June 15, 2013

Pakistan moving to start construction 1100 megawatt nuclear reactors instead of 320 MW

Pakistans's government has decided to go ahead with work on a 1,100-megawatt nuclear power plant in Karachi with Chinese assistance from the next financial year in an effort to ease energy shortages in the country.

At present, Pakistan has two nuclear power plants – Chashma 1 and 2 – each with a capacity of 320MW and built with Chinese assistance. Work on Chashma 3 and 4 power plants is also under way.

Old Nuclear powerplant retirements would not be notable if there was a faster pace of nuclear construction

1. This year, utilities have announced the retirement of four reactors, bringing the number remaining in the United States to 100. Three had expensive mechanical problems but one, Kewaunee in Wisconsin, was running well, and its owner, Dominion, had secured permission to run it an additional 20 years. But it was losing money, because of the low wholesale price of electricity.

More old Coal and natural gas plants are shut but more coal and natural gas is being built

Since 2010 41 percent of powerplant retirements were coal and 33 percent were natural gas. Ten percent were nuclear. Old power plants lead conditional existences; they may not survive new environmental rules or other circumstances that require expensive retrofits.

The difference is that gas plants continue to be built, and so do a few coal plants. There was a gap of 30 years in new nuclear plant construction, which ended this year, but only four plants, two twin-reactor installations, have broken ground. A fifth, left for dead in the 1980s, is being revived. While utilities in the last few years have announced plans for more than a dozen new reactors, beyond the five now under construction only another four or so seem possible in the next few years.

North Dakota Bakken oil production reaches new record

North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation increased oil output to a record 727,149 barrels a day in April, according to preliminary data compiled by the state Industrial Commission. Overall North Dakota production reached 793,302 barrels per day.

Increased output from shale formations including the Bakken and the Eagle Ford in southern Texas helped U.S. oil production reach 7.37 million barrels a day in the week ended May 3, the most since February 1992, Energy Information Administration data show. The figure slipped by 76,000 barrels a day to 7.22 million last week.

Google Project Loon deploying high altitude balloons to provide internet access to everyone

Introducing the latest moonshot from Google[x]: balloon-powered Internet access. Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill in coverage gaps and bring people back online after disasters.

Many of us think of the Internet as a global community. But two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have Internet access. Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters.

Project Loon balloons travel around 20 km above the Earth’s surface in the stratosphere. Winds in the stratosphere are generally steady and slow-moving at between 5 and 20 mph, and each layer of wind varies in direction and magnitude. Project Loon uses software algorithms to determine where its balloons need to go, then moves each one into a layer of wind blowing in the right direction. By moving with the wind, the balloons can be arranged to form one large communications network.

They use “variable buoyancy”—steering the balloons by tweaking altitude to find wind currents whooshing in the right direction. Google, which is pretty good at computation, could use the voluminous government data available to accurately simulate wind currents in the stratosphere.

The Project Loon pilot test begins June 2013 on the 40th parallel south. Thirty balloons, launched from New Zealand’s South Island, will beam Internet to a small group of pilot testers. The experience of these pilot testers will be used to refine the technology and shape the next phase of Project Loon.

2012 38 KHz Mach Effect Thrusters experiments get 2-3 micronewtons which is close to updated theoretically expected 3.2 micronewtons

The theory underlying Mach effects – fluctuations of the restmasses of accelerating objects in which internal energy changes take place – and their use for propulsion is briefly recapitulated. Experimental apparatus based on a very sensitive thrust balance is briefly described. The experimental protocol employed to search for expected Mach effects is laid out, and the results of this experimental investigation are presented. A series of tests conducted to explore the origin of the thrust signals seen are described, and two of those tests – the most likely spurious sources of thrust signals – are considered in some detail. The thrust signals seen, if genuine Mach effects, suggest that “advanced and exotic” propulsion can be achieved with realistic resources.

Advanced and exotic means propellentless high acceleration up to near light speed and even possible stargate wormholes. Recent experiments produced 2-3 micronewtons and a refined theoretical model now more closely expects 3.2 micronewtons based upon the materials and other methods used in this case.

In 1953, Dennis Sciama published a paper, “On the Origin of Inertia” in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society wherein he resuscitated Einstein’s idea that the inertia of material objects should be accounted for by a field interaction with the chiefly distant matter in the cosmos. He did not use Einstein’s theory of gravity, general relativity theory, to convey the interaction. Rather, he proposed a vector theory of gravity modeled on Maxwell’s formalism for electrodynamics. Eventually, it was recognized that Sciama’s vector formalism was just an approximation to Einstein’s general relativity theory. But the simplicity and transparency of the vector formalism made plain what was involved in explaining inertial effects as gravitational interactions with chiefly distant “matter” in the universe.

June 14, 2013

Affordable, Rapid Bootstrapping of the Space Industry and Solar System Civilization using Robotic Asteroid Mining

Nextbigfuture covered the Metzger et al plan for Affordable, Rapid Bootstrapping of the Space Industry and Solar System Civilization back in April 2012.

NASA has been talking about the plan.

A fully functioning, remote system of robotic excavators and simple machinery still is years away from reality, and much research on asteroids needs to be undertaken. The building blocks of a successful system, however, appear to be in place, the study concluded.

