March 15, 2014

Carnival of Space 344

The Carnival of Space 344 is up at the Chandra X-Ray Space Telescope blog.

Universe Today - Hubble Telescope Watches Asteroid Disintegrate in Space

Asteroid P/2013 R3 appears to be crumbling apart in space, and astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope recently saw the asteroid breaking into as many as 10 smaller pieces. The best explanation for the break-up is the Yarkovsky–O’Keefe–Radzievskii–Paddack (YORP) effect, a subtle effect from sunlight that can change the asteroid’s rotation rate and basically cause a rubbly-type asteroid to spin apart.

“This is a really bizarre thing to observe — we’ve never seen anything like it before,” said co-author Jessica Agarwal of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Germany. “The break-up could have many different causes, but the Hubble observations are detailed enough that we can actually pinpoint the process responsible.”

Terrestrial Energy Integral Molten Salt Reactor Development Video Update

Dr. David LeBlanc and Chris Popoff of Terrestrial Energy conducted an in-car interview regarding the use of nuclear power to make oilsands production more environmentally friendly.

Their reactor is a Denatured Molten Salt Reactor called the "Integral Molten Salt Reactor", drawing on the single fluid MSR research conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

There is an important difference between the Canadian and the US regulatory authorities. The Canadian Regulatory system is more “performance based” than the US NRC “prescriptive based” system. The difference and advantage is Terrestrial Energy can present an overall safety case (long before the reactor is built of course) which the company and regulator then work on together.

All of the US rules are based on light water reactors. Canada's nuclear regulators could allow a molten salt reactor to be built and operating in 6 years.

The oilsands and molten salt reactors are a good energy transition with an overlap. Molten salt reactors can produce the steam to get oil from the oilsands. The economics work where more oil from the oilsands pays for the the development and the first few hundred molten salt reactors.

Molten salt reactors would create "green" bitumin production. It would bring oilsand oil production to be equal or better environmentally than other oil production. Currently oilsand oil is less environmentally friendly than other oil sources.

73 minute video explains details of the Molten Salt reactor and SAGD oil extraction from the oilsands

Dwave Doubling quantum qubits each year and planning to double installed base of computers annually was well

D-Wave wants its quantum computer to surpass the performance of traditional computers in the coming years, and has a processor roadmap that could make that happen.

“We’re at a point where we see that our current product is matching the performance of state-of-the-art traditional computers, which have had 70 years of innovation and trillions of dollars of investment. Over the next few years, we should surpass them,” said Jeremy Hilton, D-Wave’s vice president of processor development, in an email statement.

D-Wave last year introduced the second-generation quantum computer called D-Wave Two which has a “list price north of $10 million,” according a research note from financial firm Sterne Agee on Wednesday. The note had a picture of a D-Wave Two with a list price of $15 million.

Quantum computers from D-Wave have been deployed by organizations including Google, NASA and Lockheed-Martin, though it is not clear if the systems were purchased. The D-Wave Two has a 512 qubit processor, and the company has a 1,000 qubit processor undergoing tests in labs and due for release later this year. D-Wave has said it will release a 2,048-core processor in 2015.

“We are laser focused on the performance of the machine, understanding how the technology is working so we can continue to improve it and solve real world problems,” Hilton said.

Quantum Computing technologies

There are 15 to 18 technologies being investigated for quantum computing. Each have advantages and limitations. Blatt's group is working on a qubit based on an optical transition of trapped ions of calcium-40.

Trapped ion qubits "have exquisite coherence properties; they can be prepared and measured with nearly 100% efficiency; and they are readily entangled with each other through the Coulomb interaction or remote photonic interconnects," writes Chris Monroe of the Joint Quantum Institute in Science. His group is using ytterbium ions; other groups are studying other trapped ions. Both the Innsbruck and JQI groups have scaled experiments to 15 or 16 qubits, about halfway to the 30 qubits that Monroe says is needed to simulate behavior of a quantum-mechanical system too complex for digital computers to handle.

Other types of qubits may be better for other types of operations, says Klaus Ensslin of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH; Zurich, Switzerland). Swiss researchers are studying many types of qubits for potential applications. One concern is the short lifetime of quantum states when they couple to the outside world. "To operate a quantum computer, you must isolate the quantum system from its environment, but you also must read it out," says Ensslin. The spin of the single electron in a quantum dot is attractive because it couples weakly to its environment. Quantum-dot pin qubits are hard to manipulate, but he says their big attraction is the possible ease of scaling in well-understood semiconductor nanostructures. Others are studying approaches where topological protection is quantum-engineered to enhance coherence and reduce noise.

