June 27, 2015

Update on the leading edge of brain implant research and Kurzweils predictions for brain implants in twenty years

Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, says that in the 2030s we will have brain implants that will help us connect to the cloud, allowing us to pull information from the internet. Information will also be able to sent up over those networks, letting us back up our own brains.

As the cloud that our brains access improves, our thinking would get better and better, Kurzweil said. So while initially we would be a “hybrid of biological and non-biological thinking”, as we moved into the 2040s, most of our thinking will be non-biological.

Kurweil is describing particular kinds of brain prosthetics. There is substantial work going on with electronics that communicates with the brain.

Artificial hippocampus used for communicating memories to the brain of rats and monkeys, human trials soon

Theodore Berger and his colleagues at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles have developed a working hippocampal prosthesis that passed the live tissue test in 2004. In 2011, in collaboration with Drs. Sam A. Deadwyler and Robert E. Hampson at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, a proof-of-concept hippocampal prosthesis was successfully tested in live rats. The prosthesis is in the form of multisite electrodes positioned to record from both the input and output "sides" of the damaged hippocampus, the input is gathered and analyzed by external computation chips, an appropriate feedback is computed, then used to stimulate the appropriate output pattern in the brain so that the prosthesis functions like a real hippocampus. In 2012, the team of Berger, Deadwyler and Hampson tested a further implementation in Macaques prefrontal cortex, further developing the neural prosthesis technology. In 2013, Hampson et al. successfully tested a hippocampal prosthesis on non-human primates. While the device does not yet consist of a fully implantable "chip," these tests, from rat to monkey, demonstrate the effectiveness of the device as a neural prosthetic, and the labs plan to begin human trials in a few years.

PBS Nova provides an update on the Berger and Kahana brain memory enhancing prosthetic work in 2015.

When the team watched and didn’t activate the device, the rats performed the trial correctly 80% of the time. But when they switched on the device that provided the proper CA1 signal, the accuracy rate jumped to 95%. They also found that they could interfere with the memory, too, by stimulating the CA1 neurons with an incorrect signal. Then, accuracy dropped to 75%, according to results published in the Journal of Neural Engineering.

Berger worked his mathematical magic on the output from the electrodes, the researchers found that they could, once again, predict CA1 activity based on input from CA3 neurons. The researchers also found that the monkeys made mistakes in very predictable ways. When they saw an image surrounded by a circle, they sometimes selected the image in the bottom left of the screen. They made a similar error when the square was shown first, picking the matching image instead of the one in the correct location. Neural activity during these mistakes revealed the same type of encoding errors they saw in the rats.

In a follow-up experiment with the monkeys, they used the device to override the incorrect signals from the CA3 neurons. Again, they found that the device significantly improved the accuracy of the macaques in the behavioral test.

“The information that goes into the device would normally be processed by the hippocampus, but the device substitutes for that processing. We’re not putting in anything that isn’t already there, and we’re not telling the brain things like ‘remember an apple’ or ‘remember a face.’ It simply strengthens the normal memory processing that’s already there,” Hampson says.

However, it will be at least several more years until the device is ready to test in humans. For one, they have to create electrodes that can be used in humans and figure out how to insert them without damaging other parts of the brain. They also have to develop a reliable power source for the device. And before anyone can use it, researchers also have to record the activity of CA1 and CA3 neurons to be able to insert the correct signal. None of these are easy tasks.

At the University of Pennsylvania, theoretical neuroscientist Michael Kahana is developing a device that would boost the signal in the hippocampus when the brain is trying to encode a memory. When researchers stimulated a region of the hippocampus called the entorhinal cortex in individuals undergoing surgery for epilepsy, the subjects’ memories improved significantly.

It’s still not clear whether a memory prosthetic would be able to activate the whole, complex range of a memory.

While both the scientists and funding agencies envision these devices for use in individuals with brain damage from Alzheimer’s disease or a traumatic brain injury, they also have the potential to be used by healthy individuals.

Nonlinear Cognitive Signal Processing in Ultralow-Power Programmable Analog Hardware

Ted Berger and his team published in 2015 on a programmable ultralow-power analog neural signal processing system. The analog hardware implements a nonlinear model that can replicate and predict, in real time, the temporal neural codes used in complex brain functions. The transistors of the analog circuits operate in weak inversion. A digital control system is used to program model parameters and calibrate mismatches. The chip was implemented in a 130-nm complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor technology and occupies an area of 1 square millimeter. The power consumption of the system is 120 nW. The modular design allows for easy scaling to achieve large-scale hardware systems that emulate spike transformations of populations of neurons.

DARPA is spending over $100 million on brain project and brain memory prosthetics are part of it

DARPA researching brain implants to restore lost memory which is part of US $100 million human brain research project. DARPA has provided $37.5 million to fund the new Restoring Active Memory (RAM) Project.

Restoring Active Memory (RAM) - DARPA seeks new methods for analysis and decoding of neural signals in order to understand how neural stimulation could be applied to facilitate recovery of memory encoding following brain injury. Ultimately, it is desired to develop a prototype implantable neural device that enables recovery of memory in a human clinical population. Additionally, the program encompasses the development of quantitative models of complex, hierarchical memories and exploration of neurobiological and behavioral distinctions between memory function using the implantable device versus natural learning and training.

