Wednesday, May 04, 2016

A Biotech Company Seeks to..Raise the Dead?!

A groundbreaking trial to see if it is possible to regenerate the brains of dead people, has won approval from health watchdogs.

A biotech company in the US has been granted ethical permission to recruit 20 patients who have been declared clinically dead from a traumatic brain injury, to test whether parts of their central nervous system can be brought back to life.

Scientists will use a combination of therapies, which include injecting the brain with stem cells and a cocktail of peptides, as well as deploying lasers and nerve stimulation techniques which have been shown to bring patients out of comas.

The trial participants will have been certified dead and only kept alive through life support. They will be monitored for several months using brain imaging equipment to look for signs of regeneration, particularly in the upper spinal cord - the lowest region of the brain stem which controls independent breathing and heartbeat.

Eridania Basin Proposed as a Possible Mars Rover 2020 Landing Site

Eridania Basin: An ancient paleolake floor as the next landing site for the Mars 2020 rover


Pajola et al


The search for traces of past Martian life is directly connected to ancient paleolakes, where ponding water or low-energy water fluxes were present for long time intervals. The Eridania paleolakes system, located along the 180° meridian, is one of the largest lacustrine environments that were once present on Mars. Morphological features suggest that it was constituted by connected depressions filled by water to maximum depths of ∼2400 m and a volume of at least 562,000 km3. We focused our attention on the northern side of the Eridania Basin, where high-albedo, uneven patches of material characterized by the absence of dust are present. Based on OMEGA and CRISM orbital imaging spectroscopy data, a large clay-bearing unit has been identified there. In particular, a set of aqueous minerals in present in the stratigraphy, being visible through erosional windows in the first several tens of meters of the sedimentary sequence. Below this capping unit, a thin Al-rich clay stratum attributable to Al-smectite and/or kaolins is present. This overlies a Fe-rich clay stratum, attributable to the nontronite smectite. At the base of the mineralogic sequence a stratum that could be either a zeolite or more likely a hydrated sulfate is present. In addition, small deposits of alunite (a rare phase on Mars), and jarosite are here found at several locations. Such stratigraphy is interpreted as originating from a surface weathering process similar to terrestrial abiotic pedogenesis; nonetheless, possible exobiologic processes can be also invoked to explain it. NASA's Spirit rover landed on Gusev crater in 2004, near the mouth of the Ma'adim Vallis, which connects this crater with the considered paleolakes system. The Eridania site provides the unique opportunity to complete the measurements obtained in Gusev crater, while investigating the exposed mineralogical sequence in its depositionary setting. In addition, the extremely favorable landing parameters, such as elevation, slope, roughness, rock distribution, thermal inertia and dust coverage, support this location as a possible landing site for the NASA Mars 2020 rover.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Lockheed's Fusion Reactor Research has First Plasma

Lockheed Martin continues to invest in its portable nuclear fusion generator, with that investment recently entering a more advanced stage, according to the head of the company’s Skunk Works division.

Rob Weiss told an audience at the Atlantic Council that Lockheed is “about four months into a little bit more significant investment” into the technology, which was first revealed around two years ago.

At the time of the initial announcement, Lockheed said it was aiming for a 100 megawatt device which could fit on the back of a large truck. Such a reactor, the company claims, could power a city of up to 100,000 people.

Uranus evolution models with simple thermal boundary layers

Uranus evolution models with simple thermal boundary layers


Nettelman et al


The strikingly low luminosity of Uranus (Teff ≃ Teq) constitutes a long-standing challenge to our understanding of Ice Giant planets. Here we present the first Uranus structure and evolution models that are constructed to agree with both the observed low luminosity and the gravity field data. Our models make use of modern ab initio equations of state at high pressures for the icy components water, methane, and ammonia. Proceeding step by step, we confirm that adiabatic models yield cooling times that are too long, even when uncertainties in the ice:rock ratio (I:R) are taken into account. We then argue that the transition between the ice/rock-rich interior and the H/He-rich outer envelope should be stably stratified. Therefore, we introduce a simple thermal boundary and adjust it to reproduce the low luminosity. Due to this thermal boundary, the deep interior of the Uranus models are up to 2–3 warmer than adiabatic models, necessitating the presence of rocks in the deep interior with a possible I:R of 1 × solar. Finally, we allow for an equilibrium evolution (Teff ≃ Teq) that begun prior to the present day, which would therefore no longer require the current era to be a ”special time” in Uranus’ evolution. In this scenario, the thermal boundary leads to more rapid cooling of the outer envelope. When Teff ≃ Teq is reached, a shallow, subadiabatic zone in the atmosphere begins to develop. Its depth is adjusted to meet the luminosity constraint. This work provides a simple foundation for future Ice Giant structure and evolution models, that can be improved by properly treating the heat and particle fluxes in the diffusive zones.

Planet Nine is an Anomaly

Earlier this year scientists presented evidence for Planet Nine, a Neptune-mass planet in an elliptical orbit 10 times farther from our Sun than Pluto. Since then theorists have puzzled over how this planet could end up in such a distant orbit.

New research by astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) examines a number of scenarios and finds that most of them have low probabilities. Therefore, the presence of Planet Nine remains a bit of a mystery.

"The evidence points to Planet Nine existing, but we can't explain for certain how it was produced," says CfA astronomer Gongjie Li, lead author on a paper accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Planet Nine circles our Sun at a distance of about 40 billion to 140 billion miles, or 400 - 1500 astronomical units. (An astronomical unit or A.U. is the average distance of the Earth from the Sun, or 93 million miles.) This places it far beyond all the other planets in our solar system. The question becomes: did it form there, or did it form elsewhere and land in its unusual orbit later?

NASA's Mars Rover 2020 Builds in Momentum

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is making progress with the build up of Mars 2020 Rover, with contract awards for instrumentation and hardware. Following the recent announcement Space Systems Loral (SSL) will design and build the camera focus mechanisms, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has been tasked with the design and manufacture the Skycrane descent brake.

ESA Postpones Exomars Rover to 2020

The European and Russian space agencies on May 2 said their joint ExoMars 2018 mission carrying a rover and an experiment-filled landing platform to Mars would not be ready in time and would be delayed to July 2020.

The delay, which ESA and Roscosmos officials had warned of since March, will add undetermined new costs to the program. ESA is expected to present to its governments a revised ExoMars scenario in June, including the financial impact of the delay, with governments likely to make a final decision during a December meeting of ESA government space ministers.

France to Build Australian Submarines, but With American Components

Australia may have awarded France a bumper contract to build its next generation of submarines, but its highly secretive combat system will come from close ally the United States.

French shipbuilder DCNS last week beat off Germany and Japan to secure the Aus$50 billion (US$39 billion) deal to design and build the 12 subs, a scaled down conventionally-powered version of its 4,700-tonne Barracuda, to be named Shortfin Barracuda.

But it will have little to do with armaments and the complex combat system, which American defence giant Lockheed Martin — which is in the running to be involved — said was “essentially the eyes, ears and sword of the boat”.

