Friday, July 03, 2015

What are the Consequence of China's new MegaCutter?

On May 19th, a formidable new Chinese ship put to sea for the first time. As it left its berth at Jiangnan Shipyard, its onboard automatic identification system (AIS) transmitted signals for anyone who cared to receive them. Its identity, Zhongguo Haijing 2901. Its purpose, sea trials. Its heading, somewhere in the East China Sea.

This was not the voyage of the Red October. Zhongguo Haijing 2901 is not a stealthy nuclear submarine able to menace foreign capitals, or sink foreign fleets. Nor is it a sister ship to China’s Liaoning (CV-16), that other potent symbol of sea power, the aircraft carrier. Indeed, by naval standards, its combat capabilities belong to an earlier age—the 19th century.

However, Zhongguo Haijing, or China Coast Guard (CCG) 2901, was not built to fight wars. At over 10,000 metric tons, it is by far the world’s largest constabulary vessel, a class of ship operating at the vanguard of China’s peacetime expansion in maritime East Asia. When it is commissioned sometime in the coming weeks, it will provide a huge advantage to China in the battle of wills taking place along its maritime periphery.

Royal Thai Navy Selects China's Yuan-class for Procurement

The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) has formally selected China's Yuan-class (Type 041) platform to meet a requirement for three submarines, RTN Commander-in-Chief Admiral Kraisorn Chansuvanich, announced on 2 July.

He said the RTN's procurement committee voted unanimously in favour of purchasing the submarine, which has been designated S26T (Thailand): a reference to a modified export version of the Yuan-class. The RTN plans to take delivery of the first S26T within six to seven years.

A Closer Picture of Chinese 'Franken Hawk' UAV


China's 4th Successful Test of Wu-14 Mach 10 Hypersonic Glide Vehicle Conducted on June 14

Chinese defence ministry has confirmed the test of a supersonic nuclear delivery vehicle, a move described by the US as an "extreme manoeuvre" amid tension in the South China Sea.

The fourth successful test of hypersonic glide vehicle - which the US has dubbed the "Wu-14" - was carried out on Sunday. It was the People Liberation Army's fourth test of the weapon in 18 months.

"The scheduled scientific research and experiments in our territory is normal, and those tests are not targeted at any country and specific goals," Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted the defence ministry as saying.

A Single Cell Organism With an *EYE* Developed From Endosymbiotic Components

Eye-like ocelloids are built from different endosymbiotically acquired components


Gavelis et al


Multicellularity is often considered a prerequisite for morphological complexity, as seen in the camera-type eyes found in several groups of animals. A notable exception exists in single-celled eukaryotes called dinoflagellates, some of which have an eye-like ‘ocelloid’ consisting of subcellular analogues to a cornea, lens, iris, and retina. These planktonic cells are uncultivated and rarely encountered in environmental samples, obscuring the function and evolutionary origin of the ocelloid. Here we show, using a combination of electron microscopy, tomography, isolated-organelle genomics, and single-cell genomics, that ocelloids are built from pre-existing organelles, including a cornea-like layer made of mitochondria and a retinal body made of anastomosing plastids. We find that the retinal body forms the central core of a network of peridinin-type plastids, which in dinoflagellates and their relatives originated through an ancient endosymbiosis with a red alga. As such, the ocelloid is a chimaeric structure, incorporating organelles with different endosymbiotic histories. The anatomical complexity of single-celled organisms may be limited by the components available for differentiation, but the ocelloid shows that pre-existing organelles can be assembled into a structure so complex that it was initially mistaken for a multicellular eye. Although mitochondria and plastids are acknowledged chiefly for their metabolic roles, they can also be building blocks for greater structural complexity.

1/2 of Banded Iron Formations are Microbial in Origin

Think of an object made of iron: An I-beam, a car frame, a nail. Now imagine that half of the iron in that object owes its existence to bacteria living two and a half billion years ago.

That's the upshot of a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The findings have meaning for fields as diverse as mining and the search for life in space.

Clark Johnson, a professor of geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and former postdoctoral researcher Weiqiang Li examined samples from the banded iron formation in Western Australia. Banded iron is the iron-rich rock found in ore deposits worldwide, from the proposed iron mine in Northern Wisconsin to the enormous mines of Western Australia.

These ancient deposits, up to 150 meters deep, were begging for explanation, says Johnson.

Scientists thought the iron had entered the ocean from hot, mineral-rich water released at mid-ocean vents that then precipitated to the ocean floor. Now Johnson and Li, who is currently at Nanjing University in China, show that half of the iron in banded iron was metabolized by ancient bacteria living along the continental shelves.

