June 01, 2013

Small modular reactors might end up being lower cost energy if the full advantages of factory mass production can be leveraged

Analysts and decision makers frequently want estimates of the cost of technologies that have yet to be developed or deployed. (PNAS - Expert assessments of the cost of light water small modular reactors) Small modular reactors (SMRs), which could become part of a portfolio of carbon-free energy sources, are one such technology. Existing estimates of likely SMR costs rely on problematic top-down approaches or bottom-up assessments that are proprietary. When done properly, expert elicitations can complement these approaches. We developed detailed technical descriptions of two SMR designs and then conduced elicitation interviews in which we obtained probabilistic judgments from 16 experts who are involved in, or have access to, engineering-economic assessments of SMR projects. Here, we report estimates of the overnight cost and construction duration for five reactor-deployment scenarios that involve a large reactor and two light water SMRs. Consistent with the uncertainty introduced by past cost overruns and construction delays, median estimates of the cost of new large plants vary by more than a factor of 2.5. Expert judgments about likely SMR costs display an even wider range. Median estimates for a 45 megawatts-electric (MWe) SMR range from $4,000 to $16,300/kWe and from $3,200 to $7,100/kWe for a 225-MWe SMR. Sources of disagreement are highlighted, exposing the thought processes of experts involved with SMR design. There was consensus that SMRs could be built and brought online about 2 years faster than large reactors. Experts identify more affordable unit cost, factory fabrication, and shorter construction schedules as factors that may make light water SMRs economically viable.

A problem is that current [US] law prohibits more than two reactors from being operated from the same control room, making it illegal to site lots of the small modular reactors together. However, most of the experts believed that, if legal, installing a series of the small reactors could increase economies of scale and reduce costs. The main advantage to a small module reactor is the standardized factory production, which would certainly be cheaper than custom components.

China does not have the limitation on control rooms.

Electric Sail components and technical details

The electric solar wind sail (E-sail) is a new type of propellantless propulsion system for Solar System transportation, which uses the natural solar wind for producing spacecraft propulsion. This paper discusses a mass breakdown and a performance model for an E-sail spacecraft that hosts a scientifi c payload of prescribed mass. In particular, the model is able to estimate the total spacecraft mass and its propulsive acceleration as a function of various design parameters such as the tethers number and their length. A number of subsystem masses are calculated assuming existing or near-term E-sail technology. In light of the obtained performance estimates, an E-sail represents a promising propulsion system for a variety of transportation needs in the Solar System.

A baseline, full-scale, E-sail propulsion system comprises 2000 km of total main tether length (for example 100 tethers, each one being 20 km long), with 25 kV tether voltage, 960W electron gun power consumption and 1.16 Newtons nominal thrust at 1 au from the Sun. If the main tethers are su fficiently long such that the potential sheath overlapping between them is negligible, the propulsive thrust varies as 1=r, where r is the Sun-spacecraft distance. Note, for comparison, that in the classical photonic solar sail the propulsive thrust decreases more rapidly (that is, as 1=r2) with the solar distance. Therefore the E-sail concept is especially attractive for a mission towards the outer Solar System, such as a Jupiter rendezvous or a mission towards the Heliopause and the Solar System boundaries.

Esail schematic

May 31, 2013

Nasal Spray gene therapy could protect against flu and pandemic flu

Researchers have come up with an alternative, faster (than vaccine) strategy for when a pandemic influenza virus surfaces: Just squirt genes for the protective antibodies into people's noses. The method—which borrows ideas from both gene therapy and vaccination, but is neither—protects mice against a wide range of flu viruses in a new study.

James Wilson, a leading gene therapy researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, credits the idea to a meeting with Bill Gates in April 2010. Wilson had studied whether a harmless gene therapy tool called adeno-associated virus (AAV) can serve as a gene delivery vehicle to treat inherited diseases like cystic fibrosis and hemophilia. Gates, whose foundation focuses on global health, "asked me whether the AAV-mediated approach could be used in the context of a pandemic or emerging infection," Wilson recalls.

Power tool. An antibody called F16, seen here attached to an influenza virus protein, protected animals against a range of flu viruses. Credit: D. Corti and A. Lanzavecchia, Annu. Rev. Immunol. 31 (2013)

Wilson was intrigued by the idea. Building off of animal studies done by AIDS researchers as well as his own work with cystic fibrosis, he wondered whether a specially engineered AAV could deliver the genes encoding influenza antibodies to the cells that line people's airways. If it worked, these so-called epithelial cells would produce influenza antibodies right at the site where the virus attempts to establish an infection.

Science - Intranasal Antibody Gene Transfer in Mice and Ferrets Elicits Broad Protection Against Pandemic Influenza

Electric Solar Sail

ESTCube-1, launched earlier early May 2013, is proving out the electric solar sail. Even though it uses but a single 10-meter wire, its rotation rate should change once the tether is fully extended and powered up. Bear in mind that ESTCube-1 is deep within the Earth’s magnetosphere, so the charged particles it will be interacting with are not from the solar wind, but a proof of principle is sought here that could make electric sailing a candidate for outer system-bound spacecraft.

