January 25, 2014

Transhuman visions event next Saturday February 1st

Everyone attending TRANSHUMAN VISIONS on February 1 at Fort Mason will get Free Membership in LifeExtension - http://www.lef.org/index.htm - plus a copy of their most recent magazine. The value of this perk is $75. There is a schedule below.

Stephen Hawking says 'There are no black holes' in a research paper

In a paper posted online, the physicist Stephen Hawking, based at the University of Cambridge, UK, and one of the creators of modern black-hole theory, does away with the notion of an event horizon, the invisible boundary thought to shroud every black hole, beyond which nothing, not even light, can escape.

Hawking’s radical proposal is a much more benign “apparent horizon”, which only temporarily holds matter and energy prisoner before eventually releasing them, albeit in a more garbled form.

“There is no escape from a black hole in classical theory,” Hawking told Nature. Quantum theory, however, “enables energy and information to escape from a black hole”. A full explanation of the process, the physicist admits, would require a theory that successfully merges gravity with the other fundamental forces of nature. But that is a goal that has eluded physicists for nearly a century. “The correct treatment,” Hawking says, “remains a mystery.”

Hawking proposes that Quantum mechanics and general relativity remain intact, but black holes simply do not have an event horizon to catch fire. The key to his claim is that quantum effects around the black hole cause space-time to fluctuate too wildly for a sharp boundary surface to exist.

In place of the event horizon, Hawking invokes an “apparent horizon”, a surface along which light rays attempting to rush away from the black hole’s core will be suspended. In general relativity, for an unchanging black hole, these two horizons are identical, because light trying to escape from inside a black hole can reach only as far as the event horizon and will be held there, as though stuck on a treadmill. However, the two horizons can, in principle, be distinguished. If more matter gets swallowed by the black hole, its event horizon will swell and grow larger than the apparent horizon.

Unlike the event horizon, the apparent horizon can eventually dissolve. Page notes that Hawking is opening the door to a scenario so extreme “that anything in principle can get out of a black hole”. Although Hawking does not specify in his paper exactly how an apparent horizon would disappear, Page speculates that when it has shrunk to a certain size, at which the effects of both quantum mechanics and gravity combine, it is plausible that it could vanish. At that point, whatever was once trapped within the black hole would be released (although not in good shape).

If Hawking is correct, there could even be no singularity at the core of the black hole. Instead, matter would be only temporarily held behind the apparent horizon, which would gradually move inward owing to the pull of the black hole, but would never quite crunch down to the centre. Information about this matter would not destroyed, but would be highly scrambled so that, as it is released through Hawking radiation, it would be in a vastly different form, making it almost impossible to work out what the swallowed objects once were.

The full paper by Stephen Hawking is at Arxiv - Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting for Black Holes (4 pages)

China should be Electric Car Maker Tesla number 2 market at least and possible number 1 market by 2015

Elon Musk said sales of electric Model S cars in China should match U.S. levels as early as next year, with demand from the world’s largest auto market eventually requiring a local plant.

The electric-car maker said yesterday the Model S will be priced from 734,000 yuan ($121,280) in China when deliveries begin.

For Tesla, “it could be as big as the U.S. market, maybe bigger. I don’t want to get overexcited about it,” Musk said yesterday. “Even without building there locally, it’s always going to be the second-biggest market after the U.S.”

China's market accounted for estimated sales of roughly 20 million vehicles [all cars and light trucks] compared to roughly 15.6 million units in the U.S. market. By 2020, those numbers are expected to reach as high as 32 million in China compared to a mature U.S. market that could reach around 17 million.

Tesla sold 6,900 cars in the 4th quarter of 2013.

Tesla facing trouble in meeting the growing demand for its Model S. The auto maker is working on overcoming this limitation. The firm extended its agreement with Panasonic, last year in November, whereby it will supply about 2 billion automotive grade lithium-ion battery cells to the firm for the next four years. This is sufficient to produce around 300K cars [about 75000 cars per year on average, but about 40K this year and 100K in later years]. Tesla Motors also might open a battery giga factory to increase cell production.

Tesla is projected to produce 100,000 cars in 2016 Tesla would need to produce 200,000 Model S and Model X vehicles and 600,000 Gen IIIs in 2020 to maintain its stock position.

The price of Tesla’s flagship Model S in China, a version equipped with a premium 85 kilowatt hour battery pack, puts it in the same bracket there as Volkswagen AG (VOW)’s Audi S5 sedan and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s 5-series GT sedan, according to Autohome, a car-pricing website. It’s also 50 percent more expensive than in the U.S., where the equivalent model sells for $81,070, according to a Tesla statement.

Clemson Student Uses Artificial Intelligence to Gain 10x Speedup on Altera Cyclone FPGA

Sometimes it's hard to explain how much faster software logic can run when it is deployed in hardware. In a clever benchmarking experiment that incorporates simple logic refactoring, artificial intelligence, and machine compilation from software to FPGA hardware, a Clemson student took a popular board game and turbo-charged it 10x in an Altera Cyclone FPGA.

"Blokus-Duo" is a two-player strategy-based board game. It is a compact version of the original Blokus game. Its small size, progressive logic, and strategy-based approach makes Blokus-Duo a highly suitable application for performance evaluation of various Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques on limited resource platforms like smaller Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs)

Climate and carbon emission study by James Hanson

James Hanson and co-authors have written a new climate study. Plos One - Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature.

Hansen’s conclusion is that we need to build a new generation of nuclear power plants. Nuclear alone, in Hansen’s view, has the potential to produce “clean” (carbon-free) electricity in the prodigious amounts that we will need it in the decades ahead.

In one decade (1977–1987), France increased its nuclear power production 15-fold, with the nuclear portion of its electricity increasing from 8% to 70%. In one decade (2001–2011) Germany increased the non-hydroelectric renewable energy portion of its electricity from 4% to 19%, with fossil fuels decreasing from 63% to 61% (hydroelectric decreased from 4% to 3% and nuclear power decreased from 29% to 18%).