Other types of quantum computing technology include:
• Neutral atoms and molecules with long-lived internal states, cooled, trapped, and entangled to create qubits.
• Superconducting Josephson junction circuits.
• Optical measurement of the quantum states of photons.
• Nuclear magnetic resonance effects

March 14, 2014

Weak early response for restricted second child option in China means an unlimited two child rule will be introduced in a few years

Under the new loosening of China's One Child policy married couples in which just one parent is an only child can also have a second baby. The previous rules allowed two children for couples in which both parents are only children. The old policy also made exceptions for China’s officially recognized ethnic minorities and rural couples whose first child was a girl or disabled.

The government estimates that the change will allow an additional 15 million to 20 million couples to expand their families, helping to stem a plummeting birthrate that experts say has left China with a dangerous demographic imbalance in both age and sex. But only about half of those couples are willing to have two children, according to research by the National Health and Family Planning Commission cited in state news media.

In interviews, many couples blamed the rising cost of living for their reluctance to have more than one child. Some cited a persistent cultural norm that requires husbands to provide an apartment, a car and other material riches to a bride, demands that can push an extended family deep into debt.

The changes, which were announced late last year, have been introduced in six provinces and regions, including Beijing, on Friday, with another 20 expected by the end of 2014.

But there are concerns over how effective the changes will be. On Monday, The Qianjiang Evening News, a state-run newspaper in the coastal province of Zhejiang, reported that one month after the province began a trial period for the new policy in three cities, only 300 applications for a second child had been received, far lower than expected.

China's national health and family planning commission will study the impact of a universal two-child rule, its head of research, Ma Xu, told state news agency Xinhua, adding that there was no specific timetable for the decision.

Malaysian Official Says Jet was hijacked

Malaysian authorities have concluded that a passenger jet missing since last week was hijacked and deliberately steered off course, a government official involved in the investigation told The Associated Press.

“It’s conclusive,” the official told The AP.

According to the report, investigators have determined that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was diverted from its intended destination of Beijing by one or more people with significant flying experience.

In previous days U.S. officials noted that the plane’s main communications systems were switched off separately, an indicator of a manual attempt to evade contact.

Even with a determination of hijacking, many questions remain about the fate of the plane and the nature of the takeover in the cockpit. Searchers have failed to find any evidence of the plane, which disappeared from civilian radar last week less than an hour after takeoff. Malaysian officials had said earlier that they were investigating all crew members, as well as the plane’s 227 passengers.

Large thermoelectric power from a combination of magnets and superconductors that could get close to the Carnot limit

Thermoelectric devices can cool materials by passing currents, or convert temperature differences into electric power. However, metallic structures have a very poor thermoelectric performance, and therefore most thermoelectrics are made of semiconductors. Now a group of researchers from the University of Jyväskylä, Aalto University (Finland), San Sebastian (Spain) and Oldenburg University (Germany) have shown how a proper combination of magnetic metals and superconductors could allow reaching very strong thermoelectric conversion efficiency.

The electronic structure of semiconductors and superconductors looks superficially similar, because both contain an “energy gap”, a region of energies forbidden for the electrons. The difference between the two is that doping semiconductors allows moving this energy gap with respect to the average electron energy. This is in contrast to superconductors, where the energy gap is symmetric with respect to positive and negative energies, and therefore the thermoelectric effect from positive energy electrons cancels the effect from the negative energy electrons. Heikkilä and the international research group showed how this symmetry can be broken by the presence of an extra magnetic field, and driving the electric current through a magnetic contact. As a result, the system exhibits a very large thermoelectric effect.

Because conventional superconductors require temperatures of the order of a few Kelvin, this mechanism cannot be used directly in consumer devices such as portable coolers or waste heat converters. However, it could be used in accurate signal detection, or a similar mechanism could be applied in semiconductors to improve their thermoelectric performance.

Physical Review Letters - Predicted Very Large Thermoelectric Effect in Ferromagnet-Superconductor Junctions in the Presence of a Spin-Splitting Magnetic Field

A huge thermoelectric effect can be observed by contacting a superconductor whose density of states is spin split by a Zeeman field with a ferromagnet with a nonzero polarization. The resulting thermopower exceeds kB/e by a large factor, and the thermoelectric figure of merit ZT can far exceed unity, leading to heat engine efficiencies close to the Carnot limit. We also show that spin-polarized currents can be generated in the superconductor by applying a temperature bias.

