Monday, May 04, 2015

Amazon Reveals More About Robopocalyptic Drone Delivery Plans

Online retailer Amazon has disclosed full details of a concept for delivering packages with unmanned air vehicles in a US patent application published on 30 April.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos first announced plans to deliver packages with small octorotor UAVs in a 2013 interview with 60 Minutes, but the company had kept silent on how the package delivery concept would work.

But newly-published patent application – titled “unmanned air vehicle delivery system" – describes a complete system with a customer interface, route planning, inventory tracking, in-flight navigation and completing delivery.

The concept anticipates that a “remote entity” would control the UAV at the delivery point to select a safe landing site. That information would be stored and used to make future deliveries automatically, the application says.

As the aircraft navigates to the delivery site, Amazon envisions making adjustments to the route in real-time. Some would be driven through communications with other UAVs in the same area, which would provide updates on weather and ground traffic.

The UAV also would monitor the ground to avoid flying over people and animals, according to the Amazon concept. The flying delivery vehicles may have to pass over roads with moving ground vehicles, but Amazon’s plan is to minimise the overflight time by only crossing over roads at a perpendicular angle.

More Russian T-14 Main Battle Tank Pictures

Wait! What?! Can the US Air Force RQ-170 Already Conduct Aerial Refueling?!?!


Bad for Astronauts: Extended Exposure to Cosmic Rays may Cause Dementia

What happens to an astronaut's brain during a mission to Mars? Nothing good. It's besieged by destructive particles that can forever impair cognition, according to a UC Irvine radiation oncology study appearing in the May 1 edition of Science Advances.

Charles Limoli and colleagues found that exposure to highly energetic charged particles - much like those found in the galactic cosmic rays that bombard astronauts during extended spaceflights - cause significant damage to the central nervous system, resulting in cognitive impairments.

"This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two- to three-year round trip to Mars," said Limoli, a professor of radiation oncology in UCI's School of Medicine. "Performance decrements, memory deficits, and loss of awareness and focus during spaceflight may affect mission-critical activities, and exposure to these particles may have long-term adverse consequences to cognition throughout life."

For the study, rodents were subjected to charged particle irradiation (fully ionized oxygen and titanium) at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at the Brookhaven National Laboratory before being sent back to Limoli's Irvine lab.

The researchers found that exposure to these particles resulted in brain inflammation, which disrupted the transmission of signals among neurons. Imaging revealed how the brain's communication network was impaired through reductions in the structure of nerve cells called dendrites and spines. Additional synaptic alterations in combination with the structural changes interfered with the capability of nerve cells to efficiently transmit electrochemical signals. Furthermore, these differences were parallel to decreased performance on behavioral tasks designed to test learning and memory.

Similar types of more severe cognitive dysfunction are common in brain cancer patients who have received various photon-based radiation treatments at much higher doses. In other research, Limoli studies the impact of chemotherapy and cranial irradiation on cognition.

While cognitive deficits in astronauts would take months to manifest, Limoli said, the time required for a mission to Mars is sufficient for such deficits to develop. People working for extended periods on the International Space Station do not face the same level of bombardment with galactic cosmic rays, as they are still within the protective magnetosphere of the Earth.

Now there is a nice natural control study: examine communities at high altitude.  Is 'cognitive impairment' at old age more prevalent than those who have lived their lives at sea level? Make sure you eliminate those who fly frequently from either study.  We know high altitude communities have a higher rate of brain cancer.  How about dementia and whatnot?  If not, perhaps this ought to be reconsidered.

US Navy NOT Interested in Using USMC V-22 Tanking Technology

The Navy has no immediate plans to explore using its planned fleet of V-22 Ospreys carrier onboard delivery aircraft to refuel its carrier aircraft, while the Marines are actively looking to include a tanking capability in its own tilt-rotor V-22s by 2017, service officials told USNI News on Monday.

Last year, the Navy selected the Bell Boeing V-22 to be the replacement for the service’s aging fleet of Northrop Grumman C-2A Greyhoud carrier onboard delivery (COD) that’s used to bring on supplies and material from shore to an embarked aircraft carrier.

While the has Navy touted some benefits of selecting the Osprey — its easier to get supplies to a ship at long range since the V-22 can land on more ships, not just the carrier — it’s not talked about the using the Navy Osprey as a refueling platform.

“While there is always a potential to leverage other V-22 capabilities down the road, our focus remains on seamlessly transitioning the Navy variant of the V-22 into the airwing to fulfill the carrier onboard delivery mission,” Navy spokesman Lt. Rob Myers told USNI News on Monday.

For its part, the Marines are currently developing the V-22 Aerial Refueling System (VARS), which is being developed in parallel with the planned first Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter deployment in 2017, according to the Marine Corps’ 2015 aviation plan.

Similar to the Harvest HAWK roll-on weapons kit for the Marine’s Lockheed Martin KC-130J, the system will be able to roll on and off the aircraft as needed, USNI News understands.

The goal of VARS is to include an organic tanking capability to the Marine Air Combat Element (ACE) of an embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) starting with tactical fighters and then moving into other aircraft.

For the Navy, the next tanking option is less obvious.

Navy Secretary Defends F-35 Last Manned Fighter Statement

U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Thursday defended his drive to consolidate the Navy's work on a range of unmanned systems, and said the U.S. military risked losing its leadership role unless it focused on what he called "the future of warfare."

"Unmanned is the future," Mabus said in a speech at the National Press Club. "If we don't keep up in this, if we don't lead on this, we're very certainly going to be bypassed ... because we're not the only ones working on this."

Mabus this month announced plans to name a new civilian deputy assistant secretary to oversee underwater, surface and aerial unmanned systems, and to create a new office on the uniformed military side of the Navy to coordinate and "champion" all aspects of the new weapons systems across the service.

Mabus said he stood by his recent comment that the F-35 fighter jet developed by Lockheed Martin Corp "should be, and almost certainly will be, the last manned strike fighter aircraft the Department of the Navy will ever buy or fly."

The remark drew criticism from pilots across the military.

Focusing on unmanned systems would allow the Navy to reach more places, stay there longer, carry out more dangerous missions, and better protect the lives of its people than continuing to rely on manned fighter jets, manned minehunters and other weapons, Mabus said.

New technology included on the F-35 fighter plane worked so fast the pilots already were not involved, he said.

He noted a recent test of the unmanned X-47B aircraft built by Northrop Grumman Corp, which showed the drone could be refueled at sea.

Russian T-14 Tank Pix With Some Video

Immediately and at 2:15 for the T-14.

The T-15 seems to be in there and the Kurganets.

I've seen specs thrown around, but none seem definitive: the weight seems to between 48 to 57 tons.

I have to admit I involuntarily snarled at the SAMs.

Update: More info here.