Given the huge task of replacing fossil fuels, contributions are surely required from energy efficiency, renewable energies, and nuclear power, with the mix depending on local preferences. Renewable energy and nuclear power have been limited in part by technical challenges. Nuclear power faces persistent concerns about safety, nuclear waste, and potential weapons proliferation, despite past contributions to mortality prevention and climate change mitigation

They assess climate impacts of global warming using ongoing observations and paleoclimate data. They use Earth’s measured energy imbalance, paleoclimate data, and simple representations of the global carbon cycle and temperature to define emission reductions needed to stabilize climate and avoid potentially disastrous impacts on today’s young people, future generations, and nature. A cumulative industrial-era limit of ~500 GtC fossil fuel emissions and 100 GtC storage in the biosphere and soil would keep climate close to the Holocene range to which humanity and other species are adapted. Cumulative emissions of ~1000 GtC, sometimes associated with 2°C global warming, would spur “slow” feedbacks and eventual warming of 3–4°C with disastrous consequences. Rapid emissions reduction is required to restore Earth’s energy balance and avoid ocean heat uptake that would practically guarantee irreversible effects. Continuation of high fossil fuel emissions, given current knowledge of the consequences, would be an act of extraordinary witting intergenerational injustice. Responsible policymaking requires a rising price on carbon emissions that would preclude emissions from most remaining coal and unconventional fossil fuels and phase down emissions from conventional fossil fuels.

Qualcomm can send high speed cellular over 500 Mhz of unlicensed 5 Ghz spectrum

Qualcomm has developed technology to run LTE Advanced (LTE-A) over the 5 GHz band. The move is an early shot in what may be a battle between cellular and WiFi over the unlicensed spectrum.

Hellberg says LTE-A over unlicensed spectrum is superior to carrier WiFi due to its longer range, “controlled and robust reliability,” and seamless end-user experience. In addition, he added, mobile operators could benefit from a unified cellular service.

LTE over unlicensed spectrum "works just as carrier aggregation does today. The main thing is to get support for the frequency band where a license is -- there is 500 MHz of spectrum available in 5 GHz.

First gigabit internet town in Canada

8,500 residents in a rural Alberta community (Olds, Alberta) will get gigabit internet for as little as $57 a month, thanks to a project by the town's non-profit economic development foundation.

The board of O-Net gave approval for residents to get access to a full gigabit (or 1,000 megabits) per second of bandwidth for the same price that they currently pay for a guaranteed download speed of 100 megabits per second — $57 to $90 a month, depending on whether they have bundled their internet with TV and phone service.

A gigabit of bandwidth is considerably higher than the high-speed 175 to 250 megabits per second typically offered by fibre internet packages in big Canadian cities from internet providers such as Bell, Rogers or Shaw, typically for $115 to $226 per month. And it's blazingly fast compared to the average Canadian internet download speed of just 16.6 megabits per second for an average of about $54 a month, according to a recent report from internet metrics company Ookla.

January 24, 2014

Industrial Heat acquired Rossi's Low Energy Nuclear Reaction technology

It is one of the most important milestones in the whole LENR story to date, in my opinion. We now have a company founded by serious and experienced professionals (JT Vaughn and Tom Darden, both of Cherokee Industrial Partners) who have put serious money behind Andrea Rossi’s invention, and who have come out publicly in favor of it.

There is an Industrial Heat press release

Mr. J.T. Vaughn confirmed IH acquired the intellectual property and licensing rights to Rossi’s LENR device after an independent committee of European scientists conducted two multi-day tests at Rossi’s facilities in Italy.

The published report by the European committee concluded, “Even by the most conservative assumptions as to the errors in the measurements, the result is still one order of magnitude greater than conventional energy sources” [referring to energy output per unit of mass]. The report is available online at http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.3913. In addition, performance validation tests were conducted in the presence of IH personnel and certified by an independent expert

Qualcomm details how they will get to 1000 times the mobile data volume

Qualcomm has a plan for supporting 1000 times more mobile data volumes.

Extreme densification of small cells is the key to addressing 1000x challenge. We need to evolve small cells in all directions: all forms – micro, pico, femto, metro, relays etc.; all technologies—3G,4G, Wi-Fi, all integrated; deployments by operators as well as users. The densification begins with the existing spectrum and techniques that are available today, for example, optimizations such as “Range Expansion” are possible today with HSPA+ and in the future with LTE Advanced networks. Many more enhancements and new deployment models that are needed to reach the 1000x goal are being worked, on as part of standards and product solutions.

Extremely dense deployments of small cellphone cells warrant a new low-cost, ad-hoc, and viral approach. An approach that doesn’t require traditional RF planning or optimization and that can better leverage existing premises and backhaul. These small cells have to be plug-and-play with self-organizing (SON) capabilities, deployed indoors and outdoors. They can even be user installed, but are always managed by operators, and coordinate with the macros and other small cells. Neighborhood Small Cells (NSC) is a special case of such approach with user installed indoor small cells, that leverage existing consumer-grade backhaul, and that also serve outdoor traffic. Qualcomm studies show that such a deployment could provide 1000x increase in capacity with mere ~20% household penetration and 10x more spectrum.

Cigar Lake Uranium mine production plans

Cameco is bringing the Cigar Lake uranium mine into production. They will get to full 9000 ton per year production in about 2019 (depending upon the price of uranium and uranium demand). They should reach 2750 tons in 2015 and get to 4100 tons in 2017 and the 7000 tons in 2018.

China will double its high speed rail network by the end of 2015 to about 12000 miles which will be four times the Europe and Japanese lines combined

Innovative Robotic Systems for Space Operations

NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group had a presentation from David Akin of the University of Maryland about innovative robotic systems for enhanced productivity in space.

He presents several smaller robots arm manipulators
He presents a highly adaptable system with many interchangeable attachments
He presents a hard spacesuit with robotic functions

China declares 2013 GDP to be 56.9 trillion yuan or about US$9.3 trillion

China's official GDP amounted to 56.9 trillion yuan (9.3 trillion US dollars) in 2013. However, the aggregate of the provincial GDP figures, which were independently calculated and released, was about 2 trillion yuan more than the 56.9-trillion-yuan figure arrived at by the NBS, even though three of the 31 localities that were yet to release the figures were not included.

This has aroused suspicion among Chinese netizens that some growth-obsessed local officials have cooked the books. Actually, the combined economic output of China's provinces has long exceeded that of the national level compiled by the NBS.

