November 12, 2016

Zubrin improves the Spacex Mars plan and points out reusable Falcon heavy can be a globespanning rocketplane with Boeing 737 capacity

Robert Zubrin, Longtime Mars Colonization advocate, gives a Critique of the SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System.

Zubrin was struck by many good and powerful ideas in the Musk plan. However, Musk’s plan assembled some of those good ideas in an extremely suboptimal way, making the proposed system impractical. Still, with some corrections, a system using the core concepts Musk laid out could be made attractive — not just as an imaginative concept for the colonization of Mars, but as a means of meeting the nearer-at-hand challenge of enabling human expeditions to the planet.

Zubrin explains the conceptual flaws of the new SpaceX plan, showing how they can be corrected to benefit, first, the near-term goal of initiating human exploration of the Red Planet, and then, with a cost-effective base-building and settlement program, the more distant goal of future Mars colonization.

Robert Zubrin, a New Atlantis contributing editor, is president of Pioneer Energy of Lakewood, Colorado, and president of the Mars Society.

* Have the second stage go only out to the distance of the moon and return to enable 5 payloads to be sent instead of one
* Leave the 100 person capsule on Mars and only have a small cabin return to earth
* use the refueling in orbit and other optimizations to enable a Falcon Heavy to deliver 40 tons to Mars instead of 12 for exploration missions in 2018, 2020 etc...
* Reusable first stage makes rocketplanes going anywhere point to point on Earth feasible. Falcon Heavy would have the capacity of a Boeing 737 and could travel in about one hour of time anywhere

There are videos of the Elon Musk presentation and an interview with Zubrin about the Musk plan at the bottom of the article

Spacex Falcon Heavy

Design of the SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System

As described by Musk, the SpaceX ITS would consist of a very large two-stage fully-reusable launch system, powered by methane/oxygen chemical bipropellant. The suborbital first stage would have four times the takeoff thrust of a Saturn V (the huge rocket that sent the Apollo missions to the Moon). The second stage, which reaches orbit, would have the thrust of a single Saturn V. Together, the two stages could deliver a maximum payload of 550 tons to low Earth orbit (LEO), about four times the capacity of the Saturn V. (Note: All of the “tons” referenced in this article are metric tons.)

At the top of the rocket, the spaceship itself — where some hundred passengers reside — is inseparable from the second stage. (Contrast this with, for example, NASA’s lunar missions, where each part of the system was discarded in turn until just the Command Module carried the Apollo astronauts back to Earth.) Since the second-stage-plus-spaceship will have used its fuel in getting to orbit, it would need to refuel in orbit, filling up with about 1,950 tons of propellant (which means that each launch carrying passengers would require four additional launches to deliver the necessary propellant). Once filled up, the spaceship can head to Mars.

The duration of the journey would of course depend on where Earth and Mars are in their orbits; the shortest one-way trip would be around 80 days, according to Musk’s presentation, and the longest would be around 150 days. (Musk stated that he thinks the architecture could be improved to reduce the trip to 60 or even 30 days.)

After landing on Mars and discharging its passengers, the ship would be refueled with methane/oxygen bipropellant made on the surface of Mars from Martian water and carbon dioxide, and then flown back to Earth orbit.

Reviewing the 31 page Trump Economic Plan by two Senior Academic Policy Advisors

Nextbigfuture is reviewing what are the detailed policies of those who will be shaping the future US and world economy.

Peter Navarro is a business professor at the University of California-Irvine; he holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University. Wilbur Ross is an international private equity investor. Both are senior policy advisors to the Trump campaign.

They have a 31 page paper, Scoring the Trump Economic Plan: Trade, Regulatory, and Energy Policy Impacts.

NOTE- Barrons magazine Gene Epstein reviewed this plan and notes that it is unclear how much of this plan will be implemented as the Republican House and Senate may not agree to everything. Epstein hopes that less is done to harm foreign trade and that there is some recognition of the dangers of soaring Treasury Debt.

From the plan

Donald Trump’s economic plan proposes tax cuts, reduced regulation, lower energy costs, and eliminating America’s chronic trade deficit. Trump’s goal is to significantly increase America’s real GDP growth rate and thereby create millions of additional new jobs and trillions of dollars of additional income and tax revenues.

Hillary Clinton’s economic plan will inhibit growth. It proposes higher taxes, more regulation, and further restrictions on fossil fuels that will significantly raise energy and electricity costs. Clinton will also perpetuate trade policies and trade deals she has helped put in place that have led to chronic trade deficits and reduced economic growth.

In considering how to score these competing plans fiscally, it is important to note that the Trump plan generates positive and substantial tax revenue offsets from its synergistic suite of trade, regulatory, and energy policy reforms. Any analysis that scores the Trump tax cuts in isolation is incomplete and highly misleading.

Separately from this report, the non-partisan Tax Foundation has released its analysis of the Trump tax plan. It dynamically scores a $2.6 trillion reduction1 in revenues relative to the current tax policy baseline as of the end of a 10-year budgeting horizon. However, as is the typical practice within the modeling community, the Tax Foundation does not score other elements of the Trump economic plan that are growth-inducing and therefore revenue-generating.

This report fills this analytical gap. Specifically, we provide our own fully transparent scoring of the Trump economic plan in the areas of trade, regulatory, and energy policy reforms based on conservative assumptions. Along with tax reform, these areas represent the four main points of the Trump policy compass. Each works integratively and synergistically with the others and in conjunction with proposed spending cuts.

We believe it is essential that third parties view this analysis in conjunction with the Tax Foundation report. The tax cuts of the Trump plan have been criticized for significant reductions in Federal revenues. However, the Trump economic plan is much more than just about taxes.

As this report demonstrates, the overall plan is fiscally conservative and approaches revenue neutrality in the baseline Tax Foundation scenario.

