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Breakthrough Starshot Plans To Boldly Go To Alpha Centauri

The adventurous side of human nature drives us to explore—to venture into the unknown to make it known! As humans aim to travel farther and faster, innovation is our natural companion. Who knows what kind of new technologies will come out of Breakthrough Starshot—a bold, new initiative—to reach the stars?

Twenty-five trillion miles may be closer than we think if these bold leaders have their way—Yuri Milner, founder of DST Global; Stephen Hawking, renowned theoretical physicist; and Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook. Each of them is a legend in their own right are combining forces and resources to back proof-of-concept research in interstellar travel. With a board like this, what sounds like science fiction should soon become science fact. Add a management and advisory team comprised of a Who’s Who in theoretical physics, astronomy, science and engineering. Thus, not even the sky’s the limit!

Breakthrough Starshot is a bold idea to use nanocraft (about the size of a postage stamp) aptly named StarChips to explore space. A StarChip is a tiny sailing vessel that will be driven by a powerful laser beam directed at the sail. And it is expected to accelerate to 20 percent of light speed. Notably, the nanocraft will head for Alpha Centauri, which is 4.7 light years (25 trillion miles) away.

Why Alpha Centauri?

Alpha Centauri is the nearest star system to our own solar system. Current estimates say that it would take 30,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri in one of our regular spaceships. If the laser sail works as expected, the new project aims to send the spacecraft to reach Alpha Centauri in just 20 years!

Will A Sonic Blast Cure Alzheimer’s?

A promising new treatment for Alzheimer’s uses sound waves instead of drugs to cure rather than treat the debilitating and deadly disease.

Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that eventually destroys the ability to carry out the most basic tasks of daily living.

An estimated 47 million people worldwide are living with dementia; Alzheimer’s being the most common form.  The associated cost to society is $605 billion annually. At current rates, the number of dementia cases is expected to increase to 76 million by 2030. A cure for the deadly disease of Alzheimer’s would have a bold impact saving millions of lives and billions of dollars, not to mention ending the suffering of millions of grieving families.

While drug treatments to manage symptoms are available, Alzheimer’s currently has no cure. Hopefully, that is about to change. A team of researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) has developed an ultrasound treatment with a 75% success rate curing Alzheimer’s disease in mice.

Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) has developed an ultrasound treatment with a 75% success rate curing Alzheimer’s in mice.

The team is currently working on modifying its equipment to penetrate the much thicker human skull safely.

The QBI treatment consists of first injecting air bubbles into the bloodstream. Next, sound waves are directed into the brain to cause the air bubbles to vibrate. The vibration opens the blood-brain barrier allowing proteins in the blood to enter the brain to stimulate the brain’s own waste removal process. Cells in the brain clean up the plaque and neurofibrillary tangles causing the Alzheimer’s.

To inform its work, the QBI team, in collaboration with peers worldwide, is generating and using a huge dataset, including brain scans of Alzheimer patients and animals and other images and data related to brain structure and function. The seven petabytes of data are managed in Oracle Hierarchical Storage Manager and are accessed using supercomputers.

According to Pankaj Sah, QBI’s forward-thinking director, if human trials are successful, the treatment could be available to the general public within five years.

Combining a bold idea with the analysis of petabytes of Big Data, this Australian team is on the path to an Alzheimer’s cure.

DOL Fiduciary Rule Changes — Brief Details On The Storm That Broke

President Trump issued orders to rollback on Dodd-Frank and to review the Fiduciary Rule. It’s caused a tempest. Like everything Trump, the response was “yuge.” So, how does a widely agreed-upon principle like fiduciary end up becoming an-only-in-Washington storm? What are the details on theDepartment of Labor or DOL Fiduciary Rule Changes?

