Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Housing Market Crash Coming for China?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robopocalypse: Are the Bots Coming for our Jobs?

Congressman Accuses US Air Force Dragging its Feet on EMP Missile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dassault on a Roll: Qatar Buys 24 Rafale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rogers et al


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

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

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


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

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


Brusatte et al


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

Blue Origin's Flight

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

How Drought Brought Down the Classical Maya Despite Climate Adaptations

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


Douglas et al


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

How the Maya Became the Maya

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


Inomata et al


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

Evidence of Butchered Elephant on Stone Tools From Pleistocene Quaternary Israel

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


Solodenko et al


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saarinen et al


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

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

A bizarre Jurassic maniraptoran theropod with preserved evidence of membranous wings


Xu et al


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

Dagasuchus santacruzensis: A New Rauisuchian Archosaur From Ladinian Triassic Brazil

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


Lacerda et al


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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Record Breaking Petawatt Laser Being Built at Lawrence Livermore National Lab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Nitrogen Compounds may be Dissolved and Precipitated From Titan's Hydrocarbon Seas

Solvation of nitrogen compounds in Titan’s seas, precipitates, and atmosphere


Sevenson et al


Saturn’s moon Titan, dominated by its low, 90–95 K, surface temperature and methane seas, is shaped by physical and chemical processes unparalleled in any environment on Earth. Titan’s upper atmosphere produces a rain of compounds such as acetonitrile, acrylonitrile, and acetylene, more familiar to chemical processing plants than to nature. The interaction of these compounds with Titan’s seas is, to a large extent, unknown. As an important first step towards understanding these interactions, we investigate the solvation properties of many of these compounds in methane using multiple theoretical approaches, including cubic equations of state, Statistical Associating Fluid Theory, the Conductor like Screening Model for Real Solvents, and all-atom Molecular Dynamics.

Improved Methods to Detect Europa's Tides Through Flybys

Improved Detection of Tides at Europa with radiometric and optical tracking during flybys


Park et al


Due to its eccentric orbit about Jupiter, Europa experiences periodic tidal deformation, which causes changes in its gravitational field and induces both radial and transverse displacements of the surface. The amplitude and phase of these tidal changes are diagnostic of internal structure, and can be measured with sufficient radiometric and optical tracking of a spacecraft during a series of flyby encounters with Europa. This paper presents results of the simulated accuracy for recovery of the tides of Europa through measuring the second-degree tidal Love numbers k2k2, h2h2, and l2l2. A reference trajectory, which consists of a total of 45 close flybys, was considered and a detailed covariance analysis was performed. The study was based on Earth-based Doppler tracking during ±2±2 hours of each periapsis passage and surface imaging data taken below 500 km altitude. The result shows that the formal uncertainty of the second-degree tidal Love numbers can be estimated to σk2=0.01σk2=0.01, σh2=0.02σh2=0.02, and σl2=0.01σl2=0.01, which is sufficient to constrain the global ice thickness to about 10 km under reasonable assumptions. Moreover, the forced librations of Europa can be measured to 0.3"" accuracy, which can further constrain Europa's interior structure.

DARPA's EXACTO: The Guided Sniper Bullet's (AKA Smart Bullet) Latest Tests are Exactly on Target

Science From China's Lunar Rover Yutu: The Volcanic Activity of the Imbrium basin

Volcanic history of the Imbrium basin: A close-up view from the lunar rover Yutu


Zhang et al


We report the surface exploration by the lunar rover Yutu that landed on the young lava flow in the northeastern part of the Mare Imbrium, which is the largest basin on the nearside of the Moon and is filled with several basalt units estimated to date from 3.5 to 2.0 Ga. The onboard lunar penetrating radar conducted a 114-m-long profile, which measured a thickness of ∼5 m of the lunar regolith layer and detected three underlying basalt units at depths of 195, 215, and 345 m. The radar measurements suggest underestimation of the global lunar regolith thickness by other methods and reveal a vast volume of the last volcano eruption. The in situ spectral reflectance and elemental analysis of the lunar soil at the landing site suggest that the young basalt could be derived from an ilmenite-rich mantle reservoir and then assimilated by 10–20% of the last residual melt of the lunar magma ocean.

NASA may Request Money in 2017 Budget to Begin Work to use ex NRO FIA Telescopes

NASA is considering requesting money in next year's budget to eventually start using two space telescopes it received from the United States' spy satellite agency, a senior official told

NASA received the telescopes from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in 2012. They have the same resolution as the agency's famous Hubble Space Telescope, but a field of view 200 times wider.