3D Acoustic Cloaking Device Hides Objects from Sound

Using little more than a few perforated sheets of plastic and a staggering amount of number crunching, Duke engineers have demonstrated the world’s first three-dimensional acoustic cloak. The new device reroutes sound waves to create the impression that both the cloak and anything beneath it are not there.

The acoustic cloaking device works in all three dimensions, no matter which direction the sound is coming from or where the observer is located, and holds potential for future applications such as sonar avoidance and architectural acoustics.

In terms of something fictional becoming real. This would be a working version of the "cones of silence" from the TV comedy show Get Smart.

Bogdan Popa, a research scientist in electrical and computer engineering, shows off the 3D acoustic cloak he helped design and build as a member of Steven Cummer’s laboratory

Nature Materials - Three-dimensional broadband omnidirectional acoustic ground cloak

US Wages and salaries share of the economy has been shrinking for 40 years from 51% of GDP to 42%

For four decades, even in stronger economic times, USA wage gains have not kept pace with economic growth. Wages and salaries peaked at more than 51 percent of the economy in the late 1960s; they fell to 45 percent by the start of the last recession in 2007 and have since fallen to 42 percent.

Last year, Emanuel Saez — an economist from the University of California, Berkeley — made headlines with the finding that 95 percent of income gains from 2009 to 2012 accrued to the top 1 percent of earners. But this finding was not about the rich doing well; their incomes are actually growing a little more slowly than in the last two economic expansions.

Instead, it reflects the failure of most of America to recover at all, with real market incomes for the 99 percent rising just 0.1 percent a year. Higher corporate profits and higher stock prices have not translated into meaningfully higher wages.

Wage and salary as a share of GDP. Gray bars indicate recessions.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Mars One partners with Liongate TV for reality TV program

Lionsgate TV has teamed with Lansdorp’s Mars One for an unscripted TV series that will chronicle the mission. The untitled project, in the red-hot social experiment genre, will be shopped to networks shortly.

Mars One calls for new groups of four to be sent to Mars every two years, beginning no later than 2024. Announced last year, the scientific project already has received almost 300,000 applications from all all over the world, which are being whittled down. Lionsgate TV is expected to start its own casting search, with the two selection processes ultimately merged.

For the next several years, the series would be covering the different stages of preparation for the mission, starting with participant selection and the finalists — called candidates — undergoing an 8-year training protocol. The series’ cast will evolve as candidates in the mission drop out and new ones are brought in. “This is a social experiment that focuses on the people that would sign for something like this — they have to agree to participate and be willing to go on a one-way mission, knowing that if you go, you can never come back,” said Roy Bank, who is producing the project as part of his overall deal with Lionsgate TV.

Biggest intelligence boost for the most people is for poor people in India and Africa to be fed and healthy

The biggest boost to the intelligence for the most people would be in India and Africa. If all the poor there would be properly fed, then none of those people would not be stunted. Provide improved public health to prevent malaria and other diseases that cause brain damage. They also need to provide some micronutrients. If this happens over the next 5-10 years then 50% of their children would not have the stunting and brain damage problems. This could be a 20 point (1.5 standard deviation boost) to half of 60% of the worlds children are. So 20 point boost to 45 million every year. This would be ten times the number of people that I am projecting for my IVF embryo selection or genetic engineering boom.

48% of children in India are stunted. Diseases can leave brain damage when they do not kill. This reduces IQ points by 11-20 on average across the country. This makes India more poor.

So should we not prevent that intelligence loss from stunting ? And provide a big boom in India and Africa ? They might become global middle class and have 2 kids instead of those who are more poor and have 5 kids. It was not sterilization but the statistical likelihood is that they end up choosing to have 3 fewer children per family.

I have already said that even without going into space and the solar system, with luxury skyscrapers and megacities and robotic cars and better agriculture including greenhouses the world can support 50-100 billion people living at future American wealth standards.

Everyone should be relatively rich. Everyone well fed, smart, healthy, happy and living far longer.

It would still be 150-300 years before solar system expansion would be required instead of optional.

IVF has some embryo selection now. Selecting for viability and health.

The point is to generate abundance. We can afford to take care of the elderly and disabled now. In a pre-agriculture society those people would be lost to the predators.

Boosting intelligence and productivity should boost societal wealth. A greater society can expands its safety net.

