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January 04, 2014

China will spray bacteria over 133 square kilometer over the next 5 years to reclaim desert and slow the spread of deserts and a tiny part of effort to reclaim 200,000 square km of desert by 2020

Cyanobacteria are now being used in China to shore up the verges of roads and railways in northern China as well as the margins of oases and farmland. A team plans to seed 133 square kilometer of desert over the next five years. The bacteria creates 0.5 to 1.0 centimeter thick biocrust over the desert which helps topsoil to reform and prevents top soil erosion.

People have been trying to use bacteria in this way since the 1980s, says Matthew Bowker, a soil ecologist at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. His group is working on a similar method, but hasn't yet used it on a large scale. China is willing to put in the money to scale the process.

Planting hardy grasses helps keep sand in place, but the wind can still whip away particles between the grasses. So Chunxiang Hu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences's Institute of Hydrobiology in Wuhan has developed an alternative approach. She coats planted dunes with a mixture of photosynthesising cyanobacteria that can thrive in the semi-arid environment.

China has run a trial for eight years and is scaling it up now

Grown in nearby ponds, the cyanobacteria are trucked into the desert every few days and sprayed over the dunes, where they form sticky filaments that hold soil particles in place and prevent them from being blown away. Cyanobacteria get their energy from sunlight via photosynthesis, and as part of the chemical reactions involved, they absorb carbon from the atmosphere and provide the organic matter the soil needs to be productive.

Hu's long-running trial shows that after eight years, dunes treated with cyanobacteria developed a biological crust nearly 1 centimetre thick when on the shady side of dunes. On the sunny side, the crust was about half as thick. The topsoil improved where the crust developed, spurring plant growth

Environmental Science Technology - Artificially Accelerating the Reversal of Desertification: Cyanobacterial Inoculation Facilitates the Succession of Vegetation Communities

Old laws make oil tankers cost five times too much so in spite of an oil boom US citizens pay at least $4 per barrel more and the law makes the cost of all shipped goods higher

US oil tankers that comply with a 93 year old law (Jones act to protect US shipping industry from foreign competition) means costs are five times higher than buying ships from Asia. $200 million per ship instead of $40 million.

When large container ships filled with bicycles and sleeper sofas leave China for the U.S., they don’t stop in Hawaii to unload cargo bound for that state before continuing to Los Angeles or Seattle. Under a 93-year-old U.S. law, the Jones Act, only U.S.-made, U.S.-flagged ships can deliver goods between U.S. ports. If a Chinese ship stopped in Hawaii to drop-off cargo, and then picked up, say, a load of Hawaiian coffee, it could not unload that coffee in another U.S. port. Chinese-made goods to be sold in Hawaii are routinely unloaded on the West Coast, and then loaded back onto another U.S. ship for the 2,500 mile trip back to the island state.

For most of its existence it went largely unnoticed, and outside of wasting a lot of fuel and making products in Hawaii needlessly expensive, its impact on the broader U.S. economy was muted.

U.S. energy companies get squeezed by the act as they try to deliver record amounts of oil nationwide. By yearend the U.S. will produce about 8 million barrels of oil per day, up from an average of 6.5 million in 2012. Yet there are just 32 tankers and 42 barges eligible under the Jones Act to haul fuel along the U.S. Gulf Coast and East Coast, according to MJLF & Associates, a shipping brokerage in Connecticut.

$2 to ship to Canada on a foreign ship but $6 per barrel to ship to the east coast of the US

ARPA-E makes available 20 grants of up to $500,000 for Low Energy Nuclear reactions AKA Cold fusion

For all of those who criticize my coverage of cold fusion. I am not the agency making $10 million available for funding. The fact that ARPA-E is doing it is technology news.

The Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA-001002) is intended to provide rapid support to revolutionary applied energy research (Studies) that may lead to new ARPA-E programs to develop transformational and disruptive energy technologies. Studies are defined as single-phase efforts of durations less than 12 months and cost less than $500,000. Awards will be issued through Grants.

Here is a link to the document describing the funding opportunity.

This announcement is purposely broad in scope to encourage the submission of the most innovative, out-of-the-box ideas in energy technology. Since the first law of thermodynamics states that energy is always conserved, i.e. it can never be created or destroyed, our principal concern is with the conversion of energy into useful energy or maximizing usable energy (exergy). Useful energy can take many forms including: radiant energy from lights, electrical energy for appliances, thermal energy to heat homes, mechanical energy for transportation, chemical energy in the form of food, and energy used to make products. From the second law of thermodynamics, the entropy of a system cannot decrease when converting energy from one form to another (ΔS ≥ 0), the end effect being that all useful energy humans consume ultimately results in the production of heat that is radiated into space, except for a few exceptions such as the energy embedded in products. It is therefore our endeavor to identify technologies that enable the efficient and cost-effective conversion between or within the various different forms of energy while minimizing exergy destruction. Within this general framework, ARPA-E seeks transformative ideas that enable the most efficient,economical, sustainable, and environmentally benign conversion of energy while minimizing exergy destruction.


ARPA-e was first funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Since that time, the Agency has funded about 285 projects totaling approximately $770 million across the entire technology landscape.




Strong Confirmation that Cherokee Investment Partners is Working with Rossi and his Super-Controversial Energy Catalyzer and they are meeting with Chinese officials

An article on a Chinese site called Icebank.cn, (apparently a refrigeration company) provides more information about Cherokee Investment Partners CEO Thomas Darden’s recent visit to China in connection with his involvement with the newly formed company Industrial Heat LLC.

Cherokee is a leading private equity firm investing capital and expertise in brownfield redevelopment. For more than two decades, Cherokee’s executive team has produced strong financial returns while delivering positive environmental and social results. Cherokee has invested in more than 525 properties worldwide. The firm has nearly $2 billion under management and is currently investing its fourth fund.

Here is the google translation of the Icebank page

A meeting was apparently held for Cherokee CEO (and Industrial Heat Chairman) Tom Darden to report to Chinese officials and business personnel about the E-Cat. The article says that he met with “the president of the National Academy of planning a low-carbon energy” — who would have to be a government official

China's coal mining deaths down to 1049 and everyday energy slaughter. But hey at least we are not using nuclear which would kill anyone

China had 549 coal mining accidents in 2013 that left 1,049 people dead or missing. Industry reports from a year ago say more than 1,300 people died in mining accidents in China in 2012 and 1,973 died in 2011.

The United States had 20 coal mining fatalities in 2013. The US mines about one third of the coal that China does.

The US does a lot more mountain top removal coal mining. This is the process of using thousands of tons of explosives to blow off the top of a mountain and any forest there so that coal (which I like to call burnable dirt) is exposed. Then the coal is scooped out for years. After which dirt is pushed back to get the approximation of the old mountain top and tree seedlings are planted [to restore the environment]. There are also big dammed up lakes of sludge which is the mix of pulverized rock, mud and blown up plants and trees.

Mining is just the tip of the coal mining iceberg of death. The bigger economic and health impact is literally over a million deaths from air pollution.

A unit train of coal consists of 110 carloads, each carrying 100 tons of coal. 25% of the weight of Wyoming coal is water, the rest is coal with an energy content of 33MJ/kg. The Genoa coal fired power plant can produce 378 Megawatts of electricity. How many trainloads of coal are needed in a year ? Only about 40 percent of the thermal energy in coal is converted to electricity. So the electricity generated per ton of coal is 0.4 x 6,150 kWh or 2,460 kWh/ton. A typical 500 megawatt coal power plant produces 3.5 billion kWh per year. That is enough energy for 4 million of our light bulbs to operate year round. To produce this amount of electrical energy, the plant burns 1.43 million tons of coal. The Genoa plant needs 135 trainloads of coal each year. One trainload every three days. A gigawatt power station with three coal plants would need one trainload (8000 tons of coal and the rest water in the coal rock) every day.

Ice Breaker that rescued the global warming investigators is also stuck in ice

The Chinese icebreaker that sent out a helicopter on Thursday to airlift dozens of passengers [researchers and environmentalists who were investigating the real effects of global warming] from a ship stuck in the Antarctic ice is now beset by ice and unable to move, according to Australian Maritime Safety Agency (AMSA).

