July 01, 2016

Coming Soon: Gut Bacteria That Actually Cure conditions like obesity and diseases like liver disease, and cancer

There’s very little evidence that probiotic supplements do any good. The probiotics promise has built a $34 billion market as of last year, according to a new report from BCC Research, $6 billion of which was in supplements. The biggest share of the probiotics market was in food and beverages, at $24.8 billion.

Seres Therapeutics, a microbiome-based biopharmaceutical company in Cambridge, Mass., is developing a pill, subject to a rigorous approval process under the Food and Drug Administration, to tackle recurrent Clostridium difficile. (The digestive system's microbiome is the community of healthy gut bacteria that normally reside in the body.) Half a million people a year are infected with C. diff in the U.S., the CDC estimates, with 29,000 annual deaths related to the diarrheic bacterium. More than 65 percent of C. diff infections involve exposure in a health-care facility, according to a 2015 study, creating more than $4.8 billion in excess health-care costs at acute-care facilities alone.

Seres aims to put the science behind a proven treatment of recurrent C. diff, fecal transplants, in a pill, which wouldn't require a colonoscopy. Like probiotic supplements, it’s a gut bacteria product. Unlike the supplements, by the time it’s available it will have gone through the FDA wringer. It will contain about 50 strains of bacteria proven effective in treating C. diff and will require a doctor's prescription.

Recurrent C. diff is an obvious entry point for Seres, said Chief Executive Officer Roger Pomerantz. “We asked, what is the lowest-hanging fruit?” But it’s hardly the end. The company has built a microbiome library of 14,000 strains of human bacteria it hopes will help it treat a range of diseases, eventually without needing feces at all.

Seres has embarked on the research with some pretty lofty goals, including finding treatments for obesity, liver disease, and cancer. It has partnerships with Massachusetts General Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and other respected medical institutions.

Second careers are an issue now and not just for those who might live to a hundred or more

London Business School professor of management practice Lynda Gratton, argues that the trajectory of our lives—professionally and personally—remains trapped in a mind-set that applied when life spans were much shorter Gratton draws on her new book, The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, to explain why lives are moving from two stages to three and what that means not only for individuals but for corporations and government as well.

One of the most fundamental facts about living to a hundred is if you live to a hundred and you save at a normal savings rate and you want to retire on 50 percent of your final income, you will be working until you’re in your late 70s, early 80s.

Japan and many other long lived asian countries where many can already expect to live to 90 or more are poor examples of happily living and working longer

Japanese women took the top spot in average life expectancy worldwide for the third consecutive year in 2014 at 86.83 years, while Japanese men climbed a notch to tie for third place at 80.50 years.

For women, Hong Kong was second at 86.75 years and Spain third at 85.60 years. Hong Kong men ranked top at 81.17 years, followed by men in Iceland at 80.8 years. Japanese men shared third place with men in Singapore and Switzerland.

Older Japanese have a strong preference to continue working until relatively old ages and this is achieved by shifting from career jobs to bridge jobs that might last for another decade. The participation rate of men 55 to 59 is similar to that of men 50 to 54.

Mandatory retirement has long been a major component of Japanese employment contracts in large firms. Shimizutani (2011) reports that 60 percent of firms with 30 or more employees had mandatory retirement policies in 1980 but coverage by compulsory retirement had risen to almost 100 percent by 2000. Despite the prevalence of mandatory retirement at age 60, three quarters of men age 60 to 64 remain in the labor force and almost half of women of this age are also in the labor force

The second career often has a meager salary. They are on yearly contracts and the companies view the jobs as an obligation to the state.

Preparing for a successful second or third career with a three to five year transition

Millions of Americans looking for a successful second act or encore career. About 65% of workers say they plan to work for pay after they retire, but only 27% of retirees report working for pay, according to a national survey released Tuesday from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

When it comes to finding a successful second act, most people simply don't know what they're passionate about, even when they know they want to move in another direction, says Kerry Hannon, author of What's Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties, and Beyond. She has interviewed hundreds of people about their career changes.

For many, their passion is something they did when they were younger, often in childhood, she says. One of her favorite career-change stories is a retired Navy officer who loved going to the circus as a kid, so he became the company manager for a non-profit circus. His wife, who was a nurse, became the circus wardrobe designer.

Hannon advises career switchers to give themselves three to five years to make the transition. "Go slowly. No one dives into a second career on a whim."

