NASA

NASA Uses Its First Recycled SpaceX Rocket For a Re-Supply Mission (nypost.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Post: SpaceX racked up another first on Friday, launching a recycled rocket with a recycled capsule on a grocery run for NASA. The unmanned Falcon rocket blasted off with a just-in-time-for-Christmas delivery for the International Space Station, taking flight again after a six-month turnaround. On board was a Dragon supply ship, also a second-time flier. It was NASA's first use of a reused Falcon rocket and only the second of a previously flown Dragon.

Within 10 minutes of liftoff, the first-stage booster was back at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, standing upright on the giant X at SpaceX's landing zone. That's where it landed back in June following its first launch. Double sonic booms thundered across the area. At SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, cheers erupted outside the company's glassed-in Mission Control, where chief executive Elon Musk joined his employees.

The Dragon reaches the space station Sunday. The capsule last visited the 250-mile-high outpost in 2015. This time, the capsule is hauling nearly 5,000 pounds of goods, including 40 mice for a muscle-wasting study, a first-of-its-kind impact sensor for measuring space debris as minuscule as a grain of sand and barley seeds for a germination experiment by Budweiser, already angling to serve the first beer on Mars.

Also onboard were several hundred Star Wars mission patches created by a partnership between Lucasfilm and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (the non-profit organization managing the ISS National Lab). Space.com reports that Elon Musk named the Falcon X after the original Millennium Falcon in Star Wars.
Social Networks

LinkedIn Bro Poetry Pretty Much Sums Up 2017 (thedailybeast.com) 51

An anonymous reader shares an article: It starts out like this: I was homeless. I was fired yesterday. I was walking home. I took an Uber. Someone stopped me on the street. My boss told me not to take a chance on anyone over 50, but I hired him anyway. It was Elon Musk. LinkedIn has become overrun with these types of inspirational tales posted as long status updates. They're characterized by their short sentences and read like E.E. Cummings poems recited from memory by Tony Robbins. They're usually between 15 to 25 lines long, always double spaced. They start with a hook in the first couple sentences that entices the reader to click the "see more" link that's displayed on LinkedIn posts that are longer than three lines. Some refer to this type of post as "the LinkedIn haiku" others call it "broetry" and it has completely cannibalized the LinkedIn newsfeed.
AI

Elon Musk Says Tesla Is Building Dedicated Chips For Autopilot (theregister.co.uk) 32

Elon Musk says Tesla is developing its own chip to run the Autopilot system in future vehicles from the firm. The news was revealed at a Tesla party that took place at the intelligence conference NIPS. Attendees at the party told The Register that Musk said, "I wanted to make it clear that Tesla is serious about AI, both on the software and hardware fronts. We are developing custom AI hardware chips." From the report: Musk offered no details of his company's plans, but did tell the party that "Jim is developing specialized AI hardware that we think will be the best in the world." "Jim" is Jim Keller, a well-known chip engineer who was lead architect on a range of silicon at AMD and Apple and joined Tesla in 2016. Keller later joined Musk on a panel discussing AI at the Tesla Party alongside Andrej Karpathy, Tesla's Director of AI and chaired by Shivon Zilis, a partner and founding member at Bloomberg Beta, a VC firm. Musk is well known for his optimism about driverless cars and pessimism about whether AI can operate safely. At the party he voiced a belief that "about half of new cars built ten years from now will be autonomous." He added his opinion that artificial general intelligence (AGI) will arrive in about seven or eight years.
Mars

Boeing CEO Says Boeing Will Beat SpaceX To Mars (space.com) 128

Boeing's CEO says the megarocket his company is helping to build for NASA will deliver astronauts to the Red Planet before billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX. Space.com reports: According to Fortune, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg was speaking on CNBC today when host Jim Cramer asked whether Boeing or SpaceX would "get a man on Mars first." "Eventually we're going to go to Mars, and I firmly believe the first person that sets foot on Mars will get there on a Boeing rocket," Muilenburg said, according to Fortune. Boeing is the main contractor for the first stage of NASA's giant Space Launch System , which is designed to launch astronauts on deep-space missions using the space agency's new Orion spacecraft. (United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne are also SLS contractors.) NASA hopes to build a "Deep Space Gateway" near the moon before using SLS and Orion vehicles to send explorers to Mars. The first test launch is scheduled for 2019. "Do it," Musk tweeted.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Elon Musk Trolls the Media With a Clip From 'Spaceballs' (twitter.com) 134

An anonymous reader writes Elon Musk is having fun on Twitter, where he's either promoting the new line of $20 "Boring Company" hats or trolling the media. "To preserve the transcendent majesty & specialness of The Boring Company cap, we are capping cap orders at 50,000 caps," Musk tweeted Sunday, adding "Almost there ..." Responding to a user who asked, "Is this really how you're funding the boring company??" Musk answered "Yes."

