Friday, July 29, 2016

Moore's Law is Definitely Dead

After more than 50 years of miniaturization, the transistor could stop shrinking in just five years. That is the prediction of the 2015 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, which was officially released earlier this month.

After 2021, the report forecasts, it will no longer be economically desirable for companies to continue to shrink the dimensions of transistors in microprocessors. Instead, chip manufacturers will turn to other means of boosting density, namely turning the transistor from a horizontal to a vertical geometry and building multiple layers of circuitry, one on top of another.

For some, this change will likely be interpreted as another death knell for Moore’s Law, the repeated doubling of transistor densities that has given us the extraordinarily capable computers we have today. Compounding the drama is the fact that this is the last ITRS roadmap, the end to a more-than-20-year-old coordinated planning effort that began in the United States and was then expanded to include the rest of the world.

Determining the Eruption Temperature of Io's Lava


Davies et al


Determining the eruption temperature of Io's dominant silicate lavas would constrain Io's present interior state and composition. We have examined how eruption temperature can be estimated at lava tube skylights through synthesis of thermal emission from the incandescent lava flowing within the lava tube. Lava tube skylights should be present along Io's long-lived lava flow fields, and are attractive targets because of their temporal stability and the narrow range of near-eruption temperatures revealed through them. We conclude that these skylights are suitable and desirable targets (perhaps the very best targets) for the purposes of constraining eruption temperature, with a 0.9:0.7-µm radiant flux ratio ≤6.3 being diagnostic of ultramafic lava temperatures. Because the target skylights may be small – perhaps only a few m or 10 s of m across – such observations will require a future Io-dedicated mission that will obtain high spatial resolution ( < 100 m/pixel), unsaturated observations of Io's surface at multiple wavelengths in the visible and near-infrared, ideally at night. In contrast to observations of lava fountains or roiling lava lakes, where accurate determination of surface temperature distribution requires simultaneous or near-simultaneous ( < 0.1 s) observations at different wavelengths, skylight thermal emission data are superior for the purposes of temperature derivation, as emission is stable on much longer time scales (minutes, or longer), so long as viewing geometry does not greatly change during that time.

NASA Still Believes SLS Will Launch Between September and November of 2018

The first launch of NASA’s Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket remains on schedule for the fall of 2018 despite delays in one key element of the Orion spacecraft it will launch.

Agency officials, speaking at a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council’s human exploration and operations committee July 25 in Cleveland, said they were making good progress overall in the development of the various launch vehicle, spacecraft and ground systems components needed to support the launch of Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1).

“We believe we can still make the launch window of between September and November of 2018, and we’re still working towards that,” Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, said at the meeting.

Ohio Replacement SSBN to be Named Columbia Class

The Navy’s new planned class of ballistic missile submarines will be named in honor of the District of Columbia, two Navy officials confirmed to USNI News on Thursday.

According to a notification memo to Congress obtained by USNI News, the first ship in the next planned class of Navy nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBN(X))– also known as the Ohio replacement program — will be named USS Columbia.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus’ office is not releasing further information until the naming announcement, one Navy official told USNI News.

While the name Columbia for a U.S. ships and aircraft is not new – at least eight U.S. ships, a Space Shuttle and the Apollo 11 command module have all shared the name – it will be the first time the name has been used to commemorate the U.S. capital, the sources told USNI News.

The fleet’s current USS Columbia (SSN-771) – a Los Angeles attack submarine – is named in honor of Columbia, S.C., Columbia, Ill and Columbia, Mo. The submarine is expected to decommission before the first SSBN(X) enters service.

Terminator Times #16


The next phase of DARPA's Gremlins project is about to get underway.

The award to KRATOS for the UCAV marks a potential shift to affordable UCAVs.

The Israelis failed to shoot down a Syrian UAV that intruded.

The UAV was apparently an Israeli made one.

General Atomics is positioning itself in the Indian UAV market.

India's navy lost a drone due to engine failure.

The US Army introduced a tethered UAV.

There is a new mine hunting drone.

North Korea claims to have developed a mini UAV.

Japan wants to use the Heron UAV.

Germany wants to use Heron UAV in Mali.

Ukraine has received Raven UAVs from the US.

The British are once again looking at the Watchkeeper drone.

WiB states the drone strikes by the US are illegal.

Some drones are disguised as birds.

Unmanned Ground Vehicles:

The US is using UGVs to protect a Reaper (UCAV) base in Djibouti.

