January 14, 2017

Spacex has successful launch and good landing of the first stage

Spacex has a successful return to flight. The mission was a success with successful deployment of all satellites and the first stage landed on the drone ship

Over the next 14 months, the company plans six additional Falcon 9 launches to deploy 60 more Iridium satellites that will completely replace the constellation.

In the short-term, the successful launch helps put SpaceX back on track. The explosion and subsequent four-month grounding created a backlog of launches, including cargo missions for NASA to the International Space Station. September’s explosion was SpaceX’s second failure in 15 months; a Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA cargo disintegrated in flight in June 2015

SpaceX hopes to launch its larger Falcon Heavy this spring. The Heavy, years behind schedule, would become the world’s most powerful rocket since NASA retired the Saturn 5 more than 40 years ago.

SpaceX also plans to refly one of its recovered boosters this spring. By reusing instead of throwing away rocket boosters, SpaceX hopes to significantly reduce the cost of launches.

SpaceX has described plans to offer satellite internet services with more than 4,000 satellites. The forecasts described by The Wall Street Journal, which were produced in early 2016, show how much the company is depending on this new business.

SpaceX projected that current rocket launching business would quintuple in revenue, to $5 billion, in 2025. Satellite internet services, still in the early planning stages, were projected to bring in more than $30 billion in revenue and generate the bulk of more than $20 billion in profit for the company.

Seeing the future of quantum systems allows for longer entanglement

Scientists at the University of Sydney have demonstrated the ability to "see" the future of quantum systems, and used that knowledge to preempt their demise, in a major achievement that could help bring the strange and powerful world of quantum technology closer to reality.

The applications of quantum-enabled technologies are compelling and already demonstrating significant impacts - especially in the realm of sensing and metrology. And the potential to build exceptionally powerful quantum computers using quantum bits, or qubits, is driving investment from the world's largest companies.

However a significant obstacle to building reliable quantum technologies has been the randomisation of quantum systems by their environments, or decoherence, which effectively destroys the useful quantum character.

The physicists have taken a technical quantum leap in addressing this, using techniques from big data to predict how quantum systems will change and then preventing the system's breakdown from occurring.

Trapped Ytterbium ions were used as one of the most advanced laboratory quantum systems for this study. Professor Biercuk's research laboratories are now located in the Sydney Nanoscience Hub, after six years as a visiting scientist at the National Measurement Institute. CREDIT University of Sydney.

IBM predicts 5 technologies for 2022 which includes hyperimaging and AI will give us superhero vision

IBM predicts five innovations for the next five years

In five years

AI for diagnosing mental health

Cognitive computers will analyze a patient’s speech or written words to look for tell-tale indicators found in language, including meaning, syntax and intonation. Combining the results of these measurements with those from wearables devices and imaging systems (MRIs and EEGs) can paint a more complete picture of the individual for health professionals to better identify, understand and treat the underlying disease, be it Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease, PTSD or even neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism and ADHD.

What were once invisible signs will become clear signals of patients’ likelihood of entering a certain mental state or how well their treatment plan is working, complementing regular clinical visits with daily assessments from the comfort of their homes.

Hyperimaging and AI will give us superhero vision

In five years, new imaging devices using hyperimaging technology and AI will help us see broadly beyond the domain of visible light by combining multiple bands of the electromagnetic spectrum to reveal valuable insights or potential dangers that would otherwise be unknown or hidden from view. Most importantly, these devices will be portable, affordable and accessible, so superhero vision can be part of our everyday experiences.

Today, more than 99.9 percent of the electromagnetic spectrum cannot be observed by the naked eye. Over the last 100 years, scientists have built instruments that can emit and sense energy at different wavelengths. Today, we rely on some of these to take medical images of our body, see the cavity inside our tooth, check our bags at the airport, or land a plane in fog. However, these instruments are incredibly specialized and expensive and only see across specific portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

In five years, a view of the invisible or vaguely visible physical phenomena all around us could help make road and traffic conditions clearer for drivers and self-driving cars. For example, using millimeter wave imaging, a camera and other sensors, hyperimaging technology could help a car see through fog or rain, detect hazardous and hard-to-see road conditions such as black ice, or tell us if there is some object up ahead and its distance and size. Cognitive computing technologies will reason about this data and recognize what might be a tipped over garbage can versus a deer crossing the road, or a pot hole that could result in a flat tire.

Crossbar ReRAM in Production chasing terabyte nonvolatile memories at sub-20 nanosecond read and write

Crossbar Inc. a developer of non-volatile resistive RAM (ReRAM) based on silver-over-amorphous-silicon technology, kept its promise to be in production in 2016.

The Crossbar ReRAM for embedded non-volatile memory applications is in production at partner foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) using a 40nm CMOS process and is sampling to SMIC customers, according to Sylvain Dubois, Crossbar’s vice president of strategic marketing and business development.

40nm ReRAM in production and 28nm CMOS will follow in the first half of 2017.

Crossbar is one of many companies racing to develop a non-volatile memory technology that could replace flash memory and scale to 28nm and beyond. ReRAM has looked a likely candidate after the failure of phase change memory to succeed in the market place. But there are numerous versions of ReRAM technology and in many cases a deep understanding of the physics behind switching and failure modes has been missing. Some have even indicated that Magnetic RAM could be the non-volatile memory to win out at the 28nm node

Crossbar ReRAM technology delivers 100x lower read latency and 20x faster write performance compared to NAND Flash and doesn’t have the Flash design constraint to build memory arrays in large blocks that can be independently but atomically erased. Crossbar’s ReRAM technology can be architected with small pages that can be independently erased or re-programmed. This new storage architecture simplifies drastically the complexity of the storage controller by removing a large portion of the background memory accesses required for garbage collection. With a Write Amplification equals to 1, the benefits to the users are visible in terms of read and write latencies, lower energy consumption and increased lifetime of the storage solutions.

With that breakthrough performance and reliability, very high capacity, low power consumption and tunability to multiple storage architectures, Crossbar will enable a new wave of electronics innovation for consumer electronics, enterprise storage, mobile computing, industrial/automotive/medical, connected devices and wearable device applications.

Two fab process parameters are critical to the device – the thickness of the switching layer film (TSL), and the critical dimension (CD) over which the switching phenomenon occurs. Both of these are easily controlled with current state-of-the-art manufacturing tools for lithography, PECVD film deposition, and metal etch tools in today’s 20 to 40 nm node fabs.

Crossbar’s ReRAM can use the same equipment set currently used in manufacturing the peripheral CMOS-based circuits and the memory element can be implemented at low temperatures. The thermal budget of the ReRAM implementation does not impact the CMOS. And depending on the type of memory, ReRAM layers can typically survive the thermal budget up to 16 stacks without showing significant changes to device performance. 3D ReRAM stacking is totally different from 3D NAND stacking and can be done very easily using backend integration.

Storage Class Memories like Crossbar's ReRAM have a chance of capturing this elusive NAND replacement $40+ billion prize.

ReRAM is already showing considerable advantages over flash memory, including read latencies of 20 nanoseconds and write latencies of 12 nanoseconds, which compare with millisecond latencies for flash memory, Dubois said. "We don't have block erase so a single byte can be rewritten," he added. As to endurance Dubois said Crossbar guarantees 100k read-write cycles. "For these applications 100k is the target although we are pushing for higher endurance," said Dubois.

Crossbar also claims the ability to do 3D stacking of its dense cross-point memory arrays, which together the ability to scale below 10nm and to store multiple bits per cell, would allow high capacity non-volatile terabyte memories on a single die.

