August 22, 2015

21st century with abundant intelligence augmentation and genetic enhancement

Let us consider a scenario beyond complete genetic sequencing of zygotes and optimal selection of embryos.
Advanced CRISPR gene sequencing seems likely to enable complete genome sequencing.
Robotic automation with nanoscale control could enable genome sequencing to be very inexpensive.
Tens of billions to trillions of dollars will be gained by the companies that compete to improve CRISPR gene sequencing from cures for different diseases.

This scenario will enable a world of supergeniuses. Genetic optimization will also enable life spans in the 100-150 range even with limited radical extension via other means.

Supergenius is not required to solve problems and goals such as those below
* air and water pollution
* abundant energy (molten salt fission reactors, nuclear fusion)
* space access (resuable rockets, nuclear fusion space planes)
* poverty
* advanced molecular nanotechnology
* quantum computers

Genetic Supergenius will result from genome engineering based upon the genetic science

1. Cognitive ability is highly heritable. At least half the variance is genetic in origin.

2. It is influenced by many (probably thousands) of common variants (see GCTA estimates of heritability due to common SNPs). We know there are many because the fewer there are the larger the (average) individual effect size of each variant would have to be. But then the SNPs would be easy to detect with small sample size.

Recent studies with large sample sizes detected ~70 SNP hits, but would have detected many more if effect sizes were consistent with, e.g., only hundreds of causal variants in total.

3. Since these are common variants the probability of having the negative variant -- with (-) effect on g score -- is not small (e.g., like 10% or more).

4. So each individual is carrying around many hundreds (if not thousands) of (-) variants.

5. As long as effects are roughly additive, we know that changing ALL or MOST of these (-) variants into (+) variants would push an individual many standard deviations (SDs) above the population mean. Such an individual would be far beyond any historical figure in cognitive ability.

Given more details we can estimate the average number of (-) variants carried by individuals, and how many SDs are up for grabs from flipping (-) to (+). As is the case with most domesticated plants and animals, we expect that the existing variation in the population allows for many SDs of improvement.

Chickens have become physically larger because of breeding and farming methods

Star Trek Renegades episode available and other Star Trek TV and online possibilities

Director Tim Russ and writer Ethan H Calk are both from the world of ”Star Trek” – trekkies know Russ as wise Vulcan Tuvok from the ”Voyager” and ”TNG” series, and Calk was a writer on ”Deep Space Nine” – but this low budget curiosity isn’t exactly canon.

The story of ”Star Trek: Renegades” : Admiral Starfleet Intelligence, Chekov (Walter Koenig) [head of Starfleet Intelligence] is tasked with tracking down an alien race destroying the worlds that supply critical supplies of dilithium thanks to a wormhole-like portal system.

The starship battles in space are were as good as the regular TV series.

Dialogue, story and editing could be improved.

They had to setup a lot of new characters and reintroduce old ones and tried to have a double TV episode worth of action.

Renegades will continue as an independently produced fan-supported Internet TV Series!

The current film will be denoted as Episode 1 (the pilot) and they are actively writing Episodes 2 and 3. Walter Koenig has agreed to reprise Admiral Chekov in this two-part episode, with Episode 2 ending with a cliffhanger, and Walter has decided that Episode 3 will be his final performance as Chekov.

Superconducting magnetic space radiation shielding

The European Union SR2S project not only investigates the principles and the scientific problems (of magnetic shielding), but it also faces the complex issues in engineering.

Superconducting magnets, commonly found in MRI scanners, produce stronger, more efficient magnetic fields using smaller and lighter magnets than magnets made using conventional materials such as copper or aluminium.

On earth, superconducting materials must be cooled to very low temperatures using liquid helium to utilize their superconducting properties, however the project has already found a solution that will work in space.

‘We have decided to use a new superconducting material, discovered in 2001: magnesium diboride or MgB2,’ explained Dr Musenich. MgB2 can superconduct at 10 kelvin, or -263 degrees Celsius, which removes the need for liquid-helium cooling as this temperature is comparable with that of deep space.

Simulations of the magnetic system suggest that a 10-meter-diameter magnetic field could be produced by a system weighing less than half that of a comparable passive shield.

The SR2S superconducting shield will provide an intense magnetic field, 3,000 times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field and will be confined around the space craft.

An active deflector shield system could never replace passive shielding or biological advances, but it can offer options, particularly for EVAs, extending the longevity of hardware and preventing secondary activation of the ship's hull and systems. It seems the only credible theory for deflection of GeV particles.

CERN will be helping to test the superconducting radiation shield design

NASA has a 158 page report on superconducting radiation shielding. Magnetic fields with 10 tesla and 10 meters thickness could deflect about 93% of the radiation. The EU design has overall protection against 50-70% of the radiation.

Metamaterial engineering to triple the critical temperature of a dielectric composite superconductor

Plasmonic metamaterial geometry may enable fabrication of an aluminum-based metamaterial superconductor with a critical temperature that is three times that of pure aluminum.

Recent theoretical and experimental work has conclusively demonstrated that using metamaterials in dielectric response engineering can increase the critical temperature of a composite superconductor-dielectric metamaterial. This enables numerous practical applications, such as transmitting electrical energy without loss, and magnetic levitation devices. Dielectric response engineering is based on the description of superconductors in terms of their dielectric response function which is applicable as long as the material may be considered a homogeneous medium on the spatial scale, below the superconducting coherence length. With this in mind, the next logical step is to use recently developed plasmonics and electromagnetic metamaterial tools to engineer and maximize the electron pairing interaction in an artificial ‘ metamaterial superconductor’ by deliberately engineering its dielectric response function.

