.

This isn’t the irrational ramblings of a technophobe. Quite the contrary, in fact. Hawking himself acknowledges the value of AI and what it could contribute to humanity’s future, saying he believes artificial intelligence and this century’s technological revolution will parallel the previous century’s industrial one. “The potential benefits of creating intelligence are huge. We cannot predict what we might achieve, when our own minds are amplified by AI,” said Hawking.

But Hawking is also hyperaware of the potential dangers associated with AI. “Alongside the benefits, AI will also bring dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons, or new ways for the few to oppress the many,” Hawking added during his speech. He also hinted at the singularity being a possibility, when AI develops a will of its own that could conflict with the will of humanity.


SETTING THE RIGHT COURSE

According AI pioneer Maggie Boden, who sits on the center’s advisory board, that’s where CFI comes into play. Speaking at the launch event, she said, “CFI aims to pre-empt these dangers, by guiding AI development in human-friendly ways.” The $12.2-million interdisciplinary think-tank will work hand-in-hand with policy-makers and the tech industry to investigate topics associated with the growth of AI in today’s world — from regulating autonomous weapons to AI’s implications in democracy.

Cambridge, Oxford, Berkeley, and Imperial College, London, are behind the initiative, so some of the best minds on the planet will be working together to shape the future of AI. “The research done by this center is crucial to the future of our civilization and of our species,” a hopeful Hawking concluded during his speech.

AI is like any life-changing technology in that it’s not the development itself that can be good or bad. The people who develop the tech are responsible for determining how it’s used, and despite his ominous warnings, Hawking’s work with CFI seems to prove he believes that AI technology isn’t to be feared given the right research and preparation.

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Δευτέρα, 21 Νοεμβρίου 2016

Keeping cosy doesn’t have to cost the earth. Shutterstock

Robert Marchand, University of Sheffield

In Britain, people typically switch their central heating on in October and use it daily until March or April. This coincides with the clocks going back, the drop in temperature and Winter Fuel Payments – to anyone who receives the state pension.

Heating homes accounts for over 70% of household energy consumption. So reducing this figure – while keeping homes warm enough – not only cuts energy bills, but helps meet the carbon reduction commitments that the UK government is legally required to deliver.

The most recent figures show that 2.38m households in the UK are in fuel poverty – which basically means that almost 11% of British homes cannot afford to keep warm. But while the scale of this problem is significant, not all the solutions need to be complex and costly. So here are 10 simple tips for keeping your home warm for little or no extra cost – just in time for that severe weather warning.

1. Use your curtains


Heat from the sun is free so make the most of it. Open your curtains and let the sunlight in during the day to make use of this free heat. When it gets dark, shut your curtains, which act as another layer of insulation and keep warmth in your rooms. You should also make sure you don’t have any leaks or gaps so that the warm air can stay in and the cold air stays out – this also helps to reduce condensation.

2. Use timers on your central heating


The Centre for Sustainable Energy advises that programming your boiler to turn the heating on a little earlier – such as 30 minutes before you get up in the morning – but at a lower temperature is cheaper than turning it on just as you need it at a higher temperature. This is because a boiler heats up at a constant speed whether you set your thermostat to 20°C or 30°C. But don’t make the mistake of leaving your heating on low all day – because then you’re just paying for heat when you don’t need it.

3. Move your sofa


It might feel great to have your favourite seat in front of the radiator, but it’s absorbing heat that could be warming your home. By moving it away from the radiator, hot air can circulate freely. The same goes for your curtains or drying clothes – keep them away from the radiator so that you can get the most out of your heat source.

4. Maximise your insulation


When it comes to heat, around 25% is lost through the roof. This can be easily reduced by installing 25cm of insulation throughout your loft. It’s also worth seeing what’s going on in your walls, as around a third of the heat in an uninsulated home is lost this way. Although it’s not as cheap to install as loft insulation, cavity wall insulation could save up to £160 a year in heating bills. It’s also worth checking with your energy supplier to see if they have any insulation schemes running – which can sometimes mean cheap or free installation.

5. Wrap up warm


If you have a hot water tank, make sure it is properly lagged – or insulated. This will keep the water warmer for longer, and reduce heating costs. The Energy Community reckons that insulating an uninsulated water tank could save up to £150 a year – but even just upgrading your tank’s “old jacket” will help to save money.

