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Adam Frank

Adam Frank

1 year ago

Humanity is not even a Type 1 civilization. What might a Type 3 be capable of?

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Daniel Clery

1 year ago

Twisted device investigates fusion alternatives

German stellarator revamped to run longer, hotter, compete with tokamaks

Wendelstein 7-X’s complex geometry was a nightmare to build but, when fired up, worked from the start.

Tokamaks have dominated the search for fusion energy for decades. Just as ITER, the world's largest and most expensive tokamak, nears completion in southern France, a smaller, twistier testbed will start up in Germany.

If the 16-meter-wide stellarator can match or outperform similar-size tokamaks, fusion experts may rethink their future. Stellarators can keep their superhot gases stable enough to fuse nuclei and produce energy. They can theoretically run forever, but tokamaks must pause to reset their magnet coils.

The €1 billion German machine, Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X), is already getting "tokamak-like performance" in short runs, claims plasma physicist David Gates, preventing particles and heat from escaping the superhot gas. If W7-X can go long, "it will be ahead," he says. "Stellarators excel" Eindhoven University of Technology theorist Josefine Proll says, "Stellarators are back in the game." A few of startup companies, including one that Gates is leaving Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, are developing their own stellarators.

W7-X has been running at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Greifswald, Germany, since 2015, albeit only at low power and for brief runs. W7-X's developers took it down and replaced all inner walls and fittings with water-cooled equivalents, allowing for longer, hotter runs. The team reported at a W7-X board meeting last week that the revised plasma vessel has no leaks. It's expected to restart later this month to show if it can get plasma to fusion-igniting conditions.

Wendelstein 7-X’s twisting inner surface is now water cooled, enabling longer runs

Wendelstein 7-X's water-cooled inner surface allows for longer runs.

HOSAN/IPP

Both stellarators and tokamaks create magnetic gas cages hot enough to melt metal. Microwaves or particle beams heat. Extreme temperatures create a plasma, a seething mix of separated nuclei and electrons, and cause the nuclei to fuse, releasing energy. A fusion power plant would use deuterium and tritium, which react quickly. Non-energy-generating research machines like W7-X avoid tritium and use hydrogen or deuterium instead.

Tokamaks and stellarators use electromagnetic coils to create plasma-confining magnetic fields. A greater field near the hole causes plasma to drift to the reactor's wall.

Tokamaks control drift by circulating plasma around a ring. Streaming creates a magnetic field that twists and stabilizes ionized plasma. Stellarators employ magnetic coils to twist, not plasma. Once plasma physicists got powerful enough supercomputers, they could optimize stellarator magnets to improve plasma confinement.

W7-X is the first large, optimized stellarator with 50 6- ton superconducting coils. Its construction began in the mid-1990s and cost roughly twice the €550 million originally budgeted.

The wait hasn't disappointed researchers. W7-X director Thomas Klinger: "The machine operated immediately." "It's a friendly machine." It did everything we asked." Tokamaks are prone to "instabilities" (plasma bulging or wobbling) or strong "disruptions," sometimes associated to halted plasma flow. IPP theorist Sophia Henneberg believes stellarators don't employ plasma current, which "removes an entire branch" of instabilities.

In early stellarators, the magnetic field geometry drove slower particles to follow banana-shaped orbits until they collided with other particles and leaked energy. Gates believes W7-X's ability to suppress this effect implies its optimization works.

W7-X loses heat through different forms of turbulence, which push particles toward the wall. Theorists have only lately mastered simulating turbulence. W7-X's forthcoming campaign will test simulations and turbulence-fighting techniques.

A stellarator can run constantly, unlike a tokamak, which pulses. W7-X has run 100 seconds—long by tokamak standards—at low power. The device's uncooled microwave and particle heating systems only produced 11.5 megawatts. The update doubles heating power. High temperature, high plasma density, and extensive runs will test stellarators' fusion power potential. Klinger wants to heat ions to 50 million degrees Celsius for 100 seconds. That would make W7-X "a world-class machine," he argues. The team will push for 30 minutes. "We'll move step-by-step," he says.

W7-X's success has inspired VCs to finance entrepreneurs creating commercial stellarators. Startups must simplify magnet production.

Princeton Stellarators, created by Gates and colleagues this year, has $3 million to build a prototype reactor without W7-X's twisted magnet coils. Instead, it will use a mosaic of 1000 HTS square coils on the plasma vessel's outside. By adjusting each coil's magnetic field, operators can change the applied field's form. Gates: "It moves coil complexity to the control system." The company intends to construct a reactor that can fuse cheap, abundant deuterium to produce neutrons for radioisotopes. If successful, the company will build a reactor.

Renaissance Fusion, situated in Grenoble, France, raised €16 million and wants to coat plasma vessel segments in HTS. Using a laser, engineers will burn off superconductor tracks to carve magnet coils. They want to build a meter-long test segment in 2 years and a full prototype by 2027.