Deepstack AI has beaten professional poker players in heads-up no-limit Texas hold’em

Artificial intelligence has seen a number of breakthroughs in recent years, with games often serving as significant milestones. A common feature of games with these successes is that they involve information symmetry among the players, where all players have identical information. This property of perfect information, though, is far more common in games than in real-world problems.

Poker is the quintessential game of imperfect information, and it has been a longstanding challenge problem in artificial intelligence. In this paper researchers introduce DeepStack, a new algorithm for imperfect information settings such as poker. It combines recursive reasoning to handle information asymmetry, decomposition to focus computation on the relevant decision, and a form of intuition about arbitrary poker situations that is automatically learned from selfplay games using deep learning. In a study involving dozens of participants and 44,000 hands of poker, DeepStack becomes the first computer program to beat professional poker players in heads-up no-limit Texas hold’em. Furthermore, they show this approach dramatically reduces worst-case exploitability compared to the abstraction paradigm that has been favored for over a decade

DeepStack was evaluated against 33 professional poker players from the International Federation of Poker. Each participant was asked to play a 3,000-game match over a month.

DeepStack takes a fundamentally different approach. It continues to use the recursive reasoning of CFR to handle information asymmetry. However, it does not compute and store a complete strategy prior to play and so has no need for explicit abstraction. Instead it considers each particular situation as it arises during play, but not in isolation. It avoids reasoning about the entire remainder of the game by substituting the computation beyond a certain depth with a fast approximate estimate. This estimate can be thought of as DeepStack’s intuition: a gut feeling of the value of holding any possible private cards in any possible poker situation. Finally, DeepStack’s intuition, much like human intuition, needs to be trained. They train it with deep learning using examples generated from random poker situations. We show that DeepStack is theoretically sound, produces substantially less exploitable strategies than abstraction-based techniques, and is the first program to beat professional poker players at HUNL with a remarkable average win rate of over 450 mbb/g.

A rival AI poker team of researcher from Carnegie Mellon University announced a $200,000 match between its system, Libratus, and four poker pros: Jason Les, Dong Kim, Daniel McAulay, and Jimmy Chou. Collectively, the four human pros will play 120,000 hands of heads-up no-limit Texas hold 'em over 20 days against Libratus.

At the end of day two, however, Libratus was up by $150,126. It was winning against three players and losing against one.

January 13, 2017

Peter Thiel on Trump, Seasteading and making futures more like the Jetsons or Star Trek

Peter Thiel has given strong support to Donald Trump.

One could have predicted Mr. Thiel’s affinity for Mr. Trump by reading his 2014 book, “Zero to One,” in which he offers three prongs of his philosophy:
1) It is better to risk boldness than triviality.
2) A bad plan is better than no plan.
3) Sales matter just as much as product.

How could a gay man back someone who will probably nominate Supreme Court justices inclined to limit rights for gays and women? How could a futurist support a cave man who champions fossil fuels, puts profits over environmental protection and insists that we can turn back the clock on the effects of globalization on American workers?

“There are reduced expectations for the younger generation, and this is the first time this has happened in American history,” Mr. Thiel says. “Even if there are aspects of Trump that are retro and that seem to be going back to the past, I think a lot of people want to go back to a past that was futuristic — ‘The Jetsons,’ ‘Star Trek.’ They’re dated but futuristic.”

It is a theme he has struck before, that Silicon Valley has not fulfilled the old dreams for bigger things. “Cellphones distract us from the fact that the subways are 100 years old,” he says.

So he doesn’t worry about Mr. Trump sending an intemperate tweet and spurring a war with North Korea?

“A Twitter war is not a real war,” Mr. Thiel says.

If the worst fears of annihilation seem plausible, Mr. Thiel can always invest more in his libertarian fantasy of a new society of Seasteads: islands at sea with their own rules, starting with a French Polynesian lagoon. “They’re not quite feasible from an engineering perspective,” he says. “That’s still very far in the future.

Thiel invested $1.7 million in The Seasteading Institute.

On January 13th, 2017, President Fritch came to San Francisco from Tahiti to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Seastead Institute to solidifying the agreement to collaborate on developing the first seastead in a lagoon in French Polynesia.

The pilot will consist of two or three floating platforms linked together and is projected to cost $30 million to $50 Million. Tey anticipate adding many more modules to the pilot in the following years, organically growing into a city, while also spreading the technology for seasteads across French Polynesia, the Pacific, and the world. When launched, our project will bring new technologies, new research, and new economic activity to French Polynesia.

Fat can be used to Help Wounds Heal Without Scars, skin regeneration and not scarring

Doctors have found a way to manipulate wounds to heal as regenerated skin rather than scar tissue. The method involves transforming the most common type of cells found in wounds into fat cells – something that was previously thought to be impossible in humans. Researchers began this work at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, which led to a large-scale, multi-year study in connection with the Plikus Laboratory for Developmental and Regenerative Biology at the University of California, Irvine. They published their findings online in the journal Science on Thursday, January 5th, 2017.

Fat cells called adipocytes are normally found in the skin, but they’re lost when wounds heal as scars. The most common cells found in healing wounds are myofibroblasts, which were thought to only form a scar. Scar tissue also does not have any hair follicles associated with it, which is another factor that gives it an abnormal appearance from the rest of the skin. Researchers used these characteristics as the basis for their work – changing the already present myofibroblasts into fat cells that do not cause scarring.

“Essentially, we can manipulate wound healing so that it leads to skin regeneration rather than scarring,” said George Cotsarelis, MD, the chair of the Department of Dermatology and the Milton Bixler Hartzell Professor of Dermatology at Penn, and the principal investigator of the project. “The secret is to regenerate hair follicles first. After that, the fat will regenerate in response to the signals from those follicles.”

Life, housing and business are following the high speed rail lines in China

In China’s three big population centres—the areas around Beijing in the north, Shanghai in the east and Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, in the south—life and work have started to follow the sinews of the high-speed rail system. Trains were previously too infrequent, too slow and too crowded to allow for daily commutes. Now, each of these three mega-cities is developing commuter corridors. Little wonder: house prices in satellite towns and cities tend to be much cheaper. In Kunshan, for example, homes cost about 70% less than in nearby Shanghai. But the bullet train between the two cities takes just 19 minutes and costs a mere 25 yuan ($3.60). And Kunshan is just one of many options for those seeking to escape Shanghai’s high costs. There are now about 75 million people living within an hour of Shanghai by high-speed rail.

Surveys show that more than half of passengers on the busiest lines are “generated traffic”—that is, people making trips that they would not have made before. This is unquestionably good for the economy. It means the trains are expanding the pool of labour and consumers around China’s most productive cities, while pushing investment and technology to poorer ones. Xu Xiangshang, a dapper businessman, oversees sales of apartments built next to high-speed railway stations in less well-off parts of Anhui. These are less than half an hour from Nanjing, a prosperous city of 8m that is the capital of Jiangsu province. “Bullet trains are becoming just like buses,” he says.

The overall bill is already high. China Railway Corporation, the state-owned operator of the train system, has debts of more than 4 trillion yuan, equal to about 6% of GDP.

Less than a decade ago China had yet to connect any of its cities by bullet train. Today, it has 20,000km (12,500 miles) of high-speed rail lines, more than the rest of the world combined. It is planning to lay another 15,000km by 2025. Just as astonishing is urban growth alongside the tracks. At regular intervals—almost wherever there are stations, even if seemingly in the middle of nowhere—thickets of newly built offices and residential blocks rise from the ground.

