March 21, 2015

New NIST Technique Can See Nanoscale 'Tree' and Microscale 'Forest' Simultaneously

A close-up view of an individual tree won’t tell you much about what’s going on in the forest, or even what’s going on in the tree’s upper branches. The same goes for studying nanoparticles. What is happening in one small area might not be indicative of what’s going on with the nanoparticle as a whole. In fact, the light you shine on the area may actually affect the reaction processes, giving a skewed reading.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a relatively simple setup that makes it possible for scientists to image simultaneously nanoscale features and microscale (nano x 1,000) chemical interactions. Their approach combines two powerful analysis tools: environmental scanning transmission electron microscopy (ESTEM)—a variation on traditional electron microscopes that enables researchers to view a specimen in a reactive environment,i.e., not in a vacuum—and Raman spectroscopy, which uses light interactions to identify molecular structures from their characteristic vibrations.

Having such a global view of nanoparticles would be useful to scientists working in a broad range of research areas from nanotechnology to pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.

The group used the technique during recent experiments to image carbon nanotubes as they germinated and grew on the surface of cobalt carbide nanoparticles.

STEM image of gold nanoparticle -- On the left, a STEM image of a triangular gold nanoparticle sitting on titanium oxide surface. The white circle at the top corner of the gold nanoparticle indicates where the electron beam is making spectroscopic measurements. On the right are the corresponding spectra representing electron absorption and emission.

Ultramicroscopy - Vibrational and optical spectroscopies integrated with environmental transmission electron microscopy

NIST proposes layered model of time aware applications to enable Internet of Everything and lots of driverless cars

Our fast-approaching future of driverless cars and “smart” electrical grids will depend on billions of linked devices making decisions and communicating with split-second precision to prevent highway collisions and power outages. But a new report released by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) warns that this future could be stalled by our lack of effective methods to marry computers and networks with timing systems.

The authors, who include NIST’s Marc Weiss and seven experts from academia and industry, are concerned about the way most modern data systems are designed to process and exchange data with one another and what that could mean for a world of discrete processors and mechanical devices linked by an information network—the “Internet of Things” (IoT). In addition to giving you access to the status of your home appliances anywhere, anytime, the IoT encompasses many potentially important but delicate applications such as cars that drive themselves and telemedicine surgical suites that allow doctors to operate on patients from remote locations. People are still imagining applications for the IoT, but GE predicts that nearly half the global economy can benefit from it.

Time-Aware Applications, Computers, and Communication Systems (TAACCS)

Graphene can make improved fuel cells

Graphene, a strong, lightweight carbon honeycombed structure that’s only one atom thick, holds great promise for energy research and development. Recently scientists with the Fluid Interface Reactions, Structures, and Transport (FIRST) Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC), led by the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, revealed graphene can serve as a proton-selective permeable membrane, providing a new basis for streamlined and more efficient energy technologies such as improved fuel cells.

“Now you’re able to take a barrier that you can make very thin, like graphene, and change it so you build gates on a molecular scale,” says principal investigator Franz Geiger of Northwestern University, the senior author and a FIRST researcher.

Nature Communications - Aqueous proton transfer across single-layer graphene

Mass production commercial smartphone uses graphene to boost battery by 50% and in the touchscreen and case

Graphene is used in the commercial smartphone called the Galapad Settler. Graphene makes its touchscreen more sensitive, colours appear brighter, and helps prolong battery life and standby time drastically.

Chongqing-based graphene researcher and maker Moxi teamed up with Shenzhen-based tablet maker Galapad to release 30,000 of the Android handsets at the beginning of March, according to their websites. Each device costs 2,499 yuan (US$399).

Graphene is used in in the 5.5-inch phone’s touchscreen, 3000-mAh battery and case, said a representative for Moxi who gave his name as Mr Wu.

The phone’s specifications are not good but not great. It runs off a 64-bit quadcore Snapdragon 410 processor along with 2GB RAM and has 16GB of internal storage. The device has a 8 megapixel camera and a 5MP camera on the front.

The touchscreens made with graphene are able to transmit more light, so can produce better colours and are more sensitive than conventional ones, Wu said.

The use of graphene in batteries raises the charge density by 10 per cent and extends the overall battery life by 50 per cent, he said.

According to Wu, the phone's graphene-laden case is a far better conductor of heat than ordinary handsets, so the hottest its surface will get is around 35 degrees Celsius.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 252

1. Forbes - The Fukushima Disaster Wasn’t Very Disastrous

Four years after the Fukushima nuclear reactors withstood one of the largest earthquakes in history, only to fall to the largest tsunami in history, the most important thing to realize is what did not happen - no increased cancers, no contaminated food, no contaminated fish, most evacuees can go home, and there will be no Fukushima Death Toll. In fact, some Superfund sites in the United States have caused more health effects and environmental damage than the crippled Japanese reactors ever will. Only a botched response and unfounded fear are the killers.

The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March of 2011 was a disaster of epic proportions – over 20,000 died, over 300,000 left homeless, a blow to the country’s economic and infrastructure unlike anything in the last 40 years. But the crippling of the Fukushima nuclear plants wasn’t the disastrous part. Source: Google Maps

2. The Hiroshima Syndrome...Fukushima: Four Years After

The Japanese Press has literally flooded the news with mostly negative reports, including at least one outright lie from outside Japan. The following are summations of the more-significant Fukushima 4th anniversary postings by major Press outlets, all but one of which are Japanese.

China price coming for fighter planes, submarines, destroyers and other weapons

Countries importing weapons used to have to buy second hand cold war weapons but will be buying more capable replicas of American and Russian weapons for two to four times lower cost. Joseph E. Lin writes about the flood of cheap weapons that will flood the global market in Foreign Policy.

China's weapons in general will not be more powerful or superior to the Russian and American systems but they will be competitive in capability but at lower cost.

China has reverse engineered and stolen Russian, French and American military technology.

China stole the F-35 stealth technology but did not copy the bad design choice of using a lift fan. China copied Russian military gear but improved the electronics.

China is making and selling modern main battle tanks, submarines, fighter planes, bombers, destroyer and many other systems.

The lower China price helped drive down the cost of large flat screen TVs, solar panels and many other products and they increased the volume of global adoption. The low cost but highly capable weapons will increase the number of well armed countries.

