December 19, 2015

Race to vastly better annealers, powerful universal quantum computers which will transform machine learning into quantum learning

Google has a team led by John Martinis to develop better quantum computers. They will be competing not only with whatever improvements D-Wave can make, but also with Microsoft and IBM, which have substantial quantum computing projects of their own. But IBM and Microsoft are focused on designs much further from becoming practically useful. Indeed, a rough internal time line for Google’s project estimates that Martinis’s group can make a quantum annealer with 100 qubits as soon as 2017. D-Wave’s latest chip already has 1,097 qubits, but Neven says a high-quality chip with fewer qubits will probably be useful for some tasks nonetheless. A quantum annealer can run only one particular algorithm, but it happens to be one well suited to the areas Google most cares about. The applications that could particularly benefit include pattern recognition and machine learning, says William Oliver, a senior staff member at MIT Lincoln Laboratory who has studied the potential of quantum computing.

Google Neven says. “There’s a list of shortcomings that need to be overcome in order to arrive at a real technology.” He says the qubits on D-Wave’s chip are too unreliable and aren’t wired together thickly enough. (D-Wave’s CEO, Vern Brownell, responds that he’s not worried about competition from Google.)

Martinis and his team have to be adept at many things because qubits are fickle. They can be made in various ways—Martinis uses aluminum loops chilled with tiny currents until they become superconductors—but all represent data by means of delicate quantum states that are easily distorted or destroyed by heat and electromagnetic noise, potentially ruining a calculation.

Qubits use their fragile physics to do the same thing that transistors use electricity to do on a conventional chip: represent binary bits of information, either 0 or 1. But qubits can also attain a state, called a superposition, that is effectively both 0 and 1 at the same time. Qubits in a superposition can become linked by a phenomenon known as entanglement, which means an action performed on one has instant effects on the other. Those effects allow a single operation in a quantum computer to do the work of many, many more operations in a conventional computer. In some cases, a quantum computer’s advantage over a conventional one should grow exponentially with the amount of data to be worked on.

The coherence time of Martinis qubits, or the length of time they can maintain a superposition, is tens of microseconds—about 10,000 times the figure for those on D-Wave’s chip.

Martinis’s confidence in his team’s hardware even has him thinking he can build Google an alternative to a quantum annealer that would be even more powerful. A universal quantum computer, as it would be called, could be programmed to take on any kind of problem, not just one kind of math. The theory behind that approach is actually better understood than the one for annealers, in part because most of the time and money in quantum computing research have been devoted to universal quantum computing. But qubits have not been reliable enough to translate the theory into a working universal quantum computer.

Martinis and his team became the first to demonstrate qubits that crossed a crucial reliability threshold for a universal quantum computer. They got a chip with nine qubits to run part of an error-checking program, called the surface code, that’s necessary for such a computer to operate

This experimental chip, etched with the Google logo, is cooled to just above absolute zero in order to generate quantum effects.


This structure of metal plates is necessary to cool and shield quantum chips

New Air Force 3.1 Petaflop Thunder Supercomputer helping develop hypersonic vehicles and railguns

The Air Force Research Laboratory officially presented its latest supercomputer acquisition in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 14, 2015.

The Thunder supercomputer is part of the DOD High Performance Computing Modernization Program. It joins two other large systems -- Spirit and Lightning -- already located at the center. The Silicon Graphics Incorporated ICE X is named Thunder after the Air Force's P-47 Thunderbolt and its subsequent namesake, the A-10 aircraft, both of which have played key roles in significant armed conflict for the U.S. military.

Since beginning operations in October, Thunder has solved complex simulations ranging from hypersonic flight to the limitations of a futuristic electromagnetic rail gun.

Aerospace engineer Susan Cox-Stouffer used computational fluid dynamic simulations on the AFRL supercomputers to test the X-51 Waverider, a hypersonic vehicle that reached more than five times the speed of sound during flight tests over the Pacific Ocean.

"You can't design these on the back of an envelope," she said. "It takes a lot of simulations."

The newest supercomputer is the 21st fastest high-performance computing system in the world, and can calculate about 3.1 petaFLOPS, or 3,126,240,000,000,000 floating point operations per second, according to AFRL.





US Air Force on track for combat lasers on fighter planes, drones and gunships for attack and 360 degree defense

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, said it's on track to demonstrate a working laser weapon on a fighter jet by 2020.

"It really is a national tipping point," said Kelly Hammett, chief engineer for the AFRL's directed energy directorate. "We see the technology evolving and maturing to the stage where it really can be used."

The g-forces and vibrations of near supersonic speeds make lasers on fighters tough. Hammett said he thinks those hurdles can be overcome within five years.



Defensive laser against drones and missiles

A 360-degree defensive laser bubble could surround a U.S. warplane. The laser would automatically defend within the bubble.



To invent such a shield, you'd need a turret that doesn't interfere with the aerodynamics of the warplane. A turret like that has already been successfully tested under Hammett at AFRL in partnership with Lockheed Martin and DARPA, the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The test beds for these kinds of weapons likely could be pod units installed aboard so-called fourth generation fighter jets, Hammett said. The commander of Air Force Combat Command, Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, revealed last May that a test is in the works involving an F-15 Eagle. "I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll see a prototype test case in the next year or two," Carlisle told Air Combat Command.

A mix of laser and conventional weapons could result in "a totally transformed battle space in 20 to 25 years," Hammett said.

Star Wars The Force Awakens setting Box office Records

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has already put its stamp on the record books, kicking off its domestic release with an estimated $120.5 million Friday opening. That opening number includes a record-breaking $57 million from Thursday night "previews" and makes this the first film to gross more than $100 million in a "single" day.

Industry estimates currently range anywhere from $225-240 million for the weekend. As for comparisons, the best examples might seem to be recent ones such as the opening weekends of Jurassic World ($208.8M) and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($191.2M) from earlier this year. The two films dropped 15% and 33% respectively on Saturday and another 17.8% and 10.9% on Sunday, which, if you translate that to this Star Wars opening day would give us a range anywhere from $273-307 million. A slightly hold than Harry Potters Deathly Hallows Part 2 slightly stronger would be closer to $230-235 million.



December 18, 2015

Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE has been extended to early 2017

The Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE is a $10 million global competition to stimulate innovation and integration of precision diagnostic technologies, helping consumers make their own reliable health diagnoses anywhere, anytime.

XPRIZE announced the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE has been officially extended through early 2017, providing the seven finalist teams with additional time to make adjustments to their tricorder devices to ensure they can succeed in the competition.

The Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE is challenging teams to develop a radical innovation in health care that turns science fiction into reality. What makes the tricorders being developed in this competition different is that no one else in the world is working toward a portable, wireless device that can diagnose a myriad of conditions, plus continuously monitors five vital signs – something that has never been done before.

The accomplishments the teams have made so far in this competition are nothing short of remarkable; the prototypes they delivered are perhaps some of the most intricate diagnostic devices under development today and have the potential to change the way health care is delivered. Because of the advanced level of technology required to achieve success in this competition, and to ensure the finalists have enough time to refine their tricorders, we decided to add a second phase of consumer testing and extend the competition.



They have modified some parameters of the competition and implemented some interim required steps before the next phase of consumer testing. Here is a snapshot of the revised guidelines and timeline:

  • The number of conditions the tricorders are expected to diagnose was decreased from 16 to 13, eliminating the requirements to detect TB, Hepatitis A and stroke. (You can see the full list of required conditions here.) We did this to keep pace with current epidemiology, as well as to reduce risk of contagion to the testers.
  • The teams will deliver at least 30 new prototypes once they accomplish additional steps. The deadline for these prototypes will be set early next year.
  • The next phase of consumer testing will begin in September 2016
  • Winners will be announced in early 2017.

This new schedule will allow us to support the teams as they further perfect their tricorders, and will ensure their prototypes are tested and viable before they enter the final phase of the competition.



NASA can 3-D Print 75% of the parts for a Rocket Engine

A NASA team moved a step closer to building a completely 3-D printed, high-performance rocket engine by manufacturing complex engine parts and test firing them together with cryogenic liquid hydrogen and oxygen to produce 20,000 pounds of thrust.

Additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, is a key technology for enhancing space vehicle designs and manufacturing and enabling more affordable exploration missions. The technology has the potential to influence spacecraft built for leaving Earth and spaceships and landers for visiting other destinations. Future plans include performing engine tests with liquid oxygen and methane--key propellants for Martian landers since methane and oxygen production might be possible on the Red Planet.

“We manufactured and then tested about 75 percent of the parts needed to build a 3-D printed rocket engine,” said Elizabeth Robertson, the project manager for the additively manufactured demonstrator engine at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “By testing the turbopumps, injectors and valves together, we’ve shown that it would be possible to build a 3-D printed engine for multiple purposes such as landers, in-space propulsion or rocket engine upper stages.”



German Nuclear Fusion Stellarator test reactor has been started

The German nuclear fusion reactor, Wendelstein 7-X stellarator, has produced its first helium plasma.

Assembly of the Wendelstein 7-X - the world's largest stellarator-type fusion device - at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Greifswald, Germany, began in April 2005 and was completed in April 2014. The operational preparations have been under way ever since.

On 10 December, the operating team in the control room started up the magnetic field and initiated the computer-operated experiment control system. It fed around one milligram of helium gas into the evacuated plasma vessel and switched on the microwave heating for a short 1.3 MW pulse. The first plasma could be observed by the installed cameras and measuring devices.
The first plasma in the machine had a duration of one-tenth of a second and achieved a temperature of around one million degrees Celsius.

The next task will be to extend the duration of the plasma discharges and to investigate the best method of producing and heating helium plasmas using microwaves.

Wendelstein 7-X is to operate for two years without active cooling, during which time it will be able to operate for about 50 seconds at 1 MWt, or at 8-10 MW for 5-10 seconds. The machine will then undergo an 18-month shutdown when it will be fitted with an actively cooled divertor for heat fluxes of up to 10 MWt per meter squared. This will bring Wendelstein 7-X to its full steady state capacity.



December 17, 2015

Boxofficemojo predicts a $231 million opening weekend for Star Wars the Force Awakens in North America

Boxofficemojo uses detailed analysis of how many theaters show a movie and the amount and timing of showings. They analyse all past movie openings. Boxofficemojo predicts Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which will show on 4,134 theaters in North America) will open this weekend with a record $231,090,000 box office.

Star wars the Force Awakens is predicted to set the global box office opening weekend record with anywhere from $575-650 million worldwide. China will not start showing the Force Awakens until Jan 9, 2016

Working in the film's favor is the fact it will be playing in over 3,300 3D locations, on a record 392 IMAX screens, on 451 Premium Large Format screens and in 146 D-Box locations. The higher ticket prices for all of these locations along with the swath of positive reviews (just in case you were on the fence) only work to the film's benefit, especially when it comes to predicting how much it will make per theater.

The $48,855 per theater record set by Jurassic World is probably the most significant number we have to work with. Jurassic World opened in 4,274 theaters and the fact Star Wars is opening in 140 fewer already helps up that average. To break the record Force Awakens will need to average over $50,510 per theater, we're predicting a $55,899 average for a record-breaking $231 million opening. This number is based on a $95M Friday, $71.2M Saturday (25% drop) and $64.8M Sunday (9% drop). The biggest difficulty, making for what will be the largest margin of error, is just how many screens it will be playing on in each of those theaters and how many times per screen.

Beyond opening weekend, the average multipliers in 2014 and 2015 were 3.15 and 3.01 respectively. For films opening in 4,000+ theaters that drops to 2.91 for 2014 and 2.57 in 2015. However, the average multiplier for the top opening weekends of all-time climbs to 3.24 and if you look at the two films that opened over $200 million, Jurassic World and The Avengers have 3.12 and 3.01 multipliers, which sets something of a baseline. All things considered a 3-3.5 times multiplier seems a safe approximation. This would put the overall domestic gross at $693-808.5 million, which means Avatar's all-time domestic record of $760.5 million is in some jeopardy.


Sta Wars could be the first movie to earn over $100 million on a single day in North America if Friday is especially good.

China approving 40 nuclear reactor construction starts from 2016 to 2020 for an average of eight per year

Chinese nuclear power generators rose in Hong Kong and Shanghai after the State Council approved the construction of four additional reactors on Wednesday

China has approved construction of eight reactors this year, including yesterday’s approval. China plans to build as many as eight nuclear power plants each year from 2016 to 2020 and invest 500 billion yuan ($77 billion) on next-generation nuclear reactors during the five years, according to a statement from state-owned Power Construction Corp. of China Ltd. earlier this month, citing a draft of China’s 13th five-year plan.


Among the four reactors approved, two at Guangxi’s Fangchenggang will use CGN’s own Hualong One third-generation technology, according to a CGN statement. That is the same model expected to be exported for the Bradwell project in the U.K., to be built under an agreement between CGN and Electricite de France SA for a 1 gigawatt plant.

The cabinet also gave the go-ahead for a hydropower plant straddling the southwestern provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan.

