December 14, 2013

Alberta is most economically free province or state in North America

Economic freedom has been shown in numerous peer-reviewed studies to promote prosperity and other positive outcomes. It is a necessary condition for democratic development.

The classic definition of economic freedom is:

Individuals have economic freedom when property they acquire without the use of force, fraud, or theft is protected from physical invasions by others and they are free to use, exchange, or give their property as long as their actions do not violate the identical rights of others. An index of economic freedom should measure the extent to which rightly acquired property is protected and individuals are engaged in voluntary transactions.

The Fraser Institute reports for North America measures subnational economic freedom looking at the impact from cities and states/provinces and then all government includes federal and the lower levels of government.

Canada's economic freedom scores are falling slower than the US scores. Canada fell from 7.7 in 2000 to 7.4. The USA fell from 8.2 in 2000 to 7.3.

December 13, 2013

Tesla Motors' $40,000 mass market electric car set to debut in early 2015

Tesla Motors plans to unveil an electric car in early 2015 that could sell in the $40,000 range, a mainstream offering that will be key to the automaker’s future.

The car likely will go on sale in 2016 and will be crucial to the brand’s long-term survival. By moving into a higher-volume segment with a vehicle priced half as much as its other products, this latest model will truly test whether Tesla can crack into the mainstream market.

"No car company can live off 20,000-30,000 sales a year and be profitable in the long term," Koslowski said. Tesla is on pace to build about 21,000 copies of its only current vehicle, the Model S sedan. The brand hopes to double that number in 2014, when it begins production on the Model X, a minivan/SUV mashup.

Elon Musk Provides More Details of his thinking on Mars Colonization and I provide background on work to develop plants to grow on Mars

Dr. Crystal Dilworth has a fireside chat with space entrepreneur Elon Musk and inventor and computational neuroscientist Philip Low to discover how they are changing the world and why. Special thank you to David Franzen for hosting this late night chat at the Canadian Consul General's Residence in Los Angeles.

Elon Musk compared the biological adaptations that could be required for humans or other organisms to live on Mars to the process of breeding cows to conform to our needs as a society. The problem is that modern cattle are the product of hundreds of generations of tweaking to various breeds, but future space explorers won’t have the luxury of being bred for the job of colonizing Mars through the centuries.

Instead, he suggests that “while it’s a tricky subject… we’d probably want to create synthetic organisms.” A tricky subject indeed — will we need to create more perfect clones of our finest astronauts to begin colonizing the rest of our solar system? Or maybe just start with some super radiation-resistant hermit crabs that can setup some burrows to get things going?

Musk didn’t directly answer a question about whether SpaceX would be interested in conducting initial research into the feasibility of a Martian colony, but he did make it clear that it’s something he’s looked into in detail. He explained that, in his view, a key step to getting established on Mars would be to compress the amount of time it takes to make the trip from Earth to our neighbor planet.

American Physical Society recommends licensing nuclear reactors for 80 year operation for less air pollution and less climate change

The American physical society sees no technical reasons not to extend nuclear reactors to 80 years of operation and recommends doing so in a 28 page report. Renewing Licenses
for the Nation’s Nuclear Power Plants

Extending operating licenses for reactors in a safe and reliable way is a smart move, as they are a “near carbon-free source of energy,” according to the APS report. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows power plants to operate up to 60 years, but extensions are available for an additional 20 years. The report finds that there are no technical show stoppers to running some plants for up to 80 years.

Furthermore, it urges utilities to consider the financial and environmental consequences of carbon emissions in their business decisions regarding nuclear and natural gas plants. Such considerations can also be factors for socially responsible investors who are concerned about increased carbon emissions in the U.S. Investors, with more than $3 trillion in assets and who use an environmental, social and governance criteria, have been effective at encouraging companies to consider environmental consequences in their business decisions.

In contrast to a coal or natural gas plant, nuclear reactors do not emit any of the six air pollutants identified in the Clean Air Act: ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, or lead.

• In contrast to a coal or natural gas plant, nuclear reactors provide a near-carbon-free source of energy, currently accounting for over 60% of the nation’s near-zero-carbon energy production and displacing an estimated 600 million tons of carbon per year.

Adding 20 year extensions to licenses would prevent decreasing nuclear power past 2050. Above is nuclear power in the US with just 60 year operation

China successfully landed robot rover on Moon and it is the first of a new wave of moon rovers

China is set to land a robotic rover on the surface of the Moon, a major step in the Asian superpower's ambitious programme of space exploration.

UPDATE - The lander has successfully landed on the moon.

On Saturday afternoon (GMT), a landing module will undergo a powered descent, using thrusters to perform the first soft landing on the Moon in 37 years.

Several hours later, the lander will deploy a robotic rover called Yutu, which translates as "Jade Rabbit".

The touchdown will take place on a flat plain called the Bay of Rainbows.

The Chang'e-3 mission launched on a Chinese-developed Long March 3B rocket on 1 December from Xichang in the country's south.

The Jade Rabbit, seen in this artist's impression, will be the first wheeled vehicle on the Moon since the 1970s

Saturn Rings appear to have been caught birthing a new moon

A new moon might have just popped out of Saturn's rings. Images from a NASA spacecraft show a disturbance along the rings' edge that is probably being caused by an unseen object stirring up the icy bands. The region has since quietened down, suggesting that we may have witnessed the birth of a small moon.

Carl Murray of Queen Mary University of London and colleagues were looking at pictures of the small moon Prometheus taken by NASA's Cassini orbiter. In an image from 15 April, they noticed an unexpected distortion in the A ring, the outermost of the planet's thick, bright rings.

