With the federal government pulling out of manned space flight, it gave private companies ample opportunity to fill in the gaps.  Of course, these companies MUST have adequate funding, trained personnel and proper facilities to launch their version(s) of equipment, support and otherwise that will take man and equipment to the outer reaches of space.  The list of companies was quite surprising to me.  Let’s take a look.

These are just the launch vehicles.  There is also a huge list of manufacturers making man-rovers and orbiters, research craft and tech demonstrators, propulsion manufacturers, satellite launchers, space manufacturing, space mining, space stations, space settlements, spacecraft component manufacturers and developers, and spaceliner companies.   I will not publish that list but these companies are available for discovery by putting in the heading for each category.  To think we are not involved in space is obviously a misnomer.

 

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ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

February 12, 2019


Just what do we know about Artificial Intelligence or AI?  Portions of this post were taken from Forbes Magazine.

John McCarthy first coined the term artificial intelligence in 1956 when he invited a group of researchers from a variety of disciplines including language simulation, neuron nets, complexity theory and more to a summer workshop called the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence to discuss what would ultimately become the field of AI. At that time, the researchers came together to clarify and develop the concepts around “thinking machines” which up to this point had been quite divergent. McCarthy is said to have picked the name artificial intelligence for its neutrality; to avoid highlighting one of the tracks being pursued at the time for the field of “thinking machines” that included cybernetics, automation theory and complex information processing. The proposal for the conference said, “The study is to proceed on the basis of the conjecture that every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.”

Today, modern dictionary definitions focus on AI being a sub-field of computer science and how machines can imitate human intelligence (being human-like rather than becoming human). The English Oxford Living Dictionary gives this definition: “The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”

Merriam-Webster defines artificial intelligence this way:

  1. A branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers.
  2. The capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.

About thirty (30) year ago, a professor at the Harvard Business School (Dr. Shoshana Zuboff) articulated three laws based on research into the consequences that widespread computing would have on society. Dr. Zuboff had degrees in philosophy and social psychology so she was definitely ahead of her time relative to the unknown field of AI.  Her document “In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power”, she postulated the following three laws:

  • Everything that can be automated will be automated
  • Everything that can be informated will be informated. (NOTE: Informated was coined by Zuboff to describe the process of turning descriptions and measurements of activities, events and objects into information.)
  • In the absence of countervailing restrictions and sanctions, every digital application that can be sued for surveillance and control will be used for surveillance and control, irrespective of its originating intention.

At that time there was definitely a significant lack of computing power.  That ship has sailed and is no longer a great hinderance to AI advancement that it certainly once was.

 

WHERE ARE WE?

In recent speech, Russian president Vladimir Putin made an incredibly prescient statement: “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all of humankind.” He went on to highlight both the risks and rewards of AI and concluded by declaring that whatever country comes to dominate this technology will be the “ruler of the world.”

As someone who closely monitors global events and studies emerging technologies, I think Putin’s lofty rhetoric is entirely appropriate. Funding for global AI startups has grown at a sixty percent (60%) compound annual growth rate since 2010. More significantly, the international community is actively discussing the influence AI will exert over both global cooperation and national strength. In fact, the United Arab Emirates just recently appointed its first state minister responsible for AI.

Automation and digitalization have already had a radical effect on international systems and structures. And considering that this technology is still in its infancy, every new development will only deepen the effects. The question is: Which countries will lead the way, and which ones will follow behind?

If we look at criteria necessary for advancement, there are the seven countries in the best position to rule the world with the help of AI.  These countries are as follows:

  • Russia
  • The United States of America
  • China
  • Japan
  • Estonia
  • Israel
  • Canada

The United States and China are currently in the best position to reap the rewards of AI. These countries have the infrastructure, innovations and initiative necessary to evolve AI into something with broadly shared benefits. In fact, China expects to dominate AI globally by 2030. The United States could still maintain its lead if it makes AI a top priority and charges necessary investments while also pulling together all required government and private sector resources.

Ultimately, however, winning and losing will not be determined by which country gains the most growth through AI. It will be determined by how the entire global community chooses to leverage AI — as a tool of war or as a tool of progress.

Ideally, the country that uses AI to rule the world will do it through leadership and cooperation rather than automated domination.

CONCLUSIONS:  We dare not neglect this disruptive technology.  We cannot afford to lose this battle.

CONCEPT CARS FOR THE FUTURE

February 9, 2019


On Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) unveiled a landmark resolution cementing the pillars of an unprecedented program to zero out planet-warming emissions and restore the middle-class prosperity of postwar America that the original New Deal helped spur.

Just three months after calls for a Green New Deal electrified a long-stagnant debate on climate policy, the Democratic lawmakers released the six-page document outlining plans to cut global emissions forty (40) to sixty (60) percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and neutralize human-caused greenhouse gases entirely by 2050.