The banding was thought to represent some sort of seasonal changes. The UW-Madison researchers found long-term swings in the composition, but not variations on shorter periods like decades or centuries.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Ukraine War Update: будьте осторожны, лягушачий

There have been a few big events in Ukraine this day.  However, since I start with pictures and regard everything the Donnie Rebs do as being suspect, let's start with something very, very scary.  The tanks in the DNR and LNR have been showing up with IFF symbols as of late.  This is not a surprise since the Ukrainians always painted a distinctive white stripe on their tanks so as to be able to tell friend or foe.  The tanks in the DNR and LNR have started specifically sporting a bright, white diamond.  Again, no is.  What is alarming is that the IFF symbols on the tanks can only be seen from the air.  Think about that for a moment!

The only reason to do that is to make sure you are seen from the air.  The Donnie Rebs do not have an air force (really).  The Ukrainians do.  So this seems to be rather counter-intuitive as to being helpful. It would seem to make these tanks more of targets, assuming the Ukrainians are the only ones with aircraft up.  The only way this makes sense is if friendly aircraft, as in friendly to the DNR/LNR, are in the air and might attack the DNR/LNR tanks by mistake.  Oh.  Wait.  That implies either the DNR/LNR are going to suddenly sprout an air force...or...yeah.  makes you comfortable, huh?

There are two potentially profound events which happened.  The first is Poroshenko has outlined the decentralization he and the Ukrainians are willing to allow.  What powers will be devolved to the Oblasts and what will be retained in Kiev.  It does not go as far as what the LNR & DNR want.  However, that the Ukrainians are willing to give any ground here is pretty profound.

The second is the DNR ordered the pullback of its troops from Shirokyne.  The fighters in Shirokyne were angry and surprised.  However, the pullback does seem to have happened.  Weirdly, the DNR side started bombarding the crap out of Shirokyne afterwards.  Even more weirdly, the radio intercepts of the DNR units leaving expressed confusion as to who was firing on the remains of the town.  It has been strongly implied it was not the DNR's artillery doing the bombardment, even though it was coming from their direction.  However, this video sure as shoot makes it look like the Ukrainians were hitting the withdrawing Donnie Rebs.  Supposedly, the Ukrainians have moved forward and taken the entirety of the town.  We will see.

The faux hope is the head of the DNR has announced elections which were promised in Minsk II for October 18.  He's made it clear none of the pro Kiev candidates will be allowed.  The announcement was apparently made unilaterally: the LNR was taken aback and had not been aware of it coming.

So, even with the hope, that is not to say there are not battles taking place elsewhere.  Shelling continues up and down the line of contact.  Something very odd is happening in Gorlovka:a huge number of troops have been moved there and there are reports of small arms firing. 

We will see.

Be careful, froggy.

Russian Air Force Cuts Procurement of PAK-FA: Serious Problems With the Sukhoi T-50 Program?

Defense Ministry will cut the first purchase party fifth generation fighter T-50, will be purchased only one squadron of the first trial, he told reporters on Thursday in St. Petersburg, Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov.

"Yes, we are reducing the purchase of fighter PAK FA, it will be purchased in the coming years one squadron. At the same time we will increase the purchase of Su-35 fighters, which are cheaper, but their tactical and technical characteristics of a head taller than their foreign counterparts," - Borisov said.

The F-35/F-16 Dogfight Debacle

The news has been running around for a number of days.  I've not posted it because I've been trying to stick to my blog post draw down schedule and there are other potential topics which are not getting as much "air time" in the blogosphere.  However, here's where I give in.

David Axe, a complete F-35 hater and then some, was passed a report on how badly a F-35 faired when dogfighting F-16s: it had its lunch eaten and then some.  The fact came out that the plane is really, really underpowered, not to mention has serious ergo problems with the helmet-canopy combo and not to mention canopy-fuselage combo.

There have been several reactions.  Bill Sweetman's response is probably the most all encompassing. It has the best quote about the entire debacle:

“People all need to look at what F-35 really is,” another aviator comments. “A stealth A-7 bomb truck, capable of first-night suppression of enemy air defenses, with limited self-escort. It is, as software-configured right now, not a light air-combat-maneuvering-capable platform. This is what we saw with the early F/A-18E/F blocks: millions of lines of code, and in need of constant update. But, in this case, it’s becoming increasingly easier to rewrite the code laws to allow for those changes.”
Lockheed responded to the whole event by stating dogfighting is obsolete and the F-35 is meant to fire from a distance taking advantage of stealth and long range missiles.

