April 25, 2015

Americans worry about the Terminator Robot Apocalypse but what about a Japanese Sexbot Apocalypse ?

There are interesting cultural differences between Americans and Japanese. Americans fear the Terminator movie scenario of a robot or Artificial intelligence apacolypse. However, Japan is facing sharp population decrease from lowering birth rates. This could be accelerated with more realistic sexbots that extend the Japanese sex doll industry. This is part of Japan's greater cultural acceptance of robots where they think that robots will like Astroboy or the manga fembots or the bots that care for the elderly.

The Japanese sex doll industry is reaching new levels with the release of a new line of dolls, which claims to be more genuine than ever. The dolls, which are made of rubber and silicon, were described in a video as having realistic feeling skin and authentic looking eyes and hair.

A-Lab’s has had the android Asuna since 2014






Will Avengers 2 or Star Wars 7 be the bigger box office movie ?

Avengers 1 was the third highest grossing movie after Titanic and Avatar.
Avengers 2 Age of Ultron will open next week.
Star Wars 7 will open at Xmas 2015. The Star Wars prequels did not perform as well at the box office but Phantom Menace still was 17th for domestic box office when inflation adjusted. The original Star Wars is number 2 when inflation adjusted. The first Star Wars had $1.4 billion in inflation adjusted domestic box office.

The new Star Wars 7 will have the original cast back and transitioning to new actors. However, Han, Chewie, Luke and Leia will be in the movie. Can Star Wars 7 catch that old box office magic?



Will the Marvel movie box office keep growing ?

One head wind that they are facing for global box office is that the US dollar is up about 10-40% against many major foreign currencies.

Here is the survey and below are the trailers.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

April 24, 2015

OECD calculates that China about 65% urbanized and has 17 megacities based on Functional urban area

Instead of just looking at cities' administrative borders or "statutory city population," OECD’s study takes into account surrounding “functional urban areas” (FUA), which may lie outside the administrative borders but are significant to the social and economic makeup of the city. A lot of this is the result of China’s complex “hukou” system, the registration license given to residents of a city, which limits the mobility of citizens from outside from residing inside administrative borders.

OECD functional urban area statistics are here

OECD figured china had 15 cities with at least 10 million people (defined as megacities) back in 2010 but now two more likely joined

UN Figures China is urbanizing faster than official estimates

If Functional urban areas are used to calculate urbanization then China was61.2% urbanized in 2010 and likely is about 65% urbanized now

Uranium deal was only national security adjacent but deal is like the Gerhard Schröder Gazprom situation

Are there strategic implications for increasing Russian control of uranium production based on the Hillary Clinton Uranium One deal ? I would say no. It is national security adjacent and mainly corruption similar to the Gerhard Schröder Gazprom situation.

As Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schröder was a strong advocate of the Nord Stream pipeline project, which aims to supply Russian gas directly to Germany, thereby bypassing transit countries. The agreement to build the pipeline was signed two weeks before the German parliamentary election. On 24 October 2005, just a few weeks before Schröder stepped down as Chancellor, the German government guaranteed to cover 1 billion euros of the Nord Stream project cost, should Gazprom default on a loan. However, this guarantee had never been used.] Soon after stepping down as chancellor, Schröder accepted Gazprom's nomination for the post of the head of the shareholders' committee of Nord Stream AG, raising questions about a potential conflict of interest. German opposition parties expressed concern over the issue, as did the governments of countries over whose territory gas is currently pumped.

The Uranium deal I am referring to is the Uranium One buyout that was approved by Hillary Clinton. This appeared to be in exchange for millios to tens of millions donated to the Clinton foundation and perhaps millions of speaking fees for Bill Clinton.

Uranium production matters more than Uranium reserves

Reserves is only how much they bothered to find and the quality of how easy the source is to produce.

Russia and Kazakhstan already produce about 50% of world uranium.
It is about 15 times more than the USA.

USA at about 1900 tons per year
Kazak at about 24000 tons per year
russia at about 4000-5000 tons per year.

Canada having big oilsand reserves but produces a lot less than Saudi Arabia.

The USA has less uranium reserves than Russia and less than Kazakhstan.





Wing in Ground Effect Plane from South Korea

The Wing Ship Technology Corporation, a South Korean company, is trying to revive the wing in ground effect idea. South Korea's armed forces have already agreed to buy some and the firm says it hopes to announce its first commercial sales (to an oil-and-gas firm and a Mediterranean ferry company) shortly.

In Korea, Wing Ship Technology Corporation has developed and tested a 50 seat passenger version of a WIG craft named the WSH-500 and they have a new design the WSH 1500.

The WSH500 turboprop and can carry 50 passengers. It has a catamaran-style hull and a reverse delta wing. Its cruising speed, 180kph (110mph), makes it faster than a jetfoil, its principal rival. And the production version will have a range of 1,000km.

A ground effect vehicle (GEV) is one that attains level flight near the surface of the Earth, making use of the aerodynamic interaction between the wings and the surface known as ground effect. The ground effects makes flight more efficient and in theory would allow for very big planes with a lot more cargo. Best known are the Soviet ekranoplanes, but names like wing-in-ground-effect (WIG), flarecraft, sea skimmer, or wing-in-surface-effect ship (WISE) are also used. In recent years a large number of different GEV types have been developed for both civilian and military use. However, these craft have yet to enter widespread use.

The delta wing’s geometry amplifies the ground effect, allowing the new craft to cruise as high as five metres above the water’s surface. That means it is less likely to be confined to harbour by rough seas, which was one of the problems encountered by previous designs. It also launches itself by directing some of the airflow from the turbo props downwards, to create a temporary hovercraftlike effect until it is travelling forwards at full tilt. The difficulty of getting airborne was another bugbear of previous designs.

WSH1500 design

WSH500

New Armata Tanks and Variants Seen at Parade Rehearsal, First Redesigned Russian Tanks since 1970s

The Russian Ground Forces' new suite of armoured vehicles have been officially revealed for the first time by the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD), ahead of their formal debut at the 9 May Moscow Victory Day Parade.

The new vehicles are principally clean-slate designs and represent the biggest change in Russia's armoured fighting vehicle families since the 1960s and 1970s.

Armata
The flagship of the new armoured vehicles is the Armata main battle tank (MBT), also known as the T-14 and built by UralVagonZavod. The images show an MBT much more in keeping with recent western philosophies on tank design, appearing larger and taller than the T-72/90 it will replace.

The key feature of the Armata is its unmanned turret, with all three crew members (commander, gunner, driver) seated in a crew capsule at the front of the vehicle's hull. Although the turret is covered in the MoD image, Armata is understood to be armed with a 2A82A 125 mm smoothbore main gun fed by a bustle-mounted automatic loader equipped with 32 rounds.