But the network expansion now under way is even bolder than Mr Liu had envisaged. China has a four-by-four grid at present: four big north-south and east-west lines. Its new plan is to construct an eight-by-eight grid by 2035. The ultimate goal is to have 45,000km of high-speed track. Zhao Jian of Beijing Jiaotong University, who has long criticised the high-speed push, reckons that only 5,000km of this will be in areas with enough people to justify the cost. “With each new line, the losses will get bigger,” he says.

$13 billion Ford Carrier is now scheduled for deliver in April 2017

: The long-delayed super-carrier USS Ford is “99 percent” complete and will be delivered to the Navy in April, the Navy announced late Wednesday. A date for commissioning the $13 billion ship into service has still not been yet.

The Ford is the first all-new carrier design in 40 years — since the USS Nimitz was commissioned in 1975 — and many of its new technologies turned out to be not quite ready for action, leading to schedule slips and cost overruns. But alongside the electromagnetic launch catapults and high-tech arrestor gear, the ship also suffered problems with its relatively mundane turbine generators. Now, however, the Navy says testing is 93 percent complete, work on the ship overall is 99 percent done, and the service has enough confidence to set a schedule again: shipbuilders’ trials in March, then Navy acceptance trials in April with delivery later that month — assuming the trials go okay.

Here’s the full statement from long-suffering Navy spokesperson Capt. Thurraya Kent, which we received at 5:20 pm Wednesday:

“GERALD R. FORD (CVN 78) is 99 percent overall complete with 93 percent of the test program complete (93 percent Hull, Mechanical & Electrical, 92 percent propulsion testing, and 93 percent electronics testing). Over the past few months, we have made significant progress resolving first-of-class issues associated with these critical systems and have resumed critical path testing in support of Builder’s Sea Trials. This progress enables us to forecast our sea trials and delivery schedule. Specifically, we have updated the ship’s schedule to reflect Builder’s Sea Trials in March 2017, Acceptance Trials in April 2017, and Delivery in April 2017, pending the results of sea trials.”

Trump edging closer to appointing supporters of antiaging treatments to lead FDA

President-elect Donald Trump met on Thursday with two Silicon Valley associates of billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel for potential roles in the Food and Drug Administration.

Trump will meet with entrepreneur Balaji Srinivasan and Jim O'Neill, a former Health and Human Services official under President George W. Bush, for roles in the Food and Drug Administration, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said.

Both have deep ties to the tech world, as well as to Thiel, a Trump adviser and transition team member.

Srinivasan, who founded a genomic testing company, works at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, an influential player in Silicon Valley. Thiel had previously donated to a bitcoin startup launched by Srinivasan, according to The Washington Post.

Srinivasan has criticized how the FDA is run, sending several tweets in March that posed the regulators as an obstacle to innovation.

O'Neill works at Mithril Capital Management, where Thiel is a co-founder. FDA watchdogs have been alarmed by O'Neill's past comments, which include questioning whether the FDA should judge drugs' efficacy and support for organ sales.

In December, Nextbigfuture covered Jim O’Neill

US Marines had guidance from professional science fiction writers to create projections and narratives for 15 to 30 years in the future

The US Marines have tried to project trends and scenarios 15 to 30 years into the future. They had guidance from professional science fiction writers.

They created a detailed baseline projection of a more urban world population and then had two alternate scenarios. Then they created narrative stories that considered conflicts within the baseline or alternate projections.

They projected demographics and then they projected technology.

The alternate scenarios are
* a world of water scarcity
* a world where China and India are near peers of the United States in economic and military power

Despite 276 combat performance problems the Pentagon is trying to rush the F-35 to initial operational testing

The US Office of Operational Testing and Evaluation released a 62 page report on the F-35 stealth fighter and still finds 276 deficiencies in combat performance.

Despite the problems a military program whose cost has soared from $233 billion to an estimated $379 billion has pilots and generals who will vouch for it. Recent estimates suggest the F-35 program could exceed $1 trillion over 50 years. The F35 is getting over $10 billion per year. Does money buy friends and support ?

The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program Office (JPO) acknowledged in 2016 that schedule pressure exists for completing System Development and Demonstration (SDD) and starting Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT and E) by August 2017, the planned date in JPO’s Integrated Master Schedule. In an effort to stay on schedule, JPO plans to reduce or truncate planned developmental testing (DT) in an effort to minimize delays and close out SDD as soon as possible. However, even with this risky, schedule-driven approach, multiple problems and delays make it clear that the program will not be able to start IOT and E with full combat capability until late CY18 or early CY19, at the soonest.

* weapons problems
* software problems

* heat and overheating problems
* Vertical oscillations during F-35C catapult launches were reported by pilots as excessive, violent, and therefore a safety concern during this critical phase of flight. The program is still investigating alternatives to address this deficiency, which makes a solution in time for IOT and E and Navy fielding unlikely
* Excessive and premature wear on the hook point of the arresting gear on the F-35A, occuring as soon as after only one use, has caused the program to consider developing a more robust redesign.
* The Services have designated 276 deficiencies in combat performance as “critical to correct” in Block 3F, but less than half of the critical deficiencies were addressed with attempted corrections in 3FR6. [aka they are only even attempting to try to fix half of the critical problems in this current round of fixes]
* Significant, well-documented deficiencies; for hundreds of these, the program has no plan to adequately fix and verify with flight test within SDD; although it is common for programs to have unresolved deficiencies after development, the program must assess and mitigate the cumulative effects of these remaining deficiencies on F-35 effectiveness and suitability prior to finalizing and fielding Block 3F
* Overall ineffective operational performance with multiple key Block 3F capabilities delivered to date

Available only about half the time

* Continued low aircraft availability and no indications of significant improvement

2.5 times more maintenance needed than the permitted amount

On the positive side, they believe they have fixed the ejections seat so that they are now pretty confident it will not kill or seriously injure lighter pilots who eject. Pretty confident but not enough to change the rule that prevents lighter pilots from flying the F35. Modifications to the pilot escape system (lighter helmet, delayed parachute deployment for lighter pilots) were needed after testing in CY15 showed that the risk of serious injury or death is greater for lighter-weight pilots. Because of the risk, the Services decided to restrict pilots weighing less than 136 pounds from flying the F-35. The Air Force may be able to reopen F-35 pilot training to lighter-weight pilots (i.e., below 136 pounds) in early 2018. DOT and E is not aware of the plans for the Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy to open F-35 pilot training to the lighter-weight pilots

January 12, 2017

Nanocomp Technologies makes bulk carbon nanotubes 100 times longer at 1-10 millimeters instead of 5 to 20 microns

A new commercial manufacturing process for carbon nanotubes (CNTs) produces tubes in the range of 1–10 mm in length (5–12-nm dia.), two orders of magnitude longer than currently available CNTs, which typically have lengths from 5–20µm.

“Despite attractive mechanical and electrical properties, CNTs have largely been a disappointment for ‘real-world’ applications, because it has not been possible to make them in formats that are useful for engineers,” explains Peter Antoinette, co-founder and president of Nanocomp Technologies Inc. (Merrimack, N.H.; www.nanocomptech.com), the developer of the process. Short CNTs do not readily form networks within other materials, unless used at very high concentrations.

The Nanocomp process revolves around a proprietary 1-m long heated reactor (photo) that contains a widely available iron catalyst and allows control of 23 separate process variables. Organic alcohols serve as the carbon source for CNTs. “By exerting tight control over the process conditions, we can manipulate the length and dimensions of the CNTs,” Antoinette says. The longer, polymer-like CNTs resulting from the process are commercially available as Miralon products, and they can be spun into “yarn” using equipment for textile fiber processing. Because of their length, the Nanocomp CNTs form bundles and networks that allow them to be more useful in macroscale materials, such as for lightweight structural materials.

