Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Proposed Apartments in Paris, France


Titan's Kraken Mare Should NOT be There

The influence of subsurface flow on lake formation and north polar lake distribution on Titan


Horvath et al


Observations of lakes, fluvial dissection of the surface, rapid variations in cloud cover, and lake shoreline changes indicate that Saturn's moon Titan is hydrologically active, with a hydrocarbon-based hydrological cycle dominated by liquid methane. Here we use a numerical model to investigate the Titan hydrological cycle – including surface, subsurface, and atmospheric components – in order to investigate the underlying causes of the observed distribution and sizes of lakes in the north polar region. The hydrocarbon-based hydrological cycle is modeled using a numerical subsurface flow model and analytical runoff scheme, driven by a general circulation model with an active methane-cycle. This model is run on synthetically generated topography that matches the fractal character of the observed topography, without explicit representation of the effects of erosion and deposition. At the scale of individual basins, intermediate to high permeability (10−8–10−6 cm2) aquifers are required to reproduce the observed large stable lakes. However, at the scale of the entire north polar lake district, a high permeability aquifer results in the rapid flushing of methane through the aquifer from high polar latitudes to dry lower polar latitudes, where methane is removed by evaporation, preventing large lakes from forming. In contrast, an intermediate permeability aquifer slows the subsurface flow from high polar latitudes, allowing greater lake areas. The observed distribution of lakes is best matched by either a uniform intermediate permeability aquifer, or a combination of a high permeability cap at high latitudes surrounded by an intermediate permeability aquifer at lower latitudes, as could arise due to karstic processes at the north pole. The stability of Kraken Mare further requires reduction of the evaporation rate over the sea to 1% of the value predicted by the general circulation model, likely as a result of dissolved ethane, nitrogen, or organic solutes, and/or a climatic lake effect. These results reveal that subsurface flow through aquifers plays an important role in Titan's hydrological cycle, and exerts a strong influence over the distribution, size, and volatile budgets of Titan's lakes.

A Ninth Planet Would Produce a Distinctly Different Distant Kuiper Belt


Lawler et al


The orbital element distribution of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) with large pericenters has been suggested to be influenced by the presence of an undetected, large planet at 200 or more AU from the Sun. We perform 4 Gyr N-body simulations with the currently known Solar System planetary architecture, plus a 10 Earth mass planet with similar orbital parameters to those suggested by Batygin and Brown (2016) or Trujillo and Sheppard (2014), and a hundred thousand test particles in an initial planetesimal disk. We find that including a distant superearth-mass ninth planet produces a substantially different orbital distribution for the scattering and detached TNOs, raising the pericenters and inclinations of moderate semimajor axis (50 less than a less than 500 AU) objects. We test whether this signature is detectable via a simulator with the observational characteristics of four precisely characterized TNO surveys. We find that the qualitatively very distinct Solar System models that include a ninth planet are essentially observationally indistinguishable from an outer Solar System produced solely by the four giant planets. We also find that the mass of the Kuiper Belt's current scattering and detached populations is required be 3-10 times larger in the presence of an additional planet. Wide-field, deep surveys targeting inclined high-pericenter objects will be required to distinguish between these different scenarios.

Why is NASA Signing up for the SpaceX Red Dragon Mission?

When NASA and SpaceX announced April 27 that they had modified an existing unfunded Space Act Agreement that involves the company’s “Red Dragon” Mars lander concept, it was, unsurprisingly, SpaceX that got all the attention. No company has ever flown a private Mars lander, and not even NASA has landed a spacecraft as large as SpaceX’s Dragon. Moreover, Red Dragon is the latest sign that SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk, are serious about pursuing a long-term goal of Mars settlement.

But what’s in it for NASA? The answer might be summed up in two words: supersonic retropropulsion, a landing technology that the agency increasingly sees as critical to its own Mars goals.

Antares Rocket Rolled out for hot Fire Test

Orbital ATK’s Antares first stage with the new engines is rolled from NASA Wallops Flight Facility’s Horizontal Integration Facility to Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A on May 12, 2016 in preparation for the upcoming stage test in the next few weeks. The team will continue to work meticulously as they begin final integration and check outs on the pad and several readiness reviews prior to the test. The window for the stage test will be over multiple days to ensure technical and weather conditions are acceptable.

High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability: Boeing's add-on kit for the Mark 50 Torpedo

Boeing showed off its newest sub-killing torpedo this week at the annual Sea-Air-Space conference, a flying torpedo that will enable the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon to hunt enemy submarines from great heights.

The HAAWC, which stands for High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability, is an add-on kit for the Navy’s Mark 54 lightweight torpedo that gives the weapon the ability to glide through the air high above the clouds. Boeing is aiming to have the technology on the Navy’s submarine-hunting P-8 in 2017, according to company representatives.

The HAAWC kit turns the torpedo into a miniature jet, complete with wings, a tail and a GPS-guided navigation system. Once it nears the water, the kit peels off and the system activates a parachute that lowers the weapon to the water. The engine then starts and the torpedo begins its run toward its target.

Terminator Times #11


The Flying elephant UAV did cargo drop tests.

The British Parliament is questioning the policy for using drone strikes outside of war.

The Puma UAVs bought by USSOCOM were not up to the needed specs.

China has demo'ed supply delivery by drone.

Jordan is also developing drones.

DARPA wants to place UAVs in containers under the sea, then release them to scout at later dates.

How China organizes its UAV forces.

DARPA wants its TERN UAV to have its first flight in 2018.

DARPA also has a new UAV collaboration system.

The USMC KMAX unmanned helicopter might be used for recon as well and has arrived at Yuma for testing.

The US Navy wants to manage, not fly, UAVs.

How swarming drones could change air combat.

The Republic of Singapore has new drone squadrons

Airbus & CIAC is developing a new drone. 

There is more information on the 'Loyal Wingman' capability the USAF is developing.

The US Amy is considering hybrid electric propulsion for its next gen drones.

Portugal is buying mini drones.

