Category Archives: Science

Updates from McKinsey

The autonomous plant: Entering a new digital era
The requirements of the energy transition present significant industry challenges. Energy companies must embrace new technologies, transform management systems, and expand workforce capabilities.
By Gopal Chakrabarti, Dominik Don, Micah Smith, and Premal Vora – Energy companies are operating in uncertain times. They face societal pressure and increased regulation to significantly reduce fossil-fuel dependency, primarily characterized by reliance on transport fuels, plastics, and other refining and petrochemical products. Under these conditions, companies are looking to maximize the health and resilience of downstream operations—particularly in oil and gas and chemicals—by adopting new automation and digital technologies, enabling increased levels of data usage and performance transparency, as well as faster decision loops.

Many of these changes were already occurring and have only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a newfound sense of urgency. Yet digital strategies remain challenging for the energy sector for several reasons, namely keeping up with increased decarbonization efforts, workforce changes, and accelerated technological innovations. Many companies have responded with short-term solutions but remain indecisive about how to identify priorities in the years to come.

Autonomous plants are a promising solution. Such future plants link technology, data, and advanced visualizations with operations to ensure that assets learn from each action taken, as well as from historical data and derived insights. These plants react to asset health and economic conditions and progressively improve their operations over time to run with a lower carbon footprint as well as more safely and more profitably.

Our research shows that all plants, irrespective of their maturity levels, are primed to identify and adopt digital technologies to move toward autonomy. The building blocks are now in place, the technologies are available, and the required skill sets are coming into focus. more>

How to Build a Better Chiplet Packaging to Extend Moore’s Law

Packaging approaches like chiplet tech can extend Moore’s Law. But what does that mean for chip design product developers and fabs?
By John Blyler – Moore’s Law may not be dead, but it certainly has been challenged significantly beyond the 28nm process node. Fortunately, there are ways to extend Moore’s Law’s cost, feature, and size benefits. One way is to use chiplets – or modular dies – that effectively bypass Moore’s Law by replacing single silicon die with multiple smaller dies that work together in a unified packaged solution.

This approach provides much more silicon to add transistors compared to a monolithic microchip. As a result, chiplets are expected to return to the two-year doubling cycle that has been the cornerstone economics of the semiconductor business since 1965.

The global market for processor microchips that utilize chiplets in their manufacturing process is set to expand to $5.8 billion in 2024, rising by a factor of nine from $645 million in 2018, according to Omdia(Image Source: IEDM 2017, AMD Dr. Lisa Su keynote) more>

Culture Clash: A Lesson from the Theranos Case

KNOWLEDGE@WHARTON – There’s much more at stake than a potential 20-year prison term for Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, whose federal fraud trial opened last week. Her case has come to symbolize the perpetual conflict between big tech and health care.

“It’s a culture clash, to be sure,” Wharton health care management professor Lawton R. Burns said in an interview with Wharton Business Daily on SiriusXM.

The startup culture in Silicon Valley and beyond moves at warp speed, he said. When investors are enthusiastic about a promising new venture, the hype builds and the dollars roll in. Theranos reached a valuation of $9 billion on a bogus claim that it developed a revolutionary lab test capable of screening for a range of conditions on a single drop of blood. It was exactly the sort of cost-efficient solution that big tech is known for, so it’s little wonder that investors fell for the pitch from the charismatic Holmes, who fashioned herself after Apple visionary Steve Jobs.

But there’s almost always friction when big tech turns its eye toward health care as “virgin turf to apply all of this new, cool stuff to,” said Burns, who is co-author of the book Big Med: Megaproviders and the High Cost of Health Care in America. “The question is whether or not all this stuff is going to work and transform health care or, conversely, at the extreme, just crash and burn.” more>

Space Market Is Poised for Growth. But What Industries Will Benefit First?

Everyone wants a piece of the new space race action. AIAA ASCEND may help break it down.
By John Blyler – Space seems to be the new black. Everyone wants to be a part of the current “space race.” A new awareness of our extra-terrestrial potential is emerging from the amazing crafts that take us into the earth’s orbit and beyond to the structures that will be needed to support humans on other planets.

The space market has also become a growth engine for the high-tech industry. In contrast to the last space race, today’s launch costs are down. Technological advances and public interest mean space exploration is well on course to be the next trillion-dollar industry.

