Data, Info and News of Life and Economy

Daily Archives: July 27, 2022

Chart: Earning vs. Valuation of Stocks

See large image . . . . . .

Jurrien Timmer wrote . . . . . . . . .

Are we witnessing the beginning of an earnings contraction, or is the rate of growth merely slowing? The answer will determine whether the current 25% drawdown will be the end of this valuation reset, or the start of a full-fledged recession bear market.

Source : Twitter

Mid-week Humour: News in Cartoons

The Unsinkable Potential of Autonomous Boats

Rebecca Heilweil wrote . . . . . . . . .

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship finally arrived on the coast of Nova Scotia last month, marking the end of its long trek across the Atlantic. While the modern Mayflower is far from the first vessel to make that voyage, this small robotic boat is the largest to ever do so navigated by artificial intelligence with no humans aboard. A few technical hiccups notwithstanding, its trip is the latest evidence that the future of the high seas could be autonomous.

Slowly, self-steering ships are becoming a reality. In Norway, an autonomous battery-powered container vessel is shuttling fertilizer between a factory and a local port, and pending a successful trial, it could be fully certified within the next two years. A commercial tanker called the Prism Courage recently traveled from Texas, through the Panama Canal, to South Korea, guided by software from Avikus, a subsidiary of HD Hyundai, a shipbuilding operation that was spun off of the car group. There are even some boats meant to transport humans that can now operate on their own: A self-driving water taxi created by the artificial intelligence startup Buffalo Automation was ready to ferry people across the Tennessee River in downtown Knoxville, at least as of April.

Not all robo-boats are created equal. Some current AI sailing software is assistive, and requires at least some form of monitoring from a person onboard, while more advanced technology can operate a ship entirely independently, without any need for humans. Regardless, this new generation of autonomous vessels stands to make people a more marginal part of life at sea. Because many self-steering boats are still relatively new, there’s not yet enough evidence to prove that the technology that powers these ships is as capable as human navigators. Still, these vehicles could not only make it easier to traverse the world’s waterways, but also do so with a smaller carbon footprint than crewed boats.

“A computer can be optimizing for fuel savings and integrating a lot of different inputs around how fast they need to be moving through the water to reach their destination on time, what the weather conditions are like, how the vessel is operating, [and] how the engines are operating,” Trevor Vieweg, the chief technology officer at Sea Machines Robotics, a startup that designs self-driving boat tech, told Recode. “By using those same technologies, we can reduce carbon emissions — and fuel burn overall.”

To navigate independently, an autonomous boat typically needs a wide variety of sensors, including cameras and radar, as well as data from other sources, like GPS. These sensors are positioned around the vessel, and help a ship plan its route and sense nearby obstacles, like, for example, a floating log or a chunk of an iceberg. As with self-driving cars, autonomous ships can be classified into several levels based on how well their tech can perform without human help. The International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency that regulates shipping, has proposed a spectrum of autonomy starting with Level 1 ships, which would be operated by humans but might allow AI to make some unsupervised decisions, and ramping up in sophistication to Level 4 ships that could sail completely independently, with no human involvement or decision-making required.

Advocates say these ships are less susceptible to human error — ship and boat accidents are somewhat common — and could allow boat operators to assign workers to other tasks where they can be more productive. Artificial intelligence could also navigate ships more efficiently, and make better calculations about routes and speeds. The hope is that by saving time and, perhaps most importantly, fuel, ocean vessels can cut down on their energy consumption, which remains a significant contributor to climate change. In the absence of full autonomy, some experts have even suggested that software could enable humans to steer boats remotely, which would come with several benefits. For instance, remotely piloted ships would reduce the risk of spreading illness through international cargo transport, which has been a concern throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Right now, ships with autonomous capabilities represent a tiny fraction of the many vessels in operation today. But in the future, self-steering ships could make all sorts of water-based activities more convenient. For example, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, which was supported in part by IBM, was designed to study the ocean’s health, record audio of marine life, and take samples of microplastic. The boat doesn’t include a deck, bathrooms, or bunks, and much of the space inside is occupied by its technology, like its onboard computers, batteries, and motors.

“Not having humans on board frees up/eliminates the space occupied by them and supplies necessary to sustain human presence, as well as the power that the ship requires to carry the weight entailed,” said Ayse Atauz Phaneuf, the president of ProMare, the marine research organization that worked on the project. “Unmanned vehicles such as the Mayflower Autonomous Project will be able to spend considerably longer time at sea, accessing significant yet distant parts of the ocean.”

Phaneuf told Recode that the vehicle, and others like it, could eventually make ocean research expeditions much less expensive to launch. In addition to making it easier to study the ocean, autonomous ships could also make it more convenient to transport freight. In Japan, a partnership between a non-profit and freight transportation companies successfully showed earlier this year that autonomous container ships could travel between ports throughout the country. The demonstration was meant to prove that these vehicles could eventually help cut down on the shipping industry’s need for workers, especially as Japan confronts an aging population. There are also organizations like One Sea, which has brought together shipping and AI companies to promote autonomous ocean transportation, and to advance the technology involved.

