Friday, January 13, 2017

Stealth Saga #59

ATD-X/X-2/F-3:

The proposed F-3 fighter is planned to be bigger than the F-22.

FC-31:

More on the new testing.

An a bit more: the Chinese are reportedly offering the FC-31 for $70 million (vs F-35 for $105M).

And more still.  Jane's states there are significant changes.

And one last one.

J-20:

The J-20 program is being called the most complicated and riskiest program for China yet.

PAK-FA:

Russia is claiming it will declare IOC (or russian equivalent) for the PAK-FA in 2017.

Some think the Russians are exaggerating the PAK-FA's capabilities.

Sixth Generation Fighter:

Why Russia and China should fear the US Sixth Generation Fighters.

B-21 Raider:

Will the B-21 bring new stealth tech to the light?

F-117:

In 1986, Reagan offered Thatcher (and Britain, dur) the then very secret F-117 stealth fighter.  Britain, obviously, declined.

F-22:

Lockheed just won a $61M sustainment contract for the F-22.

F-22 & F-35:


A nice side by side comparison of the F-22 and F-35 when they fly in formation at RIAT.


F-35:

Some are stating the F-35 may never be combat ready.

Lockheed's CEO has committed to driving down the price of the F-35.

Lockheed won a $450M contract for the F-35.

Soon-to-be President Trump's sniping at the F-35 is threatening the program.

Trump's proposal to replace the F-35 with an upgraded F/A-18E/F is met with derision.

Counter Stealth:

Supposedly, the new E-2 Hawkeye can detect stealth aircraft.

META:

War on the Rocks looks at the future of air superiority.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Evidence of Cryovolcanism on Europa in the Argadnel Regio


Authors:

Prockter et al

Abstract:

We combine Galileo Solid State Imager (SSI) and Near-Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (NIMS) data to investigate the composition of pull-apart bands in Europa's Argadnel Regio. Using spectral linear mixture modeling employing cryogenic laboratory reference spectra, we find that bands of intermediate age (“grey” bands) are compositionally distinct from bands that are stratigraphically younger (“dark” bands). The grey bands have higher abundances of larger ice grains and lower abundances of hydrated salts than the dark bands; both of these tendencies are statistically significant at the 1% level. The grey and dark bands have similar abundances of hexahydrite, a material which is relatively stable under irradiation; however, the derived abundances of frozen magnesium sulfate brine and of mirabilite, which are more susceptible to fragmentation by radiation, are significantly higher in the dark bands than in the grey bands. These results are consistent with a physical model in which the differences in composition and in ice grain sizes are linked to space weathering and radiolytic processing levels; the grey bands have presumably undergone higher levels of processing, due to being exposed on Europa's surface for a longer period of time. One prominent wedge-shaped band exhibits an anomalous albedo variation across its northern portion, appearing dark in its top third, and grey in its southernmost two-thirds. We find that the dark part of the band has a modeled composition that is in-family with other dark bands, while the grey portion has a modeled composition that is indistinguishable from other grey bands in the study area. Because these variations cannot easily be attributed to the band's formation mechanism (bands open sequentially along a central axis), we surmise that the northern part has been resurfaced, probably in response to the formation of a large topographic basin that cuts through the band. Faulting accompanying basin formation may provide conduits allowing transport to the surface of materials from Europa's interior. We hypothesize that the formation of the basin resulted in fresh cryovolcanic material being deposited across the northern portion of the band, effectively “resetting” its surface age. If, as has been suggested, the giant arcuate basins resulted from an episode of true polar wander, our study may help to more tightly constrain the age of that event within Europa's geologic column.

New Horizons Prepares for Encounter With Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69

A year and a half after its historic flyby of dwarf planet Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is preparing for its encounter with a second Kuiper Belt Object. Now just two years away from the planned 1 January 2019 encounter with 2014 MU69, New Horizons is in a healthy state as it sails toward the small, rocky, classical Kuiper Belt Object.


How Stable Would Organic Molecules be on the Martian Surface


Authors:

Lasne et al

Abstract:

In 1976, the Viking landers carried out the most comprehensive search for organics and microbial life in the martian regolith. Their results indicate that Mars' surface is lifeless and, surprisingly, depleted in organics at part-per-billion levels. Several biology experiments on the Viking landers gave controversial results that have since been explained by the presence of oxidizing agents on the surface of Mars. These oxidants may degrade abiotic or biological organics, resulting in their nondetection in the regolith. As several exploration missions currently focus on the detection of organics on Mars (or will do so in the near future), knowledge of the oxidative state of the surface is fundamental. It will allow for determination of the capability of organics to survive on a geological timescale, the most favorable places to seek them, and the best methods to process the samples collected at the surface. With this aim, we review the main oxidants assumed to be present on Mars, their possible formation pathways, and those laboratory studies in which their reactivity with organics under Mars-like conditions has been evaluated. Among the oxidants assumed to be present on Mars, only four have been detected so far: perchlorate ions (ClO4−) in salts, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in the atmosphere, and clays and metal oxides composing surface minerals. Clays have been suggested as catalysts for the oxidation of organics but are treated as oxidants in the following to keep the structure of this article straightforward. This work provides an insight into the oxidizing potential of the surface of Mars and an estimate of the stability of organic matter in an oxidizing environment.

Boeing and SpaceX Each Awarded 4 More Crewed Flights to ISS

NASA took another big step to ensure reliable crew transportation to the International Space Station into the next decade. The agency’s Commercial Crew Program has awarded an additional four crew rotation missions each to commercial partners, Boeing and SpaceX, to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

The four additional missions will fly following NASA certification. They fall under the current Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts, and bring the total number of missions awarded to each provider to six.