MBT 3000 is made for export

Nextbigfuture has long agreed with the aviation experts who say that J31 copied the F35

China has also reverse engineered Russian plane technology

China sold Pakistan six 041 diesel electric submarines

China can sustain 5-7% GDP growth with structural reform

After three decades of extraordinary economic development, China is shifting to a slower and more sustainable growth path. Further reforms are now needed to ensure that future growth is resilient, inclusive and green, according to the OECD’s latest Economic Survey of China. The OECD forecasts that China’s GDP will grow by 7% this year and 6.9% in 2016.

“Following one of the most tremendous economic expansions in world history, China’s gradual transition towards a ‘new normal’ of slower, more sustainable growth is to be welcomed” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said. “China knows how to grow at a blistering pace. The challenge now is to ensure that future growth occurs on a more durable and inclusive footing.”

The ongoing transition of the Chinese economy is multifaceted – from rural to urban, investment to consumption and manufacturing to services – and will require unwavering commitment to structural reforms.

* OECD position is China's economy has managable downside risks
* Daniel Rosen, University of Columnbia and Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), has analyzed that China's services sector is underestimated because of flawed accounting

Shifting from Soviet style national accounting to UN style national accounting shows a bigger and more balanced economy

An assessment of China’s nominal GDP undertaken by my colleague Beibei Bao and Daniel Rosen, in partnership with CSIS, provides new insights into China’s economy that modify this picture. Our independent calculations suggest that services exceeded industrial activity as early as 2009. This means the services sector—which is, by any reckoning, the future of China’s growth—does not suffer from insurmountable structural constraints so much as accounting problems that left it undercounted until recently, and most likely still today.

As a planned economy, China used the national accounting system favored by the Soviet Union to count GDP. The “Material
Production System” (MPS) excludes most services from the definition of economic production. The MPS legacy saddled China with institutions ill equipped to capture service value when the country transitioned to the UN-endorsed System of National Accounts (SNA) in 1993. That institutional weakness, including staffing, inadequate legal and political mechanisms to assure integrity, and data quality concerns, still prevents China from fully measuring its service industries. Using real-economy metrics, comparator country data patterns, and adjustments based on the latest international GDP accounting standards, we recalculated the size of China’s GDP in 2008. Our revisions indicate the need for a 12.9 to 16.0 percent upward restatement of 2008 results, which means RMB 4 to 5 trillion in missing output—$600 to $700 billion at exchange rates prevailing then. The good news from our recount is that China’s economy was already more balanced between services and industry than commonly thought.

The 2013 GDP base was revised, but only by 3.4 percent. The adjustment would have needed to be two to four times that amount if all current national accounting shortcomings were addressed. The choice not to make the full revision last month, despite previous intentions to do so, raises questions about Beijing’s motives. Why would authorities prefer to report a smaller economy than modern accounting suggests? Will statisticians use the unreported adjustment to “fluff up” GDP growth results in the difficult years of economic adjustment to come, to hide the full extent of a necessary downturn? None of us can be sure.

March 20, 2015

Tesla is a drivable computer that will get software update for autopilot automatic steering

Most cars don't improve over time. By contrast, Model S gets faster, smarter, and better as time passes. With Tesla's regular over-the-air software updates, Model S actually improves while you sleep. When you wake up, added functionality, enhanced performance, and improved user experience make you feel like you are driving a new car. We want to improve cars in ways most people didn't imagine possible.

Among other things, the latest update introduces two key applications that ensure you never unintentionally run out of range, giving you peace of mind at all times. Here's how they work:

Range Assurance
The Range Assurance application is always running quietly in the background even when navigation is not in use. In realtime, it communicates with the network of Tesla Superchargers and destination chargers, discarding any that are in heavy use or inactive and warns you before you drive out of range

Exoplanets are in the habitable zone around most stars

Astronomers have discovered thousands of exoplanets in our galaxy, the Milky Way, using the Kepler satellite and many of them have multiple planets orbiting the host star. By analysing these planetary systems, researchers from the Australian National University and the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen have calculated the probability for the number of stars in the Milky Way that might have planets in the habitable zone. The calculations show that billions of the stars in the Milky Way will have one to three planets in the habitable zone, where there is the potential for liquid water and where life could exist. The results are published in the scientific journal, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Using NASA’s Kepler satellite, astronomers have found about 1,000 planets around stars in the Milky Way and they have also found about 3,000 other potential planets. Many of the stars have planetary systems with 2-6 planets, but the stars could very well have more planets than those observable with the Kepler satellite, which is best suited for finding large planets that orbit relatively close to their stars.

Planets outside our solar system are called exoplanets. The Kepler satellite observes exoplanets by measuring the light curve of a star. When a planet moves in front of the star there is a small dip in brightness. If this little dip in brightness occurs regularly, there might be a planet orbiting the star and obscuring its light.

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society - Using the inclinations of Kepler systems to prioritize new Titius–Bode-based exoplanet predictions

Soft Power Victory for China over USA as Australia and South Korea near joining Infrastructure bank

Australia said on Friday there was a lot of merit in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) while Japan's finance minister signalled cautious approval of the institution that the United States has warned against.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported that Canberra could formally decide to sign up to the AIIB when the full cabinet meets on Monday.

Japan, Australia and the South Korea, all major U.S. allies, are the notable regional absentees from the AIIB. The United States, worried about China's growing diplomatic clout, has questioned whether the AIIB will have sufficient standards of governance and environmental and social safeguards.

But the opposition to the AIIB began crumbling after Britain said earlier this month that it would join the institution, maintaining it was in its national interest. France, Germany and Italy swiftly followed suit.

Australia now appears close to joining, although no formal decision has been made, and Beijing said Japan and South Korea were also considering the possibility.

March 19, 2015

Carbon 3D has True game changing 3D printing and not just 2D repeated. 100 times faster printing with stronger parts

3D printing has struggled to deliver on its promise to transform manufacturing. Prints take forever, parts are mechanically weak, and material choices are far too limited. That’s because current 3D printing technology is really just 2D printing, over and over again.

