June 29, 2013

Technical hurdles have been overcome for the first human head transplant

The project for the first head transplant in man is code-named HEAVEN/GEMINI (Head Anastomosis Venture with Cord Fusion.

UPDATE - Welcome Reddit readers. This article made the front page of reddit. Thanks for the upvotes.

UPDATE - I cover the internet and news reactions to this article and added technical information.

UPDATE I consider this proposed procedure in the context of organ donation and xenotransplantation.

The technical hurdles have now been cleared thanks to cell engineering. As described in his paper, the keystone to successful spinal cord linkage is the possibility to fuse the severed axons in the cord by exploiting the power of membrane fusogens/sealants. Agents exist that can reconstitute the membranes of a cut axon and animal data have accrued since 1999 that restoration of axonal function is possible. One such molecule is poly-ethylene glycol (PEG), a widely used molecule with many applications from industrial manufacturing to medicine, including as an excipient in many pharmaceutical products. Another is chitosan, a polysaccharide used in medicine and other fields.

HEAVEN capitalizes on a minimally traumatic cut of the spinal cord using an ultra-sharp blade (very different from what occurs in the setting of clinical spinal cord injury, where gross, extensive damage and scarring is observed) followed within minutes by chemofusion (GEMINI). The surgery is performed under conditions of deep hypothermia for maximal protection of the neural tissue. Moreover, and equally important, the motoneuronal pools contained in the cord grey matter remain largely untouched and can be engaged by spinal cord stimulation, a technique that has recently shown itself capable of restoring at least some motor control in spinal injured subjects.

Surgical Neurological International - HEAVEN: The head anastomosis venture Project outline for the first human head transplantation with spinal linkage (GEMINI)

* a head of a monkey was transplanted in the 1970s but the spinal cord could not be repaired at the time
* Spinal cords have been regrown in rats.
* In 2000, guinea pigs had spinal cords surgically cut and then protected with PEG chemical (like what is proposed here) and they had over 90% of spinal nerve transmission restored with a lot of mobility and function restored

Over the last 30 years, scientists have worked to chemically encourage regrowth. Two chemicals, chondroitinase and FGF, show strong signs of doing exactly that--in rats, at least. Independently, over the past three decades, each chemical has shown some promise in restoring simple but crucial rat motor processes, like breathing, even with entirely severed spinal cords.

Two surgeons in the field figured that a combination of the chemicals might enhance the regrowth even more. The surgeons, from Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic, began by entirely severing the spinal cords of 15 rats to ensure no independent, natural regrowth. That shut off the rats' bladder control (a nervous system process that is especially important in rats, since they urinate often and to mark their territory). The researchers then injected the two growth-stimulating chemicals into both sides of the severance, and reinforced the gap in the cord with steel wiring and surgical thread.

The Cleveland clinic has the full description of the rat spinal cord repair.

A better look at the DARPA Warrior Web lightweight, soft clothing like exosuit

Targeting a specific set of applications where a wearer needs some partial assistance from a robot, Wyss Institute researchers are pursuing a new paradigm: the use of soft clothing-like "exosuits." An exosuit does not contain any rigid elements, so the wearer's bone structure must sustain all the compressive forces normally encountered by the body -- plus the forces generated by the exosuit. The suit, which is composed primarily of specially designed fabrics, can be significantly lighter than an exoskeleton since it does not contain a rigid structure. It also provides minimal restrictions to the wearer's motions, avoiding problems relating to joint misalignment. Ongoing work to optimize the suit design and make it portable is funded by DARPA's Warrior Web Program.

A soft robotic exoskeleton, pulled on like a pair of pants, could one day give athletes an extra kick or soldiers the strength to lift heavier loads than their muscles alone could bear.

The soft suit is much lighter than the hard prosthetic exoskeletons, weighing just 7.5 kilograms (not including the air supply that drives the artificial "muscles"). Also, the suit relies on the existing movement of the legs as a person walks — its talent is adding a crucial nudge at the just right moment.

The suit's performance was tested by five healthy members of the Wyss lab — all male — after they trained to use it for about three days. It's confusing to react to the suit at first, but once a person adjusts to the push-and-pull of the suit, you feel the difference, Walsh said. "When you wear it, you feel like you're getting a bit of a boost. After you stop wearing it, you notice that you don't have that extra assist any more."

Getting that timing right is important for the suit to work efficiently, sort of like how finding just the right moment to push a person on a swing set can keep them going fairly efficiently for a long time, Walsh explained. This means the suit needs to be an active sensor of a person's gait as well. "If that timing is off it can actually make it harder for people to walk."

Harvard Biodesign Lab - The suit includes sensors that are fitted on the knee, hip and ankle, to sense a person's gait and gives them an extra push at just the right time.

At 3pm PST tomorrow, Planetary Resources will make a last push on kickstarter fundraising with a live web event with Bill Nye and Richard Branson

With 27 hours left to go on its Kickstarter campaign, Planetary Resources has raised close to $1.3 million.