Via Breaking Defense, the US Air Force responded.  The short version is the F-35 is not an F-16 and should not be seen as such.  It is not a dogfighter.  If you need a dogfight, you send in...wait for F-22.  Y'know, that fighter we only bought 180 odd because we didn't need it.  Oops.

Its looking minimally like F-35 needs a new engine.  Wait.  The US Air Force has already started that: its called ADVENT.

One Small Step to a Woolly Mammoth: Genome Fully Sequence, Cold Adaptions IDed

Elephantid Genomes Reveal the Molecular Bases of Woolly Mammoth Adaptations to the Arctic


Lynch et al


Woolly mammoths and living elephants are characterized by major phenotypic differences that have allowed them to live in very different environments. To identify the genetic changes that underlie the suite of woolly mammoth adaptations to extreme cold, we sequenced the nuclear genome from three Asian elephants and two woolly mammoths, and we identified and functionally annotated genetic changes unique to woolly mammoths. We found that genes with mammoth-specific amino acid changes are enriched in functions related to circadian biology, skin and hair development and physiology, lipid metabolism, adipose development and physiology, and temperature sensation. Finally, we resurrected and functionally tested the mammoth and ancestral elephant TRPV3 gene, which encodes a temperature-sensitive transient receptor potential (thermoTRP) channel involved in thermal sensation and hair growth, and we show that a single mammoth-specific amino acid substitution in an otherwise highly conserved region of the TRPV3 channel strongly affects its temperature sensitivity.

Evidence from Baltica Supports Warm Equator, Cold Polar Ediacaran NeoProterozoic PaleoClimates

Baltica during the Ediacaran and Cambrian: A paleomagnetic study of Hailuoto sediments in Finland


Klein et al


We present a new Late Neoproterozoic paleomagnetic pole for Baltica from an inclined 272 m deep oriented sedimentary drill core in Hailuoto, Western Finland. The depositional age of the Hailuoto sediments is poorly constrained at 570–600 Ma. Three components of magnetization were isolated with thermal and alternating field (AF) demagnetization treatments. The ChRM (characteristic remanence magnetization) component is a high coercivity/unblocking temperature dual polarity component that passes a reversal test. The combined observed ChRM component of the Hailuoto sediments (D = 334.2°; I = 44.4°; α95 = 7.2°; k = 16.5) yields a paleomagnetic pole of Plat = 48.7° N and Plon = 241.1° E with A95 = 8.1°. The inclination corrected direction (f = 0.6) of D = 334.4°; I = 57.7°; α95 = 5.8°; k = 25.2 yields a paleomagnetic pole of Plat = 60.5° N and Plon = 247.9° E with A95 = 7.6°. As it is a dual-polarity ChRM carried by both magnetite and hematite, with no resemblance to younger events, we interpret it as a primary component. A paleolatitude for Hailuoto of 38.3° was calculated from the ChRM. Two secondary components were identified. The first is a low coercivity/blocking temperature component with a remanent magnetization of D = 239.0°; I = 67.3°; α95 = 8.7° (N = 13 samples), which we interpret as drilling-induced remanent magnetization (DIRM). The second secondary component has a remanent magnetization of D = 49.4°; I = 34.9°; α95 = 8.6° (N = 5 samples) and is commonly seen in Fennoscandian formations.

The ChRM Hailuoto pole adds to the scattered Ediacaran paleomagnetic data of Baltica and indicate large distances between other late Neoproterozoic and early Cambrian paleomagnetic poles. We present reconstructions of Baltica and Laurentia between 616 and 550 Ma which move Baltica from high latitudes (615 Ma), over the polar region, to low latitudes (550 Ma), and Laurentia from low latitudes (615 Ma) to a polar position (570 Ma) and back to an equatorial position (550 Ma). A low to mid latitude position of Baltica determined by the Hailuoto paleomagnetic pole, and the lack of glaciogenic sediments determined in an earlier study of Hailuoto sediments indicate a warm deposition environment.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Has the Robot Uprising Begun? Man Killed by Robot in Germany

A robot has killed a contractor at one of Volkswagen's production plants in Germany, the automaker said Wednesday.

The man died Monday at the plant in Baunatal, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Frankfurt, VW spokesman Heiko Hillwig said.

The 22-year-old was part of a team that was setting up the stationary robot when it grabbed and crushed him against a metal plate, Hillwig said.