For 2011, the aggregate GDP figure of all localities was 4.6 trillion yuan more than the NBS tally of 47.1 trillion yuan. In 2012, the aggregate figure was 5.76 trillion yuan higher than the total of 51.93 trillion.

The New York Times notes that China is working to correct statistical reporting differences between the provinces and the national figure.

Jim O'Neill (who wrote The BRIC Road to Growth and invented the term BRIC) notes that data might well not be the most accurate but for a country that is changing so much and so quickly, how would it be possible for the statisticians to keep up?

Nextbigfuture notes that there are several ways that it is tough to get an exact read of China's economic size.

1. There is shadow economy where people hide bribes and other activity and this could add about 15% to China's economy
2. The currency is generally accepted to being manipulated and held to a lower value than it would otherwise be. If this changes in the future then China will rapidly become larger in exchange rated terms

Google just seemed to have an outage affecting gmail, blogger and other services

Google just seemed to have an outage affecting gmail, blogger and possibly other services.

Not sure how widespread it was.

Various sources like Boy Genius reports are confirming the google multiple service outage

NBC news is one of the sources confirming the outage that was widespread

Sugar makes people fat but sugar battery with double the energy density of current commercial lithium ion batteriescould power your gadgets within 3 years

A Virginia Tech research team has developed a battery that runs on sugar and has an unmatched energy density, a development that could replace conventional batteries with ones that are cheaper, refillable, and biodegradable.

While other sugar batteries have been developed, Zhang said his has an energy density an order of magnitude higher than others, allowing it to run longer before needing to be refueled.

In as soon as three years, Zhang’s new battery could be running some of the cell phones, tablets, video games, and the myriad other electronic gadgets that require power in our energy-hungry world, Zhang said.

“Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature,” Zhang said. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”

Nature Communications - A high-energy-density sugar biobattery based on a synthetic enzymatic pathway

EU warned that Ukraine could spiral in to civil war

Business Week reports that anti-government unrest spread from Ukraine’s capital as the European Union warned the protests, which turned deadly this week, could spiral into a civil war.

Activists have taken over the headquarters of governors picked by President Viktor Yanukovych in five cities, marking a widening of the two-month protest movement. EU justice chief Viviane Reding told CNBC today that Ukraine must get its “house in order” as it heads in the “direction of a civil war.”

Yanukovych is struggling to stem rallies against his November snub of a European Union cooperation deal, with police crackdowns fanning people’s anger. Four days of clashes left as many as five dead and 1,250 injured as laws to stem the protests took effect and police got special powers to quell the demonstrations. Opposition politicians accuse the president of not taking peace talks seriously.

“The prospect for a compromise deal between the government and protesters in central Kiev has fallen in the past few days,” Alex Brideau, senior analyst at Eurasia Group in Washington, said in an e-mailed note. “Yanukovych appears unwilling to make key concessions at this stage, increasing the risk to his hold on power.”

The yield on government bonds due 2023 rose 35 points to 9.719 percent at 12:38 p.m. in Kiev.

China warns foreign planes entering defense zone

The AP reports taht China said Friday it has begun issuing warnings to foreign military planes entering its self-declared air defense zone over the East China Sea amid heightened tensions with its neighbors, especially Japan.

Chinese state media quoted air force spokesman Shen Jinke as saying several kinds of Chinese planes recently patrolled the sweeping zone that was declared in November. He said the planes identified several foreign military aircraft, flew alongside them and issued them warnings. He didn't identify the planes or say when the patrol was conducted.

The zone is a "purely defensive measure that conforms to international practice," Shen said.

The U.S., Japan and other countries denounced the zone's declaration in November as provocative and said they would ignore China's demands that their military aircraft announce flight plans, identify themselves and follow Chinese instructions. China has said it would take unspecified measures against aircraft that disobey.

South Korea will spend $1.5 billion to build a trial 5G network in 2017 and will have 300 mbps download speed by the end of this year with 3band LTE-Advanced service

South Korea's government plans to invest $1.5 billion in a national 5G wireless network – reportedly 1,000 times faster than any current mobile network speed in the world.

South Korea thinks it is time to take preemptive action to develop 5G," the science ministry said. "Countries in Europe, China and the US are making aggressive efforts to develop 5G technology ... and we believe there will be fierce competition in this market in a few years."

A trial network is due to be rolled out in 2017, while a complete commercial rollout is expected by 2020.

South Korea’s mobile carriers SK Telecom Co. and LG Uplus Corp. said Monday they plan to deploy a network service this year that is four times faster than the current Long Term Evolution service.

SK Telecom, South Korea’s No. 1 player, said it has successfully developed the upgraded service, dubbed the 3band LTE-Advanced service, by combining a 20MHz bandwidth and two 10MHz bandwidths.

LG Uplus Corp. also announced Monday it plans to roll out the 3band LTE-A service in 2014 of the same speed, reflecting the heightening technology battle among industry players.

South Korea presently has the highest Internet penetration rate at 82.7 percent, while 78.5 percent of the nation's population are on smartphones. In the 18-24 year old age group, smartphone penetration is close to full saturation at 97.7 percent.

Oak Ridge National Lab provides a partial confirmation of one of Joe Ecks Room Temperature Superconductors

In December of 2011 Superconductors.ORG announced the discovery of the first true room-temperature superconductor - a senary oxycuprate with transition temperature near 28.5 Celsius. Shortly after that Dr. Thom Mason, Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, viewed the data graphs of this discovery online and called them "tantalizing hints" of room-temperature superconductivity. Now O.R.N.L. SQUID tests have confirmed a diamagnetic transition is occuring at 28.5C.

Samples of the compound (Tl5Pb2)Ba2Mg2Cu9O17+ were delivered to Oak Ridge Labs on December 18, 2013, and tests were performed using a commercial SQUID magnetometer. Magnetization tests ranged from 250K to 350K with two different test criteria. Magnetic susceptibility was first measured with an applied magnetic field of 20 Gauss (red dots). This produced considerable scattering of the data points. Then another test was done with a higher applied magnetic field of 1 Tesla (blue dots). This produced a nearly straight line with much less scatter (see plot upper left). Readings were taken every 0.5K and the bulk material characterized as a "weak paramagnet" overall. However within the blue line representing the 1 Tesla data points was a visible negative shift near 302K, indicating a small diamagnetic component at 28.5 Celsius.