T-14 Armata Tank in Parade Practice for Russian WW2 Victory Parade


Not at all like the low turrets done in fan art with the twin AA guns.  Not a big surprise that though.  Fan art often comes out of nowhere with weird ideas.  (yes, guilty, too)

Trace Fossils From Smithian/Spathian Triassic South China Suggest Gradual Biotic Recovery From PT Extinction

Early Triassic trace fossils from the Three Gorges area of South China: Implications for the recovery of benthic ecosystems following the Permian–Triassic extinction


Zhao et al


The Lower Triassic Daye and Jialingjiang formations of the Three Gorges area (South China) record the recovery interval of benthic tracemaking invertebrates following the P–Tr mass extinction. A total of 17 ichnospecies in 14 ichnogenera are documented from Smithian and Spathian strata. Our trace fossil data, in combination with previously published studies, show that ichnodiversity in the Middle Yangtze region increased markedly in the early Spathian. Trace fossils in the Smithian are dominated by simple, small, horizontal burrows, including Didymaulichnus and Planolites, whereas Spathian trace fossils are diverse and abundant with moderate–high bioturbation levels and complex burrow networks, such as Thalassinoides. Both burrow sizes and penetration depths increased gradually from the early Spathian to the middle–late Spathian, implying a gradual recovery pattern for benthic ecosystems. Early Triassic ichnofossils are characterised by aspects of opportunistic behaviour (e.g., low-to-moderate ichnodiversity, low-to-moderate bioturbation, small burrow widths, and shallow tiering), suggesting stressed environmental conditions. The recovery tempo and pattern of ichnocoenoses in South China is likely structured by temporal and spatial changes of the refuge zone in the Early Triassic.

First Full Image of the T-14: Russia's new Main Battle Tank

Events of the Cambrian Period

Global climate, sea level cycles, and biotic events in the Cambrian Period


Babcock et al


The developing high-resolution chronostratigraphy of the Cambrian provides an updated age model for various geologic and biotic events that occurred during this critical period of Earth history. Broad, time-specific patterns of lithofacies, such as organic-rich deposits, and biofacies appear to be consistent across all Cambrian paleocontinents. Records of important evolutionary events including first appearances of certain metazoan taxa, migrations, and extinctions, tend to coincide with changes in eustatic sea level, as do the positions of many Konservat-Lagerstätten, concretion horizons, agnostoid-rich beds, and other sedimentary features. Most of these events or horizons also show a relationship to perturbations in the global carbon cycle. The positions of organic-rich deposits bear strong relationship to both paleogeographic position and sea level history. Cambrian strata show evidence of cyclicity at multiple scales. Synchronous or near-synchronous global cyclicity is inferred to be associated with oceanographic and climatic cycles characteristic of glacial expansion and deglaciation.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Autism and a Ted Talk

Fountains of Water Vapor and Ice in a Ted Talk

Could the Chicxulub Impact Cause the Deccan Traps?

The asteroid that slammed into the ocean off Mexico 66 million years ago and killed off the dinosaurs probably rang the Earth like a bell, triggering volcanic eruptions around the globe that may have contributed to the devastation, according to a team of University of California, Berkeley, geophysicists.

Specifically, the researchers argue that the impact likely triggered most of the immense eruptions of lava in India known as the Deccan Traps, explaining the "uncomfortably close" coincidence between the Deccan Traps eruptions and the impact, which has always cast doubt on the theory that the asteroid was the sole cause of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction.

"If you try to explain why the largest impact we know of in the last billion years happened within 100,000 years of these massive lava flows at Deccan ... the chances of that occurring at random are minuscule," said team leader Mark Richards, UC Berkeley professor of earth and planetary science. "It's not a very credible coincidence."

Richards and his colleagues marshal evidence for their theory that the impact reignited the Deccan flood lavas in a paper to be published in The Geological Society of America Bulletin, available online today (April 30) in advance of publication.

While the Deccan lava flows, which started before the impact but erupted for several hundred thousand years after re-ignition, probably spewed immense amounts of carbon dioxide and other noxious, climate-modifying gases into the atmosphere, it's still unclear if this contributed to the demise of most of life on Earth at the end of the Age of Dinosaurs, Richards said.

"This connection between the impact and the Deccan lava flows is a great story and might even be true, but it doesn't yet take us closer to understanding what actually killed the dinosaurs and the 'forams,'" he said, referring to tiny sea creatures called foraminifera, many of which disappeared from the fossil record virtually overnight at the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods, called the KT boundary. The disappearance of the landscape-dominating dinosaurs is widely credited with ushering in the age of mammals, eventually including humans.

He stresses that his proposal differs from an earlier hypothesis that the energy of the impact was focused around Earth to a spot directly opposite, or antipodal, to the impact, triggering the eruption of the Deccan Traps. The "antipodal focusing" theory died when the impact crater, called Chicxulub, was found off the Yucatán coast of Mexico, which is about 5,000 kilometers from the antipode of the Deccan traps.

paper link.

Stretching my Image Manipulation Skills: USS MC Perry

meh.  Just playing around.  

The USS MC Perry at the top and the USS Independence at the bottom.  The original image is at the bottom, of course.

The railgun up front is what I am least happy with but at least its to proper proportion. Not overly happy with the SPY-1F either.

The ship and class need a new name since there's already a USNS Matthew Perry.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Friday, May 01, 2015

Mini Crazy Thought: the USS Matthew Calbraith Perry, What the LCS Derived FF/G Circa 2020 Ought to be

The US Navy has been buying rather small corvettes which have been called the Littoral Combat Ships. They are fast and intended to be patrol vessels of a sort to deal with the small swarming squadrons of gunboats or fast attack boats and pirates as well as provide for help when there are disasters, etc. They are quite fast at 44+ knots each. However, they are very lightly armed: in terms of armament, a Cold War Coast Guard Cutter (with Harpoons) would be able to take one out.

There are two flavors of them, the Freedom and the Independence classes.

However, there has been a huge hoolah about the fact they are so weakly armed and so expensive (between $450 million to $500 million each, neglecting government furnished equipment).  This prompted a call to cancel the LCS contract and for a replacement which could fight in a full bore battle rather than be glorified coast guard cutter (though admittedly, if they get the Hellfires actually installed, they will be able to kill things out further...a whole 5 miles).  Keep in mind, the ship they are 'replacing' is the Cold War Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate, which no matter how you slice it, they had far more firepower than either of the LCS.

The Navy as a result commissioned the Small Surface Combatant study to see if a full frigate was affordable and what industry could do.  Lockheed and Austal proposed upgraded versions of their LCS classes.  General Dynamics offered an nonpublic bid.  Huntington Ingalls offered an upgraded version of their National Security Cutter.  The Navy settled on modest upgrades to the LCS classes much to the eye rolling of their critics. 

It got me to thinking, what ought we to do, in my opinion?  

A seemingly segue, but its relevant: the US Navy canceled its Zumwalt class destroyers after ordering three.  They were too expensive is the usual commentary, having suffered through the development/procurement death spiral.  There's another consideration too: the Zumwalts were delayed sufficiently that newer technologies were on the cusp of making their armaments obsolete.  Frex, the Advanced Gun System will be outranged  by the railguns being testing at sea next year and the rounds for the railgun will be $25k each or less: far lower than the AGS'. 

While the Navy seriously needs to get its act together for its surface combatants, like getting a new destroyer and cruiser program started and done within budget and on time while dealing with future threats, I wondered what could you incorporate into a frigate.  And where would you want to start?

It does help if it is possible to use as much as the same equipment as before, propulsion, mechanical and hulls, just to save money.  That would imply an existing hull design.  That in turn, based on politics, means something built in the US.  That means one of the LCS or the National Security Cutter.  The cutter isn't in the navy logistical path, so it ought to be cut based on that.  That leaves us with Freedom and Independence.

