July 31, 2015

IARPA crowd prediction moving to commercial spinoff and lessons on making better predictions

You can pre-register for beta testing of a commercial crowd prediction spinoff of the IARPA Good Judgement project.

The Good Judgment Project out-performed all other research teams in geopolitical forecasting. The Good Judgment Project was a four-year research study organized as part of a government-sponsored forecasting tournament. Thousands of people around the world predict global events. Their collective forecasts are surprisingly accurate.

The Aggregative Contingent Estimation (ACE) Program was sponsored by IARPA (the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity). The ACE Program aimed "to dramatically enhance the accuracy, precision, and timeliness of forecasts for a broad range of event types



Perovskite combined with quantum dots for superefficient LED lighting and high speed communication

University of Toronto researchers have combined two promising solar cell materials together for the first time, creating a new platform for LED technology.

The team designed a way to embed strongly luminescent nanoparticles called colloidal quantum dots (the chocolate chips) into perovskite (the oatmeal cookie). Perovskites are a family of materials that can be easily manufactured from solution, and that allow electrons to move swiftly through them with minimal loss or capture by defects.

The result is a black crystal that relies on the perovskite matrix to ‘funnel’ electrons into the quantum dots, which are extremely efficient at converting electricity to light. Hyper-efficient LED technologies could enable applications from the visible-light LED bulbs in every home, to new displays, to gesture recognition using near-infrared wavelengths.

“When you try to jam two different crystals together, they often form separate phases without blending smoothly into each other,” says Dr. Riccardo Comin, a post-doctoral fellow in the Sargent Group. “We had to design a new strategy to convince these two components to forget about their differences and to rather intermix into forming a unique crystalline entity.”

The resulting heterogeneous material is the basis for a new family of highly energy-efficient near-infrared LEDs. Infrared LEDs can be harnessed for improved night-vision technology, to better biomedical imaging, to high-speed telecommunications.

A glowing quantum dot seamlessly integrated into a perovskite crystal matrix (Image: Ella Marushchenko).

Nature - Quantum-dot-in-perovskite solids

Scientist develops model for robots with bacterial brains

A Virginia Tech scientist used a mathematical model to demonstrate that bacteria can control the behavior of an inanimate device like a robot.

“Basically we were trying to find out from the mathematical model if we could build a living microbiome on a nonliving host and control the host through the microbiome,” said Warren Ruder, an assistant professor of biological systems engineering in both the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering.

"We found that robots may indeed be able to function with a bacterial brain,” he said.

For future experiments, Ruder is building real-world robots that will have the ability to read bacterial gene expression levels in E. coli using miniature fluorescent microscopes. The robots will respond to bacteria he will engineer in his lab.

On a broad scale, understanding the biochemical sensing between organisms could have far reaching implications in ecology, biology, and robotics.


Living Cells Interfaced with a Biomimetic Robot as a Model System for Host-Microbiome Interactions. (A) A synthetic gene network – also known as an engineered gene circuit. Uploading a gene circuit into living bacteria endows cells with a programmable biomolecular network. (B) Engineered bacteria and their circuits can be introduced into an organism’s microbiome. The networks of the host and microbiome combine to form a complete gene network. In the absence of the complete host-microbiome network, host behavior is erratic. A programmed microbiome drives new, and potentially rational, host behavior. (C) A robot with a microfluidic chemostat mimics the microbiome’s environment within an organism. The robot is conceptualized to include a miniature fluorescent microscope, along with the pumps necessary to deliver inducers to the onboard microfluidic chemostat. This microscope allows for modulations in the reporter protein levels to be interpreted by the robot electronically. In the absence of a living microbiome, robotic host behavior can be erratic. A programmed, living microbiome drives new host robotic behavior.

Nature Scientific Reports - Exploring Host-Microbiome Interactions using an in Silico Model of Biomimetic Robots and Engineered Living Cells

China will build three large nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with electromagnetic catapults

China's first domestically-built aircraft carrier could be nuclear-powered, Chinese web media reported Thursday, quoting an internal document of the shipbuilder responsible for building the carrier.