CLIP — Continuous Liquid Interface Production — is a breakthrough technology that grows parts instead of printing them layer by layer. CLIP allows businesses to produce commercial quality parts at game-changing speeds, creating a clear path to 3D manufacturing.

It is a bold new technique — inspired, yes, by Terminator 2 — that's 25 to 100 times faster, and creates smooth, strong parts. They believe they can go to 1000 times faster and will eventually need water cooling because the printing is so fast.

They can make custom parts in realtime. Things like a personalized stent or dental implants while you are at the medical office.

They can make microscale structures.

CLIP enables a much wider range of material to be used to make 3D parts with unique properties, including elastomers, silicones, nylon-like materials, ceramics and biodegradable materials.

"In addition to using new materials, CLIP can allow us to make stronger objects with unique geometries that other techniques cannot achieve, such as cardiac stents personally tailored to meet the needs of a specific patient," said DeSimone.

Traditionally made 3D printed parts are notoriously inconsistent. The mechanical properties vary depending on the direction the parts were printed due to the layer-by-layer approach.

Parts printed with CLIP are much more like injection-molded parts. CLIP produces consistent and predictable mechanical properties, creating parts that are smooth on the outside and solid on the inside.

Harnessing Light + Oxygen

UV light triggers photo polymerization and oxygen inhibits it. By carefully balancing the interaction of light and oxygen, CLIP continuously grows objects from a pool of resin.

CLIP moves beyond the limitations of 3D printing to offer unprecedented speed, quality, and choice.

General Atomics and US Research Labs solve a heat burst problem with nuclear fusion

Researchers from General Atomics and the US Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have made a major breakthrough in understanding how potentially damaging heat bursts inside a fusion reactor can be controlled.

Scientists performed the experiments on the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, a tokamak operated by General Atomics in San Diego.

The findings represent a key step, General Atomics said, in predicting how to control heat bursts in future fusion facilities including ITER, an international experiment under construction in France to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy. This work is supported by the DoE Office of Science.

The studies build upon previous work pioneered on DIII-D showing that these intense heat bursts - called ELMs for short - could be suppressed with tiny magnetic fields. These tiny fields cause the edge of the plasma to smoothly release heat, thereby avoiding the damaging heat bursts. But until now, scientists did not understand how these fields worked.
"Many mysteries surrounded how the plasma distorts to suppress these heat bursts," said Carlos Paz-Soldan, a General Atomics scientist and lead author of the first of the two papers that report the seminal findings back-to-back in the same issue of Physical Review Letters last week.
Computer simulation of a cross-section of a DIII-D plasma responding to tiny magnetic fields. The left image models the response that suppressed the ELMs while the right image shows a response that was ineffective (Image: General Atomics)

Hybrid gas electric drone has 13 times the range of a battery electric drone

Top Flight Technologies is the first company to successfully demonstrate true serial hybrid power integration into multi-rotors at industry disruptive price points. Our UAVs have a demonstrated world record of 2.5+ hours with 1 gallon of gasoline and removes numerous challenges with endurance and extended payload business solution needs.

The Airborg H6 1500 is a 1500mm enhanced endurance, extended payload hex (6) rotor UAV. This vehicle has 6 – 26” carbon fiber propellers, an estimated flying time of 2+ hours minimum, at a maximum velocity of 40 mph, with a maximum payload of 20 lbs, a maximum range of 100 miles, and can operate in wind/gust conditions up to 35 mph.

This UAV is equipped with TopFlight’s Advance Autopilot System that tunes and calibrates the propulsion system fuel system which includes a 5000W rated (6000W peak) hybrid engine, 3 gallon tank and 16,000 mAh LiPo battery. The UAV can operate in manual, semi-autonomous or fully autonomous mode and includes an onboard flight data recorder, with a RC remote with 2-mile max range, and a Top Flight 8 mega-pixel gimbaled camera with high-definition downlink.

Ordinary drones with electric engines running on batteries have a range of about 12 kilometers.

The aircraft’s range is many times that of any quadcopter on the market—the most popular type of drone for its maneuverability. Almost all quadcopters run on batteries, and can fly for only about 40 minutes between charges with a payload weighing just a couple of kilograms. The new drone can also fly more than twice as far as a radio-controlled, gasoline-powered helicopter of similar size.

The efficiency of Top Flight’s drone is made possible by using batteries to supplement the gasoline engine. Power can come from the batteries, from a gasoline generator, or from both at once. And because the gasoline engine doesn’t have to supply all of the power, it’s possible to use a much smaller and more efficient one. Unlike a hybrid car, however, Top Flight’s drone doesn’t capture energy from braking.

Top Flight isn’t the first to try hybrid technology with drones. The U.S. Army and Air Force, together with an Oregon-based company called Northwest UAV, have experimented with hybrid airplanes. A representative of Northwest UAV says the company is also working on a hybrid system for use with multi-rotor craft such as quadcopters.

Long Phan, cofounder and CEO of Top Flight, says “future vehicles will fly well over three hours—we already have the new engine to do it.” The company is also developing object-avoidance technology and other safety features

Progress towards error correction in quantum computers

The Google and UCSB researchers showed they could program groups of qubits—devices that represent information using fragile quantum physics—to detect certain kinds of error, and to prevent those errors from ruining a calculation. The new advance comes from researchers led by John Martinis, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who last year joined Google to set up a quantum computing research lab.

Much quantum computing research focuses on trying to get systems of qubits to detect and fix errors. Martinis’s group has demonstrated a piece of one of the most promising schemes for doing this, an approach known as surface codes. The researchers programmed a chip with nine qubits so that they monitored one another for errors called “bit flips,” where environmental noise causes a 1 to flip to a 0 or vice versa. The qubits could not correct bit flips, but they could take action to ensure that they did not contaminate later steps of an operation

Researchers from Google and the University of California, Santa Barbara, used this chip to demonstrate a crucial method needed to make quantum computers reliable.

Journal Nature - State preservation by repetitive error detection in a superconducting quantum circuit

First Japanese reactor out of fifteen has technical regulatory approval for restart

The first japanese reactor slated for restart has gained technical approval, while two further older reactors were announced for retirement rather than being put through the restart process.