At 3:00 PM PT tomorrow, Planetary Resources will have a live web event.

Planetary Resources will be going ALL OUT for this event. What does “ALL OUT” mean?
* A Tesla Cannon
* 3D Printed Rocket Nozzles.
* Free Add-Ons Every Half Hour.
* Bill Nye, the Science Guy, in a Bow Tie.
* Special support for ARKYD from the one and only Sir Richard Branson.

Carnival of Space 308 - Multiverse evidence and exoplanets

The Carnival of Space 308 is up at Pam Hoffma's Spacer blog

Andrew Fracknoi - Exploring the Universe - On the discovery of 6 or 7 planets around the nearby faint star Gliese 667c, at least three of which are in the star's habitable zone. Discusses the implications of the discovery for the search for planets and life.

Further evidence of 600-1000 km/s flow across 2.5 billion light years which might mean an attraction from another universe

Researchers analyzing the three-year WMAP data using the kinematic Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect, found evidence of a "surprisingly coherent" 600–1000 km/s flow of clusters toward a 20-degree patch of sky between the constellations of Centaurus and Vela.

Evidence of the existence of 'multiverse' was revealed for the first time by a cosmic map of background radiation data gathered by Planck telescope. The first 'hard evidence' that other universes exist has been claimed to have been found by cosmologists studying the Planck data. They have concluded that it shows anomalies that can only have been caused by the gravitational pull of other universes.

The clusters appear to be moving along a line extending from our solar system toward Centaurus/Hydra, but the direction of this motion is less certain. Evidence indicates that the clusters are headed outward along this path, away from Earth, but the team cannot yet rule out the opposite flow.

Further study shows the flow persists to much greater distances - as far as 2.5 billion light-years away.

The unexplained motion has hundreds of millions of stars dashing towards a certain part of the sky at over eight hundred kilometers per second. Not much speed in cosmic terms, but the preferred direction certainly is: most cosmological models have things moving in all directions equally at the extreme edges of the universe. Something that could make things aim for a specific spot on such a massive scale hasn't been imagined before. The scientists are keeping to the proven astrophysical strategy of calling anything they don't understand "dark", terming the odd motion a "dark flow".

Evidence of collision with another universe during the early formation of our universe

If our universe slammed into a neighboring one during a growth spurt in its first second, the collision would have left a mark. Half of the young cosmos was slightly coarser than the other.

Details about the Higgs Boson also suggest that there is a multiverse.

"“When they smack into each other, there’s kind of a shock wave that propagates into our universe,” said Kleban, an associate professor of physics at New York University. Such a shock wave — if that’s what the image shows — would be evidence in support of the multiverse hypothesis, a well-known but unproven idea that ours is one of infinite universes that bubbled into existence inside a larger vacuum.

The asymmetry of our universe appears in the cosmic microwave background — the staticky afterglow from the moment the universe became transparent, 380,000 years after the Big Bang. The fog of charged particles that until then had enshrouded the cosmos cooled down enough to congeal into neutral atoms, freeing light to travel unimpeded through space for the first time. Over the past three years, the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite captured a 50-megapixel image of this light coming from all directions, each photon imprinted with a record of the temperature where it originated more than 13 billion years ago.

Some cosmologists chalk it up to a statistical fluke. The odds that quantum fluctuations at the birth of the universe could have randomly generated the observed asymmetry are between 0.1 and 1 percent — about the same as a repeatedly tossed coin coming up heads eight times in a row.

Cosmologists have already advanced several competing theories to explain how events during and immediately after the Big Bang could have carved this asymmetry into the cosmos.

Few believe the toy model, with its inflation field plopped into place, can fully explain what jumpstarted the universe. Instead, the field could be one of the extra, curled-up dimensions of space that are postulated by a hypothetical “theory of everything” called string theory, which would likely involve more than one inflation field. In a paper posted to the physics preprint site in May, John McDonald, a cosmologist at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, showed that a two-field model could have caused the asymmetry in the cosmic microwave background as long as the second field, called a curvaton, decayed after inflation ended and after the formation of dark matter.

An unexplained feature appears in the Planck satellite image of the early universe: At the largest scales, temperature fluctuations are more extreme in the half of the sky to the right of the gray line than to the left. (Image: ESA and the Planck Collaboration)

Arxiv - Planck 2013 results. XXIII. Isotropy and Statistics of the CMB

Multiverse evidence from Higgs Boson Details

In order for the Higgs boson to make sense with the mass (or equivalent energy) it was determined to have, the LHC needed to find a swarm of other particles, too. However, None turned up.

