February 15, 2014

DNA Sequencing of IVF Embryos

Researchers are testing whether high-throughput DNA sequencing can help screen out abnormal embryos during in vitro fertilization. In a trial, researchers will use DNA sequencing to count the number of chromosomes in each of the embryos they create by fertilizing a woman’s eggs in a dish. An abnormal number of chromosomes is the most common reason for IVF to fail, experts say, and as many as 30 percent of fertilized human eggs have such abnormalities. By selecting only those embryos with the normal number of chromosomes to transfer into the uterus, doctors hope to improve the success rate of IVF.

Traditionally in an IVF procedure, doctors visually inspect embryos and then transfer those that appear healthy after a few days of growth—often more than one at a time, because many of the embryos won’t result in a successful pregnancy. If multiple embryos do implant successfully, however, it can be risky for both them and the mother, says Richard Scott, a reproductive endocrinologist and lead researcher in the trial, which is being conducted at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey.

To reduce such risks, some clinics, including Scott’s, are moving toward transferring only a single embryo, and new DNA analysis technologies are helping to ensure that they pick the most viable and healthy one. Researchers have already shown that other methods of chromosome screening can improve the success rate of IVF. DNA sequencing offers a more affordable way to do such tests because samples from multiple embryos can be analyzed simultaneously. That gain in efficiency lowers the cost of the procedure and could make chromosome screening feasible for more couples

Genome editing for curing sickle-cell anemia, HIV, and cystic fibrosis and other diseases and then to create designer babies

Technology review reports on genome surgery

CRISPR is a new technology that could allow researchers to perform microsurgery on genes, precisely and easily changing a DNA sequence at exact locations on a chromosome. CRISPR changed everything. It replaces the DNA-targeting proteins with a short bit of RNA that homes in on desired genes. Unlike the complex proteins, RNA—which has nearly the same simple structure as DNA—can be made routinely in the lab; a technician can quickly synthesize the roughly 20-letter-long sequences the method requires. The system makes it easy for medical researchers to modify a genome by replacing, deleting, or adding DNA.

CRISPR stands for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”—clusters of brief DNA sequences that read similarly forward and backward, which are found in many types of bacteria. Scientists first observed the puzzling DNA segments in the 1980s but didn’t understand for almost two decades that they are part of a bacterial defense system. When a virus attacks, bacteria can incorporate sequences of viral DNA into their own genetic material, sandwiching them between the repetitive segments. The next time the bacteria encounter that virus, they use the DNA in these clusters to make RNAs that recognize the matching viral sequences. A protein attached to one of these RNAs then cuts up the viral DNA.

It will be several years before CRISPR can be developed into human therapeutics, but a growing number of academic researchers have seen some preliminary success with experiments involving sickle-cell anemia, HIV, and cystic fibrosis.

Justifying and discussing optimism and pessmism about China

As often arises whenever Nextbigfuture has an article about China, there are various points brought out:
1. Too many articles about China
2. Too much optimism about China's prospects - some were too optimistic about Japan
3. The expectation that China will stumble badly or collapse

I am perfectly willing to consider evidence or strong theories about China or any major aspect about the future.

I admit that I would be classified as a China optimist. But I recognize that China has a lot of problems and major challenges to overcome.
The US has problems but a lot of strengths.
India has some strengths but even bigger problems than China and more to overcome to achieve sustainable high growth for 40+ years.

China is not Japan of the 1970s or 1980s

China's economy is now probably at least triple Japan on a GDP Purchasing power parity basis. China's economy is about double Japan on a currency exchange basis.

China has a population of 1.36 billion versus 127 million for Japan and 317 million for the USA.

Some have said that China may not overtake America this century after all. This is some kind of wishful thinking that China will be weak and the US will get stronger. I hope that the US gets economically stronger, but I think it will take pro-growth oriented policies.

China's Development Research Council (DRC) expects growth to drop to 6pc by 2020. It could be much lower. The US Conference Board says it will average 3.7pc from 2019-2025 as the ageing crisis hits. Michael Pettis from Beijing University thinks it is likely to slow to 3pc to 4pc over the next decade, deeming this entirely desirable if it comes from taming the runaway state enterprises.

If so, China's growth may not be much higher than the new consensus estimate of 3pc for a reborn America, powered by its energy boom and the revival of the chemical, steel, glass, and paper industries.

China's output is 75pc of US levels on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis but even on this measure the Chinese `sorpasso' is looking less certain. Clyde Prestowitz, an arch US `declinist' who has just thrown in the towel, says China may "never" catch the US on any relevant measure. That is a stretch, but not impossible on a forecastable horizon.

"Keep in mind the next time you are in China and find yourself choking on the foul air that the things making the air foul are counted as positives for GDP. If you adjust Chinese GDP for environmental degradation and for over-investment in things that will never be used, it falls in size by 30-50 per cent.
Congressional Budget Office projection of US growth

New Scientist Reviews and Puts China's Space Program in Perspective

China's lunar robotic rover was dismissed as a tragic "me too" exercise by a country lagging decades behind the world's leading space powers.

This common reaction missed the point. Jade Rabbit's successful launch, landing and exploration is evidence of China's meteoric rise in the space stakes, and one that will only accelerate. "It is a classic example of the tortoise and the hare," says Dean Cheng of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington DC.

To get an idea of China's burgeoning space programme, look no further than its satellites. Starting in 1970, China launched low-quality transponders and rudimentary spy satellites capable of only the most basic tasks at an entirely unimpressive rate of one per year. By 2012, the country had surpassed the US with 19 launches in a single year. China had also sent its first taikonaut into space, conducted its first space walk and completed its first rendezvous and docking with a small space laboratory. "The manned program they are building is progressing a lot faster than the US did with theirs in the sixties," says Richard Holdaway, Director of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Space division, one of the UK's closest collaborators on the Chinese space programme. "They are catching up at an astonishing rate."