Nanocomp Technologies has been covered many times at Nextbigfuture they have their Miralon sheet and tape products which are pure carbon nanotube (CNT) non-woven materials that can be used in a variety of applications to lightweight and enhance product or system performance. They are manufactured via chemical vapor deposition into the final product format, eliminating the need for binders or secondary processing steps. They are composed of bundled CNTs hundreds of microns thick and millimeters long. Miralon sheet and tape formats have successfully been used in aerospace, electrical, and structural applications.

Nanocomp CNTs can also be made into strong polymer-like sheets that can be used in firearm-protection armor. The U.S. Dept. of Defense recently awarded the company $18.5 million to supply soldier and law enforcement body armor. The sheets can also be used as area heaters, Antoinette says, because they emit infrared radiation when low-energy power is applied.

Nanocomp currently produces its CNTs at a scale of 2 tons/yr and plans to triple its manufacturing capacity in 2017. Eventually, capacity could reach 20 tons/yr, Antoinette says, adding that the rapid growth has been helped greatly by support for nanotechnology manufacturing from the state of New Hampshire.

Wearable biosensors can flag illness, Lyme disease, risk for diabetes; low airplane oxygen

A new wave of wearable sensors allows frequent and continuous measurements of body functions (physiology), including heart rate, skin temperature, blood oxygen levels, and physical activity. We investigated the ability of wearable sensors to follow physiological changes that occur over the course of a day, during illness and other activities. Data from these sensors revealed personalized differences in daily patterns of activities. Interestingly, we discovered striking changes in particular environments such as airline flights. Blood oxygen levels decreased during high-altitude flights, and this decrease was associated with fatigue. By combining sensor information with frequent medical measurements, we made two important health-related observations. First, wearable sensors were useful in identifying the onset of Lyme disease and inflammation. From this observation, we then developed a computational algorithm for personalized disease detection using such sensors. Second, we found that wearable sensors can reveal physiological differences between insulin-sensitive and insulin-resistant individuals, raising the possibility that these sensors could help detect risk for type 2 diabetes. Overall, these results indicate that the information provided by wearable sensors is physiologically meaningful and actionable. Wearable sensors are likely to play an important role in managing health.

They investigated the use of these devices to monitor human physiological changes during various activities and their role in managing health and diagnosing and analyzing disease. By recording over 250,000 daily measurements for up to 43 individuals, they found personalized circadian differences in physiological parameters, replicating previous physiological findings. Interestingly, we found striking changes in particular environments, such as airline flights (decreased peripheral capillary oxygen saturation [SpO2] and increased radiation exposure). These events are associated with physiological macro-phenotypes such as fatigue, providing a strong association between reduced pressure/oxygen and fatigue on high-altitude flights. Importantly, we combined biosensor information with frequent medical measurements and made two important observations: First, wearable devices were useful in identification of early signs of Lyme disease and inflammatory responses; we used this information to develop a personalized, activity-based normalization framework to identify abnormal physiological signals from longitudinal data for facile disease detection. Second, wearables distinguish physiological differences between insulin-sensitive and -resistant individuals. Overall, these results indicate that portable biosensors provide useful information for monitoring personal activities and physiology and are likely to play an important role in managing health and enabling affordable health care access to groups traditionally limited by socioeconomic class or remote geography.

Geneticist Michael Snyder was wearing seven biosensors collecting data about his health when he noticed changes in his heart rate and oxygen level during a flight. When he later developed a fever, he suspected he had been infected with Lyme disease. Subsequent tests confirmed his suspicion.
Steve Fisch

the team collected nearly 2 billion measurements from 60 people, including continuous data from each participant’s wearable biosensor devices and periodic data from laboratory tests of their blood chemistry, gene expression and other measures. Participants wore between one and seven commercially available activity monitors and other monitors that collected more than 250,000 measurements a day. The team collected data on weight; heart rate; oxygen in the blood; skin temperature; activity, including sleep, steps, walking, biking and running; calories expended; acceleration; and even exposure to gamma rays and X-rays.

“I was very impressed with all the data that was collected,” said Eric Topol, MD, professor of genomics at the Scripps Research Institute, who was not involved in the study. “There’s a lot here — a lot of sensors and a lot of different data on each person.”

The study demonstrated that, given a baseline range of values for each person, it is possible to monitor deviations from normal and associate those deviations with environmental conditions, illness or other factors that affect health. Distinctive patterns of deviation from normal seem to correlate with particular health problems. Algorithms designed to pick up on these patterns of change could potentially contribute to clinical diagnostics and research.

The work is an example of Stanford Medicine’s focus on precision health, whose goal is to anticipate and prevent disease in the healthy and to precisely diagnose and treat disease in the ill.

Overview of the project and summary of the devices.
(A) Wearable devices used in this study. The different colors for the human figures indicate the specific studies in which each individual participated (i.e., red participated in all five studies, grey in two studies [Physiology/Activity and Insulin Sensitivity], blue in three studies [Physiology/Activity, Insulin Sensitivity, and Inflammation], orange and yellow in two studies [Physiology/Activity and Airflights], and green and pink in one study [Inflammation] and purple in one study [Airflights]). (B) The period during which the devices were used. The number of data points available for Participant #1 and others is indicated to the right. (C) The specific parameters measured by the different devices. The devices used to measure these parameters were represented by the color of the lines (MOVES: magenta; Basis: dark blue; Scanadu Scout: light green; iHealth-finger: brown; Masimo: orange; RadTarge: red; Withings: dark green). Dashed line indicates devices used frequently for discrete measurements; solid lines indicate devices that provide continuous measurement.

Digital Health: Tracking Physiomes and Activity Using Wearable Biosensors Reveals Useful Health-Related Information

Vader father and son developing liquid metal 3d printing machine

A father and son team in the START-UP NY program have invented a liquid metal printing machine that could represent a significant transformation in manufacturing. A breakthrough idea five years ago by former University at Buffalo student Zack Vader, then 19, has created a machine that prints three-dimensional objects using liquid metal.

Vader Systems is innovating and building the machines in a factory in the CrossPoint Business Park in Getzville. Zack's father Scott, a mechanical engineer, is the CEO. Zack is the chief technology officer. His mother, Pat Roche, is controller.

The machine is so novel it represents a quantum leap in the ability to print three-dimensional objects in metal. Other metal printers exist, but most use a process of laying down powered metal and melting it with a laser or electron beam. In that process, some particles of the powder do not get melted, creating weakened spots.

Manufacturers are very interested in the Vader machine, with one automotive parts maker expressing an interest in eventually buying at least 50 of them. A printer with multiple nozzles could cost more than $1 million.

Two products printed with Vader Systems machine. Credit: Douglas Levere.

CVS has generic Epipen two pack for $110 instead of $650 for Epipen or $340 for the other generic, 80% cheaper

CVS Health today announced that a low-cost epinephrine auto-injector option, the authorized generic for Adrenaclick manufactured by Impax Laboratories (IPXL), is available at all CVS Pharmacy locations at a cash price of $109.99 for a two-pack. This compares to a cash price of $649.99 for EpiPen and $339.99 for the authorized generic for EpiPen.

"As a health care company focused on helping people on their path to better health, we recognized that there was an urgent need in the marketplace for a less expensive epinephrine auto-injector for patients with life-threatening allergies," said Helena Foulkes, President of CVS Pharmacy. Over the past year, nearly 150,000 people signed on to a petition asking for a lower cost epinephrine auto-injector option and millions more were active in social media searching for a solution.