The Freedom class is a steel hulled ship (a plus) with some room for growth with minimal changes and its faster than the Independence class (47 knots vs 44).  It has 180 tons which it can accept without adding sections and whatnot.  However, significant changes would need to take place for more.  Its internal volume is significantly smaller than the Independence, too.  However, a lot of the upgrades Lockheed proposed for the SSC variant were spot on.  However, some I'm considering here make that internal volume a significant problem. 

The Independence class is aluminum hulled and slower than the Freedom class.  Its also, in terms of volume, enormous.  It also has a very large flight deck.  It also has the capacity to take 210 tons (vs the Freedom 180) as part of its mission packages.

Due to the volume and more mass to work with, the Independence seems like the best starting place.

The 'proposed' Matthew Calbraith Perry class frigate:

for comparison, I left the Independence class under the 'proposed' Matthew Calbraith Perry class.
sorry, couldn't do a good railgun turret, esp in the front, so I left the old one. 
HEY!  Don't mock my meager image manipulation skills!   
The MCP has an enlarge upper superstructure (adding about 300 tons) allowing for the addition of another LM-2500+ (generating 35 MW of power, adding 100 tons) and its fuel stores.  The LM-2500s already installed are replaced with LM-2500+'s.
The aviation hangar is the same volume, but flight deck shrinks by a third: its still larger than the Freedom class' flight deck.  It retains the two SH-60 ASW helicopters, adds a second Fire Scout, and adds two TERNs. 

A hull sonar is added (probably at this point the same as the Burke's AN/SQS-53C, weighing 26 tons) and the towed sonar array is kept.  An Aegis combat system is added with an SPY-1F array, adding another 20ish tons and requiring 3 MW.

The proposed SeaRAM self protection missile system is kept and an additional 32 Mk 57 VLS cells (72 tons) are added.  I'd speculate you'd have a load out of 16 cells of 64 ESSM (or successor), 8 ASROC (or successor) and 8 LRASM.

For close in ASW problems, two sets of Mk 32 Torpedo tubes would be ideal (or a successor, really).  These would weigh a total of 5 tons.

Here's where things get a little radical.

While our little frigate packs the punch of some destroyers now with the configuration above, it doesn't explain why we needed the volume of the Independence class or the power from the LM-25.  By upgrading the current LM-2500s to LM-2500+'s, we get a enough power for the new sensors (sonar and radar) without sacrificing speed.  However, the new weapons require more power than what could be sacrificed even with the upgrade.  What are those?  Yup, lasers and railguns.

Proposed here is to replace the 57mm cannon with a 155mm railgun, like what is to be tested next year on the JHSV.  The range will certainly be longer 60+ km vs 17 km.  The impact damage certainly higher.  The railgun can also be used in an antimissile capacity.  The rounds are very cheap, relatively speaking.  Amusingly, the railgun itself is pretty light weight: around 15 tons, about the same as the 57mm cannon!  However, its pulsed power system is very heavy and takes up several shipping containers in size.  That enormous mission bay of the Independence ought to be able to fit the pulsed power system.  Additionally, the weight ought not to be over 180 tons.  Together with the railgun itself, this is around 200 tons.

The second 'radical weapon' would be a laser.  I don't mean the LAWS system, but rather a weapon's grade laser (100 kw+) which would be used for both small surface targets and anti air and anti missile roles.  Considering we want to have a very low dwell time, we need a megawatt (erm, really megajoule) class laser.  There are two ways to do this.  Either we can wait for the free electron laser (on track, but going slow) or use a solid state laser.  DARPA's HELLADS laser fits the bill and has demonstrated a weapon already at General Atomics.  One which GA is planning on integrating on its Avenger drone (which I took and ran with).  If we aggregated the HELLADS modules, we can get a megajoule/pulse class laser: you need a total of 20 modules.  If one is half a ton, then twenty is 10 tons more.  If you count in optics, beam director, and extra cooling and power, you're looking at somewhere around 30 tons.  And the power requirements!  Oh the power requirements!  Let's just leave it at 'gimme.'  Okok, each pulse minimally will need 1.2 megajoules and if you plan on having more than one pulse per second you need to multiply the number of pulses you want by the 1.2 MJ.  The absolute most you can get is 22 pulses/second. 

(yes the butchered RAM launcher on the top of the MCP doodle is meant to be a beam director.  stop mocking my art!).

Now the question is, 'how fat did our baby get?'

Truthfully, we have added 750 tons of structure, sensors and weapons.  That pushes our ship to being 3800 tons fully loaded...without the extra fuel for the LM-2500+ for the new weapons and sensors!  Fortunately, even if we are carrying an extra 400 tons of fuel, we are will still be able to eek out another 2 knots from the upgraded engines.

Now how expensive is our baby?  We get roughly a cost of $820 million vs $464M for an Independence class.

So.  Why?  Why do it?  Its almost twice as much as an Independence class LCS.

The first answer it gives the US a huge numerical edge with well equipped, well armed combatants: the Burkes cost $1.8B each.  For five Burkes, you can get 11 MC Perrys.  

Second, you have a ship which act as an escort for an aircraft carrier.  One of the amusing bits is the monster sized aircraft carriers can sprint far, far faster than the escorts can.  The escorts, destroyers, etc, can do around 30 more than 30 knots, but the carriers can do well over 40 knots with the nuclear reactors.  In emergencies, carriers have sprinted ahead and rendezvoused with different escorts at its destination or been forced to be unescorted at its destination.  While the MC Perry is not a Burke in terms of capability, it will have some distinct capabilities: lasers and railguns are rather cheap per shot.  And, this is done without needing to resort to nuclear power plants for your escorts.

Finally, even when the Burkes and Ticonderogas or follow-on replacements are present, these new FFGs add a distinct capability as advanced screening ships like the previous Perry Frigates did for the carrier battlegroups. 

Aren't the laser and railgun a little immature?

If the lead ship, called Matthew Calbraith Perry here, is laid down in 2020 as the SSC plan calls for, then commissioning will take place in 2024.  Ten years from now.  The railgun is most likely going to be replacing one of the Advanced Gun Systems on the USS Lyndon B Johnson, the last Zumwalt.  The USS LBJ will be commissioned in 2021, a year after the laying down of our proposed MCP.  The HELLADS program will have been wrapped up and could, like with LRASM, be transitioned into a procurement relatively easily.  

Now, do I think this will happen?  


Yer funny.

However, back in the mid 90s, a silly for fun project I did on Usenet caught the attention of the Navy before and they asked me to do a little analysis for them.  I did but didn't take what was offered afterwards.  While I doubt I'll be offered anything here, maybe, just maybe, this might tickle someone with influences own ideas and alter course a bit.  


Afterword:  its becoming obvious in the coming world of hypersonic weapons and antiship ballistic missiles and potential peer naval powers, a lot of our Navy's kit needs replacing.  I am not talking about the ships: that too.  Rather I am talking about the missiles and whatnot.  The Standard Missile is being upgraded, so less worries there.  LRASM is in play, so good start, but progress towards a VLS launched hypersonic missile is needed.  Likewise for a hypersonic Tomahawk replacement.  The ESSM has a range of 10 miles....that's 10 seconds for a Mach 5 missile and 5 for Mach 10: if it misses or fails to take out the hypersonic missile, you're not getting a second shot at that distance.  