The telescopes are being eyed for use in a potential space mission called WFIRST-AFTA (the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope-Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets), which could launch as early as 2024 if it gets the final go-ahead. WFIRST-AFTA's science goals include learning more about the mysterious dark energy that is accelerating the expansion of the universe.

A Fern Centric Flora From Albian Cretaceous Antarctica

The Albian fern flora of Alexander Island, Antarctica


Nagalingum et al


The Albian Alexander Island macrofossil flora from the Antarctic Peninsula preserves a diverse community of liverworts (Marchantiophyta), ferns (Polypodiopsida), Lycopodiales, Equisetales, Cycadales, Ginkgoales, seed-ferns (Bennettitales and Pentoxylales), Coniferales, and the first representatives of angiospermous leaves in Antarctica. Despite the presence of angiosperms in this assemblage, ferns are the most diverse element of the flora and are also ecologically dominant, while angiosperms contribute a smaller component to floristic diversity and have low abundance. Here we describe 11 fern taxa from this assemblage. The fossils are assigned to Cladophlebis, Sphenopteris and two newly created genera. The new genera and species are described under Adiantitophyllum serratum gen. et. sp. nov. and Nunatakia alexanderensis gen. et. sp. nov., and the new species are recognized as Cladophlebis dissecta sp. nov., Cladophlebis drinnanii sp. nov., Cladophlebis macloughlinii sp. nov. and Sphenopteris sinuosa sp. nov. In total, there are 24 fern species known from Alexander Island. In comparison to older floras (Jurassic) there is a greater diversity of ferns, while latest Cretaceous floras preserve significantly fewer fern species and more angiosperms. Possible factors that might account for such high fern diversity are high rainfall or generally humid conditions, regular disturbances by flooding and occasionally fire, and the preservation of a diverse range of fern communities that represent several palaeoenvironments.

Mysterious Wet PaleoClimate Interlude During Mid Carnian Triassic

The mysterious Mid-Carnian “Wet Intermezzo” global event




Approximately 230 million years ago in the middle of the Carnian stage of the Upper Triassic, the sedimentary records in different regional basins display dramatic changes. Tropical carbonate platforms abruptly ended, and engorged river systems left widespread sand-rich layers across inland basins and coastal regions. This pulse lasted less than a million years in some basins, but constituted a permanent shift in others. Following this event, the Late Carnian has the earliest record of significant dinosaurs on land and the emergence of the calcareous nannoplankton in the oceans that now govern Earth’s carbon cycle. This “most distinctive climate change within the Triassic” has been interpreted by some geoscientists as a global disruption of the Earth’s land-ocean-biological system. The eruption of the Wrangellia large igneous province may have been the trigger for a sudden carbon-dioxide-induced warming and associated increased rainfall in some of these regions. Indeed, some workers have proposed that this “wet intermezzo” warming event is a useful analog to aid in predicting the effects of our future greenhouse on land ecosystems and ocean chemistry. However, the understanding of the onset, duration, global impacts and relatively rapid termination of this postulated warming pulse has been hindered by lack of a global dataset with inter-calibrated terrestrial and marine biostratigraphy, precise radio-isotopic ages, stable isotope records of temperature and the carbon system, and cycle-calibrated rates of regional and global change.

Monday, April 27, 2015

An Interesting one off

you obviously need to click to see.

I liked it, but I can see where this could be interpreted in a negative way.

Social Textiles: I can see no way This Could end Badly

What if your likes and interests on social media were broadcast to the world offline? Would that make it easier for you to make real-world connections with people? That’s the idea behind Social Textiles, a wearable social network created by Media Lab students Viirj Kan, Katsuya Fujii, Judith Amores, and Chang Long Zhu Jin — members of the Fluid Interfaces and Tangible Media groups.

This wearable network is made up of t-shirts that light up when wearers share a common interest. When people wearing Social Textiles are within 12 feet of one another, their shirts will give a quick buzz on the shoulder to alert them that someone with a common interest is near. When the wearers identify each other and make a connection — by physically touching their new connection’s shirt — the shirt will light up, revealing their shared interest.


2nd link.

Ikea's Concept Kitchen Gets the Robopocalypse Cooking

If this is the Ikea version of the 'kitchen table,' what's the high end look like?  Will you have to assemble this one?  Will all the computer chips and screws actually be included?  Or will you have to run to the store ten times to get every last missing piece?  Will the assembly instructions be so simple only an idiot would be able to understand them?  Finally, and most importantly, will it fall apart when the cat jumps on the table???

Agrobot: Bringing the Robopocalypse to the Strawberry Fields

If this link is true, then the $100k quoted for an agrobot needs to replace around 13,800 man hours of labor to break even.