Researchers expect considerable enhancement of attractive electron-electron interaction in metamaterial scenarios such as epsilon-near-zero (ENZ, an artificial material engineered such that its dielectric permittivity—usually denoted as ‘ epsilon’—becomes very close to zero) and hyperbolic metamaterials (artificial materials with very strong anisotropy that behave like a metal in one direction, and a dielectric in another orthogonal direction).

They verified such phenomena in experiments with compressed mixtures of tin and barium titanate nanoparticles of varying composition. The results showed a deep connection between the fields of superconductivity and electromagnetic metamaterials. However, despite this initial success, the observed critical temperature increase was modest. We argued that the random nanoparticle mixture geometry may not be ideal because simple mixing of superconductor and dielectric nanoparticles results in substantial spatial variations of the dielectric response function throughout a metamaterial sample. Such variations lead to considerable broadening and suppression of the superconducting transition.

To overcome this issue, we considered using an ENZ plasmonic core-shell metamaterial geometry designed to achieve partial cloaking of macroscopic objects. The cloaking effect relies on mutual cancellation of scattering by the dielectric core and plasmonic shell of the nanoparticle, so that the effective dielectric constant of the nanoparticle becomes very small and close to that of a vacuum.

They have undertaken the first successful realization of an ENZ core-shell metamaterial superconductor using compressed aluminum oxide (Al2O3)-coated 18nm-diameter aluminum (Al) nanoparticles. This led to a tripling of the metamaterial critical temperature compared to the bulk aluminum. The material is ideal for proof-of-principle experiments because the critical temperature of aluminum is quite low (TcAl=1.2K), leading to a very large superconducting coherence length of ∼1600nm. Such length facilitates the metamaterial fabrication requirements. Upon exposure to the ambient conditions an ∼2nm-thick Al2O3 shell forms on the aluminum nanoparticle surface, which is comparable to the 9nm radius of the original aluminum nanoparticle.

The highest onset temperature of the superconducting transition reached 3.9K, which is more than three times as high as the critical temperature of bulk aluminum, TcAl=1.2K.

They anticipate that it may be possible to implement the same approach to other known superconductors with higher critical temperature, and our future work will focus on exploring these possibilities.

Schematic geometry of the epsilon-near-zero metamaterial superconductor based on core-shell nanoparticle geometry. The nanoparticle diameter is 18nm. The inset shows typical core-shell metamaterial dimensions. Al: Aluminum. Al2O3: Aluminum oxide.

Passive Exoskeletons transfer two-thirds of weight to the ground

Australian researchers have developed a simple, lightweight (3 kg) fully-passive exoskeleton. This system uses Bowden cables to attached to a rigid backpack frame. The cables run down the back and legs to the base of the boot and transfer approximately two thirds of the backpack load to the ground
. This load force bypasses the user’s body, reducing compression forces from the backpack load through the torso and legs.

The benefits of such a system compared to a powered exoskeleton include: simplicity, no requirements for heavy batteries; low cost; easier to integrate with the user and equipment and redundancy when no longer required – remove and add to pack.

The development is at a proof-of-concept stage with early testing showing encouraging results. However, the biomechanics of the system require extensive refinement to ensure it is integrated optimally with the soldier and truly fit for purpose.

While the technology is being developed around use in the military it might be applicable to many civilian scenarios such as firefighting, trekking and personal load carriage roles that require assistive technology.
Passive Exoskeleton

Bowden Cable

China is targeting a combination of mobile internet, cloud computing, big data and the internet of Things

Since early this year, China has been pursuing an "Internet Plus" action plan focusing especially on cloud computing. Early this year, the State Council unveiled an opinion about promoting cloud computing, expecting China to have built up several internationally competitive cloud computing enterprises that have controlled key cloud computing technologies by 2020, China Economic Net reports.

Premier Li Keqiang previously said "Internet Plus" entails integration of mobile internet, cloud computing, big data and Internet of Things with modern manufacturing in order to foster new industries and business development, including e-commerce, industrial internet and internet finance.

In the first quarter of 2015, the infrastructure of global cloud computing grew 25.1% hitting US$6.3 billion.

According to the action plan, China will push forward the integration of the Internet and traditional industries, fuel its expansion from consumption industries to manufacturing.

The action plan maps development targets and supportive measures for key sectors which the government hopes can establish new industrial modes by integrating with Internet, including mass entrepreneurship and innovation, manufacturing, agriculture, energy, finance, public services, logistics, e-commerce, traffic, biology and artificial intelligence.

"The government aims to further deepen the integration of the Internet with the economic and social sectors, making new industrial modes a main driving force of growth by 2018," according to the action plan.

By 2025, Internet Plus will become a new economic model and an important driving force for economic and social innovation and development.

China's Internet plus plan is similar to GE's Industrial Internet vision.

August 21, 2015

Terabytes of Flash memory are affordable now and much faster 3D Xpoint memory in Terabyte sizes should be affordable in the next few years

Samsung PM1633a is a 16TB (Terabyte) SSD (Solid state flash drive, formatted capacity, 15.36TB). It was announced at the 2015 Flash Memory Summit. The massive increase in density is thanks to the 48-layer 3D TLC NAND that Samsung announced earlier this week. Based on the company’s own statistics, each of its new 3D NAND chips can hold up to 256Gb (32GB). That means 32 chips per terabyte, and 512 chips to provide 16TB of data.