Unmanned Ground Vehicles:

This Israeli robot actually packs a Glock handgun.

Here's a bit more on the Dogo.

The Marines are seeking robots that can follow orders and are working to see if they can get Marines to 'bond' to their bots.

Unmanned Surface Vehicles (Robo boats):

The US Navy and Textron are finalizing the CUSV robo boat contract.

Robo Submarines:

DARPA's SHARK program is wrapping and more here.

The US Navy is seeking more robo subs to kill mines.

The Kraken UUV has been tested.

Saab has developed an mine hunting robo sub. 

Missile Defense:

Should missile defenses have a last ditch automatic response?

Nadiya Savchenko, Imprisoned Ukrainian Pilot, Pardoned, Returned to Ukraine

Ukrainian military pilot Nadiya Savchenko arrived home to scenes of jubilation on Wednesday after her release by Russia in a prisoner swap and she promptly offered to fight again for Kiev in its conflict with pro-Russian separatists.

Savchenko's handover, in return for two Russian prisoners - had been demanded by the West and was cast as a humanitarian gesture by Russian President Vladimir Putin a few weeks before the European Union decides whether to extend sanctions against Russia imposed over its support of the rebels.

Savchenko, 35, barefoot - it was unclear why - and wearing a T-shirt depicting the Ukrainian coat of arms, emerged from the terminal at Kiev's Boryspil airport to cries of "hero" from a crowd of supporters, among them her sister and mother.

"Huge thanks for fighting for me. I thank everyone who wished me well. Thanks to you I survived. To those who wished me ill, I survived despite you!" she shouted.

Sclerocormus: a new Ichthyosauriform from Spathian Triassic China

A large aberrant stem ichthyosauriform indicating early rise and demise of ichthyosauromorphs in the wake of the end-Permian extinction


Jiang et al


Contrary to the fast radiation of most metazoans after the end-Permian mass extinction, it is believed that early marine reptiles evolved slowly during the same time interval. However, emerging discoveries of Early Triassic marine reptiles are questioning this traditional view. Here we present an aberrant basal ichthyosauriform with a hitherto unknown body design that suggests a fast radiation of early marine reptiles. The new species is larger than coeval marine reptiles and has an extremely small head and a long tail without a fluke. Its heavily-built body bears flattened and overlapping gastral elements reminiscent of hupehsuchians. A phylogenetic analysis places the new species at the base of ichthyosauriforms, as the sister taxon of Cartorhynchus with which it shares a short snout with rostrally extended nasals. It now appears that ichthyosauriforms evolved rapidly within the first one million years of their evolution, in the Spathian (Early Triassic), and their true diversity has yet to be fully uncovered. Early ichthyosauromorphs quickly became extinct near the Early-Middle Triassic boundary, during the last large environmental perturbation after the end-Permian extinction involving redox fluctuations, sea level changes and volcanism. Marine reptile faunas shifted from ichthyosauromorph-dominated to sauropterygian-dominated composition after the perturbation.

Anebodon luoi: a new Trechnotherian Symmetrodont From Lower Cretaceous China

A new symmetrodont mammal (Trechnotheria: Zhangheotheriidae) from the Early Cretaceous of China and trechnotherian character evolution


Bi et al


We report the discovery of Anebodon luoi, a new genus and species of zhangheotheriid symmetrodont mammal from the Lujiatun site of the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation, China. The fossil is represented by an associated partial skull and dentaries with a nearly complete dentition, and with a dental formula of I4/3 C1/1 P5/4 M3/4. This new taxon lacks the high molar count typical of derived symmetrodonts, differing from the well-represented zhangheotheriids Zhangheotherium and Maotherium in having a postcanine dental formula that resembles more primitive tinodontid symmetrodonts on the one hand, and sister taxa to therians such as Peramus on the other. Upper and lower distal premolars are strongly molariform and are captured undergoing replacement, clarifying positional homology among related taxa. We also describe the rostrum and, for the first time in a symmetrodont, much of the orbital mosaic. Importantly, our new taxon occupies a basal position within the Zhangheotheriidae and permits discussion of trechnotherian character evolution, ultimately shedding additional light on the evolution of therians.

Did India Lie About its Ballistic Missile Intercept Test?

The Hindu said the ballistic missile intercept test carried out by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on May 15 was a failure because the interceptor was not launched in the first place.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Rep Culberson Wants NASA to Launch Starship on 100th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Landing

It seems that the recently announced Breakthrough Starshot project—to send a privately funded fleet of tiny spacecraft to a nearby star—may have started a star rush. Today a senior U.S. lawmaker who helps write NASA’s budget called on the agency to begin developing its own interstellar probes, with the aim of launching a mission to Alpha Centauri, our nearest star system, in 2069—the centenary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Representative John Culberson (R–TX), a self-professed space fan who chairs the House of Representatives appropriations subpanel that oversees NASA, included the call for the ambitious voyage in a committee report released today. The report accompanies a bill setting NASA’s budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins 1 October; the full House appropriations panel is set to consider the bill on Tuesday.

In the report, Culberson’s panel “encourages NASA to study and develop propulsion concepts that could enable an interstellar scientific probe with the capability of achieving a cruise velocity of 0.1c [10% of the speed of light].” The report language doesn’t mandate any additional funding, but calls on NASA to draw up a technology assessment report and conceptual road map within 1 year.

SpaceX Bringing in Lawyers in Support of its 2018 Mars Mission

A manned mission to Mars is a hot topic in space, and has been for a long time. Most of the talk around it has centred on the required technology, astronaut durability, and the overall feasibility of the mission. But now, some of the talk is focussing on the legal framework behind such a mission.

Lockheed Proposals for Deep Space Exploration

At a House Space Subcommittee meeting on Capitol Hill last week, several companies laid out plans for deep space exploration. Lockheed Martin Vice President Wanda A. Sigur discussed the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle the company is building for NASA, proposed cis-lunar space operations, and a Mars base camp orbiting the Red Planet.

