Monday, February 28, 2011


My daughter is six today.

How did THAT happen so fast?!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Paging James Cameron

Somehow I missed this one.

A somewhat old video of the work being done is here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Small Stealth Aircraft Update: J-20 And More

A couple of nifty pix here. The first is a quick and dirty guide to the different generations of aircraft. It ought to be noted that there are no European - as in nonRussian European - aircraft past Gen 4, and there are none currently planned. Europeans are working on stealthy drones like the US is, but no further manned aircraft.

The second is a lengthwise comparison of the three Gen 5 air superiority (assuming that is what the J-20 is) fighters. More and more pix of the T-50 are arising and its looking more and more that this first T-50 is not stealthy whatsoever. That would disqualify it from the Gen 5 category by itself. However, this T-50 prototype could be the equivalent of the YF-22: there were significant changes between the YF-22 and the F-22A. It could be that the Russians wanted to test fly their airframe design earlier than their composites tech would allow. The Soviets had a plan of test flying iterative improvements. Perhaps this is what the Russians are doing.

A bit of news is that India's equivalent of the F-35 has revealed itself a tad bit more. Read more here. It is in the very, very early stages and will take a while to be fielded. The Tejas took over twenty years to go from the stage that the AMCA is to IOC. Note: the F-22 program started around 1981 and the IOC was 2005. Glass houses, eh?

If Wishes Were Fishes...

...we'd all go noodling.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Big Thing Off (sorta) My Plate

One of the big things that I have gotten off my plate was raising the $50,000 fee for the Google Lunar X Prize entry that we were attempting. In this economy it has been more than a challenge. It was more than stressful, frankly, and it almost didn't happen. The very last cheque was signed at 2:20 PM on the last day it was possible to turn it in when the flight for the courier was at 3 PM from San Jose to LAX to hand deliver the money by 6 PM. The journey that he went through to get it there was something that ought to be an adventure novel in and of itself.

There have been massive personal problems happening during the time frame that the fund raising was happening. It was really tough. Excruciatingly tough. I honestly didn't know if I would keep together pretty much anything since we were in such bad shape at times. Honestly, I almost came apart at the seams, frankly.

Some say the great thing is not to lose your nerve. Others say man up. Some say to stop whining. Others still say less talk, more do.

We did 'do.' Big time.

This has been a huge deal for me. I've been working towards this point for three years. It's a midway point through the project. There are a lot of very exciting developments that I cannot talk about here nor will I. However, let's just say even if we never land on the Moon, we will have won this competition hands down.

Hands down.

And some day, I'll explain that.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The 600 Million Year Old Ediacaran "Lantian Biota"

Almost 600 million years ago, before the rampant evolution of diverse life forms known as the Cambrian explosion, a community of seaweeds and worm-like animals lived in a quiet deep-water niche under the sea near what is now Lantian, a small village in Anhui Province of South China. Then they simply died, leaving some 3,000 nearly pristine fossils preserved between beds of black shale deposited in oxygen-free waters.

Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Virginia Tech in the U.S., and Northwest University in Xi'an, China report the discovery of the fossils and the mystery in the Feb. 17 issue of Nature. *

In addition to perhaps ancient versions of algae and worms, the Lantian biota – named for its location – included macrofossils with complex and puzzling structures. In all, scientists identified about 15 different species at the site.

The fossils suggest that morphological diversification of macroscopic eukaryotes – the earliest versions of organisms with complex cell structures -- may have occurred only tens of millions of years after the snowball earth event that ended 635 million years ago, just before the Ediacaran Period. And their presence in the highly organic-rich black shale suggests that, despite the overall oxygen-free conditions, brief oxygenation of the oceans did come and go.