The ultimate goal of the Restoring Active Memory (RAM) Program is to develop, fabricate, test, and validate a prototype device programmed to mitigate neural dysfunction in the injured brain.

The following is a nominative list of memory components that the model should distinguish:

• Attributes: Memory of sensory characteristics of objects or events or the contexts in which they occur.
• Categories: High-level semantic classification of sets of objects or events with similar characteristics.
• Associations: Two or more components (i.e., attributes or categories) linked to one another in a memory, occurring either simultaneously or across a temporal dimension (e.g., chronological order).

Neural Dust

Neural dust could make a long duration, low power brain machine interface with thousands of sensor connections at the 10-100 micron scale.

A major hurdle in brain-machine interfaces (BMI) is the lack of an implantable neural interface system that remains viable for a lifetime. This paper explores the fundamental system design trade-offs and ultimate size, power, and bandwidth scaling limits of neural recording systems built from low-power CMOS circuitry coupled with ultrasonic power delivery and backscatter communication. In particular, we propose an ultra-miniature as well as extremely compliant system that enables massive scaling in the number of neural recordings from the brain while providing a path towards truly chronic BMI.

These goals are achieved via two fundamental technology innovations:

1) thousands of 10 – 100 micron scale, free-floating, independent sensor nodes, or neural dust that detect and report local extracellular electrophysiological data, and

2) a sub-cranial interrogator that establishes power and communication links with the neural dust.

For 100 micron scale sensing nodes embedded 2 mm into the brain, ultrasonic power transmission can enable 7 % efficiency power links (-11.6 dB), resulting in a received power of 500 microwatts with a 1 square mm interrogator, which is over 10 million times more than EM transmission at similar scale (40 pW). Extreme efficiency of ultrasonic transmission and CMOS front-ends can enable the scaling of the sensing nodes down to 10’s of microns

Dr. Michel Maharbiz: Neural dust system diagram showing the placement of ultrasonic interrogator under the skull and the independent neural dust sensing nodes dispersed throughout the brain.

(dec 2014) A Minimally Invasive 64-Channel Wireless μECoG Implant

Emerging applications in brain-machine interface systems require high-resolution, chronic multisite cortical recordings, which cannot be obtained with existing technologies due to high power consumption, high invasiveness, or inability to transmit data wirelessly. In this paper, we describe a microsystem based on electrocorticography (ECoG) that overcomes these difficulties, enabling chronic recording and wireless transmission of neural signals from the surface of the cerebral cortex. The device is comprised of a highly flexible, high-density, polymer-based 64-channel electrode array and a flexible antenna, bonded to 2.4 mm × 2.4 mm CMOS integrated circuit (IC) that performs 64-channel acquisition, wireless power and data transmission. The IC digitizes the signal from each electrode at 1 kS/s with 1.2 μV input referred noise, and transmits the serialized data using a 1 Mb/s backscattering modulator. A dual-mode power-receiving rectifier reduces data-dependent supply ripple, enabling the integration of small decoupling capacitors on chip and eliminating the need for external components. Design techniques in the wireless and baseband circuits result in over 16× reduction in die area with a simultaneous 3× improvement in power efficiency over the state of the art. The IC consumes 225 μW and can be powered by an external reader transmitting 12 mW at 300 MHz, which is over 3× lower than IEEE and FCC regulations.

June 26, 2015

Satellite tracking of quadrupling of Beijing size from 2000 to 2009 and the physical merger of Shanghai with nearby cities

Beijing quadrupled in size during from 2000 to 2009. Satellite maps show the growth.

Beijing now has about 20 million people. Shanghai (greater area) is at 29 million and greater Guangzhou is 32 million.

Ring Road growth Rings

The fourth ring road was completed in 2001.

The Fifth ring road was completed between 2003-2005.

The sixth ring road was open for regular traffic in September 12, 2009.

Construction began on the seventh ring road in 2013

The ring roads and subway systems get expanded and homes and offices fill out the expanded area.

Son V. Nghiem (JPL) has a presentation

Data from NASA's QuikScat satellite show the changing extent of Beijing between 2000 and 2009 through changes to its infrastructure. Gray and black indicate buildings, with the tallest and largest buildings in the city's commercial core appearing lighter gray. Other colors show changes in areas not yet urbanized (for example, clearing land or cutting down trees), with the rate of change indicated by color. Blue-green indicates the least change, yellow-orange more change, and red the greatest change. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Journal of Geophysical Research - Ring of impact from the mega-urbanization of Beijing between 2000 and 2009

Cold Wall Chemical Vapor Deposition produces graphene at 100 times the speed and 100 times lower cost

A pioneering new technique to produce high-quality, low cost graphene could pave the way for the development of the first truly flexible ‘electronic skin’, that could be used in robots.

Researchers from the University of Exeter have discovered an innovative new method to produce the wonder material Graphene significantly cheaper, and easier, than previously possible.

The research team, led by Professor Monica Craciun, have used this new technique to create the first transparent and flexible touch-sensor that could enable the development of artificial skin for use in robot manufacturing. Professor Craciun, from Exeter’s Engineering department, believes the new discovery could pave the way for “a graphene-driven industrial revolution” to take place.

She said: “The vision for a ‘graphene-driven industrial revolution’ is motivating intensive research on the synthesis of high quality and low cost graphene. Currently, industrial graphene is produced using a technique called Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD). Although there have been significant advances in recent years in this technique, it is still an expensive and time consuming process.”

