China figured out carrots work as well as sticks


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Since the start of President Trump’s trade war, China has retaliated against US tariffs by raising tariffs on US goods. Less well known is that China has also been lowering rates for everyone else, putting US companies at an even greater disadvantage when trying to sell to China’s 1.4 billion consumers. Companies in the United States and elsewhere used to be on a level playing field, facing an average Chinese tariff of 8.0 percent. Now, there is a 14 percentage point difference between the average Chinese tariff US exporters face versus all other exporters. Some US goods are facing even wider differences in duties, like soybeans, farm and fish products, and certain manufacturing products.

War of the Worlds – in Chinese Sci-Fi


Robert Beatty illustration

❝ Two rival civilizations are battling for supremacy. Civilization A is stronger than Civilization B and is perceived by Civilization B as a grave threat; its position, however, is more fragile than it seems. Neither side hesitates to employ espionage, subterfuge, and surveillance, because the rules of conduct—to the extent that they exist—are ill-defined and frequently contested. But the battle lines are clear: whoever controls the technological frontier controls the future…

❝ When the first volume of the series was published in the United States, in 2014, the models for Trisolaris and Earth were immediately apparent…As Liu Cixin told the Times, “China is on the path of rapid modernization and progress, kind of like the U.S. during the golden age of science fiction.” The future, he went on, would be “full of threats and challenges,” and “very fertile soil” for speculative fiction…

❝ Liu’s tomes—they tend to be tomes—have been translated into more than twenty languages, and the trilogy has sold some eight million copies worldwide. He has won China’s highest honor for science-fiction writing, the Galaxy Award, nine times, and in 2015 he became the first Asian writer to win the Hugo Award, the most prestigious international science-fiction prize.

Science-fiction played an important role in my education. One of my treasures is a postcard from an exchange I had with Ray Bradbury in 1951. The second book club I joined while still in elementary school was named the Science Fiction Book Club…though there were several such around at the time.

Still a genre for the speculative writer to engage in their own signature version of understanding and/or re-ordering the world we know…or don’t, yet.

Elon Musk said what?

❝ In many ways, Tesla — Elon Musk’s lightning rod of a car company — is the perfect allegory for modern Silicon Valley. The ongoing psychodrama of personalities drowns out the amazing technical achievements that are happening all around us…

As usual, this has been a real “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” kind of week for Tesla. It had a disastrous earnings report card, and Elon keeps creating all the wrong sorts of headlines. But in the middle of this maelstrom, the company announced a new chip that is going to eventually become the brain for their electric car. This chip is not just any chip — it will be able to make sense of a growing number of sensors that allow the car to become better and better at assisted (if not fully automated) driving…

❝ Tesla’s module is based on two AI chips — each one made of a CPU, a GPU, and deep learning accelerators. The module can deliver 144-trillion operations per second, making it capable of processing data from numerous sensors and other sources and running deep neural network algorithms. Ian Riches, an analyst with Strategy Analytics, told EE Times that this is “effectively the most powerful computer yet fitted to a production vehicle.” And Tesla is going to make a next-generation module that will be more powerful and will consume a lot less power.

As usual, Om Malik provides more depth, analysis and understanding than most of his peers. Please, RTFA, gather in another chunk of insight into Elon Musk’s apparently endless journey to reinvent the automobile along with any other software and hardware he bumps into in his young life.

World’s largest plane 1st take-off!

❝ On Saturday morning, April 13th, exactly 45 minutes after the sun began to rise over the Mojave Desert, the largest airplane ever created—and its record-breaking 385-foot wingspan—took off for the very first time. The aircraft, from the company Stratolaunch, has been eight years in the making. By 2022, the company hopes to use the twin-fuselage, six-engined, catamaran-style aircraft to launch satellite-bearing rockets into space…

<blockquote❝ "All of you have been very patient and very tolerant over the years waiting for us to get this big bird off the ground, and we finally did it," Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd told reporters on a press call. The company reported the airplane hit speeds of 189mph and heights of 17,000 feet during its 150-minute test flight, before landing safely at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

"The systems on the airplane ran like a watch,” test pilot Evan Thomas told reporters.

Thank the dreams of the late Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. Founder – also – of Stratolaunch.

Your helmet is made HOW?


Alessandra Benedetti – Corbis/Getty

❝ The Vatican’s Swiss Guard soldiers are receiving a high-tech uniform update: Their traditional metal helmets will be replaced with 3D-printed helmets this year.

Since 1914, the Swiss Guard soldiers have worn vibrant dress uniforms inspired by Renaissance-era artwork, The Verge reported. However, the soldiers have to wear metal helmets (morions), which could become uncomfortably hot and cause burns. Last year, the Swiss Guard decided that it was time to upgrade soldiers’ iconic helmets with 3D-printed ones that were more lightweight and comfortable.

The times they are a-changing…

Holiday photos, video, found in frozen seal poop!


Frame grab from seal poop video

❝ Scientists in New Zealand say they have found a USB memory stick containing holiday photos inside a frozen slab of seal poop.

The scat, valuable for studying the health of leopard seals, had been stored in a freezer for a year before it was thawed out for analysis, the researchers said…

❝ The stick was in good condition, “considering where it had come from”, and the researchers let it dry out for a few weeks…“The only clue to who might have taken them is the nose of a blue kayak,” the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research said…

I’d like to know the brand of the memory stick. Great survival.

Geeks on Trump’s payroll make him look thinner, fingers longer

❝ The longest government shutdown in U.S. history shows no sign of resolving, and Americans wonder what President Trump and his team are doing.

Now we know. They are doing the important work the people sent them to do. They are elongating Trump’s fingers.

❝ The tech website Gizmodo reported this week that it found at least three retouched photographs on Trump’s social media pages since October, including two in the past few days, in which his body and face have been slimmed, his face and neck wrinkles tightened, his hair cleaned up — “and in one of the strangest alterations, Trump’s fingers have been made slightly longer.”

Trump still hasn’t gotten over Marco Rubio accusing him of being smaller in other body parts – to match his small hands! Har.

The American Trucking Industry needs more than increasing the number of drivers

❝ The US will be short 175,000 truck drivers by 2026, according to the American Trucking Associations. Fewer drivers mean that fewer goods can be moved in a timely fashion, which limits companies from selling more and consumers from enjoying what they’re used to finding in stores or online…

But not everyone agrees that the shortage is the only thing constraining the trucking industry, which moved 64% of all freight shipments in 2015.

❝ …Trucking can be an “incredibly wasteful” industry. Billions of miles are driven every year with nothing in them, many drivers spend hours at shipping docks, and the traditional way of brokering freight through phone, fax, and email is inefficient.

And not only do those factors make the industry less efficient, they make the already-stressful job of trucking that much more burdensome on drivers.

I worked in logistics and traffic management for a couple of decades. Everything from loading freight with a handtruck to managing and scheduling. Solid article with modern solutions. Questionable if the industry will adopt these rational solutions. Cripes, computer-controlled, automated warehouses were available sixty years ago. It’s taken Amazon to get media coverage of what’s possible.