This diamagnetic shift, representing the Meissner transition, was not noticed the day of the tests, due to its small amplitude within a row of large dots. However, when the plot was later loaded into a graphics program and a thin line drawn down the middle of the dots, it became apparant (see above)

January 23, 2014

Water Vapor discovered around Ceres which proves Ceres has water ice on its surface and atmosphere

ESA’s Herschel space observatory has discovered water vapor around Ceres, the first unambiguous detection of water vapor around an object in the asteroid belt.

With a diameter of 950 km, Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt, which lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. But unlike most asteroids, Ceres is almost spherical and belongs to the category of ‘dwarf planets’, which also includes Pluto.

It is thought that Ceres is layered, perhaps with a rocky core and an icy outer mantle. This is important, because the water-ice content of the asteroid belt has significant implications for our understanding of the evolution of the Solar System.

“This is the first time that water has been detected in the asteroid belt, and provides proof that Ceres has an icy surface and an atmosphere,” says Michael Küppers of ESA’s European Space Astronomy Centre in Spain, lead author of the paper published in Nature.

World news roundup - Iran nuclear deal is a mess and Ukraine is a mess

1. In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani forcefully asserted that Iran would not destroy its nuclear centrifuges “under any circumstances”.

Rouhani’s comments come just days after the U.S. and Iran began to implement a deal which the White House claims will scale back Iran’s nuclear program. The Obama administration claims the goal of the deal is to prevent a nuclear Iran, yet Rouhani’s comments show Iran views the deal much differently.

Reacting to Rouhani’s position, Zakaria told CNN that the Iranian President’s comments struck him as a “train wreck”.

“This strikes me as a train wreck. This strikes me as a huge obstacle because the Iranian conception of what the deal is going to look like and the American conception now look like they are miles apart,” Zakaria said.

Rethinking China's Growth Model and a look at different factors in China's Economic Rise

The South China Morning Post has Zhang Jun,professor of economics and director of the China Centre for Economic Studies at Fudan University, Shanghai, look at the role of efficiency in China's growth model He identifies as a primary consideration is what drove historical total factor productivity gains, but he does not provide an answer. He lays out the case why it is important.

On the demand side, many economists endorse a shift from investment-led to consumption-driven growth. Even more popular is the supply-side recommendation of a shift from extensive to intensive growth - that is, from a model based on capital accumulation to one propelled by gains in efficiency, measured by total factor productivity.

These recommendations are presumably influenced by Paul Krugman's criticism in 1994 of Soviet-style extensive growth in East Asian economies. At the time, Jeffery Sachs disagreed, asserting that the East Asian model included far more efficient market-based investment allocation than the Soviet model did; nonetheless, the criticism stuck.

But empirical research reveals a fundamental problem with this argument: China's total factor productivity has grown at an average annual rate of nearly 4 per cent since Deng's reforms began. If the US economy, with a total factor productivity growth rate of only 1-2 per cent annually, is seen as efficiency-driven, why is China's not?

More important, if China's figure is expected to fall, as major drivers like the convergence effect wane, what does it mean to say that efficiency gains should propel China's future growth?

Kazakhstan uranium production at 22500 tons in 2013 and preliminary world numbers 58,800 tons in 2013

Uranium production in Kazakhstan amounted to 22,500 tons in 2013, which corresponds to the planned targets.

Kazakhstan produced 20,900 tons of uranium in 2012.

The exports on contracts in Kazakhstan (excluding Stepnogorsk Mining-Chemical Complex) amounted to 23,400 tons of uranium concentrate.

Kazakhstan has maintained leadership in the global uranium mining industry, providing more than 38 percent of global uranium production, which, according to preliminary data, totaled 58,800 tons of uranium.

Uranium production was 58394 tons in 2012.

World uranium production bets for 2010 through 2018

Uranium predictions
      Brian Wang  Dittmar            midpoint
2010  56000 tons  45,000 tons        50,500 tons 53,663 tonnes. Brian wins 
2011  60000 tons  45,000             52,500 tons 53,494 tons Brian wins
2012  64000 tons  45,000             54,500 tons 58,394 tons Brian wins
2013  68000 tons  45,000             56,500 tons prelim 58,800 tons would be win for Brian if confirmed
2014  72000 tons  45,000             58,500 tons
2015  76000 tons  45,000             60,500 tons
2016  80000 tons  45,000             62,500 tons
2017  84000 tons  45,000             64,500 tons
2018  88000 tons  45,000             66,500 tons

China Urbanization and Hukou Reform and the One Child Policy Reforms are keys to China's Demographic Future

Here is a collection of articles that give a snapshot look at what is going on with China urbanization , hukou reform and one child policy relaxation and the future of those policies.

1. CNN reports on China's urbanization and Hukou (urban passport and social service access) reform.

The government recently announced planned reforms of the household registration system, or "hukou," to gradually allow qualified migrants to receive benefits like education and healthcare in their new homes.

"Slowly, starting from small cities to medium towns then to larger cities, they're loosening up the registration requirements," says Peggy Liu, founder of JUCCCE, a Shanghai-based non-profit dedicated to sustainable development in China.

"In certain cities like Shanghai you can have a points system to actually buy into the hukou system."

China is taking small steps toward complete reform by 2020 because of specific concerns about the impact of a fully opened hukou system.

If land reform moves too quickly, China will lose its unique buffer for unemployment -- the migrant workers' rural homes, where they can always go back to if they lose their jobs.

An unemployed migrant population lingering in the cities poses a threat to stability. That is Beijing's fear.

Solar thermovoltaics could ultimately reach 80% efficiency while current solar power is limited to 33.7%

A new approach to harvesting solar energy, developed by MIT researchers, could improve efficiency by using sunlight to heat a high-temperature material whose infrared radiation would then be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell. This technique could also make it easier to store the energy for later use, the researchers say.

