May 19, 2020

Were Reports of the Apple Watch Edition’s Gold Consumption Greatly Exaggerated?

Wall Street Journal
Apple Watch
Apple Watch Edition
Tomas H. Lucero
3 min
 Were Reports of the Apple Watch Edition’s Gold Consumption Greatly Exaggerated?

   It turns out the Apple Watch Edition is going to consume less gold rather than more.

   If you’ve read this and this you may think I am off my rocker since the venerable, stately Wall Street Journal recently reported:

   “Orders for Apple Watch Edition – the high-end model featuring 18-karat gold casing – are relatively small in the first quarter but Apple plans to start producing more than one million units per month in the second quarter, the [source] said.” (my italics)

   If in our brave new world in which we are obsessed with everything bigger, faster and better, the word “million” doesn’t make you look twice anymore, this detail might have escaped your radar.

   Thankfully, there are still a lot of people for whom “one million” inspires a second glance. These people, and those in their sphere of influence, set the blogosphere—not to mention the entire gold industry—on fire when they began asking just how much gold one million 18-karat gold watches meant per month.

   Josh Centers of TidBITS—referenced above—did the math and came to some jaw-dropping conclusions.

   “If Apple makes 1 million Apple Watch Edition units every month, that equals 24 million troy ounces of gold used per year, or roughly 746 metric tons,” he wrote. “That’s enough gold to make even a Bond villain blush, but just how much is it? About 2,500 metric tons of gold are mined per year. If Apple uses 746 metric tons every year, we’re talking about 30 percent of the world’s annual gold production.”

   This much gold consumption would shift the entire gold market in one fell swoop. That shift would, consequently, affect the entire world’s economy.

   Coincidentally, according to Centers’ math, “Apple’s annual gold supply alone would be worth $28.8 billion—luxury watchmaker Rolex sells “only” $4.7 billion of product every year, from an estimated 600,000 watches.”

   Is Apple really set to take over the world or could the Wall Street Journal have made a typo? Centers surmises the latter (as does this writer).

   “The alternative is that the esteemed Wall Street Journal is off on its Apple Watch Edition sales by an order of magnitude (or more). That would put the number at 100,000 per month, which seems more plausible,” Centers said.

   In the midst of this tempest in a teapot, it was discovered that Apple had lodged a patent request for a method that “allows them to make 18-karat gold that has, on a volume basis, less gold than regular 18-karat gold,” according to the blog “And now it’s all this.”

   And this is why, as I started out saying: It turns out the Apple Watch Edition is going to consume less gold rather than more.

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Jun 16, 2021

Dr Peng Wei: Designing the Future of Autonomous Aircraft

3 min
NASA has announced that it will fund a new project, headed by Dr Peng Wei, to develop safety management systems for autonomous electric aircraft

Air traffic is expected to double by 2037. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the world will need 37,000+ new passenger and freight aircraft, and more than half a million new pilots—unless we come up with another solution. Right now, a George Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science professor, Dr Peng Wei, is starting to research autonomous electric aircraft design. 


NASA will fund the research, which will study how to minimise risks for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL). As Airbus states: ‘Autonomous technologies also have the potential to improve air traffic management, enhance sustainability performance and further improve aircraft safety’. 


Who is Dr Wei? 

An assistant professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Dr Wei has researched aircraft control, optimisation, and AI and ML applications in aviation. Over the next three years, he’ll lead the US$2.5mn NASA grant project in collaboration with researchers from Vanderbilt, the University of Texas at Austin, and MIT’s Lincoln Lab


Why is His Research Important? 

Even though the wide adoption of self-piloting cars, much less aircraft, is still far down the road, technologies that Dr Wei and his colleagues are researching will form the commercial transport of the future. But aviation manufacturers, in order to produce autonomous aircraft, will have to meet extremely high safety standards. 


‘The key challenge for self-piloting capabilities is how the system reacts to unforeseen events’, said Arne Stoschek, Wayfinder Project Executive at Acubed. ‘That’s the big jump from automated to autonomous’. In the air, AI-piloted aircraft will have to manoeuvre around adverse weather conditions, such as wind and storms, and other high-altitude risks, such as GPS hacking, cyberattacks, and aircraft degradation. And the stakes are high.


‘If a machine learning algorithm makes a mistake in Facebook, TikTok, Netflix —that doesn't matter too much because I was just recommended a video or movie I don't like’, Dr Wei said. ‘But if a machine learning algorithm mistake happens in a safety-critical application, such as aviation or in autonomous driving, people may have accidents. There may be fatal results’. 


What Are His Other Projects? 

In addition to the new NASA research, Dr Wei has been awarded three other grants to pursue AI-piloted aircraft: 



Research like NASA and Dr Wei’s three-year programme will help improve how AI reacts and adapts to challenging air conditions. In coming years, autonomous aircraft will likely take off slowly, starting with small package delivery, then upgraded drones, and finally commercialised aircraft. But congestion issues will worsen until autonomous aircraft are the best alternative. 

According to BBC Future, by 2030, commuters will spend nearly 100 hours a year in Los Angeles and Moscow traffic jams, and 43 cities will be home to more than 10 million people. The final verdict? Bring on the AI-operated transit.

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