Armata is also reported to feature a 30 mm coaxial secondary armament and a 12.7 mm machine gun.



Complete Woolly Mammoth Genome Sequenced

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth.

A US team is already attempting to study the animals' characteristics by inserting mammoth genes into elephant stem cells.

Current Biology - Complete Genomes Reveal Signatures of Demographic and Genetic Declines in the Woolly Mammoth



Highlights

•Complete high-quality genomes from two woolly mammoths were sequenced and analyzed
•40,000-year time difference between samples enabled calibration of molecular clock
•Demographic inference identified two severe bottlenecks in the species’ history
•One of the last surviving mammoths had low heterozygosity and signs of inbreeding

Summary

The processes leading up to species extinctions are typically characterized by prolonged declines in population size and geographic distribution, followed by a phase in which populations are very small and may be subject to intrinsic threats, including loss of genetic diversity and inbreeding. However, whether such genetic factors have had an impact on species prior to their extinction is unclear; examining this would require a detailed reconstruction of a species’ demographic history as well as changes in genome-wide diversity leading up to its extinction. Here, we present high-quality complete genome sequences from two woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius). The first mammoth was sequenced at 17.1-fold coverage and dates to ∼4,300 years before present, representing one of the last surviving individuals on Wrangel Island. The second mammoth, sequenced at 11.2-fold coverage, was obtained from an ∼44,800-year-old specimen from the Late Pleistocene population in northeastern Siberia. The demographic trajectories inferred from the two genomes are qualitatively similar and reveal a population bottleneck during the Middle or Early Pleistocene, and a more recent severe decline in the ancestors of the Wrangel mammoth at the end of the last glaciation. A comparison of the two genomes shows that the Wrangel mammoth has a 20% reduction in heterozygosity as well as a 28-fold increase in the fraction of the genome that comprises runs of homozygosity. We conclude that the population on Wrangel Island, which was the last surviving woolly mammoth population, was subject to reduced genetic diversity shortly before it became extinct.

April 23, 2015

Gas Giant planets are being spotted up to 27000 light years away with microlensing and the Spitzer space telescope

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has teamed up with a telescope on the ground to find a remote gas planet about 13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known.

The discovery demonstrates that Spitzer, from its unique perch in space, can be used to help solve the puzzle of how planets are distributed throughout our flat, spiral-shaped Milky Way galaxy. Are they concentrated heavily in its central hub, or more evenly spread throughout its suburbs?

There is a collaboration between astronomers using Spitzer and the Poland-based Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment, or OGLE.

OGLE’s Warsaw telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile scans the skies for planets using a method called microlensing. A microlensing event occurs when one star happens to pass in front of another, and its gravity acts as a lens to magnify and brighten the more distant star’s light. If that foreground star happens to be orbited by a planet, the planet might cause a blip in the magnification.

Astronomers are using these blips to find and characterize planets up to 27,000 light-years away in the central bulge of our galaxy, where star crossings are more common. Our sun is located in the Milky Way’s suburbs, about two-thirds of the way out from the center. The microlensing technique as a whole has yielded about 30 planet discoveries so far, with the farthest residing about 25,000 light-years away.


Engineered Cas9 Genome-editing protein with 10- to 100-fold increase in specificity

David Liu, and a team of scientists has developed an engineered form of Cas9 that can be turned on with a small drug-like molecule. By using this activatable form of Cas9, the team could modify targets in the human genome with up to 25-fold higher specificity than when using the standard form of Cas9. The study is described in an April 6 paper in Nature Chemical Biology.

"This study sought to improve the specificity of genome editing by carefully controlling when Cas9 is active. We engineered a form of Cas9 that is only active in the presence of a harmless, drug-like small molecule which we provide to the cell," Liu explained. "We showed it's possible to achieve efficient genome editing using this system, but because you can stop the production of active Cas9 by withholding the small molecule once it's had enough time to modify the target genes, you limit the opportunity for off-target genome modification."


Insertion of an evolved ligand-dependent intein enables small-molecule control of ​Cas9.

Nature Chemical Biology - Small molecule–triggered ​Cas9 protein with improved genome-editing specificity

Directly modulating the activity of genome-editing proteins has the potential to increase their specificity by reducing activity following target locus modification. We developed ​Cas9 nucleases that are activated by the presence of a cell-permeable small molecule by inserting an evolved ​4-hydroxytamoxifen–responsive intein at specific positions in ​Cas9. In human cells, conditionally active ​Cas9s modify target genomic sites with up to 25-fold higher specificity than wild-type ​Cas9.

Increasing the accuracy of genome editing

The Chinese gene editing of human embyros does not appear to have been using the latest techniques for maximum accuracy.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a powerful new tool for editing the genome. For researchers around the world, the CRISPR-Cas9 technique is an exciting innovation because it is faster and cheaper than previous methods. Now, using a molecular trick, Dr. Van Trung Chu and Professor Klaus Rajewsky of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and Dr. Ralf Kühn, MDC and Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), have found a solution to considerably increase the efficiency of precise genetic modifications by up to eightfold.

Many researchers, including Van Trung Chu, Klaus Rajewsky and Ralf Kühn, are seeking to promote the HDR repair pathway to make gene modification in the laboratory more precise in order to avoid editing errors and to increase efficiency. The MDC researchers succeeded in increasing the efficiency of the more precisely working HDR repair system by temporarily inhibiting the most dominant repair protein of NHEJ, the enzyme DNA Ligase IV. In their approach they used various inhibitors such as proteins and small molecules.

"But we also used a trick of nature and blocked Ligase IV with the proteins of adeno viruses. Thus we were able to increase the efficiency of the CRISPR-Cas9 technology up to eightfold," Ralf Kühn explained. For example, they succeeded in inserting a gene into a predefined position in the genome (knock-in) in more than 60 per cent of all manipulated mouse cells. Kühn has just recently joined the MDC and is head of the research group for "iPS cell based disease modeling". Before coming to the MDC, he was on the research staff of Helmholtz Zentrum München. "The expertise of Ralf Kühn is very important for gene research at MDC and especially for my research group," Klaus Rajewsky said.

