March 04, 2017

Claimed solid metallic hydrogen sample was lost

The claimed solid metallic hydrogen sample has been lost on February 11. It was being stored at temperatures around 80 Kelvin (-193 degrees Celsius and -316 degrees Fahrenheit), and at incredibly high pressures between two diamonds in a type of vice.

Further testing caused the diamonds to break and the vice to fail, and the researchers haven't been able to find a trace of the metallic hydrogen since.

That doesn't necessarily mean it's been destroyed - the sample was only around 1.5 micrometres thick, and 10 micrometres in diameter - a fifth the diameter of a strand of human hair - so it's possible it's stable somewhere and missing.

But it's also a possibility that, once the pressure of the diamond vice broke, the hydrogen dissipated back into a gas, which suggests that the material isn't stable at room pressure.

The team was preparing to pack up the sample and move it to the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago for further testing.

Silvera and his Harvard team claimed to create solid metallic hydrogen October last year, using two synthetic diamonds as a type of vice to squeeze the sample.

As the pressure increased, the researchers actually saw with their own eyes as the sample turned from transparent, to dark, and then to shiny and metallic.

It was a huge deal, not just as a proof-of-concept, but because metallic hydrogen is predicted to have some pretty crazy and useful properties - like being a superconductor, capable of carrying current without resistance.

Hottest areas in Artificial Intelligence

IDC sees widespread adoption of cognitive systems and artificial intelligence (AI) across a broad range of industries will drive worldwide revenues from nearly $8.0 billion in 2016 to more than $47 billion in 2020. According to a new Worldwide Semiannual Cognitive/Artificial Intelligence Systems Spending Guide from International Data Corporation (IDC), the market for cognitive/AI solutions will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 55.1% over the 2016-2020 forecast period.

"Near-term opportunities for cognitive systems are in industries such as banking, securities and investments, and manufacturing," said Jessica Goepfert, program director, Customer Insights and Analysis at IDC. "In these segments, we find a wealth of unstructured data, a desire to harness insights from this information, and an openness to innovative technologies. Furthermore, the value proposition of cognitive systems aligns well with industry executives' chief priorities. For instance, cognitive technologies are being used in the banking industry to detect and combat fraud – consistently a top industry pain point. Meanwhile, in manufacturing, executives cite improving product quality as a top initiative. In this case, cognitive systems recognize and know how to respond to dynamic fluctuations in product specs by adapting the production to stay within quality targets."

The industries that will invest the most in cognitive/AI systems in 2016 are banking and retail, followed by healthcare and discrete manufacturing. Combined, these four industries will generate more than half of all worldwide cognitive/AI revenues in 2016, with banking and retail each delivering nearly $1.5 billion. Healthcare and discrete manufacturing will deliver the greatest revenue growth over the 2016-2020 forecast period, with CAGRs of 69.3% and 61.4%, respectively. Education and process manufacturing will also experience significant growth over the forecast period.

Nearly half of all cognitive/AI revenue throughout the forecast will go to software, which includes both cognitive applications (i.e., text and rich media analytics, tagging, searching, machine learning, categorization, clustering, hypothesis generation, question answering, visualization, filtering, alerting, and navigation) and cognitive software platforms, which facilitate the development of intelligent, advisory, and cognitively enabled solutions. As both the largest and fastest-growing category, cognitive applications spending is forecast to reach $18.2 billion in 2020. Cognitive/AI-related services (business services and IT consulting) represent the second largest revenue category while hardware revenues (primarily from dedicated purchases of servers and storage) will grow nearly as fast as software with five-year CAGRs of more than 60%.

Hottest AI technologies:

1. Natural Language Generation: Producing text from computer data. Currently used in customer service, report generation, and summarizing business intelligence insights. Sample vendors: Attivio, Automated Insights, Cambridge Semantics, Digital Reasoning, Lucidworks, Narrative Science, SAS, Yseop.

2. Speech Recognition: Transcribe and transform human speech into format useful for computer applications. Currently used in interactive voice response systems and mobile applications. Sample vendors: NICE, Nuance Communications, OpenText, Verint Systems.

3. Virtual Agents: “The current darling of the media,” says Forrester (like Amazon Alexa), from simple chatbots to advanced systems that can network with humans. Currently used in customer service and support and as a smart home manager. Sample vendors: Amazon, Apple, Artificial Solutions, Assist AI, Creative Virtual, Google, IBM, IPsoft, Microsoft, Satisfi.

4. Machine Learning Platforms: Providing algorithms, APIs, development and training toolkits, data, as well as computing power to design, train, and deploy models into applications, processes, and other machines. Currently used in a wide range of enterprise applications, mostly `involving prediction or classification. Sample vendors: Amazon, Fractal Analytics, Google,, Microsoft, SAS, Skytree.

5. AI-optimized Hardware: Graphics processing units (GPU) and appliances specifically designed and architected to efficiently run AI-oriented computational jobs. Currently primarily making a difference in deep learning applications. Sample vendors: Alluviate, Cray, Google, IBM, Intel, Nvidia.

6. Decision Management: Engines that insert rules and logic into AI systems and used for initial setup/training and ongoing maintenance and tuning.

7. Deep Learning Platforms: Currently primarily used in pattern recognition and classification applications supported by very large data sets. Sample vendors: Deep Instinct, Ersatz Labs, Fluid AI, MathWorks, Peltarion, Saffron Technology, Sentient Technologies.

Deep Instinct is the first to apply deep learning to cybersecurity. They claim superior zero day attack production for endpoints and mobile devices.

Mumbai-based Fluid AI was founded in 2008, by two brothers Abhinav Aggarwal and Raghav Aggarwal, with a belief that the power of artificial intelligence can be used across industries, sectors and use cases. They have about a staff of 50 now. Fluid AI offers machine learning driven decision making for various business operations, and on the other it is creating virtual customer assistance for firms with a physical presence.

AI Driven Operational Decision Making

“The AI technology uses genetically evolving neural networks to create over 100,000 iterative models from the data sources given to us by the clients. It studies the data pattern which arises from the model evolves accordingly and improves feedbacks whenever the market conditions change.” says Abhinav.

The company offers a Plug and Play artificial intelligence system, which can be installed in any system. It connects to hundreds of data sources within and outside the server and gives the suggestions based on the previously collected data.

8. Biometrics

9. Robotic Process Automation: Using scripts and other methods to automate human action to support efficient business processes. Currently used where it’s too expensive or inefficient for humans to execute a task or a process. Sample vendors: Advanced Systems Concepts, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, UiPath, WorkFusion.

10. Text Analytics and NLP:

Plans for a new US super tank with an electrothermal chemical gun

The Army cancelled a future Ground Combat Vehicle but, some of the innovations, technologies and weapons systems may get into a new tank design. Design specs, engineering, weapons and other innovations envisioned for the GCV are now being analyzed for the new tank. In particular, the new tank may use an emerging 30mm cannon weapon planned for the GCV – the ATK-built XM813. XM813 is computer-controlled and electronically driven weapon can fire up to 200 rounds per minute, uses a dual-recoil firing system and a semi-closed bolt firing mode. The new tank will emerge after the Army first fields its M1A2 SEP v4 upgraded Abrams tank in the 2020s

The Army’s MCS program developed and test-fired a super lightweight 120mm cannon, called the XM360, able to fire existing and emerging next-generation tank rounds. The lightweight weapon being developed for the MCS was two-tons, roughly one-half the weight of the existing Abrams 120mm cannon. The XM360 used electrothermal chemical technology.