The additional flights will allow the commercial partners to plan for all aspects of these missions while fulfilling space station transportation needs. The awards do not include payments at this time.

“Awarding these missions now will provide greater stability for the future space station crew rotation schedule, as well as reduce schedule and financial uncertainty for our providers,” said Phil McAlister, director, NASA’s Commercial Spaceflight Development Division. “The ability to turn on missions as needed to meet the needs of the space station program is an important aspect of the Commercial Crew Program.”

The two commercial spacecraft also will provide a lifeboat capability to allow the astronauts aboard the station to return safely to Earth in an emergency, if necessary.

Chaco Canyon was Reliant on Food Imports

The ancient inhabitants of New Mexico's Chaco Canyon, the zenith of Pueblo culture in the Southwest a thousand years ago, likely had to import corn to feed the multitudes residing there, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.

CU Boulder scientist Larry Benson said the new study shows that Chaco Canyon - believed by some archeologists to have been populated by several thousand people around A.D. 1100 and to have held political sway over an area twice the size of Ohio - had soils that were too salty for the effective growth of corn and beans.

"The important thing about this study is that it demonstrates you can't grow great quantities of corn in the Chaco valley floor," said Benson, an adjunct curator of anthropology at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. "And you couldn't grow sufficient corn in the side canyon tributaries of Chaco that would have been necessary to feed several thousand people.

"Either there were very few people living in Chaco Canyon, or corn was imported there."

A 6th Century Volcanic Eruption Disrupted Mayan Civilization


Authors:

Nooren et al

Abstract:

A remarkably long period of Northern Hemispheric cooling in the 6th century CE, which disrupted human societies across large parts of the globe, has been attributed to volcanic forcing of climate. A major tropical eruption in 540 CE is thought to have played a key role, but there is no consensus about the source volcano to date. Here, we present evidence for El Chichón in southern Mexico as the most likely candidate, based on a refined reconstruction of the volcano’s eruption history. A new chronological framework, derived from distal tephra deposits and the world’s largest Holocene beach ridge plain along the Gulf of Mexico, enabled us to positively link a major explosive event to a prominent volcanic sulfur spike in bipolar ice core records, dated at 540 CE. We speculate that voluminous tephra fall from the eruption had a severe environmental impact on Maya societies, leading to temporary cultural decline, site abandonment, and migration within the core area of Maya civilization.

Potential Impacts of Precolumbian Disruption of the Amazon Rain Forest

Ancient human disturbances may be skewing our understanding of Amazonian forests

Authors:

McMichael et al

Abstract:

Although the Amazon rainforest houses much of Earth’s biodiversity and plays a major role in the global carbon budget, estimates of tree biodiversity originate from fewer than 1,000 forest inventory plots, and estimates of carbon dynamics are derived from fewer than 200 recensus plots. It is well documented that the pre-European inhabitants of Amazonia actively transformed and modified the forest in many regions before their population collapse around 1491 AD; however, the impacts of these ancient disturbances remain entirely unaccounted for in the many highly influential studies using Amazonian forest plots. Here we examine whether Amazonian forest inventory plot locations are spatially biased toward areas with high probability of ancient human impacts. Our analyses reveal that forest inventory plots, and especially forest recensus plots, in all regions of Amazonia are located disproportionately near archaeological evidence and in areas likely to have ancient human impacts. Furthermore, regions of the Amazon that are relatively oversampled with inventory plots also contain the highest values of predicted ancient human impacts. Given the long lifespan of Amazonian trees, many forest inventory and recensus sites may still be recovering from past disturbances, potentially skewing our interpretations of forest dynamics and our understanding of how these forests are responding to global change. Empirical data on the human history of forest inventory sites are crucial for determining how past disturbances affect modern patterns of forest composition and carbon flux in Amazonian forests.

What Drove the Giant Marsupial Predators (sparassodontans) of South America to Extinction?


Authors:

Lópes-Aguirre et al

Abstract:

Sparassodontans are a diverse but now extinct group of metatherians that were apex predators in South America during most of the Cenozoic. Studying their decline has been controversial mainly due to the scarcity of the fossil record, and different methodological approaches have led to contradictory hypotheses. In an effort to explore questions about their extinction, we developed a novel multi-model statistical approach to analyse all of the currently available data at a continental scale. Using multiple regression analysis and new advances in beta diversity analysis, we used all currently available fossil data at a continental scale to test four competing hypotheses to account for the decline of sparassodontans: competition with placental carnivorans, competition with avian phorusrhacids, non-competitive ecological interactions, and environmental fluctuations. Our results show that the sparassodontan extinction was a gradual process with species disappearing throughout the Cenozoic. Multiple regression analysis supported non-competitive ecological interactions as the best extinction model. Native South American ungulates, African migrants (caviomorph rodents and platyrrhine primates) and didelphimorphians were the groups with the highest statistical significance. Sparassodontan beta diversity increased between South American Land Mammal Ages after the Paleocene–Eocene boundary. Our results demonstrate that ecological modelling techniques illuminate aspects of extinction processes whilst mitigating the limitations of the fossil record. Our study suggests that non-competitive ecological interactions could have been the main driver for sparassodontan extinction rather than, as commonly assumed, a result of competition and/or abiotic fluctuations.

Did the Permian Extinction Trigger a Shrinkage of Red Blood Cells in the Ancestors of Dinosaurs and Mammals?

Many mammals and birds are remarkable athletes; mice work hard to dig burrows for protection and sparrows fight gravity with each flap of their wings. In order to have the energy to sustain vigorous exercise, the body's tissues need a steady supply of oxygen, and red blood cells (RBCs) are the center of the oxygen delivery system. Size matters, too; athletic mammals and birds have much smaller RBCs than other vertebrates with lesser capacities for exercise. Biologists have long been puzzled over the evolutionary origins of RBC size. Were predecessors of mammals and birds -- including dinosaurs -- athletes and did they have tiny red blood cells? How do you measure the blood of extinct animals?