"So there are two questions," said Shuhai Xiao, professor of geobiology in the College of Science at Virginia Tech. "Why did this community evolve when and where it did? It is clearly different in terms of the number of species compared to biotas preserved in older rocks. There are more species here and they are more complex and larger than what evolved before. These rocks were formed shortly after the largest ice age ever, when much of the global ocean was frozen. By 635 million years ago, the snowball earth event ended and oceans were clear of ice. Perhaps that prepared the ground for the evolution of complex eukaryotes."

The team was examining the black shale rocks because, although they were laid down in waters that were not good for oxygen-dependent organisms, "they are known to be able to preserve fossils very well," said Shuhai. "In most cases, dead organisms were washed in and preserved in black shales. In this case, we discovered fossils that were preserved in pristine condition where they had lived – some seaweeds still rooted."

The conclusion that the environment would have been poisonous is derived from geochemical data, "but the bedding surfaces where these fossils were found represent moments of geological time during which free oxygen was available and conditions were favorable. They are very brief moments to a geologist," said Xiao. "but long enough for the oxygen-demanding organisms to colonize the Lantian basin and capture the rare opportunities."

The research team suggests in the article in Nature that the Lantian basin was largely without oxygen but was punctuated by brief oxic episodes that were opportunistically populated by complex new life forms, which were subsequently killed and preserved when the oxygen disappeared. "Such brief oxic intervals demand high-resolution sampling for geochemical analysis to capture the dynamic and complex nature of oxygen history in the Ediacaran Period," said lead author Xunlai Yuan, professor of palaeontology with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


Been Sick

I am finally off my back. I'll get to posts soon.

Huge announcement coming out tomorrow. It's been embargoed until then.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The X-37B Started the Fire

The USAF is prepping their second X-37B for its flight. The flight of the first X-37B caused a stir. It has made the world wonder about what its meant for. The USAF stated that it was a tech demo mission carrying new technologies to be flight tested. Whatever it may officially is said to be, the USAF now seems to have a new spy plane/easily retaskable satellite that can be brought back and reconfig'ed really, really easily.

China and Russia expressed their misgivings about the X-37B, calling it unnecessary and provocative.

Interestingly, China has now claimed that they are working on their own as a response. It has been met with doubts by the milbloggers. This seems to be consistent with their commentary about ASAT and ABM weaponry while pursuing their own. Their efforts culminated in the infamous Jan 11, 2007 ASAT test[1]. Condemn and develop is a consistent pattern here.

Likewise, the Russians have claimed that they have a spacecraft along these lines already. This, too, has been met with skepticism. The Russians had been doing a lot of spaceplane development almost 30 years ago, including the Buran (now in a junkyard) and MiG-105. However, that was ages ago and under the auspices of the Soviet Union. I doubt that they have the personnel, tooling or knowledge base from back then to do the work. However, I have been wrong before and could be again.

Oh, the reference in the title. look here.

1. It produced an interesting diplomatic response from the US that we are aware of because of the wikileaks fiasco and in turn an ASAT demo by a standard missile off of a US cruiser

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Postcranial Anatomy of Suminia getmanovi (Synapsida: Anomodontia)

The postcranial anatomy of Suminia getmanovi (Synapsida: Anomodontia), the earliest known arboreal tetrapod

