May 17, 2013

5G world of 2020

Cloned human embryonic stem cells

Researchers have created embryonic stem cells from human embryos that they created in the lab themselves. The new cloned stem cells were generated in a couple of months versus 4 months for current methods.

Journal Cell - Human Embryonic Stem Cells Derived by Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer

* Cytoplasm of human oocytes reprograms transplanted somatic cell nuclei to pluripotency
* NT-ESCs can be efficiently derived from high-quality human oocytes
* Human NT-ESCs are similar to ESCs derived from fertilized embryos


Reprogramming somatic cells into pluripotent embryonic stem cells (ESCs) by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) has been envisioned as an approach for generating patient-matched nuclear transfer (NT)-ESCs for studies of disease mechanisms and for developing specific therapies. Past attempts to produce human NT-ESCs have failed secondary to early embryonic arrest of SCNT embryos. Here, we identified premature exit from meiosis in human oocytes and suboptimal activation as key factors that are responsible for these outcomes. Optimized SCNT approaches designed to circumvent these limitations allowed derivation of human NT-ESCs. When applied to premium quality human oocytes, NT-ESC lines were derived from as few as two oocytes. NT-ESCs displayed normal diploid karyotypes and inherited their nuclear genome exclusively from parental somatic cells. Gene expression and differentiation profiles in human NT-ESCs were similar to embryo-derived ESCs, suggesting efficient reprogramming of somatic cells to a pluripotent state.

Apollo astronaut Lovell working with commercial moon mission company Golden Spike

Golden Spike, the first company planning to undertake human lunar expeditions for countries and corporations around the world, announced today that legendary astronaut and Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell has joined its Board of Advisors.

Capt. Lovell, a former Naval aviator and test pilot, is a recipient of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the
Presidential Medal of Freedom. Lovell is one of only 24 people to have flown to the Moon, was the first of only three people to fly to the Moon twice, and was the first person to fly in space four times.

Golden Spike aims to launch private citizens on round-trip visits to the moon starting in 2020 for a fee of $1.5 billion per flight. The firm, named after the final spike that joined the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, is pitching these lunar voyages to corporations, countries without their own space programs, and even wealthy individuals.

Optimally combining dynamical decoupling and quantum error correction

Danny Lidar has said that he does not believe D-Wave Adiabatic quantum computer approach is scalable without error correction. He believes that the incorporation of error correction is a necessary condition in order to ever achieve a speedup with D-Wave’s machines. He does not believe D-Wave’s machines are any different from other types of quantum information processing in this regard. He hopes that in the future Dwave's designs will allow more flexibility in the incorporation of error correction.

Here is a paper by Danny from this year on quantum error correction.

Journal of Scientific Reports - Optimally combining dynamical decoupling and quantum error correction by Danny Lidar and Gerardo A. Paz-Silva

ABSTRACT - Quantum control and fault-tolerant quantum computing (FTQC) are two of the cornerstones on which the hope of realizing a large-scale quantum computer is pinned, yet only preliminary steps have been taken towards formalizing the interplay between them. Here we explore this interplay using the powerful strategy of dynamical decoupling (DD), and show how it can be seamlessly and optimally integrated with FTQC. To this end we show how to find the optimal decoupling generator set (DGS) for various subspaces relevant to FTQC, and how to simultaneously decouple them. We focus on stabilizer codes, which represent the largest contribution to the size of the DGS, showing that the intuitive choice comprising the stabilizers and logical operators of the code is in fact optimal, i.e., minimizes a natural cost function associated with the length of DD sequences. Our work brings hybrid DD-FTQC schemes, and their potentially considerable advantages, closer to realization.

Despite donating over $28 billion which saved over 6 million lives, Bill Gates is the richest person in the world with $76 billion

Bill Gates is the richest person in the World again with a net worth of about $76 billion.

Gates has already given more than $28 billion, but said in his fifth annual letter for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that the total amount invested is less important than precise measures of impact, like child mortality rates.

Bill Gates reduction of deaths from child mortality, Malaria and other diseases and problems of the poor has saved over 6 million lives.

China steps up efforts to export nuclear reactors

Three moves this week by China's state owned nuclear companies all demonstrated that China intends to capitalize on a growing global interest in nuclear power:

* State Nuclear Power Technology Corp (SNPTC) formed a joint venture with Westinghouse, the U.S. nuclear group owned by Japan’s Toshiba, to help sell Westinghouse-based nuclear reactors globally, Westinghouse said in a press release.

* China Guangdong Nuclear Corp (GGN), one of the country’s largest nuclear companies, changed its name to China General Nuclear Corp. to broaden its brand image outside of China and its home base of Guangdong, news agency Xinhua reported via China Daily.

* CGN, SNPTC and China National Nuclear Corp. pitched nuclear power to South Africa at an energy exhibition near Johannesburg.

Elon Musk worth about $6.5 billion as Solar City, Tesla and Spacex are on a roll

Elon Musk has 20.8 million shares of Solar City. Solar City stock is up to $45 per share. Elon's Solar City shares are worth about $936 million.