Robo Boats (Unmanned Surface Vehicles):

Israel is working on the 3rd generation USV.

DARPA's Sea Hunter USV has completed its first round of sea trials.


Canada is testing a bionic knee brace.


Unmanned Warrior 2016 plans to stretch how robots are used in war.

Could advances in facial recognition lead to robotic assassins?

A drone killing gun has been seen at a US base.

Water Tunnels Beneath Mayan Temple had Religious Function

Not long before his demise in 683 AD, the ancient ruler Pakal ordered what was one of the Mayan's most ambitious construction projects. The magnificent, nine-level Temple of the Inscriptions went on to house his body for centuries, but it was the intricate stone carvings found in the tomb that have inspired debate about the king's plans for the afterlife. Archaeologists have now unearthed a network of water tunnels beneath Pakal's tomb, which they say not only offers an indication of his intentions to float way to the underworld, but reframes theories about how the grand pyramid itself was built.

The stone slab that topped Pakal's 20-ton sarcophagus was covered with carvings appearing to depict the ruler's resurrection in the afterlife. It has since become an intensely studied example of classic Mayan artwork. In it, Pakal himself appears tilted backwards in front of a tree, surrounded by glyphs and cosmological signs.

This portrayal caught the eye of certain ancient alien theorists, who interpreted the slab to show Pakal at the controls of a spaceship making his way through the Milky Way (a full-size wooden replica even popped up at the International UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico).

But the discovery of the underwater tunnels beneath the Temple of the Inscriptions appears to suggest that Pakal's spirit was sent down the gurgler (taking the far-fetched spaceship theory along with it). The canals were found by researchers from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology, who began digging at the site in 2012 after picking up anomalies under the ground with a geo-radar they feared could cause the pyramid to collapse.

Ceratopsian Tooth Found in Cretaceous Mississippi

Paleontologists have discovered Mississippi's first horned dinosaur fossil in a creek bed in New Albany.

According to George Phillips, the Paleontology Curator at the Museum of Natural Science, paleontologists were searching for fossils of prehistoric crabs and mollusks, when they came across the tooth of a Ceratopsidae, or horned dinosaur. These dinosaurs were essentially unknown to eastern North America until a jawbone was discovered in North Carolina.

Phillips says the tooth is only the second of these fossils ever found east of the Mississippi River in North America.

Evidence of Wild Fires From Cisuralian Permian China

First report of Cisuralian (early Permian) charcoal layers within a coal bed from Baode, North China with reference to global wildfire distribution


Yan et al


Fossil charcoal is reported for the first time from a Cisuralian coal bed of the Shanxi Formation in the Qiaotou Section, Baode, Shanxi, North China. Based on anatomical characteristics, these charcoal fragments consist of coniferous or cordaitalean xylem, unidentified primary xylem and cordaitalean and possible fern leaves. These charcoal fragments represent the evidence of palaeowildfire taking place in tropical peat swamps during the Cisuralian in Cathaysia. The palaeowildfire is most likely to be a surface fire and burning litter and shrubby vegetation. Fire frequency for this early Permian peat swamp might have been on the order of 176–(294–588)–1429 years, close to modern values. Compared with modern analogues, the North China Block during the Cisuralian was probably wet in general but could be occasionally seasonally dry for short time intervals. Previous charcoal and inertinite records moreover indicate that palaeowildfires were globally common during the Cisuralian. Overall, more wildfire evidence was found in the Artinskian–Kungurian than the Asselian-Sakmarian (except in the Euramerican Realm), probably due to more suitable regional climate, vegetation to fuel fires and taphonomic circumstances.

The Ediacaran Marine Habitats

Viehmann et al


The Urucum Iron and Manganese Formation (IF and MnF) in the Neoproterozoic Santa Cruz Formation, Brazil, provides unique insights into Neoproterozoic seawater and the habitat for the evolution of the Ediacaran fauna. Pure Urucum IF drill core samples, i.e. chemical sediments that are devoid of any syn- or post-depositional alteration, are reliable and robust archives of Neoproterozoic seawater proxies. They display low concentrations of rather immobile elements and shale-normalized rare earths and yttrium (REYSN) patterns similar to those of modern seawater. Positive LaSN and GdSN anomalies, enrichment of heavy relative to light REYSN, negative CeSN anomalies and super-chondritic Y/Ho ratios indicate a depositional environment dominated by open ocean water masses and oxic atmosphere-hydrosphere conditions. The REYSN patterns of manganese-rich chemical sediments from the Mn1 and Mn2 horizons, however, show significantly different REY distributions between and within these units. While REYSN patterns from the Mn2 unit are similar to those of the IF, the REY systematics of the Mn1 horizon can be subdivided into two different groups. Fe-poor group A shows rather flat REYSN patterns with large negative CeSN anomalies, while Fe-rich group B shows insignificant to positive CeSN anomalies, YbSN/PrSN ratios below unity and sub-chondritic Y/Ho ratios, suggesting that trace element distributions are controlled by the mineralogical composition rather than by sedimentation rate.