The Exeter researchers have now discovered a new technique, which grows graphene in an industrial cold wall CVD system, a state-of-the-art piece of equipment recently developed by UK graphene company Moorfield.

This so-called nanoCVD system is based on a concept already used for other manufacturing purposes in the semiconductor industry. This shows to the semiconductor industry for the very first time a way to potentially mass produce graphene with present facilities rather than requiring them to build new manufacturing plants. This new technique grows graphene 100 times faster than conventional methods, reduces costs by 99 % and has enhanced electronic quality.

Advanced Materials - High Quality Monolayer Graphene Synthesized by Resistive Heating Cold Wall Chemical Vapor Deposition

Sandia use Z Machine to squeeze Deuterium into Metal

Scientists in the US (Sandia Labs) and Germany (Max Planck Institute for Chemistry) have successfully transformed liquid deuterium into a metal at pressures rivalling those at the center of our own planet. The discovery is another step along the long road to obtaining solid metallic hydrogen, a phase of matter that has eluded scientists for 80 years.

Recent efforts by a team based at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Germany, using a diamond anvil cell (DAC), where a compound is compressed between two flattened diamond tips, have revealed that it is indeed possible for hydrogen-rich compounds to adopt a metallic character.

But there are limits to what a DAC can achieve according to Marcus Knudson from the Sandia National Laboratories, US, whose team carried out the new research on deuterium. ‘DAC techniques can achieve around 200GPa pressures, but hydrogen at high pressures becomes extremely reactive,’ says Knudson. He explains that this reactivity makes it nearly impossible to conduct experiments under the diamond anvil.

Knudson and his colleagues have adopted a different approach by using shockwaves to compress liquid deuterium at the Sandia Z machine, a power generator capable of producing magnetic fields with a strength of up to 20 mega gauss – six orders of magnitude larger than the Earth’s magnetic field.

The team initially condensed deuterium gas at 20K in an aluminium cryocell. Once the liquid had been produced, a pulsed current from the Z machine was passed through an electrode, which struck the front of the cyrocell to produce a pulsed shockwave.

By exploiting these shockwaves to slowly compress the liquid, the team analysed how well the deuterium reflected light as the pressure was ramped up. At low pressures the deuterium was transparent, but it suddenly began to reflect light at about 300GPa.

This abrupt change in the hydrogen isotope’s optical properties is a typical indicator of an insulator-to-metal transition, according to Knudson. He goes on to explain that such a finding will be crucial in our understanding of the evolution of planets and stars, where hydrogen metallisation can be linked to the pressure and temperature profiles of planetary cores.

Sandia's Z machine can produce a magnetic field six order of magnitude larger than that of the Earth © Randy Montoya / Sandia Labs (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Science -Direct observation of an abrupt insulator-to-metal transition in dense liquid deuterium

Spacex talks about how and why they want to land rockets

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is scheduled to resupply the International Space Station on Sunday. Previously resupply missions with an Orbital Antares rocket and Russia’s Progress 59 spacecraft failed.

SpaceX has quickly grown into one of the world’s premier space flight companies. And as Orbital ATK recovers from its failed launch, SpaceX is now the United States’ only way of sending supplies to the space station.

SpaceX holds a $1.6 billion NASA contract to fly at least 12 unmanned cargo missions to the space station. Sunday's launch will kick off the seventh such flight.

If Dragon gets off the ground as planned on Sunday — and the weather looks like it should cooperate, with a 90 percent chance of good conditions as of Thursday evening — the capsule will arrive at the station on Tuesday morning (June 30).

SpaceX will also try on Sunday, to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on their landing barge. Previously there was talk about trying to land on dry land but this will not happen yet.

Life in GoogleVille

Google is changing your urban world.

* Self driving cars
* Helper robots
* Augmented reality
* Universal wifi
* high resolution surveillance video cameras with infrared imaging and other home gadgets from Nest

The latest models of Google's self-driving cars are now cruising the streets near the Internet company's Silicon Valley headquarters as an ambitious project to transform the way people get around shifts into its next phase.

This marks the first time that the pod-like, two-seat vehicles have been allowed on public roads since Google unveiled the next generation of its self-driving fleet more than a year ago.

Finally we will get free gigabit Wi-Fi everywhere and of course it will come from Google

Larry Page had announced last month that Sidewalk Labs (a new Google company) would focus on improving city life for everyone by developing and incubating urban technologies to address issues like cost of living, efficient transportation and energy usage.
Sidewalk Labs announced it would be leading the acquisition of two companies behind New York City’s LinkNYC initiative, an ongoing plan to convert old pay phones into free public Wi-Fi hubs. Sidewalk Labs is merging the two companies—Control Group, which provides the interface for the new hubs, and Titan, which is overseeing the advertising that will pay for the project. The new venture, aptly named Intersection, will seek to bring free public Wi-Fi to cities around the world using different pieces of urban infrastructure, from pay phones to bus stops.
“The vision really is to make cities connected places where you can walk down any street and have access to free ultra high speed Wi-Fi,” says Dan Doctoroff, the former CEO of Bloomberg and one-time deputy mayor of New York City, who heads up Sidewalk Labs.

