DARPA and Boeing Team Up to Build a Hypersonic Spaceplane

May 25th, 2017

Via: Popular Mechanics:

DARPA announced today that it has selected Boeing to design and build a new reusable, hypersonic spaceplane called the Phantom Express that would fly into high suborbital altitudes to launch satellites into orbit before coming back down to land horizontally like an airplane.

The unmanned craft, part of the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program, would release a small expendable upper stage rocket after it reaches suborbital altitudes. The upper stage would continue to carry the payload to orbit while the first stage—the spaceplane itself—would bank and return to Earth to land on a runway. DARPA hopes the XS-1 will allow the Department of Defense to launch satellites into low Earth orbit with only a few days’ notice, compared to the months it currently takes to plan satellite launches, and that the spaceplane will be capable of landing and relaunching within hours.

France’s Macron Seeks to Extend State of Emergency to November

May 25th, 2017

Via: France24:

President Emmanuel Macron will ask France’s parliament to extend a state of emergency, in place since the 2015 attacks by Islamic State (IS) group militants, following this Monday’s suicide bombing in Manchester.

France’s new president said in a statement that he will ask lawmakers to prolong the measure from July 15, its current expiration date, until November 1. It would be the sixth extension of the state of emergency, which gives police exceptional powers.

Brazil: Army Deployed to Capital

May 25th, 2017

Via: Time:

Brazil’s president ordered soldiers to restore order in the country’s capital Wednesday after some government ministries were evacuated during clashes between police and protesters who are seeking the leader’s ouster.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched to Congress to protest economic reforms that President Michel Temer is pushing through and to demand he step down amid a corruption scandal.

Scuffles between police and protesters who tried to jump a cordon mushroomed into a series of clashes in which officers fired tear gas and pepper spray to contain the crowd. Protesters set fires and used portable toilets as barricades.

President Trump’s Budget Includes a $2 Trillion Math Mistake

May 25th, 2017

It wouldn’t be the first time. Here’s another $2.3 trillion dollar mistake that’s long forgotten:

On Sept. 10, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared war. Not on foreign terrorists, “the adversary’s closer to home. It’s the Pentagon bureaucracy,” he said.

He said money wasted by the military poses a serious threat.

“In fact, it could be said it’s a matter of life and death,” he said.

Rumsfeld promised change but the next day – Sept. 11– the world changed and in the rush to fund the war on terrorism, the war on waste seems to have been forgotten.

Just last week President Bush announced, “my 2003 budget calls for more than $48 billion in new defense spending.”

More money for the Pentagon, CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports, while its own auditors admit the military cannot account for 25 percent of what it spends.

“According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions,” Rumsfeld admitted.

$2.3 trillion — that’s $8,000 for every man, woman and child in America.

Two trillion here, two trillion there. *meh*

Via: Time:

President Trump’s budget includes what critics charge is a simple accounting error that adds up to a $2 trillion oversight, though the White House said it stands by the numbers.

Under the proposed budget released Tuesday, the Trump Administration’s proposed tax cuts would boost economic growth enough to pay for $2 trillion in spending by 2027. But the tax cuts are also supposed to be revenue-neutral, meaning that money is already supposed to pay for the revenue lost from the tax cuts.

Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers called the oversight an “elementary double count” and “a logical error of the kind that would justify failing a student in an introductory economics course” in an op-ed in the Washington Post.

At a press conference Tuesday, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney disputed the criticism, saying that they simply assumed that the tax plan eventually passed by Congress would be revenue-neutral.

“We stand by the numbers,” he said. “We thought that the assumption that the tax reform would be deficit-neutral was the most reasonable of the three options that we had.”

According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, for Trump’s tax cuts to pay for themselves, the economy would have to grow at 4.5 percent over the next 10 years. That’s two and a half times the growth rate projected by the Congressional Budget Office.

So what’s the most likely result of Trump’s plan? The nonpartisan group projected that the tax cuts would cost the government between $3 and $7 trillion over the next decade.

Switzerland Votes to Phase Out Nuclear Power

May 25th, 2017

Via: MIT Technology Review:

It’s a tough time to be in the nuclear business. In Europe, Germany banned construction of new plants following the Fukushima disaster in 2011, and Austria stopped the practice long ago. The U.S., meanwhile, has a fleet of aging and costly reactors, and recent attempts to build new ones have been disastrous.

On Sunday, a little over 58 percent of voters in Switzerland gave the government a thumbs up to ban new reactors as well. The country’s five plants make up about 35 percent of the country’s power supply, and the law will allow current reactors to stay in service as long as they can operate safely.

The law, Energy Strategy 2050, calls for large-scale investment in renewable sources of energy like wind and solar—both of which Switzerland notably lacks at the moment. It also calls for subsidies to bolster the country’s hydroelectric sector. Switzerland currently gets about 60 percent of its energy from hydro, but it is unsubsidized, making it expensive compared to wind and solar energy generated across the border in Germany, which is.