Congress wrote laws to clarify the matter. There has been a perfectly acceptable Fiduciary Rule on the books since the 1940 Investment Advisors Act. It’s non-controversial and serviceable. In addition, it has stood the test of time. The reason Congress decided to address the issue again was simply that the rule did not apply to Brokers. It only applied to Registered Investment Advisers. Thus, Congress chose to refine and redefine the rules for fiduciary investment advice through the Department of Labor, because of the importance of investments to retirement accounts.

In their wisdom, Congress couldn’t simply state that the 1940 Act applied to brokers as well. No, Congress had to define fiduciary all over again, with pages and pages of rules and regulations which were incomprehensible from the get-go. In other words, they took fiduciary, a concept with almost universal public support and certain practical merits, and they turned it on its head and created a mountain of rules and regulation that brought the entire concept of “fiduciary” into question.

Beyond the DOL Fiduciary Rule Changes

We require professionals in many fields to put their clients’ well-being before their own. No one would sanction a heart surgeon performing a few “extra” surgeries in order to buy a new yacht. CPAs, attorneys, and pharmacists all willingly accept the burden of putting their clients’ interests first and foremost. It’s not a controversial idea.

Regardless of the DOL Fiduciary Rule changes, fiduciary itself is not the problem. If Dodd-Frank is unworkable, Congress should take a bold step and work with the Investment Advisor’s definition and rules. After all, it’s done the job since 1940.

Urban Rail Systems: Big Moves in the Transportation Industry

As Einstein once said, “Insanity lies in doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.” It’s time for new thinking and new ideas for American transportation. The car/road/parking garage model is fine as far as it goes. But we desperately need fresh ideas, especially for urban areas where gridlock has become the norm. While U.S. cities remained car-centric in their planning and development, Japan, China and Europe have moved forward with urban rail systems.

Some of these trains and projects are simply awesome. It’s hard to even describe what the Tokyo transit system is to most Americans. They simply can’t imagine a clean, fast, inexpensive and pleasant mass transit system. And no wonder, in most American cities, the public transportation infrastructure is ancient, dirty, slow and decrepit. Nevertheless, it doesn’t have to be that way. And there are signs that team Trump gets it. There are rumors that the Trump infrastructure priority list contains several high-speed rail projects. Among the projects include rail lines from Houston to Dallas, New York to Washington D.C., Baltimore to D.C., and Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Japanese and Chinese companies are champing at the bit to land pieces of these plum projects.

A Few Notes on Current Urban Rail Systems

Funding is, of course, the issue. Trump said that he is moving to rebuild American infrastructure with private funding. Critics of this proposal are concerned that for-profit companies won’t be responsive to public needs. The debate of public vs. private isn’t going away any time soon. In the meantime, it is notable that the much-admired train system in Tokyo is almost entirely privately owned and run.

The Japanese rail system is truly a gem. It is the most advanced and efficient one among all current urban rail systems in the world. It’s clean, fast, efficient and easy to use.

And it is private. The government sets the goals and coordinates the grand design. Private funding and ingenuity do the rest. The system allows them to be responsible, flexible and innovative.

While we are pottering along on Amtrak trains that are older than our grandparents and have average speeds of slow, slower and slowest, the Japanese are zipping across the country in maglevs that cruise almost silently at 200 mph. In addition, a train that will run from Tokyo to Osaka at 310 miles per hour is in the works right now.

The Bold Idea of Urban Rail Systems

Worldwide, train and transportation technology is advancing at an astonishing rate. Recently the Japanese Railway Technical Research Institute tested the use superconducting cables on 310 miles of track. It resulted in a reduction in energy use of 5 percent.

What the Japanese seem to have truly mastered with their rail systems and research is the art of cooperation. Thirty companies operate in the Tokyo system alone, yet cooperation in pricing and fares makes it seamless for users. Contrast this to typical urban areas in the United States, where crossing a city boundary line often results in a new and different fare. The Japanese rail system is free of these annoying issues and performs its intended purpose almost flawlessly and at a profit. Now, that’s a bold idea indeed.