Numerical results show that the E-sail propulsion system, once qualified for flight, could be an interesting option for a wide class of deep space missions that include scientific payloads in the range 30 to 1000 kg, and require a characteristic acceleration up to about 3 mm=s^2.

Moreover, some rather straight-forward near-term component level improvements have the potential of reducing the effective E-sail mass further (28% in the specific case) with a consequent improvement in mission performance. Future work will concentrate on prototyping and testing the E-sail subsystem as well as measuring the E-sail performance in small scale in the real environment, that is, within the solar wind.

The electric sail takes advantage of the solar wind, the stream of charged particles that streams constantly from the Sun at speeds ranging from 300 to 800 kilometers per second. The sail’s tethers would be thinner than a human hair but would extend tens of meters into the solar wind flow, with each tether yielding the effective area of a sail roughly a square kilometer in size. Using multiple tethers like these, Janhunen’s team believes speeds of up to 100 kilometers per second (20 Astronomical units per year) are possible, fast enough to reach Pluto in just four years and to push deeply into the nearby interstellar medium in fifteen. The solar wind cannot be used in interstellar space, but a mission to another star propelled by other means could use an electric sail like this do decelerate, braking against the destination star’s own solar wind as it arrives.

Is the Phillippines shifting to prolonged 6-7% annual GDP growth ?

Growth forecasts for the Philippine economy have been hiked by two institutions after the strong performance registered in the first quarter.

Nomura, in a report released Friday, expects the gross domestic product (GDP) -- the broadest measure of the economy -- to grow by 7.3% this year and 6.2% in 2014. Its earlier estimates were 6.4% and 5.8%, respectively.

“This strong first quarter GDP print continues to validate our long-held bullish view on the Philippines,” the Japanese bank said, adding, “We expect economic momentum to remain strong.”

The country will likely be boosted by a pick-up in investment, with business sentiment on a high and the government’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program now on track, Nomura said.

“This would add to what we see as a self-reinforcing dynamic currently in play, in which strong growth generates even more fiscal space to boost higher-quality public spending that, in turn, crowds in private spending,” it noted.

With investments pouring in -- especially foreign direct investments -- the bank said, it is “only a matter of time” before they trickle down to consumption and employment.

The GDP soared to 7.8% in the first quarter, beating expectations of both the government and the market. The Philippines became the fastest-growing country in Asia.

May 30, 2013

NASA Eagleworks Space Warping and Quantum Vacuum Plasma Thruster - Propellentless propulsion

Popular Science discusses the Harold space warping project at NASA and Quantum Vacuum Plasma Thruster

Quantum Vacuum Plasma Thruster

White shows me into the facility and ushers me past its central feature, something he calls a quantum vacuum plasma thruster (QVPT). The device looks like a large red velvet doughnut with wires tightly wound around a core, and it's one of two initiatives Eagleworks is pursuing, along with warp drive. It's also secret. When I ask about it, White tells me he can't disclose anything other than that the technology is further along than warp drive ... Yet when I ask how it would create the negative energy necessary to warp space-time he becomes evasive.

The Quantum Vacuum plasma thruster is discussed in a ten page NASA paper. It is Harold White version of the Woodward Mach effect propulsion system.

Nextbigfuture covered the papers.

In quantum mechanics a vacuum is filled with electromagnetic waves that come into existence, and then immediately disappear. While these electromagnetic waves are extraordinarily small, they do have many measurable effects. One of these effects is that as the electromagnetic waves appear and disappear they leave behind a measurable momentum. Harol White wants to transform this momentum for propulsion. The Casimir Force might be key in creating an abundance of electromagnetic fluctuation that could result in propulsion.

According to NASA, “The Casimir force is a QV phenomenon such that two flat plates placed in close proximity in the vacuum preclude the appearance of particles, whose wavelength is larger than the separation gap, and the resultant negative pressure between the two surfaces is more negative than the pressure outside the two surfaces, hence they experience an attractive force”

This attractive force could be used to create a pool of electromagnetic particles whose momentum could be used to drive a spacecraft.

But what does all of this Quantum Mechanics business have to do with our QVTP? Well, the pool of electromagnetic particles that’s been created by the Casimir force is going to be the fuel for the QVPT. That means that a QVPT doesn’t have to carry a fuel source to propel itself onward, it can generate propulsion through the manipulation of quantum electro dynamics.

NASA’s initial projections for a QVPT estimate that if a 100MW, 200 Ton (QVPT) could be engineered, the timeframe for transit between the Earth and Neptune would be just over 100 days.

Attosecond clock accuracy that is one thousand times better than atomic clocks of 20 years ago

Atomic clocks have been transformational in science and technology, leading to innovations such as global positioning, advanced communications, and tests of fundamental constant variation. Next-generation optical atomic clocks can extend the capability of these timekeepers, where researchers have long aspired toward measurement precision at 1 part in 10^18. This milestone will enable a second revolution of new timing applications such as relativistic geodesy, enhanced Earth- and space-based navigation and telescopy, and new tests on physics beyond the Standard Model. Here, we describe the development and operation of two optical lattice clocks, both utilizing spin-polarized, ultracold atomic ytterbium. A measurement comparing these systems demonstrates an unprecedented atomic clock instability of 1.6 X 10^18 after only 7 hours of averaging.