Electrothermal-chemical (ETC) technology is an attempt to increase accuracy and muzzle energy of future tank, artillery, and close-in weapon system guns by improving the predictability and rate of expansion of propellants inside the barrel.

Several countries have already determined that ETC technology is viable for the future and have funded indigenous projects considerably. These include the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom, amongst others. The United States' XM360 (cancelled in 2009) was reportedly based on the XM291 and may include ETC technology, or portions of ETC technology. Tests of this gun have been performed using "precision ignition" technology, which may refer to ETC ignition.

The XM-291 is the best existing example of a working electrothermal-chemical gun. It was an alternate technology to the heavier caliber 140 mm gun by using the dual-caliber approach. It uses a breech that is large enough to accept 140 mm ammunition and be mounted with both a 120 mm barrel and a 135 mm or 140 mm barrel. The XM-291 also mounts a larger gun tube and a larger ignition chamber than the existing M256 L/44 main gun.

Through the application of electrothermal-chemical technology the XM-291 has been able to achieve muzzle energy outputs that equate that to a low-level 140 mm gun, while achieving muzzle velocities greater than those of the larger 140 mm gun. Although the XM-291 does not mean that ETC technology is viable it does offer an example that it is possible.

ETC requires much less energy input from outside sources, like a battery, than a railgun or a coilgun would. Tests have shown that energy output by the propellant is higher than energy input from outside sources on ETC guns. In comparison, a railgun currently cannot achieve a higher muzzle velocity than the amount of energy input. Even at 50% efficiency a rail gun launching a projectile with a kinetic energy of 20 MJ would require an energy input into the rails of 40 MJ, and 50% efficiency has not yet been achieved. To put this into perspective, a rail gun launching at 9 MJ of energy would need roughly 32 MJ worth of energy from capacitors. Current advances in energy storage allow for energy densities as high as 2.5 MJ/dm³, which means that a battery delivering 32 MJ of energy would require a volume of 12.8 dm³ per shot; this is not a viable volume for use in a modern main battle tank, especially one designed to be lighter than existing models. There has even been discussion about eliminating the necessity for an outside electrical source in ETC ignition by initiating the plasma cartridge through a small explosive force.

ETC technology is not only applicable to solid propellants. To increase muzzle velocity even further electrothermal-chemical ignition can work with liquid propellants, although this would require further research into plasma ignition.

Total global satellite plans could have around 20,000 satellites in low and mid earth orbits in the 2020s

Boeing’s plan to deploy a constellation of V-band satellites in non-geostationary orbit has prompted at least five companies, including SpaceX and OneWeb, to file me-too proposals with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC had given companies until March 1 to disclose whether they also had plans to use the same V-band that Boeing had applied for in November of last year.

The five companies — SpaceX, OneWeb, Telesat, O3b Networks and Theia Holdings — all told the FCC they have plans to field constellations of V-band satellites in non-geosynchronous orbits to provide communications services in the United States and elsewhere. So far the V-band spectrum of interest, which sits directly above Ka-band from about 37 GHz to the low 50 GHz range, has not been heavily employed for commercial communications services.

* Boeing has a proposed global network of 1,396 to 2,956 low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites for providing connectivity.
* SpaceX, for example, proposes a “VLEO,” or V-band low-Earth orbit (LEO) constellation of 7,518 satellites to follow the operator’s initially proposed 4,425 satellites that would function in Ka- and Ku-band.
* OneWeb told the FCC it wants to operate a “sub-constellation” of 720 LEO V-band satellites at 1,200 kilometers, and another constellation in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) of 1,280 satellites.
* Canada-based Telesat describes its V-band LEO constellation as one that “will follow closely the design of the Ka-band LEO Constellation,” also using 117 satellites (not counting spares) as a second-generation overlay.
* a 2015 proposal from Samsung outlined a 4600-satellite constellation orbiting at 1,400 kilometers (900 mi) that could bring 200 gigabytes per month of internet data to "each of the world's 5 billion people"

Oneweb received a $1.2 billion funding led by the Softbank Group.

In early 2018 Oneweb will launch an initial 10 production satellites, which, pending a detailed test regimen, will become the first of our fleet. Six months later they will begin their full launch campaign and start providing low latency broadband access as early as 2019. Oneweb will soon provide more details of our roadmap, which includes greater than 100x capacity growth from their first generation system, including Gigabit per second speeds, lower latencies, and affordable self-installed terminals. These new capabilities will support both their 2022 goal of connecting every unconnected school and our 2027 goal of bridging the digital divide. At the same time, boundless low latency broadband access will be available for homes, connected cars, trains, planes and cellular backhaul applications

March 03, 2017

China will raise defense budget by about 7% in 2017 with official number announced on Sunday

China will raise its defense budget by about 7 percent this year, a government spokeswoman said Saturday, continuing a trend of lowered growth amid a slowing economy.

Total defense spending would account for about 1.3 percent of projected gross domestic project in 2017, said Fu Ying, spokeswoman for the legislature. She was speaking at a news conference on the eve of the opening of the body's annual session.

The precise figure will be provided by Premier Li Keqiang in his address to the National People's Congress on Sunday morning.

Fu reiterated China's contention that its military was purely for defense and constituted a force for stability in Asia.

Depending on the final figure, this year's budget could mark the third consecutive year of declines in defense spending growth rates. The budget grew by 7.6 percent last year and 10.1 percent in 2015.

The increase of about 67 billion yuan ($9.7 billion) would push the total defense budget past the 1 trillion yuan ($145 billion) mark for the first time. The percentage increases do not track in U.S. dollar figures because of variations in the exchange rate.

China's defense budget has for years been the world's second largest, although still lagging far behind the U.S.

Fu also said the percentage of GDP China spends on defense is below the 2 percent the U.S. calls on NATO allies to spend.

"The gap in capabilities with the U.S. is enormous, but China's military development and construction will continue in keeping with our need to defend our national sovereignty and security," Fu said.

Joe Flanigan tried to buy the Stargate franchise

I always liked the television Stargate SG1 and Stargate Atlantis. I missed this information from 2014.

Joe Flanigan (who played John Sheppard on the Stargate Atlantis show) had investors and they tried to lease rights to the Stargate Franchise.

There was an verbal agreement on terms but it could not be concluded because of the bankruptcy of MGM.

It would have been 20 episodes filmed in Europe with rights pre-sold. They would then come back to the American Networks.

Star Trek Axanar update and Chasing the Infinite Sky Trek fan film

Alec Peters discusses how they intend to tell the most story for the two 15 minute segments that are permitted in the lawsuit settlement.

He thinks it will be two 15 minute episodes in the documentary format. The second one focusing on the battle itself and perhaps the end of the first one.

There will be long effect highlight reels in the DVD and Blue ray.
They may release the full story in graphic novel format.

He praised the effects work in the Chasing the infinite Sky - Star Trek fan film.

Chasing the infinite Sky is a fan made conceptual SHORT piece simply to express love for the franchise.

This quick story takes place in an alternate timeline and is meant to highlight Star Fleet's passion for space exploration. Captain Benjamin Storm and crew have been given a remarkable assignment: to take the Albatross on its first long distance interstellar road trip. Utilizing it's newly refitted experimental quantum leap warp drive, this mission will push the ship along the edge and beyond the outskirts of the universe.