Mainland China has 30 nuclear power reactors in operation, 21 under construction, and more about to start construction.

Additional reactors are planned, including some of the world's most advanced, to give more than a three-fold increase in nuclear capacity to at least 58 GWe by 2020-21, then some 150 GWe by 2030, and much more by 2050.

India Governments nuclear energy target for 2020

India's government said 13,500 megawatts of nuclear power will be operating by 2020.

India currently has 5,300 megawatts of nuclear power.

Currently the top countries based on operable nuclear power generation are

United States 98990 MWe    [798.6 TWh in 2014]
France        63130 MWe    [418.0 TWh ijn 2014]
Japan *       40480 MWe    [Most of the reactors are currently not operating, 0 TWh]
China         26849 MWe    [123.8 TWh in 2014]
Russia        25264 MWe    [169.1 TWh in 2014]
South Korea   21677 MWe    [149.2 TWh in 2014]

"Robot Locust" for Search and Rescue can jump 11 feet high and weighs less than one ounce

TAU researcher develops locust-inspired robot capable of jumping twice as high as existing robots of its kind.

Since the 1980s, advanced robotic platforms have provided assistance to crisis intervention teams in the wake of man-made and natural disasters. The objective of such robots, in various sizes and shapes, has been to intervene where humans cannot and send life-saving data to rescue teams in the field.

A new miniature robot is poised to make a major contribution to the field of advanced robotics. The new locust-inspired robot, dubbed "TAUB" (for "Tel Aviv University and Ort Braude College"), is five inches long and weighs less than one ounce. It can jump 11 feet high — more than twice the height of similar-sized robots — and cover a horizontal distance of 4.5 feet in one leap. The researchers believe the TAUB will perform well in search-and-rescue missions and in reconnaissance operations in rough terrain.

The robot is the result of a collaboration between Prof. Amir Ayali of the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Life Sciences, Dr. Gabor Kosa of TAU's Faculty of Engineering and Dr. Uri Ben-Hanan of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Ort Braude College. The research for the study was primarily conducted by TAU engineering students Valentin Zeitsev and Omer Gvirsman, as well as Dr. Avi Weiss of Ort Braude College. The research was recently published in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics



Will The Simple Act Of Building Cheap Energy Make Possible Superrapid Economic Growth?


A guest article by Joseph Friedlander

Neil Craig back in 2012 made a few posts on direct correlation of energy + economic growth that made the astonishing assertion, IIRC that simply building enough energy sources would generate very rapid economic growth.

Alas, I can no longer email him to find out more details as he has passed on. https://g1rm.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/neil-craig-the-owner-of-glasgows-first-sfcomic-shop-has-passed-away/

He was a remarkable man, IIRC he worked with Bob Shaw, the science fiction writer and some of Neil Craig's writings are indexed here. http://neilsindex.blogspot.co.il/

A memory of his thesis disturbed me the other day so I looked up the three posts and am reproducing part of them here to see if I understand what he is saying.


The Americanized version of such a statement might be, "If you build it (increased cheap energy supply), nerds will come (and build up the economy)."



Obviously implied if not stated

  • A cooperative government.  Adam Smith's old quote that "Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things. All governments which thwart this natural course, which force things into another channel, or which endeavour to arrest the progress of society at a particular point, are unnatural, and to support themselves are obliged to be oppressive and tyrannical."
(To translate to modern audiences: Peace then (in the sense of the King's Peace) meant freedom from foreign aggressor and domestic criminal; Easy taxes meant not only low rates but unobtrusiveness to the conduct of business and no forms to fill out, and a tolerable administration of justice probably would not include confiscation of assets under color of law, court sanctioned administrative decrees causing massive paperwork headaches for small businesses and so on, so implied from all that is that we are headed to the lowest degree of barbarism from the highest degree of opulence.)
Since the ability to destroy is about 4,000 times easier than the ability to build (Cost of making a home uninhabitable via slegehammer or explosive vs building a new one) no productive business that actually wants to actually get anything done AND serve its's customers well can possibly fight a government that makes a hostile environment around it. See Charles Hugh Smith on this:   http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.co.il/2015/08/our-government-destroyer-of-jobs.html The government assumes private enterprise will jump through an endless number of hoops to operate a business, and that there is an endless supply of willing entrepreneurs who will volunteer to put themselves at risk of bankruptcy.
http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.co.il/2015/11/why-i-will-never-hire-anyone-even-at.html




  • Access to capital, tools, and other necessities for starting businesses. (This feeds into the assumption above-- if  taxes or mandated expenses such as health care suck up all available self-invested funds; if customs interferes with importing needed parts, if one of the millions of laws or regulations interferes with the conduct of the business sufficiently there can and will be no boom because they have no actual ability to use energy not being able to stay in business or at best treading water but with no energy using growth. (Actually from the point of view of conservationist taxing authorities this is a feature, not a bug).



OK, supposing those conditions are met. Will simply making cheap energy available make possible superrapid economic growth? And if so, what could be the cause?


  • First we need to define cheap. If you say current power rates for electricity are 10 cents a kilowatt hour, and coal or natural gas half a cent  to a cent a kilowatt hour for thermal,  obviously if we could get 10 times cheaper power and heat it would open up many many new markets. If you have examined your utility and fuel bills lately it is obvious this would require a near total elimination of taxes on fuel which alone could put this article in the fantasy category, (particularly since powerful political forces have never met an energy tax they didn't like since they have a near-religious urge to force cuts in energy use by higher 'administered' prices)
  • Second, we need to define rapid growth, but Neil Craig's postulated rate in the excerpts below would certainly serve here. Look at China in the last 3 decades. Chart their energy growth. (He does.)  But chicken or the egg?  Enterprises or the energy to power them?  I suspect it was a mutual booting event.
  • Thirdly it would be helpful to imagine sample applications for huge amounts of cheap energy (nearly the opposite of the conservation mindset with the proviso that we don't actually want to be wasteful needlessly. But waste is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. I see government waste, the guy working there sees a vital public good and himself as a public benefactor. Why shouldn't the same courtesy hold as to the entrepreneur's use of really cheap energy?)  
  • A possible mechanism of economic growth is savings of capital by cheaper ways of doing things (that are energy extravagant). I remember a World War 2 system to disperse fog by burning large amounts of fuel.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fog_Investigation_and_Dispersal_Operation

    FIDO in operation at RAF Graveley, May 1945

    History and development of FIDO https://www.rti.org/pubs/bk-0003-1109-chapter13.pdf
    • I remember Chicago in 1967 melting snow by putting it into a giant snow melter that poured the liquid into the sewer (clearing 20" of snow off downtown streets)  So planes could land immediately, so businesses could open their doors in those two cases.  The saved capital recycles and boosts the economy.
    • A first person account of using extravagant energy in that great snow in 1967 to keep a factory running http://searchwarp.com/swa421465.htm  Had energy conservation been the highest value (enforced by fines or high energy prices) the factory would have been closed for about 3 days.
      It was a surreal job as the very hot water really did cut through the snow but before long we were like coal miners as we actually were walking along digging tunnels in the snow. 