The captain of the Xue Long told AMSA that his ship is safe, has plenty of food and supplies and will not need assistance at this time.
The Australian icebreaker, the Aurora Australis, which is carrying the rescued passengers, was placed on standby in case the Xue Long needs help. But the captains of both the Xue Long and the Russian-flagged MV Akadmik Shokalskiy agreed they no longer need the Aurora Australis.
They said they will be able to provide mutual support to each other.

It was Australia, China and French that performed a three nation rescue using multiple ice breakers and helicopters. The Russian ship was the original charter.

AMSA released the Aurora Australis from search and rescue and the vessel now continues to make its passage with the freed passengers to the Casey base to complete a resupply.

The Chinese ship plans to try to get out of the thick ice early Saturday at a point when tidal conditions are most favorable, according to AMSA.
The Chinese vessel's struggle comes the day after its helicopter ferried all 52 passengers from an ice-locked Akadmik Shokalskiy to the Aurora Australis.

The US F35 jet is partially made in China

The Pentagon repeatedly waived laws banning Chinese-built components on U.S. weapons in order to keep the $392 billion Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter program on track in 2012 and 2013, even as U.S. officials were voicing concern about China's espionage and military buildup.

The F35 program is already years behind schedule and 70 percent over initial cost estimates. At the time Kendall was granting the waivers, officials were acutely worried that further delays and cost increases would erode the foreign orders needed to drive down the future cost of each warplane.

According to Pentagon documents reviewed by Reuters, chief U.S. arms buyer Frank Kendall allowed two F-35 suppliers, Northrop Grumman and Honeywell International, to use Chinese magnets for the new warplane's radar system, landing gears and other hardware. Without the waivers, both companies could have faced sanctions for violating federal law and the F-35 program could have faced further delays.

Fed Chair Bernanke says headwinds are abating and growth will pick up in 2014 and 2015

Bernanke argues that the headwinds to economic growth that dominated his second four-year term in office are now abating and growth could pick up.

Mainly Quotes, Predictions and Explanation from Bernanke

The encouraging news is that the headwinds I have mentioned may now be abating. Near-term fiscal policy at the federal level remains restrictive, but the degree of restraint on economic growth seems likely to lessen somewhat in 2014 and even more so in 2015; meanwhile, the budgetary situations of state and local governments have improved, reducing the need for further sharp cuts. The aftereffects of the housing bust also appear to have waned. For example, notwithstanding the effects of somewhat higher mortgage rates, house prices have rebounded, with one consequence being that the number of homeowners with "underwater" mortgages has dropped significantly, as have foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies. Household balance sheets have strengthened considerably, with wealth and income rising and the household debt-service burden at its lowest level in decades. Partly as a result of households' improved finances, lending standards to households are showing signs of easing, though potential mortgage borrowers still face impediments. Businesses, especially larger ones, are also in good financial shape. The combination of financial healing, greater balance in the housing market, less fiscal restraint, and, of course, continued monetary policy accommodation bodes well for U.S. economic growth in coming quarters. But, of course, if the experience of the past few years teaches us anything, it is that we should be cautious in our forecasts.

What about the rest of the world? The U.S. recovery appears to be somewhat ahead of those of most other advanced industrial economies; for example, real GDP is still slightly below its pre-recession peak in Japan and remains 2 percent and 3 percent below pre-recession peaks in the United Kingdom and the euro area, respectively. Nevertheless, I see some grounds for cautious optimism abroad as well. As in the United States, central banks in other advanced economies have taken significant steps to strengthen financial systems and to provide policy accommodation.

Mystery of wages lagging productivity growth solved. Recalc shows Productivity Growth was weaker too

Worker productivity growth has been below 2% in five of the past seven years after a long-run above 3%.

“Disappointing productivity growth,” Bernanke said, “must be added to the list of reasons that economic growth has been slower than hoped.” Unlike the other reasons—the faltering Euro, for instance, or ill-timed state and federal spending cuts—weak productivity growth was an unknown factor until this past November, when earlier data were recalculated—“an illustration,” Bernanke said, “of the frustrations of real-time policymaking.”

Because of weak productivity growth—that is, weak growth in output per worker per hour—Gross Domestic Product is about 7% below where it should be, according to Fed economists.

Until the recent data revision, productivity growth was one of the long-term bright spots in the economy. After tanking between 1973 and 1995, productivity growth rebounded to levels comparable to the booming post-World War II years, probably because of efficiencies generated by the World Wide Web. Nobody worried that productivity growth was too slow; instead, many worried that median income growth wasn’t keeping up with productivity growth, as it had during the postwar boom. (Indeed, in almost every year since 1999, pre-tax median household income has been declining.)

Rising productivity growth unaccompanied by a comparable rise in incomes for the typical American family is a problem. But slackening productivity growth creates a different problem: it limits the extent to which, even theoretically, wages can rise.

Economist Roubini who is famous for accurate bearish calls is bullish on the World Economy

Economist Nouriel Roubini, renowned for his foretelling of doom and gloom in financial markets, has turned bullish in his 2014 outlook, expecting economic performance to "pick up modestly" in both advanced economies and emerging markets.

Threats of a euro zone implosion, another U.S. government partial shutdown, a debt-ceiling fight, a hard landing in China, or a war between Israel and Iran will be far more subdued, he said. Most advanced economies will still fail to reach true growth potential in 2014, he said, but explained that the positives for the U.S. economy included the shale-energy revolution, improvement in the labor and housing markets, and the flow of manufacturing back to the country.

He also expects emerging markets (EMs) to perform well next year. A fall in commodity prices in 2013 and fears over the "tapering" of U.S. Federal Reserve stimulus hit these economies hard, but Roubini expects them to grow faster this year - closer to 5 percent.

January 03, 2014

Fattening World, Obesity is a pandemic but Daily Show mocking large soda ban shows the resistance to change

The number of overweight and obese adults in the developing world has almost quadrupled to around one billion since 1980. The Overseas Development Institute said one in three people worldwide was now overweight and urged governments to do more to influence diets. In the UK, 64% of adults are classed as being overweight or obese. In US, 70% over overweight or obese.

To make things go in the other direction and have more people get thinner, societies need to restructure so that the easy or automatic behavior pattern is one with better diets and more exercise. This the case with poverty and poor health in the developing world where people get unclean water. We cannot expect them to know to buy the Chlorine and alway remember to buy the Chlorine and then put it into their water. The healthy option needs to be the default action.

The executive summary and full report go into details on what is happening.


Computer algorithm developed by TAU researchers identifies genes that could be transformed to stop or slow the aging process

Restricting calorie consumption is one of the few proven ways to combat aging. Though the underlying mechanism is unknown, calorie restriction has been shown to prolong lifespan in yeast, worms, flies, monkeys, and, in some studies, humans.

Now Keren Yizhak, a doctoral student in Prof. Eytan Ruppin's laboratory at Tel Aviv University's Blavatnik School of Computer Science, and her colleagues have developed a computer algorithm that predicts which genes can be "turned off" to create the same anti-aging effect as calorie restriction. The findings, reported in Nature Communications, could lead to the development of new drugs to treat aging. Researchers from Bar-Ilan University collaborated on the research.

Note - Google's new company, Calico, also plans to find genetic anti-aging targets and develop treatments for them to radically extend lifespan.

SRF Ends the Long History of Aging (Part 1)

Guest Article by Jason Hope:

Humankind has learned how to control many serious illnesses over the centuries, from polio to tuberculosis, but scientists have yet to figure out how to stop the aging process. The founders of the SENS Research Foundation decided to change all that.

SENS is an acronym for Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. Let’s deconstruct that name to help you understand the history and focus of SENS.

Senescence is that slow decline in health when some organisms age. All humans, for example, tend to develop common illnesses as they age, such as Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. Some animals, such as lobsters and rockfish, do not show obvious signs of senescence. Dr. Caleb Finch of the University of Southern California first used the phrase “negligible senescence” to refer to a creature’s ability to grow old without developing frailty or disability.