Video of Jeff Bezos describing his space plans

Blue Origin’s New Shepard Team is the winner of Aviation Week’s 60th Annual Space Laureate. New Shepard is only the first step in fulfilling Blue Origin owner Jeff Bezos’ vision of using ever larger reusable rockets to send an entire economy into Earth orbit and beyond. Following the Laureate Award presentations held at Washington’s National Building Museum on March 2, Bezos talked to Aviation Week and Space Technology Editor-in-Chief Joe Anselmo and the audience at the awards dinner about the importance of expanding into the solar system.

* we need to expand into the solar system. The choice is between stasis on earth or expansion and dynamism in space
* Cost of space is too high so that thousands of companies can get into space and do interesting things, this will unleash creativity and experimentation that we see on the internet
* Reusability is the key
* space is much better place for heavy industry

Bezos’s plan to set up Amazon-like delivery for ‘future human settlement’ of the moon

Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin have been circulating a seven-page white paper to NASA leadership and President Trump's transition team about their interest in developing a lunar spacecraft with a lander that would touch down near a crater at the south pole where there is water and nearly continuous sunlight for solar energy. The memo urges the space agency to back an Amazon-like shipment service for the moon that would deliver gear for experiments, cargo and habitats by mid-2020, helping to enable “future human settlement” of the moon.

“It is time for America to return to the Moon — this time to stay,” Bezos said in response to emailed questions from The Post. “A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this.”

Blue Origin’s proposal, dated Jan. 4, doesn’t involve flying humans, but rather is focused on a series of cargo missions. Those could deliver the equipment necessary to help establish a human colony on the moon — unlike the Apollo missions, in which the astronauts left “flags and footprints” and then came home.

The United Launch Alliance, the joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, has also been working on plans to create a transportation network to the area around the moon, known as cislunar space.

The Blue Moon spacecraft could carry as much as 10,000 pounds of material and fly atop several different rockets, including NASA’s Space Launch System, the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V or its own New Glenn rocket, which is under development and expected to fly by the end of the decade, the company said.

“Once on the surface, the lander’s useful payload can be used to conduct science or deploy rovers,” the company said. “A robotic arm attached to the lander will deploy to examine the lunar surface with an array of instruments.”

The initial landing “is envisioned as the first in a series of increasingly capable missions,” including flying samples of lunar ice back to Earth for study.

According to the Blue Origin website, the BE-4 rocket engine will meet the 2019 deadline, mandated by Congress, to eliminate dependence on Russian-built engines.

Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine has been designed to power its New Glenn orbital rocket (named in honor of John Glenn): the first stage will use a total of seven BE-4 engines, while the second stage only requires one. The BE-4 can also launch United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan semi-reusable rocket. Based on the results of a crucial upcoming BE-4 engine test, ULA will decide whether it’s going to stick with the BE-4, or go with Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-1 engine (also made possible thanks to additive manufacturing, incidentally). At the same time, Blue Origin is also continuing the suborbital test flight program for its New Shepard reusable spaceship, which is powered by the hydrogen-fueled BE-3 engine. The first iteration was recently retired, and the company is getting the New Shepard 2.0 ready for its first trip to outer space at its West Texas launch test facility.

The Blue Engine 4 is a staged-combustion rocket engine under development by Blue Origin. The BE-4 is being developed with private funding, the engine is "being developed without any government assistance". The engine has been designed to produce 2,400 kilonewtons (550,000 lbf) of thrust.

The engine is to be used on the Blue Origin large orbital launch vehicle New Glenn, a 7.0-meter (23 ft)-diameter two-stage orbital launch vehicle with an optional third stage and a reusable first stage. The first flight and orbital test is planned for no earlier than 2020.

Bigelow Aerospace offers plan for an expandable space station orbiting the moon by 2020

Bigelow Aerospace founder Robert Bigelow‘s company makes in-space habitats. One (the BEAM adds 16 cubic meters of living area to the ISS) is now attached to the International Space Station and he and his company are developing permanent, stand-alone habitats to serve as private space stations in orbit around the Earth, ready to house private astronauts.

Bigelow has talked with United Launch Alliance Chief Executive Tory Bruno about using the company's Atlas V 552 rocket, which has an extra-wide payload fairing, to deliver the B330 into orbit.

United Launch Alliance is developing an advanced upper-stage vehicle, ACES, to provide in-space propulsion.

Two ACES in tandem could be used to move the B330 into a low lunar orbit. They orbit within 75 kilometers of the lunar surface

Bigelow has spoken SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell about using the company's Dragon 2 spacecraft to transport astronauts to the B330 in deep space.

By 2020, NASA and commercial astronauts could be living and working in lunar orbit inside a functional space station.

Robert Bigelow @RobertTBigelow

What if the @SpaceX V2 and/or the @LockheedMartin Orion were engaged as the transportation vehicles to and from the lunar depot?

The only accommodating launch vehicle and fairing for this large B330 spacecraft is the @ulalaunch Atlas 552, stretched fairing

Robert Bigelow‏ @RobertTBigelow Feb 28

The B330 is designed to be a standalone space station capable of operating in LEO or beyond.

MIT makes new form of matter which is a crystalline Supersolid and superfluid at the same time

MIT physicists have created a new form of matter, a supersolid, which combines the properties of solids with those of superfluids.

By using lasers to manipulate a superfluid gas known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, the team was able to coax the condensate into a quantum phase of matter that has a rigid structure — like a solid — and can flow without viscosity — a key characteristic of a superfluid. Studies into this apparently contradictory phase of matter could yield deeper insights into superfluids and superconductors, which are important for improvements in technologies such as superconducting magnets and sensors, as well as efficient energy transport.

Equipment used to make the new supersolid-superfluid

Nature - A stripe phase with supersolid properties in spin–orbit-coupled Bose–Einstein condensates

Military Industrial complex pushing for more than 3% increase proposed by Trump

President Trump's budget proposal had $603 billion for defense but House Armed Services chairman Mac Thornberry and Senate Armed Services chairman John McCain are pushing for $640 billion.

The increase money would be to fund:
  • upgrading Army and Marine ground forces, especially giving combat vehicles in Europe Active Protection Systems to stop Russian anti-tank missiles ($15.1 billion);
  • strengthening the Navy both with new ships, including an additional aircraft carrier, and with better maintenance for the ships it already has ($13.7 billion)
  • rebuilding Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps fighter fleets by overhauling some aging aircraft and replacing others with new F-35s and Super Hornets ($10.9 billion);
  • modernizing capabilities for space, missile defense, and nuclear deterrence ($2.4 billion); and
  • improving medical care for wounded troops in the “Golden Hour” after injury ($1.1 billion).

Neither the Thornberry-McCain $640 billion nor Trump’s $603 billion includes Overseas Contingency Operations funds, which are exempt from sequestration. Originally an emergency measure to fund post-9/11 wars, OCO has increasingly become a catch-all to evade the BCA.

4 Megawatt modular micro nuclear reactor is in Canadian pre-license review and targets 2025 for demo reactor

The U-Battery consortium, led by Urenco, has registered its micro-modular reactor technology for pre-licensing vendor design review with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

U-Battery is a 'micro' nuclear reactor which will be able to produce local power and heat for a range of energy needs, mainly targeting the markets for industrial power units and off-grid locations. Powered by Triso fuel, each helium gas-cooled unit produces 10 MWt, can deliver up to 4MWe as electricity and can provide 750 degrees Celsius of process heat. Triso fuel comprises spherical particles of uranium fuel with a triple carbon-coating which effectively gives each tiny particle its own primary containment system.