6. Turn down the dial


This may seem a little counter-intuitive, but bear with me. The World Health Organisation previously recommended a minimum temperature of 21°C in the living room, but Public Health England revised this to 18°C in 2014. And research shows that turning your thermostat down by 1°C could cut your heating bill by up to 10%. So keep the dial at 18°C, save money and avoid the negative impacts of a cold home .

7. Block out the draughts


Even a simple solution such as a making your own sausage dog draught excluder will help keep the warmth in your home. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that DIY draught-proofing your doors, windows and cracks in the floor could save £25 per year. You can do this yourself for very little cost. Self-adhesive rubber seals around doors and windows and door draught excluders are relatively cheap and easy to install. So it’s worth getting those doors and windows sealed before winter properly kicks in.

8. Install thermostatic radiator valves


Research at the University of Salford has shown that installing heating controls and theromostatic radiator valves results in energy savings of 40% compared to a house with no controls. These work by allowing you to programme your heating to come on at predefined times – so you only use energy when you need it. New smart thermostats can also be controlled remotely via your mobile so you can turn on your heating on the way home, ensuring it’s nice and toasty when you arrive.

9. Upgrade your boiler


If your boiler is more than 10 years old, it may be time to replace it with a new, more efficient model. Depending on your old boiler type and house, you could save up to £350 with a new A-rated condensing boiler – which uses less energy to produce the same amount of heat. Plus, if it’s new, you’re less likely to have any issues going into the winter season.

10. Reflect the heat


Radiator panels are relatively cheap, easy to install, and ensure that heat from your radiators warms up your room and not your walls. They work by reflecting the heat back into the room.
The Conversation
Robert Marchand, Lecturer in Operations Management, University of Sheffield

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
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Τετάρτη, 26 Οκτωβρίου 2016

Vixole
Vixole launched a crowdsourcing campaign for the "World's First Customizable E-Sneaker," and is making the software to control them open source.

The shoes will run about $345 a pair, but early investors can get them for just $225.

The future of shoes is not so far away. After Nike unveiled it’s self-lacing shoes (shoutout to Back to the Future), it looks like others don’t want to get left behind in the smart shoe run. Vixole launched a crowdsourcing campaign yesterday for the “World’s First Customizable E-Sneaker.”

The Vixole Matrix features a customizable LED display for static or motion graphics. Speaking to Engadget, Ali Ma and Haidong Dong, two of Vixole’s founders, said the final design will feature a 22ppi LED display wrapped around the rear of the shoe, inside injection-molded thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). 

It’s packed with an array of sensors that reacts to your movements, GPS coordinates, or even your playlist, along with an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer installed in a specially designed insole. Haptic sensors allow for vibrating notifications and prompts in turn-by-turn directions.

All of this can be controlled using an app on your smartphone.
Vixole
Whether you’re a biker, a skater, or a dancer, the Matrix wants to be the smart shoe for you. It’s a testament to the growing prominence of augmented and virtual reality technology in our lives, finding applications for our head to our toes.

References: Engadget, Vixole
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Τετάρτη, 19 Οκτωβρίου 2016





Missouri’s Department of Transportation is planning an innovative reworking of historic Route 66 — an undetermined section of ‘America’s Highway’ will be covered in solar panels from Idaho startup, Solar Roadways.

“It gets Missouri and MDOT prepared for 21st century innovations,” enthused Tom Blair, who heads the Road to Tomorrow initiative, in the Kansas City Star, adding, “We expect them to be in place, I’m hoping, by the end of this year, maybe before snow flies.”

Combining road improvement with solar energy generation could be not only a boon for the state, but a model for others across the U.S.

Of Solar Roadways, Blair explained, “If their version of the future is realistic, if we can make that happen, then roadways can begin paying for themselves.”

According to the Star, MDOT would like the Route 66 Welcome Center in Conway to receive the first solar makeover — and the project could pique interest, Blair noted, by “bringing history and the future together.”

Solar Roadways describes their tempered-glass roads as “a modular system of specially engineered solar panels that can be walked and driven upon. Our panels contain LED lights to create lines and signage without paint [and] contain heating elements to prevent snow and ice accumulation.”