Jason Hope

The Full NY Times writeup of Isaac Asimov's predictions for 2014

The NY Times had a detailed writeup of what Isaac Asimov wrote for the 1964 World's Fair of what he expected for 2014.

There is a shorter edited version which has been making the rounds on the internet which mostly skips what Asimov got wrong.

Asimov got robotics and 3D movies right among many other things.
He expected nuclear fission to supply 50% of world power but it has been stuck at about 20%. However, it was not stuck for technical reasons.
He expected isotope batteries to displace the need for power cords.

He expected robotic cars to be at the demonstration level.

Much effort will be put into the designing of vehicles with "Robot-brains"*vehicles that can be set for particular destinations and that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver. I suspect one of the major attractions of the 2014 fair will be rides on small roboticized cars which will maneuver in crowds at the two-foot level, neatly and automatically avoiding each other

Global Competitiveness Report

The 2012-2013 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness report has insightful information It uses 2011 data but it is useful for undertanding global competitiveness and the broad strengths and weaknesses of nations.

Here are the twelve pillars of competitiveness. A country can still be competitive with some weakness in different pillars but crippling deficiencies can break a country. You can think of a football team that has a weak offense but a strong defense and strong specialty teams and does not turnover the ball or a football team that has okay offense but pretty good defense but turns the ball over a lot and has a lot of penalties and terrible kicking.

It is important to keep in mind that they are not independent: they tend to reinforce each other, and a weakness in one area often has a negative impact in others. For example, a strong innovation capacity (pillar 12) will be very difficult to achieve without a healthy, well-educated and trained workforce (pillars 4 and 5) that is adept at absorbing new technologies (pillar 9), and without sufficient financing (pillar 8) for R&D or an efficient goods market that makes it possible to take new innovations to market (pillar 6). Although the pillars are aggregated into a single index, measures are reported for the 12 pillars separately because such details provide a sense of the specific areas in which a particular country needs to improve.


German infrastructure crumbling as bad as US in 2007 and on the way to as bad as US today

Flawless autobahns and punctual trains are as much a part of Germany’s image as Beethoven and Goethe. Germany’s famed infrastructure is starting to crumble.

The once-soaring bridges are sagging. Some railroad switching equipment, once top-of-the-line, has not been updated since the time of the kaisers. Well-engineered canal locks are succumbing to silt and neglect.

Bottlenecks are starting to crimp Germany’s export-driven economy, experts say. Even maintaining the status quo will require nearly doubling current spending levels, according to a recent report issued by a government commission.

And the quality of Germany’s infrastructure has been slipping in international rankings. Germany placed 10th in the world in 2013 in terms of quality of overall infrastructure, according to surveys by the World Economic Forum, down from third place in 2006. The United States was ranked 19th in 2013, down from eighth in 2006.

China's historical GDP catchup to the USA with a look at inflation and exchange rate

There is a history of China's GDP at wikipedia from 1978 to 2012. This illustrates how inflation and currency exchange versus GDP growth differential factor into China move from US$216 billion to $8.2 trillion.

In the blue outline below is the column with growth in Chinese Yuan. This includes inflation but does not include changes in exchange rate to the US dollar. Some years had 22% and even 36% changes from the prior year.

In the red outline below is the column with growth of the Chinese economy in US dollars. Some years had 28-30% changes.

Note that in the last 7 years the chinese yuan change was always less than the US $ change. The chinese yuan was always getting stronger. Back in 1994 the chinese yuan change was 36% but the US$ change was -8.8%. This was because they dropped the exchange rate and more yuan were needed to get US dollars.

In the green outline is the columnn with the real growth of the Chinese economy. These are the numbers that are usually reported. This is without inflation and without exchange rate.

The US dollar of 1978 was not the same as the US dollar of 2012. The US economy had its own inflation. Usually China had more inflation. In the last 7 years, this meant that China had more inflation but still had a strengthening currency. So the relative change is related to the inflation differential between the two countries.

From 2000 to 2012, the Chinese economy went from 9 times smaller than the US economy to half as big. The 2013 numbers which are not shown show the Chinese economy being about 58% the size of the US economy.


South Korea restart and China Nuclear start and other nuclear News

Three South Korean nuclear power reactors forced to stop operations in May 2013 after finding safety-related control cabling had falsified documentation have been given approval to restart. With the cabling having been replaced, Korea's Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) has now given Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) approval to restart operations at Shin Kori units 1 and 2 and Shin Wolsong unit 1.

Construction has started on the sixth unit at the Yangjiang nuclear power plant in China's Guangdong province - the largest nuclear construction site in the world. The first two reactors there, together with several other units elsewhere in the country, are nearing start-up.

China has at least 5 nuclear reactors that will start commercial operation in 2014. There are about 9 other nuclear reactors that were expected to complete in 2013 or 2014. Two were completed in 2014.

The first unit at Yangjiang moved closer to commissioning by achieving first criticality. The unit was then connected to the grid on 31 December and is expected to enter commercial operation around May. Meanwhile, cold testing of the nuclear island of Yangjiang 2 began on 30 December.
The first four Yangjiang units are CPR-1000 pressurized water reactors, with units 5 and 6 being the more advanced ACPR-1000. All the reactors should be in operation by 2018, producing a grand total of around 6100 MWe.

What does the recent prediction of China taking until 2028 to pass the US economy mean in terms of GDP growth, inflation and currency variables ?

The economic consultancy CEBR (Centre for Economics and Business Research) has gotten coverage for making a new forecast of GDP for the 30 largest economies out to 2028. The main coverage is that they predict that China's will not pass the US on an exchange rate basis until 2028. They are using 2012 dollars so they are removing US inflation from their numbers.

Nextbigfuture believes the CEBR predictions are garbage. China will pass the US economy on a nominal exchange basis by 2020. The CEBR is predicting a very strong US dollar and very strong US economic growth. They are predicting for the US to vastly strengthen against Germany and most other countries.

The Economist has an online calculator for forecasting when China will pass the US. In order to match up to what the CEBR prediction has, here are the parameters.

So they are predicting that China will have 1.3% more inflation that the US and will have 1.3% currency appreciation and that China will have 1.5% more GDP growth than the US. In order to get to $32 trillion in 2028, the US has to have 4.5% GDP growth. The same result is achieved if the projections include 1.5% US inflation. Then they are projecting 4.5% GDP growth for China and 3.0% for the US.

January 02, 2014

NSA is working on a quantum computer that would be useful for breaking encryption

According to documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the NSA has an effort to build “a cryptologically useful quantum computer” — a machine exponentially faster than classical computers. It is part of a $79.7 million research program titled “Penetrating Hard Targets.” Much of the work is hosted under classified contracts at a laboratory in College Park, Md.

A working quantum computer would open the door to easily breaking the strongest encryption tools in use today, including a standard known as RSA, named for the initials of its creators. RSA scrambles communications, making them unreadable to anyone but the intended recipient, without requiring the use of a shared password. It is commonly used in Web browsers to secure financial transactions and in encrypted ­e-mails. RSA is used because of the difficulty of factoring the product of two large prime numbers. Breaking the encryption involves finding those two numbers. This cannot be done in a reasonable amount of time on a classical computer.

In 2009, computer scientists using classical methods were able to discover the primes within a 768-bit number, but it took almost two years and hundreds of computers to factor it. The scientists estimated that it would take 1,000 times longer to break a 1,024-bit encryption key, which is commonly used for online transactions.

Probably $90+ billion to build and operate 55 US Navy Littoral Combat ships which may not be battleworthy but it is not like the US has other things to do with that money

In 2013, major and obvious problems with the US Navies Littoral Combat Shipped had been fixed. There is a bill would to prohibit spending any money for “construction or advanced procurement of materials” for LCS 25 and LCS 26. But Littoral Combat Ships 5 through 12 are still under construction, while ships 13-16 are “in pre-production phase.” LCS 17-24 are still awaiting Congressional authorization.

The per ship construction costs were originally to be $200 million but are now about $700 billion and rising. The operation costs will probably be easily over $1 billion per ship over 25 years. Results on tests on whether the ship is battle worthy will not be available until 2016 or so.