March 13, 2014

In three weeks, Spacex could demonstrate the first reusable rocket booster and pave the way to radically cheaper spaceflight

This Sunday, After sending cargo towards the International Space Station, the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket used for the flight will return nearly immediately after liftoff and return and fire its engines for the second time. The burn will allow the rocket to reenter the atmosphere in controlled flight, without breaking up and disintegrating on the way down as most booster rockets do.

The launch was delayed to March 30th.

The machine will settle over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of its Cape Canaveral launchpad, engines roaring, and four landing legs will unfold from the rocket’s sides. Hovering over ocean, the rocket will kick up a salt spray along with the flames and smoke. Finally, the engines will cut off and the rocket will drop the last few feet into the ocean for recovery by a waiting barge.

Future flights of the so-called F9R rocket will have it touching down on land. For now, a water landing ensures maximum safety in case the rocket goes off course.

After recovering the rocket from the water on Sunday, SpaceX engineers and technicians will study it to determine what it would take to refurbish such a rocket for reuse. SpaceX also has plans to recover and reuse the second stage rocket, but for now, it will recover only the first stage and its nine Merlin engines, which make up the bulk of the cost of the rocket.

Even without reusable rockets, SpaceX has already shaken up the $190-billion-a-year satellite launch market with radically lower launch costs than its competitors. The company advertises $55.6 million per Falcon 9 launch. Its competitors are less forthcoming about how much they charge, but French rocket company Arianespace has indicated that it may ask for an increase in government subsidies to remain competitive with SpaceX.

Older Tiger Moms and the lifting of the One Child Ban in China will drive early adoption of genetic intelligence enhancement

I gave a talk at Transhuman Visions a couple of weeks ago.

In my look at near term transhumanism, I see older Tiger Moms as being the driver of early adoption of genetic intelligence enhancement and the lifting of the One child policy in China.

China's One child policy is being lifted just as embryo selection based upon intelligence for invitro fertilized (IVF) babies becomes possible and we are on the cusp of genetic engineering. Women in China who are now older were banned from having babies but now will be allowed to have children. Many will not be able to conceive naturally and will use IVF. I see IVF going from 400,000 per year worldwide to 2-8 million per year over the next 10 years. IVF babies are more easily embryo selected and accessible for genetic modification. This would provide an economic boost to China in 20-30 years and the beginnings of a significant societal shift.

* Older women use IVF more than younger women.
* Societal shifts that cause more older women to use IVF to have children means more opportunity for embryo selection and genetic intelligence enhancement.
* Countries that permit embyro selection and genetic intelligence enhancement provide the opportunity for IVF to be used for enhancement
* Medical tourism to permissive countries is another means for older women to use IVF in combination with embryo selection or genetic enhancement.

In my talk I first summarized enhancement of human capabilities via products that we can buy. (Smartphones, Google Glass, Apple Siri, IBM Watson, forklifts, cars etc...) As those things get better, anyone can adopt them by buying the latest versions.

Steroids do enhance performance. They work. About 10 million people use them and it is primarily because of vanity. However, we do not live in the wild west or have to compete as Gladiators in Rome. The more powerful people in the world are the billionaires. In the real world the equivalent of Montgomery Burns from the Simpsons has more power than the equivalent of Captain America. Burns can hire his own police force or mercenaries. It is his lawyers and lobbyists who do his work.

100 years ago it was vaccines that began altering the physical attributes of people in a meaningful way. It extended lifespans and improved health. Health improvement boosted productivity and GDP.

Spacex developing Raptor engine and use nine to power the first Mars Colonization Transport Rockets

NASA Space Flight website indicates that Spacex is advancing towards a larger Raptor engine to enable more Mars related capability.

Tom Mueller, head of Spacex rocket engine development, has his main focus being the development of the reusable Raptor engine. It will use liquid methane and oxygen to achieve 1 million pounds of thrust. Nine of them will be combined on one rocket. It will put over 100 tons of cargo to Mars.

Raptor's current design is to have 1Mlbf (4,500kN) gas-gas (full flow) liquid methane and oxygen engine, with an isp of 321s at sea level 363s at vacuum.

Mr. Mueller confirmed nine of these engines would power each 10 meter diameter core of the notional MCT (Mars Colonization Transport). The 9 million pounds of thrust would be more than the first stage of the Saturn V (7.68 million pounds)

UN and other population forecasts for Nigeria and the World have been revised upward for 2050 and 2100

The current world population of 7.2 billion is projected to increase by almost one billion people within the next twelve years, reaching 8.1 billion in 2025 and 9.6 billion in 2050, according to a new United Nations report, World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision.