Intel and Micron have the 3D XPoint memory. 600 of the 128 gigabit chips would be about 9 TB of data.

2 Terabyte solid state flash drives are about $750

Raytheon 3D prints 80 percent of guided missile parts and progress on printing Titanium satellite and rocket parts

Raytheon created nearly every component of a guided weapon using additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3-D printing. The components include rocket engines, fins, parts for the guidance and control systems, and more.

“You could potentially have these in the field,” said Jeremy Danforth, a Raytheon engineer who has printed working rocket motors. “Machines making machines. The user could [print on demand]. That’s the vision.”

The progress is part of a companywide push into additive manufacturing and 3-D printing, including projects meant to supplement traditional manufacturing processes. Engineers are exploring the use of 3-D printing to lay down conductive materials for electrical circuits, create housings for the company's revolutionary gallium nitride transmitters, and fabricate fins for guided artillery shells.

The process may reduce costs associated with traditional manufacturing, such as machining of parts. It allows for quick design and rapid changes because engineers only need change the digital model representing the part. As long as they stay within set parameters, they can have new parts in hours instead of weeks.

“You can design internal features that might be impossible to machine,” said Raytheon engineer Travis Mayberry, who is researching future uses of additive manufacturing and 3-D printing. “We’re trying new designs for thermal improvements and lightweight structures, things we couldn’t achieve with any other manufacturing method.”

Printing parts also allows for more complex geometries with high-resolution and high-performance silicon. Raytheon’s institute at U Mass has made progress in printing conductors and dielectrics, as well as carbon nanotubes for printing future missiles.

There are already people in industry printing warheads.

Rocket Lab, a New Zealand-based startup, has used 3D printing to significantly reduce the average cost of rocket launches. The company has developed a lightweight satellite launcher called “Electron,” along with its engine named “Rutherford Engine” from an additive process using titanium alloys.

The engine reduced the amount of fuel being used, thus, cutting down the cost from Lockheed-Martin’s $225 million to $4.9 million. CEO Peter Beck states that the company aims to “commercialize” space access. RocketLab’s first commercial launch that will use the cost-efficient engine is expected to commence in 2016.

CEO Peter Beck states that the company aims to “commercialize” space access. RocketLab’s first commercial launch that will use the cost-efficient engine is expected to commence in 2016

Printing Titanium Parts

Titanium additive manufacturing is game changer for aerospace (airplane, rocket and satellite) parts.

* Production of aerospace parts by conventional technologies requires about 5 times the material amount in the final part, and individual parts may have “buy to fly” values of 10 or more. Additive manufacturing can reduce the “buy to fly” ratio significantly, typically to 1.5 or better.

* Reduced lead time and flexibility in design as additional benefits.

* process has been developed for deposition of titanium and titanium alloys, hereunder the most common used alloy for aerospace applications, Ti6Al4V

RB2015: Development Of Progenitor Cells for Spinal Cord Injury

Russia and the USA are the closest to useful operational hypersonic air launched weapons

The United States, China and Russia are all aggressively developing hypersonic weapons. In terms of operationalizing a usable weapon, experts believe that the United States and Russia are very close. China has hypersonic technology, but is mostly working on boost-glide weapons that are essentially ballistic missiles with a hypersonic missile as the warhead. These will be too large and costly to be an operationally useful weapon system that is used in significant numbers. The United States and Russia are also working on air-launched hypersonic weapons that are smaller, less expensive and more operationally relevant.

Harry J. Kazianis at National Interest had an interview with senior fellows Bryan Clark and Mark Gunzinger of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The biggest technical challenge is the fact you essentially need two different motors to power the missile: one to get the missile up to supersonic speeds (over Mach 1, or about 750 mph), and another to then take the missile up to hypersonic speeds (over Mach 5, or about 3,750 mph). The kinds of motors that work at lower speeds, such as turbojets and turbofans, will not work at higher speeds, which require scramjet or ramjet motors. Conversely, the higher-speed motors don't work at lower speeds. This can increase the cost of the weapon significantly, because you need to boost the missile to high speed and then use a scramjet or ramjet to attain and maintain hypersonic speeds.

There are essentially two ways to get a missile up to the speed where a scramjet or ramjet will work. One is a "boost-glide" weapon in which a large rocket boosts the missile to high altitudes and speeds before its ramjet or scramjet ignites and powers the missile at hypersonic speed to a target. The other is an air-launched weapon that uses the launch aircraft to get the missile to a high altitude and speed; after launch, a small booster rocket takes the missile to high enough speeds for the ramjet or scramjet to take over.

Air Launched are cheaper and small 3D printed scramjets motors could be cheaper

Air launched weapons could be far less expensive than a surface-launched weapon. Some U.S. manufacturers are looking at reducing the cost of air-launched hypersonic weapons by using inexpensive rocket boosters to accelerate it to high speeds, and using additive manufacturing to build the hypersonic ramjet/scramjet motor. Additive manufacturing enables them to produce the motor less expensively because it eliminates the need for extensive machining to create the motor’s combustion chambers and fuel systems.

Raytheon is in the process of increasing the use of 3D printing extensively and their Missile Systems division has already 3D printed almost every part of a guided weapon, including rocket engines, guidance and control systems components, fins, and more. They are now proceeding to look at the possibility of 3D printing conductive circuits, as well as housings for their gallium nitride transmitters and fins for guided artillery shells. Not only would 3D printing help reduce costs, by eliminating the need to machine parts, but it might help them print missile components in the field of war.

