December 06, 2014

Cities, States and Provinces with GDP bigger than Switzerland, 20th ranked country in the world

Here is a wikipedia list of the provinces and states with the biggest GDP.

Zhejiang, Henan and Hebei are provinces in China with $460-607 billion in GDP in 2013. China's faster growth should move them past Switzerland in about 2016 to 2022.

IARPA trying to revolutionize machine intelligence by using megascale neuronal circuits based on understanding of cortical elements

The IARPA MICrONS program is predicated on the notion that it will be possible to revolutionize machine intelligence if we can construct algorithms that utilize the same data representations, transformations, and learning rules as those employed and implemented by the cortical computing primitives.

Although a significant body of neuroscience data has been collected over the past 100+ years, the majority of what is known about the brain is about its microscale (one or a few neurons) or macroscale (hundreds of thousands or millions of neurons) operation. Much less is known about the detailed structure and function of the mesoscale cortical microcircuits (hundreds to tens of thousands of neurons) that embody the cortical computing primitives, because until recently there have been few tools available to interrogate the brain at the requisite resolution (nanometers) and scale (millimeters). MICrONS seeks to use emerging technologies in high-resolution and high-throughput brain mapping—such as serial electron microscopy and volumetric calcium imaging—to address this gap in our understanding of cortical computation and to exploit the findings to enhance machine intelligence.

The overall and specific goal of the MICrONS program is to create a new generation of machine learning algorithms derived from high-fidelity representations of cortical microcircuits to achieve human-like performance on complex information processing tasks.

Leading Artificial intelligence efforts at Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are not working with IARPA. The attendees were drawn from a mix of startups, universities, and IBM, which has a large-scale cognitive research effort.

IARPA superconducting computing project trying to get the technology ready for industry to start adoption in about 2020

IARPA expects that the Cryogenic Computing Complexity (C3) program will be a five-year, two-phase program. Phase one, which encompasses the first three years, serves primarily to develop the technologies that are required to demonstrate a small superconducting processor. Phase two, for the final two years, will integrate those new technologies into a small-scale working model of a superconducting computer.

C3 Program thrusts will include:

* Cryogenic memory: New approaches to enable high performance computing systems with greatly improved memory capacity and energy efficiency.
* Logic, communications and systems: Development of advanced superconducting circuits and integration with memory and other components for demonstration of a limited superconducting computer system on which to measure performance metrics.

Quantum Computer systems will need to spend a lot of time on error correction

The IARPA Quantum Computer Science (QCS) Program explores questions relating to the computational resources required to run quantum algorithms on realistic quantum computers.

Any implementation of a quantum algorithm requires not only programming the algorithm at a logical level but also the incorporation of error correction and control schemes at the physical level, and resource estimation must account for all of these factors. The QCS program is developing a tool chain to study these issues throughout the computing process.

The tools will include an integrated development environment for the quantum programming languages already developed by the program, compilers to generate logical circuits, and tools for analyzing quantum error correction and control protocols. Through its research QCS will build a foundation for measuring and reducing the resources required to program and implement complex quantum algorithms of realistic size."

Theoretical claims have largely ignored overhead associated with instantiation of algorithms by realistic physical systems.
• QCS looked at annotated algorithms, that is, all of the quantum operations required to implement an algorithm
including control, housekeeping, and error correction
• In the absence of such actual systems, QCS posited PMDs that, albeit idealized, will approximate best case performance
• QCS parameterized PMDs so as to be able to look at a range of error correction techniques and algorithms

Making better qubits and quantum computer systems at IARPA

1. The goal of the Coherherent Superconducting Qubit (CSQ) program is to demonstrate a reproducible, ten-fold increase in coherence times in superconducting qubits.

To achieve this goal, researchers are focused on developing
1) fundamental understanding of defects that currently limit coherence times (T1 and T2) and readout fidelity;
2) means to characterize, measure and definitively discriminate between separate defect mechanisms contributing to loss and dephasing; and
3) novel designs, materials and fabrication methods to eliminate these defects.

December 05, 2014

The useful future for exoskeletons is not the vision of iron man but old and crippled Batman using an exoskeleton

The comic book reference whenever exoskeleton developments are announced is Iron man. However, the major societal impact for exoskeletons and exosuits is to replace wheel chairs and crutches for the disabled and for frail elderly. This was shown in the Kingdom Come series in DC where an old and crippled Batman (Bruce Wayne) used an exoskeleton to walk around.

Goldman Sachs supplying discounted liquidity to Venezuela in signs Venezuela is at the point of bankruptcy

Cornered by liquidity problems, the Venezuela regime of Nicholas Maduro investment bank Goldman Sachs obligations for more than $4 billion that the Dominican Republic owed to Venezuela for oil supplied through Petrocaribe, receiving only 41 percent the total value of debt, according to sources close to the operation.

The transaction would involve a gain of 59 percent for Goldman Sachs, equivalent to $2.36 billion, on payment of $ 1.75 million grant to Venezuela for the obligations in August this year totaled about $4.090 billion.

The financial crisis facing the regime generated great doubts about the country's ability to continue to support the costs of subsidizing oil economy with Cuba and its other allies.

Zero hedge noted the financial problems for Venezuela

Real 5G probably not until 2022 or later but things called 4.5G and 5G will be deployed sooner

The actual benefit of going from 3G to 4G mobile have been disappointing.

Michael Peeters, wireless CTO at Alcatel-Lucent, is therefore frustrated with the industry’s approach to 5G technology. Companies are throwing into 5G pretty much everything that was not included in earlier technology evolutions, with examples including massive MIMO, machine-to-machine (M2M) and millimeter-wave technologies. Further, he noted some companies are arguing that intellectual property and assets that they possess should be considered 5G components even though 5G has not even been defined.