For that matter, ASROC definitely is old and ought to updated if not had a replacement made.   etc. 

Bitcoin Invading Argentina. Will it Conquer?

Dante Castiglione stalked through the doors of a glass-walled office tower on the edge of downtown Buenos Aires, just a few hundred feet from the old port district. In the crowded elevator, he shook his head and muttered under his breath about the stresses of the day and his profession. “I swear, this job can kill me,” he said, his eyes cast downward.

On the 20th floor, he hustled into an impersonal, windowless office and quickly removed the tools of his trade from his backpack and set them on the desk: locked blue cash box, cellphone and clunky Dell laptop with the same yellow smiley-face sticker that he puts on all his electronics. Then he unbuckled the fanny pack from around his waist, which contained the most important part of his business: bricks of $100 bills and 100-peso notes.

This room, rented for the day, was not one of Castiglione’s regular haunts. He mostly drifts among the old cafes in Buenos Aires, where the bow-tie-wearing waiters serve small glasses of seltzer water with each coffee. In his line of business as a money-changer, temporary meeting places are preferred; they make things harder for would-be thieves, whom he has so far avoided. On this Friday in late February, Castiglione had run around the city in his camouflage-patterned sandals, trying to distribute cash to some clients and pick it up from others. Once back in his temporary office, his outdated LG phone alternately chirped, buzzed and sang with incoming text messages and emails.

Ordinarily, Castiglione would have help. His 18-year-old daughter, Fiona, often deals with customers, but she was about to give birth to her first child. Her twin brother, Marco, who used to make cash runs, was now focusing on school. So Castiglione was alone, his stress evident in the sweat on his forehead and the agitation on his face. When his business partner, who lives in Rosario, Argentina’s third-largest city, called to ask why he hadn’t taken care of one particularly insistent client, Castiglione erupted in frustration.

“If you want it done faster, you pick up the phone and call her yourself,” he growled in Spanish, before switching to another call.

After hanging up, he told me in English: “Everybody wants everything now, and I am just trying to do it. I’m not magical, as people think.”

Magical, no, yet something new all the same. His occupation is one of the world’s oldest, but it remains a conspicuous part of modern life in Argentina: Calle Florida, one of the main streets in downtown Buenos Aires, is crowded day and night with men and women singing out “cambio, cambio, cambio, casa de cambio,” to serve local residents who want to trade volatile pesos for more stable and transportable currencies like the dollar. For Castiglione, however, money-changing means converting pesos and dollars into Bitcoin, a virtual currency, and vice versa.

US to Offer Joint Development of Scorpion Attack jet to India

US defence secretary Ashton Carter's two-day visit to India in early June is expected to raise the levels of bilateral strategic and defence co-operation between the two countries, senior Indian military officials have told IHS Jane's .

Carter will sign a 10-year India-US Defence Framework Agreement and fast-track the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), under which the two countries will co-develop and co-produce military equipment in India.

Industry sources said that under the DTTI, which Carter initiated as deputy defence secretary in 2012, the US was expected to offer the Textron AirLand Scorpion light-attack and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft currently being developed to the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, who is believed to have expressed interest in the Scorpion, believes the twin-seat platform can double as an intermediate jet trainer (IJT). The IAF badly needs an IJT due to delays to the Sitara (Star) platform, which Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has been developing since 2005.

At the 2014 Farnborough Airshow, Textron officials told IHS Jane's that the Scorpion would cost less than USD20 million to procure and around USD3,000 per hour to operate. The company has also outlined a sales target of 2,000 platforms to international operators over the coming years. It did not respond to requests for comment on the potential deal with India.

Congress Wants Navy to Continue X-47B Testing, Navy Implies Worried About Fair UCLASS Competition

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) wants to keep the Navy’s two X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrators (UCAS-D) flying instead of sending the two unmanned vehicles to a museum or long term storage, according to a Thursday letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus obtained by USNI News.

Last week, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) successfully demonstrated autonomous aerial refueling (AAR) with an unmanned Northrop Grumman X-47B — call sign, Salty Dog 502 — marking the end of the official test program with no planned extension on the horizon.

NAVAIR officials have said the X-47B would be too different from its plans for the follow-on airframe for the Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program and making changes to Salty Dogs 501 and 502 would be too expensive.

“The Navy has told my subcommittee that there is minimal value in extending the UCAS-D program, as the X-47B demonstrators bear little resemblance to the aircraft required for the UCLASS program,” wrote Forbes, chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, to Mabus.
“Even if the Navy’s vision and requirement for UCLASS remain unchanged, I suspect that some further use might yet be found for these two highly capable platforms as unmanned testbeds or as surrogates for other systems.”

While NAVAIR has been adamant about shutting down the UCAS-D program, Navy leadership is still considering options for the Salty Dogs, a Mabus spokesperson told USNI News on Thursday.

“We continue to evaluate the cost/benefit of conducting additional testing with the X-47B,” read a statement from Mabus’ office.

“We want to ensure we have explored the capabilities of this unmanned aircraft while maintaining the ability to have an appropriate level of competition for the UCLASS air segment.”

Aviation Week Speculates on who Will win the Long Range Strike Bomber Contract

The U.S. Air Force will select a prime contractor this year to develop and build its stealthy Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B). Boeing and Lockheed Martin have teamed up to compete against B-2 prime contractor Northrop Grumman, but who will win?

This week, Aviation Week & Space Technology publishes two differing viewpoints on the forthcoming selection. Loren Thomson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, argues that Boeing and Lockheed Martin together have been lead integrators for 95% of the the Air Force’s bomber and strike aircraft, making the teammates the most qualified. Countering that argument, Robert Haffa, former director of the Northrop Grumman Analysis Center, says a deeper dive into Air Force requirements and the competing teams’ capabilities establishes Northrop Grumman as an overwhelming favorite to produce the LRS-B.


A Short Necked Azhdarchid Pterosaur From Maastrichtian Cretaceous Romania

A Medium-Sized Robust-Necked Azhdarchid Pterosaur (Pterodactyloidea: Azhdarchidae) from the Maastrichtian of Pui (Haţeg Basin, Transylvania, Romania)


Vremir et al


We describe a pterosaurian cervical vertebra collected from Maastrichtian sediments at the Pui locality in the Haţeg Basin, Romania. This specimen, a medium-sized, robust fourth cervical, is distinctive in morphology and represents a new, as yet unrecognized, azhdarchid pterosaur size class within the Haţeg Island fauna: it most likely belongs to a new taxon which we opt not to name here. The vertebra is referred to Azhdarchidae based on clearly preserved diagnostic features characteristic of this group and differs in proportions and anatomical details from the recently named azhdarchid Eurazhdarcho langendorfensis Vremir et al., 2013a, from the Sebeş region of the Transylvanian basin. We take issue with claims that all Maastrichtian Romanian azhdarchids (and other penecontemporaneous azhdarchids and azhdarchoids) should be uncritically assumed to be synonymous: it ignores anatomical characters that allow the specimens concerned to be differentiated and is based on an erroneous “one stratum, one species” philosophy contradicted by empirical data from other azhdarchoid assemblages. It has been suggested that the absence of small to medium-sized pterosaurs in Upper Cretaceous sediments is indicative of an evolutionary trend. However, evidence from the Haţeg Island fauna may indicate instead that smaller-sized pterosaurs were indeed present in this interval but remain underrepresented due to rare preservation and collection.