Elon Musk has 27 million shares of Tesla Motors. Tesla Motor shares are about $91 per share. Elon's Tesla shares are worth about $2.4 billion.

Elon Musk owns about 65% of Spacex which is estimated to be worth $5 billion. This would put Elon's shares at $3.2 billion.

Aaronson intuition about what Dwave quantum computers would do

In 2008 (and before and after) Scott Aaronson was an outspoken critic of Dwave Systems.

Scott has again picked up the mantle of Dwave critic. From New Scientist today, Aaronson disagrees. "I don't think this is going to be directly used for anything relevant to Google's business," he says. "Google is a very wealthy company and they do have money to throw around on things that just might be fun to play with."

Scott Aaronson's intuition from 2008

Even if D-Wave managed to build (say) a coherent 1,024-qubit machine satisfying all of its design specs, it’s not obvious it would outperform a classical computer on any problem of practical interest. This is true both because of the inherent limitations of the adiabatic algorithm, and because of specific concerns about the Ising spin graph problem. On the other hand, it’s also not obvious that such a machine wouldn’t outperform a classical computer on some practical problems. The experiment would be an interesting one! Of course, this uncertainty — combined with the more immediate uncertainties about whether D-Wave can build such a machine at all, and indeed, about whether they can even produce two-qubit entanglement — also means that any talk of “lining up customers” is comically premature.

Now Aaronson concedes that Dwave has achieved entanglement with a quantum annealing system for its full 512 qubits.

USC researchers compared a D-Wave One device, which has 108 qubits, with two different high-end conventional processors running simulation software that has been optimised to perform the computations in the same way as D-Wave. In this case, although the D-Wave One showed some evidence of quantum behavior, it took longer – 15 microseconds – to solve a problem than the conventional processors, which took 4 and 0.8 microseconds.

Lidar is now conducting similar tests with the upgraded D-Wave Two, which has 503 qubits and so might perform better on larger problem that ordinary, or classical, computers struggle with. "The really interesting question is whether a quantum processor exhibits better scaling with problem size than all classical processors it is compared with," says Lidar. "If this is the case, then it validates the promise of quantum computing."

Google has performed its own speed tests of the Dwave 512 qubit quantum system versus classical quadcore workstations and finds Dwave to be 11,000 to 50,000 times faster on problems of interest in Google.

There were tests by Catherine McGeoch, author of A Guide to Experimental Algorithmics, has 25 years of experience setting up experiments to test various facets of computing speed, and is one of the founders of “experimental algorithmics,” which she jokingly calls an “oddball niche” of computer science.

They found the 439 qubit system up to 3600 times faster than a quadcore computer and a 502 qubit system to be up to 10,000 times faster.

Russians have proven a land invasion of Canada is feasible by driving over the North Pole

A group of Russian explorers have driven across the North Pole and are heading to Resolute, Nunavut, in specialized amphibious trucks.

This basically proves that a land invasion into Canada from Russia is possible with a few thousand amphibious trucks and amphibious tanks. Russia has thousands of amphibious tanks and armored vehicles. I am just saying.

The expedition sponsored by the Russian Geographic Society left Russia’s northern coast in February in two of the large trucks. They reached the geographical North Pole on April 6 and expect to reach the Nunavut hamlet in June.

The trip is part of the Marine Live-Ice Automobile Expedition.

“These are specially designed vehicles made to travel over ice and open water with an extra light aluminum body, six tires per vehicle with low pressure intended to cause little damage to the tundra,” said Natalia Babikova, who is co-ordinating the expedition from Moscow.

The vehicles are powered and heated by diesel fuel.

A group of Russian explorers left Russia in February to drive to the North Pole and then on to Resolute, Nunavut, in specialized amphibious trucks. The group says the trucks are designed to minimize damage to the tundra and ice in the Arctic. (Yemelya)

EIU predicts GDP growth out to 2017

May 16, 2013

Aaronson doubts the Dwave Speedup Results and Dwave CTO Rose wonders why anyone listens to someone who has been 100% wrong before on Dwave

Scott Aaronson has commented upon the recent Dwave quantum computer speed tests.

Scott has talked to the USC authors [when they visited MIT] of a paper which found quantum annealing in 100 qubits but did not find a speedup over classical systems for the 128 qubit processor.

There were eight authors and Scott went with the most pessimistic of two of the authors that he spoke with. Matthias Troyer had doubts about DWave. Danny Lidar believed quantum speedups were possible.

Aaronson's doubts and Matthias Troyer doubts via Aaronson

* The almost flat solutions times from smaller to larger problems is due to smaller problems not being run as fast as they could be. Run the D-Wave machine as fast as it can run for small n (small qubit numbers), and the difference in the slopes disappears, with only the constant-factor advantage for simulated annealing remaining. In short, there seems to be no evidence, at present, that the D-Wave machine is going to overtake simulated annealing for any instance size.

