September 06, 2014

Project Dragonfly is competition to design interstellar laser sail probes that would be technological feasible by 2034 and launched by 2050

Project Dragonfly is a feasibility study for an interstellar mission, conducted by small, distributed spacecraft, propelled primarily by laser sails. The spacecraft shall be capable of reaching the target star system within a century and be able to decelerate. We believe that such a mission can be conducted with technology available by 2024-2034 as well as a space infrastructure, available by 2050.

The competition's main objective is to identify innovative mission architectures that are feasible in terms of required technologies as well as required resources. The final design reports of the teams shall cover all areas, which are relevant for returning scientific data from such a mission: instruments, communication, laser sail design, power supply, secondary structure, deceleration propulsion etc. Furthermore, the technological as well as economic feasibility of the architecture shall be assessed by the teams.

The designs will be evaluated on the basis of the following criteria (preliminary list, subject to change):

Technical soundness: Are the physics and engineering right?
Technological feasibility: Is it likely that the technology is available in the next 10-20 years?
Economic feasibility: Are the resources needed for the mission reasonable? Does the design exploit synergies with future space infrastructure? Is there a reasonable chance that the mission can be conducted by 2050?
Innovation: Are there approaches to drastically increase the scientific return of such a mission without compromising feasibility?

Centauri Dreams looked at some of the details of how this is becoming feasible

US Army tested 10 KW truck mounted laser and scaling to 50 kw and then 100 kw for destroying drones and mortars

[] Boeing has successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of the high-energy laser mobile demonstrator (HEL MD) in maritime conditions during a testing at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, US.

Undertaken in collaboration with the US Army, the demonstration involved a HEL MD that used a 10kW high-energy laser installed on an Oshkosh military vehicle, and successfully engaged more than 150 aerial targets, including 60mm mortars and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Boeing Directed Energy Systems director Dave DeYoung said: "Under windy, rainy and foggy weather conditions in Florida, these engagements were the most challenging to date with a 10kW laser on HEL MD.

Lithium ion batteries power the HEL MD’s laser. Batteries are charged by a 60 kW diesel generator, so if the Army can keep the fuel tank full, they can shoot down incoming threats indefinitely. The system uses a telescope and infrared-based, wide field of view camera to locate and designate targets. Boeing has designed the system to be operated by a driver and an operator with a laptop and an Xbox controller. Putting it on a truck makes the system mobile, and thus much more useful in battle situations.

It only has the cost of diesel fuel. The laser system can fire repeatedly without expending valuable munitions or additional manpower.

The team plans to install a 50kW or 60kW laser on HEL MD to demonstrate counter RAM and UAV capability at the tactically significant power level.

The 50kW or 60kW is scheduled to be upgraded to a 100kW class laser in subsequent demonstrations, while the supporting thermal and power subsystems will also be upgraded to increase the effective range of the laser or decrease the required laser time on target.

September 05, 2014

Nextbigfuture should finally get a site redesign

Nextbigfuture should finally get a site redesign.

We will be switching from Disqus to SolidOpinion in the comments.

For the site redesign please comment with

1) What are 3-4 websites that you like and see as having a "perfect" design ?
2) What are 3-4 colors that you'd like to see ?

The perfect design would be sites that look like a professional science and technology site.

Africa potential and challenges for increasing agricultural yield

[NY Times] Africa’s agricultural yields are less than half the global average, and about 25 percent of what they could potentially yield. Agricultural productivity in Africa is growing at about half the rate the population is growing.

Africa has long been a continent of small farmers, half of them women, raising maize with no fertilizer, pesticide or irrigation, on a tiny plot with a hoe. Now the little these farmers have is endangered by drought. Climate change is making Africa’s weather more extreme and erratic. Africa loses about a fifth of its maize crop because of drought. In many years, the loss is near-total. A survey of farmers in 12 countries found that in the last decade, they averaged about three wipeout years.

In 2000, the first seeds for drought-tolerant maize were planted in Malawi and Zimbabwe. Now three million farmers in 13 countries in Africa are using them. (All these strains are conventionally bred, not genetically modified.)

“One drought is something that throws farmers back into poverty,” said Bänziger. “They lose everything. During a severe drought, a farmer may harvest 5 percent of the ears of a normal crop. With drought-tolerant maize, the farmer can get 50 percent. We want to get to the point where we can save every plant.”

Pesticides and inorganic fertilizers are bad for the environment. But this is not an argument that anyone who eats in America should be making to African subsistence farmers. In 2006, an African Union Declaration on agriculture adopted the goal of 50 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare planted. At the time, Africa was using only eight kilos per hectare; America was using 120. Africa needs vastly more fertilizer use, not less.

The Green Revolution failed in Africa for reasons that remain major obstacles today. Absent research, roads, storage, extension capacity, credit and subsidies — high-yield maize will produce little, or its gains will go only to wealthier farmers.

Nation Master shows that the lowest agricultural yields are in Africa [mainly 2008 statistics]. Below are kilograms cereal grain yields per hectare. Developed countries have about 6000+ kg per hectare and the world average is about 3500 kilograms per hectare.