Better still, this is an ‘intelligent’ system in which microprocessors allow the panels communicate with each other and a central control operating center — as well as with vehicles. Being modular, the roads could easily be repaired when necessary without having to rework entire sections, which can disrupt traffic for months, if not years.

Though part of the initiative could be funded by grants and private entities, Blair explained they will be crowdsourcing, as well:

“We are going to go out there publicly and on the internet … and ask for money to make our solar roadway pilot project even bigger and better.”

As Solar Roadways — which is also crowd-funded through Indiegogo — explained, they have already completed two contracts in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Our goal is to modernize the infrastructure with modular, intelligent panels, while producing clean renewable energy for homes and businesses,” the company’s website states. “We’ll be able to charge electric vehicles with clean energy from the sun, first on our solar parking lots and when we have enough highway infrastructure, while driving.”

A similar project in the Netherlands was more successful than proponents and detractors imagined — a 70-meter (229.6 feet) section of bike path tested generated enough electricity in six months to power a single-family home for an entire year.

As The Free Thought Project reported previously, “The applications for this technology are virtually limitless. If all roadways, sidewalks and bike paths were paved in these solar panels, the power needs of the world would quickly become a problem of the past.”

Abandoning the need for paint on such roads offers a number of benefits, as well. Imagine construction zones — when modules do need repair — being routed through the use of LED lights instead of those ubiquitous and much-maligned orange barrels.

The safety potential and energy benefits make such projects a necessity well into the future.

If the project experiences such success in Missouri, solar roads may be the future for many American highways.


Via: thefreethoughtproject.com
By Claire Bernish
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Τετάρτη, 7 Σεπτεμβρίου 2016

IMAGE: RELIANCE JIO.
Emerging network provider Jio promised that all data, voice calls, and messages will be free to all their subscribers. The all-free services kick in as they officially launch on September 5, and will last throughout the year until December 31, after which their services can be availed at very low prices with voice calls still free of charge.

THE BIG DISRUPTION

Indians are queuing up for hours outside stores to get their hands on sim cards from emerging mobile broadband service provider Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (RJIL), known as Jio for short.

The ruckus ensued after Jio owner, Mukesh Ambani (who also happens to be India’s richest man), made the game changing promise to India’s 1.2 billion people that all data, voice calls, and messages will be free to anyone who has their sim card. The free services kick in as they officially launched yesterday, and will last through December 31, while the voice calling remains free.

“India and Indians cannot afford to be left behind,” Ambani said. “The era of paying for voice calls is ending.”

Jio intends to offer far cheaper data plans than those offered by India’s current leading providers Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea. Jio’s plans start as low as Rs 50 ($0.75) and will keep voice calls free of charge—a move that is already threatening the competition.

Jio’s ambitious plan is definitely disrupting the country’s $50-billion telecom industry. India’s leading carrier Airtel, which holds over 200 million subscribers, relies on voice calls for nearly two-thirds of its mobile revenue. The company saw its stock plummet by 9% as Jio made this announcement.

WILL THEY DELIVER?

Jio previously launched in Beta and has been on test run through their partners and staff (as well as their families) since last year. Their 4G LTE development is being dubbed the largest deployment in the world and covers 18,000 Indian cities as well as 200,000 remote areas. They seek to broaden the reach to cover 90% of the country’s population by next year.

The company claims their systems are “future-proof,” and could easily adapt to future developments into 5G, or 6G when it comes.

As Jio makes a boisterous entry, we can only expect other brands to try and compete. In the end, it will be great for subscribers. That is, if they actually deliver.

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Δευτέρα, 5 Σεπτεμβρίου 2016





For decades there have been stories about vehicles that could run on water, and now we can actually see one of these vehicles in action. The T Power H20 motorbike was developed in Sao Paulo, Brazil by a man named Ricardo Azevedo.

The motorcycle can travel up to 310 miles on just a liter of water, and it does not require any specific type of water. Azevedo has even demonstrated how the motorcycle works using polluted water from a nearby river.

The motorcycle works by combining a battery with a water combustion system that helps to generate electricity.

In the video demonstrating his invention, Azevedo uses clean water to power the bike and drinks it on camera to show that it is not fuel.