Orbital ATK Proposes Lunar Space Station by 2020

Orbital ATK has unveiled preliminary plans to place a four-person habitat in cislunar space by 2020. The announcement during testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Space would not only see the creation of a permanent human presence in lunar orbit by the start of the next decade, but would potentially provide a wealth of regularly-scheduled missions for SLS and Orion.

ESA Begins Building Service Module for NASA Orion Capsule

NASA and European Space Agency officials on May 19 said the European Service Module (ESM) for NASA’s Orion crew-transport vehicle was within budget and on schedule for a late-2018 inaugural flight pending a key review.

But the ESM program remains pressed for time – so much so that flight-model hardware integration is beginning before the program’s critical design review, scheduled for June 16 at ESA’s Estec facility in Noordwijk, Netherlands.

Fully loaded and fueled, the ESM will weigh about 13,000 kilograms at launch and provide Orion’s propulsion, power supply, thermal control and crew life-support elements.

It is the first time that NASA has allowed Europe to occupy such a crucial place in an astronaut-related program and signals the mutual respect between agencies that may be one of the enduring contributions of the international space station.


and more.

NASA to get $19.5 Billion in House Budget, Europa Orbiter & Lander get $260M

The House Appropriations Committee has released a spending bill that would give NASA a budget of $19.5 billion for fiscal year 2017, which is $500 million above President Barack Obama’s request. The measure boosts spending for exploration and science programs.

US Military needs to Prepare for Missile Swarms

The U.S. Air Force relies on more than 5,000 aircraft to give it unmatched dominance over every other competitor on earth. The U.S. Navy, for its part, counts on more than 3,700 aircraft and 273 deployable battle force ships, which constitute the largest and most technologically advanced sailing branch in the world.

This much is true — no country can possibly hope to challenge the United States with military means on a global scale and win. But key to America’s global strength are huge air and naval bases which are vulnerable to being overwhelmed and destroyed by swarms of precision-guided weapons in a limited, regional war.

The Navy also cannot expect its ships to survive if they come under attack by sufficiently large numbers of cruise missiles and ballistic missiles of the kind now fielded by China. While better protected from missiles than bases, the current breadth of U.S. technology and doctrine cannot compensate for this weakness.

The result is that the Pentagon must radically rethink its missile defenses, or risk serious losses in the opening hours of a future conflict. But according to a recent report, the solution could be lots of futuristic lasers, guns and electromagnetic weapons that can engage enormous numbers of incoming missiles at relatively short ranges.

General Atomics Commiting Over $50 Million to Developing its 10 MJ Railgun

General Atomics (GA) told IHS Jane's that it will have committed significant company funds to develop its 10 megajoule (MJ) Multimission Medium Range Railgun Weapon System (MMRRWS) from 2007 to the end of testing in 2017.

Speaking to IHS Jane's at the Navy League's 2016 Sea-Air-Space symposium in mid-May, company officials said that GA had committed funds in excess of USD50 million, but declined to be exact.

Tetrapod Zoology on The Maniraptor Dinosaurs Part 2

In this second article on maniraptorans, we look at the main groups that constitute this clade: you’ll need to remember the main group names if the trends and tendencies discussed in later parts of this series are to make any sense. The previous article – part 1 – looked briefly at maniraptoran origins and at the fact that maniraptorans are nested within coelurosaurian theropods. Ok, onwards…

Meemannia eos: The Earliest Known Ray-Finned Fish From Lochkovian Devonian China

Osteichthyans, or bony fishes, comprise two categories, each containing over 32,000 living species: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fishes and tetrapods) and Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes). Nevertheless, actinopterygians have an obscure early evolutionary history. The earliest definitive actinopterygian is the Middle Devonian (Eifelian) Cheirolepis, with earlier candidates generally represented by fragments subject to differing phylogenetic interpretations. By contrast, earliest Devonian deposits yield a diversity of lobe-finned fishes and recent discoveries from China extend their origin into the late Silurian.

The Early Devonian (Lochkovian) Xitun Formation of Yunnan, China, provides remarkable fossils to illustrate the evolutionary origins of individual sarcopterygian lineages, but apparently lacks any actinopterygians. Meemannia is the newest--and least understood--member of this fauna. Represented by four isolated skull roofs and a referred jaw, Meemannia presents an intriguing mosaic of characteristics: histology interpreted as a precursor to the "cosmine" of rhipidistian sarcopterygians (lungfishes plus tetrapods) combined with an undivided braincase and skull roof resembling that of actinopterygians. Previous phylogenetic analyses placed Meemannia as the earliest-diverging sarcopterygian, based on histological features.

How Plants Conquered the Land 500 Million Years Ago

Research at the University of Leeds has identified a key gene that assisted the transition of plants from water to the land around 500 million years ago.

The ANR gene is required to tolerate 'extreme dehydration' in the moss Physcomitrella patens, a land plant that is used as an experimental model.

Researchers at the Centre for Plant Sciences at the University found that the ANR gene - present in the most ancient land plants - was inherited from ancestral fresh water algae.

The ANR gene has since been lost in the evolution of seed plants. The results are published today in the American Society of Plant Biology's journal The Plant Cell.

Dr Andrew Cuming, who led the research, said: "This gene hadn't been identified so far because most research until now has focused on modern flowering plants.

India Successfully Tests RLV Demonstrator Similar to USF X-37B

A rocket carrying the Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 9:30 p.m. Eastern Sunday.

The RLV-TD, a winged vehicle similar in appearance to the U.S. Air Force’ s X-37B, separated from the rocket and flew to a peak altitude of 65 kilometers and speed of Mach 5 before gliding to a splashdown in the Bay of Bengal.

Japan Lays out Plans for H3 Launch Vehicle

The H3 Launch Vehicle is a liquid propellant launch vehicle currently under development. This is the first full-scale development of the 21st century. The aim of this development is to respond to launch demands from global customers. Based on our operation experience and the reliability of launch vehicles, we will further improve the payload launch capability and reduce the launch price to triumph among international competition in the commercial launch market. We are developing the H3 with the goal of a maiden launch in Japan Fiscal Year 2020 as a mainstay launch vehicle.

