So far 30,000 US supporters have taken action to stop forced 'virginity testing' in Egypt! Thank you for standing with Egyptian women to protest the abuse. If you haven’t done so yet, send a message to Secretary of State Clinton to demand immediate action: HERE!
After army officers violently cleared Tahrir square of protesters on March 9, 2011, at least 18 women were rounded up in military detention. The protesters told Amnesty International that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to ‘virginity checks’ and threatened with prostitution charges.
We're demanding that Egyptian officials investigate the allegations and stop this shocking and degrading treatment of women protestors. Call on Secretary Clinton to use her influence to demand immediate action.
Amnesty International has today (23 March 2011 - TA note) called on the Egyptian authorities to investigate serious allegations of torture, including forced 'virginity tests', inflicted by the army on women protesters arrested in Tahrir Square earlier this month.
After army officers violently cleared the square of protesters on 9 March, at least 18 women were held in military detention. Amnesty International has been told by women protesters that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to 'virginity checks' and threatened with prostitution charges.
'Virginity tests' are a form of torture when they are forced or coerced.
"Forcing women to have 'virginity tests' is utterly unacceptable. Its purpose is to degrade women because they are women," said Amnesty International. "All members of the medical profession must refuse to take part in such so-called 'tests'."
20-year-old Salwa Hosseini told Amnesty International that after she was arrested and taken to a military prison in Heikstep, she was made, with the other women, to take off all her clothes to be searched by a female prison guard, in a room with two open doors and a window. During the strip search, Salwa Hosseini said male soldiers were looking into the room and taking pictures of the naked women.
The women were then subjected to 'virginity tests' in a different room by a man in a white coat. They were threatened that 'those not found to be virgins' would be charged with prostitution.
According to information received by Amnesty International, one woman who said she was a virgin but whose test supposedly proved otherwise was beaten and given electric shocks.
"Women and girls must be able to express their views on the future of Egypt and protest against the government without being detained, tortured, or subjected to profoundly degrading and discriminatory treatment", said Amnesty International.
"The army officers tried to further humiliate the women by allowing men to watch and photograph what was happening, with the implicit threat that the women could be at further risk of harm if the photographs were made public."
Journalist Rasha Azeb was also detained in Tahrir Square and told Amnesty International that she was handcuffed, beaten and insulted.
Following their arrest, the 18 women were initially taken to a Cairo Museum annex where they were reportedly handcuffed, beaten with sticks and hoses, given electric shocks in the chest and legs, and called 'prostitutes'.
Rasha Azeb could see and hear the other detained women being tortured by being given electric shocks throughout their detention at the museum. She was released several hours later with four other men who were also journalists, but 17 other women were transferred to the military prison in Heikstep.
Testimonies of other women detained at the same time collected by the El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence are consistent with Rasha Azeb and Salwa Hosseini's accounts of beatings, electrocution and 'virginity tests'.
"The Egyptian authorities must halt the shocking and degrading treatment of women protesters. Women fully participated in bringing change in Egypt and should not be punished for their activism", said Amnesty International.
"All security and army forces must be clearly instructed that torture and other ill-treatment, including forced 'virginity tests', will no longer be tolerated, and will be fully investigated. Those found responsible for such acts must be brought to justice and the courageous women who denounced such abuses be protected from reprisals."
All 17 women detained in the military prison were brought before a military court on 11 March and released on 13 March. Several received one-year suspended prison sentences.
Salwa Hosseini was convicted of disorderly conduct, destroying private and public property, obstructing traffic and carrying weapons.
Amnesty International opposes the trial of civilians before military courts in Egypt, which have a track record of unfair trials and where the right to appeal is severely restricted.
So far 30,000 US supporters have taken action to stop forced 'virginity testing' in Egypt! Thank you for standing with Egyptian women to protest the abuse. If you haven’t done so yet, send a message to Secretary of State Clinton to demand immediate action: HERE!
Note:There were several drafts of the proposal created before the sixth and final version was delivered. The emails released by Anonymous contain each of them. Most of the changes are formatting related and minor corrections.
The proposal starts with an overview of WikiLeaks, including some history and employee statistics. From there it moves into a profile of Julian Assange and an organizational chart. The chart lists several people, including volunteers and actual staff.