Now, biologists at the University of Utah and the Natural History Museum of Utah have established a 'fossilizable' indicator of athleticism in the bones of extinct vertebrates.

The study, which published online in Current Biology on Dec. 22, is the first to draw a link between RBC size and the microscopic traces of blood vessels and bone cells inside the bone. The researchers measured the bony channels that deliver oxygen to bone tissue to pinpoint when our mammal ancestors, bird and dinosaur predecessors evolved small RBCs. They found that extinct mammal relatives, or cynodonts, and extinct bird relatives had smaller RBCs and were likely better athletes than earlier terrestrial vertebrates. The timing of RBC-size reduction coincided with the greatest mass extinction event on Earth 252 million years ago, an event that paved the way for the age of the dinosaurs.

How Long did the Ediacaran NeoProterozoic Shuram Event Last?


Authors:

Gong et al

Abstract:

The Shuram excursion (SE), one of the largest-known negative carbon isotope anomalies, has been globally observed in Ediacaran rocks. Precisely determining the duration of the SE is pivotal to understanding its controversial origin. Here, we present a detailed paleomagnetic, rock magnetic, cyclostratigraphic and carbon isotopic study of the SE in the Doushantuo Formation at the Dongdahe section in eastern Yunnan Province, South China. Although paleomagnetic results likely show a late Mesozoic remagnetization, careful mineralogic analyses indicate that the rock magnetic cyclostratigraphy carried by detrital pseudo-single domain (SD) or small multidomain (MD) titanomagnetite grains faithfully records orbitally-forced climate cycles in the Ediacaran. Multi-taper method (MTM) spectral analysis of magnetic susceptibility (MS) and anhysteretic remanent magnetization (ARM) series reveals significant spectral peaks at similar frequencies. Based on the ratios of their frequencies, these spectral peaks are assigned to a suite of Milankovitch cycles (long eccentricity, short eccentricity, obliquity and precession), yielding a sediment accumulation rate of 1.0 cm/kyr for the Doushantuo Formation. A 9.1 ± 1.0 Myr duration is indicated for the entire SE in South China. This result is in good agreement with independent estimates from North America and South Australia, thus supporting a primary origin for the SE. In combination with published geochronologic data, we suggest that the onset of the SE occurred at ca. 560 Ma, which provides a chronostratigraphic framework for evaluating the relationship between the SE and the evolution of metazoans in Ediacaran time.

Puerto Rican Governor Rossello to Immediately Push for Statehood

Puerto Rico's new governor was sworn in Monday, promising an immediate push for statehood in a territory facing a deep economic crisis.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello, 37, proposed several measures aimed at alleviating the crisis shortly after he was sworn in at midnight. Among them is a proposal to hold a referendum that would ask voters whether they prefer statehood or independence. Many have argued that Puerto Rico's political status has contributed to its decade-long crisis that has prompted more than 200,000 people to flee to the U.S. mainland in recent years.

"The United States cannot pretend to be a model of democracy for the world while it discriminates against 3.5 million of its citizens in Puerto Rico, depriving them of their right to political, social and economic equality under the U.S. flag," Rossello said in his inaugural speech, delivered in Spanish. "There is no way to overcome Puerto Rico's crisis given its colonial condition."

The crowd rose to its feet and cheered as Rossello announced that he would fly to Washington, D.C., Monday to back a bill to admit Puerto Rico as the 51st state.

He also said he would soon hold elections to choose two senators and five representatives to Congress and send them to Washington to demand statehood, a strategy used by Tennessee to join the union in the 18th century. The U.S. government has final say on whether Puerto Rico can become a state.

link.

In a bit of a flashback, President Ford called for Puerto Rico to become a state in 1977.

Could China's Seizure of the US Navy Drone sub set a Precident for Satellites?

China’s mid-December abduction of a US Navy unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) as the vessel was returning to its mothership after a scientific excursion showed that China is willing to play hardball with US hardware. In previous confrontations, China took custody of an EP-3 reconnaissance plane and its crew in 2001, and has harassed multiple unarmed US Navy survey ships with dangerous maneuvers. As part of its “peaceful rise”, China has focused on gaining ground in new domains of strategic interest outside of its traditional focus. As a result, it has adopted assertive and asymmetric strategic postures in the maritime, cyber, and space domains.

Lessons that China learns in one domain tend to find their way into others. In June 2016, China launched Aolong-1, the first of a planned series of satellites equipped with a robotic manipulator, purportedly for the purpose of capturing and de-orbiting space debris. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy destroyer that picked up the UUV in the South China Sea is tasked with and equipped for submarine recovery operations, a similarly benign mission with apparent dual-use utility. Being robotic, the UUV made for an easier, less risky, target. China learned quickly after the EP-3 incident that holding US personnel hostage for however long a period had a highly escalatory effect and was a public relations liability. A drone, though, is simply hardware, sending the desired message to the United States—and to South China Sea claimant nations—without the wetware liability.

China demonstrating its willingness to assert itself in contested domains, using tools it has developed for peaceful uses, means its assets in orbit must receive renewed scrutiny. China’s predominant doctrine for space remains a theory of “space deterrence,” its aim to hold an adversary’s space assets at risk for asymmetric advantage. What better way to send a deterrent message in space than by grabbing a high-value satellite for some period of time, potentially under the pretext of “safety of flight,” similar to the justification used by the PLA Navy in the South China Sea?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Dawn on Jefferson; Chapter Nine: Attack of the Awknerds or This is NOT how Adventures are Supposed to Start

Adventures, I have always imagined, were supposed to start with the blaring or trumpets and banging of gongs as people marched out of a great greek or medieval city, banners flying, and everyone set in armor with swords and crowds looking on with a blessing of the priest or king or whatever.