Monday, May 23, 2016

More on Why Mt Gox Failed

When Mark Karpeles, the CEO of what was once the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, said that the company had gone bankrupt because 800,000 bitcoins (worth nearly half a billion dollars at the time) had been hacked, he wasn’t exactly lying. He wasn’t exactly telling the whole truth, either, but there was an intriguing element of fact.

At least 80,000 had been hacked before Karpeles even took over the company, and that initial cyber theft began a spiral of trouble that may have led directly to the firm’s financial collapse.

This week The Daily Beast obtained internal emails, contracts,, and other documents related to the implosion of Karpeles’s company, Mt. Gox. Along with information provided by a former employee who handled accounting for the firm, the documents reveal previously unreported details about how Mt. Gox failed, and why.

Characterizing Titan's Atmospheric Aerosols

Characterization of aromaticity in analogues of titan's atmospheric aerosols with two-step laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry


Mahjoub et al


The role of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and Nitrogen containing PAH (PANH) as intermediates of aerosol production in the atmosphere of Titan has been a subject of controversy for a long time. An analysis of the atmospheric emission band observed by the Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) at 3.28 micrometer suggests the presence of neutral polycyclic aromatic species in the upper atmosphere of Titan. These molecules are seen as the counter part of negative and positive aromatics ions suspected by the Plasma Spectrometer onboard the Cassini spacecraft, but the low resolution of the instrument hinders any molecular speciation.

In this work we investigate the specific aromatic content of Titan's atmospheric aerosols through laboratory simulations. We report here the selective detection of aromatic compounds in tholins, Titan's aerosol analogues, produced with a capacitively coupled plasma in a N2:CH4 95:5 gas mixture. For this purpose, Two-Step Laser Desorption Ionization Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry (L2DI-TOF-MS) technique is used to analyze the so produced analogues. This analytical technique is based on the ionization of molecules by Resonance Enhanced Multi-Photon Ionization (REMPI) using a {\lambda}=248 nm wavelength laser which is selective for aromatic species. This allows for the selective identification of compounds having at least one aromatic ring. Our experiments show that tholins contain a trace amount of small PAHs with one to three aromatic rings. Nitrogen containing PAHs (PANHs) are also detected as constituents of tholins. Molecules relevant to astrobiology are detected as is the case of the substituted DNA base adenine.

Martian north polar cap summer water cycle

Martian north polar cap summer water cycle


Brown et al


A key outstanding question in Martian science is 'are the polar caps gaining or losing mass and what are the implications for past, current and future climate?' To address this question, we use observations from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) of the north polar cap during late summer for multiple Martian years, to monitor the summertime water cycle in order to place quantitative limits on the amount of water ice deposited and sublimed in late summer.

We establish here for the first time the summer cycle of water ice absorption band signatures on the north polar cap. We show that in a key region in the interior of the north polar cap, the absorption band depths grow until Ls=120, when they begin to shrink, until they are obscured at the end of summer by the north polar hood. This behavior is transferable over the entire north polar cap, where in late summer regions 'flip' from being net sublimating into net condensation mode. This transition or 'mode flip' happens earlier for regions closer to the pole, and later for regions close to the periphery of the cap.

The observations and calculations presented herein estimate that on average a water ice layer ~70 microns thick is deposited during the Ls=135-164 period. This is far larger than the results of deposition on the south pole during summer, where an average layer 0.6-6 microns deep has been estimated by Brown et al. (2014).

NASA Trying to Pull Forward the First SLS Launch From November to September 2018

Managers of three key NASA exploration programs said May 10 that they are making good progress towards a first launch of the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket as soon as September 2018.

Managers of the SLS, Orion, and Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) programs said at a Space Transportation Association luncheon here that while the programs are working towards a first launch of SLS and Orion, called Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), in November 2018, they believe that they could launch up to two months earlier.

“The agency’s baseline commitment is November of 2018,” said Mike Bolger, manager of the GSDP program. “The September date we’ve talked internally about, and pressed them to see if we can make it by September. It gives us a little margin at the end.”

His comments came after an earlier presentation by Mark Kirasich, the Orion program manager, who discussed preparations for the EM-1 launch, including photos of the pressure vessel of the spacecraft being assembled at the Kennedy Space Center.

“This is the pressure vessel that, about 28 months from now, will be on its way towards the moon and into a distant retrograde orbit around the moon,” he said, a timeframe that corresponds to a September 2018 launch.

Robopocalypse Report #82


Harvard's robobee can now stick to surfaces using static electricity.

First responders are hoping to improve their ability to get to disaster victims faster with drones.

Rwanda is expanding its blood delivery by drone to 20 hospitals this summer.

Janus is a new double headed drone.

Xiaomi is getting into drones.

Drones caught 70 sharks in a feeding frenzy in the Great Barrier Reef.

There are calls to minimize the impact of drones on wild life.

There's a plan to plant trees via drone.

Self Driving Cars:

Otto is a self driving truck start up.  More info.

Major automakers are using the same equipment to test their self driving cars.

Lyft & GM's self driving cars will be hitting the road in San Francisco next year & GM is already testing them out.

Uber is also going that route and their first self driving car has hit the road.

Will self driving cars make traffic infinitely worse rather than better?

Ford says self driving cars are 5 years away from changing the world.

Who owns the self driving car's data?

Meet Audi's self driving car called Jack.

Honda has developed its second self driving car.

The French have created a self driving shuttle bus.

Google received a patent to have glue on the hood of a car for when an impact takes place with a pedestrian.  For a thriller movie, I think we can see the kidnapping scene now.  For the zombie apocalypse comedy...

Tesla has updated its Summon capability for self parking on its cars.

3d Printing:

Harvard created a 3d printer that can print structures in mid air.

 HP has unveiled the Multijet Fusion.  A monster of a 3d printer.

3d printing is hitting the fashion runways.