"In 15 years they have gone from bit player to leading player," says Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And they have done so on a shoestring. China's space budget is less than one-tenth of the US one, according to a recent estimate by the Space Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in Colorado Springs.

UAE, China build for larger energy future while US, UK, France tweak and maintain nuclear power and energy in general and Japan Grinds towards nuclear restarts

Despite a still recovering economy, the US Energy Information Administration still forecasts a 28% increase in the demand for electricity through 2040. China already has 30% more electricity production in 2013 after passing the US in energy production about 3 years ago. So the US is projected to add the power over 26-30 years that China already added from 2011-2013.

Exelon has said that the US needs changes to tax and energy policy to ensure "fair compensation" for the nuclear fleet. In particular, the company is calling for changes to the capacity market to recognise and compensate nuclear for its reliable and dependable baseload generation, illustrated by performance during recent extreme winter weather in many US states. Exelon is saying that if the US and states are not willing to set things up to pay for energy reliability then Exelon will shut down nuclear reactors that are losing money. This will make the US energy system less reliable, but you get what you pay for.

1. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved uprates at five nuclear reactors that will add nearly 100 MWe of capacity to the US grid.

The uprates at Exelon's Braidwood and Byron plants and DTE Electric's Fermi power station are all to be achieved through more accurate measurements of feedwater flow, which will enable the reactors to each increase their capacity by 1.6%. Exelon intends to implement the uprates to the Byron and Braidwood plants during February. Both plants comprise two pressurised water reactors, and the NRC says the uprates will increase each station's total generating capacity from 2350 to 2390 MWe.

Including the uprates at Byron, Braidwood and Fermi, the NRC has approved uprates totalling some 7036 MWe since 1977. Applications for uprates totalling some 825 MWe are pending and the NRC anticipates receiving two further applications for measurement uncertainty recapture power uprates this year, which would add a further 39 MWe of capacity.

Uprates involve the use of devices to perform more precise measurements of feedwater flow, which is in turn used to calculate reactor power, typically allowing capacity increases of up to 2%.

Uprates of up to 7%, known as stretch uprates, can sometimes be achieved within the design capacity of the plant without involving major modifications, while extended power uprates can be achieved through modifications to major balance-of-plant equipment such as the high pressure turbines, condensate pumps and motors, main generators, and transformers. These can add on anything up to 20% of a plant's capacity.

2. Permission has been granted for civil works to start on the next two reactors of the UAE's nuclear power program.

Two reactor units are already under construction at Barakah. For these Enec will apply for an operating licence next year. It plans to complete construction, commission and start them up in time to generate electricity in 2017 and 2018. Units 3 and 4 should follow in 2019 and 2020. The reactors are APR1400 pressurized water reactors supplied by a South Korean consortium led by Kepco.

The four Barakah units will have a capacity of 5600 MWe, but ultimately the UAE wants 20,000 MWe nuclear capacity as part of a plan to meet energy demand that has been growing at 9% per year. The country's policy documents state it must have total installed generating capacity of 40,000 MWe by 2020. At that time, with Barakah in operation, nuclear power's baseload role would see it meet about 25% of electricity demand. Renewables are expected to provide up to 7%, domestic gas about 50% and imported gas the rest.

February 14, 2014

BBC describes a rural pseudo-boarding school in China and Chinese citizens sacrificing today for a better future tomorrow

Providing an education for children in sparsely-populated rural areas is one of China's major challenges. While the economic and social development of these rural regions has been remarkable, China's coastal cities are racing ahead at an even faster pace. This is from a BBC News article by Andreas Schleicher who is an OECD special adviser for education.

Pupils left behind

That fuels an endless stream of people moving to the cities - students looking for better education, parents looking for work, but also good teachers who are looking for more fulfilling careers.

China has begun to consolidate rural schools into bigger schools which can provide a critical mass of teachers and services.

* Parents leave kids to go search for better work in the cities
* Kids stay at school all weak because it takes several hours to go back home
* Competition for teachers to improve teachers
* Those who can afford send kids to the best schools in Shanghai and other major cities
* China is very focused on continuing to hustle and compete and improve and change to copy what is better
* China seems to have been able to convince its citizens to make sacrifices today for a better future tomorrow.

Queuing for food: Children spend all week at school as it is too far to walk home

IBM Chip will help enable Internet speeds at 200 - 400 Gigabits per second (Gb/s) with extremely low power

IBM announced that it has achieved a new technological advancement that will help improve Internet speeds to 200 - 400 Gigabits per second (Gb/s) at extremely low power.

The speed boost is based on a device that can be used to improve transferring Big Data between clouds and data centers four times faster than current technology. At this speed 160 Gigabytes, the equivalent of a two-hour, 4K ultra-high definition movie or 40,000 songs, could be downloaded in only a few seconds.

Scientists at IBM Research and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have been developing ultra-fast and energy efficient analog-to-digital converter (ADC) technology to enable complex digital equalization across long-distance fiber channels.

An ADC converts analog signals to digital, approximating the right combination of zeros and ones to digitally represent the data so it can be stored on computers and analyzed for patterns and predictive outcomes.

For example, scientists will use hundreds of thousands of ADCs to convert the analog radio signals that originate from the Big Bang 13 billion years ago to digital. It’s part of a collaboration called Dome between ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, DOME-South Africa and IBM to develop a fundamental IT roadmap for the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), an international project to build the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.

Iceland first nation with whole genome sequence

Researchers have sequenced the whole genomes of 2,500 people from Iceland. They have genotyped about 120,000 Icelanders with an Illumina chip. They can impute whole genome sequence down to variants with less than 0.1% frequency into about 370,000 Icelanders -- there are only 320,000 living today.

