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May 11, 2013

Passenger Business Robojet with full collision avoidance

A business jet has flown an 800-kilometre round trip in civilian airspace without the pilot onboard operating the plane's controls.

Instead, the plane flew itself like an outsized drone with continual monitoring of its autonomous manoeuvres performed by a pilot based on the ground.

The flight from Warton in Lancashire, to Inverness in Scotland by a British Aerospace Jetstream is being hailed as a milestone by members of ASTRAEA, a £62 million UK research consortium aiming to develop the technology that will allow civilian aircraft to share their airspace with drones – some of which could be as big as airliners.

The main thing ASTRAEA needs to get right is that sensing and avoiding capability, says Scanlan. "That's the showstopper at the moment. Without a pilot they need a sensing system to replace the Mark 1 eyeball – one that can tell a hot-air balloon from a cloud."



Brain implants could enhance learning and mental capacity by detecting desired activity and enhancing information flows to and from the hippocampus

The abilities to learn, remember, evaluate, and decide are central to who we are and how we live. Damage to or dysfunction of the brain circuitry that supports these functions can be devastating, leading to Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, PTSD, or many other disorders. Current treatments, which are drug-based or behavioral, have limited efficacy in treating these problems. There is a pressing need for something more effective.

One promising approach is to build an interactive device to help the brain learn, remember, evaluate, and decide. One might, for example, construct a system that would identify patterns of brain activity tied to particular experiences and then, when called upon, impose those patterns on the brain. Ted Berger, Sam Deadwyler, Robert Hampsom, and colleagues have used this approach (see “Memory Implants”). They are able to identify and then impose, via electrical stimulation, specific patterns of brain activity that improve a rat’s performance in a memory task. They have also shown that in monkeys stimulation can help the animal perform a task where it must remember a particular item.

Their ability to improve performance is impressive. However, there are fundamental limitations to an approach where the desired neural pattern must be known and then imposed. The animals used in their studies were trained to do a single task for weeks or months and the stimulation was customized to produce the right outcome for that task. This is only feasible for a few well-learned experiences in a predictable and constrained environment.

The answer may be in an alternative approach based on enhancing flows of information through the brain. The importance of information flow can be appreciated when we consider how the brain makes and uses memories. During learning, information from the outside world drives brain activity and changes in the connections between neurons. This occurs most prominently in the hippocampus, a brain structure critical for laying down memories for the events of daily life. Thus, during learning, external information must flow to the hippocampus if memories are to be stored.

Touchscreen conference wall with 160 acres of virtual space

The global design director for office-furniture maker Haworth, in partnership with interactive display company Obscura Digital, has created a touchscreen that covers a conference-room wall. Bluescape displays a unified image across 15 linked 55-inch flat-screen monitors, each equipped with 32 specialized sensors to read users’ hand movements. Unlike whiteboards or flip charts, it won’t require much erasing or page turning: When zoomed out as far as possible, the digital board’s virtual space totals 160 acres.

His wall-size touchscreen can be manipulated with the same finger-sliding techniques used to operate smartphones and tablets, as well as by a few extra tricks to manage its size. Tapping the screen opens a menu to add a digital sticky note or insert a document or photo. Sliding two fingers rotates the display’s view 90 degrees, and three fingers moves it diagonally. A project timeline records changes to the wall. “The scale of this technology is just mind-blowing, that you can have such a large canvas to work with and so many people interacting with it,” says Carnegie Mellon University entrepreneurship professor Stuart Evans, who’s been testing a Bluescape system for more than a year in his classroom at the school’s satellite campus in Silicon Valley.




May 10, 2013

Silver nanoparticles provide clean water for $2 a year

Thalappil Pradeep at the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai and colleagues have developed a filter based on an aluminium composite, embedded with silver nanoparticles. As water flows through the filter, the nanoparticles are oxidised and release ions, which kill viruses and bacteria, and neutralise toxic chemicals such as lead and arsenic.

Some nanoparticles leach into the water but at concentrations that pose no threat to health. Pradeep describes the process of making the filter as "water positive": 1 litre of water spent on making nanoparticles gives 500 litres of clean water.

In tests, a 50-gram composite filtered 1500 litres of water without needing reactivation, so they estimate that a 120g-filter that costs just $2 would provide safe drinking water for a family of five for one year.

PNAS - Biopolymer-reinforced synthetic granular nanocomposites for affordable point-of-use water purification

Spin coherence times up to one second which is over 100 times longer than before could enable super sensors and clocks smaller than computer chips accurate to a quadrillionths of a second

Berkeley Lab researchers and their colleagues extend electron spin (up to one second which is over 100 times longer than before) in diamond for incredibly tiny magnetic detectors.

From brain to heart to stomach, the bodies of humans and animals generate weak magnetic fields that a supersensitive detector could use to pinpoint illnesses, trace drugs – and maybe even read minds. Sensors no bigger than a thumbnail could map gas deposits underground, analyze chemicals, and pinpoint explosives that hide from other probes.

Now scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California at Berkeley, working with colleagues from Harvard University, have improved the performance of one of the most potent possible sensors of magnetic fields on the nanoscale – a diamond defect no bigger than a pair of atoms, called a nitrogen vacancy (NV) center.

The research team’s discoveries may eventually enable clocks smaller than computer chips yet accurate to within a few quadrillionths of a second, or rotational sensors quicker and more tolerant of extreme temperatures than the gyroscopes in smart phones. Before long, an inexpensive chip of diamond may be able to house a quantum computer.

Nature Communications - Solid-state electronic spin coherence time approaching one second

New magnetic graphene may revolutionise electronics with graphene spintronics

Researchers from IMDEA-Nanociencia Institute and from Autonoma and Complutense Universities of Madrid (Spain) have managed to give graphene magnetic properties. The breakthrough opens the door to the development of graphene-based spintronic devices, that is, devices based on the spin or rotation of the electron, and could transform the electronics industry.


Computerised simulation of TCNQ molecules on graphene layer, where they acquire a magnetic order. / IMDEA-Nanoscience

Nature Physics - Long-range magnetic order in a purely organic 2D layer adsorbed on epitaxial graphene

Harvard finds protein that reverses aging in the heart and target human clinical trials in 2018

Two Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers — a stem cell biologist and a practicing cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital — have identified a protein in the blood of mice and humans that may prove to be the first effective treatment for the form of age-related heart failure that affects millions of Americans.