Or perhaps sneaking away in the dark of night to find in active camouflage and no noise at all, just the chirping of an AI assistant bot as the sole noise as the mission, the adventure, began wrapped in silence and concern about the ever present all seeing eyes of the state and spies.

But, no.  That's not how it happened to me.

Oh no.

That would have been too wonderful.

Too kind, too sweet of fate to do that to me.  Instead, she decided to smirk and pull my my proverbial pig tail.

She sent the awknerds to wake me up through braying at me.

They meant it as a serenade to embarrass their 'leader,' Aitan.  Aitan had a crush on me.  He had since he was 6.  He was smart and nice, but very, very awkawrd in everything he did.  And he was nerdy.  hence, awknerd.  His friends were cut from the same cloth.

There's nothing wrong with Aitan or being a nerd.  I'm geeky myself and so are my friends, the Merry Pranksters.  It's just I don't like him that way and be simply won't give up.  He got the message, finally, after so many silly little gestures and gifts.  It was infuriating at the time.  Well, sweet, but unwanted as first, but later, more and more infuriating.  Then he stopped.  

However, he made the mistake of telling his friends, the others in his clique, The Awknerds, he had a crush on me.  This led to THEM pulling stunts on me to embarrass and humiliate poor Aitan.  He tried to apologize once, but I was so mad I chewed him instead.  Poor Aitan, that merely made his friends redouble their efforts.

There they were, right outside our taxito bubble, serenading me.  Tom was laughing hysterically once we figured out what was going on.  Rosa started up her Immie camera and began streaming the horrible performance.  I got up and started yelling at them to go away and stop.  That made Tom laugh harder and Veena started scribbling down notes on her paper.

The Awknerds launched into a second song when I started getting on my leathers.  I as so mad I was going to use a needler on them, on sleep, of course, I swear.  When I got on my gloves, the Awknerds ran and ran so hard it was actually funny.  They slipped and fell all over each other, running like mechanical clocks and giraffes on too much caffeine.  It was funny, but I didn't want to crack a smile it might encourage them again.

I turned to the inner airlock door on the taxito bubble and Rosa's flying Immie camera was right in my face.  Ok, Rosa, you asked for it!

I pulled out my needler and overly dramatically checked it.  I struck a pose and turned to the camera with a mean, determined look on my face.  

"This ends NOW!  And forever!  We are having Awknerd for dinner tonight."

And I pushed past the hovering Immie camera and through the airlock doors.

Acting!  It was all acting!  Sheesh!  No Awknerds were harmed in the production of this adventure.  At least not by my friends and I!  Sheesh!

I ran after the fleeing Awknerds, brandishing my needler and yelling loudly enough the entire camp started cheering.  No one likes the sound of of braying Awknerd first thing in the morning.

As I raced after them, little did I know I was racing for the first big adventure of my life.

China CLaims to be Testing Controversial EM Drive in Space

Dr. Chen Yue, Director of Commercial Satellite Technology for the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) announced on December 10, 2016 that not only has China successfully tested EmDrives technology in its laboratories, but that a proof-of-concept is currently undergoing zero-g testing in orbit (according to the International Business Times, this test is taking place on the Tiangong 2 space station).

Hunting for Nonice on Europa's Surface


Authors:

Fischer et al

Abstract:

We present spatially resolved spectroscopic observations of Europa's surface at 3–4 μm obtained with the near-infrared spectrograph and adaptive optics system on the Keck II telescope. These are the highest quality spatially resolved reflectance spectra of Europa's surface at 3–4 μm. The observations spatially resolve Europa's large-scale compositional units at a resolution of several hundred kilometers. The spectra show distinct features and geographic variations associated with known compositional units; in particular, large-scale leading hemisphere chaos shows a characteristic longward shift in peak reflectance near 3.7 μm compared to icy regions. These observations complement previous spectra of large-scale chaos, and can aid efforts to identify the endogenous non-ice species.

Where Planet Nine Might be Hiding


Authors:

Millholland et al

Abstract:

A number of authors have proposed that the statistically significant orbital alignment of the most distant Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) is evidence of an as-yet undetected planet in the outer solar system, now referred to colloquially a "Planet Nine". Dynamical simulations by Batygin & Brown (2016) have provided constraints on the range of the planet's possible orbits and sky locations. We extend these investigations by exploring the suggestion of Malhotra et al. (2016) that Planet Nine is in small integer ratio mean-motion resonances (MMRs) with several of the most distant KBOs. We show that the observed KBO semi-major axes present a set of commensurabilities with an unseen planet at ∼654 AU (P∼16,725 yr) that has a greater than 98% chance of stemming from a sequence of MMRs rather than from a random distribution. We describe and implement a Monte-Carlo optimization scheme that drives billion-year dynamical integrations of the outer solar system to pinpoint the orbital properties of perturbers that are capable of maintaining the KBOs' apsidal alignment. This optimization exercise suggests that the unseen planet is most consistently represented with mass, m∼6−12M⊕, semi-major axis, a∼654 AU, eccentricity, e∼0.45, inclination, i∼30∘, argument of periastron, ω∼150∘, longitude of ascending node, Ω∼50∘, and mean anomaly, M∼180∘. A range of sky locations relative to this fiducial ephemeris are possible. We find that the region 30∘≲RA≲50∘, −20∘≲Dec≲20∘ is promising.