Pure IF samples, reflecting Urucum seawater, yield εNd0.635Ga values between -4.56 and -4.08, and are more positive than those of the MnF (-5.52 to -4.66) and associated siliciclastic rocks (-8.35 to -7.69), and are considerably more radiogenic than the crystalline Rio Apa Basement (-13.7). While clastic sediments originated from the Amazonia Craton, the dissolved REY budget of Urucum seawater was derived from terrigenous material of the nearby Neoproterozoic Brasília Belt. There is no evidence for any REY input via high-temperature, hydrothermal fluids or for REY input from a mantle source.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

China to Test CRISPR on Human Beings

A team of Chinese scientists will be the first in the world to apply the revolutionary gene-editing technique known as Crispr on human subjects.

Led by Lu You, an oncologist at Sichuan University’s West China hospital in Chengdu, China, the team plan to start testing cells modified with Crispr on patients with lung cancer in August, according to the journal Nature.

Crispr is a game-changer in bioscience; a groundbreaking technique which can find, cut out and replace specific parts of DNA using a specially programmed enzyme named Cas9. Its ramifications are next to endless, from changing the color of mouse fur to designing malaria-free mosquitoes and pest-resistant crops to correcting a wide swath of genetic diseases like sickle-cell anaemia in humans.

Were Major Impacts on Moon, Mercury & Mars Caused by Protoplanets?

Around 3.8 billion years ago, an asteroid more than 150 miles across, roughly equal to the length of New Jersey, slammed into the Moon and created the Imbrium Basin -- the right eye of the fabled Man in the Moon. This new size estimate, published in the journal Nature, suggests an Imbrium impactor that was two times larger in diameter and 10 times more massive than previous estimates.

"We show that Imbrium was likely formed by an absolutely enormous object, large enough to be classified as a protoplanet," said Pete Schultz, professor of earth, environmental and planetary sciences at Brown University. "This is the first estimate for the Imbrium impactor's size that is based largely on the geological features we see on the Moon."

Previous estimates, Schultz said, were based solely on computer models and yielded a size estimate of only about 50 miles in diameter.

These new findings help to explain some of the puzzling geological features that surround the Imbrium Basin. The work also suggests -- based on the sizes of other impact basins in the Moon, Mars and Mercury -- that the early solar system was likely well stocked with protoplanet-sized asteroids.

Perchlorate Salts are Everywhere on Mars

Water is the key to life on Earth. Scientists continue to unravel the mystery of life on Mars by investigating evidence of water in the planet's soil. Previous observations of soil observed along crater slopes on Mars showed a significant amount of perchlorate salts, which tend to be associated with brines with a moderate pH level. However, researchers have stepped back to look at the bigger picture through data collected from the 2001: Mars Odyssey, named in reference to the science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke, "2001: A Space Odyssey," and found a different chemical on Mars may be key. The researchers found that the bulk soil on Mars, across regional scales the size of the U.S. or larger, likely contains iron sulfates bearing chemically bound water, which typically result in acidic brines. This new observation suggests that iron sulfates may play a major role in hydrating martian soil.

This finding was made from data collected by the 2001: Mars Odyssey Gamma Ray Spectrometer, or GRS, which is sensitive enough to detect the composition of Mars soil up to one-half meter deep. This is generally deeper than other missions either on the ground or in orbit, and it informs the nature of bulk soil on Mars. This research was published recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

"This is exciting because it's contributing to the story of water on Mars, which we've used as a path for our search for life on Mars," said Nicole Button, LSU Department of Geology and Geophysics doctoral candidate and co-author in this study.

SpaceX Wants to Reuse Dragon Capsule

With SpaceX planning to relaunch a Falcon 9 first stage later this year, the age of reusing rockets is upon us. But, the company isn’t stopping there.