When the protein, called GDF-11, was injected into old mice, which develop thickened heart walls in a manner similar to aging humans, the hearts were reduced in size and thickness, resembling the healthy hearts of younger mice.

It ultimately may rewrite our understanding of aging.



Journal Cell - Growth Differentiation Factor 11 Is a Circulating Factor that Reverses Age-Related Cardiac Hypertrophy


NASA researching 100KW, 4MW and 60 MW thermal molten salt reactors for space

Ohio State University has performed some computational studies of molten salt reactors for NASA space applications.

They looked at 4 MW thermal and 60 MW thermal reactors and flow dynamics and basic design.

Molten salt reactors are an appealing technology for space because of their high temperature and low pressure operation, controllability, and high fuel burn up, among other features.

The proposed research will investigate how molten salt reactor technology can be used to power sub-100 kWe reactors for science missions and for MWe class reactors for human exploration. Both of these applications are cited as relevant to current US goals in space in NASAs Draft 2010 Space Power and Energy Storage Roadmap, and will greatly assist in space exploration. Specifically, sub-100 kWe reactors are a potential solution to the Pu-238 shortage, and molten salt reactor technology can address the issue of controlling small reactors. MWe class reactors require large amounts of fuel and benefit greatly from operating at high temperatures. A MWe molten salt reactor is capable at operating at high temperatures and would require less fuel than its traditional solid fuel counterpart.

There is a 53 page undergrad thesis

It would be a 53 ton reactor, radiator and turbine and propulsion system for 15 MWe nuclear electric propulsion system.



Fish farms provided 66.5 million tons in 2012 about 42% of total world fish production

Aquaculture Production in 2012 is estimated at around 66.5 million tonnes. This is based on the preliminary data for several major producers and projections for others, the world aquaculture production of food fish in the year 2012 is estimated at around 66.5 million tonnes. World aquaculture production of food fish reached 62.7 million tonnes in 2011, up by 6.2% from 59 million tonnes in 2010. The estimated value of farmed food fish is USD 130 billion. Farmed aquatic algae production in 2011 was 21 million tonnes, worth USD 5.5 billion.


World fish production is expected to rise to 172 million tons in 2021 and aquaculture (fish farming) will provide about half of that amount.


About 20 to 50 times FPGA acceleration of optimization problem solution versus 10,000 times faster with Dwave quantum computer

A SIMD tabu search, (which relates to the optimization problem which can be solved 10,000 times faster on an adiabatic quantum computer) was accelerated by 20 to 45 times over a general purpose CPU.

FPGA acceleration using hardware encoding of algorithms gets a typical 3 to 200 times acceleration depending upon how well the problem fits.

What applications are best suited to GPU and FPGA acceleration


Bacteria can make mosquitoes malaria resistant

Researchers have found a strain of bacteria that can infect mosquitoes and make them resistant to the malaria parasite.

Experts said this was a first, distant prospect for malaria control.

Malaria is a major global disease. The World Health Organization estimates that 220 million people are infected annually and 660,000 die.

The challenge was to turn a temporary infection into one that would be passed on. The research team found a strain of Wolbachia that could persist in one species of mosquito, Anopheles stephensi, for the entire length of the study - 34 generations

Journal Science - Wolbachia Invades Anopheles stephensi Populations and Induces Refractoriness to Plasmodium Infection

Less than four years after passing Japan for second largest economy, China will have double Japan's GDP bu mid-2014

China surpassed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy in the second quarter of 2010. China's economy should double Japan's GDP late in 2013 or early in 2014 (less than 14 months).

Japan's GDP has been going between a band of 470 trillion yen and 524 trillion yen (based on current prices) from 1996 to 2013. At the end 2012 it was about 490 trillion yen.

Japan's exchange rate is now 101.7 yen to 1 US dollar. Japan's GDP in nominal currency is below US$ 5 trillion.

Japan is forecast to have about +1.6% and +1.3% real GDP growth for 2013 and 2014.

China's GDP (including Hong Kong and Macau) is likely to be about $9.8 trillion at the end of 2013 and will be about twice the size of Japan. China's GDP including Hong Kong and Macau) is likely to be about $11.0 trillion at the end of 2014.

China had a GDP (not including Hong Kong and Macau) of 52 trillion yuan (8.28 trillion U.S. dollars, 8.6 trillion including Hong Kong and Macau) at the end of 2012.

Hong Kong has a GDP of 275 billion in 2013. Macau has a GDP of about 50 billion in 2013.

China should have a GDP of 57.4 trillion yuan at the end of 2013 (US$9.4 trillion, 6.1 exchange)
China should have a GDP of 64 trillion yuan at the end of 2014 (US$10.7 trillion, 5.9 exchange).

Japan's GDP in Q4 of 2012.



Japan's GDP in yen at current prices from 1996 to 2010


Ontario plans to become the world’s top technology hub

Ontario is home to about 40 percent of Canada’s population and accounts for 48 percent of Canada’s gross domestic product. It’s the fourth-largest population center in North America, after Mexico City, New York, and Los Angeles, and it produces more cars than any other region in North America, including Michigan. Ontario also has the Americas’ second-biggest financial services sector, after New York.

Ontario is North America’s second-leading cluster for technology companies, after California, and has the third-largest concentration of life sciences companies on the continent.

The Ontario government has invested $3.6 billion in those sectors, primarily, over the last decade, with two-thirds going to research and development, and one-third focused on building the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

An hour’s drive from Toronto, Waterloo is a city of 98,000 that saw more than 500 startups take root in 2012.


May 09, 2013

Urban is better than Rural for the Environment

It is better for the environment for people to live in cities than the same number of people to live in rural areas.

Having larger numbers of people occupying a smaller area, confines and contain the human impact.

Urbanization reduces population growth. Yes, it attracts people, but people living in rural areas have higher fertility rates.

Per capita, people in cities consume less. Cities are much more efficient in the consumption of resources, notably energy, but also materials, also water, and also, of course, land, because of their higher densities.