The Navy’s own analysts have “only about 10 percent confidence” in the current estimate that it will cost $50.4 billion to “operate and support” a total of 55 LCSs over their 25-year service lives. While such long-term “life cycle costs” are notoriously hard to estimate accurately decades out, a normal program would have at least 50 percent confidence in its figures at this stage.

McCain opened fire on the “over budget, behind schedule, deficient” Littoral Combat Ship, quoting the Government Accountability Office’s recent report calling for a “pause” in the program. (Interestingly, GAO largely backed off that recommendation in a subsequent hearing). Did she favor such a pause?

When Rooney tried a diplomatic answer, McCain stomped again: “I hope you will answer the question, and that is, do you believe a pause is needed as recommended by the GAO?”

Rooney’s polite reply boiled down to “No”: Slowing down production at this point, she said, when the price per ship has come down dramatically, will just send costs spiking upwards again.

Winterberg reinvents Project Orion Nuclear Rocket with fallout free, cheaper pure fusion rocket with magnetic mirror instead of a pusher plate

Friedwardt Winterberg's work in nuclear rocket propulsion earned him the 1979 Hermann Oberth Gold Medal of the Wernher von Braun International Space Flight Foundation. Winterberg is well respected for his work in the fields of nuclear fusion and plasma physics, and Edward Teller has been quoted as saying that he had "perhaps not received the attention he deserves" for his work on fusion. Winterberg also did the basic design work that was developed into the global positioning system. A major stimulus for the project Daedalus was Friedwardt Winterberg's inertial confinement fusion drive concept for which he received the Hermann Oberth gold medal award.

The “Project Orion” small fission bomb propulsion concept proposed the one-stage
launching of large payloads into low earth orbit,
but it was abandoned because of the radioactive fallout into the earth atmosphere. The idea is here revived by the replacement of the small fission bombs with pure deuterium-tritium fusion bombs, and the pusher plate of the Project Orion with a large magnetic mirror. The ignition of the thermonuclear fusion reaction is done by the transient formation of keV super-explosives under the high pressure of a convergent shock wave launched into liquid hydrogen propellant by a conventional high explosive.

If you get rid of the fission bomb trigger, then a pure fusion bomb has no fallout.



Powering Starships with Compact Condensed Quark Matter from local very fast rotating asteroids where they might enable the production of 1 million tons of antimatter

Compact Composite Objects (CCOs), nuggets of dense Color-Flavor-Locked Superconducting quark matter created before or during the Quantum Chromo- Dynamics phase transition in the early universe, could provide a natural explanation for both Dark Matter (DM) and the observed cosmological baryon asymmetry, without requiring modifications to fundamental physics. This hypothesis implies a relic CCO population in the Solar System, captured during its formation, which would lead to a population of “strange asteroids,” bodies with mm-radii quark matter cores and ordinary matter (rock or ice) mantles. This hypothesis is supported by the observed population of small Very Fast Rotating (VFR) asteroids (bodies with rotation periods as short as 25 sec); the VFR data are consistent with a population of strange asteroids with core masses of order 10^10 – 10^11 kg. If the VFR asteroids are indeed strange asteroids their CCO cores could be mined using the techniques being developed for asteroid mining. Besides being intrinsically of great scientific interest, CCO cores could also serve as very powerful sources of energy, releasing a substantial fraction of the mass energy of incident particles as their quarks are absorbed into the QCD superfluid. Through a process analogous to Andreev reflection in superconductors, even normal matter CCOs could be used as antimatter factories, potentially providing as much as 10^9 kg of antimatter per CCO. While of course speculative, this energy source, if realized, would be suitable for propelling starships to a substantial fraction of the speed of light, and could be found, extracted and exploited in our Solar System with existing and near-term developments in technology.



(H/T Adam Crowl at Crowlspace)

There are some very fast rotating asteroids listed at wikipedia

Name Rotation period (seconds) Diameter(meters)
2010 JL88       24.5                            15
2010 WA         31                               3
2008 HJ         42.7                            24

Called to stop video ads

If you still see video ads after one hour, let me know in the comments and I will contact the advertisers.

I see that the Google ads have brief animation (like for ESPN football) but no sound.

The other one had noise and that is being addressed.

MagLIF fusion wants to use 30 tesla magnets, 27 megaAmpere Z Pinch and 8 kilojoules laser may get close to fusion ignition in 2015

Researchers working on Sandia’s Magnetized Liner Inertial Fusion (MagLIF) experiment added a secondary magnetic field to thermally insulate the hydrogen fuel, and a laser to preheat it (see ‘Feeling the pinch’). In late November, they tested the system for the first time, using 16 million amperes of current, a 10-tesla magnetic field and 2 kilojoules of energy from a green laser.

“We were excited by the results,” says Mark Herrmann, director of the Z machine and the pulsed-power science centre at Sandia. “We look at it as confirmation that it is working like we think it should.”

The experiment yielded about 10^10 high-energy neutrons, a measure of the number of fusion reactions achieved. This is a record for MagLIF, although it stillfalls well short of ignition. Nevertheless, the test demonstrates the appeal of such pulsed-power approaches to fusion. “A substantial gain is more likely to be achieved at an early date with pulsed power,” says nuclear physicist David Hammer of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who co-wrote a 2013 US National Research Council assessment of approaches to fusion energy.

Currency, Stock Market and Financial forecasts

The US dollar is expected to strengthen next year while the euro and yen head in the opposite direction. This is because of the expected taper.

Closer to home, the appreciation in the yuan versus the greenback is tipped to slow after lasting for more than eight years.

As for the Fed, analysts remain divided on when they think it will start to wind down its monthly bond purchases - a process known as tapering.

But they agree that when tapering does start, the dollar will strengthen.

Mark McFarland, global chief economist at Coutts, sees tapering starting by March - at the earliest.

Economic data coming out of the United States could make the currency volatile.

One factor adding to the volatility could be a continued slide in the unemployment rate, not because more jobs are being created but because more and more baby boomers are entering their twilight years, McFarland noted andBruce Yam Hiu-ping , foreign exchange strategist at Sun Hung Kai Forex, concurred. But he adds that the Fed has no choice but to start tapering next year, for the prevailing liquidity could induce a bubble.

Also working in favor of the greenback is the discovery of the large amount of shale gas in the United States that is likely to boost the world's largest economy.

In addition, rising earnings at several global tech behemoths, based mostly in Silicon Valley near San Francisco, is poised to help the greenback maintain a firm tone next year, Yam said.

Yam believes the recent strength in the euro is unlikely to be sustainable. There would even be a high possibility of the euro plunging to US$1.20 against the dollar next year, if it dips below 1.275, a key level of support, said Yam.

McFarland expects the euro to dip below 1.30 again. Loan growth in the euro zone is still negative and there is a risk of deflation, so the European Central Bank may have room to further cut rates, he said.

As for yen, Johanna Chua, Citibank's chief economist for Asia Pacific, sees it weakening to 105 against the dollar, as the Bank of Japan continues to purchase assets to boost liquidity.

One year old US Navy Warship is Disintegrating because of a massive design flaw that is causing electrolysis

In 2011, the Navy discovered “aggressive” corrosion around Independence‘s engines. The problem is so bad that the barely year-old ship will have to be laid up in a San Diego drydock so workers can replace whole chunks of her hull.

The 418-foot-long warship is dissolving due to one whopper of a design flaw. There are technical terms for this kind of disintegration. Austal USA, Independence‘s Alabama-based builder, calls it “galvanic corrosion.” Civilian scientists know it as “electrolysis.” It’s what occurs when “two dissimilar metals, after being in electrical contact with one another, corrode at different rates,” Austal explained in a statement.

“That suggests to me the metal is completely gone, not rusted,” naval analyst Raymond Pritchett wrote of Independence‘s problem.

In 2013, the 2011 problems were fixed. There is a bill would to prohibit spending any money for “construction or advanced procurement of materials” for LCS 25 and LCS 26. But Littoral Combat Ships 5 through 12 are still under construction, while ships 13-16 are “in pre-production phase.” LCS 17-24 are still awaiting Congressional authorization.