* 5G technology will not be deployed until companies prepare themselves for “4.5G” which involves deploying small cells so that costs can go down in congested areas.
* Any significant upgrade (such as actual 5G technology) will not truly be ready until at the least 2022-2023.

While LTE and LTE-A deployments are still underway, wireless carriers and vendors have already embarked on R&D projects to develop 5G standards, which offer even higher data rates than LTE-A. SNS Research predicts that fully commercial 5G services will be rolled out by the end of 2020.

Holographic Projection Technology and holographic TVs are tracking to mid-2020s for significant commercialization

In 2013, MIT forecasted that holographic televisions could be in living rooms in the next 10 years at the price of today’s two-dimensional sets. Technology being developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, said Michael Bove, head of the lab’s Object-Based Media Group.

The lab, known for inventing the technology behind electronic ink, has created a holographic chip that can support the display of more than 50 gigapixels per second and simulate real-life objects by bending projected light in a continuous range of directions, eliminating the need for three-dimensional glasses.

Samsung is the world’s biggest seller of 3-D televisions with 27 percent of the market, followed by LG with 17.6 percent, according to researcher NPD DisplaySearch. Sales of such TVs are expected to reach $47.3 billion this year and are projected to increase 26 percent to $59.7 billion in 2016, NPD said.

Three Dimensional Holograms that can be touched and felt are bit more advanced than the ones in Japan in 2009

New research, using ultrasound, has developed a virtual 3D haptic shape that can be seen and felt.

The method uses ultrasound, which is focused onto hands above the device and that can be felt. By focusing complex patterns of ultrasound, the air disturbances can be seen as floating 3D shapes. Visually, the researchers have demonstrated the ultrasound patterns by directing the device at a thin layer of oil so that the depressions in the surface can be seen as spots when lit by a lamp.

The system generates a virtual 3D shape that can be added to 3D displays to create something that can be seen and felt. The research team have also shown that users can match a picture of a 3D shape to the shape created by the system.

Nextbigfuture covered touchable hologram work in 2009 that was being done in Japan.

Ultrasound is focused to create the shape of a virtual sphere Bristol Interaction and Graphics group, University of Bristol, copyright © 2014

Journal ACM Transactions on Graphics - Rendering volumetric haptic shapes in mid-air using ultrasound

IARPA funding the scaling of superconducting computing for energy efficient exaflop computing

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) invests in high-risk, high-payoff research programs to tackle some of the most difficult challenges of the agencies and disciplines in the Intelligence Community (IC). IARPA is investing in breakthrough superconducting computing to enable energy efficient exaflop supercomputers. They could make an exaflop supercomputer that use 2 megawatts or less. The Cryogenic Computing Complexity (C3) is the name of the superconducting computer project.

Conventional computing systems, which are based on complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) switching devices and normal metal interconnects, appear to have no path to be able to increase energy efficiency fast enough to keep up with increasing demands for computation.

Superconducting computing could offer an attractive low-power alternative to CMOS with many potential advantages. Josephson junctions, the superconducting switching devices, switch quickly (~1 ps), dissipate little energy per switch (< 10^-19 J), and communicate information via small current pulses that propagate over superconducting transmission lines nearly without loss. While, in the past, significant technical obstacles prevented serious exploration of superconducting computing, recent innovations have created foundations for a major breakthrough. For example, the new single flux quantum (SFQ) logic circuits have no static power dissipation, and new energy efficient cryogenic memory ideas allow operation of memory and logic within the cold environment. Studies indicate that superconducting supercomputers may be capable of 1 PFLOP/s for about 25 kW and 100 PFLOP/s for about 200 kW, including the cryogenic cooler. Proof at smaller scales is an essential first step before any attempt to build a supercomputer. Early research suggests superconducting logic can switch at speeds north of 770GHz as shown by work at MIT

Success with the superconducting computing would also first enable Petaflop superworkstations or servers that only needed about 25 kilowatts of power.

Shown here is a square-centimeter chip containing the nTron adder, which performed the first computation using the researchers' new superconducting circuit. Image: Adam N. McCaughan

December 04, 2014

China's overinvestment about level to US military overspending at $5 to 11 trillion over 15 years

Chinese National Development and Reform Commission Estimate of Over Investment at Probably less than $10.8 trillion sine 1997

A recent study performed by two economists affiliated with the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), Beijing’s powerful economic planning and regulatory agency, offered a revealing glimpse into this puzzle. The economists examined two indicators: the delivery rate of completed fixed-asset investment projects and the incremental capital output ratio (ICOR), which measures how much additional capital is required to generate an extra unit of GDP growth. The researchers concluded that both measures show an alarming increase in wasteful and ineffective investments in China.

The delivery rate of completed capital projects, which was 74-79% in the late 1990s, has now fallen below 60%. This implies that nearly 40% of Chinese investment projects are either not finished on time or not completed at all.

The even more alarming figure, which made headlines around the world, is that ineffective investment has cost China $10.8 trillion since 1997. Sixty-two percent of the wasteful investment—$6.8 trillion—was made after 2009, when China went on an investment binge to stimulate its economy.

The two scholars reached this startling conclusion by noting that China’s ICOR has risen 50%, from 2.6 (for the period of 1979-1996) to 4 (for the period of 1997-2013). In practical terms, this means that before 1997 China needed $2.60 in investment to generate one dollar of GDP growth; today, China needs $4 to produce a dollar of GDP growth. The rise of ICOR, according to the researchers, indicates that China’s investments have become less efficient.

To be sure, one can raise technical questions about using ICOR to estimate investment efficiency. A country’s ICOR can rise as its economy becomes more capital intensive. Obviously, agriculture requires less capital than manufacturing. In China’s case, ICOR was 0.3 for agriculture but 5.9 for manufacturing during 2001-2007. Therefore, in all likelihood, the estimate that China has flushed $10.8 trillion down the drain since 1997 should be taken with caution.