Nigeria is expected to have about 400 million people in 2050 and 914 million people in 2100 in the medium scenario.

Most results presented are based on the UN’s “medium-variant” projection, which assumes a substantial reduction in the fertility levels of intermediate- and high-fertility countries in the coming years. For these countries, it is assumed that the pace of future fertility decline will be similar to that observed for other countries, mostly in Asia and Latin America, when they underwent similar declines during the second half of the 20 th century.

“The actual pace of fertility decline in many African countries could be faster or slower than suggested by this historical experience ,” Mr. Wilmoth said. “Small differences in the trajectory of fertility over the next few decades could have major consequences for population size, structure and distribution in the long run.”

The “high-variant” projection, for example, which assumes an extra half of a child per woman (on average) than the medium variant, implies a world population of 10.9 billion in 2050. The “low-variant” projection, where women, on average, have half a child less than under the medium variant, would produce a population of 8.3 billion in 2050.

In 2013, there was a more thorough Emerging Market Forum study of African demographics (authors have written for the UN and World Bank before on African demographics) which indicates that fertility trends are staying higher for Africa.

DARPA Excalibur High-Energy Lasers headed to multi-100 kilowatts, 10 times more compact, longer effective range and over 35% power efficiencies

High-energy lasers (HEL) have the potential to benefit a variety of military missions, particularly as weapons or as high-bandwidth communications devices. However, the massive size, weight and power requirements (SWaP) of legacy laser systems limit their use on many military platforms. Even if SWaP limitations can be overcome, turbulence manifested as density fluctuations in the atmosphere increase laser beam size at the target, further limiting laser target irradiance and effectiveness over long distances.

Recently, DARPA’s Excalibur program successfully developed and employed a 21-element optical phased array (OPA) with each array element driven by fiber laser amplifiers. This low power array was used to precisely hit a target 7 kilometers—more than 4 miles away. The OPA used in these experiments consisted of three identical clusters of seven tightly packed fiber lasers, with each cluster only 10 centimeters across.

This is an image of the optical phased array used in the Excalibur demonstration. This image is provided courtesy of Excalibur researcher Optonicus.

Lower cost space fuel depots from stockpiling contingent fuel

An MIT team has come up with two cost-efficient orbital fuel depot designs that do not require long-term commitment. Both designs take advantage of the fact that each lunar mission carries a supply of “contingency propellant” — fuel that’s meant to be used only in emergencies. In most cases, this backup fuel goes unused, and is either left on the moon or burned up as the crew re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere.

Instead, the MIT team proposes using contingency propellant from past missions to fuel future spacecraft. For instance, as a mission heads back to Earth, it may drop a tank of contingency propellant at a depot before heading home. The next mission can pick up the fuel tank on its way to the moon as its own emergency supply. If it ends up not needing the extra propellant, it can also drop it at the depot for the next mission — an arrangement that the team refers to as a “steady-state” approach.

A depot may also accumulate contingency propellant from multiple missions, part of an approach the researchers call “stockpiling.” Spacecraft heading to the moon would carry contingency propellant as they normally would, dropping the tank at a depot on the way back to Earth if it’s not needed; over time, the depot builds up a large fuel supply. This way, if a large lunar mission launches in the future, its rocket wouldn’t need a huge fuel supply to launch the heavier payload. Instead, it can stop at the depot to collect the stockpiled propellant to fuel its landing on the moon

Acta Astronautica - On-orbit depot architectures using contingency propellant

Japan might restart up to 10 reactors each year and have up to 35 nuclear reactors back online in 2019

Japan has stricter nuclear safety regulations since Fukushima. Restarting each reactor could cost around $1 billion in fees and will require a six-month review by the new Nuclear Regulation Authority. In the most optimistic scenarios, Japan might be able to fire up 10 reactors per year.

Japan's 50+ main nuclaer reactors have provided some 30% of the country's electricity and this was expected to increase to at least 40% by 2017. The prospect now is for at least half of this, from a depleted fleet of no more than 48 reactors.

The reactor restarts are facing significant implementation costs ranging from US$700 million to US$1 billion per unit, regardless of reactor size or age. The NRA is working to increase its relicensing staff to about 100 people, which could potentially shorten the currently envisaged six-month review timeline. Under a high case scenario developed by Itochu, about 10 reactors could be added every year for a total of up to 35 reactors back online within five years.
Economic impact of shutdowns.