Nature Biotechnology - Increasing the efficiency of homology-directed repair for CRISPR-Cas9-induced precise gene editing in mammalian cells

The insertion of precise genetic modifications by genome editing tools such as CRISPR-Cas9 is limited by the relatively low efficiency of homology-directed repair (HDR) compared with the higher efficiency of the nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) pathway. To enhance HDR, enabling the insertion of precise genetic modifications, we suppressed the NHEJ key molecules KU70, KU80 or DNA ligase IV by gene silencing, the ligase IV inhibitor SCR7 or the coexpression of adenovirus 4 E1B55K and E4orf6 proteins in a 'traffic light' and other reporter systems. Suppression of KU70 and DNA ligase IV promotes the efficiency of HDR 4–5-fold. When co-expressed with the Cas9 system, E1B55K and E4orf6 improved the efficiency of HDR up to eightfold and essentially abolished NHEJ activity in both human and mouse cell lines. Our findings provide useful tools to improve the frequency of precise gene modifications in mammalian cells

Double Nicking to avoid off target changes

Cell - Double Nicking by RNA-Guided CRISPR Cas9 for Enhanced Genome Editing Specificity

Highlights

•Cas9 nickase can facilitate targeted DNA double-strand break using two guide RNAs
•Double nicking of DNA reduces off-target mutagenesis by 50- to 1,000-fold
•Multiplex nicking stimulates homology directed repair, microdeletion, and insertion
•Double nicking provides efficient modification of mouse zygotes

Summary

Targeted genome editing technologies have enabled a broad range of research and medical applications. The Cas9 nuclease from the microbial CRISPR-Cas system is targeted to specific genomic loci by a 20 nt guide sequence, which can tolerate certain mismatches to the DNA target and thereby promote undesired off-target mutagenesis. Here, we describe an approach that combines a Cas9 nickase mutant with paired guide RNAs to introduce targeted double-strand breaks. Because individual nicks in the genome are repaired with high fidelity, simultaneous nicking via appropriately offset guide RNAs is required for double-stranded breaks and extends the number of specifically recognized bases for target cleavage. We demonstrate that using paired nicking can reduce off-target activity by 50- to 1,500-fold in cell lines and to facilitate gene knockout in mouse zygotes without sacrificing on-target cleavage efficiency. This versatile strategy enables a wide variety of genome editing applications that require high specificity.



Supercavitating Very High Speed Stealth Anti-Piracy and Special Ops ship

Juliet Marine Systems is a maritime technology think tank that is developing innovative solutions for naval and commercial applications. They seek to assure fleet force protection in response to small vessel terrorist attacks against our Navy and coalition ships. There is a clear and present danger of these tactics being used against the U.S. Navy throughout the world and in our home ports. These same innovative technologies, applied to commercial needs, will provide a significant decrease in transit time and increase in energy efficiency, resulting in the savings of thousands of gallons of fuel daily.

As a maritime systems think tank, Juliet Marine Systems provides offensive, defensive and ISR solutions that are developed in a skunk works operation able to rapidly invent and construct needed technologies and systems for the Navy and armed forces. We have already developed a surface variant of a supercavitating craft and are planning to apply our unique technology in a Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) prototype.

Although it is a surface vessel, the hydrodynamics of the twin submerged buoyant tubular foils are also a test bed for Juliet Marine's next planned prototype, a long duration UUV. This revolutionary proprietary technology vessel platform will assure force protection through stealth fighter/attack capabilities along with integrated situation awareness. These vessels would create a protective fleet perimeter, providing sensor and weapons platforms, allowing no surface or subsurface intrusions.

The surface vessel is a combination of stealth fighter aircraft and attack helicopter technologies packaged in a marine platform. It is designed to provide a marine surface and subsurface platform for tracking and identification of multiple targets. Systems for integrating on-board weapons will be designed to be capable of multi-target firing solutions while it operates at very high speed. These weapons integration systems will also allow for attacking several targets simultaneously with a variety of weapons systems options.

The same capabilities that have made helicopters valuable to get to hard to reach locations fast, will apply to the surface vessel in commercial applications in the maritime environment. Crew rotations or resupply runs for critical items to off-shore oil rigs can be accomplished two to three times faster than the craft currently in use and would be far less expensive and have fewer weather restrictions than using helicopter assets. The surface vessel is two to three times as fast as most ferries in use today.

* The roof holds a mount for a machine gun and rocket launcher.
* Triple the range of comparable sized ships
* super-cavitating surface craft which can achieve 900 times less hull friction than a conventional watercraft.
* The Ghost has achieved speeds of over 30 knots, and is being tested to 50 knots
* The current Ghost costs $10 million per copy, is crewed by 3-5 sailors, has an endurance of 30 days, and can be partially disassembled to fit in a C-17 Globemaster III for transport if needed. There is room for 16 passengers with two 6 in (15 cm)-diameter round windows in the hull.
* High-level discussions have been held with a foreign nation interested in 25 Ghosts for a potential $300 million sale. Juliet Marine also offered a scaled-up corvette-sized Ghost 150 ft (46 m) in length to the U.S. Navy as part of their re-evaluation of the Littoral Combat Ship program; costing about $50 million per vessel, it is six times cheaper than the $300 million per-ship cost of a Freedom-class and Independence-class littoral combat ship.

Counter Piracy. Guido Vitti. Ghost flies through the ocean on buoyant foils, long propeller-tipped pontoons that sit six feet underwater.





April 22, 2015

Journal Nature reports Chinese scientists have genetically modified human embryos with 32.5% success rate

In a world first, Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. The results are published in the online journal Protein and Cell and confirm widespread rumours that such experiments had been conducted—rumours that sparked a high-profile debate last month about the ethical implications of such work.

In the paper, researchers led by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, tried to head off such concerns by using 'non-viable' embryos, which cannot result in a live birth, that were obtained from local fertility clinics. The team attempted to modify the gene responsible for β-thalassaemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder, using a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9. The researchers say that their results reveal serious obstacles to using the method in medical applications.

"I believe this is the first report of CRISPR/Cas9 applied to human pre-implantation embryos and as such the study is a landmark, as well as a cautionary tale," says George Daley, a stem-cell biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "Their study should be a stern warning to any practitioner who thinks the technology is ready for testing to eradicate disease genes.

Some say that gene editing in embryos could have a bright future because it could eradicate devastating genetic diseases before a baby is born. Others say that such work crosses an ethical line: researchers warned in Nature in March that because the genetic changes to embryos, known as germline modification, are heritable, they could have an unpredictable effect on future generations. Researchers have also expressed concerns that any gene-editing research on human embryos could be a slippery slope towards unsafe or unethical uses of the technique.

The team injected 86 embryos and then waited 48 hours, enough time for the CRISPR/Cas9 system and the molecules that replace the missing DNA to act — and for the embryos to grow to about eight cells each. Of the 71 embryos that survived, 54 were genetically tested. This revealed that just 28 were successfully spliced, and that only a fraction of those contained the replacement genetic material. “If you want to do it in normal embryos, you need to be close to 100%,” Huang says. “That’s why we stopped. We still think it’s too immature.”