Could Juvenile Deinonychus Fly?

Morphological Variations within the Ontogeny of Deinonychus antirrhopus (Theropoda, Dromaeosauridae)


Parsons et al


This research resulted from the determination that MCZ 8791 is a specimen of Deinonychus antirrhopus between one and two years of age and that the morphological variations within particular growth stages of this taxon have yet to be described. The primary goal of the research is to identify ontogenetic variations in this taxon. Histological analyses determined that the Deinonychus specimens AMNH 3015 and MOR 1178 were adults. Comparisons are made between MCZ 8791 and these adult specimens. The holotype, YPM 5205, and the other associated specimens of this taxon within the YPM collection are similar in size and morphology to AMNH 3015. Further comparisons were made with the three partial specimens OMNH 50268, MCZ 4371, and MOR 1182. Although these specimens represent only a partial ontogenetic series, a number of morphological variations can be described. One secondary goal of this research is to compare the known pattern of variable, informative, ontogenetic characters in MCZ 8791 to a similar pattern of morphological characters in the sub-adult dromaeosaurid specimen Bambiraptor feinbergorum, AMNH FR: 30556. If the characters that have been determined to represent variable juvenile morphology in the ontogeny of Deinonychus are exhibited in Bambiraptor, this study will begin the process of determining whether a similar, conservative, ontogenetic pattern exists throughout the rest of Dromaeosauridae. If defensible, it may reduce the number of sympatric taxa within this clade. The other secondary goal relates to the forelimb function. The approximate body size, forelimb length, wrist development, and the presence of a more prominent olecranon on the ulna of MCZ 8791 support the hypothesis that juveniles of this taxon possessed some form of flight capability.

Synapsids and Diapsids Developed Their Tympanic Membranes (ear drums) Independently

Developmental genetic bases behind the independent origin of the tympanic membrane in mammals and diapsids


Kitazawa et al


The amniote middle ear is a classical example of the evolutionary novelty. Although paleontological evidence supports the view that mammals and diapsids (modern reptiles and birds) independently acquired the middle ear after divergence from their common ancestor, the developmental bases of these transformations remain unknown. Here we show that lower-to-upper jaw transformation induced by inactivation of the Endothelin1-Dlx5/6 cascade involving Goosecoid results in loss of the tympanic membrane in mouse, but causes duplication of the tympanic membrane in chicken. Detailed anatomical analysis indicates that the relative positions of the primary jaw joint and first pharyngeal pouch led to the coupling of tympanic membrane formation with the lower jaw in mammals, but with the upper jaw in diapsids. We propose that differences in connection and release by various pharyngeal skeletal elements resulted in structural diversity, leading to the acquisition of the tympanic membrane in two distinct manners during amniote evolution.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Housing Market Crash Coming for China?

Fetch Robotics Unveils new Warehouse Bots (even if one would be awesome as a cart in the grocery store)

Consumers are getting spoiled—not only do they want movies on demand via digital networks, they also want physical things like books and diapers delivered almost as fast.

Amazon, which has fueled these consumer expectations, uses colonies of Kiva robots in automated warehouses to help achieve its fast shipping times. Modest-sized retailers and distribution centers can’t afford that kind of technology, so last summer San Jose, CA-based Fetch Robotics set out to create human-scale robot workers to help those smaller companies compete in the on-demand era. While Amazon can afford to rebuild its warehouses to accommodate the extensive Kiva system, Fetch decided to make robots that would work in existing buildings with a minimum of retrofitting.

Fetch kept its evolving robots under wraps for five to six months while they were being designed and fabricated, says CEO Melonee Wise. But today the company is unveiling its first robot duo—named Fetch and Freight—to attract potential customers interested in trying a pilot project.

Fetch is an automaton about as tall as a middle-school child. Its single arm ends in a two-fingered gripper that can pick boxes off warehouse shelves and pass them to its sidekick, Freight. That robot co-worker consists of a wheeled base—similar to the one propelling Fetch around—that can be fitted with a collection bin or a set of shelves to hold the items Fetch selects. Once the order has been assembled, Freight can carry the goods to a shipping station at speeds faster than Fetch can move, because Freight’s center of gravity is lower.

Wise says Fetch is one of the few robotics companies that combine a gripper function with the mobility to travel along warehouse shelves to pluck out goods. Other companies are developing robots with similar talents, such as Billerica, MA-based Harvest Automation’s rolling bots for agricultural use. Those robots can pick up potted plants and place them on a conveyer belt, for example. Boston-based Rethink Robotics tailors robots for manufacturing chores, such as circuit testing or feeding fabric into automated industrial sewing machines.

It’s hard to make head-to-head comparisons just yet between robots like those made by Harvest, Rethink, and Fetch, which focuses on logistics. That’s the art of managing the transport of goods from factories or storehouses to consumers. But what’s clear is that a market is emerging for dexterous and mobile robots in retail, distribution, and manufacturing.

Robopocalypse: Are the Bots Coming for our Jobs?

Congressman Accuses US Air Force Dragging its Feet on EMP Missile

A Florida lawmaker’s bid to push the Air Force to develop new electronic weapons failed on Tuesday when the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said the effort was technically flawed.

Rep. Richard Nugent, R-Florida, said the Air Force “has been dragging its feet” on preparing the weapon for deployment and instead redirecting $10 million the service received in 2015.

“The Air Force has really been skating around this congressional intent a lot lately, and almost everyone has experienced frustration [with their] tactics,” Nugent said, citing the service’s determination to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt over the will of Congress.

Nugent hoped to remedy that by including an amendment in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act ordering the Air Force to direct $10 million to the Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Missile Project.

The missile is considered non-lethal because it is designed to knock out electronics systems but not directly harm people or destroy structures.

The Air Force started developing the $40 million program in 2009. Service officials completed what was called a successful test in 2012 when the missile was flown on the wing of a B-52. The program is led by Boeing.

The amendment failed to get a vote, however, after HASC Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, opposed it on technicalities, “not because I disagree with anything that [Nugent] said about the program itself,” Thornberry told the hearing.

Nugent first pitched using the CHAMP system on a cruise missile in June 2014, arguing the Air Force could have it ready for combat within 18 months.

He said the Air Force appears to be holding off developing the system for use until they can put it onto a reusable vehicle.


Dassault on a Roll: Qatar Buys 24 Rafale

Qatar has ended its long-running search for new strike aircraft with the decision to acquire 24 Dassault Rafales for the requirement.

The Gulf state has long been a customer of the French airframer, having previously operated the Mirage F1, Alpha Jet and Mirage 2000.

Flightglobal’s MiliCAS database records Doha as possessing an active inventory of 13 Mirage 2000s and six Alpha Jets.