Australia has made clear it prefers the American AN/BYG-1 system, along with the joint Australian-US heavyweight Mark-48 torpedoes as its main weapon.

A decision has yet to be made on which company will be responsible for integrating the system — essentially to detect, acquire and track targets — with US defence contractor Raytheon also said to be a contender.

Given the close relationship and the fact that its technology will be used, Washington was always going to take a keen interest in Canberra’s choice to build the boats.

Stealth Saga #42


The General Atomics MQ-XX tanker entry will be based on the Avenger UCAV.


Here's more information on the first flight and program.

More videos.

Mitsubishi's statement on the flight is here.

The X-2 will fly at least 50 times by the end of the year.

The X-2 is more than a symbol of national pride.

Then there is a bit more.  And some more.


Is the PAK-FA going to be the Su-50?


This is done by fans, so don't get too excited and is based on wind tunnel models from 4 years ago.


Congress may finally let the F-117 be sent to the boneyard.  Finally.  Elsa should sing to Congress.

Stealth Hawk:

5 Years ago, the raid that killed bin Laden & exposed the Stealth Black Hawk took place.


The USAF has sent 2 F-22 Raptors to Romania to reassure NATO of US support against Russia.

Two of the Raptors went to Lithuania. Here's a video of them being refueled on the way.

What the F-22s are doing in Europe.


The software is going to be patched.  The question is howReally.

The radar bug does not effect USMC F-35Bs because they did NOT load the latest software update.

The USMC F-35 maintainers talk the problems of the F-35B maintenance, including the infamous ALIS.

An F-35B was fueled on the ground by a V-22.

 Thornberry's bill apparently will add back the 5 F-35As the budget didn't have, but the air force wanted.  HASC put in a total of 11 F-35s above and beyond.  A bit more here.  Slightly different here.

An F-35A at Luke AFB just dropped some GBU-12 bombs.

There are implications for the F-35I getting its own apps built on top of the F-35 avionics.

The roll out for the F-35I is to take place on June 22.

Lockheed's manufacture of the F-35 has been slower than expected.

Until the F-35 proves it can perform in combat, Congress is not likely allow retirement the legacy aircraft.  Like the A-10.  Senator Ayotte really wants the USAF to come clean whether or not the F-35 will be replacing the A-10.  An F-35 pilot really dislikes the test saying they ought to be comparing apples to apples.

Pratt & Whitney is wrapping up the F-35 F135 engine development.

Could a connectivity problem ground the F-35?

The F-35 program office has 2,590 people working for it.  Mother of gawd...

Massive Reef Found at Mouth of the Amazon

The changes that the Amazon River promotes in the tropical North Atlantic ocean water make an unfavorable environment for reef development. Every second, 175 million liters of water mixed with sediments are brought to the ocean. The result is low sunlight penetration, variability in nutrient concentration, salinity and pH, extensive moody bottoms and significant changes in temperature and oxygenation levels towards the bottom - conditions not associated with reefs. The plume generated by the Amazon River has 1.3 million km2 and flows mostly to the North, reaching areas as far as the Caribbean Sea.

Against all the odds, 39 scientists from nine Brazilian and one North-American universities mobilized two expeditions to the mouth of the river in other to map the bottom of the ocean in the outer shelf. Two previous studies - from the 1970s and 1980s - reported the findings of single samples of carbonatic structures. None suggested the existence of a reef system underneath the river plume. Surprisingly, the researchers found reefs in a complex as extensive as 1,000 km, in depths from 10 to 120 meters, with rhodolith beds, live calcareous algae, sponges, corals and hydrocorals colonies formed from 13,000 years ago till the present. The system is an habitat for 73 species of fishes and six species of lobsters.

United Arab Emirates Looking to Start GeoEngineering Their Precipitation Problems

Desert countries are frequently victims of their elevation. They tend to be mostly flat, making it tough for air to climb upwards and form rain clouds. The United Arab Emirates thinks there's a direct solution to this, however: make your own mountain. It's in the early stages of developing an artificial mountain that would force air upwards and create clouds that (with seeding) could produce additional rainfall. In theory, an arid landscape could become verdant over time.

A Dinosaur Footprint Found From Carnian Triassic Spain?

Spain says a footprint of a dinosaur that roamed the area 230 million years ago has been found in northeastern Catalonia, and says it's the best preserved dinosaur print seen so far in the Iberian Peninsula.

The print of a reptile-like creature called an Isochirotherium — an ancestor of dinosaurs and crocodiles — was discovered in early April by a person out walking in Olesa de Montserrat, 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Barcelona.

Evidence of a Continental Collision Between Laurentia & Rodinia From Stenian MesoProterozoic Africa?

U–Pb Zircon (SHRIMP) ages of granite sheets and timing of deformational events in the Natal Metamorphic Belt, southeastern Africa: Evidence for deformation partitioning and implications for Rodinia reconstructions


Mendonidis et al


This study provides constraints on the ages of deformation events and fabric development in deformed rocks of the Margate Terrane of the Natal Metamorphic Province. The Margate Terrane forms the southernmost of three terranes considered to represent multiple arc accretion onto the southern margin of the Kalahari Craton, and geochronological data indicate that the Margate Terrane has a long history of sporadic magmatism from ∼1180 to ∼1025 Ma. Two granite sheets of differing structural age, as revealed by deformational fabric and cross-cutting relationships, were sampled for U–Pb (SHRIMP) dating from coastal outcrop at Southbroom (30°54′43.61″S, 30°20′1.61″E). The older sheet contains fabrics related to both D1 and D2 events, whereas the younger shows evidence for syn-D2 emplacement and contains an S2 fabric. For both intrusive sheets, zircon core domains showing magmatic zoning yielded ages that are statistically identical at 1075 ± 6 Ma. This is interpreted to represent the intrusion age of the older sheet, and to sampling of a xenocrystic population in the cross-cutting sheet due to assimilation. Zircons from both sheets show metamorphic rim zones with a mean age of 1042 ± 10 Ma, which is attributed to rim growth during development of the S2 foliation, close to the intrusion age of the younger sheet. The 1075 ± 6 Ma age is comparable to the ages of other granitic units in the Margate Terrane that intruded between ∼1091 and 1070 Ma and implies that all of these predated the D1 deformation, which is considered to record the accretion of the terrane onto the Kalahari Craton. The D2 event is characterized by northward-verging folds with a pervasive southward-dipping axial planar fabric S2, which largely overprinted the S1 fabric. Previously, the pure-shear D2 deformation was considered to be older than the narrow sinistral shear zones occurring within the Mzumbe and Margate Terranes. However, dating of the D2 event at 1042 ± 10 Ma indicates that these deformations are coeval, and represent deformation partitioning during a transpressional event at ∼1050–1025 Ma that may have been related to collision with Laurentia during the amalgamation of Rodinia.

Chinese Police to Patrol...Italy?!?!

Chinese policemen are in Italy to start patrols with Italian officers in Rome and Milan in a two-week experiment.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said Monday that the aim is to make Chinese tourists feel safe and noted that it's the first time China sent police to Europe for such a project.