A Productivity Revolution in China would enable an economy with about twice the growth over the current investment growth model

China faces an important choice: whether to continue with its old model and raise the risk of a hard landing for the economy, or to shift gears. A new McKinsey Global Institute report, China’s choice: Capturing the $5 trillion productivity opportunity, finds that a new approach centered on productivity could generate 36 trillion renminbi ($5.6 trillion) of additional GDP by 2030, compared with continuing the investment-led path. Household income could rise by 33 trillion renminbi ($5.1 trillion), as the exhibit shows.

China has the capacity to manage the decisive shift to a productivity-led model. Its government can pull fiscal and monetary levers, such as raising sovereign debt and securing additional financing on the basis of 123 trillion renminbi in state-owned assets. China has a vibrant private sector, earning three times the returns on assets of state-owned enterprises. There are now 116 million middle-class and affluent households (with annual disposable income of at least $21,000 per year), compared with just 2 million such households in 2000. And the country is ripe for a productivity revolution. Labor productivity is 15 to 30 percent of the average in countries that are part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

First person to die in a Tesla car on autopilot was watching Harry Potter movie at time of crash

A driver was so enamored of his Tesla Model S sedan that he nicknamed the car “Tessy,” praised the safety benefits of its “Autopilot” system and was watching a Harry Potter video when he became the first person to die in a wreck involving a car in self-driving mode.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the driver’s death Thursday, and said it is investigating the design and performance of the Autopilot system.

Joshua D. Brown of Canton, Ohio, the 40-year-old owner of a technology company, was killed May 7 in Williston, Florida, when his car’s cameras failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky and didn’t automatically activate its brakes, according to statements by the government and the automaker. Just one month earlier, Brown had credited the Autopilot system for preventing a collision on an interstate.

Frank Baressi, 62, the driver of the truck and owner of Okemah Express, said the Tesla driver was “playing Harry Potter on the TV screen” at the time of the crash and driving so quickly that “he went so fast through my trailer I didn’t see him.”

The movie “was still playing when he died,” Baressi told The Associated Press in an interview from his home in Palm Harbor, Florida, saying the careening car “snapped a telephone pole a quarter mile down the road.”

June 30, 2016

Artificial pancreas likely to be available by 2018

The artificial pancreas -- a device which monitors blood glucose in patients with type 1 diabetes and then automatically adjusts levels of insulin entering the body -- is likely to be available by 2018, conclude authors of a paper in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes). Issues such as speed of action of the forms of insulin used, reliability, convenience and accuracy of glucose monitors plus cybersecurity to protect devices from hacking, are among the issues that are being addressed.

1.5 million people in the United States have Type 1 diabetes. The amount of insulin they need at any given moment is always changing — day to day, hour to hour, even minute to minute. Insulin is the hormone that allows your body’s cells to absorb glucose, the gasoline that makes cells go. No insulin, no life.

Three of these academic competitors — Hovorka, Kovatchev and Phillip — have already partnered with companies to commercialize their efforts. Hovorka and Phillip are with Medtronic, the current industry leader in diabetes technology; Kovatchev is with a startup named TypeZero Technologies.

Another competitor Damiano founded a “public benefit” corporation in October, the kind normally used to run transit systems and utilities. The firm, Beta Bionics, quickly secured $5 million in funding from Eli Lilly and Co., the pharmaceutical giant. Damiano serves as CEO but remains a professor at Boston University, where he continues to seek research grants from NIH.

Currently available technology allows insulin pumps to deliver insulin to people with diabetes after taking a reading or readings from glucose meters, but these two components are separate. It is the joining together of both parts into a 'closed loop' that makes an artificial pancreas. In trials to date, users have been positive about how use of an artificial pancreas gives them 'time off' or a 'holiday' from their diabetes management, since the system is managing their blood sugar effectively without the need for constant monitoring by the user.

US Air Force is prepped to test a 60-120 KW combat laser on an AC-130W gunship

US Air Force Special Operations Command has designated an AC-130W gunship to have a laser weapon installed. There are ready crews and funded flight hours available for industry partners to leverage.

The aircraft does not carry the 105mm cannon installed on other operational “Stinger II” gunships—affording more size, weight and power—but any proposed laser unit will occupy the 30mm gun position forward of the wing, where airflow is less disturbed.

They are pushing for a 60-kW or 120-kW high-powered laser, depending on technology readiness, for disabling stationary vehicles, aircraft and fixed communications nodes such as cellphone towers.