Google Launching Experimental Patent Market Place

Google announced this morning the launch of an experimental program that will allow it to purchase patents from businesses and other patent holders who wish to sell. The company says its new “Patent Purchase Promotion,” opening next month, is an effort to “remove friction” from a patent market that currently fraught with patent trolls, lawsuits and other wasted efforts.

On its new online portal, patent holders will be able to essentially list the patents they have for sale, and set their own prices. The marketplace will not remain open indefinitely, however – instead, Google says that it will go live on May 8, 2015, and will be available through May 22, 2015. The decision to keep it open only for a limited time means Google will have to work quickly to determine which patents it wants to buy, which benefits sellers in need of a more immediate decision.

If Google decides to buy a patent, it says it will work through due diligence with the company, and close the transaction “in short order.” In fact, the company says it anticipates that all patent sellers will be paid by late August by way of ACH bank transfer.

The portal is only open to U.S. patent submissions, it should be noted.

Chilesaurus diegosuarezi: A Bizarre new Herbivorous Theropod From Tithonian Jurassic Chile

An enigmatic plant-eating theropod from the Late Jurassic period of Chile


Novas et al


Theropod dinosaurs were the dominant predators in most Mesozoic era terrestrial ecosystems. Early theropod evolution is currently interpreted as the diversification of various carnivorous and cursorial taxa, whereas the acquisition of herbivorism, together with the secondary loss of cursorial adaptations, occurred much later among advanced coelurosaurian theropods. new, bizarre herbivorous basal tetanuran from the Upper Jurassic of Chile challenges this conception. The new dinosaur was discovered at Aysén, a fossil locality in the Upper Jurassic Toqui Formation of southern Chile (General Carrera Lake). The site yielded abundant and exquisitely preserved three-dimensional skeletons of small archosaurs. Several articulated individuals of Chilesaurus at different ontogenetic stages have been collected, as well as less abundant basal crocodyliforms, and fragmentary remains of sauropod dinosaurs (diplodocids and titanosaurians).

No word whether it preferred red or green.   Obviously it was a Hatched variety.

Evidence of the Smithian/Spathian Triassic Extinction From South China

High amplitude redox changes in the late Early Triassic of South China and the Smithian–Spathian extinction


Sun et al


The Early Triassic was a time of remarkably high temperatures, large carbon cycle perturbations and episodes of widespread ocean anoxia. The sediments in the Nanpanjiang Basin of South China provide superb opportunities to examine the sedimentary response to these extreme conditions especially during the crisis interval at the Smithian–Spathian (S-S) boundary. We have investigated a deep water section at Jiarong and a shallower water section at Mingtang. These contain a range of facies including black shales, micritic limestone units and rudaceous carbonate event beds that include flat pebble conglomerates and breccia debrites that bear similarities to the hybrid event beds seen in clastic turbidite successions.

Redox proxies (pyrite framboids and trace metals) reveal that widespread anoxia in the late Smithian persisted into the Novispathodus pingdingshanensis Zone of the early Spathian before a sharp transition to highly oxygenated “griotte facies” (red marine strata) in the Icriospathodus collinsoni Zone that records an “oxic rebound”. Benthic faunas are locally common but of low diversity and dominated by thin-shelled bivalves and ostracodes with small foraminifers and exceptionally rare fish remains. Bioturbation was intense only in the early–middle Spathian (I. collinsoni conodont zone) Griotte facies. Anoxia and extremely high temperatures probably played a role in severely restricting the abundance of fish and the small sizes of marine invertebrates at this time. The presence of ooids and seafloor fan cements in our study sections indicates highly saturated conditions rather than acidification at the end of the Smithian.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dr Nizar Ibrahim's Ted Talk on Spinosaurus and the Kem Kem Beds

Report: Japan Considering Landing a Rover on the Moon in 2018

Japan’s space agency announced this week that the country would put an unmanned rover on the surface of the moon by 2018, joining an elite club of nations who have explored Earth’s satellite.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), divulged the plan to an expert panel, including members of the cabinet and the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry last week.

“This is an initial step and a lot of procedures are still ahead before the plan is formally approved,” a JAXA spokesperson told reporters.

If it is approved, the agency will reportedly use its Epsilon solid-fuel rocket technology to carry and deploy a SLIM probe — the acronym stands for “Smart Lander for Investigating Moon” — on the surface of the celestial body.

Japanese media estimates that the mission will cost in the region of $83.4 million to $125 million. JAXA spokesperson Chihito Onda said that this estimate is realistic.