In the 10 years after September 11, 2001 the USA spent more than $7.6 trillion on defense and homeland security. A trillion per year for defense and security in 2012, 2013 and 2014 would be about $10.6 trillion.

The costs of the wars since 2001 has been about $4.4 trillion.

Ground-Based detection of super-earth exoplanets

Astronomers have measured the passing of a super-Earth in front of a bright, nearby Sun-like star using a ground-based telescope for the first time. The transit of the exoplanet 55 Cancri e is the shallowest detected from the ground yet. Since detecting a transit is the first step in analyzing a planet's atmosphere, this success bodes well for characterizing the many small planets that upcoming space missions are expected to discover in the next few years.

The international research team used the 2.5-meter Nordic Optical Telescope on the island of La Palma, Spain, a moderate-sized facility by today's standards but equipped with state-of-the-art instruments, to make the detection. Previous observations of this planet transit had to rely on space-borne telescopes.

Arxiv - Ground-Based Transit Observations of the Super-Earth 55 Cnc e

Trillions needed for World Energy Infrastructure Buildout to 2030

India needs to invest $250 billion over the next five years to tackle chronic energy shortages and provide power for all its 1.2 billion people, Power Minister Piyush Goyal said. Nearly 40 percent of India’s 1.2 billion residents do not have access to reliable electricity, a gap that President Modi has pledged to eliminate in the coming five years.

Although coal will continue to reign in the country, Goyal claimed earlier this year that India will be a “renewables superpower," according to The Guardian. He suggested India could easily add 10 gigawatts of solar annually. Last month, the government approved the nation's first offshore wind farm.

India is forecast to see a quadrupling of its power generation capacity, from 236GW in 2013 to 887GW in 2030, with 169GW of the additions taking the form of utility-scale solar and 98GW onshore wind. Hydro will see capacity boosted by 95GW, coal by 155GW and gas by 55GW. Total investment to 2030 will be $754bn, with $477bn of that in renewables.

Nicaragua Canal and Fourth Locks for Panama Canal

1. Nicaragua's 6 million people are among the poorest, with as many as a quarter living on less than two dollars a day, which makes subsistence farming all the more important.

President Ortega has described the canal, which would dwarf the old Panama Canal and the new one under construction as well, as “phase two” of the Nicaraguan revolution. He vows that it will create 250,000 jobs, lift Nicaragua out of poverty and make it the maritime capital of the world. He has dismissed canal critics as anti-revolutionary and anti-development. If Ortega pulls it off, it would secure his legacy and could pave the way for his favourite son Laureano, who negotiated the Chinese deal, to take over the dynasty.

Plans to construct a $50 billion shipping canal and channel 175 miles long and more than 500 yards wide have triggered protests. Construction is due to begin before the end of December (the announced start date is December 22nd, 2014), which means that lands will be taken, villages relocated. The canal project will bisect Lake Nicaragua—Central America’s largest lake—and forcibly displace almost 300 communities, including Rama and Creole settlements from protected indigenous territories on the Caribbean coast.

Construction of Nicaragua's $50 billion Interoceanic Grand Canal, expected to rival the Panama Canal, will begin Dec. 22 after feasibility studies have been approved, the committee overseeing the project said

2. China has already expressed interest in construction of the fourth set of locks in Panama.

Infrared laser enables room temperature superconductivity for picoseconds

An infrared laser pulse briefly modifies the structure of a high-temperature superconductor and thus removes its electrical resistance even at room temperature.

Superconductivity is a remarkable phenomenon: superconductors can transport electric current without any resistance and thus without any losses whatsoever. It is already in use in some niche areas, for example as magnets for nuclear spin tomography or particle accelerators. However, the materials must be cooled to very low temperatures for this purpose. But during the past year, an experiment has provided some surprise. With the aid of short infrared laser pulses, researchers have succeeded for the first time in making a ceramic superconducting at room temperature – albeit for only a few millionths of a microsecond. An international team, in which physicists from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg have made crucial contributions, has now been able to present a possible explanation of the effect in the journal Nature: The scientists believe that laser pulses cause individual atoms in the crystal lattice to shift briefly and thus enhance the superconductivity. The findings could assist in the development of materials which become superconducting at significantly higher temperatures and would thus be of interest for new applications.

No resistance at room temperature: The resonant excitation of oxygen oscillations (blurred) between CuO2 double layers (light blue, Cu yellowy orange, O red) with short light pulses leads to the atoms in the crystal lattice briefly shifting away from their equilibrium positions. This shift brings about an increase in the separations of CuO2 layers within a double layer and a simultaneous decrease in the separations between double layers. It is highly probable that this enhances the superconductivity. © Jörg Harms/MPI for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter

Nature - Nonlinear lattice dynamics as a basis for enhanced superconductivity in YBa2Cu3O6.5

Algorithmic Intelligence Quotient

I covered the Shane Legg talk on Algorithmic Intelligence Quotient back in 2010. I am revisiting it with a video of the talk and a paper on it. It is important because Shane Legg works in Deepmind and it is how they guided improvement in their algorithms.

Measuring universal intelligence: Towards an anytime intelligence test"

This was the development the idea of a universal anytime intelligence test. The meaning of the terms “universal” and “anytime” is manifold here: the test should be able to measure the intelligence of any biological or artificial system that exists at this time or in the future. It should also be able to evaluate both inept and brilliant systems (any intelligence level) as well as very slow to very fast systems (any time scale). Also, the test may be interrupted at any time, producing an approximation to the intelligence score, in such a way that the more time is left for the test, the better the assessment will be. In order to do this, our test proposal is based on previous works on the measurement of machine intelligence based on Kolmogorov complexity and universal distributions, which were developed in the late 1990s (C-tests and compression-enhanced Turing tests). It is also based on the more recent idea of measuring intelligence through dynamic/interactive tests held against a universal distribution of environments. We discuss some of these tests and highlight their limitations since we want to construct a test that is both general and practical. Consequently, we introduce many new ideas that develop early “compression tests” and the more recent definition of “universal intelligence” in order to design new “universal intelligence tests”, where a feasible implementation has been a design requirement. One of these tests is the “anytime intelligence test”, which adapts to the examinee's level of intelligence in order to obtain an intelligence score within a limited time.