"I'd never seen anything quite like this at the edge of the A ring," Murray said today during a talk at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

The thin, outermost ring shown in this picture from the Cassini probe is Saturn's F ring, and the bright dot near it is the moon Prometheus. The thicker white band is the A ring, and the smudge near what looks like the tip of that ring was caused by Peggy (Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

World oil update and North Dakota hits another record

IEA monthly oil report is up.

The estimate of global oil demand for 2013 has been revised up by 130 kb/d, to 91.2 mb/d, on stronger-than-expected 3Q13 OECD demand growth of 320 kb/d. Global demand is now seen advancing by 1.2 mb/d in both 2013 and 2014, to reach 92.4 mb/d in 2014.

Global oil supplies increased by 310 kb/d in November to 92.3 mb/d, as non-OPEC crude output topped 43 mb/d for the first time in decades. Year on year, November supplies rose by 810 kb/d, as a 1.9 mb/d surge in non-OPEC liquids and OPEC NGL more than offset a 1.1 mb/d drop in OPEC crude.

North Dakota Oil update

North Dakota reached 941843 barrels per day of oil production in October.

Five-Fold Lifespan Extension in C. Elegans by Combining Syngistic Gene Mutations for the human equivalent of 500 years

New research in simple animals suggests that combining mutants can lead to radical lifespan extension. Scientists at the Buck Institute combined mutations in two pathways well-known for lifespan extension and report a synergistic five-fold extension of longevity in the nematode C. elegans. The research, done at the Buck Institute and published online in Cell Reports on December 12, 2013, introduces the possibility of combination therapy for aging and the maladies associated with it.

100% plus 30% equals 500% life extension because of synergies

The mutations inhibited key molecules involved in insulin signaling (IIS) and the nutrient signaling pathway Target of Rapamycin (TOR). Lead scientist and Buck faculty Pankaj Kapahi, PhD, said single mutations in TOR (in this case RSKS-1) usually result in a 30 percent lifespan extension, while mutations in IIS (Daf-2) often result in a doubling of lifespan in the worms – added together they would be expected to extend longevity by 130 percent. “Instead, what we have here is a synergistic five-fold increase in lifespan,” Kapahi said. “The two mutations set off a positive feedback loop in specific tissues that amplified lifespan. Basically these worms lived to the human equivalent of 400 to 500 years.”

Citation: “Germline Signaling Mediates the Synergistically Prolonged Longevity by Double Mutations in daf-2 and rsks-1 in C. elegans”; Cell Reports.


* The daf-2 rsks-1 double mutant shows synergistic lifespan extension in C. elegans
* AMPK mediates positive feedback regulation of DAF-16 in daf-2 rsks-1
* Germline tissue is a key tissue in modulating this synergistic longevity
* Inhibiting rsks-1 in the germline leads to cell-nonautonomous activation of DAF-16

Senior Fusion researchers give major endorsement to Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Dense Plasma Focus Fusion Work and say they expect feasibility will be shown within two years with adequate funding

In a major endorsement of the fusion energy research and development program of start-up Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP), a committee of senior fusion researchers, led by a former head of the US fusion program, has concluded that the innovative effort deserves “a much higher level of investment … based on their considerable progress to date.” The report concludes that “In the committee’s view [LPP’s] approach to fusion power … is worthy of a considerable expansion of effort.”

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics has been developing an extremely low-cost approach to fusion power based on a device called the dense plasma focus (DPF). In contrast to the giant tokamak machines that have been the recipients of most fusion funding, a DPF can fit in a small room. LPP’s final feasibility experiments and planned commercial generators will use hydrogen-boron fuel, which produces no radioactive waste and promises extremely economical clean energy.

The committee of researchers was led by Dr. Robert Hirsch, a former director of fusion research for the US Atomic Energy Commission and the Energy Research and Development Agency. Other members of the committee were Dr. Stephen O. Dean, President of Fusion Power Associates and former director of fusion Magnetic Confinement Systems for the Department of Energy; Professor Gerald L. Kulcinski, Associate Dean for Research, College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Professor Dennis Papadopoulos, Professor of Physics, University of Maryland. The committee was organized by Dr. Hirsch at the request of Mr. Alvin Samuels, an investor in LPP’s effort, to give an objective assessment of the program. Neither Mr. Samuels nor LPP had any control over the committee’s conclusions.

The full 7 page review is here

If the physics issues outlined herein can be satisfactorily resolved, it is conceivable that the DPF concept could be developed into a viable, economic, and environmentally attractive electric power source for not only civilian power but also for military purposes. LPP’s projection of very small (about 5MW) units would be an advantage relative to most other fusion concepts. To date, LPP personnel have not given extensive consideration to the engineering of a DPF power reactor. This is appropriate in the committee’s opinion, because without the successful resolution of existing issues, a DPF reactor will not be possible. Having said that, the committee does not see any fundamental roadblock to power system viability.

DOE funding half of the NuScale 45 MWe small modular reactor

the Energy Department announced an award to NuScale Power LLC to support a new project to design, certify and help commercialize innovative small modular reactors (SMRs) in the United States.

Through a five-year cost-share agreement, the Energy Department will invest up to half of the total project cost, with the project’s industry partners matching this investment by at least one-to-one. The specific total will be negotiated between the Energy Department and NuScale and will be derived from the total $452 million identified for the Department’s Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support program.

The Energy Department investment will help NuScale obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission design certification and achieve commercial operation around 2025, while providing innovative and effective solutions for enhanced reactor safety, operations and performance.

Each NuScale Power Module generates 45 megawatts of electrical power. Additional modules can be added, providing scalability as electricity demand grows. This gives customers with smaller power requirements economical, reliable, and carbon-free power in their portfolio. NuScale's 160MW thermal output also makes it a perfect fit for process heat and steam applications, such as refining, desalination, and district heating.

