Friday, December 14, 2012

Perfect invisibility cloak, US military soon to be invisible

Canadian camouflage company claims to have created perfect invisibility cloak, US military soon to be invisible

Hyperstealth's Quantum Stealth invisibility cloak, mock-up

A Canadian company called Hyperstealth is reporting that it has developed Quantum Stealth, a material that renders the target “completely invisible by bending light waves around the target.” If the mock-up photos are to be believed, Quantum Stealth basically works like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.
Since 2002, Hyperstealth has been in the business of designing camouflage patterns for military uniforms, vehicles, and installations. In 2010, at the International Camouflage Symposium, Hyperstealth’s CEO Guy Cramer demonstrated SmartCamo — a material that could reportedly adjust its camouflage markings to match its surroundings. We say “reportedly” because Cramer apparently published a video demonstration of SmartCamo, but then US military intervened and asked him to take it down. Presumably Quantum Stealth is a follow-up from SmartCamo.
Again, for security reasons, Cramer is saying very little about Quantum Stealth. All of the pictures that you see here, and on Hyperstealth’s site, are mock-ups, because “for security issues we can not show the actual technology.” Cramer says that both the US and Canadian military have seen Quantum Stealth in action, and that they’ve also confirmed that the material obscures the target from infrared (thermal) imaging. Below, you can see Cramer talking to CNN’s Pentagon correspondent about Quantum Stealth.

Now, we’ve written about invisibility cloaks in the past, but these have generally been very small, lab-based experiments that only work with very specific wavelengths of light. These invisibility cloaks generally work by bending light around an object using metamaterial waveguides — think of them as optical paths that negatively refract light, so that their detour around the object can’t be discerned. So far, we have only managed to develop metamaterials that bend specific wavelengths of light — so the object might be invisible to microwaves or infrared, but not both. Quantum Stealth reportedly works across the entire range of visible light, and infrared too. If this is really the case, Quantum Stealth completely redefines the state of the art.
In theory, Quantum Stealth works by bending light around the target, and Cramer certainly uses the right words to support his case — nanotechnology, metamaterials — but it’s still very hard to believe that a lone inventor in Canada has actually succeeded in creating an invisibility cloak. It’s not impossible, but it’s improbable. I want to say that there’s a clue in the name — that Quantum Stealth somehow uses some neat glitch in quantum mechanics to provide invisibility — but really, it’s probably just hyperbole, like the company’s name. If Quantum Stealth really exists, though, you’d assume that the US military would be quick to flaunt its new toy. After all, there’s nothing more terrifying than an invisible army.

Meet Mansa Musa I of Mali – the richest human being in all history

When we think of the world’s all-time richest people, names like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and John D Rockefeller immediately come to mind.

But few would have thought, or even heard of, Mansa Musa I of Mali – the obscure 14th century African king who was today named the richest person in all history.

With an inflation adjusted fortune of $400 billion, Mansa Musa I would have been considerably richer than the world’s current richest man, Carlos Slim, who ranks in 22nd place with a relatively paltry $68 billion.
The list, compiled by the Celebrity Net Worth website, ranks the world’s 24 richest people of all time. The list advertises itself as the top 25, but 26 names appear in the list.

Although the list spans 1000 years, some aspects of wealth appear consistent throughout history; there are no women on the list, only three members are alive today, and 14 of the top 25 are American.
The list uses the annual 2199.6 per cent rate of inflation to adjust historic fortunes – a formula that means $100 million in 1913 would be equal to £2.299.63 billion today.

Mansa Musa I ruled West Africa’s Malian Empire in the early 1300s, making his fortune by exploiting his country’s salt and gold production. Many mosques he built as a young man still stand today.
After Mansa Musa I death in 1331, however, his heirs were unable to hang on to the fortune, and it was substantially depleted by civil wars and invading armies.

