DARPA Wants Bidirectional Brain Implants, 1 Million Neuron Resolution a “Starting Point”

July 11th, 2017

Via: IEEE:

DARPA is known for issuing big challenges. Still, the mission statement for its new Neural Engineering Systems Design program is a doozy: Make neural implants that can record high-fidelity signals from 1 million neurons.

Today’s best brain implants, like the experimental system that a paralyzed man used to control a robotic arm, record from just a few hundred neurons. Recording from 1 million neurons would provide a much richer signal that could be used to better control external devices such as wheelchairs, robots, and computer cursors.

What’s more, the DARPA program calls for the tech to be bidirectional; the implants must be able to not only record signals, but also to transmit computer-generated signals to the neurons. That feature would allow for neural prosthetics that provide blind people with visual information or deaf people with auditory info.

Today the agency announced the six research groups that have been awarded grants under the NESD program. In a press release, DARPA says that even the 1-million-neuron goal is just a starting point. “A million neurons represents a miniscule percentage of the 86 billion neurons in the human brain. Its deeper complexities are going to remain a mystery for some time to come,” says Phillip Alvelda, who launched the program in January. “But if we’re successful in delivering rich sensory signals directly to the brain, NESD will lay a broad foundation for new neurological therapies.”

China Tells Carriers to Block Access to Personal VPNs

July 11th, 2017

Via: Bloomberg:

China’s government has told telecommunications carriers to block individuals’ access to virtual private networks by Feb. 1, people familiar with the matter said, thereby shutting a major window to the global internet.

Beijing has ordered state-run telecommunications firms, which include China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, to bar people from using VPNs, services that skirt censorship restrictions by routing web traffic abroad, the people said, asking not to be identified talking about private government directives.

The clampdown will shutter one of the main ways in which people both local and foreign still manage to access the global, unfiltered web on a daily basis. China has one of the world’s most restrictive internet regimes, tightly policed by a coterie of government regulators intent on suppressing dissent to preserve social stability. In keeping with President Xi Jinping’s “cyber sovereignty” campaign, the government now appears to be cracking down on loopholes around the Great Firewall, a system that blocks information sources from Twitter and Facebook to news websites such as the New York Times and others.

Donald Trump Jr. Hires N.Y. Lawyer for Russia Probes

July 11th, 2017

Via: Time:

Donald Trump Jr. has hired a lawyer to represent him in Russia-related investigations, his office and the lawyer said on Monday, as Republicans voiced concern about a meeting between the U.S. president’s son and a Russian.

Trump Jr. hired New York lawyer Alan Futerfas, who specializes in criminal defense.

Futerfas would not say when he was retained or whether he played any part in the statements Trump Jr. made over the weekend about a meeting with a Russian lawyer.

Trump Jr. met the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in June 2016 during the presidential election campaign at Trump Tower in New York.

Trump ‘s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump ‘s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, also attended, the New York Times said. It called the encounter the first confirmed private meeting of members of Donald Trump ‘s inner circle with a Russian national.

NZ: Solar Tax Stands

July 10th, 2017

Disclosure: I sell solar power systems in New Zealand.

Oh, just wait. They’re just getting started.

A little bird told me that odious legislation is coming with regard to energy storage here in New Zealand. The retail electricity cartel knows that solar + storage spells certain doom for them. Now, get this (I couldn’t make this up): The rumor is that residential energy storage based on lithium ion chemistries will require some sort of fire proof enclosure, increasing costs and red tape.

So, Greenpeace calling for the government to, “overhaul this diseased industry,” misses the point. The government and the “diseased industry” are as thick as thieves! They are working together to try to protect the retail electricity cartel and the GST revenue it generates.

Too much of NZ’s retirement Ponzi scheme has been strapped to the mast of the electricity cartel’s doomed business model. Rather than getting out in front of this technology and acknowledging that its ascendancy is a mathematical certainty, they are implementing absurd taxes and barriers to try to… stop the sun from shining.

Clean, green New Zealand, etc. etc. Yeah right.

Via: Radio New Zealand:

Greenpeace campaigner Kate Simcock said the High Court decision was disappointing as it allowed companies like Unison to continue penalising solar users.

“The fact that this ridiculous tax cannot be properly challenged shows that the electricity industry in New Zealand is not accountable to anyone,” she said.

“It’s morally repugnant that big electricity players are knowingly taking steps to slow the uptake of solar because they see it as a threat to their bottom line. It’s time for the government to overhaul this diseased industry.”

Working Past 70: Americans Can’t Seem to Retire

July 10th, 2017

Via: Bloomberg:

More and more Americans are spending their golden years on the job.

Almost 19 percent of people 65 or older were working at least part-time in the second quarter of 2017, according to the U.S. jobs report released on Friday. The age group’s employment/population ratio hasn’t been higher in 55 years, before American retirees won better health care and Social Security benefits starting in the late 1960s.

And the trend looks likely to continue.

VW: Auto Industry Needs 40 Giga Factories by 2025

July 10th, 2017

Via: Automotive News Europe:

A massive shortage of lithium ion battery cells could plague the global car industry in the coming decade if capacity equivalent to 40 Tesla gigafactories is not added by 2025, according to estimates from Volkswagen Group.

Ulrich Eichhorn, head of r&d for the world’s largest carmaker, increased projections made just 13 months ago for his company’s needs in 2025. Eichhorn’s forecast is based on targets that a quarter of its group volume will come from the sale of electric vehicles by then.