The new company, named Intersection, combines both companies’ expertise in technology and innovation at the convergence of the digital and physical worlds. LinkNYC, their groundbreaking project in New York City with partners Qualcomm and Comark, will create up to 10,000 communications hubs that provide city residents and visitors with free public gigabit Wi-Fi, access to communications, information and municipal services across the city. Intersection will aim to extend the thinking and approach behind LinkNYC into an array of solutions to help make cities around the world more livable and connected.

Google will be able to put real time television ads on bus stops in combination with free Wi-Fi. Google knows how to boost the value of ads.

This plus fi srvicr will enable free phone service.
Android one - capable phones for less than $100

The Google Fi service one simple plan starts with the Fi Basics for $20/month. It includes unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international texts, Wi-Fi tethering to use your phone as a hotspot, and access cellular coverage in 120+ countries. Wi-Fi everywhere would mean that a version of Google Fi would not need to use cellular networks.

This addresses 55 million urban poor.
It also means no device (tablet, laptop or any new devices) need be unconnected to the internet and each other.
Currently you might need simcards (usually with a charge per month for the data or a small amount of free data as a bundle with some cellular service).

June 25, 2015

Closing in on 50 years of being wrong - Paul Ehrlich says again environmental collapse is coming

Paul Ehrlich says we are entering the sixth great mass extinction.

Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction

There have been papers which show that species and area relationships always overestimate extinctions.

Ehrlich became well known for his controversial 1968 book The Population Bomb, which asserted that the world's human population would soon increase to the point where mass starvation ensued Among the measures he suggested in that book was population control, to be used in his opinion if voluntary methods were to fail.

Julian Lincoln Simon, a Cornucopian economist has argued that overpopulation is not a problem in itself, and that humanity will adapt to changing conditions. Simon argued that in the long run, human creativity would constantly improve living standards, and that the Earth's resources were, in effect, infinite. Ehrlich called Simon the leader of a "space-age cargo cult" of economists convinced that new resources would miraculously appear and reasserted the idea that population growth was outstripping the earth's supplies of food, fresh water and minerals. This exchange led to the Simon-Ehrlich wager, a bet about the trend of prices for certain metals that he made in 1980 with, and lost to, Julian Simon

DARPA wants to engineer from millions of organisms and not just yeast and ecoli

Alicia Jackson of DARPA wants to take any of the 30 million to 30 billion organisms on Earth and leverage any properties they have. She wants to quickly map it and quickly engineer them. If you look at genome annotation software today, it’s not built to quickly find engineer able systems [and genes]. It’s built to look for an esoteric and interesting thing I can publish an academic paper on.

DARPA and some of its research partners have created software called DTA GView, which Jackson calls the “Google Maps of genomes.” At the conference, she pulled up the genomes of several organisms on the program, which immediately showed a list of known genes and where they were located in the genome.

“This torrent of genomic data we’re now collecting is awesome, except they sit in databases, where they remain data, not knowledge. Very little genetic information we have is actionable,” she said. “With this, the goal is to, within a day, sequence and find where I can best engineer an organism.”

The goal is to essentially pick and choose the best genes from whatever form of life we want and to edit them into other forms of life to create something entirely new. This will probably first happen in bacteria and other microorganisms, but it sounds as though the goal may to do this with more complex, multicellular organisms in the future.

From programmable microbes to human-machine symbiosis, biological technologies are expanding our definition of technology and redefining how we interact with and use biology.

Clusters of bright spots on Ceres and pyramid shaped mountain

The closer we get to Ceres, the more intriguing the distant dwarf planet becomes. New images of Ceres from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft provide more clues about its mysterious bright spots, and also reveal a pyramid-shaped peak towering over a relatively flat landscape.

“The surface of Ceres has revealed many interesting and unique features. For example, icy moons in the outer solar system have craters with central pits, but on Ceres central pits in large craters are much more common. These and other features will allow us to understand the inner structure of Ceres that we cannot sense directly," said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator for the Dawn mission, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Dawn has been studying the dwarf planet in detail from its second mapping orbit, which is 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers) above Ceres. A new view of its intriguing bright spots, located in a crater about 55 miles (90 kilometers) across, shows even more small spots in the crater than were previously visible.

cluster of mysterious bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres can be seen in this image, taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on June 9, 2015 Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Spintronics advance brings wafer-scale quantum devices closer to reality

An electronics technology that uses the “spin”—or magnetization—of atomic nuclei to store and process information promises huge gains in performance over today’s electron-based devices. But getting there is proving challenging.

Now, researchers at the University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering have made a crucial step toward nuclear spintronic technologies. They have gotten nuclear spins to line themselves up in a consistent, controllable way, and they have done it using a high-performance material that is practical, convenient and inexpensive.

“Our results could lead to new technologies like ultra-sensitive magnetic resonance imaging, nuclear gyroscopes and even computers that harness quantum mechanical effects,” said Abram Falk, the lead author of the report on the research, which was featured as the cover article of the June 17 issue of Physical Review Letters. Falk and colleagues in David Awschalom’s IME research group invented a new technique that uses infrared light to align spins. They did so using silicon carbide, an industrially important semiconductor.