Add to this growing list of supporters is a community called ASCEND, whose sole mission is to build humanity’s off-world future faster. Recently, they premiered “Fast Forward” – an original on-demand interview series featuring champions of industries pursuing large-scale growth in space.

Powered by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), ASCEND was launched in 2020 to Accelerate Space Commerce, Exploration, and New Discovery. ASCEND’s centerpiece annual event will convene this November. Join the conversation live in Las Vegas and Washington, DC, and online everywhere during November. nore>

Wall Street to Mission Control: Can space tourism pay off?

With the COVID-19 pandemic curtailing earthly travel, space tourism may seem like a far-fetched dream—but some companies are betting on high demand.
By Chris Daehnick and Jess Harrington – The space industry saw record-breaking growth in 2020 as investors, undeterred by the COVID-19 pandemic, poured almost $9 billion into private companies. While some of these businesses are simply providing parts and services to government agencies like NASA, others want to venture into space with their own crew and rockets. One ambitious goal, which several companies are now pursuing, involves space tourism for any private citizen willing to pay a hefty fee.

Having private companies lead space exploration ventures was the stuff of science fiction when the human spaceflight era dawned 60 years ago in April 1961. But such companies have now demonstrated the safety and performance of their systems for a full spectrum of operations. Plans to offer private flights are becoming reality, so what does the future hold? To answer this question, we look at industry trends, investment patterns, and the obstacles ahead.

Governments monopolized space exploration in its early days because of the staggering investment and high risks involved. Exhibit 1 shows some of the early milestones of space flight, as well as other important developments through 2000. National pride and the desire to be “first” were also powerful motivators, although many countries now appreciate the value of collaboration, as seen with the International Space Station. Private companies, with vastly fewer resources, had little reason to investigate crewed missions because the likelihood of getting government approval and seeing decent returns was dim. more>

Related>

Zero tolerance for hate teaching is not negotiable

By David Lega, Lukas Mandl and Miriam Lexmann – The June 2021 publication of an overdue review of Palestinian textbooks by Germany’s Georg Eckert Institute (GEI) was meant to bring peace of mind to those who have long suspected that the Palestinian Authority (PA) curriculum does not meet UNESCO standards.

With concerns expressed that the curriculum perpetuates conflict by promoting hatred and violence, alongside employing antisemitic and militaristic tropes, €225,000 was invested by the EU to fund an ostensibly comprehensive review.

The findings and their presentation should be as concerning as the textbooks themselves. Among these were a myriad of examples that teach hatred, encourage violence and reject peace. Within the report’s pages one finds an array of alarming and harmful content, from the glorification of gruesome terrorist activities, such as the 1978 Coastal Road massacre, to the negation of Israel as a legitimate entity, expressed through maps and nomenclature. Examples are not limited to the teaching of history or civics, with a cursory glance of maths and science textbooks finding examples of violence and death used to teach the subject, alongside the evocation of classic antisemitic tropes and conspiracies, such as treachery and greed. more>

Updates from Ciena

Enabling Africa’s digital economy
Africa leads the globe in international bandwidth growth. With the fastest growth rate over the last four years and eight new cables in the works over the next few years, this is an emerging market with key network infrastructure projects to watch.
By Brian Lavallée – After Asia, the world’s 2nd largest continent is Africa, which covers 20% of our planet’s landmass. How big is Africa? Well, it’s bigger than China, India, the contiguous U.S., and most of Europe – combined. Africa is the home to almost 1.4 billion people, speaking over 2000 languages, making it the 2nd most populous continent. This population is also the youngest, with a median age of just 19.7 years in 2020.The next youngest continent is Latin America and the Caribbean (31.0) followed by Asia (32.0), Oceania (33.4), North America (38.6), and Europe (42.5).

A large, young, and populous continent means networks play an extremely important socioeconomic role to help increase critical connectivity options to close the Digital Divide and connecting Africa to the rest of the digitized world. The direct link between higher broadband and a higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) further increases the importance of a fast, reliable, and inexpensive digital ecosystem of submarine and terrestrial networks, both wired and wireless.

