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tv   The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations  Bloomberg  January 13, 2017 9:30pm-10:01pm EST

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♪ magdalena: [speaking spanish] ashlee: a trip to chile's high desert is the perfect excuse to hang with someone like magdalena. she is a shaman who, for a reasonable fee, offers up a soul cleanse. your spirit is healed as your brain melts. magdalena: time is an illusion, you know that?
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we all know. ashlee: after the ceremonial stripping of the gringo, and whatever this is, magdalena forces me to drink an ungodly amount of water. magdalena: you will start a new relation with water, so you will be clean. ashlee: ok. then, she burns me. into my wounds, she pours something called combo, which is a secretion that comes from a very poisonous amazonian tree frog. magdalena: don't expect anything. ashlee: ok. magdalena: just be here. time is an illusion. water is life. ashlee: [laughs]
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and that is when the frojuice really kicked in. ♪ there was the desert. it was cruel, and then it was kind. there were huge telescopes nestled up against the heavens. there were strange gurgling pools full of minerals. there was a bustling city and a chair i could control with my mind. it was a grand vision of what chile had to offer and what needed to be explored. or something like that. [laughs] >> are you still [bleep] up? ashlee: yeah.
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[laughs] [modem dialing] ♪ ashlee: silicon valley may be home to some of the biggest tech giants in the world, but it is being challenged like never before. crazy tech geniuses have popped up all over the planet, making things that will blow your mind. my name is ashlee vance. i am an author and journalist, and i am on a quest to find the most innovative tech creations, and meet the beautiful freaks behind them. >> "hello world." ashlee: science says that the atacama desert is the driest place in the world. ♪ ashlee: the desert plateau is
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about 10,000 feet above sea level. the days run extremely hot, and the nights get extremely cold. it turns out that this hellscape is the perfect place to build a telescope. between the high altitude and the lack of moisture in the air, the view of the stars is practically unobstructed. i'm heading for the atacama large millimeter array, aka alma, the largest astronomical project in the world. ♪ ashlee: so we are just 500 meters now from the top of the site. i do feel a little bit lightheaded already. alma's telescopes sits at 17,000
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feet, so it is cold, windy, and difficult to breathe. there are dozens of telescopes, and it cost $1.4 billion to build them all here in the middle of nowhere with the united states, japan, and europe footing most of the bill, and for that kind of money, they did not get a garden-variety optical telescope. they got something special. i tracked down alma's kindly fabiola, to get a better understanding of how this place works. when you go out to dinner with somebody, how do you explain to them how the telescope works? >> ok, with an optic telescope, you look in the sky and that is what you see. ashlee: yeah.
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>> with alma whatever you don't see with your eyes, what ever is black, that is what you see with the alma. ashlee: alma is what is known as the millimeter range of the magnetic spectrum, far beyond the visible range seen by optical telescopes and the human eye. armed with this superhuman vision, alma can unveil all kinds of magical stuff in the universe that would have been invisible before. to get an idea of what wonders alma is finding in space, i went to the control center, where i met this very tall man. richard: at one time when i was in graduate school, i was supposedly the tallest astronomer who has ever lived. the younger generation is taller, so i'm not sure that is still true. ashlee: richard simon and his fellow astronomers are using alma to look for the origins of stars, life, and the universe itself.
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with the alma, they are able to see the cosmos in more detail than ever before. i was looking at the work you guys do. you can spot even sugar molecules near star somewhere off in the milky way. richard: we can detect all kinds of different molecules. think of alma as a huge chemical sniffer, so we can understand how stars form, how planets form, how did we wind up with water to support life. ♪ ashlee: the surreal images alma creates have revealed earthlike cometsanets, a comment nursery, and galaxies at the edges of the known universe. in the not so distant future, they can also help answer the question of whether we are not alone. richard: one of the small moons of saturn, mimas, has geysers of water vapor and other materials coming out, and it is possible with alma to actually look at that and try to see some of the chemistry that is going on. what is inside that moon? what is blasting out into space?