A measurement at the 10^18 fractional level is equivalent to specifying the age of the known universe to a precision of less than one second or Earth’s diameter to less than the width of an atom.

NIST (National Institute of Science and Technology) has a history of atomic clocks

In 2010, there were clocks accurate to 1 X 10^17 seconds

Building the 1.5 gigapixel 360 degree Reality Deck

Stony Brook University constructed a gigapixel resolution display that offers a full 360 ◦ horizontal field-of-view. This system, called the Reality Deck, is the world’s most expansive large-format display and it is the largest resolution display ever built. It utilizes 416 LCD panels at 2560 × 1440 resolution each, for a combined resolution of more than 1.5 gigapixels. In this paper, we present some of the design decisions and engineering challenges behind the creation of this large-scale visualization facility.

Green the deserts by using seawater to cool greenhouses

Norwegian biologist Joakim Hauge wants to green the deserts using greenhouses that are cooled by seawater. They plan to grow 1200 cucumbers per square metre per year in new greenhouses.

In March, temperatures outside were in the 30s (celsius), but in the low 20s in the greenhouse. In August, it can reach 50 °C outside, but the greenhouse needs to stay below 30 °C for crops to thrive. Hauge is confident that it will. As head of the rather grandly named Sahara Forest Project, the private Norwegian company that built and runs the prototype, he has a lot riding on its success.

Keeping the greenhouse cool and humid reduces the plants' need for fresh water, but it still has to come from somewhere. The answer again is seawater. A concentrated solar power system provides the heat and electricity needed to desalinate seawater for irrigation, as well as power all the pumps, fans and other machinery. This is the purpose of the 300 square metres of parabolic mirrors, which track the sun and focus its rays onto a pipe containing oil.

But the prototype is more than just a souped-up greenhouse. The aim is to use seawater to maximum effect.

Qatar pilot plant part of the Sahara Forest project

An oasis of green technologies: 1. Concentrated Solar Power; 2. Saltwater greenhouses; 3. Outside vegetation and evaporative hedges; 4. Photovoltaic Solar Power; 5. Salt production; 6. Halophytes; 7. Algae production

Cheap gigapixel holographic microscope using an off the shelf scanner

Japanese researchers demonstrated a gigapixel inline digital holographic microscopy using a consumer scanner. The consumer scanner can maximally scan an A4 size (European pagesize) image (297mm × 210mm) with 4800 dpi (≈ 5.29µm), theoretically achieving a resolution of 56,144 × 39,698 ≈ 2.22 gigapixels. The system using a consumer scanner has a simple structure, compared with synthetic aperture digital holography using a camera mounted on a two-dimensional moving stage. In this demonstration, we captured an inline hologram with 23,602 × 18,023 pixels (≈ 0.43 gigapixels). In addition, to accelerate the reconstruction time of the gigapixel hologram and decrease the amount of memory for the reconstruction, we applied the band-limited double-step Fresnel diffraction to the reconstruction.

One challenge they face is processing the huge amount of information that holograms generate. They used a data processing method known as “band-limited double-step Fresnel diffraction” significantly reduces the computational load compared with the traditional technique known as the angular spectrum method.

In this way they reduced the processing time to reconstruct the image on a standard PC from 350 seconds to just 177 seconds.

They need to find a good way to display these holograms. Standard computer monitors with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.
4K UHD displays have a resolution of 3840 pixels × 2160 pixels. 8.3 megapixels.
A 50 inch 4K UHD monitors can be had for about $1300.

8K UHD displays have 7680 pixels × 4320 pixels (33.2 megapixels).

Gigapixel displays cost about $50,000

China announces carbon trading and more aggressive emission targets for peak emissions by 2025 will mean more nuclear and hydro power

China is rolling out a carbon trading scheme and plans to place caps on emissions starting in 2016 and an overall peak in emissions by 2025. This plan to reach a peak in emissions in 2025 is 5 years earlier than previous objectives in 2012.

A new carbon trading scheme will cover 638 companies responsible for 38% of the city's total emissions, the Shenzhen branch of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced on Wednesday. The scheme will eventually expand to include transportation, manufacturing and construction companies.

Shenzhen is one of seven designated areas in which the central government plans to roll out experimental carbon trading programmes before 2014.

* The carbon trading and caps will mean more financial support for nuclear energy and hydro power in China.
* The financial incentives could boost the amount of nuclear power that gets built.
* It will also mean more cleaner and bigger and newer coal plants and natural gas and renewables.

Emissions Trading Benefits Hydro, Nuclear, Renewables and probably Natural Gas

On the low‐CO2 generation side: hydro plants and nuclear plants then enjoy a higher financial return on their generation. For renewables that get revenues from the electricity market and a premium from the government, revenues are automatically increased as well. Consumers carry the full cost of CO2, including the additional profits provided to carbon‐free sources. In time, these carbon‐free sources have an incentive to expand, while fossil‐based generators are impacted by the CO2 cost.