Northrop Grumman Completes Lunar Lander Study for Golden Spike

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has completed a feasibility study for a new commercial lunar lander for the Golden Spike Company (GSC). The study confirmed the viability of lander concepts for Golden Spike's human lunar expedition architecture and conceived a novel new, low-mass ascent stage concept dubbed "Pumpkin."

About Golden Spike

The Golden Spike Company (GSC) is a US-based commercial space company incorporated in 2010 with the objective of providing human expeditions to the Moon. It is named after the ceremonial final spike that joined the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States, on May 10, 1869, and opened up the frontier to new opportunities. Golden Spike wants to sell trips to the moon to countries with less developed space capabilities but who want to take their space program to the next level.


This figure shows a preliminary sketch of the minimalist ascent pod with surface habitat concept packaged in a five-meter diameter payload fairing. The pressurized compartments and propellant tanks easily fit in the available space. Ascent thrusters are mounted on outriggers that are folded up to fit in the payload fairing and the landing gear is folded inward. Also shown are initial side and top views of the ascent pod "Pumpkin" and the surface habitat with crew members in pressure suits. (Northrop Grumman image)

China will have new urbanization plan unveiled later this year

The National Development and Reform Commission, China’s state planning agency, is due to produce a report later this year laying out a path for a new kind of urbanization. Executing on the transition to this new plan will be key to China's future growth, development and uplifting the lower classes into a solid middle class. It could be the difference between whether China stalled out at just under double the GDP of the US or is able to push on to about 4 times the GDP of the US.

Li Tie, director general of the NDRC’s China Center for Urban Development, said the report involves a “new model of city development,” which would include three main parts:

1. There would be a focus on “low carbon” development — meaning trying to assure Chinese cities ease their horrendous pollution.

2. It would be reform of the household registration, or hukou, system. For smaller cities the system would be “totally liberalized,” Mr. Li said. He didn’t lay out his thoughts fully, but seemed to suggest that all residents would enjoy the same rights and benefits regardless of where they were born. For larger cities, migrants would get “resident cards” which assured them “improved treatment” and access to social services.

3. China would look to increase “clustering” in big cities. Mr. Li didn’t explain what he meant by that, but in urban planning speak, clustering usually means trying to develop industries or specialties in a city or group of cities. That’s a way to build on the intellectual frisson of urban life, where new ideas can spawn new industries.

Those proposals address some of the most vexing problems with life in China’s cities: pollution, widening social inequality and lack of innovation. They also suggest that China’s leaders are committed to making urbanization into something more than another building spree.

There has been talk of residency permits for replacing the Hukou back in March, 2013

Saving a million people per year on the most dangerous day of their life for less than $10 each

More than one million babies die on their birth day every year and four inexpensive products can help to save most of them. A baby's first day the riskiest day of his or her life — in the USA and other countries, according to the 14th annual State of the World's Mothers report (88 pages). Every year nearly 3 million babies die in the first month and mostly from preventable causes.

Four products costing between 13 cents and $6 each can save newborns — many on the first day of life.

The products are:
• steroid injections for women in preterm labor (to reduce deaths due to premature babies’ breathing problems);

• resuscitation devices (to save babies who do not breathe at birth);

• chlorhexidine cord cleansing (to prevent umbilical cord infections); and

• injectable antibiotics (to treat newborn sepsis and pneumonia).


Nanowire Gate All Around Transistors

Gate-All-Around Transistors: In a new design, the transistor channel is made up of an array of vertical nanowires. The gate surrounds all the nanowires, which improves its ability to control the flow of current. Platinum-based source and drain contacts sit at the top and bottom of the nanowires.

Engineers may already have come up with the technology that will fend off the Moore Law is doomed skeptics: nanowire FETs (field-effect transistors).


In these nanodevices, current flows through the nanowire or is pinched off under the control of the voltage on the gate electrode, which surrounds the nanowire. Hence, nanowire FETs’ other name: “gate-all-around” transistors. However, because of their small size, single nanowires can’t carry enough current to make an efficient transistor.


The solution, recent research shows, is to make a transistor that consists of a small forest of nanowires that are under the control of the same gate and so act as a single transistor. For example, researchers at Hokkaido University and from the Japan Science and Technology Agency reported last year in Nature a gate-all-around nanowire transistor consisting of 10 vertical indium gallium arsenide nanowires grown on a silicon substrate. Although the device’s electrical properties were good, the gate length—a critical dimension—was 200 nanometers, much too large for the tiny transistors needed to power the microprocessors of the 2020s. 


Now two researchers working in France, Guilhem Larrieu of the Laboratory for Analysis and Architecture of Systems, in Toulouse, and Xiang‑Lei Han of the Institute for Electronics, Microelectronics, and Nanotechnology, in Lille, report the creation of a nanowire transistor that could be scaled down to do the job. It consists of an array of 225 doped-silicon nanowires, each 30 nm wide and 200 nm tall, vertically linking the two platinum contact planes that form the source and drain of the transistor. Besides their narrowness, what’s new is the gate: A single 14-nm-thick chromium layer surrounds each nanowire midway up its length. 


Vertical nanowire array-based field effect transistors for ultimate scaling


Is India wasting the world's biggest economic opportunity ?

In the past 35 years, hundreds of millions of Chinese have found productive, if often exhausting, work in the country’s growing cities. This extraordinary mobilisation of labour is the biggest economic event of the past half-century. The world has seen nothing on such scale before. Will it see anything like it again?

India is an ancient civilisation but a youthful country. Its working-age population is rising by about 12m people a year, even as China’s shrank last year by 3m. Within a decade India will have the biggest potential workforce in the world.

Corruption, Inept Leadership, Inflation, and Bad Education

Although India’s dreamers have faith in its youth, the country’s youngsters have growing reason to doubt India. The economy raised aspirations that it has subsequently failed to meet. From 2005 to 2007 it grew by about 9% a year. In 2010 it even grew faster than China (if the two economies are measured consistently). But growth has since halved. India’s impressive savings rate, the other side of the demographic dividend, has also slipped. Worryingly, a growing share of household saving is bypassing the financial system altogether, seeking refuge from inflation in gold, bricks and mortar.