Paleolithic Papers #8

Genus Homo:

How China's hominin fossils are rewriting what we know about human evolution.

Robustness in limb bones can effect when we think Pleistocene and Holocene hominins died.

Modern humans are the ultimate super predator.

Modern Humanity (Homo sapiens):

Cultural and technological change was not driven by climate change for humanity.

Human cultural paleodiversity gets examined.

The impact of humans on the environment since the Pleistocene.

Neandertals (Homo neanderthalensis):

The first evidence of cannibalism in Neandertals has been found.

Paranasal sinuses are a bad sign of climate adaptation.

Neandertal brain development was similar to modern humans.

Hobbits (Homo floresiensis):

Evidence of fire in Indonesia's home of the Hobbits dates from 41,000 years ago. Is this a sign of modern humans on the island? or...?  (paper link)

Homo erectus:

H. eretus walked like modern humans.

Genus Australopithecus:

A. africanus:

A. africanus feet were not like modern human or ape feet.

An A. africanus pelvis was reconstructed with an eye to both locomotion and obstetrics. 


Variation in bones for populations needs to be taken into account for fossil hominins.

Viruses have greatly influenced human evolution.

Mark Witton Reexamines Pteranodon

Writing about pterosaurs can be difficult because so much of their classification is disputed. The number of pterosaur species, their assignment to different groups, appropriate clade nomenclature and the arrangement of branches in the pterosaur tree are all contested, sometimes to polarising extents.

A bastion of taxonomic stability in all this is Pteranodon, everyone's favourite giant, toothless Late Cretceous ornithocheiroid (or pteranodontoid) from interior regions of the United States. Known since the late 1860s, Pteranodon is one of the most substantially sampled of all pterosaurs and we now have well over 1100 specimens in museums around the world. This record stems from a relatively limited geographical area and is constrained stratigraphically to the Smoky Hill Chalk Member of the Niobrara Formation, with a smattering of fossils from the overlying Pierre Shale Group.

A series of papers documenting Pteranodon anatomy, variation and stratigraphy, all penned by pterosaur expert S. Christopher Bennett during the 1980s-2000s, have made this pterosaur one of the best understood of all flying reptiles (perhaps the most important entries in this series are Bennett 1992, 1993, 1994, 2001a, 2001b). These publications are the result of examining several hundred Pteranodon specimens and are among the most significant and comprehensive contributions to pterosaur literature in modern times. I recommend them to any students of vertebrate palaeontology: even if you don't agree with their conclusions, they're great examples of clear writing, of hypotheses being established and tested, and of large amounts of data being presented clearly and logically.

Ediacaran Doushantuo Embryo-like Fossils are Metazoans


Yin et al


Ediacaran Doushantuo (Formation) embryo-like fossils (EDEFs, ca. 600 Ma) from South China display cellular and sub-cellular structures and provide a unique window on the early evolution of multicellular eukaryotes. But there have been widely disparate interpretations of these fossils. Here we report new fossil embryo-like forms from the Doushantuo phosphorite that exhibit a meroblastic cleavage pattern. Our results from high-resolution propagation phase contrast–synchrotron radiation X-ray microtomography (PPC-SRμCT) demonstrate that these fossils preserve features directly comparable to those of modern meroblastic animal embryos that utilize discoidal cleavage. Given that discoidal-type meroblastic cleavage occurs only in metazoans, the phylogenetic positions of these fossils probably fall into the animal branch of the holozoan tree. Meroblastic as well as holoblastic cleavage forms were thus present by ca. 600 Ma, substantiating the conclusion derived from molecular clock estimates that a variety of metazoan lineages had evolved by the mid-Ediacaran after the termination of the Marinoan glaciation, if not earlier.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Should Central Banks Embrace, Issue Cryptocurrencies?

Central banks (CBs) have long issued paper currency. The development of Bitcoin and other private digital currencies has provided them with the technological means to issue their own digital currency. But should they?

Addressing this question is part of the Bank’s Research Agenda. In this post I sketch out how a CB digital currency – call it CBcoin – might affect the monetary and banking systems – setting aside other important and complex systemic implications that range from prudential regulation and financial stability to technology, operational and financial conduct.