The concept design of U-Battery was developed by the Universities of Manchester, the Dalton Institute (UK) and the Technology University of Delft (Netherlands) after the project was initiated in 2008 by Urenco. It is being developed by a consortium of Amec Foster Wheeler, Cammell-Laird, Laing O'Rourke and Urenco.

The consortium aims to have a demonstration reactor operating by 2025, and estimates that by the 4th-of-a-kind unit, U-Battery's capital costs will be between £40 and £70 million ($49 and $86 million).

The core technical specifications of U-Battery are:
  • Twin unit - each unit has an output of 4MW electric, 10MW thermal.
  • Gas cooled – helium in primary circuit, nitrogen in secondary circuit (no water).
  • TRISO fuel – high integrity. In combination with low absolute power and absence of water eliminates need for multiple back-up safety systems.
  • Heat and power source – 710°C process heat.

TRISO fuel is constructed by triple coating spherical particles of uranium fuel. A uranium centre is coated in a layer of carbon, which in turn is coated in silicon carbide, with a further outer layer of carbon.

The structure and spherical shape of TRISO fuel means that it maintains its integrity under extreme conditions. Research has shown that even at temperatures of up to 1800°C (200°C hotter than assumed accident conditions) the majority of fission products remain inside the TRISO fuel particles, significantly enhancing safety.

TRISO fuel is based on proven technology. It was originally developed in the 1980s and is currently being manufactured in the USA.

Labor participation dropping in US and Sweden but rising in five of the G7 countries plus Spain

The recent evolution of the U.S. labor force participation rate—that is, the percentage of the population employed or looking for work—has been a controversial topic in macroeconomic discussions and policy debates. After peaking in early 2000, the rate has trended downward, with the bulk of the drop occurring after 2008. The controversy focuses on whether the trend is the result of weak economic conditions or long-run structural forces.

The Great Recession was a global phenomenon felt far beyond the U.S. economy. In this analysis, St Louis Fed reserve analysts compare the evolution of labor force participation in seven developed countries since the mid-1970s with that of the United States to shed light on what is and is not unique to the U.S. economy. The seven countries are Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, Japan, France, and Germany. International comparisons are not always straightforward because labor market variables and statistical methods vary across countries. They use adjusted Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data to facilitate comparison across countries. In our analysis, they focus on the population 16 to 64 years of age for Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States and 15 to 64 years of age for the other countries.

In the USA the rate increased then peaked in the late 1990s, and has fallen substantially since. With the exception of Sweden, the other countries’ rates have been steadily increasing. These trends are the result of sometimes opposing forces that reflect changes across countries in social preferences for work and the pursuit of higher education.

Participation by Age

With the exception of Japan and Canada, the labor force participation rates for young men and women have been declining in the past few decades. As discussed in the literature, one main reason for the swift decline is that young people across countries are delaying entry into the labor market to pursue higher education. In fact, OECD data show that the education enrollment rate for young people across the countries increased an average 6.3 percent from 1995 to 2012. In the United States, the bulk of the drop in labor force participation of the young is motivated by education; however, there has also been a mild increase in the number of young people not in the labor force and not pursuing an education or training. For the latter group, the most likely reason is decreasing demand for unskilled labor.

The trends prime-working-age population—those 25 to 54 years of age differ for women and men. With the exception of Sweden, the rates for women have rapidly increased and the dispersion of rates across countries has decreased. One plausible explanation for this finding is that the labor force participation of woman started increasing at different times across countries and countries with initially low participation rates have since caught up. More recently, though, in the United States and Sweden, the rates have remained fairly constant or even decreased somewhat. Until the mid-1990s, the United States had one of the highest labor force participation rates for woman in this age group; it now has one of the lowest.

In contrast, the labor force participation rates for prime-working-age men have been falling in all of the countries. For the United States, the rate fell particularly rapidly—almost 6 percentage points from 1975 to 2013—and has been among the lowest over that time. The rate is now 2.25 percentage points below that for Canada, the next-lowest rate. Given that prime-working-age men are the largest group in the labor force, this decline contributes substantially to the drop in the overall rate. The literature has signaled the process of job polarization as likely responsible for the declining labor force participation rates in many countries around the world. In addition, increased participation in social programs (e.g., disability insurance and food stamps), to which this group is particularly sensitive, may have contributed to the larger decline observed in the United States

Labor force participation rate trends for the population close to retirement age those 55 to 64 years of age vary over time and are common across most of the countries. In almost all of the countries, the rates for men display a U-shaped pattern, decreasing until the mid-1990s but then trending upward. The rates for women, on the other hand, have been increasing throughout. Much of the increase is explained by labor force participation at earlier ages and that once in the labor force, workers tend to remain in it.

Despite the similar long-run trends across countries in the labor force participation rates for the young, prime-working-age, and pre-retirement-age populations, the United States is the only country in the sample experiencing a decline in the aggregate rate in recent years. This finding is explained mostly by a larger-than-average drop in the labor force participation rate for prime-working-age men, a decrease in the rate for prime-working-age women, and a lower-than-average increase in the rate for those near retirement age. In addition, we also find that the share of people in the U.S. prime-working-age population has fallen somewhat, which also contributes to the drop in the overall labor force participation rate

2 megabytes encoded in DNA at density of 215 petabytes per gram but would cost $900 trillion to scale up to 215 petabytes

Researchers report that they’ve come up with a new way to encode digital data in DNA to create the highest-density large-scale data storage scheme ever invented. Capable of storing 215 petabytes (215 million gigabytes) in a single gram of DNA, the system could, in principle, store every bit of datum ever recorded by humans in a container about the size and weight of a couple of pickup trucks. But whether the technology takes off may depend on its cost.

DNA has many advantages for storing digital data. It’s ultracompact, and it can last hundreds of thousands of years if kept in a cool, dry place. And as long as human societies are reading and writing DNA, they will be able to decode it. “DNA won’t degrade over time like cassette tapes and CDs, and it won’t become obsolete,” says Yaniv Erlich, a computer scientist at Columbia University. And unlike other high-density approaches, such as manipulating individual atoms on a surface, new technologies can write and read large amounts of DNA at a time, allowing it to be scaled up.

Scientists have been storing digital data in DNA since 2012. That was when Harvard University geneticists George Church, Sri Kosuri, and colleagues encoded a 52,000-word book in thousands of snippets of DNA, using strands of DNA’s four-letter alphabet of A, G, T, and C to encode the 0s and 1s of the digitized file. Their particular encoding scheme was relatively inefficient, however, and could store only 1.28 petabytes per gram of DNA. Other approaches have done better. But none has been able to store more than half of what researchers think DNA can actually handle, about 1.8 bits of data per nucleotide of DNA. (The number isn’t 2 bits because of rare, but inevitable, DNA writing and reading errors.)

AC-130 combat laser tests might start by the end of this year with low kilowatt proof of concept

Air Force Special Operations Command plans to install and test combat lasers on AC-130 gunships within a year. General Atomics and other companies have been spending their own research and development (IRAD) money on the capability.

AFSOC hasn’t “decided where the laser would go.” The tests will help determine that, as well as which mix of weapons is most effective. His predecessor, Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, said the laser would probably go on the left side of the plane.