Starting Tuesday, two Chinese uniformed policemen will patrol with Italian counterparts in Rome, while two others will patrol with Italian police in Milan. For the second week, the Chinese will switch cities.

The Great Wall of Kenya

Kenya has confirmed it will begin construction of a 700-kilometer-long security wall along the northeastern border with Somalia as part of a broader national security plan to curb cross-border terror attacks by Somali terrorist group al-Shabab.

Addressing the media in Nairobi over the weekend, Kenya's Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery said that contrary to assertions by the Somali government and some influential clans and communities on either side of the border, the fence would not limit or deter the movement of people between the two countries.

Instead, he said the fence would limit cross-border terrorist movements and enable the country to prevent attacks which have killed more than 400 people in the country since 2012.

Monday, May 02, 2016

What Lies Beneath Titan's Seas?

Back when Cassini was approaching Saturn and we all anticipated the arrival of the Huygens payload on the surface, speculation grew that rather than finding a solid surface, Huygens might ‘splash down’ in a hydrocarbon sea. I can remember art to that effect in various Internet venues of the time. In the event, Huygens came down on hard terrain, but since then Cassini’s continuing surveys have shown that seas and lakes do exist on the moon. Over 1.6 million square kilometers (about two percent of the surface of Titan) are covered in liquid.

Hypotheses for near-surface exchange of methane on Mars

Hypotheses for near-surface exchange of methane on Mars


Hu et al


The Curiosity rover recently detected a background of 0.7 ppb and spikes of 7 ppb of methane on Mars. This in situ measurement reorients our understanding of the Martian environment and its potential for life, as the current theories do not entail any geological source or sink of methane that varies sub-annually. In particular, the 10-fold elevation during the southern winter indicates episodic sources of methane that are yet to be discovered. Here we suggest a near-surface reservoir could explain this variability. Using the temperature and humidity measurements from the rover, we find that perchlorate salts in the regolith deliquesce to form liquid solutions, and deliquescence progresses to deeper subsurface in the season of the methane spikes. We therefore formulate the following three testable hypotheses. The first scenario is that the regolith in Gale Crater adsorbs methane when dry and releases this methane to the atmosphere upon deliquescence. The adsorption energy needs to be 36 kJ/mol to explain the magnitude of the methane spikes, higher than existing laboratory measurements. The second scenario is that microorganisms convert organic matter in the soil to methane when they are in liquid solutions. This scenario does not require regolith adsorption, but entails extant life on Mars. The third scenario is that deep subsurface aquifers produce the bursts of methane. Continued in situ measurements of methane and water, as well as laboratory studies of adsorption and deliquescence, will test these hypotheses and inform the existence of the near-surface reservoir and its exchange with the atmosphere.

China Developing Reusable Spacecraft & Launch Vehicles

Spurred on by developments in the United States, China says it is working on reusable human spacecraft and launch vehicles.

US Army Desperately Needs Future Vertical Lift for Pacific Theater

The deputy commander of US Pacific Command says the Army must field next-generation aircraft with greater range, speed and survivability than is achievable with today’s helicopter inventory.

Lt Gen Tony Crutchfield says the vast distances inherent in the Pacific theatre, as well as the proliferation of anti-aircraft weaponry, are challenging the current generation of army rotorcraft, namely the AH-6 Little Bird, UH-60 Black Hawk, AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook, which were all adopted in the last century.

“I firmly believe the only way we will close the gap with the problems facing us today is with Future Vertical Lift (FVL),” he says, referring to the army-led acquisition programme that will introduce a new family of aircraft with roughly double the range and speed of today’s models.

“We must have Future Vertical Lift,” he continues, speaking at an Army Aviation Association of America conference in Atlanta, Georgia on 30 April. “It is the only way we will be successful in the PACOM environment with the distances. That range and that speed and that survivability are critical to army aviation to be effective in this fight.”

US Army Testing Lasers, Railguns in Exercise at Fort Sill

A swarm of experts from across the nation assembled for a two-week experiment at Fort Sill trying out systems with the potential to provide service members with unlimited weapons capabilities. The event, called Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment, spanned, April 11-22, and demonstrated two types of weaponry – one using lasers and the other using electricity-propelled projectiles to acquire and destroy targets.

According to John Haithcock, director of the Fires Battle Lab on Fort Sill, counter unmanned aerial vehicle missions are the current capability gap and the focus of the weapons experiment. By conducting the experiments early in the development process, Haithcock said developers could incorporate the insights of service members who would use the equipment and report on how to improve the interfaces.

Also, the event brought out not only future technologies but current technologies that may be integrated together. The result is an integrated weapon system with command and control sensors that can do multiple missions, he said.

“As opposed to having three pieces of equipment, we can use some of this new technology and integrate it into a single vehicle,” said Haithcock.

Carbon Isotope Disturbances Across the Smithian/Spathian Triassic Boundary in Vietnam

Carbon isotopic excursions and detailed ammonoid and conodont biostratigraphies around Smithian–Spathian boundary in the Bac Thuy Formation, Vietnam


Komatsu et al


The Smithian–Spathian boundary is indicated by the first occurrence of the ammonoid Tirolites cf. cassianus in the Olenekian Bac Thuy Formation, northeastern Vietnam. The boundary is intercalated within organic-rich dark gray mudstone that accumulated under anoxic to dysoxic conditions in the An Chau and Nanpanjiang Basins on the South China Block. In Lang Son area, three conodont zones, Novispathodus ex gr. waageni, Novispathodus ex gr. pingdingshanensis, and Icriospathodus collinsoni, are recognized in the formation. The Smithian–Spathian boundary is intercalated within N. ex gr. pingdingshanensis conodont Zone. The positive excursion inδ13C with values increasing from around − 2.3‰ to + 5.7‰ was recorded in the uppermost Smithian Xenoceltites variocostatus ammonoid beds and N. ex gr. pingdingshanensis conodont Zone. The δ13C values decrease across the Smithian–Spathian boundary. These δ13C isotopic patterns are correlated with well-known positive excursions around the Smithian–Spathian boundary globally.

A Rapetosaurus Titanosaur Sauropod Lived Fast, Died Young in Cretaceous Madagascar

Precocity in a tiny titanosaur from the Cretaceous of Madagascar


Rogers et al


Sauropod dinosaurs exhibit the largest ontogenetic size range among terrestrial vertebrates, but a dearth of very young individuals has hindered understanding of the beginning of their growth trajectory. A new specimen of Rapetosaurus krausei sheds light on early life in the smallest stage of one of the largest dinosaurs. Bones record rapid growth rates and hatching lines, indicating that this individual weighed ~3.4 kilograms at hatching. Just several weeks later, when it likely succumbed to starvation in a drought-stressed ecosystem, it had reached a mass of ~40 kilograms and was ~35 centimeters tall at the hip. Unexpectedly, Rapetosaurus limb bones grew isometrically throughout their development. Cortical remodeling, limb isometry, and thin calcified hypertrophic metaphyseal cartilages indicate an active, precocial growth strategy.