* calibration errors seem entirely sufficient to explain the variation in performance, with no need to posit any special class of instances (however small) on which the D-Wave machine dramatically outperforms QMC.

* the USC experiment was only one experiment with one set of instances.

NBF - Aaronson thinks the Amherst / Simon Fraser paper (showing 3000 to 10,000 times speedup in some cases) is wrong. He thinks that CPlex can and should be tuned for a "fair comparison". Aaronson did not look at the Google tests which showed up to a 50,000 times speedup.

So does Google not have people smart enough to do a proper speed test comparison of the Dwave quantum computer versus classical computers. Google has had researchers using the Dwave systems for about 4 years and they have some pretty good people at tuning classical algorithms.

Dwave CTO Rose Responds

Rose indicates that the majority of that Aaronson post is simply factually incorrect.

Quantum Machine Learning Singularity from Google, Kurzweil and Dwave ?

Dwave's 512 qubit system can speedup the solution of Google's machine learning algorithms by 50,000 times in 25% of the problem cases. This could make it the fastest system for solving Google's problems.

Google and Dwave have been working on sparse coding, deep learning and unattended machine learning with Dwave's quantum computer helping to get better and faster results in some cases.

Google research discusses the use of quantum computers for AI and machine learning.

[Google has ] already developed some quantum machine learning algorithms. One produces very compact, efficient recognizers -- very useful when you’re short on power, as on a mobile device. Another can handle highly polluted training data, where a high percentage of the examples are mislabeled, as they often are in the real world. And we’ve learned some useful principles: e.g., you get the best results not with pure quantum computing, but by mixing quantum and classical computing.

Can we move these ideas from theory to practice, building real solutions on quantum hardware? Answering this question is what the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab is for. We hope it helps researchers construct more efficient and more accurate models for everything from speech recognition, to web search, to protein folding. We [Google] actually think quantum machine learning may provide the most creative problem-solving process under the known laws of physics.

Nextbigfuture covered an earlier article about Sparse Coding at Dwave

Dwave 512 qubit quantum computer faster than any supercomputer for optimization problems of interest to Google with about 21 petaflop equivalent

In tests last September, an independent researcher found that for some types of problems the Dwave quantum computer was 3,600 times faster than a traditional intel quadcore workstation (2.4 Ghz quadcore chips with 16 GB of memory and about 420 GFlops). According to a D-Wave official, the machine performed even better in Google’s tests, which involved 500 variables with different constraints. “The tougher, more complex ones had better performance,” said Colin Williams, D-Wave’s director of business development. “For most problems, it was 11,000 times faster, but in the more difficult 50 percent, it was 33,000 times faster. In the top 25 percent, it was 50,000 times faster.

So for 25% of Google's optimization problems the Dwave system was roughly 50,000 times better than a 420 Gflop system. This approximately is 21 petaflops.

So for some optimization problems of commercial value the Dwave Quantum Computer is faster than any existing classical supercomputer.

A summary of the quantum computer versus classical system speed tests done in September, 2012 are described here

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

439 and 502 qubit systems were compared to a quadcore system.

Harder Optimization problems for classical computers have more speedup on Dwave

Dwave stays consistent solving problems in a few microseconds and in about one second of physical clock time to load, solve and extract the result. If it takes 100 hours to solve it on a fast classical system then there is more speedup versus a version of the problem that takes 60 minutes. 3600 times speedup from 60 minutes to 1 second. 360,000 times speedup to go from 100 hours to 1 second.

Dwave is on track to eight thousand qubits by about 2017.

A chart seems to show that as qubits are added the solving time stays at about 1 second
For Google's problems the speedup at 512 qubits is 50,000 times for 25% of problems. It is not ten billion times faster for a different particular benchmark. The benchmark in the chart had a projected speedup of 10,000 times from 400 qubits to 500 qubits. The testing was showing 3 to 6 times speedup from 439 qubits to 502 qubits for one set of optimization problems. It might be about ten to twenty times speedup scaling for the google machine learning algorithms.

Google buys a Dwave Quantum Computer and create a Machine Learning Research Center with NASA

D-Wave, the small company that sells the world’s only commercial quantum computer, has just bagged an impressive new customer: a collaboration between Google, NASA and the non-profit Universities Space Research Association.

The three organizations have joined forces to install a D-Wave Two (512 qubit), the computer company's latest model, in a facility launched by the collaboration — the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. The lab will explore areas such as machine learning — making computers sort and analyse data on the basis of previous experience. This is useful for functions such as language translation, image searches and voice-command recognition. “We actually think quantum machine learning may provide the most creative problem-solving process under the known laws of physics,” says a blog post from Google describing the deal.

Google - NASA tests show Dwave 512 qubit system up to 50,000 times faster

In tests last September, an independent researcher found that for some types of problems the quantum computer was 3,600 times faster than traditional supercomputers. According to a D-Wave official, the machine performed even better in Google’s tests, which involved 500 variables with different constraints.