Kirk Sorensen describes the liquid thorium development at Flibe Energy

Kirk Sorensen (of Flibe Energy) offers "the industrial perspective" on how the upcoming "nuclear retirement retirement cliff" of today's plants, combined with large numbers of coal plants facing retirement, create opportunity for the Liquid-Fueled Thorium Reactor.

Department of Energy's "Nuclear Energy Research and Development Roadmap" states "it is ultimately industry's decision which commercial technologies will be deployed. The federal role falls more squarely in the realm of R&D."

Kirk notes that informal talks with NRC personnel, they have a great deal of optimism regarding regulation of LFTR thanks to MSR's inherent safety features. "The NRC is happy to look at anything, so long as you pay their billing rates... sometimes being different isn't all bad if you can help them achieve a higher level of safety."

Flibe Energy is currently conducting a year-long feasibility study and that should be completed by the end of this year (2014).

Terrestrial Energy has updated its molten salt reactor design

Terrestrial Energy is rethinking energy. In this video, members of the Terrestrial Energy team explain the benefits of IMSR technology, and explore the business itself.

Atomic Insights took a recent look at Terrestrial Energy The main technical description from Atomic Insights is below.

Terrestrial Energy believe there are fundamental choices that can alter the competitive balance. TEI’s choice has been to design a reactor that is more akin to a chemical reactor, with fuel that is a dissolved reactant in a solution (in this case, a salt solution) where the solution provides the transport mechanism for the heat produced in a strongly exothermic reaction. Of course, the reaction in this case is not a chemical reaction; it is a fission chain reaction.

The hot reactor fluid is circulated through multiple redundant heat exchangers sealed into the same container as the reactor. Solar salt circulates on the other side of the primary heat exchangers to transport the reactor heat to a second set of heat exchangers where water receives the heat and boils into high temperature, high pressure steam.

The salt circuits operate at high temperature but low pressure. Low pressure enables containers that are simpler, cheaper and quicker to produce compared to the containers performing similar functions in a water-cooled reactor.

September 04, 2014

Fusion isotope breeders can work with thorium molten salt reactors for nonproliferation

Nonproliferation role of 231Pa and 232U from a fusion breeder for the thorium molten salt reactor by Ralph Moir [21 pages]

Initial and makeup 233U fuel for a thorium molten salt reactor can be produced in a fusion breeder with 2.4% 232U that will make this fuel “self-protected” by its strong gamma radiation according to IAEA standards. 232U significantly contributes towards nonproliferation of nuclear weapons use. Fusion technology even early in its development towards a commercial power plant nevertheless can produce 233U by neutron capture in 232Th and simultaneously produce both 231Pa and 232U in a neutron reaction having a 6 MeV threshold making fusion’s 14 MeV neutrons uniquely well suited for this purpose. The 231Pa can make 232U by neutron capture in the fusion breeder in large enough quantity to make the simultaneously produced 233U self protected with 2.4% 232U. Excess 231Pa can be extracted and exported to fission reactors where by neutron capture 232U is made in situ for nonproliferation purposes. When the fission reactor’s conversion ratio of fertile to fissile approaches unity (breeding or isobreeding) its fissile 233U is produced internally with too little 232U nonproliferant made to satisfy the 2.4% rule because fission’s neutrons are below the 6 MeV threshold. In this case, as the conversion ratio approaches unity, 231Pa is supplied so that the production of 232U by neutron capture in 231Pa keeps 232U/233U=2.4%.

In the long term, producing 233U by fusion breeding avoids the need for isotope enrichment facilities to be greatly expanded thus contributing to nonproliferation. In the short term, before fusion bred 231Pa, 232U and 233U become available, the required fissile material can come from enriched 235U with enough 238U to be denatured for nonproliferation or can come from plutonium from spent fuel.

Isotope breeding can be a significant revenue stream for neutronic fusion systems compared to the revenue from electricity generation.

Thorium Isotope breeder proposed by Maglich who had created four Migma Colliding ion beam fusion systems

Th/U233 breeding by fusion neutrons from tokamaks is not feasible at thermonuclear ion energies, but it is viable at Ti above 200 KeV.

Bogdan Maglich says that the cause of 50 years of failures to achieve, in magnetic fusion systems, ion energy confinement time required for ignition, τE , is charge transfer scattering (CT). CT destroys beams and plasmas by neutralizing ions with giant σCT = 10^9 barn. Ignoring CT existence , ITER designers overcalculated by a factor of million expected τE = 3.8 sec Vs. max possible from classical E and M physics: 10^-6 sec (microsecond). CT neutralization dominance over ionization renders ITER a million fold energy sink at thermonuclear energies below ion energy threshold for magnetic confinement , Tmag ~ 200 KeV. In contrast, above Tmag, ionization overwhelms neutralization and τE= 24 s was achieved in colliding beam fusion 750 KeV. To make ITER , 100 KeV D0/To gas injection should be replaced by 1.4 MeV D2+ / T+ ; non-focusing magnets with strong-focusing ones; and low vacuum pumps with UHV ones.

Bogdan Maglich presented this paper at Thorium Energy Alliance Conference #6 (TEAC6), in Chicago on May 29, 2014.