Creation of unusually intelligent mice by altering a single gene

Researchers have created unusually intelligent mice by altering a single gene and as a result the mice were also less likely to feel anxiety or recall fear.

The study, led by the University of Leeds and Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, is published today in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

It sheds light on the molecular underpinnings of learning and memory and could form the basis for research into new treatments for age-related cognitive decline, cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia, and other conditions.

The researchers altered a gene in mice to inhibit the activity of an enzyme called phosphodiesterase-4B (PDE4B), which is present in many organs of the vertebrate body, including the brain.

In behavioral tests, the PDE4B-inhibited mice showed enhanced cognitive abilities.

They tended to learn faster, remember events longer and solve complex exercises better than ordinary mice.

Another step to super intelligent mice like the fictional Brain of Pinky and the Brain

Nature Neuropsychopharmacology - Specific Inhibition of Phosphodiesterase-4B Results in Anxiolysis and Facilitates Memory Acquisition

RB2015: iPSCs for Disease Modeling and Drug Discovery: Joseph Wu

Exosomes: an opportunity for a new class of biologic therapies

Houman David Hemmati, MD PHD is the Vice President of Medical and Clinical Development for New Therapies at Capricor Therapeutics, Inc. in Beverly Hills, California. In this fascinating talk, he discussed the clinical trials at Capricor and the potential of these biotherapeutics in the pharmaceutical space. Capricor has three platforms: CDCs, Peptide therapy and microRNA exosomes:

The Heart of the Matter

Here they've partnered with organ donors to obtain hearts that are not transplantable (may be diseased for instance). They then explant them in tissue culture and get explant-derived cells (EDCs) stem cells which detach and form cardiospheres - little bundles of cardiac stem cells and their derivatives. These are then plated in a dish and where they produce cardiosphere-derived cells (CDCs). In this trial at Children's Hospital LA, they saw that delivering stem cells to patients post myocardial infarction showed improved healing. 

This is a summary of the trials underway:

These little CDCs pack a punch. They can function as a local drug delivery system (paracrine function), prevent cardiomyocyte apoptosis while promoting cardiomyocyte proliferation and angiogenesis (cell growth and blood vessel formation, respectively). They are also anti-fibrotic, meaning they can prevent or reduce scar tissue. (Note: remember this for skin tissue in the future)

How do they do this? In 2012 they showed as part of their caduceus study that CDCs reduced scar size and increased healthy heart muscle. Not surprisingly, smaller scars have better outcomes. But waiting on donor hearts that aren't transplanted is not the most viable business model. So they moved to researching exosomes. 


Exosomes are small vesicles (30–150 nm) with a sophisticated RNA and protein profile. They are secreted by all cell types in culture and are found to occur naturally in body fluids, including blood, saliva, urine, CSF, and breast milk. Nanoparticles are not cells so do not have the same challenges faced by cell therapy (ie: fragility, immunologic memory, etc). They can modulate gene expression, transcription and translation while maintaining homeostasis. They clearly carry a future potential in tissue repair. They are a novel, cell-free biologic delivery vehicle with a natural capacity to protect their cargo and get manufactured relatively simply. Look out, there's a new biotherapeutic in town - and it could be dirt cheap compared with cell therapies.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 274

1. Neutron Bytes - Dan Yurman -TVA’s Watts Bar 2 Asks NRC for Part 50 Operating License

The Tennessee Valley Authority is on track to open the nation’s first new nuclear generating plant of the 21st century.

This week the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) sent documentation to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) informing the agency that construction of the Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear reactor is substantially complete. The letter provides a list of remaining key activities which will be finished prior to operations and requests that an operating license be issued for the unit.

The “substantially complete” letter is a major construction and licensing milestone for the project.

2. Forbes Jim Conca - Japan’s Nuclear Power Awakens After Long Sleep

Amid protests by local citizens and anti-nuclear groups, Japan restarted the first of its shuttered nuclear reactors today, four years after the Fukushima disaster closed all of that country’s nuclear plants. There were no problems during the restart. As more nuclear restarts occur Japan can begin ratcheting down its fossil fuel imports, ratcheting up its economy, and getting back to being the economic powerhouse like we all remember.

August 20, 2015

RB 2015: Jay Jerome

Keynote Address: Science and Technology for Diplomacy

Frances Colón is the Acting Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State, United States Department of State. In an animated talk spanning science, technology, diplomacy and policy, Frances provided an inside look at the intersection between science and politics. Briefly, her journey started at Brandeis University studying developmental neuroscience. After she was matched via AAAS to the State Department, she became Adviser to the Secretary of State in the Office of Science and Technology.

An introduction to science diplomacy

Science diplomacy sits in between foreign policy and science policy -  not a very common place. The office of the Science and Technology Adviser in essence serves to translate scientific concepts and practices for policy makers. It has three main functions:

Intro to Claudia Aguirre, PhD, blogging from RB2015

Greetings from RB2015!

My name is Claudia Aguirre and I'll be live-blogging from the SENS research foundation conference Rejuvenation Biotechnology. A little about me....I have a PhD in neuroscience and am currently a scientific consultant in the health and wellness industries. I mostly focus on science communications and scientific content marketing but I am always tinkering away on fun biotech projects and consumer product development. Thanks to Brian for the opportunity to blog on his site!

Potentially a very big deal - Dwave 2X 1000-2048 qubit quantum annealing system becoming faster than classical computers

Nextbigfuture has covered the 28 page benchmarking paper and the developments, applications and algorithms for the Dwave systems.