Prior to selecting the contract with D-Wave, the Google, NASA, Space University partnership first conducted a series of benchmarks on the 512-qubit D-Wave Two system, and found that its specifications were met or exceeded. The computer will be upgraded to a 2,048 qubit system once D-Wave has perfected that chip.

“The tougher, more complex ones had better performance,” said Colin Williams, D-Wave’s director of business development. “For most problems, it was 11,000 times faster, but in the more difficult 50 percent, it was 33,000 times faster. In the top 25 percent, it was 50,000 times faster.”

The D-Wave computer is unusual because it uses quantum bits (qubits) — bits that can exist in two states, on and off, simultaneously — to speed up calculations, and because it does not operate on the normal 'gate' model of computing, whereby logic gates are used to manipulate those bits. Instead, it is an 'adiabatic' computer, which reads out the ground state of its qubits to find a solution. The academic community has favoured the gate model, which has a better-developed theory behind it. But the adiabatic model has proven much easier to build, allowing D-Wave to double its processor size every year. The D-Wave Two has 512 qubits.

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Nuclear Fusion - Plasmoid Ion Density Tripled but 100 times less due to metal impurities in filaments

The density of the fusion-producing plasmoid is the key factor that must be increased for LPP to
the scientific feasibility of net energy production from Focus Fusion—net energy meaning more energy out than is lost in making that energy. In the past month’s experiments, LPP’s research team has demonstrated the near tripling of ion density in the plasmoid to 8x10^19 ions/cc, or 0.27 mg/cc. At the same time, fusion energy output has moved up, with the best three shot average increasing 50% to one sixth of a joule of energy.

The greater increase in density than fusion energy is expected, because as compression improves and the plasmoid gets smaller, its lifetime also decreases. So while density improves roughly as 1/r3, where r is radius, lifetime decreases proportional to r and energy output increases roughly as the product of the two, or 1/r2.

The higher density was determined by combining measurements of the total fusion energy and ion temperature derived from our neutron detectors, and measurements of plasmoid size from our ICCD-camera images. The LPP team has moved the camera to a new position, looking up close to the axis of the electrodes instead of side-on as previously. Our very first image from this direction shows our smallest plasmoid yet observed with a core radius of only 150 microns and core length of about 1.5 mm.

While the yield and density improvements show we are moving in the right direction, they are still well below what the LPP team theoretically expects for our present peak current of 1.1 MA. Yield is low by a factor of 10 and density by a factor of nearly 100. If we can get yield up to our theoretical expectation of over 1 joule, our scaling calculations tell us that with higher current we can make it all the way to the 30,000 J that we need to demonstrate scientific feasibility. We’ve long concluded that this gap between theory and results is caused by the “early beam phenomenon” which is itself a symptom of the current sheath splitting in two, feeding only half its power into the plasmoid.

Disruption of the filaments. The cathode plate (right) at 7.5” in diameter is shown for context below, with rods, insulator, and anode in a, and alone with close-close up area outlined in b. In c, the close-up of the cathode plate runs from the tungsten teeth at right to a copper rod at left. Bright blue marks trace the paths of filaments from 60 shots, showing that the filaments at this point are only about 150 microns in radius. (The abrupt change in the blue marks’ brightness is due to a change in the tungsten surface.) Note how the filament paths spread out and eventually are disrupted as they approach the band of evaporated silver and copper near the rod.

May 15, 2013

New metal-organic framework four times better at extracting uranium from seawater

The most advanced system today for extracting uranium from seawater employs plastic fibers with uranium-binding chemical groups grafted onto their surface. Now, researchers led by Wenbin Lin, a professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have designed a metal-organic framework (MOF) to collect common uranium-containing ions dissolved in seawater. In lab tests, the material was at least four times better than the conventional plastic adsorbent at drawing the potential nuclear fuel from artificial seawater.

Metal-organic frameworks are considered very promising for certain technological applications, including gas storage and chemical separation. Their structure can be tuned for different purposes. This allows them to be made extremely porous, resulting in very high surface areas—an order of magnitude larger than that of zeolites, a porous material already used in many commercial adsorbents. And like organic polymers, metal-organic frameworks have surfaces that can be modified so as to bind to specific molecules.

There is about 4 billion tons of uranium in the oceans. This is about 600 times the total uranium reserves on land.

Nanocoating protects larva and small fish from the vacuum of space for one hour

Researchers have found that the beam of a scanning electron microscope can turn a thin coating that occurs naturally on the larvae of some insects into a sort of miniature spacesuit that can keep the animals alive in a vacuum for up to an hour.

The researchers made their discovery while testing how long various animals could survive in a high vacuum while being imaged inside a scanning electron microscope. Most organisms to lose water rapidly in these conditions, leading to death by dehydration and physical distortion, but the larvae of the fruitfly Drosophila survived for 60 minutes and went on to develop normally after being returned to normal pressure.