"Robots and machines would just make the metal and propellants for starters," Metzger said. "The first generation of robots makes the second generation of hardware, except the comparatively lightweight electronics and motors that have to be sent up from Earth. It doesn't matter how much the large structures weigh because you didn't have to launch it."

The study was undertaken in part because companies on Earth are quickly building business cases for pathfinding missions to evaluate available resources in the solar system with an eye on collecting them.

* Robots and machines would just make the metal and propellants for starters
* first generation of robots makes the second generation of hardware, except the comparatively lightweight electronics and motors that have to be sent up from Earth. It doesn’t matter how much the large structures weigh because you didn’t have to launch it.”
* in six generations of robotics, these machines will be able to construct themselves and operate without any need of materials from Earth.

Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries are looking to commercialize asteroid mining.
Golden Spike is trying to commercialize trips to moon and moonbases for countries and super-rich individuals.
Spacex is trying to make reusable rockets to drastically lower the cost of space access.
Bigelow Aerospace is looking to make inflatable moon bases and space stations

Planetary Resources Kickstarted passes 10,000 backers

Dish has 50 Mbps fixed wireless pilot deployment in Virginia

DISH and NTELOS Holding have now deployed broadband service in rural Virginia using wireless spectrum in the 2.5 GHz range. Broadband service speeds at the initial test sites are ranging from 20 Mbps to more than 50 Mbps.

A fixed wireless solution delivering true broadband speeds will bring improved broadband options to potentially millions of consumers.

The trial differentiates itself from prior fixed broadband services by relying on professionally installed rooftop devices at customers’ homes that are intended to deliver significant gain and throughput advantages over inside-the-home antenna solutions. DISH has deployed BandRich ruggedized outdoor routers with built-in high-gain antennas to receive the 2.5 GHz LTE signal.

This solution should easily and relatively affordably upgrade to higher speeds whenever LTE, LTE Advanced or any other cellphone based communication speed increase is deployed.

Graphene ribbons double the energy capacity of Lithium Ion Batteries

Researchers at Rice University have come up with a new way to boost the efficiency of the ubiquitous lithium ion (LI) battery by employing ribbons of graphene that start as carbon nanotubes.

Proof-of-concept anodes — the part of the battery that stores lithium ions — built with graphene nanoribbons (GNRs) and tin oxide showed an initial capacity better than the theoretical capacity of tin oxide alone, according to Rice chemist James Tour. After 50 charge-discharge cycles, the test units retained a capacity that was still more than double that of the graphite currently used for LI battery anodes.

In the new experiments, the Rice lab mixed graphene nanoribbons and tin oxide particles about 10 nanometers wide in a slurry with a cellulose gum binder and a bit of water, spread it on a current collector and encased it in a button-style battery. GNRs are a single atom thick and thousands of times longer than they are wide. The GNRs not only separate and support the tin oxide but also help deliver lithium ions to the nanoparticles.

Lab tests showed initial charge capacities of more than 1,520 milliamp hours per gram (mAh/g). Over repeated charge-discharge cycles, the material settled into a solid 825 mAh/g. “It took about two months to go through 50 cycles,” said lead author Jian Lin, a postdoctoral researcher at Rice, who believes it could handle many more without losing significant capacity.

GNRs could also help overcome a prime difficulty with LI battery development. Lithium ions tend to expand the material they inhabit, and the material contracts when they’re pulled away. Over time, materials like silicon, which shows extraordinary capacity for lithium, break down and lose their ability to store ions.

What are the Guaranteed hollywood movie blockbusters ?

Steven Spielberg made a prediction that Hollywood was doomed because the big $300 million movies could not sustainably make over $1 billion and that people did not have time for the movies.

What are the specific movies that are guaranteed to make over $1 billion and likely over 1.5 to 2 billion ?

James Cameron has several movies in the pipeline. Avatar 2 (2015), Avatar 3 (2018 ?) and Battle Angel (2017).

Battle Angel is set in the 26th century, the story takes place 300 years after a societal collapse caused by a major war. In that society, it's a technological dark age following a pinnacle of achievement far beyond where we are right now. Cyborg technology is a way of life. People are augmented a lot as workers, so being a cyborg is not unusual. The main character is a cyborg. She has an organic human brain, and she looks like she's about fourteen years old. She has a completely artificial body and she's lost her memory. She is found in a wreckage and reconstituted by a cyber-surgeon who becomes her surrogate father.

Basically it sounds like a mashup of a terminator world with Dark Angel (TV show with Jessica Alba).

I think Avatar 2, Avatar 3 and Battle Angel will each make over $2 billion in worldwide box office. China's box office is growing to be larger than US box office and China loves big James Cameron movies. Titanic had $2.1 billion (adjusted for inflation Titanic made over $3 billion) in world wide box office and Avatar and almost $2.8 billion.

June 13, 2013

Spielberg says Hollywood is doomed

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg say the film industry is on track to have a “massive implosion” because there just isn’t enough time in the day for consumers to support all the films released in theaters. Films are competing with all the content and options that the Internet provides.

Studios in Hollywood are the equivalent of venture capital firms of Silicon Valley. They live and die on the homeruns. Each movie could be thought of as a startup. It all starts with an idea and grows into a team that creates and releases some piece of content out into the world where it’s loved or hated.

The summer is filled with the biggest bets. The cost to produce and market a single film these days can balloon to over $300 million. The studios need a film to pull in nearly a billion in box office revenue, the same on DVD and have a good, multi-year sale to television for it to be considered a success. Sprinkle in some airplane viewing rights and that’s a win for them.

