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Iraq, US Energy, Defense Technology

Dated: 12 Aug 2014
Posted by Christine Chan
Category: Uncategorized
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Iraq: The political crisis in Iraq has deepened after President Fuad Masum designated deputy parliament speaker Haider al-Abadi to form the country’s next government. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki angrily dismissed the appointment as he tried to maintain his grip on power. Mr. Abadi is untested as a leader but is considered outward-looking technocrat and international in perspective, and is seen as less divisive than Mr. Maliki and more averse to sectarianism. This comes as the CIA began to arm the Kursish forces in northern Iraq and attention is being given to the Mosul Dam, which is controlled by the Islamic State.  The dam, known as the world’s most dangerous, is part of the US’s calculation behind the decision to intervene in Iraq: the potential for a 65-foot wave to engulf the northern city of Mosul, and even flood the central capital Baghdad is now a likely possibility.

US Energy: Interesting article behind the political shifts due to the boom in US energy reserves.  Also notable: “since March 2008, oil production has increased 58% and natural-gas output has risen 21%, making the U.S. the world’s largest producer of both fuels, according to federal and international agency statistics”.

Defense Technology: List of the Top 5 defense technologies for 2014.  From the Iron Dome which has proven successful in protecting Israel from an onslaught of rocket fire from Hamas to the Space Plane with the goals for the SX-1 that include flying 10 times in 10 days, flying to better than Mach 10 and launching a 3,000- to 5,000-pound payload for less than $5 million per flight, these are some of the key technologies to keep your eye on for the remainder of the year.

Iraq, Computing, Driverless Cars

Dated: 8 Aug 2014
Posted by Christine Chan
Category: Uncategorized
0 Comments

Iraq: U.S. jet fighters hit artillery being used by the militant group called the Islamic State in northern Iraq earlier this morning, the first of what is expected to be a series of American strikes meant to halt the Sunni extremist advance on the Kurdish capital of Erbil, the Pentagon said.  The U.S. F/A-18 jet fighters dropped 500 pound laser-guided JDAM bombs on mobile-artillery positions outside Erbil, said Pentagon press secretary, Rear. Adm. John Kirby.

Computing: IBM is claiming a major advance in emulating the brain in silicon. The technology company has developed a microchip that simulates functions of neurons, synapses and other features of the brain to perform calculations. IBM says the chip, a sharp break from the fundamental design used in most computers, excels at chores like recognizing patterns and classifying objects while using much less electrical power than conventional hardware.  The chip, dubbed TrueNorth, was built for IBM by Samsung Electronics and received $53 million in funding since 2008 from DARPA.  TrueNorth, IBM says, uses 5.4 billion transistors—four times more than a typical PC processor—to yield the equivalent of one million neurons and 256 million synapses. This comes as chip manufacturers can no longer rely on traditional processes to produce dramatic improvements, particularly for scientists grappling with supercomputers that have power needs already approaching those of small cities. Radically different chip architectures like TrueNorth may help. “Power is the fundamental constraint as we move forward,” says Horst Simon, deputy director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a major supercomputer user. “This chip is an indication that we are really at the threshold of a fundamental change in architecture.”

Driverless Cars: As auto makers gear up to offer technology that automates the most grinding parts of a daily drive, getting customers on board could be the easy part. It is the regulators and insurance companies that may need the hard sell.  Between now and 2016, an increasing number of car makers will offer “traffic jam assist” systems that take over braking, steering and acceleration for vehicles inching along in low-speed traffic. It is a far cry from Google Inc.’s vision for a car that can drive itself in all conditions, but auto makers and suppliers have long taken the view that quantum leaps typically take place one mile at a time.  Nevertheless, auto industry executives say they intend to offer systems that can robotically pilot a car at speeds up to 40 miles per hour within about five years.