One of those listed as a volunteer, Salon.com columnist,Glenn Greenwald, was singled out by the proposal. Greenwald, previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York, has been a vocal supporter of Bradley Manning, who is alleged to have given diplomatic cables and other government information to WikiLeaks. He has yet to be charged in the matter.
Greenwald became a household name in December when he reported on the “inhumane conditions” of Bradley Manning’s confinement at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia. Since that report, Greenwald has reported on WikiLeaks and Manning several times.
“Glenn was critical in the Amazon to OVH transition,” the proposal says, referencing the hosting switch WikiLeaks was forced to make after political pressure caused Amazon to drop their domain.
[Earlier drafts of the proposal and an email from Aaron Barr used the word "attacked" over "disrupted" when discussing the level of support.]
The proposal continues by listing the strengths and weaknesses of WikiLeaks. For the strong points, there is the global WikiLeaks following and volunteers. Outlining the weaknesses, the proposal lists financial pressure - due to the companies refusing to process WikiLeaks’ donations at the time - and discord among some of the WikiLeaks members.
“Despite the publicity, WikiLeaks is NOT in a healthy position right now,” an early draft of the proposal noted. “Their weakness [sic] are causing great stress in the organization which can be capitalized on.”
Some of the things mentioned as potential proactive tactics include feeding the fuel between the feuding groups, disinformation, creating messages around actions to sabotage or discredit the opposing organization, and submitting fake documents to WikiLeaks and then calling out the error.
“Create concern over the security of the infrastructure. Create exposure stories. If the process is believed to not be secure they are done. Cyber attacks against the infrastructure to get data on document submitters. This would kill the project. Since the servers are now in Sweden and France putting a team together to get access is more straightforward.”
After the tactics are discussed, the proposal outlines the highlights for each of the three data intelligence firms. From there, it concludes that in the new age of mass social media, the insider threat represents an ongoing and persistent threat “even if WikiLeaks is shut down.”
“Traditional responses will fail; we must employ the best investigative team, currently employed by the most sensitive of national security agencies.”
The emails released by Anonymous make no mention of the proposal’s success or failure. Aside from a single meeting confirmation with Booz Allen Hamilton, and an email that expressed hope that HBGary was going to “close the BOA deal”, there is no other data available.
Since the attack on their company, HBGary has issued a single statement via their website, and declined to comment when questioned by several news organizations.
“HBGary, Inc and HBGary Federal, a separate but related company, have been the victims of an intentional criminal cyberattack. We are taking this crime seriously and are working with federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities and redirecting internal resources to investigate and respond appropriately,” the statement reads.
“To the extent that any client information may have been affected by this event, we will provide the affected clients with complete and accurate information as soon as it becomes available. Meanwhile, please be aware that any information currently in the public domain is not reliable because the perpetrators of this offense, or people working closely with them, have intentionally falsified certain data.”
While some of the information in the public domain may be false, the emails and documents seen by The Tech Herald certainly look legitimate. It is unlikely that Anonymous would bother to forge 50,000 emails, in addition to the screen shots of internal software, PDF files, Word Documents, or PowerPoint slides released to the public.
However, on Tuesday evening, HBGary’s accusal that Anonymous was falsifying information started another round of rage on IRC, where some who associate under the banner of Anonymous gather.
As a result, there are rumors that more emails will be released in the coming days, including those belonging to Greg Hoglund, the co-founder of HBGary.
After a tip from Crowdleaks.org, The Tech Herald has learned that HBGary Federal, as well as two other data intelligence firms, worked to develop a strategic plan of attack against WikiLeaks. The plan included pressing a journalist in order to disrupt his support of the organization, cyber attacks, disinformation, and other potential proactive tactics.
The Tech Herald was able to get in touch with Glenn Greenwald for his reaction to being singled out in the WikiLeaks proposal. He called the report creepy and disturbing. Moreover, he commented that the suggestions for dealing with WikiLeaks, along with the assumption that the organization could be undermined, were “hard to take seriously.”
The listed mitigations, such as disinformation or submitting false documents, have been discussed before. In 2008, the Pentagon had similar ideas, so that aspect of the document was nothing new.
Greenwald, as a journalist, is a prolific writer on media topics. He is a harsh critic of political figures and the mainstream media. The suggestion made by the proposal that he would pick career over cause is “completely against” what he is about, he told us.