Broad Group Vision of Living and Working in Sky City Skyscrapers

Sky City would likely be the tallest building in the world, with 220 floors and a total height of 838 m (2,749 ft).

The 220 story Sky scraper has been delayed getting regulatory approval. There appears to have been approvals given for a 100 story building (Yuanda Tower).

The Broad Group Vision is to us the skyscrapers to make a cleaner better city for China.

They have very good air purification systems for reducing indoor air pollution by over 99%.
The factory built system would reduce construction dust air pollution.

They envision clean offices, homes (up to 3000 square feet), hospitals, schools, exercise facilities, pools, restaurants and grocery stores.

They are projecting multiple Sky cities making up the urban core and enabling a lot more green space.



Predicting the market for Dwave Quantum Computers

In 2012, the market for high-performance computing (HPC), especially large supercomputer systems, grew 7.7 percent year-over-year, according to new figures released by IDC March 21. This equaled more than $11 billion in yearly revenue. During the next three years, the market for this high-performance system is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.3 percent, topping out at $14 billion by 2015.

Of all the different supercomputer and HPC segments, the higher-end systems -- ones that cost $500,000 or more -- grew the most in 2012. Here, revenue increased nearly 30 percent to $5.6 billion.

The GPU was introduced to the market in 1999. GPU now have a big part of the high performance computing market.

I think that Dwave quantum computers will establish themselves in the market at a slightly slower pace than GPUs.

They will get about a 10-20% chunk of the high end of the supercomputer market. There is about a 25% chunk that performs the kind of calculations which Dwave's quantum computers are or will be better. There will also be some new market created for certain government and artificial intelligence applications of the DWave system.

Dwave will also get some lowend optimization market by providing solutions via their cloud service.

Tesla Motors Worth More tha Fiat which owns most of Chrysler

Tesla Motors the maker of electric cars run by billionaire Elon Musk, surged as much as 26 percent after posting its first profit and beating estimates on sales of luxury Model S sedans. Tesla’s market capitalization reached about $7.9 billion, exceeding $7.8 billion for Turin, Italy-based Fiat SpA (F), the majority owner of Chrysler Group LLC.

Tesla said it sold 4,900 Model S sedans in the quarter. The company said March 31 deliveries of the car exceeded 4,750 in 2013’s first three months, better than a prior forecast of 4,500. Full-year Model S deliveries should total about 21,000 vehicles, up from an earlier 20,000-unit goal, the company said.

By comparison, Fiat delivered 1.02 million cars and trucks worldwide in the first quarter. Revenue for the quarter totaled 19.8 billion euros ($26.1 billion).

Elon Musk now has a net worth of about $4 billion.

The Tesla model S has the highest ever Consumer Reports rating of 99 In the past, the Lexus LS has also achieved a score of 99. Tesla does not get a recommended buy rating until there is more real world reliability data.

UK Telegraph article China may not overtake America this century and other China articles

The UK Telegraph has an article by Ambrose Evans Pritchard which collects doubts that China economy as measured by nominal GDP and even PPP GDP will surpass the United States this century. All of the statements are just collections of maybe China's economy will have big problems.

* Maybe China has a debt that is double its GDP
* Maybe China's aging population will mess up growth
* Maybe the US will resurge to 3% GDP growth on a consistent basis
* Maybe China will slow next year to 7% GDP growth and to 6% by 2020 or even to 3%
* Maybe China will get caught in a middle income trap
* Maybe this will be another American century
* Maybe China's pollution and environmental problems will choke growth
* Maybe the GDP numbers are false and inflated
* GDP as a measure is flawed because the pollution generation is counted as positive GDP
* Maybe China will have a banking bust
* If China passes the US they will have used too much credit and investment to do it and then will have a bigger bust afterwards (at some point)
* There was also some implied symbolic overall meaning to the delay in authorizing the 220 story skyscraper

I predict the 220 story Broad Group skyscraper will be built by the end of 2014. I predict that 100 story Broad Group skyscrapers will be built by the end of September 2013.

This is a collection of the usual anti-China doubts and it is stated with no firm predictions or substance.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is the international business editor of the Daily Telegraph. He is a long-time opponent of the EU's constitution and monetary union, he was the Europe correspondent in Brussels for the Telegraph from 1999 to 2004. During his time as the Sunday Telegraph's Washington bureau chief in the early 1990s, Evans-Pritchard became known for his controversial stories about President Clinton, the 1993 death of Vincent Foster, and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

There are several articles about more challenges for China's economy.

James Fallows has an article at the Atlantic that it is not clear if China will continue to grow strongly or if they are entering into a period of difficult economic challenges.

James Fallows refers people to his $11 book about China's strategy for transitioning it economy and dominating high tech industries.

Details on Quantum Computer speed analysis and a 502 qubit chip is 10,000 times faster than classical quad core workstation

Experimental Evaluation of an Adiabiatic Quantum System for Combinatorial Optimization (10 pages)

This paper presents an experimental study of algorithms based on quantum annealing (a type of AQC computation)running on a special-purpose D-Wave Two platform containing 439 quantum bits (qubits). Earlier systems with between 84 and 108 qubits have been used for finding Ramsey numbers, binary classifi cation in image matching, and 3D protein folding.

The "native" problem for this system is a restriction to Chimera-structured inputs defi ned in Section 2 of the Ising
Spin Model (IM). Native instances can be solved directly on the quantum hardware (QA), while general inputs are solved by a hybrid approach (called Blackbox) that alternates heuristic search with hardware queries.

We report on two experimental projects. First, QA and Blackbox are compared to three conventional software solvers:
CPLEX, METSlib tabu search (TABU), and a branch-and-bound solver called Akmaxsat (AK) . The solvers are evaluated using instances from three NP-Hard problems: Quadratic Unconstrained Binary Optimization (QUBO); Weighed Maximum 2-Satisfi ability (W2SAT), and the Quadratic Assignment Problem (QAP).

In horserace terms, QA dominates on the Chimera-structure QUBO problems: at the largest problem size n = 439, CPLEX (best among the software solvers), returns comparable results running about 3600 times slower than the hardware. On the W2SAT problems, Blackbox, AK, and TABU all find optimal solutions within the same time frame. On the QAP problems, Blackbox nds best solutions in 28 of 33 cases, compared to 9 cases for TABU (the next-best solver on these inputs).