Lucas and Spielberg don’t think that’s a sustainable model. Soon, a couple of those megabudget films are going to nosedive, and everything will change.

UPDATE - I review the box office and note that it has been 20 years since Spielberg had a really big box office movie (Jurassic Park). His more recent movies have been about half of that level after inflation adjustment. The hope for Hollywood is James Cameron movies, Marvel/Avengers/Iron Man and a Disney revitalized Star Wars and increasing box office potential from China and International markets.

They suggest the marketplace will contract because there isn’t enough time in the week for us to go to the movies anymore. With Netflix producing top quality content, and video games cutting into weekends, it leaves little room for date night out at the cineplex. It’s getting so bad that Lucas complains about how hard it is even for him to get a film in a theater.

Stem cells and regeneration signals from cells help regrow amputated digits in mice

Scientists have long known that children and some adults can regrow the tips of their fingers and toes after amputation. But digits can’t regenerate if more than the nail region is amputated.

The digit bones can regenerate only if the amputated stump still has some nail stem cells, the researchers found. But the cells alone are not enough; also crucial is a zone of tissue that grows from the stem cells during normal nail growth. After amputation, this tissue sends signals that attract new nerves into the end of the stump and begin the bone regeneration process. If amputation removes the nail zone or if the signals are blocked, the digits will not regenerate.

When the researchers genetically manipulated the mice to turn on the regeneration signals permanently, nail stem cells alone could spur digit regeneration even without the neighboring nail tissue zone.

A mouse toe tip five weeks after amputation looks like new (top). But when signals from the nail tissue are blocked, the nail and digit can’t regrow (bottom). Muscles and nail keratin are stained red in the image and collagen is green or blue. Takeo et al/Nature 2013

Spacex tests new reusable Falcon 9 test rocket

Spacex had a test firing of the first stage of F9-R (Falcon 9 reusable)--advanced prototype for the world's first reusable rocket. The test took place at SpaceX's rocket development facility in McGregor, TX, lasting 112 seconds. Unlike airplanes, a rocket's thrust increases with altitude; F9-R generates just over a million pounds of thrust at sea level but gets up to 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space.

Technology and job destruction

Brynjolfsson, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and his collaborator and coauthor Andrew McAfee have been arguing for the last year and a half that impressive advances in computer technology—from improved industrial robotics to automated translation services—are largely behind the sluggish employment growth of the last 10 to 15 years. Even more ominous for workers, the MIT academics foresee dismal prospects for many types of jobs as these powerful new technologies are increasingly adopted not only in manufacturing, clerical, and retail work but in professions such as law, financial services, education, and medicine.

They believe that rapid technological change has been destroying jobs faster than it is creating them, contributing to the stagnation of median income and the growth of inequality in the United States. And, they suspect, something similar is happening in other technologically advanced countries.

Goldman Sachs projects China's GDP growth to average 5.7% from now to 2020

“China has basically said goodbye to 8% GDP growth in spirit if not in statistics and will have to embrace slower growth, with the average annual growth rate in the next seven years to 2020 perhaps falling to the vicinity of 6%,” wrote Goldman Sachs GS +2.45% China strategist Jiming Ha in a June 10 research report.

Goldman Sachs calculates that a fall in investment to more normal levels – say 40% of GDP – could bring China’s GDP growth down to an earthly 4.5% by 2020, averaging 5.7% over the next seven years. That would be well below many other projections – the International Monetary Fund sees growth at around 8.5% out to 2018 for example.

Gorilla Glass for cars, Antimicrobial glass for smartphones and Willow Glass for flexible gadgets

1. Gorilla Glass would help reduce a vehicle’s weight and lower its center of mass, boosting fuel economy by up to a few percentage points depending on how much of the glass is used. Cars that use the material will also be quieter inside. Corning expects at least one high-end auto maker to start making cars that use some Gorilla Glass within the next year.

2. Corning’s development-stage “antimicrobial” glass could be certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency within the next few months. The material would initially be used in the health-care industry to keep device interactions more sanitary, but smartphones are also a possibility. The number of germs on a smartphone exceeds the number of germs on a public toilet. Antimicrobial glass obliterates the bacteria on smartphones.

3. Willow Glass could spur the creation of “hundreds of new products,” ranging from flexible displays that conform to the human body to new insulating layers in semiconductors that will help sustain the continued progress of Moore’s Law.

Corning expects to mass produce Willow Glass in the second half of 2013, with commercial products entering the market in early 2014.

Tiny Submarine made of Titanium Alloys Proposed for Exploring Europa

Jonas Jonsson envisions the tiny submarine named Deeper Access, Deeper Understanding (DADU) taking on the Europa challenge in his 2012 Ph.D. thesis for Uppsala University in Sweden. The submarine could first get its feet wet by exploring similar watery environments on Earth where its small size could prove exceptionally useful.

The DADU submersible would use eight small thrusters to maneuver around the underwater world. A fiber optic tether would connect DADU to a surface lander or station — a way to recharge the submersible's lithium-ion batteries and allow for remote control by a human operator. On-board software would allow the submersible to automatically dodge obstacles or stay at a certain depth underwater.

The Swedish team created a series of miniaturized instruments and sensors for the dream submersible. DADU has a forward-looking camera with a small laser to capture high-resolution video and to gauge the distance, size and shape of underwater objects.