He said initial conclusions indicate that human error was to blame, rather than a problem with the robot, which can be programmed to perform various tasks in the assembly process. He said it normally operates within a confined area at the plant, grabbing auto parts and manipulating them.

Jaguar Land Rover R&D Boss Defies Robopocalypse: "People are not Cargo"

Jaguar Land Rover will never make a driverless car, r&d boss Wolfgang Epple said.

“We don't consider customers cargo. We don't want to build a robot that delivers the cargo from A to B,” he told journalists at an event held at JLR's r&d center here in central England.

Epple said JLR is working on autonomous driving features for future models, including a remote control function to allow the driver to operate the car outside the vehicle using a smartphone.

Epple favors autonomous features that assist drivers without taking full control from them, such as the ability to steer the car into a tight parking space from outside the vehicle. JLR used the June 16 event to show a Range Rover that could automatically execute a multi-point turn in the road and be maneuvered around obstacles on very rough terrain remotely using a smartphone. Both features could be available by 2020, the automaker said.

Dubai to Have 3d Printed Office Built

Already home to numerous architectural wonders, including the world's tallest building, Dubai is set to add the world's first 3D-printed office building to its streets. It will be printed layer by layer by a 3D printer standing 20 ft (6 m) tall, with the layers to be assembled on site to produce a building covering approximately 2,000 sq ft (186 sq m) in a process that is set to take a matter of weeks.

The office building, which wouldn't look out of place in a 1970's science fiction show set in the present day, will serve as a temporary headquarters for staff of the nearby "Museum of the Future" that launched earlier this year. As such, it won't be quite as intricate as some other 3D-printed architecture we've seen, but will feature a flexible open plan to accommodate a range of uses and team sizes. It will also house a small digital fabrication facility and 3D printing exhibition space, with all interior furniture, detailing and structural components to be produced using 3D printing technology.

Australian Bot Brings Robopocalypse for the Brick Layer?

As robots get smarter, cheaper and more versatile, they're taking on a growing number of challenges – and bricklaying can now be added to the list. Engineers in Perth, Australia, have created a fully working house-building machine that can create the brick framework of a property in just two days, working about 20 times faster than a human bricklayer.

Named Hadrian (after Hadrian's Wall in the UK), the robot has a top laying speed of 1,000 bricks per hour, which works out as the equivalent of about 150 homes a year. Of course there's no need for the machine to sleep, eat or take tea breaks either, giving it another advantage over manual laborers.

At the heart of Hadrian is a 28 m (92 ft) articulated telescopic boom. Though mounted on an excavator in the photo below, the finished version will sit on a truck, allowing it easier movement from place to place. The robot brick-layer uses information fed from a 3D CAD representation of the home for brick placement, with mortar or adhesive delivered under pressure to the head of the boom.

Does a Bigger Brain Help With Greater Geographic Primate Distrbution?

Hominin geographical range dynamics and relative brain size: Do non-human primates provide a good analogy?


MacDonald et al


We use climatic and satellite remote sensing data to characterize environmental seasonality in the geographical ranges of extant non-human primates in order to assess the effect of relative brain size on tolerance of more seasonal habitats. Demonstration of such an effect in living non-human primates could provide a comparative framework for modeling hominin dispersals and geographical range dynamics in the Pliocene and Pleistocene. Our analyses found no such effect: there are neither positive nor negative correlations between relative brain size and either geographical range size or the average and range of values for environmental seasonality, whether analysed at the level of all primates, or within parvorders (strepsirrhine, catarrhine, platyrrhine). Independent analyses by other researchers comparing feeding behaviour and ecology at individual primate study sites demonstrate that in seasonal environments, the year-round metabolic costs of maintaining a relatively large brain are met by adaptive behavioural/dietary strategies. However, consistent with our own results, those comparative studies found that there was no overall association, whether positive or negative, between ‘raw’ environmental seasonality and primate relative brain size. We must therefore look elsewhere for a comparative model of hominin geographical range dynamics in the Pleistocene.

