🔮 Xenobots; chips & geopolitics; virtual power plant; NAFO vs. Putin ++ #388
AI-driven design is broadening the horizons of programmable biology
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The near future
👾 Programmable biology
Xenobots, programmable organisms that emerge from the clustering of several thousand (frog) cells nurtured in a petri dish, hold a lot of promise for a range of issues from tissue regeneration, cancer fighting and plastics eating. They can even reproduce - but not pass on any genetic material - which we first wrote about a year ago in EV#351. In this stunning ode to xenobots, cells and evolution, Philip Ball goes into how AI-driven design is broadening the horizons of programmable biology:
The work shows that, by combining biological xenobots with the exploratory power of AI, it’s possible to make a kind of ‘living machine’ devised for a purpose. ‘AI can be brought in to exaggerate an innate capability,’ says Bongard. ‘The AI can “program” new behaviours into organisms by rearranging their morphology rather than their genes.’ The researchers wonder if the simulations might identify other shapes that can assemble different structures, or perhaps perform other tasks entirely.
🎢 Chip on the shoulder
Nvidia and AMD were served new restrictions on the sale of their high-end GPUs to China. The ban could cost Nvidia as much as $400 million of lost sales in China in Q3. The restrictions are a further incentive for China to pick up the pace creating its own infrastructure; as of last week, China has the strongest contender yet to Nvidia and AMD’s high-end GPUs in Biren BR100. There’s more than meets the eye though, as Leo Dirac, AI founder and ML expert, points out:
India is looking to carve its own place in the evolving semiconductor landscape. Doubling down on nurturing its software talent may be its best bet given the country’s already strong software base.
Dept of our climate future
In every Sunday edition, we track key metrics that tell us a little about our shared climate future. Our member, Marshall Kirkpatrick, takes the time to curate a view of our current climate status in this segment every week, and you can read Marshall’s curation below. Here’s Marshall:
Someday we’re going to look back at today’s world of unfathomable emissions and inefficiency with shock. (It’s ok to start now, in fact.). This week’s stories highlight the rapid growth of new systems that drive sustainability, efficiency, and equity. May our systems of livelihood be transformed, while we still can.
Virtual power plant turned on: One hot day last month in California, electric power provider Southern California Edison was overwhelmed with demand for energy and turned to a new resource: more than 2300 owners of Tesla Powerwall batteries. Coordinated into a virtual power plant through the Tesla app, the Powerwall owners were paid by the utility for the power they’d captured with solar panels and stored in their batteries. They also had the option to opt-out of participating. This type of distributed renewable energy decreases the demand on utility companies to use backup generators, which are their least efficient and sustainable sources of power. Elektrek’s Fred Lambert says, “I think we are starting to witness the beginnings of a true smart grid backed by distributed energy assets, which is something that has been talked about as the future of the electric grid for a long time, but it’s finally happening.” Tesla built the world’s largest virtual power plant in South Australia, where 5,000 home battery owners are coordinated to support the grid, including in public housing. The city of Richmond, California has dedicated $3M to a program that will refurbish abandoned houses into high-efficiency and virtual power plant-connected low-income homes for more equitable participation, starting in 2025.
Smart microgrids: The market for controller systems for microgrids, the fully or partially off-grid and renewable electrical grids for local and institutional power independence, is forecast to grow by a CAGR of 15.65% through 2030 and reach $14.35B according to new research from the firm Market Research Future. The market for microgrids in their entirety is more than 3 times larger. The software controllers start at between fifty and one hundred thousand US dollars, and are sold by enough companies that the research cites 18 key players. Tesla’s didn’t even make the list. Microgrid growth will be a part of the larger move toward decentralised energy and will take many forms. For example, the city of San Diego announced plans in June to build 8 microgrids for decreased power consumption and systems resilience at sites ranging from community centers to police and fire stations. And earlier this Summer the US Department of Energy unveiled a $500M program to turn current and former mining sites into renewable energy hubs, including microgrids.
Panels on canals: California’s pilot program to put solar panels over water canals, which will combine renewable energy generation with evaporation control to adapt to drought conditions, will break ground next month. Though covering only about 2 miles of canals at first, it’s claimed that if the program scaled out to all 4,000 miles of canals in the state, it could provide enough power for 75% of the homes in California. Climate leader Katharine Hayhoe cited the project as an example of a “Silver Buckshot” alternative to a single silver bullet: “When it comes to climate solutions, we don’t have time for single ‘wins’ - we need solutions that cut emissions AND make us more resilient to climate impacts AND save money AND reduce pollution.”
Africa could power the world: In the International Energy Agency’s latest Africa Outlook report, the continent’s rich solar and onshore wind resources are cited as sufficient to separate enough hydrogen from water to produce 5,000 megatonnes of emissions-free hydrogen fuel a year at less than $2 per kilogram — equivalent to “global total energy supply today.” The IEA report and the continent’s electricity generation and transmission capacity challenges were highlighted by the World Economic Forum.
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Short morsels to appear smart while redefining words
🧬Scientists have found a hormone that boosts cognition.
🤔 There’s a new definition of the term “museum”.
🗂️The case for ESG to be split into two.
🧶Disasters around the world are disrupting cotton supply chains.
⚛️ Latest in quantum confusion: Turns out many more atoms can be entangled than we thought!
What you’re up to – notes from EV readers
Chanuki Seresinhe discussed her research on using deep learning to predict the beauty of places on Peter Scott’s AI and You podcast.
Jason Richardson is organising a showcase of digital art and music in NSW (Australia) 24.09 & 05.11, and will be sharing free software, tips and techniques ahead of performances.
Louis Rosenberg published “Deception vs authenticity: Why the metaverse will change marketing forever”.
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