With the discovery of only one particle, the LHC experiments deepened a profound problem in physics that had been brewing for decades. Modern equations seem to capture reality with breathtaking accuracy, correctly predicting the values of many constants of nature and the existence of particles like the Higgs. Yet a few constants — including the mass of the Higgs boson — are exponentially different from what these trusted laws indicate they should be, in ways that would rule out any chance of life, unless the universe is shaped by inexplicable fine-tunings and cancellations.

The LHC will resume smashing protons in 2015 in a last-ditch search for answers. But in papers, talks and interviews, Arkani-Hamed and many other top physicists are already confronting the possibility that the universe might be unnatural. (There is wide disagreement, however, about what it would take to prove it.)

“Ten or 20 years ago, I was a firm believer in naturalness,” said Nathan Seiberg, a theoretical physicist at the Institute, where Einstein taught from 1933 until his death in 1955. “Now I’m not so sure. My hope is there’s still something we haven’t thought about, some other mechanism that would explain all these things. But I don’t see what it could be.”

Physicists reason that if the universe is unnatural, with extremely unlikely fundamental constants that make life possible, then an enormous number of universes must exist for our improbable case to have been realized. Otherwise, why should we be so lucky? Unnaturalness would give a huge lift to the multiverse hypothesis, which holds that our universe is one bubble in an infinite and inaccessible foam. According to a popular but polarizing framework called string theory, the number of possible types of universes that can bubble up in a multiverse is around 10^500. In a few of them, chance cancellations would produce the strange constants we observe.

Either we live in an overcomplicated but stand-alone universe, or we inhabit an atypical bubble in a multiverse.

UPDATE - A temperature fluctuation in the cosmic microwave background radiation could be explained by a collision between our universe and another universe in the multiverse or it is a less than one percent quantum fluke or some other theory explains it.

Tri-alpha energy review

Tri-alpha Energy has been operating since 1998. They are the largest privately funded nuclear fusion project with over $140 million raised plus even more new funding from Rusnano (multi-billion dollar Russian fund).

This article is reviewing the 79 page presentation that was released in 2012.

Their goal is aneutronic fusion utilising boron-11 and protons from hydrogen nuclei to cause fusion to carbon-12 and breaking up to produce three helium-4 nuclei - the three (tri) alpha particles. - produces little to no neutrons and therefore little to no significant radioactive products.

The 11B (p,α)αα reaction at low energies is dominated by the 2-T=1 resonance at 675 keV which has a width of 300 keV (Γp = 150 keV, Γ α1 = 150 keV).
The Q-value of the reaction is 8.58 MeV (Ein (cm)x 14).

They will use a direct energy conversion system using an Inverse Cyclotron Converter (ICC). D’s are replaced by four semi-cylindrical electrodes. Energy is removed from the alphas as they spiral past the electrodes connected to a resonant circuit.

In 2012, the design of a 100 MW reactor is underway. Test “shots” to demonstrate plasma confinement are in progress.

They discovered TWO high energy α-particles in their reaction. It is having a huge impact on the reactor design.
They are much easier to extract and convert more efficiently into electricity.

Canada Is the World’s Most Reputable Country for the third year in a row

Canada is the country with the world’s best reputation according to Reputation Institute’s 2013 Country RepTrak™ Study.

The win marks the third year in a row that the North American nation has been ranked first in the 2013 Country
RepTrak™ Study, which surveys more than 27,000 people from the G8 countries.

Reputation Institute released its fourth annual list of 50 countries, ranked based on people’s trust, admiration, respect and affinity for those countries. Each of the 50 countries were chosen due to their large population and economies or those that have been in the public eye as a result of political, economic or natural events.

The Country RepTrak™ Study measures the reputation of 50 countries based on levels of trust, esteem, admiration
and respect, as well as perceptions regarding 16 attributes that include it being viewed as: a safe place to visit, a beautiful country, having friendly and welcoming residents, having progressive social and economic policies, being run by an effective government, and more.

Fieldwork took place between January and March 2013. Along with Canada, which received a score of 76.6 on a 100-point scale, the top five countries include: Sweden (76.5, up from third place in 2012), Switzerland (76.3, also up one notch from last year’s fourth place ranking), Australia (76.1, down from second place), and Norway (74.1 points). At the opposite pole are Russia (36.7), Nigeria (34.0), Pakistan (28.8), Iran (22.6), and Iraq (21.2).

The U.S. ranked 22 nd, China placed 44th , while Japan fared the best at 14th.

Daily Show video explains how since 1790 Canada has had zero banking crisis versus 16 for the United States

No bank crashes in Depression, 1987 or 2007

Planetary resources partners with 3D systems

3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) and Planetary Resources, Inc. announced today that 3D Systems has joined Planetary Resources’ core group of investors and will be a collaborative partner in assisting Planetary Resources to develop and manufacture components of its ARKYD Series of spacecraft using its advanced 3D printing and digital manufacturing solutions.