“We basically have the whole genome sequence of an entire nation.” Kari-Stefansson of deCode said.

deCODE has formed a collaboration with the National Hospital of Iceland to impute the genome sequence of all patients over the past 3 years (~300,000) and ask: in what indication, in what disease would WGS have the biggest impact on the selection of treatment and outcome? “Rather than doing it on a priori assumptions, we’ll do it by data mining,” he says. “Rather than doing it on a handful of people, we’ll do it on the basis of the whole nation. That shouldn’t take more than a year. We’re in a privileged position.”

deCODE has been studying the genetics of longevity since the company was founded in the 1990s. Indeed, in the company’s first major publication, Stefansson’s team showed that Icelanders who reach 90 years of age are much more related to each other than control groups, suggesting there is a genetic component to becoming a nonagenarian.

“This is important,” says Stefansson. “You’re asking the genetic effect to rise above 90 years of environmental influences. This is the biggest stress test you can put on genetics. So what is it? What are you inheriting for this ability to live to 90? Are you ducking disease genes or inheriting a positive asset?”

Over the years, deCODE has gathered strong evidence for the existence of one or a few “positive assets” in the Icelandic population to promote longevity. “So this is a genetic asset conferred to you by a relatively simple genetic mechanism, probably via one gene,” he says.

Importantly, Stefansson says the new APP discovery was not hypothesis driven. Rather, it fell out of a systematic analysis of every new DNA variant discovered by whole-genome sequencing in 1,800 Icelanders (at the time) scanned against 1,500 phenotypes. (deCODE has currently amassed some 41 million SNPs in the Icelandic population.)

Other intelligence and educational attainment related genes and the possibility of an IQ of 550 with genetic engineering

1. A study that is sensitive to rare variants which are implicated in schizophrenia risk has been completed. These rare variants add to the heritability already associated with common variants, estimated to be at least 32%.

2. In related work, mutations affecting schizophrenia risk were shown to depress IQ in individuals who did not present for schizophrenia.

Gene identified which accounts for 0.5% of total variation in intelligence but could important for figuring out psychiatric disorders

For the first time, scientists at King’s College London have identified a gene linking the thickness of the grey matter in the brain to intelligence. The study is published today in Molecular Psychiatry and may help scientists understand biological mechanisms behind some forms of intellectual impairment.

The researchers looked at the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer of the human brain. It is known as ‘grey matter’ and plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language and consciousness. Previous studies have shown that the thickness of the cerebral cortex, or ‘cortical thickness’, closely correlates with intellectual ability, however no genes had yet been identified.

An international team of scientists, led by King’s, analysed DNA samples and MRI scans from 1,583 healthy 14 year old teenagers, part of the IMAGEN cohort. The teenagers also underwent a series of tests to determine their verbal and non-verbal intelligence.

The genetic variation identified in this study only accounts for an estimated 0.5 per cent of the total variation in intelligence. The findings may have important implications for the understanding of biological mechanisms underlying several psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, autism, where impaired cognitive ability is a key feature of the disorder.

Molecular Psychiatry - Single nucleotide polymorphism in the neuroplastin locus associates with cortical thickness and intellectual ability in adolescents

Comcast fears Apple, Google, Amazon, Hulu and Netflix

MAshable points out that buried in page three of the "Public Benefits Summary" provided by Comcast to defend its bid for Time Warner Cable is a bullet point that illuminates the motives behind the deal as well as where the company is headed.

• A number of online businesses like Apple, Google, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and a host of smaller companies are entering the online video space and trying to position themselves as competitors. While we view online businesses as complementary to our business, previous antitrust concerns about further cable consolidation are truly antiquated in light of today’s marketplace realities.

What is Comcast telling us? That this deal is not about the cable industry. It's about competing in a modern media market in which cable is a small part. The company even goes so far as to list their competitors and they all have something in common — they all live on the Internet and most of them have a bigger consumer base than Comcast.

Jason Calacanis at Pando Daily made the case that Google Fiber will be rolled out to all major US cities by 2018.

Escape Dynamics and Microwave Power Beaming for Spacecraft Launching

There was a CNET article from 2010 on Escape Dynamics and their microwave power beaming approach to launching spacecraft single stage to orbit

According to Kevin Parkin, who is an Escape Dynamics adviser and who wrote his own Ph.D. thesis on microwave thermal propulsion, a beamed energy propulsion system is capable of producing 2.5 times as much thrust as a traditional chemical-based system. He said that the standard system tops out at an energetic reaction of 16 megajoules per kilogram, while the beamed energy approach can reach 40 megajoules per kilogram.

"Until five years ago," [2005] said Tseliakhovich, "we could not produce enough output of the microwave power. We did not have efficient enough gyrotrons."

[In 2010] it's possible to produce more than a megawatt of energy per gyrotron, Tseliakhovich said, speaking of devices that, according to Wikipedia, are "high-powered vacuum tubes which emit millimeter-wave beams by bunching electrons with cyclotron motion in a strong magnetic field."

And Parkin said his own research demonstrated five years ago that it was possible to heat hydrogen to high enough temperatures using microwaves to create high-performance propulsion.

Tseliakhovich said he believes it will be technologically possible to build a prototype beamed microwave infrastructure and launch vehicle in as little as seven years [2017], though he admits that the psychological shift required to back such an effort might take longer. That's particularly true, he said, because sending such a rocket into space would require enough land to build a functional beamed microwave array and the support of a government interested in the technology.

But both Parkin and Diamandis--who, of course, have a stake in the technology's success--think that Tseliakhovich's time frame is realistic. The only question, said Diamandis, is how big a rocket built using the technology in that time frame would be.

