• Fly from New York to Miami… in under an hour?!
  • Phase Two of the 5G rollout is roaring back to life
  • These semiconductors operate at the speed of light

Dear Reader,

In 1825, Benjamin Gompertz presented a paper on a mathematical model used to simplify and represent a collection of data.

Specifically, the model showed growth as slowest at the start and end of a given time period. Gompertz originally used it to describe human mortality. One of the underlying assumptions was that the mortality rate decreases exponentially as a person ages.

This model became known as a Gompertz curve (or Gompertz function), and it is widely used to describe the growth of a population of organisms. Scientists also use it to represent the rate of metabolism in an organism and to track cancer growth.

We also see its application with COVID-19.

Specifically, this function helps us with tracking deaths caused by the spread of a highly transmissible virus.

Yesterday, we took a close look at the spread of COVID-19 in Japan.

Japan presented a fascinating case study because of its use of masks throughout the pandemic. But the masks did not stop COVID-19 from spreading. And Japan’s COVID-19 mortality rates remain extremely low despite the rapid spread of COVID-19.

Today, we’re going revisit Sweden as a contrast to Japan. The country had no mandates for wearing masks. Sweden basically went about its business as normal. Schools remained open, as have workplaces. Restaurants and shops also remained open.

In fact, the only meaningful change was to prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people, a policy that the Swedish government put in place in March.

Many criticized Sweden for its lack of restrictions, predicting the apocalypse.

Well, let’s have a look at what actually happened. Below is a chart of daily deaths in Sweden from the beginning of the pandemic until now.

Source: Worldometers

This is a perfect example of a Gompertz curve. It demonstrates the initial impact of the rapid spread of COVID-19 within the first month, and then a consistent downward slope to zero in the three months that followed.

COVID-19 has run its course in Sweden. It has burned itself out. There’s nowhere for the virus to go. And Sweden intended this result.

Sweden’s epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, stood firm on taking a rational, logical approach to managing the spread of COVID-19 while keeping the country and its economy alive and well.

We can now see Sweden’s success in the numbers. Sweden’s deaths per capita is much lower than the U.K., Spain, France, and Italy. This was all done without lockdowns and masks.

And not surprisingly, Sweden’s economy fared the best of them all. Sweden’s GDP only fell by 8.6% compared to the U.K. (down 22.2%), Spain (down 22.7%), France (down 18.9%), and Italy (down 17.1%).

And Sweden openly acknowledges that it could have done even better. The main reason for the initial spike of deaths was because the country wasn’t able to control the spread to nursing homes.

Compare this to New York, where the state governor and his team mandated that nursing homes take in COVID-19 patients. And 42% of the U.S.’s COVID-19 deaths have been linked to nursing homes. We can imagine how many deaths could have been avoided if New York had done differently.

And let’s look at New York. Below is a chart of daily deaths in New York from the beginning of the pandemic until now. Look familiar?

Source: Worldometers

While the initial spike is higher than Sweden’s, the Gompertz curve looks remarkably similar. If we removed the deaths caused by the nursing home mandate, it would likely look nearly identical.

Sweden implemented a clear plan that balanced the economy and education system while managing the spread of COVID-19. It did this without restricting freedoms, work, or education. And Sweden has effectively achieved herd immunity within a period of just three months.

Ironically, New York has likely achieved herd immunity as well, albeit by accident and at great cost to its own economy, children’s education, and individual freedoms.

But even with the numbers that we see above, New York City isn’t back to normal. It hasn’t opened up. And in the fall, most New York schools are only returning to two days a week on campus with remote e-learning for the rest of the week. And everyone is forced to wear masks. Nonsensical.

Tomorrow, I’m going to share some new research about T cell immunity as it relates to COVID-19.

Some incredible research was published that really changes the dynamics of understanding the risk of COVID-19 (extremely low) and how close we are to reaching widespread herd immunity (much closer than anyone realizes).

Now let’s turn to today’s insights…

The latest from space tourism headliner Virgin Galactic…

Last week, we got to see the cabin interior design of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. Talk about impressive…

As a reminder, Virgin Galactic is one of the key companies pioneering space tourism. Its goal is to take passengers up to suborbital space in SpaceShipTwo so they can experience a few minutes of weightlessness and take in the views.

Well, Virgin Galactic just announced that it is moving forward with plans to develop a supersonic aircraft.

Of course, a supersonic plane has nothing to do with space, which raises the question… What is Virgin Galactic up to? After all, it is Virgin “Galactic.”

We can think of this new initiative as the next generation of the Concorde, which was retired in 2003.

As I’m sure many readers will remember, the Concorde was the first commercial passenger jet that could fly at Mach 2, which is twice the speed of sound. Sadly, I never had the chance to fly on one.

The Concorde

Source: Wikipedia

It is incredible to think that nearly 20 years have passed without a replacement for the Concord. We’ve witnessed the most incredible economic boom full of technological advancements over the last two decades, but we are still flying on subsonic commercial aircraft that take twice as long to cross an ocean as the Concorde.

Clearly, Virgin Galactic wants to fill the gap.

And it plans to develop a supersonic jet that can travel at Mach 3 – three times the speed of sound. It will use the same triangular “delta” wing design as the Concorde. And its aircraft will carry between 9 and 19 passengers, flying above 60,000 feet.

At that speed and altitude, Virgin’s supersonic jet would cut travel time roughly in half. I can all but guarantee that companies and executives would be lining up to use a service like this.

I have traveled more than five million miles internationally in my career, and I wish supersonic air travel had been available to me. If I could cut a 14-hour flight between JFK and Tokyo down to seven hours, I would happily pay extra for the efficiency.