His team also found a surprising number of ‘off-target’ mutations assumed to be introduced by the CRISPR/Cas9 complex acting on other parts of the genome.

A Chinese source familiar with developments in the field said that at least four groups in China are pursuing gene editing in human embryos.

An interview with Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist and lecturer at NYU, at Vice shows that there is a difference in cultural attitude to genetic enhancement of children between Asia and the West

We have ideological biases that say, “Well, this could be troubling, we shouldn’t be meddling with nature, we shouldn’t be meddling with God.” I just attended a debate in New York a few weeks ago about whether or not we should outlaw genetic engineering in babies and the audience was pretty split. In China, 95 percent of an audience would say, “Obviously you should make babies genetically healthier, happier, and brighter!” There’s a big cultural difference.

There was other progress identifying the genes to enhance intelligence

Molecular Psychiatry - Genetic contributions to variation in general cognitive function: a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies in the CHARGE consortium

General cognitive function is substantially heritable across the human life course from adolescence to old age. We investigated the genetic contribution to variation in this important, health- and well-being-related trait in middle-aged and older adults. We conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies of 31 cohorts (N=53 949) in which the participants had undertaken multiple, diverse cognitive tests. A general cognitive function phenotype was tested for, and created in each cohort by principal component analysis. We report 13 genome-wide significant single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) associations in three genomic regions, 6q16.1, 14q12 and 19q13.32.

The proportion of phenotypic variation accounted for by all genotyped common SNPs was 29% (s.e.=5%) and 28% (s.e.=7%), respectively. Using polygenic prediction analysis, ~1.2% of the variance in general cognitive function was predicted in the Generation Scotland cohort (N=5487; P=1.5 × 10−17). In hypothesis-driven tests, there was significant association between general cognitive function and four genes previously associated with Alzheimer’s disease: TOMM40, APOE, ABCG1 and MEF2C.

Stephen Hsu posted on the main genetic findings on intelligence. Stephen Hsu has written extensively on the genetic basis on intelligence and the near future of embryo selection. Stephen advises BGI the main genomics company of China.

There was a review of five years of genome-wide association studies in 2011.



IQ Prediction from Structural MRI using Machine Learning

Stephen Hsu at Information Processing reports on a paper where the authors use machine learning techniques to build sparse predictors based on grey/white matter volumes of specific regions. Correlations obtained are ~ 0.7

A separate UCLA paper show that brain size alone correlates 0.4 with IQ. Also, a notable genetic sequence, located within the HMGA2 gene on chromosome 12, was linked with intracranial volume — in other words, the space inside your skull that marks the outer limit as to how big your brain can get.

PLOS One - MRI-Based Intelligence Quotient (IQ) Estimation with Sparse Learning

Abstract

In this paper, we propose a novel framework for IQ estimation using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) data. In particular, we devise a new feature selection method based on an extended dirty model for jointly considering both element-wise sparsity and group-wise sparsity. Meanwhile, due to the absence of large dataset with consistent scanning protocols for the IQ estimation, we integrate multiple datasets scanned from different sites with different scanning parameters and protocols. In this way, there is large variability in these different datasets. To address this issue, we design a two-step procedure for 1) first identifying the possible scanning site for each testing subject and 2) then estimating the testing subject’s IQ by using a specific estimator designed for that scanning site. We perform two experiments to test the performance of our method by using the MRI data collected from 164 typically developing children between 6 and 15 years old. In the first experiment, we use a multi-kernel Support Vector Regression (SVR) for estimating IQ values, and obtain an average correlation coefficient of 0.718 and also an average root mean square error of 8.695 between the true IQs and the estimated ones. In the second experiment, we use a single-kernel SVR for IQ estimation, and achieve an average correlation coefficient of 0.684 and an average root mean square error of 9.166. All these results show the effectiveness of using imaging data for IQ prediction, which is rarely done in the field according to our knowledge.


The 15 most frequently selected brain areas by the proposed method.
Colors mainly show different regions. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117295.g005


Autism risk genes also linked to higher intelligence

Researchers have found new evidence linking genetic factors associated with autism to better cognitive ability in people who do not have the condition.

Autism is a developmental disability that can cause significant language and speech difficulties.

The relationship between autism and intelligence is not clear, researchers say.

Up to 70 per cent of individuals with autism have an intellectual disability, but some people with the disorder have higher than average non-verbal intelligence, the team says.

Non-verbal intelligence enables people to solve complex problems using visual and hands-on reasoning skills requiring little or no use of language.

Molecular Psychiatry - Common polygenic risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is associated with cognitive ability in the general population

TSMC discusses 10 nanometer roadmap

TSMC’s 16nm technology is due this summer, the company announced a road map for its much-discussed 10nm process. The 10nm process will have 2.1 times the logic density of the 16nm node along with a 20% speed gain and 40% power reduction. The company demonstrated a 256 Mbytes SRAM made in the process. TSMC expects its 10nm to be in production by the end of 2016 and alluded to more than ten partnerships in various stages of design.

“We think 10nm will be the long-lasting technology node and for TSMC to be accelerating 10nm, I think that is a very good sign for the industry,” Jones said. “With the acceleration of 10nm — which they might end up going 8nm — TSMC will close the gap with Intel. I think TSMC is on a roll.”

TSMC has invested between $11.5 billion and $12 billion in its 16nm and 10nm technology — which means they have to have customers in place, Jones noted. Strengthening its commitment to 10nm, the company will break ground on a new fab with 10nm tools in the second quarter of 2016 and will move 10nm tools into an existing fab this quarter.

Intel will be TSMC’s major competitor in this space, with plans to ramp production of 10nm in the next 12-18 months.