The Trump plan also grows the economy much faster than Hillary Clinton’s plan to raise taxes, increase regulation, stifle our energy sector, and continue the trade deficit status quo

This total positive revenue offset of $2.374 trillion dollars approaches the $2.6 trillion of tax reductions calculated by the Tax Foundation. With proposed spending cuts, the overall Trump economic plan is revenue neutral.

A new macroeconomic analysis of the Trump plan is made by the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in collaboration with the Tax Policy Center.

Donald Trump's tax proposals could spur more economic growth and more jobs ... for awhile. But by 2024, that positive effect turns negative. His plan would slow growth created relative to what's expected under today's policies.

Its model estimates that Trump's plan could add an additional 1.1% in 2018 relative to current law. But by 2024 that positive effect is erased and by 2027 it could lower GDP by 0.78%. By 2037, it could produce 4.6% less GDP than expected.

Barrons thinks the Trump Presidency will make America Spend Again

Barrons is the leading weekly financial newspapers. They have a video and articles covering what the financial people are thinking will happen with a Trump presidency

Initially markets were negative to the Trump win with index futures down their maximum overnight 5% limit. Then recovering to up 2% by the end of normal trading hours.

Initially they assumed that a Trump presidency would augur a deflationary global downturn in a Smoot Hawley 2.0 package of trade barriers and tariffs or at least a blackhole of uncertainty. But after a few hours the markets decided the Trump presidency would be Reaganomics 2.0 with a surge in government spending and tighter money.

They think there will be shift from easy money to a focus on fiscal stimulus.

JP Morgan economist Michael Feroli thinks the fiscal program will boost GDP by 1.5% over two years while doubling the federal budget deficit. But import curbs could cripple US businesses dependent on global supply chains.

Global equities are up $1.3 trillion but global bonds are down $1 trillion.

Barrons also thinks the Gun rally (stocks of makers of guns) is over.

Arun Daniel thinks the biotech and drug companies have more increases. The good news is not baked into the stocks fully.

UPDATE - Nextbigfuture looks at the 31 page Trump Economic Plan by his two senior academic policy advisors and what Barrons and Wharton think of it

Winners and losers by sector


  • Steel
  • Construction materials
  • Financials
  • Pharma
  • Independent Refiners

  • Hospitals
  • Utilities
  • Telecom

Z Machine fusion adding tritium to boost power output and possible breakeven experiments in 2018

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories nuclear fusion Z Machine are adding tritium to the fuel to boost power

The introduction of tritium is of high technical interest because a 50/50 mix of tritium and deuterium — the two isotopes of hydrogen — emits 80 times more neutrons, and 500 times more energy, than deuterium alone. Energy from deuterium — in a manner of speaking, a relatively low-octane fuel — has been the upper limit on output at Z.

They are currently adding 0.1% tritium.

But it’s still early days. A dry run in July, testing containment hardware and instrumentation, preceded Z’s first tritium experiment three weeks later, when a fraction of a percent was cautiously introduced into the experiment’s fuel.

“We’re going to crawl before we walk and run,” said Cuneo. “We will gradually increase that fraction in contained experiments as we go.”

Currently adding 0.1% tritium

Sandia's Z machine has a project called MagLIF for magnetized liner inertial fusion. The Z-machine stared conducting MagLIF experiments in November 2013 with a view towards breakeven experiments using D-T fuel in 2018

StarCore high temperature nuclear reactor has applied for a design review with Canadian regulators

Canadian reactor designer StarCore Nuclear has applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to begin the vendor design review process for its Generation IV high temperature gas reactor (HTGR).

Montréal-based StarCore, founded in 2008, is focused on developing small modular reactors (SMRs) to provide power and potable water to remote communities in Canada. Its standard HTGR unit would produce 20 MWe (36 MWth), expandable to 100 MWe, from a unit small enough to be delivered by truck. The helium-cooled reactor uses Triso fuel - spherical particles of uranium fuel coated by carbon which effectively gives each tiny particle its own primary containment system - manufactured by BWXT Technologies. Each reactor would require refuelling at five-yearly intervals.

Starcore has identified two dozen mines where they can offer electricity and heat at prices well below the mine’s alternative cost and still be highly profitable. Villages are currently heavily subsidized by governments and utilities. For the larger villages, or those near mines, we can offer retail customers electricity at attractive prices, enable community development, substantially reduce the subsidies, and earn strong profits.

StarCore describes its reactor as "inherently safe", with a steep negative thermal coefficient which eliminates the possibility of a core meltdown. The use of helium - which does not become radioactive - as a coolant means that any loss of coolant would be "inconsequential", the company says.

HTGR reactor units are embedded 15 meters underground in Ultra High Strength Concrete (UHSC) silos. 2 reactor units per standard plant.

Units are helium-cooled. Helium does not become radioactive.

Modular Exoskeletons by WeaRobot

WeaRobot wants to democratize robotic exoskeletons. They want to make modular exoskeletons, so that is more affordable. The exoskeleton can boost the mobility joint by joint. Just supporting the movement of one knee or one elbow or assembling all modules for a full body exoskeleton. This is targeted at enhancing mobility and function for the growing elderly population.

WeaRobot is breaking apart robotic exoskeletons to make them more affordable and adaptable.

Robotic exoskeletons are electromechanical suits that can give paraplegic people the chance to walk again. Full body suits produce impressive results, such as teaching dormant body parts to move on their own again. But they are expensive, ranging from $40,000 to more than $100,000. Now, a Mexican robotics startup is breaking exoskeletons down into smaller pieces, with the goal of making this medical technology affordable and adaptable.

Ernesto Rodriquez Leal, PhD., started WeaRobot in 2014, when a personal dilemma inspired him to turn his robotics research into action. His father started to lose mobility at the end of a 35-year career as a steel worker, and after several surgeries and 3,000 hours of rehabilitation, it was still difficult for him to walk and move his arms properly.

Exoskeletons have potential to solve the mobility issues that his dad and millions of other people face as a result of trauma, strokes, aging, and other medical conditions.