Russia-based sputnik.news.cn also reported in an article on July 28 that China is sure to show the world its domestically-built aircraft carrier ahead of schedule, with all the equipment 100 percent produced domestically.

Vasily Kashin, the author of the article, said that China will build three aircraft carriers, most likely nuclear-powered and equipped with an electromagnetic aircraft launch system.

China is not likely to complete all three until about 2025. This would put China a distant second behind the United States which has 11 large 100,000+ ton nuclear aircraft carrier with catapult launch.




July 30, 2015

Interview with John Bucknell about his Airbreathing nuclear thermal rocket design

The first article about John Bucknell's AIAA paper is here.

The Nuclear Thermal Turbo Rocket - A Conceptual High-Performance Earth-to-Orbit Propulsion System by John Bucknell

A new propulsion concept called the Nuclear Thermal Turbo Rocket (NTTR) is proposed for Earth to Orbit applications. The NTTR utilizes a nuclear fission reactor to thermally heat hydrogen propellant into a rocket plenum. The rocket nozzles are located at the tips of a variable pitch thrust fan connected to the plenum by passages in the fan blades, and each nozzle is a linear aerospike on the trailing edge of the blade. The thrust fan is located in a duct such that the heated hydrogen propellant is combusted with ambient sourced oxygen to augment the rocket thrust. The fan is of variable pitch to provide maximum thrust for varying inlet velocity. The duct has a variable geometry inlet, able to provide appropriate mass flow and compression to the combustor throughout the trajectory, and a variable geometry outlet to provide appropriate nozzle area for maximum thrust. The rocket nozzles act as propellant injectors during the airbreathing portion and pure rockets during low atmospheric density portions, with the NTTR utilizing a single gas path from launch to orbital velocity. The propulsion concept is of high performance and is able to transport more than 50% mass fraction in a Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO) via an air-breathing rocket trajectory with intended complete reusability. Payload fractions of up to 19% are predicted (inert mass includes reactor radiation shielding) due to a mission average Specific Impulse (Isp) of 1,662 seconds

Here is information from an email interview with John Bucknell.




Question 1. Can you list out your modifications compared to older designs and experiments ?

Background to question 1 -
The NERVA experiments had an ISP of about 875, and the thinking was they could have been upgraded to 975
The Timberwind design (1987-91) in theory could reach 1000 ISP
And some current designs are at 925 ISP.
There were nuclear light bulb - gas core design open cycle design with ISP in the 3000 to 5000 range and closed cycle 1500-2000 ISP.

Answer 1 from John Bucknell
The pure rocket portion of the system is pretty conventional - I used an off-the-shelf design reactor (MITEE) with peak propellant temps limited to about 2200 deg C so as to limit fuel element erosion that starts at about 2500 deg C. Mass loss of the fuel element at 2750 deg C was a fraction of a percent per 100 hours of operation (ie not much). The Isp as a pure rocket is 890 seconds in vacuum. When in airbreathing mode the exit temp drops since so much more fuel is being pushed through the core - with around 1000 deg C propellant temps. So no exotic designs needed, it's the airbreathing that ups the Isp.



Question 2. Also, if Spacex gets reusable stages then how does yours reusable nuclear thermal rocket compare ?


Answer 2 from John Bucknell
As compared to SpaceX's reusability - same motivations. However, a SSTO can land, refuel and launch again whereas the F9R needs to be reintegrated. And the upper stage doesn't have the mass budget (yet) for propulsive recovery. But the big kicker is payload fractions - my design is only 15% of the GLOW of a F9R for the same payload (at the low end of estimates - top end is 1.5x payload), so the rocket is far simpler and easier to build. And bigger rockets generally have better payload fractions - so a scaled up version could get Saturn V sized payloads at still only 60% of the GLOW of a F9R.