Researchers at MIT have developed a solar thermophotovoltaic device that experimentally demonstrates a three-fold increase in energy conversion efficiency. Their device builds upon solar thermophotovoltaic technologies, adding a nanophotonic absorber-emitter that is tuned for optimal collection of sunlight and thermal emission above the photovoltaic band gap.

This basic concept has been explored for several years, since in theory such solar thermophotovoltaic (STPV) systems could provide a way to circumvent a theoretical limit on the energy-conversion efficiency of semiconductor-based photovoltaic devices. That limit, called the Shockley-Queisser limit, imposes a cap of 33.7 percent on such efficiency, but Wang says that with TPV systems, “the efficiency would be significantly higher — it could ideally be over 80 percent.”

There have been many practical obstacles to realizing that potential; previous experiments have been unable to produce a STPV device with efficiency of greater than 1 percent. But Lenert, Wang, and their team have already produced an initial test device with a measured efficiency of 3.2 percent, and they say with further work they expect to be able to reach 20 percent efficiency — enough, they say, for a commercially viable product.]

Operating principle and components of the NARO–STPV.

Nature Nanotechnology - A nanophotonic solar thermophotovoltaic device

Architecture and design tradeoffs of Dwave Systems Superconducting quantum annealing processor

Dwave has developed a quantum annealing processor, based on an array of tunably coupled rf-SQUID flux qubits, fabricated in a superconducting integrated circuit process. Implementing this type of processor at a scale of 512 qubits [Dwave now has a 1024 qubit processor in its labs] and 1472 programmable inter-qubit couplers and operating at ~ 20 mK has required attention to a number of considerations that one may ignore at the smaller scale of a few dozen or so devices. Here Dwave discusses some of these considerations, and the delicate balance necessary for the construction of a practical processor that respects the demanding physical requirements imposed by a quantum algorithm. In particular Dwave reviews some of the design trade-offs at play in the floor-planning of the physical layout, driven by the desire to have an algorithmically useful set of inter-qubit couplers, and the simultaneous need to embed programmable control circuitry into the processor fabric. In this context Dwave has developed a new ultra-low power embedded superconducting digital-to-analog flux converters (DACs) used to program the processor with zero static power dissipation, optimized to achieve maximum flux storage density per unit area. The 512 single-stage, 3520 two-stage, and 512 three-stage flux-DACs are controlled with an XYZ addressing scheme requiring 56 wires. Our estimate of on-chip dissipated energy for worst-case reprogramming of the whole processor is ~ 65 fJ. Several chips based on this architecture have been fabricated and operated successfully at Dwave's facility, as well as two outside facilities.

Arxiv - Architectural considerations in the design of a superconducting quantum annealing processor

Disease model suggest Facebook could see rapid usage decline over the next few years

Facebook has seen in decline in terms of data usage since 2012. Facebook is expected to undergo rapid decline in the upcoming years, shrinking to 20 percent of its maximum size by December 2014 according to a model published on Arxiv.

Extrapolating the best fit model into the future suggests that Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80 percent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.

There have been surveys reporting that significant numbers of younger users started to leave Facebook in 2013.

Arxiv - Epidemiological modeling of online social network dynamics

The last decade has seen the rise of immense online social networks (OSNs) such as MySpace and Facebook. In this paper we use epidemiological models to explain user adoption and abandonment of OSNs, where adoption is analogous to infection and abandonment is analogous to recovery. We modify the traditional SIR model of disease spread by incorporating infectious recovery dynamics such that contact between a recovered and infected member of the population is required for recovery. The proposed infectious recovery SIR model (irSIR model) is validated using publicly available Google search query data for "MySpace" as a case study of an OSN that has exhibited both adoption and abandonment phases. The irSIR model is then applied to search query data for "Facebook," which is just beginning to show the onset of an abandonment phase. Extrapolating the best fit model into the future predicts a rapid decline in Facebook activity in the next few years.

Army studying replacing thousands of grunts with robots by making 3000 person brigades with robots able to perform like 4000 person brigades now

During remarks at the Army Aviation Symposium in Arlington, Va., on Jan. 15, Gen. Robert Cone, head of the service’s Training and Doctrine Command quietly dropped a bomb. The Army, he said, is considering the feasibility of shrinking the size of the brigade combat team from about 4,000 soldiers to 3,000 over the coming years, and replacing the lost soldiers with robots and unmanned platforms.

“I’ve got clear guidance to think about what if you could robotically perform some of the tasks in terms of maneuverability, in terms of the future of the force,” he said, adding that he also has “clear guidance to rethink” the size of the nine-man infantry squad.

He mentioned using unmanned ground vehicles that would follow manned platforms, which would require less armor and protection, thereby reducing the weight of a brigade combat team.

Dwave Systems CTO Geordie Rose writes about the benchmarking

Geordie Rose has written his observations about the benchmarking of the Dwave quantum system versus optimized classical systems.

Around May 15th of 2013 Google acquired a system built around a 509-qubit Vesuvius 6 (V6) chip. Since it went online, they have been running it 24/7 at 100% usage. Most of this time has been committed to benchmarking.

Some of these results have been published, and there has been some discussion of what it all means. Here I’d like to provide my own view of where I think we are, and what these results show.

Nextbigfuture observation

Dwave now has a 1024 qubit system and they have a deal with Cypress semiconductors where they can fabricate a new chip design about once every month. They should be be able to design in enhanced coupling very quickly. Dwave could have a more highly coupled 1024 qubit system within months and a highly coupled and otherwise improved 2048 qubit designs.

DWave is learning how to make their chips perform better. IF error correction is needed to reach faster speeds they can work those modications into their designs as well.

Back to Geordie Rose and his observations

Interesting finding #1: Dwave V6 is the first superconducting processor competitive with state of the art semiconducting processors.

The results that were recently published in the Ronnow et. al. paper show that V6 is competitive with what’s arguably the most highly optimized semiconductor based solution possible today, even on a problem type that in hindsight was a bad choice. A fact that has not gotten as much coverage as it probably should is that V6 beats this competitor both in wallclock time and scaling for certain problem types. That is a truly astonishing achievement. Mattias Troyer and his team achieved an incredible level of optimization with his simulated annealing code, achieving 200 spin updates per nanosecond using a GPU based approach. The ‘out of the box’ unoptimized V6 system beats this approach for some problem types, and even for problem types where it doesn’t do so well (like the ones described in the Ronnow paper) it holds its own, and even wins in some cases.