Second on the list are the Rothschild family, whose descendants are still among the richest people on the planet. Starting out in banking in the late 18th Century, Mayer Amschel Rothschild’s finance house accumulated a total wealth of $350 billion. The money has since been divided between hundreds of descendants, many of whom are business leaders today.

Meanwhile John D. Rockefeller, third on the list, is the richest American to have ever lived, worth $340billion in today's USD at the time of his death in 1937.

In comparison, the poorest man on the list is 82-year-old Warren Buffett, who at his peak net worth, before he started giving his fortune to charity, was $64billion.

Here’s the full list of the ‘26 richest people of all time’:

1. Mansa Musa I, (Ruler of Malian Empire, 1280-1331) $400 billion
2. Rothschild Family (banking dynasty, 1740- ) $350 billion
3. John D Rockefeller (industrialist, 1839-1937) $340 billion
4. Andrew Carnegie (industrialist, 1835-1919) $310 billion
5. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (last Emperor of Russia, 1868-1918) $300 billion
6. Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII (last ruler of Hyderabad, 1886-1967) $236 billion
7. William the Conqueror (King of England, 1028-1087) $229.5 billion
8. Muammar Gaddafi (former Libyan leader, 1942-2011) $200 billion
9. Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company founder, 1863-1947) $199 billion
10. Cornelius Vanderbilt (industrialist, 1794-1877) $185 billion
11. Alan Rufus (Fighting companion of William the Conqueror, 1040-1093) $178.65 billion
12. Bill Gates (Founder of Microsoft, 1955- ) $136 billion
13. William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey (Norman nobleman, ??-1088) $146.13 billion
14. John Jacob Astor (businessman, 1864-1912) $121 billion
15. Richard Fitzalan, 10th Earl of Arundel (English nobleman, 1306-1376) £118.6 billion
16. John of Gaunt (son of Edward III, 1330-1399) £110 billion
17. Stephen Girard (shipping and banking mogul, 1750-1831) $105 billion
18. Alexander Turney Stewart (entrepreneur, 1803-1876) $90 billion
19. Henry, 1st Duke of Lancaster (English noble, 1310-1361) $85.1 billion
20. Friedrich Weyerhaeuser (timber mogul, 1834-1914) $80 billion
21. Jay Gould (railroad tycoon, 1836-1892) $71 billion
22. Carlos Slim (business magnate, 1940- ) $68 billion
23. Stephen Van Rensselaer (land owner, 1764- 1839) $68 billion
24. Marshall Field (Marshall Field & Company founder, 1834-1906) $66 billion
25. Sam Walton (Walmart founder, 1918-1992) $65billion
26. Warren Buffett (investor, 1930- ) $64billion

Best Countries to be born in 2013

As 2012 comes to a close, marking the finish of a year of economic upheaval around the world (with no clear end in sight), the Economist Intelligence Unit posed the question: Which child born next year will be more likely to have a good quality-of-life? And, perhaps most importantly, what person entering adulthood in the 2030s will be gladdest to live where she or he lives? They call this the “born index” or “life satisfaction index,” and it explains which countries lead the pack as the best place to be born in 2013.

America, which used to be number-one on this very same index back in 1988, has plummeted to number 16. It’s understandable in terms of our miserable healthcare system, growing social stratification and workplace policies; we hang out toward the bottom of the lists when it comes to maternal health, paid leave for parents or family sickness. And yes, we have zero mandatory vacation hours.

But there’s a lot more to this index. Here’s the methodology from the Economist Intelligence Unit. Readers may disagree with the importance of some of these (such as divorce rate):
  • “material wellbeing” as measured by GDP per head (in $, at 2006 constant PPPS)
  • life expect­ancy from birth
  • quality of family life, based primarily on divorce rates
  • state of political freedoms
  • job se­curity (measured by the unemployment rate)
  • climate (measured by two variables: the average deviation of minimum and maximum monthly temperatures from 14 degrees Celsius and the number of months in the year with less than 30mm rainfall)
  • Personal physical security ratings (based primarily on recorded homicide rates and ratings for risk from crime and terrorism)
  • quality of community life (based on membership in so­cial organizations)
  • governance (measured by ratings for corruption)
  • gender equality (measured by the share of seats in parliament held by women)
Let’s look at this year’s life satisfaction index and see which countries — some predictable, some surprising — do better than the US on this particular scale.