Paper by Bogdan Maglich, Dan Scott (deceased) & Tim Hester of CALSEC California Science and Engineering Corp., Irvine, California

China's TCL announces quantum dot enabled 55 inch OLED TV that will one third the price of comparable OLED TVs

TCL announced a quantum dot enabled 55-inch full-gamut 4K UHD [3840 x 2160] TV with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price at one-third the cost of comparable OLED color televisions. The QD (Quantum Dots) plus LED television shatters the prohibitively high price barrier of OLED TVs which provide consumers with a richer color viewing experience.

TCL is the world’s third best-selling television brand, and QD Vision is the leading manufacturer of quantum dot optical components for HDTVs and other LCD products. The new TVs will initially be available in China, followed by additional worldwide availability.

Most mainstream LCD TV designs have had to sacrifice color quality, typically only delivering 60-70% of the NTSC color gamut standard. Color IQ is capable of delivering 100% of the NTSC color gamut, and works with all major LCD applications, including LCD TVs, LCD monitors and other displays, providing both superior color performance and high system efficiency.

The quantum dot component is mounted in the LCD backlight unit in front of blue LEDs (as opposed to white LEDs used by other manufacturers such as LG), according to Matt Mazzuchi, vice president of market and business development for QD Vision.

Monolayer graphene offers a 7-fold enhancement of evanescent for better infrared microscopy

[NanoLetters] Graphene-Enhanced Infrared Near-Field Microscopy

Graphene is a promising two-dimensional platform for widespread nanophotonic applications. Recent theories have predicted that graphene can also enhance evanescent fields for subdiffraction-limited imaging. Here, for the first time we experimentally demonstrate that monolayer graphene offers a 7-fold enhancement of evanescent information, improving conventional infrared near-field microscopy to resolve buried structures at a 500 nm depth with λ/11-resolution.

Korea made graphene nickel composite that were up to 4 times stronger than Titanium

Nature - Korean researchers developed graphene copper composite material that is 50% stronger than titanium and a graphene nickel composite that is 4 times stronger than titanium.

They demonstrated a new material design in the form of a nanolayered composite consisting of alternating layers of metal (copper or nickel) and monolayer graphene that has ultra-high strengths of 1.5 and 4.0 GPa for copper–graphene with 70-nm repeat layer spacing and nickel–graphene with 100-nm repeat layer spacing, respectively. The ultra-high strengths of these metal–graphene nanolayered structures indicate the effectiveness of graphene in blocking dislocation propagation across the metal–graphene interface. Ex situ and in situ transmission electron microscopy compression tests and molecular dynamics simulations confirm a build-up of dislocations at the graphene interface.

The copper-graphene composite that has 500 times the tensile strength of copper (1.5 gigapascals), and a nickel-grapehene composite that has 180 times the tensile strength of nickel (4 gigapascals). This is still some way off graphene’s tensile strength of 130 GPa — which is about 200 times stronger than steel (600 MPa) — but it’s still very, very strong. At 1.5 GPa, copper-graphene is about 50% stronger than titanium, or about three times as strong as structural aluminium alloys.

This was covered in August 2013 by Nextbigfuture. Apologies for the repetition.

China is driving production of graphene nanoplatelets and carbon nanotubes to the 1500-2000 ton per year level in 2016-2018

[EEtimes] China took the lead in carbon nanotube and graphene research and manufacturing, according to Lux Research, by adding to a global glut market, driving down prices, eroding margins, and likely causing an early shakeout in the fledgling industry.

Lux forecasts that the global graphene nanoplatlet and carbon nanotube demand in 2018 stands at 1,520 tons and 2,016 tons, respectively. However, China alone will be enough to feed total global graphene nanoplatlet demand until 2016.

The prices of graphene nanoplatlets and carbon nanotubes will continue to drop down once capacity and utilization climb, and the aggressive capacity expansion of Chinese companies will squeeze the profit margins of both nanomaterials.

China is funding around $2 billion from 2011 to 2015.

Tesla Motors First Gigabattery factory will be in Nevada

Tesla Motors has chosen Nevada as the site for its proposed $5 billion "gigafactory" battery plant.

Tesla has already excavated on the presumed site at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, roughly a four-hour drive from Tesla's Fremont factory. Casinos -- which need a lot of electricity -- could be prime customers of Tesla's energy storage systems. Tesla needs a 500- to 1,000-acre site to accommodate up to 10 million square feet of construction.

Tesla had previously said the "gigafactory" could employ as many as 6,500 people by 2020.

Tesla expects they will eventually have several gigafactories running at once, in different locations.

Tesla expects to sell 35,000 all-electric Model S sedans in 2014 and is gearing up production of its Model X SUV, which will hit the market next year. By 2017, it plans to begin delivery of its more affordable "Gen 3" sedan, which it hopes to sell for about $35,000, or roughly half the cost of the cheapest Model S.

The gigafactory is not just for car batteries. Tesla is increasingly exploring stationary energy storage for homes, businesses and utilities.

September 03, 2014

International Energy Agency Global Renewable Energy Forecast to 2020

In 2013, global renewable electricity generation rose by a n estimated 240 terawatt hours (TWh) (+5.0% year-on-year) to reach nearly 5 070 TWh and accounted for almost 22% of total power generation. The expansion was somewhat slower than that predicted in the Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2013 (MTRMR 2013), largely due to lower-than-expected annual hydropower availability and slower-than-expected growth in bioenergy generation. However, the renewable capacity expansion was faster than that foreseen in MTRMR 2013, with larger-than-expected deployment of hydropower and solar PV.