The reactor measures 65 feet tall x 9 feet in diameter.

December 12, 2013

Ukraine, EU agreed on next steps for speedy signing of Association Agreement

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych intends to sign a deal on closer European Union ties, the bloc's top diplomat has said, after weeks of mass protests that have rattled the Eastern European country.

Ukrainian protesters, angry about the government's decision last month to spurn a free-trade agreement with the EU in favor of closer economic ties with Moscow, have stood their ground in Kiev's Independence Square, or Maidan, paralyzing the center of the capital.
They have remained there, undeterred by authorities' overnight crackdown early Wednesday in which police tore down barricades they had set up.

Kyiv and Brussels have agreed on the next steps, which will lead to the signing and implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.

In North Korea there can be only one

The once-powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been executed for treason after being branded "despicable human scum", according to the state news agency.

Jang Song-thaek was a mentor to the young North Korean dictator and one of the regime's most influential figures until he was publicly purged last week.

Video showed the 67-year-old Mr Jang being dragged out of his seat by police at a government meeting and official North Korean photographs were quickly doctored to remove all traces of him.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced the execution of the man it described as "a traitor to the nation for all ages".

China nearing the world average in corruption where Italy and Kuwait are at the average

China has made modest improvements in perceived corruption and has moved up to a corruptipon level of 40 on the index. 0 is the most corrupt and 100 is the least corrupt. 43 was the global average in corruption in 2013. So China is just short of the global average in corruption.

China is at the bottom of the broad corruption category of 40-59 which includes Italy (43), Saudi Arabia (46), Brazil (42), South Africa (42), and Turkey (50).

Letter of credit financing gives the illusion of exaggerated yuan globalization

The yuan has surpassed the euro to become the second most commonly used currency in global trade finance, after the US dollar. Yuan usage in trade finance grew to 8.66 per cent in October from 1.89 per cent in January last year, according to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift).

The SWIFT only tracks about 20% of global trade. Swift has used a narrow definition. It has measured only the portion of global trade financed by the traditional means of letter of credit, which interposes a bank between buyer and seller to help guarantee payment and delivery. It is not surprising that Swift should use the narrow definition. Swift is a bank international payment service.

80 per cent of international trade is now conducted on open terms. Trade partners who have long done business with each other increasingly don't see the need for a bank intermediary. They decide to trust each other and not pay for this costly extra level of security.

China's foreign trade in yuan, however, is still dominated by letter of credit. Thus the only thing that the Swift ranking of global trade indicates is that exporters and importers who settle their accounts in yuan do not have that same high level of trust in each other that is enjoyed by most other traders

Bloomberg Business weak chart analysis ignores project costs when predicting when a mile high skyscraper will be built

IEDs and Rocket Propelled Grenade means heavy exoskeletons make no sense

Military Exoskeleton's will be built in the future, but they are for special situations and not large scale combat.

* for military special forces and police SWAT teams there is the case for high powered military exoskeletons
* for regular soldiers the need is for soft and light weight and lower power exoskeletons (Warrior Web) which would prevent soldiers from being injured carrying around heavy loads

The need would be to drive down the cost and weight of HULC and Warrior web systems

High energy density batteries, improved materials and lowering the energy demands of the exoskeleton are what is needed for a practical relatively common exoskeleton

Is does not make sense to put too many heavier weapons and armor onto exoskeleton systems.
We have seen in recent wars that the rocket propelled grenade (RPG) and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) can defeat armor in vehicles that weight about 4 tons.

In terms of real world weapons against movie situations. An RPG would take out the Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator. Hollywood likes to use guns when explosives are the appropriate weapon.

RPGs can penetrate 10 inches of armor.

RPGs cost $100-500

Expensive Smartphones will disappear in a few years

Harvard professor talks about the prospects for the smartphone amid fierce innovation. As the technology matures, you get a disruption. It’s not a disruption of technology, though, but a disruption of the business, the high-margin business.

The high margins that Apple and Samsung get on the smartphones are going to be eaten away by companies like HTC, Huawei, and others to be named. They’re going to introduce smartphones that are almost as good and most people are not going to be able to tell the difference.

In the short run, I don’t think they [google glass and smartwatches and other wearables] are any [danger to] smartphones. What people don’t talk about is those form factors aren’t big enough for the processor, data storage, cellular communications circuitry, and especially the battery, so you still need a smartphone. The watch still connects to your smartphone, and I believe the glasses will still need to connect to your smartphone, because you still need someplace to store the data and provide a communications link to the Internet and the rest of your stuff.

People predict the demise of things, but it doesn’t happen as immediately as people think. It takes a long time to dismantle something. But once it starts to happen, it can happen very rapidly.

Bad Choices, bad regulation, incompetence and corruption in San Francisco, California result in Inferior Public Transportation and more expensive housing

Shuttle buses for technology companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter use 250 of the 2500 Muni bus stops in San Francisco. The Municipal Transportation Agency has proposed an 18-month test of a shuttle policy designed to support the private buses, which transport as many as 35,000 workers a day, mostly to and from tech companies in Silicon Valley, while reducing conflicts with Muni buses and establishing guidelines to help the private and public buses get along.

There was a fake outburst by a political activist protesting the technology company shuttle buses.

A San Francisco-area community activist ignited a small media firestorm Monday by posed as a Google employee angry at protesters for blocking his bus.

Max Bell Alper jumped off the blocked bus, yelled and cursed at demonstrators, and pretended to blame them for their concerns about housing costs and gentrification.