2nd Cryogenian NeoProterozoic Sturtian Glaciation Started Synchronously Around the World

Global synchronous initiation of the 2nd episode of Sturtian glaciation: SIMS zircon U–Pb and O isotope evidence from the Jiangkou Group, South China


Lan et al


Depositional age of the Xieshuihe Formation in the Nanhua Basin, South China has been controversial in the past two decades, which hampers our understanding of the synchroneity of the 2nd episode of Sturtian glaciation as well as regional stratigraphic correlation. In this study, a new SIMS zircon U–Pb age of 691.9 ± 8.0 Ma (MSWD = 1.3) was obtained from a tuffaceous siltstone bed within the upper Xieshuihe Formation in the Nanhua Basin, which is within errors consistent with the ID-TIMS U–Pb zircon age of 688.6 + 9.5/−6.2 Ma from Yukon, Canada, the SHRIMP U–Pb zircon ages of 685 ± 7 and 684 ± 4 Ma from central Idaho, the SHRIMP U–Pb zircon age of 686 ± 4 Ma from southeastern Idaho, and the SHRIMP U–Pb age of 703 ± 6 Ma from northern Utah, North American Cordilleran margin. All these dated formations conformably underlie the upper Sturtian glaciogenic diamictite. Hence new ages suggest a maximum initiation age of ca. 690 Ma for the 2nd episode of Sturtian glaciation, which is synchronous in at least two geographically separated palaeocontinents. The commonly low δ18O values (3–5‰) from the zircon grains of Xieshuihe Formation suggest an influence of glaciation during their formation, probably by means of an ice–fire interaction process as previously proposed. Additionally, new age data suggest the Xieshuihe Formation is not correlative with the Liantuo Formation/Banxi Group as previously assumed. Rather, it could be correlated with the Liangjiahe Member, Fulu Formation in South China, which is feasible in terms of sedimentology and sequence stratigraphy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ukraine War Update: привет мои маленькие друзья, лягушачий!

This is drone footage by the Dnpr-1 battalion on two different dates two weeks apart.  They reconned a Donnie Reb base and then returned.  There seems to be at least a company of tanks and very prepared positions two weeks later on the second visit.  The base has been geolocated to 2.3km south of Sontseve.

As if we needed more evidence of the Russians being actually in Ukraine rather than only their proxies, jamming equipment of Russian origin is very present and IDed.

Over all, the contact line is the quietest it has ever been.  However!  clashes are still taking place: Shirokyne remains at the fore.  

There is a rather frightening rumor running around the the Donbass...on the rebel side of the contact line: the offensive will begin on July 15th.  Rumor runs wild in Ukraine.  I've written about my own experiences.  OTOH, OpSec in the Donbass War has been terrible on Donnie Reb's side and I can believe some soldier told someone he cared about to make themselves gone on a certain date.

In other joyous news, after the Russians determined the transfer of Crimea from Russia to Ukraine during the Soviet Union was illegal, they are now considering whether or not the independence of the Baltic States is considered legal either at the end of the Soviet Union.  This is obvioisly meant to yank the chain of the United States and NATO.  However, you can almost see the Russians stating the dissolution of the Soviet Union was illegal and, therefore...

Oh NO! US Giant Robot Team Challenges Japanese Team to Duel

General Atomics Demostrates Railgun Projectile Compatible Eletronics in Four Test Launches

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced [June 22] that projectiles with on-board electronics survived the railgun launch environment and performed their intended functions in four consecutive tests on 9-10 June at the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. The week of test activity included marking the 100th successful launch from the GA-EMS’ 3 megajoule Blitzer® electromagnetic railgun.


During the week of testing, the electronics on-board the projectiles successfully measured in-bore accelerations and projectile dynamics, for several kilometers downrange, with the integral data link continuing to operate after the projectiles impacted the desert floor. On-board measurement of flight dynamics is essential for precision guidance. The test projectiles were launched at accelerations over 30,000 times that of gravity and were exposed to the full electromagnetic environment of the railgun launch.

Congress Seeks to ban Human Embryo Modification, Requiring /RELIGIOUS/ Panel for Review of US Institute of Medicine Report

The US House of Representatives is wading into the debate over whether human embryos should be modified to introduce heritable changes. Its fiscal year 2016 spending bill for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would prohibit the agency from spending money to evaluate research or clinical applications for such products.

In an unusual twist, the bill—introduced on June 17—would also direct the FDA to create a committee that includes religious experts to review a forthcoming report from the US Institute of Medicine (IOM). The IOM's analysis, which considers the ethics of creating embryos that have three genetic parents, was commissioned by the FDA.

The House legislation comes during a time of intense debate on such matters, sparked by the announcement in April that researchers in China had edited the genomes of human embryos. The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) moved quickly to remind the public that a 1996 law prevents the federal government from funding work that destroys human embryos or creates them for research purposes.

This infuriates me. There are several diseases which have promise to be corrected genetically (cystic fibrosis, frex) which would be far, far easier to correct while the person was still an embryo.  Research needs to be done for this and we can fix problems even before a person's life really begins.   But, no, Congress has to be that stupid.

No, they ahve to be worse.

