Japan Pictures Likely Show Melted Fukushima Fuel for First Time

July 22nd, 2017

Via: Bloomberg:

New images show what is likely to be melted nuclear fuel hanging from inside one of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima reactors, a potential milestone in the cleanup of one of the worst atomic disasters in history.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., Japan’s biggest utility, released images on Friday showing a hardened black, grey and orange substance that dripped from the bottom of the No. 3 reactor pressure vessel at Fukushima, which is likely to contain melted fuel, according to Takahiro Kimoto, an official at the company. The company sent a Toshiba-designed robot, which can swim and resembles a submarine, to explore the inside of the reactor for the first time on July 19.

Decommissioning the reactors will cost 8 trillion yen ($72 billion), according to an estimate in December from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Removing the fuel is one of the most important steps in a cleanup that may take as long as 40 years.


Wall Street Journal Editorial Writer Found Dead

July 21st, 2017

Via: Wall Street Journal:

Joseph Rago, a Pulitzer Prize winning editorial writer at The Wall Street Journal who was known for his richly reported pieces and influence on policy makers, was found dead Thursday evening at his home in Manhattan. He was 34 years old.

The New York Police Department found Mr. Rago dead in his apartment at 7:40 p.m., according to a police official. The authorities went to check on Mr. Rago after he didn’t show up for work on Thursday. Paul Gigot, the editor of the Journal’s editorial page, had alerted the paper’s security officials, who then contacted the police.

Mr. Rago was found with no obvious signs of trauma and emergency responders declared him dead at the scene, the police said. The cause of death was still being determined by the medical examiner on Friday.


Elon Musk Claims U.S. Approval for World’s Longest Tunnel

July 21st, 2017

My guess is that there are so many secret underground facilities in and around Washington DC that this will simply not happen. But if this does somehow get approved, an additional guess is that you’ll be able to slap a Mr. Fusion on your Tesla before the DC hyperloop is running.

In any event, Musk seems to be channeling his inner Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field on this one:

The RDF was said by Andy Hertzfeld to be Steve Jobs’s ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence. RDF was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible.

Via: Bloomberg:

Elon Musk says he won “verbal” government approval to build the world’s longest tunnel for an ultra-high-speed train line to connect New York to Washington.

The train, known as a hyperloop, would make the 220 mile connection in 29 minutes, Musk said in a post on Twitter Thursday. He provided few details, and a spokesperson for his new digging enterprise, called the Boring Company, declined to comment on the project.

Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 20, 2017

It’s not clear what Musk is doing with these announcements on Twitter. Such an ambitious project would require billions of dollars in funding and extensive approvals from federal, state, and local authorities. The tunnel would be more than twice as long as the current record holder: the Gotthard Base Tunnel, a rail line that runs through the Swiss Alps. For some urban context: a recently opened stretch of subway in New York cost $4.5 billion for less than 2 miles of rails. It was first proposed in 1919 and opened to the public in January 2017. These things take time.

Whatever this new “verbal approval” means, the posts on Twitter are probably little more than an attempt to generate interest in future Boring Co. projects. Musk himself suggested as much Thursday. David Lee, a Silicon Valley reporter for the BBC, questioned Musk’s promises: “Verbal? Not on the dotted line? Seems premature to announce … unless you’re drumming up support for the project?”

Musk’s response: “Support would be much appreciated!”


U.S. Navy Ship in Persian Gulf Armed with Laser Weapon

July 21st, 2017

Via: CNN:

In the sometimes hostile waters of the Persian Gulf looms the US Navy’s first — in fact, the world’s first — active laser weapon.

The LaWS, an acronym for Laser Weapons System, is not science fiction. It is not experimental. It is deployed on board the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, ready to be fired at targets today and every day by Capt. Christopher Wells and his crew.

Today, the laser is intended primarily to disable or destroy aircraft and small boats. “It’s designed with the intent of being able to counter airborne and surface-based threats,” said Hughes. “And it’s been able to prove itself over the last three years as being incredibly effective at that.”

However, the Navy is developing more powerful, second-generation systems which would bring more significant targets into its crosshairs: missiles.

Those missions remain classified.

More: Watch the US Navy’s New Laser Weapon in Action


The Tiny Satellites Ushering in the New Space Revolution

July 19th, 2017

Smile for the birdy.

