Doctors Are Testing Human Suspended Animation for the First Time

The stasis/suspended animation chambers, in Alien

Science fiction is full of examples of people entering suspended animation or hibernation during a long space journey, but that might not be fiction for much longer. Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center are putting people in suspended animation for the first time. There’s no spaceflight involved, though. Their use case is much more down-to-earth: saving trauma victims in the emergency room. 

The hospital has assembled a team to conduct the suspended animation experiment, but the rules governing the testing are understandably strict. Doctors aren’t just asking people off the street to go into medical hibernation, but people who arrive at the hospital with serious trauma like a gunshot or stab wound might undergo the procedure. 

The process, known as emergency preservation and resuscitation (EPR), involves rapidly cooling the body to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) by replacing the patient’s blood with cold saline. At a normal body temperature of roughly 98.6 Fahrenheit (37 Celsius), your cells need a regular supply of oxygen to continue functioning. Five minutes of oxygen deprivation is enough to cause irreparable brain damage, but cooling the body slows or halts metabolic activity in the cells, stops the heart, and preserves tissues. 

Only patients who arrive at the hospital with acute trauma including the loss of half their blood volume and cardiac arrest can undergo the procedure. Under normal conditions, the chances of survival in this situation are less than five percent. The FDA has given the University of Maryland Medical Center special permission to conduct this study because there’s no other viable treatment for these people. With EPR, the surgical team has two hours after the patient’s blood is drained to repair the damage. At that time, the patient’s blood is returned and the heart restarted. 

We don’t know how well EPR works yet, but the team will eventually release a paper detailing the results. The plan is to compare ten patients who underwent EPR with ten who had similar injuries but could not get EPR because the team was not in the hospital at the time. If EPR can boost that five percent survival rate, it could become a new standard treatment for severe trauma. As for hibernating while traveling to other worlds, that’s still science fiction. Cells can experience so-called “reperfusion damage” when reoxygenated, and the damage gets more severe the longer a patient was suspended. It may be possible to develop drugs that limit reperfusion injuries, but first, we have to make sure EPR works on the ground.

Top image credit: Alien

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AMD Promises New Architecture for Zen 3, Adopts Intel Tick-Tock Model

Supercomputing 19 (SC’19) has been in full swing this week, and AMD has made a number of high profile announcements at the event. There are new deals for Epyc with the EU and the San Diego Supercomputer Center, Amazon is planning to deliver Rome-based cloud computing instances, a pair of Microsoft Azure instances intended for HPC workloads are now available in preview mode, and a new version of ROCm, AMD’s Radeon Open Compute initiative, will roll out soon. The company also notched the first TOP500 win for Rome, using the AMD Epyc 7H12 CPU.

All in all, it’s a successful show for a company that didn’t have much to show at all just a few short years ago — but it’s comments by Forrest Norrod, GM of AMD’s Datacenter and Embedded Solutions Business Group, that catch the eye. According to Norrod, AMD’s simultaneous efforts in CPU and GPU will continue to grow in 2020. AMD has plans to support high-speed CPU-GPU pairings via Infinity Link in future server chips, and it wants to support other standards, like the Intel-backed CXL, as well. According to The Street, Zen 3 won’t be an extension of the previous Zen architecture like Zen 2 was.

The framing of the quote is a bit unclear, however. The Street writes: “Norrod observed that — unlike Zen 2, which was more of an evolution of the Zen microarchitecture that powers first-gen Epyc CPUs — Zen 3 will be based on a completely new architecture.” In the very next paragraph, however, Norrod is quoted as saying that Zen 3 will deliver performance gains “right in line with what you would expect from an entirely new architecture.”


Epyc 2 improvements

AMD, according to Norrod, is confident in its ability to drive “significant IPC gains” each generation. TheStreet reports that AMD plans to rely on the tick-tock cadence that Intel popularized for a decade, in which a “tick” represents deploying an existing architecture on a new process, while a ‘tock’ refers to a new architecture on an existing process. Rome is a tick, despite the improvements from Zen to Zen 2, Milan will be a tock, and Genoa will be a tick again.