The joint resolution stakes out a “ten-year national mobilization” plan to build “smart” grids and rapidly increase the share of American power generated from solar and wind from ten (10) percent today to as close to one hundred (100) percent as possible over the next decade. The plan reframes tired talk of repairing the nation’s crumbling bridges, highways and ports as a crisis in a new era of billion-dollar storms. It gets local, demanding upgrades to “all existing U.S. buildings” to “achieve maximum” efficiency with energy and water use.

These are tremendously ambitious goals and quite frankly somewhat misguided.  The time line is NOT realistic.  We are, at the present time, not anywhere close to achieving those goals.  No programs in action to achieve those goals and one thing the “gentle” congresswoman misunderstands—the American love for fast cars, slow cars, electric cars, hybrid cars, etc. You surely must get my drift. Our entire economy has been built on fossil fuels.  That will continue using carbonaceous fuels until viable and cost-efficient alternatives are realized and commercially available.

The automotive industry thinks that time is down the road and they are operating with that belief. Let’s take a very quick look at what the automotive industry thinks is in store for our future “rides”.  The digital pictures below will give you some idea as to the concepts the industry is working on for future sales.

The E-Legend is an all-electric modern reinterpretation Peugeot’s 1969 -504 coupe. The automotive industry is making across-the-board moves to electric vehicles, and French manufacturer Peugeot isn’t about to be left behind. Ahead of the 2018 Paris Motor Show, Peugeot has released its E-Legend concept EV with a design that harks back to the classic 504 coupes of the 60s and 70s. In a world where aerodynamics leaves automotive design with a feeling of sameness across the industry, the E-Legend breaks from convention with a classically proportioned exterior and sharp features. The interior is nearly a modern masterpiece, with seats that could be at home in a modern office and a rectangular steering wheel. Peugeot claims 456 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque from the electric powertrain and a range of 373 miles, putting it right in line with current EV offerings. With its good looks and solid specs, the E-Legend is begging to see production.

Mercedes has unveiled the Vision EQ Silver Arrows Concept, and it is a stunner. The concept is a feast for the senses, a product of Mercedes’ masterful use of its own heritage and reinventing it with a futuristic electric-jolted twist. As it is, the EQ Silver Arrow is a showcase concept — and what a concept, it is — that we’ll never see in production form. The good news is that the concept isn’t just a muscle-flexing design exercise, too. Parts of the concept will appear in Mercedes’ new electric brand offshoot, EQ. As to what those parts are? We’ll just have to wait and find out.

Porsche has announced that it will put the Cross Turismo into production as a variant of the upcoming Taycan EV, creating 300 new jobs at Porsche’s Zuffenhausen headquarters. The reports of the wagon’s death have been greatly exaggerated, and the Porsche Mission E Cross Turismo concept is the latest proof that the body style is alive and well. Following the path blazed by the raised ride height and plastic-clad wheel arches of its corporate cousin, the Audi A4 All-road, the Mission E Cross Turismo is an all-electric, off-road-ready wagon that’s nonetheless claimed to be capable of blasting to 60 mph in less than 3.5 seconds and to 124 mph in less than 12 seconds.That’s right, Porsche is hinting that boxer engines won’t be the only characteristic its vehicles share with Subarus, and the Mission E Cross Turismo reveals the brand is, at the very least, considering an Outback-like variant of its upcoming Mission E sedan. Presumably, such a model will accompany a lower-riding, cladding-free, and non-knobby-tired Sport Turismo wagon version of the Mission E, as well.

“In our striving for efficiency, have we lost empathy for the traveler?” These words, from Volvo’s launch video for its new 360c fully autonomous concept car, hit home with me. I fly a lot, so I’m fully familiar with efficient but unsympathetic forms of travel, and Volvo’s idea is to help people like me through the design of its future cars. The Volvo 360c is, like most concepts of our time, all-electric, fully autonomous, and covered by a big sweeping glass dome. What distinguishes it, though, is Volvo’s vision of how it fits into the broader scheme of city infrastructure, short-haul flights, working commutes, and environmental concerns.

The PB18 e-tron concept embodies a fundamentally driver-centric sports car — there are no piloted driving systems to add weight, and its relatively lightweight construction helps propel it to speeds above 186 mph. It features a large-format cockpit which is a freely programmable unit and can be switched between layouts for optimal racetrack- and road-driving. The driver’s seat and cockpit are integrated into an inner monocoque shell that can be slid laterally to accommodate for one- or two-person seating.

The all-electric I.D. Vizzion will have a production version with a steering wheel and Level 4 autonomy on board, but the concept being shown off on the Geneva floor was the one with full autonomy and no human controls. To look at the expansive opening created by the Vizzion’s vast doors and the carpeted interior and contoured seating inside, you’d be reminded of Aston Martin’s similarly grand Lagonda concept car. But where the Aston Martin is sumptuous and enticing, VW’s carpet is made out of an unpleasant synthetic material, and the entire interior feels cheaper than it looks.

There’s not much in the way of features on the inside of the I.D. Vizzion: like most concepts, it’s minimal and stripped down, with only a shelf at the front of the car for tossing your sunglasses onto. There are wireless charging pods for phones, which are increasingly becoming a standard feature even in current production models.