Note that these results can be regarded as "snapshots" of performance for specifi c implementations on specifi c input sets, nothing more. Experimental studies of heuristics are notoriously diffi cult to generalize.

Future research will likely turn up better solvers and strategies. As a case in point, our second project compares the V5
hardware chip used in our first study to a V6 chip that became operational after the study was completed. V6 is three to five times faster than V5, and can solve problems as large as n = 502 (502 qubits).

May 08, 2013

Titan arm Exoskeleton for lifting 50 lbs in each arm that costs under $3000

The Titan Arm system costs under $3,000 to make. It can hold a static load via a braking system, or lift at 3 rad/s (for a 44 cm forearm+hand length, this works out to about 132 cm/s or 4.3 ft/s -- pretty fast. The motor is mounted in the backpack area; the elbow joint is driven by a cable system.

TitanArm was developed by a team at the University of Pennsylvania. It is a powered upper body exoskeleton for use in physical therapy and assistive mobility applications.

The exoskeleton system is made mostly of CNC-milled 6061-T6 aluminum. The lightweight aluminum cuts the weight of the entire system to 20 lb.

The system can lift 165W in a bicep curl. Assuming the bicep curl is a full half-circle, that works out to a lift capacity of around 20 kg or about 44 lb (the MEAM Team calculates the capacity at 50 lb, close to this napkin estimate). An aluminum backplate in the backpack-part of the device gives the user support during their lifting.



Dwave 439 qubit system was 3600 times faster than a 2.4 Ghz quadcaore computer on some problems

A computer science professor at Amherst College who recently devised and conducted experiments to test the speed of a quantum computing system against conventional computing methods will soon be presenting a paper with her verdict: quantum computing is, “in some cases, really, really fast.”

Dwave's quantum computer system is capable of solving problems thousands of times faster than conventional computing methods can for some problems.

UPDATE - The 502 qubit chip is 10,000 times faster than the quadcore system and 3-5.6 times faster than the 439 qubit chip.

FPGA hardware acclerators can get about 20 to 50 times faster than regular CPUs for tabu search type problems.

McGeoch, author of A Guide to Experimental Algorithmics, has 25 years of experience setting up experiments to test various facets of computing speed, and is one of the founders of “experimental algorithmics,” which she jokingly calls an “oddball niche” of computer science. Her specialty is, however, proving increasingly helpful in trying to evaluate different types of computing performance.

Her 10-page-paper, titled “Experimental Evaluation of an Adiabiatic Quantum System for Combinatorial Optimization,” was co-authored with Cong Wang, a graduate student at Simon Fraser University.

The calculations the D-Wave excels at involve a specific combinatorial optimization problem, comparable in difficulty to the more famous “travelling salesperson” problem that’s been a foundation of theoretical computing for decades. Questions like this apply to challenges such as shipping logistics, flight scheduling, search optimization, DNA analysis and encryption, and are extremely difficult to answer quickly.

She tested the 439-qubit model against a conventional computer.

The conventional computer was a Lenovo workstation with a 2.4GHz quad core Intel processor and 16GB RAM. A $10 million supercomputer should have about 500 teraflops of compute performance. However, the problem solution time may not be reduced by 1000 times by splitting the problem into parallel solution on the supercomputer.

In two years, a larger Dwave system should have a few thousand qubits and the system will be 500,000 times faster on some problems of this type. In two years conventional computers will be about 4 times faster.

On one problem (unconstrained binary optimization) well-matched to the hard-wired design of the machine’s super-cooled chip, it found the best result about 3,600 times more quickly than the best conventional software solver. It crossed the finish line in just under half a second, while the second finisher took 30 minutes.

Experimental evaluation of an adiabiatic quantum system for combinatorial optimization

ABSTRACT - This paper describes an experimental study of a novel computing system (algorithm plus platform) that carries out quantum annealing, a type of adiabatic quantum computation, to solve optimization problems. We compare this system to three conventional software solvers, using instances from three NP-hard problem domains. We also describe experiments to learn how performance of the quantum annealing algorithm depends on input.

SpaceX’s Grasshopper moved to New Mexico so it is permitted to fly higher and side to side in tests

Spacex's Grasshopper reusable test rocket is moving New Mexico so it can go beyond current flight limitations. This would allow the rocket — a testbed for vertical takeoff and landing technology — to soar beyond the 2,500-foot limit imposed on McGregor testing by its Federal Aviation Administration permit. It also will give the rocket room to move side-to-side to try different trajectories on the spaceport’s 18,000 acres.

Other Grasshopper testing would remain in McGregor, Ra said, along with testing on engines for the Dragon orbiter and Falcon rockets, including a series of louder-than-normal tests beginning with a 10-second rocket firing provisionally set for Wednesday.

Grasshopper is a testbed for technology that would eventually allow rocket stages — currently orbiting Earth as space junk or breaking up as they re-enter Earth’s atmosphere — to return to the launch site to be reused, bringing down the cost of spaceflight.

SpaceX already is applying what it’s learned from Grasshopper. Testing at McGregor has begun on the Falcon 9-R, a new iteration of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. The “R” stands for “reusable,” according to a tweet by company founder and CEO Elon Musk. Another tweet showed workers at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., examining a helium-driven telescoping leg for the rocket.



US daily crude oil production at 7.37 million barrels per day for another post-1992 high

US crude oil and all oil liquids production hits another new post-1992 high at 7.37 million barrels per day for crude oil and 11.8 million barrels per day for all liquid.

Crude oil and natural gas liquids is at 9.81 million barrels per day.

With another 150,000 barrels per day crude oil production will reach 1989 levels.
The combined crude oil and natural gas liquids will then likely be past the 10 million barrel per day level.
This is likely to happen in the next 1-4 months.



May 07, 2013

Cool Videos - Two Spocks Audi Commercial and Enders Game Trailer

Original Mr. Spock actor Leonard Nimoy teams up with Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock in the rebooted "Star Trek" films, for a new car commercial. There are many "Trek" references. Lens flares paying homage to J.J. Abrams' frequent use of them in the 2009 movie, Nimoy singing his 1968 song "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins," and a re-enactment of Spock's martyrdom from "Wrath of Khan and more.