January 11, 2017

AI, jobs and inequality

Google's Geoffrey Hinton Explains How Neural Networks Really Work and Deep Learning

Eric Schmit - Predictions For The Coming Decade

Eric talks about 7 big moonshots

1. Replacing beef with plants and synthetic food production

Cows have a lot of methane.
Synthetic food production

2. 3D printing and factory produced buildings.

It takes 18 months or longer to build a house. Better built buildings and make them 100% recyclable

3. Virtual reality and Augmented Reality is about to explode

First use is gaming. Narrative and new technology and inexpensive delivery of 3D

Will happen very soon

4. Smartphones are perfect for Medical monitoring

Computer vision is better than human vision.
Radiologists that use computers are better. Computers need to do the vision for any medical diagnostic.

5. Self driving cars will save lives (1.3 million people globally)

6. Everyone learns differently. Need computers to watch how students learn. Then predict the best learning model for students. Teacher augmentation tools show a lot of promise. Can do personalized education at scale.

7. We could speed up finding new materials with AI.

AI could be hugely impactful on jobs but we can compare to past innovations and dot.com era

Andrew Ng, chief scientist at Chinese Internet search giant Baidu and co-inventor of the Google Brain, believes there are other, more immediate risks concerning AI that aren’t getting enough attention. “I think that the conversation is distracting governments and society from the real ethical issues facing AI,” Ng tells TIME. “And we shouldn’t whitewash these issues by talking about things that could be hundreds of years away.”

* Andrew Ng (Baidu AI) thinks AI will have big impact on jobs
* Ng thinks 2017 will be year of the conversational computer
* Economist Hanson and other studies from McKinsey suggest the impact on jobs could be a lot less
* Attempts are made to compare the impact of AI to prior innovations (electricity, internet, combustion engine)
* If AI were going to displace 47% of jobs by 2035 then it needs to impact about ten times more than all driving jobs
* there should be a study and building stream of really huge successes and huge companies
* it seems like it would need to be ten times more than the dot.com boom

The Google Brain is the search giant’s research arm working on machine learning, natural language understanding, and other technologies that power many of Google’s products. Ng now oversees Baidu’s growing Silicon Valley AI research lab.

Between smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and the proliferation of chatbots on platforms like Facebook Messenger, tech companies are increasingly working to make computers better able to hold natural conversations with users. “I think 2017 will be the year of the conversational computer,” Ng said. “We’re seeing very strong data that this is coming.”

Ng believes that the key to unlocking a voice-controlled computing future is creating a software platform that will run across devices, similar to how Android powers lots of different gadgets today. “It won’t be one hardware device, it will be multiple hardware devices in multiple form factors.” Baidu has its own voice-friendly software called DuerOS which can answer questions and connect with third-party services in China.

Ng believes there are three areas that we should be worried about today: AI’s impact on human workers, information sharing among AI researchers, and honesty in AI software.

“Job displacement is so huge I’m tempted to not talk about anything other than that,” said Ng. “But I believe in honesty in AI.”

Ng shared an example: If a ride-sharing startup or food takeout service is using artificial intelligence to make predictions about delivery and arrival times, that AI tool should provide the most accurate estimate possible.

Openness is also critical, Ng believes. Artificial intelligence researchers often publish findings in academic papers to foster growth in the field. But hiding technical details in such reports “goes against the spirit of openness,” according to Ng. “If you want to publish data, you should do it to share knowledge,” he said. “You don’t have to share everything, but if you don’t want to share something there are different ways to talk other than [through] the academic publishing system.”

But the long-term impacts of AI will reach far beyond just the technology industry. IBM’s Watson platform is already changing the way doctors diagnose disease, for instance.

“We’re making this analogy that AI is the new electricity,” Ng said. “Electricity transformed industries: agriculture, transportation, communication, manufacturing. I think we are now in that phase where AI technology has advanced to the point where we see a clear path for it to transform multiple industries.” Specifically, Ng sees AI being particularly influential in entertainment, retail, and logistics.

Economist Robin Hanson considers the potential of Deep learning and the last Artificial Intellience to have an overwhelming impact on the world economy. He considers the 2013 prediction that about 47 percent of total US employment is at risk .. to computerisation .. perhaps over the next decade or two.

If AI could induce a change that big then they would be creating a value that is a substantial fraction of the world economy, and so consume a similar fraction of world income. It would in a short time become vastly larger than it is today. We should see an awe-inspiring rate of success within that activity. The application of these new methods should be enabling huge new revenue streams, across a very wide range of possible application areas. Stock values would spike far more than we have seen.

In 2011, McKinsey estimated that the Internet accounted for 21 percent of the GDP growth in mature economies over the past 5 years (2005-2010).

While large enterprises and national economies have reaped major benefits from this technological revolution, individual consumers and small, upstart entrepreneurs have been some of the greatest beneficiaries from the Internet’s empowering influence. If Internet were a sector, it would have a greater weight in GDP than agriculture or utilities.

And yet we are still in the early stages of the transformations the Internet will unleash and the opportunities it will foster. Many more technological innovations and enabling capabilities such as payments platforms are likely to emerge, while the ability to connect many more people and things and engage them more deeply will continue to expand exponentially.

In 2015, HBR looked at the internets economic impact

The technologies of the past had massive new job creation effects that swamped displacement effects. The Internet on the other hand has massive displacement effects that are overwhelming the job creation effects. In the past, new technological achievements created new industries that not only absorbed the displaced workers but generated opportunities for many more. The result was a vibrant middle class.

Consider the integrated circuit, which first appeared on the market in 1961. At that time, the worldwide electronics market was $29 billion. Today it is on the order of $1.5 trillion. The integrated circuit made existing products better. For example, vacuum tube mainframe computers were replaced by computers based on integrated circuits. The new machines were less expensive, far faster, more reliable, substantially smaller, and much more energy efficient. As a result the mainframe computer business expanded rapidly. IBM’s revenue increased from less than $2 billion in 1960 to over $26 billion in 1980. The integrated circuit also spawned new industries and applications that never existed before — cellular communications, PCs, tablets, and the Internet of Things.

The story of the internal combustion engine is even more dramatic. Not only did it create the automotive industry, but Henry Ford shocked the industrial world when he doubled the pay of assembly line workers to $5 a day. Ford reasoned that a higher-paid workforce would be able to buy more cars and thus would grow his business. Others followed suit. Ford’s action helped to create the middle class.

The Internet has made shopping more efficient and created more competition that has driven down consumer prices. But it has had little or no effect on per capita sales. Monthly retail sales adjusted for both inflation and population growth are below where they were prior to the 2008 recession — $165 versus $168 billion — and have increased by less than 10% in the last 15 years or about 0.6% per year. Meanwhile, employment in the retail and wholesale trade has dropped from about 21.2 million in 2000 to 19.9 million in 2010.

The reason Google, Facebook, and Twitter can pay them such large salaries is that the Internet companies are so efficient they can generate high revenues with few employees.

In 2013, Google had around 50,000 employees and generated revenues of around $55 billion in sales, or about $1.0 million per employee. The numbers are similar for Facebook. Amazon was running at a $74 billion revenue rate and had around 110,000 employees, or a little over $670,000 in sales per employee.

US Aircraft carrier has more launcher problems and another 7 month and $500 million delay for the F35 stealth fighter

1. The US Navy is having difficulties with its latest aircraft carrier's Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS) – the same system which the UK mooted fitting to its new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers.