Complex 3-d DNA Structures

MIT biological engineers have created a new computer model that allows them to design the most complex three-dimensional DNA shapes ever produced, including rings, bowls, and geometric structures such as icosahedrons that resemble viral particles.

This design program could allow researchers to build DNA scaffolds to anchor arrays of proteins and light-sensitive molecules called chromophores that mimic the photosynthetic proteins found in plant cells, or to create new delivery vehicles for drugs or RNA therapies, says Mark Bathe, an associate professor of biological engineering.

Deep Learning and Deep Reinforcement Learning Tutorials

Graduate Summer School: Deep Learning, Feature Learning
"Deep Learning, Self-Taught Learning and Unsupervised Feature Learning (Part 1 Slides1-68; Part 2 Slides 69-109)"

December 03, 2014

Demis Hassibis gives an overview of the field of Artificial Intelligence

Demis Hassibis gives an overview of the field of Artificial Intelligence and why he chose his Deepmind approach.

His view is that whole brain emulation will take too long. Other AI approaches have been too brittle.

He wants to focus on copying the algorithms of the brain.

Google aims for revolutionary change and not incremental change

Onstage at TED2014, Charlie Rose interviews Google CEO Larry Page about his far-off vision for Google. It includes aerial bikeways and internet balloons ... and then it gets even more interesting, as Page talks through the company's recent acquisition of Deep Mind, an AI that is learning some surprising things.

Page points out we need revolutionary change and not incremental change.

2-3 million barrel per day swing in oil supply and demand balance crushed the oil price

Global oil supply inched up by 35 kb/d in October to 94.2 mb/d. Compared with one year ago, total supply was 2.7 mb/d higher as higher OPEC production added to non-OPEC supply growth of 1.8 mb/d. Non-OPEC production growth is forecast to ease to 1.3 mb/d for 2015 from this year's 1.8 mb/d high.

Global oil demand estimates for 2014 and 2015 are unchanged since last month's Report, at 92.4 mb/d and 93.6 mb/d, respectively. Projected growth will increase from a five-year annual low of 680 kb/d in 2014 to an estimated 1.1 mb/d next year as the macroeconomic backdrop is expected to improve.

Developed world demand (US, Europe, Japan and rest of OECD) is down or flat because of slow growth or recession. China and the developing world oil demand growth has slowed. The increase of a few million barrels per day in supply exceeded the growth in demand.

China and the other national economies were all trying to have more GDP growth but each quarter they fell short. Meanwhile producers drilled and pumped oil to make millions and billions of dollars.

Movies where human video gamers save humanity won't happen as Artificial Intelligence is becoming superior to humans at video games

The main point of Google DeepMind's AI, says Hassabis, is to create computers that can "solve any problem". "AI has huge potential to be amazing for humanity", he mentions in the Technology Review interview. Accelerating the way we combat disease is one idea.

Using trial and error, Deep Mind systems became better than humans at three out of size Atari Video games.

In 2011, one of the founders of Deep Mind, Shane Legg, predicted that expected by 2019 to see an impressive proto-AGI. By this he meant a system with basic vision, basic sound processing, basic movement control, and basic language abilities, with all of these things being essentially learnt rather than preprogrammed. It will also be able to solve a range of simple problems, including novel ones.

Google Deep Mind is taking Artificial Intelligence to a new level and hope to accelerate scientific progress and truly useful robotics

Demis Hassabis leads what is now called Google DeepMind. It is still headquartered in London and still has “solve intelligence” as its mission statement. Roughly 75 people strong at the time it joined Google, Hassabis has said he aimed to hire around 50 more. Around 75 percent of the group works on fundamental research. The rest form an “applied research team” that looks for opportunities to apply DeepMind’s techniques to existing Google products.

Over the next five years, DeepMind’s technology could be used to refine YouTube’s recommendations or improve the company’s mobile voice search.

They dream of creating “AI scientists” that could do things like generate and test new hypotheses about disease in the lab. When prodded, he also says that DeepMind’s software could also be useful to robotics, an area in which Google has recently invested heavily

DeepMind has combined deep learning with a technique called reinforcement learning, which is inspired by the work of animal psychologists such as B.F. Skinner. This led to software that learns by taking actions and receiving feedback on their effects, as humans or animals often do.

In 2013, DeepMind researchers showed off software that had learned to play three classic Atari games - Pong, Breakout and Enduro - better than an expert human. The software wasn’t programmed with any information on how to play; it was equipped only with access to the controls and the display, knowledge of the score, and an instinct to make that score as high as possible. The program became an expert gamer through trial and error.

No one had ever demonstrated software that could learn to master such a complex task from scratch.

Arxiv - Playing Atari with Deep Reinforcement Learning

Google Project Loon Internet balloons have gone the distance of 75 trips around the world

3 million kilometers is a long journey. Google project Loon ballons have travelled 3 million kilometers through the stratosphere since the project began last year. The Google Plus Project Loon page has more up to date information than the main Google Project Loon website.

In that time we’ve learned a great deal about what it will take to bring the Internet to everyone, no matter where they are. For example, what footwear is it best for our manufacturing team to wear when they need to walk on the balloon envelopes? Turns out it’s very fluffy socks, the fluffier the better, to ensure the least amount of friction when building our balloons. This is just one of the hundreds of discoveries that has helped prevent leaks and refine our automated manufacturing process so that our balloons now last 10 times longer in the stratosphere than they did in 2013, with many lasting 100 days or more (our current record is 130 days!).