“The only reason I do what I do is because im free to put cause before career,” he said.
Pointedly, he reminded us that his work includes taking aim at political figures, which could be a source of professional leverage with scoops or favors, as well as news organizations who could offer him gainful employment. None of these actions paints a picture of a man who would pick career over his passion.
WikiLeaks is hosting an official mirror of the sixth and final draft of the report. You can see a copyhere.
Palantir Technologies has severed all ties with HBGary Federal and issued an apology to reporter Glenn Greenwald. More detailshere.
Berico Technologies has cut ties as well. More information ishere.
The tip from Crowdleaks.orgis directly related to the highly public attack on HBGary, after Anonymous responded to research performed by HBGary Federal CEO, Aaron Barr. Part of Anonymous’ response included releasing more than 50,000 internal emails to the public. For more information, the initial coverage ishere.
The law firm had a meeting with Bank of America on December 3. To prepare, the firm emailed Palantir and the others asking for “…five to six slides on Wikileaks - who they are, how they operate and how this group may help this bank.”
Hunton and Williams were recommended to Bank of America’s general council by the Department of Justice, according to the email chain viewed by The Tech Herald. The law firm was using the meeting to pitch Bank of America on retaining them for an internal investigation surrounding WikiLeaks.
“They basically want to sue them to put an injunction on releasing any data,” an email between the three data intelligence firms said. “They want to present to the bank a team capable of doing a comprehensive investigation into the data leak.”
Hunton and Williams would act as outside counsel on retainer, while Palantir would take care of network and insider threat investigations. For their part, Berico Technologies and HBGary Federal would analyze WikiLeaks.
“Apparently if they can show that WikiLeaks is hosting data in certain countries it will make prosecution easier,” the email added.
In less than 24-hours, the three analytical companies created a presentation filled with publically available information and ideas on how the firms could be “deployed” against WikiLeaks “as a unified and cohesive investigative analysis cell.”
On January 2,The New York Times wrote abouta late night conference call held by Bank of America executives on November 30. The reason for the call was to deal with a statement given by WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange on November 29, where he said that he intended to “take down” a major American bank. The country’s third largest financial institution needed to get the jump on WikiLeaks, so they started scouring thousands of documents, and auditing physical assets.
Shortly after the late night conference call, the email from Hunton and Williams was sent. Booz Allen Hamilton, according to the Times, was the firm brought in to help manage the bank’s internal review.
A month after the proposal for the initial December meeting on WikiLeaks was created, email messages from HBGary Federal show plans for a meeting with Booz Allen Hamilton. The meeting was set after Barr emailed Hunton and Williams about information he was gathering on WikiLeaks and Anonymous. Later, this information would be the direct cause of Anonymous’ attack on HBGary.
On page two you will find an overview of the proposal developed by the three data intelligence firms.
The problem is that i am not receving the pincode at my home address , even i have send the scan Telephone bill of my home which clearly shows the home address.Please help and guid me in proper way. thanks --- comment by: Faisal grapix
I don't understand why they don't just sent the PIN by email like every OTHER company sends it's validation info. They could even validate by phone.. and then shoot and email back and forth to the account holder while you are on the phone as a "double check." There is no reason to use the postal service for this step at all. It is like they are making it difficult on purpose for people. It would make sense as every dollar they retain for as long as possible makes them more money in interest. It adds up. They obviously set up the system this way for a reason. --- comment by: SCopening
I not only requested a new PIN many times.... I send in my UTILITY BILL over 5 times. I also flew to California and talked to some Google people at a trade show and told them my issue. They got on their internal email and send in a request for me. THEN I FINALLY got an email saying my account was OK.
Of course... I'm not holding my breath on whether that means they will ever mail me the money they owe me. It took NINE months just to get this far. And... since the PIN they were supposed to mail never showed up... I'm not thinking it looks too good for a check.
Of course... they took MY money every month on the AdWords side.
The strange thing is. My account was making money... which meant THEY were making money. Also... my ads were placed within a business networking organizations web site... a market of mostly business OWNERS... which you would think would be a highly desirable target demographic.