AFSOC already has published a secret-level concept of operations document addressing the way a laser-equipped gunship would be used in battle, and other organizations within the Defense Department are defining tactics, techniques and procedures for laser weapons.

The AC-130 will also become a flying aircraft carrier, launching mini-drones mid-flight to scope out threats and targets. The mini-drone project is further along, with actual testing underway in 2015. It relies on fitting the existing Coyote UAV to the Common Launch Tube already used by some AC-130 variants to launch Griffin missiles.

Fifth Generation Air Combat - how best to use the F35 and F22

A ten page paper describes how best to use the F35 and F22 in a hypothetical all our war with China in 2026

They lay out the characteristics and requirements of fifth generation aircraft systems, and describe how these assets are leveraged in present and future joint and combined warfare.

F35 just becoming operational so the scenario where the F35 and F22 make the difference in future war is propoganda to justify the $1 trillion F35 program

The Air Force is expected between August and December to declare its first squadron of F-35s ready for war. That means a regional military commander could request those planes for combat. The Marines declared its F-35s ready for war last year, but they have not been used in the air campaign against ISIS, Afghanistan and in Africa, all areas where the military has bombed enemy strongholds in recent years.

Five basic concepts are highlighted, as focus areas for commanders and others, to ensure an adequate understanding of the support structure these aircraft require.

  1. preparations,
  2. mission data elements,
  3. deployment,
  4. employment,
  5. as well as logistics and sustainment.

The F-22 Raptor has now operated in the combat air force for over a decade, and played a key role in the kickoff of Operation Inherent Resolve over Syria in September 2014, and subsequent operations.

In addition to its speed, maneuverability, and stealth capabilities, commanders have discovered the Raptor brings immense situational awareness capabilities by utilizing its sensors in ways few could have imagined in the program’s infancy over three decades ago. The F-22’s ability to perform strikes, conduct escort operations, collect and manage information, pass taskings in real time, and provide dynamic targeting information “has even exceeded our expectations,” said Air Combat Command chief Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle in February 2015.

The F-22 has the ability to make every asset it works with better, as it connects and leverages the entirety of a strike package in ways older combat aircraft could not do.

There are many characteristics of fifth generation aircraft that separate them from older aircraft. These include, primarily, multi-spectral low observable (LO) design features (such as radar, infrared sensors, and visual situational awareness tools), along with self-protection and radar jamming capabilities that delay or deny enemy systems the ability to detect, track, and engage the aircraft. These aircraft also feature integrated avionics, which autonomously fuse and prioritize the aircraft’s multi-spectral sensors and off board data, providing an accurate real-time operations picture for the pilot, and the ability to download data for post-mission analysis. This is a present-day example of “man-machine teaming.” Advanced on-board diagnostics help vital monitoring of the aircraft’s health, accurately reporting faults as they occur, increasing overall system performance and reliability.

Resilient communications, navigation, and identification tools and techniques are also crucial aspects of fifth generation aircraft, designed to counter enemy attempts to jam, deny, or confuse these vital capabilities.

To realize the potential of fifth generation aircraft in modern joint operations, fifth generation communities in the USAF must make several improvements.

1. units must improve deployment reaction time and speed, as windows of opportunity to penetrate IADS or to destroy high value targets may be fleeting.
2. Fifth generation aircraft units must work diligently to minimize the required amount of forward-deployed equipment and personnel, and fully understand the logistics, sustainment, and communications limitations at a deployed location.
3. the Air Force must work to increase flexible basing options available for fifth generation aircraft (such as increasing the
number of airfields the Air Force can deploy to), and build a fuller understanding of the impact these options will have on operations, maintenance, and command and control in dispersed locations
4. fifth generation aircraft sustainment and support systems must be hardened with sufficient redundancy to ensure resilience under attack. This hardening must be multi-domain, and the sustainment and support systems must be able to survive and operate in the face of both kinetic and cyber attack

Discovery powerful defense against free radicals that cause aging, disease

A new University of Michigan study outlines the discovery of a protein that acts as a powerful protectant against free radicals. Ironically, the protein is activated by excessive free radicals. Human mutations of the gene for this protein are previously known to cause a rare, neurodegenerative disease.

Lysosomes, which comprise the cell's recycling center, are crucial for cleaning up injured and dying parts of the cells, said lead researcher Haoxing Xu, U-M associate professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

When lysosomes "sense" an overload of free radicals, they activate a calcium channel on their membranes. This triggers the expression of many genes and the production of more and stronger lysosomes, which rev into overdrive to rid the damaged parts of the cells.