“This is a city for the right people who can afford it,” Alper yelled before nearby cameras. “You can’t afford it? You can leave.”

Paying over double for buses so that protected domestic bus makers and unions can benefit

32% of the buses in the US are sourced in California.

* China, South Korea, and Japan all produce more fuel efficient buses than U.S manufacturers
* buses in Tokyo and Seoul are half the price of U.S buses and buses produced in China are even cheaper
* While cynics might question the quality of China’s buses, it is notable that wealthy and well governed Singapore is importing buses from China
* U.S. tax payers face a higher price for subsidizing urban bus services and U.S owners of the domestic firms that produce the buses gain some monopoly rents. They also pay more for the increased fuel costs of less efficient buses
* 80% of bus costs are paid for by the federal government
* only 1.5% of buses are imported but 50% of cars are imported

The City of San Francisco has an $8 billion per year budget. There is an online budget allocation page where people can see what the choices are for the $3.14 billion that will be spent on San Francisco public transportation projects and maintenance from now to 2040. However the $46 billion spent on buses and operations could be drastically reduced or improved by allowing better buses to be procured at less than half the cost.

The Slow Death of Snail mail - Canada will phase out door to door mail delivery over 5 years

Canada will have urban home delivery of mail phased out over the next five years.

Starting March 31, the cost of a stamp to mail a standard-size first-class letter will increase to 85 cents if bought in a pack, up from 63 cents. Individual stamps will cost a dollar.

Canada Post said that over the next five years, it will eliminate 6,000 to 8,000 positions, but it expects 15,000 workers will leave the company or retire within that period.

Altogether, it projects that the changes will account for an annual gain of between CAD$700 million to CAD$900 million.

Canada Post serves 15.1 million addresses, but only one-third of Canadians (about five million homes) get their mail delivered to their door. Everyone else picks it up from community, apartment or rural-lot-line mailboxes.

Canada Post has 60,000 employees and 6,600 Post Office. Canada Post said it is also planning to scale down its labour force by between 6,000 and 8,000 people, though it maintains it can do so through attrition as about 15,000 employees are scheduled to retire in the coming years.

It costs Canada Post an average of about $168 per address annually to operate the mail system. Here's a breakdown:

Door to door (one-third of Canadians) – $283 per address
Centralized point, such as an apartment lobby lock box (one quarter of Canadians) – $127 per address
Group/community mailbox/kiosk (one quarter) – $108 per address
Delivery facility such as a postal box (12 per cent) – $59 per address
Rural mailbox (five per cent of Canadians) – $179 per address
An April report by the Conference Board of Canada said almost half of all Canadian households send no more than two pieces of mail each month
Community mail boxes

December 11, 2013

Tom Cruise Movie showing a lot of soldiers using exoskeletons

The film boils down to your standard Earth vs. Alien monsters fare with a side order of time displacement and a double helping of a realistic-looking type of powered armor. The Edge of Tomorrow suit looks to be based more closely on SARCOS’ XOS suit instead of the DARPA projects, with what appears to be a bare exoframe armored by standard heavy infantry Interceptor type kevlar and ceramic SAPI plates.

Instead of heavier armor, the EoT suit is set up more like a heavy weapons platform. Instead of free hands, the suits have XOS-style sheaths that contain the hands and controls for weapons and other equipment. There appears to be four weapon stations- a standard anti-personnel weapon and room for another on each arm and a pair of retractable hardpoints on the back loaded with what look like an array of grenade launchers, rocket pods, anti-tank missiles, and chain guns. There is probably a Heads-Up Display in the helmet to aim, designate laser-guided weapons, etc

Yellowstone Supervolcano is two and half times bigger than earlier estimates and covers over 1000 square miles

The supervolcano that lies beneath Yellowstone National Park in the US is far larger than was previously thought. A study shows that the magma chamber is about 2.5 times bigger than earlier estimates suggested.

A team found the cavern stretches for more than 90km (55 miles) and contains 200-600 cubic km of molten rock.

The team found that the magma chamber was colossal. Reaching depths of between 2km and 15km (1 to 9 miles), the cavern was about 90km (55 miles) long and 30km (20 miles) wide.

It pushed further into the north east of the park than other studies had previously shown, holding a mixture of solid and molten rock.

Will Bitcoin be the Friendster of Cryptocurrency ?

In 2002, social networking hit really its stride with the launch of Friendster. Friendster used a degree of separation concept similar to that of the now-defunct, refined it into a routine dubbed the “Circle of Friends” (wherein the pathways connecting two people are displayed), and promoted the idea that a rich online community can exist only between people who truly have common bonds

Friendster was replaced by Myspace and Myspace was replaced by Facebook.
Google+ competes with Facebook.
Sina Weibo, Twitter and Linkedin are also significant players

Bitcoin is major cryptocurrency now but there are many others

The Long Term Unemployed are Doomed

When companies are looking to hire people, they scan through the résumés they get in the mail and their first step is to throw out all the résumés of people who've been unemployed for a long time. This is research based on pretty well-designed experiments that control for other variables beyond long-term unemployment.

Rand Ghayad is able to show that employers have a strong bias (ten to twenty times less likely to contact) against candidates with more than six months of unemployment, even if their resume is virtually identical to a candidate who has been unemployed for a shorter period of time.

Real Workforce reintegration

It seems that the government would benefit by subsidizing companies to provide short term work (1 month every 6 months or whatever duration and structure to alter the hiring probabilities) to keep unemployed people employable. It needs to be crafted so that the industry views the work as valid experience. This would be an alternative to straight UI and retraining.