Intel's 10nm Secrets likely Quantum well FETs, germanium, InGaAs

David Kanter predicts Intel will use High-mobility QWFETs (Quantum Well FETs) at 10 nanometers on his Real World Technologies Web site

Intel plans to ramp production of 10nm in the next 12-18 months according to EEtimes

1. The industry will adopt Quantum Well FETs (QWFETs) that use a fin geometry and high-mobility channel materials to achieve excellent transistor performance at nominal operating voltages around 0.5V (compared to roughly 0.7V for FinFETs)

2. The industry will adopt III-V compound semiconductors (most likely In0.53Ga0.47As, alternatively InSb) for the n-type QWFET channel

3. The industry will adopt strained Germanium (most likely) or III-V materials (as an alternative) for the p-type QWFET channel

4. Intel will adopt QWFETs at the 10nm node (most likely), which will probably go into production in late 2015 or early 2016 (alternatively at 7nm in 2017 or 2018)

5. Intel will probably co-integrate conventional transistors and QWFETs, it is less likely (but possible) that the company will use separate substrates that are packaged together to optimize cost

6. The rest of the industry (e.g., Samsung, TSMC, Global Foundries) will wait until the 7nm node to use QWFETs

QWFETs will use two new materials – indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) for n-type transistors and strained germanium for p-type devices

Intel showed work with InGaAs in this image from a 2009 IEDM paper

DARPA N-ZERO “Asleep-Yet-Aware” Electronics Could lower power usage of Remote Wireless Sensors by 1000 times

DARPA wants to make sensors phenomenally more efficient in how they draw power when not actually sensing something of interest. The goal is to use less than 10 nanowatts (nW) during the sensor’s asleep-yet-aware phase—an energy drawdown roughly equivalent to the self-discharge (battery discharge during storage) of a typical watch battery, and at least 1,000 times lower than state-of-the-art sensors. Specifically, N-ZERO seeks to extend unattended sensor lifetime from weeks to years, cut costs of maintenance and the need for redeployments. Alternatively, N-ZERO could also reduce battery size for a typical ground-based sensor by a factor of 20 or more while still keeping its current operational lifetime.

State-of-the-art military sensors today rely on “active electronics” to detect vibration, light, sound or other signals. That means they constantly consume power, with much of that power and time spent processing what often turns out to be irrelevant data. This power consumption limits sensors’ useful lifetimes to a few weeks or months when operating from state-of-the-art batteries, and has slowed the development of new sensor technologies and capabilities. Moreover, the chronic need to redeploy power-depleted sensors is not only costly and time-consuming but also increases warfighter exposure to danger.

DARPA’s new Near Zero Power RF and Sensor Operations (N-ZERO) program seeks to overcome the power limitations of persistent sensing by developing wireless, event-driven sensing capabilities that would allow physical, electromagnetic and other sensors to remain dormant—effectively asleep yet aware—until an event of interest awakens them. To achieve these goals, the program intends to develop underlying technologies to continuously and passively monitor the environment and activate an electronic circuit only upon detection of a specific signature, such as the presence of a particular vehicle type or radio communications protocol. N-ZERO seeks to exploit the energy in signal signatures to detect and recognize attention-worthy events while rejecting noise and interference.
DARPA’s new Near Zero Power RF and Sensor Operations (N-ZERO) program aims to develop wireless, event-driven sensing capabilities that would allow physical, electromagnetic and other sensors to remain dormant—effectively asleep yet aware—until an event of interest awakens them. N-ZERO’s persistent sensing capability could increase mission life, reduce battery size and reduce the maintenance costs of unattended wireless sensors. This image illustrates how N-ZERO-equipped sensors could cut reliance on active power in various environments including critical infrastructure protection, threat detection in an urban area, forest fire detection and perimeter monitoring. The image highlights critical infrastructure in particular to show that these wireless sensors could help identify cracks and prevent further serious damage or danger. The wireless sensors could then gather the specific data and trigger a separate processor to analyze the data and take appropriate action.


US funds Ohio Replacement submarine and looks at increasing the build rate of Virginia class Subs

1. The US Navy is investigating the prospect of building three new Virginia-class attack submarines per year instead of two in order to boost the size of the fleet as more Los Angeles-class submarines retire.

In total, the Navy will have 71 submarines in 2016, including 14 nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines, or SSBNs; four Ohio-class submarines converted to conventionally armed guided-missile boats, or SSGNs; Los Angeles-class fast attack submarines, or SSNs; three Sea Wolf submarines and 11 Virginia-class submarines, also SSNs.

Even though the Navy is currently producing two new Virginia-class attack submarines each year, an anticipated shortfall of submarines is expected to grow worse in coming years as more Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarines retire at a faster pace than Virginia subs are added. Senior Navy leaders have suggested that the service may delay retirement of some Los Angeles-class boats.

“We are going to drop below the minimum requirement of 48 (attack submarines) even with the two per year build rate".

The Virginia-class attack submarine inventory will drop to 41 in 2029, according to the Navy’s recently released 2016 30-year shipbuilding plan. Ultimately, the plan calls for a fleet of 50 Virginia-class submarines by the mid-2040s.



April 21, 2015

US Dollar domination did not begin until the US GDP surpassed the entire British Empire

Michael Pettis points out why there will be a long gap between when China is the largest economy on all measures and when the RMB will become a dominant currency.The USA was the world’s largest economy for fifty years prior to WW1, and Germany the world’s second largest economy, and yet the US dollar was of minor importance in international trade and the German goldmark only third in importance, behind the French franc and far behind sterling.

London had spent decades proving that it was far less likely to intervene in sterling markets then any of its competitors and so, as long as it did not do so, inertia alone allowed sterling to retain its primacy, but it certainly did not need to worry about a challenge from the dollar until WW1 completely transformed global governance and the institutions that characterized international finance. The dollar in the late 19th century did not enjoy high levels of confidence in the international markets because there were doubts about the quality and credibility of Washington’s governance and about whether Washington would resist intervening in its financial markets or in the currency if it felt that it was in the national interest to do so. Even if the dollar today were at risk somehow of losing the huge advantage inertia creates, the same constraints that prevented the dollar from mounting a challenge to sterling’s pre-eminence before WW1 make the ERMB an unreliable international currency.

While use of the RMB as a reserve currency or as a trading currency will probably rise in the next decades, this is mainly because of its still very low base. According to SWIFT, for example, which settles interbank trading orders and is one proxy for currency use, the RMB broke into the top five currencies at the end of last year, accounting for 2.2% of SWIFT transactions (the USD accounted for 45% and the euro 28%. 50% is the most any currency can have)

But was the real US economic passing point the year US output surpassed the entire British Empire ?

David Frum from the Atlantic reviews Adam Tooze's analysis of "Real Story of How America Became an Economic Superpower"

In 1870, at the time of German national unification, the population of the United States and Germany was roughly equal and the total output of America, despite its enormous abundance of land and resources, was only one-third larger than that of Germany,” he writes. “Just before the outbreak of World War I the American economy had expanded to roughly twice the size of that of Imperial Germany. By 1943, before the aerial bombardment had hit top gear, total American output was almost four times that of the Third Reich.

Before World War 1, the great economic potential of the U.S. was suppressed by its ineffective political system, dysfunctional financial system, and uniquely violent racial and labor conflicts. “America was a byword for urban graft, mismanagement and greed-fuelled politics, as much as for growth, production, and profit,” Tooze writes.