Type One Energy in Madison, Wisconsin, won DOE money to bend HTS cables for stellarator magnets. The business carved twisting grooves in metal with computer-controlled etching equipment to coil cables. David Anderson of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, claims advanced manufacturing technology enables the stellarator.

Anderson said W7-X's next phase will boost stellarator work. “Half-hour discharges are steady-state,” he says. “This is a big deal.”

Laura Sanders

Laura Sanders

1 year ago

Xenobots, tiny living machines, can duplicate themselves.

Strange and complex behavior of frog cell blobs


A xenobot “parent,” shaped like a hungry Pac-Man (shown in red false color), created an “offspring” xenobot (green sphere) by gathering loose frog cells in its opening.

Tiny “living machines” made of frog cells can make copies of themselves. This newly discovered renewal mechanism may help create self-renewing biological machines.

According to Kirstin Petersen, an electrical and computer engineer at Cornell University who studies groups of robots, “this is an extremely exciting breakthrough.” She says self-replicating robots are a big step toward human-free systems.

Researchers described the behavior of xenobots earlier this year (SN: 3/31/21). Small clumps of skin stem cells from frog embryos knitted themselves into small spheres and started moving. Cilia, or cellular extensions, powered the xenobots around their lab dishes.

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Dec. 7. The xenobots can gather loose frog cells into spheres, which then form xenobots.
The researchers call this type of movement-induced reproduction kinematic self-replication. The study's coauthor, Douglas Blackiston of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and Harvard University, says this is typical. For example, sexual reproduction requires parental sperm and egg cells. Sometimes cells split or budded off from a parent.

“This is unique,” Blackiston says. These xenobots “find loose parts in the environment and cobble them together.” This second generation of xenobots can move like their parents, Blackiston says.
The researchers discovered that spheroid xenobots could only produce one more generation before dying out. The original xenobots' shape was predicted by an artificial intelligence program, allowing for four generations of replication.

A C shape, like an openmouthed Pac-Man, was predicted to be a more efficient progenitor. When improved xenobots were let loose in a dish, they began scooping up loose cells into their gaping “mouths,” forming more sphere-shaped bots (see image below). As many as 50 cells clumped together in the opening of a parent to form a mobile offspring. A xenobot is made up of 4,000–6,000 frog cells.

Petersen likes the Xenobots' small size. “The fact that they were able to do this at such a small scale just makes it even better,” she says. Miniature xenobots could sculpt tissues for implantation or deliver therapeutics inside the body.

Beyond the xenobots' potential jobs, the research advances an important science, says study coauthor and Tufts developmental biologist Michael Levin. The science of anticipating and controlling the outcomes of complex systems, he says.

“No one could have predicted this,” Levin says. “They regularly surprise us.” Researchers can use xenobots to test the unexpected. “This is about advancing the science of being less surprised,” Levin says.

Sam Warain

Sam Warain

1 year ago

Sam Altman, CEO of Open AI, foresees the next trillion-dollar AI company

“I think if I had time to do something else, I would be so excited to go after this company right now.”

Source: TechCrunch, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sam Altman, CEO of Open AI, recently discussed AI's present and future.

Open AI is important. They're creating the cyberpunk and sci-fi worlds.

They use the most advanced algorithms and data sets.

GPT-3...sound familiar? Open AI built most copyrighting software. Peppertype, Jasper AI, Rytr. If you've used any, you'll be shocked by the quality.

Open AI isn't only GPT-3. They created DallE-2 and Whisper (a speech recognition software released last week).

What will they do next? What's the next great chance?

Sam Altman, CEO of Open AI, recently gave a lecture about the next trillion-dollar AI opportunity.

Who is the organization behind Open AI?

Open AI first. If you know, skip it.

Open AI is one of the earliest private AI startups. Elon Musk, Greg Brockman, and Rebekah Mercer established OpenAI in December 2015.

OpenAI has helped its citizens and AI since its birth.

They have scary-good algorithms.

Their GPT-3 natural language processing program is excellent.

The algorithm's exponential growth is astounding. GPT-2 came out in November 2019. May 2020 brought GPT-3.

Massive computation and datasets improved the technique in just a year. New York Times said GPT-3 could write like a human.

Same for Dall-E. Dall-E 2 was announced in April 2022. Dall-E 2 won a Colorado art contest.

Open AI's algorithms challenge jobs we thought required human innovation.

So what does Sam Altman think?

The Present Situation and AI's Limitations

During the interview, Sam states that we are still at the tip of the iceberg.

So I think so far, we’ve been in the realm where you can do an incredible copywriting business or you can do an education service or whatever. But I don’t think we’ve yet seen the people go after the trillion dollar take on Google.

He's right that AI can't generate net new human knowledge. It can train and synthesize vast amounts of knowledge, but it simply reproduces human work.