CONCLUSION:

As you can see, the automobile industry is planning on a long and continued future although all-electric and autonomous vehicles are definitely in the future.  Please let me have your comments. See if you and I agree at all.

BENDABLE BATTERIES

February 1, 2019


I always marvel at the pace of technology and how that technology fills a definite need for products only dreamt of previously.   We all have heard that “necessity is the mother of invention” well, I believe that to a tee.  We need it, we can’t find it, no one makes it, let’s invent it.  This is the way adults solve problems.  Every week technology improves our lives giving us labor-saving devices that “tomorrow” will become commonplace.  All electro-mechanical devices run on amperage provided by voltage impressed.   Many of these devices use battery power for portability.   Lithium-ion batteries seem to be the batteries of choice right now due to their ability to hold a charge and their ability to fast-charge.

Pioneer work with the lithium battery began in 1912 under G.N. Lewis but it was not until the early 1970s when the first non-rechargeable lithium batteries became commercially available. lithium is the lightest of all metals, has the greatest electrochemical potential and provides the largest energy density for weight.

The energy density of lithium-ion is typically twice that of the standard nickel-cadmium. This is a huge advantage recognized by engineers and scientists the world over.  There is potential for higher energy densities. The load characteristics are reasonably good and behave similarly to nickel-cadmium in terms of discharge. The high cell voltage of 3.6 volts allows battery pack designs with only one cell. Most of today’s mobile phones run on a single cell. A nickel-based pack would require three 1.2-volt cells connected in series.

Lithium-ion is a low maintenance battery, an advantage that most other chemistries cannot claim. There is no memory and no scheduled cycling is required to prolong the battery’s life. In addition, the self-discharge is less than half compared to nickel-cadmium, making lithium-ion well suited for modern fuel gauge applications. lithium-ion cells cause little harm when disposed.

If we look at advantages and disadvantages, we see the following:

Advantages

  • High energy density – potential for yet higher capacities.
  • Does not need prolonged priming when new. One regular charge is all that’s needed.
  • Relatively low self-discharge – self-discharge is less than half that of nickel-based batteries.
  • Low Maintenance – no periodic discharge is needed; there is no memory.
  • Specialty cells can provide very high current to applications such as power tools.

Limitations

  • Requires protection circuit to maintain voltage and current within safe limits.
  • Subject to aging, even if not in use – storage in a cool place at 40% charge reduces the aging effect.
  • Transportation restrictions – shipment of larger quantities may be subject to regulatory control. This restriction does not apply to personal carry-on batteries.
  • Expensive to manufacture – about 40 percent higher in cost than nickel-cadmium.
  • Not fully mature – metals and chemicals are changing on a continuing basis.

One amazing property of Li-Ion batteries is their ability to be formed.  Let’s take a look.

Researchers have just published documentation relative to a new technology that will definitely fill a need.

ULSAN NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY:

Researchers at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in Korea have developed an imprintable and bendable lithium-ion battery they claim is the world’s first, and could hasten the introduction of flexible smart phones that leverage flexible display technology, such as Samsung’s Youm flexible OLED.

Samsung first demonstrated this display technology at CES 2013 as the next step in the evolution of mobile-device displays. The battery could also potentially be used in other flexible devices that debuted at the show, such as a wristwatch and a tablet.

Ulsan researchers had help on the technology from Professor John A. Rogers of the University of Illinois, researchers Young-Gi Lee and Gwangman Kim of Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, and researcher Eunhae Gil of Kangwon National University. Rogers was also part of the team that developed a breakthrough in transient electronics, or electronics that dissolve inside the body.

The Korea JoongAng Daily newspaper first reported the story, citing the South Korea Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, which co-funded the research with the National Research Foundation of Korea.

The key to the flexible battery technology lies in nanomaterials that can be applied to any surface to create fluid-like polymer electrolytes that are solid, not liquid, according to Ulsan researchers. This is in contrast to typical device lithium-ion batteries, which use liquefied electrolytes that are put in square-shaped cases. Researchers say this also makes the flexible battery more stable and less prone to overheating.

“Conventional lithium-ion batteries that use liquefied electrolytes had problems with safety as the film that separates the electrolytes may melt under heat, in which case the positive and negative may come in contact, causing an explosion,” Lee told the Korean newspaper. “Because the new battery uses flexible but solid materials, and not liquids, it can be expected to show a much higher level of stability than conventional rechargeable batteries.”

This potential explosiveness of the materials in lithium-ion batteries — which in the past received attention because of exploding mobile devices — has been in the news again recently in the case of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which has had several instances of liquid leaking lithium-ion batteries. The problems have grounded Boeing’s next-generation jumbo jet until they are investigated and resolved.

This is a very short posting but one I felt would be of great interest to my readers.  New technology; i.e. cutting-edge stuff, etc. is fun to write about and possibly useful to learn.  Hope you enjoy this one.

Please send me your comments:  bobjengr@comcast.net.

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