This is a remarkable historic achievement. It’s the first delivery on the promise of superconducting processors.

Regular semiconductors have had $1 trillion in research and superconducting chips have had about $4 billion.

January 22, 2014

Ultimate Robin Hood Bill Gates has done more for the poorest 50% of the world than 100 Oxfams

Bill Gates created and ran Microsoft which was able to overcharge for its PC operating systems and Microsoft office product for decades because they held a virtual monopoly.

This extra money was taken from purchasers of personal computers for 30 years. Mostly the middle and upper middle class and wealthy.

Gates took $62 billion of his wealth and his so far used $27 billion of it to accelerate the curing of Malaria, other diseases, and bringing clean water, sanitation and better agriculture to the poor. He has also helped accelerate the curing of AIDS. Some countries which had negative GDP growth and big drops in life expectancy because of Aids have had their public health and economies turned around.

Bill Gates talked the other billionaires into giving instead of robbing them like Robin Hood

The Giving Pledge is a campaign Bill Gates created to encourage the wealthiest people in the world to make a commitment to give most of their wealth to philanthropic causes.

As of July 2013, 113 billionaire individuals and couples and one family group have signed the pledge to give at least half of their wealth to charity.

An estimate of the contribution promised by the first 40 donors, based on their aggregate wealth as at August 2010, was at least $125 billion.

You personally have more wealth than the bottom 1.7 billion combined

The Oxfam Poverty and Wealth report has been getting a lot of coverage for a fact that it states that the top 85 billionaires have as much wealth as the bottom 50% of the world. They also spin it with "working for the few". They imply that the rich are making the poor work for them. The vast majority of the billionaires do not employ the poor. The Google guys employ about 80,000 well paid [in terms of upper middle class salaries and a thousand or more who have good stock options.] Bill Gates had employed a few hundred thousand and Microsoft. The poor were there before either company existed. Go back a few hundred years and pretty much everyone is poor.

Bill Gates has predicted that there will be almost no poor countries by 2035. A few countries will be held back by war and politics, Gates said, citing North Korea, or geography, such as landlocked nations in central Africa. Still, he predicts that more than 70 percent of countries will have a higher per-person income than China now, and almost 90 percent of nations will be above today’s India.

The credit suisse report was based on the work of James Davies and Anthony Shorrocks.

In 2009 on the Davies and Shorrocks papers notes, wealth of US$8,635 was needed to be in the top half of the global distribution, and US$518,364 to be in the top one per cent globally.

They had a presentation to the World Forum in 2012.

Global household wealth in mid-2012 totaled $223 trillion.

So -0.2% is -$446 billion (total collective wealth of the bottom 10%, the bottom 720 billion)
-0.1% is -$223 billion (total collective wealth of the bottom 20%, the bottom 1.44 billion)
0.0 (total collective wealth of the bottom 25%, the bottom 1.8 billion)

The bottom 20% have negative wealth. The -0.2% of the bottom 10% is more than the +0.1% of the next 10%. It takes getting to the collective bottom 25% (the bottom 1.76 billion) to get to a combined net worth of zero. Not even the poorest person has negative $230 billion net worth. The poorest person might be a fallen billionaire (maybe Eike Batiste who racks up huge losses but cannot get to -5 billion, but then they are forced into bankruptcy. The bottom 1.5 billion who have a -$170 billion or so collectively.

January 21, 2014

Thailand Declares State of Emergency

Thailand’s government has imposed a 60-day state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding provinces following months of protests by anti-government demonstrators in the capital.

The deputy interior minister announced the new measures Tuesday, giving security forces new powers to ban political gatherings of more than five people, censor news media, impose curfews and detain subjects without charge.

For weeks, authorities have worried about the country’s ability to conduct the vote during the continuing demonstrations in downtown Bangkok, but have said they have no legal option for delaying elections.

Protesters in the capital have demanded a halt to the vote and the appointment of an unelected council to impose broad political reforms before holding another election. After the country’s opposition Democrat Party decided to boycott the vote, protesters then prevented scores of candidates for registering for the election to undermine its legitimacy.

IMF Raises 2014 Global Growth Outlook

The International Monetary Fund Tuesday raised its global economic growth outlook for the year, with expansion fueled by stronger U.S., euro zone and Japanese growth, but said deflation and financial sector risks still threaten a full recovery.

“The recovery is strengthening,” IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard said as the fund published its latest World Economic Outlook report, but it is still “weak and uneven.”

The IMF raised its 2014 global growth forecast to 3.7%, up 0.1 percentage point from its last outlook in October.

The U.S. leads the recovery. The IMF raised its forecast for U.S. economic growth this year by 0.2 percentage point to 2.8%, though it downgraded its 2015 outlook by 0.4 percentage point to 3% amid ongoing fights in Congress over the federal balance sheet and spending.

The fund said the Federal Reserve’s plans to exit its easy money policies are broadly appropriate, and it expects an increase in the Fed’s policy rate in 2015.

US plans 100-200 petaflop system by 2017 and exaflop by 2024 and Japan plans exaflop 2020

The CORAL project, (Collaboration of Oak Ridge, Argonne and Livermore) – formed so that they could combine forces when purchasing their next major supercomputing installations.

In the next 2-3 years, all three Department of Energy (DOE) centers will be seeking to deploy their first 100-plus petaflop systems. The collaboration enables the labs to combine experience and buying power. The three-way partnership includes about 100 experts, who will be participating in the acquisition process. The systems are expected to carry a hefty price tag of about $125 million, which will buy about 100-200 petaflops of computing power.

HPCWire reports, Congress passed a law directing the Department of Energy to develop exascale computing capability within the next decade in order to meet the objectives of the nuclear stockpile stewardship program.

January 20, 2014

Some Near Earth Asteroids are captured as minimoons

Earth has a collection of minimoons, which are small temporary moons that get captured for varying amounts of time. There was a NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Presentation on minimoons.