I argue that taken to its most extreme conclusion, CBcoin issuance could have far-reaching consequences for commercial and central banking – divorcing payments from private bank deposits and even putting an end to banks’ ability to create money. By redefining the architecture of payment systems, CBcoin could thus challenge fractional reserve banking and reshape the conduct of monetary policy.

Are There Trans Neptunian Objects in the Asteroid Belt?


Vokrouhlický et al


The orbital evolution of the giant planets after nebular gas was eliminated from the Solar System but before the planets reached their final configuration was driven by interactions with a vast sea of leftover planetesimals. Several variants of planetary migration with this kind of system architecture have been proposed. Here, we focus on a highly successful case, which assumes that there were once five planets in the outer Solar System in a stable configuration: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and a Neptune-like body. Beyond these planets existed a primordial disk containing thousands of Pluto-sized bodies, ~50 million D > 100 km bodies, and a multitude of smaller bodies. This system eventually went through a dynamical instability that scattered the planetesimals and allowed the planets to encounter one another. The extra Neptune-like body was ejected via a Jupiter encounter, but not before it helped to populate stable niches with disk planetesimals across the Solar System. Here, we investigate how interactions between the fifth giant planet, Jupiter, and disk planetesimals helped to capture disk planetesimals into both the asteroid belt and first-order mean-motion resonances with Jupiter. Using numerical simulations, we find that our model produces the right proportion of P- and D-type asteroids in the inner, central, and outer main belt, while also populating the Hilda and Thule regions in Jupiter's 3/2 and 4/3 resonances. Moreover, the largest observed P/D types in each sub-population are an excellent fit to our captured population results (within uncertainties). The model produces a factor of ~10 overabundance of diameter D > 10 km P/D types in the main belt, but this mismatch can likely be explained by various removal mechanisms (e.g., collision evolution over 4 Gyr, dynamical losses via Yarkovsky thermal forces over 4 Gyr, thermal destruction of the planetesimals en route to the inner solar system). Overall, our instability model provides a more satisfying match to constraints than that of Levison et al., and it provides us with strong supporting evidence that the five giant planet instability model is reasonable. Our results lead us to predict that D-type asteroids found in the near-Earth object population on low delta-V orbits with Earth are the surviving relics from the same source population that now make up the Kuiper Belt, the irregular satellites, and the Jupiter Trojans. The singular Tagish Lake meteorite, a primitive sample unlike other carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, is likely a fragment from a D-type asteroid implanted into the inner main belt. This would effectively make it the first known hand sample with the same composition as Kuiper Belt objects.

When did Mars' Interior Differentiate?

The Blue Origin New Shepard Fine After Last Launch

On our most recent flight, we performed a test to prove the Crew Capsule could safely land with only two of its three parachutes open. On a nominal flight with all three parachutes deployed, the capsule descends at about 16 mph before firing a retrorocket just a few feet above the ground. This retrorocket firing is what creates the large cloud of dust you see just before the capsule lands, and slows the capsule down to 3 mph before it touches the ground. This last bit of speed is absorbed by a ring shaped crushable bumper made of aluminum honeycomb material mounted on the bottom of the capsule. The ring is made of eight segments.

Japan has Ordered 4 More V-22 Tilt Rotors

Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, is being awarded a $544,668,978 modification to the previously awarded fixed-price-incentive-firm target, Lot 17-21 multi-year contract (N00019-12-C-2001). This modification provides for the long lead production materials and the manufacture and delivery of four MV-22 tilt rotor aircraft pursuant to the variation in quantity clause in support of the government of Japan; as well as incorporation of an engineering change proposal for the standby flight display. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas (24.6 percent); Ridley Park, Pennsylvania (19.2 percent); Amarillo, Texas (10.4 percent); Dallas, Texas (4.3 percent); East Aurora, New York (2.5 percent); Park City, Utah (1.7 percent); El Segundo, California (1.3 percent); Endicott, New York (1 percent); Ontario, Canada (0.9 percent); Tempe, Arizona (0.8 percent); Corinth, Texas (0.8 percent); Rome, New York (0.7 percent); Torrance, California (0.7 percent); Luton, United Kingdom (0.6 percent); Los Angeles, California (0.6 percent); Cobham, United Kingdom (0.6 percent); Irvine, California (0.6 percent); San Diego, California (0.5 percent); Yakima, Washington (0.5 percent); Brea, California (0.5 percent); Rockmart, Georgia (0.5 percent); Albuquerque, New Mexico (0.4 percent); Whitehall, Michigan (0.4 percent); Wolverhampton, United Kingdom (0.4 percent); Tucson, Arizona (0.4 percent); Erie, Pennsylvania (0.3 percent); Vergennes, Vermont (0.3 percent); Kilgore, Texas (0.3 percent); Shelby, North Carolina (0.3 percent); Avon, Ohio (0.2 percent); Santa Clarita, California (0.2 percent); Garden City, New York (0.2 percent); El Cajon, California (0.2 percent); Sylmar, California (0.2 percent); Westbury, New York (0.1 percent); and various other locations inside and outside the U.S. (22.8 percent), and is expected to be completed in May 2020. Foreign military sales funds in the amount of $302,913,946 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.