Abdalodon diastematicus: a new Cynodont From Upper Permian South Africa

A new taxon of cynodont from the Tropidostoma Assemblage Zone (upper Permian) of South Africa, and the early evolution of Cynodontia




A new taxon of early cynodont, Abdalodon diastematicus gen. et sp. nov., is described. The new taxon is represented by a single skull from the upper Permian Tropidostoma Assemblage Zone (AZ) of the Beaufort Group (Karoo Basin, South Africa), which was previously referred to Procynosuchus delaharpeae. Abdalodon is distinguished from Procynosuchus by the presence of only four upper and three lower incisors, fewer postcanines, a well-developed depression on the lateral surface of the maxilla posterior to the canine root, a tall mandibular symphysis forming a distinct ‘chin’, a relatively short snout, and weak or absent interdigitation of sutures in the interorbital region. These features are shared with the only other Tropidostoma AZ cynodont, Charassognathus gracilis. Abdalodon is distinguished from Charassognathus by its postcanine morphology, the presence of an expanded masseteric fossa, inset postcanine tooth rows, a broader interorbital region, and proportionally shorter temporal region. Most strikingly, Abdalodon has a lengthy diastema between the canines and postcanines on both the maxilla and the dentary. Charassognathus has a short diastema between the upper canine and postcanines, but not the lowers, and diastemata are absent from the tooth rows of Procynosuchus. Phylogenetic analysis recovers Abdalodon as the sister-taxon of Charassognathus, forming a clade (Charassognathidae fam. nov.) at the base of Cynodontia. These taxa represent a previously unrecognized radiation of small-bodied Permian cynodonts. Despite their small size, the holotypes of Abdalodon and Charassognathus probably represent adults and indicate that early evolution of cynodonts may have occurred at small body size, explaining the poor Permian fossil record of the group.

Was an Impact the Source of a Hadrean Zircon?


Kenny et al


Constraining the origin and history of very ancient detrital zircons has unique potential for furthering our knowledge of Earth's very early crust and Hadean geodynamics. Previous applications of the Ti-in-zircon thermometer to >4 Ga zircons have identified a population with relatively low crystallization temperatures (Tzirxtln) of ∼685 °C. This could possibly indicate wet minimum-melting conditions producing granitic melts, implying very different Hadean terrestrial geology from that of other rocky planets. Here we report the first comprehensive ion microprobe study of zircons from a transect through the differentiated Sudbury impact melt sheet (Ontario, Canada). The new zircon Ti results and corresponding Tzirxtln fully overlap with those of the Hadean zircon population. Previous studies that measured Ti in impact melt sheet zircons did not find this wide range because they analyzed samples only from a restricted portion of the melt sheet and because they used laser ablation analyses that can overestimate true Ti content. It is important to note that internal differentiation of the impact melt is likely a prerequisite for the observed low Tzirxtln in zircons from the most evolved rocks. On Earth, melt sheet differentiation is strongest in subaqueous impact basins. Thus, not all Hadean detrital zircon with low Ti necessarily formed during melting at plate boundaries, but at least some could also have crystallized in melt sheets caused by intense meteorite bombardment of the early, hydrosphere-covered protocrust.

China's Manuacturing Grew More Slowly Than Expected

China's manufacturing activity was weaker than expected in April, according to a survey by an industry group.

The China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing says its purchasing managers' index declined to 50.1 in April from the previous month's 50.2 on a 100-point scale. Numbers above 50 indicate activity is expanding.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

A Proposed Strategic Roadmap for Exploring Enceladus

Strategic map for exploring the ocean-world Enceladus




Among the many “ocean worlds” of our solar system, Enceladus appears unique in its combination of astrobiologically relevant and exploration-worthy attributes: extensive liquid-water ocean with active hydrothermal activity, containing salts and organics expressed predictably into space. The Enceladus south polar plume allows direct access to telltale molecules, ions, isotopes, and potential cytofragments in space. Plume mass spectroscopy and sample return, in situ investigation of surface fallback deposits, direct vent exploration, and eventually oceanographic exploration can all be envisioned. However, building consensus to fund such ambitious exploration hinges on acquiring key new data. A roadmap is essential. It could start with cost-capped onramps such as flythrough analysis of the plume, following up on Cassini measurements with modern instruments; and sample return of plume material for analysis on Earth. A methodical mission sequence in which each step depends on emergent results from prior missions would push in situ oceanographic exploration into the second half of this century. Even for this scenario, prioritization by the next planetary Decadal Survey would be pivotal.

Evidence of a Varying Environment on Mars Based on Comparisons to Rio Tinto, Spain

Orbital evidence for clay and acidic sulfate assemblages on Mars based on mineralogical analogs from Rio Tinto, Spain


Kaplan et al


Outcrops of hydrated minerals are widespread across the surface of Mars, with clay minerals and sulfates being commonly identified phases. Orbitally-based reflectance spectra are often used to classify these hydrated components in terms of a single mineralogy, although most surfaces likely contain multiple minerals that have the potential to record local geochemical conditions and processes. Reflectance spectra for previously identified deposits in Ius and Melas Chasma within the Valles Marineris, Mars, exhibit an enigmatic feature with two distinct absorptions between 2.2 and 2.3 µm. This spectral ‘doublet’ feature is proposed to result from a mixture of hydrated minerals, although the identity of the minerals has remained ambiguous. Here we demonstrate that similar spectral doublet features are observed in airborne, field, and laboratory reflectance spectra of rock and sediment samples from Rio Tinto, Spain. Combined visible-near infrared reflectance spectra and X-ray diffraction measurements of these samples reveal that the doublet feature arises from a mixture of Al-phyllosilicate (illite or muscovite) and jarosite. Analyses of orbital data from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) shows that the martian spectral equivalents are also consistent with mixtures of Al-phyllosilicates and jarosite, where the Al-phyllosilicate may also include kaolinite and/or halloysite. A case study for a region within Ius Chasma demonstrates that the relative proportions of the Al-phyllosilicate(s) and jarosite vary within one stratigraphic unit as well as between stratigraphic units. The former observation suggests that the jarosite may be a diagenetic (authigenic) product and thus indicative of local pH and redox conditions, whereas the latter observation may be consistent with variations in sediment flux and/or fluid chemistry during sediment deposition.

NASA Seeking Proposals for Deep Space Habitat

NASA is soliciting proposals for the development of prototypes for deep space habitats that will give astronauts a place to call home during long-duration missions supporting the agency’s Journey to Mars.

The solicitation, Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2), is a follow-on to the NextSTEP Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) released in October 2014 and requesting industry proposals for concept studies and technology development projects in the areas of habitation, advanced propulsion and small satellites.

NASA’s Orion crew spacecraft and Space Launch System are the agency’s first major components for establishing a human presence in deep space. With these transportation systems progressing toward their maiden flight in 2018, NASA now is looking toward investments in deep space habitation — the next major component of human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit.