US Crude Oil Production highest since 1988 at 8.075 million barrels per day and could be 2-3 years from all time peak

US crude oil production is at 8.075 million barrels per day. Production is increasing significantly in North Dakota, Texas and the Gulf of Mexico.

If the 2013 pace of increase can be maintained then the US will likely exceed the all time crude oil production peak of 9.637 million barrels per day in late 2015 or in 2016. There was a secondary peak in 1985 at 8.9 million barrels per day.

US total oil liquid production is nearing 13 million barrels per day (12.97 million barrels per day)
US crude oil and natural gas liquids production is at 10.78 million barrels per day.

December 10, 2013

1 million qubit quantum computers by 2025

Dwave Systems is doubling qubits every year. They are releasing every two years with four times the qubits.

2013    512 qubits
2015   2048 qubits
2017   8192 qubits
2019  64000 qubits
2021 256000 qubits
2023 1 million qubits
2025 4 million qubits
2027 16 million qubits

But there are a few other approaches to quantum computers that could also scale.

MIT Biosuit is a non-bulky spacesuit that is more like a diving wetsuit for space and the basis for a soft exoskeleton for people with cerebral palsy

The Biosuit is pressurized close to the skin--an advance made possible by tension lines on the suit (those are the Spiderman lines) that don't break when an astronaut bends their arms or knees. Active materials, like nickel-titanium shape-memory alloys, allow the nylon and spandex suit to be shrink-wrapped around the skin even tighter, getting Newman closer to her goal of designing a suit that has 30% of the atmosphere's pressure--the level necessary to keep someone alive in space.

Newman's BioSuit is also resilient. If the suit gets punctured, an astronaut can fix it with a type of space-grade Ace Bandage. That's not possible with today's suits. "With a gas-pressurized shell, it's game over with a puncture," Newman tells me after her TED talk. And while today's suits can only be fitted to people 5' 5" and taller, essentially eliminating short women and men from the astronaut program, the BioSuit can be built for smaller people as well.

China says $3.7 trillion is enough - Will Mostly Stop Buying dollars to suppress appreciation of yuan

The People’s Bank of China said the country does not benefit any more from increases in its foreign-currency holdings, adding to signs policy makers will rein in dollar purchases that limit the yuan’s appreciation.

“It’s no longer in China’s favor to accumulate foreign-exchange reserves,” Yi Gang, a deputy governor at the central bank, said in a speech organized by China Economists 50 Forum at Tsinghua University yesterday. The monetary authority will “basically” end normal intervention in the currency market and broaden the yuan’s daily trading range, Governor Zhou Xiaochuan wrote in an article in a guidebook explaining reforms outlined last week following a Communist Party meeting. Neither Yi nor Zhou gave a timeframe for any changes.

China’s foreign-exchange reserves surged $166 billion in the third quarter to a record $3.66 trillion, more than triple those of any other country and bigger than the gross domestic product of Germany, Europe’s largest economy. The increase suggested money poured into the nation’s assets even as developing nations from Brazil to India saw an exit of capital because of concern the Federal Reserve will taper stimulus.

Yuan Appreciation now viewed as a net benefit to more people in China

Yi, who is also head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, said in the speech that the yuan’s appreciation benefits more people in China than it hurts.

Seeding Life on the Moons of the Outer Planets via Lithopanspermia from 1 billion life bearing meteroids from Earth and Mars

Material from the surface of a planet (like Earth or Mars) can be ejected into space by a large impact and could carry primitive life-forms with it. Researchers performed n-body simulations of such ejecta to determine where in the Solar System rock from Earth and Mars may end up. They found that, in addition to frequent transfer of material among the terrestrial planets, transfer of material from Earth and Mars to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn is also possible, but rare. They expect that such transfers were most likely to occur during the Late Heavy Bombardment or during the ensuing 1–2 billion years. At this time, the icy moons were warmer and likely had little or no ice shell to prevent meteorites from reaching their liquid interiors. They also note significant rates of re-impact in the first million years after ejection. This could re-seed life on a planet after partial or complete sterilization by a large impact, which would aid the survival of early life during the Late Heavy Bombardment.

The researchers calculated that over the course of 3.5 billion years — roughly the amount of time Earth is known to have possessed life — about 200 million meteoroids large enough to potentially shield life from the rigors of space were blasted off Earth. They also estimated roughly 800 million such rocks were ejected off Mars during the same period. More rocks escape from Mars because Martian gravity is a little more than a third that of Earth's.

Past research suggested moderately-sized rocks ejected from impacts could protect organisms from the dangers of outer space for up to 10 million years. The scientist calculated about 83,000 meteoroids from Earth and 320,000 from Mars could have struck Jupiter after traveling 10 million years or less. Also, roughly 14,000 from Earth should have hit Saturn in that time, and no more than 20,000 from Mars.

4 great moons of Jupiter: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Image Credit: NASA/JPLM

Mars One will work with Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology for a 2018 robotic mission

Mars One has secured lead suppliers for its first mission to Mars. The mission, slated a 2018 launch, will include a robotic lander and a communications satellite. Mars One has contracted Lockheed Martin and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) to develop mission concept studies. The Mars lander will be built by Lockheed Martin and the communications satellite will be built by SSTL.

This 2018 mission will be a demonstration mission and will provide proof of concept for some of the technologies that are important for a permanent human settlement on Mars; the ultimate goal of the non-profit Mars One foundation.

Bas Lansdorp, M.Sc., Mars One Co-founder and CEO stated, “We’re very excited to have contracted Lockheed Martin and SSTL for our first mission to Mars. Both are significant players in their field of expertise and have outstanding track records. These will be the first private spacecraft to Mars and their successful arrival and operation will be a historic accomplishment.”