NOTE - This report includes big hydro power and biofuels (including ethanol) which are still the biggest part of renewable energy. By 2020 though Wind gets to be about 19% of the total renewable and wind will be near 50% of what nuclear energy generation will be.

Overall, global renewable electricity generation is expected to reach 7,310 TWh in 2020, representing an annual growth rate of more than 5.4 percent. When compared to the MTRMR 2013 estimates, the IEA notes that the outlook for bioenergy and several other technologies is less optimistic. For that reason the renewable generation forecast for 2018 is 180 TWh lower than in last year’s outlook. In particular, an executive summary of the report points to a slower growth for bioenergy in China. Moving forward bioenergy capacity is expected to expand steadily in Brazil. It is also expected to increase in India and other parts of Asia.

Global bioenergy capacity is expected to increase from 88 GW in 2013 to 133 GW in 2020. By 2020, the report predicts there will be 2,555 GW of renewable energy capacity globally. In addition to the 88 GW of bioenergy capacity, this includes 1,360 GW of hydropower capacity, 630 GW of wind capacity, 403 GW of solar PV, 11 GW of solar thermal, 16 GW of geothermal and 1 GW of ocean.

Clean energy capacity investment will still rise to $1.61 trillion by 2020. But in its first global investment outlook, the agency predicted a $20 billion drop in yearly new clean energy funding by the decade’s end to $230 billion.

The new 2018 estimation is for global renewable energy is 5,505 TWh, compared to last year’s estimate of 6,850 TWh.

Growth forecasts were lowered for all renewables, except solar PV, which should benefit from technology cost declines and rapidly scaled-up deployment in non-OECD markets.

DARPA plans to shrink brain interface and organ control electronics to the size of nerve fibers

Here is follow up news on various DARPA brain related projects

In May, Nextbigfuture reported that DARPA had $70 million in funding a project for brain implants for emotional mind control.

DARPA has a $79.8 million ElectRx project that aims to explore neuromodulation of organ functions to help the human body heal itself.

DARPA is planning to perform human trials of ElectRx in about five years. The initial goal will be improving the quality of life for US soldiers and veterans — though there’s no word on which condition DARPA will focus on.

The body’s peripheral nervous system constantly monitors the status of internal organs and helps regulate biological responses to infection, injury or other imbalances. When this regulatory process goes awry due to injury or illness, peripheral nerve signals can actually exacerbate a condition, causing pain, inflammation or immune dysfunction. A number of difficult-to-treat conditions might be managed more effectively by precise modulation of the peripheral nervous system than by conventional medical devices or medications.

“The technology DARPA plans to develop through the ElectRx program could fundamentally change the manner in which doctors diagnose, monitor and treat injury and illness,” said Doug Weber, DARPA program manager. “Instead of relying only on medication—we envision a closed-loop system that would work in concept like a tiny, intelligent pacemaker. It would continually assess conditions and provide stimulus patterns tailored to help maintain healthy organ function, helping patients get healthy and stay healthy using their body’s own systems.”

Initiated in support of the President’s brain initiative, ElectRx (pronounced “electrics”) aims to develop new, high-precision, minimally invasive technologies for modulating nerve circuits to restore and maintain human health. ElectRx technologies are also expected to help accelerate scientific research aimed at achieving a more complete understanding of the structure and function of specific neural circuits and their role in health and disease. Potential targets include recently identified circuits involved in regulating immune system function, providing new hope for treating a range of inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, systemic inflammatory response syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. ElectRx is also expected to improve peripheral nerve stimulation treatments for brain and mental health disorders, such as epilepsy, traumatic brain injury (TBI), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression

DARPA’s ElectRx program plans to develop technologies to restore and maintain healthy physiological status through monitoring and targeted regulation of signaling in peripheral nerves that control organ functions. Novel therapies based on targeted stimulation of the peripheral nervous system could promote self-healing, reduce dependence on traditional drugs and provide new treatment options for illnesses.

Isolated Russia Appears Likely to Agree to Sell China more Advanced Weapon Systems

[The Diplomat] There have been more and more signs that China will become the first foreign customer of Russia’s most advanced anti-missile system, the S-400. China’s People’s Liberation Army already operates the Russian-made S-300 anti-missile system, and Beijing and Moscow have reportedly been negotiating over the S-400 since 2010. These talks have reportedly been slowed by a number of issues, including Russia’s concern that China would reverse-engineer the advanced anti-air and anti-missile system.

[South China Morning Post] “The S-400 can engage up to 36 targets simultaneously with as many as 72 missiles at altitudes of five metres to 30 km.” It also has a range of 400 km, roughly four times the range of the S-300. Moreover, SCMP also notes that the S-400 is capable of engaging nearly all conceivable air threats, including, “tactical and strategic aircraft, ballistic missiles and hypersonic targets such as the U.S.’ F-35 fighter jet.”

No country would be as threatened by China’s acquisition of the S-400 as Taiwan. As Defense News noted earlier this year, “At present, China’s land-based mobile air defense missile systems, HQ-9 and S-300 can reach only a small sliver of northwestern Taiwan….However, with the planned purchase of the 400-kilometer-range Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, China will for the first time have complete air defense coverage of Taiwan.”