US Air Force Interested in two Aircraft for Replacing the A-10

The US Air Force is considering two new procurements to boost their close air support mission, including an off-the-shelf option for permissive environments and a cheap, clean sheet design aircraft that would replace the Fairchild Dornier A-10.

In a recent briefing, air force officials laid out their plan for the light-attack OA-X and the A-X2, a short-term replacement for the A-10. The service is looking at an initial order of about 20 aircraft for the OA-X mission a early as next year, with serious procurement launching in Fiscal 2018, Dan Goure, an analyst at the Lexington Institute, tells FlightGlobal. To meet that rapid need, the service is examining two fully developed aircraft, Beechcraft’s AT-6 and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano, and are planning a “fly off” for this fall.

The air force has excluded Textron AirLand’s Scorpion, a dual light attack fighter and trainer aircraft still in its development phase, as an option for OA-X.

2nd link.

The funding is not certain and the USAF Sec is wary.  She's not been briefed.

The Future is Amasia...for the Next Supercontinent in 250 Million Years




Series of high-resolution numerical simulations of three-dimensional mantle convection were performed to examine the interaction between the drifting continental lithospheres and the underlying mantle structure for 250 m.y. from the present, and to predict the configuration of the future supercontinent. The density anomaly of the mantle interior was determined by the seismic velocity anomaly from global seismic tomography data sets, which contain well-resolved subducting slabs. The present-day plate motion was imposed for the first stage of the simulation as a velocity boundary condition at the top surface boundary, instead of a shear stress–free condition. The switching time from the plate motion boundary to shear stress–free conditions was taken as a free parameter. The results revealed that Australia, Eurasia, North America, and Africa will merge together in the Northern Hemisphere to form a new supercontinent within ∼250 m.y. from the present. The continental drift was assumed to be realized by plate-scale mantle flow, rather than large-scale upwelling plumes. That is, continuously moving plates at the surface for the first stage of the simulation are mechanically coupled with the subducting slabs in the mantle; this enhances the underlying mantle downwelling flow. As a result, persistent continental drift can be reproduced for long future time periods even though top surface boundary conditions may switch in response to shear stress–free conditions. The configuration of the numerically reproduced future supercontinent in this study is broadly consistent with the hypothetical model of Amasia as indicated by previous findings from geological correlations and a paleogeographic reconstruction.

How can we Tell if Fossil Mammals Were Aquatic or Terrestrial?

Despite the extensive fossil record of mammals, it is often difficult to use fossil data to reconstruct the lifestyles and habitats of extinct species. The fact that some species spent all or part of their time underwater, respectively similar to modern-day whales and seals, further complicates this.

Konami Ando and Shin-chi Fujiwara, researchers at Nagoya University, addressed this by developing a new index for predicting if a species lived its entire life in the water. The index is based on how the ribs must be relatively strong for an animal to walk or crawl over land, but not for it to swim. After establishing the index via measurements of living terrestrial, semiaquatic, and exclusively aquatic species, Ando and Fujiwara used it to predict that some extinct species could not have supported themselves on land.

Although mammals originally evolved as terrestrial organisms, cladistics shows that some returned to aquatic lives, and that this sometimes occurred independently. Examples include whales, dolphins, and manatees, which never leave the water, and seals and hippopotamuses, which split time between land and water. Studies of fossils of extinct species also suggest some species spent all or some of their time in the water. However, inability to use fossil records alone to determine a species' lifestyle has made this hard to confirm.