Of course I pulled all their ads off my site when I never got paid, and replaced them with ads from other ad sharing services... who paid me RIGHT AWAY. --- comment by SueCopening
We're happy to let you know that we've manually overridden your PIN requirement. Your account information is now confirmed and you won't be required to enter another PIN for this account in the future.
The Google AdSense Team
--- ... ---
Thank you. I tried to choose the Form of Payment from the menu for Western Union but recieved this messagge: We've noticed that the state code listed in your billing address does not match any of the official Mexican state codes accepted by Western Union. The problem is that the country is Romania and on the Payee Information page it is clearly stated that the Postal Code is 700xxx for Iasi in Romania in Europe. Any advice?
Cordiali Saluti, / Best Regards, xxxx xxxxxx - client Google AdSense
TO BE CONTINUED ...
Thanks for emailing about this. That was a bug in our system that was resolved recently. Would you mind trying again? If the problem persists, please let me know so I can pass that information along to the people working to fix it.
The Google AdSense Team
Sorry, but I tried to choose again the Form of Payment from the menu for Western Union but recieved this same messagge: We've noticed that the state code listed in your billing address does not match any of the official Mexican state codes accepted by Western Union. In the Payee Information page it is clearly stated that the Postal Code is in Romania in Europe. Waiting to fix the bug. xxxx xxxxxx - client Google AdSense
One of my friends just received their Adsense PIN. He came straight to me and I walked him through the entire process. During this I had my camera around and made some pictures. I noted some distinct features of the mail; it’s difficult for me to remember how it looked at the time I received mine but here it is for you to see.
The friend had been sent two PINs earlier which never reached him (which is understandable in the age of IM communication and Skype). The pics are not to good, we were on shaky grounds too eager to open it up and validate the account.
Here is how it looks as seen from the front. The text “Important Account Information Enclosed” may confuse and illude the postman into believing as if this thing carries something of high value. But the catch is it’s not even a paper-weight if it reaches the wrong person.
Here’s the other side. Note the cellophane tape at the sides; I had to tilt and twist the camera to catch the reflection and highlight it. This tape secures it on the three sides. Read further to know why. The top side is just a fold.
This is intelligent. You can’t actually call it an envelope, it’s more of a folded postcard. Just in case the words on the front got anyone excited and eager to keep the thing, they can peep in and take a look – nada – only some text there.
Once you are done shooting, cut through the tape and flip open the card. This is how it looks inside.
Next Steps – Entering the Adsense PIN
You must now login to your adsense account. You’ll see the following screen (relevant areas are highlighted).
Click on the "More Details" link
Your payments will be on hold and that the reason you’ve been sent this PIN – to enter it into your Adsense account and validate it. The “payments on hold” notice is accompanied by the “More Details” link. Click it to proceed.
Now you see the "Please enter your PIN"
This links takes you to the next screen (obviously; am I spoon feeding?)
Enter your PIN exactly as in the postcard
You finally get the box where you are supposed to enter the PIN. Do it and press “Submit PIN”. You’ll be led to a screen saying “Thankyou”.
Researchers are developing a new class of "plasmonic metamaterials" as potential building blocks for advanced optical technologies, including ultrapowerful microscopes and computers, improved solar cells, and a possible invisibility cloak.
The new materials could make possible "nanophotonic" devices for numerous applications, said Alexandra Boltasseva, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University.
Unlike natural materials, metamaterials may possess an index of refraction less than one or less than zero. Refraction occurs as electromagnetic waves, including light, bend when passing from one material into another. It causes the bent-stick-in-water effect, which occurs when a stick placed in a glass of water appears crooked when viewed from the outside.
Being able to create materials with an index of refraction that's negative or between one and zero promises a range of potential breakthroughs in a new field called transformation optics. However, development of new technologies using metamaterials has been hindered by two major limitations: too much light is "lost," or absorbed by metals such as silver and gold contained in the metamaterials, and the materials need to be more precisely tuned so that they possess the proper index of refraction.
Now, researchers are proposing a new approach to overcome these obstacles. Findings will be detailed in the journal Science. The article was written by Boltasseva and Harry Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor and a professor of applied physics and materials science at the California Institute of Technology.
The researchers are working to replace silver and gold in materials that are created using two options: making semiconductors more metallic by adding metal impurities to them; or adding non-metallic elements to metals, in effect making them less metallic. Examples of these materials include aluminum oxides and titanium nitride, which looks like gold and is used to coat the domes of Russian churches.