3d printing and architecture, a combo that's coming together.

MIT has started 3d printing ... hair?


This robot's eye is really handy.

There's a robotic ping pong trainer.

Robots are getting smarter to deal with clutter.

And they are getting stronger, but gentler.

The Germans have come up with a soft actuator for robots.

The fire starter drone has been lighting it up in Nebraska.

An American football team has picked up a robo dummy for practice.

The Knightscope bot is working a mall in California.

Robots are being used in Australia for ranching.


More news on the Hyundai exoskeleton.

Harvard's soft exoskeleton gets covered again.


Meet DARPA's luke skywalker.  Or at least the guy with a robo arm.

Software Bots:

Using animal training techniques for machine learning.

Machine learning is being used to run physics experiments.

Amazon is upgrading Alexa.

Google's AI efforts have gone full Vogon...for poetry.

Google has their own competitor to Alexa.

Here's Google's vision of software bot assistants.


Huawei is prepping for the Singularity.  Really.

Philosophy, Economics and Navel Gazing:

The Robopocalypse will render some people completely useless.

Stealth Saga #43

MQ-XX/MQ-25 Stringray (CBARS):

The US Navy expects more progress this year on the tanker drone.


The test flight program of the European stealthy UCAV was outlined.


France has started letting its Navy test their Neuron UCAV demonstrator. The tests will include their aircraft carrier.


South Korea is set to select a foreign engine for its stealth fighter.


Pakistan is interested in buying the J-31 to replace its F-16s.


The US Air Force believes the B-21 will fill a gap on long range strike.

The US Air Force will announce the B-21's name in September at AFA.

The US allies will not participate in the B-21 development.


Some argue NOT to revive F-22 production.

The F-22s have returned from Europe.

The intent of the visit was to bolster European visits

The F-22s have started sporting kill markings.

SecDef Carter is against the restart of the F-22 production line.

The Fesler brothers have taken over two different F-22 wings.


The Thunderbirds & F-35s over Florida in pictures.  Do those pictures actually mean something?

The F-35 gets a bit of press.

Israel is testing weapons for its F-35I.  The F-35I will be unique.

The F-35 vs A-10 tests get rapped again.

The F-35 seems to be struggling still with its testing schedule.

Here's a day in the life of an F-35 test pilot.

USAF F-35s have started combat training.  Some of it virtual.

The F-35B has had its 1,000th vertical landing.

The 3rd Marine Air Wing is preparing to deploy the F-35B abroad, but is struggling with its legacy aircraft maintenance.

Denmark has selected the F-35 over the F/A-18E and Typhoon for an order of 27 aircraft.  This is likely to cause a political bun fight.  WiB is calling the decision stupid.  Boeing is challenging the selection.

Here are the pros and cons of the F-35A from the pilots and aircrews.

 Japan's fighter pilots will be getting to fly the F-35A at Luke AFB.

The Dutch F-35As are going back to the Netherlands.

Britain is funding the Spear 3 missile for its F-35s.

The Brits have also sent their tanker to test refueling F-35Bs. 

The Brits also highlight the problems of training with the F-35.

McCain is attempting to kill the F-35 joint program office.  SASC voted to do so.  Is this the first move to destroy the F-35 program?

Here's an update on the ALIS software for the F-35.


Some are questioning whether stealth is right direction for the USAF's aircraft.

Cephalopods may be Spreading due to Climate Change

Humans have changed the world's oceans in ways that have been devastating to many marine species. But, according to new evidence, it appears that the change has so far been good for cephalopods, the group including octopuses, cuttlefish, and squid. The study reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 23 shows that cephalopods' numbers have increased significantly over the last six decades.

"The consistency was the biggest surprise," says Zoë Doubleday of Australia's Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide. "Cephalopods are notoriously variable, and population abundance can fluctuate wildly, both within and among species. The fact that we observed consistent, long-term increases in three diverse groups of cephalopods, which inhabit everything from rock pools to open oceans, is remarkable."

According to the researchers, there has been growing speculation that cephalopod populations were proliferating in response to a changing environment, based partly on trends in cephalopod fisheries. Cephalopods are known for rapid growth, short lifespans, and extra-sensitive physiologies, which may allow them to adapt more quickly than many other marine species.

Terrestrial Effects Of Nearby Supernovae In The Early Pleistocene

Terrestrial Effects Of Nearby Supernovae In The Early Pleistocene


Thomas et al


Recent results have strongly confirmed that multiple supernovae happened at distances ~100 pc consisting of two main events: one at 1.7 to 3.2 million years ago, and the other at 6.5 to 8.7 million years ago. These events are said to be responsible for excavating the Local Bubble in the interstellar medium and depositing 60Fe on Earth and the Moon. Other events are indicated by effects in the local cosmic ray (CR) spectrum. Given this updated and refined picture, we ask whether such supernovae are expected to have had substantial effects on the terrestrial atmosphere and biota. In a first cut at the most probable cases, combining photon and cosmic ray effects, we find that a supernova at 100 pc can have only a small effect on terrestrial organisms from visible light, but tropospheric ionization due to the penetration of ≥ TeV cosmic rays will increase by nearly an order of magnitude for thousands of years, and irradiation by muons on the ground and in the upper ocean will increase 20-fold, which will approximately triple the overall radiation load on terrestrial organisms. These effects make possible changes in climate and increased cancer and mutation rates. Further research on the effects of these changes is needed.

A Review of Kuehneotherium & its Mammaliaforme Relatives From Upper Triassic France

The Kuehneotheriidae (Mammaliaformes) from Saint-Nicolas-de-Port (Upper Triassic, France): a Systematic Review




The origin and first diversification of mammals in the Upper Triassic remain poorly understood, in part because many fossil discoveries are not fully studied, and in part because the material remains poor. The Saint-Nicolas-de-Port quarry (Rhaetian, France) is the second most important locality that yielded remains of Kuehneotherium, after the fissure-fillings of the Glamorganshire (Lower Jurassic, Wales). This study identifies one new species of Kuehneotherium, K. stanislavi, sp. nov., and a new genus of Kuehneotheriidae, Fluctuodon necmergor, gen. et sp. nov. For these two new species, lower and upper molars are described and the first reconstructions of the postcanine row are proposed. Comparisons with material of Kuehneotherium from other Upper Triassic sites (Syren in Luxembourg, Emborough in England, and Jameson Land in Greenland) suggest two distinct Upper Triassic specific kuehneotheriid assemblages, respectively, west and east of the London Brabant Massif. They also suggest that the extinction event during the Triassic/Jurassic transition did not have a great impact on Kuehneotherium.