Free radicals are guilty in the aging process, Xu said.

The red dye in the cell show healthy mitochondria in a healthy cell. Images courtesy: Haoxing Xu

Nature Communications - MCOLN1 is a ROS sensor in lysosomes that regulates autophagy

US Air force claims seven F35s performed well against eight twin-engine F-15Es in mock combat

William Redmond, the executive director of the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico has a presentation which claims the F35 is difficult to challenge in their war game tests.

During mock combat, seven F-35s reportedly shot down eight twin-engine F-15Es, for no losses of their own — this despite the 2015 revelation that the F-35 is inferior to a single-engine F-16 in a simulated dogfight. It’s possible that the Lightning pilots have devised special air-combat tactics that take advantage of the F-35’s stealth and cutting-edge sensors.

The US military plans to replace nearly all of its current tactical jets with as many as 2,400 F-35s at a total program cost, including maintenance, of around $1 trillion. The Air force is claiming the F35 is great despite software flaws, costs overruns and delays in making the F35 operational and a 2015 report that the F35 is inferior to a single engine F16 in a dogfight

China's One Belt One Road is an attempt to physically and economically unify Europe and Asia and $890 billion in deals are a start

There are 900 deals under way on China's One Belt One Road initiative. The deals are worth $890 billion, such as a gas pipeline from the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar to south-west China and a rail link between Beijing and Duisburg, a transport hub in Germany. China says it will invest a cumulative $4 trillion in OBOR countries, though it does not say by when. Its officials tetchily reject comparison with the Marshall Plan which, they say, was a means of rewarding America’s friends and excluding its enemies after the second world war. OBOR, they boast, is open to all. But, for what it is worth, the Marshall Plan amounted to $130 billion in current dollars.

President Xi’s chief foreign adviser, Yang Jiechi, has tied OBOR to China’s much-touted aims of becoming a “moderately well-off society” by 2020 and a “strong, prosperous” one by mid-century.

Mr Xi seems to see the new Silk Road as a way of extending China’s commercial tentacles and soft power. It also plays a role in his broader foreign-policy thinking. The president has endorsed his predecessors’ view that China faces a “period of strategic opportunity” up to 2020, meaning it can take advantage of a mostly benign security environment to achieve its aim of strengthening its global power without causing conflict. OBOR, officials believe, is a good way of packaging such a strategy. It also fits with Mr Xi’s “Chinese dream” of recreating a great past. It is not too much to say that he expects to be judged as a leader partly on how well he fulfils OBOR’s goals.

Third, OBOR matters because it is a challenge to the United States and its traditional way of thinking about world trade. In that view, there are two main trading blocs, the trans-Atlantic one and the trans-Pacific one, with Europe in the first, Asia in the second and America the focal point of each. Two proposed regional trade deals, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, embody this approach. But OBOR treats Asia and Europe as a single space, and China, not the United States, is its focal point.

In April a Chinese shipping company, Cosco, took a 67% stake in Greece’s second-largest port, Piraeus, from which Chinese firms are building a high-speed rail network linking the city to Hungary and eventually Germany. In July work is due to start on the third stage of a Chinese-designed nuclear reactor in Pakistan, where China recently announced it would finance a big new highway and put $2 billion into a coal mine in the Thar desert.

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft to Kick into Planned Autopilot for July 4 Jupiter Burn

At about 12:15 pm PDT today (3:15 p.m. EDT), mission controllers will transmit command product “ji4040” into deep space, to transition the solar-powered Juno spacecraft into autopilot. It will take nearly 48 minutes for the signal to cover the 534-million-mile (860-million-kilometer) distance between the Deep Space Network Antenna in Goldstone, California, to the Juno spacecraft. While sequence ji4040 is only one of four command products sent up to the spacecraft that day, it holds a special place in the hearts of the Juno mission team.

“Ji4040 contains the command that starts the Jupiter Orbit insertion sequence,” said Ed Hirst, mission manager of Juno from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “As soon as it initiates -- which should be in less than a second -- Juno will send us data that the command sequence has started.”

NASA's Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in July, 2016 to study our solar system's largest planet. From a unique polar orbit, Juno will repeatedly dive between the planet and its intense belts of charged particle radiation, coming only about 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) from the cloud tops at closest approach.

Juno's primary goal is to improve our understanding of Jupiter's formation and evolution. The spacecraft will investigate the planet's origins, interior structure, deep atmosphere and magnetosphere. Juno's study of Jupiter will help us to understand the history of our own solar system and provide new insight into how planetary systems form and develop in our galaxy and beyond.