But a huge challenge came from shrinking everything down to incredibly small sizes. The sensor for measuring the conductivity, temperature and depth of water is smaller than a fingernail.

The submersible's sonar device alone could fit within a matchstick box, Jonsson said. Such a device uses piezoelectric material that can vibrate to create acoustic sonar pulses and read reflected pulses or vibrations as electrical signals.

Jonsson also tested the idea for the submersible's sampling device for collecting tiny life forms on Europa — a microfluidic device smaller than a human thumb with a special filter to trap tiny microorganisms.

June 12, 2013

Quantum Invisibility and Large Scale Invisibility Cloaks

1. Arxiv - Natural Light Cloaking for Aquatic and Terrestrial Creatures Hongsheng Chen at Zhejiang University in China and an international circle of friends have created large-scale invisibility cloaks that work over the entire optical spectrum but can cloak in several directions at once. Most animals cannot detect phase changes in light. Abandoning the requirement of phase preservation for natural light cloaking opens the door to hide large-scale living creatures.

They have built
1. square cloak with 90 degree symmetry, meaning it hides objects from view in the north, south, east and west directions.
2. A hexagonal cloak which hides in six directions.

A cloak that can hide living creatures from sight is a common feature of mythology but still remains unrealized as a practical device. To preserve the phase of wave, the previous cloaking solution proposed by Pendry et al. required transforming electromagnetic space around the hidden object in such a way that the rays bending around it have to travel much faster than those passing it by. The difficult phase preservation requirement is the main obstacle for building a broadband polarization insensitive cloak for large objects. Here, we suggest a simplifying version of Pendry’s cloak by abolishing the requirement for phase preservation as irrelevant for observation in incoherent natural light with human eyes that are phase and polarization insensitive. This allows the cloak design to be made in large scale using commonly available materials and we successfully report cloaking living creatures, a cat and a fish, in front of human eyes

Eric Drexler on Atomically Precise Manufacturing and on Engineering vs Science

1. Atomically precise manufacturing (APM) can be understood through physics, engineering design principles, proof-of-concept examples, computational modeling, and parallels with familiar technologies. Several chapters in Radical Abundance discuss these topics in depth.

APM is a prospective production technology based on guiding the motion of reactive molecules to build progressively larger components and systems. Bottom-up atomic precision can enable production with unprecedented scope (in terms of product materials, components, systems, and performance), while fundamental mechanical scaling laws can enable unprecedented productivity.

Predictive computational modeling of stiff structures

For suitably selected non-biological chemical and mechanical systems, each of these fundamental operations can be analyzed quantitatively.

In doing so, it’s convenient to explore systems built of components that consist of strong, stiff, covalent structures because these are easier to model than biomolecular systems. There are two key features of stiff covalent structures that facilitate modeling: First, these structures are insensitive to small errors in the potential-energy functions that underlie simulations of molecular dynamics; and second, severe conformational restrictions (a consequence of ubiquitous polycyclic structures) avoid the familiar challenge of evaluating the delicately balanced free energies that determine (for example) how proteins fold and interact with ligands in aqueous environments. Computational chemists will immediately see that these characteristics can greatly increase the predictive power and reduce the computational cost of simulations.

Photovoltaic ferroelectric memory with 10 nanosecond read write time is 10,000 times faster than commercial flash memory

Photovoltaic ferroelectric memory has been created. It takes less than 10 nanoseconds to write to and read the cells, and recording the data requires about 3 volts. The leading nonvolatile RAM technology, flash, takes about 10,000 times longer to read and write, and needs 15 volts to record.

Note - Memristors are supposed to have read times of about 10 nanoseconds, with write and erase times of 0.1 nanosecond. HP is supposed to produce commercial memristors by the end of this year.

Photovoltaic ferroelectric memory technology will need to be made much smaller before it is competitive. Commercial flash memory is built using equipment that can pattern features as small as 22 nanometres, whereas the strips in the photovoltaic ferroelectric memory device are a hefty 10 micrometres wide.

When light shines on this prototype memory device, it produces voltages in that make it possible to read out the information in the 16-cell array of digital bits.

Carbon fiber elevator cable - Ultrarope will enable elevators to be twice as tall

Kone has created carbon fiber elevator cable called Ultrarope. This will enable elevators longer than 500 meters to one kilometer.

* Super-light rope technology
* Carbon fiber core and special high-friction coating
* Tested under extreme conditions
* lasts twice as long before needing replacement versus traditional cable
* 60% reduction in moving masses for an elevator with a travel height of 500 meters
* 15% reduction in energy consumption for an elevator with a travel height of 500 meters
* When elevator travel heights increase in the future, further reductions can be achieved. An elevator with a travel height of 800 meters, moving masses can be reduced by 90% and energy consumption by 45%.
* The higher the building, the bigger the benefits of ultrarope

It can enable travel heights of up to 1000 meter — twice as high as what is possible with today’s technology.

This groundbreaking technology will also support the design of more sustainable, higher-performance buildings that are better equipped to meet the demands of the urban environments of tomorrow.

Here is a 6 page brochure

Planetary Resources announcing more stretch goals for space telescope fundraising

Planetary Resources has announced some other stretch goals for their fundraising for a space telescope.