First Future Vertical Lift VTOL Will be the Medium Class

The first Future Vertical Lift aircraft to be fielded by the Army will come in the medium-lift category, where attack and cargo lift helicopters reside, Maj. Gen. William Gayler, the new Army Aviation Center of Excellence commander at Fort Rucker, Ala., said at the Aviation Association of America’s Mission Solutions Summit Friday.

Gayler said that since Congress required the Army to consider the FVL program as a joint program to include the Marine Corps and the Air Force, the need to be joint is driving the decision on which type of helicopter will be built first. The Army is still leading the effort.

The Army’s acquisition approach divides up the type of helicopters to be built as a family of helicopters to replace the service’s current fleet into five “capability sets.” The first set is the lightest variant while the fifth is the heaviest. Capability set 3 refers to the medium-lift variant.

Because the Marines and Air Force are more interested in a medium-lift, the Army has decided to focus on that weight class for the first helicopters that will be fielded starting in the early 2030s, according to Gayler.

“Since it’s a DoD joint program, we think the right answer is to go with [capability set 3] with other services, but we obviously will still be very interested in 1 or 2 as well,” Gayler said.

There has been talk about whether the first variant of FVL would be a light reconnaissance-type helicopter in order to fill a gap left open when the Army decided to retire the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopters. The service is temporarily filling the gap by teaming AH-64 Apache Attack helicopters with Shadow unmanned aircraft systems.

But Gayler’s comments seem to put that debate to rest.

AVX Reveals Future Vertical Lift Class One Proposal

AVX Aircraft of Benbrook, Texas has responded to the US Army’s request for information on the smallest of five planned Future Vertical Lift (FVL) capability sets with two 7.5t (16,700lb) winged coaxial compound helicopter configurations that the company’s chief executive describes as vertical takeoff fighter aircraft for light reconnaissance, attack, assault and medical evacuation missions.

The baseline swept-wing, 13.4m (44ft) diametre rotor concept would be powered by two 3,000shp Improved Turbine Technology Programme (ITEP) engines and is designed to meet a demanding set of core requirements proposed by the US Army in its “Capability Set 1” RFI document. The requirements that emerged for that next-generation rotorcraft category required a more robust design than the 4.5t (10,000lb) light single that AVX discussed with the Army back in January for Capability Set 1 (CS1), prior to the 18 February RFI release.


And, interestingly, to replace the Chinook, AVX would want to use a tilt rotor.

What's Beneath West Antarctica's Ice Sheet?

Three recent publications by early career researchers at three different institutions across the country provide the first look into the biogeochemistry, geophysics and geology of Subglacial Lake Whillans, which lies 800 meters (2,600 feet) beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

The findings stem from the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Collectively, the researchers describe a wetland-like area beneath the ice. Subglacial Lake Whillans is primarily fed by ice melt, but also contains small amounts of seawater from ancient marine sediments on the lake bed. The lake waters periodically drain through channels to the ocean, but with insufficient energy to carry much sediment.

Remains of Miocene Neogene Hominoid Nacholapithecus kerioi From Northern Kenya

Sacral vertebral remains of the Middle Miocene hominoid Nacholapithecus kerioi from northern Kenya


Kakuchi et al


This study describes two new sacral specimens of Nacholapithecus kerioi, KNM-BG 42753I and KNM-BG 47687A, from the Aka Aiteputh Formation in Nachola, northern Kenya, excavated in 2002. They are of roughly equal size and are considered to belong to males. When scaled by body mass, the lumbosacral articular surface area of the better preserved specimen, KNM-BG 42753I, is smaller than that in Old World monkeys but similar to that in extant great apes and New World monkeys, as well as Proconsul nyanzae. The relatively narrow dimensions of the first sacral vertebral body in the transverse and sagittal planes are characteristics of N. kerioi and P. nyanzae and similar to those of extant great apes. In N. kerioi, lumbosacral surface area relative to body mass is small. This may simply be an extension of a trend from the previously reported small thoracolumbar vertebrae to the sacrum. ​The first sacral vertebrae of N. kerioi and Epipliopithecus vindobonensis have a higher craniocaudal vertebral body reduction (CVR; a higher CVR indicates a wider cranial width relative to a narrower caudal width), similar to that in Old World monkeys. Old World monkeys have a higher CVR, and usually have three sacral vertebrae, fewer than seen in extant great apes, which have a lower CVR and four to six (sometimes as many as eight) sacral vertebrae. New World monkeys have a lower CVR than Old World monkeys, but generally possess only three sacral vertebrae, and have a large caudal articular surface, which may be related, at least in the Atelidae, to the grasping ability of their tails. The possibility that N. kerioi had only three sacral vertebrae cannot be ruled out, because E. vindobonensis and Old World monkeys, with higher CVRs, have sacra consisting of three sacral vertebrae.

Mark Witton on Pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus

The Late Jurassic, Solnhofen Formation pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus muensteri is an exceptional flying reptile. We tend to overlook it a bit now - it's been known for almost two centuries, which is long enough to temper enthusiasm for any fossil species - but it's a remarkable animal for a number of reasons. Far from a typical example of the rhamphorhynchid lineage, it's the rhamphorhynchiest of all pterosaurs with a jaw full of large, conical teeth, elongate extensions to its jaw tips, exceptionally long and slender wings, delicate hindlimbs and walking digits, and a long, stiff tail famously adorned with a diamond or triangular shaped vane*. It also arguably has the best fossil record of any pterosaur. It's known from over 100 specimens, many of them being complete, articulated skeletons with at least some three-dimensionality, as well as providing excellent soft-tissues remains. Excepting embryos, we have complete growth series from tiny juveniles to chunky adults with 1.8 m wingspans, and its preservation is such that fine details of bones can be gleaned through careful mechanical or acid preparation. Its osteology is subsequently better known that any other pterosaur. The Cretaceous pterodactyloid Pteranodon might be known from more fossils (greater than 1400), but these flattened, disarticulated remains are nowhere close to the fossil quality of Rhamphorhynchus.

Five new Species of Ediacaran Biota Described From NeoProterozoic Lantian Formation of South China

Systematic description of putative animal fossils from the early Ediacaran Lantian Formation of South China


Wan et al


The early Ediacaran Lantian Formation in South China contains some of the oldest known representatives of morphologically complex macroorganisms, including various macroalgae and putative animals. The macroalgal fossils have been described previously in several publications, but no taxonomic treatment has been published for the putative animal fossils. This hampers our ability to fully evaluate and communicate the significance of these potentially important Ediacaran macrofossils. To address this deficiency, here we provide a systematic description of these putative animal fossils from the Lantian Formation, including four new genera and five new species: Lantianella laevis gen. et sp. nov., L. annularis gen. et sp. nov., Piyuania cyathiformis gen. et sp. nov., Qianchuania fusiformis gen. et sp. nov. and Xiuningella rara gen. et sp. nov. Morphological comparisons of these fossils and potential modern analogues are provided and critically assessed.