“The advantage of this motorcycle, which works with the hydrogen that comes from the water, is that the result that comes out of the exhaust is water vapour. This is different from gasoline, which the result is carbon monoxide,” Azevedo said.

Azevedo’s invention could entirely change the transportation industry, but he should be careful because inventors like him have been discredited and even killed in the past. The best way to keep Azevedo and his invention safe is to spread the word about it so it is more difficult for competing interests to sweep it under the rug.

John Vibes writes for True Activist and is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war.

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Κυριακή, 4 Σεπτεμβρίου 2016


 Liquidpiston



Connecticut firm LiquidPiston has revived the old Wankel Engine idea and made it work, creating a better engine for the vehicle of tomorrow.

Engine technology is not a very glamorous. Or at least, it doesn’t often steal headlines, but of course, in relation to a number of technologies, engines are very important. So when you can make an engine faster, lighter, and more powerful than others, that’s a big deal.

And that’s what LiquidPiston has done. The Connecticut firm has spent 13 years and $18 million to create create what is called a “Wankel Engine,” a rotary engine idea thought up by Felix Wankel in 1960.
liquidpiston.com/
A Wankel engine replaces pistons with one or more triangular rotors that follow an elliptical orbit within a peanut-shaped chamber. While being faster and more powerful, this version of the engine has problems in fuel economy, CO2 emissions, and reliability. 

LiquidPiston, revised the idea to make it better.

Instead of a triangle in a peanut, they use a peanut-shaped rotor in a triangular chamber. A typical 30 kilowatt-hour generator weighs 1,000 pounds or more. This engine could generate that same amount in a unit that weighs less than 400.

Their engine, the X Mini, is currently being tested in go karts, but has serious applications in electric vehicles, drones, and other forms of transport.

References: WIRED
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Πέμπτη, 1 Σεπτεμβρίου 2016

NASA
NASA has just dumped 56 previously patented technologies into the public domain; among the treasures are included better aerogels, cheaper carbon nanotube manufacturing procedures, and better propulsion systems.

A TECHNOLOGICAL WINDFALL

We may have all just won the lottery (and we didn’t even know we were playing). NASA just released 56 patented technologies into the public domain, a move that’s designed to make many of the agency’s brightest ideas freely available to private industry.

It means that a number of space-related technologies developed at government expense can now be freely used by whoever can make the best use of them. Obviously, much of the new tech skews toward spaceflight and space exploration—but perhaps just as intriguing are the terrestrial purposes that may come from this.

“By making these technologies available in the public domain, we are helping foster a new era of entrepreneurship that will again place America at the forefront of high-tech manufacturing and economic competitiveness,” says Daniel Lockney of NASA’s Technology Transfer Program.

NASA also hopes that the release will foster more and better collaborations with private industry, which is an approach that’s already borne spectacular fruit, especially recently, in partnerships with SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace.
Aerogel, one example of some of the many new technologies in NASA’s latest patent dump. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

ROCKETS AND AEROGELS AND NANOTUBES, OH MY!

The database of newly released patents includes quite a few intriguing technologies. Among the highlights:

  • A “dusty plasma thruster,” an electric propulsion system that can use unprocessed lunar dust as propellant; this eliminates the need to process fuels for such an engine—simply scoop up electrostatic dust from the lunar regolith, feed it into the thruster, and zip around the Solar System
  • A method for converting Nitrogen Oxide waste into fertilizer (very useful, one can imagine, for long-term space travel, and Martian habitats)
  • A means of weakening the shock wave strength in the leading edge of a vehicle traveling at supersonic speeds
  • Low-cost methods for manufacturing high-quality carbon nanotubes, with an estimated production cost of $50/gram (opposed to current costs of $1,000/gram)
  • A design for a Hall thruster (a type of ion thruster) that uses a “magnetically-conformed, variable area discharge chamber,” increasing engine efficiency
  • A downlink data multiplexer (sounds cool)
  • A tougher type of aerogel
  • A “monopropellant” rocket engine with fewer moving parts and potential points of weakness, which is designed to use liquid hydrogen as a propulsive fluid to achieve “high velocity and high specific impulse.”


So there’s a lot of really neat stuff to be found among the new technologies—it’s just a matter having the money and the wherewithal to develop it. But we think some really clever folks will have no trouble at all putting some of this stuff to use.