The older units officially declared for decommissioning are Shimane 1, owned by Chugoku Electric Power Company, and Genkai 1, owned by Kyushu Electric Power Company. These smaller units, of 439 MWe and 529 MWe respectively, started operation in the mid-1970s and enter retirement just one day after the same status was announced for three others of similar age - Tsuruga 1, along with Mihama 1 and 2.

The changes mean Japan now has a count of 43 operable nuclear power reactors and a total capacity of 40470 MWe, down from 54 units and 47,122 MWe before the 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi. All of the remaining reactors, however, will remain offline until they have been upgraded to meet extended safety requirements, such such as the provision of alternative power supplies, multiple sources of cooling water, back-up control rooms and venting to prevent hydrogen escape.

The leading unit in this process is Kyushu's Sendai 1, which today gained the Nuclear Regulation Authority's (NRA's) approval for its 'construction plan'. This means the 846 MWe reactor unit is technically ready for restart, having been upgraded, and that these engineering changes have been verified by the regulator. It also means that Kyushu's management, personnel training and operational methods are in line with the NRA's demands.
Sendai 1 and 2 reactors

Possible non liquid water based biology that could exist in places like Titan

The lipid bilayer membrane, which is the foundation of life on Earth, is not viable outside of biology based on liquid water. This fact has caused astronomers who seek conditions suitable for life to search for exoplanets within the “habitable zone,” the narrow band in which liquid water can exist. However, can cell membranes be created and function at temperatures far below those at which water is a liquid? We take a step toward answering this question by proposing a new type of membrane, composed of small organic nitrogen compounds, that is capable of forming and functioning in liquid methane at cryogenic temperatures. Using molecular simulations, we demonstrate that these membranes in cryogenic solvent have an elasticity equal to that of lipid bilayers in water at room temperature. As a proof of concept, we also demonstrate that stable cryogenic membranes could arise from compounds observed in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon, Titan, known for the existence of seas of liquid methane on its surface.

States of acrylonitrile.(A) Azotosome. Interlocking nitrogen and hydrogen atoms reinforce the structure. (B) Solid. Adjacent nitrogen atoms create some unfavorable repulsion. (C) Micelle. Adjacent nitrogen atoms make this highly unfavorable. (D) Azotosome vesicle of diameter 90 Å, the size of a small virus particle.

Dyson Spheres and Swarms around White Dwarfs avoid two out of three major problems with Dyson Spheres

A Dyson Sphere is a hypothetical structure that an advanced civilization might build around a star to intercept all of the star’s light for its energy needs. One usually thinks of it as a spherical shell about one astronomical unit (AU) in radius, and surrounding a more or less Sun-like star; and might be detectable as an infrared point source. Researchers point out that Dyson Spheres could also be built around white dwarfs. This type would avoid the need for artificial gravity technology, in contrast to the AU-scale Dyson Spheres. In fact, we show that parameters can be found to build Dyson Spheres suitable –temperature and gravity-wise– for human habitation. This type would be much harder to detect.

(H/T Adam Crowl at CrowlSpace

The simplest form of the Dyson Sphere, a solid spherical shell, is problematic: It would be subject to unaccetably large stresses and its equilibrium around the star is neutral at best. Therefore, variants were suggested where the “sphere” actually consists of pieces in independent orbits (A “Dyson Swarm”). Another consideration is gravity: If the sphere were built in the Sol system with 1 AU radius, the gravity due to the Sun would be only 5 × 10^−4g, so humans could not live on it without either genetic modification to become compatible with microgravity, or a technology of artificial gravity.

A rigid Dyson Sphere around a white dwarf still could not be built without some extra means of support (some magic material like the fictional Scrith), about which they chose not to speculate here.

In the Arxiv study they have chosen to mostly ignore the mechanical complications associated with the simplest case, the rigid spherical shell, but make the case for a variant where the central object is different: A white dwarf (WD). They show that a smaller Dyson Sphere built around a typical white dwarf can simultaneously satisfy the temperature and gravity requirements for human, and therefore presumably similar, life. It would also require less building materials than an AU-scale Dyson Sphere, still provide one hundred thousand to one million times the living area of a planet, and obviously not require artificial gravity technology. Such a Dyson Sphere would also radiate in the IR, but since it will have white-dwarf power, it would be harder to detect.

Stars with masses of up to approximately 4 solar masses will eventually become white dwarfs.

The temperature and the gravitational field on a Dyson Sphere are both functions of its radius, once the mass and luminosity of the central object are given.

Denizens of the Dyson Sphere would live on the outside of the sphere, using energy collected on the inside surface, e.g. photovoltaically. This means that they will either have to use artificial lighting, or light pipes. Both possibilities will facilitate creation of day/night cycles, if the metabolisms of the denizens requires it, as expected for creatures originating on a rotating planet. They could also use nuclear power (fission or fusion) for extra energy, which will increase the infrared emitted out by the Dyson Sphere slightly.

Properties of some particular suitable white dwarfs and the associated potential Dyson Sphere ranges. The radius, temperature and gravity data are given from the smallest to the largest suitable Dyson Sphere for a given white dwarf.

Dyson Sphere schematic and Dyson Swarms

It was foolish for the USA to ask Allied Countries to Walk away from tens of billions in infrastructure projects

Close allies of the USA such as Australia and South Korea have refrained from joining the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) under U.S. pressure. They actually have been “disadvantaged” by their loyalty. Most likely, these and other countries in the Asia-Pacific will switch course and join the AIIB in due time.

The major European countries (UK, Germany, France and Italy) have announced that they are joining the AIIB.

Yes, $150 billion and $4 trillion more does buy global friends and influence

China has pledged $50 billion to launch the AIIB; $40 billion for the Silk Road infrastructure fund, which seeks to revive the trade routes that once connected China to the Mediterranean; $10 billion for the New Development Bank (also known as the BRICS Bank), which is co-founded with Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa; and $41 billion for a related BRICS Bank currency contingency fund.

China has also said that they will leverage their $4 trillion reserve to support global high speed rail, ports, airports, industry and nuclear energy projects.

X-World Bank President thinks the US administration does not have competence or proper focus on China

X-World Bank President Zoellick doesn’t believe Susan Rice, knows China well, has many connections in the country or is conversant in the combination of economics and security issues. Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, is highly focused on the Middle East.