Via: Bloomberg:

With all 149 satellites in place, Planet will be able to photograph every inch of Earth’s surface every day—something even the U.S. government can’t do.

This satellite constellation is one of many signs that the relationship between humans and space is changing in ways unseen since Russia and the U.S. began sending rockets into orbit six decades ago. Thanks to modern software, artificial intelligence, advances in electronics and materials, and a generation of aggressive, unconventional entrepreneurs, we are awash in space startups. These companies envision an era in which rockets take off daily, filling the skies with satellites that sense Earth’s every action—in effect building a computational shell around our planet. The people constructing this bustling new economic highway promise it will improve life down below, but the future they describe is packed with wonder and controversy in equal measure—and although few have noticed, it’s coming to pass right now.


Mercenary Army to Fix Afghanistan?

July 19th, 2017

Oh sure!

Via: Defense One:

Here’s a crazy idea floating around Washington these days, outlandish even by today’s outlandish standards: The United States should hire a mercenary army to “fix” Afghanistan, a country where we’ve been at war since 2001, spending billions along the way. The big idea here is that they could extricate U.S. soldiers from this quagmire, and somehow solve it.

Not surprisingly, the private-military industry is behind this proposal. Erik D. Prince, a founder of the private military company Blackwater Worldwide, and Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who owns the giant military contractor DynCorp International, each see a role for themselves in this future. Their proposal was offered at the request of Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, his senior adviser and son-in-law, according to people briefed on the conversations.

It could get worse. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Prince laid out a plan whereby the fighting force would be led by an American viceroy who would report directly to Trump. Modeled after General Douglas MacArthur, who ruled Japan after World War II, the viceroy would consolidate all American power in a single person. His mission: Do whatever it takes to pacify Afghanistan. No more backseat driving of the war from pesky bureaucrats in Washington, or restrictive rules of engagement imposed on soldiers. An American viceroy with a privatized fighting force would make trains run on time in Afghanistan—if they had trains.

Who would this viceroy be? Probably Prince had himself in mind, and that should worry everyone.


Synthesizing Obama

July 17th, 2017

Via: University of Washington:

Given audio of President Barack Obama, we synthesize a high quality video of him speaking with accurate lip sync, composited into a target video clip. Trained on many hours of his weekly address footage, a recurrent neural network learns the mapping from raw audio features to mouth shapes. Given the mouth shape at each time instant, we synthesize high quality mouth texture, and composite it with proper 3D pose matching to change what he appears to be saying in a target video to match the input audio track. Our approach produces photorealistic results.


Tech May Replace Half of All Low-Skilled Jobs in the U.S.

July 17th, 2017

Via: CBS:

Ball State University sits in Muncie, Indiana, at the heart the “Rust Belt,” so educators there have the right to be pessimistic about the drift of the U.S. economy. But a report by the school’s Center for Business and Economic Research goes even further.

“We found a toxic brew,” said CBER Director Michael Hicks. “Automation is likely to replace half of all low-skilled jobs, and roughly one in four of all American jobs are at risk from foreign competition in coming years.”


Facial Recognition Coming to Police Body Cameras

July 17th, 2017

Via: Defense One:

Even if the cop who pulls you over doesn’t recognize you, the body camera on his chest just might in the future.

Device-maker Motorola announced Monday that would partner with artificial intelligence software startup Neurala to build “real-time learning for a person of interest search” on Motorola products such as the Si500 body camera for police, the AI firm announced in a press release today.


Former Haiti Government Official Shoots Himself in the Head in Miami-Area Hotel

July 17th, 2017

Via: Miami Herald:

Klaus Eberwein, a former Haitian government official, was found dead Tuesday in a South Dade motel room in what the Miami-Dade medical examiner’s office is ruling a suicide.

“He shot himself in the head,” said Veronica Lamar, Miami-Dade medical examiner records supervisor. She listed his time of death at 12:19 p.m.

The address where Eberwein’s body was discovered according to police, 14501 S. Dixie Hwy., is a Quality Inn.

A supporter of former Haitian President Michel Martelly, Eberwein served as director general of the government’s economic development agency, Fonds d’assistance économique et social, better known as FAES. He held the position from May 2012 until February 2015 when he was replaced.


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