ARPA-E – a new federal agency created to fund research of promising, but unproven, energy technologies

ARPA-E: A Good Beginning for U.S. Energy Innovation

By Bill Gates

Clean energy and innovation are two areas that I’m passionate about, so I’ve been looking forward to investigating some interesting new energy technologies at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit this week.

ARPA-E is a new federal agency—the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy—created in 2009 to fund research of promising, but unproven, energy technologies. It was modeled after DARPA—the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency—which was established in the late 1950s to accelerate development of U.S. satellite technology to keep pace with the Soviet Union. Research at DARPA led to a number of fantastic breakthroughs, including GPS technology and the Internet.

The idea behind ARPA-E is to help the U.S. fast-track development of innovative energy technologies that wouldn’t typically be funded by traditional energy companies. If just a fraction of the projects are successful, they could reduce greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change, help the U.S. decrease its dependence on foreign oil, , and keep the U.S. competitive in advanced energy technologies.

I’ve been quite impressed with the people running ARPA-E. In less than three years, they have evaluated hundreds of proposals and made $521 million in grants to support 180 projects.

Keep reading – Bill Gates from The Gates Notes

 

 

Continue reading ARPA-E – a new federal agency created to fund research of promising, but unproven, energy technologies

Most of the translation on the planet is now done by Google Translate

“In a given day we translate roughly as much text as you’d find in 1 million books. To put it another way: what all the professional human translators in the world produce in a year, our system translates in roughly a single day. By this estimate, most of the translation on the planet is now done by Google Translate.”

Pulled from Breaking Down the Language Barrier via the Google Translate Blog:

The rise of the web has brought the world’s collective knowledge to the fingertips of more than two billion people. But what happens if it’s in Hindi or Afrikaans or Icelandic, and you speak only English—or vice versa?

In 2001, Google started providing a service that could translate eight languages to and from English. It used what was then state-of-the-art commercial machine translation (MT), but the translation quality wasn’t very good, and it didn’t improve much in those first few years. In 2003, a few Google engineers decided to ramp up the translation quality and tackle more languages. That’s when I got involved. I was working as a researcher on DARPA projects looking at a new approach to machine translation—learning from data—which held the promise of much better translation quality. I got a phone call from those Googlers who convinced me (I was skeptical!) that this data-driven approach might work.

I joined Google, and we started to retool our translation system toward competing in the NIST Machine Translation Evaluation, a “bake-off” among research institutions and companies to build better machine translation. Google’s massive computing infrastructure and ability to crunch vast sets of web data gave us strong results. This was a major turning point: it underscored how effective the data-driven approach could be.

But at that time our system was too slow to run as a practical service—it took us 40 hours and 1,000 machines to translate 1,000 sentences. So we focused on speed, and a year later our system could translate a sentence in under a second, and with better quality. In early 2006, we rolled out our first languages: Chinese, then Arabic.

We announced our statistical MT approach on April 28, 2006, and in the six years since then we’ve focused primarily on core translation quality and language coverage. We can now translate among any of 64 different languages, including many with a small web presence, such as Bengali, Basque, Swahili, Yiddish, even Esperanto.

Today we have more than 200 million monthly active users on translate.google.com (and even more in other places where you can use Translate, such as Chrome, mobile apps, YouTube, etc.). People also seem eager to access Google Translate on the go (the language barrier is never more acute than when you’re traveling)—we’ve seen our mobile traffic more than quadruple year over year. And our users are truly global: more than 92 percent of our traffic comes from outside the United States.

 

by Franz Och

Distinguished Research Scientist, Google

 

// Thx to – The Next Web

Jet travels more than 13,000 mph (Mach 20) thanks to sleek aerodynamic systems

It’s amazing that this Hypersonic jet was able to travel more than 13,000 mph with heats of over 3,500 degrees.

During flight it experienced shockwaves, 100 times more powerful than expected, which caused it to spin. It then righted itself and flew for twice as long before technicians finally aborted the mission.

The full story:

In August the Pentagon’s research arm, known as DARPA, carried out a test flight of an experimental aircraft capable of traveling at 20 times the speed of sound.

The arrowhead-shaped unmanned aircraft, dubbed Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Santa Barbara, into the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere…then glided above the Pacific at 20 times the speed of sound, or Mach 20.

The plan was for the Falcon to speed westward for about 30 minutes before plunging into the ocean near Kwajalein Atoll, about 4,000 miles from Vandenberg.

But it was ended about nine minutes into flight for unknown reasons. The launch had received worldwide attention and much fanfare, but officials didn’t provide much information on why the launch failed.

via LA Times

 

Then last week, DARPA said in a statement:

The flight successfully demonstrated stable aerodynamically-controlled flight at speeds up to Mach 20 for nearly three minutes. Approximately nine minutes into the test flight, the vehicle experienced a series of shocks culminating in an anomaly, which prompted the autonomous flight safety system to use the vehicle’s aerodynamic systems to make a controlled descent and splashdown into the ocean.

“The initial shockwave disturbances experienced during second flight, from which the vehicle was able to recover and continue controlled flight, exceeded by more than 100 times what the vehicle was designed to withstand,” said DARPA Acting Director, Kaigham J. Gabriel. “That’s a major validation that we’re advancing our understanding of aerodynamic control for hypersonic flight.”

…larger than anticipated portions of the vehicle’s skin peeled from the aerostructure. The resulting gaps created strong, impulsive shock waves around the vehicle as it travelled nearly 13,000 miles per hour, causing the vehicle to roll abruptly. Based on knowledge gained from the first flight in 2010 and incorporated into the second flight, the vehicle’s aerodynamic stability allowed it to right itself successfully after several shockwave-induced rolls. Eventually, however, the severity of the continued disturbances finally exceeded the vehicle’s ability to recover.

via DARPA

Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2)

 

Robot cheetah sets speed record for legged robots

This video shows a demonstration of the “Cheetah” robot galloping at speeds of up to 18 miles per hour (mph), setting a new land speed record for legged robots. The previous record was 13.1 mph, set in 1989.

The robot’s movements are patterned after those of fast-running animals in nature. The robot increases its stride and running speed by flexing and un-flexing its back on each step, much as an actual cheetah does.

The current version of the Cheetah robot runs on a laboratory treadmill where it is powered by an off-board hydraulic pump, and uses a boom-like device to keep it running in the center of the treadmill. Testing of a free-running prototype is planned for later this year.

 

I can’t explain why but watching this video makes me very scared. I think someone needs to make a horror movie with speedy robot cheetahs to haunt my nightmares.

This description of the robotics program doesn’t help any:

Robots hold great promise for amplifying human effectiveness in Defense operations. Compared to human beings and animals, however, the mobility and manipulation capability of present day robots is poor. In addition, design and manufacturing of current robotic systems are time consuming, and fabrication costs remain high. If these limitations were overcome, robots could assist in the execution of military operations far more effectively across a far greater range of missions.

via DARPA Defense Sciences Office