There are some oddities in this framing. The first part of the paraphrased quote implies that Zen 3 is a new architecture, while the second statement — which does include a direct quote — states that Zen 3 performance improvements are right in line with what you would expect from a new architecture. My take on this is that the word “architecture” is playing two roles here. There are major architectural shifts, like Bulldozer-Zen, and smaller updates that may improve on a CPU’sSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce underlying performance, but don’t represent a fundamental change to how it operates. AMD’s tick-tock cadence also seems to be a bit different from Intel’s, in that it may include more room for actual evolution of the CPU architecture, even during “ticks,” given how much Rome improved on Naples while shifting to 7nm from 14nm.

Companies don’t actually deploy all-new architectures very often. Intel’s Ice Lake is an evolution of Skylake, which itself can be traced back to either Nehalem (if you date from Intel’s adoption of features like an integrated memory controller) or to Sandy Bridge (if you want to trace lineage using features like an opcache). Of course, in between these major releases, there are plenty of evolutionary changes that also get described as architectural updates. There are good reasons for companies to try and standardize on architectural features — it helps maintain good performance and backward compatibility over the long term.

I suspect that what Norrod is saying here is that AMD’s Zen 3 update will be big enough to qualify as a major architecture overhaul. It may include more significant changes to the underlying Zen design than AMD has made to-date. By the time Zen 3 debuts, AMD will have had Ryzen in-market for over three years, and that’s long enough to begin incorporating ideas the company had after Zen launched into Zen 3’s core design. I seriously doubt the company would jettison the Zen architecture altogether, but it’s possible that there are significant improvements planned.

As for rumors of improved clock on 7nm+, TSMC hasn’t given any guidance pointing to dramatic improvements from EUV, so we’ll just see where that takes us. This is the first time the foundry has ever built big-core x86 CPUs in these TDPs, so we can’t even look to historical performance for a sense of whether AMD will bring clock speeds up.

Each generation of Zen has delivered significant IPC improvements and AMD has been hitting its IPC improvements. Norrod isn’t giving details, but he seems to be laying the stage for further uplift in 2020 on the 7nm+ node. After a year as big as 2019 has been for AMD my expectations for further improvements in 2020 were modest, but AMD seems to think it can continue delivering double-digit gains year-on-year. We haven’t said much about Intel in all this — Ice Lake delivered significant IPC improvements over Skylake (~1.18x), but traded off frequency against its older cousin. Intel’s 10nm is currently only shipping in mobile, so we can’t comment on how future desktop products may evolve.

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Pirelli Designs 5G ‘Cyber Tire’ That Reports on Road Conditions

Carriers around the world are working to roll out 5G networks, and they hope to connect not just phones but also smart home devices, wearables, and cars. Your next car might have its own 5G connection, and tire-maker Pirelli wants to take advantage of that to make roads safer. It has developed a new sensor-studded tire that reports on road conditions and shares that data with other cars over 5G. 

The idea is that a high-tech tire on your car would detect potentially hazardous road conditions, and beam an alert to nearby vehicles. In a demo, Pirelli’s “Cyber Tire” detected a potential hydroplaning risk and transmitted it to cars approaching that spot in the road. This is a type of vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology, a catch-all term for automotive tech that communicates via wireless infrastructure. Pirelli says the key to making this work is 5G. 

You can get 5G data service in a few places with select phones and mobile hotspots, and the experience isn’t dramatically different than 4G LTE. In fact, it might be worse at certain things. Most uS 5G networks are running on millimeter-wave frequencies, which are many gigahertz higher than 4G. These signals have high bandwidth but poor range. Meanwhile, there are just a few “sub-6” bands available for 5G, like the one in use on Sprint. These are only a little faster than 4G, but they have similar range. 

For carriers, 5G is all about network efficiency. These networks can connect more devices, and they can customize 5G for specific applications. So, you might need very high bandwidth for one type of device, but ultra-low latency might be more important for another. The latter is probably more important for Pirelli’s Cyber Tires. They probably don’t need a lot of bandwidth to transmit location-aware alerts to nearby cars, but timing is key. You would, however, need a lot of smart tires on the road before there’s enough data for it to be useful. 