The vision for WeaRobots has expanded to include pediatrics. Children need exoskeletons to help them recover from trauma or medical conditions such as scoliosis. Coincidentally, Halvorson's daughter has a severe form of scoliosis that led to four back surgeries and forced her to wear a stiff, traditional back brace.

He is hopeful that WeaRobot can be a huge improvement for kids with similar conditions. "I think what Ernesto is building would still give you that physical support, while also allowing them to get an increased range of motion and flexibility," he says. "The modularity of what they're building and how it can be customized to different kids and different extremities is something that really makes it applicable to a whole bunch of situations."

It also has a unique control system.

Usually, the joints of exoskeletons have rigid gear systems to increase the torque. Instead, electrodes attached to the user's skin collect signals from the body's muscles. Leal explains, "With the use of artificial intelligence algorithms, we can determine the conditions in which the user requires torque assistance from specific joints."

The current focus of the project is helping people with mobility issues, but in the future, the same baseline design could be used for physical therapy or athletic training. "The exoskeleton is packed with sensors, so you can know the activity, the position, and the orientation of every single joint in the body," Leal says.

The design is meant to make it easier for people to move, but it could also be reconfigured to do the opposite.

It can be made passive, to restrict, instead of assist a person's movement. This could be used as a high-tech training exercise for athletes or even as a therapy for astronauts who need to simulate gravity and weight while they are in space.

November 11, 2016

Robotic Huey Helicopters are on the way

the goal of the futuristic Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) program created by Virginia-based Aurora Flight Sciences is to create robotic Huey helicopters.

The program integrates another Aurora-created system, the tactical autonomous aerial logistics systems, or TALOS, in order to send up helicopters at the request of troops on the ground.

“The primary goal of the AACUS program is to enable rapid cargo delivery by unmanned, and potentially optionally-manned, vertical take-off and landing systems,” the company said in a release Thursday.

Aurora hopes to integrate TALOS and demonstrate it on a Huey in 2017 and 2018, the company said. The Office of Naval Research is funding and sponsoring the program.

“TALOS is not an aircraft, nor is it a robot flying an aircraft – TALOS is transferrable intelligence designed with both manned and unmanned aircraft requirements in mind,” said John Wissler, vice president of Aurora’s research and development center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“The arrival of a Huey as our third test platform frames a key point for future customers – the TALOS system is platform agnostic; you’re not buying a new fleet of helicopters, you’re buying a capability set for your current fleet,” he said.

The TALOS system was previously demonstrated on a Boeing H-6U Unmanned Little Bird flown autonomously, the release said, and also three different human-piloted Bell 206 aircraft; the system can be integrated into any manned or unmanned rotorcraft, according to Flightglobal.

Ride of the Valkyries - Apocalypse Now

Foxconn's operating profit is up on as increased deployment of robots and automation improves cost control

Key iPhone assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as Foxconn Technology Group, benefited from cost control on growing use of automation in its factories, but its bottom line dropped due to smaller gains in non-operating income.

In the quarter to September, Foxconn reported sales of 1.07 trillion New Taiwan dollars ($33.57 billion), up 0.91% on the year. Operating profit rose 10.33% year-over-year to NT$42.1 billion, but net profit fell 8.51% to NT$34.63 billion.

Foxconn has been working aggressively to expand automation on its Chinese campuses, including the iPhone assembly facility in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou.

Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou told the Nikkei Asian Review on Nov. 5 that Foxconn has now deployed 60,000 robots on its production lines.

"We plan to increase that number by 20% to 30% every year," Gou said. "We've already had some lights-off facilities [due to large-scale deployment of robots] and we will have more of them in the future."

Despite a double-digit gain in operating profit, the bottom line suffered from factors not directly related to the company's main line of business.

Laser enrichment moving ahead with DOE selling 300,000 tonnes of depleted uranium to GE Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has agreed to sell around 300,000 tonnes of depleted uranium hexafluoride to GE Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) for re-enrichment at a proposed plant to be built near DOE's Paducah site in Kentucky. The agreement paves the way for commercialisation of Silex laser enrichment technology.

GLE was selected by the DOE in 2013 to enter contract negotiations on the construction of a laser enrichment plant former at the former gaseous enrichment site at Paducah, Kentucky to re-enrich its inventory of high-assay depleted uranium tails. The tails, left over from previous enrichment operations, contain a lower proportion of uranium-235 than in naturally occurring uranium but can potentially be re-enriched for use in nuclear fuel.

GLE will finance, construct, own and operate the Paducah Laser Enrichment Facility, which will be a commercial enrichment plant licensed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Re-enrichment of the 300,000 tonnes of tails would take place over 40 years, producing around 100,000 tonnes of "natural-grade" uranium which would be sold into the world uranium market. The balance of the material - low assay tails - would be returned to the DOE for disposition.

November 10, 2016

DARPA Haptic touch Supports Improved Robotic and Prosthetic Interfaces

Pressure—the physical quantity of an experience of touch—is a fundamental dimension of human perception, conveying to the brain not just that the skin is in contact with something, but also how intense the contact is. That awareness is what enables people to, for instance, gently but securely handle an egg without squeezing so hard that the shell cracks.

Understanding pressure and other aspects of the sense of touch and learning how to convey them through robotic arms and other machines is central to DARPA’s quest to create advanced prosthetic limbs for wounded Service members and unlock new capabilities for other applications of human-machine systems. Now, a research team funded by DARPA’s Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program and including researchers from Case Western Reserve University, the Louis R. Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, and the University of Chicago has advanced toward that goal, reporting in the journal Science Translational Medicine the discovery of how to encode graded sensations of pressure in the nervous system using electrical stimulation.

“DARPA is working to evoke naturalistic sensations of touch and motion in users of advanced prostheses by stimulating peripheral nerves,” said Doug Weber, the HAPTIX Program Manager. “Determining how the nervous system encodes the different aspects of touch is an enormous challenge, but with that knowledge we can engineer more capable neural interfaces that could redefine how people interact with tools and machines.”