* the Dwave system is broadly 15 times faster than commercial multi-core solvers
* the Dwave system can be 600 times faster
* Dwave is doubling the number of qubits every year or two
* there are over 2000 physical qubits on the latest chip but they guarantee 1000 qubits
* There system is speeding up hundreds to ten thousands of times as they double
* they redesign their chips every month or so for tuning and improving input and output and other bottlenecks and not just qubits
* applications are primarily optimization and machine learning
* they are getting to be the best solution for particular classes of large and complex optimization problems
* Google, Lockheed, military and others have been seeing if they can learn to use this system to their advantage for a few years
* Google and others are also exploring options around quantum system that are different from the Dwave design with more error correction
* Dwave's design is adiabatic (a physical analog system) and not a gate like design
* there are dozens of vastly different approaches to quantum computing but the others have not reached significant scale versus the superconducting annealing approach
* in the future some of the different approaches will be developed and scaled. They could be better at different kinds of problems. Just as there are many kinds of semiconductor computing (RISC chips, GPUs, FPGAs etc...)

The latest Dwave 2X 1000-2048 qubit quantum annealing system TTT benchmark is as follows:

* The D-Wave 2X finds near-optimal solutions up to 600x faster (depending on inputs) than comparable times for the best known and highly tuned, classical solvers. This comparison uses the quantum anneal time of the D-Wave processor.

* The D-Wave 2X finds near-optimal solutions up to 15x faster than the solvers using total time measurements.

* The greatest performance advantage for the D-Wave 2X compared to the software solvers is seen on inputs with more challenging structures than simple random cases that have been the predominant focus in previous benchmarks. This means the hardware performance is showing its best performance against software solvers on hard problem instances.

* In cases where it could be calculated, the difference between “near-optimal” and “optimal” is quite small, less than one percent of the latter. The D-Wave 2X is up to 100x faster at finding good near-optimal solutions than optimal solutions.

Dwave Systems 1000+ qubit system available, faster than regular computers with 15-600 times speed up over classical solvers

DWave announced their 1000+ qubit quantum annealing system

Dwave announced the general availability of the latest generation of D-Wave quantum computers, the D-Wave 2X™ system. With 1000+ qubits and many other technological advancements, the D-Wave 2X will enable customers to run much larger, more complex problems on the system.

In addition to scaling beyond 1000 qubits, the new system incorporates other major technological and scientific advancements. These include an operating temperature below 15 millikelvin, near absolute zero and 180 times colder than interstellar space. With over 128,000 Josephson tunnel junctions, the new processors are believed to be the most complex superconductor integrated circuits ever successfully used in production systems. Increased control circuitry precision and a 50% reduction in noise also contribute to faster performance and enhanced reliability.

The D-Wave 2X demonstrates a factor of up to 15x gains over highly specialized classical solvers in nearly all classes of problems examined. Measuring only the native computation time of the D-Wave 2X quantum processor shows performance advantages of up to 600x over these same solvers.

A summary of the TTT benchmark is as follows:

* The D-Wave 2X finds near-optimal solutions up to 600x faster (depending on inputs) than comparable times for the best known and highly tuned, classical solvers. This comparison uses the quantum anneal time of the D-Wave processor.

* The D-Wave 2X finds near-optimal solutions up to 15x faster than the solvers using total time measurements.

* The greatest performance advantage for the D-Wave 2X compared to the software solvers is seen on inputs with more challenging structures than simple random cases that have been the predominant focus in previous benchmarks. This means the hardware performance is showing its best performance against software solvers on hard problem instances.

* In cases where it could be calculated, the difference between “near-optimal” and “optimal” is quite small, less than one percent of the latter. The D-Wave 2X is up to 100x faster at finding good near-optimal solutions than optimal solutions.

Benchmarking Paper

Arxiv - Benchmarking a quantum annealing processor with the time-to-target metric

Germany ramping up mach 20 hypersonic commercial plane and spaceplane project

SpaceLiner is an advanced concept for a suborbital, hypersonic, winged passenger transport, which is currently under investigation at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, or DLR) since 2005.

The DLR projected that, if funded and development is continued, it could field an operational spaceplane in the 2035-2040s.

It appears that Germany may be stepping up hypersonic space plane and commercial travel efforts. There is active hypersonic plane and spaceplane programs in the USA, UK, Russia, China, Australia and other countries

Recent conference news

The Spaceliner DLR is to stand as a space shuttle before starting upright and start with rocket engines on his journey. The reusable booster stage separates after the first attack from the orbiter, found in the passenger capsule 50 fellow passengers place. Eight minutes then the glider would start with 20x speed of sound. The landing after around 80 minutes will then like a conventional aircraft on a normal runway instead. A project for which there are no existing models

The rocket-powered SpaceLiner, originally conceptualized as a 50-passenger hypersonic airliner, has now been given new urgency and direction with a roadmap for flights within the next 20 years, SpaceLiner project lead Martin Sippel told Aviation Week at last month's American Institute of Aerodynamics and Astronautics' Space Planes and Hypersonics Conference in Glasgow. Sippel spoke at the conference, presenting on SpaceLiner's technical progress and the program's mission definition—which now includes potentially delivering satellites and other payloads to space.

If hypersonic travel could capture 0.2% share of air travel... from a space perspective that’s a potentially huge impact. We could increase hundredfold the number of launches and, as it is a reusable vehicle designed for between 150 and 300 flights, you have serial production of engines. If you have 11 engines per vehicle then you would build 2,000 engines per year or so.

