tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg March 31, 2017 9:30pm-10:01pm EDT
>> a trip to chile's high desert is the perfect excuse to hang with someone like her. she is a shaman, who for a reasonable fee offers up a soul claim. your spirit is healed as your brain melts. >> you know that. we all know. >> after the ceremonial stripping of the gringo and whatever this is, she forces me
to drink an ungodly amount of water. >> you will start a new relation with water so you will be clean. >> ok. >> then she burned me. into my wound she pours something called combo, which is a excretion that comes from very poisonous am zonian tree frog. >> don't expect anything. just be here. >> ok. >> water is life. >> and that is when the frog uice 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. [laughter] >> are you still [beep] up? >> yeah. [laughter] >> 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 below 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. >> ashley: science says that the atacama desert is the driest play in the world. the desert plateau is about 10,000 feet above sea level. the days run extremely hot, and the nights get extremely cold.
it turns out that this hellescape 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 am headed for the atacama large millimeter array, a.k.a., alma, the largest astronomical roject in the world. >> so we are just 500 meters now from the top of the site. i do feel a little bit ight-headed already. ashley: the telecopies sit at early 17,000 feet, the same as everest's base camp, so it is
cold and difficult to breathe. t cost $1.4 billion to build the taken scopes here, and it took the united states and japan. they got something special. tracked down alma's kindly head mechanic, fabiola to get a better understanding of how this, two? >> when you are in santiago and you go out to dinner with somebody, how do you explain to them how the telescope works? >> with an optic telescope, you look in the sky, and that is what you see. with alma, whatever you don't see with your eyes, and whatever is black, which is a lot, you see with alma. ashley: she sees in the illimeter range of the electromagnetic spectrum.
armed with this superhuman vision, alma can unveil all kind 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. >> at one time when i was in graduate school, i was supposedly the tallest astronomy who had ever lived. the younger generation is taller so i am not sure that is true. richard and astronomers are using alma to look for the origins of stars, life and the universe itself. they are able to see the cosmos in more detail than ever before. >> i was looking at the work you guys do. you can't spot even a sugar molecule near a star somewhere off in the milky way. >> we can detect kinds of different molecules. we can start to understand how
stars form, how planets form. how did we wind up with water to support life? >> the surreal images alma creates have revealed earth-like exoplanets, and galaxies at the edge of the known universe. in the not so distant future they can also help answer the question of whether we are not alone. one of the small moons of saturn has geysers of water vapor and other materials coming out. 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? are there complicated organic molecules? i suspect we will learn a lot more about the chemistry of life and the possibilities for life in very strange places, even here in our own solar system. >> keep watching the skies, you
highways and infinite vista eighths in the chile desert. there is fun to be had as well. to find the fun, you just need to look for the oasis. the town. this is one of the world's most remote tourist hot spots. a magnet for dirty hippies and hilled out dogs. >> why would anyone choose to vacation at 8,000 feet in the desert? well, there are glorious geysers that demand to be roamed. here are sand dunes to surf. and there are huge watering holes that no one can explain.
>> oddly enough, there is big business out in the atacama, too. more so 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. >> good. >> the tricky thing about slower energy is that it needs to be stored. > like that. >> and the atacama happens to ave an answer for that, too. chile is one of the world's leading producers of lithium, the stuff that goes into all of our smartphone, laptop and car batteries to. see how lithium is pulled from the earth, i went to visit the operations of the mining giant s.q.m.
>> how are you doing? you are finally here. >> my guide through the mines is alejandro. he is a cheerful engineer who has spent years working in the great void. >> what i think of like a battery in a laptop of is what like a spoonful lithium in a battery? >> in a cell phone. in a car you could have 10 to 15 kilos of lithium. >> it is the nearby andes mountains that make these mines possible. over millions of years, minerals from the mountains leech into the ground. then they collect together and form huge salt beds, rich in lithium, pose yum, sull fate and boron.
they pump water up through the betances and store the liquid. from there it is up to the sun to do its thing and evaporate away the water and leave the minerals and salt behind. no one evaporates better than chile. >> we are heading for the first part of the pond operations. >> there are a lot of ponds. those are pretty. >> this is the first pond. you can see the salt forming on the surface. >> it has got to be crazy because you have the harsh heat and cold, and then you have the salt just blowing around. >> the other equipment, we made them from a special thing that works good her. now we are moving to the lithium ponds.