Why does AFSOC want a laser on the gunship? Heithold put it clearly: “The reason that I want it on an AC-130 is, right now, when an AC-130 starts firing kinetic weaponry, everybody knows you’re there. What I want on the airplane is to be able to silently disable something.”

The plan is to install a relatively low-kilowatt laser, do a “proof of concept and go from there,” Webb said, increasing power laser weapon after it’s proven accurate and effective in testing.

Last year it was expected that the first airborne tests are expected to take place by 2021. The new plan accelerates airborne tests by 3-4 years.

Much of the needed development involves engineering the size weight and power trades on an aircraft needed to accommodate an on-board laser weapon. Developing a mobile power-source small enough to integrate onto a fast-moving fighter jet remains a challenge for laser technology.

The Air Force plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.

Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on an aircraft, a directed energy weapons system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel

March 02, 2017

Lithium-Ion Battery Inventor Introduces New Technology for Improved Fast-Charging, Noncombustible Solid State Batteries

A team of engineers led by 94-year-old John Goodenough, professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, has developed the first all-solid-state battery cells that could lead to safer, faster-charging, longer-lasting rechargeable batteries for handheld mobile devices, electric cars and stationary energy storage.

Goodenough’s latest breakthrough, completed with Cockrell School senior research fellow Maria Helena Braga, is a low-cost all-solid-state battery that is noncombustible and has a long cycle life (battery life) with a high volumetric energy density and fast rates of charge and discharge. The engineers describe their new technology in a recent paper published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.

“Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted. We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today’s batteries,” Goodenough said.

Energy and Environmental Science - Alternative strategy for a safe rechargeable battery

Shaped femtosecond laser pulses might be able to improve muon catalyzed fusion for energy generation

Scientists at Rice University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Chile offered a glimpse into a possible new path toward controlled nuclear fusion.

Their report on quantum-controlled fusion puts forth the notion that rather than heating atoms to temperatures found inside the sun or smashing them in a collider, it might be possible to nudge them close enough to fuse by using shaped laser pulses: ultrashort, tuned bursts of coherent light.

Authors Peter Wolynes of Rice, Martin Gruebele of Illinois and Illinois alumnus Eduardo Berrios of Chile simulated reactions in two dimensions that, if extrapolated to three, might just produce energy efficiently from deuterium and tritium or other elements.

In 1999, the nobel prize was awarded for the use of femtosecond-long laser flashes to trigger chemical reactions. This was called femtochemistry.

Femtosecond laser chemistry has been around since the 1980s.

Femtosecond pulse shaping has been around for over ten years

Muon catalyzed fusion has been around since the 1950s.

Shaped vacuum ultraviolet laser pulses could be used to improve muon catalyzed fusion enough for energy generation.

The femtochemical technique is central to the new idea that nuclei can be pushed close enough to overcome the Coulomb barrier that forces atoms of like charge to repel each other. When that is accomplished, atoms can fuse and release heat through neutron scattering. When more energy is created than it takes to sustain the reaction, sustained fusion becomes viable.

Using shaped laser pulses — ultrashort, tuned bursts of coherent light — might make it possible to nudge atoms in a deuterium/tritium molecule close enough to fuse, according to a new study. Graphic courtesy of the Gruebele Group/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Full scale models have been made of the fifth generation Russian PAK DA long range stealth bomber

The first full-size model of Russia's future long-range bomber PAK DA, being developed for the Aerospace Force, has been created by the Tupolev company, a source in Russia's defense-industrial complex told TASS.

"Several scale mock-ups of the PAK DA bomber have been made of composite materials. Also, there is a full-size mock-up made of wood. All models are based on the flying wing concept," the source said.

The airframe will be made of radar-absorbent material. All weapons will be placed inside the fuselage.

"Also, PAK DA is to be equipped with the latest radioelectronic warfare equipment of domestic manufacture, unparalleled in terms of effectiveness," the source said.

Another source in the Russian defense industry said the first test sample of a future bomber will perform its first flight by 2025. The plane will have a subsonic speed.

The new fifth generation PAK DA bomber will be able to carry a 30-ton weapons payload including different variants of air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles as well as conventional and smart-guided bombs. Among other things, it will be capable of carrying the KH-32 cruise missile, Russia’s latest anti-ship missile currently under development and specifically designed to attack U.S. carrier strike groups.

Russia is also making about fifty of an updated Tu-160 bomber, the Tu-160M2 long-range supersonic strategic bomber.

The first prototype of the Tu-160M2 bomber might already be unveiled as early as 2018. Test flights are slated to be carried out in 2019 or 2020 with the first bombers to be handed over to the Russian Air Force by 2023-2025. Once operational, the new fifth generation aircraft will replace more obsolete Russian bomber models including the Tu-160, Tu-95MS, and Tu-22M3. Projected per unit costs are reportedly around $160 million.

The Tu-160M2will have limited stealth. It will presumably be armed with long-range standoff cruise missiles such as the Kh-101/Kh-102 (nuclear variant) air-launched cruise missile with an estimated range of 2,700 to 5,000 kilometers. The Tu-160M2 will likely carry the missiles internally on a rotary launcher.

Supercritical nuclear reactor designs from Russia

The supercritical water reactor (SCWR) is a concept Generation IV reactor, mostly designed as light water reactor (LWR) that operates at supercritical pressure (i.e. greater than 22.1 MPa). The term critical in this context refers to the critical point of water, and must not be confused with the concept of criticality of the nuclear reactor.

The water heated in the reactor core becomes a supercritical fluid above the critical temperature of 374 °C, transitioning from a fluid more resembling liquid water to a fluid more resembling saturated steam (which can be used in a steam turbine), without going through the distinct phase transition of boiling.

In contrast, the well-established pressurized water reactors (PWR) have a primary cooling loop of liquid water at a subcritical pressure, transporting heat from the reactor core to a secondary cooling loop, where the steam for driving the turbines is produced in a boiler (called the steam generator). Boiling water reactors (BWR) operate at even lower pressures, with the boiling process to generate the steam happening in the reactor core.

The supercritical steam generator is a proven technology (used in dozens to hundreds of commercial coal plants). The development of SCWR systems is considered a promising advancement for nuclear power plants because of its high thermal efficiency (~45 % vs. ~33 % for current LWRs) and simpler design. As of 2012 the concept was being investigated by 32 organizations in 13 countries

A supercritical nuclear plant could be cheaper than coal plants. In China these type of reactors could achieve costs that are up to half the cost of current reactors and have higher efficiency. They could be low cost enough to displace all future coal plant construction in China starting in 2025-2030. $900 per kilowatt is over three times cheaper than the estimated overnight cost of advanced nuclear reactors ($3100 per kilowatt) estimated by the US department of energy

  • This higher efficiency would lead to better fuel economy and a lighter fuel load, lessening residual (decay) heat.
  • SCWR is typically designed as a direct-cycle, whereby steam or hot supercritical water from the core is used directly in a steam turbine. This makes the design simple. As a BWR is simpler than a PWR, a SCWR is a lot simpler and more compact than a less-efficient BWR having the same electrical output. There are no steam separators, steam dryers, internal recirculation pumps, or recirculation flow inside the pressure vessel. The design is a once-through, direct-cycle, the simplest type of cycle possible. The stored thermal and radiologic energy in the smaller core and its (primary) cooling circuit would also be less than that of either a BWR's or a PWR's.
  • Water is liquid at room temperature, cheap, non-toxic and transparent, simplifying inspection and repair (compared to liquid metal cooled reactors).
  • A fast SCWR could be a breeder reactor, like the proposed Clean And Environmentally Safe Advanced Reactor, and could burn the long-lived actinide isotopes.
  • A heavy-water SCWR could breed fuel from thorium (4x more abundant than uranium), with increased proliferation resistance over plutonium breeders.