China's population is in the top 50% of the world population for per capita GDP, only 30% of the world's population have higher per capita GDP

According to 2012 IMF data, only 30.2% of the world's population lived in countries with a higher nominal GDP per capita than China, while 50.2 percent lived in countries with a lower one. China itself constituted 19.6 percent of the world's population at this time.

China is now in the top half of the world as far as economic development is concerned, and to avoid any suggestions of exaggeration, it should be made clear that these comparisons are at the current market exchange rate measures usually used in China - although calculations in parity purchasing powers (PPPs), which are the measure preferred by the majority of Western economists, makes no significant difference to the result.

China had a GDP of 51.9 trillion yuan at the end of 2012. China had a population of 1.354 billion at the end of 2012.

The exchange rate is 6.154 yuan to 1 USD.

China's GDP per capita on an exchange rate basis was US$6180 at the end of 2012.
In May 2013, China's GDP per capita is US$6500 (after GDP growth and inflation and exchange rate.)
At the end of 2013, China's GDP per capita should be about US$6800.

If China has 8.0% GDP growth, 2.5% inflation and 5% currency appreciation then on an exchange rate basis

      Per Capita GDP      Daily per Capita GDP
2014     US$7900            $18.6
2015     US$9190            $21.7
2016     US$10680           $25.2
2017     US$12410           $34

China has made extraordinary progress since 1978. In 1978, when "reform and opening up" began, only 0.5 percent of the global population lived in countries with a lower GDP per capita than China, while 73.5 percent lived in countries with a higher GDP per capita.

Population of countries needs to be taken into account when ranking GDP per capita

Why do some persist with misrepresenting China as being "in the middle" or even more misleadingly dubbing it a "poor" country by international Standards?

Such misrepresentations make elementary statistical errors which are familiar to those who analyze income distribution data. For example the following argument is sometimes presented: The IMF World Economic Outlook database gives GDP per capita statistics for 188 countries with China ranking 94th - therefore China is "in the middle ". Another sometimes-cited statistic compares China to the world average - in 2012 China's GDP per capita was 59 percent of this average figure - making China appear a" poor "country.

Cubesat with electric sail is in orbit

The Estcube cubesat satellite with a 10 meter electric sail is in orbit now.

ESTCube-1 is the first Estonian satellite and it was built in Estonia by students from Tartu University, Estonian Aviation Academy, Tallinn University of Technology and University of Life Sciences. The project started in 2008 and is now ready for launch. The satellite will be launched on May 4th, 2013. The satellite's payload has been developed in conjunction with Finnish Meteorological Institute and German Space Center (DLR).

The main mission of the satellite is to test the electric solar wind sail, a novel space propulsion technology that could revolutionize transportation within the solar system. As Estonia's first satellite, the project will also be used to build Estonian infrastructure for future space projects and to educate space engineers.

The satellite is a cubesat measuring 10 x 10 x 10 cm and weighing 1.05 kg.

The main objectives of the ESTCube-1 are:

* Test the deployment of a 10 meter tether, which is an integral part of the electric solar wind sail development. http://www.electric-sailing.com/

* Measure the force being exerted to the sail
* To take a picture of the tether.
* As an added mission to take a picture of the Earth and, if possible Estonia.


The electric solar wind sail is a novel method of propulsion within the Solar system using the flow of electrically charged particles emanating from the Sun, or the solar wind. The system was invented in Finland by Pekka Janhunen and ESTCube-1 is its first orbital proof-of-concept test.

New metamaterial doubles spectrum range for invisibility

One of the exciting possibilities of metamaterials – engineered materials that exhibit properties not found in the natural world – is the potential to control light in ways never before possible. The novel optical properties of such materials could lead to a "perfect lens" that allows direct observation of an individual protein in a light microscope or, conversely, invisibility cloaks that completely hide objects from sight.

Although metamaterials have revolutionized optics in the past decade, their performance so far has been inhibited by their inability to function over broad bandwidths of light.

Stanford engineers have designed a broadband metamaterial that more than doubles the range of wavelengths of light that can be manipulated.




Advanced Optical Materials journal - Broadband Negative Index Metamaterial at Optical Frequencies

Antibiotics could cure 40% of chronic back pain patients

Up to 40% of patients with chronic back pain could be cured with a course of antibiotics rather than surgery. Surgeons in the UK and elsewhere are reviewing how they treat patients with chronic back pain after scientists discovered that many of the worst cases were due to bacterial infections. Many patients with unrelenting lower back pain will no longer face major operations but can instead be cured with courses of antibiotics costing around £114 (US$170).

One of the UK's most eminent spinal surgeons said the discovery was the greatest he had witnessed in his professional life, and that its impact on medicine was worthy of a Nobel prize.

"This is vast. We are talking about probably half of all spinal surgery for back pain being replaced by taking antibiotics," said Peter Hamlyn, a consultant neurological and spinal surgeon at University College London hospital.

The Danish team describe their work in two papers published in the European Spine Journal.

In the first report, they explain how bacterial infections inside slipped discs can cause painful inflammation and tiny fractures in the surrounding vertebrae. The Danish team examined tissue removed from patients for signs of infection. Nearly half tested positive, and of these, more than 80% carried bugs called Propionibacterium acnes. The microbes are better known for causing acne. They lurk around hair roots and in the crevices in our teeth, but can get into the bloodstream during tooth brushing. Normally they cause no harm, but the situation may change when a person suffers a slipped disc. To heal the damage, the body grows small blood vessels into the disc. Rather than helping, though, they ferry bacteria inside, where they grow and cause serious inflammation and damage to neighbouring vertebrae that shows up on an MRI scan.

PS4 will bring sub-$250 per teraflops to the mainstream later this year

The new Sony PS4 will have 1.84 teraflops of performance.

The rumored price will be about $400 and it should be available in about Nov, 2013



GPUs provide superworkstations with $1100 per Teraflop and Cray has new minisuper

1. The ioMillennia is a 3U, PCIe Gen3 switch from One Stop Systems that can handle sixteen full-size GPU cards.

It has a retail price of about $15,000 for the base unit.