Director of Fifth Element has a new SciFi movie

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is an upcoming 2017 English-language French science fiction action film produced, written and directed by Luc Besson. The film is based on the French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline, written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières. It stars Dane DeHaan as Valérian and Cara Delevingne as Laureline. The film is scheduled for release on 21 July 2017 worldwide and on 26 July in France

Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are special operatives for the government of the human territories charged with maintaining order throughout the universe. Valerian has more in mind than a professional relationship with his partner – blatantly chasing after her with propositions of romance. But his extensive history with women, and her traditional values, drive Laureline to continuously rebuff him. Under directive from their Commander (Clive Owen), Valerian and Laureline embark on a mission to the breathtaking intergalactic city of Alpha, an ever-expanding metropolis comprised of thousands of different species from all four corners of the universe. Alpha’s seventeen million inhabitants have converged over time – uniting their talents, technology and resources for the betterment of all. Unfortunately, not everyone on Alpha shares in these same objectives; in fact, unseen forces are at work, placing our race in great danger.

Israel will equip all Merkava 4 tanks and Namer Heavy APCs with Trophy Active Protection Systems

Israel’s Ministry of Defense (IMOD) plans to continue the acquisition of Trophy active protection systems (APS), to equip every new Merkava 4 tank and Namer Heavy Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) with active protection, providing significant additional protection for every tank and APC.

Each Trophy system integrates an early warning and battle management radar covering 360 degrees,and the effectors, comprised of multiuple explosive-formed projectiles designed to defeat income threats at a stand-off distance.

These two Windguard AESA radars are part of the 360 degrees sensor of the Trophy system. They provide the situational picture, threat detection and fire control cueing for the Trophy APS system. Photo: IMODM

NASA Space Telescopes Pinpoint Elusive Brown Dwarf

In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, NASA's Spitzer and Swift space telescopes joined forces to observe a microlensing event, when a distant star brightens due to the gravitational field of at least one foreground cosmic object. This technique is useful for finding low-mass bodies orbiting stars, such as planets. In this case, the observations revealed a brown dwarf.

Brown dwarfs are thought to be the missing link between planets and stars, with masses up to 80 times that of Jupiter. But their centers are not hot or dense enough to generate energy through nuclear fusion the way stars do. Curiously, scientists have found that, for stars roughly the mass of our sun, less than 1 percent have a brown dwarf orbiting within 3 AU (1 AU is the distance between Earth and the sun). This phenomenon is called the "brown dwarf desert."

The newly discovered brown dwarf, which orbits a host star, may inhabit this desert. Spitzer and Swift observed the microlensing event after being tipped off by ground-based microlensing surveys, including the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE). The discovery of this brown dwarf, with the unwieldy name OGLE-2015-BLG-1319, marks the first time two space telescopes have collaborated to observe a microlensing event.

The Astrophysical Journal - The First Simultaneous Microlensing observations by two space telescopes: Spitzer and Swift Reveal a Brown Dwarf ina Even Ogle-2015-BLG-1319

Arxiv - The First Simultaneous Microlensing observations by two space telescopes: Spitzer and Swift Reveal a Brown Dwarf ina Even Ogle-2015-BLG-1319

Superconducting sensor could detect submarines by the magnetic disturbance of their wake

The Debye effect could be used hunt submarines using the magnetic signatures of their wakes. Seawater is salty, full of ions of sodium and chlorine. Because those ions have different masses, any nudge—such as a passing submarine—moves some farther than others. Each ion carries an electric charge, and the movement of those charges produces a magnetic field.

Currently submarines rely on stealth to do their jobs, whether that is sinking enemy ships or hiding nuclear-tipped missiles beneath the ocean. The traditional way of hunting them is with sonar. Modern sonar is extremely sensitive. But modern submarines are very quiet, and neither side has gained a definitive upper hand.

There are other options. Submarine-spotting aircraft carry “magnetic anomaly detectors” (MAD) which pick up disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field caused by a submarine’s metal hull. Those disturbances are tiny, which means MAD is only useful at ranges of a few hundred meters.

Cortana Corporation and the US navy will not discuss exactly what they are up to. But it is likely that the technique can only detect certain submarine movements in some situations. Submarines produce many different types of wake. As well as the familiar V-shaped wake they leave underwater disturbances known as “internal waves”, flat swirls called “pancake eddies” and miniature vortices which spin off from fins and control surfaces. These all depend not only on speed and depth but also on the submarine’s hydrodynamics (the underwater version of aerodynamics).

Work done in Russia, whose navy has long been interested in alternatives to sonar, suggests the Debye effect can be turned into something quite potent. In 1990, two contributors to the Soviet military magazine Naval Collection wrote that “as a consequence of the great extent of the wake, it is easier to detect this anomaly than the magnetic anomaly due to the metallic hull of the submarine.” That suggests that a well-tuned Debye detector might be able to pick up a trail from several kilometers back and follow it to find the submarine. Russia’s claims in this area have long been regarded in the West as exaggerated. The new American interest suggests they might not have been.

Things are likely to get easier, too: a new generation of high-tech magnetic sensors based on machines called SQUIDs—“superconducting quantum interference devices”—should be more sensitive than existing ones

Niche supercomputing will have multiple acceleration options but laptops and will be too troublesome for regular users

There are several emerging options which will provide options for accelerated supercomputing and supercomputer problem scale applications.

There will be FPGAs that are 1000 to 10000 times faster than regular processors, optical processing which will become faster and cheaper for fast fourier transforms and quantum computing - quantum annealing systems which will be faster for optimization problems.

However, a significant general computing speedup will take longer to become easy to use and generally available and cheap. The best options there will be new computer memory that will eventually replace hard drives and optical communication within computers. However, most people cannot be troubled and have had no need for GPU co-processors. GPUs have been generally available for many years for accelerated computing. The vast majority do not max out computer memory on their laptops or devices.