An hour later he tweeted that "Every 5000th buyer of our boringly boring hat will get a free hat signed by the delivery guy. That special hat delivery will take place deep within the real, but fictional (of course), tunnel we are building under LA while you drive the giant machine blindfolded. This will actually happen."

And then hours later, Musk shared a fresh insight into his thought process. "The *real* money comes from merchandising," he tweeted, adding "I learned it from this documentary," sharing a video titled "merchandising" which, on closer inspection, turned out to be a clip from the 1987 comedy "Spaceballs" starring Mel Brooks.

Ironically, George Lucas had only blessed Mel Brooks' parody of Star Wars with one condition: that no Space Balls action figure merchandise ever be produced.
Mars

SpaceX Plans To Blast a Tesla Roadster Into Orbit Around Mars (arstechnica.com) 272

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Previously, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said he intends to launch the "silliest thing we can imagine" on the maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy. This is partly because the rocket is experimental -- there is a non-trivial chance the rocket will explode on the launch pad, or shortly after launch. It is also partly because Musk is a master showman who knows how to grab attention. On Friday evening, Musk tweeted what that payload would be -- his "midnight cherry Tesla Roadster."

And the car will be playing Space Oddity, by David Bowie; the song which begins, "Ground Control to Major Tom." Oh, and the powerful Falcon Heavy rocket will send the Tesla into orbit around Mars. "Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn't blow up on ascent," Musk added. Ars was able to confirm Friday night from a company source that this is definitely a legitimate payload. Earlier on Friday, Musk also said the Falcon Heavy launch would come "next month" from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, meaning in January.

"No private company has ever launched a spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit, let alone to another planet," according to the article, adding that SpaceX's new rocket "could play a major role in any plans the agency has to send humans to the Moon." In addition, Musk added on Twitter, "Red car for a red planet."

UPDATE (12/2/17): Saturday Elon Musk told The Verge that he "totally made it up" about sending a Tesla Roadster to Mars. Then in "multiple emails" to Ars Technica --- sent Saturday afternoon -- "Musk confirmed that this plan is, indeed, real."
Australia

Tesla Switches on Giant Battery To Shore Up Australia's Grid (reuters.com) 173

Tesla switched on the world's biggest lithium ion battery on Friday in time to feed Australia's shaky power grid for the first day of summer, meeting a promise by Elon Musk to build it in 100 days or give it free. From a report: "South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy," state Premier Jay Weatherill said at the official launch at the Hornsdale wind farm, owned by private French firm Neoen. Tesla won a bid in July to build the 129-megawatt hour battery for South Australia, which expanded in wind power far quicker than the rest of the country, but has suffered a string of blackouts over the past 18 months. In a politically charged debate, opponents of the state's renewables push have argued that the battery is a "Hollywood solution" in a country that still relies on fossil fuels, mainly coal, for two-thirds of its electricity.
Space

SpaceX's First Falcon Heavy Launch Will Now Take Place In 2018 (engadget.com) 131

The launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket has been delayed to 2018. In an email to Aviation Week, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said, "We wanted to fly Heavy this year. We should be able to static fire this year and fly a couple of weeks right after that." Engadget reports: The static fire test will be the first time that all of Heavy's 27 Merlin engines will be fired at once. And if all goes well there, Falcon Heavy should be ready for launch within the first few weeks of 2018. There have been multiple launch delays with Heavy, which Elon Musk has attributed to the development of such a large and powerful rocket being "way, way more difficult" than SpaceX expected. "Falcon Heavy requires the simultaneous ignition of 27 orbit-class engines," Musk said at the ISS R&D conference in July. "There's a lot that can go wrong there." And because of that, Musk has been very clear about where everyone's expectations should be going into Falcon Heavy's first launch. "There's a real good chance that it does not make it to orbit. I hope it gets far enough away from the launch pad that it does not cause pad damage -- I would consider that a win," he said.
Transportation

Elon Musk's Boring Company Bids On Chicago Airport Transit Link (arstechnica.com) 155

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Wednesday, the city of Chicago opened a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for an express train that would take passengers from the city's O'Hare airport to downtown. The system would have to be completely privately funded -- Chicago says no taxpayer money would be used for it. Elon Musk's Boring Company -- a tunneling company that the SpaceX and Tesla CEO started last year -- will respond to the request. Musk hopes to get to the second round when bidding will take place. On Wednesday evening, he tweeted that his company "will compete to fund, build & operate a high-speed Loop connecting Chicago O'Hare Airport to downtown."