McCain opened fire on the “over budget, behind schedule, deficient” Littoral Combat Ship, quoting the Government Accountability Office’s recent report calling for a “pause” in the program. (Interestingly, GAO largely backed off that recommendation in a subsequent hearing). Did she favor such a pause?

When Rooney tried a diplomatic answer, McCain stomped again: “I hope you will answer the question, and that is, do you believe a pause is needed as recommended by the GAO?”

Rooney’s polite reply boiled down to “No”: Slowing down production at this point, she said, when the price per ship has come down dramatically, will just send costs spiking upwards again.

The Navy won’t have finished key tests of LCS’s much-disputed battleworthiness, such as “full ship shock trials,” until 2016. By that point, the nation will have paid for all 24 ships already under contract, and the Navy will be about to issue a second multi-ship “block buy” for more, heading towards a planned fleet of 52.

Meanwhile, of the three planned “mission modules” — essentially plug-and-play packages of equipment that turn an LCS into a minesweeper, a sub-hunter, or a small craft killed — the first, most complex, and most critical is the mine-warfare package, whose initial, limited-capability version won’t even begin operational testing until 2014, by which date the Navy will already have bought four of them. Before the full-up mine-clearing module completes testing in 2018, the Navy will have bought at least 13.

Deep Learning chips can outperform graphic processors by 150 times for some tasks and new neuromorphic chips will learn from mistakes

2014 will see commercial neural network deep learning chips and commercial neuromorphic chips. Deep Learning chips can outperform graphic processors by 150 times for some tasks and new neuromorphic chips can tolerate, adapt and learn from mistakes.

Purdue University’s deep learning co-processor design is specialized to run multilayered neural networks above all else and to put them to work on streaming imagery. In tests, the prototype has proven about 15 times as efficient as using a graphics processor for the same task, and Culurciello believes that improvements to the system could make it 10 times more efficient than it is now.

The prototype is much less powerful than systems like Google’s cat detector, but it shows how new forms of hardware could make it possible to use the power of deep learning more widely. “There’s a need for this,” says Culurciello. “You probably have a collection of several thousand images that you never look at again, and we don’t have a good technology to analyze all this content.”

Devices such as Google Glass could also benefit from the ability to understand the abundant pictures and videos they are capturing, he says. A person’s images and videos might be searchable using text—”red car” or “sunny day with Mom,” for example. Likewise, novel apps could be developed that take action when they recognize particular people, objects, or scenes.

HRL labs has a more extreme solution – designing chips with silicon neurons and synapses that mimic those of real brains.

The Purdue group’s solution doesn’t represent such a fundamental rethinking of how computer chips operate. That may limit how efficiently their designs can run deep learning neural networks but also make it easier to get them into real-world use. Culurciello has already started a company, called TeraDeep, to commercialize his designs.

India needs to be reimagined again

Regimagining India is a book with 60 prominent authors. Each writes a chapter.

Several are very good. I like Ruchir Sharma, head of Morgan Stanley's Emerging Market equity and author of Breakout Nations in Search of the Next Economic Miracles. Ruchir puts the India situation in context of other emerging and developing economies.

India began to grow at a reasonably fast rate since the early 1990s.
India's per capita income is still just $1500.
Since the 1980s India has had just 1-2% more GDP growth than the emerging market average (It is standard for emerging market countries at low income levels like India. It was impressively consistent).
China had 4-5% more growth than the emerging market average for 35 years. (China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan had multi-decade performance at that level)

India has been typical of most other developing countries, which reform only in a crisis and fritter away gains when things are going well.
In India, the boom-crisis-reform cycle has been shown since the 1970s.

Democracy is not an excuse. Poland and Czech Republic were able to achieve consistent reforms.

Others claim India can't reform because the people are not disciplined and predictable like eastern europeans. Economists wrote off the Confucian society of Mao during the 1960s as well.

2000s were great for India but it was great for all emerging economies because of easy money from the US and Europe. It was a global boom and not managerial genius from New Dehli.





January 01, 2014

Rethinking how to fix poverty by using empirical results to verify what works

Why do the poor borrow to save? Why do they miss out on free life-saving immunizations, but pay for unnecessary drugs? In Poor Economics, Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo, two practical visionaries working toward ending world poverty, answer these questions from the ground. In a book the Wall Street Journal called “marvelous, rewarding,” the authors tell how the stress of living on less than 99 cents per day encourages the poor to make questionable decisions that feed—not fight—poverty. The result is a radical rethinking of the economics of poverty that offers a ringside view of the lives of the world’s poorest, and shows that creating a world without poverty begins with understanding the daily decisions facing the poor.

The book discusses the value of many things like mosquito nets that prevent 30% of Malaria. If someone does not get Malaria their earnings are 50% more for every year of their life. They also analyze why only about ten percent of the poor buy Mosquito nets or Chlorine to purify drinking water. The problem relates to procrastination, lack of knowledge, mistaken beliefs and other factors which are described empirically.

The rich tend to have the correct decision made for them
* get your kid vaccinated or they cannot go to public school
* have plumbing so they do not have to remember to buy chlorine to purify water

The treatment for diarrhea is surprisingly simple. Called Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT), it is a mixture of water, salt, and sugar that replenishes the lost fluids in the body. This basic treatment has helped reduce diarrheal deaths by about two-thirds in the last 25 years. It is perhaps the height of human tragedy that still so many parents must watch a son or daughter die of diarrhea when the cure is so simple and so inexpensive. It is not difficult to make sure that even severely impoverished people have access to clean water, sugar, and salt.

However, if a poor person takes their child for treatment and is given ORT therapy (water, salt and sugar) and it prevents death 2 out of 3 times, they are disappointed. They wanted an antibiotic or some other fool proof intervention. Plus it does not work 1 out of 3 times. Which stories get told more to the other villagers ? the 2 out of 3 times or the 1 out of 3 times.

Note - The use of empirical data, frequent measurement and marketing like A/B testing makes sense for the rich world as well. There should not be the expectation that all of the correct policies in a program (for healthcare, banking or any major area) can be formed all at once. This is also the advantage of many smaller and competing approaches. However, when it does become clear that something is working then the results need to be quickly communicated so that the option to adopt what appears to be working can be made.





1 GW commercial scale DEMO prototype Tokamak would burn through world supply of Tritium in 2 months

The world has about 24 kilograms of Tritium The planned 1 GW commercial scale prototype Tokamak would burn that supply in 2 months. Currently 1 kilogram of Tritium costs $100 million per kilogram.

The plan is for DEMO to start breeding tritium as soon as possible after it starts up.

Everything about the Tokamak project is big and expensive.



Unlike Lawrenceville Plasma Physics and other high potential small nuclear fusion projects which might make projections which have big hurdles before then achieve technical success. The Tokamaks has insane plans after technical success.

DEMO (DEMOnstration Power Plant) is a proposed nuclear fusion power plant that is intended to build upon the expected success of the ITER experimental nuclear fusion reactor. The objectives of DEMO are usually understood to lie somewhere between those of ITER and a "first of a kind" commercial station. While there is no clear international consensus on exact parameters or scope, the following parameters are often used as a baseline for design studies: Whereas ITER's goal is to produce 500 megawatts of fusion power for at least 500 seconds, the goal of DEMO will be to produce at least four times that much fusion power on a continual basis. Moreover, while ITER's goal is to produce 10 times as much power as is required for breakeven, DEMO's goal is to produce 25 times as much power. DEMO's 2 to 4 gigawatts of thermal output will be on the scale of a modern electric power plant. Also notably, DEMO is intended to be the first fusion reactor to generate electrical power. Earlier experiments, such as ITER, merely dissipate the thermal power they produce into the atmosphere as steam.

To achieve its goals, DEMO must have linear dimensions about 15% larger than ITER and a plasma density about 30% greater than ITER. As a prototype commercial fusion reactor DEMO could make fusion energy available by 2033. The ITER tokamak machine will be almost 30 meters high, weigh 23,000 tons, and house an estimated one million components. DEMO is 15% larger than ITER, so 26,000 tons and 35 meters high (15 stories high).