“Given the significance of China for security, economic, climate, political issues, you really need to see this as an integrated whole, and I don’t see where that occurs in the [Obama] administration,” he says.

Rethink Robotics has new one arm bot Sawyer that is smaller, faster and more precise than Baxter

Rethink Robotics' new robot arm, Sawyer, is a high performance robot designed for machine tending and other precise application. Hundreds of Baxter robots have been sold. Sawyer has pre-sales in the hundreds. There are other robotic systems with higher sales volume. Rethink Robotic systems are leaders in usability and safety.

Rethink Robotics today provided an exciting glimpse into the future of collaborative robotics with the introduction of Sawyer™, a single-arm, high-performance robot designed to execute machine tending, circuit board testing and other precise tasks that have historically been impractical to automate with traditional industrial robots. Sawyer is a significant addition to the company’s smart, collaborative robot family, which also includes the groundbreaking Baxter™ robot that defined the category of safe, interactive, affordable automation.

Sawyer offers the same highly-touted safety, compliance and usability advantages of Baxter – including the iconic “face” screen, embedded sensors and train-by-demonstration user interface – while providing the smaller footprint and high precision performance needed for tasks that require significant agility and flexibility. In addition, Sawyer runs on the Intera™ software system, the same extensible platform that powers Baxter, so it works like humans do by dynamically adapting to real-world conditions on the plant floor and integrating seamlessly into existing work cells. Together, Baxter and Sawyer can address many of the estimated 90 percent of manufacturing tasks that cannot be feasibly automated with traditional solutions today.

Weighing only 19 kg (42 lbs), Sawyer features a 4kg (8.8 lb) payload, with 7 degrees of freedom and a 1-meter reach that can maneuver into the tight spaces and varied alignments of work cells designed for humans. Its high-resolution force sensing, embedded at each joint, enables Rethink Robotics’ compliant motion control, which allows the robot to “feel” its way into fixtures or machines, even when parts or positions vary. This enables an adaptive precision that is unique to the robotics industry and allows Sawyer to work effectively in semi-structured environments. In addition, Sawyer features an embedded vision system, which includes a camera in its head to perform applications requiring a wide field of view and a Cognex camera with a built-in light source in its wrist for precision vision applications. Sawyer’s vision system enables the Robot Positioning System for dynamic re-orientation, and over time will support more advanced features that are inherent to the Cognex system, such as barcode scanning and object recognition.

The arm actuators have been redesigned. Baxter uses springs made out of “C”-shaped pieces of steel. Sawyer uses titanium S shaped springs. The spring redesign and cables through the joints allowed Sawyer’s arm to be smaller, faster and more precise.

Zaptec can adaptively charge electric cars three times faster

Zaptec AS has developed the Zap Charger System which is a smaller, better, safer and faster alternative for charging an electric car in your home. The adaptive charging is smart enough to increase the speed of charging but not cause outages or instability with power to the rest of the house.

Technical details on Zaptec Plasma Drill which could drill 2000 meters down with gear that could fit in a Spacex Dragon capsule

Zaptec has a new plasma drilling technology which could achieve practical, affordable, and reliable deep drilling on the Moon, asteroids, Mars, and its moons. The drilling system comprises a freely advancing drill head tethered by a power cable to a power source topside and high voltage generator downhole. The drill advances by generating a high-energy density plasma at the drill head which breaks down and pulverizes the target rock. A key enabling technology is the system’s ability to deliver high energy plasma discharges via low mass, small volume power transformers located in the
drill head section. Powder cuttings may be removed by circulating compressed CO2.

Zaptec on the Moon

On the Moon, the subsurface in the polar regions may be a repository of volatiles of value to science and as a potential resource for future human exploration. A Zaptec drill could be deployed on a future robotic lunar lander mission, such as Moon Express, or in the context of human missions. The fine dust from drilling goes through the unit, is analysed, and then sprayed into a dust exhaust in contact with the surface vacuum. An alternative scenario is to expand the module with a processing unit which sorts out minerals from H2O/CO2 ice. The mineral dust can then be used as raw materials for local manufacturing.

Zaptec on Asteroids, the Moons of Mars, and Other Rocky Small Bodies

On asteroids, the subsurface may yield pristine asteroidal materials and potential resources for human exploration as well. The moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, are expected to present similar opportunities. Because the Zaptec approach does not require weight on bit, it is able to effectively drill into any rocky small body in microgravity. The Zaptec system is anticipated to reach 50 to 100 meter depths with less than 250 kg of gear topside and 1 kW of peak power.

Zaptec Plasma lightning pulses could reduce space mining infrastructure by 100 times for moon, Mars and asteroid mining

Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) and Zaptec sign a Memorandum of Understanding to explore how technologies developed by Zaptec for the oil and gas industry can be utilised in lunar mining.

SEC is focusing on building a supply chain for extraction of water ice and minerals from the surface of the Moon, to convert the resources into fuel.

Shackleton Energy believes that the electronic transformer technology developed by Zaptec for the oil and gas industry can be applied to SEC’s lunar mining plans as it reduces size and mass of equipment, which is a primary goal of SECs strategy.

The cost of operations on the lunar surface is sensitive to the size and mass of equipment, SEC is always on the lookout for novel engineering solutions, especially for power systems and extraction that drive the fundamental design of in-space systems.

A potential solution has been developed by Zaptec, a Norwegian company that originated from the oil and gas industry. Zaptec has developed a patented electronic transformer that enables transformation of high voltages and high currents in very small devices, reducing material usage by a factor of 100. Zaptec's transformer enables plasma lightning pulses to be generated and controlled in very compact, powerful drilling technology. Plasma drilling technology offers the potential to extract water ice at significantly lower power levels compared with traditional mechanical drilling systems.

“Zaptec´s miniature electronic transformer technology can enable significant mass reduction for space infrastructure”, says Jim Keravala, COO of SEC. “We are constantly looking for technologies that reduce size and power requirements for energy efficient operations in free space and on the Moon. It will also be able to power high-voltage plasma drilling technology, adding to Shackleton’s water and mineral extraction equipment.”