It’s one thing for our balloons to last longer, but to build a ring of connectivity around the world we’ll also need to get more in the air. Imagine how long it would take you and your friends to inflate 7,000 party balloons. That’s what it takes to fill just one of our Loon balloons for flight, so we’ve developed autofill equipment that will be capable of doing it in under 5 minutes. We now have the ability to launch up to 20 balloons per day as we continue to improve our ability to launch consistently at scale.

As we’ve launched more long-lasting balloons in the stratosphere we’ve needed to ensure that we can accurately maneuver them to where they need to go. By constantly computing thousands of trajectory simulations it turns out we can get pretty close to our targets. For example, one flight came within 1.5km of our target destination over a flight of 9,000 kilometers, purely through predicting and sailing with the stratospheric winds. This is great for getting our balloons to where users need them, and great for getting balloons to our recovery zones at the end of their lifetime to make our recovery team’s job that much easier.

But perhaps one of the best illustrations of the progress we’ve made in our journey thus far are these pictures showing one of our uber-sophisticated launches from the earliest days of Project Loon compared to one of our more recent efforts. What a difference 3 million kilometers make; here’s to many more! 

Big step towards onchip photonic communication so computers would be a lot faster and more energy efficient

Using a new algorithm, Stanford engineers can design and build a prism-like silicon structure that can bend light at right angles. The goal is to transmit data faster and more efficiently via optical rather than electrical signals.

The optical link is a tiny slice of silicon etched with a pattern that resembles a bar code. When a beam of light is shined at the link, two different wavelengths (colors) of light split off at right angles to the input, forming a T shape. This is a big step toward creating a complete system for connecting computer components with light rather than wires.

"Light can carry more data than a wire, and it takes less energy to transmit photons than electrons," said electrical engineering Professor Jelena Vuckovic, who led the research.

Courtesy Vuckovic Lab. Silicon chip etched via algorithm. This tiny slice of silicon, etched in Jelena Vuckovic's lab at Stanford with a pattern that resembles a bar code, is one step on the way toward linking computer components with light instead of wires.

Nature Scientific Reports - Inverse design and implementation of a wavelength demultiplexing grating coupler

December 02, 2014

Breakthrough in passive mirror cooling can save 15% of the energy used by buildings in the USA

Stanford engineers have invented a revolutionary coating material that can help cool buildings, even on sunny days, by radiating heat away from the buildings and sending it directly into space.

Previous systems could not also reflect sunlight, so they didn’t cool off during the day. Covering an entire roof with the material should eliminate the need for air conditioning. The group plans to leverage manufacturing technology that’s used to make coated windows, and it might be possible to make the material, which is only about two micrometers thick, on lightweight plastic films for easier installation. But the next step is a modest one: they’ll to go from the eight-inch demo to a square-meter tile of the material. They made the material by layering thin films of alternating layers of silicon dioxide (glass) and hafnium oxide deposited on an eight-inch silicon wafer.

Invisible light in the form of infrared radiation is one of the ways that all objects and living things throw off heat. When we stand in front of a closed oven without touching it, the heat we feel is infrared light. This invisible, heat-bearing light is what the Stanford invention shunts away from buildings and sends into space. Fan’s material becomes cooler than its surroundings by reflecting light and emitting heat at carefully tuned frequencies. The material emits heat at frequencies that match the planet’s “thermal window”—from eight to 13 micrometers—which lets it pass through the atmosphere and into space. It effectively cools down by using outer space as a heat sink.

Of course, sunshine also warms buildings. The new material, in addition to dealing with infrared light, is also a stunningly efficient mirror that reflects virtually all of the incoming sunlight that strikes it.

The result is what the Stanford team calls photonic radiative cooling – a one-two punch that offloads infrared heat from within a building while also reflecting the sunlight that would otherwise warm it up. The result is cooler buildings that require less air conditioning.

"This is very novel and an extraordinarily simple idea," said Eli Yablonovitch, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and a pioneer of photonics who directs the Center for Energy Efficient Electronics Science. "As a result of professor Fan's work, we can now [use radiative cooling], not only at night but counter-intuitively in the daytime as well."

Stanford Professor Shanhui Fan, center, gazes into the pizza- size prototype with co-authors Linxiao Zhu, left, and Aaswath Raman, right. The high-tech mirror reflecting their faces beams heat directly into space. (Photo: Norbert von der Groeben)

Nature - Passive radiative cooling below ambient air temperature under direct sunlight

The other reusable rocket company Blue Origin says new BE-4 engine should be flying payload to orbit in 2019

Jeff Bezos says his vision is he wants to see millions of people living and working in space. Bezos' private spaceflight company Blue Origin is currently working with the United Launch Alliance (ULA) to build a new liquid rocket engine called the BE-4. They plan to have rockets flying payloads with the new engine in 2019.

The vehicle Bezos' company is working on uses a modern booster engine, which is said to be more efficient than those made 20-30 years ago, reports The Washington Post. Bezos also said the vehicle is autonomous, so there's no need to send test pilots when they're running trials with it.

The BE4 will produce 550,000 pounds of thrust and is propelled by a mix of liquefied natural gas and oxygen. The fuels are pressurized by a single turbopump before being burned, which scientists say may make it more efficient than using a two-prop system.

Blue Origin is developing technologies to enable human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability. This is a long-term effort, which we’re pursuing incrementally, step by step. We’re currently focused on developing reusable launch vehicles utilizing rocket-powered Vertical Take-off and Vertical Landing (VTVL) technology.

Fishing provides key jobs and nutrients for the world's poor and fish farming can increase 50% by 2022

Fisheries and aquaculture support the livelihoods of 10 to 12 per cent of the world’s population. Since 1990 employment in the sector has grown at a faster rate than the world’s population and in 2012 provided jobs for some 60 million people. Of these, 84 per cent were employed in Asia, followed by Africa with about 10 per cent.