August 19, 2015

Arid Farming has stored a trillion tons of CO2 in the desert

Yan Li’s research team sampled water from a salty aquifer under the Tarim basin – a desert in north-west China – and from a glacier and river that supply it. Using carbon dating, they were able to produce a timeline showing the rate of carbon’s arrival in the groundwater over human history. They found that this rate rose dramatically, by more than a factor of 12 over the past 8000 years (Geophysical Research Letters,

We already knew that crops suck carbon dioxide out of the air and release it into soil. Normally it would then escape back into the air. But the sheer amount of water needed in arid farming dissolves the CO2 and deposits it in aquifers, Li suggests.

If the process occurs elsewhere, as Li expects, there will be about a trillion tonnes of carbon stored in saline aquifers – 25 per cent more than in living plants.

Geophysical Research Letters - Hidden carbon sink beneath desert

General Fusion successfully crowdsourced an engineering solution to a problem on their nuclear fusion project

In April, General Fusion issued a crowdsourcing challenge to come up with a written proposal for a “robust seal technology” capable of withstanding extreme temperatures and repetitive hammering for the purpose of isolating “the molten lead from the vacuum” inside their fusion reactor.

And after examining the 60 credible proposals submitted from 17 different countries, the General Fusion team has selected the winning entry proposed by Kirby Meacham, a Cleveland mechanical engineer who trained at MIT.

The challenge for the “Method for Sealing Anvil Under Repetitive Impacts Against Molten Metal” was issued via the Massachussets based Innocentive crowdsource platform, with over 335,000 registered “solvers” in almost 200 countries, all poring over similarly complicated technical problems submitted by innovators seeking the wisdom of the crowd to overcome a particular technical hurdle.

The winner of General Fusion’s anvil seal challenge claims his $20,000 prize in exchange for transferring exclusive Intellectual Property rights to the solution.

General Fusion is already hinting at using the Innocentive platform again to gain insight into its experimental plasma physics data.

The government of Malaysia was investing $27 million in General Fusion

General Fusion is set to close another round of funding in late summer 2015, with the participation of additional investors.

US Navy will have squadron of large robotic submarines by 2020 and mass production in 2025

The Navy will building prototype large robotic submarines in 2015-2016 and testing in 2018. According to the Navy's ISR Capabilities Division, LDUUV will reach initial operating capability as a squadron by 2020 and full rate production by 2025.

The US Navy has released requirements for its long duration large robotic submarine. (LDUUV - Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle)

The Navy wants two things in the first version.

1) “intelligence, scouting, and reconnaissance” underwater, which means the combined jobs of watching an area for potential threats and then sending back useful information to people on shore.

2. “Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment.” Observing a battlefield and evaluating enemy options in war, to (in peacetime) exploring potential threats and courses of action.

The LDUUV as an underwater scout and spy, a submarine whose sensors will collect data to help build a better understanding of what future naval wars could look like.

Future robot subs will be used as
* underwater minesweepers
* launch flying scout drones that scan above the surface of the sea
* “deploy payloads” such as shooting torpedoes or missiles.

The LDUUV can be launched from drydocks, Virginia-class submarines, and the Littoral Combat Ship.

Boeing Patent for a flying drone that can transforme for submarine travel

Boeing has a patent for a Rapid deployment air and water vehicle.

The transformation from flying UAV to submarine travel is one way. The wings mostly break off as it hits the water.

It is more like James Bonds submarine car. There are many fictional flying submarines.

Some other notable fictional flying sub vehicles

* Gerry Anderson series Supercar
* Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
* 2001 Steven Spielberg film A.I. Artificial Intelligence ("Amphibicopter")
* Inspector Gadget
* Voyage to the bottom of the sea
* and many more

Actual history of flying submarines

In 1961 Donald Reid designed and built a single-seat craft (32.83 ft length) capable of flight and underwater movement, the Reid Flying Submarine 1 (RFS-1). A 65 hp (48 kW) engine mounted on a pylon provided propulsion for flight; a 1 hp electric motor in the tail provided underwater propulsion. The pilot used an aqualung for breathing underwater. The first full-cycle flight [underwater at 6.5 feet (2 m) depth, airborne at 33 ft (10 m) altitude] was demonstrated on 9 June 1964. Reid, his craft, and his son (the test pilot) appeared on the U.S. game show "I've Got A Secret" on March 15, 1965.

In 2008, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced that it was preparing to issue contracts for a submersible aircraft.

The Boeing flying-drone sub Patent

A vehicle which is adaptable for both flight and water travel includes: a body; a wing, a stabilizer, or a first propelling member; and at least one attachment member. The body is configured to fly through air and to move through water. The at least one attachment member attaches the wing, the stabilizer, or the first propelling member to the body while the body is in flight. The at least one attachment member detaches at least a portion of the wing, at least a portion of the stabilizer, or at least a portion of the first propelling member from the body when the body is in the water.

Startup Knowm combines machine learning, quantum computing via memristors

Startup Knowm's has a combo 'Anti-Hebbian and Hebbian' (AHaH) machine learning approach using memristors (others use one or the other, but only Knowm uses both at once) thus allowing the customer to define their own specific learning algorithm using the same building blocks.

"Knowm’s AHaH computing approach combines the best of machine learning and quantum computing via memristors," Chief Executive Officer Alex Nugent told EE Times in advance of the company's unveiling today. "Our neuromemristive processors use a low-level instruction set that can be combined in various ways to achieve any number of learning algorithms."