PROTO is a beyond DEMO experiment, part of European Commission long-term strategy for research of fusion energy. PROTO would act as a prototype power station, taking in any remaining technology refinements, and demonstrating electricity generation on a commercial basis. It is only expected after DEMO, meaning a post-2050 timeline, and may or may not be a second part of DEMO/PROTO experiment. This might possibly make PROTO the first commercial nuclear fusion power plant in the world.

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Latest Update and Plans to Demonstrate Net Gain Nuclear Fusion in 2014 and a commercial reactor in 2018

Eric Lerner presented at the 2013 Fusion Energy Symposium.

What Has Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP) achieved so far ?

* Ion temperature—goal achieved—over 1.8 billion degrees, enough to ignite pB11
*  Confinement time—goal achieved 20 ns—more than 8 ns goal
*  Energy transfer to plasmoid—over 50% of goal
* Density—must increase by 10,000

Steps To Increase Density
*  50x-- Achieve theoretical density—tungsten electrodes to eliminate impurity
*  10x-- Increase current to 2.8 MA
* 20x-- Better compression with heavier pB11

A committee of researchers was led by Dr. Robert Hirsch, a former director of fusion research for the US Atomic Energy Commission and the Energy Research and Development Agency gave a positive assessment of LPP, their research and recommended funding. Other members of the committee were Dr. Stephen O. Dean, President of Fusion Power Associates and former director of fusion Magnetic Confinement Systems for the Department of Energy; Professor Gerald L. Kulcinski, Associate Dean for Research, College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Professor Dennis Papadopoulos, Professor of Physics, University of Maryland. The committee was organized by Dr. Hirsch at the request of Mr. Alvin Samuels, an investor in LPP’s effort, to give an objective assessment of the program. Neither Mr. Samuels nor LPP had any control over the committee’s conclusions.

COSTS
For 5 MW generator, mass production $0.08-$0.20/W ($400,000 to $1 million for the 5 MWe generator)

Electric cost
Less than 0.3 cents/kwH Vs best today of 6 cents/kwH (20 times cheaper than energy today)

The 5 MWe device would produce 6705 horsepower.

Why would a Tokamak be 1000 times bigger ? LPP uses instabilities and does not fight them. You need a monster football stadium size device with huge magnets if you want to fight and control the physics.



Brain Controlled Exoskeletons, Stem Cell Regeneration, Transgenic Monkeys, Progress on Cyborg fixes for paralysis expected in 2014

The journal Nature listed out expected developments in science during 2014

Transgenic monkeys

Several research groups, including a team led by geneticist Erika Sasaki and stem-cell biologist Hideyuki Okano at Keio University in Tokyo, hope to create transgenic primates with immune-system deficiencies or brain disorders. This could raise ethical concerns, but might bring us closer to therapies that are relevant to humans (mice can be poor models for such disorders). The work will probably make use of a gene-editing method called CRISPR, which saw rapid take-up last year.

Neural feats - brain controlled exoskeletons and reconnecting the paralyzed to their paralyzed areas

Neurobiologist Miguel Nicolelis at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, has developed a brain-controlled exoskeleton that he expects will enable a person with a spinal-cord injury to kick the first ball at the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil. Meanwhile, attempts are being made in people with paralysis to reconnect their brains directly to paralysed areas, rather than to robotic arms or exoskeletons. In basic research, neuroscientists are excited about money from big US and European brain initiatives, such as Europe’s Human Brain Project.

Stem-cell regeneration

A Japanese team will start the first clinical trials using induced pluripotent stem cells this year — but don’t expect results anytime soon. And biotechnology firm Advanced Cell Technology in Santa Monica, California, says that it will release data from two trials using human embryonic stem cells — the only two to gain approval from US drug regulators. These two studies involve injecting stem-cell-derived retinal cells into the eyes of around 30 people with one of two forms of non-treatable degenerative blindness.

General Fusion Roadmap targets 2018 for net energy gain

As with all nuclear fusion projects, General Fusion is planning on getting a lot of power scaling to achieve net gain and commercial fusion.


Goatguy provides some straight line extrapolations that indicate 2022-2025 as the expected dates for net gain



December 31, 2013

China with Hong Kong and Macau could have ended 2013 at US$10 trillion economy on exchange rate basis

China's GDP growth for 2013 was at 7.6%.

China's currency is ending 2013 at 6.0539 to the US dollar The exchange rate at the end of 2012 was 6.31.

Official 2013 GDP will be reported in a couple of months, but if it comes in at about 58 trillion yuan then China's economy will be about US$9.6 trillion. Including Hong Kong and Macau it would be US$10 trillion. China has 51.93 trillion yuan for its end of 2012 economy. The 7.6% growth and 2.8% inflation would give about 58 trillion yuan economy.

The USA probably ended 2013 with a GDP of about $17.1 trillion. The US was at 16.9 trillion at the end of the third quarter.

China's government set a GDP growth target of 7.5% for 2014

Top leaders believe that maintaining the 7.5 percent target will help keep growth humming to create more jobs, while providing wiggle room to deepen reforms, government economists involved in the discussions about the plans said.

"Two camps who proposed growth target - 7 percent or 7.5 percent - made their points. But the government favors 7.5 percent," said an economist at the State Information Centre, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Key economic targets for 2014 will be announced by the government during the annual parliament meeting in March

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 189

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 189 is up at Atomic Power Review

Canadian Energy issues - Reducing carbon pollution from electric power generation: What works?

In the nearly 17 years since the Kyoto Protocol, many countries, especially Germany, have embarked on major efforts to reduce their national carbon footprints. How have those efforts paid off? Steve Aplin of Canadian Energy Issues suggests two fundamental criteria on which to judge the nature of the payoff. These are price, and carbon content, of electricity per kilowatt-hour. He introduces the Electric Power Carbon-Price Matrix as a tool for both evaluating ongoing carbon reduction efforts and guiding electric power generation investment in the post-Kyoto world.

The dirtiest but cheapest electricity comes from there is coal-fired power plants. Coal was the fuel That drove the Industrial Revolution, but it is not outdated as some claim. It Remains even today the unchallenged King of Power Generation in Most of the world's major economies.

Those economies include the enthusiastically pro-Kyoto Germany. Germany, In Spite of all the talk Kyoto, still gets a big chunk of its electricity from coal-fired plants. The OECD Estimates That in 2012, Germany made ​​43 percent of its 617 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity using coal (see Electricity Information 2013 , p. IV.323). This Contributed to a CIPK of around 570 grams per kilowatt-hour for electricity German grid.

What is the CIPK, and how is it Calculated?

Bio-inspired way to grow graphene for electronic devices has potential for batch fabrication with large-scale integrated circuits on silicon wafers

Singapore researchers came up with the one-step method to grow and transfer high-quality graphene on silicon and other stiff substrates. This promises the use of graphene in high-value areas where no technique currently exists to grow and transfer graphene with minimal defects for use in semiconductors.

Prof Loh, who is also a Principal Investigator with the Graphene Research Centre at NUS Faculty of Science, explained: “Although there are many potential applications for flexible graphene, it must be remembered that to date, most semiconductors operate on “stiff” substrates such as silicon and quartz.” Thus, a transfer method with the direct growth of graphene film on silicon wafer is needed for enabling multiple optoelectronic applications, he said.

In the process called "face-to-face transfer", Dr Gao Libo, the first author who is with the Graphene Research Centre, grew graphene on a copper catalyst layer coating a silicon substrate. After growth, the copper is etched away while the graphene is held in place by bubbles that form capillary bridges, similar to those seen around the feet of beetles and tree frogs attached to submerged leaves. The capillary bridges help to attach the graphene to the silicon surface and prevent its delamination during the etching of the copper catalyst.

The novel technique can potentially be deployed in batch-processed semiconductor production lines, such as the fabrication of large-scale integrated circuits on silicon wafers.



Xenon ion and water cubesat engines for interplanetary cubesats with costs ten thousand times less

Benjamin Longmier, Michigan University, is developing the CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster (CAT), a new rocket propulsion system powered by the Sun and propelled by water, which will push small spacecraft like CubeSats around and far beyond the Earth.