Light polarizes silicon nuclear spins within a silicon carbide chip. This image portrays the nuclear spin of one of the atoms shown in the full crystal lattice below. Courtesy of Peter Allen

Arxiv - Optical polarization of nuclear spins in silicon carbide

June 24, 2015

DARPA targets a new era of rapid, verifiable and repeatable small molecule discovery and scalable synthesis

Synthetic molecules are the foundation for many products critical to the Department of Defense’s mission—from active pharmaceutical ingredients found in a medic’s kit to materials in modern batteries and fuel cells. Current processes for designing and producing new synthetic molecules, however, are very slow and can take years between the initial design of a molecular solution and when it’s available for use in large quantities.

DARPA’s Make-It program seeks to overcome this challenge by developing an automated synthesizer that could transform simple raw materials into known or new molecules defined by the user. The goal of Make-It is to develop a fully automated chemical synthesizer that can produce, purify, characterize and scale a wide range of small molecules. Accelerating the rate of discovery and production of molecules could speed advances in a number of areas important to national security.

“Synthesis is a bottleneck to the discovery and production of new molecules,” said Tyler McQuade, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office. “Automated synthesizers exist commercially for discrete systems such as natural biopolymers, but the technology is not applicable across all molecules and scale-up is difficult. The vision for Make-It is to create an automated synthesizer that produces a wide variety of complex small molecules at production scale in weeks instead of years.”

Lexus also has a magnetic hoverboard that works over metals like steel

Lexus announced Wednesday it has created a hoverboard.

"It works. It's not a hoax," says spokesman Moe Durand.

Lexus says it won't be sold. It's for demonstration purposes. It operates using magnetic levitation, with liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductors and permanent magnets that "combine to allow Lexus to create the impossible." It says it is working with the world's leading experts in super-conductive technology.

As cool as that sounds, there are some major limitations. Since it operates magnetically, it only can hover over a steel surface. And it also only works as long as the liquid nitrogen holds out.

The auto brand released pictures of the hoverboard floating above the ground, but no pictures of it in motion or with anyone standing on it. Durand says, however, it can support weight. Limitations aside, the hoverboard is sure to win fans -- maybe even sell a few cars.

Will China be ground zero for joblosses from Robots ?

In 2014, Chinese factories accounted for about a quarter of the global ranks of industrial robots — a 54 percent increase over 2013. According to the International Federation of Robotics, it will have more installed manufacturing robots than any other country by 2017.

Midea, a leading manufacturer of home appliances in the heavily industrialized province of Guangdong, plans to replace 6,000 workers in its residential air-conditioning division, about a fifth of the work force, with automation by the end of the year. Foxconn, which makes consumer electronics for Apple and other companies, plans to automate about 70 percent of factory work within three years, and already has a fully robotic factory in Chengdu.

Martin Ford believes this automation will cause a big reduction in manufacturing jobs in China. He believes that automation will reduce manufacturing jobs around the world.

Analysis of robotics impact on productivity and employment has not found overall jobs reductions from robotics.

Nuclear Energy and Uranium Bet Updates

Michael Dittmar wrote a series of posts about nuclear energy that was published on The Oil Drum in 2009. In the first post of the series, he said that uranium "civilian uranium stocks are expected to be exhausted during the next few years" and "the current uranium supply situation is unsustainable". Basically lack of uranium production from uranium mines would cause lack of nuclear fuel which would result in steadily dropping nuclear power generation. I made a series of three bets with Dittmar.

1. World Uranium production (I won in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. Lost in 2014)
2. World Nuclear power generation bets going to 2018 (I won in 2010, lost 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)
3. Uranium production in Kazakhstan (I won 2010, 2011)

So out of 13 bets, I have won 7 bets and lost 6.

The hangover from Fukushima is costing Brian Wang at Nextbigfuture some of these predictive bets made in 2009 in regards to nuclear power generation and uranium production.

Uranium production was hit by the Ranger mine in Australia shutting down. The indigenous people and the mining company could not come to terms. Africa also had less production. Uranium production is not going up that fast because the price is low. the price is low because of 40 perfectly good reactors being shut down in Japan. Those 40 reactors (and 15 other older ones) would have easily generated 300 TWh. There were also several reactors shutdown prematurely in Germany. None of this has to do with Dittmars central thesis of "running out of producible uranium".

For 2015, Canada Cameco has started production at Cigar Lake. The Cigar Lake operation is expected to produce 6 million to 8 million pounds of uranium oxide (2308 to 3077 tU) in 2015, ramping up to full annual production rate of 18 million pounds per year (6920 tU) by 2018.

Japan should begin nuclear restarts in August for 2 reactors.

EIU GDP forecasts to 2050

The Economist Intelligence Unit has long range economic forecasts to 2050 for the United States and other countries.

'Long-term macroeconomic forecasts: key trends to 2050,' is a new report from The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU). It examines some of the big economic issues that will shape global business around the world in the coming decades. The research is based on The EIU's long-range forecasts for 82 countries out to 2050. Findings from the report include that:

In 2050 the top three economies (China, US, India) will each be richer than the next five put together
By 2050 Asia will account for 53% of global GDP
During the period between 2015-50, the growth rate of the global working-age population will drop from 1.7% to 0.3%.