Researchers have tested some of the new materials, demonstrating their optical properties and finding that they outperform silver and gold, in work based at the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Purdue's Discovery Park.
Plasmonic metamaterials are promising for various advances, including a possible "hyperlens" that could make optical microscopes 10 times more powerful and able to see objects as small as DNA; advanced sensors; new types of light-harvesting systems for more efficient solar cells; computers and consumer electronics that use light instead of electronic signals to process information; and a cloak of invisibility.
Optical nanophotonic circuits might harness clouds of electrons called "surface plasmons" to manipulate and control the routing of light in devices too tiny for conventional lasers.
Some of the new materials are showing promise in uses involving near-infrared light, the range of the spectrum critical for telecommunications and fiberoptics. Other materials also might work for light in the visible range of the spectrum. The new materials might be tuned so that their refractive index is ideal for specific ranges of the spectrum, allowing their use for particular applications.
Future photonics technologies will revolve around new types of optical transistors, switches and data processors. Conventional computers transmit and process pieces of information in serial form, or one piece at a time. However, future computers may use parallel streams of data, resulting in much faster networks and computers.
If someone told you there was a way you could save 2.5 million to 3 million lives a year and simultaneously halt global warming, reduce air and water pollution and develop secure, reliable energy sources – nearly all with existing technology and at costs comparable with what we spend on energy today – why wouldn't you do it?
According to a new study coauthored by Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson, we could accomplish all that by converting the world to clean, renewable energy sources and forgoing fossil fuels.
"Based on our findings, there are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources," said Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. "It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will."
He and Mark Delucchi, of the University of California-Davis, have written a two-part paper in Energy Policy in which they assess the costs, technology and material requirements of converting the planet, using a plan they developed.
The world they envision would run largely on electricity. Their plan calls for using wind, water and solar energy to generate power, with wind and solar power contributing 90 percent of the needed energy.
Geothermal and hydroelectric sources would each contribute about 4 percent in their plan (70 percent of the hydroelectric is already in place), with the remaining 2 percent from wave and tidal power.
Vehicles, ships and trains would be powered by electricity and hydrogen fuel cells. Aircraft would run on liquid hydrogen. Homes would be cooled and warmed with electric heaters – no more natural gas or coal – and water would be preheated by the sun.
Commercial processes would be powered by electricity and hydrogen. In all cases, the hydrogen would be produced from electricity. Thus, wind, water and sun would power the world.
The researchers approached the conversion with the goal that by 2030, all new energy generation would come from wind, water and solar, and by 2050, all pre-existing energy production would be converted as well.
"We wanted to quantify what is necessary in order to replace all the current energy infrastructure – for all purposes – with a really clean and sustainable energy infrastructure within 20 to 40 years," said Jacobson.
One of the benefits of the plan is that it results in a 30 percent reduction in world energy demand since it involves converting combustion processes to electrical or hydrogen fuel cell processes. Electricity is much more efficient than combustion.
That reduction in the amount of power needed, along with the millions of lives saved by the reduction in air pollution from elimination of fossil fuels, would help keep the costs of the conversion down.
"When you actually account for all the costs to society – including medical costs – of the current fuel structure, the costs of our plan are relatively similar to what we have today," Jacobson said.
One of the biggest hurdles with wind and solar energy is that both can be highly variable, which has raised doubts about whether either source is reliable enough to provide "base load" energy, the minimum amount of energy that must be available to customers at any given hour of the day.
Jacobson said that the variability can be overcome.
"The most important thing is to combine renewable energy sources into a bundle," he said. "If you combine them as one commodity and use hydroelectric to fill in gaps, it is a lot easier to match demand."
Wind and solar are complementary, Jacobson said, as wind often peaks at night and sunlight peaks during the day. Using hydroelectric power to fill in the gaps, as it does in our current infrastructure, allows demand to be precisely met by supply in most cases. Other renewable sources such as geothermal and tidal power can also be used to supplement the power from wind and solar sources.
"One of the most promising methods of insuring that supply matches demand is using long-distance transmission to connect widely dispersed sites," said Delucchi. Even if conditions are poor for wind or solar energy generation in one area on a given day, a few hundred miles away the winds could be blowing steadily and the sun shining.