Examining the Recent Volcanic Activity on Venus' Idunn Mons by Venus Express


Authors:

D'Inecco et al

Abstract:

From 2006 until 2014 the ESA Venus Express probe observed the atmosphere and surface of the Earth's twin planet. The Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) has provided data that indicate the occurrence of recent volcanic activity on Venus. We selected the eastern flank of Idunn Mons - Imdr Regio's single large volcano – as the study area, since it was identified in VIRTIS data as one of the regions with relatively high values of thermal emissivity at 1 μm wavelength. Using the capabilities of specific techniques developed in the Planetary Emissivity Laboratory group at DLR in Berlin, our study intends to identify location and extent of the sources of such anomalies, thus the lava flows responsible for the relatively high emissivity observed by VIRTIS over the eastern flank of Idunn Mons. We map the lava flow units on the top and eastern flank of Idunn Mons, varying the values of simulated 1 μm emissivity assigned to the mapped units. For each configuration we calculate the total RMS error in comparison with the VIRTIS observations. In the best-fit configuration, the flank lava flows are characterized by high values of 1 μm simulated emissivity. Hence, the lava flow units on the eastern flank on Idunn Mons are likely responsible for the relatively high 1 μm emissivity anomalies observed by VIRTIS. This result is supported by the reconstructed post-eruption stratigraphy, displaying the relative dating of the mapped lava flows, that is independent of the 1 μm emissivity modeling. Values of average microwave emissivity extracted from the lava flow units range around the global mean, which is consistent with dry basalts.

Chinese Space Exploration Plans

China vowed Tuesday to speed up the development of its space industry as it set out its plans to become the first country to soft land a probe on the far side of the moon, around 2018, and launch its first Mars probe by 2020.

"To explore the vast cosmos, develop the space industry and build China into a space power is a dream we pursue unremittingly," read a white paper setting out the country's space strategy for the next five years. It says China aims to use space for peaceful purposes and to guarantee national security, and to carry out cutting edge scientific research.

The white paper released by the information office of China's Cabinet points to the growing ambitions of China's already rapidly advancing space program. Although the white paper doesn't mention it, China's eventual goal is the symbolic feat of landing an astronaut on the moon.

Robopocalypse Report #97

Drones:

7-11 is building on their initial trials with Flirtey for delivery by drone.   The extended trials have been going on for over a month now.

An aerial test track has been built out for Africa for drones.

Amazon has conducted its first drone delivery in England. 

Amazon is considering an airship to act as a mothership for its delivery drones.

Amazon has patented a way to protect its drones from hackers, jammers and ... arrows.

Are drones the new big cat toys?!

The best (?) drone photography of the year.

A new British drone dives into the water like a seabird.

Casey Neistat built a custom drone he used in snowboarding.

DARPA's ALIAS kit to convert any aircraft into a drone has passed phase 2 of the program.

Drone controllers have evolved to allow for second screens.

Drones are herding elephants away from danger.

Facebook's drone crashed because a gust of wind snapped a wing.

The French have started a trial system using drones to deliver mail.

Google wants to do food, starting with pizza, delivery via drone for around $6.

John Hopkins demonstrated blood can be delivered by drone safely.

In New Hampshire, a camera drone hit some  guests at a wedding.  Those guests are now suing the groom.

NovAerial's helicopter drones get profiled.

The Swedish Griff drone can lift over 300 lbs.

Now there is a Swiss feathered drone.

A video captured killer whales eating a shark.

Self Driving Cars:

Amazon is building an Uber-like tasking system for truckers.  You know where this is going.

Blackberry may be exiting the phone market, but it is getting into the self driving car arena.

Self driving cars will headline CES.

Delphi is going to start its own self driving car service.

Florida does not require permits for self driving cars.

Ford will unveil its self driving Ford Focus at CES.

Now that it is legal to drive everywhere in Michigan with or without a driver for a self driving car, GM is going to massively expand its testing there.

Google has spun off its self driving car business into a new company called Waymo.  Supposedly, it has ended the attempt to build cars without steering wheels.

Norway wants to start testing self driving cars in 2017.

An update to Tesla's Autopilot will force the car to follow the speed limit and other road rules.

Tesla's autopilot appears to have predicted an accident a couple seconds before the impact of the cars in front of it.

Uber has moved its self driving cars to Arizona after it biffed it in San Francisco.   Will Lyft actually the rules when to attempt to roll out their self driving cars in SF?

Uber has introduced Uber Freight as its stepping stone to self driving semi service.

Volkswagon is trying to get into our good graces again by developing a system that watches for signs on the road for you.

Waymo just took delivery of a number of self driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

Waymo is in talks to provide its tech to Honda for their self driving cars.

How lidars work for self driving cars.

Self Driving Cars of any stripe are perfectly legal in Michigan.

Samsung has taken over supplying the self driving computers from Mobileye for Tesla.

Santa Clara University's self driving bus (golf cart) brakes for squirrels, skateboarders and students.

The press noticed Uber's self driving car fleet garage on 5th and Harrison. Uber started picking up and dropping off people in SF using their self driving cars.  The California DMV told them to stop because they were unpermitted.  Uber flipped the DMV the bird (understandable but stupid).  The California Attorney General started to get involved and it seems Uber pulled the cars from the road.  Uber just made its life much, much harder assuming their intent is to get their cars on the road in California much faster.  They have move toe cars to Arizona.

Uber has admitted its self driving cars have problems crossing bike lanes.

Self driving trucks that travel in platoons are more efficient.  

3d Printing:

Adidas has launched its first 3d printed shoe.

A man 3d printed a Camaro engine.

More arrests have been made for 3d printing guns in Australia.

A 3d printed concrete bridge was unveiled in Madrid, Spain.

Hershey's and SciFutures teamed up to do a three printing demo for chocolate.

How to navigate the 3d bioprinting patent minefield.

Next Dynamics has a 3d printer capable of creating electronics.

Pinshape has released a 3d printable materials guide.