Article first published online: 21 JAN 2011

DOI: 10.1111/j.1096-3642.2010.00685.x


The basal anomodont Suminia getmanovi Ivakhnenko, 1994 from the late Palaeozoic of Russia is highly specialized in its masticatory apparatus, and has been suggested to represent the earliest arboreal tetrapod in the fossil record. Its postcranial anatomy is described in detail for the first time, revealing a large number of autapomorphies for this small herbivore. These include a reduced number of presacral and therein dorsal vertebrae, an elongate neck, a long and possibly prehensile tail, a procoracoid with a notch at its ventromedial margin rather than a foramen, an iliac blade with a robust ridge at its anteromedial edge, a pubis with a puboischiadic fenestra and separate pubic foramen, and elongate limbs. Additional autapomorphic characters are displayed in the autopodium, which comprises about 40% of the entire limb length. These features include an enlarged, phalangiform distal carpal 1 and tarsal 1, a short and robust first metacarpal, a crescent-shaped distal tarsal 4, and elongate penultimate phalangeal elements. The phylogenetic relationships of basal anomodonts are revisited using an expanded data set, with the addition of key taxa and several postcranial characters. Unlike dicynodonts, Suminia retained the plesiomorphic phalangeal formula for amniotes of 2-3-4-5-3 (manus) and 2-3-4-5-4 (pes). This pattern is achieved by the retention of disc-like phalangeal elements between the proximal and penultimate phalanges in digits III, IV (manus and pes), and V (pes only). In light of the new material, Suminia can be recognized as the most complete basal anomodont, offering new insights into the early evolution of the group.

Awesome. More related to this...sometime. lol.

J-20 Round Up: What's New Since My Last Post

There has been a big gap since I posted about the J-20. A lot of things have happened and some new info and some new blog posts are out and about. I thought I'd work up a put up a links post for those that read the blog and are interested in the more recent thoughts since what I'd put up.

First up, some purty pix:

Bottom views from left to right of the J-20, T-50 and F-22.
Note: not properly scaled.

The J-20 looks similar to the original planform of the JSF entry by Lockheed.
Note: no accusation they copied the early JSF entry, more like parallel evolution

An attempt at figuring out the actual length of the J-20 vs the F-22.

Did China Steal US Stealth Tech? offers up an opinion on whether or not the F-117 shootdown on March 27, 1999 in the Kosovo War provided China with their materials tech to produce their own native stealth. The China Military Report rebutted that China doesn't need 30+ year old tech to do the above. If the F-117 contributed anything to the J-20 - I honestly don't know - then it would have been used as a starting place rather than a blatant cut and paste of technology. The CMR is correct that it is VERY outdated material science, but given that the information would be examined by individuals with lots of experience with composite technologies and whatnot that have been developed since, they could come up with similar and improved materials based on the observed characteristics of the F-117 samples. There are reasons why I watch my own composite samples very, very closely when dealing with others.

J-20 DID take to the Skies.

Nice photos from China Defense Blog.

Nice photos via the China Military Report here and here.

Another set of photos via Avweek: they have a youtube video, too.

Notice the size difference between the J-10 fighter (an very, very rough analog of the F-16) and the J-20. The J-20 is a BIG beast, relatively speaking.

Bill Sweetman with his opinions on the flight ought to be viewed here.

The Pooh-Pooh Brigade:

No sooner than the world reacted strongly to the J-20 than out came those that puh-puhed the development of the J-20. It's not THAT big a deal they stated. Don't overreact. Here are some of their commentaries.

David Axe argues that American drones are far more important the the rise of the J-20 in the grand scheme of things. He also argues about what the real cost of the J-20 will be and that buying it will weaken the Chinese military somewhere else.

The Avweek crew argue that the J-20 is vulnerable to a host of sensors that the US is deploying now because tech has marched on in the sensor world since the 1990s. In many ways, this sounds like the arguments that were trotted out against the American stealthy aircraft in the 1990s though.

In the Speculation Department:

The Dew Line wonders if the J-20 is meant to be another tool to try to push the USN away from the Chinese coasts. In that vein, the USNI blog comments on how the differences between the US view of Chinese capabilities and the Chinese goals. The perception is pretty significant.

War Is Boring puts up another post similar to what I wrote about the coming manned 5th generation fighters as a contrast to the J-20, but with more detail. It also notes that the US is starting to define its 5.5 gen or 6th gen fighter requirements even before the J-20 was unveiled.

David Fulghum at Avweek speculates that there are more stealth designs coming from the Chinese in the near future.

In the Recap Department:

The Dew Line brings up a video from Singapore about the J-20 activities.

And I seem to have misplaced the last post I planned on including. ah well.