    The hot exhaust from the jet engine can be steered to a degree by the movable air funnel placed behind it. The engine produces 140 decibels of noise. If one is standing beside it one must wear double ear protection: plugs and ear muffs. If one only has ear plugs one can only come to within 100 feet of it as the noise level is already at 120 decibels at that point.

    I don't know, this one is the one I'd rather have come by around midnight in case of a storm 



    but the idea is which cheap enough energy we could equip streets themselves with heating elements and the snow would never pile up (in fact the street would be bone dry in the morning as the melt ran into the sewer and then the street evaporated dry. No hard commute, no accidents, no health care needed)  If you have a sufficiently good defense you never notice an attack is going on.
    • A possible mechanism of economic growth would be the inventing of new things to do with all that energy that would never be tried at current prices.  This would make possible new applications or in rarer cases entire new industries that would boot up transaction chains across the economy.  For example, if aluminum whose price is dictated by energy costs http://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=aluminum were 10 times cheaper,  or even 100 times cheaper, I can see using it in many applications that it would be insane to use it today. Can you imagine  instead of  1600 a ton it were 160 or even 16 a ton. (Pea gravel itself is only around $30 a ton) It could be used instead of cement to make concrete with 2 parts of sand and 4 of gravel for each part aluminum. You could build your house with "aluminum concrete" with about a minute cooling time, not hours to days of drying time. If you kept the materials flowing you could build a skyscraper structural core in about 3 days. (you would need to put on insulator panels and steel plates --also presumably cheaper--) for fire protection because aluminum softens in case of fire. ) That would be a huge savings. It might enable a new class of structures, and cheap sealable against water underground structures for even cheaper housing.
    Concrete: 1:2:4 (1 cement: 2 sand: 4 aggregate) is the ideal ratio of concrete mixture. Brick mortar  mixture ratio should be 1:6 (1 cement: 6 sand) for a wall of 9 inches thickness.

    If you don't like that example, comments are below, add your own! Will simply making cheap energy available make possible superrapid economic growth? And if so, what could be the cause?


    Possible huge uses of sufficiently cheap energy


    • The fusion torch or plasma torches for massive recycling and mining of garbage, toxics, sub-ores.  See my post here for details. http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/03/lunar-silicon-vs-helium-3.html but this is the key part  Around 1969-1971 there was an idea called "The Fusion Torch" by Eastlund and Gough that involved fusion vaporizing rocks or garbage and pretty much doing what I listed above--separating compounds, dissociating and separating them, and reclaiming the elements.
      Google "energy waste and the fusion torch"

      This is the report about the fusion torch-- warning, LaRouche political site, no endorsement intended, but they are hosting data on the fusion torch.

      Fusiontorch.com papers 

      The key takeaway from this is that temperatures above 4000 K can basically vaporize all rocks, 6000K (Solar surface temperature) breaks up nearly all compounds except things like silicon fluoride and cyanogen, 8000K breaks up basically all compounds. Basically 16000K will ionize everything but extensive ionization occurs in some species between 4 and 6 thousand K.

      The point of ionization of course is that you can deflect different species selectively like a mass spectrometer. It gives huge control
    • The use of the same for road building, erosion fighting and mining by literally melting and fusing the ground (and annealing it).  Around the same time people were using crushed glass in place of gravel with bitumen to make 'glasphalt' roads which allegedly were very durable --makes sense because silicon dioxide is quite hard wearing. But imagine melting the ground to lava to make a road (not necessarily along the path of drainage) https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Lava_flow_at_Krafla,_1984.jpg



    • or using a M shaped cutter to melt drainage ditches that were glassy and proof against soil leakage
    • or massive non-melting energy use to tunnel, dig or even explode shapes into the ground and fusing them for the foundation of a building.
    • With cheap enough energy liquid oxygen and coal or even powdered metals becomes economical. You could have Plowshare  http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/12/the-4-plowshare-conferences-and-lost.html#more like nuclear engineering (kiloton level) with  liquid oxygen explosives.  If energy was 10 times cheaper they might be used routinely. (Presumably the economic growth would come from the fact that it was 10 times cheaper to build structures. This begs the question <if regulations could be eliminated how cheaply could structures be made?> but this article is less science fiction like  than that one would be so let's leave it for now)
    • Cheap thermite would be able to melt vast spaces underground into caverns for leakproof storage.
    • The energy cost of commutes heating your house etc would drastically drop and if taxes would let it be that money might be accumulated until you had enough to risk on a small business.  That too would help the economic growth rate.
    • More frequent travel to drum up business or even a mobile civilization http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/12/mccarthys-skywire-system-and-future-of.html that would enable flash communities to form (ala Burning Man) like flash mobs do today but hopefully for entrepreneurial purposes.
    • Growing tropical crops in heated greenhouses in winter works in Iceland, and it might even work for the home gardener in that case. That could cut store food expenses drastically because how else could you grow pineapple in winter in Pittsburgh? But it would work even better on the commercial scale.  This would result in greater regional self sufficiency.
    • We could use Professor A.A. Bolonkin's idea about refrigeratable pykrete like insulated floating ice structures for seasteading, cheap housing, anything we use expensive land for today. 
       What kills it is that the price of energy to cool them is about 10 times too high (It's really not that bad but the acid test is, during a 5 year economic downturn if you can't rent the thing can you pay the power bill with no rent income coming in? If not your investment literally melts away. If cheap energy is there-- you can. Boom results). The paper is here.  http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0804/0804.0754.pdf
    • Come up with ideas of your own in the comments below. Or, if you agree or disagree with Neil Craig's thesis, give your ideas why.







    Here are excerpts from the three Neil Craig articles that inspired this post (originals at the links below)

    ------------------------------------------------------------

    Wednesday, February 08, 2012


    http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.co.il/2012/02/energy-productions-direct-correlation.html


    Energy Production's Direct Correlation With National Wealth part I

       OK here is a pdf on the complete correlation in America between energy production and GDP from 1900 (before which we don't exactly have a big electricity industry) and 1970 (after which "environmental" regulation severely and artificially depressed power production.