The US Department of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOTE) revealed yesterday, in its end-of-year report [PDF] for financial year 2016, that the EMALS fitted to the new nuclear-powered carrier USS Gerald R. Ford put "excessive airframe stress" on aircraft being launched.

This stress "will preclude the Navy from conducting normal operations of the F/A-18A-F and EA-18G from CVN 78", according to DOTES, which said the problem had first been noticed in 2014.

The new Ford carrier is already 2 years behind schedule

2. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program has been delayed again and will cost at least $500 million more, according to correspondence between the Pentagon and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) revealed Tuesday afternoon that the Defense Department had confirmed the seven-month delay in the F-35’s system development and demonstration phase, or SDD. McCain has long been a harsh critic of the F-35 program for its delays and accompanying cost overruns, and President-elect Donald Trump has more recently took aim at Lockheed Martin’s development of the fifth-generation stealth fighter jets for its “out of control” costs.

The F-35 program’s budget has nearly doubled to $400 billion since Lockheed Martin first unveiled it 15 years ago, making it the Pentagon’s most costly acquisitions program.

Senator John McCain demanded that the contractor “reveal its plans” to drive down costs to members of Congress.

World economic forecasts are for US to double growth to about 3.6% per year and China to gradually slow from 6.7 to 6.1%

President-elect Donald Trump's policies have the potential to trigger a new age in U.S. economic growth that could serve as a global template, according to a Deutsche Bank forecast.

Gross domestic product growth would be double its current level under an agenda that cuts regulations across a broad swath of critical sectors, enacts tax reform that slashes personal and corporate taxes, and calls for at least $1 trillion in improvements for bridges, roads and other public projects.

"This policy mix has the potential of reigniting productivity growth and raising U.S. growth potential," David Folkerts-Landau, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, said in a report for clients. "While Trump introduces higher uncertainty, this is better than the near certainty of the continuation of a mediocre status quo."

The impact may not be felt immediately, but once the new agenda kicks in it will serve as a "game changer for the U.S. economy," Folkerts-Landau added.

In raw numbers, that would push 2017 growth to 2.4 percent and 2018 up to 3.6 percent. By way of comparison, the economy has grown an average of about 1.6 percent a year under President Barack Obama, the worst recovery since the Great Depression. Obama is the first president since Herbert Hoover not to see at least 3 percent growth for a calendar year.

U.S. growth will bleed into the world economy, according to Deutsche, which pushed its 2017 global GDP forecast from 3 percent to 3.4 percent.

One of the broad keys for the Trump economy will be a shift from one that relies on aggressive monetary policy — zero interest rates, trillions in Fed money-printing — to fiscal policies focused on more broad-based growth that will stretch from Wall Street to Main Street.

There are downside risks. The most notable is that Trump simply disappoints in terms of how well his plans are enacted. Others are escalation of geopolitical risks, instability in China, trade wars, the Fed having to hike interest rates too quickly and a crisis in emerging markets

Last year was another year of stagnant global trade, subdued investment and heightened policy uncertainty. The World Bank expects a “moderate recovery” with receding obstacles to activity, especially for commodity exporters in 2017. The report also cited "solid domestic demand" in the economies of commodity importers like India. World trade volumes are seen rising 3.6% this year, followed by 4.0% in 2018, and crude oil prices are expected to average $55 per barrel.

According to the World Bank, a 1% increase in U.S. GDP next year translates into an additional 0.6% growth rate for emerging markets. Brazil, for example, will be lucky to grow 0.5% next year at current estimates. A better U.S., therefore, is better for Brazil.

The expectation of fiscal stimulus in the U.S. is the main driver behind the World Bank's growth forecast for 2017, though continually weak investment and productivity growth outside of the U.S. will weigh on medium-term prospects for poorer countries.

The World Bank has published its Global Economic Prospects report (276 pages)

The U.S. forecasts do not incorporate the effect of policy proposals by the new U.S. administration. The expectation is a 1.5% boost in GDP growth per year.

China, the world's second largest economy, today revised the size of its economy in 2015 to 68.91 trillion yuan (9.96 trillion US dollars), up 354.6 billion yuan from its preliminary figure.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said economic growth for 2015 was unchanged at 6.9 per cent but the size of China's economy in 2015 has been revised to 68.91 trillion yuan (9.96 trillion U.S. dollars), up 354.6 billion yuan from its preliminary figure.

China’s gross domestic product is estimated to have expanded around 6.7 percent in 2016 and is projected to grow 6.5% in 2017

China's GDP is expected to grow by 6.1% in 2018

India is projected to grow at about 7 - 7.5% each year

Pakistan is projected to grow at 5 to 5.5% each year

If the forecasts hold true then US contribution to world growth would be nearly as much as China's.

On a purchasing power parity GDP basis, the United State and China combine to represent about 33% of the world economy.
The world is about $120 trillion in PPP GDP in 2016. China is $21 trillion in PPP GDP and the USA is $18.5 trillion.

Dental pulp stem cells can be stimulated to restore teeth and reduce the use of fillings

A new method of stimulating the renewal of living stem cells in tooth pulp using an Alzheimer’s drug has been discovered by a team of researchers at King’s College London.

Following trauma or an infection, the inner, soft pulp of a tooth can become exposed and infected. In order to protect the tooth from infection, a thin band of dentine is naturally produced and this seals the tooth pulp, but it is insufficient to effectively repair large cavities. Currently dentists use man-made cements or fillings, such as calcium and silicon-based products, to treat these larger cavities and fill holes in teeth. This cement remains in the tooth and fails to disintegrate, meaning that the normal mineral level of the tooth is never completely restored.

However, in a paper published today in Scientific Reports, scientists from the Dental Institute at King’s College London have proven a way to stimulate the stem cells contained in the pulp of the tooth and generate new dentine – the mineralised material that protects the tooth - in large cavities, potentially reducing the need for fillings or cements.

Injury and direct tooth capping

Scientific Reports- Promotion of natural tooth repair by small molecule GSK3 antagonists

Pluto ice blades that are about as tall as the Freedom Tower

Formed by erosion, the features, known as “penitentes,” are bowl-shaped depressions with blade-like spires around the edge that rise several hundreds of feet.

The research, led by John Moores of York University, Toronto, and done in collaboration with scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, indicates that these icy features may also exist on other planets where environmental conditions are similar.

The identification of these ridges in Pluto’s informally named Tartarus Dorsa area suggests that the presence of an atmosphere is necessary for the formation of penitentes – which Moores says would explain why they have not previously been seen on other airless icy satellites or dwarf planets. “But exotic differences in the environment give rise to features with very different scales,” he adds. “This test of our terrestrial models for penitentes suggests that we may find these features elsewhere in the solar system, and in other solar systems, where the conditions are right."

The research team, which also includes York’s Christina Smith, Anthony Toigo of APL and Scott Guzewich of Goddard Space Flight Center, compared its model to ridges on Pluto imaged by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft in 2015. Pluto’s ridges are much larger – more than 1,600 feet (about 500 meters) tall and separated by two to three miles (about three to five kilometers) – than their Earthly counterparts.

Nature - Penitentes as the origin of the bladed terrain of Tartarus Dorsa on Pluto

US Intelligence looks out to 2035 at shifting national power and economic stress for overall global growth, China and impact on jobs from AI and robots

The US National Intelligence Council has their projections, predictions and scenarios for the world over the next 20 years. every four years the National Intelligence Council (NIC) undertakes a major assessment of the forces and choices shaping the world before us over the next two decades. This year it is called Global Trends: The Paradox of Progress.

