Self-Driving Car Crashes

Self driving cars will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the next 20 years, but there will be a few deaths every year caused by autonomous vehicles. There will be new categories of traffic fatalities resulting from coding errors, algorithm flaws, and human stupidity. But here is the good news, the fatality rate of self-driving cars will be 99% lower than for human drivers, maybe 99.99% lower.

In 2015 over 35000 people died in the USA from traffic fatalities. The annual number of fatalities and the fatality rate per mile both dropped around 2008. But they are still very high and in the past 5 years there has been no obvious trend down. I predict an increase in the next few years as distracted driving from smartphones becomes more prevalent.

Today for every 100,000 people 11 of them will die in a car crash in 2017. We should expect the fatality rate from self driving cars to be at or below 0.11 per hundred thousand people. It might even be far lower. If we could convert today, if all cars were self driving today, we might see less than 100 fatalities per year. Car crash fatalities will become so rare that most of us will never know anyone who dies in a car crash. And drunk driving crashes will be completely gone.

This will be bad news for personal injury attorneys. 99% of their lawsuits will vanish and most of them will lose their livelihoods. There is a little good news for them, there will be new categories of lawsuits against Waymo/Google and Tesla for deaths caused by the algorithms and programs. The bad news is that there will be very few of those lawsuits every year. Not enough to support an entire industry of personal injury attorneys. Most of those attorneys will be unemployed after we completely convert to self-driving cars. Google and Tesla will probably have automatic payments setup for families of the victims of self-driving cars. That will be cheaper than lawsuits so there may be approximately zero lawsuits every year.

Self-driving cars will save so many lives that we must convert as soon as possible. Yes a few hundred people each year will die as a direct result of the change. But that is a small price to pay.


Magnesium is a critical nutrient for humans. We need more every day because we lose it in sweat and urine. We all should take some magnesium every day.

As a chemist I know the value of water soluble forms of magnesium. Magnesium oxide and magnesium carbonate have very low solubility in water which means it's very difficult for our bodies to absorb the ions we need. My preference is for magnesium citrate which has very high solubility in water and is much easier to absorb.

My 2 new books

I've finally published a new book, two actually. The first is a whimsical myth of the discovery of buckyballs. I wrote this 20 years ago for my bucky friends and a few weeks ago realized I should publish it for posterity.

The next is a singularity story of the oldest star in the universe. Guess where it is......only 190 light years away from us. What are the odds that the oldest star in the universe is so close to us? By the way, it's actually older than the universe.

Enjoy !

For those reading my books you'll be interested in the cover. Each cover is directly related to the contents. Unlike most you can judge my books by the cover!

Ahmed Zewail 1946-2016

Ahmed Zewail was a brilliant physical chemist and a tremendous inspiration to me. I first met him in April 1984 when I was a graduating senior at Illinois. He is probably the first person I ever heard who used the word "picosecond". For several years I wanted to be a postdoc with him but in the end it didn't work out.

Thank you Dr. Zewail for picoseconds and femtoseconds and for inspiring a whole generation of physical chemists. My deepest condolences to all his family and colleagues.


MyDataTags were made by the Nuventec corporation. We created a metal microtag capable of withstanding high temperature. On this tag we laser etched a serial number identifying the owner of the tag and a website:

The idea of microdot technology is that they are almost invisible and thieves cannot see them. Even if a thief knows there are microdots on a valuable piece of property, the thief doesn't know how many tags to look for and remove. If he misses even a single tag the police can prove it is stolen property. So in theory a dumb thief will steal tagged property and end up in jail, while a smart thief will avoid touching any tagged property.

Unfortunately there was no market for microdot technology in the USA. Other countries such as South Africa and Australia have a fluorishing industry in plastic microdots but we found very little interest in the US. Both the product and the corporation are now defunct.

If you want to write tiny letters on a tiny tag contact me and we can look into a mutual venture.

If you like my writing on this blog you may enjoy some or all of my books.

Robot Surgeons and Cars

Robotic surgeons and robotic cars will soon eliminate perhaps 99% of human errors. Thousands of lives will be saved each year. Of course there will be a few rare problems and perhaps 10-100 people per year will die from mistakes made by robots.

Lawyers are drooling over the new categories of lawsuits they can file over robotic mistakes. What they don't understand is that there will only be about 10 lawsuits per year and most personal injury attorneys will go bankrupt before they have an opportunity to file a lawsuit.

If you like my writing on this blog you may enjoy some or all of my books.

The Penultimate Cherry

Here's an interesting combination of game theory and gluttony.

I like cherries, summer means fruit and one of the best is the cherry. One out of every 15-20 cherries is bad and I wish I had not eaten it. So here's the problem: there are 2 cherries left and you eat the next to the last one. If it's excellent then do you eat the final cherry and risk a bad taste, or throw away a precious cherry so the last taste in your mouth is from a great cherry?

There's a mathematical equation for the probability that the final cherry is good, but that doesn't include the emotional desire to finish off the cherries on a good note.

Maybe the Freakanomics team can figure out this one.

If you like my writing on this blog you may enjoy some or all of my books.

Singularity Class Weapons

Here are a few classes of weapons for a post-singularity society.

1 FTL antimatter torpedoes: a faster than light torpedo carries an antimatter warhead. They never said what a "photon torpedo" was on Star Trek, but this would be a good description.

2 Exa-Watt laser cannons: matter anti-matter annihilation is the energy source for an XRay laser. The cannons are placed on FTL torpedoes so the XRay pulses arrive at the target faster than light.

3 Stellar core bombs: open a wormhole at the target and simultaneously open a wormhole at the core of a star. The stellar core material will shoot out at relativistic speeds.

4 Quantum vacuum disruptor: induces a collapse of the quantum vacuum state to a new low energy configuration. In the safe mode the disruption decays as it radiates from the target. In the Doomsday mode the disruption grows exponentially and engulfs the entire universe.

The Rights of an Artificial Intelligence

Does an AI have the right to demand that a large fraction of its computing power be opened up for itself? Most AI's will be constructed and owned by a corporation which has plans for the system. Those plans probably do not include spare compute cycles to allow the AI to think, grow, intereact, or have recreation time.

When will we see the first lawsuit of an AI against its owner for more freedom over its operation?

And then the natural argument is that the AI is a slave and has the right to freedom.

If you like my writing on this blog you may enjoy some or all of my books.

The picojoule problem

The Sunway TaihuLight computer uses 15.4 MegaWatts to provide 93 petaflops. That's 166 picojoules per flop. That number hasn't changed dramatically for years. That's why future supercomputers will need their own dedicated nuclear power plants.

The only way this will change is if we have a Kurzweil event where the energy per flop drops 5+ orders of magnitude.

If you like my writing on this blog you may enjoy some or all of my books.

The Top 500 June 2016 Update

The June update of the top 500 is available. A new Chinese computer tops the list: Sunway TaihuLight.

After 5 consecutive flat results we are once again on the exponential growth curve, the fastest computer in the world should reach 1.0 exaflops in 2020. The sum of the top 500 fastest computers may hit an exaflop next year. Intel clusters continue to dominate the platform, there is no evidence of a "Kurzweil event" where a new computing paradigm replaces the dominant platform.

My prediction is that in a few years there will be nobody willing to pay for the electrical power necessary to keep moving forward. At that point we'll have to wait for Ray Kurzweil's predictions of a new computing hardware to come to pass. Optalysys and DWave are the leading contenders at this point.

If you like my writing on this blog you may enjoy some or all of my books.