Apparently, NASA thinks so too.  You can check out the database of newly released patents here.

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Κυριακή, 14 Αυγούστου 2016

cliparthut.com
This deadly element, discovered by Marie Curie, has a a very serious impact on living organisms, making it one of the most toxic substances known to man.

Marie Curie discovered Polonium, a radioactive chemical element (atomic number 84) in 1898. Her discovery of the rare substance won her the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911.

Curie found the polonium in a source of uranium. Though the amount found in uranium ore is small (as little as about 100 micrograms occurs in one ton of uranium ore) Curie’s work with the substance was enough to fatally expose her daughter Irène in a lab accident. 

Unfortunately, Curie’s daughter wouldn’t be the last to die from polonium exposure. In fact, polonium is one of the most toxic substances known to man. One gram of it could kill 50 million people, on top of that, another 50 million would become ill.

MURDER OF A FORMER SPY

Alexander Litvineko, an MI6 agent and former Soviet and Russian spy, was drinking tea at a business meeting with two other Russians. It is believed that, during this meeting, Litvinenko ingested a fatal dose of polonium-210 (Po-210). The former spy succumbed to radiation sickness in London in November 2006, weeks after taking that final sip.

His drinking companions would later be charged with his murder.

Litvinenko before and after exposure.
Performing the autopsy on Litvinenko’s body was a complex process. Just hours before his death, doctors finally figured out that Po-210 was what was killing him.

It was estimated that the assassins used 26.5 micrograms to kill Litvineko, an exceptionally large dose. Once this was discovered, doctors did their best to make sure no one else was exposed to the radioactive material.

Despite the multiple safety measures, more than 700 people were thought to have been exposed to polonium-210 connected to Litvinenko’s death. Fortunately, none experienced serious sickness.

OBTAINING POLONIUM

One of the questions that came from this case, once it went to court, was where the assassins got the Po-210. Polonium is sold in tiny quantities. You’d have to order 15,000 units of the substance just to be able to poison one person.

The best way to obtain Po-210 would be from a nuclear industrial process. The assassins in this case would have needed access to “a reactor capable of producing and irradiating materials, and a radiochemical laboratory,” according to quotes in New Scientist from Professor Nick Priest, one of few UK experts to have worked with Po-210. Meaning that it is likely that some government was involved.

Although the case is ongoing in the British government, a world-leading expert in theoretical physics did weigh in, saying that the Po-210 could only have come from one specific closed nuclear facility in Sarov, Russia. This is because the Soviet-era plant was the only place in the world with a polonium production line, and the last remaining source of commercial polonium.

SYMPTOMS AND DIAGNOSIS

Po-210 poisoning is challenging to diagnose. This is because physicians would have to suspect involvement of the radioactive isotope in order to test for it. The test itself calls for the use of equipment generally found in specialized laboratories. It is therefore unlikely that a person would be diagnosed early.

Po-210 does not itself have toxic chemical properties. Instead, the danger comes purely from the radiation it emits. Deadly tissue damage can be done internally via either inhalation (causing lung cancer), ingestion, or entry though skin abrasions or wounds.

In Litvinenko’s case, after drinking the contaminated tea, Po-210 concentrated in red blood cells, followed by the liver, kidneys, bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract, and gonads. As polonium travels through the body, it steals electrons from any molecule in its path. Damage to DNA can cause cell death and changes that affect cellular replication.

Within days, vomiting ensues, followed by bone marrow failure, and hair loss. In larger doses, gastrointestinal syndrome and cardiovascular and central nervous system (CNS) syndromes can occur.

The CNS syndrome is always irreversible and leads to death.

PO-210 USES

Po-210 is obviously highly dangerous. Modern production of the substance is usually done by creating another radioactive element in a nuclear reactor, which itself then decays to polonium-210.

But the radioactive material is actually found naturally in the human body, due to low levels existing in the normal environment. In addition, tobacco smokers accumulate polonium isotope 210 in their lungs. The substance can also be found in seafood.

Po-210 does have its benefits. It is used to insulate instruments in Russian lunar landing craft, remove static electricity, inspect oil wells, and measure the thickness of industrial coatings. Because of the relative danger of Po-210 though, commercial application has been replaced in many instances by non-radioactive technology.

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