US GDP annual average real growth 2015-2030 2.3%
US GDP annual average real growth 2031-2050 1.8%

Canada GDP annual average real growth 2015-2030 2.2%
Canada GDP annual average real growth 2031-2050 2.2%

China GDP annual average real growth 2015-2030 4.7%
China GDP annual average real growth 2031-2050 2.2%

China will be a true global superpower by 2050. Despite slowing economic growth, it will be comfortably the world’s largest economy by that time, roughly 2.5 times the size of that of the US. Even in per capita terms, incomes in China will be approaching those recorded in developed nations. However, getting to this stage will require changes in China’s domestic political system. Conflicting demands from different parts of society will require the CCP to relax its control in the coming decades. A failure to do this would probably result in a period of economically destabilising political upheaval. It would also complicate China’s rise on the international stage, placing dangerous strains on its relations with the US.

India GDP annual average real growth 2015-2030 6.4%
India GDP annual average real growth 2031-2050 7.4%

India's long-term economic performance is predicated on changes in the best- and worst-performing sectors: the fast-growing information technology industry will need to move up the value-added chain, while the agricultural sector, which employs nearly 50% of the population, will need investment in order to reduce its reliance on monsoons. Better storage facilities for food grains and perishables, and an improved supply-chain could curb consumer price inflation and improve the long-term outlook.

Indonesia GDP annual average real growth 2015-2030 5.1%
Indonesia GDP annual average real growth 2031-2050 3.6%

The top ten economies in 2050 based on the EIU long range forecasts is below. The EIU forecast chart to 2050 does not match the text of the China EIU forecast page. The China forecast says by 2050 China's economy will by 2.5 times the size of the USA. The table below shows 1.5 times the size of the USA.

June 23, 2015

Lawrence Livermore able to scale antimatter production with more powerful lasers

Using ever more energetic lasers, Lawrence Livermore researchers have produced a record high number of electron-positron pairs, opening exciting opportunities to study extreme astrophysical processes, such as black holes and gamma-ray bursts.

The current lasers are at 500-1000 joules.
The favorable scaling of electron-positron pairs with laser energy obtained in these experiments suggests that, at a laser intensity and pulse duration comparable to what is available, near-future 10-kilojoule-class lasers would provide 100 times higher antimatter yield.

This would be about 100 trillion positron pairs or 10^14.

There are many interesting applications that start becoming feasible if you can regularly and quickly generate 10^19 positrons in less than 1000 seconds.

A 1 gigawatt antimatter ignited nuclear fusion generator becomes possible. 10^19 positrons can be used to trigger deuterium tritium fusion.

Laser production of copious positrons from the vacuum occurs when the laser intensity gets higher than 10^23 Watts per cm squared.

Physical Review Letters - Scaling the Yield of Laser-Driven Electron-Positron Jets to Laboratory Astrophysical Applications


Researchers report new experimental results obtained on three different laser facilities that show directed laser-driven relativistic electron-positron jets with up to 30 times larger yields than previously obtained and a quadratic (∼E2L) dependence of the positron yield on the laser energy. This favorable scaling stems from a combination of higher energy electrons due to increased laser intensity and the recirculation of MeV electrons in the mm-thick target. Based on this scaling, first principles simulations predict the possibility of using such electron-positron jets, produced at upcoming high-energy laser facilities, to probe the physics of relativistic collisionless shocks in the laboratory.

Dependence of the measured positron yield on the laser energy, EL, obtained at three different laser facilities: Omega EP, Orion, and Titan. The upper group is from shots with 1 ps laser pulse: (brown) triangles Titan and (green) diamonds Orion. The lower group is obtained with 10 ps laser pulse: (blue) squares Titan and (red) circles Omega EP.

Dwave commercializes 1152 qubit chip but there are 2048 physical qubits so some chips will have more than 1152 qubits active

D-Wave Systems, the world's first quantum computing company, announced that it has broken the 1000 qubit barrier, developing a processor about double the size of D-Wave’s previous generation and far exceeding the number of qubits ever developed by D-Wave or any other quantum effort. This is a major technological and scientific achievement that will allow significantly more complex computational problems to be solved than was possible on any previous quantum computer.

D-Wave’s quantum computer runs a quantum annealing algorithm to find the lowest points, corresponding to optimal or near optimal solutions, in a virtual “energy landscape.” Every additional qubit doubles the search space of the processor. At 1000 qubits, the new processor considers 2^1000 possibilities simultaneously, a search space which dwarfs the 2^512 possibilities available to the 512-qubit D-Wave Two. ‪In fact, the new search space contains far more possibilities than there are ‪particles in the observable universe.

As the only manufacturer of scalable quantum processors, D-Wave breaks new ground with every succeeding generation it develops. The new processors, comprising over 128,000 Josephson tunnel junctions, are believed to be the most complex superconductor integrated circuits ever successfully yielded. They are fabricated in part at D-Wave’s facilities in Palo Alto, CA and at Cypress Semiconductor’s wafer foundry located in Bloomington, Minnesota.

“Temperature, noise, and precision all play a profound role in how well quantum processors solve problems. Beyond scaling up the technology by doubling the number of qubits, we also achieved key technology advances prioritized around their impact on performance,” said Jeremy Hilton, D-Wave vice president, processor development. “We expect to release benchmarking data that demonstrate new levels of performance later this year.”

As far as the exact number of qubits in the new processor, it varies somewhat for each specific processor. The 1,000+ qubit processor was designed to deliver a 1,152 qubit region out of a complete 2,048 qubit fabric. The additional qubits give us flexibility to select the 'sweet spot' of the processor, which results from the analog nature of the quantum devices and their sensitivity to parametric variation across the processor. As with previous generations, magnetic offsets and manufacturing variability inherent in the superconductor circuit fabrication push some of these qubits out of the performance range. Those qubits are disabled during the qualification process. In all cases, these processors will have significantly more than 1,000 qubits.