The NDRC has discussed implementing a national system to control the intensity and volume of carbon emissions by 2020. The agency expects China to reach its carbon emissions peak by 2025, five years earlier than many recent estimates,

This could end up being closer to the low carbon or enhanced low carbon proposal of the Energy Research Institute.

Honda expanding trials of walking assist device to 50 hospitals

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. has begun leasing up to a total of 100 units of the Walking Assist Device to hospitals in Japan that provide rehabilitation training / physical therapy in the area of walking, to monitor its use and verify the practicality of the device.

Honda began research and development of the Walking Assist Device in 1999. As with ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot, the Walking Assist Device adopts cooperative control technology that was developed based on Honda's cumulative study of human walking. The control computer activates motors based on information obtained from hip angle sensors while walking to improve the symmetry of the timing of each leg lifting from the ground and extending forward, and to promote a longer stride for an easier walk.

The compact design of the device and overall weight of less than 2.6 kg were achieved through the adoption of thin motors and a control system that were developed independently by Honda, as well as a simple design that enables the device to be worn with belts. As a result, the device is less of a burden on the user and suitable for various body sizes.

US Army developing light armored exoskeleton that provides superhuman strength and more bulletproofing with prototypes targeted for 2014 and 2016

The US Army is developing a revolutionary Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit. The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is an advanced infantry uniform that promises to provide superhuman strength with greater ballistic protection. Using wide-area networking and on-board computers, operators will have more situational awareness of the action around them and of their own bodies.

“The requirement is a comprehensive family of systems in a combat armor suit where we bring together an exoskeleton with innovative armor, displays for power monitoring, health monitoring, and integrating a weapon into that — a whole bunch of stuff that RDECOM is playing heavily in,” said. Lt. Col. Karl Borjes, an RDECOM science advisor assigned to SOCOM.

TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are currently developing armor made from magnetorheological fluids — liquid body armor — that transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied. Though still in development, this technology will likely be submitted to support TALOS.

* advanced armor
* communications, antennas
* cognitive performance
* sensors, miniature-type circuits

Elon Musk Hyperloop is a supersonic magnetically propelled transportation that levitates on an air cushion

Here's the full video of the D11 interview of Tesla CEO Elon Musk by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, where he made some news about Tesla crosscountry superchargers and forecast the feasibility of reusable rockets.

Elon Musk touched on another pet project: Hyperloop. The rapid transit system would connect downtown Los Angeles with San Francisco, 380 miles away. Musk told the crowd that more details for the project would be available on June 20th. Hyperloop would be "a cross between a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air hockey table." Musk joked, "even if I'm wrong about the economic assumptions, it would be a really fun ride." Musk claimed that his imagined train system would go "3 or 4 times faster than the [California] bullet train" or twice the speed of an aircraft, shuttling people from LA to San Francisco in under 30 minutes. It's possible that the Hyperloop could even be self-powering. "If you put solar panels on it, you generate more power than you would consume in the system. There's a way to store the power so it would run 24/7 without using batteries," he said.

Perhaps Elon has provided enough of a basic outline of what he is proposing - a rail gun with air hockey table. Magnetic acceleration with lift from air hockey like air jets below the train as it passes over.

DARPA has low cost sensor building blocks that are upgradable in less than a year based on Android smartphone OS

DARPA’s Adaptable Sensor System (ADAPT) program aims to transform how unattended sensors are developed for the military by using an original design manufacturer (ODM) process similar to that of the commercial smartphone industry. The goal is to develop low-cost, rapidly updatable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors in less than a year, a marked improvement to the current three-to-eight year development process.

The program has developed the core ADAPT hardware and software package using a customized Android Operating System (OS) to provide capabilities common to all ISR sensors. The program recently completed its first reference design and developed application-specific software for an unattended ground sensor (UGS) that uses the ADAPT core. This new UGS could provide users with a cost-effective ground sensing capability.

DARPA may develop additional reference designs that integrate the ADAPT core and sensor-specific apps into airborne, sea and undersea sensor designs. Researchers recently removed the control interface of a small quad-copter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and replaced it with the ADAPT core. This successfully provided flight control input to the UAV and marked an initial step in applying the ADAPT core to other sensor reference designs.

Internet Trends 2013 - 2.4 billion internet users. Mobile internet, wearable devices and connected cars.

There are now 2.4 billion Internet users around the world, and the total continues to grow apace. Mobile usage is expanding rapidly, while the mobile advertising opportunity remains largely untapped. The report reviews the shifting online landscape, which has become more social and content rich, with expanded use of photos, video and audio. Looking ahead, the report finds early signs of growth for wearable computing devices, like glasses, connected wrist bands and watches – and the emergence of connected cars, drones and other new platforms.