The Lockheed Martin lander will be based on the successful 2007 NASA Phoenix mission spacecraft and will demonstrate some of the technologies required for the manned mission. Lockheed Martin has a distinct legacy of participating in nearly every NASA mission to Mars. For the Phoenix mission, the company designed, built, tested and operated the lander for NASA.

The Mars One Roadmap is to land a crew on Mars in 2025 Mars One wants to use reality TV and advertising sponsorship to fund manned missions to Mars.

Lockheed Martin will for $250,000 produce a "mission concept study" for an unmanned Martian lander that would precede the $6 billion manned mission.

Britain's Surrey Satellite Technology will meanwhile turn out a similar study, for 60,000 euros ($80,000), for a satellite that would hover in orbit over the lander and relay data and images back to Earth.

Limits to Growth Model used for 2052 forecast and takes global collapse off the table

Note- Nextbigfuture does not believe that the Limits to Growth Models are correct. Improvements in technology can radically increase the capacity of the planet. There is a great deal of emphasis on CO2, yet human created CO2 is a side effect of technological industrialization.

Business as usual improvements to agriculture (better crops with genetically guided plant breeding, precision agriculture and other measures) we can reduce water usage in half and increase crop yields by double over 2-3 decades.

Greenhouses can use 1/6th the water and 1/10th the land to produce the same amount of crop.

Hydroponics can use 1/20th the water. Aeroponics used 65% less water than hydroponics. NASA also concluded that aeroponically grown plants requires ¼ the nutrient input compared to hydroponics

There have been proposals for large scale hydroponics adoption.

Mass produced skyscraper technology is already being deployed in China and the tallest building in the world is in progress and could be completed next year. It will have 930,000 square feet of indoor vertical farm. As a greenhouse it would produce the equivalent of 200 acres of farmland. It has a footprint of about 4 acres.

2052 Limits to Growth Forecast

In 1972 The Limits to Growth report to the Club of Rome raised the question about whether growth can continue indefinitely on our finite planet. The book presented 12 scenarios for the world future to 2100. Six were negative – portraying various types of “collapse”, and six were positive – portraying various degrees of “sustainable development”. But The Limits to Growth (LTG) was unable to tell which of the scenarios was the most likely, simply because there was not enough information available in 1972.

The 2052 forecast is the sum of individual forecasts I made for five regions.

The regions are
1) the USA,
2) the rest of the industrialized world,
3) China,
4) the 14 largest emerging economies, and
5) the rest of the world (some 140 countries).

The forecast is based on the general world view represented in the most recent World3 computer model of the LTG study. It is also based on the assumption that technology will advance at the same rate as during the last forty years. And that there will be no change in fundamental values and preferences: society will continue to pursue income growth. There will be one important change, however. Over the coming decades global society will be facing a strengthening barrage of problems: depletion, pollution, climate change, inequity, social strife etc. I assume these problems will finally be met with increasing investment in solutions. But not before the problems become intense, only afterwards, when repair costs are unavoidable.

Bitcoin ASIC mining profitability and applicability to other decryption

In April, 2013 there was a calculation of the estimated profit from being an ASIC bitcoin miner.

ASIC devices is Avalon, who sell a machine capable of 85 gigahashes for 101.14 BTC (approx $11,000 – they don’t take “cash”). It uses around 600 Watts of power. The $11,000 purchase could make $50,000 within 5 months (difficulty increasing at 20%/m and BTC-AUD rate at 2c/day). Over the course of it’s useful life (around 31 months until it difficulty gets too hard for it and it costs more for power), it will make about $117,000. Which is insane. Of course you can’t resell the ASIC device once it gets to this point, but who cares – it made you a heap of money. That is of course, if there isn’t a flood of ASICs and difficulty doesn’t skyrocket 40% or 50% per month.

ASICs are optimized for bitcoin mining. Not just Sha256(Sha256(x)) hashing, but very specifically bitcoin mining. You can't even use them for the Sha256(Sha256(x)) hashing in the rest of the bitcoin system, like hashing transactions.

The ASICs are made for hashing 80 bytes, where you give them the midstate from hashing the first chunk (64 bytes), and 12 bytes from the second chunk. They then try all variations of the last 4 bytes to try and find a hash that starts with 4 zero-bytes. Only values that result in the 4 zero-bytes are reported at all. That's basically what mining is.

All electric cars could mean 20-50% more US electric power generation

The US, Europe and Japan have been slow growing economies. With less than 2.5% GDP growth there is almost no new reactors other than replacing broken ones and shifting some power to where people are moving. 1% is from gains in efficiency.

This is why China (and other emerging countries like India) where the fast growth is building most of the new power generation of all types. 70 nuclear reactors are being built worldwide. China is making 30 of them and at about $2 billion per GWe and completing them in 5 years time.

China will have double the US power generation by 2030. China will already be about 30% more than the US next year. China will spin up a lot more nuclear power as part of its energy mix. China trying to push coal to less than 50%. Then using hydro, natural gas, nuclear, wind and solar.

The US has fracking and cheap natural gas. They are half as polluting as the coal.

If the US had massive conversion to electric cars, then new electricity generation would be needed.

Tesla Model S electric cars have 60 KWh in batteries. If there were 200 million electric cars (like the Tesla and future electric SUVs. The assumption is that people will not want weaker cars to replace existing cars. Although nearly perfectly safe robotic cars could remove a lot of the weight of extra physical safety systems, which would make lighter and more efficient cars.) with heavy usage (50-100 miles per day) then 2000 TWh of power generation would be needed. This would 50% more than the current power generation needs of the USA.

Night time charging would reduce and possibly eliminate the need for new power generators to be produced. There is less electricity usage at night. This would still require more natural gas and coal, which could still be constrained or more costly.