Review of the Supposed Ediacaran Paleosols

Field and laboratory tests for recognition of Ediacaran paleosols




Not a single paleosol had been described from rocks of Ediacaran age until 2011, but 354 Ediacaran paleosols have been described by 20 different authors since then. Some of these newly recognized paleosols have proven controversial, so this paper reviews 20 distinct tests to determine whether a particular Ediacaran bed could be a paleosol, or not. One problem has been that Ediacaran paleosols are not precisely like modern soils because they lack root traces, a diagnostic feature of Silurian and geologically younger paleosols. The principal problem for recognition of some Ediacaran paleosols is the occurrence in them of megafossils assumed to have been marine, although most of these fossils remain problematic for both biological and ecological affinities. Not all the tests discussed here are diagnostic of paleosols, some are ranked permissive or persuasive. Permissive conditions for paleosols include ripple marks, hummocky bedding, pyritic limestones, acritarchs or thalloid fossils, low strontium isotopic ratios, high δ26Mg ratios, and red color. Persuasive tests include loessites, tsunamites, desert playa minerals, low boron content, high δ10B isotopic ratios, high carbon/sulfur ratios, and very low total/reactive iron ratios. Diagnostic tests include matrix-supported lapilli or crystal tuff parent materials, ice wedges and other cryoturbation, sepic birefringence fabrics, evaporitic sand crystals, and negative geochemical strain and mass transfer, and highly correlated δ13C and δ18O. Like other geological periods, the Ediacaran is known from a variety of marine and non-marine paleoenvironments

Scuffle in the South China Sea #46

The US Navy reported the Chinese conducted a very dangerous intercept of one of the American patrol planes in the South China Sea.  The Chinese said they would look into it and then rejected the claim.

The US Navy wants to start mounting cameras on its P-3s and P-8s to provide proof of the crazy intercepts.

China is apparently using its Predator equivalent drone to observe other countries' navies in the South China Sea.

Here are images of China's Marines exercising in the South China Sea.

China is planning a search and rescue base in the South China Sea.

India has deployed warships to the South China Sea while the US Navy and Indian Navy are developing closer ties.

Russia is launching the fourth frigate for Vietnam.

Obama has lifted the arms embargo for Vietnam (warning auto launching video).  Obama reiterated the importance of 'freedom of navigation' in the South China Sea on the same visit.  China has warned about Obama's visit American-Vietnamese relations should not endanger Asia's stability.

Some are saying the South China Sea is turning into a powder keg.

Rumors of the Death of the new Russian Railroad Nuclear Missiles are Premature

The Barguzin rail-mobile ICBM project just doesn't want to die. After a report about the program being cut (which I consider quite reliable) we have seen a number of stories that suggest that some work continues - first, an industry source was quoted as saying that "some elements of the system" are being built, and now Yuri Solomonov of MITT is saying that the first "pop-up" tests of the missile will take place in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Orogeny on Io: how do you Make Mountains on Jupiter's Moon?

Mountains aren't the first thing that hit you when you look at images of Jupiter's innermost moon, Io. But once you absorb the fact that the moon is slathered in sulfurous lava erupted from 400 active volcanoes, you might turn your attention to scattered bumps and lumps that turn out, on closer inspection, to be Io's version of mountains.There are about 100 of them, and they don't look anything like the low lying volcanoes.

They also don't look like mountains on our home world. While we favor majestic ranges stretching from horizon to horizon, the mountains on Io are isolated peaks of great height that jut up out of nowhere. From space, they look rather like the blocky chips in the fancier kind of chocolate chip cookie.

For planetary geophysicists like William McKinnon, professor of earth and planetary science in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, the mountains of Io are an intriguing puzzle. By what process consistent with everything that is known about Io could these bizarre mountains have formed?

Since Io buries the evidence of its tectonic processes under a continually refreshed coating of lava (adding 5 inches a decade), the scientists have turned increasingly to computer simulations to solve the problem. In the May 16 online advance issue of Nature Geoscience, McKinnon and Michael T. Bland, a research space scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Ariz., publish a computer model that is able to make numerical mountains that look much like the jutting rock slabs on Io.

Venus was Recently Resurfaced

Mantle potential temperature estimates of basalt from the surface of Venus




The crater density and distribution of Venus indicates the average surface age is younger (≤1 Ga) than most terrestrial planets and satellites in the Solar System. The type and rate (i.e. equilibrium, catastrophic or differential) of volcanism associated with the stagnant lid tectonic system of Venus is a first order problem that has yet to be resolved but is directly related to the thermal conditions of the mantle. The calculated primary melt composition of basalt at the Venera 14 landing site is high-Mg basalt to picrite with a mantle potential temperature estimate similar to terrestrial ambient mantle (1370 ± 70 °C). The calculated accumulated fractional melting curves indicate the olivine compositions from the melt have Mg# of 89–91. The results show that the thermal regime required to generate the primary melt composition of the Venera 14 basalt was not anomalously high (i.e. mantle-plume system) but rather consistent with a lithospheric tensional rift system. The juxtaposition of high thermal regime structures (e.g. Beta Regio) and ‘ambient’ mantle potential temperature estimates of the Venera 14 basalt suggests that the relatively young surface of Venus is the result of volcanism from a combination of thermal systems that resurfaced the planet at variable rates.