They are requiring a panel of religious figures to review the ethics report of from the IOM!  Unless they are qualified scientists, they have no fscking place reviewing that report as government representatives!

Did Multicellularity in Cyanobacteria Help Drive the Great Oxidation Event?

Cyanobacteria and the Great Oxidation Event: evidence from genes and fossils


Schirrmeister et al


Cyanobacteria are among the most ancient of evolutionary lineages, oxygenic photosynthesizers that may have originated before 3.0 Ga, as evidenced by free oxygen levels. Throughout the Precambrian, cyanobacteria were one of the most important drivers of biological innovations, strongly impacting early Earth's environments. At the end of the Archean Eon, they were responsible for the rapid oxygenation of Earth's atmosphere during an episode referred to as the Great Oxidation Event (GOE). However, little is known about the origin and diversity of early cyanobacterial taxa, due to: (1) the scarceness of Precambrian fossil deposits; (2) limited characteristics for the identification of taxa; and (3) the poor preservation of ancient microfossils. Previous studies based on 16S rRNA have suggested that the origin of multicellularity within cyanobacteria might have been associated with the GOE. However, single-gene analyses have limitations, particularly for deep branches. We reconstructed the evolutionary history of cyanobacteria using genome scale data and re-evaluated the Precambrian fossil record to get more precise calibrations for a relaxed clock analysis. For the phylogenomic reconstructions, we identified 756 conserved gene sequences in 65 cyanobacterial taxa, of which eight genomes have been sequenced in this study. Character state reconstructions based on maximum likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic inference confirm previous findings, of an ancient multicellular cyanobacterial lineage ancestral to the majority of modern cyanobacteria. Relaxed clock analyses provide firm support for an origin of cyanobacteria in the Archean and a transition to multicellularity before the GOE. It is likely that multicellularity had a greater impact on cyanobacterial fitness and thus abundance, than previously assumed. Multicellularity, as a major evolutionary innovation, forming a novel unit for selection to act upon, may have served to overcome evolutionary constraints and enabled diversification of the variety of morphotypes seen in cyanobacteria today.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Indian Army Starts 40+ ton Future Ready Combat Vehicle (tank), Arjun MBT may be in Trouble

The Indian Army's plan to develop and build a medium-weight main battle tank to replace more than 2,500 Russian T-72s has raised questions about the future of the homemade Arjun tank and likely would kill a decade-old proposal by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to build a tank, according to analysts and officials.

The Indian Army this month floated a global request for information to seek partners to design the new tank under a program called Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV). As a medium-weight platform it would weigh 40-plus tons, compared with the Arjun, which weighs 60 tons.

"The proposed FRCV is in the medium category and is more likely to be around the T-90 platform than the Arjun Mark-II platform, which is getting close to the medium-heavy/heavy category," said Anil Chait, retired Indian Army lieutenant general. "Designing and developing the product around proposed qualitative requirements afresh would suggest that we may be looking toward the end of the Arjun saga," he said.

However, Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Army brigadier general and defense analyst, said the Arjun will progress from the current Mark-1 level to Mark-3.

"The lead time for the FRCV to be manufactured, if all goes well, is likely to be approximately 15 years or so. This provides adequate scope for the Arjun series to be progressed to at least Mark-3. Moreover, there is a need in the Indian Army for an Arjun class of tank."

While no Ministry of Defence official would comment on the fate of the decade-old Futuristic Main Battle Tank (FMBT) project to be developed by DRDO, an Army official said FRCV has "surely killed" the FMBT.

The FMBT, intended to be in the 50-plus ton category, was also meant to replace the T-72s.

"The FRCV seems to be a completely new project which possibly junks the FMBT, which was being worked upon by the DRDO or may be a lead to the developing agency to add on to the existing work that has already been done on the same," Bhonsle said.

"I surely see Americans, Russians, French, Germans, Koreans and British participating along with Indian companies in stand-alone or joint venture mode. We could see leading companies from there which are involved with tank design, participating in it," Chait said.

If I were a gambling man - heh - I'd say this would be an natural match for the Russian T-14 tank.  It is lighter than the 60+ ton Arjun (I've seen both 48 tons and 57 tons thrown around, something definitive would be nice!) and the Russians have a historical relationship with the Indians in the defense sector.  There has been a lot more strained relationships as of late with the Russians (re: the problems with the carrier India bought and very dramatically recently the FGPA/PAK-FA problems).  

OTOH, the Russians will almost assuredly be willing to let the Indians manufacture the tank locally: this is a huge plus for the Indians.