Neuromorphic computing will be for niche supercomputing or embedded intelligence applications.

Fujitsu has a view of what could accelerate computing in the chart below.

The new non-volatile memory and possibly approximate computing could provide a speed up for laptops and tablets and smartphones which the broad population uses. There should also be faster wireless communication where everyday people will notice the improvements.

Analysts looking at computer memory are not expecting a sudden displacement of existing computer memory with new non-volatile memory.

Fujitsu Laboratories is enabling faster solutions to computationally intensive combinatorial optimization problems, such as how to streamline distribution, improve post-disaster recovery plans, formulate economic policy, and optimize investment portfolios. It will also make possible the development of new ICT services that support swift and optimal decision-making in such areas as social policy and business, which involve complex intertwined elements.

Fujitsu says it has implemented basic optimization circuits using an FPGA to handle combinations which can be expressed as 1024 bits, which when using a ‘simulated annealing’ process ran 10,000 times faster than conventional processors in terms of handling the aforementioned thorny combinatorial optimisation problems.

The company says it will work on improving the architecture going forward, and by the fiscal year 2018, it expects “to have prototype computational systems able to handle real-world problems of 100,000 bits to one million bits that it will validate on the path toward practical implementation”.

Wireless brain-spinal interface bypasses spinal cord injuries to restore leg movement in primates

An international team of scientists has used a wireless “brain-spinal interface” to bypass spinal cord injuries in a pair of rhesus macaques, restoring intentional walking movement to a temporarily paralyzed leg. The researchers, who describe their work in the journal Nature, say this is the first time a neural prosthetic has been used to restore walking movement directly to the legs of nonhuman primates.

The study was performed by scientists and neuroengineers in a collaboration led by Ecole Polytechnique Federale Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, together with Brown University, Medtronic and Fraunhofer ICT-IMM in Germany. The work builds upon neural technologies developed at Brown and partner institutions, and was tested in collaboration with the University of Bordeaux, Motac Neuroscience and the Lausanne University Hospital.

“The system we have developed uses signals recorded from the motor cortex of the brain to trigger coordinated electrical stimulation of nerves in the spine that are responsible for locomotion,” said David Borton, assistant professor of engineering at Brown and one of the study’s co-lead authors. “With the system turned on, the animals in our study had nearly normal locomotion.”

The brain-spine interface developed for this study uses a brain implant like this one to detect spiking activity in the brain's motor cortex. Seen here, a microelectrode array and a silicon model of a primate's brain, as well as a pulse generator used to stimulate electrodes implanted on the spinal cord.
Alain Herzog / EPFL

Conceptual and technological design of the brain–spine interface.

Nature - A brain–spine interface alleviating gait deficits after spinal cord injury in primates

November 09, 2016

Major advance in solar cells made from cheap, easy-to-use perovskite

Soar cells made from an inexpensive and increasingly popular material called perovskite can more efficiently turn sunlight into electricity using a new technique to sandwich two types of perovskite into a single photovoltaic cell.

Perovskite solar cells are made of a mix of organic molecules and inorganic elements that together capture light and convert it into electricity, just like today’s more common silicon-based solar cells. Perovskite photovoltaic devices, however, can be made more easily and cheaply than silicon and on a flexible rather than rigid substrate. The first perovskite solar cells could go on the market next year, and some have been reported to capture 20 percent of the sun’s energy.

In a paper appearing online today in advance of publication in the journal Nature Materials, University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists report a new design that already achieves an average steady-state efficiency of 18.4 percent, with a high of 21.7 percent and a peak efficiency of 26 percent.

Cross section of the new solar cell, showing the two perovskite layers (beige and red) separated by a single-atom layer of boron nitride and the thicker graphene aerogel (dark gray), which prevents moisture from destroying the perovskite. Gallium nitride (blue) and gold (yellow) electrodes channel the electrons generated when light hits the solar cell.

Nature Materials - Graded bandgap perovskite solar cells

US Army is testing a Zika Virus Vaccine

A clinical trial began two days ago at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, where 75 participating healthy adults were vaccinated with a Zika virus vaccine that the institute’s scientists developed earlier this year, Walter Reed officials announced today.

The Phase 1 trial will test the safety and immunogenicity -- the ability of the vaccine to trigger an immune response in the body -- of the purified, inactivated Zika virus vaccine called ZPIV. The vaccine is being tested at WRAIR’s Clinical Trial Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“The Army has moved efficiently from recognizing Zika virus as a threat, producing ZPIV for use in animals and demonstrating its effectiveness in mice and monkeys, producing ZPIV for human testing, and now initiating clinical trials to establish its safety and build the case for subsequent efficacy trials,” Army Col. (Dr.) Nelson Michael, director of WRAIR’s Military HIV Research Program, or MHRP, and Zika program co-lead, said in a statement.

As of Nov. 2, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 149 cases of Zika infection were confirmed in the military health system, including four pregnant service members and one pregnant family member.

Zika infection during pregnancy, CDC says, can cause a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.

Other problems have been detected among fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth, such as defects of the eye, hearing deficits and impaired growth. And reports have increased about Guillain-Barré syndrome, an uncommon sickness of the nervous system, in areas affected by Zika, CDC says.

But even Zika infections without symptoms “can lead to severe birth defects and neurological complications,” Zika study principal investigator Army Maj. (Dr.) Leyi Lin said, adding, “A safe and effective Zika vaccine that prevents infection in those at risk is a global public-health priority."

Semiconductor-free microelectronics are now possible, thanks to metamaterials

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have fabricated the first semiconductor-free, optically-controlled microelectronic device. Using metamaterials, engineers were able to build a microscale device that shows a 1,000 percent increase in conductivity when activated by low voltage and a low power laser.