Broad Group CEO Zhang Adamant that 200 story Skycity skyscraper will be built in 2014

Zhang Yue is worth an estimated 1.1 billion yuan ($180 million) and has grandiose aspirations, the biggest of them to build an 838 metre tall tower he calls "Sky City" by the year's end.

It is designed to be 10 metres higher than the current title-holder, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai -- which took five years to construct.

But he admits the project has run into fierce opposition. "There are not many people who support us ...There are too many bad people."

Zhang's company Broad Sustainable Building has already built a 30 storey hotel in 15 days in the central Chinese city of Changsha.

Help us Google you are only hope. Comcast says no promise prices “will go down or even increase less rapidly”

Arstechnica report that when Comcast announced its proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable, it said the merger would bring significant cost savings and efficiencies that would "ultimately benefit customers."

But Comcast doesn't expect these savings to bring price decreases, or even cause prices to rise less rapidly.

Previously Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen writes that the allure of Google Fiber's gigabit service doesn't match the needs or capabilities of online Americans. Comcast thinks people do not want super fast internet access.

In February, Time Warner Cable said there's no consumer demand for gigabit internet speeds and that it's "in the business of delivering what consumers want." Despite the comments, whenever it believes that its customers do want gigabit broadband, the company will likely be ready: last year, Time Warner offered $50 gift cards to Kansas City employees who would share "tips, rumors and rumblings" about Google Fiber during its debut build out.

Google is trying to bring fiber to the home to more cities in the USA which will bring gigabit speeds at affordable prices.

"Don't be evil" is the informal corporate motto (or slogan) of Google.

Google at least tries and sometimes think about "Don't be evil".

Clearly Comcast and Time Warner are pure evil.

February 13, 2014

Escape Dynamics is putting together breakthroughs to enable single stage to orbit with microwave power beaming

Escape Dynamics is an advanced technology company focused on research of the next generation highly efficient aerospace vehicles powered with renewable electromagnetic energy. They recently presented at Google Solve for X.

Escape Dynamics is researching ways to safely and reliably transfer electromagnetic energy to moving aerial vehicles and investigating propulsion systems that can efficiently use wireless energy for propulsion. The wireless energy transfer technology researched by the company represents a revolutionary platform for powering a variety of aerospace vehicles in a way that transcends efficiency of currently used combustion-based systems. Access to wireless energy during take-off and flight allows for the complete re-design of the propulsion systems used to move vehicles through the atmosphere and into Earth orbit and has the potential to enable the transition of aerospace industry to a sustainable and efficient future.

Escape Dynamics is aiming to reach suborbital flight capabilities by 2017 and orbital flight capabilities by 2020. Successful development of fully reusable single-stage-to-orbit vehicle operating from a runway will lead to the world in which companies and individuals can own space launch vehicles in the same way as corporate and private jets are owned and operated today.

3d Nano architected metamaterials could be 1 million times lighter

Nanometer thick walls that are made into hollow trusses to enable far lighter and stronger material.

Julia Greer's web page at Cal Tech

Journal of Materials Science - Mechanical characterization of hollow ceramic nanolattices

Transatomic Power presents their molten salt reactor at Google Solve for X 2014

Transatomic Power is developing a molten salt reactor. They are using a zirconium hydride moderator instead of graphite. They also use a different salt.

They have a 27 page white paper with their design

This enables a higher energy density than the 1960s molten salt reactor and a smaller reactor which can be made more cheaply.

They believe with relatively traditional manufacturing methods they can make it at two thirds the cost of current nuclear power plants and make it even cheaper with modular designs. They believe electricity costs from their reactors will be cheaper than coal power.

They can burn low enriched uranium that is almost natural uranium and they can burn waste fuel from existing reactors. 270,000 tons of highly radioactive waste fuel that exists today can be used to power the world for 72 years.

DARPA cargo drones directed by ruggedized smartphone

DARPA’s Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) program aims to develop and demonstrate a modular transportation system built around a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) flight module operated as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The flight module would carry one of several different types of detachable mission modules, each designed for a specific purpose, such as Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) (top left), casualty evacuation (top right) and cargo resupply (top center and bottom). The program seeks to provide flexible, terrain-independent transportation that avoids ground-based threats, in turn supporting expedited, cost-effective operations and improving the likelihood of mission success.

Transformer aimed to develop and demonstrate a prototype system that would provide flexible, terrain-independent transportation for logistics, personnel transport and tactical support missions for small ground units. In 2013, DARPA selected the Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) design concept to move forward.

These cargo drones are instead of flying Hummers (armored flying cars). They are cheaper and can still carry and move soldiers but can also move all kinds of other supplies. Plus they could also drop 3000 pound bombs or other ordinance.

New live-cell printing technology works like ancient Chinese woodblocking

The researchers, led by Houston Methodist Research Institute nanomedicine faculty member Lidong Qin, Ph.D., say their approach produces 2-D cell arrays in as little as half an hour, prints the cells as close together as 5 micrometers (most animal cells are 10 to 30 micrometers wide), and allows the use of many different cell types. They've named the technology Block-Cell-Printing, or BloC-Printing.

"We feel the current technologies are inadequate," Qin said. "Inkjet-based cell printing leaves many of the cells damaged or dead. We wanted to see if we could invent a tool that helps researchers obtain arrays of cells that are alive and still have full activity."

Recent work to print cells in two and three dimensions using electricity-gated inkjet technology have been largely successful, but sometimes only half of the printed cells survive the printing process -- a source of frustration for many laboratory scientists.

"Cell printing is used in so many different ways now -- for drug development and in studies of tissue regeneration, cell function, and cell-cell communication," Qin said. "Such things can only be done when cells are alive and active. A survival rate of 50 to 80 percent is typical as cells exit the inkjet nozzles. By comparison, we are seeing close to 100 percent of cells in BloC-Printing survive the printing process."