Why DARPA is Pursuing the XS-1 Spaceplane

Here’s a phrase that’s not repeated everyday in the space community:

“You’ve heard Elon’s comments … we want to go beyond that,” Brad Tousley, the head of the tactical technology office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, said May 15.

Elon, of course, is Elon Musk, the optimistic, and some say visionary, founder of SpaceX with plans of eventually colonizing Mars. After landing three first-stage rockets, Musk has said SpaceX would inspect the rockets with plans to later re-fly most of them.

Tousley oversees DARPA’s space programs, which often handles the Defense Department’s most difficult development challenges. He described the landing of first stage rockets by SpaceX and Blue Origin as “very, very impressive accomplishments.”

But during a speech at the GEOINT 2016 conference here, Tousley said the agency’s experimental spaceplane, known as XS-1, also has ambitious plans.

“We want to launch again in 24 hours,” he said.

Coming Cyberwar #10

Cyber Warfare:

The Pentagon wants AI to hack enemy networks.

Muslim Indonesian 'cyber warriors' are taking on IS/Daesh online.

The USMC needs to start preparing for cyberwar now.

How to use cyberwarfare to maintain the advantage over the Chinese.

The USAF wants to convert the C-37B into an electronic/cyber attack aircraft.

The head of US Navy cyber warfare is being promoted to head of intel.

SecDef Carter discusses the cyber warfare operations against Daesh.

Electronic & Cyber Warfare are starting to blend.

Cyber Security:

Berkeley Researchers gamed the five worst case scenarios for cyber security breaches.

Americans are increasingly worried about cyber attacks.

Google is ending access to its malware database.

A new method of random number generation may improve cyber security.

Cyber security folks are being trained to think like hackers.

Police have revealed how they are fighting botnets.

BMW has shown how you can control your HVAC at home from one of their cars.  This is how you get seriously hacked, folks.

A hacker website was...hacked.

Reportedly foreign hackers are spying on the US presidential candidates.

Cyber crime:

United States Steel has filed a complaint stating Chinese hackers are attempting to steal its trade secrets.

The Dyanmer malware can become persistent through a Windows root mode.

A security flaw in Samsung smart house tech allows hackers to unlock doors remotely.

A new botnet is targeting scientists and engineers.

The Viking Horde malware is targeting android devices.

An Ukrainian hacker has entered a plea for his attempt to use unpublished news stories for potential extortion.  

The Swift banking network has been severely compromisedAgain.  Vietnam blocked an attempted SWIFT bank fraud.  The hack may be related to the Sony hack not too long ago.

The human side of cyber crime. 


Can cyber space be mapped?

USS Zumwalt Delivered

General Dynamics Bath Iron Works delivered the first Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer to the Navy on Friday, Naval Sea Systems Command announced.

The delivery of the 16,000-ton Zumwalt (DDG-1000) optimized for stealth and operations close to shore follows last month’s successful acceptance trials of the ship overseen by the service’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV), Navy officials told USNI News.

INSURV evaluated the ship’s hull, mechanical and engineering (HM&E) systems during the underway testing period last month.

“Zumwalt’s crew has diligently trained for months in preparation of this day and they are ready and excited to take charge of this ship on behalf of the U.S. Navy,” said Capt. James Kirk, commanding officer of Zumwalt in a statement. “These are 143 of our nation’s finest men and women who continue to honor Admiral Zumwalt’s namesake with their dedication to bringing this ship to life.”

Now that Zumwalt is delivered, the ship’s crew will move aboard and begin an about four-month training process to operate the ship ahead of the ship’s planned commissioning in Baltimore on Oct. 15.

Following commissioning, the ship will transit to San Diego to complete the combat systems activation in a post-delivery maintenance availability. The move will free up additional space in the BIW yard allowing more room for the construction of other ships at Bath.

Changing atmospheric CO2 concentration was the primary driver of early Cenozoic climate

Changing atmospheric CO2 concentration was the primary driver of early Cenozoic climate


Anagnostou et al


The Early Eocene Climate Optimum (EECO, which occurred about 51 to 53 million years ago)1, was the warmest interval of the past 65 million years, with mean annual surface air temperature over ten degrees Celsius warmer than during the pre-industrial period2, 3, 4. Subsequent global cooling in the middle and late Eocene epoch, especially at high latitudes, eventually led to continental ice sheet development in Antarctica in the early Oligocene epoch (about 33.6 million years ago). However, existing estimates place atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels during the Eocene at 500–3,000 parts per million5, 6, 7, and in the absence of tighter constraints carbon–climate interactions over this interval remain uncertain. Here we use recent analytical and methodological developments8, 9, 10, 11 to generate a new high-fidelity record of CO2 concentrations using the boron isotope (δ11B) composition of well preserved planktonic foraminifera from the Tanzania Drilling Project, revising previous estimates6. Although species-level uncertainties make absolute values difficult to constrain, CO2 concentrations during the EECO were around 1,400 parts per million. The relative decline in CO2 concentration through the Eocene is more robustly constrained at about fifty per cent, with a further decline into the Oligocene12. Provided the latitudinal dependency of sea surface temperature change for a given climate forcing in the Eocene was similar to that of the late Quaternary period13, this CO2 decline was sufficient to drive the well documented high- and low-latitude cooling that occurred through the Eocene14. Once the change in global temperature between the pre-industrial period and the Eocene caused by the action of all known slow feedbacks (apart from those associated with the carbon cycle) is removed2, 3, 4, both the EECO and the late Eocene exhibit an equilibrium climate sensitivity relative to the pre-industrial period of 2.1 to 4.6 degrees Celsius per CO2 doubling (66 per cent confidence), which is similar to the canonical range (1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius15), indicating that a large fraction of the warmth of the early Eocene greenhouse was driven by increased CO2 concentrations, and that climate sensitivity was relatively constant throughout this period.