Switzerland. “Boring” old Switzerland, with its pristine natural beauty, top infrastructure, wealth and social safety net comes out on top.

Here are some statistics about Switzerland from a separate measurement, the Better Life Index, which we wrote about earlier this year: 79% of working-age people in Switzerland have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 66%. Some 85% of men are in paid work, and 87% of adults aged 25-64 have earned a high-school equivalent degree, and it’s a “a top-performing country in terms of the quality of its educational system.” When a new Swiss resident is born, his or her life expectancy reaches close to 83 years. All that mountain air and water seems to be nice for living standards, too: “97% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water.”

Australia and New Zealand. Oi! The land down under comes out on top, or second to the top, in the born index, for a number of reasons. With a high life expectancy and relatively high employment, civic and community participation are particularly high. According to the Better Life Index for Australia:
Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation in Australia, where 97% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 91%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 95% during recent elections.
Not bad!
Kiwis, ranked number seven on the list, share many of their Aussie neighbors’ lifestyle high points, with a similarly robust level of public participation and sense of community and highly rated educational achievement. And Auckland comes only behind Zurich and Vienna as the world’s most liveable city, according to yet another of these indices, the Mercer Quality of Living surveys.

Scandinavian Countries: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, are all in the top 10.(Even Finland comes in at no. 11, ahead of the US.) This group of semi-socialist nations do exceptionally well in almost every ranking of this kind. That’s because it comes down to the numbers: workforces that do well without empyees killing themselves with work and a strong social safety net. Each day, Danes are able to spend about two-thirds of their hours sleeping, eating, taking care of themselves and chilling out, while Sweden has the most progressive family leave policies you can find, with a whole culture of stay-at-home dads who are encouraged to spend time with the stroller, thanks to national policy.

Singapore is one of the most consistently top-ranked Asian places to live, with an authoritarian government apparently offset by great healthcare, education and infastructure. Another city with fine infrastructure, Hong Kong, also made the list.

The Netherlands has a strong healthcare system and a complex social welfare state where collectives, co-ops, government and private industries mingle together to make sure each citizen is cared for. Back in 2009, Russel Shorto wrote a long piece for the New York Times about “going Dutch,” moving to the Netherlands. One thing he noted that’s particularly applicable to the Born Index? Childcare and help with giving birth:
The Netherlands has universal health care, which means that, unlike in the United States, virtually everyone is covered, and of course social welfare, broadly understood, begins at the beginning. In Julie and Jan’s case, although he was a struggling translator and she was a struggling writer, their insurance covered prenatal care, the birth of their children and after-care, which began with seven days of five-hours-per-day home assistance. “That means someone comes and does your laundry, vacuums and teaches you how to care for a newborn,” Julie said. Then began the regimen of regular checkups for the baby at the public health clinic. After that the heavily subsidized day care kicked in, which, Julie told me, “is huge, in that it helps me live as a writer who doesn’t make a lot of money.”
Canada. One interesting aspect of life for our neighbors to the north: only about 4% of its workforce works “very long hours” compared to 11% here in the States. They also have that darn socialized medicine, but still end comfortably ahead of us.
Why has America dropped so much lower than it once was? As Laza Kekic, who is the director of country forecasting services at Economist Intelligence Unit,writes:
 America was helped to the top spot back in 1988 by the inclusion in the ranking of a “philistine factor” (for cultural poverty) and a “yawn index” (the degree to which a country might, despite all its virtues, be irredeemably boring). Switzerland scored terribly on both counts…
However, there is surely a lot to be said for boring stability in today’s (and no doubt tomorrow’s) uncertain times.