This introduces a potentially interesting wrinkle. Under the new plan, Switzerland will introduce a subsidy for hydroelectric projects that generate less than 10 megawatts of power. This should help bring back the hydroelectric industry, which until the early 1970s produced about 90 percent of the country’s electricity needs. Arguably, it will also pave the way for the country to rely more on wind power, which can be stored by pumping water uphill and then releasing it as needed. Indeed, the country has had proposals to do this for some time, and the promise of an infusion of funds should help get it done. If it works out as planned, pumped hydropower and other renewables would work in harmony to provide a steady source of clean power—typically one of nuclear’s biggest selling points, since wind and solar have well-known intermittency problems.

Microsoft Has a Plan to Add DNA Data Storage to Its Cloud

May 25th, 2017

This will probably be viable when you can hook up a Mr. Fusion to your Tesla, but it’s an interesting read anyway.

Via: MIT Technology Review:

The plans signal how seriously some tech companies are taking the seemingly strange idea of saving videos, photos, or valuable documents in the same molecule our genes are made of. The reason, says Victor Zhirnov, chief scientist of the Semiconductor Research Corporation, is that efforts to shrink computer memory are hitting physical limits, but DNA can store data at incredible densities.

Formatted in DNA, every movie ever made would fit inside a volume smaller than a sugar cube.

“DNA is the densest known storage medium in the universe, just based on the laws of physics. That is the reason why people are looking into this,” says Zhirnov. “And the problem we are solving is the exponential growth of stored information.”

Baking Soda Shortage?

May 25th, 2017

A cartel combined with absurd government regulations can look a lot like a doomed socialist state at times. In Venezuela, for example, there are shortages of food, toilet paper, bread, etc. Pretty standard stuff, comrade.

But in the U.S., how is it possible that the there’s a shortage of solutions of sodium bicarbonate?

Key words from the article below: “The country’s two suppliers…”

This isn’t a market system. What you have here is a Ministry of Baking Soda with two divisions.

Via: Ars Technica:

Amid a national shortage of a critical medicine, US hospitals are hoarding vials, delaying surgeries, and turning away patients, The New York Times reports. The medicine in short supply: solutions of sodium bicarbonate—aka, baking soda.

The simple drug is used in all sorts of treatments, from chemotherapies to those for organ failure. It can help correct the pH of blood and ease the pain of stitches. It is used in open-heart surgery, can help reverse poisonings, and is kept on emergency crash carts. But, however basic and life-saving, the drug has been in short supply since around February.

The country’s two suppliers, Pfizer and Amphastar, ran low following an issue with one of Pfizer’s suppliers—the issue was undisclosed due to confidentiality agreements. Amphastar’s supplies took a hit with a spike in demand from desperate Pfizer customers. Both companies told the NYT that they don’t know when exactly supplies will be restored. They speculate that it will be no earlier than June or August.

As hospitals and pharmacists struggle with the sodium bicarbonate shortage, experts note that it’s just the latest example of stocks of inexpensive, essential generic medicines hitting alarming lows. For example, there was a sodium bicarbonate scarcity in 2012 and a similarly alarming shortage of saline solution in 2014.

Experts blame the shortages on a combination of factors, including problems getting raw materials, issues with aging facilities where many old drugs are manufactured, and consolidation in the industry that reduces the number of potential suppliers. There’s also the concern that because generic drugs are unlikely to drive profits, drug companies may not make necessary investments to maintain supplies.

Thai Company to Build a Tesla Style Lithium Ion Battery Factory

May 25th, 2017

Via: Bloomberg:

A little-known company from Thailand with grand ambitions in clean energy wants to take on Tesla Inc. at its own game.

Energy Absolute Pcl, which has morphed in recent years from a producer of biodiesel to Thailand’s leading renewable energy company, is eyeing a major push into energy storage with plans to develop a factory somewhere in Asia that would rival Tesla’s Gigafactory in both size and scope.

The Thai company is currently considering its home nation and three other Asian countries as a manufacturing base for a lithium-ion battery project that could eventually be worth as much as 100 billion baht ($2.9 billion), Amorn Sapthaweekul, the company’s deputy chief executive officer, said in an interview in Bangkok.

Two People Had Called Government Hotline to Report Manchester Bomber

May 25th, 2017

Via: BBC:

It has also emerged two people who had known Abedi at college made separate calls to a hotline to warn the police about his extremist views.

UK to Deploy Troops After Attack

May 23rd, 2017

Via: Reuters:

Britain’s armed forces will be deployed to boost security, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday, as the country raised its terror threat to the highest level of “critical” after a suicide attack in Manchester that killed 22 people, including children.

May said members of the armed forces would be positioned at key sites to free up police for patrols and military personnel might be deployed at public events such as concerts and sports events as a further attack was seen as potentially imminent.

May said the independent body which sets the threat level had recommended it be raised from “severe” after a man named by police as Salman Abedi set off an improvised bomb on Monday night as crowds streamed out of a concert.

“It is now concluded on the basis of today’s investigations that the threat level should be increased for the time being from severe to critical,” she said in a televised statement after a meeting of the government’s crisis response committee.

“This means that their assessment is not only that an attack remains highly likely but that a further attack may be imminent.”

Britain’s international terror threat level was last at the critical level in June 2007.

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