Musk's reference to a "Loop" is explained more clearly on The Boring Company's FAQ page: "Loop is a high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported on autonomous electric skates traveling at 125-150 miles per hour. Electric skates will carry between 8 and 16 passengers (mass transit), or a single passenger vehicle." Unlike Musk's idea for a Hyperloop, a Loop won't draw a vacuum. "For shorter routes, there is no technical need to eliminate air friction," The Boring Company states. The company also clarifies the concept of an "electric skate:" that is "a platform on wheels propelled by multiple electric motors." The platform would operate autonomously without a rail or rails to which the skate would connect. The skate would operate in the tunnel's main artery, and it would enter and exit from side tunnels. With this system, The Boring Company says, the skate's average speed would theoretically be able to operate close to maximum speed.

Bitcoin

Elon Musk Says He Is Not Bitcoin's Satoshi Nakamoto (bloomberg.com) 108

An anonymous reader writes: Not only does Elon Musk deny being the mysterious creator of bitcoin Satoshi Nakamoto, but he's also forgotten where he keeps his cryptocurrency. Musk's assertions came in response to a blog post coursing through digital-currency sites that suggested the PayPal co-founder and Tesla chief executive officer himself is probably the bitcoin originator who used the alias Nakamoto. "Not true," Musk said Tuesday in a tweet. "A friend sent me part of a BTC a few years, but I don't know where it is."
The Almighty Buck

Did Elon Musk Create Bitcoin? (cryptocoinsnews.com) 189

An anonymous reader quotes CryptoCoinsNews: It should be no surprise that the elusive hunt for Satoshi, often referred to as the father of Bitcoin, has led to the theory that Elon Musk has been hiding a big secret from all of us. Sahil Gupta, a computer science student at Yale University and former intern at SpaceX, believes just this... Bitcoin was written by someone with mastery of C++, a language Musk has utilized heavily at SpaceX. Musk's 2013 Hyperloop paper also provided insight into his deep understanding of cryptography and economics...

One week before Gupta's Medium post on Musk, another Medium blog was published with a theory that Musk invented Bitcoin for future use on Mars. As radical as this may sounds, the point around Paypal in this article was relevant. Musk has already revolutionized digital currency with his founding role in Paypal, which he sold to eBay in 2002. The author claims Musk is under a non-compete from this deal, leaving him to secrecy about his role in Bitcoin.

Gupta's article cites other clues that suport his theory, including Musk's interest in solving global problems, his unusual silence on the topic of cryptocurrencies, and the fact that "Elon has said publicly he doesn't own any bitcoin, which is consistent with a 'Good Satoshi' who deleted his private keys. This means Satoshi's one million coins (worth about $8 billion) are gone for good." And of course, with a net worth of $19.7 billion, Elon Musk is one of the few people who wouldn't need the money.

UPDATE (11/28/17): On Twitter, Elon Musk has responded, saying the rumors that he created Bitcoin are "not true."
Power

Is Elon Musk Greatly Exaggerating Tesla's Battery Technology? (bloomberg.com) 266

"Tesla's newest promises break the laws of batteries," writes Bloomberg. Long-time Slashdot reader rudy_wayne summarizes their report. "Elon Musk knows how to make promises. Even by his own standards, the promises made last week while introducing two new Tesla vehicles...are monuments of envelope pushing. To deliver, according to close observers of battery technology, Tesla would have to far exceed what is currently thought possible." The Tesla Semi, which Musk claims can haul 80,000 pounds at highway speeds for 500 miles, then recharge 400 miles of range in 30 minutes, would require "a charging system that's 10 times more powerful than one of the fastest battery-charging networks on the road today -- Tesla's own Superchargers."

