Happy Tau (2π) Day!
Simulator tests have uncovered a new problem in the Boeing 737 Max. Will new software solve it, or will new chips be needed? (MITRE field trip, McLean, Sep 2015)
All talk and no action? Not so for nuclear fusion. What was still at the talk level four years ago (Dennis Whyte, San Francisco, Dec 2015) and even two years ago (field trip, Boston, April 2017) now has $64 million in funding, including an investment by Steve Jurvetson (San Francisco, Dec 2018 and Dec 2013).
Earlier this month Sanjiv Singh (Pittsburgh, Jun 2019) argued that we’ll soon have flocks of unmanned vehicles filling the skies. (Hao Huang, electrical power technology chief at GE Aviation, also expects the skies to be filled with commuter drones.) By a nice coincidence, the airspace above downtown Reno, Nevada, was filled with unmanned drones recently in a test—conducted by NASA Ames—of a national traffic management system for drones that’s been four years in the making.
Also in Pittsburgh, Marc Miskin argued for the need for robots the size of a single-cell organism. Other sizes found in nature also have their uses, and researchers at Harvard have developed an “insect-scale aerial vehicle [that] is the lightest thus far to achieve sustained untethered flight.” (video, article)
Meanwhile, Nokia Bell Labs has developed a lithium nanotube battery that allegedly runs twice as long despite being smaller than today’s batteries. Designed especially for 5G and IoT, the researchers claim that a device that today would need 10 years between recharges would go for as much as 25 years with the new battery. (Paul Braun, San Francisco, Dec 2015; Roland Pitts, Miami, Dec 2011; Peter Girguis, Salt Lake City, Dec 2009)
RISC-V (Dave Patterson, San Francisco, Dec 2017) is just the latest in the long and impressive history of free and open source silicon.
Six years ago we got an early look at one of the first meatless hamburgers (Nynke Van Den Akker, Vienna, Jul 2013); this week, fast food chain Arby’s announced a vegetable-less carrot, made of meat.
Alphabet has released a 1,524-page master plan to blanket a Toronto neighborhood with sensors. (Adam Drobot, Jennifer Mathieu, and Zabe Bent, McLean, Va., Sep 2017; John Tolva, João Barros, San Francisco, May 2016)
Executives from Alphabet, Facebook, and Twitter were on Capitol Hill this week explaining why AI can’t entirely scrub terrorist content, hate speech, and misinformation from their sites. (Jonathan Taplin, Boston, Apr 2017) (In other news, they can’t cure cancer.)
A new simulation of the universe is fast and accurate. Naturally, it’s creators don’t understand how it works. (Carver Mead, San Diego, Feb 2015)
The rich, as F. Scott Fitzgerald famously observed, are very different from you and me. Turns out, so are the very fit. Researchers have found elite athletes have a bacteria—not found in sedentary people—in their microbiomes that increases their capacity for exercise. (Jessica Richman, Austin, Feb 2016; Larry Smarr, Jonathan Eisen, San Jose, Feb 2012)
We’ve mapped the genome, now how about the immune system? (Melissa Lechner, San Diego, Feb 2015)
It’s said the world’s oceans are even less explored than Himalayan peaks, and we see it once again with the improbable discovery of a 15,000-square-mile fresh-water aquifer beneath the northeast U.S. Atlantic coast, 50 miles from the shore.
Argo AI, which is funded by Ford Motor Co. (Will Brick and Bill Coughlin, K. Venkatesh Prasad, Detroit, May 2015), is itself investing $15 million for an autonomous vehicle research center at Carnegie Mellon University (Martial Hebert and field trip, Pittsburgh, June 2019), specifically to research advanced perception and decision-making.