From 2016 to 2020, Africa experienced the highest used international bandwidth growth by region, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of over 50%, shown in Figure 1. However, Africa is still the world’s least connected continent, but it’s changing because of steady investments by African network operators. more>

Related>

Updates from Ciena

Simplifying Open Submarine Cable Link Engineering
How can a new and better way to perform submarine cable link budgeting address challenges associated with the open submarine cable model? Brian Lavallée explains why the submarine network industry is moving towards these new metrics and how you can learn more in our new handbook.
By Brian Lavallée – Terrestrial networks leverage many optical line amplifiers and Reconfigurable Optical Add-Drop Multiplexer (ROADM) nodes to construct end-to-end networks. Fortunately, terrestrial amplifier and ROADM nodes are relatively simple to monitor to determine how each section contributes to end-to-end service performance, as each of these network elements provides a rich set of measured data.

Submarine cable systems are far more challenging because submerged repeaters (historical misnomer referring to optical amplifiers) and branching units provide only basic health status information. This design philosophy reduces the component count of undersea optoelectronics providing a higher overall reliability, which is a fundamental design goal of wet plants, because once deployed, they’re extremely expensive and time-consuming to repair. Given the limited information provided by most wet plants, end-to-end service performance must be determined from information provided by Submarine Line Terminal Equipment (SLTE) coherent optical modems connected at each end of a submarine cable.

The Open Submarine Cable business model

The industry is operating in a “quasi-open” submarine cable environment in that operators can and typically do select their wet plant from one vendor and their SLTE from another vendor, often much later, as wet plants take years to go from the designed to deployed stage. This quasi-open model allows operators to choose the latest and greatest SLTE, when and where needed, over the entire lifecycle of their wet plant allowing them to design and deploy a best-in-breed network tailored to their unique business requirements. more>

Related>

Should vaccinated people worry about long Covid?

Here’s what we know about long Covid — with some hope for the future.
By German Lopez – Over the past few months, experts and officials have tried to prepare the world for a future in which Covid-19 is here to stay. They predict the vaccines will by and large defang the virus. There will still be a few cases of serious illness and death, but the coronavirus will be reduced to the level of a seasonal flu — a disease we’d be much better off without, but mild enough we won’t shut down society to fight it.

But this optimistic vision has always left open a big question: What about long Covid?

Covid-19 is most known for causing acute illness, from a cough and fever to hospitalization and death. But in some cases it seems to cause longer-term complications, including breathing difficulties, fatigue, and brain fog, though the effects vary from person to person. While Covid-19 typically resolves in the span of weeks, long Covid can last at least months after an infection.

“Without treatment, we’ve seen individuals who got sick in February or March of 2020 and are still sick and still extremely debilitated,” David Putrino, who’s treated long Covid patients at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, told me.

These long-term complications aren’t unique to the coronavirus; other viruses, including seasonal flu, cause long-term symptoms too, sometimes similar ones. But as more people have been infected by the coronavirus, and more have subsequently developed long Covid, the long-term problems have received more attention. more>

Apocalypse or co-operation?

The perfect storm of Covid-19 and climate change, and resulting economic damage, will likely trigger much more social and political instability.
By Jayati Ghosh – The apocalypse is now. That is the glaring message of the perfect storm of Covid-19 and climate change which has broken. The pandemic is unlikely to end for years, as the novel coronavirus mutates into increasingly transmissible, drug-resistant variants. And the climate catastrophe is no longer ‘impending’ but playing out in real time.

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—whose assessments predate the extreme climate events of the past year—tells us that some drastic, adverse climatic changes are now irreversible. These will affect every region, as the recent heatwaves, wildfires and floods demonstrate. They will also severely damage many natural species and adversely affect the possibilities for, and conditions of, human life.

Keeping future global warming to a manageable level (even if above the 2015 Paris climate agreement goal of 1.5C) will require a massive effort, involving sharp economic-policy reversals in every country. Major changes in the global legal and economic architecture will be essential.

For its part, the pandemic has devastated employment and livelihoods, pushing hundreds of millions of people, mostly in the developing world, into poverty and hunger. The International Labor Organization’s World Employment and Social Outlook Trends 2021 shows the extent of the damage in grinding detail. In 2020, the pandemic caused the loss of nearly 9 per cent of total global working hours, equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs. This trend has continued in 2021, with working-hour losses equivalent to 140 million full-time jobs in the first quarter and 127 million jobs in the second quarter. more>