Planetary Resources already has multiple contracts to develop miniaturized and responsive technologies with far-reaching applications to space assessment, accessibility and resource recovery with a primary goal to mine near-Earth asteroids for raw materials, ranging from elements used in rocket fuel to precious metals, through the development of innovative and cost-effective robotic exploration technologies. The companies see additive manufacturing technologies as enabling to the development of future space infrastructure.

Planetary Resources is teaming up with 3D Systems, whose 3D printing technology will help craft components for the Arkyd line of prospecting spacecraft.

The collaboration should help Planetary Resources build certain parts of its Arkyd 100, 200 and 300 probes more cheaply and efficiently.

USC Dwave quantum annealing paper gets peer reviewed and published in Nature Communication

University of Southern California published a paper that comes that much closer to showing the D-Wave is indeed a quantum computer.

Research shows “a very great agreement” between quantum annealing and the way the D-Wave system operates. Dwave is is not using a computing model known as “simulated annealing,” which obeys the laws of classical physics (the physics of everyday life) rather than the more elusive properties of quantum physics.

The machine contains 512 superconducting circuits, each a tiny loop of flowing current. These are cooled to almost absolute zero, the company says, so they enter a quantum state where the current flows both clockwise and counterclockwise at the same time. When you feed the machine a task, it uses a set of algorithms to map a calculation across these qubits — and then execute that calculation. Basically, this involves determining the probability that a given set of circuits will emerge in a particular pattern when the temperature inside the system is raised.

Dwave's system should be able to perform about 500 quantum annealing step algorithms

Nextbigfuture covered the 12 page arxiv copy of the paper 7 months ago.

Nature Communication - Experimental signature of programmable quantum annealing

June 28, 2013

Quantum computing algorithm for faster unstructured searches

Tom Wong, a graduate student in physics and David Meyer, professor of mathematics at the University of California, San Diego, have proposed a new algorithm for quantum computing that will speed a particular type of problem. But swifter calculations would come at the cost of greater physical resources devoted to precise timekeeping, their analysis has determined.

Their algorithm would be used to conduct a task called an unstructured search. The goal is to locate a particular item within an unsorted pile of data. Solving this problem on a classical computer, which uses 1s and 0s stored on magnetic media, is akin to flipping through a deck of cards, one by one, Wong said. Searching through a large data set could take a very long time.

The trick then, is to design algorithms so that wrong answers cancel out and correct answers accumulate. The nature of those algorithms depends on the medium in which information is stored.

Meyer and Wong considered a computer based on a state of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate. These are atoms caught in an electromagnetic trap and chilled so cold that they “fall” into a shared lowest quantum state and act as one.

The equation usually used to describe quantum systems is linear, but the one that approximates the state of a Bose-Einstein condensate has a term that is cubed. They propose computing with this cubic equation which will more rapidly converge on the answer. For example, their algorithm can be made to search for a particular item among a million items in the same time it would take to search among ten items.

New Journal of Physics - Nonlinear quantum search using the Gross–Pitaevskii equation

We solve the unstructured search problem in constant time by computing with a physically motivated nonlinearity of the Gross–Pitaevskii type. This speedup comes, however, at the novel expense of increasing the time-measurement precision. Jointly optimizing these resource requirements results in an overall scaling of N^(1/4). This is a significant, but not unreasonable, improvement over the N^(1/2) scaling of Grover's algorithm. Since the Gross–Pitaevskii equation approximates the multi-particle (linear) Schrödinger equation, for which Grover's algorithm is optimal, our result leads to a quantum information-theoretic lower bound on the number of particles needed for this approximation to hold, asymptotically.

Nitride semiconductor on graphene promises 1 terahertz performance

The US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington DC has developed a method to grow epitaxial nitride semiconductors on graphene. The researchers hope that this could lead to high-speed current-switching applications using devices such as hot-electron transistors (HETs).

The NRL team believes that using graphene as the base region, in conjunction with nitride semiconductors, could lead to devices with cut-off frequencies greater than 1THz (1000GHz).

Up to now, growth of nitride semiconductors on graphene has resulted in non-uniform GaN crystallites and not a continuous film.

Applied physics express - Epitaxial Growth of III–Nitride/Graphene Heterostructures for Electronic Devices

Limits to Growth 30 year update claimed the world is in overshoot of carrying capacity - we are not in overshoot

A 28 page Synopsis of the Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update is online here

Main flaws -

* increasing pollution does not have a tight correlation to massive increase in deaths. Pollution mitigation (especially for particulates is affordable)
* If resources dropped there would not be a massive increase in deaths (rationing can handle dropping to 4 times or more in food and water)
* Resources are not dropping because of large amounts of oil and gas in place and large sources of uranium and other resources that are not counted in official reserve calculations.
* Making poor people richer in the developing world will make them far more adaptable to rising temperatures and other hardships. Projects can be paid for to prevent flooding or pay to move coastal cities or have the electricity for air conditioning. Actual improvements in agriculture, water and energy do not track with the model.

