September 20, 2014

Gene therapy helps weak mice grow strong and helped those with neuromuscular disease live longer

A virus that shuttles a therapeutic gene into cells has strengthened the muscles, improved the motor skills, and lengthened the lifespan of mice afflicted with two neuromuscular diseases. The approach could one day help people with a range of similar disorders, from muscular dystrophy to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

Many of these diseases involve defective neuromuscular junctions—the interface between neurons and muscle cells where brain signals tell muscles to contract. In one such disease, a form of familial limb-girdle myasthenia, people carry two defective copies of the gene called DOK7, which codes for a protein that’s needed to form such junctions. Their hip and shoulder muscles atrophy over many years, and some eventually have trouble breathing or end up in a wheelchair. Mice similarly missing a properly working Dok7 gene are severely underweight and die within a few weeks.

Google plans quantum computer with longer coherence times

IEEE Spectrum has more information about Google's quantum computer hardware plans.

The Martinis group had previously built quantum computing systems of up to nine qubits based on superconducting quantum circuits—the same type of general hardware design used by D-Wave's machines. Under the new Google effort, Martinis hopes his team can roughly double the number of qubits every year and eventually work up to 40 or 80 qubits through "brute-force" scaling. "Forty qubits is a large enough number so that you can really tell if the device is going to give any interesting performance," Martinis says.

Martinis and his team will continue developing error-correction codes for Google with the aim of uncovering and fixing errors in universal logic-gate quantum computers. In May, they demonstrated a type of error-correction code called surface code that can work with lower accuracy thresholds for quantum logic operations.

So about two years to 40 qubits and three years 80 qubits.

Dwave will be commercially releasing their 1152 qubit system this year. The current model processes 512 qubits, but the new hardware will manage 1,152. That may seem like a strange number, but the hardware units can each handle eight qubits and the system stacks them in a 12 by 12 grid. [8 *144 = 1152]

They should have a 2300 qubit system next year. Dwave Systems is still improving their qubits and hardware systems.

September 19, 2014

Alibaba makes Jack Ma Richest man China and Masayoshi Son richest in Japan

Alibaba was up 38% on its first day and now has a market value of $231 billion.

At its closing share price on Friday, Alibaba has a market value of $231 billion, exceeding the combined market capitalizations of Amazon (AMZN.O) and eBay (EBAY.O), the two leading U.S. e-commerce companies.

Alibaba is valued at 39 times its estimated earnings per share for its current fiscal year, which ends in March. That is right in line with Facebook's (FB.O) valuation of 39 times forward earnings but nowhere near the lofty valuation of's multiple of 264.

Softbank owned a lot of Alibaba. Masayoshi Son surpassed Fast Retailing Co. Chairman Tadashi Yanai as Japan’s richest person yesterday after SoftBank Corp. surged 16 percent since the start of last week. Son, 57, has a net worth of $16.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Softbank owns about 34 percent of Alibaba.

Jack Ma of Alibaba is now worth over $16 billion ($16 billion in Alibaba stock and about $2 billion in cash and other assets).

John Bongaarts at the Population Council thinks Climate Change has a good chance of limiting human Population but he is wrong

According to the new analysis by researchers at the United Nations and several academic institutions, there is an 80 percent chance that the world’s population, now 7.2 billion, won’t stop at nine billion in 2050, but will instead be between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion by 2100. The researchers increased their estimates after noting persistent high birth rates and faster-than-expected progress in combatting HIV/AIDS in Africa. [Journal Science - World population stabilization unlikely this century]

Technology Review David Talbot says the prediction’s reliability is debatable, given that it does not take into account future hardships a large population would likely face. It doesn’t take into account the effects of climate change, food shortages, disease, or conflict. The study take into account that population growth could trigger deadly calamities like food shortages, war, and disease even without climate change, says John Bongaarts, vice president and distinguished scholar at the Population Council, a think tank and research organization based in New York City.

Robert Zubrin lays out a case against the Population Council and similar organizations Robert Zubrin’s “Merchants of Despair” chronicles huge and devastating influences of radical environmentalists along with associated criminal pseudo-scientists and a fatal cult of anti-humanism upon global events and society which continue today.

Wolfgang Lutz, director of the Vienna Institute of Demography, says, his newest analysis still suggests a less-dire outcome. “Our most likely scenario comes out somewhat lower than the current United Nations projections,” and suggests population will peak at 9.4 billion around 2070 and start a slow decline to nine billion by the end of the century.

So Lutz at the Vienna Demography Institute calls a human population rising to 12 billion in 2100 a dire outcome. It would be dire if wars, food shortages, disease and climate change do not limit population ? Or if Africa does not see vastly increased usage of birth control ?

First Water-Based Nuclear Battery Can Be Used to Generate Electrical Energy for decades with betavoltaics breakthrough

From cell phones to cars and flashlights, batteries play an important role in everyday life. Scientists and technology. companies constantly are seeking ways to improve battery life and efficiency. Now, for the first time using a water-based solution, researchers at the University of Missouri have created a long-lasting and more efficient nuclear battery that could be used for many applications such as a reliable energy source in automobiles and also in complicated applications such as space flight.

The battery uses a radioactive isotope called strontium-90 that boosts electrochemcial energy in a water-based solution. A nanostructured titanium dioxide electrode (the common element found in sunscreens and UV blockers) with a platinum coating collects and effectively converts energy into electrons.

“Water acts as a buffer and surface plasmons created in the device turned out to be very useful in increasing its efficiency,” Kwon said. “The ionic solution is not easily frozen at very low temperatures and could work in a wide variety of applications including car batteries and, if packaged properly, perhaps spacecraft.”

The maximum energy conversion efficiency of the MU battery was approximately estimated to be 53.88%. This is an astonishing number for a first trial design. Strontium 90 has a half life of 28.79 years

H/T to New Energy and Fuel

Nature Scientific Reports - Plasmon-assisted radiolytic energy conversion in aqueous solutions

Optimizing performance and working around limitation of Dwave Quantum Annealing Computers

Discrete optimization using quantum annealing on sparse Ising models

This paper discusses techniques for solving discrete optimization problems using quantum annealing. Practical issues likely to affect the computation include precision limitations, finite temperature, bounded energy range, sparse connectivity, and small numbers of qubits. To address these concerns they propose a way of finding energy representations with large classical gaps between ground and first excited states, efficient algorithms for mapping non-compatible Ising models into the hardware, and the use of decomposition methods for problems that are too large to fit in hardware. They validate the approach by describing experiments with D-Wave quantum hardware for low density parity check decoding with up to 1000 variables.

Ocean Acification Mitigation Details and lower cost mitigation in the $1 to 4 per ton CO2 ranges