OTGH, the Americans and Europeans have not been manufacturing 'medium tanks' for some time.  They either go light (M-8 Buford, the MGS Stryker, etc) or very heavy (Abrams, Leopard, LeClerc).  The Japanese with their Type 90 and the South Koreans with their K2 tank would possibly work.  The Koreans have successfully worked with the Turks on their Altay tank, though the Altay ended up heavier than what the Indians want.

It comes down to what the Indians really want.  If they want to diversify their defense industrial input, they'll go with the Japanese or Koreans.  If they want to get a crack at the new Russian tank, they'll...well, duh.  However, there is a slim chance they will want to collaborate with the Americans to bring the two defense industries closer.  They are already going to do so for naval armaments, especially aircraft carriers.  This would be purely a political decision though.

NeoTethys Seawater was Oxygenated, but had Increasingly and Rapidly Warming Temperatures Just Before the Permian Extinction

Neotethys seawater chemistry and temperature at the dawn of the end Permian mass extinction


Garbelli et al


The end of the Permian was a time of great death and massive upheaval in the biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. Over the last decades, many causes have been suggested to be responsible for that catastrophe such as global warming, anoxia and acidification. The Gyanyima limestone block was an open ocean seamount in the southern Neotethys at subtropical latitude, and it affords us insight into open-ocean oceanographic changes during the end of the Permian After careful screening using multiple tests, we reconstructed carbonate/seawater curves from the geochemical data stored in pristine brachiopod shell archives from the shallow water limestone of the Changhsingian Gyanyima Formation of Tibet. The reconstructed strontium isotope curve and data for the late Changhsingian is relatively invariant about 0.707013, but in the upper part of the succession the values become more radiogenic climaxing at about 0.707244. The 87Sr/86Sr curve and trend is similar to that observed for the Upper Permian succession in northern Italy, but dissimilar (less radiogenic) to whole rock results from Austria, Iran, China and Spitsbergen. The Ce/Ce* anomaly results. ranging from 0.310 to 0.577 for the brachiopods and from 0.237 to 0.655 for the coeval whole rock before the event, and of 0.276 for whole rock during the extinction event, suggest normal redox conditions. These Ce* values are typical of normal open-ocean oxic water quality conditions observed in modern and other ancient counterparts. The biota and Ce* information clearly discounts global anoxia as a primary cause for the end-Permian biotic crisis. Carbon isotopes from brachiopod shells and whole rock are relatively invariant for most of the latest Permian interval, which is in stark contrast to the distinct negative carbon isotope excursion observed near and about the event. Estimates of seawater temperature at shallow depth fluctuated from 22.2 to 29.0 °C up to unit 8-2, and then gradually rise from 29.7 °C in unit 8-13 to values exceeding 35 °C at a stratigraphic level about 120 ky before the Permian-Triassic boundary, and just before the onset of the extinction interval. This dramatic increase in seawater temperature has been observed in global successions from tropical to mid latitude and from restricted to open ocean localities (e.g., northern Italy, Iran). The brachiopod archive and its geochemical proxies from Tibet support the paradigm that global warming must have been an important factor of the biotic crisis for the terrestrial and marine faunas and floras of the late Paleozoic world.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ukraine War Update: здесь, лягушачий! лягушачий!

This is probably Komsomolske's quarry.

There are now too many sites like this to count.  Donnie Reb could leave all the artillery he has which the OSCE has taken into account at the storage sites and still have enough to quickly launch an offensive.  The Russians have poured in enough troops now so an attack is entirely doable.  tanks have been cruising Donetsk. 

Reports are that there is a very, very large massing of armored fighting vehicles (tanks, APCs and IFVs) in Gorlovka.  These are being interspersed with the remaining residential buildings.  That leads to this.  There's a reason the locals in Donetsk held their rally against the DNR.

The artillery barrages take place all along the contact line.  North to south.  There's far too few places having peace.  At least if you are a significant population center.   The strangest bombardment was in Peski.  Ukrainian sources are claiming it was (a) white phosphorus shell(s).  Here's another video with another shot n a guy's phone and some of the results of the bombardment.  It looks like it, but the Russian side has been claiming the Ukrainians have been using the stuff for some time. 

There have been some claimed ground combat in various places rather than just the artillery.  However, I have not been able to find a video in support.  It seems to happen at night save for Shirokyne.

It ought to be noted, a large number of videos which may contain Russian troops, which have been filmed since Vice News did their hunt down of the Russian soldier, are being released with the faces blurred and/or covered with balaclavas.  To me, that alone is an admission of guilt.  Never mind what Simon did.