With the world’s population expected to reach 8.2 billion people by 2030, and with 842 million people estimated as having been undernourished in the period 2011–13, food supply will present a growing challenge in the next two decades. With increases in income along with demographic changes related to family size, population ageing and urbanization, and consumer trends such as concerns for healthy eating and sustainable production, there will be great shifts in demand and major changes in the composition of demand. This will in turn have an impact on food supply, which will need to both increase and become more efficient if it is to grow within the constraints presented by the availability of natural resources and existing technology.

The latest United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Economic analysis of supply and demand for food up to 2030 – Special focus on fish and fishery products publication (120 pages) presents projections of future food supply up to 2030, building on existing analyses but also providing more economic perspectives on the future evolution of food production. It thus looks at the main drivers of future demand and supply, with a particular focus on fisheries and aquaculture production. The analysis is supplemented with a number of new scenarios on fish production in the period until 2022.

World fish production has experienced tremendous growth, increasing from 20 million tonnes in 1950 to 156.2 million tonnes in 2012, of which 97 percent was used for direct human consumption. Per capita fish consumption increased from 9.9 kg in 1960 to 19.1 kg in 2012. The increase in production is mainly attributed to aquaculture, which has maintained high growth rates since the 1980s. By 2012,aquaculture production had increased to 66.5 million tonnes, or about 43 percent of total fish supply.Productivity growth and technological progress have been important factors underlying production growth in aquaculture. According to OECD–FAO (2013) projections, this trend is likely to continue, with world fish production reaching 181 million tonnes by 2022 – the main driver of this growth being growth in aquaculture production. Meanwhile, production in capture fisheries has levelled off since mid-1980s at about 85–95 million tonnes per annum, the main reason for this being the depletion of fishery resources.

Annual aquaculture production for the five scenarios is illustrated in Figure 11. As can be seen,
scenarios 3–5 are identical in terms of annual production.

Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria ,Saudi Arabia are sneaking up the world rankings of biggest economies

The Economist World in 2015 has its forecast for economic growth. The work was done before the outlook for oil prices clearly became far lower.

Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria are quite high in the rankings based on purchasing power parity (PPP).

In 2019, India is projected to be half of the USA economy on a PPP basis. China was half of the USA in PPP in 2005.

In 2021, Indonesia should be about equal to Germany in PPP. China was at that level in 1994.

In the 2030's, Indonesia, Turkey, Mexico, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia could be in the top 15 countries by GDP.

Human Glial Cells for half a mouse's brain makes mice a lot smarter and method could treat multiple sclerosis in humans

Replacing half a mouse’s brain with human glial cells, the cells that support neurons with a protective substance called myelin, doesn’t mean the mice are any more human, per se. Rather, researchers hope the advance will build on prior work that lets them understand more about diseases of the brain. Though cell cultures offer a certain degree of insight, the chance to see disease play out in more sophisticated models still reigns supreme.

Goldman and his team of colleagues initially incorporated 300,000 premature glial cells from donated human fetuses into the brains of ordinary lab mice. Within a year, the inaugural batch had multiplied to some 12 million cells, totally replacing the mice’s former cells. The replacement yielded massive changes to the animals’ cognitive output. With 100 times as many tendrils between synapses — the bridges between neurons — as the control mice, the humanized mice froze four times longer in response to a conditioned sound. Greater cognition made for stronger memory.

Human astrocytes, for example, a type of glial cell, are 10 to 20 times larger than mouse glial cells. They can communicate signals far more quickly, Goldman says. “It's like ramping up the power of your computer.”

The Pinky and Brain scenario will not happen. The mice only do quite a bit better on the maze and other mouse tests

The Journal of Neuroscience - A Competitive Advantage by Neonatally Engrafted Human Glial Progenitors Yields Mice Whose Brains Are Chimeric for Human Glia

Chinese companies will have over $45 billion in infrastructure projects in Pakistan over the next 6 years

The Chinese government and banks will finance Chinese companies to build $45.6 billion worth of energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan over the next six years, according to new details of the deal seen by Reuters on Friday. China has promised to invest around $33.8 billion in various energy projects and $11.8 billion in infrastructure projects.

Russian Money Suspected Behind Fracking Protests in Europe

The New York Times reported that Russian money is supporting fracking protests in the USA.

Lithuania and Romania had potential gas projects with Chevron.

Chevron ran into a wave of unusually fervent protests and then decided to pull out. Russian involvement has not yet been backed up by any clear proof. And Gazprom has denied accusations that it has bankrolled anti-fracking protests. But circumstantial evidence, plus large dollops of Cold War-style suspicion, have added to mounting alarm over covert Russian meddling to block threats to its energy stranglehold on Europe.

Before stepping down in September as NATO’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen gave voice to this alarm with remarks in London that pointed a finger at Russia and infuriated environmentalists.

“Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called nongovernmental organizations — environmental organizations working against shale gas — to maintain dependence on imported Russian gas,” Mr. Rasmussen said. He presented no proof and said the judgment was based on what NATO allies had reported.

Iulian Iancu, chairman of the Romanian Parliament’s industry committee and a firm believer that Russia has had a hand in stirring opposition to shale gas exploration across Eastern Europe. He acknowledged that he had no direct evidence to support this allegation, nor for an assertion he made recently in Parliament that Gazprom had spent 82 million euros, or about $100 million, to fund anti-fracking activities across Europe.

December 01, 2014

Russia could collapse before US shale producers

The Wall Street Journal talked about how Russia’s Debt and Currency Markets Could Spiral into Crisis in October. This was before Opec decided to keep oil production and drove down the price of oil. Some now speculate that oil prices could drop to $30 to $40 per barrel before later stabilizing around $70 per barrel. Moscow gets more than half its budget revenue from oil and gas; for every $10 drop in the per-barrel price of oil, Russia loses up to $14.6 billion a year in revenues, according to Alfa Bank. Another $40 per barrel drop would cost Russia almost $60 billion per year.

