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Elon Musk: Starship could make migrating from Earth to Mars affordable

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starship test hopper stainless steel spacesuit actual photo boca chica brownsville texas launch site elon musk twitter january 2019 DwmagBZX4AEbUN enlargedSpaceX’s “test hopper,” an experimental stainless-steel ship, in Texas. The person at the bottom is for scale.Elon Musk/SpaceX via Twitter

  • SpaceX is designing a new rocket ship, called Starship, to send about 100 people to Mars at a time.
  • Elon Musk, the rocket company’s founder, said on Twitter that Starship could be 10 times cheaper than the least-expensive rocket today.
  • Musk added he is “confident” Starship may be cheap enough for most people to “sell their home on Earth & move to Mars if they want.”

Elon Musk is trying to make it a no-brainer for you to move to Mars.

Musk, the founder of SpaceX, shared his thinking on cost-effective space travel on Twitter over the weekend.

“I’m confident moving to Mars … will one day cost less than $500k & maybe even below $100k,” Musk tweeted on Sunday, “low enough that most people in advanced economies could sell their home on Earth & move to Mars if they want.”

He added that if anyone decides they don’t like Mars (there are plenty of reasons to hate it), a “return ticket is free.”

The comments came after Muk revealed new details about his rocket company’s truck-size rocket engine, called Raptor, and the launch system it’d propel to the moon and Mars, called Starship.

On Sunday, Musk said the Raptor engine has been fired more than half a dozen times at a SpaceX facility in McGregor, Texas. He also shared technical data from those tests, including the engine’s efficiency, chamber pressure, other details.

Raptor engines are crucial to making Starship work. Up to six of the engines will power the roughly 18-story Starship. Meanwhile, the system’s 22-story rocket booster, called Super Heavy, may use up to 31 Raptor engines.

SpaceX plans to fix the first Raptor engines onto a “test hopper” prototype at a site near Brownsville, Texas, then launch it on short “hops” up to a few miles high.

How Musk plans to make space travel cheap with Starship

big falcon rocket bfr spaceship bfs mars colony colonization illustration spacexAn illustration of spaceships of SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket system, or BFR, helping colonize Mars.SpaceX

Musk’s ultimate goal for the future of Starship and SpaceX is to enable human life on Mars. He began sharing that vision in 2015, saying he wants to back up the human race like hard drive in case something terrible befalls Earth.

Since then, Musk has worked toward replacing SpaceX’s mainstay rocket, called Falcon 9, with a larger yet dramatically lower-cost system. (Currently, that’s Starship, though it has gone by other names — most recently “Big Falcon Rocket.”)

“This will sound implausible, but I think there’s a path to build Starship / Super Heavy for less than Falcon 9,” Musk said.

SpaceX currently charges about $62 million per launch of a Falcon 9 rocket, which can carry up to 25 tons of payload into low-Earth orbit. On Sunday, Musk predicted that Starship would be “at least 10X cheaper” to send up the same mass of payload.

Starship is designed to take about 100 tons of cargo and 100 people to Mars. Part of the reason Musk expects it to be so cost-effective is the system’s size — launching more at once can lower costs.

But the biggest reason Starship could be so much cheaper is that it’s designed to be fully reusable. This prevents losing multi-million-dollar hardware after a single use (a typical practice in the rocket-launch industry) and limits launch costs to refilling fuel and refurbishing parts. Starship’s reusability may also allow it to refuel on liquid methane and oxygen once it has landed on Mars (Musk says this fuel can be manufactured on the red planet’s surface) for a return trip to Earth.

Musk also confirmed on Sunday that a recent and “radical” shift in the design of Starship will be a “big factor” in keeping costs down. Instead of making the rocket ship out of lightweight yet super-strong carbon-fiber composites, Musk has asked his engineers to use low-cost stainless-steel alloys.

Read more: Elon Musk says SpaceX has built a stainless-steel rocket ship in Texas that looks ‘like liquid silver’

Steel costs about $3 per kilogram, Musk told Popular Mechanics in December, while carbon-fiber can cost about $200 per kilogram — a 66-fold difference. Musk tweeted in January that using steel could counterintuitively make Starship lighter, allowing it to carry more cargo at a time.

SpaceX’s “aspirational” goal is to launch the first cargo mission to Mars in 2022 — just three years from now. Then in 2023, Musk hopes to send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and a crew of artists on a trip around the moon. If all goes well with those two launches, he wants to send the first crewed Starship missions to Mars in 2024.

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Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech’s ‘Nobel Prize’

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Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don’t think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as “artificial intelligence,” or AI.