The cuticles of fruitfly larvae are naturally coated in a substance made of biological molecules such as proteins, and the researchers suspected that exposure to the electron beam caused molecules in the substance to lock together in long chains, or polymers. That would create a flexible, protective layer just 50–100 nanometres thick. Other organisms that have similar coatings, such as Japanese honeybees (Apis cerana japonica) and larvae of blue-bottle flies (Protophormia terraenovae), survived in the high vacuum after being irradiated with plasma beams, which can generate a polymerization effect similar to that of an electron beam. Plasma beams are already used for that purpose in some industrial application.

Hariyama already has an eye on the skies: he and his team hope to send small animals wearing nano-suits to space, and he says that they have already had some success in nano-suiting small fish.

Astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild of Nasa's Ames Research Centre in Moffett Field, California, told Science that the nano-suits could allow creatures, or even people, to survive the extreme environments of space.

The researchers believe that this technique could eventually be used to allow astronauts to do away with their traditional spacesuits.

This would be especially promising when combined with injectable oxygen which could enable people to last 15 minutes or more without breathing

Google I/O shows upgrade Maps, Google+, online photo enhancement and music streaming

At Google I/O, Google announced a new voice search capability, a music streaming service and upgrades of Maps and Google+, including automated online photo enhancements that compete with what digital cameras offer.

Unlike past years, the keynotes announced no shiny new Android or Chrome OS devices or hardware initiatives.

Google announced 41 new features to Google+ including more contextual links and a photo enhancement capability. With a single button, users can let Google make a list of improvements to pictures from removing red eye to smoothing skin tones. It also supports five effects such as creating panoramas or mini-videos out of a sequence of photos.

Taking Apple’s Siri to task, Google showed a voice search capability running on its Chrome browser. It handled a set of relatively complex natural language queries running on a mobile version of Chrome on smartphones.

Google also showed an updated interface and new features that will roll out this summer for its Maps service. It sports links to Google+ to create personalized maps.

You were already not smarter than a fifth grader and now you are not smarter than some bacteria

MIT engineers have transformed bacterial cells into living calculators that can compute logarithms, divide, and take square roots, using three or fewer genetic parts.

The circuits perform those calculations in an analog fashion by exploiting natural biochemical functions that are already present in the cell rather than by reinventing them with digital logic, thus making them more efficient than the digital circuits pursued by most synthetic biologists.

MIT engineers have created synthetic biology circuits that can perform analog computations such as taking logarithms and square roots in living cells. Illustration courtesy of the researchers

Nature - Synthetic analog computation in living cells

Synthetic Biology Will take months off of the time for Flu Vaccine Production by speeding virus genome synthesis

At a meeting on synthetic biology held at MIT, the drug company Novartis said it has synthesized hybrid flu genomes in a process that could shave weeks off the time required to produce vaccines. When new flu strain emerges, government agencies normally send samples to vaccine manufacturers, who grow large numbers of the pathogen in chicken eggs as starting material for vaccines, says Philip Dormitzer, leader of viral vaccine research for Novartis. This process can take months and can miss the peak of an outbreak. But Novartis, working with synthetic biologists, has developed a way of chemically synthesizing virus genomes and growing them in tissue culture cells. That saves time and may produce more effective vaccines.

In 2011, the team tested its method in response to a mock outbreak of a bird-flu virus (one closely related to the H7N9 virus currently spreading in China). Starting at 8 a.m. on Monday that year, the team began to chemically synthesize a viral genome based on sequence data, says Dormitzer. By noon the following Friday, the team had confirmed that it had live virus growing in cell culture.

Much will be learned from $1.3 billion artificial brain project either from success or failure

Henry Markram believes technology has finally caught up with the dream of AI: Computers are finally growing sophisticated enough to tackle the massive data problem that is the human brain. But not everyone is so optimistic. “There are too many things we don’t yet know,” says Caltech professor Christof Koch, chief scientific officer at one of neuroscience’s biggest data producers, the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. “The roundworm has exactly 302 neurons, and we still have no frigging idea how this animal works.” Yet over the past couple of decades, Markram’s sheer persistence has garnered the respect of people like Nobel Prize–winning neuroscientist Torsten Wiesel and Sun Microsystems cofounder Andy Bechtolsheim. He has impressed leading figures in biology, neuroscience, and computing, who believe his initiative is important even if they consider some of his ultimate goals unrealistic.

Markram has earned that support on the strength of his work at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, where he and a group of 15 postdocs have been taking a first stab at realizing his grand vision—simulating the behavior of a million-neuron portion of the rat neocortex. They’ve broken new ground on everything from the expression of individual rat genes to the organizing principles of the animal’s brain. And the team has not only published some of that data in peer-reviewed journals but also integrated it into a cohesive model so it can be simulated on an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer.

The big question is whether these methods can scale. There’s no guarantee that Markram will be able to build out the rest of the rat brain, let alone the vastly more complex human brain. And if he can, nobody knows whether even the most faithful model will behave like a real brain—that if you build it, it will think. For all his bravado, Markram can’t answer that question. “But the only way you can find out is by building it,” he says, “and just building a brain is an incredible biological discovery process.” This is too big a job for just one lab, so Markram envisions an estimated 6,000 researchers around the world funneling data into his model.