Ecomorphological diversifications of Mesozoic marine reptiles

Ecomorphological diversifications of Mesozoic marine reptiles: the roles of ecological opportunity and extinction


Stubbs et al


Mesozoic marine ecosystems were dominated by several clades of reptiles, including sauropterygians, ichthyosaurs, crocodylomorphs, turtles, and mosasaurs, that repeatedly invaded ocean ecosystems. Previous research has shown that marine reptiles achieved great taxonomic diversity in the Middle Triassic, as they broadly diversified into many feeding modes in the aftermath of the Permo-Triassic mass extinction, but it is not known whether this initial phase of evolution was exceptional in the context of the entire Mesozoic. Here, we use a broad array of disparity, morphospace, and comparative phylogenetic analyses to test this. Metrics of ecomorphology, including functional disparity in the jaws and dentition and skull-size diversity, show that the Middle to early Late Triassic represented a time of pronounced phenotypic diversification in marine reptile evolution. Following the Late Triassic extinctions, diversity recovered, but disparity did not, and it took over 100 Myr for comparable variation to recover in the Campanian and Maastrichtian. Jurassic marine reptiles generally failed to radiate into vacated functional roles. The signatures of adaptive radiation are not seen in all marine reptile groups. Clades that diversified during the Triassic biotic recovery, the sauropterygians and ichthyosauromorphs, do show early diversifications, early high disparity, and early burst, while less support for these models is found in thalattosuchian crocodylomorphs and mosasaurs. Overall, the Triassic represented a special interval in marine reptile evolution, as a number of groups radiated into new adaptive zones.

Macroscopic (complex?) Eukaryotes From the Calymmian MesoProterozoic One Billion Years Before the Cambrian Explosion

Decimetre-scale multicellular eukaryotes from the 1.56-billion-year-old Gaoyuzhuang Formation in North China


Zhu et al


Fossils of macroscopic eukaryotes are rarely older than the Ediacaran Period (635–541 million years (Myr)), and their interpretation remains controversial. Here, we report the discovery of macroscopic fossils from the 1,560-Myr-old Gaoyuzhuang Formation, Yanshan area, North China, that exhibit both large size and regular morphology. Preserved as carbonaceous compressions, the Gaoyuzhuang fossils have statistically regular linear to lanceolate shapes up to 30 cm long and nearly 8 cm wide, suggesting that the Gaoyuzhuang fossils record benthic multicellular eukaryotes of unprecedentedly large size. Syngenetic fragments showing closely packed ~10 μm cells arranged in a thick sheet further reinforce the interpretation. Comparisons with living thalloid organisms suggest that these organisms were photosynthetic, although their phylogenetic placement within the Eukarya remains uncertain. The new fossils provide the strongest evidence yet that multicellular eukaryotes with decimetric dimensions and a regular developmental program populated the marine biosphere at least a billion years before the Cambrian Explosion.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Say Hello to Transparent Wood

Wood makes for better walls than windows — most of the time.

Researchers from the University of Maryland devised a way to strip the colors and and chemicals from a block of wood to leave behind a clear, transparent material that’s stronger and more insulating than glass, and biodegrades better than plastic.

Europa may Have an Ocean Chemistry Like Earth's

The ocean of Jupiter's moon Europa could have the necessary balance of chemical energy for life, even if the moon lacks volcanic hydrothermal activity, finds a new study.

Europa is strongly believed to hide a deep ocean of salty liquid water beneath its icy shell. Whether the Jovian moon has the raw materials and chemical energy in the right proportions to support biology is a topic of intense scientific interest. The answer may hinge on whether Europa has environments where chemicals are matched in the right proportions to power biological processes. Life on Earth exploits such niches.

In the new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California, compared Europa's potential for producing hydrogen and oxygen with that of Earth, through processes that do not directly involve volcanism. The balance of these two elements is a key indicator of the energy available for life. The study found that the amounts would be comparable in scale; on both worlds, oxygen production is about 10 times higher than hydrogen production.

The work draws attention to the ways that Europa's rocky interior may be much more complex and possibly Earthlike than people typically think, according to Steve Vance, a planetary scientist at JPL and lead author of the new study. "We're studying an alien ocean using methods developed to understand the movement of energy and nutrients in Earth's own systems. The cycling of oxygen and hydrogen in Europa's ocean will be a major driver for Europa's ocean chemistry and any life there, just it is on Earth."

Evidence of Mega Tsunamis on Mars

The geologic shape of what were once shorelines through Mars' northern plains convinces scientists that two large meteorites - hitting the planet millions of years apart - triggered a pair of mega-tsunamis. These gigantic waves forever scarred the Martian landscape and yielded evidence of cold, salty oceans conducive to sustaining life.

"About 3.4 billion years ago, a big meteorite impact triggered the first tsunami wave. This wave was composed of liquid water. It formed widespread backwash channels to carry the water back to the ocean," said Alberto Fairén, Cornell visiting scientist in astronomy and principal investigator at the Center of Astrobiology, Madrid.

Fairén, who with lead author Alexis Rodriguez of the Planetary Science Institute and 12 others, published their work in Scientific Reports (May 19), a publication of the journal Nature.

The scientists found evidence for another big meteorite impact, which triggered a second tsunami wave. In the millions of years between the two meteorite impacts and their associated mega-tsunamis, Mars went through frigid climate change, where water turned to ice, Fairén said: "The ocean level receded from its original shoreline to form a secondary shoreline, because the climate had become significantly colder."

The second tsunami formed rounded lobes of ice. "These lobes froze on the land as they reached their maximum extent and the ice never went back to the ocean - which implies the ocean was at least partially frozen at that time," he said. "Our paper provides very solid evidence for the existence of very cold oceans on early Mars. It is difficult to imagine Californian beaches on ancient Mars, but try to picture the Great Lakes on a particularly cold and long winter, and that could be a more accurate image of water forming seas and oceans on ancient Mars."

These icy lobes retained their well-defined boundaries and their flow-related shapes, Fairén said, suggesting the frozen ancient ocean was briny. "Cold, salty waters may offer a refuge for life in extreme environments, as the salts could help keep the water liquid. ... If life existed on Mars, these icy tsunami lobes are very good candidates to search for biosignatures," he said.