According to Tooze the American century began not in 1945 but in 1916, the year U.S. output overtook that of the entire British empire.
There is a paper that analyzes the economics of World War 1



The combined GDP of NATO's 28 members was about $30 trillion in 2014

The combined GDP of the USA, EU and Canada is about $35 trillion.

Wearable electronics forecasts smartwatches passing activity trackers in popularity in the USA in 2016

The NDP Group projects that 2016 activity tracker ownership will have peaked at 32 million in 2016 while nine percent of US consumers will own a smartwatch.

The eventual decline of the activity tracker is part of larger trends around miniaturization and ubiquity. Smaller, cheaper chips can be integrated into more products and clothing, “enabling us to focus less on wearing a single product, and more on having distributed sensors all around,” Hold told EE Times.

Nevertheless, Hold expects to see more advanced activity trackers compete with smartwatches, including trackers with GPS and heart rate monitoring, or more rugged styles. Smaller, more cost-effective connectivity chips could also lend to the addition of cellular connectivity to “one of the classic cases where a user may not want to carry their smartphone at all.”

More simplistic trackers will hit a wall, Hold continued, but keeping prices down will be a balancing act.


Apple Watch alone could have 30 million in sales in 2015

Slice Intelligence estimated 957,000 people in the US pre-ordered the Apple Watch when the online sales portal opened up on 10 April. Its report even stated the average devices per order was more than one, indicating that some Apple fans were happy to splash their cash on multiple models.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has stated the roughly 1 million pre-order forecast is on the low side, and has forecast worldwide shipments of 2.3 million devices by the end of May, based on the current delivery times. Kuo expects Apple will be able to hit 2 to 3 million units produced per month following the pre-order period.



Saudi Arabia King Salman Abdulaziz order elite troops deployed against Yemen

Saudi Arabia's King Salman Abdulaziz on Tuesday ordered the deployment of an elite ground unit in the country's ongoing campaign against Yemen's Shiite Houthi militant group, Saudi's official news agency has reported.

King Salman has issued a royal decree to deploy National Guard Forces in its ongoing military operation against Yemen's Houthis – a campaign which, until Tuesday's announcement, had been reportedly confined to air and naval bombardments.

The Daily Mail and other sources also report the Saudi Arabian National Guard, widely regarded as the kingdom's best equipped military ground force, have been ordered to take part in Riyadh's campaign against Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The Saudi Arabian National Guard has a standing force of 100,000 troops and a tribal militia of 25,000 troops.




A US aircraft carrier was headed to the Arabian Sea Tuesday as Washington said it was monitoring Iranian vessels suspected of carrying weapons to Yemeni rebels in violation of a UN embargo.



Supervoid 1.8 billion light years across match cold spot billion light years across in the Cosmic Background radiation

In 2004, astronomers examining a map of the radiation leftover from the Big Bang (the cosmic microwave background, or CMB) discovered the Cold Spot, a larger-than-expected unusually cold area of the sky. The physics surrounding the Big Bang theory predicts warmer and cooler spots of various sizes in the infant universe, but a spot this large and this cold was unexpected.

A mysterious large structure
Now, a team of astronomers led by Astronomer István Szapudi of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa may have found an explanation for the existence of the Cold Spot, which Szapudi says may be “the largest individual structure ever identified by humanity.”

If the Cold Spot originated from the Big Bang itself, it could be a rare sign of exotic physics that the standard cosmology (basically, the Big Bang theory and related physics) does not explain. If, however, it is caused by a foreground structure between Earth and the CMB, it would be a sign that there is an extremely rare large-scale structure in the mass distribution of the universe.

Using data from Hawaiʻi’s Pan-STARRS1 (PS1) telescope located on Haleakalā, Maui, and NASA’s Wide Field Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite, Szapudi’s team discovered a large supervoid, a vast region 1.8 billion light-years across, in which the density of galaxies is much lower than usual in the known universe.

Not a coincidence
While the existence of the supervoid and its expected effect on the CMB do not fully explain the Cold Spot, it is very unlikely that the supervoid and the Cold Spot at the same location are a coincidence. The team will continue its work using improved data from PS1 and from the Dark Energy Survey being conducted with a telescope in Chile to study the Cold Spot and supervoid, as well as another large void located near the constellation Draco.


Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society by the Oxford University Press - Detection of a supervoid aligned with the cold spot of the cosmic microwave background

Russia printed mouse thyroid gland and are targeting a functioning bioprinted kidney in 2018

Skolkovo biomed cluster resident 3D Bioprinting Solutions has announced the successful printing of a mouse's thyroid gland. 3d Bioprinting Solutions is targeting functional printed kidney scheduled for 2018.

If confirmed, it would reportedly be the world's first synthetic construction of a complete, transplantable living organ.

"This is undoubtedly a breakthrough in the world of regenerative medicine," said the bioprinter's developer Vladimir Mironov. "We have successfully demonstrated the possibilities of Russia's first bioprinter, and we're continuing our validation work, systematically testing and optimizing our technology for 3D organ bioprinting," he added.

The coming weeks will see Mironov's team attempt to transplant the organ - a matter of millimeters thick - into a mouse suffering from hyperthyroidism



April 20, 2015

3D printers are churning out made-to-order bones and rudimentary organs

The advent of three-dimensional (3D) printing has generated a swell of interest in artificial organs meant to replace, or even enhance, human machinery. Printed organs, such as a proto­type outer ear developed by researchers at Princeton University in New Jersey and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, was on the agenda at the Inside 3D Printing conference in New York on 15–17 April.

The ear is printed from a range of materials: a hydrogel to form an ear-shaped scaffold, cells that will grow to form cartilage, and silver nanoparticles to form an antenna.

Printed body parts brought in US$537 million last year, up about 30% on the previous year, says Terry Wohlers, president of Wohlers Associates, a business consultancy firm in Fort Collins, Colorado, that specializes in 3D printing.

Scientists are looking ahead to radical emerging technologies that use live cells as ‘ink’, assembling them layer-by-layer into rudimentary tissues, says Jennifer Lewis, a bioengineer at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Bioprinting firm Organovo of San Diego, California, already sells such tissues to researchers aiming to test experimental drugs for toxicity to liver cells. The company’s next step will be to provide printed tissue patches to repair damaged livers in humans, says Organovo’s chief executive, Keith Murphy.



Exoskeleton helps spinal injured walk and reactivates nerves in some

An exoskeleton that enables movement and provides tactile feedback has helped eight paralysed people regain sensation and move previously paralysed muscles.

People can spend a lifetime feeling disconnected from their lower body, and tend to receive less physical therapy as a result. Just over a third of the 12,500 people who experience a spinal cord injury every year in the US have complete injuries.