Stretch goal of US$2 million - enhance ARKYD’s stability systems and dedicate time to monitoring candidate star systems for transiting exoplanets.

Raise $1.3 million and Planetary Resources will build a second ground station at the site of an educational partner. This station will provide a 2x downlink boost, doubling download speeds from space.

Two additional mystery goals will be revealed when they reach 11,000 and 15,000 backers.

Currently they are at $882,000 and 9724 backers.

Recent breakthroughs mean we are on the cusp of Big Graphene Solar Sails for crude interstellar missions

Columbia University worked out how to remove graphene from a copper substrate without damaging it. They have large sheets of graphene with a strength of 95 gigapascals. This is fifteen times stronger than kevlar. This is 90% of the strength of perfect molecular graphene and is stronger than molecular carbon nanotubes.

There are graphene factories being setup this year and next year that will produce hundreds of tons of graphene. Some of those factories could be adapted to produce the stronger undamaged graphene.

We need solar sails at least 100 meter on a side and 400 meters on a side to get really interesting missions

Solar sail missions in the near term

Note - the 100 meter on a side graphene solar sail, 400 meter graphene solar sail or even a 1000 meter on a side solar sail would be less one ton of graphene. It is a matter of making the big sheets of it.

Magnetoshell concept proven for braking of spaceships to greatly reduce mission costs

A Magnetoshell doesn’t deflect gas like an aeroshell or plasma like a magnetic decelerator. It captures the hypersonic neutral gas through collisional processes. The momentum of the charge-exchanged gas is absorbed by the magnetic structure.

1. A spacecraft deploys Magnetoshell hardware on a 50 meter tether
2. A 500 Gauss magnetic dipole field is formed
3. A low-temperature, magnetized plasma is injected into that field
4. Plasma shell captures atmospheric neutrals through charge-exchange
5. As the captured particles equilibrate, they decelerate the spacecraft
6. Plasma is fueled and heated from captured planetary neutrals
7. Aerobraking drag can be turned off at any time (or increased)

June 11, 2013

John Slough preparing first nuclear fusion tests for the end of this summer

Last month at a NASA symposium, John Slough and his team from MSNW, presented their mission analysis for a trip to Mars, along with detailed computer modeling and initial experimental results.

Slough and his team have published papers calculating the potential for 30- and 90-day expeditions to Mars using a rocket powered by fusion, which would make the trip more practical and less costly.

But is this really feasible? Slough and his colleagues at MSNW think so. They have demonstrated successful lab tests of all portions of the process. Now, the key will be combining each isolated test into a final experiment that produces fusion using this technology.

The research team has developed a type of plasma that is encased in its own magnetic field. Nuclear fusion occurs when this plasma is compressed to high pressure with a magnetic field. The team has successfully tested this technique in the lab.

World Population and GDP forecasts for 2030 and 2050 - US should be number two economy in 2050

World population forecasts tend to have an error range of +/- 5% in 2030 and +/- 14% in 2050. However, estimates of population for today can have errors in the +/- 2% range and even higher error levels for some countries. It is useful to determine if there is a likelyhood of an over or under count or over or under estimate.

China could have an undercount in its population because people in rural areas are hiding children to avoid the one child policies. Russia could have an official overcount to hide a population drop. Russian policies to increase immigration could mean that forecasted population are too low.

Top ten most populous countries (in millions) based on July 2012 projections of the CIA

1. China          1,343.24
2. India          1,205.07
3. United States    313.85
4. Indonesia        248.22
5. Brazil           205.72
6. Pakistan         190.29
7. Nigeria          170.12
8. Bangladesh       161.08
9. Russia           138.08
10. Japan           127.3

If Planetary Resources Kickstarter Reaches $2 million then Arkyd Space Telescope will get exoplanet search upgrades

Planetary Resources recently launched a campaign on Kickstarter for the ARKYD – the world’s first crowdfunded space telescope accessible to the public. In only 13 days, the company has already reached well over 85 percent of its original US$1 million goal. Today, the company is announcing that if the total amount pledged exceeds US$2 million in the 19 days remaining in the campaign, it will invest the additional funds to enhance the ARKYD space telescope technology to enable it to search for alien planets!

These upgrades would add exoplanet transit detection capability by enhancing the telescope’s stability systems and dedicating time to monitor candidate star systems. A special bonus is that this upgrade would also allow for better measurement of the spin-properties of asteroids, using the same technique. “While the ARKYD won’t rival NASA’s US$600 million Kepler spacecraft, which may have to end its mission due to a recent equipment failure, the enhanced ARKYD will be a huge step toward important new scientific discoveries enabled by citizen scientists,” said Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer, Planetary Resources, Inc.

The company is partnered with one of the world’s leading exoplanet scientists, Sara Seager, Ph.D. of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Dr. Seager, Professor of Physics and Planetary Science at MIT.

Currently the fund raising stands at about $855,000.

China launches three person crew on Shenzhou-10

The Chinese have launched their fifth crewed space mission on Tuesday via the Shenzhou-10 mission. The launch of the Long March 2F/G rocket was on schedule at 09:38 UTC, taking place from Pad 921 at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center’s LC43 Launch Complex.

This new space chapter for the Chinese represents the final occupation of the Tiangong-1 space module and the launch of the second female “yu hang yuan” – the Chinese term for astronaut, as opposed to the more commonly used “taikonaut”.