There are those environmental benefits, too. HD Hyundai’s navigation tech works by using artificial intelligence to determine a ship’s routes and speeds, and the software also factors in the height of nearby waves and the behavior of neighboring vessels. The company says by using this AI, the Prism Courage — the commercial tanker that traveled through the Panama Canal — boosted its fuel efficiency by about 7 percent, and cut down on its greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent. While that might not sound like a lot, those savings could add up quickly.

Autonomous ships do face headwinds. One industry expert we spoke to said that smaller boats, like survey vessels and ferries, are more likely to incorporate autonomous technology than the large, container ships that make up the bulk of the world’s freight transportation. Some critics, including Maersk’s CEO, have argued that the savings that might come from autonomous software may not be enough to incentivize large shipping companies to invest in the tech, especially since many ocean carriers don’t use particularly large crews in the first place (a typical cargo ship might have just 20 workers aboard). Another concern is that autonomous software could make these ships more vulnerable to cyberattacks, though non-autonomous shipping operations have already been hacked.

And finally, there’s also the extremely complicated matter of international maritime law, which may not be prepared for the arrival of artificial intelligence.

“How should we deal with the liability issue where an autonomous system, although properly designed and maintained, acts unpredictably?” Melis Ozdel, the director of the University College London Centre for Commercial Law, told Recode. Of course, there are many ways autonomous vessels could upend life at sea, whether it’s the possibility of a robo-boat crashing into a cruise full of tourists, or the uncertain fate of pirates who might capture a ship, only to discover that it’s actually remote-controlled.

AI ships have already shown they can work, at least sometimes, though the technology that powers these vessels is still being developed and may require years to fully take off. Still, all signs indicate that these next-generation boats do have advantages. Eventually, sailing might look a little less like weeks out at sea and a little more like monitoring a ship from the comfort of an office, conveniently located on land.

Source : Vox

Infographic: The Most Popular Fast Food in the World

Enlarge image . . . . .

Source: Business Financing

New Mega Tunnel in China Will Transfer Water from the Three Gorges Dam to Beijing

Aniket Dixit wrote . . . . . . . . .

China has launched a new tunnel project to send water from the Three Gorges Dam to Beijing, as part of plans to build massive infrastructure to boost food production and the economy.

The Yinjiangbuhan Tunnel will transport water from the world’s largest Three Gorges Dam to the Han River, a major tributary of the Yangtze.
After reaching the Danjiangkou Reservoir on the lower reaches of the Han, the water will travel north to Beijing via the midline of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, a 1,400 km (870 mi) open canal.
The longest water tunnel in Finland, the Paijane, extends up to 130 meters deep at a depth of 120 kilometers.

The project will take a decade to complete and cost 60 billion yuan (US$8.9 billion), according to the Beijing-based state-owned newspaper Guangming Daily.

“The Yinjiangbuhan Tunnel will establish a physical connection between two important infrastructures in China, the Three Gorges Dam and the South-to-North Water Diversion Project,” said Niu Xinqiang, president of the Changjiang Institute of Survey, Planning, Design and Research. Reportedly, during the groundbreaking ceremony on July 7.

According to Zhang Jiangwei, director of the planning department of the Ministry of Water Resources, the Yinjiangbuhan project is “a curtain raiser” for other projects.

Water resources in China are unevenly distributed. The east and south of the country are frequently flooded, while water scarcity severely limits economic development and food production in the west and north of the country. The economic slowdown of the pandemic prompted the government to invest in large-scale infrastructure projects to stimulate growth.

According to Liang Shumin, an economic and development researcher at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the total length of tunnels and canals under construction or planned for water diversion in China could reach up to 20,000 km – roughly the distance between Shanghai and Seattle.

However, whether these projects should be built is still under debate, he said. According to Liang’s calculations, the projects will cost taxpayers more than 9 trillion yuan over the next 30 years, which is about 8% of the country’s GDP last year.

However, he believes the infrastructure could increase China’s annual food production by more than 540 million tons, which is equivalent to the total agricultural output of the United States at the moment.
China currently produces 660 million tonnes more food per year than any other country. However, to meet the rising living standards of its 1.4 billion citizens, the country imports more than 100 million tons of grain every year, raising concerns about food security at home and accusations of hoarding from other countries.

According to Liang, the new water diversion infrastructure could turn about 750,000 square kilometers of barren land – an area larger than Chile – into fields suitable for growing wheat, rice, corn, beans and other crops.

“Given that the rate of growth in food consumption will slow in the future (due to declining population), China could become a net exporter of grains and oilseeds in 2043,” Liang said in a paper published last month in Water Resources Planning and Design. was written in , a magazine published by the Ministry of Water Resources of China.