Caption: This image shows cells printed in a grid pattern by block cell printing technology (left) and woodblocks used in ancient Chinese printing (right). Credit: Lidong Qin lab and Digital Museum of Science and Art (Beijing, China)

PNAS - Block-Cell-Printing for live single-cell printing

Admiral in charge of Special Operations Command is trying to setup $10 million prize for TALOS Exoskeleton project with a target field deployment of 2018

The leader of Special Operations Command would like to see the day when a commando kicking down a door to root out terrorists is wearing a protective exoskeleton.

The military will receive the first three TALOS exoskeleton prototypes in June, 2014. The prototypeas will be unpowered. Best-case scenario, the admiral wants the suit to be used in combat situations by August 2018.

Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, SOCOM commander, said it was the death of a special operator in Afghanistan who was killed in such a scenario that kicked off a multi-agency effort to design and develop the tactical assault light operator suit, or TALOS.

The goal is to "redefine" the state of the art in tactical survivability and capability, he said. "We are already seeing astounding results," he added.

McRaven said powering such a suit, which may have an exoskeleton, will be the number one challenge. There are a lot of companies large and small tackling the ballistic protection problem, but not as many involved in power generation.

McRaven said he is seeking the authority to have a cash prize for the suit. He wants it to be as high as $10 million, although he has not secured that amount yet. He referenced the Ansari X-Prize, which called for the launch and return of a spacecraft into low Earth orbit and a quick turnaround for a second launch. The teams spent hundreds of millions to develop their space vehicles, even though the prize was only $10 million, he noted.

Prototypes are likely to build upon the Warrior web, soft exoskeleton project.

There is or soon will be commercial available batteries in the 800-2000 Watt hour per kilogram range. Current commercial lithium ion batteries are about 250 Watt hours per kilogram. Polyplus Lithium water batteries might be in production this year with 1300-1500 watt hour per kilogram energy density.

Pilot production of lithium sulfur batteries (1000-2000 watt hours per kilogram) and lithium air batteries is possible in 2015.

Lithium-air battery can be recharged just 40 to 50 times, vs. thousands of times for traditional lithium-ion batteries. The lower level of recharging would be less of an issue for special force exoskeletons.

The current prototype of the Warrior web exosuit is shown here.

Really big changes in order to significantly effect world income levels

OECD data on world wealth distribution by decile. The presentation is "Measuring the Global Distribution of Wealth" by James Davies, Rodrigo Lluberas, and Anthony F. Shorrocks.

If China is able to reform its urbanization safety net and enable 300 million existing migrant workers and 300 million new urban migrants to catch up to the current lower level of official urban residents then China will raise up people in the $1000-2000 per capita level to $3000 to 15,000 per capita in 2030.

In the chart above China would shift the lower end of its mostly poorer rural population, successfully into cities and get them to the top half of the world income levels.

If the world is able to enable programs that successfully eliminate extreme poverty, then that would raise the bottom decile from about $250-300 to $500 per capita. This would be like getting people in the bottom 10% in 2030 up the level of the 10.1-20% of about 1990.

February 12, 2014

Google works with Foxconn to create a new generation of factory manufacturing robots

Google appears to be building a "robotic operating system for manufacturers," with Foxconn serving as a testbed. Foxconn has been working with former Android executive Andy Rubin since last year to carry out the U.S. company’s vision for robotics. To speed up robot deployment at its own factories, Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou met with Rubin in Taipei recently and they discussed new robotic technologies, they said. At the meeting, Gou expressed excitement over new automation technologies demonstrated by Rubin, they said. Rubin also asked Gou to help integrate a technology company that Google is acquiring as Foxconn’s strength lies in mechanical engineering.

The cooperation comes as Foxconn has been striving to accelerate automation efforts at its factories amid challenges of rising labor costs and workplace disputes in China, where it has more than a million workers. Foxconn’s chairman has reiterated his ambitions to build factories with robots in recent years as the company seeks to transform itself into a high-tech manufacturer focusing on high-margin, capital-intensive products such as automobile and medical equipment.

Analysts said the partnership makes sense as Foxconn, the world’s largest contract manufacturer of electronics devices, can provide Google the best testing ground for its new robotics technology. They said Google is expected to build a new robotic operating system for manufacturers, just like the Android operating system for mobile computing devices. A successful robotics operating system would further strengthen Google’s position in the technology industry.

“Foxconn needs Google’s help to step up automation at its factories as the company has the lowest sales per employee among the contract makers, given its large workforce,” said Wanli Wang, an analyst at CIMB Securities

Global Income Distribution in Detail and Possible Shifts by 2030

The OECD has some wealth distribution data.

If China is able to reform its urbanization safety net and enable 300 million existing migrant workers and 300 million new urban migrants to catch up to the current lower level of official urban residents then China will raise up people in the $1000-2000 per capita level to $3000 to 15,000 per capita in 2030. This would be a substantial shift of nearly a decile of world population up the per capita income levels.

There are estimates of income distribution statictics by decile for each country based on surveys.

If the world is able to enable programs that successfully eliminate extreme poverty, then that would raise the bottom decile from about $250-300 to $500 per capita.

Repeating the per capita improvements of 1988-2008 for 2009-2030 would raise per capita income levels by 50-80% for each decile. This would be hoping that eastern europe and part so latin america do not lag again.

Fuel gain over unity in an inertially confined fusion implosion

For the first time anywhere, we've gotten more energy out of the fuel than what was put into the fuel" for a nuclear fusion experiment. This is reported by the Wall Street Journal and other sources from a paper published in the Journal Nature by researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Lab

"What's really exciting is that we are seeing a steadily increasing contribution to the yield coming from the boot-strapping process we call alpha-particle self-heating as we push the implosion a little harder each time," said lead author Omar Hurricane.