The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update claims signs are everywhere around us [that the world is in overshoot of carrying capacity]:
• Sea level has risen 10–20 cm since 1900. Most non-polar glaciers are retreating, and the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice is decreasing in summer.

NBF - sea level rise is not causing civilization to collapse or causing the death of massive numbers of people. A few thousands deaths from flooding is no where near some kind of death of hundreds of millions in the standard run or other scenarios. Situations can be problems that justify mitigation while not signaling civilization doom.

• In 1998 more than 45 percent of the globe’s people had to live on incomes averaging $2 a day or less. Meanwhile, the richest one-fifth of the world’s population has 85 percent of the global GNP. And the gap between rich and poor is widening.

NBF Note - Brookings Institute analysis of poverty has better numbers than the World Bank. Brookings institute indicated the 2015 the extreme poverty should be down to 10% or less of the world's population. Down from 47 per cent in 1990 and 24 percent in 2008. It seems that a goal of getting extreme poverty down below 5% is easily possible for 2025. This would leave about 350 million people living with less than $1.25/day mainly in Africa. Nigeria is actually doing pretty well economically and is expected to account for 90-100 million of the extremely poor in 2015. If Nigeria continues to do well then they could make a lot of progress against poverty by 2020. A reachable positive scenario is to have less than 200 million living with less than $1.25/day. An extreme poverty rate of 2.5%.

• In 2002, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN estimated that 75 percent of the world’s oceanic fisheries were fished at or beyond capacity. The North Atlantic cod fishery, fished sustainably for hundreds of years, has collapsed, and the species may have been pushed to biological extinction.

NBF Note - fish farming produced 66.5 million tons of fish in 2012.

• The first global assessment of soil loss, based on studies of hundreds of experts, found that 38 percent, or nearly 1.4 billion acres, of currently used agricultural land has been degraded.

• Fifty-four nations experienced declines in per capita GDP for more than a decade during the period 1990–2001

So the 30 year update is saying that we are already in population and resource usage overshoot.

As in the original Limits to Growth, there a few paragraphs or pages where the researchers leave themselves an out by claiming that their model is imperfect and is not a prediction but then go on to hundreds of pages of doomer claims.

As noted at

The study was based on a computer model developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and designed “to investigate five major trends of global concern—accelerating industrial development, rapid population growth, widespread malnutrition, depletion of nonrenewable resources, and a deteriorating environment.” The goal was to use the model to explore the increasingly dire "predicament of mankind." The researchers modestly acknowledged that their model was “like every other model, imperfect, oversimplified, and unfinished.”

Yet even with this caveat, the MIT researchers concluded, “If present growth trends in world population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years.” With considerable understatement, they added, “The most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity.” In other words: a massive population crash in a starving, polluted, depleted world.

The standard run is showing that collapse happens starting in 2020 / 2030 and is clearly happening by 2050.

June 27, 2013

Three Days left in Planetary Resources Kickstarter for Public Space Telescope

Planetary Resources has raised $1.22 million from nearly 15,000 supporters for the public space telescope that is to be launched in 2015. The basic goal of raising $1 million has been met and they are targeting various stretch goals in the last three days of fund raising.

Fitch Rating Global Economic Outlook and other GDP Forecasts

Fitch Ratings says in its newly published Global Economic Outlook (GEO) that it expects the global economy to strengthen gradually in H213 and 2014-15 as the US gathers steam and the eurozone approaches a cyclical turning point. However, the agency has cut its 2013-2014 growth forecasts for all four of the BRIC nations. Its latest forecasts for world GDP growth are 2.4% in 2013, 3.1% in 2014% and 3.2% in 2015 (weighted at market exchange rates).

For the major advanced economies (MAE), Fitch forecasts weak growth of just 0.9% in 2013 before accelerating to 1.9% in 2014 (both practically unchanged from the March GEO) and 2.0% in 2015 (included for the first time).

"Several of the largest emerging markets are experiencing strains from spill-overs from advanced economies and China, difficult policy trade-offs, a declining impact from credit growth and structural bottlenecks. Therefore growth differentials will narrow between advanced economies and emerging markets over the forecast horizon" says Gergely Kiss, Director in Fitch's Sovereign team. Nonetheless EM growth will continue to far outstrip the pace in MAEs and to strengthen from 4.8% in 2013 to 5.2% in 2014-2015.

Fitch estimates that 2012-2013 will see the second weakest BRICs' growth (after 2009) since the Russian crisis in 1998. It forecasts China to grow by 7.5% in 2013 (down from 8.0% in the March GEO) and 2014, followed by 7% in 2015. The agency has also cut its growth forecasts for other major EMs. Downward revisions for India, Brazil and Russia total 0.8pp, 1.1pp and 1.7pp for 2013 and 2014, respectively.