Two years ago, NIC started with exercises identifying key assumptions and uncertainties—the list of assumptions underlying US foreign policy was stunningly long, many of them half-buried. We conducted research and consulted with numerous experts in and outside the US Government to identify and test trends. NIC tested early themes and arguments on a blog. We visited more than 35 countries and one territory, soliciting ideas and feedback from over 2,500 people around the world from all walks of life. NIC developed multiple scenarios to imagine how key uncertainties might result in alternative futures.

The core argument the NIC sees over the next 20 years is about how the changing nature of power is increasing stress both within countries and between countries, and bearing on vexing transnational issues. The main section lays out the key trends, explores their implications, and offers up three scenarios to help readers imagine how different choices and developments could play out in very different ways over the next several decades. Two annexes lay out more detail. The first lays out five-year forecasts for each region of the world. The second provides more context on the key global trends in train.

NIC sees the potential end not just of America’s status as the world’s sole superpower and a shift from an open international economy, U.S. military alliances in Asia and Europe, and liberal rules and institutions.

Continued instability and significant political, economic, social, and environmental adjustments will mark the next five years worldwide.

Fragmentation of regions and states is possible—even likely—if multiple centers of geopolitical power emerge.

Economic stress. The most significant global economic uncertainty of the next five years will be China’s growth: how successfully Beijing maintains economic growth and foreign investment, and how effectively—even whether—it manages an overdue transition from an export- and investment-driven economy to one based on consumer-led growth. China’s economy expanded from 2 percent of global GDP in 1995 to 14 percent in 2015, and it has been the greatest source of global growth for several years; a sharp economic deceleration in China would undermine growth elsewhere and slow worldwide progress on poverty reduction. During such a slump, many governments would face increasing public pressure for reforms that promote employment and inclusive growth, changes that might threaten their control and ability to provide benefits to political supporters.

Political stress. Few governments are poised to make such political and economic reforms, and many states simply lack the capacity to address the challenges they face. In the Middle East and North Africa, such shortcomings will combine with societal and geopolitical forces to produce—or prolong—turmoil and violence. In the developed West, public disillusion will find expression in populist or reformist voices that seek to address wealth and power imbalances. In East and South Asia and Latin America, dissatisfaction with corruption, crime, and environmental, health, and urban stresses will continue to stoke activism and demands for government response.

Societal stress. Societal confrontation and polarization—often rooted in religion, traditional culture, or opposition to homogenizing globalization—will become more prominent in a world of ever-improving communications. The new technologies are also likely to continue fueling political polarization and increasing the influence of extreme or fringe groups by improving their presence and reach. Militant extremist and terrorist groups will continue to have a transnational presence, still fragmented but sharing ideas and resources with organizations in Africa, the Arab world, and South and Southeast Asia. The spread of existing or emergent infectious diseases will remain a risk for all nations and regions, but particularly for governments that lack the capacity to prepare for such a crisis.

Geopolitical stress. Major-power competition and the risk of conflict will intensify in the next five years, reflecting a fraying of the current international system and the ambitions of China and Russia for greater status and influence. States and nonstate actors alike will wield new and nontraditional forms of power, such as cyber capability and social networks, to shape outcomes and create disruption. The emergence of multiple, rival power centers is possible in the next five years if regional aggression and flouting of international norms go unchecked.

Environmental stress. Scientists report that 2016 was the hottest year recorded since the instrumental record began in 1880, and 16 of the 17 hottest years have occurred since 2000. Although predicting temperature trends over short intervals is difficult because of internal climate variability, the baseline global temperature clearly will be higher over the next five years. This warming has implications for storms and rainfall, melting ice, rising sea level, and the general conditions under which people live. The impact of the change will be especially acute for the substantial share of the world population concentrated in climate-vulnerable areas, such as coastal cities and urban centers with strained water resources.  

DARPA wants to be able scale up agricultural crop modification within one year instead of 15 years

DARPA has a project to have insects spread genes to agricultural crops in one season

Overarching Goals and Objectives
1. Select, modify, and optimize a plant virus that can deliver a genetic construct to mature target plants and ultimately express novel and desirable traits
2. Select, culture, and optimize an insect vector of the engineered virus that can transport and deliver the modified virus to target plants with high specificity
3. Transform intact mature target crop plant species tissues to express novel traits that help crops thwart expected environmental or biological threats

By the end of the 4-year Insect Allies Program:
Stably transform multiple mature crop plants in a complex, multi-species plant and insect community with enhanced trait(s) of agricultural interest

DARPA expects big wins in 2017 from their biotech projects

DARPA's Biological Technologies Office (BTO) has a mission to “harness the power of biological systems” and design new defense technology. Over the past year, with a budget of about $296 million, it has been exploring challenges including memory improvement, human–machine symbiosis and speeding up disease detection and response.

DARPA has a 73 slide deck summarizing their projects

DARPA has a program called “Living Foundries”—like a foundry where DARPA would build something that’s alive. Traditionally they use chemistry to make new compounds or new drugs. Microbes like yeast and bacteria can also produce compounds, and we can program them to make those compounds by first understanding the chemical pathways they use. Take yeast. Yeast uses sugar for a variety of pathways to produce alcohols. If you reprogram those pathways, however, you could potentially have yeast build a variety of different compounds that they weren’t initially designed to make and we would still use the same feedstocks—like sugar. They have already produced close to 100 new compounds already using these new pathways in yeast and plan to produce 1000 compounds.

Another program is Outpacing Infectious Disease. The current approach is whenever a new pathogen hits our shores then everybody scrambles. DARPA wants to get ahead of any pathogen that may hit our shores and be as ambitious as they can to take pandemics off the table. They have pioneered new work in DNA and RNA approaches to immunization. Specifically, they are thinking about nucleic acid approaches to immunization. The idea is that you can tell your cells that produce antibodies what the right code is for producing the antibodies that would be effective against a pathogen. So you would get a shot, but that shot would have a code in it to tell your cells how to respond to that pathogen—and what that would lead to is a near-instantaneous immunity against that pathogen and an ability to really fight against it.

This DNA- and RNA-based approaches to fight infectious disease could have sone big announcements in 2017. They are already getting some really good results in mouse models indicating that the nucleic acid approaches are working well. They are doing some safety work in humans. They are building new programs for this end-to-end platform.

DARPA has already built a robotic arm that is controlled by neural activity. DARPA will be working on a wide variety of devices that can be controlled via neural activity, not just the assisted kind but also a kind able-bodied individuals could ultimately use in their everyday lives. Another thing we aspire to do in 2017 is think about neural technology in everyday life.

January 10, 2017

Hybrid Fusion Fission Molten Salt Reactor

A single HMSR (Hybrid Fusion Fission Molten Salt Reactor) is designed to produce 5 GW thermal power at 700 C, thermal conversion systems should be able to generate 2.1 GW gross electricity. For comparison, the largest PWR's now under construction will convert the same thermal power to 1.6 GW of electricity, i.e., 500 MW less. One could consider using a portion of the extra 500 MW of electrical power resulting from the greater thermal conversion efficiency to operate the HMSR's driven DT fusion source of energetic neutrons.

Because simulations showed that less than 1% of the MSR power is adequate for the HMSR, no more than 50 MW of average DT fusion power is needed for a 5 GWth HMSR if all fusion neutrons are absorbed in the molten salt.