"With a system that is 100 percent wind, water and solar, you can't use normal methods for matching supply and demand. You have to have what people call a supergrid, with long-distance transmission and really good management," he said.
Another method of meeting demand could entail building a bigger renewable-energy infrastructure to match peak hourly demand and use the off-hours excess electricity to produce hydrogen for the industrial and transportation sectors.
Using pricing to control peak demands, a tool that is used today, would also help.
Jacobson and Delucchi assessed whether their plan might run into problems with the amounts of material needed to build all the turbines, solar collectors and other devices.
They found that even materials such as platinum and the rare earth metals, the most obvious potential supply bottlenecks, are available in sufficient amounts. And recycling could effectively extend the supply.
"For solar cells there are different materials, but there are so many choices that if one becomes short, you can switch," Jacobson said. "Major materials for wind energy are concrete and steel and there is no shortage of those."
Jacobson and Delucchi calculated the number of wind turbines needed to implement their plan, as well as the number of solar plants, rooftop photovoltaic cells, geothermal, hydroelectric, tidal and wave-energy installations.
They found that to power 100 percent of the world for all purposes from wind, water and solar resources, the footprint needed is about 0.4 percent of the world's land (mostly solar footprint) and the spacing between installations is another 0.6 percent of the world's land (mostly wind-turbine spacing), Jacobson said.
One of the criticisms of wind power is that wind farms require large amounts of land, due to the spacing required between the windmills to prevent interference of turbulence from one turbine on another.
"Most of the land between wind turbines is available for other uses, such as pasture or farming," Jacobson said. "The actual footprint required by wind turbines to power half the world's energy is less than the area of Manhattan." If half the wind farms were located offshore, a single Manhattan would suffice.
Jacobson said that about 1 percent of the wind turbines required are already in place, and a lesser percentage for solar power.
"This really involves a large scale transformation," he said. "It would require an effort comparable to the Apollo moon project or constructing the interstate highway system."
"But it is possible, without even having to go to new technologies," Jacobson said. "We really need to just decide collectively that this is the direction we want to head as a society."
MSNBC host Cenk Uygur explains how the National Cancer Institute has recognized several possible medical benefits from marijuana use. This could lead to having marijuana reclassified from a Schedule 1 drug down to a Schedule III drug in which case the government could not crack down on medical marijuana shops.
US National Cancer Institute: "THE POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF MEDICINAL CANNABIS FOR PEOPLE LIVING WITH CANCER INCLUDE ANTIEMETIC EFFECTS, APPETITE STIMULATION, PAIN RELIEF AND IMPROVED SLEEP.
IN THE PRACTICE OF INTEGRATIVE ONCOLOGY, THE HEALTH CARE PROVIDER MAY RECOMMEND MEDICINAL CANNABIS NOT ONLY FOR SYMPTOM MANAGEMENT BUT ALSO FOR ITS POSSIBLE DIRECT ANTITUMOR EFFECT."
Scientists can now manufacture a synthetic version of the self-healing y substance that mussels use to anchor themselves to rocks in pounding ocean surf and surging tidal basins. A patent is pending on the substance, whose potential applications include use as an adhesive or coating for underwater machinery or in biomedical settings as a surgical adhesive or bonding agent for implants.
Inspiring the invention were the hair-thin holdfast fibers that mussels secrete to stick against rocks in lakes, rivers and oceans. "Everything amazingly just self-assembles underwater in a matter of minutes, which is a process that's still not understood that well," said Niels Holten-Andersen, a postdoctoral scholar with chemistry professor Ka Yee Lee at the University of Chicago.
Holten-Andersen, Lee and an international team of colleagues are publishing the details of their invention this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition. Holten-Andersen views the evolution of life on Earth as "this beautiful, amazingly huge experiment" in which natural selection has enabled organisms to evolve an optimal use of materials over many millions of years.
"The mussels that live right on the coast where the waves really come crashing in have had to adapt to that environment and build their materials accordingly," he said.
Many existing synthetic coatings involve a compromise between strength and brittleness. Those coatings rely on permanent covalent bonds, a common type of chemical bond that is held together by two atoms that share two or more electrons. The bonds of the mussel-inspired material, however, are linked via metals and exhibit both strength and reversibility.