Liquid Mercury Found Beneath Teotihuacan's Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent in Mexico

An archaeologist has discovered liquid mercury at the end of a tunnel beneath a Mexican pyramid, a finding that could suggest the existence of a king’s tomb or a ritual chamber far below one of the most ancient cities of the Americas.

Mexican researcher Sergio Gómez announced on Friday that he had discovered “large quantities” of liquid mercury in a chamber below the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent, the third largest pyramid of Teotihuacan, the ruined city in central Mexico.

Gómez has spent six years slowly excavating the tunnel, which was unsealed in 2003 after 1,800 years. Last November, Gómez and a team announced they had found three chambers at the tunnel’s 300ft end, almost 60ft below the the temple. Near the entrance of the chambers, they a found trove of strange artifacts: jade statues, jaguar remains, a box filled with carved shells and rubber balls.

Quasars, Blazars and a Ted Talk

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Choose Your Path Wisely Through the Robopocalypse

Societal, Economic, Ethical and Legal Challenges of the Digital Revolution: From Big Data to Deep Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Manipulative Technologies




In the wake of the on-going digital revolution, we will see a dramatic transformation of our economy and most of our societal institutions. While the benefits of this transformation can be massive, there are also tremendous risks to our society. After the automation of many production processes and the creation of self-driving vehicles, the automation of society is next. This is moving us to a tipping point and to a crossroads: we must decide between a society in which the actions are determined in a top-down way and then implemented by coercion or manipulative technologies (such as personalized ads and nudging) or a society, in which decisions are taken in a free and participatory way and mutually coordinated. Modern information and communication systems (ICT) enable both, but the latter has economic and strategic benefits. The fundaments of human dignity, autonomous decision-making, and democracies are shaking, but I believe that they need to be vigorously defended, as they are not only core principles of livable societies, but also the basis of greater efficiency and success.

EU Funds Pan-Robots to Advance Robopocalypse Bound "Factory of the Future"

No good deed goes unpunished and that goes double for robots. They may improve manufacturing efficiency, but an improvement in one place often shows up a glaring inefficiency somewhere else. In an effort to help supply logistics keep up with robotic manufacturing, the EU's Pan-Robots project is working to create warehouse robots that are faster, more efficient, and safer than both manual operations or current robotic systems.

Robots are already being used routinely in factories for manufacturing and packaging, but a factory is more than just an assembly line or a packing station. It has a logistical tail feeding from the supply warehouse to the production area, but this bit still depends on slow, costly, error-prone, manual labor to get the job done. Subsequently, it's a bit of a bottleneck as workers with forklifts try to keep up with the machine they're feeding. This problem becomes particularly acute in businesses that use a just-in-time model, where a delay anywhere along the supply route can have a cascading failure effect as each stage runs out of materials.

Many firms are trying to automate the warehouse phase of their operations with Automatic Guided Vehicles (AVG) with some success, but the Pan-Robots project sees a lot of room for improvement through the use of on-board cameras, laser scanners, 3D maps, and intelligent systems that would make them not only more efficient, but also safer.

Made up of six partners from five EU nations, Pan-Robots is an EU-funded project to the tune of €3,33 million (about US$3.6 million) to develop new technologies for the “Factory-of-the-Future” (FoF). Currently, the project is aiming at producing more advanced on-board camera systems and laser scanners to help the robots to navigate warehouses using 3D maps under the guidance of a control center.

Mars, Life and a Ted Talk

Friday, April 24, 2015

First Three X-37b Missions Were Vehicle Characterization, 4th Next Month for Experiments

The U.S. Air Force on Friday made its first public confirmation that the X-37B unmanned space shuttle will be launched next month on the fourth flight of an Orbital Test Vehicle.

“We are excited about our fourth X-37B mission,” said Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. “With the demonstrated success of the first three missions, we’re able to shift our focus from initial checkouts of the vehicle to testing of experimental payloads.”

The Air Force said its Rapid Capabilities Office had collaborated with several partners to test “new experiments on this fourth flight for the X-37B program.”

What’s more, the mission will test the performance of an experimental propulsion system jointly developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory and Space and Missile Systems Center, as well as a NASA advanced materials investigation.

“We’re very pleased with the experiments lined-up for our fourth OTV Mission OTV-4,” Walden said. “We’ll continue to evaluate improvements to the space vehicle’s performance, but we’re honored to host these collaborative experiments that will help advance the state-of-the-art for space technology.”