In their study, reported in the Journal of Anatomy, Ando and Fujiwara analyzed rib cages and their resistance to vertical compression in a range of mammalian species. This important factor represents an animal's ability to support its body weight against gravity while walking or crawling; a trait aquatic organisms do not need. The researchers investigated 26 modern-day terrestrial, semiaquatic, and exclusively aquatic species, including the killer whale, polar bear, dugong, giraffe, and hippopotamus. They used their data to establish an index for differentiating between groups with different habitats. They then applied the index to four extinct mammalian species, all of which had retained their four limbs but showed signs of having been partially or completely aquatic, to shed light on their potential lifestyles.

Murusraptor barrosaensis: a new megaraptorid Theropod From Cretaceous Argentina

A new species of megaraptorid dinosaur discovered in Patagonia may help discern the evolutionary origins of the megaraptorid clade, according to a study published July 20, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Rodolfo Coria from the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Argentina, and Phillip Currie from the University of Alberta, Canada.

The Patagonian region of Argentina has previously proven to be rich in fossils from the Late Cretaceous epoch, including a number of megaraptorids, a clade whose carnivorous diet gave rise to their name meaning 'giant thieves'. These medium-sized theropod dinosaurs, including South American genera Megaraptor, Orkoraptor, and Aerosteon as well as genera from Australia and Japan, have characteristically large claws and air-filled, birdlike bones.

The fossilized partial skeleton of a megaraptorid dinosaur analyzed in this study was discovered in Sierra Barrosa, in northwest Patagonia and represents one of the most complete megaraptorids found, with an unusually intact braincase. With unique skull features, the dinosaur, which they named Murusraptor barrosaensis, is a new species in the megaraptorid clade. This specimen appears to be immature, but the authors suggest that the species is larger and slenderer than Megaraptor and comparable in size with Aerosteon and Orkoraptor. While sharing many features with the other species, Musuraptor has distinctive facial features not previously seen amongst megaraptorids, as well as unusually shaped hip bones.

While phylogenetic analysis could not clearly determine evolutionary relationships, the authors note that these fossils provide new anatomical information which might help to resolve current debates as to whether the megaraptorids are a clade of the allosauroid or the coelurosaurid theropods.

Earth’s oxygen cycle and the evolution of animal life

Earth’s oxygen cycle and the evolution of animal life


Reinhard et al


The emergence and expansion of complex eukaryotic life on Earth is linked at a basic level to the secular evolution of surface oxygen levels. However, the role that planetary redox evolution has played in controlling the timing of metazoan (animal) emergence and diversification, if any, has been intensely debated. Discussion has gravitated toward threshold levels of environmental free oxygen (O2) necessary for early evolving animals to survive under controlled conditions. However, defining such thresholds in practice is not straightforward, and environmental O2 levels can potentially constrain animal life in ways distinct from threshold O2 tolerance. Herein, we quantitatively explore one aspect of the evolutionary coupling between animal life and Earth’s oxygen cycle—the influence of spatial and temporal variability in surface ocean O2 levels on the ecology of early metazoan organisms. Through the application of a series of quantitative biogeochemical models, we find that large spatiotemporal variations in surface ocean O2 levels and pervasive benthic anoxia are expected in a world with much lower atmospheric pO2 than at present, resulting in severe ecological constraints and a challenging evolutionary landscape for early metazoan life. We argue that these effects, when considered in the light of synergistic interactions with other environmental parameters and variable O2 demand throughout an organism’s life history, would have resulted in long-term evolutionary and ecological inhibition of animal life on Earth for much of Middle Proterozoic time (∼1.8–0.8 billion years ago).

Russia's Navy Claims to be Working on a Nuclear Powered "Destroyer"

The Project 23560 Leader-class destroyer will replace several warship types at once in the Russian Navy’s inventory, including guided missile cruisers and large antisubmarine warfare (ASW) ships. The Severnoye Design Bureau has started working on her engineering design, according to the Izvestia daily.

The ship will displace about 17,500 tons, which will make her close enough to Project 1144 Orlan-class (NATO reporting name: Kirov-class) heavy missile cruisers in terms of dimensions. According to former Russian Navy Deputy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Igor Kasatonov, the development of a ship like that implies certain geopolitical interests of Russia’s leadership. Metal will be cut for the new warship after 2018, according to the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC). In all, a series of eight destroyers is planned.

Nuclear-powered cruisers have the self-sustained operating capability and formidable weaponry and can operate anywhere in the world. The Russian Navy has not ordered ships like that since 1989. Hence, the development means that the country has regained geopolitical interests in remote corners of the world now, Kasatonov noted.