Boot-strapping results when alpha particles, helium nuclei produced in the deuterium-tritium (DT) fusion process, deposit their energy in the DT fuel, rather than escaping. The alpha particles further heat the fuel, increasing the rate of fusion reactions, thus producing more alpha particles. This feedback process is the mechanism that leads to ignition. As reported in Nature, the boot-strapping process has been demonstrated in a series of experiments in which the fusion yield has been systematically increased by more than a factor of 10 over previous approaches

Nature - Fuel gain exceeding unity in an inertially confined fusion implosion

Ignition is needed to make fusion energy a viable alternative energy source, but has yet to be achieved. A key step on the way to ignition is to have the energy generated through fusion reactions in an inertially confined fusion plasma exceed the amount of energy deposited into the deuterium–tritium fusion fuel and hotspot during the implosion process, resulting in a fuel gain greater than unity. Here we report the achievement of fusion fuel gains exceeding unity on the US National Ignition Facility using a ‘high-foot’ implosion method which is a manipulation of the laser pulse shape in a way that reduces instability in the implosion. These experiments show an order-of-magnitude improvement in yield performance over past deuterium–tritium implosion experiments. We also see a significant contribution to the yield from α-particle self-heating and evidence for the ‘bootstrapping’ required to accelerate the deuterium–tritium fusion burn to eventually ‘run away’ and ignite.

It is not Utopian to copy what works and accelerate improving trends

An article Motley Fool, lists out 50 facts which show that overall human civilization is now living through its greatest period. Trends are still improving and we could do better if more cities and countries were willing to intelligently copy what works and fix things that are clearly badly broken.

The facts cover improved automotive safety, medicine and public health results, productivity and income levels and other facts.

Automotive safety is being further improved with better systems at intersections where most accidents occur and with driver assist electronic systems.

Fact 49 - Income levels and income inequality

In 2008, an annual income of $34,000 a year was required to be in the richest 1% of the world, according to World Bank economist Branko Milanovic's 2010 book The Haves and the Have-Nots. To be in the top half of the globe you needed to earn just $1,225 a year. For the top 20%, it's $5,000 per year. Enter the top 10% with $12,000 a year. To be included in the top 0.1% requires an annual income of $70,000. America's poorest are some of the world's richest.

This was covered in Milanovic's book and summarized in this Worldbank article.

The trends and the situation of the poor is analyzed in more detail in recent research from Milanovic.

Poverty and inequality is research and analysis is at this Worldbank site

Better data and analysis to end global extreme poverty by 2030 [defined as getting to less than 3% of the world population]

If we had a magic wand and could perfectly target every extremely poor individual, and magically raise their incomes to the $1.25 per day extreme poverty line, in 2010 the world needed approximately $169 billion per year (in 2005 PPP dollars) to end extreme poverty. The value of the Aggregate Poverty Gap, however, is not the same as the cost of ending extreme poverty. It is the size of the problem which is different from the size (cost) of the solution.

Another way of interpreting the APG/GDP ratio is the following: Suppose that the real GDP growth for the developing world as a whole is 5 percent per year. If 10 percent of this GDP growth accrued to the 21 percent of the developing world’s population who are extremely poor, and this 10 percent was distributed in a way that the growth in income of each poor person was exactly his/her distance to the $1.25 line, extreme poverty would end in one year.

Olympic Medal Count Compared to Predictions

Three weeks ago we covered some predictions for the 2014 Winter Olympics medal count. We are now 31 events into the 98 events.

The distibution of events makes it tougher to extrapolate from the first third to the later events. However, countries that are expected dominate with about 30 or more medals need to perform well all the way through.

The countries expected to dominate are dominating. The Netherlands appears to be doing better than expected. South Korea appears to be disappointing but they are strong in short track speed skating.

The original medal projections from Sports Myriad were: Norway 39, USA 35, Canada 30, Russia 26, Germany 23, Austria 22, South Korea 15, Netherlands 14, France 12, Switzerland 11, Sweden 10

If the rest of the Sports Myriad projections were to come true, the final medal count would be: Norway 34, USA 31, Canada 29, Russia 28, Austria 23, Germany 21, Netherlands 18, France 13, Sweden 13, South Korea 11, Switzerland 11

Norway and the US are actually less dominating than expected.

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.

Nanomotors are controlled, for the first time, inside living cells

A team of chemists and engineers at Penn State has placed tiny synthetic motors inside live human cells, propelled them with ultrasonic waves and steered them magnetically. It's not exactly "Fantastic Voyage," but it's close. The nanomotors, which are rocket-shaped metal particles, move around inside the cells, spinning and battering against the cell membrane.

The video shows a demonstration of very active gold nanorods internalized inside HeLa cells in an acoustic field. The video below was taken under 1000X magnification in the bright field, with most of the incoming light blocked at the aperture.

"As these nanomotors move around and bump into structures inside the cells, the live cells show internal mechanical responses that no one has seen before," said Tom Mallouk, Evan Pugh Professor of Materials Chemistry and Physics. "This research is a vivid demonstration that it may be possible to use synthetic nanomotors to study cell biology in new ways. We might be able to use nanomotors to treat cancer and other diseases by mechanically manipulating cells from the inside. Nanomotors could perform intracellular surgery and deliver drugs noninvasively to living tissues."

Optical microscope image of a HeLa cell containing several gold-ruthenium nanomotors. Arrows indicate the trajectories of the nanomotors, and the solid white line shows propulsion. Near the center of the image, a spindle of several nanomotors is spinning. Inset: Electron micrograph of a gold-ruthenium nanomotor. The scattering of sound waves from the two ends results in propulsion.

Image: Mallouk Lab/ Penn State Nanomotors are controlled,

February 11, 2014

Carnival of Space 340

Japan plans to restart 10 nuclear reactors by summer

Yomuri Shimbun reports that the Japanese government aims to restart about 10 of the nation's idle nuclear reactors by this summer, when electricity demand is expected to increase.