In 2014, Russian researchers looked at refining the previously developed concept of the 1700 MW(e) VVER-SKD reactor. They recommended a plan for top-priority supercritical reactor research, formulation of a technical mission and proceeding to the design of an experimental 30 MW reactor.

There was a 2016 review of Russia's supercritical water nuclear reactor designs.

Russia's first new VVER-1200 reactor is officially in commercial operation

Russia has announced the start of commercial operation of its first VVER-1200 reactor, unit 1 of the Novovoronezh II nuclear power plant.

Also known as Novovoronezh 6, the unit was connected to the network in early August last year, but Rosatom said this week that it had officially started commercial operation on 27 February. This followed approval to include power generated by the unit in the country's wholesale electricity market, the state nuclear corporation said.

Novovoronezh 6 is a VVER 1200/392M pressurised water reactor unit with a design net capacity of 1114 MWe. It is the first of two such units at Novovoronezh II - the lead project for the deployment of the AES-2006 design incorporating a Gidropress-designed PWR, an evolutionary development from the VVER-1000. Construction of Novovoronezh II units 1 and 2 - or Novovoronezh units 6 and 7 - began in June 2008 and July 2009, respectively. The original Novovoronezh site nearby already hosts three operating reactors and two that are being decommissioned.

By the time of entering commercial operation, the unit had produced 1.691 TWh of power.

Compared to "conventional" VVER-1000 AES-2006 units, the first Novovoronezh II reactor has a number of advantages, which significantly increases its economic performance and safety, Rosatom said. In this way, the reactor features a 20% increase in electrical capacity of 1200 MWe. In addition, the life of the main equipment - the reactor pressure vessel and the steam generators - has doubled, from 30 to 60 years. The high-level of automation and the introduction of new technological solutions, means the number of personnel involved in the reactor's operation has decreased, compared with a VVER-1000 unit, by 25-30%.

The unit fully complies with the International Atomic Energy Agency's post-Fukushima requirements, Rosatom said. The main feature of the technology is the use of additional passive safety systems that do not require the intervention of nuclear power plant personnel. The design includes passive heat removal from the reactor, hydrogen recombiners and a core melt trap, or core catcher.

The Russian abbreviation VVER stands for 'water-water energy reactor' (i.e. water-cooled water-moderated energy reactor). The design is a type of pressurised water reactor (PWR). The main distinguishing features of the VVE compared to other PWRs are:
  • Horizontal steam generators
  • Hexagonal fuel assemblies
  • No bottom penetrations in the pressure vessel
  • High-capacity pressurisers providing a large reactor coolant inventory

Future versions

A number of designs for future versions of the VVER have been made:
  • MIR-1200 (Modernised International Reactor) - designed in conjunction with Czech company ŠKODA JS to satisfy European requirements
  • VVER-1500 - VVER-1000 with dimensions increased to produce 1500 MWe gross power output, but design shelved in favor of the evolutionary VVER-1200
  • VVER-TOI is aimed at development of typical optimized informative-advanced project of a new generation III+ Power Unit based on VVER technology, which meets a number of target-oriented parameters using modern information and management technologies.
  • VVER-1700 Supercritical water reactor version.
  • VVER-600 two cooling circuit version of the VVER-1200 designed for smaller markets, authorised to be built by 2030 at the Kola Nuclear Power Plant.

Sweden re-activates military draft over concerns about Russian aggression

The Swedish government has decided to re-activate conscription from January 1 2018.

The security environment in Europe and in Sweden's vicinity has deteriorated and the all-volunteer recruitment hasn't provided the Armed Forces with enough trained personnel. The re-activating of the conscription is needed for military readiness.

Trained personnel are fundamental for building military capability. In 2016 the Armed Forces lacked 1 000 active squad leaders, soldiers and sailors as well as 7 000 reservists.

Recruitment to the Armed Forces will be both voluntary and conscription. Individual motivation, interest and will should to be considered as much as possible.

The Armed Forces is planning for 4 000 recruits annually in basic military training in 2018 and 2019.

The modern conscription is gender neutral and will include both women and men.

At the end of 2016 the Swedish armed forces were missing about 1 000 full time serving squad leaders, soldiers and sailors and about 7 000 of the part time serving squad leaders, soldiers and sailors it needs. The goal and ambition was to have approximately 6 600 full time serving and 10 000 part time serving squad leaders, soldiers and sailors in the Swedish Armed Forces.

Sweden, with a population of 9.8 million, also relies on some 22,000 members of its volunteer Home Guards.

Proposed changes of the current manning system shall, according to the commission directive, be financed by existing budget for the military forces from 2016 - 2020.

During 2018 and 2019 4 000 recruits shall undergo basic military training. During 2020 it shall increase to 5 000.

During the next period (2021-2025), the Report has calculated the yearly need for personnel to 6 000 in year 2021, and 8 000 yearly from 2022 till 2025.

The Armed Forces is planning for 4 000 recruits annually in basic military training in 2018 and 2019. Photo: Swedish Armed Forces

Turkey and Germany are the only major NATO countries that still use a draft. Conscription also exists in Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece and Norway, according to Deutsche Welle. France ended the draft in 2001. Italy and the Netherlands put the draft on hold.

China will complete five nuclear reactors in 2017 and double nuclear power generation to about 420 TWh by 2021

China will complete construction of five nuclear power reactors and start construction of eight more in 2017, according to plans released by the country's National Energy Administration (NEA). Planning for a further eight reactors will also be progressed this year.

In its Energy Work Guidance Opinion for 2017, published on 10 February, the NEA said construction will be completed of the Sanmen 1 and Haiyang 1 AP1000 units, the Taishan 1 EPR and the Fuqing 4 and Yangjiang 4 CPR-1000 units. These, together with "other projects", will add some 6.41 GWe of nuclear generating capacity, it said.

The Administration plans to start construction of eight units during this year, but it did not name them or state the type of reactors they will feature.

Preparatory work is also to be carried out this year on a further eight units. These include units 3 and 4 of Sanmen, Ningde units 5 and 6, and two units each at new plants at Zhangzhou in Fujian province and Huizhou in Guangdong province. Together with other projects, these will add 9.86 GWe of nuclear generating capacity.

The NEA also said China will promote the export of its nuclear power technology. It is to carry out follow-up cooperation work related to the planned construction of units at Karachi, Pakistan, as well as promote the implementation of the Hualong One reactor design in the UK.

China's operating nuclear generating capacity will double over the next five years under the country's recently-published 13th Five-Year Plan. Under that plan, over the next five years China aims to have all four Sanmen and Haiyang AP1000 units in operation by the end of this year. It also aims to develop Hualong One demonstration projects at Fuqing and Fangchenggang and begin construction on the CAP1400 demonstration project at Shidaowan. China will also start building a number of coastal nuclear power plants and carry out preliminary work for inland projects.

Mainland China has 36 nuclear power reactors in operation, 21 under construction, and more about to start construction.

Additional reactors are planned, including some of the world's most advanced, to give a doubling of nuclear capacity to at least 58 GWe by 2020-21, then up to 150-250 GWe by 2030, and much more by 2050.