Should the 15 day mission go to plan, Shenzhou-10 should dock with Tiangong-1 on June 13. The two spacecraft will remain docked for a period of 12 days which will include a second re-docking test, after which Shenzhou-10 will return to Earth on June 26.

Tiangong-1 is intended as a testbed for key technologies that will be used in China's large modular space station, which is planned for launch in 2020. Furthermore, modified versions of Tiangong-1 will be used as robotic cargo spacecraft to resupply this station. The launch mass of the Tiangong-1-derived cargo spacecraft is expected to be around 13 metric tons (29,000 lb), with a payload of around 6 metric tons (13,000 lb).

Graphene by the ton

Recently Columbia University worked out how to remove graphene from a copper substrate without damaging it. They have large sheets of graphene with a strength of 95 gigapascals. This is 90% of the strength of perfect molecular graphene and is stronger than molecular carbon nanotubes.

Ningbo Morsh Technology is launching the world’s first graphene production line with an annual capacity of 300 tons in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, It enters production on August, 2013. This production will be widely used in the chemical industry and energy sectors; moreover, Chongqing Morsh’s production line will be widely used in the electronics industry and IT sectors, according to the company.

Chongqing Morsh Technology will build the world’s first mass production of 15-inch single-layer graphene film production line in Chongqing city. They will produce graphene-based transparent conducting film (TCFs) products, which will initially number 10 million pieces per year for the next five years.

June 10, 2013

Various Projections for the Economy of China 2030

China's May exports rose 1 percent from a year earlier, down from 14.7 percent in April, while imports dropped 0.3 percent from a year earlier. The median estimates of analysts were for 7.4 percent export growth and 6.6 percent import gains. The $20.4 billion trade surplus compared with forecasts for $20 billion.

The slowdown in May’s trade figures was partly the result of “arbitrage trade” with Hong Kong being curbed, the customs administration said in a statement yesterday. Appreciation in the yuan and the worsening trade environment, as well as a domestic slowdown, weak external demand and high business costs.

There are several longterm forecasts for China's economy.

World Bank Forecast for China now to 2030

China’s long-term outlook is expected to be shaped by three structural transformations that are key in terms of their potential impact onto the developing world. The first among these is a gradual structural slowdown that China is expected to undergo, as the economy’s traditional engines of growth fade in strength. The second transformation concerns a change in China’s economic structure, where the patterns of expenditure, production, and employment are all expected to change significantly as China rebalances. The third transformation involves the technological sophistication and human capital intensity of production as China is expected to respond to rising wage pressures by moving up the value chain, and, while doing so, also redefine its competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

EIA increases technically recoverable global shale oil estimate by ten times from 2011 estimate to 345 billion barrels

Technically Recoverable Shale Oil and Shale Gas Resources: An Assessment of 137 Shale Formations in 41 Countries Outside the United States estimates that shale resources taken in conjunction with EIA's own assessment of resources within the United States indicate technically recoverable resources of 345 billion barrels of world shale oil resources and 7,299 trillion cubic feet of world shale gas resources. While the current report considers more shale formations than were assessed in a previous version, it still does not assess many prospective shale formations, such as those underlying the large oil fields located in the Middle East and the Caspian region. Currently, only the United States and Canada are producing shale oil and shale gas in commercial quantities.

"As shale oil and shale gas production has grown in the United States to become 30% of oil and 40% of natural gas total production, interest in the oil and natural gas resource potential of shale formations outside the United States has grown," said EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski. "Today's report indicates a significant potential for international shale oil and shale gas, though the extent to which technically recoverable shale resources will prove to be economically recoverable is not yet clear."

Shale oil and shale gas resource estimates are highly uncertain and will remain so until the shale basins are extensively tested with production wells. This report's methodology for estimating the shale resources outside the United States is based on the geology and resource recovery rates of similar shale formations in the United States that have produced shale oil and shale gas from thousands of producing wells.

Automated plant factory for the production of vaccines

Molecular farming is an easy, fast, and safe method for producing vaccines and therapeutic proteins in plants. Now a team of Fraunhofer researchers from the USA has built up a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) compliant plant factory.

“We use tobacco plants because they multiply and maintain our virus vectors very well. In addition, they grow fast yielding, large quantities of biomass in a short period of time,” says Vidadi Yusibov from the Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biotechnology (CMB). It has already been demonstrated in the laboratory that the method works well. But can this approach be scaled for mass production? The researchers have already cleared the first hurdles: they have developed a fully integrated, automated, GMP facility – a fundamental prerequisite for the production of biopharmaceutical

Japan's economy grew at an annualised rate of 4.1 per cent in the first quarter

The Japanese gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 1 per cent in the first-quarter of 2013, compared to previous quarter, primarily due to the introduction of aggressive financial measures by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The improvement in GDP is higher than the initial estimates of 0.9 per cent quarter-over-quarter.

During the quarter, capital investment declined 0.3 per cent; the government had initially estimated a decline of 0.7 per cent. Domestic demand grew by 0.6 per cent against the expectations of 0.5 per cent.

The surplus in the present account was at 750bn Japanese yen ($7.70bn), an increase of 100.8 per cent from the same period a year earlier.

Japan introduced a host of measures to stir up the stagnant economy. The country’s central bank, the Bank of Japan doubled its inflation target. In an effort to drive consumer spending, the bank kept the long term interest rates low and injected millions of Yen into the market.