Dear Readers: What Do You Want To See First?

I accomplished some major milestones last week and this cleared off my plate some serious stress and time consumption. It will be replaced with more in the very near future. However, I have a window of time that I can work on other things. I have promised that I would return to doing some paleo posts here.

I have a number of half or three quarters finished posts. I'm considering which ones to finish up and bring online. I'd like to get some feedback from my readers to see what they would like to have first. IDK if I will get to two posts, but I will try. Here are the lists of the ones that are in production that you all can vote on:

1. Not Your Father's Archean: This is about the new research that indicates that the archaen was not what we had thought it was.

2. A Fully Functional Mass Extinction: Talks about the definitions of a mass extinction, its misuse, how they 'work' and some annoying things that scientists and nonscientists ought to avoid when discussing them.

3. The Great Harrowing: The Sixth Mass Extinction: Talking about the mass extinction(s) that are combined into what is being called the Sixth. This clarifies the extinctions that took place at the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary, the Pleistocene-Holocene, and the ongoing one.

4. An unnamed therocephalian post: This would return to talking about the nonmammalian therapsids like I did with the gorgonopsids and the dicynodonts.

5. An unnamed Xenopermian post: This talks about the environments of the places that we will be highlighting in the ongoing xenopermian alternate paleohistory project.

Pick two please.

One for your first choice that I will get done.

A second for what you'd like me to get to after if I have time.

oy, the embarassment

My IT guy decided to be obnoxious and detail what happened. It became a post on tuaw. Looking at the comments though this one stood out and I could NOT stop laughing so hard that people swarmed my office.

As a former owner of a PT Cruiser, I can safely say the iPad probably did more damage to the car than the other way around.

Soooooooo fscking true. My hat's off, FearlessFreep. You have spoken so much truth.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Chitin Remnants in Paleozoic Fossils

Surprising new research shows that, contrary to conventional belief, remains of chitin-protein complex—structural materials containing protein and polysaccharide—are present in abundance in fossils of arthropods from the Paleozoic era. Previously the oldest molecular signature of chitin-protein complex was discovered in 25 million year old Cenozoic fossils and remnants of structural protein have also been discovered in 80 million-year-old Mesozoic fossils. Carnegie's George Cody and an international team of scientists discovered relicts of protein-chitin complex in fossils of arthropods from the Paleozoic era. Their findings, published online by Geology, could have major implications for our understanding of the organic fossil record.

Among other common features, arthropods have exoskeletons, or cuticles. The outer portions of these cuticles are made up of a composite of chitin fibers, which are embedded in a matrix of protein. It is well known that chitin and structural protein are easily degraded by microorganisms and it has long been believed that chitin and structural proteins would not be present in fossils of moderate age, let alone in fossils dating back to the early Paleozoic.

Cody and his team studied fossil remains of a 310-million-year-old scorpion cuticle from northern Illinois and a 417-million-year-old eurypterid—an extinct scorpion-like arthropod, possibly related to horseshoe crabs—from Ontario, Canada. Using sophisticated analytical instrument at the Advanced Light Source facility, the research team measured the absorption spectra of low-energy X-rays by carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen in the fossils. These measurements were taken at a resolution on the order of 25 nanometers. The researchers showed that the majority of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen found in these fossils from the Paleozoic era were derived from a protein-chitin complex. Not surprisingly, the protein-chitin material was somewhat degraded, either by chemical processes or partial bacterial degradation.

They used the day job's Advanced Light Source for their work. Awesome. :)

Monday, February 07, 2011

To China, with love, signed, USN

Deep Breath

ok. Sorta back. Will start spinning things up again.

Oh, and folks, scarlet fever has made an appearance in NorCal. The hospital was surprised since they've not seen it before. So was my daughter.


As if Strep wasn't bad enough!

I am going to be getting back on my feet, blogwise and lifewise. We had two major milestones accomplished in the past month, too. A lot more soon.