A single Nvidia K20x has a single precision peak of 3.95 teraflop/s, and 1.31 teraflop/s at double precision.

Multiply this by 16 and you get a potential max of at least 63 TFLOP/s single precision and at least 20 TFLOP/s double precision per 3U rack mount unit.

The ioMillennia costs around $18,000 with all four host adapters, and 16 Kepler K20s will cost you an additional $51,200 (16 times $3,200). This is about $70,000 purchase price.

The price performance would be a $1.11 per gigaflop/s single precision ($1,110 per teraflop of single precision) or $3.34 per gigaflop/s double precision ($3,340 per teraflop of double precision).

Elon Musk is in Talks with Google to bring adapted autopilot system to Tesla Electric Cars

Elon Musk, CEO if Tesla Motors, said the electric-car maker is considering adding driverless technology to its vehicles and discussing the prospects for such systems with Google.

Musk believes that technology that can take over for drivers are a logical step in the evolution of cars. He has talked with Google about the self-driving technology it’s been developing, though he prefers to think of applications that are more like an airplane’s autopilot system.

Self-driving sounds like it’s going to do something you don’t want it to do. Autopilot is a good thing to have in planes, and we should have it in cars.

Google's current driverless fleet of Toyota Prius hybrids is equipped with laser-radar devices mounted on the roofs.

“The problem with Google’s current approach is that the sensor system is too expensive,” Musk said. “It’s better to have an optical system, basically cameras with software that is able to figure out what’s going on just by looking at things.”

Robotic technology from Oxford University that enables a car to 'drive itself' for stretches of a route has been shown driving a Nissan Leaf electric car. They use digital cameras and iPads. At the moment it is estimated that the prototype navigation system costs around £5,000 (US$7700). 'Long-term, our goal is to produce a system costing around £100 (US$160).



Chinese solar company Suntech trying restructure during bankruptcy

The Chinese solar company Suntech is bankrupt and is trying to restructure its $541 million bonds (part of about $2 billion in debt).

Warren Buffet has no interest in buying Suntech.

May 06, 2013

Unmanned A10 will be the UAV under complete control of spotter soldiers starting in about 2016

The goal of the DARPA Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS) program is to demonstrate the capability for a joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) [soldier with radio and camera system designated to direct attack] on the ground “to visualize, select and employ weapons at the time of his choosing from an optionally manned/unmanned A-10 platform. An aircraft that is within 30 nautical miles of a target is expected to deliver a weapon on that target within six minutes of a JTAC request. A live-fire demonstration is planned for 2015.

While the 1970s-vintage Fairchild Republic A-10 Warthog is the designated PCAS demonstration platform, Darpa said the intention is to develop a standard interface that can be used for a variety of manned and unmanned aircraft.


Terrafugia Transition roadable plane delayed until 2015 or 2016 but promises of vertical takeoff and landing TF-X flying car in early 2020s

Terrafugia Inc. announced today, May 6, which they're planning on delivering their flying car, the Transition, to customers by 2015 or 2016. This will end up being a delay of about five years from early expectations.

TF-X is the practical realization of the dream of countless visions of the future; it is designed to be the flying car for all of us. In order to achieve this long-sought-after vision, Terrafugia will focus the TF-X™ program with clear goals that enhance the safety, simplicity, and convenience of personal transportation.

TF-X will carry four people in car-like comfort. (Terrafugia transition holds two)
TF-X will have a non-stop flight range of at least 500 miles.
TF-X will fit into a standard construction single car garage.
TF-X will be able to takeoff vertically from a level clearing of at least 100ft in diameter.
TF-X will be able to drive on roads and highways – providing true door-to-door convenience and an automotive level of weather insensitivity.




EPA publishes guidelines to help officials make decisions that balance radiation risks against evacuation and other actual risks

The EPA has updated protective action guidelines in regards to radiation. The government’s legal safety standards haven’t changed. The new guidelines aren’t enforceable rules — they are suggestions to help local officials make tough decisions. In fact, the guidance repeatedly refers to meeting existing standards, not flouting them. The question, though, is how to handle a big radiological release in the real world.

The 86 page draft document is here

Nextbigfuture recommends looking at enhanced steps to mitigate damage

Besides balancing the existing risks of sheltering in place versus evacuation risks there should be an examination of cost effective upgrades to mitigating, limiting and avoiding problems.

What can be done to improve sheltering in place at senior centers and hospitals ? There can be some simple and cost effective structural improvements.

What can be done to mitigate and limit damage ? Besides improved cleanup there can be fast response patching like inflatable covers that would limit radiation to the nuclear plant and prevent or limit how much is allowed to get into the atmosphere. Fukushima had radiation releases over months from used fuel pools and from damaged reactor structures. We have now developed prepared capping of deep ocean oil leaks like the BP spill, we can prepare fast response containment structures to limit and localize radiation leaks.

New EPA guidelines

Following a nuclear disaster, it could be a long time before radiation meets the EPA’s usual safety levels. In the meantime, when is it absolutely necessary to restrict the water people can drink or to abandon an area? Moving people out of a hospital’s intensive care unit, for example, poses its own risks. And when is it safe enough to move back (with precautions)? There are costs to keeping people out of their homes and away from their jobs for long stretches. Repaving roads and restricting crop growth, for example, might make an area habitable while cleanup continues. The guidance encourages local officials to think about these questions — with some sense of where the threshold contamination levels might lie — before they have to make those calls.

After Fukushima, it became clear that the initial radiation level could be reduced significantly by cleanup. We are assuming it won’t just lay fallow for 50 years.

Enable cheap silicon to perform better than current best for solar power

The University of NSW (New South Wales) researchers have come up with improvements in photovoltaic panel design that had not been expected for another decade. The breakthrough involves using hydrogen atoms to counter defects in silicon cells used in solar panels. As a consequence, poor quality silicon can be made to perform like high quality wafers.

The process makes cheap silicon "actually better than the best-quality material people are using at the moment", the head of the university's photovoltaics centre of excellence, Professor Stuart Wenham, said.

Silicon wafers account for more than half the cost of making a solar cell. "By using lower-quality silicon, you can drastically reduce that cost," he said.