The US private sector's positive growth momentum is supported by the housing market recovery, improving household balance sheets, strong corporate profitability and loose monetary conditions. Fiscal drag, stemming from tax increases and spending cuts due to the sequester, is a near term downside risk. GDP growth will accelerate from 1.9% in 2013 to 2.8% in 2014 and 3% in 2015 as the pace of fiscal consolidation eases.

June 26, 2013

Limits to Growth was Wrong

The authors of The Limits to Growth predicted that before 2013, the world would have run out of aluminum, copper, gold, lead, mercury, molybdenum, natural gas, oil, silver, tin, tungsten, and zinc. Oil and natural gas were to run out in 1990 and 1992, respectively; today, reserves of both are larger than they were in 1970, although we consume dramatically more. Within the past six years, shale gas alone has doubled potential gas resources in the United States and halved the price.

UPDATE - Nextbigfuture has a new article that goes into the Limits to Growth and the updates in more detail. The new article has links to the online copy of Limits to Growth, the 28 page update synopsis and other defenses and critiques.

As for economic collapse, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that global GDP per capita will increase 14-fold over this century and 24-fold in the developing world.

The genius [insidiousness] of The Limits to Growth was to fuse these worries with fears of running out of stuff. We were doomed, because too many people would consume too much. Even if our ingenuity bought us some time, we would end up killing the planet and ourselves with pollution. The only hope was to stop economic growth itself, cut consumption, recycle, and force people to have fewer children, stabilizing society at a significantly poorer level.

We need to focus on real problems and the relatively easy solutions.

* Elimination of extreme poverty - below $1.25 per day is achievable in 10-15 years

The World Bank President outlined a plan to reduce extreme poverty to less than 3% of the world's population by 2030. This is pretty much the same poverty target suggested by Nextbigfuture.

Brookings Institute analysis of poverty has better numbers than the World Bank. Brookings institute indicated the 2015 the extreme poverty should be down to 10% or less of the world's population. Down from 47 per cent in 1990 and 24 percent in 2008. It seems that a goal of getting extreme poverty down below 5% is easily possible for 2025. This would leave about 350 million people living with less than $1.25/day mainly in Africa. Nigeria is actually doing pretty well economically and is expected to account for 90-100 million of the extremely poor in 2015. If Nigeria continues to do well then they could make a lot of progress against poverty by 2020. A reachable positive scenario is to have less than 200 million living with less than $1.25/day. An extreme poverty rate of 2.5%.

Carnival of Space 307

The Carnival of Space 307 is up at Links Through Space

Universe Today - Thierry Legault had less than half a second to capture these incredible shots of the Shenzhou-10 module docked to Tiangong-1 Chinese station transiting across the Sun. And it he did it not only once, but twice, on two consecutive days.

Folding Bikes

The Montague Paratrooper Pro [$999] bike is built like a tank, folds like a Swiss Army knife, and weighs less than body armor. Backed by a DARPA grant, David Montague designed the original Paratrooper bike in 1997 to be used by the U.S. Marines. The result was a cycle that a paratrooper could unfold as soon as he hit the ground.

Take your off-road riding to the next level with the Paratrooper Pro. With plenty of gears for climbing and 100mm of travel in the front shocks to absorb the bumps of off-road trails, you'll be ready to tackle the toughest terrain.

Clever integration of the patented CLIX System allows for the Paratrooper Pro to be folded in under 20 seconds without the use of tools. A flip of the CLIX quick release lever on the top tube and the bike folds to a compact size.

The Paratrooper Pro frame is designed around a patented folding system. This design eliminates the need to break the frame in order to fold the bike. Not only does this make folding easier but it makes this bike the strongest folding bike on the market.

Alan Boyle review nuclear fusion and considers whether nuclear fusion energy funding should be cut

Alan Boyle at MSNBC looks at the budgetary realities have raised new questions about just how much of a future fusion power has.

Nextbigfuture position on nuclear fusion.
* mastering commercial nuclear fusion is worthwhile and worthy of private and public investment.
* ITER (large tokomaks) project is costing the most money for fusion and even if successful would take until about 2060 to make a commercial reactor (per their own project plan) and would not be cheaper than current nuclear fission reactor technology.
* ITER is the least worthy of funding but I would replace it with support for deep burn fission research and development if a faster and safer energy technology development program were to be selected
* the national ignition facility is funded for the purpose of replacing the nuclear bomb testing program to enable better nuclear stockpile management
* Several of the nuclear fusion research projects (Tri-alpha energy, Lawrenceville plasma physics, General Fusion [Canada]) are privately funded.

* The US government should be looking at fixing bigger government funding waste. Military budgets should be cut by about $400 billion per year. This can be done without sacrificing US global geopolitical interests. It would mean having consistent and well thought out global policies and goals. Much of the costs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been funded through regular appropriations bills, but through emergency supplemental appropriations bills. As such, most of these expenses were not included in the budget deficit calculation prior to FY2010. The US will not fight a conventional war with China. Every other nation has less than $100 billion in defense spending. A USA with stronger economy in 2030 with lower deficits and ideally with nuclear fusion technology and deep burn nuclear fission reactors would be a stronger country.