And supersonic travel could also have a market for domestic travel. Imagine taking off from JFK at 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and landing in Miami by 6:30 p.m., with plenty of time to enjoy your evening.

So I’m very excited about the return of supersonic travel. But I’m not thrilled that Virgin Galactic is going in this direction at this time.

After all, the company hasn’t even launched its first commercial space flight yet. And remember, it has presold over 600 tickets at $250,000 per passenger for its first space flights.

I would prefer to see Virgin concentrate on its core business first, especially because there are already several private companies working to revive supersonic travel. And these companies have a big head start on Virgin Galactic.

My favorite of the bunch is a company called Boom Supersonic. Boom is on track to reveal its prototype aircraft in October. I can’t wait to see the unveiling of its XB-1 jet. And it plans to start test flights of its commercial model in 2023.

So we will continue to keep an eye on Virgin Galactic’s progress. And readers can also expect an update on Boom Supersonic after it reveals the design for its own supersonic aircraft in a few months. Stay tuned…

5G-enabled smartphone sales are picking up…

Phase 2 of the 5G rollout is kicking into high gear…

For newer readers, there are essentially three phases to the 5G wireless rollout:

Phase One: The 5G infrastructure phase

Phase Two: The 5G-enabled devices phase

Phase Three: The 5G applications phase

We entered the early stages of Phase One back in late 2018. And Phase Two kicked off in earnest this year.

But at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic back in March, the forecasts for global 5G-enabled smartphone shipments this year turned bleak.

Analysts were projecting that there would only be 200 million 5G smartphones sold in 2020. That’s only 17% of total smartphone sales for the entire year.

But the tide has now turned…

The new forecasts coming out project 250 million 5G-enabled smartphone shipments this year. That’s nearly 22% of all smartphones sold worldwide.

This is an impressive number considering that 2020 is the first year that wireless networks around the world launched limited coverage 5G wireless networks.

And I’ll point out that these numbers are far more accurate than the March projections. That’s because we know how many 5G phones have already been shipped. We know how many 5G-enabled semiconductors are being produced. And we know what production volumes are coming from each manufacturer through the remainder of the year.

What’s interesting about these numbers is where the smartphones are going. Of the projected 250 million shipments, 170 million of them are projected to go to mainland China. That’s 68% of all 5G smartphone sales worldwide this year.

We didn’t see such a geographic discrepancy with the launch of 3G and 4G smartphones. But there’s a clear reason for it this time around…

China-based smartphone manufacturers have been aggressive about rolling out entry-level and mid-range 5G phones right alongside their premium models.

This has been fostered by companies like MediaTek, which were quick to produce low-cost 5G semiconductors that enable less expensive models. This is accelerating 5G adoption in the Chinese market.

In fact, 5G smartphones are projected to make up nearly 53% of all smartphone sales in China this year. We aren’t seeing that in any other market.

And to me, this is a clear sign that we will see pent-up demand for 5G smartphones in the U.S. and other parts of the world next year. Of course, the launch of Apple’s first 5G-enabled iPhone later this year is a big part of that.

Bottom line: Phase Two of the 5G rollout will hit its inflection point once the Apple 5G-enabled phone is released. The place to be invested now is in companies providing critical components to 5G devices.

For investors who haven’t yet positioned themselves to benefit from this trend, now is the time. And of all the Phase Two 5G stocks, one stands out. Get all the details right here.

The shift to photonic semiconductors will power the next jump in AI capabilities…

This last insight might seem a bit “techy.” But all serious technology investors should pay close attention. The investment implications will be substantial.

I spend a meaningful amount of my time looking at future technological developments, which is why I read so many research papers. I want to understand what is happening in laboratories around the world because that gives me insights as to future technological directions.

And here’s what I’m seeing now…

The foundation for all computing systems is semiconductor technology. Every piece of electronics is built with key semiconductor components.

One of our key themes in recent years has been in the rise of application-specific semiconductors. These are semiconductors designed and optimized to perform a specific task, not a general-purpose semiconductor like a GPU (graphics processing unit) or CPU (central processing unit).

Application-specific semiconductors have accelerated development in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) over the last few years. They are also responsible for why we are now seeing new breakthroughs in AI/ML every three to six months.

Well, I’ve got news for readers: There are even bigger breakthroughs ahead.

New research out of George Washington University shows that “photonic” semiconductors can also be optimized for AI/ML.

Photonic semiconductors are based on optical rather than electrical circuits. That means they process information signals on optical wavelengths in the light spectrum – they use light to function. As a result, photonic semiconductors can process information at the speed of light.

Researchers at George Washington developed an optical semiconductor based on Google’s tensor processing units (TPUs), which were designed for ML applications.

When it comes to machine learning, Google’s TPUs outperform generic GPUs by three orders of magnitude. That means their performance is a thousand times better than a GPU for specific tasks.

Well, the new photonic tensor core units can outperform Google’s TPUs by another two to three orders of magnitude. It’s an incredible jump in performance.

So this shows me that the shift to photonic semiconductors is inevitable. It’s just a matter of time. And when that happens, we are going to see AI and ML take the next leap forward.

Of course, there are huge investment gains to be made along the way.

A technology as promising as this will almost certainly be commercialized. Somebody will either acquire the intellectual property and license it or a company will be formed around this new research. Either way, that will present opportunities for technology investors.

In fact, Exponential Tech Investor subscribers have already invested in several companies on the bleeding edge of photonic semiconductors. And there will be more to follow…


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

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