JAIF has said that increased fuel imports are costing about JPY 3.8 to 4.0 trillion ($40 billion) per year (METI puts total fossil fuel imports at JPY 9 trillion in FY2013). The trade deficit in FY2012 was JPY 6.9 trillion ($70 billion), and preliminary 2013 figures released by the Ministry of Finance show JPY 11.5 trillion ($112 billion), up 65% on 2012's figure of JPY 6.9 trillion. The total trade deficit from March 2011 to end of 2013 was thus JPY 21.0 trillion ($204 billion), compared with previous surpluses of at least JPY 2.5 trillion per year (JPY 6.6 trillion in 2010).

The First two AP1000 nuclear reactors are on track to generate electricity this year

The final module - the containment water tank - has been installed at the first of two AP1000 units under construction at Haiyang in China's Shandong province.

The construction of the Haiyang AP1000s is being managed by Shandong Nuclear Power Company, in collaboration with State Nuclear Power Technology Corp (SNPTC) and China Nuclear Energy Construction Corp. SNPTC has a major role in the transfer of knowledge and technology from the plant supplier, Westinghouse.

Sanmen unit 1 is expected to be the first AP1000 to begin operating. The unit is scheduled to begin generating electricity in 2014. Haiyang 1 is also slated for commercial operation by the end of this year. All four Chinese AP1000s are scheduled to be in operation by 2016. Third and fourth units are planned at both Sanmen and Haiyang.

Four AP1000s are also currently under construction in the USA: Vogtle 3 and its sister unit Vogtle 4 in Georgia, and Summer units 2 and 3 in South Carolina. All of these units are currently scheduled to start operation between late 2017 and 2019.

March 12, 2014

United States producing 8.182 million barrels of crude oil per day

China is back to raising nuclear energy build targets after lowering them after Fukushima

Before Fukushima in 2011, China was steadily raising its 2020 nuclear energy target. (from 40 GW, to 60 GW, 70 GW, 80-85GW). With Fukushima, China paused its new nuclear reactor approval and had existing construction retrofitted with more safety systems. China paused inland construction approvals. Now everything is back on the table. Inland nuclear reactor construction will get approved. The 2020 target was 58 GW but now China's nuclear firms say they will exceed that target. Nuclear industry experts believe China could hit 70-80GW of operating nuclear power in 2020.

China needs more nuclear power so that there can be less pollution from coal power. China has a massive pollution problem in the cities.

Also, China will max out hydro power construction in 2020-2025 with about 1500-2000 TWh of hydro power.
China will ultimately not be able to rely on coal power as the cheap coal will run out.
China will be adding 80% more power to its electrical grid by 2020. They are at about 130% of US electrical power now. China will add the equivalent of all of the electrical power generation in the USA by 2020. China will likely add at least double the US electrical power generation by 2030.

China electrical power 
2014   5600 TWh
2020   8000-10000 TWh
2030   15000-20000 TWh

China is set to beat its 2020 targets for nuclear power, the chairman of the country's top nuclear firm told Reuters, after getting back on track with projects that had been halted after Japan's Fukushima disaster.

China will surpass its goal of having 58 gigawatts (GW) of installed nuclear power capacity by the end of the decade, said Sun Qin, chairman of China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), adding that the country may build 20 or more nuclear reactors in the next six years.

In 2013, non-fossil fuel accounted for nearly 10 percent of China's primary energy consumption.

CNNC, which has listed its uranium resources arm CNNC International Ltd (2302.HK) in Hong Kong, is also preparing to raise as much as $3 billion for its expansion plans through an initial public offer in Shanghai, as other media has reported.

"The amount of money raised will depend on market conditions," said Sun. "I hope it can be done this year."

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 199

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 199 is up at the ANS Nuclear Cafe

Atomic Insights – Rod Adams Smoking Gun – Antinuclear Talking Points Coined by Coal Interests

Some of the earliest documented instances of opposition to the development of commercial nuclear power in the United States originated from designated representatives of the coal industry. They were the first people to mount sustained opposition to the use of taxpayer money to support the development of nuclear power stations.

They testified against the implied subsidy associated with nuclear fuel leasing and complained about the value credited to commercial plant operators for the plutonium produced during operation, even though that material was locked up inside used fuel rods. They were the first people to label the Price-Anderson nuclear liability limitations as a subsidy.