Russia expanding arctic bases and adding antiship and drone batteries

Russia will deploy new Bastion anti-ship missile complexes in the Arctic in 2015, a senior military official announced earlier this month. The coastal defense missile system is reportedly designed to destroy various enemy ships, including landing squadrons, convoys, carrier strike groups and single vessels.

In addition to the cruise missile deployments, which cannot be considered defensive (there’s simply no threat), Russia plans a fleet of Arctic-capable ships (e.g., destroyers and landing ships with ice-hardened hulls, along with submarines).

No other nation has anything like the network of military assets Russia is building up in the Arctic.

The US Alaskan military facilities on the Arctic coast are radar sites.

The Canadian airfield at Inuvik, near Alaska, has no permanently stationed air units, but is used by CF-18 strike-fighters as a forward operating base. It is currently the only Canadian base with potential as a launching spot for offensive operations (and only for air operations). In 2013, a new Arctic training facility opened at the remote village of Resolute, on the southern tip of Cornwallis Island in the Barrow Strait, but it accommodates only 140 personnel, and, as a training base, is also inadequate for supporting offensive operations into the Arctic Ocean.

Russia can only put Arctic chokepoints at 100% risk. The rest of the Arctic region is simply too large for saturation coverage by today’s land-based ASCMs.

Russia is modernizing ten nuclear submarines with new weapons and electronics and building new Arctic and Black sea patrol ships

Russia’s Navy will carry out a profound modernization of about ten nuclear-powered submarines of projects 971 and 949.

"Everything will be new there. All the units, mechanisms, radio electronics," Viktor Chirkov said, adding the after the modernization Russia’s Navy would have practically new nuclear submarines in terms of onboard equipment and weapons.

The submarines are being overhauled at the shipyards Zvyozdochka in Severodvinsk and Zvezda in the Far East’s Primorsky Territory.

"Surface ships and submarines will be built under a technology to make it easier to equip them with new weapons when necessary. Ships of these projects have enormous potential for modernization and we will make use of that," Chirkov said.

Project-971 Shchuka-B (NATO reporting name Akula)

Fifth generation Russian nuclear submrines are being designed.

Russia will build a new series of six patrol vessels for the Black Sea Fleet and two patrol ships for the Arctic by 2020, Russian Navy commander Viktor Chirkov told journalists on Sunday, APA reports quoting TASS.

The said the first of these ships would be handed over to the Black Sea Fleet within the next three years. The ships are being built at the Zelenodolsk and Vyborg shipyards. "Along with this new series of six ships for the Black Sea Fleet, two more patrol ships of the ice-breaker type will be built for the use in the Arctic zone," he said, adding that these two ships would be built in 2019 and 2020. These ships, according to Chirkov, will combine the characteristics of a patrol ship, an ice-breaker and a tugboat. Apart from that, all the new patrol boats will be used to escort civil ships to protect them against pirate attacks, to ensure the Navy’s combat stability in the coastal zone and to be part of naval groups in off-shore maritime zones.

"The ships will be able of long-term staying at any area of the World Ocean with possible rotation of the crew and shipyard checks at any port, including some foreign ports," he said.

Pluto And Charon: 99.5% of The Way There

A guest post by Joseph Friedlander

The New Horizons Probe is rapidly approaching the Pluto/Charon system.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Notice that this is a double world system, orbiting an exposed barycenter.  

 The fainter one is Charon, the brighter more massive one Pluto.
 The two are tidally locked,  with a period of 6 days, 9 hours and 17.6 minutes.

 Those are not just little rocks, either.
(No actual menace to the North American Continent should be inferred from this picture :) )

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Because of density differences Charon weighs only 12% of what Pluto does. Charon would appear 7 times the diameter of Earth's Moon from Pluto's sky.  Pluto's system is thought to be  made of less than half rock with water and other ices mixed in, including the very useful nitrogen and carbon ices.

A link explaining the concept of  the barycenter. 

Here is something most familiar in binary asteroids-- a space station in the exposed barycenter would literally (and accurately) perceive that the system was revolving around it.  One imagines that self-centered people who like to think the world (or better yet multiple worlds)  revolves around them might be drawn to that particular duty station.

The Moon and Earth's center of gravity is within the Earth.
 The Solar System's center of gravity is within the sun.

But Pluto and Charon have that exposed barycenter between them. Besides the obvious to a teenage mind Death Star like applications for battlestations that could rake (up to half) the surface of both worlds, there are also theoretical space station applications.

For example, you could melt essentially unlimited amounts of raw material and it would stay put, ideally sorted by density, without need to maintain the orbit. All the mass in the Pluto system would be shepherding it for you.  It would be a fantastic place for a shipyard-- glossing over the yet more fantastic difficulties of getting out there and colonizing the place.

 ( If you had engines that could withstand 5 million Kelvin nozzle temperature (yes, 5 million) you could routinely reach the place in 6 months.  Yet I do someday expect Pluto colonization because as Poul Anderson pointed out long ago, a heat sink is a valuable resource on a big enough scale)

I imagine an exposed barycenter in the asteroids at the Jovian-Solar L5 point

would have far more immediate engineering uses--- it might be interesting to write an article on the uses of such an exposed barycenter someday.  You could build a space colony around an exposed asteroid (or moon) moved to the barycenter and domed over.  But we digress from the mission.

