$1B vs. orangutans


March 7, 2019

A massive Chinese energy conglomerate is trying to run a rare breed of orangutans out of their home in Sumatra, but first…
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Waymo will sell LIDAR sensors to customers that don’t compete with its robot-taxi service

Lidar is a core piece of self-driving technology. So much so that it prompted Waymo, Google’s self-driving project, to file a lawsuit against Uber back in 2017 that alleged trade secret theft by its ex-engineer Anthony Levandowski.

Now, Bloomberg reports, Waymo will start selling its custom LiDAR sensors to non-self-driving car companies — ranging from robotics companies to security and agricultural businesses. But this is Google, and this move is not merely about a new revenue stream.

Like sharks with frickin laser beams attached to their heads

Created in the early 1960s, Lidar works by spinning out a fine spray of laser lights and measuring the time it takes for the light to return.

Lidar was first used in meteorology to measure clouds, and caught on with the general public during the Apollo 15 mission, when astronauts used it to map the surface of the moon.

Now, it’s becoming big business: more than $1B in corporate and private investment has been thrown into around 50 Lidar startups over the past 3 years — including a record $420m in 2018 — which are used by most companies (except Tesla) in the race to lead the self-driving car market.

Lidar’s too expensive, but it’s getting better

Pressure to launch self-driving cars has pushed many players to place bets on the tech. But, of the some 70 Lidar startups on the market, automakers have yet to settle on a winner.

The problem being: The industry standard cost of $75k per sensor is too dang spendy. But, in 2017, Waymo’s engineers were able to bring the cost down 90% from $75k to $7.5k.

Now, Waymo’s finally ready to give it up

According to Waymo’s LiDAR chief Simon Verghese, the sales won’t just increase revenue, they will help Waymo scale its autonomous technology faster — making each sensor more affordable.

In other words, increased production of Waymo’s custom LiDAR tech should help make the tech even cheaper for the public — but also for Waymo. According to a Waymo spokesperson, the company is now in talks with dozens of potential customers.

Laser beams to the mainstream!
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Special K’s incredible journey: The FDA approves ketamine to help fight depression

As many as ¼ of the 16m American adults living with depression are known as treatment-resistant people — people with large natural tolerances.

But on Tuesday, the FDA added a potential fast-acting medicine to the list of happy pills with the approval of ketamine, an old and widely used surgery anesthetic that, according to Quartz, can help fight depression within hours (most meds take weeks to kick in).

‘Everyday is a winding road’ — Sheryl Crow

The drug was first developed and approved by the FDA to be used in surgeries in 1962, as a safer alternative to the anesthetic phencyclidine, AKA PCP.

Soon after, it became a party drug known as “Special K,” known to induce a dream-like state that causes hallucinations, numbness… ya’ know, party drug stuff.

Yet through it all, ketamine has been on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines since 1985. It wasn’t until the ’90s that it was thought to fight depression, and not until 2000 before researchers found ketamine provided quick relief to 7 depressed individuals.

There are some concerns

The antidepressant properties in ketamine are still relatively misunderstood, and several health professionals have voiced concerns about its effectiveness.

The newly approved treatment, called esketamine, is a nasal spray developed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals (affiliate of Johnson & Johnson) that will be marketed as “Spravato.” 

The effectiveness of the previous class of antidepressants, like Prozac and Paxil, was wildly exaggerated when they first hit the market, and the results of esketamine trials, which were paid for by the Johnson & Johnson affiliate, have been mixed.

   @ Me Anything
Wes Schlagenhauf, News Writer at The Hustle
@wesschlagenhauf

A mystical man named Puya (who claimed to be “big in Japan”) once told me at a music festival that ketamine was the future of mental health. I didn’t believe him. 4 years later here we are… No word on whether he’s actually big in Japan.
Show this thread
» Whatchyumean, ketamine?
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He told me it was time to start shaving. 

As a 26-year-old man, I have to agree. 

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Chinese EV company NIO says ‘uh-oh’ after $1.4B in losses and a lowered forecast

Stock in NIO, the Chinese electric carmaker, fell 18% after the company reported a trifecta of bad news — a $1.4B loss, a 50% drop in revenue, and canceled plans to build its own factory. 

Often called “the Tesla killer” by starry-eyed investors, NIO has struggled to kick its business into high gear since it went public last September.

A rapid deceleration

The Chinese electric carmaker’s financial performance since its September IPO has been anything but electric. NIO remains unprofitable, and although its stock price has remained stable, it could fall later this month when that period ends.

Yet, NIO’s long-term plans are also unraveling. NIO justified its losses with plans for its own factory (to wean itself off the state-owned manufacturing facility). 

But now, NIO has canceled plans for the plant — saving money in the short term but self-sabotaging in the long term.

Hype is not a renewable fuel source

NIO filed for its $1.8B US IPO after selling just 481 cars, running on a tank full of investor excitement about China’s untapped electric vehicle market. 

For a while, NIO drove right through its stock price potholes: 2 weeks ago, commentators called NIO the “Tesla killer” on 60 Minutes. But NIO’s tank is now nearly as empty as its promises.

But NIO’s not the only electric carmaker having a bad week: Tesla is also doing a digital skid after eliminating its physical stores and using 25% of its remaining cash to pay off a loan last week.

» The EV biz is hard, dontcha NIO?

In the jungles of Sumatra, a $1.5B hydro plant and 800 orangutans are fighting a deathmatch

The Batang Toru forest in North Sumatra is home to the rarest great ape species on earth, the Tapanuli orangutan (first identified as a distinct species in 2017). 

But if the Chinese energy company Sinohydro gets its way, it could also soon become the home of a massive, $1.5B dam — a project intended to generate hydroelectric energy for the region.

But, as cliché would have it, it could also wipe out the endangered apes.

A high-stakes boxing match

In one corner, we have a multibillion-dollar Chinese energy corporation trying to bring clean energy to residents of the remote region of Indonesia — enough to power around 500k homes.

But in the other corner, we have a large portion of the critically endangered population of Tapanuli orangutans living in the proposed spot for the dam, making it particularly dangerous to the primates.

One scientist said the government’s decision to allow the dam “will put the orangutans on a firm path to extinction.” A local environmental group even sued the government but lost its case.

This isn’t the first time

Between 1993 and 2016, businesses destroyed a wilderness area 2x the size of Alaska (mostly in the Amazon), endangering local populations of plants and animals for decades.

This time around, local groups want to learn from the lessons of the Amazon: The environmental group that lost its suit plans to appeal the ruling. In the meantime, Sinohydro plans to keep its bulldozers running.

» Let’s quit monkeying around
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