Many researchers take the “let’s decode the brain!” approach and want to simulate the brain on massive computer clusters. While this will most certainly provide insights into how the brain works, they will eventually be faced with the reality that that their simulations will not be able to compete on power, density and speed with other approaches that have addressed the issue directly.

Knowm has taken a different approach, which is to build a chip that doesn’t necessarily emulate a brain but instead provides adaptive-learning functions at a foundation ‘physical’ level and consequently beats other approaches on power and density.

Each memristor 'remembers' how much current has passed through it, and in what direction, by changing its resistance, here based on mobile metal ion conduction through the chalcogenide material.
(Source: Knowm)

August 18, 2015

US Army funds Lockheed Combat Laser as an alternative to Boeing HEL-MD Truck Mounted Combat Laser

The Boeing HEL-MD program currently mounts an off-the-shelf 10-kilowatt laser, but it will be upgraded in 2016 to a custom-built 50-60 kW weapon, with potential for 100 kW and above. It’s already shot down drones and mortar rounds, and the higher power levels should make it capable against rockets and even artillery shells.

“There is some concern out there that maybe the services [Army, Navy, Air Force] are being redundant [they each have at least one laser program], [but] it reflects the importance of that technology,” Mann told the conference in his public remarks. “The services are using this technology to look at different threat sets.”

Mann also mentioned that there are some very exciting cyber weapons and electronic warfare weapons. However, the programs are very, very classified, very, very compartmentalized programs, so I can’t go into a lot of specific areas.

The US is developing complex layered defenses with interceptors, directed energy, non-kinetic, cyber.
Boeing HEL-MD truck laser

Another Lockheed laser program, Aculight which may or may not be technology applied to the Army contract

Helion Energy raised $10.9 million and has filed to raise $21 million which would be enough to build a breakeven scale fusion machine in 2016-2017

Helion Energy has raised $10.6 million in a new funding round in July, 2015 to develop technology that aims to create a fusion reactor to generate power.

The company disclosed the funds in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Helion plans to raise more than $21 million total in the continuing round.

Nextbigfuture interviewed Helion Energy CEO David Kirtley in 2014. An NSF, NASA, and DOD fellow, Dr. Kirtley has 13 years of experience in nuclear engineering, fusion, and aerospace and holds Nuclear and Aerospace Engineering degrees from the University of Michigan. He leads the MSNW propulsion research and development, serves as Helion’s CEO, and has raised and managed many high technology programs.

Helion Energy is trying to achieve commercial Magneto-Inertial Fusion. This combines the stability of steady magnetic fusion and the heating of pulsed inertial fusion, a commercially practical system has been realized that is smaller and lower cost than existing programs. Helion Energy will be magnetically accelerating plasmas together and then compressing them once per second.

They plan to perform the remaining research and experiments to enable to final design of their breakeven Fusion engine.

David indicated a breakeven fusion machine would need about $35 million in funding (2015-2016) and the target is to develop it in 2016.

If all proceeds on schedule then a Helion Energy machine that that proves commercial energy gain would be a 50 Megawatt system built in 2019. $200 million will be needed for the commercial pilot plant. The plan would be to start building commercial systems by 2022.

Dr David Kirtley kindly indicated that he felt the discussions on Nextbigfuture were the most technically interesting.

Redmond-based Helion had previously received $5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy and raised a $1.5 million round in August 2014 from Y Combinator and Mithril Capital Management.

Helion is creating technology it calls “The Fusion Engine,” which would use helium from engine exhaust, according to the company’s website. The helium, along with deuterium fuel from seawater, would be heated to become plasma and then compressed with magnetic fields to reach fusion temperature, which is more than 100 million degrees.

Helion Energy will investigate staged magnetic compression of field-reversed configuration (FRC) plasmas, building on past successes to develop a prototype that can attain higher temperatures and fuel density than previously possible. The team will use these results to assess the viability of scaling to a power reactor, which if successful would offer the benefits of simple linear geometry, attractive scaling, and compatibility with modern pulsed power electronics.

Key Benefits of Helion’s Approach

* Magneto-Inertial Fusion: By combining the stability of steady magnetic fusion and the heating of pulsed inertial fusion, a commercially practical system has been realized that is smaller and lower cost than existing programs.
* Modular, Distributed Power: A container sized, 50 MW module for base load power generation.
* Self-Supplied Helium 3 Fusion: Pulsed, D-He3 fusion simplifies the engineering of a fusion power plant, lowers costs, and is even cleaner than traditional fusion.
* Magnetic Compression: Fuel is compressed and heated purely by magnetic fields operated with modern solid state electronics. This eliminates inefficient, expensive laser, piston, or beam techniques used by other fusion approaches.
* Direct Energy Conversion: Enabled by pulsed operation, efficient direct conversion decreases plant costs and fusion’s engineering challenges.
* Safe: With no possibility of melt-down, or hazardous nuclear waste, fusion does not suffer the drawbacks that make fission an unattractive alternative.

A projection of expected progress for Neuromorphic chips and applications in public health and automated image and pattern related monitoring

Jeff Funk, Associate Professor at National University of Singapore, makes some projections and analysis of Neuromorphic chips.

The presentation describes the advantages and disadvantages of synaptic chips when compared to conventional chips and how rapid rates of progress in speed, density, and power efficiency are making synaptic chips economically feasible for supercomputing applications. The biggest disadvantage for synaptic chips is in software; a new operating system and application software are needed.

Jeff believes there will be applications for image recognition and visual assistance for the blind and for improved health monitoring.

