Weekly Takeaways-February 15, 2023
The Server Lights Are Big and Bright Deep in the heart of Texas, they are building new power plants - for data centers. Over 200MW of capacity, enough to power a small city, is being built to handle our social media addiction. It has been estimated that 30 minutes on Netflix is equivalent to driving four miles. And the problem is only getting worse. But there is a solution - better synchronization. Yes, more accurate time synchronization in data centers improves efficiency and reduces power consumption. A Facebook and NVIDIA study found that a synchronization improvement of 80x made a distributed database run 3x faster, a huge improvement. They created the Time Appliances Project with the mission statement: “Time is a key element to get the highest efficiency in a distributed system. The performance of a distributed system depends on the synchronization of its elements.” The relation between synchronization and efficiency is not that intuitive, so the simple analogy: distributed databases work by sending and receiving data. The data goes through lots of doors, and opening these doors takes energy. Waiting for the doors to open and close reduces efficiency, which can be reduced if they are synchronized. Last Week's Theme: Teamwork
It is well known that quantum computers could one day break modern public key encryption, but not for a while. A recent paper by Chinese researchers claims that could occur sooner than expected, though not everyone is convinced. In any case, the US government “has already asked federal agencies to upgrade to quantum-safe encryption in their operations.”
Quantum Telescopes could improve on normal optical telescopes by using “interferometry, a technique where multiple telescopes gather light, which is then combined to create a more complete picture.” But interferometry has challenges that can be “overcome by relying on quantum mechanics. Rather than relying on optical links, they propose how the principle of quantum entanglements could be used to share photons between observatories,” according to a recent paper.
The Department of Defense released a Small Business Strategy that includes “focusing on reducing barriers to entry, increasing set-aside competitions, and leveraging programs to grow the industrial base.”
Even as overall investment declined last year, investment in seed-stage startups actually increased, according to PitchBook. Same with new space investment; seed investment actually increased in 2022 according to the Seraphim Space Report.
Royal Institute of Navigation LEO PNT Workshop, March 1, London
Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, March 13 - 16, Vancouver, Canada
Satellite 2023, March 13 - 16, Washington DC
Space Symposium, April 17 - 20, Colorado Springs, CO
Commercialising Quantum Global, May 17 - 19, London UK
Quantum 2.0 Conference, Denver, CO, June 18 - 22
The More You Know...
Do you like mysteries? Then check these out:
The mystery of the Chinese Spy (Weather?) Balloon and Subsequent UFOs seems to be a case of “you won’t find what you aren’t looking for.” These objects were all at an altitude that is (usually) not well monitored and moving too slow to get picked up by traditional radar. But the US military is “developing a sensor network” to “be on the lookout for these kinds of capabilities.”
Solved! The case of the Texas/Oklahoma GPS Outages that occurred “only on normal workdays" was solved by an amateur sleuth. Stanford University PhD candidate Zixi Liu discovered that the outages were reported by military training aircraft and their "aerobatics caused the airplanes’ navigation receivers to intermittently lose lock on signals from GPS satellites.”
Zixi is also investigating the Dallas-Fort Worth GPS Outage that disrupted air traffic for over 24 hours in October. So far, the source of the disruption has not been identified.
The case of January 26, 2016, or the Day the World (Almost) Stood Still, has been solved. In the early morning hours emergency radios went offline in the US and Canada, and communications and digital broadcasts around the world started to fail. Even power grids started to malfunction as network engineers scrambled frantically to prevent a global communication meltdown. The culprit: a 13-millisecond error due to a ground software glitch when a GPS satellite was decommissioned.
No mystery that GPS needs a commercial alternative!