The Tesla Roadster is promised to be the quickest production car ever built. But that achievement would mean squeezing into its tiny frame a battery twice as powerful as the largest battery currently available in any electric car. These claims are so far beyond current industry standards for electric vehicles that they would require either advances in battery technology or a new understanding of how batteries are put to use, said Sam Jaffe, battery analyst for Cairn Energy Research in Boulder, Colorado.

But Jaffe reaches an interesting conclusion. "I don't think they're lying. I just think they left something out of the public reveal that would have explained how these numbers work."
Australia

Tesla Completes World's Largest Battery Project In Half the Time Promised (engadget.com) 150

Rei writes: Tesla announced the completion of the world's largest battery -- a 100 MW/129 MWh wind-power backup system for 30,000 homes in South Australia. Three times more powerful than any other battery on Earth, the $50 million project had garnered press due to Elon Musk's Twitter boast that it would be completed within 100 days of the contract signing or it would be free. In the end, Tesla took it up a notch: the battery was finished 55 days from the date of contract signing and 99 days from the date of Musk's boast itself.
AI

Musk-Backed 'Slaughterbots' Video Will Warn the UN About Killer Microdrones (space.com) 252

An anonymous reader quotes Space.com: A graphic new video posits a very scary future in which swarms of killer microdrones are dispatched to kill political activists and U.S. lawmakers. Armed with explosive charges, the palm-sized quadcopters use real-time data mining and artificial intelligence to find and kill their targets. The makers of the seven-minute film titled Slaughterbots are hoping the startling dramatization will draw attention to what they view as a looming crisis -- the development of lethal, autonomous weapons, that select and fire on human targets without human guidance.

The Future of Life Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mitigating existential risks posed by advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence, commissioned the film. Founded by a group of scientists and business leaders, the institute is backed by AI-skeptics Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, among others. The institute is also behind the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of non-governmental organizations which have banded together to call for a preemptive ban on lethal autonomous weapons... The film will be screened this week at the United Nations in Geneva during a meeting of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons... The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is hosting a series of meetings at this year's event to propose a worldwide ban on lethal autonomous weapons, which could potentially be developed as flying drones, self-driving tanks, or automated sentry guns.

"This short film is more than just speculation," says Stuart Russell, a U.C. Berkeley considered an expert in artificial intelligence.

"It shows the results of integrating and miniaturizing technologies we already have."
Businesses

Walmart Says It's Preordered 15 of Tesla' New Semi Trucks (theverge.com) 179

Soon after Tesla unveiled its new electric Semi Truck and Roadster 2.0, Walmart says it has preordered 15 of the trucks. The Verge notes that the deal was "likely in the works before Tesla unveiled its new truck to the public." From the report: The pilot is planned for the U.S. and Canada. Five of the preordered vehicles will be for Walmart's U.S. business, and 10 will be for its Canadian routes, the company said. Walmart's fleet has about 6,000 trucks. "We have a long history of testing new technology -- including alternative-fuel trucks -- and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle," the company said in a statement. "We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions." Musk said the truck would enter production in 2019. JB Hunt Transport Services, a 56-year-old company based in Arkansas, also reserved "multiple" new Tesla trucks as well.
Transportation

Tesla Unveils 500-Mile Range Semi Truck, 620-Mile Range Roadster 2.0 373

Rei writes: During a live reveal on Thursday, Tesla unveiled its new electric Class 8 Heavy Duty vehicle. As most people familiar with Tesla products would expect, the day cab truck features staggeringly fast acceleration for a vehicle of its size. It can accelerate 0-60 in 5 seconds without a trailer and 20 seconds with a 40-ton gross weight while being able to pull its maximum payload up a 5-degree grade at 65mph (versus a typical maximum of 45mph). The 500-mile range is for the vehicle at full load and highway speeds (80% of U.S. freight routes are 250 miles or less). Tesla also boasts a million mile no-breakdown guarantee; even losing two of its four motors it can out-accelerate a typical diesel truck. The total cost per mile is pegged at 83% of operating a diesel, but when convoying is utilized -- where multiple trucks mirror the action of a lead truck -- the costs drop to 57%, a price cheaper than rail. Tesla went a step further and stole the show from their own event by having the first prototype of the new Tesla Roadster drive out of the back of the truck. With the base model alone boasting a 620 mile range on a 200kWh battery pack with 10kN torque, providing a 1.9 second 0-60, 4.2 second 0-100, and 8.9 second quarter mile, the 2+2-seating convertible will easily be the fastest-accelerating production car in the world. Top speed is not disclosed, but said to be "at least 250mph." The vehicle's release date, however, is not scheduled until 2020.
Science