"These metal bonds are stable, yet if they break, they automatically self-heal without adding any extra energy to the system," Holten-Andersen said.
A key ingredient of the material is a polymer, which consists of long chains of molecules, synthesized by co-author Phillip Messersmith of Northwestern University. When mixed with metal salts at low pH, the polymer appears as a green solution. But the solution immediately transforms into a gel when mixed with sodium hydroxide to change the pH from high acidity to high alkalinity.
"Instead of it being this green solution, it turned into this red, self-healing sticky gel that you can play with, kind of like Silly Putty," he said. Holten-Andersen and his colleagues found that the gel could repair tears within minutes.
"You can change the property of the system by dialing in a pH," said Ka Yee Lee, a professor in chemistry at UChicago and co-author of the PNAS paper. The type of metal ion (an electrically charged atom of, for example. iron, titanium or aluminum) added to the mix provides yet another knob for tuning the material's properties, even at the same pH.
The sticky material that mussels have evolved has inspired an international team of scientists to design a new artificial, self-healing gel that lends itself to underwater applications. The mussels pictured here are attached to a rock on Onetangi Beach of Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Credit: Steve Koppes
"You can tune the stiffness, the strength of the material, by now having two knobs. The question is, what other knobs are out there?" Lee said. This week's PNAS study reports the most recent in a series of advances related to sticky mussel fibers that various research collaborations have posted in recent years. A 2006 PNAS paper by Haeshin Lee, now of the Korea Advanced Institute of Technology, Northwestern's Phillip Messersmith and UChicago's Norbert Scherer demonstrated an elusive but previously suspected fact. Using atomic-force microscopy, they established that an unusual amino acid called "dopa" was indeed the key ingredient in the adhesive protein mussels use to adhere to rocky surfaces.
Last year in the journal Science, scientists at Germany's Max Planck Institute documented still more details about mussel-fiber chemical bonds. The Max Planck collaboration included Holten-Andersen and Herbert Waite of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Holten- Andersen began researching the hardness and composition of mussel coatings as a graduate student in Waite's laboratory.
"Our aspiration is to learn some new design principles from nature that we haven't yet actually been using in man-made materials that we can then apply to make man-made materials even better," he said.
Being able to manufacture green materials is another advantage of drawing inspiration from nature. "A lot of our traditional materials are hard to get rid of once we're done with them, whereas nature's materials are obviously made in a way that's environmentally friendly," Holten-Andersen said.
An engine development company called the Scuderi Group recently announced progress in its effort to build an engine that can reduce fuel consumption by 25 to 36 percent compared to a conventional design. Such an improvement would be roughly equal to a 50 percent increase in fuel economy.
Sal Scuderi, says that nine major automotive companies have signed nondisclosure agreements that allow them access to detailed data about the engine. Scuderi says he is hopeful that at least one of the automakers will sign a licensing deal before the year is over. Historically, major automakers have been reluctant to license engine technology because they prefer to develop the engines themselves as the core technology of their products. But as pressure mounts to meet new fuel-economy regulations, automakers have become more interested in looking at outside technology.
Although Scuderi has built a prototype engine to demonstrate the basic design, the fuel savings figures are based not on the performance of the prototype but on computer simulations that compare the Scuderi engine to the conventional engine in a 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier, a vehicle for which extensive simulation data is publicly available, Scuderi says. Since 2004, automakers have introduced significant improvements to engines, but these generally improve fuel economy in the range of something like 20 percent, compared to the approximately 50 percent improvement the Scuderi simulations show.
There's a big difference, however, between simulation results and data from engines in actual vehicles, says Larry Rinek, a senior consultant with Frost and Sullivan, an analyst firm. "So far things are looking encouraging—but will they really meet the lofty claims?" he says. Automakers should wait to see data from an actual engine installed in a vehicle before they license the technology, he says.
A conventional engine uses a four stroke cycle: air is pulled into the chamber, the air is compressed, fuel is added and a spark ignites the mixture, and finally the combustion gases are forced out of the cylinder. In the Scuderi engine, known as a split-cycle engine, these functions are divided between two adjacent cylinders. One cylinder draws in air and compresses it. The compressed air moves through a tube into a second cylinder, where fuel is added and combustion occurs.