“We will need more than 200 gigawatt-hours,” Eichhorn told reporters on June 30 during a presentation here at the group’s otherwise highly secretive proving ground a half hour drive north of Wolfsburg.

Genetically-Modified Cyborg Dragonfly Drone

July 10th, 2017

Via: Popular Mechanics:

DragonflEye was created by genetically modifying regular dragonflies with “steering neurons” in the insect’s spinal cord, which are light sensitive. Tiny, fiber-optic-like structures in the dragonfly’s eyes send pulses of light to their brains, functionally controlling where the insect flies via remote control. The dragonfly also carries a miniature “backpack” with sensors and a minuscule solar panel to power the data collection technology. In theory, the dragonfly will be able to be steered by the researchers and will collect data via its sensors from environments that aren’t safe for humans.

This technology is both amazing and terrifying—it’s not hard to imagine this kind of genetic modification used on higher-up species to creepy effect, and the idea of regular-looking insects acting as spies is a little nerve-wracking.

Cryptocurrency Miners Wipe Out Supplies of Graphics Cards in U.S. and Europe

July 10th, 2017

I’m trying to understand the logic of people trying to mine Ether with GTX 1070s costing between $500 and $600 or more right now!? These cards launched with a retail price of $349 for the commodity models. (Fancy factory overclocked or water cooled models would cost more.) The situation is even worse on AMD RX series cards.

Many cryptocurrency users and miners read Cryptogon, so I’m asking you guys:

Is this calculator working properly?

Hash rate (MH/s): Stock GTX 1070 does 27
Power consumption (in Watts): Assume single GPU system total power of something like 200 watts under load
Cost per KW/h ($): 10 cents

At the time I hit calculate, the result was $50.95 profit per month at current price/difficulty. Let’s assume someone was doing this on an old PC and not buying a new CPU, power supply, drive, etc. for a mining rig. Assume someone bought the average GTX 1070 for $550. It would take about eleven months to pay off JUST the graphics card, assuming current price and difficulty. The numbers become worse if other hardware is purchased.

But if miners are assuming the price of Ether will rise, why not just buy Ether and wait? Why go through the hassle of mining it? Assuming it will rise while mining it seems super risky because the difficulty is always increasing no matter what happens AND the price could fall.

If you’re a miner, are you buying GTX 1070s at these prices?

Real motivation for this post: I’m hoping to buy a used GTX 1070 for my son’s 10th birthday in November. Will there be a flood of cheap GTX 1070s on eBay by then? That’s my main question.

Via: Tom’s Hardware:

Cryptocurrency mining has led to a shortage of graphics cards among many retailers in the U.S. Now, it seems the problem is starting to affect companies across the pond: MindFactory, a German retailer, has removed many AMD and Nvidia graphics cards from its virtual shelves. The company confirmed in an email to Tom’s Hardware that it had to stop selling the products because it can’t get its hands on more graphics cards.

That doesn’t come as much of a surprise. In the last few weeks, U.S. retailers have raised the prices of their Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics cards to around $500, which is how much the more powerful GTX 1080 usually costs. Graphics cards built around AMD’s GPUs have also seen price increases–assuming you can find any, because many sellers have been sold out since we started tracking this increasingly worrisome trend.

The problem lies with the growing popularity of Ethereum, a cryptocurrency whose price has risen to historic highs over the last few months. This has led many people to purchase graphics cards to mine Ether. It’s kind of like a gold rush: Everyone’s scrambling to get the tools they need to get rich quick (or at least attempt to do so), and that means you can’t find a shovel, pickax, or bucket that doesn’t cost far more than it usually would.

Just replace “shovel, pickax, or bucket” with “graphics card,” and you have the gist of what cryptocurrency mining has done to the market. Of course, this has also led companies to create new shovels… er, graphics cards made specifically for mining. These cards often have fewer display ports, smaller sizes, and cooling systems that are all designed to help miners build rigs capable of earning a mess of Ether before its price falls.

Houston Startup Plans to Store Wind Energy Underground

July 8th, 2017

Via: Houston Chronicle:

Texans have long stored oil, natural gas and other forms of energy in underground salt caverns, so it’s only natural that a Houston startup wants to store wind energy there, too.

The method is in the company’s name, Apex-CAES, where CAES stands for compressed air energy storage. The company plans to use electricity at night, when it’s cheap, to compress air into an underground cavern. The company then releases the air through turbines to generate electricity when the price is right.

The only thing holding back this 30-year-old technology has been the economics. The difference between the high and low prices in a 24-hour period has not been large enough to generate a reasonable return on the capital investment.

Texas’ wholesale electricity market and huge nightly wind resource, though, make compressed air energy storage viable, said Jack Farley, CEO of Apex-CAES. Build enough compressed air energy storage, and Texas would never have to burn coal again, and consumers would enjoy even lower electricity prices, he told me.

“I think you could turn off all fossil-fuel generators in Texas when you wanted to,” he said.

Apex-CAES is raising $500 million to build its first facility near Palestine. Located near five existing natural gas storage caverns, the compressed air would spin turbines rated at 317 megawatts, capable of generating 15,000 megawatt-hours of electricity over two days without a recharge. The company, though, would never want to release all the air.

Tertill: Solar Powered Weeding Robot

July 8th, 2017

Via: IEEE:

Tertill is a solar-powered, weed-destroying, fully autonomous and completely self-contained robot designed for your garden. Put it out there, forget about it (mostly), and it will brutally exterminate any weeds that it can find, as long as they’re short.

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