* 500 million photos uploaded and shared per day
* 100 hours of video uploaded per minute to Youtube
* 11 hours of sound uploaded per minute. 400 million users of Tencent Wechat
* content sharing up more than 9 times in five years
* Made in USA Smartphone operating systems now 88% instead of 5% six years ago
* Group sharing traffic (Waze), reviews (Yelp), Jawbone UP
* Fitness data from wearable devices is doubling every month
* China and South Korea have more mobile internet than desktop PC using several metrics
* Tablets passed desktops and notebooks at the end of 2012
* Emerging transformation of education and healthcare via online and mobile

Wearables would make people hands free instead of reaching for a smartphone about 150 times per day

May 29, 2013

Geometric unity theory proposed

Eric Weinstein proposes a Geometric Unity theory. It is presented to argue that the seemingly baroque features of the standard model of particle physics are in fact inexorable and geometrically natural when generalizations of the Yang-Mills and Dirac theories are unified with one of general relativity.

Attempting to reconcile Einstein's Field Equations with the Yang-Mills equations and the Dirac equation was Eric Weinstein's goal. The Field Equations control the curvature of space-time and represent our theory of gravity, whereas the Yang-Mills and Dirac equations represent our theory of particle interactions on a quantum level.

The particles described by the Standard Model – the stuff of nature that is revealed in accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider – fall into three "generations". In the first generation we see the electron, the electron neutrino, six quarks and their anti-particles, making 16 in total. But then rather bizarrely in the second generation we have another version of these particles which look exactly the same but are heavier than the first generation.

The heavier version of the electron is called the muon. The physicist Isadore Rabi famously quipped on hearing about the muon: "who ordered that?" It didn't seem to make sense that you should have a heavier version of all the particles in the first generation. What was the logic in that? To compound things, there is a third generation heavier again than the second whose electron partner is called the tau particle.

One of the challenges facing fundamental physics has been to provide a natural explanation for these three generations. Weinstein's theory does this by revealing the presence of a new geometric structure involving a much larger symmetry at work, inside which the symmetry of the Standard Model sits. What is so compelling about the geometry involving this larger symmetry group is that it explains why you get two copies of something with 16 particles but also that the third generation is something of an imposter. At high energies it will actually behave differently to the other two.

Not only that, it also predicts a slew of new particles that we can start looking for in our colliders. The particles in the Standard Model have a property called spin. The particles we see in the three generations we've seen to date all have spin 1/2. But Weinstein's symmetry is predicting that we will see new particles with spin 3/2 exhibiting familiar responses to the nongravitational forces together with a slew of new exotic particles with familiar spin but unfamiliar responses to the forces of the standard model.

Why StarTrek is the most important piece of fiction ever

Star Trek is the most important piece of fiction ever because it has inspired or foreshadowed the development of more major technology than any other work of fiction.

Star Trek Technology          Real World

Communicator                  Cellphone
Universal Translator          Google Translate, Microsoft Translator
Warp Drive                    NASA Eagleworks space warping experiment led by Harold White
Isolinear AI computer         Google AI project, IBM Watson
PADD                          Tablet computers
Medical Tricorder             X prise
Replicator                    3D Printing Companies
Phasers                       Combat lasers
Large Wall sized screens      80 inch and larger flat screen TVs
Holodeck                      There are advances with 3D displays that do not need glasses, and holograms, and interactive holographic environments
Medical life signs monitors   Visual medical readouts
Technology created abundance  A bit more than double per capita income in constant dollars since 1967 Advanced robotics, molecular nanotechnology and nuclear fusion will kick this into a higher gear
Teleportation                 Molecules have been quantum teleported

Besides technology Star Trek predicted a world with increased ethnic integration. Ethnic integration has increased since the late 1960s.

Star Trek - the Starship Enterprise still had two more years in its five year mission

The Star Trek Enterprise still had two more years left in its five year mission when the series was originally cancelled.

Now there is a new webseries - Star Trek Continues This new series is being brought to you in partnership with Farragut Films and DracoGen Investments – creators of the award-winning web series, Starship Farragut. The series is being shot in the original 4:3 format to keep the authenticity of the framing of the original series. It is very important to us that we provide a quality show and ancillary products, such as our website. Website development is provided in association with Stupidcat.com.

If you loved the original Star Trek series then check out Star Trek Continues. It is like there is an 80th episode. The look, sound, writing and acting continue the original Star Trek series.

The cast includes Chris Doohan plays Scotty. He is the son of James Doohan (original Chief Engineer Scotty)
Grant Imahara plays Sulu. Grant is famous for being on Mythbusters.
Other mostly unknown but capable actors are in the other roles.

The webseries has interior production quality that matches the old series. The space animation is far better than the old series. The music and sounds are the same as the old series.

Apollo returns to wreak havoc on Kirk and the Enterprise in the first episode of the new series. Michael Forest, original series actor who played Apollo, reprises his role.

Electric Car Battery Swapper goes bankrupt but Tesla Stock Surges 13% with a plan to produce 50,000 cars per year

Better Place, the electric vehicle battery swap innovators from Israel that were once regarded as pioneers of an exciting new concept, has filed for liquidation. Founded in 2007, Better Place was valued at $2.25 billion in 2011 and had secured solid investment until it began struggling when its founder Shai Agassi resigned towards the end of 2012. Last year alone the company was said to have lost $459 million, with just $6.9 million in sales. In total, Better Place's losses reached a staggering $812 million.