If this technology appears in cars over the next few years, it could help to alert drivers with annoying flashing dashboard lights or enable select driving features automatically. In the somewhat distant future, this data could feed into self-driving car systems that don’t require human input at all. However, 5G and autonomous driving are still a long way from being ubiquitous. It could be a while before your car steers itself around potholes.

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This Is What the PlayStation 5 Controller Might Look Like

Sony is planning to launch the PlayStation 5 in time for the holiday season next year, but we know almost nothing about the console. The company has dropped a tidbit here and there, but it’s talked mostly about the controller. Now, we know what that controller might look like thanks to a Japanese patent filing. There are no huge surprises here, but there are some mysteries. 

If you go back a few generations, Sony’s DualShock game controllers used to have a very distinctive shape with longer, tube-like grips that extended down from the button clusters. The DualShock 4 smoothed out that design and flattened it a bit, making the controller closer in shape to the Xbox controller. 

The alleged DualShock 5 for the PS5 looks very similar to the DualShock 4,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce but it’s a bit wider and more rounded. The DualShock 5 still has the symmetrical thumbsticks, but they protrude less from the body of the controller. The touchpad is still there in the center, but the light bar appears to be gone. There’s also a USB Type-C port on the top for charging (thank goodness). At the bottom of the controller, the patent drawings show a rectangular inlay that wraps around the edge of the controller — we have no idea what this could be for. 

The slightly bulkier frame of the DualShock 5 could be necessary to enable some of Sony’s new features. The company has already explained that it will use a more precise “haptic” vibration system in the DualShock 5 instead of the traditional rumble system that makes the whole controller vibrate. That’ll surely take up more space, as will the new “adaptive triggers.” According to Sony, developers will be able to specify levels of resistance for the L2 and R2 buttons to simulate different activities. 

Nothing is final yet, but we’d put good money on the DualShock 5 looking very much like these drawings. Images and sketches of a purported PS5 console have leaked as well, but these appear to be a developer kit. It’s a V-shaped, vented monstrosity. The final hardware will probably look at least a little more elegant. 

You can expect Sony to show up at E3 this year with a lot more information about its upcoming consoler. Until then, all we can do is speculate.

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‘Dream Chaser’ Space Plane Features Fancy Space Trash Can

All the current launch platforms certified to make supply runs to the International Space Station (ISS) use a parachute to return to Earth after each mission. Although, SpaceX has designs on propulsive landings with its Dragon capsule. Sierra Nevada Corporation has something else in mind with its uncrewed Dream Chaser spacecraft. The Dream Chaser is a fully reusable space plane that can carry a secondary non-reusable cargo module

Sierra Nevada Corporation has talked about the Dream Chaser in the past, but it just revealed new details about the vehicle at a press conference at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The star of the show is the new cargo module, which the company calls “Shooting Star.” That module will nest inside the Dream Chaser during launch and station approach. Then, it can autonomously dock with the ISS and pick up waste material. Yes, it takes out the trash, making it probably the fanciest rubbish bin in the world. 

Currently, the ISS crew loads important scientific materials onto cargo modules for the return to Earth, but they also carry some waste materials. Shooting Star would pick up the trash and then guide itself into the atmosphere where it incinerates. Meanwhile, the Dream Chaser can go on with its mission and reserve more space for materials ground teams want, and not garbage. The spacecraft will land after each mission at the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility.

Behold, the fanciest space trash can in the world.

The Dream Chaser sports a few more abilities existing cargo vehicles lack. For example, it can become a short-term orbital platform with an optional inflatable module and additional power capacity. It has also been designed with NASA’s Lunar Gateway in mind. It will be able to dock with the station (with the help of an added satellite bus), allowing it to play a part in the Artemis program to return humans to the lunar surface. It will have to bid on NASA contracts before that happens, though. 

Sierra Nevada Corporation is scheduled to send the Dream Chaser on its first of at least six missions to the ISS in 2021. The company doesn’t have to worry about designing a rocket to launch the Dream Chaser, though. It’s partnered with United Launch Alliance to send the Dream Chaser into space atop Vulcan rockets. That rocket is expected to launch for the first time in mid-2021. 

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