"We are already collaborating with NASA and ESA to develop our core technology for operations on asteroids and drilling on Mars. Adding industrial development on the Moon to our objectives is very inspiring and Shackleton Energy Company is a good match for both our technology and ambitions as a company", says Brage W. Johansen, CEO of Zaptec. "This working relationship will accelerate our technology's development; sharing competence, skills and strategies in this way may change the industry”, Johansen concludes.

Zaptec develop and manufacture extremely compact, efficient and lightweight switch mode transformers/power supplies from 0.5 to 22 kW and above, having AC (50/60/400 Hz) or DC output.

The company currently offers three-phase 400 VAC 11 kW and single phase 230 VAC 3.6 kW units for use as isolating transformers in stationary or portable applications.

Zaptec deep drilling system capable of reaching a depth of 2 km, deployed from a SpaceX Dragon-class landed capsule. Astronaut shown for scale (Image Credit: Zaptec). Right: An important goal of deep drilling on Mars will be to reach potential underground aquifers to search for any extant life. Image credit: Mars Institute. (Image Credit: Mars Institute. Background diagram: ESA).

Zaptec currently offer their technology through the following products:

1. Three-phase 400VAC 11 kW class II isolating transformer for stationary use in a wall-box.

2. Single phase 230VAC 3.6 kW class II isolating transformer for portable applications with waterproof housing.

3. HV DC power supply 5kW 20 kV for custom applications. This can be series connected

Zaptec’s technology enables transformers to be made with a wide range of sizes and specifications depending on the application.

Innovations and advantages of the offer

* Low mass, less than 0.7 g/W including water- and shockproof housing and cooling system for 3.6 kW system
* Low volume, less than 206 cm3 for 40kV 5 kW system (excluding driver and housing/cooling)
* Efficient, better than 98% efficiency (excluding power for forced cooling, if needed)


Current use: Onshore and offshore, aviation and space

Potential use: Medical applications, energy transfer systems, high power tools and machines.

Description of Zaptec Space Heritage

The new transformer technology was originally developed to power a plasma channel drill for autonomous exploration drilling in underground formations. Plasma channel drilling is promising technology for drilling on planetary objects including the Moon, Mars and asteroids.

There are billions of tons of water ice on the poles of the Moon. Shackleton Energy plans to extract lunar water ice, turn it into rocket fuel and create fuel stations in Earth's orbit. Just like on Earth you won't get far on a single tank of gas, what we can do in space today is straight-jacketed by how much fuel we can bring along from the Earth's surface. Our fuel stations will change how we do business in space and jump-start a multi-trillion dollar industry.

Nextbigfuture previously reported on Shackleton Energy in 2011, when they had a crowdfunding attempt.

Shackleton Energy claims its lunar ice program will cost less than one-tenth of the Apollo program, generates revenue within 4 years and breaks even within 12 years. They claim they can make moon mining happen with $10 billion.

The Economist magazine had a feature on the moon mining effort and Bill Stone. Dr Stone founded the Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) to process water on the Earth’s Moon into oxygen and hydrogen for rocket fuel. It can cost around $16,000 per kilo to send supplies like fuel into low Earth orbit. Transporting fuel to the Moon would cost at least five times as much, says Jeffrey Hoffman, a space-flight expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is familiar with SEC. The ability to produce fuel in space, he thinks, would slash the cost of missions from placing geostationary satellites to interplanetary travel."

Germany, France, Italy and UK will join China's Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

All it took was $50 billion and the possible trillions to follow to get participation from the main European allies of the United States. China has a large economy and $4 trillion in reserves.

In the ADB (Asian Development Bank), China is a major capital provider but has a tiny share of the voting power (5.47%, compared with 15.7 and 15.6 percent for Japan and the US, respectively). And the US has thus far dragged its heels on implementing a 2010 deal that would give China and other developing nations a larger voice in the World Bank and IMF. The formation of the AIIB and BRICS bank may represent a loss in international influence for the US and its allies, but it’s a loss that is, in some respects, overdue.

The World Bank and ADB are more focused on poverty reduction and concessional lending than infrastructure investment, and Asia has a huge unmet demand for infrastructure investment. In an often-cited 2010 report, the ADB estimated that developing Asian countries need to invest US$8 trillion between 2010 to 2020 to meet infrastructure needs. However, the ADB lends only $10 billion annually for infrastructure. Theoretically, the AIIB could complement rather than compete with the ADB and World Bank in Asia.

Germany, France and Italy followed the U.K.’s lead in applying to join a China-led international development bank, lending the weight of Europe’s largest economies to the project despite U.S. opposition.

Europe’s four top powers have now broken ranks with Washington in moving to become founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The decision is expected to spur other U.S. allies to back the potential challenger to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, where Washington has significant influence.

Tuesday’s decision, announced by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble after a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai in Berlin, underscored the willingness of traditional U.S. allies to split with Washington on policy to curry favor in Beijing. The readiness of the U.K.—one of the U.S.’s closest allies—to defy Washington with its decision last week to join helped to clear the way for other Western economies to follow suit, a European diplomat said.

China launched the AIIB in October—one in a series of moves to boost its regional and global influence—and invited other countries to join as founding members by March 31. Endowed with an initial capitalization of $50 billion, the bank would have a mandate to finance infrastructure projects around the world.

European officials also say that moving quickly to join the bank could benefit their economies. The British government has said it wanted to become the main European destination for Chinese investments, and China is Germany’s fourth-largest trading partner, accounting for 7% of Germany’s exports.

“This is basically about money,” said Ted Truman, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. “The Europeans figure they can affect the changes from the inside, and still get some of the contracts.”

March 18, 2015

Costs of China's air pollution and cost to greatly reduce the problem

The cost of air pollution in China has been estimated at 6.5 percent of GDP. Applying that figure to China’s GDP of $8,227 trillion dollars in 2012, the year on which we base much of our analysis, implies that reducing air pollution in China to levels considered acceptable by WHO would yield annual benefits of $535 billion. As incomes rise and China becomes more urbanized, these costs are rising.

China's GDP including Hong Kong and Macau will be about $11.6 trillion in 2015. This would mean the cost of the air pollution would be $750 billion.

Rand estimates the costs of three measures to reduce air pollution in China:
1. substituting natural gas or propane for coal for residential and commercial use
2. replacing coal with renewable and nuclear fuels to generate electricity
3. scrapping older vehicles.