Russia had $524 billion in reserves just 11 months earlier. $69 billion depletion happened in ten months. In just five months during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, Russia suffered $210 billion in reserve outflows. Indeed, the country has an almost unbroken history of capital flight – its wealthier citizens have always spirited their money offshore – and there’s plenty about the current environment that could cause that trend to pick up.

Russia does have some foreign national debt. It seems to be about $50 billion.

There are some charts of Russia's external debt

Cheap oil shock could see $30 per barrel before stabilizing around $70 - Russia is close to financial collapse

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. Chairman Murray Edwards said crude oil may sink as low as $30 a barrel before rebounding to stabilize at $70 to $75 a barrel, the Financial Post reported.

Oil has dropped 38 percent this year and, in theory, production can continue to flow until prices fall below the day-to-day costs at existing wells. Stevens said some U.S. shale producers may break even at $40 a barrel or less. The International Energy Agency estimates most drilling in the Bakken formation -- the shale producers that OPEC seeks to drive out of business -- return cash at $42 a barrel.

Oil’s decline is proving to be the worst since the collapse of the financial system in 2008 and threatening to have the same global impact of falling prices three decades ago that led to the Mexican debt crisis and the end of the Soviet Union.

Alberta shifting to only 10% power from coal by 2034

Coal was used to produce about 43-51 per cent of the electricity used in Alberta, 63 per cent in Saskatchewan, 60 per cent in Nova Scotia. Ontario stopped using coal for electricity this year. About 4 million tons per year is use for steel production and other industrial purposes.

The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) brushed aside environmental objections to approve the second jumbo natural gas-fired power station in a long-range lineup to replace the province's aging coal plants. The decision enables Capital Power and Enmax to produce 1,050 MW by installing two gas-burning units beside coal-burning generators at Genesee, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of the provincial capital of Edmonton. Capital Power and Enmax are currently building an 800 MW, gas-fired station for C$1.7 billion (US$1.5 billion), the Shepard Energy Centre, on a 60-acre lot in a Calgary industrial park. The gas fired stations should be completed in 2018-2020.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) calculates that gas power stations across the province will burn 1.3 Bcf/d of gas as of 2023, up 65% from the 800 MMcf/d recorded in 2013. The outlook is the same in a longer-range forecast by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), a provincial transmission grid planning and management agency.

The AESO predicts that by 2034, coal-fired power stations will fall from their dominant position of generating 43% of Alberta electricity to 10%, with output shrinking to 2,059 MW from 6,271 MW. Various forms of gas are forecast to take over.

Over the next 20 years, the AESO expects the combined market share of hydroelectric, wind and other alternative generation to grow only marginally, to 18% of Alberta power supplies from their current 16%.

Alberta energy statistics are here

Low Oil price boost oil consuming countries by $1.3 trillion

For years, China alone propelled fully 50 per cent of the annual world growth in oil demand. Slower growth in China may prevent it from supporting global energy demand for a while. “The oil price will be range-bound between $60 to $80. There’s not another cycle coming. You look at China’s infrastructure – it’s built.”

China has already become uniquely important as the world’s largest importer of oil, buying roughly 60 per cent of its 10-million barrels per day from others. And Mr. Xie believes China’s vast energy demand, beyond oil alone, will play an even more outsized role in the future: “My call is based on the oil price eventually following China’s coal price,” he said. “China’s coal is equal to four Saudi Arabias in energy equivalent.”

No matter what, the downturn in prices stands to accentuate China’s influence by providing it an opportunity to cheaply augment its strategic reserves – already believed to stand at 90 days. That in turn “gives China the potential, or the option, of using it as a political-economic tool to their own advantage,” said Philip Andrews-Speed, a principal fellow with the Energy Studies Institute at National University of Singapore.

The outlook for the global economy is “much brighter” with Brent crude at $70 (U.S.) a barrel, just shy of where it stands today, compared to June’s $110, said Julian Jessop of Capital Economics in London. “Roughly speaking, the $40 fall in the price of oil represents a transfer of annual income of around $1.3-trillion from oil producers to oil consumers, equivalent to 1.7 per cent of global GDP,” Mr. Jessop said in a report today.

US oil imports in 2014 are now down to about 5 million barrels per day

Nuclear Power accounts for 59% of Ontario power and enabled Ontario to become coal free for power generation

In April 2014, Ontario became the first jurisdiction in North America to fully eliminate coal as a source of electricity generation. The Thunder Bay Generating Station, Ontario's last remaining coal-fired facility, has burned its last supply of coal.

Ontario has fulfilled its commitment to end coal generation in advance of its target of the end of 2014. Since 2003, Ontario’s coal closure plan has eliminated up to 30 megatonnes of emissions annually. 10 years ago Ontario relied on coal for 25 percent of its electricity.

Ontario is the most populous province of Canada, with a population of approximately 13.5 million permanent residents in 2013. It is Canada's leading manufacturing province, accounting for 46% of the manufacturing GDP in 2012. Ontario has a GDP of about $700 billion. This is about the level of Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. Which would be about the 20th size economy in the world if Ontario were a country.

Other provinces also do not use coal. Newfoundland, British Columbia, Manitoba, PEI, and Quebec did not use coal. Ontario was using coal and then eliminated it. Manitoba has a coal plant that is shut off almost all the time. It is for emergency use only.

According to a 2005 independent study, "Cost Benefit Analysis: Replacing Ontario's Coal-Fired Electricity Generation," the estimated cost of coal generation was approximately $4.4 billion annually when health, environmental, and financial costs were taken into consideration.

Nuclear energy has played a key part in the province's efforts. Ontario is home to all but one of Canada's 19 currently operating nuclear power reactors, but by the end of the 1990s all four of Bruce A's nuclear units had been laid up by then-operator Ontario Hydro.