they are only two of the 44 million square meters that we have here. this pond we may get to experience lithium. when we have it in the big ponds, we cannot sample it. so we made the little ponds. >> what is this stuff? i'd.is magnesium clear we need to get rid of it to produce the lithium in the plant. >> just the liquid. >> so this is lithium. what are the odds that some part of this is in my smartphone? >> i couldn't guarantee it, but it is pretty sure, almost 100% your at part of smartphone went through this point. >> this is smartphone juice. >> yes. >> you face must be exciting
that teslas are selling well and everyone is getting into electric cars now. >> it is very interesting, but it you puts a lot of pressure on us. we will probably double our capacity in four years. >> chile may have the largest lithium deposits in the world, but it started to fall behind countries like australia and china when it comes to production. in decline, it is a one stop shop with the mining and battery production happening together. this is a leap chilean companies have been unwilling to take. >> maybe you could make the batteries here in chile. >> well, for me it would be great. but the company is an expert in mining and producing lithium. it would put us to produce batteries, we are probably not going to do it well. >> things have been extra tense
lately between the mines and the chilean government. the feds have put strict quotas on lithium production, and they have always been trying to act tough and save face after some were accused of taking bribes from the mind. environmentalists aren't huge fans of the mines either. they say that water is being sucked from nearby lagoons that ed these flocks of flamingoes. >> what we do here has no impact on the flamingos, but still we are responsible of what happens to them. we do a counting of the flamingos every year. we identify them by the feathers on the tail, so they can differentiate every flamingo. >> the miners here work for a week and then take a week off because of the try, hot, salty
conditions. but there are some on-the-job perks. >> the sun sets here are every day amazing. you have all the different colors that only women know the names every day, and you don't get tired of that. it is really beautiful. >> 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. breeding s flamingo program begin. ♪
but here they say it is more refined. and nothing says refinement like a foot long coney. >> man, that was definitely a questionable choice. >> this capital, built with machine ral wealth and struggling with its fall-out, is looking for new ways to survive in a changing environment. >> figured out how to make water from air with the touch of a button. hector made a fortune as an engineer but now works full tile on his fresh water system. >> what propeled you to think up this project?
particles through a vent and basically forms a rain cloud in the machine. they purr fly the water, 2o lect it and pristine h flows out of the fasthest. >> so i can drink it? >> yes. no problem. >> very delicious. >> right now one magic water machine costs about $1,600, but he wants to shrink the price and the size to something like a backpack. as he perfects his design, he as installed his machines in chile's dry north.
>> hector zillioned the idea for fresh water in an incubator, funded by some of santiago's wealthiest people. it is called the idea factor or if for those into the parole brevity thing. they support tech with a do-gooder bent. politicians stop by to schmooz, 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. ey have branches hidden in places all over santiago. >> you won't find many in a neighborhood hike this. had has another building set town inspire local youngsters and give budding inventors a helping hand. >> here things are a bit more lively than in palo alto. and it suits the place. i shoulders up on a demo day
when kids from the neighborhood pour through the gates to check out its gadgets. there was plenty of eye candy, but nothing beat this. >> hello, robot. >> it's like every other video conferencing robot on a stick. but this one is basically lethal. > that are is so cool. >> all of the gadgets come from this man. he is something of a lowell celebrity and has kanye west levels of passion.
>> he was an officer in the chilean army and then an engineer until he had a revelation and became a robertics entrepreneur. his most inspired invention is this wheelchair. people can control it by tilting their head or making a gesture. soon he hopes it will move by thought alone by reading impulses from a brain wave monitor. >> his helpers were surprisingly gentle as they telekinthe power of esis. >> that is how i turn it on? three blinks? like a jenie. >> uno, dos, tres. >> oh, my god.
>> that's crazy. it is amazing. >> and that was the perfect ending to a magical trip. >> chile will always have a special place in my ubconscious. when i close my eyes at night, i can still hear my shaman singing and see her desert come pound. she scarred me. but you know, in a good way. of all my trips around the world this year, this one was a proper adventure. 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 start-ups in santiago can tap into that same spirit, then chile has a bright future ahead. either that or the poison really got to me. [laughter] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org ♪
announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: we begin this evening with our continuing coverage of the investigation into russia's meddling in the u.s. presidential election. the senate intelligence committee held its first opening session today. democratic and republican leaders promised a thorough inquiry as doubts them out what happened in the house investigation. meanwhile, the "new york times" reported two white house officials helped to provide the chairman of the house committee with reports indicating surveillance of president trump's associates. joining me from capitol hill is senator mark warner.