Russia Releases Images of American LACROSSE Spy Satellite


Photochemical Control of the Distribution of Venusian Water

Photochemical control of the distribution of Venusian water


Parkinson et al


We use the JPL/Caltech 1-D photochemical model to solve the continuity diffusion equation for the atmospheric constituent abundances and total number density as a function of radial distance from the planet Venus. The photochemistry of the Venus atmosphere from 58 to 112 km is modeled using an updated and expanded chemical scheme (Zhang et al., 2010 and Zhang et al., 2012), guided by the results of recent observations and we mainly follow these references in our choice of boundary conditions for 40 species. We model water from between 10–35 ppm at our 58 km lower boundary using an SO2 mixing ratio of 25 ppm as our nominal reference value. We then vary the SO2 mixing ratio at the lower boundary between 5 and 75 ppm holding the water mixing ratio of 18 ppm at the lower boundary and find that it can control the water distribution at higher altitudes. SO2 and H2O can regulate each other via formation of H2SO4. In regions of high mixing ratios of SO2 there exists a “runaway effect” such that SO2 gets oxidized to SO3, which quickly soaks up H2O causing a major depletion of water between 70 and 100 km. Eddy diffusion sensitivity studies performed characterising variability due to mixing show less of an effect than varying the lower boundary mixing ratio value. However, calculations using our nominal eddy diffusion profile multiplied and divided by a factor of four can give an order of magnitude maximum difference in the SO2 mixing ratio and a factor of a few difference in the H2O mixing ratio when compared with the respective nominal mixing ratio for these two species. In addition to explaining some of the observed variability in SO2 and H2O on Venus, our work can also shed light on the observations of dark and bright contrasts at the Venus cloud tops observed in the ultraviolet spectrum. Our calculations produce results in agreement with the SOIR Venus Express results of 1 ppm at 70–90 km (Bertaux et al. (2007) by and using an SO2 mixing ratio of 25 ppm SO2 and 18 ppm water as our nominal reference values. Timescales for a chemical bifurcation causing a collapse of water concentrations above the cloudtops (greater than 64 km) are relatively short and on the order of a less than a few months, decreasing with altitude to less than a few days.

How to Detect Earthquakes (Venusquakes?) on Venus From Orbit

Detecting an "earthquake" on Venus would seem to be an impossible task. The planet's surface is a hostile zone of crushing pressure and scorching temperatures--about 874 degrees F, hot enough to melt lead--that would destroy any of the normal instruments used to gauge seismic activity. But conditions in Venus' atmosphere are much more hospitable, and it is here that researchers hope to deploy an array of balloons or satellites that could detect Venusian seismic activity--using sound.

These kinds of low frequency or infrasonic sound waves, much lower than an audible voice, are already measured on Earth. The rumbling or "hum" can be generated by sources as diverse as volcanoes, earthquakes, ocean storms and meteor air blasts. In recent years, says Los Alamos National Laboratory researcher Stephen Arrowsmith, infrasonic observations have undergone a renaissance of sorts, especially as a relatively inexpensive way to monitor atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. But last year, a team of experts convened by the Keck Institute for Space Studies began thinking of ways to use infrasonic observations to get a better look at the geological dynamics of Venus.

At about 50-60 kilometers above Venus' surface, the temperature and pressure conditions are much more like those on Earth, albeit with a denser atmosphere. This dense atmosphere helps translate any seismic waves into infrasonic waves that can be detected with instruments floating above the planet's surface, says Jim Cutts, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory researcher who participated in the Keck conference. Infrasonic waves can be "felt" as either fluctuations in pressure, or as light emissions called airglow, or electron disruptions in Venus' upper atmosphere.

Arrowsmith and colleagues say that barometric pressure changes might be detected with a series of balloons in the Venus cloud layer at 55 kilometers above the surface, such as those launched by the Soviet Union in Venus' atmosphere in the 1980s. In a second talk, Philippe Lognonné and colleagues discuss a complementary way to analyze the planet's infrasonic waves, using orbiting satellites to detect airglow. In both cases, the first goal will be determine what the noise-to-signal ratio might be for these two techniques. The researchers want to know if the instruments onboard a balloon or satellite will be sensitive enough to detect and identify a seismic signal in the midst of other infrasonic waves, and how large of a seismic event might be detected by these observations.