Replacing coal used for residential and commercial use and about half of all coal used to generate electricity in 2012 would have resulted in a decline in coal use of 1.009 million metric tons, representing 27 percent of Chinese coal consumption that year.

The cost of replacing half of coal-fired power with water, wind, and nuclear power at $184 billion.

China will spend $370 billion building nuclear reactors over the next decade

China approved two reactors this month as it vowed to cut coal use to meet terms of a carbon-emissions agreement reached in November between President Xi Jinping and U.S. counterpart Barack Obama. About $370 billion will be spent on atomic power over the next decade, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates. Plans to triple nuclear capacity by 2020 to as much as 58 gigawatts.

“China is in a race with itself to reach a nuclear-power goal set for 2020 that’s concurrent with a coal-reduction plan,” Tian Miao, an analyst at North Square Blue Oak Ltd., a London-based researcher, said in Beijing. “Because it normally takes five years to build one reactor, the program needs to be ramped up from now on.”

China has 24 reactors in operation and another 25 under construction, according to the World Nuclear Association. France gets about 75 percent of its electricity generated by nuclear, making it the world leader, while the global average is about 11 percent, WNA data show. Whatever money is spent will only put a dent in the importance of coal, which is still expected to make up almost two-thirds of the nation’s power mix in 2030, said Wood Mackenzie Ltd., an Edinburgh-based energy consultant.

New nanoscale metamaterials for future ultra-high-speed computing

Tel Aviv University (TAU) researchers have discovered novel nanoscale "metamaterials" which could serve as future ultra-high-speed computing units.

The new optical materials could serve as the nuts and bolts of future ultra-high-speed optical computing units. According to the research, led by Dr. Tal Ellenbogen and conducted by group members Nadav Segal, Shay Keren-Zur, and Netta Hendler, all of the Department of Physical Electronics at TAU's School of Electrical Engineering and TAU's Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, these "nonlinear metamaterials," which possess physical capabilities not found in nature, may be the building blocks that allow major companies like IBM and Intel to move from electronic to optical computing.

Nature Photonics - Nonlinear optics: Metamaterial quasi-phase matching The introduction of periodic inversion in the geometry of a plasmonic metasurface markedly boosts the efficiency of nonlinear processes in ultracompact structures.

Nature Photonics - Controlling light with metamaterial-based nonlinear photonic crystals

US Crude oil production hits new post 1972 peak of 9.419 million barrels per day

March 17, 2015

Number Chinese tourists travelling overseas will triple by 2023

The number of annual outbound Chinese tourists visiting coastal U.S. cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco will triple during the next decade, and their spending will quadruple, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) predicted.

Almost 1.2 million Chinese tourists will visit New York in 2023, up from about 395,000 in 2013, according to IHG. During the same time period, Los Angeles’ annual tourism arrivals from China will jump to about 1.1 million from 392,000, while San Francisco’s will surge to more than 700,000 from about 250,000.

A new global study by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) in partnership with Oxford Economics found the number of Chinese households earning more than $US35,000 ($45,970) - considered a threshold for being able to afford overseas travel - will nearly triple to 63 million by 2023.

NVIDIA Propels Deep Learning with 7 TeraFLOP flagship GPU TITAN X

TITAN X is Nvidia's new flagship GeForce gaming GPU, but it’s also uniquely suited for deep learning.

NVIDIA CEO and co-founder Jen-Hsun Huang showcased three new technologies that will fuel deep learning during his opening keynote address to the 4,000 attendees of the GPU Technology Conference:

* NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN X – the most powerful processor ever built for training deep neural networks.

* DIGITS Deep Learning GPU Training System – a software application that makes it far easier for data scientists and researchers to quickly create high-quality deep neural networks.

* DIGITS DevBox – the world’s fastest deskside deep learning appliance — purpose-built for the task, powered by four TITAN X GPUs and loaded with the intuitive-to-use DIGITS training system.

Double life: Titan X can spin elaborate virtual worlds or blast through heavy-duty science.

Built on the NVIDIA Maxwell GPU architecture, TITAN X delivers twice the performance and double the power efficiency of its predecessor by combining 3,072 processing cores for 7 teraflops of peak single-precision performance with 12GB of onboard memory.

With that processing power and 336.5GB/s of memory bandwidth, it can rip through the millions of pieces of data used to train deep neural networks. On AlexNet, an industry-standard model, for example, TITAN X took less than three days to train the model using the 1.2 million image ImageNet dataset, compared with over 40 days for a 16-core CPU.

Available today, TITAN X is selling for just $999.

Upgraded computer and fiber networking could reduce the weight of the M1A3 tank by 2 tons

The U.S. Army is making prototypes now of the M1A3 tank. The Russia-Ukraine war is increasing the need for modernized armor.

Production units of the M1A3 should be ready around 2017. Estimates have determined that if the current computer cabling in the M1A2 tank were replaced with state-of-the-art fiber-optic cables, the weight of the tank could be reduced by almost two tons.

The Abrams has been criticized for its size and weight. At almost 70 tons, the tank has proven difficult to transport by air into foreign combat zones. It is incapable of crossing most bridges. The U.S. Army hopes to rectify these problems with the new M1A3 version of the Abrams, which is planned to be lighter and more manoeuvrable than previous generations.

To make the next version lighter and more mobile, the Army plans to replace the M256 smoothbone gun with a lighter 120 millimeter cannon; install a more durable track; use lighter armor; and insert precision armaments capable of hitting targets from 12 kilometers. Preliminary plans also call for the addition of an infrared camera and laser detector.

While the Future Combat Systems program was discontinued in the meantime, the types of ammunition continue to be developed:

Advanced Kinetic Energy (AKE): The APFSDS projectile shall be named M829E4. It should be ready now

Advanced Multi-Purpose (AMP): multipurpose grenade, which is intended to replace M908 (Obstacle Reduction), M830 (HEAT), M830A1 (MPAT) and M1028 (Canister) by a grenade type. This also should be ready now.

Mid-Range Munitions (MRM): self-homing end bullet for indirect fire in up to 12 km away. Should be ready now.

