125. First Planetary Defense Test, Faster Cheaper Gene Sequencing, United Airlines’ $1 Billion Bet

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Show Notes:

Google Fiber Revs Up Its Multi-Gig Speeds to 20Gbps in Newest Field Test | CNET (01:29)

  • Google Fiber CEO Dinni Jain announced Tuesday via blog post that 20 gigs is coming,

    • The company achieved a 20.2Gbps download speed in a field test in Kansas City

  • Google Fiber currently offers two plan options: 1-gigabit download speeds for $70 per month and a 2-gig plan for $100 monthly.

    • cheapest 2Gbps plan among major internet providers

  • CNET reached out to a Google Fiber spokesperson, and was told that more information will be on the way in the coming weeks.

    • No word yet on pricing or when to expect the plan to be available to customers.

    • A 25Gbps speed tier from EPB costs around $1,500 per month

  • According to Google Fiber's CEO this is just the beginning:

    • “In the coming months, we'll have announcements to dramatically expand our multi-gigabit tiers. These will be critical milestones on our journey to 100 Gig symmetrical internet."

NASA crashes DART spacecraft into asteroid in world's 1st planetary defense test | Space.com (06:45)

  • For the first time in history, a spacecraft from Earth has crashed into an asteroid to test a way to save our planet from extinction.

    • Spacecraft: NASA's Double Asteroid Rendezvous Test (DART) probe

    • Asteroid: Dimorphos, 7 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth

  • The goal of the mission was to change the orbit of the space rock around its larger asteroid parent Didymos .

    • Trying to test if humanity could deflect a dangerous asteroid if one was headed for Earth.

  • Elena Adams, DART's mission systems engineer, said that “our first planetary defense test was a success”

  • The golf cart-sized DART (1,320 pounds) spacecraft slammed into the asteroid at 14,000 mph.

    • Would be enough to move the 534-foot-wide (163 meters) Dimorphos a bit faster (10 minutes faster) in its orbit around its parent.

    • Poses no risk of changing the binary system's orbit to come anywhere near Earth.

  • The DART mission is the first demonstration of what NASA calls a "kinetic impactor" for planetary defense: crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid to change its orbit.

    • Basic method to protect the Earth if a potentially dangerous asteroid were spotted five or 10 years before a prospective impact.

  • Angela Stickle, the leader of DART's impact working group, said the team's simulations and models suggest the spacecraft would likely create a crater up to 65 feet (20 m) wide.

  • A vast network of ground-based telescopes were trained on the event and will be following the binary Didymos-Dimorphos system over time to see how much faster Dimorphos is now moving in its orbit.

The Era of Fast, Cheap Genome Sequencing Is Here | WIRED (13:35)

  • At an industry event in San Diego today, genomics behemoth Illumina unveiled what it calls its fastest, most cost-efficient sequencing machines yet, the NovaSeq X series.

    • Illumina controls around 80 percent of the DNA sequencing market globally

  • The company believes its new technology will slash the cost to just $200 per human genome while providing a readout at twice the speed.

    • Currently costs $600 for scientists to perform sequencing

    • Sequence 20,000 genomes per year; its current machines can do about 7,500

  • Francis deSouza, Illumina’s CEO, states:

    • “As we look to the next decade, we believe we’re entering the era of genomic medicine going mainstream. To do that requires the next generation of sequencers … We need price points to keep coming down to make genomic medicine and genomic tests available much more broadly.”

  • Stacey Gabriel, chief genomics officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, states they have been “waiting for this for a long time.” She continues to talk about the benefits of the new tech:

    • “With greatly reduced costs and greatly increased speed of sequencing, we can sequence way more samples.”

  • A major benefit of cheaper and more efficiency sequencing is increasing the diversity of genomic datasets.

    • Different populations might have different disease-causing genetic variations that are more or less prevalent.

  • Additionally, by sequencing more genes you can compare and contrast the genetic sequences of a healthy individual and a disordered individual.

    • Allows researchers to see the nuances in their genetic makeup.

  • Illumina's new system will cost around $1 million, about the same as its existing machines.

    • The high price tag is a key reason they’re not yet common in smaller labs and hospitals, or in rural regions.

Startup Says It Can Store 100TB in Nintendo-Like Cartridges | Futurism (20:24)

  • A startup called Folio Photonics is attempting to take over the archival storage market, one Nintendo-ish cartridge at a time.

    • Storage types like tapes, and hard disks are favored by enterprise-scale archiving purposes.

  • Folio claims to offer a cost-effective, incredibly high-performing optical alternative to tapes, hard disks, and DNA storage

    • Just one of their oddly-shaped, multi-layered cartridges can allegedly fit 100 terabytes of data.

    • 100,000 gigabytes, which is nearly three times the storage of the densest Blu-Ray disk

  • CEO Steven Santamaria explains how their tech can hold this much data:

    • “Traditional Blu-ray discs are three or four layers and have been for 20 years (the Archival disc achieves 6 layers by having 3-layers on both sides) ... Our first product will be 8 layers per side, meaning we will have a 16 layer double sided disc."

  • Additionally, the company claims their storage device, unlike hard drive and tape storage, is "impervious" to electromagnetic disruption, damage from radiation or saltwater, and extreme temperatures

  • We will end off with more of the CEO talking about the tech:

    • “Our talented engineering team has pioneered a fresh approach to optical storage that overcomes historical constraints and puts unheard of cost, cybersecurity and sustainability benefits within reach … With these advantages, Folio Photonics is poised to reshape the trajectory of archive storage."

Why United Airlines is betting $1 billion on flying cars | Emerging Tech Brew (25:12)

  • Investors, startups, and aviation bigwigs have all put billions of dollars toward making that vision a reality with electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) ventures.

    • United Airlines being one of them

  • The company has been an investor in California-based Archer Aviation since the startup was preparing to go public via SPAC in 2021 and also reached a $1 billion deal to buy Archer’s eVTOLs last February.

    • An option to purchase an additional $500 million of aircraft.

    • Archer is building a four-passenger electric aircraft and aims to get it certified by the FAA for use in the US by the end of 2024.

  • This past September, United agreed to buy 200 eVTOL aircraft from Eve Air Mobility.

  • Why are they doing this? Mike Leskinen, president of United Airlines Ventures, told Emerging Tech Brew:

    • “It’s about making our airline the airline that customers choose to fly … A) We want to innovate. And we want to provide that to our customers first B) We have the footprint—the geographic footprint—that makes us the right player C) It decarbonizes that trip to the airport. This is not taking regional aircraft out of the skies, but it is taking cars off the road, many of which will be burning gasoline”

  • eVTOLs could change the way we travel in the long term, with the nearer-term use case of replacing helicopters and serving as a way to get from an urban center to an airport faster.

  • CEO Leskinen talks on the pricing of these eVTOL rides:

    • “They’re going to be expensive at first … As you build this product, as you certify this product, there are going to be massive economies of scale. And the cost is going to come down rapidly, to the point where I see a world where—because you get so much more utility out of the aircraft—the cost is no more than using an Uber X. But initially it’s going to look like an Uber Black.”

  • The challenging part will be building the infrastructure for air taxis, the “vertiports, ” which could resemble helipads with charging stations.

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