Science Fiction Writers discuss the era of starships

Fiction Writers Panel: Envisioning The Starship Era

moderated by Gregory Benford
Joe Haldeman
David Brin
Larry Niven
Vernor Vinge
Jon Lomberg

Starship Century is a symposium coordinated by the new Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination in collaboration with Gregory and James Benford, presenting ideas from their anthology of science and science fiction.

First 8 minutes most of them agree the era of interstellar starships will be 100-300 years away after there is lot of solar system development.


Nuclear thermal rocket

We need the resources of the solar system so that we can afford interstellar travel.

The NERVA rocket technology is reviewed in detail by Geoffrey Landis.
Russia did some more advanced nuclear thermal rocket work.

Look at bimodal nuclear thermal rocket for a mission to Callisto (Jupiter moon outside of the deadly radiation belt).

About 2.5 years each way.


March 11, 2014

Efficient Gas Storage and Separation - Metal organic frameworks could be the plastics of the 21st century

Solve for X: People accelerating progress on technology moonshots.

Natural gas would be far more useful if we could store it. Now we have to use high pressure or refrigeration.

Metal organic frameworks can be used for storage and separation.

Africa likely to have 500 million more people in 2050 than UN 2010 projection

In 1970, there were 360 million Africans and they amounted to a tenth of the world’s population. If fertility were to drop roughly in line with Asia’s 1970-2000 trajectory, there would be 2.1 billion Africans by 2050. If it continues on its current path, there will be 2.7 billion—a quarter of the global population then. Africa’s population will almost triple in 40 years.

This extra half-billion people will damage Africa’s prospects. The continent will find it hard to educate the next generation—and education is the most important step in realising the demographic dividend. By 2050, there could be twice as many Africans below 14 years of age as there are now.

Despite a decade of growth, the continent is not generating enough jobs in the formal economy to finance education properly. And if population growth and urbanisation continue at their current pace, the continent’s big cities could become ungovernable. Kinshasa could have 30m people by 2050; Lagos, 40m. That would make them larger and harder to manage than China’s giant cities are now.

Recent census and survey data suggest that African fertility is falling more slowly than the UN had expected in 2010, when it produced its regular worldwide population survey. Since then, 17 African countries with half the continent’s population have reported fertility rates higher than the UN had estimated. Only ten, with 14% of the population, came in lower. In almost all countries fertility is falling. But in about half of them, the fall has slowed down and in a few cases it has stopped.

NASA plans Mars Sample-Return Mission in 2022 with modified SpaceX Dragon capsule

Scientists have blueprinted a low-cost Mars sample-return mission that would use a souped-up Dragon capsule from SpaceX and the firm's planned Falcon Heavy rocket to get to the Red Planet by the early 2020s.

The new study demonstrates the viability of the entry, descent and landing of the unmanned Dragon space capsule at Mars. Moreover, the spacecraft's descent technique would help set the stage for future human missions to the Red Planet, researchers said.

It was an internal study at NASA's Ames Research Center.

The study group spent a couple of years reviewing the engineering problem. They concluded that a minimally modified Dragon capsule — dubbed "Red Dragon" — could indeed successfully perform an all-propulsive entry, descent and landing on Mars "without violating the laws of physics," Lemke said.

The Red Dragon capsule is customized to carry the gear needed to return samples gathered on Mars, including a Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV); an Earth Return Vehicle (ERV); and hardware to transfer to the ERV a sample collected in a previously landed rover mission, such as NASA’s planned Mars 2020 rover.

There was a two page briefing on the Red Dragon concept in 2012.

Foreign aid criticism from 2009 and a shift to 2014 evidence based foreign aid

An article from 2009 discussed how international aid was hurting Africa Money from rich countries has trapped many African nations in a cycle of corruption, slower economic growth and poverty. Cutting off the flow would be far more beneficial. The writer is Dambisa Moyo. She is a former economist at Goldman Sachs, is the author of "Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa."

Over the past 60 years at least $1 trillion of development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Yet real per-capita income today is lower than it was in the 1970s, and more than 50% of the population -- over 350 million people -- live on less than a dollar a day, a figure that has nearly doubled in two decades.

Even after the very aggressive debt-relief campaigns in the 1990s, African countries still pay close to $20 billion in debt repayments per annum, a stark reminder that aid is not free. In order to keep the system going, debt is repaid at the expense of African education and health care. Well-meaning calls to cancel debt mean little when the cancellation is met with the fresh infusion of aid, and the vicious cycle starts up once again.