The discovery paves the way for microelectronic devices that are faster and capable of handling more power, and could also lead to more efficient solar panels.

The discovery paves the way for microelectronic devices that are faster and capable of handling more power, and could also lead to more efficient solar panels. The work was published Nov. 4 in Nature Communications.

The capabilities of existing microelectronic devices, such as transistors, are ultimately limited by the properties of their constituent materials, such as their semiconductors, researchers said.

For example, semiconductors can impose limits on a device’s conductivity, or electron flow. Semiconductors have what’s called a band gap, meaning they require a boost of external energy to get electrons to flow through them. And electron velocity is limited, since electrons are constantly colliding with atoms as they flow through the semiconductor.

A team of researchers in the Applied Electromagnetics Group led by electrical engineering professor Dan Sievenpiper at UC San Diego sought to remove these roadblocks to conductivity by replacing semiconductors with free electrons in space. “And we wanted to do this at the microscale,” said Ebrahim Forati, a former postdoctoral researcher in Sievenpiper’s lab and first author of the study.

However, liberating electrons from materials is challenging. It either requires applying high voltages (at least 100 Volts), high power lasers or extremely high temperatures (more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit), which aren’t practical in micro- and nanoscale electronic devices.

The designed semiconductor-free microelectronic device. Image courtesy of UC San Diego Applied Electromagnetics Group.

Nature Communications - Photoemission-based microelectronic devices

Proposed Theory of Emergent Gravity to explain why Dark Matter is not needed

The outer regions of galaxies, like our own Milky Way, rotate much faster around the centre than can be accounted for by the quantity of ordinary matter like stars, planets and interstellar gasses. Something else has to produce the required amount of gravitational force, so physicists proposed the existence of dark matter. Dark matter seems to dominate our universe, comprising more than 80 percent of all matter. Hitherto, the alleged dark matter particles have never been observed, despite many efforts to detect them.

No need for dark matter

According to Erik Verlinde, there is no need to add a mysterious dark matter particle to the theory. In a new paper, which appeared today on the ArXiv preprint server, Verlinde shows how his theory of gravity accurately predicts the velocities by which the stars rotate around the center of the Milky Way, as well as the motion of stars inside other galaxies.

"We have evidence that this new view of gravity actually agrees with the observations, " says Verlinde. "At large scales, it seems, gravity just doesn't behave the way Einstein's theory predicts."

At first glance, Verlinde's theory presents features similar to modified theories of gravity like MOND (modified Newtonian Dynamics, Mordehai Milgrom (1983)). However, where MOND tunes the theory to match the observations, Verlinde's theory starts from first principles. "A totally different starting point," according to Verlinde.

Adapting the holographic principle

One of the ingredients in Verlinde's theory is an adaptation of the holographic principle, introduced by his tutor Gerard 't Hooft (Nobel Prize 1999, Utrecht University) and Leonard Susskind (Stanford University). According to the holographic principle, all the information in the entire universe can be described on a giant imaginary sphere around it. Verlinde now shows that this idea is not quite correct—part of the information in our universe is contained in space itself.

This extra information is required to describe that other dark component of the universe: Dark energy, which is believed to be responsible for the accelerated expansion of the universe. Investigating the effects of this additional information on ordinary matter, Verlinde comes to a stunning conclusion. Whereas ordinary gravity can be encoded using the information on the imaginary sphere around the universe, as he showed in his 2010 work, the result of the additional information in the bulk of space is a force that nicely matches that attributed to dark matter.

Emergent gravity and apparent dark matter in cosmological scenarios

In this paper they have focused on the explanation of the observed gravitational phenomena attributed to dark matter. By this we mean the excess in the gravitational force or the missing mass that is observed in spiral or elliptical galaxies and in galaxy clusters. Of course, dark matter plays a central role in many other aspects of the current cosmological paradigm, in particular in structure formation and the explanation of the acoustic peaks in the cosmic microwave background. In none of these scenarios is it required that dark matter is a particle: all that is needed is that its cosmological evolution and dynamics is consistent with a pressureless fluid. In their description they eventually end up with an estimate of the apparent dark matter density that in many respects behaves as required for structure formation and perhaps even for the explanation of the CMB spectrum. Namely, effectively the apparent dark matter that
comes out of our emergent gravity description also leads to a gravitational potential that attracts the baryonic matter as cold dark matter would do.

By changing the way we view gravity, namely as an emergent phenomenon in which the Einstein equations need be derived from the thermodynamics of quantum entanglement, one also has to change the way we view the evolution of the universe. In particular, one should be able to derive the cosmological evolution equations from emergent gravity. For this one needs to first properly understand the role of quantum entanglement and the evolution of the total entropy of our universe. So it is still an open question if and how the standard cosmological picture is incorporated in a theory of emergent gravity. How does one interpret the expansion of the universe from this perspective? Or does inflation still play a role in an emergent cosmological scenario? All these questions are beyond the scope of the present paper. So we will not make an attempt to answer all or even a part of these questions. This also means that before these questions are investigated it is too early to make a judgement on whether their emergent gravity description of dark matter will also be able to replace the current particle dark matter paradigm in early cosmological scenario

Recent theoretical progress indicates that spacetime and gravity emerge together from the entanglement structure of an underlying microscopic theory. These ideas are best understood in Anti-de Sitter space, where they rely on the area law for entanglement entropy. The extension to de Sitter space requires taking into account the entropy and temperature associated with the cosmological horizon. Using insights from string theory, black hole physics and quantum information theory we argue that the positive dark energy leads to a thermal volume law contribution to the entropy that overtakes the area law precisely at the cosmological horizon. Due to the competition between area and volume law entanglement the microscopic de Sitter states do not thermalise at sub-Hubble scales: they exhibit memory effects in the form of an entropy displacement caused by matter. The emergent laws of gravity contain an additional `dark' gravitational force describing the `elastic' response due to the entropy displacement. We derive an estimate of the strength of this extra force in terms of the baryonic mass, Newton's constant and the Hubble acceleration scale a_0 =cH_0, and provide evidence for the fact that this additional `dark gravity~force' explains the observed phenomena in galaxies and clusters currently attributed to dark matter.