Aircraft carriers, submarines, tanks, lasers and Emdrive were the top posts in July

The Nextbigfuture website is nearing 59 million pageviews and 150 million views on Google Plus.

Some have in comments have asked about the topic selection of Nextbigfuture.

The articles that have generated the most traffic and revenue are the aircraft carrier, fighter planes, bombers, submarines, tanks, laser and railgun articles. Also, occasionally some articles like Emdrive.

Some have accused this site of being a paid promoter of China. This kind of accusation shows a kind of naive cluelessness.
China is an $11 trillion GDP country. The leadership does not care world public opinion and only cares about their own people if there is an actual risk of 1911 style uprisings.

Companies and countries do not pay for a lot of blogger articles to sway opinion. Some companies pay for ad campaigns, but that is generally click based and the revenue is strongly driven by the traffic. There are also some tiny new companies with new products who might actually play for positive blog articles. However, this is a tiny fraction of the ad money. If the company is so small that they are looking for blog coverage then they are also close to just begging for free article coverage. This would mean no money.

China just uses directly state controlled media.

The top traffic China sites are Sina and Xinhau and the product sites. A top China traffic site needs to be in chinese language and mobile focused. It also should probably WeChat focused.

WeChat is a mobile text and voice messaging communication service developed by Tencent in China, first released in January 2011. It is the largest standalone messaging app by monthly active users. As of August 2014, WeChat has 438 million active users; with 70 million outside of China.






Sri Lanka is the first country to sign up for Google Loon

Sri Lanka is the first country to sign up for Google Loon.

"Hopefully in a few months every person and every device on the island will be covered by 3G (third generation," Deputy Economic Policy Minister Harsha de Silva said in his twitter feed.

Sri Lanka's Telecom Minister Mangala Samaraweera said the Google Loon balloons will cover every village from Dondra to Point Pedro, in reference to the northernmost and Southernmost points in the island.

Each balloon could cover about 5,000 square kilometres and with a little over a dozen the entire country could be covered.




Project Loon is a project being developed by Google with the mission of providing Internet access to rural and remote areas.. The project uses high-altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 32 km (20 mi) to create an aerial wireless network with up to 3G-like speeds. It was named Project Loon, since Google itself found the very idea of providing internet access to the remaining 5 billion population unprecedented and "crazy."

The balloons are maneuvered by adjusting their altitude to float to a wind layer after identifying the wind layer with the desired speed and direction using wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Users of the service connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal travels through the balloon network from balloon to balloon, then to a ground-based station connected to an Internet service provider (ISP), then onto the global Internet. The system aims to bring Internet access to remote and rural areas poorly served by existing provisions, and to improve communication during natural disasters to affected regions

Google Loon started by building much, much bigger balloons able to hold equipment capable of beaming connectivity 20 km down to the earth below—starting with our modestly larger early Albatross design, all the way up to our 141-foot-long Hawk and beyond. To ensure there’s always a balloon overhead to provide connection, we needed to build a system that can manufacture these balloons at scale, leading to our latest balloon design, the Nighthawk, the likes of which has never been seen before.

Shanghai and Yangtze River Delta Megaregion

The Yangtze River Delta (YRD which includes Shanghai), one of the major engines of China's economic growth, has a level of urbanisation that sees it at the head of the national league. At present, a number of the region’s provinces are engaged in building several new-style urban clusters, including work on enhancing the construction of individual cities and townships. At the same time, inter-city and cross-regional transportation systems and other infrastructure development projects are also being improved across the YRD region. Many of the YRD provinces are now committed to promoting a wider spectrum of industries, spurring economic development, and boosting regional employment. They have also taken a lead in building smart cities, strengthening the quality and efficiency of urban management, and in facilitating the development of low-carbon, livable cities. All of this offers clear business prospects for a number of Hong Kong-based businesses.