The EU has bet $1.3 billion on Markram for a ten year project.

NBF- You learn things by trying to perform the full scale work. Like the Wright brothers building hundreds of versions of gliders and planes.

Injectable oxygen

John Kheir, MD, a physician in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Boston Children’s Hospital, led a team that created tiny particles filled with oxygen gas, which, when mixed with liquid, could be injected directly into the blood. In an emergency, IV oxygen delivery could potentially buy clinicians time to start life-saving therapies.

In 2012, the solution could completely saturate red blood cells in oxygen-deprived rabbits within seconds of injection, and they kept rabbits with totally blocked airways alive for 15 minutes using the oxygen-infused microparticles. "Essentially as soon as we started injecting it, clinically we started to see an effect," Kheir told ScienceNOW.

Researchers are now testing the microparticle solution on large animals, and if those and later human clinical trials are successful.

The microparticle used to package oxygen gas, covered by a layer of fatty molecules and stabilizing agents. Upon contact with an oxygen-poor red blood cell, it releases oxygen, which rapidly binds to the cell. The lipid shell is metabolized by the body.

TEDMED - Welcoming Death into Life

Udacity, Georgia Tech and AT&T have created a online masters degree in computer science (bare content is free but the degree has a tuition fee)

Sebastian Thrun and Udacity with Georgia Tech and AT&T have realized the dream of putting an entire computer science degree online, and to make access to the material free of charge, so that everyone can become a proficient computer scientist.

So many potential learners are still denied access to education. Education has become much more exclusive, and getting into a top-10 computer science department, like Georgia Tech's, is still out of reach for all but a chosen few.

Udacity was founded to bring the very best of higher education to everyone worldwide. With Georgia Tech, they have a partner whose computer science program is among the best in the world. AT&T is relentlessly innovating in the space of digital access to information.

This triumvirate of industry and academia is now teaming up to use 21st Century massive open online course (MOOC) technology to level the playing field in computer science education. The degree rightfully comes with a tuition fee -- after all, to achieve the very best in online education we will provide support services -- the bare content will be available free of charge, available for anyone eager to learn.

Udacity is also launching non-credit certificates at a much reduced price point, to give a path to those who don't care about Georgia Tech credit or degrees, but still want their learning results certified.

World Oil Production projected to increase by 8.4 million barrels per day and North American oil by 3.9 million barrels per day by 2018

IEA Medium term forecasts North American supply to grow by 3.9 million barrels per day (mb/d) from 2012 to 2018, or nearly two-thirds of total forecast non-OPEC supply growth of 6 mb/d. World liquid production capacity is expected to grow by 8.4 mb/d – significantly faster than demand – which is projected to expand by 6.9 mb/d. Global refining capacity will post even steeper growth, surging by 9.5 mb/d, led by China and the Middle East.

Immune System Boosting Cancer Drugs Seen Extending Lives

Building on the success of Bristol-Myers’ Yervoy drug for melanoma that reached the market in 2011, drugmakers are devising more potent immune therapies or combining treatments for maximum effectiveness. They are also testing the new medicines in more types of cancers, including lung and breast.

If the new generation of immune therapies lives up to its promise, “this is going to be a paradigm shift for treating cancer,” said Merck senior vice president Gary Gilliland in an interview. “We are pretty good at shrinking tumors, but not good at getting rid of them. Immune therapy is a way to begin to approach that.”

Strengthening the immune system’s ability to identify and kill cancer cells can broaden the attack on cancer so it will fight any dangerous malignancy.

UK clinical trials of a gene therapy for heart failure

Researchers at Imperial College London have begun the first UK clinical trials of a gene therapy for heart failure.

Heart failure, when the heart is unable to pump blood adequately, affects more than 750,000 people in the UK, causing breathlessness and hindering day-to-day activities.

The therapy is designed to increase the levels of SERCA2a protein in heart muscle cells by using a harmless virus to insert extra genes into the cells.

They have identified SERCA2a as an important factor affecting how well heart muscle cells can contract in people with heart failure.

May 14, 2013

220 Story Sky City Gets go ahead to start construction in June 2013, so it should complete by the end of 2013

Lloyd Alter at Treehugger reports that Broad Group has gotten permission to proceed with the construction of the 220 story Sky City skyscraper starting in June, 2013 in Changsha.

Broad Sustainable Construction informs Lloyd Alter and Treehugger that a long and arduous approval process has been completed, and that they are starting excavation and construction on Sky City in June, 2013.

The Sky City concept significantly reduces the per capita use of land, and the CO2 emissions generated getting around. They call it "a way of development for higher life quality and lower impact on the environment" They see this as the future of Chinese city building: "Urbanization can not be materialized at the cost of land and environmental pollution."