Plate Tectonics Shut Down on Venus Before Great Volcanic Resurfacing

The history of tectonism on Venus: A stratigraphic analysis


Ivanov et al


The surface of Venus displays several tectonized terrains in which the morphologic characteristics of the original materials are almost completely erased by superposed tectonic structures whose large dimensions (»100 km) suggest formation related to mantle convection. The characteristics of these tectonized terrains are in contrast to volcanic units in which tectonic structures are less significant or absent and thus do not obscure the volcanic character of the units. We describe the temporal distribution of tectonized terrains, their stratigraphic relationships with volcanic units, and how these outline the major episodes in the geological evolution of Venus. Five major tectonized units make up ~20% of the planet: 1) tessera (t, 7.3%), 2) densely lineated plains (pdl, 1.6%), 3) ridged plains/Ridge belts (pr/rb, 2.4%), 4) groove belts (gb, 8.1%), and 5) rift zones (rz, 5.0%). Clear relationships of relative age are often seen among the tectonic and volcanic units at the global scale and define three contrasting regimes of volcanic and tectonic resurfacing. The majority of tectonized terrains (t through gb) are the products of tectonic resurfacing and are embayed by the vast volcanic plains and, thus, are older. There are no units with either mildly- or non-tectonized surfaces that interleave the tectonic terrains, which would be expected if the tectonic resurfacing operated only during specific repetitive phases in discrete regions. These tectonized terrains (t through gb) thus define a tectonically dominated regime of resurfacing that occurred at a global-scale near the beginning of the observable geological history of Venus. This ancient tectonic regime began with formation of tessera and was followed by formation of pdl and pr/rb. Groove belts formed near the end of this regime. Branches of groove belts compose the tectonic components of many coronae, suggesting that these features are genetically related (e.g., mutual development of mantle diapirs and zones of extension) and that coronae may have punctuated the final stages of the ancient tectonic regime. This regime was followed by emplacement of the vast volcanic plains, such as shield and regional plains, the surfaces of which are extensively deformed by the global network of wrinkle ridges. Emplacement of the plains defines the second, volcanically dominated regime, representing a time when surface tectonic deformation related to the mantle convection waned. Rift zones are the stratigraphically youngest manifestations of regional-scale tectonic deformation on Venus. Rifts are spatially and temporarily associated with the youngest lava flows and often cut the crest areas of large, but isolated, dome-shaped rises. Structures of rift zones always cut the surface of the vast plains, which means that rifts are separated in time from the ancient tectonic regime, post-date the regional plains, and represent a new phase of tectonism that was contemporaneous with the late volcanism of lobate plains. Rift zones and lobate plains define the third, network rifting-volcanism regime, of resurfacing that was related to late stages of evolution of the dome-shaped rises.

Albian Cretaceous Wyoming and Montana had a Diverse Mammal Population

Tribosphenic mammals from the Lower Cretaceous Cloverly Formation of Montana and Wyoming


Cifelli et al


We report a diverse assemblage of tribosphenidan mammals from several localities in the Cloverly Formation (Lower Cretaceous, Albian) of Montana and Wyoming. This unit is of historical significance for yielding well-known dinosaurs (e.g., Deinonychus antirrhopus, Tenontosaurus tilletti) and early mammals (e.g., Gobiconodon ostromi, Montanalestes keeblerorum). We provisionally identify 13 taxa (five of which are formally recognized), including Pappotherium pattersoni, a new species of the deltatheroidan Oklatheridium (O. wiblei, sp. nov.), a eutherian (Montanalestes, previously named), and two new basal tribosphenidans (Argaliatherium robustum, gen. et sp. nov., and Carinalestes murensis, gen. et sp. nov.). An unnamed taxon, represented by associated but almost edentulous dentaries, is interpreted to have had four incisors, a single-rooted canine, three premolars, and four molars, indicating that the metatherian tooth formula was established by the Albian. In addition, an indeterminate lower molar fragment preserving twinned talonid cusps and a buccal postcingulid provides the earliest evidence for Marsupialiformes. We also provide a more detailed description of the associated dentaries (holotype) of Montanalestes keeblerorum. The mammalian fauna from the Cloverly Formation shares several taxa with the roughly contemporaneous Trinity Group of Oklahoma and Texas, an observation that also applies to the dinosaur fauna, suggesting some degree of latitudinal homogeneity among described terrestrial vertebrates in this part of the North American Early Cretaceous.