“It’s not going to cure cancer. It’s not going to add to the sum total of human scientific knowledge.”

But the key word is yet.

And that is what I think will turn out to be wrong that most surprises the current experts in the field.

Reinforcing his point that massive innovations are yet to come.

But where?

The Next $1 Trillion AI Company

Sam predicts a bio or genomic breakthrough.

There’s been some promising work in genomics, but stuff on a bench top hasn’t really impacted it. I think that’s going to change. And I think this is one of these areas where there will be these new $100 billion to $1 trillion companies started, and those areas are rare.

Avoid human trials since they take time. Bio-materials or simulators are suitable beginning points.

AI may have a breakthrough. DeepMind, an OpenAI competitor, has developed AlphaFold to predict protein 3D structures.

It could change how we see proteins and their function. AlphaFold could provide fresh understanding into how proteins work and diseases originate by revealing their structure. This could lead to Alzheimer's and cancer treatments. AlphaFold could speed up medication development by revealing how proteins interact with medicines.

Deep Mind offered 200 million protein structures for scientists to download (including sustainability, food insecurity, and neglected diseases).

Source: Deep Mind

Being in AI for 4+ years, I'm amazed at the progress. We're past the hype cycle, as evidenced by the collapse of AI startups like C3 AI, and have entered a productive phase.

We'll see innovative enterprises that could replace Google and other trillion-dollar companies.

What happens after AI adoption is scary and unpredictable. How will AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) affect us? Highly autonomous systems that exceed humans at valuable work (Open AI)

My guess is that the things that we’ll have to figure out are how we think about fairly distributing wealth, access to AGI systems, which will be the commodity of the realm, and governance, how we collectively decide what they can do, what they don’t do, things like that. And I think figuring out the answer to those questions is going to just be huge. — Sam Altman CEO

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Thomas Tcheudjio

Thomas Tcheudjio

1 year ago

If you don't crush these 3 metrics, skip the Series A.

I recently wrote about getting VCs excited about Marketplace start-ups. SaaS founders became envious!

Understanding how people wire tens of millions is the only Series A hack I recommend.

Few people understand the intellectual process behind investing.

VC is risk management.

Series A-focused VCs must cover two risks.

1. Market risk

You need a large market to cross a threshold beyond which you can build defensibilities. Series A VCs underwrite market risk.

They must see you have reached product-market fit (PMF) in a large total addressable market (TAM).

2. Execution risk

When evaluating your growth engine's blitzscaling ability, execution risk arises.

When investors remove operational uncertainty, they profit.

Series A VCs like businesses with derisked revenue streams. Don't raise unless you have a predictable model, pipeline, and growth.

Please beat these 3 metrics before Series A:

Achieve $1.5m ARR in 12-24 months (Market risk)

Above 100% Net Dollar Retention. (Market danger)

Lead Velocity Rate supporting $10m ARR in 2–4 years (Execution risk)

Hit the 3 and you'll raise $10M in 4 months. Discussing 2/3 may take 6–7 months.

If none, don't bother raising and focus on becoming a capital-efficient business (Topics for other posts).

Let's examine these 3 metrics for the brave ones.

1. Lead Velocity Rate supporting €$10m ARR in 2 to 4 years

Last because it's the least discussed. LVR is the most reliable data when evaluating a growth engine, in my opinion.

SaaS allows you to see the future.

Monthly Sales and Sales Pipelines, two predictive KPIs, have poor data quality. Both are lagging indicators, and minor changes can cause huge modeling differences.

Analysts and Associates will trash your forecasts if they're based only on Monthly Sales and Sales Pipeline.

LVR, defined as month-over-month growth in qualified leads, is rock-solid. There's no lag. You can See The Future if you use Qualified Leads and a consistent formula and process to qualify them.

With this metric in your hand, scaling your company turns into an execution play on which VCs are able to perform calculations risk.

2. Above-100% Net Dollar Retention.

Net Dollar Retention is a better-known SaaS health metric than LVR.

Net Dollar Retention measures a SaaS company's ability to retain and upsell customers. Ask what $1 of net new customer spend will be worth in years n+1, n+2, etc.

Depending on the business model, SaaS businesses can increase their share of customers' wallets by increasing users, selling them more products in SaaS-enabled marketplaces, other add-ons, and renewing them at higher price tiers.

If a SaaS company's annualized Net Dollar Retention is less than 75%, there's a problem with the business.

Slack's ARR chart (below) shows how powerful Net Retention is. Layer chart shows how existing customer revenue grows. Slack's S1 shows 171% Net Dollar Retention for 2017–2019.

Slack S-1

3. $1.5m ARR in the last 12-24 months.

According to Point 9, $0.5m-4m in ARR is needed to raise a $5–12m Series A round.