According to sources, the government is considering resuming its work on compiling the nation’s new basic energy plan, with the aim of announcing it by the end of this fiscal year ending in March.

It hopes about 10 nuclear power reactors will resume their operations under the new plan.

Bureaucratic hell

CNBC describes the regulatory and bureaucratic hell that is going on right now and has been going on for two years.

The cost to Japan's economy and the utilities' finances is heavy. Japan imported a record 87.5 million tonnes of LNG last year, at a cost of $69 billion, according to customs-cleared import data. Imports of thermal coal were also at record levels.

Hundreds of technicians and engineers are camped out in Tokyo hotels trying to revive Japan's nuclear industry.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 195

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 195 is up at Atomic Power Review

Atomic Insights looks at Alvin Weinbergs Liquid Fuel Reactors Physicist Alvin Weinberg worked on the Manhattan Project and later co-invented the pressurized water nuclear reactor. As Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory he led development of liquid fuel reactors, including walk-away-safe liquid fluoride thorium reactors with inexhaustible fuel. Today such cheap, safe, clean energy has the potential to economically displace worldwide coal burning, inspiring many efforts to implement Weinberg’s achievements. This was a guest article by Robert Hargraves.

In 1944 Hyman Rickover’s team came to Oak Ridge to learn of the potential of nuclear power for the US Navy. Rickover favored sodium-cooled reactors, but Weinberg convinced the Navy that the simpler, more compact pressurized water reactor (PWR) would fit better in a submarine. In 1955 Rickover’s atomic-powered Nautilus was launched.

“Thus was born the pressurized-water reactor—not as a commercial power plant, and not because it was cheap or inherently safer than other reactors, but rather because it was compact and simple and lent itself to naval propulsion.” Weinberg went on, “It was chosen for Shippingport after President Eisenhower had vetoed the Navy’s proposal to build a nuclear aircraft carrier powered by a larger version of the Nautilus power plant. A demonstration of a power plant that would operate as part of an electrical utility was being urged by the Atomic Energy Commission. The only reactor that was on hand was the one designed for the canceled aircraft carrier.” A hundred commercial PWR-style electric power plants were consequently built by US utilities and staffed largely by veterans of the Navy’s nuclear submarine corps. Weinberg was long astonished at the resulting 100% US market dominance.

Although “Rickover’s thorium-based U-233 seed-blanket light water breeder” at Shippingport also demonstrated a 1.01 breeding ratio, producing more fissile fuel than it consumed, Weinberg was disappointed that the public hardly noticed this proof that the world had an inexhaustible energy source – thorium.

February 10, 2014

Suicide Bomb Trainer in Iraq Accidentally Blows up Class

The New York Times reports a commander at a secluded terrorist training camp north of Baghdad unwittingly used a belt packed with explosives while conducting a demonstration early Monday for a group of militants, killing himself and 21 other members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

In addition to the 22 militants who were killed, 15 others were wounded in the explosion on Monday at the militant compound, in a rural area of northeastern Salahuddin Province, according to police and army officials. Stores of other explosives, including explosives packed in at least 10 vehicles, ready for operations, were found at the camp, as well as heavy weapons, the officials said.

Eight militants were arrested when they tried to escape, the officials said. The militant commander who was conducting the training was not identified by name, but an Iraqi Army officer described him as a prolific recruiter who was “able to kill the bad guys for once.”

Vertical Farming not because we need it to feed people but because we will want it for fresher and better tasting food

I have shown that regular farming using 100 year old techniques can increase agricultural production by 50% over the next 20-30 years and by 100% over the 50 years. I have also shown that single story greenhouses can be built for $20-60 per square meter, which would provide a doubling of food from about 1 million square kilometers of greenhouses which could be affordably built for $20-60 trillion over 50 years.

How about vertical farms. Building greenhouses in skyscrapers ?

We do not need vertical farming to feed people to prevent starvation.

We can use it to affordably provide super-fresh and better tasting food for people in the cities.

Freshly picked fruit and vegatables are far better tasting. The French Laundry is a highend restaurant in California's Napa (Yountville) valley where they have a farm right beside the restaurant.

French Laundry Farm

Within walking distance of chef Thomas Keller’s renowned Yountville restaurants–The French Laundry, Ad Hoc, Bouchon Bistro and Bouchon Bakery–is a beautiful 3-acre garden that supplies each restaurant with its daily fruits and vegetables. Culinary gardener Aaron Keefer manages the garden and collaborates on a daily basis with each culinary team to create unforgettable dining experiences using the freshest possible organic produce.

Aaron Keefer says "I believe vegetables are like fish. You have to eat them soon after catching them. I think that flavor starts even before you source the seeds. The composition of the soil, the seed genetics, the environment where the product is grown—these all come together to bring you the flavor of that vegetable. Simply put, fresher is better."

French Laundry dish

The World is safe for Radical life extension - We can research life extension to rejuvenate the old because we will use technology that is over 100 years old to provide food for over 100 billion people

I was at the Brains events Immortalist Audit event on Saturday. It was a fun and interesting event. There was a question posed at the event. What happens if Radical life extensions happens ? What happens in 50-100 years ?

1. It will take some time for radical life extension to be developed for anyone

2. We can see how medical technology gets spread with how long it has taken inexpensive vaccines to be provided to everyone and how long it has taken for the AIDS drug cocktail to be developed and then become cheap enough for the developing world at about $100/year. AIDS drugs are being deployed to Africa at a cost of $100/year from now through 2025

Let us slightly simplify the radical life extension effect and assume that people pre-radical life extension can live 100 years. So with radical life extension 1% of the world population who would have died do not die from the point of worldwide deployment. So 50 years after radical life extension (people living to 150 or more instead of 100) then population would be 50% higher assuming that long lived people did not further delay having births. In 100 years, after radical life extension (people living to 200 years or more instead of 100) then population would be double assuming that long lived people did not further delay having births.