* US government spending can also see big savings by making medical care more efficient with aggressive funding for access and provision of preventative care. There should also be a DARPA of medicine for finding real cures. Disease management that costs $100,000 per year per person are no good. You need to get to cures that are cheap like vaccines and immune system boosting and other approaches

* Developing deep burn fission and viable nuclear fusion energy that is lower cost energy and factory mass producing small modular reactors would provide economic benefit to the USA.

Nextbigfuture on the technical aspects of nuclear fusion
* Nuclear fusion will enable vastly superior space propulsion for better ground launch and movement in space up to about 20% or so of the speed of light
* There are nuclear fusion reactors that will achieve far lower cost for clear energy
* earlier and less commercial versions of nuclear fusion can still close the nuclear fission fuel cycle by generating the neutrons to turn uranium 238 into plutonium 239. Plutonium can be used as fuel in fission reactors
* Deep burn nuclear fission reactors (like Terrestrial energy's integral molten salt reactor) should be able to completely use all of the uranium and plutonium in fission and thus reduce waste [unburned fuel] by 50 to 100 times, lower the cost of energy by three times. The deep burn reactors have lower technological development risks than the nuclear fusion reactors

Genome sequencing for $1000 this year and $100 in 2016

The cost of whole genome sequencing that was around $10 million in 2007 will be around $1000 by the end of 2013 and is projected to be under $100 in a three years’ time.

The genetic testing market is estimated to reach $25 billion annually by 2021.

With the Ion Proton System -- a $100,000 machine that can sit on top of a table -- it's not light that's being recorded, but changes in pH balance. The DNA snippets being sequenced are attached to tiny beads sitting in as many as a billion tiny wells on a custom-designed semiconductor chip. The chip is flooded with DNA nucleotides, and when a base snaps into place, a hydrogen ion is released and recorded.

June 25, 2013

Medium orbit satellites for the faster backbone communication for telecom and ISP as the basis for cheaper and faster broadband

Standard Geosynchronous (GEO) satellites operate approximately 36,000km away from Earth. As a result, round-trip data transmission times significantly exceed 500 milliseconds. O3b's Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites are far closer – approximately 8,000km away from Earth. As a result, round-trip data transmission times are reduced to approximately 130 milliseconds.

They will be fully operational by Nov, 2013 and have just started launching satellites.

This virtually eliminates the delay that plagues voice and data communications via GEO satellite systems. For example, it means that users can download a web page four times as quickly.

O3b's system employs parabolic antennas, which can handle large chunks of data. This helps O3b to deliver an ultra-low-latency trunking solution.

The first phase of the project requires eight medium-orbit satellites, though the system is designed to be modular, so more satellites can be added to increase capacity.

O3b will begin commercial service in 2013, providing telecommunications companies and ISP's with a fast, inexpensive backbone for 3G, WiMAX, and fixed-line networks, it said. If all goes according to plan, in two years this technology could advance Internet connectivity in more than 150 countries occupying all corners of the globe.

Error in population observations and population forecast errors

When compared with ex-post observed real trends, the twelve sets of populations projections that the United Nations prepared between the 1950s and the end of the 1980s show a clear tendency over time towards better accuracy. Part of this improvement is due to better data for base populations. The number of elderly persons for the world as a whole has been systematically underestimated by up to 8 percentage points in the base populations for the forecasts made in the 1960s and 1970s. This feature disappeared in the 1980s, when errors in the world's base population became as small as between -1 and +1 per cent in almost every five-year age group. Not only the base population, but also implied crude death rates have become more accurate: forecast errors for the CDR were particularly large in the 1950s and 1960s. On the other hand, errors in long term (10-15 years) crude birth rate forecasts were still at a relatively high level up to the period 1980-85.

1950 population observation and counts required many revisions over several years. They could not accurately count and estimate the number people in the world for the year the estimate was made.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 162

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 162 is up at Atomic Power Review

Atomic Insight discusses the energy documentary Pandoras Promise.

The film shows people and allows them to speak for themselves. It does not limit the footage of nuclear energy opponents to classic reels of ’70s or ’80s vintage “No Nukes” concerts, but also shows very current assemblies with leaders like Wasserman and Caldicott at the microphone. They even try to let Dr. Caldicott explain herself and her position. This does not qualify as “mocking.”

June 24, 2013

China's power needs will nearly triple to 15000 TWh by 2030 and most of it will still be coal power

“It is very unlikely that demand for thermal coal in China will peak before 2030,” said William Durbin, the Beijing-based president of global markets with Wood Mackenzie, an energy research and consulting firm, in a statement accompanying the release of a new report entitled “China: The Illusion of Peak Coal.”