It is conceivable that electric and plug in hybrids could become the dominant car preference in the 2030s and be the main types of cars on the road in the 2040s.

Even fracking and increased natural gas could be strained to bring on that much electrical power for the USA without significant price increases. This would make alternatives more affordable and a bigger part of the energy mix.

Ancient Mars Lake Could Have Supported Life

A NASA team reported 10 months ago that the first rock [nicknamed "John Klein"] Curiosity drilled at "Yellowknife Bay" on Mars yielded evidence that met the mission's goal of identifying a Martian environment favorable for microbial life long ago. Yellowknife Bay's clay-rich lakebed habitat offers the key chemical elements for life, plus water not too acidic or salty, and an energy source. The energy source is a type used by many rock-eating microbes on Earth: a mix of sulfur- and iron-containing minerals that are ready acceptors of electrons, and others that are ready electron donors, like the two poles of a battery.

Not only has Curiosity accomplished its primary goal of finding evidence for an ancient environment that could have supported life, but it also has provided evidence habitable conditions existed more recently than expected and likely persisted for millions of years.

The lake may have existed until as recently as 3.7 Billion years ago, much later than researchers expected which means that life had a longer and better chance of gaining a foothold on the Red Planet before it was transformed into its current cold, arid state.

Previous discoveries by Mars rovers had suggested that the Red Planet once had surface and groundwater with the quality of battery acid, but the water in this lake looks much more benign. It was a fresh water lake.

The chemistry of the lake would have been congenial to organisms known as chemolithoautotrophs — mineral-eaters. Whether such organisms, which thrive on Earth in exotic environments such as caves and deep-sea hydrothermal vents, actually existed on the young Mars is a question Curiosity lacks the tools to answer.

December 09, 2013

Bitcoin mining network will likely go over one zettaflop in compute power in 2014

Zetta is a unit prefix in the metric system denoting a factor of 10^21 or 1000000000000000000000.

The collective Bitcoin mining hardware is over 64 Exaflops in computing in October, 2013.

It is likely closing in on 100 exaflops now.

One of the leading makers of bitcoin mining rigs is pre-selling $12,995 20 nanometer ASICs. They will be over 5 times the speed of our first Jupiter release (28 nanometer asics) and over 30% more energy efficient.

The KNCminer Jupiter rig released in October performs 550 gigahashes per second.

The total compute was 1.9 petahashes per second in October and we are now at about 7 petahashes per second.
A petahash is converted to 10 about exaflops. tracks bitcoin computing and other metrics.

Google is multi-hundred billion dollar Peter Pan Internet Startup

Google has a $360 billion valuation.

Google is making just short of $15 billion per quarter in revenue and $3 billion per quarter in net income.

However, Google is the 1990s internet startup that never really had to grow up.

Google vision and scale of its ambitions and how they attack major new markets is to follow the plan of the old internet startup.

First get the eyeballs and the volume and then monetize.

Google just has the financial resources to put down billion dollar and multi-billion dollar bets using their own profits. The scale of Google's ambitions needs to be greater. Google needs trillion dollar and multi-trillion dollar market targets.

A venture capitalist would tell an ordinary startup to reduce their ambitions and have more "realistic" plans and objectives.

Google is dominant in internet advertising and has financial freedom to be a gigantic Peter Pan.

With Calico the life extension company, Google can dream of everyone never growing old.

With robotics, Google can dream of a technological Never Never land but has the financial strength and the technological magic to create it for real.

Soon - Hello Google Droid Robot

Recently it was revealed that Google was buying up robotics companies and planning some kind of moonshot in robotics technology that would change the game in robotics. Google will be combining superior robot vision, arms and wheel systems.

Google only thinks in terms of ambitious objectives like their robotic car project and doubling everyones life expectancy (Calico). So what is Google's objective with robotics ?

It is a revolution in personal robotics.

Next year there will be 1.25 billion smartphones shipped and most of those will be Google Android phones.
185 million android tablets will ship in 2014

Meanwhile personal robot sales are about one million vacuum robots per year with about ten million total installed in 2014.
There are one million industrial robots.

It is like we are in the computer world before the IBM PC.
We are in the internet age before the Netscape browser.

The pieces are there but the standards and ease of use have not been put together.

Google wants to put together the standard platform for a personal robotics revolution.

Minimum Wage and the Rise of the Machines

Jonah Goldberg has an article about the replacement of waiters and wattresses with tablets for ordering food at Applebees and other chain restaurants.

In 2011, Annie Lowrey wrote about the burgeoning tablet-as-waiter business. She focused on a startup firm called E La Carte, which makes a table tablet called Presto. “Each console goes for $100 per month. If a restaurant serves meals eight hours a day, seven days a week, it works out to 42 cents per hour per table — making the Presto cheaper than even the very cheapest waiter. Moreover, no manager needs to train it, replace it if it quits, or offer it sick days. And it doesn’t forget to take off the cheese, walk off for 20 minutes, or accidentally offend with small talk, either.”

Nextbigfuture has written extensively about robots and automation and job replacement. Recently we had some articles about a mini-robotic gourmet hamburger machine that can make 360 gourmet hamburgers every hour.

Some basic calculations were shown for what automation and robots at a MacDonalds would look like

Ten Times More Throughput on Optic Fibers

Two EPFL scientists have shown how to achieve a dramatic increase in the capacity of optical fibers. Their simple, innovative solution reduces the amount of space required between the pulses of light that transport data. The breakthrough could increase the throughput of data in telecommunications systems by a factor of ten.