There is a 15 page interview with Dambisa Moyo

Foreign Affairs reviews the book. "Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa."

In 2014, Tom Murphy of the Brookings Institute indicates that an era of evidence based foreign aid is here

GiveDirectly is a new standard because it has proof that evidence-based aid works and what it can actually accomplish. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have often talked about the potential of a given intervention and tell the stories of the people who benefited. Now they will have to talk about evidence.

The charity evaluator, GiveWell, gives charity recommendations based on cost-effectiveness and whether there is proof that what is being done has an impact. It has analyzed 136 charities and has recommended only four: GiveDirectly, Deworm the World, the Against Malaria Foundation and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative.

March 10, 2014

Purchasing power parity statistics delayed

The World Bank International Comparison Program still has not released its results of purchasing power parity. They released a report but no results.

At the March, 2014 meeting of the Statistical Commission : They just said "The ICP 2011 results release date will soon be scheduled and will be followed by the publication of the final report in the second quarter of 2014."

John Cramer - Exotic Paths to the Stars visa microscopic wormholes

Starship Century is a symposium coordinated by the new Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination in collaboration with Gregory and James Benford, presenting ideas from their anthology of science and science fiction.

John Cramers gave a talk, which was based on his May 2012 AV Column, “Shooting Wormholes to the Stars.” [full article at the link] John's basic premise was that if one can create a microscopic wormhole mouth and give it the charge-to-mass ratio of a proton, it could be accelerated to near light-speed with existing accelerator technology, e.g., the LHC. Then because of relativistic time dilation, as viewed through the wormhole itself, the tiny “wormhole starship” will reach the stars in a matter of days or weeks, instead of the decades or centuries required by alternative technologies.

This is an expanded version of an article published in mid-2013

Adam Crowl had coverage of the starship conference.

John Cramer a physicist from the University of Washington, well-known to SF fans via his “Alternate View” columns in the “Analog” science fiction magazine, as well as several novels. John focused on the use of wormholes to allow rapid transit to other star systems. Simply put, wormholes are “tunnels” between two regions in space-time, compatible with Einstein’s equations of General Relativity as one possible mathematical solution. Outside a wormhole itself, observers would see two “ends” of the one space-time structure. Whether wormholes exist or not is a matter for astronomical observation, as larger wormholes should produce distinctive gravitational lensing patterns that astronomers might be lucky enough to see. If the connection formed between the two ends of a wormhole is shorter than the distance through regular space-time, then passing through the wormhole allows apparently faster-than-light travel, though nothing ever exceeds lightspeed locally. Thanks to time-dilation — the slowing of time experienced when approaching lightspeed — a time-lag can be developed between the two ends if one end is sent to a distant star. For example, if a one end is accelerated to a time-dilation of 7,000 (0.99999999c), then only 75 minutes is required for the traveling end to appear to travel 1 light-year from the stationary end’s point-of-view. John Cramer discussed how this might allow a network of rapid-transit wormholes to be set-up throughout the Galaxy – with the caveat that the network can’t be allowed to form a “Closed Time-like Circuit,” else this might destroy the wormholes via amplifying quantum fields.

John G. Cramer discussed wormhole travel in an article in 1994 and in 1988

US Navy will deploy first ship with laser weapon this summer

The Navy is about to take a big step for military-kind; this summer they will add the first ship-mounted laser to their fleet. The USS Ponce will be equipped with a laser weapon. When it puts to sea this summer, the afloat forward staging base ship USS Ponce will be equipped with the Navy’s Laser Weapon System (LaWS).

LaWS is a system based on a design developed by the Navy Research Lab and engineers at the Naval Sea Systems Command and Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren.

The weapon system effective against anything from high powered drones to small watercraft.

One of the things they’re able to do as this technology develops is take the complicated laser technology that’s available and reduce it down to the point where it could be operated by a single sailor.

March 09, 2014

Blood test can predict with 90% accuracy the risk of Alzheimer's onset in the next three years

A blood test can accurately predict the onset of Alzheimer's disease, according to US researchers.

They showed that testing levels of 10 fats in the blood could predict - with 90% accuracy - the risk of the disease coming on in the next three years. The 10 markers of Alzheimer's could predict who was likely to enter mental decline in the following years.

The full power of the test has not been investigated either. So far they know a diagnosis of dementia can be predicted three years ahead of time, but the researchers are now investigating whether the test works even earlier.

Nature Medicine - Plasma phospholipids identify antecedent memory impairment in older adults

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