Mikael Granvik (formerly at UH Manoa and now at Helsinki), Jeremie Vaubaillon (Paris Observatory) and Robert Jedicke (UH Manoa) calculated the probability that at any given time Earth has more than one moon. They used a supercomputer to simulate the passage of 10 million asteroids past Earth. They then tracked the trajectories of the 18,000 objects that were captured by Earth’s gravity.

They concluded that at any given time there should be at least one asteroid with a diameter of at least one meter orbiting Earth. Of course, there may also be many smaller objects orbiting Earth, too.

According to the simulation, most asteroids that are captured by Earth’s gravity would not orbit Earth in neat circles. Instead, they would follow complicated, twisting paths. This is because a minimoon would not be tightly held by Earth’s gravity, so it would be tugged into a crazy path by the combined gravity of Earth, the Moon and the Sun. A minimoon would remain captured by Earth until one of those tugs breaks the pull of Earth’s gravity, and the Sun once again takes control of the object’s trajectory. While the typical minimoon would orbit Earth for about nine months, some of them could orbit our planet for decades.

There should be on average 2 one meter diameter minimoons and 12 half meter diameter minimoons. Once every 50 years there will be one about 5 meters in diameter. A 3 meter diameter object is one in ten year event.

The average is they are captured for 2.9 orbits and 9.5 months. Some can be captured for decades.

Minimoons are already temporarily captured which can make them easier targets for exploration or mining.

Sochi Winter Olympics Medal Projection by Country

The 2014 Winter Olympics, officially the XXII Olympic Winter Games, or the 22nd Winter Olympics, are scheduled to take place from 6 to 23 February 2014, in Sochi, Russia, with some events held in the resort town of Krasnaya Polyana.

98 events in 15 winter sport disciplines will be held.

As of October 2013, the estimated cost of the 2014 Winter Olympics had topped US$51 billion. This total, if borne out, would be over four times the initial budget of $12 billion (compared to the $8 billion spent for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver), and would make the Sochi games the most expensive Olympics in history, exceeding the estimated $44 billion cost of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Two winter olympic medal projections by country are in agreement on who they think the top four countries will be.

1. Norway
2. USA
3. Canada
4. Germany

5-10 are in general agreement but not in the order and there are variations in the amount of medals.

Infostradasports has a projection of the Sochi Winter Olympics medals by Country

Nicaragua canal project is gathering momentum to start construction in late 2014

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that sometime later this year, President Daniel Ortega and Chinese telecom tycoon Wang Jing will decide whether to give the Nicaragua canal project a green light, possibly unleashing earthmovers on one of the largest engineering challenges the world has ever seen, comparable even to China's enormous Three Gorges Dam.

If the transoceanic canal gets the go-ahead, it might take a decade to build, gobble $60 billion and slice through vast stretches of tropical forest. At 180 miles, it would be more than three times the length of the US-built Panama Canal. It also would accommodate supertankers and giant container ships that are far bigger than those the Panama Canal will accept when its expansion is complete next year.

For China, the plan would mean easier access to crude oil from Venezuela and a greater foothold in the Western Hemisphere. Such geopolitical considerations may weigh more for China than the price tag.

"In the initial scenarios we looked at, you can see that up to a million people could be employed within the 10-year span of construction," said Manuel Coronel Kautz, an engineer who heads the Transoceanic Grand Canal Authority of Nicaragua.

Coronel said that 300 to 400 professionals - including teams of Chinese geologists, British environmental experts and other foreign technicians and trade experts - were working on a gamut of financial, environmental and commercial feasibility studies.

This is an update of nextbigfuture coverage in Sept, 2013

There are already 18,000 TEUs cargo ships being built, while container ships of the near future may well be as large as 30,000 TEUs. Built from scratch, a Nicaragua canal could be far better equipped to handle the new seaborne giants.

The Nicaragua canal could start construction late in 2014 and complete by 2019.

Google post on their thoughts related to recent academic comparison of Dwave Quantum Computer versus classical computer

Google's Quantum AI lab had a lengthy post that describes their thinking on the DWave Adiabatic quantum annealing system after recent speed tests against optimized classical systems.

UPDATE - Geordie Rose, CTO of DWave, commented.

This response had nothing to do with DWave -- it's just an update on how Google feels about their experience with the machine so far. It's only a response to anything insofar as the articles about the paper have been absolutely terrible and completely unrelated to what the paper actually showed.

A portfolio of custom solvers designed to beat the hardware on its own turf is competitive

So what do we get if we pit the hardware against these solvers designed to compete with the D-Wave hardware on its own turf? The following pattern emerges: For each solver, there are problems for which the classical solver wins or at least achieves similar performance. But the inverse is also true. For each classical solver, there are problems for which the hardware does much better.

For example, if you use random problems as a benchmark, the fast simulated annealers take about the same time as the hardware.

But importantly, if you move to problems with structure, then the hardware does much better.

This example is intriguing from a physics perspective, since it suggests co-tunneling is helping the hardware figure out that the spins in each unit cell have to to be flipped as a block to see a lower energy state.

But if we form a portfolio of the classical solvers and keep the best solution across all of them, then this portfolio is still competitive with the current version of the hardware. Again, a good example is the structured problem in Figure 3 in the slideshow. It slows down the annealers, but Alex Selby’s code has no problem with it and obtains the solution about as fast as the hardware does.

Sparse connectivity is a major limitation

A principal reason the portfolio solver is still competitive right now is actually rather mundane -- the qubits in the current chip are still only sparsely connected. As the connectivity in future versions of quantum annealing processors gets denser, approaches such as Alex Selby’s will be much less effective.

One indication that sparse connectivity is a culprit also comes from well-understood examples such as the “Hamming weight function with a barrier” problem -- quantum annealing tackles it easily but classical annealing fails. But we haven’t been able to implement such examples as benchmark problems yet because of the sparse connectivity.

On structured problems the behaviors of quantum annealing (QA) and simulated classical annealing (SA) are very different. QA slows down much less as the instances get larger. In this example of a structured problem, all variables within one unit cell of the Chimera graph are negatively (ferromagnetically) coupled, while unit cells are coupled randomly to each other.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 192

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 192 is up at ANS Nuclear Cafe

Atomic Insights - Russia using oil wealth to finance nuclear energy exports

In round numbers, RIANovosti reports that Russia’s federal budget is $400 billion per year, indicating that the government counts $200 billion per year from oil and gas sales towards its annual budget. However, the Russians understand the volatility of oil and gas prices, so they do not count all of the revenue in good years as available for the annual budget.

