Bitcoins Recognized as Private Money in Germany

The German Federal Ministry of Finance has officially recognized the Bitcoin as a “private money.” While not quite the same as being recognized as currency, it does mean that the German Government has recognized that transaction can and do occur in bitcoins on a wide scale. This is a big win for the growing cryptocurrency designed to allow money to change hands without the need for banks or other institutions getting involved.

Its intended as a win for Germany, as well. The idea is that if the euro should ever fail and companies begin conducting business using bitcoins instead, the groundwork is already there for bitcoins to be taxed.  For now, the use of bitcoins is by businesses is being highly regulated; bitcoins must be managed by a qualified professional, a considerable initial investment must be made, and a business plan must be submitted to German officials. However, the Germany’s acceptance paves the way for bitcoins to be legitimized elsewhere, such as the US, where bitcoins are currently under much scrutiny, or in Thailand where the lack of laws lead officials to ban bitcoins outright.

With the explosive growth and growing acceptance, facing the issue of bitcoins will soon be on many countries’ agendas. From the time of the bitcoin protocol first being published in 2008, the monetary value of the bitcoin network is estimated at $1.4 billion USD. Bitcoins were originally dubbed a peer-to-peer electronic cash system before receiving the common name we now know them as. The basic concept is that server nodes contain bitcoins,  and by a user can connect to these nodes via the internet and decrypt where in the server the bitcoin is. As more and more bitcoins are mined in this way, the decryption step becomes more and more complicated. This means that the initial distribution launched high volumes of easily accessible bitcoins into the market, but as time goes on they become more and more difficult to acquire leading to their rapid growth.

However, the bitcoin has ceased it’s rapid growth as the encryption reaches the point where only high-end GPU computing can mine them. This has lead to a volatile exchange rate reacting to newly added bitcoins, exposed flaws in security, and political changes like those in Germany, among a host of other factors. This variability lead to fluctuations from $230 USD per bitcoin in early April 2013 all the way back down to $50 USD by the end of the month, and bouncing back up to $100 USD in May, before fluctuating more stably around $70-80 USD throughout the summer.  When a vulnerability was discovered for all bitcoin wallets generated by Android in early August (which has since been fixed), many began to question the viability of the bitcoin long term.

For now, though, bitcoins are holding on through the confidence of the consumers. And personally, I think they’re a really cool idea.

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Hyperloop

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, has proposed a revolutionary new form of transport he calls the Hyperloop. The idea is reminiscent of a pneumatic tube, in which capsules containing passengers are shot through a contained environment at incredibly high speeds. The proposed system would be able to go from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes.

Obviously there are a number of technical hurdles, not the least of which is how to power such a transportation system. The proposal identified that batteries couldn’t power supersonic travel alone, instead they would need to be periodically recharged during transit. This could be easily accomplished using induction charging similar to the wireless charging pads used for phones. Moreover, the charging would only need to be places over about 1% of the track. Additionally, the Hyperloop would could easily produce more power than it consumes by placing solar panels on top of the tube.

Another issue is the friction generated by such speed. Normal wheels wouldn’t work at such speeds, so instead the Hyperloop  would suspend itself above the surface of the tube using an air-cushion. This air cushion is created with from air funneled in from the front of the capsule, which also helps cut down on air resistance.

The proposal is gaining a lot of media attention, but the Hyperloop has a long ways to go before it sees the light of day. Not the smallest hurdle is the competition from the proposed California high-speed rail. Only time will tell which of the systems is ultimately implemented.

Lab Grown Burger a Little Bland

On Monday, August 5, a group of impartial taste testers in London got to sample the first burger grown in lab. The apparent consensus was that because the meat was grown without fat, it was lacking in flavor. The texture was apparently similar to that of a regular burger. But the point of the taste test wasn’t really about perfecting the burger’s flavors, it was more about raising awareness about, and finding additional funding for research into lab grown meat.

While experts in the field say that the technology that grew the sampled burger could be scaled up for large-scale production, the cost would be prohibitive. They estimate that it would take 10 years to advance the technology enough to be commercially viable. The current method is to simply extract stem cells from the muscles of cows and place them in a nutrient broth until they grow into muscle fibers. About 20,000 of the tiny fibers were mushed together with breadcrumbs, salt, and coloring to make the 5 ounce burger.

While it may seem like an unnecessary extravagance for a measly burger, could greatly improve the efficiency of water and land use, as well as cut down significantly on the emissions of methane and other greenhouse gasses. In addition, the meat can be grown without killing any animals, which makes animal rights groups like PETA happy about the advances.

However, the patty too 2 years and $325,000 to grow, so the technology still has a long way to go before you start seeing it in grocery stores.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/science/a-lab-grown-burger-gets-a-taste-test.html?_r=0