They received a $200,000 private donation and have raised over $96,000 on Kickstarter.

What can be enabled with successful cubesat ion drive

* interplanetary missions to Mars and Europa for about $1 million
* Ten interplanetary cubsats for a solar system wide internet
* Cheaper satellite wi-fi around the earth
* Future combination with Spacex reusable rockets, Planetary resources cheap space telescopes, Googlex low cost space robotics for radical lowcost space exploration

A private donor will pay for the Xenon ion technology and a launch in 2014 aboard a NASA rocket. They hope their propelled CubeSats will one day fly to Saturn's moon Enceladus and Jupiter's moon Europa, both of which hold water – and perhaps life. A fleet of CubeSats with propulsion in orbit around a planet or moon can do a lot of things that big expensive satellites cannot, such as monitoring several locations in the atmosphere at once.

Propelled CubeSats could even be useful back here on Earth. Creating a universal "satellite Wi-Fi", like existing satellite phone coverage, would require thousands of big satellites, which is prohibitively expensive. But you could dump a thousand CubeSats in one place then spread them out to the right points, for a fraction of the price.

CAT produces thrust from the expansion of a super-heated 350,000 °C plasma stream. Plasma is an ionized gas that can be accelerated to produce thrust (F=ma). The force generated by this thruster will be very low (micro-newtons) but very efficient. The engine will be turned on for long durations, accelerating the spacecraft to much higher velocities than a typical chemical rocket. Our first test will use xenon, a safe, non-toxic gas typically used in large-scale plasma thrusters. With support from you, we can begin work on our long-term goal of designing a water-based propellant system to make the first truly sustainable plasma propulsion device for CubeSats.

The CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster is a new design for a permanent magnet helicon generated plasma thruster. Its small plasma volume (~10 cm3) and low power requirements (less than 100 W) make it ideal for propelling nanosatellites (less than 10 kg). The source is powered by a novel DC to RF oscillator with air-core inductors suitable to be flown on small spacecraft. Specifically, the CAT is being made to fit the CubeSat form factor, a design of nanosatellites made up of 10x10x10-cm units (1U). Permanent magnets generate a converging-diverging magnetic nozzle with a magnetic field that decreased to the strength of earth's magnetic field within 50 cm allowing the entire exhaust plume to develop in the vacuum chamber. Low gas flow rates (~4 sccm) and high pumping speeds (~10,000 l/s) are used to more closely approximate the conditions of space.

One of the patents is here




Next Generation MRAM chip

National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Engineering has developed a new Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM) technology that will boost information storage in electronic systems. The innovative technology will drastically increase storage space and enhance memory which will ensure that fresh data stays intact, even in the case of a power failure. The team has already filed a US provisional patent for their technology.

Led by Dr Yang Hyunsoo, the team developed a new device structure useful for the next generation MRAM chip which can potentially be applied to enhance the user experience in consumer electronics, including personal computers and mobile devices such as laptops and mobile phones. The new technology can also be applied in transportation, military and avionics systems, industrial motor control and robotics, industrial power and energy management as well as health care electronics.

Commenting on the benefits of their chip, Dr Yang said, "From the consumer's standpoint, we will no longer need to wait for our computers or laptops to boot up. Storage space will increase, and memory will be so enhanced that there is no need to regularly hit the 'save' button as fresh data will stay intact even in the case of a power failure. Devices and equipment can now have bigger memory with no loss for at least 20 years or probably more. Currently pursued schemes with a very thin magnetic layer can only retain information for about a year."

Physical Review Letters - Spin-Orbit Torques in Co/Pd Multilayer Nanowires

December 30, 2013

Carnival of Space 334

The Carnival of Space 334 is up at Urban Astronomer

Universe Today - For the past five years, I’ve been constructing this list of all things astronomical for the coming year, lovingly distilling the events transpiring worldwide down to a 101 “best events of the year”.

A Triple transit of three of Jupiter's moons on June 3, 2014

US, World, and Canada population

the U.S. Census Bureau today projected that on Jan. 1, 2014, the United States population will be 317,297,938. This represents an increase of 2,218,622, or 0.7 percent, from New Year's Day 2013.

In January 2014, one birth is expected to occur every 8 seconds in the United States and one death every 12 seconds.

The projected world population on Jan. 1, 2014, is 7,137,577,750, an increase of 77,630,563, or 1.1 percent from New Year's Day 2013. In January 2014, 4.3 births and 1.8 deaths are expected worldwide every second. India added 15.6 million people over the one-year period, which led all countries, followed by China, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ethiopia.

Samsung 110 inch Utrahigh definition TV has a $150,000 price

Samsung has a 110 inch TV with a resolution of 8 million pixels is four times the level of detail found in standard HDTVs. The price has been revealed at $150,000

LG and Samsung have 55 and 60 inch TVs with 1 millimeter bezels.

There are 55 inch OLED TVs that are nearly bezel free (under $9000 in price.)

It seems that completely eliminating the edge of a TV screen in the 55 inch class would enable a 110 inch ultradefinition TV to be made at $4000-40000.

A chinese maker has a $905 50 inch ultrahigh definition TV.


Details of the performance, capabilties, physics and scaling of the state of the art in superconducting circuits for quantum computers

Superconducting Circuits for Quantum Information: An Outlook - The performance of superconducting qubits has improved by several orders of magnitude in the past decade. These circuits benefit from the robustness of superconductivity and the Josephson effect, and at present they have not encountered any hard physical limits. However, building an error-corrected information processor with many such qubits will require solving specific architecture problems that constitute a new field of research. For the first time, physicists will have to master quantum error correction to design and operate complex active systems that are dissipative in nature, yet remain coherent indefinitely. We offer a view on some directions for the field and speculate on its future.

Superconducting qubits: Desired parameter margins for scalability and the corresponding demonstrated values. Desired capability margins are numbers of successful operations or realizations of a component before failure. For the stability of the Hamiltonian, capability is the number of Ramsey shots that meaningfully would provide one bit of information on a parameter (e.g., the qubit frequency) during the time when this parameter has not drifted. Estimated current capability is expressed as number of superconducting qubits, given best decoherence times and success probabilities. Demonstrated successful performance is given in terms of the main performance characteristic of successful operation or Hamiltonian control (various units). A reset qubit operation forces a qubit to take a particular state. A Rabi flop denotes a single-qubit p rotation. A swap to bus is an operation to make a two-qubit entanglement between distant qubits. In a readout qubit operation, the readout must be QND or must operate on an ancilla without demolishing any memory qubit of the computer. Stability refers to the time scale during which a Hamiltonian parameter drifts by an amount corresponding to one bit of information, or the time scale it would take to find all such parameters in a complex system to this precision. Accuracy can refer to the degree to which a certain Hamiltonian symmetry or property can be designed and known in advance, the ratio by which a certain coupling can be turned on and off during operation, or the ratio of desired to undesired couplings. Yield is the number of quantum objects with one degree of freedom that can be made without failing or being out of specification to the degree that the function of the whole is compromised. Complexity is the overall number of interacting, but separately controllable, entangled degrees of freedom in a device. Question marks indicate that more experiments are needed for a conclusive result. Values given in rightmost column are compiled from recently published data and improve on a yearly basis.


Dwave Systems Interviews about their Quantum Computer, Continuing Controversy and a competitor with a 20 qubit system and a million qubit design based on trapped ions

The scientific community accepts two models for building qubits and keeping them in quantum states—gate and adiabatic. D-Wave's is adiabatic, and so is the 20-qubit model Christopher Monroe, the Bice Zorn Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland and fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute, has in his lab. Adiabatic quantum computers apply quantum annealing—put simply, a strategy for finding the lowest-energy solution to a numerical problem. Munroe has published a design for scaling trapped ion quantum computers to 1 million qubits or more. Chris Munroe is highly critical of Dwave System and their 512 qubit approach. Dwave has not convinced all doubters of the quantumness of their system. Of course, Munroe has a conflict of interest. However, it would be good if Munroe can get funding for his system as well. There are many approaches to highly scalable quantum computers and it would be good to thoroughly explore all of those approaches. It is too early in the development to settle on one approach for quantum computers.