Lockheed Martin Compact Fusion Reactor Update with Video of Technical Presentation made at Princeton

Lockheed Martin Skunkworks is developing a compact fusion reactor concept, CFR. The novel magnetic cusp configuration would allow for stable plasmas in a geometry amenable to economical power plants and power sources. The details of the CFR configuration will be discussed along with a status of the current plasma confinement experiments underway at Lockheed. The presentation will also touch on the potential of a fast development path and challenges to bring such a device to fruition.

The high beta fusion reactor (also known as the 4th generation prototype T4) is a project being developed by a team led by Charles Chase of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works. The "high beta" configuration allows a compact fusion reactor design and speedier development timeline.

The chief designer and technical team lead for the Compact Fusion Reactor (CFR) is Thomas McGuire, who did his PhD dissertation on fusors at MIT. McGuire studied fusion as a source of space propulsion in graduate school in response to a NASA desire to improve travel times to Mars.

The project began in 2010.

In October 2014 Lockheed Martin announced that they will attempt to develop a compact fusion reactor that will fit "on the back of a truck" and produce 100 MW output - enough to power a town of 80,000 people.

Lockheed is using magnetic mirror confinement that contains the plasma in which fusion occurs by reflecting particles from high-density magnetic fields to low-density ones.

Lockheed is targeting a relatively small device that is approximately the size of a conventional jet engine. The prototype is approximately 1 meter by 2 meters in size.

Hydrogen sulfide at high pressures 200 GPa (2 million atmospheres) has superconductivity at -70 celsius has sparked renewed mainstream efforts for room temperature superconductivity

Hydrogen sulfide — the compound responsible for the smell of rotten eggs — conducts electricity with zero resistance at a record high temperature of 203 kelvin (–70 °C), reports a paper published in Nature.

The first results of the work, which represents a historic step towards finding a room-temperature superconductor, were released on the arXiv preprint server in December and followed up by more in June. They have already sparked a wave of excitement within the research community.

A superconductor that works at room-temperature would make everyday electricity generation and transmission vastly more efficient, as well as giving a massive boost to current uses of superconductivity such as the enormous magnets used in medical imaging machines.

Temperature dependence of resistance of sulfur hydride and sulfur deuteride measured at different pressures . The pressures did not change during the cooling (within ≈5 GPa). Resistance was measured with four electrodes deposited on a diamond anvil touched the sample (photo). Diameter of the samples was ~25 microns and the thickness ~1 microns.

(a) Sulfur hydride as measured at the growing pressures, the values are indicated near the corresponding plot. Plots at pressures less than 135 GPa were scaled (reduced in 5-10 times) for easier comparison with the higher pressure steps. The resistance was measured with current of 10 microA. Bottom: the resistance plots near zero. (b) Comparison of the superconducting steps of sulfur deuteride and hydride at similar pressures. Bottom: resistance measured near zero. Resistance was measured in four channels with van der Pauw method (SI Fig. 4) with current of 10 mA.

Arxiv - Conventional superconductivity at 190 K at high pressures (16 pages)

The highest critical temperature of superconductivity Tc has been achieved in cuprates: 133 K at ambient pressure and 164 K at high pressures. As the nature of superconductivity in these materials is still not disclosed, the prospects for a higher Tc are not clear. In contrast the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer (BCS) theory gives a clear guide for achieving high Tc: it should be a favorable combination of high frequency phonons, strong coupling between electrons and phonons, and high density of states. These conditions can be fulfilled for metallic hydrogen and covalent hydrogen dominant compounds. Numerous followed calculations supported this idea and predicted Tc=100-235 K for many hydrides but only moderate Tc~17 K has been observed experimentally. Here we found that sulfur hydride transforms at P~90 GPa to metal and superconductor with Tc increasing with pressure to 150 K at ~200 GPa. This is in general agreement with recent calculations of Tc~80 K for H2S. Moreover we found superconductivity with Tc~190 K in a H2S sample pressurized to P over 150 GPa at T over 220 K. This superconductivity likely associates with the dissociation of H2S, and formation of SHn (n over 2) hydrides. We proved occurrence of superconductivity by the drop of the resistivity at least 50 times lower than the copper resistivity, the decrease of Tc with magnetic field, and the strong isotope shift of Tc in D2S which evidences a major role of phonons in the superconductivity. H2S is a substance with a moderate content of hydrogen therefore high Tc can be expected in a wide range of hydrogen-contain materials. Hydrogen atoms seem to be essential to provide the high frequency modes in the phonon spectrum and the strong electron-phonon coupling.

J20 variant to be China's first stealth bomber

he Chengdu J-20, China's first fifth-generation stealth fighter, may be developed into the nation's first stealth bomber in the future, overseas Chinese outlet Duowei News reported on Aug. 14.

After the completion of the test flight of the sixth J-20 prototype known as 2015, it is expected to take a further two to three years for the fighter to enter service. It is the job of the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute to decide what kind of aircraft the J-20 should become in the future. Earlier predictions said the J-20 may be developed as a carrier-based stealth fighter, but Shenyang Aircraft Corporation's J-31 seems more suitable for that role.

The J-20 is likely to be designed in three variants. First, it may be a two-seat multirole fighter. Second, it could be fitted with the domestically built WS-15 engine to become the J-20A fighter. Finally, it could also become China's first stealth bomber due to its large size and capacity to carry a greater payload.

Other types of operations may also be carried out by the J-20, a number of military experts believe. It could be used to escort the PLA's strategic bombers or conduct electronic warfare. The J-20 even has the potential to fire anti-satellite missiles.

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