Instead, Russia directs “windfall” revenues that come when prices and production are above a planned level into the Russian Reserve Fund. By current law, oil and gas revenues that exceed 3.7% of planned Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for a given year are directed into the Russian Reserve Fund. The Reserve Fund has a legislated balance cap of 10% of GDP.

The most recently reported balance of the Reserve Fund was $38 billion as of late February 2013.

Russia is using financial resources to provide financing for buyers (Hungary, India etc...) of their nuclear plants.

Russia has a very strong program of decarbonization that is based on a doubling of domestic hydroelectricity and an increase in nuclear generation from the current 16% to approaching 50% by 2050.

China has 618 million internet users at the end 2013

Translated statistics from China. The China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) released the first 33 "China Internet Development Statistics Report Network" (hereinafter referred to as the "Report") in Beijing. The Report shows that as of December 2013,
China's internet users reached 618 million
There was an increase of 53.5 million internet users in China in 2013
China's Internet penetration rate was 45.8%.
China's mobile phone internet users reached 500 million

The latest 618 million internet user count is not on the above chart.

There is a slight acceleration in the number of internet users being added in China.

If the pace is maintained the China would have
2014  678 million internet users
2015  743 million internet users
2016  813 million internet users

Carnival of Space 337

The Carnival of Space 337 is up at Everyday Spacer

Universe Today - Nearby Brown Dwarf System, 6.5 light years away, may be the closest exoplanet to Earth

Astronomers only discovered the system last year when the brown dwarfs were spotted in data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Explorer (WISE). Check out a past Universe Today article on the discovery here. They escaped detection for so long because they are located in the galactic plane, an area densely populated by stars, which are far brighter than the brown dwarfs.

Henri Boffin at the European Southern Observatory led a team of astronomers on a mission to learn more about these newly found dim neighbors. The group used ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Paranal in Chile to perform astrometry, a technique used to measure the position of the objects precisely. This crucial data would allow them to make a better estimate of the distance to the objects as well as their orbital period.

Boffin’s team was first able to constrain their masses, finding that one brown dwarf weighs in at 30 times the mass of Jupiter and the other weighs in at 50 times the mass of Jupiter. These light-weight objects orbit each other slowly, taking about 20 years.

WISE J104915.57-531906 as seen in NASA’s All-WISE survey. It was later resolved by the Gemini Observatory to show its binary nature. The possible exoplanet has not yet been directly imaged. Credit: NASA/JPL/Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF

Dwave Quantum computer speed tests versus a regular PC with optimized algorithms not great ...yet but Google uses Dwave 2 for blink detection with Google Glass

New Scientist reports that Matthias Troyer of ETH Zurich in Switzerland has tested a D-Wave Two computer against a conventional, "classical" machine running an optimised algorithm – and they have found no evidence of superior performance in the D-Wave machine.

DWave, Google and Lockheed remain optimistic of the usefulness of the machine and of future speed up.

Troyer's team ran their tests on a D-Wave Two owned by Lockheed Martin and operated by the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. There were certain instances in which the D-Wave computer was up to 10 times faster at problem solving, but in other instances it was one-hundredth the speed of the classical computer. D-Wave's advantage also tended to disappear when the team added in the time needed to configure the D-Wave Two to solve the problem, a step that is not necessary on regular PCs.

Arxiv - De fining and detecting quantum speedup by Troyer et al

Arxiv - Entanglement in a quantum annealing processor is written by Dwave Scientists.

Entanglement lies at the core of quantum algorithms designed to solve problems that are intractable by classical approaches. One such algorithm, quantum annealing (QA), provides a promising path to a practical quantum processor. We have built a series of scalable QA processors consisting of networks of manufactured interacting spins (qubits). Here, we use qubit tunneling spectroscopy to measure the energy eigenspectrum of two- and eight-qubit systems within one such processor, demonstrating quantum coherence in these systems. We present experimental evidence that, during a critical portion of QA, the qubits become entangled and that entanglement persists even as these systems reach equilibrium with a thermal environment. Our results provide an encouraging sign that QA is a viable technology for large-scale quantum computing.

Scott Aaronson has written his take and has announced his "second retirement" as "chief Dwave Critic However, I am expecting this to be like Michael Corleone. Michael Corleone: Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in.

Useful applications

The findings don't worry Google: "At this stage we're mainly interested in understanding better what limits and what enhances the performance of quantum hardware to inform future hardware designs," says Google spokesman Jason Freidenfelds. He says Google is also more focused on problems with different structures than the one used in Troyer's test, such as machine-learning problems like the Glass blink-detection algorithm.

Google had also used the machine to help improve machine learning of automatic classification of images. They were able to improve the identification of cars in pictures. This work is applicable to the self driving car work.

January 19, 2014

2 millimeters long Biobot that swims like a 55 micron long sperm. Biobot uses biohybrid flagellum

A team of engineers has developed a class of tiny bio-hybrid machines that swim like sperm, the first synthetic structures that can traverse the viscous fluids of biological environments on their own. The bio-bots are modeled after single-celled creatures with long tails called flagella – for example, sperm. The researchers begin by creating the body of the bio-bot from a flexible polymer. Then they culture heart cells near the junction of the head and the tail. The cells self-align and synchronize to beat together, sending a wave down the tail that propels the bio-bot forward.

This self-organization is a remarkable emergent phenomenon, Saif said, and how the cells communicate with each other on the flexible polymer tail is yet to be fully understood. But the cells must beat together, in the right direction, for the tail to move.

The team also built two-tailed bots, which they found can swim even faster. Multiple tails also opens up the possibility of navigation. The researchers envision future bots that could sense chemicals or light and navigate toward a target for medical or environmental applications.

"The long-term vision is simple," said Saif, who is also part of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the U. of I. "Could we make elementary structures and seed them with stem cells that would differentiate into smart structures to deliver drugs, perform minimally invasive surgery or target cancer?"

Nature Communications - A self-propelled biohybrid swimmer at low Reynolds number

Concept design of a biohybrid flagellum.

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