Boosting solar efficiency by over 20%

At present, the best commercial solar cells convert between 17 per cent and 19 per cent of the sun's energy into electricity. UNSW's technique, patented this year, should produce efficiencies of between 21 per cent and 23 per cent.

May 05, 2013

Keeping the internet going when there is a crisis or where connectivity and power are not reliable

The people behind Ushahidi, a software platform for communicating information during a crisis, have now developed what they are dubbing a “backup generator for the Internet”—a device that can connect with any network in the world, provide eight hours of wireless connectivity battery life, and can be programmed for new applications, such as remote sensing.

The gadget, dubbed BRCK—slated to be unveiled Monday at a conference in Berlin—is a Wi-Fi router that can serve as many as 20 devices when there is an Internet connection. In other contexts it can serve as a 3G and 4G modem that includes data settings that work on any network in the world—just swap in whatever prepaid Sim card you need.

The BRCK connects to a cloud-based server that lets any BRCK user monitor its performance remotely and manage alerts; leave one at home, for example, and it can send you a text message when the power goes out. The device is also programmable; apps can be written for it; and it comes with up to 16 gigabits of storage. Plug in a camera or other sensor and it’s a monitoring device.

The BRCK was prototyped over the past nine months. To fund the manufacture of the first 1,000 gadgets, it is planning a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter.


This prototype wireless communications device has eight hours of battery power.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 155

1. At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus discusses the report by James Hansen finding that nearly 2 million lives have been saved because of nuclear power that replaced the need for coal burning. She observes that, while this study did receive some publicity because of its author, one might have expected a number that large to have generated more interest.

Rio Tinto’s Mine of the Future

Rio Tinto has plans to increase automation to increase productivity of their mines.

They are looking at automated drills, automated trucks, remote ship loading and automated trains.

There will be over one hundred robotic trucks by 2015. The trucks are driverless and controlled at a central operations center.




When will non-experimental Driverless cars or trucks arrive and when will they be common ? They arrived in 2012

The Economist magazine has hosted a debate about driverless cars between Futurist Paul Saffo and Andrew Bergbaum (director at AlixPartners, a global advisory firm and co-author of the AlixPartners Annual Automotive Study).

Saffo's case

The inevitable arrival of autonomous vehicles is tracing a classic innovation S-curve. First is an extended period—typically a decade or two—when technologies gradually ramp up and innovators explore business models. It is a period of small successes and interesting failures. The general public either is utterly unaware of what is afoot, or concludes it is interesting but unlikely to arrive any time soon.

Then suddenly an inflection point is reached and 20-year failures become overnight successes. Adoption soars and once-futuristic curiosities become unremarkable everyday conveniences. All the innovations we take for granted followed this pattern. TV took off in 1951, going from hopeful possibility to 70% of American households in under a decade. In 1989, networked hypertext was a hazy nerd vision that seemed decades away, but the world wide web arrived a year later, triggering the dotcom revolution of the 1990s. Automobile sales went from nothing to 1m cars on American roads in the first decade after 1900.

Will incumbents will hold back innovation ? No! Just ask the record companies which failed to stop iTunes, or Kodak which watched helplessly as the digital imaging technology it invented utterly destroyed the conventional film market. Of course the arrival of autonomous technologies will disrupt the auto industry and eventually may destroy the current ownership model. But the incumbents can no more slow events than King Canute could order the waves to stop rolling in. Their only option is to get on board—or get run down by insurgents.

In my opening statement I asserted that fully autonomous vehicles would arrive by 2030, but I was just playing it safe. The Society of Automotive Engineers puts the date closer to 2025, and Google co-founder Sergey Brin thinks we will get autonomous rides by 2017. I'll stick with 2030, but honestly, I am certain that I am wrong: autonomous vehicles will arrive much sooner than seems possible today. And when it happens, today's sceptics and naysayers will rush to tell us how obvious and inevitable it all was.

European commission projects 8.0 and 8.1% GDP growth in China in 2013 and 2014 and -0.1 and 1.4% GDP growth for Euro Area

The European Commission has forecast that China's economy will grow 8 percent this year and 8.1 percent in 2014, after it successfully avoided a "hard landing" in 2012.

According to its spring forecast released on Friday, EC officials said China remains exposed to a possible worsening of the international environment, but its principal risk factors remain domestic.

The report said the European Union economy is expected to stabilize in the first half of 2013, following recession in 2012.

Projected GDP growth for the EU is minus 0.1 percent in 2013, and 1.4 percent in 2014, and 1.2 percent in the euro area — weak performances which the report attributed to constrained domestic demand due to a number of impediments, which are typical of the aftermath of deep financial crises.

It said the global average growth rate may climb to 3.8 percent from 3.0 percent in 2012.

Consumer Grade Smartphone satellites go into orbit and send back pictures to amateur radio operators and NASA

For about one week, engineers at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., and amateur radio operators around the world collaborated to reconstruct an image of Earth sent to them from three smartphones in orbit. The joint effort was part of NASA's nanosatellite mission, called PhoneSat, which launched on Sunday, April 21, 2013 aboard the Antares rocket from NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia.


Although the ultimate goal of the PhoneSat mission was to determine whether a consumer-grade smartphone can be used as the main flight avionics for a satellite in space, the three miniature satellites (named Alexander, Graham and Bell) also took pictures of Earth and transmitted these “image-data packets” to multiple ground stations on Earth. Above photo was taken by the PhoneSat-1 (Bell) nanosatellite and reconstructed by the Ames Phonesat Team and multiple amateur radio operators around the world. Image credit: NASA Ames



Israeli airstrikes in Syria for the second time in three days

Israeli warplanes struck areas in and around the Syrian capital, setting off a series of explosions as they targeted a shipment of highly accurate, Iranian-made guided missiles believed to be on their way to Lebanon's Hezbollah group, officials and activists said.

Syria's state media on Sunday reported that Israeli missiles struck a military and scientific research center near the Syrian capital and caused casualties.

The attack, the second in three days, signaled a sharp escalation of Israel's involvement in Syria's civil war

A top Syrian official told CNN in an exclusive interview that the attack was a "declaration of war" by Israel. Syria's government said the target was a military research facility outside Damascus.

Syrian authorities vowed to retaliate against Israel but did not specify what action they would take.