Christopher Munroe has co-written a paper on how to Scaling the Ion Trap Quantum Processor. Monroe and Kim discussed the challenges of scaling trapped ion architectures to hundreds and thousands of qubits and beyond.

In order to scale beyond 10 to 100 qubits in ion trap quantum computing, Munroe and Kim turned to a multiplexed architecture called the quantum charge coupled device. This involves the sequential entanglement of small numbers of ions through there selective motion in a single chain and the classical shuttling of individual ions between different trapping zones to propogate the entanglement.


(A) Optical dipole forces (red) displace two ions depending on their qubit states, and the resulting modulation of the Coulomb interaction allows the implementation of the controlled-NOT gate between these two ions. (B) Concept of a quantum CCD trap, in which ions can be shuttled between various zones. Ions can be entangled within a small crystal using laser forces as in (A) and then moved to different zones to propagate the entanglement to other ion crystals. Additional zones can be used for the loading of ions or qubit state detection. In principle, any pair of ions can be brought together through a web of ion trap channels, and a separate ion species can be used for sympathetic cooling to quench any residual motion from the shuttling procedure. [Image credit: National Institute of Standards and Technology] (C) Ion trap structure for the shuttling of ions through a junction. [Main image adapted with permission from (18); copyright 2011 by the American Physical Society] (D) Surface ion trap structure for shuttling ions through a three channel junction.

Nextbigfuture had summary coverage the work and the special Science journal issue on Quantum computing back in March 2013.

A design to scaling trapped ion to 1 million qubits or more

A single ion chain (or several chains on a chip connected through the QCCD architecture) with an optical interface (Fig. 2F) can serve as a processor node (ELU) of a distributed quantum multicomputer, in which two-qubit gates between ions that belong to different ELUs are realized by using the photonic gate. When a large number (∼10^3 ) of such ELUs are connected through a reconfigurable photonic network supported by an optical crossconnect switch, a scalable quantum computer with up to 1 million qubits can be constructed.



2014 could be the year of the fast neutron nuclear reactor with the Russia 800 MWe Beloyarsk 4 and the Indian 470 MWe Kalpakkam set to start

Commissioning is about to start at Russia's forthcoming fast reactor, Beloyarsk 4. After a lengthy construction period, engineers are preparing for criticality in April 2014.

The unit will be a 789 MWe fast-neutron reactor of the BN-800 design, fuelled by a mix of uranium and plutonium oxides arranged to produce new fuel material as it burns. The electricity will go to the central Sverdlovsk region of Russia, where regional governor Yevgeny Kuyzashev said it would support industrial investment.

The 'physical launch' of the new reactor was permitted by safety regulator Rostekhnadzor on 26 December. This entitled project leader AtomEnergoProekt (Saint Petersburg branch) to firstly load nuclear fuel and begin tests of safety systems. Test operation at the minimum power level is also permitted as a second step, to confirm the proper operation of control systems and instrumentation.

Sodium coolant is already in place and nuclear fuel has been delivered to the site. The steps outlined above should be complete by April 2014, said Rosatom, with commerical operation coming by the end of the year.

Beloyarsk 4 will be the most powerful fast reactor unit in the world at 789 MWe. This exceeds Beloyarsk 3's 560 MWe as well as the 246 MWe of Monju in Japan. France's Super-Phenix was more powerful at 1200 MWe, but this was closed in 1997. Another fast reactor is under construction in India at Kalpakkam which will produce 470 MWe when it starts up, also in 2014.

Russia is planning to construct a larger BN-1200 fast reactor power unit at Beloyarsk to start up by 2020, while cooperating with China to build two BN-800 units there.

Ellison Medical Foundation moving beyond aging medical research

Fightaging reports that the Ellison Medical Foundation will no longer fund aging research. For the past fifteen years or so the Ellison Medical Foundation has acted much like an extension of the National Institute on Aging, channeling philanthropic funding from Larry Ellison into investigations of the biology of aging. This has been mainstream work with little to no involvement in efforts to extend life. The Ellison Medical Foundation didn't come about because Larry Ellison has any great interest in aging research, however: the interest was in furthering molecular biology, and the study of aging just happens to be a field in which a lot of cutting edge molecular biology takes place.

Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison's medical foundation — one of the leading funders for research on aging over the past 15 years — has stopped making new grants and may shift its focus beyond medical research.

The move by the New York-based Ellison Medical Foundation comes as researchers face a financial crunch and as the Google Inc.-backed aging research company Calico ramps up.


Volgograd aka Stalingrad hit by two terrorist bombings while concerns rise for Sochi Olympics

Volgograd—a city of about one million—is Russia's closest major metropolis to the North Caucasus. It is also a key transit center connecting the south of the country—including the Caucasus region—with the rest of Russia. After Monday's attack, city authorities mobilized cadets from a local police academy and announced plans to bring in Cossack patrols to help maintain security.

Volgograd—previously known as Stalingrad—also is symbolic because of its importance to Russia's past as the site of a historic World War II battle in which Nazi Germany's advance into Russia was turned back.

"Volgograd, a symbol of Russia's suffering and victory in World War II, has been singled out by the terrorist leaders precisely because of its status in people's minds. Their aim is to hurt as many ordinary people as they can, and terrorize the rest," said Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

While Russia's security forces have struggled to suppress militant groups in the Caucasus region, Islamic terrorism has faded in the Russian heartland in recent years. Earlier this year, however, rebel leader Doku Umarov called for attacks against civilian targets in the run-up to the Sochi games.

A suicide bomber struck in the southwest Russian city of Volgograd on Monday morning, killing at least 14 people aboard a crowded trolley bus in the city's second terrorist attack in less than 24 hours, stoking security fears in the country ahead of the upcoming Winter Olympics.

12 hour drive from Chechnya to Sochi Winter Olympics site


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December 29, 2013

Two efforts to split California into two or six states

Northern rural counties of California have a movement to separate from California. The idea has widespread backing from frustrated residents craving economic opportunity and control.

Majority votes are required in the state Legislature and U.S. Congress for separation to occur. The last state to do so was West Virginia — in 1863 — and dozens of regions across the U.S. have since seen their efforts fizzle, most recently last month when just five of 11 Colorado counties voted to form an independent state.

Between now and mid-February, town hall meetings are scheduled in Butte, Glenn, Sutter and Del Norte counties. Del Norte organizer Aaron Funk is stepping down from nearly half a dozen local boards to focus full time on the withdrawal movement. The vote at one recent meeting of core volunteers: to study up on precedent and begin plotting logistics.


Tim Draper's Six California's

Late this month another voice joined the mix: Citing the State of Jefferson movement as inspiration, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper launched a state ballot initiative [sixcalifornias.info] to carve up California — into six states.

Political analysts say congressional Democrats would never go for it. But an elated Baird is working to arrange a meeting with Draper.

The debate over the State of Jefferson often boils down to a balance sheet. Laufer's tally from the state Department of Finance concluded that California's four northernmost counties take in $20 million or so more per year from Sacramento than they provide.


Chromebook made big gains in marketshare in 2013 . . . the days of Microsoft Windows laptops seem to be numbered

Year to date through November 2013, 14.4 million desktops, notebooks, and tablets were sold through U.S. commercial channels, leading to a 25.4 percent increase over 2012, according to The NPD Group’s Distributor Track and Commercial Reseller Tracking Service. This stellar performance follows the 3.1 percent sales increase experienced in 2012.

Chromebooks, and Android tablets collectively had the biggest impact on sales growth, with 1.76 million units going through the channel from January through November of this year, compared to just 400,000 units in 2012.

Chromebooks accounted for 21 percent of all notebook* sales, up from negligible share in the prior year, and 8 percent of all computer and tablet sales through November, up from one tenth of a percent in 2012 – the largest share increase across the various product segments.



Chromebooks took a commanding second place position behind stalwart Windows laptops, while previous No. 2 MacBooks dropped 0.8 percent to end November with 1.8 percent of the market.