Google and AbbVie put $500 million into antiaging Calico and are prepared to up investment to a $1.5 billion total

Google's health and antiaging startup, Calico, is teaming up with biotechnology drugmaker AbbVie in a $500 million joint venture that will try to develop new ways to treat cancer and other diseases such as Alzheimer's.

AbbVie and Calico announced a novel R and D collaboration intended to help the two companies discover, develop and bring to market new therapies for patients with age-related diseases, including for neurodegeneration and cancer.

Under the agreement, the companies will combine their complementary strengths to accelerate the availability of new therapies for age-related diseases:

Calico will use its scientific expertise to establish a world-class research and development facility, with a focus on drug discovery and early drug development; and AbbVie will provide scientific and clinical development support and its commercial expertise to bring new discoveries to market.

“Our relationship with AbbVie is a pivotal event for Calico, whose mission is to develop life-enhancing therapies for people with age-related diseases. It will greatly accelerate our efforts to understand the science of aging, advance our clinical work, and help bring important therapies to patients everywhere,” said Art Levinson, CEO and founder of Calico.

Details of the Research Collaboration

AbbVie and Calico will each initially provide up to $250 million to fund the collaboration with the potential for both sides to contribute an additional $500 million (so $500 million now and possibly $1.5 billion)

Calico will be responsible for research and early development during the first five years and continue to advance collaboration projects through Phase 2a for a ten-year period

AbbVie will support Calico in its early R&D efforts and, following completion of Phase 2a studies, activities
Both parties will share costs and profits equally

$10 trillion would be needed to rebuild the electric grid to integrate solar and wind on a large scale

Andrew Dodson presents "Issues Integrating Renewables: Chasing the Wind on a Cloudy Day" at TEAC6 in Chicago (2014).

There economic and technical problems with using a lot of solar and wind.

Solar is subsidized with net metering where the utility is forced to store the excess solar power.
Hawaii has reached the point with solar energy (40%) where they are burning out their grid.


Wind causes severe frequency fluctuations both above and below 60 Hz.

Power Transients reduce reliability.

Non-dispatchability requires standby generation
Low capacity factor hurts payback (EROI).

Geographic non-optimal limitations.

Resonance between power line compensators and rotating machinery.

Sudden gusting behavior for wind, and cloud cover for solar both introduce serious transient behavior in power supply. Backup Power supplies that can compensate for this are inefficient in their use of fuel (Single cycle gas turbines vs. combined cycle) Regardless, operators must meet their obligations to provide high quality CONSISTENT power.

System Operators are SERIOUSLY penalized for violations of contractual power quality. Grid operators are heavily fined, sometimes millions of dollars per year for failure to appropriately regulate power. Brownouts/Blackouts are serious cost issues for large industry. Reliable power is the goal in utility industry. They typically operate at 99.5% or more (less than half a day per year)

John Kutsch provides an informative energy rant and another video debunks Caldicott

The morning after Thorium Energy Alliance #6 (TEAC6) ended, John Kutsch engaged in a hotel-room interview. John is concerned about global warming and ocean acidification, yet does not see solar or wind as an effective means of lowering our carbon emissions.

"Incompetence often looks like conspiracy so I try to fall on the side of incompetence. But whether it is incompetence or conspiracy it is working exactly to what our adversaries want. We are deindustrializing the western world."

The boundaries we use to measure Return On Energy Investment pertaining to solar are often quite limited... it doesn't take long for a solar panel to replace the energy needed to create the solar panel itself, but the entire infrastructure required to make intermittent energy practical is significant.

Previous life cycle and energy payback time analyses used models (not years of data from real physical systems) that left out dozens of energy inputs, leading to overestimates of energy such as payback time of 1-2 years (Fthenakis), EROI 8.3 (Bankier), and EROI of 5.9 to 11.8 (Raugei et al).

Prieto and Hall conclude that the EROI of solar photovoltaic is only 2.45.

September 02, 2014

Reviewing Leading Economist Lester Thurow who was wrong as a Europe Optimist and a China Pessimist

For three decades, Lester C. Thurow has been one of the most widely read economists in the United States.

Lester Carl Thurow is an American political economist, former dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management, and author of books on economic topics. Thurow is on the board of directors of Analog Devices, Grupo Casa Autrey, E-Trade, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp.. Thurow was also one of the original founders of the Economic Policy Institute in 1986. Thurow is currently an economics columnist for, among others, the Boston Globe and USA Today. He was previously an economics columnist for and on the editorial board of the New York Times, and was a contributing editor to Newsweek.

Thurow is a longtime advocate of a political and economic system of the Japanese and European type, in which governmental involvement in the direction of the economy is far more extensive than is presently the case in the United States – a model that has come to be known as "Third Way" philosophy.

His ideas are often very broad and sometimes lack analytical substantiation, and he is consistently too pessimistic, especially about the United States. His predictions can be wrong, too. A good example is his 1992 conclusion in Head to Head: The Coming Economic Battle among Japan, Europe, and America that Europe would be the most competitive entity in the world.

Not only did he pick Europe as the winner, Thurow did not even include China his list of three competing forces.