A hybrid molten salt reactor includes a source of energetic neutrons, the energetic neutrons having a typical energy per neutron of 14 MeV or greater, a critical molten salt reactor, and a molten salt comprising a dissolved mixture of fissile actinides and fertile actinides. The molten salt circulates in a loop through the reactor vessel and around the source of energetic neutrons. The fissile actinides and fertile actinides sustain an exothermic nuclear reaction in which the actinides are irradiated by the energetic neutrons, the energetic neutrons inducing subcritical nuclear fission, and undergo critical nuclear fission when circulating through the critical molten salt reactor. A portion of the daughter neutrons generated by nuclear reactions are captured by the fertile actinides in the molten salt and induce transmutation of the fertile actinides into fissile actinides and sustain critical fission chain reactions in the molten salt reactor.

The proposed Fission-Fusion Hybrid Molten Salt Reactor (FFHMSR), combining two subsystems, a deuterium + tritium (DT) fusion reactor surrounded by a neutron-absorbing Fusion Blanket (FB) and a critical Molten Salt fission Reactor (MSR). The molten salt, which contains dissolved actinides, circulates at a high rate between them.

As envisioned the MSR exhibits the large Conversion Ratio of graphite moderated reactors having small fissile and large fertile inventories. DT fusion neutrons irradiating actinides in the molten salt release additional neutrons which increase isotope conversion and fission. Actinide fuel is continually added while fission products are continually removed so the system's operation never requires refueling interruptions. The choice of molten salt as a eutectic mixture of the fluorides of lithium, sodium, and actinide fuel is explained by eliminating other options.

Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs) form a class of novel nuclear fission reactors which in the past have been operated experimentally. The MSR class of designs has been adopted internationally as one of the Generation IV reactor design families to be developed for possible future use, and there is substantial technical research interest in MSR's within the international nuclear engineering community.

Ever since fission breeder design difficulties, costs and constraints were recognized in the 1950s, there have been efforts to find alternative approaches to harvesting fission energy from the more abundant non-fissile but fissionable actinides.

Two pathways for using fissionable actinide isotopes
1. Provide an external source of sufficiently energetic neutrons to induce the fissions without any chain reaction.
2. Transmute the fissionable isotopes into fissile isotopes.

Unlike accelerator driven systems, net energetics need not be an issue in a FFH since fusion releases its own nuclear energy. Proposed FFH schemes can be classified according to whether their fusion fuel feeds are DD or DT. If the proposed fusion system uses a feedstock of deuterium only, then half of its resulting DD fusion reactions would produce 2.45 MeV neutrons. These do not carry enough energy for pathway one but are adequate for pathway two. The other half of the DD reactions would produce 1.01 MeV tritons which, if confined in the plasma, would
fuse with deuterons to yield 14.1 MeV neutrons adequate for pathway one. In this scheme the fusion system is self-supporting since it only exports neutrons and is fueled by natural deuterium. However, the neutron yield is weak compared with the DT case.

If instead the fusion uses a 50/50 DT feedstock of deuterium and tritium, then almost all neutrons produced will be 14.1 MeV neutrons adequate for pathway one.

Ralph Moir has been instrumental in the development of FFH design concepts.

The HMSR can completely consume all supplied actinides using uranium, SNF or thorium fuels, an the steady fission to energetic neutron power ratio is sufficiently large for the neutron source to be less than 1% of total plant power.

Billionaire backed Breakthrough Initiative funds new coronograph on European Very Large Telescope to get scope time to find and study exoplanets around Alpha Centauri

ESO has signed an agreement with the Breakthrough Initiatives to adapt the Very Large Telescope instrumentation in Chile to conduct a search for planets in the nearby star system Alpha Centauri. Such planets could be the targets for an eventual launch of miniature space probes by the Breakthrough Starshot initiative.

ESO, represented by the Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, has signed an agreement with the Breakthrough Initiatives, represented by Pete Worden, Chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and Executive Director of the Breakthrough Initiatives. The agreement provides funds for the VISIR (VLT Imager and Spectrometer for mid-Infrared) instrument, mounted at ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) to be modified in order to greatly enhance its ability to search for potentially habitable planets around Alpha Centauri, the closest stellar system to the Earth. The agreement also provides for telescope time to allow a careful search programme to be conducted in 2019.

The discovery in 2016 of a planet, Proxima b, around Proxima Centauri, the third and faintest star of the Alpha Centauri system, adds even further impetus to this search.

Knowing where the nearest exoplanets are is of paramount interest for Breakthrough Starshot, the research and engineering programme launched in April 2016, which aims to demonstrate proof of concept for ultra-fast light-driven “nanocraft”, laying the foundation for the first launch to Alpha Centauri within a generation.

Detecting a habitable planet is an enormous challenge due to the brightness of the planetary system’s host star, which tends to overwhelm the relatively dim planets. One way to make this easier is to observe in the mid-infrared wavelength range, where the thermal glow from an orbiting planet greatly reduces the brightness gap between it and its host star. But even in the mid-infrared, the star remains millions of times brighter than the planets to be detected, which calls for a dedicated technique to reduce the blinding stellar light.

The existing mid-infrared instrument VISIR on the VLT will provide such performance if it were enhanced to greatly improve the image quality using adaptive optics, and adapted to employ a technique called coronagraphy to reduce the stellar light and thereby reveal the possible signal of potential terrestrial planets. Breakthrough Initiatives will pay for a large fraction of the necessary technologies and development costs for such an experiment, and ESO will provide the required observing capabilities and time.

The Very Large Telescope (VLT) is a telescope facility operated by the European Southern Observatory on Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The VLT consists of four individual telescopes, each with a primary mirror 8.2 m across, which are generally used separately but can be used together to achieve very high angular resolution. The four separate optical telescopes are known as Antu, Kueyen, Melipal and Yepun, which are all words for astronomical objects in the Mapuche language. The telescopes form an array which is complemented by four movable Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs) of 1.8 m aperture.

The VLT operates at visible and infrared wavelengths. Each individual telescope can detect objects roughly four billion times fainter than can be detected with the naked eye, and when all the telescopes are combined, the facility can achieve an angular resolution of about 0.001 arc-second. This is equivalent to roughly 2 meters resolution at the distance of the Moon. In single telescope mode of operation angular resolution is about 0.05 arc-second

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has announced an agreement with the billionaire-backed Breakthrough Initiatives program to fund an upgrade to the Very Large Telescope (VLT) facility in Chile. In return, the telescope will train its sharper eyes on the recently discovered Proxima b, a rocky exoplanet of our nearest star system that may serve as a potential target for future probes.

Detecting dim planets next to bright stars has been likened to finding a firefly next to a lighthouse, so astronomers have to resort to all sorts of convoluted tricks. The VLT’s specialty is seeing in the dark.

The VISIR (VLT Imager and Spectrometer for mid-Infrared) instrument collects a kind of radiation given off by heat, invisible to the naked eye. Just as infrared goggles allow soldiers to see warm objects at night, VISIR lets the VLT see hot stars and warm planets against the coldness of space.

Looking at star systems in the infrared spectrum “greatly reduces the brightness gap” between planets and stars, but planets are still quite a bit cooler than their hosts, which remain millions of times brighter. As it stands now, despite being able to theoretically detect car headlights as far away as the moon, the VLT is not quite up to the challenge. Breakthrough thinks the answer is a new pair of sunglasses.

This technology, more properly called coronagraphy, is the practice of physically blocking out the lighthouse so the fireflies will stand out. Traditionally applied to the sun to aid observation of the corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere, astronomers have only recently started to apply the technique to attempt direct photography of exoplanets.

Under the terms of the agreement, Breakthrough Initiatives will pay for most of the upgrades, including adaptive optics to counter distortions of light passing through Earth’s atmosphere, and the ESO will provide telescope time to observe Alpha Centauri. The University of Liège (Belgium) and Uppsala University (Sweden) will work together to develop a new coronagraph.

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