What does the future hold for 3d printing?

What is the strongest 3d printer filament?

Robotics:

A new bot from Cornell has a human like sense of touch.

The robopocalypse is sneaking into the construction site.  This time with a roboexecavator.


A South Korean robotics company collaborated with a Moldovan American designer to make a giant mech.   Here is the interview with the lead designer.  They may owe royalties to James Cameron.  ;)

Stanford built a semi humanoid robot to explore a 17th century shipwreck.

Cyborgism:

New EEG tech allows people to control robots without implants.

Through electrostimulation, a person's brain can be convinced a prosthetic limb is its own.

Software Bots:

2016 was the year software bots got creative.

Software bots are going to be for...mental health?!

AI is being used to create new drugs.

Amazon's Alexa has infested a lamp.

Amazon's Alexa is being placed in the Wynn hotel in Vegas to control the rooms for the Wynn's customers.

Amazon's Alexa now works with the logitech Harmony entertainment system.

Amazon is looking to dominate the new interface, voice command, with its Alexa bot.

Apple has published its first paper on AI.

Bridgewater Associates are replacing their managers in their hedge fund with software bots.

Cortana is going to be used on IoT devices with screens.

Facebook's Zuckerberg showed off Jarvis, his home AI.  Jarvis is voiced by Morgan Freeman.

Google may try to prevent Samsung putting its Viv assistant on the Galaxy S8 phone.

Google's Assistant is being added to Sony TV and speakers.

Microsoft's latest attempt at a chatbot, Zo, gets profiled.  I wonder if it'll become a neonazi, too.

Hayao Miyazaki finds AI generated animation offensive.

Parallel intelligence is proposed as the next step in AI development.

It is now illegal to use bots to snap up tickets for concerts, etc.

IBM's Watson was used to help with a Japanese woman's leukemia.

Automated Systems:

Amazon Go won't shake up your local retail store any time soon.

Amazon is hardly alone in testing their new automated store: Panasonic is testing one in Japan.

The Brits are testing an automated beer dispenser.

In China, a 'smart' restaurant suggests orders based on your face.

The Japanese automated hotel gets profiled again.

META:

How do we manage the downsides of the robopocalypse?

2017 is going to be a big year for AI.

Some are saying autonomous systems still will need human oversight for the foreseeable future.

The White House has stated there will need to be a stronger social safety net for those displaced by the Robopocalypse.

The Robopocalypse will greatly increase productivity, but may lead to even greater income inequality.

A poll conducted shows support for the idea of a universal basic income.

Will human-robot marriage become a thing?

2016 in robotics.

The Coming Cyber War #23

Cyber Warfare:

A US Air Force EC-130H has been attacking the Islamic State in Syria.

The USMC is looking for hackers, or as it has been put, "a few good nerds" for its cyber warfare section.

The US government is sorting out who is in charge of the cyber domain.

Mirai bot nets are now using TOR to hide its control network.

North Korea has denied launching a cyber attack on South Korea.

 OSCE, the group observing the 'cease fire' (or lack thereof) in Eastern Ukraine has been hit with a major cyber attack.

Russian hackers tracked Ukrainian artillery units through android malware.

Was the Russian hacking of the election system the first 'Russo-American cyberwar?'

How to deter Russian (and others) from attempting the cyber attack again.

A Turkish hacker is giving out prizes for conducting DDoS attacks.

Ukraine had another cyber attack on its power grid.

Ukraine has been hit by 3,500 cyber attacks and considers itself in a cyber war with Russia.

Cyber Security:

Airline entertainment system hacks are back.

This is how cellebrite works.

DARPA has given Raytheon a contract to find ways to protect the power infrastructure.

The US FDIC has released guidelines for medical software and hardware cyber security.

Google has released a tool to look for cyrpto bugs that can be exploited.

KillDisk malware has become ransomware.

McAffee has a security bug that has been unaddressed for months.

Netgear Wifi routers are VERY insecure: stop using!  Netgear has a beta patch.

Nevada accidentally revealed the personal details of all those applying for medical cannabis dispensary licenses.

PwC is threatening to sue security researchers.

North Korea's version of Android takes a screen shot every time an app is opened.

Numerous twitter accounts have been hacked by OurMine, a white hat hacker group.

Ubuntu has found customers are terrible at updating their IoT devices.

The UN has warned the threat of cyber attacks on nuclear power plants is rising.

A US think tank wants security built into all IoT devices, but how may be ... problematic.

The US DOT wants to mandate vehicle to vehicle communication: this is a bad idea, IMO.

Zero Day exploits for two diffferent linux distros' desktops have appeared.

Cyber Espionage:

ADUPS Malware infects new Barnes & Noble tablets, reporting data back to Shanghai.

The NSA's best are supposedly leaving in droves due to Trump's election.

Is the NSA pushing to redefine the interpretation of the 4th amendment?

The British 'Snooper's Charter' may give the government permission to lie in court.

The British Snooper's Charter took a blow in the EU court system, but will it matter with Brexit?

The Chinese have reaffirmed their commitment to cyber surveillance.

The EFF is monitoring the surveillance tech being used at the standing rock protest.

The FBI is probing a hack of the FDIC by the Chinese military.

There is a new search engine just for checking if news is fake.

The Russians made attempts to influence the US Presidential election. Trump denies this. Trump even took swipes at the intel agencies.  The intel agencies are feuding with the Republicans over the hacks. McCain states the facts are there. Obama has ordered a review to be done before he leaves office and is VERY sure Russia is behind the attacks while stating Trump won legitimately.. The review will go beyond the election.  Republicans in Congress disagree with Trump and want a probe. The top management of the intel agencies have not endorsed the report.  The FBI does now agree about the Russians.  Some are saying Putin is trying to 'hack' the confidence in the US system. The Germans are stated the Russians are just getting started. Russia says the claims it attempted to influence the election are just infighting between the two sides in US politics. A piece of legislation moving through congress is going to mandate countermeasures. A report claims Putin personally directed the attacks.