36 Indian, 36 Egyptian and now 24 from Qatar.  96 fighters.  Not a bad set of orders.

A 50 Year MegaDrought Wrought Nasty Lake Killing Dodos, Others in Mauritius

Nine hundred kilometers off the east coast of Madagascar lies the tiny island paradise of Mauritius. The waters are pristine, the beaches bright white, and the average temperature hovers between 22°C and 28°C (72°F to 82°F) year-round. But conditions there may not have always been so idyllic. A new study suggests that about 4000 years ago, a prolonged drought on the island left many of the native species, such as dodo birds and giant tortoises, dead in a soup of poisonous algae and their own feces.

The die-off happened in an area known as Mare aux Songes, which once held a shallow lake that was an important source of fresh water for nonmigratory animals. Today, it’s just a grassy swamp, but beneath the surface, fossils are so common and so well preserved that the area qualifies as what scientists call a Lagerstätte, which in German means “storage space.” "What I wanted to know was, how did this drought cause this graveyard?” says Erik de Boer, a paleoecologist at the University of Amsterdam. “How did so many animals die?”

To find out, de Boer and colleagues analyzed sediment cores taken from the area. The layers in a core contain markers that can help scientists reconstruct an ecosystem’s history, such as preserved pollens and microbes. About 4200 years ago, monsoon activity declined dramatically, causing a 50-year megadrought on the island. The cores revealed that during the same time period, the ancient lake became a muddy, salty swamp. “Annually, the lake would get some fresh water in, however this drinking water turned foul during the dry season,” de Boer says.

Things got bad fairly quickly for local animals once the lake began to dry up, the team reports in the current issue of The Holocene. Sanitation appears to have become a major issue with so many animals crowding around the shrinking source of fresh water. “The animals lived around the edges, and the excrements probably got mixed up in the wetlands," de Boer says. "It’s like a big toilet.” Even worse, the researchers’ analysis shows that the feces-flooded waters encouraged the growth of single-celled algae and bacteria—diatoms and cyanobacteria—which can cause poisonous algal blooms. The circumstances combined to create what the scientists refer to as a “deadly cocktail” that they think killed many of the animals preserved as fossils at Mare aux Songes today.

Did a Jehol Biota get Buried by a Volcano Like Pompeii?

The Chinese Pompeii? Death and destruction of dinosaurs in the Early Cretaceous of Lujiatun, NE China


Rogers et al


The Lujiatun Unit (Yixian Formation) yields some of the most spectacular vertebrate fossils of the Jehol Group (Lower Cretaceous) of NE China. Specimens are preserved both articulated and three-dimensional, unlike the majority of Jehol fossils, which are near two-dimensional compression fossils. The site has been referred to as the ‘Chinese Pompeii’ because the dinosaurs and other animals were assumed to have been killed and buried by hot, airborne volcanic debris and ash in a single event; this has yet to be confirmed. Field and laboratory evidence for the sedimentological context of the fossils from the Lujiatun Unit is described in detail, and used to assess whether the fossil remains correspond to a single depositional event and whether this event was the direct result of volcanic activity. Fossils of the Lujiatun Unit occur in several horizons of volcaniclastic sediments that represent multiple depositional events. Petrological analysis shows that the fossil-bearing sediments were remobilised and deposited by water. The Lujiatun dinosaurs and other fossils were therefore not killed by a single airborne volcanic ash, but in multiple flood events with a high load of volcaniclastic debris.

The Horror! The Horror! Larval Cthulhu Found in Peruvian Amazon

Deep in the Peruvian Amazon, an odd-looking caterpillar is doing its best to look like just another rain forest twig. But its four long tentacles are coiled, ready to respond to the first sign of danger.


Metoposaurus algarvensis: A new, Giant Metoposaur Temnospondyl From Norian Triassic Portugal

A new species of Metoposaurus from the Late Triassic of Portugal and comments on the systematics and biogeography of metoposaurid temnospondyls


Brusatte et al


Metoposaurids are a group of temnospondyl amphibians that filled crocodile-like predatory niches in fluvial and lacustrine environments during the Late Triassic. Metoposaurids are common in the Upper Triassic sediments of North Africa, Europe, India, and North America, but many questions about their systematics and phylogeny remain unresolved. We here erect Metoposaurus algarvensis, sp. nov., the first Metoposaurus species from the Iberian Peninsula, based on several new specimens from a Late Triassic bonebed in Algarve, southern Portugal. We describe the cranial and pectoral anatomy of M. algarvensis and compare it with other metoposaurids (particularly other specimens of Metoposaurus from Germany and Poland). We provide a revised diagnosis and species-level taxonomy for the genus Metoposaurus, which is currently represented with certainty by three European species (M. diagnosticus, M. krasiejowensis, M. algarvensis). We also identify cranial characters that differentiate these three species, and may have phylogenetic significance. These include features of the braincase and mandible, which indicate that metoposaurid skulls are more variable than previously thought. The new Portuguese bonebed provides further evidence that metoposaurids congregated in fluvial and lacustrine settings across their geographic range and often succumbed to mass death events. We provide an updated paleogeographic map depicting all known metoposaurid occurrences, which shows that these temnospondyls were globally distributed in low latitudes during the Late Triassic and had a similar, but not identical, paleogeographic range as phytosaurs.

Blue Origin's Flight

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

DARPA Gives Raytheon $20 Million Contract to Continue Boost Glide Hypersonic Weapon Development

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) a $20,489,714 million contract modification for the Tactical Boost Glide program. Under the TBG program, Raytheon intends to develop and demonstrate the technology to enable air-launched hypersonic boost glide systems. A majority of the work will be performed in Tucson.

"Hypersonics is the new frontier of missile design and development," said Tom Bussing, Raytheon vice president of Advanced Missile Systems. "The extreme environments where these advanced missiles must operate present significant engineering challenges. Our extensive experience and expertise in developing advanced guided weapon systems uniquely position Raytheon to help solve these problems and deliver these solutions."

Once fielded, TBG could fly at speeds faster than Mach 5 and at altitudes of nearly 200,000 feet. To achieve the required speeds, the re-entry vehicles would be designed to skip across the inside of Earth's upper atmosphere before descending on their targets. The new missiles would have to withstand intense heat while remaining highly maneuverable, and would require sensor packages to engage moving or re-locatable targets.

Hypersonic weapons would be difficult to intercept, and would enable warfighters to strike targets at long range much more quickly than current missile technology allows.

Buzz Technology Limited's Industrial Revolution III 3d Printer can Embed Electronics in Printed Objected

The development of 3D printer technology has been rapidly accelerating, boosted in a large part to the open source community and world-wide sharing of information. There are now literally dozens of brands of 3D printers on the market at all price points, but Buzz Technology Limited, out of London, is looking to stand out from the crowd with its Industrial Revolution III printer (or IR3 for short) that can embed wiring within plastic components using conductive material.

There are printers that print food, printers that use lasers, printers that sinter metal, and printers that make full color objects. Adding to the expanding array of 3D printer capabilities, the IR3 can deposit material to make plastic objects – like other 3D printers – and lay down conductive pathways using other materials. But it can then stick electronic components into the assembly to make a working product. In the example on its Kickstarter page, the printer is used to fabricate, wire and assemble a small radio-control car. The trick here is the ability of the printer to "pick and place" objects into the assembly and leads to the company calling the IR3, "the world's first product assembling 3D printer."