       In economics, being at least as much art as science, let alone engineering, you simply do not expect to find such mathematically precise relationships. From page 20/21

    Summary and conclusions


    In the `standard’ model a forecast of GDP requires a forecast of labor L, capital stock K and the Solow multiplier – multifactor productivity or technical progress — A(t). We have shown that introducing energy and/or material resource (i.e. exergy) inputs does not significantly improve the explanatory power of traditional production functions. A time-dependent Solow-multiplier is still needed.

    However a much better explanation of past economic growth can be obtained by
    introducing exergy services (useful work) as a factor of production, in place of exergy inputs.
    Exergy services can be equated to exergy inputs multiplied by an overall conversion efficiency
    which, of course, corresponds to cumulative technological improvements over time. Based on
    this hypothesis economic growth from 1900 to 1975 or so is explained almost perfectly, except for wartime perturbations
    ... 

    http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.co.il/2012/02/energy-productions-direct-correlation_09.html

    Thursday, February 09, 2012


    Energy Production's Direct Correlation With National Wealth part II

        Yesterday, in Part I of this, I discussed a particular paper showing the very close correlation between growth inn energy use, particularly electrical, and in GDP in America.

        However science requires results to be repeatable, particularly difficult with economics. But here are 5 separate examples:

    1 - The original - that from 1900 to 1975 American energy use and GDP rose in almost precise lockstep.

    2 - The original variant - that after 1975 GDP rose faster than energy use, at a time when energy production was being artificially restrained by the authority of an increasingly anti-technology government. I have previously described how, had political authority not been restraining the building of nuclear power plants and the previous trend continued we would have roughly 2.4 times more electrical capacity than we do. Note that though Americangrowth was faster post 1975 than electricity production it was slower than it had been in the 1950s and 1960s.

    3 - China's growth has been almost exactly 10% on average since 1980. As the graph under shows electricity production went up from 240 TWH to 2400 TWH between 1980 and 2005 - a rate of 9.64% annually. That correlation over that period of time is remarkable by any standards. China during this period has become a distinctly free market economy, unforced or restrained by overgovernment.
    File:Electricity production in China.PNG

    4 - From 1927 - 37 the Soviet electricity supply grew at an eye watering rate of 23% annually. The economy grew at a rate of around 10% annually, a level at that time almost unheard of in the world. It may be that other energy sources grew less fast but I suspect that the main reasons the economy did not reach 23% annually are the inherent inefficiencies of a command economy, even a newly formed command economy where the bureaucracy is not yet deeply entrenched, and that 23% was an even more astonishingly high target then, when basic technology was not growing as fast as it is today. This is therefore an example of government artificially pushing up the natural market rate of power production (at a horrifying cost in famine) and, again, the GDP growth rate following the power supply rate but not matching 100%.

    5 - Tim Worstal not only making a case that electricity use worldwide, as shown by electric light emitted, very closely correlates with GDP but says that it does so better than official, GDP figures do. Not really possible to get a much better correlation than that
    ----------------------------------------------

       That evidence being accepted,  the conclusion seems inevitable

       That in a free market there is an almost exact correlation between energy use and in particular electricity use (it being the most flexible and high entropy supply of energy yet developed and thus the most useful).

       That government can greatly promote or restrain GDP by promoting or restraining the power supply. This does not exercise a complete one to one correlation, but it does work far more effectively, in both directions, than than the fiscal or even entrepreneurial encouragements or restraints it controls. This is exactly what we would expect if power production is not the sole vehicle of growth but is the predominant one, probably producing around half the total cause of growth. Thus the Soviet economy grew at just under half the rate of electricity growth (probably over half the rate of total power growth)  while, until the last few years the British economy has managed some growth, in good years 2.5% or half the world average, while electricity supply was actually being made to slightly fall.

    Saturday, February 11, 2012 http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.co.il/2012/02/energy-productions-direct-ciorrelation.html

    Energy Production's Direct Correlation With National Wealth - part III

       So if promoting energy production promotes growth but government redirection of of economic resources is normally a very inefficient way of running an economy how do we go about it.
    ...

    1 - Set a target. I have previously given the calculations that showed a maximum theoretical sustainable growth rate of 23.8%. To achieve that would obviously require a minimum of that rate of increase in energy usage. In practice one would want more than that and suggest we should be prepared to support a growth rate 1 1/2 times that ie 35%.

       We use an average of 40GW per hour  Call it 50 to cover normal variation.

       So we should be wanting to produce 67.5 (increase of 17.5%) after 1 year.; 90 ((inc 22.5) after 2; 120 (30 inc) in the 3rd; 160GW (inc 40) in the 4th; 215 (55 up) in the 5th; 290GW (75 up) in the 6th; and 390GW (100 up) in the 7th.

      In fact, since it takes some time to build reactors I assume we would not get those increases in the first 3 years. However if a mass production reactor factory is involved able to turn out 100 Gigawatt reactors a year, at a flat rate, the production in years 3,4 & 5 should sufficiently exceed the target to catch up.

      However simply ending the subsidy of windmills would reduce prices immediately and investors, knowing that the increased supply/reduced prices were online, would start investing and growing the economy immediately.

       Up till now the normal assumption has been that it takes 3 years to build a new reactor so with building a factory mass producing them one would expect somewhat longer. However there are 2 alternatives. Firstly an X_prize for early completion and secondly the new Westinghouse SMR which is 1/4 GW but designed for mass production & easy delivery within 18 months - it is 1/4 the size but takes up only just over 1/4 the space of a traditional reactor, 1/4 the cost and presumably could be mass produced 4 times as fast.

       With mass produced reactors costing £800 million per GW retail I would expect such a factory, producing 100 GW a year , would cost not more than £200 billion - I'm assuming Westinghouse are expecting  that of the £80 billion they will make a year in turnover, 1/2 will be marginal profit giving them a 20% return on capital - highly profitable but by no means outstanding for a new product. A massive investment indeed but at 4% of GDP, not much to get an economy growing at 24%. In fact it would be in national surplus in a year if we only got it growing at 4.1%.

        It is also close to what the government insist they want to spend on windmills, for no obvious beneficial effect, so clearly they think we can afford.

       That is assuming government has decided they want the ownership and long term profits of the business If government decided it was happy to keep only about 20|% of ownership it could arrange this simply by providing Westinghouse with land, instant planning permission, the end of all unnecessary regulations, ministerial support in negotiating international loans, a guarantee to support purchasers in adding the power to the grid and a holiday on VAT & other taxes for the first 3 years. This would obviously cost virtually nothing since not collecting taxes on an industry which is currently not intended to be allowed to exist, is not a cost.