Elon Musk's 'Scientific Method' (rollingstone.com) 240

From a new wide-ranging interview of Elon Musk: An unfortunate fact of human nature is that when people make up their mind about something, they tend not to change it -- even when confronted with facts to the contrary. "It's very unscientific," Musk says. "There's this thing called physics, which is this scientific method that's really quite effective for figuring out the truth." The scientific method is a phrase Musk uses often when asked how he came up with an idea, solved a problem or chose to start a business. Here's how he defines it for his purposes, in mostly his own words:
1. Ask a question.
2. Gather as much evidence as possible about it.
3. Develop axioms based on the evidence, and try to assign a probability of truth to each one.
4. Draw a conclusion based on cogency in order to determine: Are these axioms correct, are they relevant, do they necessarily lead to this conclusion, and with what probability?
5. Attempt to disprove the conclusion. Seek refutation from others to further help break your conclusion.
6. If nobody can invalidate your conclusion, then you're probably right, but you're not certainly right.

The Courts

Tesla Is a 'Hotbed For Racist Behavior,' Worker Claims In Lawsuit (bloomberg.com) 300

An African-American employee has filed a lawsuit against Tesla, claiming their production floor is a "hotbed for racist behavior" and that black workers at the electric carmaker suffer severe and pervasive harassment. "The employee says he's one of more than 100 African-American Tesla workers affected and is seeking permission from a judge to sue on behalf of the group," reports Bloomberg. "He's seeking unspecified general and punitive monetary damages as well as an order for Tesla to implement policies to prevent and correct harassment." From the report: "Although Tesla stands out as a groundbreaking company at the forefront of the electric car revolution, its standard operating procedure at the Tesla factory is pre-Civil Rights era race discrimination," the employee said in the complaint, filed Monday in California's Alameda County Superior Court. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Marcus Vaughn, who worked in the Fremont factory from April 23 to Oct. 31. Vaughn alleged that employees and supervisors regularly used the "N word" around him and other black colleagues. Vaughn said he complained in writing to human resources and Musk and was terminated in late October for "not having a positive attitude."
AI

Hawking: AI Could Be 'Worst Event in the History of Our Civilization' (usatoday.com) 243

An anonymous reader shares a USA Today report: Elon Musk isn't the only high-profile figure concerned about the rise of artificial intelligence. Scientist Stephen Hawking warned AI could serve as the "worst event in the history of our civilization" unless humanity is prepared for its possible risks. Hawking made the remarks during the opening night of the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. Hawking expects AI to transform every part of our lives, with the potential to undo damage done to the Earth and cure diseases. However, Hawking said AI could also spur the creation of powerful autonomous weapons of terror that could be used as a tool "by the few to oppress the many." "Success in creating effective AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization, or the worst," he said. Hawking called for more research in AI on how to best use the technology, as well as implored scientists to think about AI's impact. "Perhaps we should all stop for a moment and focus our thinking on not only making AI more capable and successful, but maximizing its societal benefit," he said.
Businesses

Tesla Posts Biggest Quarterly Loss, Slashes Production of Model X and Model S (yahoo.com) 260

Tesla has reported the largest quarterly loss in its history, and said it was cutting production of its Model S and Model X vehicles. Here are the key third-quarter numbers with expectations via Bloomberg: Adjusted loss per share: -$2.92 (-$2.23 expected); Revenue: $2.98 billion ($2.39 billion expected); Free cash flow: -$1.4 billion (-$1.2 billion (expected). Yahoo News reports: The company said it plans to produce 10% fewer units of its Model S and Model X models in the fourth quarter and reallocate resources to the Model 3, its newest. Tesla expects to hit a Model 3 production rate of 5,000 vehicles per week by late Q1 2018. "While we continue to make significant progress each week in fixing Model 3 bottlenecks, the nature of manufacturing challenges during a ramp such as this makes it difficult to predict exactly how long it will take for all bottlenecks to be cleared or when new ones will appear," Tesla said in its statement. Tesla said in October that it produced only 260 vehicles, well below its target of 1,500. CEO Elon Musk said the Model 3 was "deep in production hell."

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