Europe’s per capita income fell from 85 percent of that of the United States in 1990 to 66 percent in 2007, according to International Monetary Fund statistics.

The Economist magazine has a recent article about how the Euro and Eurozone economies are again in big trouble.

What started more than four years ago as a banking and sovereign-debt crisis has decayed into a growth crisis that is now enveloping the three biggest economies. Germany is teetering on the edge of recession. France is mired in stagnation. Italy’s GDP is barely above its level when the single currency came in 15 years ago. Since these three countries account for two-thirds of euro-zone GDP, growth in places like Spain and the Netherlands cannot make up for their torpor.

The underlying causes of Europe’s new ills are three very familiar and interrelated problems. First, there is a shortage of political leaders with the courage and conviction to push through structural reforms to improve competitiveness and, eventually, reignite growth: the big countries have wasted the two years bought by Mr Draghi’s “whatever it takes” commitment. Second, public opinion is not convinced of the urgent need for deep and radical changes. And third, despite Mr Draghi’s efforts, the monetary and fiscal framework is too tight, throttling growth—which makes structural reforms harder.

Google will build their own Quantum computer hardware with fault tolerance at Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab

The Quantum Artificial Intelligence team at Google is launching a hardware initiative to design and build new quantum information processors based on superconducting electronics.

John Martinis and his team at UC Santa Barbara will join Google in this initiative. John and his group have made great strides in building superconducting quantum electronic components of very high fidelity. John was recently awarded the London Prize recognizing him for his pioneering advances in quantum control and quantum information processing.

Superconducting circuits at the surface code threshold for fault tolerance

John Martinis and his team published in the Journal Nature - Superconducting quantum circuits at the surface code threshold for fault tolerance

The superconducting quantum circuit with five Xmon qubits (cross-shaped devices) placed in a linear array. The quantum device shows logic gates with fidelities at the surface code threshold for fault tolerance. (Photo credit: Erik Lucero.)

With an integrated hardware group the Quantum AI team will now be able to implement and test new designs for quantum optimization and inference processors based on recent theoretical insights as well as our learnings from the D-Wave quantum annealing architecture. We will continue to collaborate with D-Wave scientists and to experiment with the “Vesuvius” machine at NASA Ames which will be upgraded to a 1000 qubit “Washington” processor.

Limits to Growth backers brag about getting part of scenario right where the model was tuned to match the UN 1968 population projection

[] The 1972 book Limits to Growth, which predicted our civilisation would probably collapse some time this century, has been criticised as doomsday fantasy since it was published.

The entire 211 page book is online.

There were dozens of model runs in the book.

The Limits to Growth apologists seem to be taking credit for where the model was tuned to match the 1968 UN population projection.

The projections are extremely crude. They are using the exponential factors. So missing by 0.4 instead of 0.5 on an exponential can easily mean being incorrect by a half or a double.

So the Limits to Growth are trumpeting the fact that they tuned one model run to the UN population projection and noted 40 years of business as usual, then they tack on a doomsday scenario. They claim - "see nothing happened for forty years and now doomsday will appear." Of course when doomsday does not appear they can backtrack to the "timing is not important but it will collapse sometime before 2100".

The Limits to Growth claim methodology can also be used to justify the Technological Singularity. The World progresses as normal for a few decades and then it becomes completely different.

The Limits to Growth authors do not show an understanding of how resource reserves are calculated based on current prices and based upon how resource companies have to prove and book their reserves for accounting purposes.

US Army looks at Megacity Urban warfare the 2030s

Within about two decades, roughly 60 percent of the world's population will live in cities, particularly megacities of more than 10 million, according to a recent National Intelligence Council projection.

A megacity disaster scenario was set in the "deep future," 2030 to 2040. Constructive simulation, using computers, was used to create a fictitious environment, weapons, and red, blue and green players, meaning enemy, friendly and host-nation military, he said.

There were some key takeaways from the exercise.

"You can't just pour brigade after brigade into a megacity. They'll just get swallowed up," said Col. Kevin Felix, chief of the Future Warfare Division, who also participated in the media roundtable.

By being swallowed up, he meant operating in a dense urban landscape where command and control becomes problematic and where the enemy hides itself and its weaponry among the civilian populace. Some of that weaponry in the scenario turned out to be biological and chemical.

The red players, or enemy, "surprised us as well. They did less fighting than expected," Felix said. "They focused on the long game, keeping their heads down," waiting for the government to fail and the right time to set their plans in motion.

Felix compared their tactics to the Japanese during the Battle for Okinawa. The Americans in 1945 were allowed to land on the beaches relatively unopposed, while the enemy hid in well-concealed and protected caves in the hills farther inland, bidding their time.

To operate in a deep future megacity, the Army is preparing its Soldiers today to have a better understanding, respect and appreciation of cultural differences as they train with regionally aligned forces worldwide. Felix said relationships can make a big difference in the outcome of a megacity intervention.

Update on Ukraine Casualties and situation

Guardian UK, Valentina Melnikova, head of the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, the main organisation representing the troops' families, said an estimated 7,000-8,000 Russian troops were believed to be in Ukraine.

According to her estimates, between 10,000-15,000 troops have been deployed to Ukraine in recent weeks.