However, there are several caveats to this ability – the part must fit into a special bin on the machine, it must have a steel plate that the electromagnet on the print head can grab onto, and it must have special spring loaded connections that mate to the printed conductive material in the plastic assembly the rest of the printer is making.

Tina's Daughters, Tessa's Daughter and my Mom

left to right.  Marissa (Tessa's daughter), Mikaela and Alloura (Tina's daughters) and my Mom.

Bad Sign for the PAK-DA if True: Russia Resuming Tu-160 Strategic Bomber Production

Russia will renew the production of its Tu-160 (Blackjack) supersonic strategic bomber and missile carrier, Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday.

"Today it is already necessary to solve the task of not only maintaining and modernizing long-range aviation, we must also produce the Tu-160 missile carrier," Shoigu said during a visit at the Kazan Aviation Plant.

Shoigu said that the Tu-160 is "a unique machine, ahead of its time for many years and even until now has not been exploited to its full potential."


This is really not a good sign for the PAK-DA.  Consider: Russia's resources have been significantly reduced with the reduction in oil price; they are paying for the Ukrainian War; and the PAK-FA/T-50 program is having problems.  They cannot afford all of the above.

How Drought Brought Down the Classical Maya Despite Climate Adaptations

Drought, agricultural adaptation, and sociopolitical collapse in the Maya Lowlands


Douglas et al


Paleoclimate records indicate a series of severe droughts was associated with societal collapse of the Classic Maya during the Terminal Classic period (∼800–950 C.E.). Evidence for drought largely derives from the drier, less populated northern Maya Lowlands but does not explain more pronounced and earlier societal disruption in the relatively humid southern Maya Lowlands. Here we apply hydrogen and carbon isotope compositions of plant wax lipids in two lake sediment cores to assess changes in water availability and land use in both the northern and southern Maya lowlands. We show that relatively more intense drying occurred in the southern lowlands than in the northern lowlands during the Terminal Classic period, consistent with earlier and more persistent societal decline in the south. Our results also indicate a period of substantial drying in the southern Maya Lowlands from ∼200 C.E. to 500 C.E., during the Terminal Preclassic and Early Classic periods. Plant wax carbon isotope records indicate a decline in C4 plants in both lake catchments during the Early Classic period, interpreted to reflect a shift from extensive agriculture to intensive, water-conservative maize cultivation that was motivated by a drying climate. Our results imply that agricultural adaptations developed in response to earlier droughts were initially successful, but failed under the more severe droughts of the Terminal Classic period.

How the Maya Became the Maya

Development of sedentary communities in the Maya lowlands: Coexisting mobile groups and public ceremonies at Ceibal, Guatemala


Inomata et al


Our archaeological investigations at Ceibal, a lowland Maya site located in the Pasión region, documented that a formal ceremonial complex was built around 950 B.C. at the onset of the Middle Preclassic period, when ceramics began to be used in the Maya lowlands. Our refined chronology allowed us to trace the subsequent social changes in a resolution that had not been possible before. Many residents of Ceibal appear to have remained relatively mobile during the following centuries, living in ephemeral post-in-ground structures and frequently changing their residential localities. In other parts of the Pasión region, there may have existed more mobile populations who maintained the traditional lifestyle of the preceramic period. Although the emerging elite of Ceibal began to live in a substantial residential complex by 700 B.C., advanced sedentism with durable residences rebuilt in the same locations and burials placed under house floors was not adopted in most residential areas until 500 B.C., and did not become common until 300 B.C. or the Late Preclassic period. During the Middle Preclassic period, substantial formal ceremonial complexes appear to have been built only at a small number of important communities in the Maya lowlands, and groups with different levels of sedentism probably gathered for their constructions and for public rituals held in them. These collaborative activities likely played a central role in socially integrating diverse groups with different lifestyles and, eventually, in developing fully established sedentary communities.

Evidence of Butchered Elephant on Stone Tools From Pleistocene Quaternary Israel

Fat Residue and Use-Wear Found on Acheulian Biface and Scraper Associated with Butchered Elephant Remains at the Site of Revadim, Israel


Solodenko et al


The archaeological record indicates that elephants must have played a significant role in early human diet and culture during Palaeolithic times in the Old World. However, the nature of interactions between early humans and elephants is still under discussion. Elephant remains are found in Palaeolithic sites, both open-air and cave sites, in Europe, Asia, the Levant, and Africa. In some cases elephant and mammoth remains indicate evidence for butchering and marrow extraction performed by humans. Revadim Quarry (Israel) is a Late Acheulian site where elephant remains were found in association with characteristic Lower Palaeolithic flint tools. In this paper we present results regarding the use of Palaeolithic tools in processing animal carcasses and rare identification of fat residue preserved on Lower Palaeolithic tools. Our results shed new light on the use of Palaeolithic stone tools and provide, for the first time, direct evidence (residue) of animal exploitation through the use of an Acheulian biface and a scraper. The association of an elephant rib bearing cut marks with these tools may reinforce the view suggesting the use of Palaeolithic stone tools in the consumption of large game.

The Last Woolly Mammoths on Wrangel Island Circa 2,300 BC Were Very Inbred

Before the world's last woolly mammoth took its final breath, the iconic animals had already suffered from a considerable loss of genetic diversity. These findings, based on a comparison of the first complete genome sequences isolated from two ancient mammoth specimens, are reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 23.

One of those mammoths, representing the last population on Russia's Wrangel Island, is estimated to have lived about 4,300 years ago. The other specimen, from northeastern Siberia, is about 44,800 years old. The younger of the two specimens showed much lower genetic variation, including large stretches of DNA with no variation whatsoever - the mark of living in a very small population in which related individuals unavoidably mate with each other.

"We found that the genome from one of the world's last mammoths displayed low genetic variation and a signature consistent with inbreeding, likely due to the small number of mammoths that managed to survive on Wrangel Island during the last 5,000 years of the species' existence," says Love Dalén of the Swedish Museum of Natural History.

How to Tell What Proboscideans (Elephants and Paleo Relatives) ate Based on Tooth Wear

A new tooth wear-based dietary analysis method for Proboscidea (Mammalia)


Saarinen et al


Dietary analyses of herbivorous mammals are important for paleoecological reconstruction. Several methods applicable to fossil teeth have been developed lately. The mesowear method based on wear-induced occlusal shape and relief of ungulate molars has proven to be a robust method for dietary analysis. In its original form it can only be used for selenodont, plagiolophodont, and ectolophodont ungulate molars, but the principle can be extended to other kinds of tooth morphology. We introduce a new method of dietary analysis for proboscideans similar to the mesowear method, based on angle measurements from worn dentin valleys reflecting the relief of enamel ridges. The enamel ridges should be heavily worn when the abrasiveness of diet increases, resulting in lower occlusal relief and larger angles. For testing this, we compared the mesowear angles with stable carbon isotope values from dental enamel from populations of extant and fossil species from localities from Kenya and India. This enables us to compare diet and tooth wear in proboscideans, because the stable carbon isotope ratios in tropical environments provide a reliable standard for assessing the relative amounts of C4 and C3 plants in diet, and most of the C4 plants are grasses, which should be reflected in the mesowear signal.