By going up, hundreds of acres of land are saved from being turned into roads and parking lots. By using elevators instead of cars to get to schools, businesses and recreational facilities, thousands of cars are taken off the roads and thousands of hours of commuting time are saved. It makes sense; vertical distances between people are a whole lot shorter than the horizontal, and elevators are about the most energy efficient moving devices made. A resident of Sky City is using 1/100th the average land per person.

The modular factory mass produced skyscrapers are five times more energy efficient than conventional ones, using 8 inch thick insulated walls and triple glazing. There is exterior shading on the windows that cuts cooling requirements by 30% and what cooling or heating is needed comes from a co-generation plant using waste heat from power generation.

Since Dwave 512 qubit Quantum computer is 10,000 times faster than a 420 GFlop workstation then it approximates a 4.2 petaflop supercomputer for some optimization problems

Dwave's 502 qubit adiabatic quantum computer was found to be 10,000 times faster than a regular quadcore workstation for some optimization problems and just a little faster for some other problems.

There was an attempt to approximate the computing power of the Dwave quantum computer by using multiples of performance against the Linpack capabilities of the workstation.

The classical [regular] computer used for most tests was powered by a cluster of seven Intel Xeon E5-2609 processors running at 2.4 GHz. Comparing to Linpack benchmark results from massively parallel computers using similar processors, the D-Wave Vesuvius chip obtained a (very approximate) Linpack rating of 420 GFlops.

For the optimization problems that are best matched to the capabilities of the Dwave system where it is 10,000 times faster then the Dwave system is approximately equal to a 4.2 petaflop supercomputing system.

DWave has links to other articles on the speed benchmarking

Sheerwind funnel system claims to produce 6 times more energy than conventional wind and costs competitive with natural gas and hydro power

SheerWind is an innovator in high-performance, cost-efficient wind energy technology. They announced initial field-testing results, which compares INVELOX commercial-grade wind energy generation with the same turbine on a traditional tower-mounted system. The test results indicate that INVELOX significantly out-performs the traditional turbine and is competitive with natural gas and hydroelectric generation by:

* Producing 600% more electrical energy (kWh)
* Operating at wind speeds as low as 1 mile per hour and in low wind regimes (class 1 and 2)
* Reducing installation capital cost to less that $750 per KW
* Increasing energy production capacity to record high of 72%

They claim costs as low as $10 MWH makes SheerWind a true game-changer in electric power generation that is competitive with natural gas and hydroelectricity.

SheerWind’s INVELOX wind energy system captures the breeze from an above ground portal and funnels the wind through a tapering passageway that naturally accelerates its flow.

Chris Hadfield Videos from the ISS

Chris Hadfield is a Canadian astronaut who was the first Canadian to walk in space. Hadfield has flown two space shuttle missions, STS-74 in 1995 and STS-100 in 2001, and served as capsule communicator for both Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) expeditions. On 19 December 2012, Hadfield launched in the Soyuz TMA-07M flight for a long duration stay on board the ISS as part of Expedition 35. He arrived at the station on 21 December, as scheduled, and became the first Canadian to command the ISS when the crew of Expedition 34 departed. On 12 May 2013 he turned over command of the ISS, and safely returned home aboard the Soyuz spacecraft on 13 May.

Chris made many videos that explained what is like to live and do simple things in space. He also performed the David Bowie song "Space Oddity".

May 13, 2013

Carnival of Space 301

Carnival of Space 301 is up at the Venus Transit

The Meridiani Journal - Humans 2 Mars conference discusses manned NASA mission by 2030

Dark Lightning “Lights Up” the Sky

Scientists have recently discovered the phenomenon they call “dark lightning.” This burst of high-energy gamma rays happens just before the flash of ordinary lightning. And while they still aren’t sure how, researchers think there’s a connection between both flavors of lightning.

The Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope, a NASA satellite that was launched into orbit in 2008, found evidence that lightning strikes were generating antimatter blasts heading out into space.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 156

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 156 is up at ANS Nuclear Cafe

NukePowerTalk - Various energy technologies are not monolithic. When we speak broadly of nuclear, solar, or wind power, we may be ignoring important differences in the economics or other considerations of specific technologies. The commenter raised the comparison of photovoltaics to solar water heating, but Gail notes that the same thing may apply for different nuclear or wind power options as well.

United Nations says bugs are good edible protein and part food and feed security but they know saying people should be eating bugs sounds bad

One major and readily available source of nutritious and protein-rich food that comes from forests are insects, according to a new study FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization) launched at the forests for food security and nutrition conference. It is estimated that insects form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people. Insect gathering and farming can offer employment and cash income, for now mostly at the household level but also potentially in industrial operations.

“We are not saying that people should be eating bugs,” said Eva Muller, Director of FAO’s Forest Economic Policy and Products Division, which co-authored “Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security”.

“We are saying that insects are just one resource provided by forests, and insects are pretty much untapped for their potential for food, and especially for feed,” Muller explained.

So bugs are edible and fantastic for food and feed security but the UN FAO is not saying people should eat bugs. They just have a study which shows how efficient and beneficial bugs can be.