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are there complicated organic molecules? i suspect that we will learn more about the chemistry of life and the possibilities for life in very strange places, even here in our own solar system. ashlee: keep watching the skies, you beautiful nerds. ♪ announcer: "hello world" is supported by ca technologies, powering opportunity in the application economy. explore more at ♪
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ashlee: it is not all dusty highways and infinite vistas in the chilean desert. there is big tech and big fun to be had as well. and to find the fun, you just need to look for the oasis. the town of san pedro de atacama. this is one of the world's most remote tourist hotspots, a magnet for dirty hippies and chilled out dogs. ♪ ashlee: why would anyone choose to vacation at 8000 feet in the desert? well, there are orious gsers that demand to be roamed, there are sand dunes to surf, and there are huge watering holes that no one can explain. ♪
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ashlee: oddly enough, there is big business out in the atacama too. more solar radiation reaches this desert than anywhere else in the world. this makes it the perfect place to build massive solar panel farms. if you stop by for a visit, they will put you to work washing the panels. how is my technique? good? the tricky thing about solar energy is that it needs to be stored. i like that. the atacama happens to have an answer for that too. ♪ ashlee: chile is one of the world's leading producers of lithium, the stuff that goes into all of our smart phones, laptops, and electric car batteries.
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and to see how lithium is pulled from the earth, i went to visit the operation of the mining giant sqm. >> hello, ashlee. how are you doing? you are finally here. ♪ ashlee: my guide through the mines is alejandro bucher, a cheerful engineer who has spent years working in the great void. when i think of a lithium-ion battery and a laptop or tesla with thousands of batteries, it is like, what, like a spoonful of lithium that would go to this battery?
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alejandro: in a cell phone, you could have a spoonful. in a car, you could have may be 10-15 kilos of lithium. ♪ ashlee: it is the nearby andes mountains that make these mines possible. over millions of years, minerals from the mountain leech into the ground, then collect together and form huge salt beds. companies like sqm pump water through the beds and store the mineral-rich liquid in large ponds. from there, it is up to the sun to do its thing and evaporate away the water, leaving the minerals and salt behind. and nowhere evaporates better than chile. alejandro: now we are heading to the first part of the pond operation. ♪ ashlee: there are a lot of ponds. those are pretty. alejandro: this is the first pond. you can see the salt forming on the surface. ashlee: it's going to be crazy because you already have the harsh heat and cold, and then you have all this salt just blowing around.
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alejandro: and now we are moving to the lithium ponds, only 2 million compared to the 44 million square meters that we have here. ♪ alejandro: this pond will let you experience what is brine. we cannot separate, so we made these little pumps. ashlee: what exactly is this stuff? alejandro: this is magnesium chloride. magnesium chloride is what we need to get rid of what we produce the lithium in the plant. ashlee: just the liquid? alejandro: just the liquid. ashlee: so this is lithium. what are the odds that some part of this is in my smartphone? alejandro: i could not guarantee it, but it is pretty sure, almost 100% sure, that part of your smart phone went through this pond at some point in the past. ashlee: at some point. this is smartphone juice.
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you guys must be excited that teslas are selling well and that everybody is getting into electric cars now. alejandro: >> it is very interesting, but it puts a lot it is very interesting, but it puts a lot of pressure on us, so we will double our capacity probably in four years. ♪ ashlee: chile may have the largest lithium deposits in the world, but it is starting to fall behind countries like australia and china when it comes to production. and in china, it is a one-stop shop with the mining and battery production happening together. this is a leap chilean companies have been unwilling to make. maybe you could make the batteries here in chile? alejandro: well, for me, it would be excellent, but the company, we are experts in mining, experts in producing lithium. if we put that to produce
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batteries, we are probably not going to do as well. ♪ ashlee: things have been tense between the mines and the chilean government. the feds have put strict quotas on lithium production and have they have also been trying to act tough and save face after some politicos were accused of taking bribes from the mines. environmentalists are not huge fans of the mines either. they are saying that water is being sucked from nearby lagoons that feed these flocks of sunning flamingos. alejandro: what we do here has absolutely no impact on the flamingos, but we are still responsible for what is happening with them. we need to do counting of the flamingos every year. they identify them by the feathers on their tails. ashlee: the miners here work for a week, then take a week off
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because of the dry, hot, salty conditions. ♪ ashlee: but there are some on -the-job perks. alejandro: the sunsets here are every day amazing. you have all these different colors that women only know the names, yeah? every day, and you don't get tired of that. it is really beautiful. ashlee: alejandro has a point, not so much about the colors that only women apparently know, but about the beauty of the mines. these odd marvels make the modern world run. let tesla's flamingo-breeding program begin. ♪ announcer: "hello world" is supported by ca technologies, powering opportunity in the application economy. explore more at ♪
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♪ ashlee: chileans like to hold santiago up as a symbol of everything they have done right. it is orderly and prosperous. and there is all that you would want from a capital city clinging to the bottom of the globe. ♪ ashlee: sure you can get roped
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into the occasional -- ♪ ashlee: but here they say it is more refined, and nothing says refinement like a foot-long coney. mayonnaise, definitely a questionable choice. this capital, built with a mineral wealth and struggling with its fallout, is looking for new ways to survive in a changing environment. >> [speaking spanish]
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ashlee: so hector pino figured out how to make water from air with the touch of a button. ♪ ashlee: hector made a fortune as an engineer, but now works on his freshwater system. what propelled you to think up this project? hector: [speaking spanish] ashlee: do you use this machine at home? hector: yes. ashlee: and your daughter uses this every day?