Yi qi: The Bizzaro World Feathered *AND* Bat Winged Freak, ahem, Scansoriopterygid Maniraptor Theropod From Callovian/Oxfordian Jurassic China

A bizarre Jurassic maniraptoran theropod with preserved evidence of membranous wings


Xu et al


The wings of birds and their closest theropod relatives share a uniform fundamental architecture, with pinnate flight feathers as the key component. Here we report a new scansoriopterygid theropod, Yi qi gen. et sp. nov., based on a new specimen from the Middle–Upper Jurassic period Tiaojishan Formation of Hebei Province, China. Yi is nested phylogenetically among winged theropods but has large stiff filamentous feathers of an unusual type on both the forelimb and hindlimb. However, the filamentous feathers of Yi resemble pinnate feathers in bearing morphologically diverse melanosomes. Most surprisingly, Yi has a long rod-like bone extending from each wrist, and patches of membranous tissue preserved between the rod-like bones and the manual digits. Analogous features are unknown in any dinosaur but occur in various flying and gliding tetrapods, suggesting the intriguing possibility that Yi had membranous aerodynamic surfaces totally different from the archetypal feathered wings of birds and their closest relatives. Documentation of the unique forelimbs of Yi greatly increases the morphological disparity known to exist among dinosaurs, and highlights the extraordinary breadth and richness of the evolutionary experimentation that took place close to the origin of birds.

Dagasuchus santacruzensis: A New Rauisuchian Archosaur From Ladinian Triassic Brazil

First 'Rauisuchian' archosaur (Pseudosuchia, Loricata) for the Middle Triassic Santacruzodon Assemblage Zone (Santa Maria Supersequence), Rio Grande do Sul State, Brazil


Lacerda et al


The ‘Rauisuchia’ are a group of Triassic pseudosuchian archosaurs that displayed a near worldwide distribution. In Brazil, their fossils are found only in the Santa Maria Formation (Paraná Basin) of the Rio Grande do Sul State, specifically in the Middle Triassic Dinodontosaurus assemblage zone (AZ) and the Late Triassic Hyperodapedon AZ (Rauisuchus tiradentes). Between these two cenozones is the Santacruzodon AZ (Middle Triassic), whose record was, until now, restricted to non-mammalian cynodonts and the proterochampsian Chanaresuchus bonapartei. Here we present the first occurrence of a rauisuchian archosaur for this cenozone, from the Schoenstatt outcrop, located near the city of Santa Cruz do Sul and propose a new species, based on biostratigraphical evidence and a comparative osteological analysis.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Record Breaking Petawatt Laser Being Built at Lawrence Livermore National Lab

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL; Livermore, CA) has installed and commissioned the highest-peak-power laser-diode arrays in the world, which in total produce a peak power of 3.2 MW. The diode arrays, which were developed and fabricated by Lasertel (Tucson, AZ), will act as the primary pump source for the High-Repetition-Rate Advanced Petawatt Laser System (HAPLS), currently under construction at LLNL. When completed, the HAPLS laser system will be installed at the European Union’s Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) Beamlines facility, which is under construction in the Czech Republic. The HAPLS is being built and commissioned at LLNL and will be installed and integrated into the ELI Beamlines facility starting in 2017.

HAPLS is designed to be capable of generating 30 fs pulses with peak powers greater than a petawatt at a repetition rate of 10 Hz. The high repetition rate is possible because, unlike existing petawatt lasers, which are flashlamp-pumped, HAPLS is pumped by diode arrays capable of delivering kilojoule pulses at high repetition rates to the final power amplifier.

Each laser-diode array supplied by Lasertel supplied contains multiple 888 nm laser-diode bars mounted on water-cooled stacks (see figure). The array operates at a brightness of 10 kW/cm2, which Lasertel notes is a world record, at a repetition frequency of 10 Hz. Each array operates at a total peak power of 800 kW, with four such arrays combined and used as the primary pump sources for the HAPLS laser. More than 500,000 combined laser diode emitters combine to produce the total diode optical input power of 3.2 MW.

Star Trek-like Transparent Aluminum Finally a Reality: Naval Research Lab Makes Transparent, Armored Spinel 'Windows'

Imagine a glass window that's tough like armor, a camera lens that doesn't get scratched in a sand storm, or a smart phone that doesn't break when dropped. Except it's not glass, it's a special ceramic called spinel {spin-ELL} that the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has been researching over the last 10 years.

"Spinel is actually a mineral, it's magnesium aluminate," says Dr. Jas Sanghera, who leads the research. "The advantage is it's so much tougher, stronger, harder than glass. It provides better protection in more hostile environments—so it can withstand sand and rain erosion."

As a more durable material, a thinner layer of spinel can give better performance than glass. "For weight-sensitive platforms-UAVs [unmanned autonomous vehicles], head-mounted face shields—it's a game-changing technology."

NRL invented a new way of making transparent spinel, using a hot press, called sintering. It's a low-temperature process, and the size of the pieces is limited only by the size of the press. "Ultimately, we're going to hand it over to industry," says Sanghera, "so it has to be a scalable process." In the lab, they made pieces eight inches in diameter. "Then we licensed the technology to a company who was able then to scale that up to much larger plates, about 30-inches wide."

The sintering method also allows NRL to make optics in a number of shapes, "conformal with the surface of an airplane or UAV wing," depending on the shape of the press.

In addition to being tougher, stronger, harder, Sanghera says spinel has "unique optical properties; not only can you see through it, but it allows infrared light to go through it." That means the military, for imaging systems, "can use spinel as the window because it allows the infrared light to come through."

NRL is also looking at spinel for the windows on lasers operating in maritime and other hostile environments. "I've got to worry about wave slap and saltwater and things like that, and gun blasts going off—it's got to be resistant to all that. And so that's where spinel comes into its own," says Sanghera.

3d Printed House Project in Gardiner, New York Semi Stalled on Compliance With Local Building Codes

Last week, architect Adam Kushner presented updates on his plans for a 2,400 square foot 3D-printed house, pool house, and car port to be built in Gardiner, N.Y. 3DPrint reported on Kushner’s speech at 3D Print Week NY, where the designer showed more details of the planned home.

The builders will be learning on the fly during some parts of the project. They intend to be able to embed rebar into the printed material as it emerges, but discussions on how to do that are still going on. Giant 3D printers, 5 meters on each side, will be used to print the components in sections. The mind behind those printers is Enrico Dini, owner of a company called D-Shape which specializes in printing large items reinforced with a magnesium-based binding agent. The process of including rebar or steel-reinforced concrete in the printed material will have to be completed before the third stage of building the estate, the construction of the car park, can be completed, but in the meantime, the D-Shape printer and bonding agent can hold together simpler structures.

The base material will be native sand; the D-Shape printers are designed to use resources already present at the site in order to make residential 3D printing as easy as possible. Kushner’s planned house does not so much blend in to the surrounding environment as introduce a completely different, weirdly organic shape, as if coral had begun to grow in the forest.

The site was prepared for construction in August of 2014, but Kushner said in April of 2015 that construction is yet to begin. Compliance issues with the local building department have slowed down the process somewhat, and the 3D printer is being held by NATO, as it needed to be shipped into the country from D-Shape in the United Kingdom.