China's urbanisation rate jumped from below 37% in 2000 to 53.7% in 2013. The YRD region has a level of urbanisation that places it at the very top of the national league. In 2013, the YRD provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang had a per-capita GDP of Rmb74,607 and Rmb68,462, respectively. This is notably higher than the national figure of Rmb41,908. In another telling statistic, the urbanisation rate of both provinces hit 64%. This is higher than the national average by about 10 percentage points, and places it third - behind only Guangdong (67.8%) and Liaoning (66.5%) - among mainland provinces.

The region accounts for 20 percent of China's Gross Domestic Product and is responsible for one third of its imports and exports.


YRD should by 80% urban before 2020




Shanghai is at the core of the larger Yangtze River Delta, home to nearly 160 million residents crowded into an area the size of Oregon. The Yangtze Delta includes the provinces of Zhejiang, Shanghai and Jiangsu and stretches from Ningbo, through Hangzhou, Shanghai, Suzhou, Changzhou, and Zhenjiang to Nanjing.

With 20% of the GDP of China, this area already has about $2.2 to 2.5 trillion (nominal) in GDP and should be about $3 to 3.5 trillion in 2020 and about the level of Japan's GDP before 2030.

Per capita GDP is already at US$15,000 per person and should be $20,000 by 2020 and $30,000 per person before 2030. On a Purchasing power parity basis the whole YRD is almost at $25000 per person already.

The top half of China admin regions. There 31 admin regions in China. Shanghai is 3rd, Jiangsu is 4th and Zhejiang is 5th


July 29, 2015

IARPA funding for improved Quantum Computer Qubits and Quantum error correction

IARPA is seeking innovative solutions for the Logical Qubits (LogiQ) Program. LogiQ intends to build a logical qubit from a number of imperfect physical qubits by combining high-fidelity multi-qubit operations with extensible integration. The LogiQ Program is envisioned to begin 1 February 2016 and end by 31 January 2021.

Current quantum computing systems have important limitations that hinder their path to fault-tolerant quantum computation. First and foremost, the overall performance of multi-qubit systems is inferior to the performance of the individual qubits. These physical qubits are susceptible to system noise and losses induced by their environment, insufficient operation fidelity, lack of error correction, poor feedback and dynamical control, and inadequate multi-qubit control. Success in building practical quantum computers hinges on the ability to combat environment-induced decoherence and errors in quantum gates. This can be effectively and extensibly achieved by innovations that encode physical qubits into a logical qubit.

The Logical Qubits (LogiQ) Program seeks to overcome the limitations of current multi-qubit systems, described in the previous paragraph, by building a logical qubit from a number of imperfect physical qubits. LogiQ envisions that program success will require a multi-disciplinary approach that increases the fidelity of quantum gates, state preparation, and qubit readout; improves classical control; implements active quantum feedback; has the ability to reset and reuse qubits; and performs further system improvements.

Additionally, LogiQ seeks a modular architecture design of two coupled logical qubits that creates a flexible and feasible path to larger systems. Modular designs facilitate the incorporation of next-generation advances with minimal constraints, while maintaining or improving performance.

Researchers at IARPA and IBM have been working on the logical qubit issue with some success. IBM scientists announced in April that they had developed a new qubit circuit design that is claimed to be the only physical architecture that could successfully scale to larger dimensions.



Nature Communication - Demonstration of a quantum error detection code using a square lattice of four superconducting qubits


Nuclear Thermal Turbo Rocket with supercharged air augmentation

The Nuclear Thermal Turbo Rocket - A Conceptual High-Performance Earth-to-Orbit Propulsion System by John Bucknell