Claim: Cryogenian NeoProterozoic Sponge Fossils are not Sponges, but Microbial Traces

Assessing the veracity of Precambrian ‘sponge’ fossils using in situ nanoscale analytical techniques


Muscente et al


Paleontological inferences, molecular clocks, and biomarker fossils indicate sponges evolved in the Cryogenian, but Precambrian sponge fossils are rare, poorly substantiated, and controversial. Spicule-like microstructures (SLMs) hosted in phosphatized fossils from the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation (∼635–551 Ma) at Weng’an of South China have been interpreted as cylindrical siliceous monaxons, and their hosting fossils as the oldest demosponges in the fossil record. In order to assess their veracity as the oldest spiculate demosponges, we utilize a suite of in situ nanoscale analytical techniques—including scanning electron microscopy, synchrotron X-ray fluorescence mapping, X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy, focused ion beam electron microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy—to evaluate the ultrastructures and elemental, chemical, and mineralogical compositions of the SLMs. Our data decisively shows that the SLMs are carbonaceous in composition and rectangular in transverse sections, and therefore, are not cylindrical siliceous spicules. Instead, the SLMs may be microbial strands, axial filaments of early hexactinellids, or acicular crystals molded by organic matter. Regardless, our new data invalidate the oldest and only Precambrian demosponges with mineralized spicules. These results indicate that interpretations of Precambrian sponge fossils should be scrutinized with compositional, mineralogical, and ultrastructural data collected using in situ analytical techniques. In addition, our conclusions affirm that no unequivocal biomineralizing sponges occur below the Ediacaran–Cambrian boundary. If hexactinellids and demosponges did diverge in the Cryogenian as suggested by molecular clocks and biomarkers, they either evolved biomineralization long after their divergence or their biomineralized spicules were never preserved until after the Ediacaran–Cambrian boundary. In either case, the dearth of biomineralizing sponge fossils in the Precambrian and their abundance in the early Cambrian must reflect a geobiologically significant aspect of the Precambrian–Phanerozoic transition.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mini Crazy Thought: Triton for Carrier ISR and 2 Different UCLASS for Strike and Fleet Defense?

There is a fight right now about whether or not to make the UCLASS an ISR bird with a small strike capability or a primarily deep strike stealthy bird.

The navy already has an ISR bird.  Its the MQ-4C Triton.  Why not fly a variant (D?) off the carriers for ISR?  After all, they landed and flew a C-130 off the Forrestal as a test and the C-130 has the same wingspan as the Triton.  Most likely, the Triton would need to have an upgrade due to the fact it needs to be able to be launched off the deck and that's nontrivial.  However, between an orbit of Tritons (long distance, long endurance) and the dispersed capability of the TERN (medium endurance and distance) launched from the destroyers, cruisers and frigates, the ISR role is more than taken care of.  In fact, there ought to be a 24/7 ISR patrol if there are 5 Tritons and two TERNs per surface ship (meaning 8 per carrier battle group) of a Triton and two TERNs.

If that is the case, then the UCLASS ought to be a strike asset which can carry an ISR payload if necessary, but its main emphasis ought to be penetration and strike.  In that case, I'd guess that would mean something along the lines of Boeing, Northrop or Lockheed's designs.  The UCLASS strike asset then becomes useful for 'first day' or high risk operations.  If that is the case, a wing of 12 UCLASS would probably be appropriate.

However, in the articles I've seen on the FA-XX, the navy has expressed a desire for a F-14 replacement.  The F-14's role was as a fleet defense fighter or interceptor to prevent Soviet bombers from taking out the carrier battle group.  While the F/A-18E/F has semi filled this role since the F-14's retirement, it has a shorter combat radius (390 nm vs 500 nm) and lower maximum speed (mach 1.8 vs mach 2.34).  No drone currently being considered under the UCLASS would have the speed of either the F/A-18E or the F-14, but it actually has a longer range (18+ hours at 400 mph, there and back again is 3600 miles for an Avenger).  So that makes you wonder...could you take one of the UCLASS proposals and turn it into a Fleet Defense Fighter?

Let's take the public stats of General Atomics' Avenger Tail #2.  Tail #2 is supposed to have an internal weapons bay capacity of 1,600 kg (which we'll skip for now) and an external capability on 6 hard points of 2,900 kg.  We'll work with the external mount points first. 

As an aside, for the moment, we are going to ignore the fact you will have to do some nontrivial upgrades (like an AAW radar at the minimum!) except to acknowledge they need to happen and will have some nontrivial impacts on the aircraft design (bigger engine to produce more power for the radar and other kit which reduces range, payload, etc).

This is an air defense UCAV.  Its meant to shoot down incoming missiles and aircraft beyond the range of the surface ships defense capabilities.  The F-14 carried the Phoenix missile for this role.  This missile, while having excellent speed and range, was a monster in weight and also was retired over a decade ago.  The nearest equivalent is the British Meteor.  While possibly slower than the Phoenix, the Meteor is far, far lighter at less than half the weight.  Assuming we can mount more than one missile per external hard point, we can easily get a total of 12 Meteors on the Avenger#2.  The weight is 2,220 kg.  We are left with 680 kg: it might be then possible to mount another four AMRAAMs (no, you couldn't quite get 4 more meteors, sorry).  Not that it makes sense to consider it, but you could place 2 Stingers or Starstreak on the two remaining hard points (assuming each hard point could be used as a triple mount).  Unfortunately, 2 Sidewinders are too heavy (each is 85 kg and left over total is 72 kg...doh).