Here's a translation of one of the videos of the protest against the DNR and you can contrast what the protestors were saying to what the Russian news broadcast near the end.  Love the claims of concentration camps in Kirovsk. 

(btw: going ad hominem is classic for a argument in Russian)

As another note, Ukrainians are watching 'Electric Yerevan' with extraordinary intensity.    I wonder why?  ;)

SETI Talks: Steps Exploring to the Stars (old school)

Brit Woman Goes Cyborg

A British woman has been fitted with what's billed as the "world’s most lifelike bionic hand". The bebionic small hand is the latest model in Steeper's bebionic line of prosthetic hands and is the first of the advanced myoelectric hands to be specially designed to fit women and teenagers as it senses the user's muscle movements and uses these to trigger individual motors in each finger.

Rocket Science is Hard: SpaceX Loses Falcon9 Rocket Carrying Space Station Resupply Dragon

Skip to the beginning of the launch proper here.

Polymerizing Life's Building Blocks on Europa and Other icy Moons

Polymerization of building blocks of life on Europa and other icy moons


Kimura et al


The outer solar system may provide a potential habitat for extraterrestrial life. Remote sensing data from the Galileo spacecraft suggest that the jovian icy moons, Europa, Ganymede, and possibly Callisto, may harbor liquid water oceans underneath their icy crusts. Although compositional information required for the discussion of habitability is limited because of significantly restricted observation data, organic molecules are ubiquitous in the universe. Recently, in-situ spacecraft measurements and experiments suggest that amino acids can be formed abiotically on interstellar ices and comets. These amino acids could be continuously delivered by meteorite or comet impacts to icy moons. Here, we show that polymerization of organic monomers, in particular amino acids and nucleotides, could proceed spontaneously in the cold environment of icy moons, in particular the Jovian icy moon Europa as a typical example, based on thermodynamic calculations, though kinetics of formation are not addressed. Observed surface temperature on Europa is 120 and 80 K in the equatorial region and polar region, respectively. At such low temperatures, Gibbs energies of polymerization become negative, and the estimated thermal structure of the icy crust should contain a shallow region (i.e., at a depth of only a few kilometers) favorable for polymerization. Investigation of the possibility of organic monomer polymerization on icy moons could provide good constraints on the origin and early evolution of extraterrestrial life.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Difference Between Self Driving Cars, Driver Assistance Systems and how Self Driving Cars see the Roads

Google Takes 3rd Gen Self Driving Car to Roads

In a post today on its Google+ page, the Google Self-Driving Car Project announced that its latest cars were being tested on public roads starting today. The odd-shaped little cars are the third generation of self-driving car technology that Google has been testing since 2012.

Drivers around Mountain View might see the little cars rolling around suburban streets and the Google campus, joining the existing fleet of modified Lexus RX450h and Toyota Prius models. Each car will have a "safety driver," although Google's ultimate vision is to do away with standard controls such as the steering wheel and accelerator.

The cars are part of an ongoing project to develop self-driving cars that could potentially be safer than human drivers. Automotive equipment supplier Delphi Labs, also in Mountain View, has been testing its own self-driving car technology on public roads, making the area a hotbed for this type of technology. Automakers, such as Nissan and Ford, have predicted that autonomous cars will become available to the public by 2020.

Google notes that its new self-driving cars, which use electric propulsion, have a top speed of 25 mph. The Google+ post asks "to hear what our neighbors think," seeming to elicit comment from drivers who encounter the cars.

What Caused Mars to Lose its Atmosphere?

Outgassing History and Escape of the Martian Atmosphere and Water Inventory


Lammer et al


The evolution and escape of the martian atmosphere and the planet's water inventory can be separated into an early and late evolutionary epoch. The first epoch started from the planet's origin and lasted ∼500 Myr. Because of the high EUV flux of the young Sun and Mars' low gravity it was accompanied by hydrodynamic blow-off of hydrogen and strong thermal escape rates of dragged heavier species such as O and C atoms. After the main part of the protoatmosphere was lost, impact-related volatiles and mantle outgassing may have resulted in accumulation of a secondary CO2 atmosphere of a few tens to a few hundred mbar around ∼4--4.3 Gyr ago. The evolution of the atmospheric surface pressure and water inventory of such a secondary atmosphere during the second epoch which lasted from the end of the Noachian until today was most likely determined by a complex interplay of various nonthermal atmospheric escape processes, impacts, carbonate precipitation, and serpentinization during the Hesperian and Amazonian epochs which led to the present day surface pressure.