In 2016, China's nuclear generation was 210.5 TWh, 25% up on 2015, according to CNEA.

Per capita electricity consumption was 3510 kWh in 2012. By 2030 it is expected to be 5500 kWh/yr and by 2050 about 8500 kWh/yr.

Electricity generation in 2015 increased only 0.3%, to 5.81 PWh. That from fossil fuels was 4242 TWh, from hydro 1126 TWh, nuclear 171 TWh and renewables 271 TWh.

The Upside of Geopolitical Unpredictability and unpredictability in negotiations

Dr. Peter Viggo Jakobsen is an Associate Professor at the Royal Danish Defence College and a Professor (part-time) at the Center for War Studies at University of Southern Denmark. Jakobsen makes the case that some unpredictability is good.

Jakobsen is discussing the claims that Trump is just crazy. Jakobsen says he is crazy like a fox.

Making allies pick up more of the burden and forcing opponents to think twice about provocation

Paradoxically, Trump’s tweets and the theatrics are most likely to enhance world peace. They create unpredictability and anxiety that the United States can use to obtain greater concessions from friends and foes. It is admittedly still early days, but all indications are that Trump will succeed in coercing his allies in both Asia and Europe to increase their defense spending significantly. Few of them will reach 2 percent of GDP in the next year or two, but he has set in motion a process that will make most allies spend far more much faster than they otherwise would have. His unpredictability is also an asset in America’s dealings with its opponents such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. They will all need to think twice about provoking the United States and its allies militarily because they have no way of calculating how President Trump will react. Neither friends nor foes can be certain that Trump will not do something that a rational cost-benefit calculating actor would not. U.S. allies used to regard American threats to withdraw its forces as bluff because the costs of doing so would be prohibitive, and the same logic has induced American opponents to engage in military risk-taking with little fear of U.S. military retaliation. With Trump in the White House, this logic no longer applies. This is good news because the likely result is strengthened U.S. alliances and U.S. opponents that are more likely to favor negotiation over provocation in their efforts to settle differences with the United States and its allies.

Trump has made a crucial difference by completely changing the debate on defense spending in allied capitals, significantly strengthening the hands of the proponents of increased defense spending in allied governments. The 2016 IHS Jane’s Defence Budgets Report consequently expects European NATO allies and partners such as Finland and Sweden to boost their defense spending by about $10 billion over the next five years.

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology - The advantages of being unpredictable: How emotional inconsistency extracts concessions in negotiation

► Emotional inconsistency and unpredictability make recipients comply in negotiation.
► Emotional inconsistency induces recipients to concede more than express anger.
► This effect occurs because recipients feel less control.
► Emotional inconsistency was manipulated by alternating between emotions

Harvard has writings about Diplomatic Negotiations: The Surprising Benefits of Conflict and Teamwork at the Negotiation Table

Madman Theory

In 1517, Machiavelli had argued that sometimes it is "a very wise thing to simulate madness" (Discourses on Livy, book 3, chapter 2). In Nixon's Vietnam War, Kimball argues that Nixon arrived at the strategy independently, as a result of practical experience and observation of Dwight D. Eisenhower's handling of the Korean War.

The Nixon administration employed the "madman strategy" to force the North Vietnamese government to negotiate an end to the Vietnam War.[3] Along the same lines, American diplomats, especially Henry Kissinger, portrayed the 1970 incursion into Cambodia as a symptom of Nixon's supposed instability.[4]

The United States spends 3.6 percent of its GDP on defense, or $664 billion annually, the alliance leader in both measures according to NATO figures. Britain, the runner-up in dollar terms, spends $52 billion, or 2.2 percent. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced Tuesday that Washington’s allies in Europe and Canada increased their defense spending by 3.8 percent last year, or $10 billion, which is greater than originally expected.

Germany has lagged on defense spending as its economy has consistently grown in recent years. That has made it a primary target of U.S. efforts for a spending turnaround. Germany now spends 1.2 percent of its annual economic output, or $39 billion. To make it to NATO guidelines would require a $36 billion ­annual increase.

German leaders have committed to reaching that level by 2024, although many officials say privately that they see it as unrealistic. An increase of that level would require a radical reorientation of the country’s complicated relationship with its military. Many Germans grew up shunning the armed forces in the aftermath of World War II. Only 22 percent of Germans say they believe they can trust the United States as a partner, according to a poll released this month by German public television. That is down from 59 percent in November.

Gene Therapy cures sickle cell in teenage boy

A French teenager's sickle cell disease has been reversed using a pioneering gene therapy treatment. The world-first procedure at Necker Children's Hospital in Paris offers hope to millions of people with the blood disorder.

Doctors removed his bone marrow - the part of the body that makes blood. They then genetically altered it in a lab to compensate for the defect in his DNA that caused the disease. The altered bone marrow has been making healthy red blood cells for 15 months. He is no longer on any medication.

The doctors are reluctant to call it a cure, but the sickle cell disease is in full remission.

Sickle cell disease causes normally round red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body, to become shaped like a sickle.

These deformed cells can lock together to block the flow of blood around the body. This can cause intense pain, organ damage and can be fatal.

The teenager who received the treatment had so much internal damage he needed to have his spleen removed and his hips replaced.

Every month he had to go into hospital to have a blood transfusion to dilute his defective blood.

Sickle cell disease (SCD) affects millions of people throughout the world and is particularly common among those whose ancestors came from sub-Saharan Africa; Spanish-speaking regions in the Western Hemisphere (South America, the Caribbean, and Central America); Saudi Arabia; India; and Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Greece, and Italy.

Engraftment with Transduced Cells and Therapeutic Gene Expression in the Patient. Panel A shows vector copy number values in blood nucleated cells and the short-lived CD15+ (neutrophils) fraction thereof over 15 months after infusion of transduced CD34+ cells. Initial values in transduced cells before the infusion are shown. Panel B shows total hemoglobin levels and calculated levels of each hemoglobin fraction based on high-performance liquid chromatography measurements of globin chains. The percent contribution of hemoglobin fractions at month 15 is also indicated. The hemoglobin A (HbA) levels are derived from the regular red-cell transfusions received by the patient before gene therapy and briefly thereafter

New England Journal of Medicine - Gene Therapy in a Patient with Sickle Cell Disease

Russia has drone delivered by rocket launcher for surveillance of targets up to 60 miles away

Russia has a drone that is launched via Russia's Smerch multiple launch rocket system. It would enable on demand target surveillance at an altitude of 500 meters during 20 minutes. It can scan an 25 square kilometers area.

300mm rockets with a firing range of 70 and 90 km and various warheads have been developed for the Smerch MLRS.

How fast and impactful will artificial intelligence, new wave automation and robotics be on job markets ?

Bank Underground is a blog for Bank of England staff to share views that challenge – or support – prevailing policy orthodoxies. Bank Underground argues that the potential for simultaneous and rapid disruption, coupled with the breadth of human functions that AI might replicate, may have profound implications for labor markets. They conclude that economists should seriously consider the possibility that millions of people may be at risk of unemployment, should these technologies be widely adopted.

The rise of the robots [AI and automation]

Rapid advances in robotics and automation technologies in recent years have coincided with a period of strong growth of lesser-skilled jobs in the UK [Low Pay Commission Report Spring 2016]. There is growing debate in the economics community and academia about whether technological progress threatens to displace a large proportion of these jobs in the longer term. Examples where automation is starting to gain traction internationally include warehousing, haulage, hotels, restaurants and agriculture: all industries which are frequently reported by our Agency colleagues to be heavily dependent on lesser-skilled labour. In the UK, driverless cars are currently being trialled on the roads of Milton Keynes and ‘hands off’ self-driving cars are expected on the motorways in 2018.