Swarming drones made large technological step this week but what it was will be secret for a few months

The US Defense Department's Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) is advancing its swarming drone concept, a key asset in the department’s wider third offset strategy.

During a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington this week, DOD Secretary Ash Carter teased news on the SCO’s swarming drones operating on the sea and in the air.

“In fact, this technology took a large step forward this week,” Carter says. “You’ll be hearing about it more in the months to come.”

During his time as deputy secretary of defense, Carter stood up the SCO in 2012 to breath new life into existing platforms within the DOD’s inventory. Last year, the office revealed its Arsenal Plane concept, a standoff system with a large weapons carriage that would support forward aircraft.

Reviews and analysis of China J20 stealth fighter

Andreas Rupprecht, author of the authoritative Modern Chinese Warplanes, told Foreign Policy that satellite photography reveals the J-20 is not as large as originally thought, suggesting it has less internal volume to carry large air-to-ground munitions. He also pointed to the writings of influential Chinese aircraft designers that stressed “supercruise, high maneuverability, [and] unconventional maneuvers” as requirements for the plane that would eventually become the J-20 — all attributes of fighters and not attack jets

Yin Zhuo, a Chinese military academic, concurs, stating in the Paper, “The stealth fighter is bound to be China’s major fighter airplane in future, as well as the principal fighter through which China will gain air supremacy.”

It has already gained China some international respect. The rapid development of the J-20 — from mock-up to low-rate production in less than a decade — has stunned aviation enthusiasts

F35B catches fire in midflight

The Marine Corps is investigating after an F-35B Joint Strike Fighter based out of Beaufort, South Carolina, recently caught fire in mid-air, has learned.

The incident happened Oct. 27 at Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, a fleet replacement squadron for the Marine Corps consisting of 20 F-35B aircraft. One of the aircraft experienced a fire in the weapons bay while conducting a training mission over Beaufort, 1st Lt. John Roberts, a spokesman for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, told

"The aircraft landed safely and there were no injuries sustained," he said. "An investigation is ongoing and we will provide updates as they are available."

No estimate of damage caused by the fire was available. The incident was listed by the Naval Safety Center as a Class A mishap, meaning damage totalled $2 million or more on the $100 million aircraft.

Trump has a two pager on his plans for his first 100 days

Trump had published a contract with America on his first 100 days. Newt Gingrich is one of his advisors so various methods used will be similar to what Gingrich did in the 1990s.

This is information that is useful for understanding the near future of US politics and the potential world impact. This is just a matter of looking at statements of planned actions to determine what is likely to happen. Trying for neutral forecasting of what is uncertain.

In the 1994 campaign season, in an effort to offer an alternative to Democratic policies and to unite distant wings of the Republican Party, Gingrich and several other Republicans came up with a Contract with America, which laid out ten policies that Republicans promised to bring to a vote on the House floor during the first hundred days of the new Congress, if they won the election. The contract was signed by Gingrich and other Republican candidates for the House of Representatives. The contract ranged from issues such as welfare reform, term limits, tougher crime laws, and a balanced budget law, to more specialized legislation such as restrictions on American military participation in United Nations missions.

Trump also stated a plan for get corporations to bring back about $400 billion in profit made overseas. They will provide a deemed repatriation of corporate profits held offshore at a one-time tax rate of 10%. This is opposed to current state and federal taxes of 40%

UK report is very worried about the Russian Armata tank but US experts doubts they will be built in huge numbers

A senior UK Army intelligence officer, states: “Without hyperbole, [Russian] Armata represents the most revolutionary step change in tank design in the last half century.”

It adds: “Unsurprisingly, the tank has caused a sensation,” and it goes on to question the failure of current defence strategy to plan for a new tank that can compete.

US analysts note that many of the Armata’s advanced survivability features are drawn from the Israeli Merkava series. Nonetheless, the Russian seem to have advanced the state-of-the-art in terms of reactive armor and active protection. Indeed, if the Russian Afghanit active protection system works as advertised, the Armata could prove to be a serious problem for the West if it were ever produced in numbers. However, most Western analysts—government and private sector—are dubious about Russian claims that their APS can defeat kinetic energy rounds.

However, even if the Armata was as dangerous as the British report claims, Russia is not likely to be able to afford the expensive new machine in the huge quantities. Using the British reports own numbers—120 Armata tanks produced per year—CNA Corporation research scientist Mike Kofman, a prominent Russian military affairs expert in Washington, noted it would take nearly 21 years to replace Russia’s 2500 operational tanks with T-14s. That’s if the Kremlin has the financial wherewithal to buy that many Armata tanks—which is somewhat dubious.

Kofman noted that the Russians simply do not have the money to afford a huge fleet of T-14 tanks nor has the Armata family completed development

UK report is very worried about Armata

The tank is pioneering, according to the document, because of a revolutionary turret design that makes crew less vulnerable under fire.

The tank is also reckoned to be lighter, faster and lower in profile than Western rivals.

The document also suggests the tank will be kitted out with a radar system currently used on state-of-the-art Russian fighter jets and new composite armour. It has a “reported higher muzzle velocity” gun and the possibility of an upgraded missile system.

“As a complete package, Armata certainly deserves its billing as the most revolutionary tank in a generation,” concludes the intelligence briefing paper.

China's belt and road is integrating countries in Asia, Africa and Europe into China's financial, industrial and infrastructure model into one global value chain

The ultimate purpose of the Belt and Road Initiative is deep economic integration through the development of global value chains. Importantly, the initiative is supposed to abide by market rules. Either geopolitical considerations were never taken into account or everything in the Vision and Actions document was carefully checked and revised to make it read like a business plan.

even in the milder forms of expanding Chinese soft power. Issued in March 2015 with the clunky title “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road,” the paper offers a vision of greater economic integration between mutually complementary economies. Such integration is meant to promote the “orderly and free flow of economic factors, highly efficient allocation of resources and deep integration of markets.”