The Walk Again Project's results suggest that rehabilitation with an exoskeleton might offer a better future. Developed by a team of 156 people spanning the globe, the device reads the wearer's brain activity using an electrode cap. Activity patterns associated with the wearer's intention to move are translated into an electrical signal that moves the legs of the exoskeleton, allowing the person to walk.

The exoskeleton has another important feature: it provides tactile feedback to the wearer. A flexible bed of temperature, pressure and proximity sensors – what the team calls an artificial skin – lines the sole of each foot. When the wearer takes a step, a signal is relayed to their forearm, which is still able to feel sensations. "You are driving the exoskeleton by thinking about what you want to do, and you are getting instantaneous feedback from the surface on how you're walking and how you're moving in space," says Nicolelis.


Icy Tendrils Reaching into Saturn Ring traced to Enceldus water geysers

Long, sinuous, tendril-like structures seen in the vicinity of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus originate directly from geysers erupting from its surface, according to scientists studying images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

This result is published online today in a study in the Astronomical Journal, along with additional insights into the nature of the structures.

"We've been able to show that each unique tendril structure can be reproduced by particular sets of geysers on the moon's surface," said Colin Mitchell, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and lead author of the paper. Mitchell and colleagues used computer simulations to follow the trajectories of

ice grains ejected from individual geysers. The geysers, which were discovered by Cassini in 2005, are jets of tiny water ice particles, water vapor and simple organic compounds.

Under certain lighting conditions, Cassini's wide-view images showing icy material erupting from Enceladus reveal faint, finger-like features, dubbed "tendrils" by the imaging team. The tendrils reach into Saturn's E ring -- the ring in which Enceladus orbits -- extending tens of thousands of miles (or kilometers) away from the moon. Since the tendrils were discovered, scientists have thought they were the result of the moon's geysering activity and the means by which Enceladus supplies material to the E ring. But the ghostly features had never before been traced directly to geysers on the surface.

This collage of Cassini spacecraft images and computer simulations shows how long, sinuous features from Enceladus can be modeled by tracing the trajectories of tiny, icy grains ejected from the moon's south polar geysers.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI


Siemens and Emrax claim best power to weight ratio for electric motors in the 5 to 10 kilowatt per kg range

Siemens researchers have developed a new type of electric motor that, with a weight of just 50 kilograms, delivers a continuous output of about 260 kilowatts – five times more than comparable drive systems. The motor has been specially designed for use in aircraft. Thanks to its record-setting power-to-weight ratio, larger aircraft with takeoff weights of up to two tons will now be able to use electric drives for the first time. To implement the world-record motor, Siemens' experts scrutinized all the components of previous motors and optimized them up to their technical limits. New simulation techniques and sophisticated lightweight construction enabled the drive system to achieve a unique weight-to-performance ratio of five kilowatts (kW) per kilogram (kg). The electric motors of comparable strength that are used in industrial applications deliver less than one kW per kg. The performance of the drive systems used in electric vehicles is about two kW per kg. Since the new motor delivers its record-setting performance at rotational speeds of just 2,500 revolutions per minute, it can drive propellers directly, without the use of a transmission.

The key to electric plane performance is still the energy density of the batteries or other power storage. The weight of the batteries tends to outweight the motor by about one hundred to one.

Industrial electric motors used in heavy machinery that produce less than 1 kW per kilogram, or even to more efficient electric motors for vehicles that generate around 2 kW per kilogram.



Emrax electric motors claim about 8 to 10 KW per kg. It would be interesting to know if all power and weight metrics are being consistently specified.

EMRAX motor is a completely new type of pancake axial flux brushless synchronous three phase AC (Alternating Current) electric motor. It can also work as a generator - technical data are the same - either EMRAX is used as a motor or as a generator.

March 2015: Prototype EMRAX 348 is cooming (1200 Nm /350 kW at 3000 RPM, weight 42 kg, diameter 348 mm, length 107 mm, IP65). First prototype will be ready for testing in next few months. Also we are preparing documentation for EMRAX 348T, which can deliver power 600 kW, torque 2400 Nm, weight 70 kg, dimensions: dia 348 mm length 170 mm.


Here is an Emrax electric motor manual


Here are some tables of power to weight ratio for non-electric and electric motors

China will sign road, rail and energy projects with Pakistan that will alter trade and geopolitics in the region

China's President Xi Jinping is on a two-day visit to Pakistan, where he is expected to announce investment of $46bn (£30.7bn).

The focus of spending is on building a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) - a network of roads, railway and pipelines between the long-time allies.

They will run some 3,000km (1,865 miles) from Gwadar in Pakistan to China's western Xinjiang region.
The projects will give China direct access to the Indian Ocean and beyond.

This marks a major advance in China's plans to boost its economic influence in Central and South Asia, correspondents say, and far exceeds US spending in Pakistan.

China plans to inject some $46bn - just a little less than three times the entire foreign direct investment Pakistan has received since 2008. Many say Mr Sharif's penchant for "thinking big" and China's increasing need to control maritime trade routes may well combine to pull off an economic miracle in Pakistan over the next four years, when Pakistani officials say most of the projects being finalised today will be well under way.

The CPEC corridor will serve as a primary gateway for trade between China and the Middle East and Africa. In particular oil from the Middle East could be offloaded at Gwadar, which is located just outside the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and transported to China through the Baluchistan province in Pakistan. Such a link would vastly cut the 12,000-kilometre route that Mideast oil supplies must now take to reach Chinese ports




US Air Force confirms hypersonic SABRE engine is feasible

An analysis undertaken by the United States’ Air Force Research Laboratory (‘AFRL’) has confirmed the feasibility of the Reaction Engines Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (‘SABRE’) engine cycle concept. Reaction Engines is famous for their Skylon Spaceplane single stage to orbit design and the Mach 5 Lapcat A2 commercial hypersonic passenger plane design.

Reaction Engines Ltd ('REL') is a privately held company located in the United Kingdom and was formed in 1989 to develop the technologies needed for an advanced combined cycle air-breathing rocket engine class called SABRE that will enable aircraft to operate easily at speeds of up to five times the speed of sound or fly directly into Earth orbit.

They have achieved a breakthrough in aerospace engine technology by developing ultra-lightweight heat exchangers 100 times lighter than existing technologies that allow the cooling of very hot airstreams from over 1,000 °C to minus 150 °C in less than one hundredth of a second.

Reaction Engines' technology has undergone extensive independent technical assessments, undertaken by the European Space Agency at the request of the UK Government, which have confirmed the viability of the engine technology and its vehicle applications.