More information on the attack by the Russians on the US Presidential election  The election agency was hacked. Why there is a debate about the hack in the US at all?  The Russians are stating to prove they did the hack or shut up.  Obama is threatening to counterattack Russia.  The CIA head is advising against retaliation.  The Russian fake news bots are the same stuff done in Ukraine, but amped up for the globe.

The American retaliation is to ban several russians from the US, release info on Russian cyber activities and more.  Russia has vowed to attack in return.

A report released by Congress claims Snowden was in contact with Russian intelligence in 2013.

The Russians are trying to unlock the Iphone of the assassin of the Russian ambassador in Turkey.

Twitter is blocking intel agencies' access to its data.

The US Congress has concluded encryption backdoors won't work.

A US Court is demanding information on the collaboration between ATT and the police to spy.

The US House is urging the passage of a bill restricting and regulating the use of Stingray and other cell phone interception devices by the police.

What the US intelligence agencies think of Trump.

The US NIST is seeking help to protect computers from hacking by the up and coming quantum computers.

Did a typo lead to the Podesta email hack?

Cyber Crime:

In a bizarre twist on cyber "crime," Arkansas police are seeking the data from an Amazon Echo to help solve a murder.

Chinese stock traders have been arrested on suspicion of profiting based on hacked insider information.

The FBI has started arresting users of DDoS bot networks.

Here's a guide to hacks in 2016.

Hackers defaced Thai websites over restrictive internet laws.

IBM found most businesses pay when hit by ransomware.

The Leet botnet is bigger than Mirai.

New malicious advertising (malware hiding as advertising) is infecting users' routers rather than their desktop or tablets.

Malware has been found in 26 low cost android devices; resellers are suspected to be adding it.

A Nigerian man has been arrested and charged with hacking the Los Angeles County email system.

A new website found has all the NSA exploits for sale.

The Popcorn Time malware will give you the keys to get rid of it IF you spread it to your friends.  

Quest Diagnostics was hacked and 34,000 customers' data was exposed.

Ransomware infected an LG smart tv.

A Russian cybergang may have scammed millions through the use of fake websites and clicks.

A Swedish hacker posted the specs for a device to hack Mac passwords.

SWIFT was hacked again.

Twitter is cooperating with a journalist who is hunting for someone who sent him a video that induced a seizure.  

Uber is being sued by a former officer in the company allegedly stating employees stalked ex gf/bfs, celebrities and politicians using the data from the app.  Uber claims it has safeguards against that.

Occupied Ukraine has become a hot spot for cybercriminals.

A US citizen surrendered to face charges for a cyber attack.

The US Government is targeting the torrent sites like Pirate's Bay.

Yahoo has reported 1 billion of its accounts have been compromised.  Verizon is considering killing its acquisition of Yahoo.  The database of user information may have sold for as little as $300k.

 META:

The US attempted to and failed to get a change in a treaty to allow for cyber weapons export in a treaty.

Paleolithic Papers #12

Genus Homo:

Modern Humans (H. sapiens):

Domesticated dogs from 50,000 years ago are described from Yakutia.

Modern humans have started NOT developing wisdom teeth. John Hawks also discusses this recent evolution.

How modern humans may have moved down the Western Coast of North America during the Pleistocene colonization of this continent.

In the twilight of the Pleistocene, one community in Syria domesticated the first cereals and changed humanity's lifestyle. 

The twilight of the Pleistocene mummy from North America has been given to a tribe after DNA sequencing. 

Similar era burials in South America had mutilation rituals.

What is the ancestral position of the zygoma in modern humans?

During the Pleistocene/Mesolithic, people traded obsidian sometimes over 100 miles.

Neandertals (H. neanderthalensis):

The plant diet of the Neandertals
from Mid Pleistocene Israel is profiled, including tubers, seasonal plants, etc.

Were Neandertals religious?

In the Altai Mounts of Russia, Neandertals inhabited an arid, dry steppe environment.

Denisovans:

There is evidence Native American and Inuit populations picked up cold adaptations from interbreeding with ancient hominin populations, probably the Denisovans.

Sierra Atapuerca Hominin:

The diet of the Sierra Atapuerca hominin (genus Homo) has been identified.

Homo erectus:

Did H. erectus lose its penis bone due to becoming monogamous?

Genus Australopithecus:

The facial buttresses of A. africanus and A. sediba are compared via finite element analysis.

The zygomatic bone of A. bosei is compared to Neandertals.


A. afarenesis:

Lucy was extremely arboreal.

New foot prints at Laetoli hint A. afarensis was very sexually dimorphic.

META:

Why humans, and hominins in general, walk on their heels instead of their toes. 

Monkeys are perfectly capable of making human language sounds, but do not due to neurological reasons.

Human, ape and monkey hands are studied with an eye towards understanding the origin of the human hand.

The heritability of asymmetry in human and chimp brains is studied.

What is the root position of the zygomatic bone in hominins?

Tumor Found in 255 Million Year old Gorgonopsid Tooth Fossil

When paleontologists at the University of Washington cut into the fossilized jaw of a distant mammal relative, they got more than they bargained for -- more teeth, to be specific.

As they report in a letter published Dec. 8 in the Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology, the team discovered evidence that the extinct species harbored a benign tumor made up of miniature, tooth-like structures. Known as a compound odontoma, this type of tumor is common to mammals today. But this animal lived 255 million years ago, before mammals even existed.