“Despite efforts to limit coal consumption and seek alternative fuel options, China’s strong appetite for thermal coal will lead to a doubling of demand by 2030,” the report concludes. Coal consumption in China, bolstered by a period of rampant construction of coal-fired plants that has only recently slowed, must rise to feed China’s explosive demand for power, which will nearly triple to 15,000 TWh by 2030. This assumes power demand per unit of GDP to fall by half in just 17 years. If efficiency gains are not achieved then China's power demands will be even higher.

China's strong appetite for thermal coal will lead to a doubling of demand by 2030. China’s demand will grow to approximately seven billion tonnes per annum (btpa) of thermal coal which is contrary to speculation that China's thermal coal demand may be reaching a peak in the next decade.

Transformer toys made that can actually transform themselves

Tomy has exhibited the prototype of a new hobby robot "International Tokyo Toy Show 2013" that is a self-transforming robot.

Currently, the Transformer robot is unable to walk, but as you'll see in the following video it is already able to transform from a car into its humanoid shape on its own. The mini servos aren't very quick or powerful, being so small, but chances seem good that it will be able to walk on its own in the future. The Zoids toy builds on the i-SODOG so it is capable of quardrupedal walking. Takara Tomy is keeping a tight lid on an actual release date and price.

June 23, 2013

How many African countries want Google Loon - the balloon internet system

Google’s latest pet project, called Loon, is meant to deliver the Internet to new parts of the world via solar-powered balloons soaring through the stratosphere. Yet some technologists in Africa say the project may be unrealistic as a competitive networking solution for their continent.

The Google Loon service would (initially) only provide 3G connectivity, meaning that it would need to compete with cellular networks that are expanding and becoming ever cheaper to use. “In Kenya, most parts of the country have 3G access,” says Phares Kariuki, previously a technology consultant to the World Bank, who now leads an effort to build a supercomputing cluster at iHub, the tech startup space in Nairobi.

Even if Google managed to deliver faster speeds from future balloon fleets, they’d be solving the wrong problem, Kariuki adds: “The barrier to Internet adoption is not so much the lack of connectivity. It’s the high cost of the equipment.” People in poor areas simply can’t afford laptops and smartphones, Kariuki says, and generally prefer cheap feature phones.

Google’s Loon project manager, Mike Cassidy, says that even if some countries like Kenya have substantial 3G coverage, many others don’t. “We don’t think there is any one solution or one company that will have a solution for the whole world,” he says. “We just think that from what we’ve seen, there are huge swaths of people who don’t have connectivity.”

Comparing centenarians to extremely sick diabetic people has found more genes that cause diabetes

Aging researcher compared centenarians on one side and T2D patients with severe complications (people with extreme diabetic complications) on the other, thus maximizing possible genetic differences among patients and controls. Their data suggest that the use of relatively small numbers of cases and controls with extreme phenotypes (thus reducing sample heterogeneity) in genetic association studies of age-related diseases can be successful in detecting significant associations.

This method might be used for intelligence related genes by comparing genius IQ people with people with far below normal intelligence instead of against average intelligence people as the control group.

Genetic association studies of age-related, chronic human diseases often suffer from a lack of power to detect modest effects. Here an alternative approach of including healthy centenarians as a more homogeneous and extreme control group. As a proof of principle they focused on type 2 diabetes (T2D) and assessed /genotypic associations of 31 SNPs associated with T2D, diabetes complications and metabolic diseases and SNPs of genes relevant for telomere stability and age-related diseases. They hypothesized that the frequencies of risk variants are inversely correlated with decreasing health and longevity. They performed association analyses comparing diabetic patients and non-diabetic controls followed by association analyses with extreme phenotypic groups (T2D patients with complications and centenarians).

Results drew attention to rs7903146 (TCF7L2 gene) that showed a constant increase in the frequencies of risk genotype (TT) from centenarians to diabetic patients who developed macro-complications and the strongest genotypic association was detected when diabetic patients were compared to centenarians (p_value = 9.066*10^-7). They conclude that robust and biologically relevant associations can be obtained when extreme phenotypes, even with a small sample size, are compared.

Focardi who worked with Rossi on the Energy Catalyzer has died

Rossi has announced that Prof. Sergio Focardi has died. Sergio Focardi worked with Rossi to develop the highly controversial energy catalyzer (cold fusion / LENR - low energy nuclear reaction) device.

Sergio Focardi (1932–2013) was an Italian physicist and professor emeritus at the University of Bologna. He led the Department of Bologna of the (Italian) National Institute for Nuclear Physics and the Faculty of Mathematical, Physical and Natural Sciences at the University of Bologna. He was a member of the President's Board of the Italian Physical Society. From 1992 he had been working on cold fusion with nickel-hydrogen reactors. Since 2007 Focardi and inventor Andrea Rossi had been collaborating on developing the Energy Catalyzer or E-Cat.