Their insights and persistence were rewarded Wednesday with the Turing Award, an honor that has become known as technology industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. It comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, a company where AI has become part of its DNA.

The award marks the latest recognition of the instrumental role that artificial intelligence will likely play in redefining the relationship between humanity and technology in the decades ahead.

Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said Cherri Pancake, president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the group behind the Turing Award.

Although they have known each other for than 30 years, Bengio, Hinton and LeCun have mostly worked separately on technology known as neural networks. These are the electronic engines that power tasks such as facial and speech recognition, areas where computers have made enormous strides over the past decade. Such neural networks also are a critical component of robotic systems that are automating a wide range of other human activity, including driving.

Their belief in the power of neural networks was once mocked by their peers, Hinton said. No more. He now works at Google as a vice president and senior fellow while LeCun is chief AI scientist at Facebook. Bengio remains immersed in academia as a University of Montreal professor in addition to serving as scientific director at the Artificial Intelligence Institute in Quebec.

“For a long time, people thought what the three of us were doing was nonsense,” Hinton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought we were very misguided and what we were doing was a very surprising thing for apparently intelligent people to waste their time on. My message to young researchers is, don’t be put off if everyone tells you what are doing is silly.” Now, some people are worried that the results of the researchers’ efforts might spiral out of control.

While the AI revolution is raising hopes that computers will make most people’s lives more convenient and enjoyable, it’s also stoking fears that humanity eventually will be living at the mercy of machines.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun share some of those concerns especially the doomsday scenarios that envision AI technology developed into weapons systems that wipe out humanity.

But they are far more optimistic about the other prospects of AI empowering computers to deliver more accurate warnings about floods and earthquakes, for instance, or detecting health risks, such as cancer and heart attacks, far earlier than human doctors.

“One thing is very clear, the techniques that we developed can be used for an enormous amount of good affecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hinton said.

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Lamborghini’s latest Huracán is a supercar with a supercomputer

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Over the past few decades, technology has made vehicles safer and easier to drive. Anti-lock brakes, traction control, torque vectoring and other bits of tech keep cars on the road instead of flying into a ditch when things get hairy. It’s why newer cars typically handle corners better than older cars.

At Lamborghini, they’ve taken things further with their new Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrata or LDVI system. The Engine Control Unit (ECU) takes data from the entire car and uses it to adjust how the new Huracán EVO Spyder drives in real time (actually in less than 20 milliseconds. But that’s about as close as you can get to real time). Cars have been doing some form of this for a while but the Italian automaker needs to be able to do this at incredible speeds and in environments your typical sedan or SUV doesn’t encounter.

At Lamborghini, they’ve taken things further with their new Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrata or LDVI system. The Engine Control Unit (ECU) takes data from the entire car and uses it to adjust how the new Huracán EVO Spyder drives in real time (actually in less than 20 milliseconds. But that’s about as close as you can get to real time). Cars have been doing some form of this for a while but the Italian automaker needs to be able to do this at incredible speeds and in environments your typical sedan or SUV doesn’t encounter.

With this technology, Lamborghini is able to take the raw power of an all-wheel-drive supercar with a V10 engine and 630 horsepower and tame it, just enough, so your average driver (who can shell out $287,400) can enjoy themselves behind the wheel of the all-wheel-steering vehicle without, you know, flying into a ditch.

To achieve this, the LVDI is actually a super fast central processing unit that takes in data about the road surface, the car’s setup, the tires and how the driver is driving the vehicle. It then uses that info to control various aspects of the Huracan.

The system works in concert with the Lamborghini Piattaforma Inerziale (LPI) version 2.0 hardware sensors. This system uses gyroscopes and accelerometers located at the car’s center of gravity. It measures the vehicle’s movements and shares that data with the LVDI computer.

Lamborghini says the system is so in tune with all aspects of a drive that it can actually predict the best driving setup for the next moment. In other words, if you’re behind the wheel flying around corners on a back road, the system will recognize your behavior as you enter a corner and adjust itself.

“Where it’s possible to do a bigger jump in the future is with the intelligent use of four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering and the movement and control of the torque wheel by wheel in a way that can be more predictable and that is what we have with the Huracan EVO,” said Maurizio Reggiani, chief technology officer of Automobili Lamborghini.

Lamborghini is thinking about a world beyond a completely gas-powered engine though — it has a pipeline for hybrid and electric vehicles. But Reggiani notes that Lamborghini will probably be the last automaker to leave behind a large growling power plant.