In 2013, refurbished nuclear units came back on line and nuclear accounting for over 59% of Ontario's electricity supply. "A coal-free electricity supply mix has led to a significant reduction in harmful emissions, contributing to cleaner air and a healthier environment," the report notes. The number of smog days in the Greater Toronto Area dropped from 48 days in 2005 to zero in 2014.

Bruce power plant

China's electricity usage increases 3.8% and is on track to 5540 Terawatt hours

China consumed 450.8 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in October, up 3.1 percent from a year earlier, data from the National Energy Administration showed. Over the first 10 months, power consumption increased 3.8 percent on the year to 4.5484 trillion kWh, the administration said.

China's electricity usage grew 7.5% in 2013 to 5.322 trillion kilowatt hours
China's 2012 power consumption increased by 5.5% yoy to 4,960 TWh

Maintaining a 3.8% increase would mean 5.544 trillion kwh in 2014

HSBC first cut models World in 2050

HSBC had a 42 page report that had their view of the world in 2050 The report identifies the Top 100 economies by size.

The ranking is based on an economy’s current level of development and the factors that will determine whether it has the potential to catch up with more developed nations. These fundamentals include current income per capita, rule of law, democracy, education levels and demographic change, allowing us to project forward GDP to 2050. We assume that policymakers will continue to make progress in addressing economic flaws and that they avoid wars and remain open to global trade and capital. Of course, some of our bold assumptions may not turn out to be accurate.

They highlight the following:
* The striking rise of the Philippines, which is set to become the world’s sixteenth-largest economy, up 27 places from today.

* Peru could sustain average growth of 5.5% for four decades and jump 20 places to twenty-sixth. Chile is another star performer in Latin America.

* Massive demographic change: in 2050 there will be almost as many people in Nigeria as in the United States, and Ethiopia will have twice as many people as projected in the UK or Germany. The population of many African countries will double

November 30, 2014

Multi-layer graphene confirmed to be twice as bullet resistant as Kevlar

Researchers devised a new miniature ballistics test to test graphene's bullet resistance. They used a laser pulse to superheat gold filaments until they vaporised, acting like gunpowder to fire a micron-size glass bullet into 10 to 100 sheets of graphene at 3000 meters per second.

The team found that graphene sheets dissipate this kinetic energy by stretching into a cone shape at the bullet's impact point, and then by cracking outward radially. The cracks are one weakness of single-layer graphene, Lee says, but it nevertheless performs twice as well as Kevlar and withstands 10 times the kinetic energy that steel can. Using multiple layers of graphene or incorporating it into a composite structure could keep the cracks from spreading, too.

Science - Dynamic mechanical behavior of multilayer graphene via supersonic projectile penetration

Multilayer graphene is an exceptional anisotropic material due to its layered structure composed of two-dimensional carbon lattices. Although the intrinsic mechanical properties of graphene have been investigated at quasi-static conditions, its behavior under extreme dynamic conditions has not yet been studied. We report the high–strain-rate behavior of multilayer graphene over a range of thicknesses from 10 to 100 nanometers by using miniaturized ballistic tests. Tensile stretching of the membrane into a cone shape is followed by initiation of radial cracks that approximately follow crystallographic directions and extend outward well beyond the impact area. The specific penetration energy for multilayer graphene is ~10 times more than literature values for macroscopic steel sheets at 600 meters per second.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 236

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 236 is up at Yes Vermont Yankee

ANS Nuclear Cafe - the US EPA Clean Power Plan aims to reduce emissions rates (not necessarily emissions) by setting goals for states in terms of lbs of CO2/MWh. According to the US Energy Information Agency (US EIA), in 2012 New York State’s electricity sector had a carbon emissions rate of 578 lbs/MWh. For scale, the average U.S. coal plant emits ~2250 lbs of CO2/MWh, and the average natural gas plant emits ~1100 lbs of CO2/MWh. New York’s carbon emissions rate is much lower than a state like Wyoming (2106 lbs/MWh) because while Wyoming is heavily reliant on coal (87.5 percent of net electricity generation was from coal), New York has a mix of natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, coal, and other renewables.

In the Clean Power Plan, state goals are set by calculating the total emissions of the electricity sector for that state, and dividing the electricity production of all fossil fuels, wind, and solar, but only 5.8 percent of nuclear (hydro is excluded completely). What this does is artificially increase the calculated initial emissions rate for the state, so that in setting state goals, states with a significant amount of nuclear have easier goals.

Official Star Wars Force Awakens Trailer

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens Official Teaser Trailer #1 (2015) - J.J. Abrams Movie HD

A continuation of the saga created by George Lucas set thirty years after Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). had polling of America's favorite Star Wars characters.

ASEAN larger economy than India

United Overseas Bank (a Singporean Bank) estimates that by 2025, China's economy will be worth $28 trillion, just behind the US at $29 trillion but well ahead of the euro zone at $20 trillion. The bank projections show that even by growing annually at just about two-thirds of the pace that it was used to between 2001 and 2013, the size of the 10-member Asean economy could exceed $4 trillion by 2020, which is roughly the size of Germany last year and would be nearly four times larger by 2030 at $9 trillion, equal to China's economy in 2013.

ASEAN is a larger economy than India now and should stay larger than India into the 2020s. ASEAN should pass the size of Japan's economy in the 2020s. ASEAN could catch up to the size of the EU economy by 2050.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has estimated that by 2030, 500 million people in Southeast Asia will be classified as middle-income, representing nearly 65% of the population, compared with 29% in 2010.

The projections for Southeast Asia are achievable, going by recent developments in the region including the opening up of Myanmar, the presidential election in Indonesia and the return of stability in Thailand after the recent military coup," UOB said. "In addition, less-developed members such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam have plenty of room for growth and to catch up given their low starting base.

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