A new propulsion concept called the Nuclear Thermal Turbo Rocket (NTTR) is proposed for Earth to Orbit applications. The NTTR utilizes a nuclear fission reactor to thermally heat hydrogen propellant into a rocket plenum. The rocket nozzles are located at the tips of a variable pitch thrust fan connected to the plenum by passages in the fan blades, and each nozzle is a linear aerospike on the trailing edge of the blade. The thrust fan is located in a duct such that the heated hydrogen propellant is combusted with ambient sourced oxygen to augment the rocket thrust. The fan is of variable pitch to provide maximum thrust for varying inlet velocity. The duct has a variable geometry inlet, able to provide appropriate mass flow and compression to the combustor throughout the trajectory, and a variable geometry outlet to provide appropriate nozzle area for maximum thrust. The rocket nozzles act as propellant injectors during the airbreathing portion and pure rockets during low atmospheric density portions, with the NTTR utilizing a single gas path from launch to orbital velocity. The propulsion concept is of high performance and is able to transport more than 50% mass fraction in a Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO) via an air-breathing rocket trajectory with intended complete reusability. Payload fractions of up to 19% are predicted (inert mass includes reactor radiation shielding) due to a mission average Specific Impulse (Isp) of 1,662 seconds.

Examining the shortcomings of prior concepts and systematically integrating major features of existing technical work is the innovation pathway. What is desired is a propulsion system capable of SSTO for highest reusability simultaneously with highest mass fraction delivered for lowest operational costs so as to minimize access to orbit costs. Nuclear thermal rockets already offer the highest Isp of launch-capable pure rocket propulsion systems, whereas the Supercharged Ejector Scramjet (SESJ, Ref. 8) and afterburning supersonic Rocket Fan are the highest launch to hypersonic Isp chemical combined cycle systems proposed so it is logical to attempt to integrate those cycles. The Rocket Fan study predates a later study where the performance of Supersonic Through-Flow Fans (STFF) was expanded and detailed by adding variable pitch fan capability with enhanced low speed thrust and reduced mass as compared to Airturbo Ramjet solutions for Mach 5 cruise applications. RBCC solutions typically use the supercharging fan only for subsonic or low supersonic augmentation, whereas STFFs can operate with fan face Mach numbers from 0 to around 4.5. Air-augmented nuclear rockets are only mentioned once in the literature – the Nuclear Air-Enhanced Rocket (NEAR) which is a ducted rocket that performed as an ejector rocket and ramjet.

The new proposed propulsion concept is called the Nuclear Thermal Turbo Rocket (NTTR), which is a supercharged air-augmented nuclear thermal rocket architecture.  It operates in rocket fan, ramjet, scramjet and pure rocket modes.





July 28, 2015

US Navy will field 100 kilowatt or stronger lasers and ten shot per minute railguns by 2020

The US Navy is pursuing a multi-pronged approach to fielding energy weapons by the end of the decade, with the hopes of upgrading its 30 kilowatt laser gun to 100 kw or more, and giving its electromagnetic railgun a higher repetition rate.

Rear Adm. Bryant Fuller, chief engineer at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), said in a panel presentation at the Directed Energy Summit, hosted by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and Booz Allen Hamilton, that both follow-on technologies should be in the hands of sailors in the fleet by 2020.

“Sometime in the very near future” the Navy will award a development contract for the larger follow-on system, a laser gun of 100 to 150 kw. That weapon will go out to sea for a demonstration by FY 2018, he said, keeping in line with the goal of transitioning technology from the lab to the warfighter as quickly as possible for operational testing.

The other half of the Navy’s push to deliver energy weapons to the fleet is the electromagnetic railgun. A manual-load version will go to sea on a Joint High Speed Vessel next year, but the Navy is already working on a version that would allow for 10 shots per minute. This “rep rate” version, despite challenges including thermal management in the barrel, is expected to go to sea by FY 2019.






Indonesia wants China to build Indonesia into an Asian production base

Indonesian president Joko Widodo expressed on Monday his hope that China will build Indonesia into an Asian production base with ever increasing economic cooperation between the two countries.

Widodo made his statement during a meeting with the visiting chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Yu Zhengsheng, said Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting between Widodo and Yu, Marsudi said that China's increasing overseas investment makes it possible to have more factories built in Indonesia. "The Indonesia president has expressed his hope that the targets of the economic cooperation between the two countries to be met," Marsudi said.

According to the minister, Indonesia and China have proposed to expand two-way trade and mutual visits to reach targets of US$150 billion and 10 million, respectively, before 2020.



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