Just with this alone, you've outgunned the F-14 (at most 6 Phoenix or 4 Phoenix and 2 AMRAAM and 2 Sidewinders) or the F/A-18E/F (4 AMRAAM and 2 Sidewinders).  Here we have 12 Meteors and 4 AMRAAMs: the missile firepower of almost 3 F-14s.  However, we're not done: we have the internal weapons bay left and 1,600 kg.

Avenger with HELLADS laser

In terms of mass, you could run off and do another 8 Meteors, but in terms of volume, probably not.  I am going to suggest you do not want to 'waste' this weight with missiles.  Rather, DARPA is already planning on doing a test with General Atomics which points the way for how to use the internal weapons bay.  You put a HELLADS into it.  A what?  A Laser.  A 150 kilowatt laser.

General Atomics is already planning on putting their HELLADS laser on one of the Avenger UCAVs in 2018.  Lasers have a really, really cheap 'bullets' (ie cost per shot).  They also cannot be dodged and despite the popular sentiment you only need to mirror surface a munition, keeping it clean so that works is almost impossible.

Why use a laser?  Consider.

Place your Fleet Defense Avenger at 8,230 m (27,000 ft) at 160 km (100 mi) from the carrier between the carrier and the threat.  The distance to the horizon is 324 km (~202 mi) and theoretically, that's your engagement range.  Let's assume China or Russia have developed a kick ass, hypersonic antiship missile which flies at Mach 10 and flies almost at torpedo heights.  The Avenger will have a total engagement time before the missile passes the Avenger is 100 seconds and from the Avenger to the carrier is 50 seconds.  If it takes 20 seconds (average, pessimistically) to bag a missile with a laser, then the Avenger will take down seven with the laser and 12 with the Meteors and four with the AMRAAMs (optimistically).

The reality is modern antiship missiles have a max speed of around Mach 5.  Therefore half that of the kick ass ASM described above.  That brings the total kills from the laser now up to 15.  If you are assuming a 3M-54 Klub, then it flies at Mach .8 for most of its range and then speeds up when close the target.  Assuming 'close' means 50 km, then even before the Klubs pass the Avenger, the laser will have bagged over 67 missiles: the Klub would be obsolete, really, under these circumstances.

The immediate reaction might be to argue to replace the missiles on our Avenger with more lasers.  First of all, it will cause other problems (power generation will probably be insufficient) and if the weather is too poor, the laser will not work as well and may be constrained to four or less kills.  It is best to hedge the bets then with the laser and missiles on our Fleet Defense Avenger.

At any rate, a single FD Avenger, as a Fleet Defense Fighter/Interceptor then has the kill capability of 3 F-14s (assuming 6 Phoenix per F-14).  Now for the moment, let's assume the FD Avenger is deployed in the same numbers as the F-14 Tomcat used to be: 14 per carrier.  The equivalent potential kills would be as much as 42 Tomcats.  For fleet defense, that's excellent.  Furthermore, they can stay in the air on patrol for far, far longer than an F-14: 3x as much each.

Note, our FD Avengers are not air superiority fighters and cannot engage in dogfights or what have you.  They are meant for fleet defense, which is a very different role.  They also cannot jump to Mach 2.3 and go hunting on the other side of the fleet formation.  They are moved into position and then stay on station.  They are not interceptors in the traditional sense.


So, what does our carrier air wing look like?  Given Carrier Tritons, UCLASS and the FD Avenger?

The assumption is we'd still have 5 E-2x as our AWACS (etc).

There are 'now' 5 Tritons for ISR.

We would have 10 strike UCLASS.

There would be 14 FD Avengers. 

There would be 6 F-18G Growlers.

That would leave us with 20 F-35c and 24 F/A-18E/F (or FA-XX, later).

There would be a total of 6 SH-60 Seahawk for search and rescue and/or antisub work.

The 'nice' thing about the airwing above is it can potentially be put onto the carrier decks far faster than what will likely happen with the FA-XX.  Theoretically, you could squeeze in another 10 aircraft, especially if the total personnel and deck space for the drones than manned aircraft, but the aircraft carrier might pop like a balloon then from being overfull.

So, a mini crazy thought: use the Triton for ISR from the carrier and two different UCLASS for the separate missions of deep strike and fleet defense.