So instead of looking for 50-100% gain by killing all Grandma's and Grandpa's in a delayed version of Logan's Run. (In Logan's Run everyone is killed at the age of 30 in the movie and 21 in the science fiction novel). We can first look at boosting agricultural yield, achievable infrastructure construction and minor reorganization to support higher population.

It is also interesting how some people have a knee jerk reaction like the following. Well we must stop people in Africa and Asia from breeding to prevent an increase of 20% in world population. However, driving around in SUV with 10% ethanol from corn with an hour commute each way from their McMansion to their office is not considered.

I will explain how non-fancy technology can massively boost food production. Food production being the main concern that people have around population. I can get fancier and do better with on-Earth carrying capacity or of course go to space colonization and push it up by 1000 times. I am going to do it with old and simple tech to push the issue out a couple of hundred years in population growth.

Life extension will not ruin the world. It is safe and it is moral to donate to SENS. (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence Research Foundation)

Business as Usual progression of Agricultural Yield

Regular agriculture is on track to boost yields to 15 tons per hectare for most of the grains.

Deploying what is already grown in outdoor test fields

Yuan Longping, China's leading agricultural scientist, realized one of his 80th birthday wishes recently when his super grain brought yields of 13.9 tons of rice a hectare, setting a new world record for rice output. The rice breed, DH2525 (Y two superior No 2), produced a harvest of 13.9 tons a hectare during its trial planting in Longhui county in Hunan province.

Does the present breakthrough translate into a yield of 13.5 tons per hectare at commercial scale? Yuan did not think so, but 80% at more than 10.5 tons per hectare is realizable according to past experience.

The highest rice yield in the world is in Australia, on average about 9.9 tons per hectare (660 kg/mu), followed by 6.7 tons per hectare (445 kg/mu) in Japan. The yields of China’s super-rice have now reached 550 and 600 kg/ mu, respectively, at large scale, as the result of the first two phases of development. So spreading best practices boost worldwide yield by 50%-100%. What is done across an entire country (Australia) to other countries.

February 09, 2014

Fish to 2030 - Prospects for Fisheries and Aquaculture

Fish already represent 16.5% of all animal protein consumed globally and 6.5% of all human protein consumption.

During the last three decades, capture fi sheries production increased from 69 million to 93 million tons; during the same time, world aquaculture production increased from 5 million to 63 million tons (FishStat). Globally, fish currently represents about 16.6 percent of animal protein supply and 6.5 percent of all protein for human consumption (FAO 2012). Fish is usually low in saturated fats, carbohydrates, and cholesterol and provides not only high-value protein but also a wide range of essential micronutrients, including various vitamins, minerals, and polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (FAO 2012). Thus, even in small quantities, provision of fish can be effective in addressing food and nutritional security among the poor and vulnerable populations around the globe.

The model projects that the total fish supply will increase from 154 million tons in 2011 to 186 million tons in 2030. Aquaculture’s share in global supply will likely continue to expand to the point where capture fisheries and aquaculture will be contributing equal amounts by 2030. However, aquaculture is projected to supply over 60 percent of fish destined for direct human consumption.

Foresight Nanotechnology Integration - Skybox Satellite Imaging

Skybox imaging was mentioned by Steve Jurvetson in his talk at the Foresight Nanotechnology Integration.

Skybox was founded out of the CubeSat community and they are ardent believers in the power of commodity, commercial electronics to change the cost of doing business in space.

Traditional satellites capable of taking imagery at better than 1 meter resolution weigh thousands of kilograms, which makes it prohibitively expensive to launch enough of them to capture timely imagery. They have produced similar performance in a box 20x smaller by breaking open the many black boxes that define traditional systems and creating an optimized design using automotive grade electronics.

The circuitry that drives our satellites - providing power, attitude control, communications, thermal management, and imaging support - are about the size of a phone book and consume less power than a 100w light bulb. We've integrated the latest, greatest, and fastest commercially available FPGAs, processors, and memory to ensure our small satellites pack the largest possible punch.

Their small size means we can afford to launch lots of satellites, and provide you lots of timely, sub-meter imagery and video, along with powerful derived analytics.

Skybox Imaging will launch a fleet of satellites into Earth's orbit and revolutionize the industry of satellite imaging--is this: Launching satellites into space can be pretty cheap, if you know what you're doing.

Foresight Nanotechnology Integration Conference - Global Trends 2030

NExtbigfuture is at the Foresight Nanotechnology Integration conference this weekend. Here is the link to the schedule.

The Integration Conference brought together over 20 speakers to present their research and vision within the realm of groundbreaking atomic- and molecular-scale science and engineering with application across a wide range of advanced technologies, including materials, electronics, energy conversion, biotechnology and more. Events will include presentation of the annual Foresight Institute Feynman Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in nanoscale science and technology.

Integration: The development and proliferation of nanotechnology through its applications in diverse fields are dependent upon the successful integration of nano-engineered devices and materials ("nanosystems") into more complex micro- and macro-systems. Thus, this year the concept of Integration is highlighted, for the successful integration of nanosystems can impact the rate of development, application, and ultimately benefit.

One of the presenters was Dr. Banning Garrett is the director of the Asia Program at the Atlantic Council of the United States. He is also the director of the Strategic Foresight Initiative, which works with the National Intelligence Council on their quadrennial long-term assessments. He has previously directed programs for the Asia Society and the University of Denver and was a consultant for 22 years to the Department of Defense and US government agencies involved in the strategic dialogue with China

Nextbigfuture had presented his Global Trends 2030 back in December 2012

The full Global Trends 2030 report is here

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