The Soviet Pompeii

“MY MOTHERLAND is the Soviet Union,” reads a sentence written in cursive script in one of the exercise books scattered on the floor of an abandoned school in Pripyat, a Soviet-era ghost town in Ukraine next to the Chernobyl nuclear plant. The town, built for the plant’s workers and their families, was evacuated on the afternoon of April 27th 1986, some 36 hours after the worst nuclear-power disaster in history. Today Pripyat is being reclaimed by nature and tourists. What were once streets have become forest paths. Concrete blocks of flats decorated with Soviet symbols and slogans are barely visible through the trees.

Some 200 pensioners eventually returned to villages in the area, but Pripyat itself remains dead, a Soviet Pompeii. Tourists and journalists stroll past rusting propaganda stands, taking photographs of scattered gas masks, clothes, toys and textbooks in abandoned schoolrooms. Some may have been positioned there deliberately by tour organisers.

Demand for Office Space in San Francisco has Dropped


Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Contribution of Water Filled Cracks to Enceladus' Plumes

Controlled boiling on Enceladus. 2. Model of the liquid-filled cracks


Ingersoll et al


Controlled boiling will occur on Enceladus whenever a long, narrow conduit connects liquid water to the vacuum of space. In a companion paper we focus on the upward flow of the vapor and show how it controls the evaporation rate through backpressure, which arises from friction on the walls. In this paper we focus on the liquid and show how it flows through the conduit up to its level of neutral buoyancy. For an ice shell 20 km thick, the liquid water interface could be 2 km below the surface. We find that the evaporating surface can be narrow. There is no need for a large vapor chamber that acts as a plume source. Freezing on the icy walls and the evaporating surface is avoided if the crack width averaged over the length of the tiger stripes is greater than 1 m and the salinity of the liquid is greater than 20 g kg−1. Controlled boiling plays a crucial role in our model, which makes it different from earlier published models. The liquids on Enceladus are boiling because there is no overburden pressure—the saturation vapor pressure is equal to the total pressure. Salinity plays a crucial role in preventing freezing, and we argue that the subsurface oceans of icy satellites can have water vapor plumes only if their salinities are greater than about 20 g kg−1.

Evidence of Water Discharges From Nili Fossae and Syrtis Major on Mars

Extensive aqueous deposits at the base of the dichotomy boundary in Nilosyrtis Mensae, Mars


Bandfield et al


Thermal emission imaging system (THEMIS) and Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) spectral datasets were used to identify high bulk SiO2 and hydrated compositions throughout the Nilosyrtis Mensae region. Four isolated locations were identified across the region showing short wavelength silicate absorptions within the 8–12 μm spectral region, indicating surfaces dominated by high Si phases. Much more extensive exposures of hydrated compositions are present throughout the region, indicated by a spectral absorption near 1.9 μm in CRISM data. Although limited in spatial coverage, detailed spectral observations indicate that the hydrated materials contain Fe/Mg-smectites and hydrated silica along with minor exposures of Mg-carbonates and an unidentified hydrated phase. The high SiO2 and hydrated materials are present in layered sediments near the base of topographic scarps at the hemispheric dichotomy boundary, typically near or within low albedo sand deposits. The source of the high SiO2 and hydrated materials appears to be from groundwater discharge from Nili Fossae and Syrtis Major to the south, where there is evidence for extensive aqueous alteration of the subsurface. Although discontinuous, the exposures of high SiO2 and hydrated materials span a wide area and are present in a similar geomorphological context to previously identified deposits in western Hellas Basin. These regional deposits may reflect aqueous conditions and alteration within the adjacent crust of the martian highlands.

Russia's Vostochny Spaceport Launches First Satellites

Russia's new Vostochny cosmodrome hosted its first rocket launch on Thursday, the Roscosmos space agency said, after a last-minute delay a day earlier led to President Vladimir Putin criticising the programme's officials.

The Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying three satellites took off at 11.01 am local time (0201 GMT), the national space agency said in a statement, after the countdown was automatically halted for technical reasons 24 hours previously.

"The rocket launch was carried out successfully. All three satellites are now in orbit," Roscosmos said in a statement.

Russian television showed the Soyuz 2.1a taking off into a blue sky in light winds, though foreign media organisations including AFP were not allowed to enter the new space centre.

The Race to Finish the Joint Multi-Role Demonstrators for the Future Vertical Lift Program

In West Palm Beach, Florida, and Amarillo, Texas, two different aircraft are coming together in a sprint to the starting line of the Army’s much anticipated flight demonstrations of future helicopter concepts in 2017.

The Army plans to design and field a future vertical lift aircraft and is expected to kick off that program of record in the 2019 time frame. The expectation is to buy a new family of helicopters through a competition and field the new aircraft at some point in the early 2030s, although the Army has talked about speeding up that fielding timeline to the late 2020s.

But first the Army plans to demonstrate Joint Multi-Role (JMR) air vehicle capability at a 2017 flight demonstration in order to help the service fully define requirements for the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program.

A Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin team is mating the entire wing -- which is one big part -- onto the fuselage in Texas of its advanced tiltrotor concept the V-280 Valor, according to Vince Tobin, Bell’s vice president for advanced tiltrotor systems.

Sikorsky and Boeing have all of its Defiant coaxial helicopter parts in fabrication, some have already been delivered to the final assembly facility in Florida, Pat Donnelly, Boeing’s program director, said. Notably, the fuselage is in California being assembled and the team plans to conduct flight loads verification before shipping it to Florida.

China's 7th Hypersonic Boost Glide Weapon Test was a Success

China has successfully completed a seventh flight test of its new hypersonic glide vehicle last week in its northern central Shanxi province, according to an article on People’s Daily Online.

The “DF-ZF” glider can travel at speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10, which is 5 to 10 times the speed of sound.

The Chinese news site reported that U.S. intelligence fears that Beijing may use DF-ZF to “deliver nuclear weapons bypassing even the most complex of missile defense systems,” citing an article in the Washington Free Beacon.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman first confirmed China’s hypersonic missile test in March 2015, saying that the missile test was not aimed at any country and was done for scientific research, according to the People’s Daily online.

A new Bolivian Fauna of Middle Miocene Climatic Optimum

New mammal faunal data from Cerdas, Bolivia, a middle-latitude Neotropical site that chronicles the end of the Middle Miocene Climatic Optimum in South America


Croft et al


We provide new and revised identifications of mammals from the early middle Miocene (Langhian age, Colloncuran South American Land Mammal Age [SALMA]) of Cerdas, Bolivia. We also formally name a new typothere notoungulate, Hegetotherium cerdasensis, sp. nov., that can be distinguished by the absence of an external talonid sulcus on m3 and its small size (15–25% smaller than Hegetotherium mirabile). We refer several typothere specimens from Nazareno, Bolivia, to H. cerdasensis, which suggests that the two sites are of similar age. We report the first sparassodont and astrapothere remains from Cerdas. Sparassodont remains include an associated basicranium and mostly complete mandible; the species appears to represent a new, small-bodied borhyaenoid. Astrapothere remains consist of many tooth fragments from a new species of the subfamily Uruguaytheriinae. A partial sloth dentary from Cerdas likely pertains to the subfamily Megatheriinae and is the first report of the family Megatheriidae from the site. A newly discovered peltephilid armadillo specimen includes a partial articulated carapace that supports recognition of the Cerdas taxon as a new species. The two dasypodids of Cerdas (one Euphractini, one Eutatini) represent two new species closely related to undescribed species from the late middle Miocene (Serravallian age, Laventan SALMA) of Quebrada Honda, Bolivia. The mammals of Cerdas indicate that (1) the middle latitudes (southern tropics) contributed significantly to the diversity of Miocene mammal communities in South America; and (2) the Middle Miocene Climatic Optimum was a key factor in the differentiation of South American mammal assemblages.