This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft approaching Jupiter. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Home IMAX theater starts at $400,000 versus average regular private home cinema rooms at $30,000 to $100,000+

IMAX's Private Theatre division will now build an IMAX cinema setup in your own home The entry-level IMAX Private Theatre is the "Palais," which starts at about $400,00 for a screening room with up to 18 seats. For your money you get dual 4K 2D/3D projectors, a proprietary IMAX sound system, and a media playback system that supports everything you might want to throw at it (TV, games, Blu-ray, etc.) No word on the exact specifications of the projectors, but they're probably not IMAX-with-laser. Screen size will vary depending on the setup, but generally they will be 3 meters (10ft) tall or more.

Stepping up to the "Platinum" IMAX home theatre for about $1 million gets you a much larger screening room with space for up to 40 people.

According to Hanley Wood and their "Remodeling" magazine the average home theater addition in a new room added to the home, finished with drywall, functional doors and windows, and soundproofing will cost $82,756 (16 foot by 25 foot room). The resale value of this update would hold at $54,051, or a roughly 65% return on investment.

The above figures place the home theater addition at $207 per square foot. This pricing structure assumes that carpenters charge an average of $70 per hour, electricians between $65 to $85 per hour, and painters between $20 and $35 per hour.

June 29, 2016

Japan shooting for exaflop supercomputer using ARM processors by 2020 using nearly $1 billion budget

At the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany this week, officials at Fujitsu and RIKEN confirmed that they will use ARM cores for its next generation of supercomputers.

The exact plans that Fujitsu has for its future ARM processor were not divulged at ISC16, but Yutaka Ishikawa, project leader for the Advanced Institute of Computational Science located in RIKEN’s Kobe, Japan facility, confirmed not only that the successor to the K supercomputer, which is being developed under the Flagship2020 program, would use ARM-based processors but that these chips would be at the heart of a new system built by Fujitsu for RIKEN that would break the exaflops barrier by 2020.

In his presentation at ISC16, Ishikawa said that the target performance of the Post-K machine was for it to be 100 times that of K in terms of capacity computing and 50 times that of K when looked at through capability computing, which is a way of saying 100X on peak flops and 50X on real-world applications that will probably not go anywhere near the exaflops level in their scalability. What that means is that Fujitsu is committing to delivering a machine with more than 1 exaflops of aggregate peak performance, and you can be pretty sure that there will be enough extra performance in the box so the Linpack number will break 1 exaflops. The system is expected to consume somewhere between 30 MW and 40 MW.

The exascale target of a 25 MW system by 2020 was always optimistic. They may be willing to pay for more electricity to get to exaflops earlier so long as this much power can be brought into centers like RIKEN. The K super burns 12.7 megawatts. Those numbers are for the compute and storage part of the system and does not include the power distribution and cooling within the datacenter that wraps around them, which takes an enormous amount of energy.

The post K computer is the successor of K computer, that will be the next Japanese flagship machine, being developed by RIKEN. It will be operated from 2020. The post T2K computer, whose peak performance will be about 30 PF, is being designed under the joint project of two universities, Tsukuba and Tokyo, and will be operated from 2016.

Japan's 2020 project has a budget of about US$910 million

So what could Post-K look like from a processor perspective?

The next logical jump for Fujitsu with the Sparc64 chips was to a 16 nanometer process and another core shrink, perhaps to 48 cores on a die. The drop down to 10 nanometer in 2019 or so might have allowed it to put as many as 64 cores to 96 cores on a die. So just holding clock speeds steady and raising core counts would have gotten Fujitsu to somewhere between 200 petaflops and 300 petaflops two Sparc64 fx generations from now. Double up the SIMD units to 512 bits each, and you can hit 400 petaflops to 600 petaflops. Scale out the interconnect with Tofu3, and if you did maybe 165,000 nodes instead of 100,000 max, that gets you to 1 exaflops peak with a core running at about 2.2 GHz. Global replacing Sparc64 fx cores with ARMv8 cores in such designs as speculated above would be the way to go. If the core counts can’t get that high, Fujitsu could push out the width of the SIMD units to – gasp – 1,024 bits.

No matter how the math crunching gets crammed into the future Fujitsu ARM chips, one thing is for sure. The memory bandwidth from HMC and from Tofu3 will have to increase – maybe by something on the order of 3X to 4X – to keep the cores and vector units all fed.

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