Since it began in 2014, for example, the South-to-North Water Diversion Project has sent 54 billion cubic meters of water from the Yangtze River region to meet the demand of more than 140 million people in northern China – roughly equal to The amount of water in the entire Yellow River.

This resulted in almost immediate changes, some of which were completely unexpected. According to local news reports, in some cities such as Jingtai, groundwater rose so rapidly that it spread to underground car parks and shelters.

According to scientists involved in the project, China is building the world’s longest tunnel in Xinjiang with more than 20 tunnel boring machines – the world’s largest fleet of its kind – working together.

Source : News Track

What Causes Long COVID? Canadian Researchers Think They’ve Found a Key Clue

Teresa Wright wrote . . . . . . . . .

Olympic gold medallist Alex Kopacz may be used to being out of breath when pushing a bobsled, but last year after he was hospitalized for COVID-19, he experienced a very different kind of breathlessness.

He was put on oxygen for two months and experienced a number of other health setbacks in the months following his COVID-19 infection, including blood clots in his lungs and throughout his body.

“It was hard to breathe and pretty much it was just going to be a matter of time to see if my body was going to heal from it,” Kopacz said.

It took him almost four months before he was back on his feet and breathing normally again. But without even an official diagnosis of so-called long COVID, the then-31-year-old didn’t have answers about what was happening to him.

That’s how he became involved in a new Canadian research trial looking at patients suffering from post-COVID syndrome — a study that has identified a potential key culprit causing some people to continue experiencing breathing issues months after contracting COVID-19.

A team of researchers based at five centres across Ontario have zeroed in on a microscopic abnormality in the way oxygen moves from the lungs and into the blood vessels of long COVID patients in their trial.

This abnormality could explain why these patients feel breathless and are unable to perform strenuous activities, says lead researcher Grace Parraga, Tier 1 Canada research chair in lung imaging at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

“Those feelings of breathlessness are completely consistent with our finding that we’re not moving the oxygen as efficiently as we should,” she said.

Many long COVID sufferers have been stumping doctors as to what’s wrong with them, because routine clinical tests and chest exams come back with normal readings.

“It’s very exciting for us to actually find something that’s wrong — that it’s in the patient’s lungs and not in their head,” Parraga said.

The study, which was funded by the Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund, looked at 34 patients — 12 who had been hospitalized with COVID-19 and 22 others who had not been hospitalized.

The patients were evaluated about nine months after their infection started and were still experiencing a number of debilitating symptoms.

Using an MRI technique developed by Western University that is five times as sensitive and has five times the spatial resolution of a CT scan, the researchers were able to see how tiny branches of air tubes in the lungs were moving oxygen into the red blood cells of their patients.

Red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Any disruption in the flow of this oxygen to red blood cells will trigger the brain to say, ‘breathe more’ — resulting in a feeling of breathlessness, Parraga explained.

All 34 of the patients who participated in the study were experiencing problems in the level of oxygen being absorbed by their red blood cells.

And they all had the same result, regardless of the severity of their symptoms or whether they had been hospitalized for COVID-19 — another key find, Parraga said.

“All these patients had this abnormality. They all had really serious symptoms, so their exercise scores were low, they were breathless when they exercised and when we measured the oxygen levels in their blood in the tips of their fingers after exercise, that was also low.”

And these external measurements corresponded to the abnormality the researchers found in their MRI measurement of the lungs, she said.

“The takeaway is that now we know what’s wrong.”

The reason why this anomaly is happening is not yet known. But identifying this as a possible trigger for these patients’ symptoms is an important step in trying to learn more, Parraga said.

“I think now that we know what’s going on, we can move on to why. And I think the important part is why some people and why not others? How can we predict who is going there and who isn’t? So, that’s going to take a little bit more time for us to get there.”

Dr. Michael Nicholson, a respirologist with the post-acute COVID-19 program at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London, Ont., who co-authored the study, says the findings give patients an identifiable reason why they are still experiencing symptoms months after getting COVID-19.

Up until now, normal tests performed on these patients have not picked up what’s happening to them, so they’re often left to feel as if they’re imagining their illness, he said.

“There’s nothing that’s absolutely obvious. And so these individuals are now given an answer that actually there is something at this very particular site down the pathway that is abnormal,” Nicholson said.

“For these other individuals, that now we can say, ‘I understand your symptoms, I think we have a better appreciation of what’s happening. We don’t necessarily know it completely.’… That’s a positive for them.”

The research team acknowledges the sample size of this study, which has been peer-reviewed, is small and therefore that results should be considered “exploratory and hypothesis-generating.”

But that hasn’t tempered their excitement at the prospect of making headway in understanding long COVID and taking one step closer to understanding how to treat it.

“I think it’s a nice, scientific Pandora’s box, so to speak, of opening up and saying, ‘OK, now we have to focus on why this is happening,’” Nicholson said.

Source : Global News

Read also at Western News

Innovative lung-imaging technique shows cause of long-COVID symptoms . . . . .