A Fish-Eating Enantiornithine Bird had Digestive Pellets

A Fish-Eating Enantiornithine Bird from the Early Cretaceous of China Provides Evidence of Modern Avian Digestive Features


Wang et al


Modern birds differ from their theropod ancestors in lacking teeth and heavily constructed bony jaws, having evolved a lightly built beak and a specialized digestive system capable of processing unmasticated food [ 1, 2 ]. Enantiornithes, the most successful clade of Mesozoic birds, represents the sister group of the Ornithuromorpha, which gave rise to living birds [ 3 ]. Nevertheless, the feeding habits of enantiornithines have remained unknown because of a lack of fossil evidence. In contrast, exceptionally preserved fossils reveal that derived avian features were present in the digestive systems of some non-enantiornithine birds with ages exceeding 125 million years [ 4, 5 ]. Here, we report a new piscivorous enantiornithine from the Early Cretaceous Jehol Biota of China. This specimen preserves a gastric pellet that includes fish bones. The new enantiornithine, like many modern piscivores and raptors, seems to have swallowed its prey whole and regurgitated indigestible materials such as bones, invertebrate exoskeletons, scales, and feathers. This fossil represents the oldest unambiguous record of an avian gastric pellet and the only such record from the Mesozoic. The pellet points to a fish diet and suggests that the alimentary tract of the new enantiornithine resembled that of extant avians in having efficient antiperistalsis and a two-chambered stomach with a muscular gizzard capable of compacting indigestible matter into a cohesive pellet. The inferred occurrence of these advanced features in an enantiornithine implies that they were widespread in Cretaceous birds and likely facilitated dietary diversification within both Enantiornithes and Ornithuromorpha.

A Fossil of an Injured Psittacosaurus Found

An Injured Psittacosaurus (Dinosauria: Ceratopsia) from the Yixian Formation (Liaoning, China): Implications for Psittacosaurus biology


Hedrick et al


We describe a Psittacosaurus specimen from the Lujiatun beds of the Yixian Formation in Liaoning, China with an abnormality on its left fibula. Although a large number of Psittacosaurus specimens are known, only a single example of a pathologic Psittacosaurus has been previously noted. The specific pathology in the current specimen is believed to be a healed fibular fracture as assessed through a combination of gross morphology, microcomputed tomography (microCT), and histology data. The fracture can be identified using microCT, but the degree of remodeling and the stage of fracture repair are best determined histologically. The fracture callus is made up of radially-oriented spokes of woven bone in a cartilage matrix and the original cortical bone prior to the fracture has been largely eroded. A transverse histologic section taken at the level of the fracture shows the displacement of the proximal and distal parts of the fibula. The Psittacosaurus appears to have survived the break considering the deposition of circumferential non-pathologic bone at the periosteal surface outside of the callus. The combination of gross morphological description, microCT data, and histologic data allowed for a full diagnosis of the abnormality. While some previous authors have preferred gross morphological description above other methods for assessing paleopathologies, it is evident based on this specimen that an amalgam of techniques provides greater clarity to paleopathology diagnoses. Although this Psittacosaurus lived in an environment with many predators, it was able to survive with a fracture on its hindlimb, which undoubtedly would have impacted its locomotion.

The Tides of Snowball Earth Would Have Been Greater

Tides of global ice-covered oceans




The tides of an ice-covered ocean are examined using a Cartesian representation of the elastic and fluid equations. Although unconstrained by any observations, the ocean tides of a Neoproterozoic “snowball” Earth could have been significantly larger than they are today. Time-mean tidal-residual circulations would then have been set up that are competitive with the circulation driven by geothermal heating. In any realistic configuration, the snowball Earth would have had an ice cover that is in the thin shell limit, but by permitting the ice thickness to become large, more interesting ice tidal response can be found, ones conceivably of application to bodies in the outer Solar System or hypothetical exoplanets. Little can be said concerning a reduction in tidal dissipation necessary to avoid a crisis in the history of the lunar orbit.

Scuffle in the South China Sea #41

In the tussle over the Chinese military plane flying to one of the disputed artificial islands, Russia is backing China. Definitely.

A-10s based in the Philippines have flown their first mission to dispute the Chinese claims in the South China Sea.  China objected to the flight.

The base the A-10s buzzed is a threat to Manila.

The US has challenged more than just China for Freedom of Navigation operations.  There were a total of 13 nations last year.

McCain says the operations in the South China Sea ought to be trumpeted, not hidden.

The American aircraft carrier in the South China Sea requested a port call in Hong Kong.  China did not allow the visit.

The US is selling weapons to...Vietnam.

Russia has launched Vietnam's first Gepard corvette/frigate.

China is risking becoming internationally isolated because of its actions in the South China Sea.

China is, on the other hand, joining the other claimants for the South China Sea in military exercises.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Live in SF or NY & Still Want Garden Fresh Veggies? The Foop is here!

f you've got a green thumb but no space to work your garden magic, a Japanese company might just have the thing to help quell your plant cultivation cravings.

Named the "Foop" (short for food and people) and developed by a company called C'estec, the smart device, roughly the size of a dual shelf toaster, lets you grow small crops of vegetables in your kitchen.

The product has come about to help those in Tokyo who want to grow plants and vegetables but, like may people living in large metropolitan cities, don't have sufficient garden space to do so.

The Foop houses a set of moisture-rich sponge pods, in which you'll plant your seeds. After that, you pair the device with your smartphone to monitor the growing conditions. You'll get a prediction of how long the plant will take to fully grow, as well as the ability to alter lighting, heat and humidity to ensure you get healthy and vibrant vegetables.