"We think this is by far the oldest known instance of a compound odontoma," said senior author Christian Sidor, a UW professor of biology and curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. "It would indicate that this is an ancient type of tumor."

Before this discovery, the earliest known evidence of odontomas came from Ice Age-era fossils.

"Until now, the earliest known occurrence of this tumor was about one million years ago, in fossil mammals," said Judy Skog, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research. "These researchers have found an example in the ancestors of mammals that lived 255 million years ago. The discovery suggests that the suspected cause of an odontoma isn't tied solely to traits in modern species, as had been thought."


Evidence Pareiasaurs had a Lifestyle Very Different From Modern Megafauna


Authors:

Canoville et al

Abstract:

Numerous morphological studies have been carried out on pareiasaurs; yet their taxonomy and biology remain incompletely understood. Earlier works have suggested that these herbivorous parareptiles had a short juvenile period as compared to the duration of adulthood. Several studies further suggested an (semi-) aquatic lifestyle for these animals, but more recent investigations have proposed a rather terrestrial habitat.

Bone paleohistology is regarded as a powerful tool to assess aspects of tetrapod paleobiology, but few studies have been conducted on pareiasaurs. The present study assesses intra and inter-specific histovariability of pareiasaurs and provides fresh insights into their paleobiology, thereby permitting a re-evaluation of earlier hypotheses. Our sample comprises various skeletal elements and several specimens covering most of the taxonomic and stratigraphic spectrum of South African pareiasaurs, including large and basal forms from the Middle Permian, as well as smaller and more derived forms from the Late Permian.

Our results concerning size of elements and histological tissues show that for pareiasaurs, element size is not a good indicator of ontogenetic age, and furthermore, suggest that the specific diversity of the Middle Permian pareiasaurs may have been underestimated. The bone histology of these animals shows that they experienced a relatively rapid growth early in ontogeny. The periosteal growth later slowed down, but seems to have been protracted for several years during adulthood. Pareiasaur bone microanatomy is unusual for continental tetrapods, in having spongious stylopod diaphyses and thin compact cortices. Rigorous paleoecological interpretations are thus limited since no modern analogue exists for these animals.

What Kind of Asteroids Impacted the Earth During the PaleoProterozoic?


Authors:

Mougel et al

Abstract:

Non-mass dependent chromium isotopic signatures have been successfully used to determine the presence and identification of extra-terrestrial materials in terrestrial impact rocks. Paleoproterozoic spherule layers from Greenland (Graenseso) and Russia (Zaonega), as well as some distal ejecta deposits (Lake Superior region) from the Sudbury impact (1,849 +/- 0.3 Ma) event, have been analyzed for their Cr isotope compositions. Our results suggest that 1) these distal ejecta deposits are all of impact origin, 2) the Graenseso and Zaonega spherule layers contain a distinct carbonaceous chondrite component, and are possibly related to the same impact event, which could be Vredefort (2,023 +/- 4 Ma) or another not yet identified large impact event from that of similar age, and 3) the Sudbury ejecta record a complex meteoritic signature, which is different from the Graenseso and Zaonega spherule layers, and could indicate the impact of a heterogeneous chondritic body.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Anti Aging Drug Possibly Going to Human Trials in 10 Years?

An end to grey hair and crows-feet could be just 10 years away after scientists showed it is possible to reverse ageing in animals.

Using a new technique which takes adult cells back to their embryonic form, US researchers at the Salk Institute in California, showed it was possible to reverse ageing in mice, allowing the animals to not only look younger, but live for 30 per cent longer.

The technique involves stimulating four genes which are particularly active during development in the womb. It was also found to work to turn the clock back on human skin cells in the lab, making them look and behave younger.

Scientists hope to eventually create a drug which can mimic the effect of the found genes which could be taken to slow down, and even reverse the ageing process. They say it will take around 10 years to get to human trials.

Enceladus is too hot


Author:

Karmata

Abstract:

Recent geodetic measurements for Enceladus suggest a global subsurface ocean that is thicker beneath the south pole. In order to maintain such an ocean, viscous relaxation of topography at the base of the ice shell and melting of ice need to be balanced. In this study, we investigate the interior thermal state that can lead to the relaxation timescale being comparable to the melting timescale. Our results indicate that a basal heat flux about ten times higher than that due to radiogenic heating, or an ice shell tidal heating rate about ten times higher than the conventional estimate of 1.1 GW is necessary if the ice shell is in thermal equilibrium. These requirements are concordant with recent astrometric studies.

Makemake has a Surprisingly Uniform Surface


Authors:

Perna et al

Abstract:

The dwarf planet (136472) Makemake is one of the largest trans-Neptunian objects discovered to date. Noteworthy, the size and surface temperature of this celestial body put it in a transition region where nitrogen is preferentially lost, while the less volatile methane is retained. Indeed, literature spectra clearly show that the surface of Makemake is dominated by methane ice, though the presence of nitrogen and of irradiation products of methane has been inferred by several authors, and a debate is still open about the eventual rotational variability of the surface composition. In this work we present new visible and near-infrared spectra of Makemake obtained with the TNG telescope (La Palma, Spain) in the time span 2006–2013. Our data sample different rotational phases, covering about 80% of the surface. All of the obtained spectra look very similar, suggesting an overall homogeneous composition. No secular variations appear when comparing our data to literature results (as expected, considering the quite short orbital arc travelled by Makemake since its discovery in 2005). The presence of methane diluted in nitrogen is evidenced by the shift of the observed absorption bands with respect to those of pure methane, with a dilution state looking homogeneous over the surface. We modelled a complete visible and near-infrared spectrum of Makemake using the Shkuratov formalism, and found that adding irradiation products of methane like ethane and ethylene seems indeed improving the fit of the synthetic spectrum to our data. We found no hints of a localized/temporary atmosphere.