Global Value Chains

Patterns of international specialization and division of labor are particularly relevant in the age of global value chains. Today, very few products are manufactured in a single country. A country’s manufacturing imports are more likely to be intermediate goods—that is, commodities, components, or semifinished products that a country uses to make its own products. These could be final products or new segments in a global network of producers and suppliers. Global value chains can become so complex that imports can also contain returned value added that originated in the importing country. In China, nearly 7 percent of the total value of imported intermediate goods reflects value added that originated in China. For electronic goods, Chinese intermediate imports contain over 12 percent of returned Chinese domestic value added.

The Belt and Road Initiative is the first example of “transnational” industrial policy. “Formerly, all industrial policy was national,” he said. He has a point, as even the European Union, when it created an ambitious transnational framework of rules and institutions, tended to abandon industrial policy on the grounds that such a policy could not be reproduced at a transnational level.

The image of the original Silk Road is particularly misleading in this context, as indicated by the inclusion of the small code words “belt” and “road” in the names of the project’s two components. The land element is called a belt to pinpoint that its ultimate goal is the creation of a densely integrated economic corridor rather than a transportation network linking two points. The maritime road is meant to adapt sea transportation to new patterns of global trade.

Ernst and Young had a 32 page document looking at how business can leverage the belt and road initiative.

Tesla Plans Gigafactory 2 in Europe next year and will boost factory automation and ramp up production for Model 3

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and CTO JB Straubel are in Germany today to announce the acquisition of a German engineering group, Grohmann Engineering. Following the announcement, they held a press conference during which Musk emphasised that Tesla is planning “significant investments” in Germany and the conversation quickly moved to Tesla not only investing in engineering in Europe, but also in production.

Musk confirmed that Tesla plans to choose a location for ‘Gigafactory 2’ in Europe next year and he added that the factory will combine both the production of batteries and complete cars.

Tesla has entered into an agreement to acquire Grohmann Engineering, a world-renowned engineering company in Prüm, Germany, which will become Tesla Grohmann Automation.

Led by founder and CEO Klaus Grohmann, Grohmann Engineering is one of the world leaders in highly automated methods of manufacturing. This transaction will bring Mr. Grohmann’s leadership, a world-class team and unique expertise in-house. Moreover, it will serve as the initial base for Tesla Advanced Automation Germany headquarters, with other locations to follow. We expect to add over 1,000 advanced engineering and skilled technician jobs in Germany over the next two years.

Under the continued leadership of Mr. Grohmann, several critical elements of Tesla’s automated manufacturing systems will be designed and produced in Prüm to help make our factories the most advanced in the world. Combined with our California and Michigan engineering facilities, as well as other locations to follow, we believe the result will yield exponential improvements in the speed and quality of production, while substantially reducing the capital expenditures required per vehicle.

To date, Tesla has increased the production rate at our Fremont Factory by 400% in four years.

Artificial Intelligence MogIA predicted the outcome of last four presidential elections including Trump win

In October, an artificial intelligence system that correctly predicted the last three U.S. presidential elections puts Republican nominee Donald Trump ahead of Democrat rival Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House. Now the system is four for four.

MogIA was developed by Sanjiv Rai, founder of Indian start-up It takes in 20 million data points from public platforms including Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in the U.S. and then analyzes the information to create predictions.

The AI system was created in 2004, so it has been getting smarter all the time. It had already correctly predicted the results of the Democratic and Republican Primaries.

MogIA is based on Mowgli, the child from Rudyard Kipling's novel "The Jungle Book." Rai said this is because his AI model learns from the environment.

"While most algorithms suffer from programmers/developer's biases, MoglA aims at learning from her environment, developing her own rules at the policy layer and develop expert systems without discarding any data," Rai said.

Nanopatterned silicon shields photonic devices which will increase density of circuits in photonic chips

University of Utah electrical and computer engineering associate professor Rajesh Menon and his team have developed a cloaking device for microscopic photonic integrated devices -- the building blocks of photonic computer chips that run on light instead of electrical current -- in an effort to make future chips smaller, faster and consume much less power.

The future of computers, data centers and mobile devices will involve photonic chips in which data is shuttled around and processed as light photons instead of electrons. The advantages of photonic chips over today's silicon-based chips are they will be much faster and consume less power and therefore give off less heat. And inside each chip are potentially billions of photonic devices, each with a specific function in much the same way that billions of transistors have different functions inside today's silicon chips. For example, one group of devices would perform calculations, another would perform certain processing, and so on.

The problem, however, is if two of these photonic devices are too close to each other, they will not work because the light leakage between them will cause "crosstalk" much like radio interference. If they are spaced far apart to solve this problem, you end up with a chip that is much too large.

So Menon and his team discovered you can put a special nanopatterned silicon-based barrier in between two of the photonic devices, which acts like a "cloak" and tricks one device from not seeing the other.

Nanophotonic cloaks for closely spaced waveguides.

Nature Communications - Increasing the density of passive photonic-integrated circuits via nanophotonic cloaking

Elon Musk and Obama voice support for basic income

Elon Musk again stated his position that robots taking human jobs would continue as technology develops.

"There is a pretty good chance we'll end up with a universal basic income (UBI), or something like that, due to automation," Musk said.

In an interview with, out-going president Barack Obama said in the next 20 years, jobs of all levels will be replaced by AI and there is a discussion to be had about UBI. "Now, whether a universal income is the right model, is it gonna be accepted by a broad base of people?" he said. "That’s a debate that we’ll be having over the next 10 or 20 years."

Nextbigfuture notes that Obama did nothing towards universal basic income for 7.5 years as a policy while President but only mentioned it just before leaving.

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