Splitting these functions gives engineers flexibility in how they design and control the engine. In the case of the Scuderi engine, there are two main changes from what happens in a conventional internal-combustion engine. The first is a change to when combustion occurs as the piston moves up and down in the cylinder. The second is the addition of a compressed-air storage tank.
Scientists have created ultra-light and ultra-heavy forms of the element hydrogen, and have investigated their chemical properties.
Donald Fleming, a chemist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and his colleagues generated two artificial analogues of hydrogen: one with a mass a little over one-tenth that of ordinary hydrogen, and one four times heavier than hydrogen. These pseudo-hydrogens both contain short-lived subatomic particles called muons -- super-heavy versions of the electron.
The researchers tested the behaviour of these new atoms in a chemical reaction called a hydrogen exchange, in which a lone hydrogen atom plucks another from a two-atom hydrogen molecule -- just about the simplest chemical reaction conceivable. In a paper in Science, they report that both the weedy and the bloated hydrogen atoms behave just as quantum theory predicts they should -- which is itself surprising.
The experiment is a "tour de force", says Paul Percival, a muonium chemist at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada.
"I would never attempt such a difficult task myself," he says, "and when I first saw the proposal I was very doubtful that anything of value could be gained from the Herculean effort. Don Fleming proved me wrong. I doubt if anyone else could have achieved these results."
A normal hydrogen atom contains a single negatively charged electron orbiting a nucleus made of a single positively charged proton. About 0.015% of natural hydrogen consists of the heavy isotope deuterium, in which the nucleus contains a proton and an electrically neutral neutron, and which has a mass twice that of normal hydrogen. And there is a third isotope with a proton and two neutrons: tritium, three times as massive as hydrogen, which is produced in trace quantities by cosmic rays interacting with the atmosphere, but is too dangerously radioactive for use in such experiments.
The chemical behaviour of atoms depends on the number of electrons they have rather than their masses, so the three hydrogen isotopes are chemically almost identical. But the greater mass of the heavy isotopes means that they vibrate at different frequencies, and quantum theory suggests that this will produce a small difference in the rates of their chemical reactions.
To rigorously test that theory, isotopes of hydrogen are needed with greater differences between their masses. Fleming and his colleagues created some, using muons produced by collisions in the TRIUMF particle accelerator in Vancouver.
Muons have many properties similar to electrons, but are more massive. "A muon is an overgrown electron -- an electron on steroids -- with a mass about 200 times that of an electron," says Richard Zare, a physical chemist at Stanford University in California. "But unlike the free electron, the free muon falls apart, with a mean lifetime of about 2.2 microseconds." This meant that the researchers had to work fast to study their pseudo-hydrogen.
To make the ultra-light isotope, they swapped the proton with a positively charged muon, which has just 11% of the mass of a proton. And to make ultra-heavy hydrogen, they replaced one of the electrons in a helium atom with a negative muon.
Helium has two electrons, two protons and two neutrons. But because it is more massive than an electron, the negative muon orbits the nucleus much more closely, masking the positive charge of one of the protons. In effect, the atom becomes a hydrogen-like composite: a 'nucleus' made of the existing two-proton, two-neutron nucleus and the muon, orbited by the remaining electron. It has a mass of a little over four times that of hydrogen.
Fleming and colleagues found that the reaction rates for hydrogen exchange involving these analogues that were calculated from quantum theory were close to those measured experimentally. "This gives confidence in similar theoretical methods applied to more complex systems," says Fleming.
The close match between experiment and theory wasn't necessarily to be expected, because quantum calculations use a simplification called the Born-Oppenheimer approximation, which assumes that the electrons adapt their trajectories instantly to any movement of the nuclei. This is generally true for electrons, which are nearly 2,000 times lighter than protons. But it wasn't obvious that it would hold for muons, which have a tenth of the proton's mass.
"It surprises me at first blush that the theoretical treatments hold up so well," says Zare. "The Born-Oppenheimer approximation is based on the small ratio of the mass of the electron to the mass of the nucleus. Yet suddenly the mass of the electron is increased two-hundred-fold and all seems to be well."
Because the muon has such a short lifetime, extending such studies to more chemically complex systems is very challenging. But Fleming and his colleagues propose now to look at the 'hydrogen' exchange reaction between the super-heavy 'hydrogen' and methane (CH4).