The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers and Citizen and the Army, another rights group representing servicemen, said they did not have any officially confirmed casualty lists. Other rights campaigners, citing information from relatives and military personnel, said at least 200 members of the armed forces might have died in Ukraine.

Sergei Krivenko, head of Citizen and the Army, and Ella Polyakova, who leads Soldiers' Mothers in St Petersburg, said an estimated 100 soldiers from the 18th Infantry Brigade in Chechnya were believed to have died in Ukraine.

China's high speed rail dominance is built upon Tunneling expertise and dominance in tunnel boring machines

For growing cities having tunnels is no longer considered a luxury – they are a necessity as land is a precious commodity. Going underground frees up surface land for other development, and in fact, having metro stations nearby increases the value of land, which could be recouped (if necessary) from higher property assessments and quit rents.

For example, a city the size of Shanghai has 12 metro lines, and the city won’t be stopping underground construction any time soon. Xian, the capital of the Shaanxi province, will have up to six metro lines by 2020 (two are already in operation).

“At any given time, there are around 700 TBMs (Tunnel Boring Machines) running throughout China,” says Li in trying to give us a sense of the “underground movements” that are taking place in that country. Even at the peak of tunnelling in Kuala Lumpur for the Klang Valley mass rapid transit (MRT) project, only eight TBMs ran simultaneously.

Tunnels for speed and efficiency

If the Chinese Government approves the proposed Bohai Strait tunnel, then China will hold the record for the longest undersea tunnel at 122km – 2.5 times longer than the Channel Tunnel.

The proposed Bohai tunnel will run between the northern city of Dalian and Yantai on the east coast, slicing off nearly 1,300km off the current overland route between the two cities.

Straighter high speed rail lines enable faster speeds. Straighter lines require more tunneling.

Tunneling also goes together with bridges. Bridges to go over obstacles. Tunnels to go under or through obstacles.

China’s expertise in tunnelling is being brought to bear in Malaysia. This image is of a Chinese tunnel-boring machine excavating the second longest portion of the 9.5km-long MRT tunnels in Kuala Lumpur.

September 01, 2014

3D printed concrete castle and plans to create and sell a concrete printer kit for about $30,000 to $50,000 that can print two story houses

[In Minnesota, contractor Andrey Rudenko is currently working on a project of gargantuan proportions that seems to be stretching and exploring the limits of 3D printing technology. Using a printer that was substantially modified and expanded, he has printed a concrete castle in his own backyard. And at 3 by 5 meters, this concrete structure is the world's first 3D printed concrete castle, and one of the largest objects that has, up till now, ever printed with 3D printing technology.

The project and plans were written up at

Contour crafting has been under development for several years but has not gotten to commercialized production of houses. There were ten houses built in China using 3D printing earlier this year. This project could soon bring 3Dhouse printing to the popular Maker movement and building contractors.

Carnival of Space 369

August 31, 2014

Nanoscale metallic nanoparticle arrays can create super high resolution holograms for information storage and 3D displays

Holograms made of tiny particles of silver could double the amount of information that can be stored in digital optical devices, such as sensors, displays and medical imaging devices.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed a new method for making multi-coloured holograms from a thin film of silver nanoparticles, which could greatly increase the storage capabilities of typical optical storage devices.

The interference produced by the interaction of light with the nanoparticles allows the holograms to go beyond the normal limits of diffraction, or the way in which waves spread or bend when they encounter an opening or obstacle.

PNAS - Plasmonic nanoparticle scattering for color holograms

New Novartis Heart Failure Drug LCZ696 is 20% better than the current best drug and could save the world $20 billion and save hundreds of thousand of lives each year

Novartis revealed that its investigational heart failure medicine, LCZ696, was superior to ACE-inhibitor enalapril [current gold standard heart failure treatment] on key endpoints in the largest heart failure study ever done. In PARADIGM-HF patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HF-REF) who were given LCZ696 were more likely to be alive and less likely to have been hospitalized for sudden deterioration of their heart failure than those given ACE-inhibitor enalapril. Patients received LCZ696 or enalapril on top of current best treatment.

The LCZ696 study, involving involved more than 8,400 patients, compared the drug against enalapril, a cheap generic that is one of the most widely-prescribed treatments currently on the market.

The magnitude of benefit with LCZ696 against enalapril in HF-REF patients was highly statistically significant and clinically important. In the study, the benefit of LCZ696 was seen early, was sustained and was consistent across subgroups. LCZ696:

* reduced the risk of death from cardiovascular causes by 20% (p=0.00004)
* reduced heart failure hospitalizations by 21% (p=0.00004)
* reduced the risk of all-cause mortality by 16% (p=0.0005)

Overall there was a 20% risk reduction on the primary endpoint, a composite measure of CV death or heart failure hospitalization.

"By demonstrating a very significant reduction in cardiovascular deaths while improving Quality of Life, Novartis' new heart failure medicine, LCZ696, represents one of the most important cardiology advances of the last decade," said David Epstein, Division Head, Novartis Pharmaceuticals. "We want to thank leading cardiologists from around the world for their collaboration with us and their determination in advancing this important new life saving therapy for heart failure patients."

Heart failure costs the world economy $108 billion each year, and hospitalizations comprise 60-70% of treatment costs.