        I suspect the optimum would be somewhere between government paying the lot and owning it all and government paying nothing and owning 20%.

      A few other ideas which are less hands on:

    • Planning permission to be decided for any power project in a matter of days and to go through unless they are very strong reasons against.
    • Tax holidays or rebates for the entire industry so long as it isn't growing faster than the target rate.
    • A state guarantee a minimum purchase price for up to the target amount of electricity which they then resell at whatever price the market will bear. This could be expensive if demand is seriously overestimated but it does greatly reduce the business risks of  investing in such expansion. (this idea is derived from a similar proposal for orbital launch cargoes and was used by me in a proposal to encourage the modular housebuilding industry.
    • Strong programme of cutting unnecessary nuclear regulations.
    • A constitutional right to demand the suspension of any regulation that imposes a heavier cost/safety ratio on one industry than comparable regulations in another.Again something previously advocated. With 5 people having died in Britain from windmills in the last 5 years and only 2, because of reactors, anywhere in the world, over the last 20, while nuclear produces orders of magnitude more power, it cannot honestly be argued that we have a level regulatory field.
    • Government providing loans at the normal government borrowing rate.
    • An X-Prize for the completion of the first new reactor. Smaller ones for 2nd & so on.
    • Improving the national grid so that it can handle as much new power as wanted.
    • X-Prize for the first commercial thorium reactor. This is based on what the Saltire prize is supposed to be doing for sea-turbines.
    • Building links for an International Grid based on high voltage DC current (HVDC). Once such links are in place we have an export market ready to hand. One of the few things government appears to be able to do cost effectively is to improve transport infrastructure and since facilitating transport of electricity, while technically entirely different, follows the same economic arguments as those for facilitating the transport of lorries, this is something government can properly do.
    And a number of X-Prize proposals to encourage other methods of power production not involving nuclear electricity. They may not be immediately competitive but good researchalways pays off, even in unexpected ways. 
    • Algal oil. The potential for producing oil grown from algae is virtually unlimited if done from mid ocean plants using nutrient heavy water from the ocean depths. Substantial prizes for early successes in developing this should work.
    • The Saltire prize. I don't think it will work because i don't think ocean energy i has the necessary energy density to ever be competitive. But if the prize is properly run it will do no harm and might even prove me wrong. If it doesn't no prize is awarded. This is only part of the "renewable" industry that might prove worthwhile
    • X-Prize for improved efficiency of solar power. Solar power units are dropping fast in price along with other electronic goods. At some stage, possibly quite soon, they may become cheaper than the electricity we now use. Of course our current prices are far above what they could be.
    • X-Prizes for developments in the field of "conventional" fusion
    • X-prizes for development in the field of low energy nuclear reactions (LENR) the more respectable & more accurate name for cold fusion.
    • X-prizes for development of solar power satellites.
    • Funding nuclear pulse launches - anything that can put 10,000 tons in orbit cheaply in one go can quickly fill the sky with solar power satellites .
      Over decades (or millenia if NASA and ESA do it) solar power satellites can produce more power than we can ever want. The radius of geosynchronous orbit is about 8 times the radius of the Earth. That means that the total energy available is 8^2 at least doubled to cover the light stopped by our atmosphere ie 120) times all the sunlight that reaches the planet's surface. SPS also have the advantage of being unaffected by weather and having few if any moving parts and can thus keep delivering power at around zero cost for at least millenia without repair.

       When energy is available in those quantities it will no longer be a limiting factor in growth. Perhaps something else will be. Perhaps wealth will cease to be an issue when we all have everything wealth can supply.

       And if demonstrating that, here and in part 1 and part 2 doesn't get me a Nobel in Economics nothing will ;-)



    ------------------------------------

    Thus far Neil Craig. But if you have a comment on the title question of this post please share it in the comments below.


    If you liked this article, please give it a quick review on ycombinator or StumbleUpon. Thanks

    Uranium production over 10 million pounds of uranium concentrate at Cigar Lake Mine

    Cameco has announced uranium production at Cigar Lake in northern Saskatchewan has surpassed 10 million pounds (3846 tU) of uranium concentrate.

    Mining at Cigar Lake started in March 2014, nine years after construction began. Uranium concentrate from the mine is produced at the McClean Lake facility, 70 kilometers from the mine. The first packaged uranium concentrate from the mine was produced at McClean Lake in October 2014 and the mine was declared in commercial operation in May.

    Cameco said that Cigar Lake achieved its initial 2015 production target range - 6 million to 8 million pounds U3O8 (2308 to 3077 tU) - during the third quarter of the year. Full 2015 production will be reported in the company's fourth quarter results, due to be released on 5 February 2016.

    "Cigar Lake is performing beyond our expectations," Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel told World Nuclear News. "Surpassing 10 million pounds in the mine's first full year of production gives us full confidence that we will achieve our targeted production rate of 18 million pounds by 2018."



    December 16, 2015

    Reviews for Star Wars the Force Awakens are 95% positive while The Empire Strikes Back had 96% positive reviews

    Rotten Tomatoes has a 95% fresh rating for Star Wars the Force Awakens.

    Critics Consensus: Packed with action and populated by both familiar faces and fresh blood, The Force Awakens successfully recalls the series' former glory while injecting it with renewed energy.

    Average Rating: 8.2/10
    Reviews Counted: 184
    Fresh: 174
    Rotten: 10

    The positive reviews for the previous Star Wars Movies are

    Empire Strikes Back 96% positive
    Star Wars 93% positive
    Revenge of the Sith 80%
    Return of the Jedi 79%
    Attack of the Clones 67%
    Phantom Menace 57%


    Critics are saying the Force Awakens has “strong performances,” “old-fashioned escapism,” and script that “has a better and sharper sense of humor than the original trilogy.


    The Atlantic Christopher or is providing welcome news for Star Wars Fans

    There are no references to the prequel trilogy—no Anakin (at least not by that name), no Amidala, no Darth Sidious, and no Jar Jar. From the earliest stages of Abrams’s production, it was clear that Abram's was well aware of the deficiencies of those latter films: the orgiastic overuse of CGI, the window-mannequin performances, the fourth-rate dialogue. And so with The Force Awakens, Abrams has begun one of the most important reclamation projects of our time: the complete erasure from cultural memory of The Phantom Menace and its sequels.

    With The Force Awakens, Abrams is directing for fans, and as a fan. It’s borderline miraculous how well he captures the mood and rhythms of the first Star Wars trilogy: its pace and wit, its balance between earnestness and irony, the joy it took in set design and creature-building. The Force Awakens may have cost $200 million to produce, but what one sees onscreen is not the money but the love.