Netanyahu wins in Israel and will form a more hard line governing coalition

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared victory in Tuesday's close national elections.

Netanyahu, leader of the conservative Likud Party, made the announcement on Twitter. "Against all odds: a great victory for the Likud. A major victory for the people of Israel!" he wrote in Hebrew.

Exit polls had showed Likud in a dead heat with the center-left Zionist Union. But the results indicated that Netanyahu will have an easier time forming a government with support from hard-line and religious allies

A more hard line coalition and a continuation with Netanyahu as the leader will mean
- no Palestinian state or deal for the duration of this term
- harder line dealings with Iran
- continuing friction with the USA Obama Administration

Self-Fueled Biomimetic Liquid Metal for robotic monitoring within blood vessels or pipes

A liquid metal motor that can “eat” aluminum food and then move spontaneously and swiftly in various solution configurations and structured channels for more than 1 h is discovered. Such biomimetic mollusk is highly shape self-adaptive by closely conforming to the geometrical space it voyages in. The first ever self-fueled pump is illustrated as one of its typical practical utilizations.

The self-powered liquid metal motor is surprisingly simple. You just a drop of metal alloy made mostly of gallium – which is liquid at just under 30 °C – with some indium and tin mixed in. When placed in a solution of sodium hydroxide, or even brine, and kept in contact with a flake of aluminium for "fuel", it moves around for about an hour. It can travel in a straight line, run around the outside of a circular dish, or squeeze through complex shapes.

"The soft machine looks rather intelligent and [can] deform itself according to the space it voyages in, just like [the] Terminator does from the science-fiction film," says Jing Liu from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. "These unusual behaviours perfectly resemble the living organisms in nature," he says, adding that they raise questions about the definition of life.

US Defense is still getting less at higher costs and the F35 is still the loss leader

United States Government Accountability Office provides its latest 194 page report on US defence acquisitions. Over the past year, the overall size of DOD’s major defense acquisition program portfolio decreased, from 80 programs to 78, while the estimated cost has decreased by $7.6 billion. The size and cost of the portfolio is currently the lowest in a decade. The decrease in current portfolio cost is due primarily to significant quantity decreases on two programs—most other programs actually experienced a cost increase over the past year. The average time to deliver initial capability to the warfighter also increased by over 1 month. Forty-one programs in the portfolio lost buying power during the past year resulting in $5.3 billion in additional costs, a contrast to the buying power gains seen in GAO’s prior assessments. The F-35, the costliest program in the portfolio, epitomizes this loss in buying power as its costs have risen over the past year without any change in quantity, meaning it is paying more for the same amount of capability.

If the cost and schedule performance data of the F-35 is removed, the 2014 portfolio’s performance improves. Since joining the portfolio in 2001, F-35 has been the costliest program in the portfolio while also experiencing approximately $113 billion in cost growth, more than any other program in the current portfolio. The program has also experienced a significant loss in buying power as this cost growth occurred despite quantities dropping by more than 400 aircraft since the start of system development.

When looking at total cost, the F-35 currently accounts for almost one quarter, or more than $335 billion, of the total estimated development and procurement cost of the portfolio. In addition, among the 78 programs in the current portfolio, it has the largest amount of funding remaining for development and procurement. As we have previously concluded, there are risks facing the program which may result in additional cost growth and schedule delays.

China is third largest arms exporter and USA is number one

China has surpassed Germany to become the world’s third-largest arms exporter.

The United States has taken a firm lead as the major arms exporter globally, according to new data on international arms transfers published today by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Overall, the volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons grew by 16 per cent between 2005–2009 and 2010–14.

The volume of US exports of major weapons rose by 23 per cent between 2005–2009 and 2010–14.

Russian exports of major weapons increased by 37 per cent between 2005–2009 and 2010–14. During the same period, Chinese exports of major arms increased by 143 per cent, making it the third largest supplier in 2010–14, however still significantly behind the USA and Russia.
Arms exports up but less than during cold war

Researchers can magnetize graphene using hydrogen and could enable 1 milion fold improvement over todays hard drives

Graphene, an atomically thin sheet of carbon, has been intensively studied for the last decade to reveal exceptional mechanical, electrical, and optical properties. Recently, researchers have started to explore an even more surprising property—magnetism. Theories and experiments have suggested that either defects in graphene or chemical groups bound to graphene can cause it to exhibit magnetism; however, to date there was no way to create large-area magnetic graphene which could be easily patterned. Now, scientists from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have found a simple and robust means to magnetize graphene using hydrogen.

The questions now facing the researchers are how fine the patterning of hydrogen can be and for how long the ferromagnetism can be stable. If those questions are answered, this technique could lead to a storage medium with a single hydrogenated-carbon pair storing a single magnetic bit of data, a roughly greater than million-fold improvement over current hard drives.

Magnetic force microscopy image of a section of a large array that Naval Research Laboratory scientists generated by electron-beam lithography. This map of the magnetic strength shows the ferromagnetic, hydrogenated graphene lattice and the 500 nm wide, nonmagnetic, graphene squares. (Photo: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

Spacex will more than double rocket engine production in two years and Tesla is solving electric car range issues with software this year

Elon Musk is the CEO of space launch company Spacex and Tesla the successful electric car company. Those companies are making major progress.

Spacex expects to produce at least 180 rocket engines this year, with that number set to increase to 240 next year, and 400 in 2017, Shotwell told Reuters in an interview late last week. Spacex is on track to complete 13 launches this year.

The Air Force expects to certify SpaceX by June to launch some military and intelligence satellites using its Falcon 9 rockets. Currently, those satellites can only be launched by ULA, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, the two largest U.S. arms makers.

SpaceX has already launched three times this year and is gearing up for a fourth launch on March 21, followed by a cargo resupply mission for NASA in early April.

The company also has a prototype crew capsule at Cape Canaveral for a test flight to prove that a spaceship carrying astronauts could safely abort a mission if a rocket blew up on the launch pad, she said.

Spacex is making "great progress" on its 27-engine Falcon Heavy rocket, and planned to test it later this year at a refurbished space shuttle launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Tesla Motors will present a software update to its Model S vehicle at a news conference on Thursday that is designed to quell fears that drivers will run out of power for their cars.

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