Big Multiple Sclerosis Breakthrough Reduced 50-75% of bad immune system activity while leaving a normal immune system

A phase 1 clinical trial for the first treatment to reset the immune system of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients showed the therapy was safe and dramatically reduced patients’ immune systems’ reactivity to myelin by 50 to 75 percent, according to new Northwestern Medicine research.

In MS, the immune system attacks and destroys myelin, the insulating layer that forms around nerves in the spinal cord, brain and optic nerve. When the insulation is destroyed, electrical signals can’t be effectively conducted, resulting in symptoms that range from mild limb numbness to paralysis or blindness.

“The therapy stops autoimmune responses that are already activated and prevents the activation of new autoimmune cells,” said Stephen Miller, the Judy Gugenheim Research Professor of Microbiology-Immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Our approach leaves the function of the normal immune system intact. That’s the holy grail.”

New asynchronous programming model GPI might enable the generation supercomputers to have faster programs

Big data analysis additionally is driving the demand for even faster, more effective, and also energy-saving computer clusters. The number of processors per system has now reached the millions and looks set to grow even faster in the future. Yet something has remained largely unchanged over the past 20 years and that is the programming model for these supercomputers. The Message Passing Interface (MPI) ensures that the microprocessors in the distributed systems can communicate. For some time now, however, it has been reaching the limits of its capability.

Development work has resulted in the Global Address Space Programming Interface – or GPI – which uses the parallel architecture of high-performance computers with maximum efficiency.

GPI is based on a completely new approach: an asynchronous communication model, which is based on remote completion. With this approach, each processor can directly access all data – regardless of which memory it is on and without affecting other parallel processes.

The Global Address Space Programming Interface model details are at this page. On the left hand part of the page there are links to detailed GPI documentation.

IBM Watson researcher Sanjeeb Dash mixed-integer linear programs version CPLEX can solve 20,000 node Dwave problems thousands of times faster

Arxiv - A note on QUBO instances defined on Chimera graphs

Dwave indicates Selby and Dash solved different problems

Geordie Rose (CTO of Dwave Systems) indicates that the author of this paper solved the wrong problems. Neither Selby nor Dash were actually solving the problems the hardware solved, which is the source of the speed-ups they are reporting (the problems they solved are known to be easy). Cathy has contacted both, and hopefully both will acknowledge they jumped the gun and those results are incorrect.

Also note that the formulation Dash used was the one we used (conversion to MILP) which he would have known if he'd read the paper. This transformation is known to be the right way to solve sparse QUBOs using CPLEX. Cathy, together with David Johnson, started the DIMACS challenge and pretty much invented the field of experimental algorithmics. It's puzzling to me how people don't assume she knows how to use CPLEX properly. Also it was Troyer et.al. (different paper, different science!) that responded to Smolin's paper, which has nothing to do with benchmarking and was about signatures of quantum annealing.

The Dash Paper

McGeogh and Wang (2013) recently obtained optimal or near-optimal solutions to some quadratic unconstrained boolean optimization (QUBO) problems using a 439 qubit D-Wave quantum computer in much less time than with the IBM ILOG CPLEX mixed-integer quadratic programming solver. The problems studied by McGeogh et. al. are defined on subgraphs of 512 node Chimera graphs. We observe that after a standard reformulation of QUBO problems defined on 512 node Chimera graphs as mixed-integer linear programs (MILP), they can be solved to optimality with the CPLEX MILP solver in time comparable to the time reported by McGeogh and Wang for the D-wave quantum compute

They compare the solution times for QUBO-miqp and QUBO-milp solved with the respective solvers of CPLEX. Even for instances based on small graphs such as C4, the difference in time can be significant. The mean solution time for QUBO-milp is 0.03 sec onds, the maximum solution time is 0.09 seconds, and the standard deviation in solution times is 0.015. The corresponding numbers for QUBO-miqp are 36.62 seconds, 1355.85 seconds, and 195.33. Therefore, in the worst case, the running time for QUBO- miqp is over 10,000 times the running time for QUBO-milp.

Why does this happen? We believe it is more because of formulation differences rather than differences in solver quality (though CPLEX-MILP is much more mature, given its relative importance for practical applications).

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 160

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 160 is up at Yes Vermont Yankee

SONGS [San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station] to retire, decommission, posted by Will Davis at ANS Nuclear Café.

The latest news on the recent decision to retire the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California. The post includes information from a press teleconference held by Southern California Edison, and many explanatory links.

Carnival of Space 305

June 09, 2013

If oil prices were to drop the important geopolitical impact would be on Russia

If shale oil, shale gas and synthetic biofuels were to rapidly scale and significantly lower the price of oil this would have interesting geopolitical impacts on Russia. The Iran, Saudi Arabia impacts would also be interesting but a weaker Russian economy would matter more for geopolitics. 20-25% of Russia's GDP is tied to the oil and gas sector.

The importance of oil exports and hydrocarbon exports in general to the Russian economy arises along several channels. Income from crude has accounted for a significant share of Russian export revenues increasing from 25 per cent in 2000 to more than 35 per cent in 2008. Total hydrocarbon exports (inclusive natural gas and petrochemicals) accounted for 65 per cent of total export revenues in 2008. Fjærtoft (2008) found evidence that the price of crude is a key driving force behind Russia’s trade flow driven exchange rate. This finding is supported in the present paper. Hydrocarbon exports generated 50 per cent of federal budget revenues in 2008 (EEG 2009) and the governments scope of manoeuvre is directly linked to the price of crude. On a larger scale the oil and gas sector is estimated to account for 20–25 per cent of GDP (Anker and Sonnerby 2008). The oil and gas sector also accounts for an important share of investment demand (World Bank 2008).

