For the past forever, high-speed rail in the United States has existed as a sugarplum dream, sweet to think about, but dissolving instantly upon contact with reality. One of the sweetest and fastest of these dreams is maglev trains, a super-high-speed rail system that already exists in other parts of the world, reaching speeds of 373 miles per hour in Japan. Soon, our high-speed aspirations might become reality thanks to new funding for maglev research here in the United States.
On Saturday, the office of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced that the state had received a $27.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to assess the feasibility of a superconducting maglev (also known as SCMaglev) train line between Baltimore and Washington DC.
Currently, the trip between Baltimore and Washington DC takes about an hour by car, approximately an hour and 15 minutes by commuter rail, and 40 minutes via the only current high-speed option, the Acela Express. A new maglev route could reduce that down to 15 minutes.
“The ability to travel between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. in only 15 minutes
For the past three weeks, outdoor apparel maker The North Face and materials company Spiber have been touring a gold-colored parka across Japan. The prototype, called the “Moon Parka,” is a first—a coat whose outer shell is spun from synthetic spider silk.
“Not since DuPont first launched Lycra 40 years ago has a textile come along set to revolutionize the fashion industry,” says Suzanne Lee, founder of Biofabricate, a design and biotech conference, and author of Fashioning the Future.
Light, supple, stretchy, and stronger than steel, spider silk has long been sought as a thread for all sorts of uses, including bulletproof vests, wound dressings, and car materials. But spiders don’t lend themselves to industrial harvesting, unless by extraordinary means, because they cannibalize each other when confined together.
Over the last decade, a series of companies has sought to create spider silk with little financial success. Most famously, Nexia, whose bioengineered “spider goats” secreted spider proteins in their milk, folded in 2009.
A new batch of companies, however, has taken the
Today Google is announcing TensorFlow, its open source platform for machine learning, giving anyone a computer and internet connection (and casual background in deep learning algorithms) access to one of the most powerful machine learning platforms ever created. More than 50 Google products have adopted TensorFlow to harness deep learning (machine learning using deep neural networks) as a tool, from identifying you and your friends in the Photos app to refining its core search engine. Google has become a machine learning company. Now they’re taking what makes their services special, and giving it to the world.
Introducing TensorFlow, the Android of AI
TensorFlow is a library of files that allows researchers and computer scientists to build systems that break down data, like photos or voice recordings, and have the computer make future decisions based on that information. This is the basis of machine learning: computers understanding data, and then using it to make decisions. When scaled to be very complex, machine learning is a stab at making computers smarter. That’s the broader, and more ill-defined field of artificial intelligence. TensorFlow is extraordinary complex, because of
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A new study from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory explains the mechanism behind a technology that converts bio-based ethanol into hydrocarbon blend-stocks for use as fossil fuel alternatives.
Scientists have experimented for decades with a class of catalysts known as zeolites that transform alcohols such as ethanol into higher-grade hydrocarbons. As ORNL researchers were developing a new type of zeolite-based conversion technology, they found the underlying reaction unfolds in a different manner than previously thought.
“For 40 years, everyone thought that these reactions must go first from ethanol to ethylene, and then from there it forms longer chains. We were able to show that it’s not how this occurs,” said ORNL’s Brian Davison, coauthor on the study published in Scientific Reports.
The researchers’ analysis found that this energy-consuming intermediary step is not necessary for the conversion to happen. Instead, an energy-producing “hydrocarbon pool” mechanism allows the zeolite catalysts to directly produce longer hydrocarbon chains from the original alcohols.
“It challenges a long-held but incorrect assumption,” said ORNL coauthor Chaitanya Narula. “It has been assumed that you must go from ethanol to ethylene, which is endothermic and requires energy. We showed this step doesn’t occur, and that the overall
If you’ve ever wondered why the sound you hear through your laptop’s headphone jack is wildly different from the sound that comes through your stereo system, the short answer is that your laptop is missing one of the key steps to make sound out of numbers: digital to analog conversion.
Better home audio is a nebulous world of micro-advances in technology that are tedious enough to make your head spin like a record. It’s a frustrating, seemingly endless struggle to improve what we hear. And as more and more of what we listen to comes from our hard drives and cloud services, we’re less dependent on the medium itself and more dependent on the technology that turns data to drum beats.
But the audio company, Schiit, which started back in 2010, argues that the best way to maximize the sound that comes into your headphones is to connect the headphones via USB to an external digital-to-analog converter (DAC). The idea is that, whether you have lossless, uncompressed files (which, unlike stripped down MP3s, hold more information and more accurately represent the original sound), iTunes, or a streaming service like Spotify, you’re not getting the full potential without a middleman.