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hector: complete my family. ♪ [speaking spanish] ashlee: hector sees the technology having uses far beyond his family. his freshwater machine feeds off humidity in the air and pulls in water particles through a vent and forms a rain cloud inside the machine, a series of filters purifies the water, collect it, then pristine h2o flows out of the faucet. so i can drink it? yeah.: [speaking spanish] how do you like it? ashlee: right now, one magic water machine cost $1600, but he wants to shrink the price and its size to something the size of a backpack. he has installed his machines in chile's dry north. [speaking japanesehector: [spea] ♪
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ashlee: hector distilled the idea for freshwater inside an incubator funded by some of santiago's wealthiest people. it is called the idea factory, or i.f. for those into the whole brevity thing. they support tech with a do-gooder bent. politicians stop by to schmooze, kids get a chance to learn. it is not a factory designed to build the next google or facebook. it focuses on things for chile and south america, and they have got hyper-local branches hidden in unexpected corners of santiago. barking] ashlee: there are tech incubators all over the world, but you won't find many in a neighborhood like this. i.f. has another building set up to inspire youngsters and help give budding inventors a helping hand. ♪
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ashlee: here in recoleta, things are a bit more lively than palo alto, and it suits the place. ♪ ashlee: i showed up on a demo day, when kids from the neighborhood pour through the gates to check out i.f.'s gadgets. there was plenty of eye candy, but nothing beats this. hello, robot. it is like every other video conferencing robot, but this one is lethal. that is so cool. ♪ ashlee: all of the gadgets come from this man. roderigo quevedo is something of a local celebrity and has kanye west levels of passion.
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roderigo: [speaking spanish] ashlee: roderigo was an officer in the chilean army, then an engineer until he had a revelation and became a robotics entrepreneur. his most inspired invention is this wheelchair. people can control it by tilting their head or making a gesture. soon roderigo hopes it will move by thought alone, by reading impulses from a brainwave monitor. roderigo: [speaking spanish] ashlee: [speaking spanish] ♪ roderigo: [speaking spanish] ashlee: roderigo's helpers were surprisingly gentle as they gave me the power of telekinesis. roderigo: [speaking spanish] [bell ringing] ashlee: that is how i turn it
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on? roderigo: [speaking spanish] ashlee: three blinks. genius. oh, my god. ♪ ashlee: that is crazy. that's amazing. and that was the perfect ending to a magical trip. [wind blowing] ashlee: chile will always have a special place in my subconscious. ♪ ashlee: when i close my eyes at night, i can still hear my shaman, magdalena, singing and see her desert compound. chanting]nd ashlee: she is guarding me, but you know, in a good way. ♪ ashlee: of all my trips around the world this year, this one was a proper adventure.
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there is a mystical quality to chile, and it only gets more profound as your body dries out and your brain loses oxygen. as for the tech, chile has the big stuff down. it has embraced the weirdness of the land and tried to make the most out of it. if the startups in santiago can tap into that same spirit, then chile has a bright future ahead. either that, or the poison really got to me. [laughs] ♪ announcer: "hello world" is supported by ca technologies, powering opportunity in the application economy. explore more at ♪
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♪ announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: ash carter is here. he is the outgoing secretary of defense. president obama appointed him in december of 2014. the role marks a capstone for decades long career at the pentagon, starting from the cold war and extending into the cyber age. he was awarded the defense intelligence metal and the department's distinguished service medal five times. confirmation hearings for the general james


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