Modeling Enceladus' Jet Plumes

Controlled boiling on Enceladus. 1. Model of the vapor-driven jets


Nakajima et al


Plumes of water vapor and ice particles have been observed from the so-called tiger stripes at the south polar terrain (SPT) of Saturn’s satellite, Enceladus. The observed high salinity (∼0.5–2%) of the ice particles in the plumes may indicate that the plumes originate from a subsurface liquid ocean. Additionally, the SPT is the source of strong infrared radiation (∼4.2 GW), which is especially intense near (within tens of meters) the tiger stripes. This could indicate that the radiation is associated with plume activity, but the connection remains unclear. Here we investigate the constraints that plume observations place on the widths of the cracks, the depth to the liquid-vapor interface, and the mechanisms controlling plume variability. We solve the fluid dynamics of the flow in the crack and the interaction between the flow and ice walls assuming that the flows of water vapor and ice particles originate from a few kilometers deep liquid ocean. For a crack with a uniform width, we find that our model could explain the observed vapor mass flow rate of the plumes when the crack width is 0.05–0.075 m. A wider crack is not favorable because it would produce a higher vapor mass flow rate than the observed value, but it may be allowed if there are some flows that do not reach the surface of Enceladus due to condensation onto the ice walls or the crack is significantly tortuous. The observed heat flow can be explained if the total crack length is approximately 1.7 × 500 km. A tapering crack (a crack which is ∼1 m wide at the bottom of the flow and sharply becomes 0.05–0.075 m at shallower depths) can also explain the observed vapor mass flow rate and heat flow. Widths of 1 m or more are necessary to avoid freezing at the liquid-vapor interface, as shown in our paired paper (Ingersoll and Nakajima [2016] Icarus). The observed intense heat flow along the tiger stripes can be explained by the latent heat release due to vapor condensation onto the ice walls near the surface. The resulting buildup of ice causes the vents to seal themselves on time scales less than a year. We also find that the ice to vapor ratio of the plumes is sensitive to the ice mass fraction at the bottom of the flow (liquid–vapor interface). We find that the total mass flow rate of the plumes becomes larger when the crack width is larger, which is consistent with the observation that the flow rate increases near the orbital apocenter, where the crack is expected to be widest.

An Analog for Martian Aeolian Ridges Found in Iran's Lut Desert

Mega-ripples in Iran: A new analog for transverse aeolian ridges on Mars


Foroutan et al


A new terrestrial analog site for transverse aeolian ridges (TARs) is described in this study. The Lut desert of Iran hosts large ripple-like aeolian bedforms, with the same horizontal length scales and patterns of TARs on Mars. Different classes of TARs and different types of other aeolian features such as sand dunes, zibars, dust devil tracks and yardangs can be found in this area, which signify an active aeolian region. This area represents a unique site to study the formation and evolution of these enigmatic features, with potential relevance toward a better understanding of TARs on Mars.

China's Permanent Space Station to Begin Construction in 2018

China plans to launch the core of its permanent Tianhe-1 space station around 2018, with full assembling of the multi-module facility due to be complete about four years later, officials said last week.

The emerging space power is also developing two modules to dock with the core and several advanced technologies — including robotic arms and 3D printers — that will be placed aboard the station. Officials said the station will feature two robotic arms, two 30-meter solar panels and a Hubble-class telescope.

The space station will be serviced by crewed Shenzhou spacecraft capable of carrying up to three astronauts and Tianzhou cargo ships. The resupply ship will be tested for the first time next year with a flight to China’s Tiangong-2 space station.

Tianhe-1’s core module will be launched by China’s new Long March-5 heavy-lift booster, which will make its inaugural launch later this year. The launch vehicle is capable of lifting 25 metric tons into low Earth orbit.

Coming Cyberwar #9


The US military has been conducting cyber attacks on ISIS/Daesh. We reported the attacks earlier, but others are now catching up.

DARPA wants new ways to attribute cyber attacks.

Northrop is looking to develop AI for cyber defense.

Can the US & China back away from their cyber conflict?

Germany just stood up its own cyberwarriors.

Thinking 'slow' on cyber warfare.


Some are threatening to DDOS sites and demanding a ransom or else...even when they have never conducted a DDOS. And the businesses pay up!

Toy Maker Maitso's website had ransomware being served to customers.

Cisco has found backdoors installed on 12 million PCs.

Cyber Security:

There is a critical hole in our cell phone networks.

Critical infrastructure is vulnerable to cyberattack.

A nuclear power plant in Germany was found to be infected by computer viruses.

Terminator Times #9


Foxtrot Alpha looks at the DARPA Gremlin program as does Defense Update.

Defense Update looks at the US Navy CICADA program.

The Pentagon has been testing a UAV developed by MIT students.

Special Forces gunships will be getting an air launched UAV.

The USS Carl Vinson is the first American aircraft carrier to get a UAV command center.

The whistleblowers for the US drone campaigns are discussed at WiB.

The US Air Force is funding research by Cornell that may lead to miniature amphibious drones.

The MQ-XX will NOT be a strike platform and the Marine Corps is testing Fire Scout off their jeep carriers.  The General Atomics entry into the MQ-XX will be based off of their Avenger drone, which is not surprise.

The US Army is working on their control software for to better coordinate their UAVs on the battlefield.

One Congressman thinks the US Coast Guard needs its own drone fleet.

The Reaper is getting new sensors.

Textron is considering the next gen of its Shadow UAV.

New details are emerging on the Chinese man indicted for being a spy hunting drone tech.

A counterUAV system is being tested by the US Army. 

The DHS wants one as well.

China says ten countries have bought their UAVs.  The demand seems rather high.

China also details their CH-901 UAV and their loitering munition.

Finland is considering buying armed drones.

The British have selected General Atomics Predator B for its Protector UAV.

Israel's Rafael has unveiled its anti drone system.

Israel's UVision loitering munitions blur the line between missile and drone.

Turkey is looking to source its drone components from its own industrial base rather than abroad.

Can Turkey and the US actually work together on their drone tech

Azerbaijan wants more Israeli UAVs for its border conflict with Armenia.

Russia's United-40 UAV has started testing.

Warmate's expendable UAV has two customers.


What is the reality of Russia's dirty bomb armed Status-6 UUV?


The Chinese have developed a taser armed robot.

First There was Future Shock: now There is Future Chop!

Studying the Evolution of the Horse's Spine

Modern horses are expert runners. They reach top speeds using a special running gait in which they hold their back stiff as they move. A new study published today reveals that tiny fossil ancestors of modern horses may have moved quite differently to their living counterparts.

"Horses provide a perfect case-study on the evolution of running because they have such an amazing fossil record", explains author Dr. Katrina Jones, a post-doctoral researcher in Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. Dating back over 50 million years, the oldest horse ancestors were no bigger than a house cat. From those ancient horse ancestors, some lineages evolved larger sizes, grazing habit and limbs that were specialized for running. This new study suggests that the stiff-backed gait of modern horses likely evolved to save energy while running as horses got bigger through their evolution.

"For over a century, researchers studied the feet of fossil horses to explain how they evolved features specialized for running," explains Jones, "but very little is known about how the backbone might be involved in this famous transition." Four-legged mammals tend to move their lower back during running to help increase speed and regulate breathing. But horses are unusual because they restrict the motion of their lumbar spine to a single joint near their rump. Jones wanted to find out if this unusual pattern was shared by extinct horses, and how increasing size in horse evolution may have affected their back mobility and running style.

To understand the evolution of the back in fossil horses, Jones first examined the anatomy and mobility of the spine in modern domestic horses. The shape of the vertebral joints--bony connections between the vertebrae--help determine how much motion occurs at each joint. Armed with this information, Jones then measured the shape of vertebral joints in 16 species of fossil horses spanning their full size and age range.