Researchers have come up with a method for fitting pulses together within the fibers, thereby reducing the space between pulses. Their approach, which has been published in Nature Communications, makes it possible to use all the capacity in an optical fiber. This opens the door to a ten-fold increase in throughput in our telecommunications systems.

The team thus made a series of subtle adjustments based on a concept known as a "frequency comb" and succeeded in generating pulses with almost perfectly rectangular spectrum. This constitutes a real breakthrough, since the team has succeeded in producing the long-sought-after "Nyquist sinc pulses.

Nature Communications - Optical sinc-shaped Nyquist pulses of exceptional quality

Selenium sulfide composite cathodes that could boost Li-ion energy density 5 times

New composite materials based on selenium (Se) sulfides that act as the positive electrode in a rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery could boost the range of electric vehicles by up to five times, according to groundbreaking research carried out at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory. The studies of the materials demonstrated that they have the potential to pack five times the energy density of conventional batteries

Carbon-selenium sulfide composites are an alternative material to the conventional lithium transition metal oxide positive electrode material in standard batteries. These composites are anticipated to have an energy density five times higher than conventional batteries. This could mean up to five times greater range between charging stations.

The researchers point out that in a typical lithium battery, electrical capacity is between 120- and 160-milliamp-hours (mAh) per gram of material. The use of the novel composite materials can boost that capacity to around 678-mAh per gram. While such a boost is theoretically very attractive, understanding the nature of the electrochemical changes taking place when these materials are used (instead of conventional lithium-metal oxide electrodes) is vital to ensure they will be viable in future batteries.

December 08, 2013

High-capacity film-type Lithium-ion battery with silicon anode triple capacity to 900 Wh/L

Sekisui Chemical has developed a high-capacity film-type lithium-ion battery with a silicon anode using a coating process that has simultaneously tripled the battery capacity (900Wh/L) compared to other Sekisui Chemical products; increased its safety (as shown by nail penetration tests or crush tests); and sped up production by ten times

In the future Sekisui Chemical intends to further improve the batteries toward realizing actual products, beginning the provision of samples from around summer 2014, to reach the markets in FY2015 after testing and evaluation.

WTO trade agreement could boost world GDP by $1 trillion

The WTO Bali trade facilitation agreement has 159 countries agreeing to a set of common customs procedures around everything from publishing their customs regulations and forms to issues around pre-clearance. It’s one reason why estimates state this will contribute upwards of $1 trillion to global GDP

The potential payoffs from seven trade agreements that could be concluded in 2013 and ratified in 2014 is estimated at $2 trillion. The full seven agreements have not been agreed yet.

The WTO reached agreement in Bali for more reductions in trade barriers which should add $1 trillion in economic benefit to the world economy.

The deal reached in Bali lets India and other developing nations continue to subsidize their crops to bolster food security without having to worry about legal challenges, so long as the practice doesn’t distort international trade, according to a draft text. The U.S. and other members of the Geneva-based WTO would retain the right to file a complaint if subsidized goods are sold in global markets and depress prices or harm competitors.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 186

1. Atomic Insights - Smoking Gun Research Continuing in Earnest

Rod Adams has studied the world’s most important commodity business. He has discovered that the opposition to nuclear energy that really matters does not come from the vocal opponents that claim to be concerned about the potential for accidents, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the release of small amounts of radioactive material or even the high cost of building the plants. The opposition that really matters comes from individuals, companies, organizations and even whole countries that have a vested interest in selling competitive products.

DARPA shoots for 20 meter folding space telescope

The DARPA MOIRE program will create the first-ever images using lightweight membrane optics, which could help redefine how we build, launch and use orbital telescopes.

Currently in its second and final phase, the program recently successfully demonstrated a ground-based prototype that incorporated several critical technologies, including new lightweight polymer membrane optics to replace glass mirrors. Membrane optics traditionally have been too inefficient to use in telescope optics. MOIRE has achieved a technological first for membrane optics by nearly doubling their efficiency, from 30 percent to 55 percent. The improved efficiency enabled MOIRE to take the first images ever with membrane optics.

While the membrane is less efficient than glass, which is nearly 90 percent efficient, its much lighter weight enables creating larger lenses that more than make up the difference. The membrane is also substantially lighter than glass. Based on the performance of the prototype, a new system incorporating MOIRE optics would come in at roughly one-seventh the weight of a traditional system of the same resolution and mass. As a proof of concept, the MOIRE prototype validates membrane optics as a viable technology for orbital telescopes.

MOIRE would have 70 times the collecting area of the Hubble and would have over 8 times the diamter

Methuselah Foundation Announces $1 Million "New Organ Liver Prize" in Tissue Engineering

Methuselah Foundation, a medical charity based in Springfield, VA, announced today at the World Stem Cell Summit in San Diego the official launch of the $1 million New Organ Liver Prize, a five-year international competition to advance the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Donate here to support this and more tissue engineering and longevity prizes

The New Organ Liver Prize is the first in a series of whole organ challenges and awards designed to help solve the global organ shortage, which affects millions of people around the world. There are presently over 120,000 on the organ wait list in the U.S alone, many of whom will die before finding a compatible donor. Even those fortunate enough to receive an organ in time face ongoing medical difficulties, often for the rest of their lives.

New prospects for whole organ regeneration, engineering, and preservation offer potentially powerful solutions to this health crisis, but tissue engineering research is currently underfunded, receiving less than $500 million annually in the U.S. compared to $5 billion for cancer and $2.8 billion for HIV/AIDS. Neither the NIH nor the NSF provide signi"cant funding for whole organ tissue engineering, and the field also suffers from difficult regulatory hurdles as well as broader shortfalls in biotechnology investment for pre-clinical research.

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