IEA oil projection to 2035 was for $125/barrel in real terms

Global oil demand grows by 7 mb/d to 2020 and exceeds 99 mb/d in 2035, by which time oil prices reach $125/barrel in real terms (over $215/barrel in nominal terms). A surge in unconventional and deepwater oil boosts non-OPEC supply over the current decade, but the world relies increasingly on OPEC after 2020. Iraq accounts for 45% of the growth in global oil production to 2035 and becomes the second-largest global oil exporter, overtaking Russia.

Oil demand was projected to increase by 14 percent between now and 2035.

Weaker economy and weak demographics could result in a loss of chunks of Siberia to China

Russia’s greatest geopolitical fear is fed by a very plausible scenario — China, populous and resource-hungry, taking over large chunks of Siberia, part of Russia’s failing and emptying East. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese have already crossed the border at the Amur River and set up trading settlements, intermarrying with Russians and Siberia’s native nomadic minorities. Russia has a nuclear arsenal with which to fend off formal threats to its sovereignty, but the demographic imbalance is to Russia’s disadvantage and could accelerate the economic shift in China’s favor. Russia’s far eastern outpost of Vladivostok is ever more distant from Moscow. Will it become a Russian enclave in a re-Sinofied “Outer Manchuria,” like Kaliningrad, 5,000 miles away on the Baltic Sea, a Soviet fragment stranded inside the European Union?

What would it take for synthetic biofuels to significantly alter geopolitics ?

Brazil and the United States lead the industrial production of ethanol fuel, accounting together for 87.8 percent of the world's production in 2010, and 87.1 percent in 2011. In 2011 Brazil produced 21.1 billion liters (5.57 billion U.S. liquid gallons), representing 24.9 percent of the world's total ethanol used as fuel.

In 2012, Americans consumed 134 billion gallons of gasoline that contained approximately 13 billion gallons of ethanol (a blend rate of 9.7%), according to the Energy Information Administration. Accounting for ethanol's reduced energy content per gallon -- just 67% of a gallon of gasoline -- we can say that ethanol blending displaced 8.7 billion gallons of gasoline last year.

The world consumes over 85 million barrels of oil every day (over 30 billion barrels per year). The USA alone consumes over 20 million barrels per day (over 7 billion barrels per year).

The world uses about 600 billion gallons of gasoline. Getting to 10 to 15% ethanol blends worldwide would mean a 60 to 90 billion gallon market for ethanol. Going beyond that level would mean a shift to flexfuel car engines that could handle more pure ethanol. Synthetic biology can directly produce diesel fuel.

Massive geopolitical altering success with synthetic biofuels even at 25,000 gallons per acre would require about 3,000,000 acres to get to 75 billion gallons per year. This would just over half of US gasoline usage. Shale oil also has some projections where it gets to those kinds of levels or higher. The price for crude oil would get impacted because of reduced demand.

Joule is making commercial scale direct solar conversion biofuel plants starting in 2014

Joule is deploying a revolutionary platform for renewable fuel and chemical production that is expected to eclipse the scalability, productivities and cost efficiency of any known alternative to fossil fuel today.

Joule capitalizes on the global abundance of waste CO2 to economically produce renewable fuels and chemicals. The company’s Sunflow™ products drop into conventional fuel blendstock in high percentages, displacing more oil than biofuels and allowing seamless adoption. Manufactured without feedstock constraints or complex processing, Sunflow fuels achieve high volumes and low costs with no dependence on subsidies or precious natural resources. Through its subsidiaries, Joule Unlimited Technologies and Joule Fuels, the company advances both technology development and commercial deployment to achieve market impact as soon as 2015.

Commercial scale should be 1000 acre plants. This should mean 25 million gallons per year of Sunflow-E (ethanol replacement).

Upon full-scale commercialization, the company ultimately targets 25,000 gallons of Sunflow™-E and 15,000 gallons of Sunflow™-D per acre annually, for as little as $1.28/gallon and $50/barrel respectively (excluding subsidies). These products will directly address the global markets for ethanol and diesel fuel without the economic or environmental consequences of their biomass- or fossil-derived counterparts.

Joule has successfully pilot-tested its platform for over two years, commissioned its SunSprings™ demonstration plant, and launched a global subsidiary, Joule Fuels, to deploy fuel production sites worldwide. Construction of the first commercial plants is expected to begin in 2014.

To date, renewable hydrocarbon-based fuel substitutes have required the complex, multi-step conversion of algal or other agricultural biomass feedstocks into fuel pre-cursors, and subsequent chemical upgrading. In contrast, Joule has engineered photosynthetic biocatalysts that convert waste CO2 into hydrocarbons through a patented, continuous process. Joule has been successfully scaling its process for making ethanol (Sunflow-E) while also developing long-chain hydrocarbons for diesel (Sunflow-D). With its latest breakthrough, Joule becomes the first company able to directly produce medium-chain hydrocarbons which are substantial components of gasoline (Sunflow-G) and jet fuel (Sunflow-J).

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