Tesla’s stock soared 13 percent, giving the company a market value of $12.75 billion. The jump appeared to be driven by a report that Goldman Sachs analysts hosted a “field visit” to Tesla’s plant in Fremont, Calif. Analysts left impressed by rising sales in Europe and China that could eventually more than double Tesla’s 21,000 car sales target for this year.

Tesla sees China as the key demand driver. The company expects that global demand for Model S could exceed their initial expectations of 40K-50K units annually.

Longer term, Tesla Motors envisions selling around 500K units through a combination of the Gen 3 sedan (around 200K units), Gen 3 SUV (about 150K units), Model S/X (roughly 90K units) and the next Gen Roadster.

* Tesla to start delivering the Model X in 2015
* gen 3 production by 2017
* begin 2014 at a production rate on the Model S of between 23,000 and 25,000
* production team now is aiming to get current production (20,000 units) onto a single shift (currently body assembly and finished assembly are running 2 shifts), then to be able to increase production (if needed) to 40K by returning to 2 shifts
* Tesla sees kWh costs (batteries) to decline to under $100 over the next 10 years, which is down about 75% over today

GE has successfully demonstrated laser enrichment of uranium and may start construction of a full scale laser enrichment plant by year end

General Electric has successfully demonstrated laser enrichment of uranium and expects to make a decision by year end on construction of a Castle Hayne facility to produce the nuclear fuel component.

Silex developed the laser enrichment process which could be two to fifteen times more efficient than centrifuges for uranium enrichment. GE licensed the technology from Silex.

“The achievement of the Test Loop Phase I Milestone – involving advanced technology demonstration – is a key step in the commercialization of the … technology,” Silex CEO Michael Goldsworthy said in a statement.

Silex said the team is “now firmly focused on Phase II, which includes the economic and engineering validation and scale-up for the construction of the initial commercial production module for the world’s first laser enrichment plant.”

GLE spokesman Christopher White said “Phase II” is expected to lead to a decision on building the licensed facility sometime this year.

He added that the government’s decision last week to close the country’s oldest enrichment plant – the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky – will have no impact on GLE’s decision.

Returns on Cognitive Reinvestment for Scaling Machine Intelligence

Eliezer Yudkowsky has looked at the returns on investment (91 pages, Intelligence Explosion Microeconomics) for a sufficiently advance machine intelligence could build a smarter version of itself, which could in turn build an even smarter version of machine intelligence.

Eliezer identifies the key issue as returns on cognitive reinvestment—the ability to invest more computing power, faster computers, or improved cognitive algorithms to yield cognitive labor which produces larger brains, faster brains, or better mind designs. There are many phenomena in the world which have been argued to be evidentially relevant to this question, from the observed course of hominid evolution, to Moore’s Law, to the competence over time of machine chess-playing systems, and many more. He go into some depth on some debates which then arise on how to interpret such evidence. He proposes that the next step in analyzing positions on the intelligence explosion would be to formalize return-on-investment curves, so that each stance can formally state which possible microfoundations they hold to be falsified by historical observations.

Eliezer uses the analogy of neutron multipliers in a nuclear bomb with an intelligence multiplier.

The work has other interesting analogies, historical case studies and interesting questions and definitions.

Planetary Resources Space Telescope for the People by 2015 is about 50% of its fund raising goal after 31 hours

The ARKYD is a technologically advanced, orbiting space telescope that will be controlled by the public

The Planetary Resources kickstarter has been open for less than five seven thirty one hours and has already raised over $100,000 $142,000 $470,000 (or 10% 14% nearly 50% of the goal). The one million goal will likely be reached June 1st.

The goals that we want to achieve with this Kickstarter mission are four-fold:

* To give students access to space capabilities — Whether studying planets in a 5th grade class or writing a graduate thesis, students of all ages will have the ability to direct the telescope and explore what interests them! We’re planning some exciting new educational opportunities just for K-12 educational programs.

* To support important research and discovery — There are thousands of institutions and researchers in need for greater access to in-orbit space observatories. The ARKYD will provide a new, low-cost resource to help observe distant galaxies, search for alien planets, and monitor the skies for potentially dangerous asteroids. Researchers at MIT, the University of Washington, and across the globe have shown interest in using the ARKYD to further their important research.

* To build excitement about space and all of its potential — The ARKYD is designed to be a fun and interactive experience that is accessible to anyone. This kind of direct access to a satellite is unprecedented. Our backers will be the first people in history to control a public space telescope!

* To give YOU a say — What makes this mission unique is that we’re putting control of the telescope in YOUR hands. You’ll get the opportunity to help decide which science centers and museums are the beneficiaries of ARKYD telescope time, what photos to take, and more. We’re putting YOU in control! By pledging toward this mission, you’ll receive access to our website and mobile apps allowing you to follow along with the progress of the satellite, sneak peaks at photos and videos, and get voting access to make your voice heard in the future direction of the satellite!