    Russia has a new low density Anti-grenade barrier which also makes tanks more stealthy

    A unique material developed by Russian engineers effectively protects armored vehicles against antitank grenades while simultaneously making them invisible to enemy radar.

    The Mantle, developed by the Institute of Steel, which is part of the Tractor Factories Concern, consists of a screen with dynamic protection elements, which is placed 50 millimeters to 1,500 millimeters ahead of the protected object, Novosti VPK defense website reported.

    When hit by an antitank grenade the screen’s low-density surface prevents it from blowing up with its discreet protective elements destroying the grenade fuse’s electrical circuit.

    Simultaneously, the Mantle partially destroys the grenade’s cumulative element. As a result, when hitting the tank’s main armor, the grenade either fails to explode or its armor-piercing ability is significantly undermined.

    As to the Mantle’s stealth capability, it makes tanks and infantry fighting vehicles six times less visible to enemy radar and three times less detectible in the infrared spectrum.



    Solar power from hydrogen filled balloons could gather cloudless solar power and provide hydrogen fuel cell power at night

    Electro-chemist Jean-François Guillemoles is developing solar energy from balloons that will float above the clouds for uninterrupted energy production during the day.

    The main problem with photovoltaic energy is that sunlight can be obscured by clouds, which makes electrical production intermittent and uncertain. But above the cloud cover, the sun shines all day, every day. Anywhere above the planet, there are very few clouds at an altitude of 6 km—and none at all at 20 km.

    Solar energy is five times more abundant at 20 kilometers than on the ground




    December 15, 2015

    China J20 stealth fighter should start low rate initial production in 2016

    The eighth J-20 prototype "2017" made its maiden flight on November 24, 2015 at the Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC) factory in Chengdu, China

    The most significant change in the new prototype is the reshaped cockpit canopy, which provides the pilot with greater visibility. The lack of othergreat design changes suggest that "2017" is very close to the final J-20 production configuration. Since "2017" is likely the last J-20 prototype, low rate initial production (LRIP) of the J-20 is likely to being next year. Assuming serial production, the first Chinese squadron of J-20s will start flying in 2017, about six years after the J-20's first flight in January 2011.

    China will be the second country in the world, after the USA, to field an operational stealth fighter force in the "fifth generation" category. While the initial batch of J-20s may not be as fast as the F-22 (but will be fast as the F-35), they will still possess stealthy features, advanced radars, jammers, infrared sensors and long range missiles, providing new competition in the arms race to dominate the skies.


    Black Dragons - The first squadrons of LRIP J-20 stealth fighters will have less powerful engines, but their stealth, radars and avionics would still put them ahead of any non fifth generation fighter in Asia, or the world.

    1 billion mosquito nets have been a major part of reducing Malaria by 65% since 2000

    New estimates from WHO (World Health Organization) show a significant increase in the number of countries moving towards malaria elimination, with prevention efforts saving millions of dollars in healthcare costs over the past 14 years in many African countries.

    According to the "World Malaria Report 2015" more than half (57) of the 106 countries with malaria in 2000 had achieved reductions in new malaria cases of at least 75% by 2015. In that same time frame, 18 countries reduced their malaria cases by 50-75%.

    Across sub-Saharan Africa, the prevention of new cases of malaria has resulted in major cost savings for endemic countries. New estimates presented in the WHO report show that reductions in malaria cases attributable to malaria control activities saved an estimated US$ 900 million in case management costs in the region between 2001 and 2014. Insecticide-treated mosquito nets contributed the largest savings, followed by artemisinin-based combination therapies and indoor residual spraying.

    “Since the start of this century, investments in malaria prevention and treatment have averted over 6 million deaths,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “We know what works. The challenge now is to do even more.”



    Northrop accelerating B-2 bomber modernization and preparing for Long Range Strike Bomber work

    Despite Northrop being gagged from discussing the Long Range Strike-Bomber pending the verdict of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) bid protest review there is some information. Northrop has hinted that if its plan prevails final assembly will occupy the same Building 401 hangar at Palmdale’s Plant 42 site used for the construction of the B-2 stealth bomber in the 1980s and 1990s. Although only 21 B-2s were built, the east side of Building 401 supported up to 11 bombers on the line during peak production.

    In 2014, Northrop received a $10 billion contract to modernize and sustain the U.S. Air Force’s B-2 stealth bomber for a decade. In 2014, Northrop Grumman completed a USAF review of a new software package for the fleet. The upgrade, known as the USAF's 'Flexible Strike Phase 1' programme, was created to streamline weapons management software on the aircraft, according to Northrop Grumman. The aircraft previously had several standalone software programmes that each managed a specific mission.

    The Flexible Strike programme is the first B-2 modernisation effort to take advantage of the new communications infrastructure Northrop Grumman created for the first increment of the B-2 EHF satellite communications programme. That infrastructure included faster processors, a fibre optic network, and increased onboard data storage.

    With concerns about the size and availability of the B-2 bomber fleet, Northrop is meanwhile speeding up maintenance on the 1980s-era aircraft. The company sought to reduce the time that it takes to overhaul each of the 20 bombers in the Air Force’s fleet from 560 days down to one year.

    Advancements in the stealth coatings — from the initial days of painting the B-2 by hand to today’s robot-based application — are helping to keep more B-2s in operation. Previously the coatings had to be replaced every seven years to maintain their low radar cross section, but the Air Force has agreed to extend that to every nine years.

    Along with a faster maintenance schedule, the B-2 has seen a number of upgrades to its radar system, adding Link 16 communications and new weapons, including the ability to carry two Boeing-made Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs. Future enhancements are planned as well. Engineers are working to integrate the B-61 tactical nuclear bomb and Northrop is in the acquisition planning phase of adding protections for nuclear missions via the use of Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications.
    B2 Bomber

    Long Range Strike Bomber

    The Air Force plans to buy up to 100 LRS-Bs to replace B-52s and B-1s, which are slated to retire in the mid-2040s. Initial operating capability is expected in the mid-2020s, with nuclear certification planned two years after service entry. The program is targeting a cost of around $550 million per aircraft; a basic enabler of this price point will be a mature production system. Together with Sites 3 and 4, the expanded footprint of Northrop’s production sites at Plant 42 will grow to a total of around 3 million square feet with the addition of Sites 7 and 8.

    Northrop concept for Long Range Strike Bomber


    China's economy is slowing down a little or lot

    A sharp slowdown in China's GDP growth rate to 2.3% during 2016-2018 would disrupt global trade and hinder growth, with significant knock-on effects for emerging markets and global corporates, according to a study by Fitch Ratings. In turn, this would keep short-term interest rates and commodity prices lower for longer. This hypothetical scenario does not reflect Fitch's current expectations for China's growth, but is designed to test credit connections between China and the rest of the world.