Aquarius a nuclear thermal rocket that uses water heated to over 3000 degrees celsius to solve many human interplanetary transportation issues

The Space Enterprise Institute has a proposed design for a reusable interplanetary transport.

Attributes of a reusable interplanetary human spaceflight transport are proposed and applied to example transits between the Earth/Moon system and Deimos, the outer moon of Mars. Because the transport is 54% water by mass at an interplanetary departure, it is christened Aquarius. In addition to supporting crew hydration/hygiene, water aboard Aquarius serves as propellant and as enhanced crew habitat radiation shielding during interplanetary transit. Key infrastructure and technology supporting Aquarius operations include pre-emplaced consumables and subsurface habitat at Deimos with crew radiation shielding equivalent to sea level on Earth, resupply in a selenocentric distant retrograde orbit, and nuclear thermal propulsion.

Advancing in-space nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) technology to the point where fission reactor core temperatures exceeding 3000° C can be achieved during major translational maneuvers (burns). Under these conditions, water molecules pumped into the core will disassociate into hydrogen and oxygen atoms, and specific impulse ISP near 1000 s could be achieved. This level of efficiency, twice that attainable with chemical propulsion, dramatically reduces total mass for an interplanetary transport of specified payload mass.

When high propulsive efficiency is achieved with water as propellant, the practicality of interplanetary human spaceflight is enhanced in multiple respects.

1.liquid water is easily stored for months or years without exotic thermal conditioning burdens imposed by cryogens or toxicity hazards associated with hypergols.

2. liquid water stored about the crew habitat to support arrival propulsion requirements at an interplanetary destination also serves as an effective radiation shield during interplanetary transit.

3. water is arguably the most common volatile to be found on small bodies such as asteroids and minor moons throughout our solar system, leading to the promise of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). With ISRU producing
water for propulsion, radiation shielding, and hydration/hygiene near an interplanetary destination, mass to be transported there from Earth in support of crew return is virtually eliminated.

Is technical risk of the presumably higher 3000° C nuclear reactor core temperature necessary to "burn" water
propellant and achieve this ISP (875-1000 ISP) a good trade against the potentially greater difficulties
of refining, storing, and transporting liquid hydrogen, particularly in an ISRU context

There was an 18 page presentation at NASA FISO

Spacex Commercial Spaceflight Overview presented at NASA FISO

Spacex has over $3 Billion in backlog orders and $5 billion in orders to date.

• Diverse customer case
– over 50 Falcon 9/Heavy missions sold
– ~35% US Government
– ~65% Commercial

India's economy getting back on track with 5.7% GDP growth in first quarter

[Hindustan Times] The Indian economy expanded at its fastest pace in two-and-a-half years in the quarter ending June on the back of a turnaround in manufacturing as sentiment was boosted by the Narendra Modi government’s measures to help recover from the longest slump in a quarter of a century.

Data released on Friday showed gross domestic product (GDP) grew by a better-than-expected 5.7% in April-June, sharply higher than 4.6% in the previous quarter, signalling a revival in the economy.

In comparison, China has more GDP growth at 7.0-7.5% and at its same stage of development China was producing 10-12% GDP growth. India with a more youthful and growing demographics needs to be generating solid 10+% GDP growth if they were aspiring to match China's rise.

China's economy looking resilient during economic transition and should be solidly safe by 2020

Bloomberg Businessweek performed a review of the best available alternative numbers for China's economy. It reveals a story strikingly similar to that told by official statistics. Real estate is weak, and that is denting industrial production. But overseas sales are resilient, and so is consumption by China’s middle class. With inflation low and stimulus efforts so far limited, the government has scope to do more to boost China’s economic growth.

A trawl of the news reveals that fears of an imminent collapse in China’s growth have eased. A search for stories with the words “China” and “hard landing” shows a fall to 86 stories in July from a recent high of 175 in June. News coverage also confirms that China’s government has kept its stimulus in the “mini” category. A little more than 1,000 stories used the words “China” and “stimulus” in July, compared with a high of 2,900 in March 2009—the time of the government’s 4 trillion yuan splurge.

Nextbigfuture take on data roughly confirming the official economic story

China's economy is in a transition phase. China being able to grow at 7.0-7.5% from now through 2016 and at 6.0-7.0% from 2017 to 2020 will give China the time to grow its consumer and service economies. By 2020, China's economy would be about 50% bigger than it is now. This would also make China's economy 30-35% larger than the US economy in 2020.

China's per capita income on a nominal basis would be about $13000 and on a purchasing power parity basis would be about $22000. This would be put China between Mexico and Malyasia in per capita GDP PPP. This is about where South Korea was in 2005.

TVA within about 18 months of completing the Watts Bar 2 nuclear reactor

TVA officials say they are on pace to start operating the new Watts Bar reactor — the second at the power plant — in December 2015. That could make Watts Bar the nation's first new civilian nuclear power unit to come online in the 21st century. NRC might cause slippage into early 2016. The new Watts Bar reactor could cost as much as $4.5 billion.

About 30 percent of TVA’s power supply comes from its three nuclear plants: Browns Ferry, near Athens, Ala.; Sequoyah, in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., and Watts Bar, near Spring City, Tenn. Those plants alone make enough electricity to power more than three million homes in the Tennessee Valley.

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