One million tiny base stations could provide cellphone connectivity for one billion people and help achieve internet and smartphone connections for everyone in the world

Vanu is deploying the lowest-power consumption outdoor base stations in the world in Zambia. In the future, this and other base stations could be made even more efficient with coming advances in super-efficient amplifiers—the gadgets that change electrical signals into radio waves. These gadgets are, by far, the largest users of electricity in all base stations.

The next billion cellular connections will come from rural areas in developing markets. However, building the cellular infrastructure in these regions presents radically different challenges from building networks in urban areas:

* The power grid in these areas is unreliable, if it exists at all.
* There is no wired telecom infrastructure to run the network backbone of the cellular network.
* The large distance over poor roads makes site maintenance time consuming and expensive.
* There is little local skilled labor to support the site maintenance.

These devices and internet provision via balloons and blimps from Google will help achieve universal mobile phone and internet connectivity for everyone in the world.

Base Station Specs
* four kilograms
* connectivity for 1,000 people with each base station

Power consumption:
1 TRX 45 watts consumption
2 TRXs 52 watts consumption
* IP Ethernet backhaul

Standard CMOS silicon transistors will stop in about 15 years when we need to move to new ways to scale and get faster computers

The CTO of Broadcom believes that standard CMOS transistors will stop scaling around 5 nanometers and networking speeds may not reach petabit speeds.

“Moore’s Law is coming to an end—in the next decade it will pretty much come to an end so we have 15 years or so,” Samueli told several dozen Silicon Valley technology veterans. “Standard CMOS silicon transistors will stop scaling around 5 nm and everything will plateau,” he said.

“I am comfortable we will get to terabit networking speeds, but I’m not sure I see a path to petabit speeds,” said the co-founder of one of the world’s largest communications chip companies. “You will see density of network switch boards leveling off and when you see the network progress level off it will change the dynamics of the entire industry,” he said.

Stacking chips into so-called 3-D ICs promises a one-time boost in their capabilities, “but it’s expensive,” said Samueli. Broadcom expects to use 3-D stacks to add a layer of silicon photonics interconnects to its high end switch chips, probably starting in 2015 or later, he said.

Another industry veteran and EE on a panel with Samueli took issue with the Broadcom exec’s predictions. “The real situation is we have 10-15 years visibility and beyond that we just don’t know how we will solve [the problems of CMOS scaling] yet,” said Dave House, chairman of switch maker Brocade and a veteran of 23 years at Intel.

May 28, 2013

Countries by World GDP in 2025

Here is a projection of world nominal GDP by country using an extrapolation of IMF GDP forecasts through 2018

China's GDP growth will slowdown after 2018. China's GDP growth has been slowing the last few years.

The projection does give an estimate of the trends in shifting GDP by country.

Seven Multi-trillion dollar technologies

The McKinsey Global Institute identifies 12 technologies that could drive truly massive economic transformations and disruptions in the coming years. Applications of the 12 technologies discussed in the report could have a potential economic impact between $14 trillion and $33 trillion a year in 2025. This estimate is neither predictive nor comprehensive. It is based on an in-depth analysis of key potential applications and the value they could create in a number of ways, including the consumer surplus that arises from better products, lower prices, a cleaner environment, and better health. Some technologies detailed in the report have been gestating for years and thus will be familiar.

1. Mobile Internet $3.7-10.5 trillion
2. Automation of knowledge work $5.2-6.7 trillion
3. Internet of things $2.7-6.2 trillion
4. Cloud $1.7-6.2 trillion
5. Advanced robotics $1.7-4.5 trillion
6. Autonomous or near-autonomous cars $0.2-1.9 trillion
7. Next generation genomics $0.7-1.6 trillion

These can be compared to what GDP is expected to be added by leading countries (without currency or inflation adjustment.
1. China $10-20 trillion
2. United States 4-7 trillion
3. India $2-4 trillion
4. Indonesia $1.5-2.5 trillion
5. Brazil $1-2 trillion
6. Japan $1-2 trillion
7. South Korea $1 trillion
8. Mexico $1 trillion
9. Russia $1 trillion

Worldbank 2011 report on global development horizons

McKinsey forecasted urban GDP growth by country

Highlights of the Starship conference

Jonathan Markley provided a report on the Starship conference to Transterrestrial.

Futurist Peter Schwartz

Schwarz sees 4 possibilities for interstellar ships:

1. Generation ships
2. sleep ships
3. relativistic ships
4. download ships

Forgotten types
5. Radically life extended crew
6. Breakthrough physics

Freeman Dyson

Freeman Dyson sees bio-tech as the way of the future in space, to the point where genetic engineering allows us to create tree-lite plants that can grow their own vacuum-sealed habitats, with oxygen etc contained inside. This seemed to apply to both ground based colonization (including the idea of pre-seeding a place before humans arrive) and for settling places like the Oort Cloud, where he envisions them even growing their own mirrors to channel sufficient energy that far from the sun.

Audience member noted - Any pre-existing exoplanet life or biosphere would view this as biowarfare.