    Global GDP growth is currently expected to be 3.1 percent in 2017, according to Oxford Economics' global economic model which was used by Fitch to frame its "shock" China scenario. But if a slowdown of such a magnitude materialized in China, Fitch said global GDP growth would slow to 1.8 percent in 2017.

    As a result, any rise in U.S. and euro zone short-term interest rates would be postponed, and oil prices would remain under pressure, Fitch said.

    While Fitch emphasized that this hypothetical scenario did not reflect its current expectations for China's growth, it was "designed to test credit connections between China and the rest of the world."



    In its latest Global Economic Outlook (GEO) Fitch Ratings forecasts the global economy will grow by just 2.3% in 2015, the weakest since the global financial crisis in 2009, dragged down by a recession in Brazil and Russia and a structural slowdown in China and many emerging markets (EM). We forecast a pick-up to 2.7% in 2016 and 2017 as growth recovers somewhat in EM. Growth in major advanced economies (MAEs) is forecast to strengthen to 2% in 2016, the fastest since 2011.

    Fitch's baseline forecast for China is a gradual slowdown to 6.3% in 2016 and 5.5% in 2017, from 6.8% in 2015. Although investment is slowing sharply, growth continues to be supported by robust consumption and policy easing. However, there are downside risks from the real estate sector, capital flows, and policy settings.

    India takes over as the fastest growing BRIC this year with 7.5% GDP growth, accelerating to 8% in 2016 driven by structural reforms and higher investment. The current deep recession in Russia and Brazil (-4% and -3% in 2015, respectively) will be followed by only a weak recovery starting in 2016 in Russia (0.5%) and only in 2017 in Brazil (1.2%).

    China's growth rate is expected to be 6.8 percent in 2015, according to the International Monetary Fund's latest "World Economic Outlook" report published in October.

    Although robust, that growth rate has been slowing down year on year, reflecting slower economic conditions in the rest of the world. In 2013, China's economy grew 7.7 percent but in 2014 China's GDP expanded by 7.3 percent. The IMF predicted further slowing growth in 2016, of 6.3 percent.

    December 14, 2015

    How Big Can a Black Hole Grow? 50 billion times the Sun

    How Big Can a Black Hole Grow?

    The discovery of mega black holes within the last few years that prompted Andrew King of the University of Leicester, UK to look at the subject. The heaviest black holes we’ve now seen have a mass of up to 40 billion times that of our sun, which led King to calculate how big a black hole would have to be for its outer edge to keep a disc from forming. He also came up with a figure of 50 billion solar masses, firming up the previous findings.

    Without a disc, the black hole would stop growing, making this the upper limit. The only way it could grow larger would be if a star fell straight in or another black hole merged with it. But neither process would fatten it up as efficiently as a gas disc. “Unless you merge with another monster, you’ll make almost no difference to the black hole mass,” King says.

    There is a physical limit to the mass of a black hole, above which it cannot grow through luminous accretion of gas, and so cannot appear as a quasar or active galactic nucleus. The limit is Mmax \simeq 5x10^{10}M_sun for typical parameters, but can reach Mmax \simeq 2.7x10^{11}M_sun in extreme cases (e.g. maximal prograde spin). The largest black hole masses so far found are close to but below the limit. The Eddington luminosity \simeq 6.5x10^{48} erg/s corresponding to Mmax is remarkably close to the largest AGN bolometric luminosity so far observed. The mass and luminosity limits both rely on a reasonable but currently untestable hypothesis about AGN disc formation, so future observations of extreme SMBH masses can therefore probe fundamental disc physics. Black holes can in principle grow their masses above Mmax by non-luminous means such as mergers with other holes, but cannot become luminous accretors again. They might nevertheless be detectable in other ways, for example through gravitational lensing. I show further that black holes with masses ~ Mmax can probably grow above the values specified by the black-hole -- host-galaxy scaling relations, in agreement with observation

    The mass limit Mmax for accreting supermassive black holes, compared with the largest observed masses. The curve shows Mmax as a function of black hole spin parameter

    Northrop reveals design laser firing sixth generation super stealthy fighter

    Northrop Grumman unveiled its vision of the so-called sixth-generation fighter, showing reporters a laser-firing aircraft that looks like a cross between the B-2 bomber and the X-47B drone.

    The level of complexity will make this aircraft something like an advanced satellite, where electromagnetic interference, heat offload and power requirements pose compelling and existential challenges to the system.

    If you look at Boeing’s sixth generation concept you can see how much physics and low observability (stealth) are driving the form of these aircraft. However, the Northrop aircraft appears to build in more of the all-aspect stealth lessons of the B-2.

    Northrop Grumman has released new design concepts for sixth-generation fighters for the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy. The Pentagon hopes to field next-generation fighters to replace those aging platforms by the mid-2030s, but there are questions as to whether there is enough money in the budget to develop two completely new warplanes.

    The Pentagon could enter into a Milestone A technology development phase somewhere between 2018 and 2019. Following an optimistic timeline, the Navy F/A-XX and Air Force Next Gen Air Dominance (NGAD also know as F-X)—program could reach a Milestone B source selection decision in 2025. Then, the engineering and manufacturing development phase would take about ten years. That would allow for a 2035 entry into service date for the new aircraft. But, industry sources cautioned, that’s a 'best-case scenario.'

    The Pentagon has learnt from the $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter debacle—the F/A-XX and the NGAD are likely to be separate programs that share common technologies

    Both aircraft designs are likely to use adaptive cycle engine technology—which optimize the power plant’s bypass ratio for its given airspeed and altitude




    Transparent canopy box seats on top of airplanes for the wealthy VIP 1%

    Windspeed has designed the SkyDeck. Its aim was to create "exciting experiential in-flight entertainment for VIP aircraft owners and the airline industry." It suggests that the SkyDeck could act as an additional source of revenue for airlines, with passengers paying to experience it.

    The transparent canopy will be made of materials similar to those used for the canopies of supersonic fighter jets. It will be accessible via elevator or staircase, depending on the version, and there will be rotatable seats for passengers to take in the views. Either a one-seat or two-seat configuration is available to order and GPS systems integrated into the platform will provide flight and location information.

    Windspeed says it will be possible to install the SkyDeck on a wide variety of aircraft, from wide-bodies to smaller executive jets. Despite this, there were still a number of hurdles that had to be overcome in the design to make it feasible.






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