Robots and intelligent machines threaten to replace workers in industries from finance to retail to haulage, with BOE Chief Economist Andrew Haldane estimating in 2015 that 15 million British jobs and 80 million in the U.S. could be lost to automation. Past periods of technological upheaval, such as the industrial revolution, may not be a useful guide as the pace of change was slower, giving society longer to mitigate the potential consequences of increasing job displacement and inequality, according to Armellini and Pike at Bank Underground.

A recent report by Deloitte concluded that around one-third of jobs in the UK are at “high risk” of being displaced by automation over the next two decades, including losses of over 2 million jobs in retail, 1½ million jobs in transportation and storage, and 1¼ million jobs in health and social care.

March 01, 2017

Inductive heating of Magnetic Nanoparticles enables safe thawing of cryopreserved transplant organs

A new study reveals that nanotechnology can be used to rapidly rewarm cryogenically treated samples without damaging delicate frozen tissues, which may someday help make organ cryopreservation a reality. More than 60% of the hearts and lungs donated for transplantation must be discarded annually, because these tissues cannot be kept on ice for longer than four hours. According to recent estimates, if only half of unused organs were successfully transplanted, transplant waiting lists could be eliminated within two years. Long-term preservation methods like vitrification - which involves super-cooling biological samples to a glassy state - could establish tissue storage banks and reduce transplant rejection rates, greatly facilitating the process to find matching donors when needed.

* we have been able to vitrify organs since the 1980s but have not been able to safely thaw them
* we need to evenly and rapidly heat cryopreserved organs
* microwaving leaves hotspots that damage thawed organs
* magnetic nanoparticles enable the necessary rapid heating (100 degrees per minute) but without hotspots

Unlike convective warming, the new nanowarming method prevents tissue damage by evenly reheating cryogenically preserved tissues. This material relates to a paper that appeared in the March 1 2017 issue of Science, published by AAAS. The paper, by N. Manuchehrabadi at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN, and colleagues was titled, "Improved tissue cryopreservation using inductive heating of magnetic nanoparticles." CREDIT Manuchehrabadi et al., Science Translational Medicine (2017)

Science Translational Medicine - Improved tissue cryopreservation using inductive heating of magnetic nanoparticles

Computing exponentially faster using DNA

Researchers from The University of Manchester have shown that it is possible to build a new super-fast form of computer that “grows as it computes”.

Professor Ross D King and his team have demonstrated for the first time the feasibility of engineering a nondeterministic universal Turing machine (NUTM), and their research is to be published in the prestigious Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

* A major motivation for this work is to engineer a general-purpose way of controlling cells

The theoretical properties of such a computing machine, including its exponential boost in speed over electronic and quantum computers, have been well understood for many years – but the Manchester breakthrough demonstrates that it is actually possible to physically create a NUTM using DNA molecules.

“Imagine a computer is searching a maze and comes to a choice point, one path leading left, the other right,” explained Professor King, from Manchester’s School of Computer Science. “Electronic computers need to choose which path to follow first.

“But our new computer doesn’t need to choose, for it can replicate itself and follow both paths at the same time, thus finding the answer faster.

“This ‘magical’ property is possible because the computer’s processors are made of DNA rather than silicon chips. All electronic computers have a fixed number of chips.

Our computer’s ability to grow as it computes makes it faster than any other form of computer, and enables the solution of many computational problems previously considered impossible.

Professor Ross D King

DNA computing trades space for time: ‘there’s plenty of room at the bottom. This gives it potential advantages in speed, energy efficiency and information storage over electronics:the number of operations for a desktop DNA computer could plausibly be ~10^20s (about one thousand times faster than the fastest current super-computer); it could execute ~2 ×10^19operations per Joule (~10 billion times more energy efficient than current computers); and utilise memory with an information density of ~1 bit per nm3(~10^1 2more dense than current memory). These advantages mean that it is feasible that a DNA NUTM based computer could outperform all standard computers on significant practical problems. Our design for a NUTM physically embodies an abstract NUTM. Due to noise the correspondence between a NUTM and its DNA implementations is less good than that between UTMs and electronic computers. Although noise was a serious problem in the early days of electronic computers,it has now essentially been solved.

Compared to Quantum Computers(QCs) noise is far less a problem for DNA NUTM as there are multiple well established ways to control it, e.g. use of restriction enzymes/CRISPR to eliminate DNA sequences that do not encode symbols, use of error-correcting codes, repetition of computations, amplification of desired sequences, etc . Most significantly, when a NP problem is putatively solved the answer can be efficiently checked using an electronic computer in P time.

The implementation of this DNA computer could have as effectors RNA/proteins generated using special sequences and RNA polymerase, etc. The current in vitro implementation of a NUTM is not suitable for this. However, it would seem possible to implement the core ideas in a biological substrate. One way to do this would be to use plasmids as programs, and rolling circle replication.

Given the prospect of engineering a NUTM it is natural to consider whether machines could be physically engineered for other complexity classes. A problem is a member of the class co-NP if and only if its complement is in the complexity class NP. The definition of NP uses an existential mode of computation: if any branch of the computation tree leads to an accepting state, then the whole computation accepts. The definition of co-NP uses a universal mode of computation: if all branches of the computation tree lead to an accepting state then the whole computation accepts. It would therefore be straightforward to adapt out NUTM design to compute co-NP problems: all accepting states are removed from the mixing vessel.

It would also be straightforward to add randomisation to a physical NUTM (through the use of thermal noise). The class BPP (Bounded-Error Probabilistic Polynomial-Time) is the class of decision problems where there exists a P time randomised algorithm. Although the relationship between BPP and NP is unknown, it would seem computationally useful to generate an exponential number of randomised UTMs in P time, for example for simulations.

The complexity class PSPACE consists of those problems that can be solved by a Turing machine (deterministic or nondeterministic) using a polynomial amount of space. It is a superset of NP, but it is not known if this relation is strict i.e. if NP = PSPACE. In an NUTM all the computation is in a sense local: forks with no communication between computational paths. We hypothesise that a requirement for local computation is a fundamental definition of the NP class. In contrast, a physical PSPACE computer would seem to require highly efficient communication between computational paths, which seems challenging. We therefore conjecture that it is physically impossible to build a computer that can efficiently solve PSPACE complete problems.

NUTMs and QCs both utilize exponential parallelism, but their advantages and disadvantages seem distinct. NUTM’s utilize general parallelism, but this takes up physical space. In a QC the parallelism is restricted, but does not occupy physical space (at least in our Universe). In principle therefore it would seem to be possible to engineer a NUTM capable of utilizing an exponential number of QCs in P time.

A) The feasibility thesis asserts that there is a fundamental qualitative difference between algorithms that run in Polynomial time (P time) (e.g. schoolbook multiplication), and algorithms that run in exponential time (EXP time) (e.g. position evaluation in a generalised game). As problem size increases P time algorithms can still feasibly (efficiently) be executed on a physical computer, whereas EXP time algorithms cannot. The feasibility thesis also asserts that NP algorithms cannot feasibly be executed, but this is less clear as this assumes P ≠ NP.

Arxiv - Computing exponentially faster: Implementing a nondeterministic universal Turing machine using DNA

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