Farming insects sustainably could help avoid over-harvesting, which could affect more prized species. Some species, such as meal worms, are already produced at commercial levels, since they are used in niche markets such as pet food, for zoos and in recreational fishing.

If production were to be further automated, this would eventually bring costs down to a level where industry would profit from substituting fishmeal, for example, with insect meal in livestock feed. The advantage would be an increase in fish supplies available for human consumption.

Helion energy fusion project had another $2 million in funds and Made Research Progress

Helion Energy Fusion Engine has received about $7 million in funds from DOE, the Department of Defense and NASA. The company hopes to raise another $2 million by next year, $35 million in 2015-17, and $200 million for its pilot plant stage.

The Fusion Engine is a cyclically operating fusion power plant technology that will be capable of clean energy generation for base load and on-demand power.

The Fusion Engine is a 28-meter long, 3-meter high bow tie-shaped device that at both ends converts gases of deuterium and tritium (isotopes of hydrogen) into plasmoids - plasma contained by a magnetic field through a process called FRC (field-reversed configuration). It magnetically accelerates the plasmoids down long tapered tubes until they collide and compress in a central chamber wrapped by a magnetic coil that induces them to combine into helium atoms. The process also releases neutrons.

The Fusion Engine provides energy in two ways. Like in a fission reactor, the energy of the scattered neutrons gives off heat that ultimately drives a turbine. Helion is also developing a technique that directly converts energy to electricity. The direct conversion will provide about 70 percent of the outgoing electricity according to Kirtley.

Helion Energy new plan is to build a 50-MWe pilot of its “Fusion Engine” by 2019 after which licensees will begin building commercial models by 2022.

In 2011, Helion Energy had about $5 million in funding. So it appears that Helion Energy had gotten grants or funding worth another $2 million.

Instead of raising $20 million they are looking to raise $2 million and then $35 million.

The Helion Energy website is unavailable now. The MSNW LLC (sister company to Helion Energy working on Space fusion) does refer to the Helion Energy work

Reversing Paralysis with a Restorative Gel

Some parts of the body, like the liver, can regenerate themselves after damage. But others, such as our nervous system, are considered either irreparable or slow to recover, leaving thousands with a lifetime of pain, limited mobility, or even paralysis.

Researchers in Israel have invented a method for repairing damaged peripheral nerves. Through a biodegradable implant in combination with a newly-developed Guiding Regeneration Gel (GRG) that increases nerve growth and healing, the functionality of a torn or damaged nerve could ultimately be restored.

Samsung successfully testing long distance millimeter wave transmission with 64 antenna elements with gigabit per second speed for 5G rollout by 2020

Samsung Electronics announced that it has successfully developed the world’s first adaptive array transceiver technology operating in the millimeter-wave Ka bands for cellular communications. The new technology sits at the core of 5G mobile communications system and will provide data transmission up to several hundred times faster than current 4G networks.

Samsung Secures Millimeter-Wave Transceiver Technologies for 5G Cellular Networks

The implementation of a high-speed 5G cellular network requires a broad band of frequencies, much like an increased water flow requires a wider pipe. While it was a recognized option, it has been long believed that the millimeter-wave bands had limitations in transmitting data over long distances due to its unfavorable propagation characteristics.

However, Samsung’s new adaptive array transceiver technology has proved itself as a successful solution. It transmits data in the millimeter-wave band at a frequency of 28 GHz at a speed of up to 1.056 Gbps to a distance of up to 2 kilometers. The adaptive array transceiver technology, using 64 antenna elements, can be a viable solution for overcoming the radio propagation loss at millimeter-wave bands, much higher than the conventional frequency bands ranging from several hundred MHz to several GHz.

Samsung plans to accelerate the research and development of 5G mobile communications technologies, including adaptive array transceiver at the millimeter-wave bands, to commercialize those technologies by 2020.

May 12, 2013

Boosting 'cellular garbage disposal' can delay the aging process and increased fruitfly lifespan by 25% by stimulating expression of one gene

UCLA life scientists have identified a gene previously implicated in Parkinson's disease that can delay the onset of aging and extend the healthy life span of fruit flies. The research, they say, could have important implications for aging and disease in humans.

The gene, called parkin, serves at least two vital functions: It marks damaged proteins so that cells can discard them before they become toxic, and it is believed to play a key role in the removal of damaged mitochondria from cells.

"Aging is a major risk factor for the development and progression of many neurodegenerative diseases," said David Walker, an associate professor of integrative biology and physiology at UCLA and senior author of the research. "We think that our findings shed light on the molecular mechanisms that connect these processes."

In the research, published today in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Walker and hi>s colleagues show that parkin can modulate the aging process in fruit flies, which typically live less than two months. The researchers increased parkin levels in the cells of the flies and found that this extended their life span by more than 25 percent, compared with a control group that did not receive additional parkin.

PNAS - Parkin overexpression during aging reduces proteotoxicity, alters mitochondrial dynamics, and extends lifespan

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