Target at least what you raised in Pre-Seed/Seed. If you've raised $1.5m since launch, don't raise before $1.5m ARR.

Capital efficiency has returned since Covid19. After raising $2m since inception, it's harder to raise $1m in ARR.

P9's 2016-2021 SaaS Funding Napkin

In summary, less than 1% of companies VCs meet get funded. These metrics can help you win.

If there’s demand for it, I’ll do one on direct-to-consumer.

Cheers!

Hunter Walk

Hunter Walk

1 year ago

Is it bad of me to want our portfolio companies to generate greater returns for outside investors than they did for us as venture capitalists?

Wishing for Lasting Companies, Not Penny Stocks or Goodwill Write-Downs

Get me a NASCAR-style company-logoed cremation urn (notice to the executor of my will, theres gonna be a lot of weird requests). I believe in working on projects that would be on your tombstone. As the Homebrew logo is tattooed on my shoulder, expanding the portfolio to my posthumous commemoration is easy. But this isn't an IRR victory lap; it's a hope that the firms we worked for would last beyond my lifetime.

a little boy planting a dollar bill in the ground and pouring a watering can out on it, digital art [DALL-E]

Venture investors too often take credit or distance themselves from startups based on circumstances. Successful companies tell stories of crucial introductions, strategy conversations, and other value. Defeats Even whether our term involves Board service or systematic ethical violations, I'm just a little investment, so there's not much I can do. Since I'm guilty, I'm tossing stones from within the glass home (although we try to own our decisions through the lifecycle).

Post-exit company trajectories are usually unconfounded. Off the cap table, no longer a shareholder (or a diminishing one as you sell off/distribute), eventually leaving the Board. You can cheer for the squad or forget about it, but you've freed the corporation and it's back to portfolio work.

As I look at the downward track of most SPACs and other tarnished IPOs from the last few years, I wonder how I would feel if those were my legacy. Is my job done? Yes. When investing in a business, the odds are against it surviving, let alone thriving and being able to find sunlight. SPAC sponsors, institutional buyers, retail investments. Free trade in an open market is their right. Risking and losing capital is the system working! But

We were lead or co-lead investors in our first three funds, but as additional VCs joined the company, we were pushed down the cap table. Voting your shares rarely matters; supporting the firm when they need it does. Being valuable, consistent, and helping the company improve builds trust with the founders.

I hope every startup we sponsor becomes a successful public company before, during, and after we benefit. My perspective of American capitalism. Well, a stock ticker has a lot of garbage, and I support all types of regulation simplification (in addition to being a person investor in the Long-Term Stock Exchange). Yet being owned by a large group of investors and making actual gains for them is great. Likewise does seeing someone you met when they were just starting out become a public company CEO without losing their voice, leadership, or beliefs.

I'm just thinking about what we can do from the start to realize value from our investments and build companies with bright futures. Maybe seed venture financing shouldn't impact those outcomes, but I'm not comfortable giving up that obligation.

Sam Bourgi

Sam Bourgi

2 years ago

DAOs are legal entities in Marshall Islands.

The Pacific island state recognizes decentralized autonomous organizations.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands has recognized decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) as legal entities, giving collectively owned and managed blockchain projects global recognition.

The Marshall Islands' amended the Non-Profit Entities Act 2021 that now recognizes DAOs, which are blockchain-based entities governed by self-organizing communities. Incorporating Admiralty LLC, the island country's first DAO, was made possible thanks to the amendement. MIDAO Directory Services Inc., a domestic organization established to assist DAOs in the Marshall Islands, assisted in the incorporation.

The new law currently allows any DAO to register and operate in the Marshall Islands.

“This is a unique moment to lead,” said Bobby Muller, former Marshall Islands chief secretary and co-founder of MIDAO. He believes DAOs will help create “more efficient and less hierarchical” organizations.

A global hub for DAOs, the Marshall Islands hopes to become a global hub for DAO registration, domicile, use cases, and mass adoption. He added:

"This includes low-cost incorporation, a supportive government with internationally recognized courts, and a technologically open environment."

According to the World Bank, the Marshall Islands is an independent island state in the Pacific Ocean near the Equator. To create a blockchain-based cryptocurrency that would be legal tender alongside the US dollar, the island state has been actively exploring use cases for digital assets since at least 2018.

In February 2018, the Marshall Islands approved the creation of a new cryptocurrency, Sovereign (SOV). As expected, the IMF has criticized the plan, citing concerns that a digital sovereign currency would jeopardize the state's financial stability. They have also criticized El Salvador, the first country to recognize Bitcoin (BTC) as legal tender.

Marshall Islands senator David Paul said the DAO legislation does not pose the same issues as a government-backed cryptocurrency. “A sovereign digital currency is financial and raises concerns about money laundering,” . This is more about giving DAOs legal recognition to make their case to regulators, investors, and consumers.