Putting all that power to the ground in a controllable way requires an incredible amount of technology — that’s where LVDI and other pieces of technology come in. The automaker believes the result is a driving experience that matches exactly what the driver wants, regardless of the mode the car is in. Whether it be Strada, Sport, or the track ready Corsa, the vehicle (in a controlled way) should deliver.

That control allows a driver to do something that typically takes months if not years to master: drifting. It goes against what the car wants to do — lose traction. But in Sport mode it’s possible. To do that, the vehicle has to figure out (in real time and safely) things like what angle it wants to slide. The Huracán EVO Spyder has to understand that you want to drift and not fight that. If it does, it will jerk the car (and driver) back into alignment.

Lamborghini Huracan EVO Spyder

To relive your Fast and Furious dreams, the automaker started where lots of companies start with new technology: In the simulator. But a computer can’t faithfully reproduce the real world. Mostly that has to do with tires, a variable that’s tough to predict because of the density of the rubber’s compound and its wear.

Then, of course, there’s the driver. We all drive differently but the experience must be the same for everyone. It’s important that even with all that technology, it’s still a driving experience. “We don’t want to have something that substitutes the driver. We want to have a car that is able to understand what the driver wants to do,” Reggiani said.

Lamborghini is known for large engines, intense growls, striking design and bank-busting prices. But the reality is all that power would be useless if drivers couldn’t actually control the car. The automaker’s latest system makes that possible for everyone. Sure, only a select few can own a Lamborghini, but everyone can appreciate a system that makes driving safer while simultaneously more fun.

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This device makes it easy for the elderly to stay in touch with their loved ones

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Only 20 percent of over-75s in the UK have a smartphone compared to 95 percent of 16-to-24-year-olds. Digital technologies change fast, become obsolete quickly and usually need you to spend a bit of time learning how to use them.

This helps explain why most older adults tend to use what they know best when it comes to communicating, which usually means a phone call via a landline or basic mobile, instead of a quick text or social media update.

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But it doesn’t have to be this way. My colleague Massimo Micocci and I have recently designed a more modern device we hope will help older people stay in more frequent touch with instant updates, but that has a familiar feel to it. By drawing on smart materials and what we call “design metaphors”, we hope to make new technology more accessible.

When older people don’t have access to instant messaging, a phone call or a visit may be the only way for friends and family to check their loved ones are well. And doing so more than (or even) once a day might not be feasible or wanted.

Similarly, older people might feel that ringing their relatives morning and night just to let them know they’re OK would be an inconvenience. And while you can buy specialized monitoring devices that record people’s movements around their home, these often feel like an invasion of privacy.

With this in mind, we developed something that lets older people broadcast their status to their families like a social media update. Our device (which is designed for research purposes rather than commercial development) looks like an analogue radio. But it lets users transmit information about their activity captured from a wearable heartbeat sensor in a way that is entertaining and intuitive, and only shared with selected group of followers.

The keep-in-touch. Author provided

The information includes how energetic their current activity is, for example whether they are conducting an active task such as gardening, or a relaxing and restful one such as reading a book.

By designing the device to evoke technology with which people will feel instantly familiar, we’re using the principle of design metaphor. Most people find it easier to interact with devices that resemble products they have already used.

In cognitive psychology, this is known as inferential learning, referring to when someone applies established knowledge in their brain to a new context. The design of our “radio” device makes it easier for users to work out how to use it, based on their previous interactions with traditional radios – even though it has a very different function.

Giving users control

There are plenty of systems that enable people to monitor older family members. But usually these are fully passive, where the older adults are observed directly through cameras and sensors around their homes. Or they are fully active, for example mobile phones that require the older adults to stop what they’re doing and respond right away.

Instead, our device lets people choose the level of communication they want. It runs in the background and doesn’t transmit detailed information such as images of people in their homes. This makes it a much less intrusive way of letting someone know you’re OK.

We also wanted to make the device very easy to understand, interpret and remember. So rather than having an information screen that showed text or images, we wanted to create a display that used so-called smart materials to convey what the user was doing.

In this context, smart materials are those that can change color, shape, viscosity or how much light they emit. Our research showed that light-emitting materials were the best way of conveying messages without words for both under and over-60s.

The “radio” is just a research prototype but it has allowed us to understand that the combination of innovative materials and familiar artefacts can be a successful way to encourage aging users to adopt new technologies. In this way, smart materials and design metaphors could help bridge the digital gap and promote innovation among older consumers.

This article is republished from The Conversation by Gabriella Spinelli, Reader in Design Innovation, Brunel University London under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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