The analysis was undertaken by AFRL as part of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (‘CRADA’) with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Aerospace Systems Directorate (AFRL/RQ). These investigations examined the thermodynamic cycle of the SABRE concept and found no significant barrier to its theoretical viability provided the engine component and integration challenges are met.

Reaction Engines Ltd. (REL) and AFRL are now formulating plans for continued collaboration on the SABRE engine; the proposed work will include investigation of vehicle concepts based on a SABRE derived propulsion system, testing of SABRE engine components and exploration of defence applications for Reaction Engines’ heat exchanger technologies.

Nextbigfuture had an interview by Sander Olson with Richard Varvill, the Technical Director and Chief Designer at Reaction Engines Limited back in 2009.



April 19, 2015

Ocean floor submarines could hide forever like a Titanic wreck that actively evades detection

Today's submarines are link blimps in the ocean. They float high over the sea floor. Dr Robert Ballard proposes submarines that hide on the ocean floor.
Modern nuclear attack submarines like the American Seawolf class are estimated to have a test depth of 490 meters (1,600 ft), which would imply (see above) a collapse depth of 730 meters (2,400 ft). Each 10 metres (33 feet) of depth puts another atmosphere (1 bar, 14.7 psi, 100 kPa) of pressure on the hull, so at 300 metres (1,000 feet), the hull is withstanding thirty atmospheres (30 bar, 441 psi, 3,000 kPa) of water pressure. World War II German U-boats generally had collapse depths in the range of 200 to 280 metres (660 to 920 feet).

The average ocean depth is 2.65 miles (14,000 feet).

In 1984, Dr Robert Ballard demonstrated the ability to operate on the ocean floor during a two-week exploration near Iceland's Reykjanes Ridge. He took the Navy's deep-sea research submarine, the NR-1, down 3,000 feet and drove it around volcanic peaks; he even hid in the occasional lava tube. At the time, the NR-1 was the Navy's largest deep-sea research submarine and its smallest nuclear sub. At a length of 150 feet and 400 tons, it could support a crew of 13 for up to a month. But most importantly, the NR-1 had retractable wheels and portals. The wheels allowed the NR-1 to roll along the seafloor. The portals allowed the sub drivers to see where the hell they were going.

In a complex, jumbled terrain with rocks, mountains, and canyons, the sound waves get so jumbled up that it's impossible to make any sense of the sounds that come back.

Navies also use very sensitive magnetic detectors to locate the giant, metallic mass of the submarine as it moves underwater. But this method is less effective in some kinds of seafloor terrain. For example, near basaltic rocks, which interfere with even simple compasses and create downright havoc with sensitive magnetic sub-hunting gear.

Between the jumbled sonar and the magnetic interference of the ocean floor, it can be very hard to find something hiding in the seafloor terrain. Ballard illustrated this point clearly when he dared the Navy to find him while he was tooling around on the Reykjanes Ridge in the NR-1. Two weeks of searching later, the Navy had no clue where he was.




Bionic Ants, Robotic Butterflies and robotic chameleon tongue grippers

Germany-based automation company Festo is making bionic ants. These are artificial ant units that move together under clear rules. They are showing off their cooperative behavior for doing tasks and working as an overall networked system. The company named their creations BionicANTs, to also stand for Autonomous Networking Technologies. The company sees them suitable as development platforms for new technologies and production methods.

BionicANTs – cooperation based on the behaviour of ants

The technology carrier BionicANTs uses the cooperative behaviour of ants as a model. Engineers from Festo used complex regulation algorithms to transfer the behaviour of these insects to the world of technology: just like their models from nature, the BionicANTs cooperate in accordance with clearly defined rules. This enables the BionicANTs to react autonomously to different situations as individual units, to coordinate their behaviour with each other and to act as a networked overall system. By pushing and pulling in a coordinated manner, they shift loads that one ant could not move alone. All actions are based on a distributed catalogue of rules that was devised in advance by means of mathematical model-building and simulations and is programmed into each ant. The individual insects are thus able to make decisions autonomously, while nevertheless subordinating themselves to the common aim; each ant thus contributes its share to solving the task at hand.

The required exchange of information between the ants is effected via the radio modules in their torsos. The regulation strategy comprises a multi-agent system, in which the participants have equal rights. With the 3D stereo camera in their heads, the ants recognise an object to be grasped and can determine their own locations. The BionicANTs’ cooperative behaviour and decentralised intelligence open up interesting prospects for the factory of tomorrow. Future production systems will be based on intelligent components that can flexibly adapt to different production scenarios and process orders from the superordinate control level.



Kuangchi Science has 52% stake in Jetpack company and is making internet blimps to compete with Google Loon

Martin Aircraft, the jetpack company, raised $27 million by issuing shares in the company, most of which were taken up by China-based investor KuangChi Science.

The Shenzhen-based Kuang-Chi Institute of Advanced Technology has a 52 per cent stake in Martin Aircraft.

The funds raised by the listing will go toward a commercial jetpack planned for the second quarter of 2016.

The US Department of Homeland Security intends to take the product, which can fly for 30 minutes with a 30-kilometre range at speeds of up to 74 kilometres per hour.

Martin Aircraft (ASX: MJP) listed on the ASX less than two months ago. Within its first two weeks as a publicly listed company, the stock surged as much as 687.5% to $3.15, but has since come back down to earth to trade at 95 cents (A$233 million valuation).

Liu and his team at Kuang-Chi Science – a firm founded in 2010 – are also interested in developing cutting-edge aerospace technology and metamaterials (synthetic materials with properties not found in nature).



Startup Ninebot with Smartphone Giant Xiaomi backing buys Segway for alternative transportation unification

Segway Inc., the developer of two-wheeled, electric-powered people movers, was acquired by China-based competitor Ninebot Inc.

After allying with Segway, Ninebot will use electric driving, mobile Internet and man-machine interaction technologies for future products, Gao Lufeng, Ninebot chief executive officer, said at a press conference in Beijing. The companies didn’t disclose terms of the April 1 transaction.

The announcement came after Xiaomi Corp., the Beijing-based smartphone maker that owns part of Ninebot, joined in an $80 million funding round for Ninebot that included Sequoia Capital and the Shunwei Foundation. Ninebot began two years ago as a crowd-funded project and its products are now available in more than 38 countries, with production facilities in China, according to its website.

The China-based company also makes a single-wheeled device called the Ninebot One. In the U.S., the Ninebot sells for $3,199, while the Ninebot One can be purchased for $850, according to the company’s website.

Xiaomi, China’s largest smartphone maker, is expanding into web-enabled smart home devices and consumer electronics by taking stakes in other startups. The company has backed 27 such companies under plans to invest in as many as 100, Xiaomi Chief Executive Officer Lei Jun has said.





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