May 27, 2013

NASA could join private customers for a permanant inflatable moonbase in the 2020s and become a tenant of a Bigelow spacestation after the International Space Station

Early information from Bigelow Aerospace finds private companies are interested in using a permanent moonbase by the 2020s. A study by Bigelow Aerospace, commissioned by NASA, shows 'a lot of excitement and interest from various companies' for moonbases and other space projects. The projects range from pharmaceutical research aboard Earth-orbiting habitats, to missions to the moon's surface, he said on Thursday, citing a draft of the report due to be released in a few weeks. Bigelow Aerospace surveyed about 20 companies as well as foreign space agencies and research organizations for the NASA study. NASA expects to release the first part of Bigelow's study within a few weeks. The second section is expected to be finished this fall.

SpaceX could launch an $18 million Bigelow inflatable module to the station from Cape Canaveral as soon as mid-2015.

NASA intends to use the information to figure out where it can collaborate with private space initiatives and where it might, for example, entirely skip an expensive research and development program and just buy services or hardware commercially.

Makani Airborne Wind Power Company Bought by Google

Makani Power is being acquired by Google. The Makani Airborne Wind Turbine is a tethered wing that generates power by flying in large circles where the wind is stronger and more consistent. It eliminates 90% of the material used in conventional wind turbines, and can access winds both at higher altitudes and above deep waters offshore — resources that are currently untapped. Our goal is the utility-scale deployment of airborne turbines in offshore wind farms.

On May 3rd, 2012, Makani drafted specifications for a ground station from which our 30 kW airborne wind turbine could be deployed. On May 9th, 2013, after a year of mechanical design, fabrication and testing, the team completed the first-ever fully autonomous flight of a kite power system.

The above is a shortened video showing all flight modes, launch, hover, power generation, hover and land in real time. For an uncut view of the test, the following video shows the entirety of the flight at 5x speed.

May 26, 2013

Nextbigfuture reached 30 million pageviews and 13000 articles

Google considering internet ballons, blimps and satellites to provide internet access to Africa and South east Asia

Google plans to develop and fund wireless networks in emerging markets as part of a plan to connect a billion or more new people to the Internet. Google plans to team up with local telecommunications firms and equipment providers in the emerging markets to develop the networks, as well as create business models to support them, these people said. It is unclear whether Google already has lined up such deals or alliances.

Google has begun talking to regulators in countries such as South Africa and Kenya about changing current rules to allow such networks to be built en masse. Some wireless executives say they expect such changes to happen in the coming years.

As part of the plan, Google has been working on building an ecosystem of new microprocessors and low-cost smartphones powered by its Android mobile operating system to connect to the wireless networks, these people said. And the Internet search giant has worked on making special balloons or blimps, known as high-altitude platforms, to transmit signals to an area of hundreds of square miles, though such a network would involve frequencies other than the TV broadcast ones.

Google has also considered helping to create a satellite-based network, some of these people said.

The initiatives have since become more serious and are being led by Google's "access" unit, the Google X lab led by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and Google.org, the company's nonprofit arm, these people said.

Components of Solar power satellite alpha

The Final report of the Mankin Solar power satellite (SSP) satellite NASA NIAC phase 1 study.

Nextbigfuture had an interview with Mankin back in June 2012

John Mankins, a longtime U.S. SSP advocate, presented an update on an advanced concept under study with NASA funding known as Solar Power Satellite by means of Arbitrarily Large Phased Array (SPS-Alpha). The idea “represents a very different architecture for SPS, using a hyper-modular approach in which all platform elements can be mass-produced, and none are larger than a 'smallsat,'” he writes. “This could enable significantly lower development time/cost, much greater ease of manufacturing at lower cost, and significantly higher reliability.”

Basically, mass-produced “intelligent” spacecraft weighing 100-300 kg (220-660 lb.) would assemble themselves into a constellation shaped to collect, convert and transmit solar energy through the “hive” of other spacecraft to a transmitter array assembled in the same fashion. Mankins says the idea is based on the behavior of bees and ants.

Mass Production (at Low Cost) of All Platform Elements.
The potential economic viability of SPSALPHA depends on mass-producing all elements of the system. The highly modular architecture will allow the use of manufacturing analogous to that currently used for satellites in large constellations (such as the Iridium), or in the manufacture of Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs) rather than typical spacecraft. (With hardware costs of less than $500-$1,000 per kg.)

Robotic Assembly in Highly Structured Space Environments.
SPS-ALPHA depends on the use of in-space robotic assembly at a scale unprecedented previously. However, the requirement is for robotic assembly in a highly structured environment – not an unstructured environment such as that found in planetary surface exploration. The type of technology needed is currently in use in terrestrial applications such as automated mining operations and large commercial farming.

The current state of the SPS-ALPHA concept incorporates a total of some 8 elements – achieving an overall project goal. These elements include the following principal parts, each of which may be integrated in various implementations to realize the overall SPS-ALPHA SPS platform:
• HexBus Module
• Interconnects
• HexFrame Structural Module
• Reflectors & Deployment Module
• Solar Power Generation Module
• Wireless Power Transmission (WPT) Module
• Modular Robotics / ISAAC Module
• Propulsion / Attitude Control Module

Carnival of Space 303

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