January 19, 2006 Launch
February 28, 2007 Jupiter flyby/gravity assist
July 14, 2015 Closest approach to Pluto 
7:49:57 a.m. EDT (11:49:57 UTC) on July 14, 2015

July 15, 2015 First post-flyby data returned (P+1) Departure Phase 1 begins
Details at http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Pluto/index.php

Note that this July marks 50 years of detailed space probe results from the planets that include pictures. Before the summer of 1965, it was possible to fantasize about civilizations on Mars, lost cities on less survivable planets, and so on.
50 years ago that changed forever. Craters everywhere, and a solar system empty and awaiting Man's colonization.  (NASA image).

Details at

General details of Pluto's system


June 22, 2015

New Superconducting Magnet already at a record 27 Tesla and will reach 32 Tesla in 2016

The USA National MagLab made a magnet that broke the world record for an all-superconducting magnet.

Built with both traditional and novel superconducting materials, the magnet reached a field of 27 teslas on June 5 in a test that exceeded designers' expectations. The magnet is a smaller version of an even more powerful magnet due for completion next year — a 32 tesla all-superconducting magnet that will be substantially stronger than any such magnet built to date.

Tesla ("T" for short) is a measure of magnetic field strength: A typical magnet used in an MRI machine is 2 to 3 Tesla. The 27 Tesla field reached last week was 3.5 Tesla stronger than the strongest superconducting magnet currently in operation (in Lyon, France) and 1 Tesla stronger than a superconducting test magnet built earlier this year in South Korea. For decades, engineering and materials advances have nudged the record up only bit by bit. Last week's feat brings MagLab engineers to the home stretch of the seven-year 32 T project.

This YBCO test coil helped the MagLab set a new world record for superconducting magnets: 27 teslas.
YBCO tape (running the length of the table above) was wound into discs called "pancakes" to make the insert coils. A model "pancake" made from copper is pictured above.

The strongest superconducting user magnet in the world currently has a field strength of 23.5 tesla. When this ambitious project is completed in 2016, the strongest superconducting magnet on the planet will be housed at the MagLab. At 32 tesla, it will be a whopping 8.5 tesla stronger than the current record – a giant leap in a technology that, since the 1960s, has seen only baby steps of 0.5 to 1 tesla. In June 2015, a test for the 32 tesla magnet set a new world record of 27 teslas for an all-superconducting magnet.

The groundbreaking instrument will considerably reduce the cost of scientific experiments and make high-field research accessible to more scientists. The system will also support decades worth of new science. Due in large part to the quieter environment a superconducting magnet offers over a resistive magnet of equivalent strength, the 32 tesla will help scientists break new ground in nuclear magnetic resonance, electron magnetic resonance, molecular solids, quantum oscillation studies of complex metals, fractional quantum Hall effect and other areas.

Imec presents successors to FinFET for 7nm and beyond

At this week’s VLSI 2015 Symposium in Kyoto (Japan), imec reported new results on nanowire FETs and quantum-well FinFETs towards post-FinFET multi-gate device solutions.

As the major portion of the industry adopts FinFETs as the workhorse transistor for 16nm and 14nm, researchers worldwide are looking into the limits of FinFETs and potential device solutions for the 7nm node and beyond. Two approaches, namely Gate-All-Around Nanowire (GAA NW) FETs, which offer significantly better short-channel electrostatics, and quantum-well FinFETs (with SiGe, Ge, or III-V channels), which achieve high carrier mobility, are promising options.

For the first time, imec demonstrated the integration of these novel device architectures with state-of-the-art technology modules like Replacement-Metal-Gate High-k (RMG-HK) and Self (Spacer)-Aligned Double-Patterned (SADP) dense fin structures. By building upon today’s advanced FinFET technologies, the work shows how post-FinFET devices can emerge, highlighting both new opportunities as well as complexities to overcome.

Greece might be close to a Debt Deal with the EU

The euro edged higher against the U.S. dollar, yen and Swiss franc on Monday as a new cash-for-reforms offer from Greece raised hopes a tangible deal is taking shape that will help Athens avoid a default on its debts.

Euro zone finance ministers left a meeting with Greek officials in Brussels voicing optimism at Greece's offer, with talk of more work ahead to achieve a potential deal this week.

Greece will default if it does not repay a €1.6bn (£1.1bn) IMF loan by the end of the month.

If that happens, it risks crashing out of the single currency and possibly the EU.

Eurozone leaders are currently discussing Greece's proposals at an emergency summit in Brussels

5G network defined by ITU as 20 GBs per second

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has agreed on the definition of fifth-generation (5G) networks, a key technological requirement and its schedule to commercialize the technology by 2020.

The union has decided to define 5G as a network which is capable of transmitting data at up to 20 gigabits-per-second. This means that users can download one ultra high-definition movie in 10 seconds.

The 5G network will also have a capacity to provide more than 100 megabits-per-second average data transmission to over one million Internet of Things devices within 1 square kilometer. Video content services, including ones that use holography technology, will also be available thanks to the expanded data transmit capacity, the ministry said.

The ITU has determined the name of the 5G network as IMT-2020, following the IMT-2000 for the third-generation network and the IMT-Advanced for the fourth-generation one.

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