Valery Polovinkin, advisor to the director general of the Krylov State Research Center that worked out the destroyer’s preliminary design, says the sophisticated ship will combine the best of several types of surface combatants at once. She will have antimissile and space defense capabilities and serve as a kind of strong point in the ocean.

The Leader will be a versatile ship triple-hatted as destroyer, large ASW ship and guided missile cruiser while being smaller than Project 1144 ships and carrying far more weaponry. The self-contained operation capability of similar ships is usually based on their stock of provisions, and their nuclear propulsion plants can do without refueling for years.

The advanced destroyer will be equipped with the RITM-200 nuclear power plant fitting the future Project 22220 icebreaker, which lead ship, the Arktika, was launched in June. The Leader’s power plant will propel her to 30 knots.

Scuffle in the South China Sea #61

China is calling for more talks.

China has asked for US help to get the Philippines to start negotiations.

China is depending on outside experts like everyone else in the government business.

The meetings between US and Chinese admirals are conditional on the Chinese maintaining professionalism and safety at sea during encounters.

China is removing SAMs from Woody Island.

The US has vowed more patrols in the South China Sea.

China is upset with the Republican Platform's stance on the South China Sea.

Wait!  What?!  The South China Sea spat has impacted...KFC & Apple.

China is planning on sending up to 8 civilian cruise ships to the South China Sea regularly.

China has set up a South China Sea environmental protection fund.

China's nationalism is driving the South China Sea disputes.

What's next for Manila in the South China Sea dispute after the victory over China in The Hague ruling?

Philippines is upgrading old US Coast Guard ships for use in the South China Sea.

The Philippines would like to exploit oil and natural gas in the South China Sea, but the reserves are in the disputed region with China.

Philippines new president is threatening China.  Or at least upsetting enough people that he's getting a very harsh piece written about him.

 ASEAN met with Chinese representatives.

ASEAN had heartburn over an anti Chinese statement about the South China Sea.  Cambodia initially blocked the statement.  Vietnam called the South China Sea dispute the defining moment for ASEAN.  In the end, ASEAN released a watered down rebuke.  Very watered down.  This was a diplomatic win for China.  Philippines says it was not a win.  SecState Kerry is happy with the statement.

US, Japan and Australia called out China when ASEAN did not. 

The US Presidential aid sent to China has asked for reduced tensions in the South China Sea.

SecState Kerry urged both sides to find ways to find diplomatic ways to reduce tensions.  China and ASEAN agreed: both sides said restraint was necessary for the South China Sea.

The ruling is seen has having made matters worse, not better.

Just how militarily relevant are the Chinese features in the South China Sea.

Chinese & Iranian Troops are Exercising in Kaliningrad

Participants of “Seaborne assault” from China and Iran arrived in the Kaliningrad Region

Teams of the People’s Liberation Army of China and Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran arrived in the Kaliningrad Region in order to participate in the “Seaborne assault” contest within the International Army Games 2016.

In the nearest future, they will arrive at the Khmelevka training area in order to familiarize with targets and route of the contest.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The European Union is Proposing a Database of Real IDs, Bitcoin Wallet Addresses for Cryptocurrency Users

The European Commission is proposing the creation of a database that will hold information on users of virtual currencies, which will record data on the user's real world identity, along with all associated wallet addresses.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Miami Judge Ruled Bitcoin is NOT Money

A Miami-Dade judge ruled Monday that Bitcoin is not actually money, a decision hailed by proponents of the virtual currency that has become popular across the world.

In a case closely watched in financial and tech circles, the judge threw out the felony charges against website designer Michell Espinoza, who had been charged with illegally transmitting and laundering $1,500 worth of Bitcoins. He sold them to undercover detectives who told him they wanted to use the money to buy stolen credit-card numbers.

But Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler ruled that Bitcoin was not backed by any government or bank, and was not “tangible wealth” and “cannot be hidden under a mattress like cash and gold bars.”

“The court is not an expert in economics, however, it is very clear, even to someone with limited knowledge in the area, the Bitcoin has a long way to go before it the equivalent of money,” Pooler wrote in an eight-page order.

The judge also wrote that Florida law – which says someone can be charged with money laundering if they engage in a financial transaction that will “promote” illegal activity – is way too vague to apply to Bitcoin.

“This court is unwilling to punish a man for selling his property to another, when his actions fall under a statute that is so vaguely written that even legal professionals have difficulty finding a singular meaning,” she wrote.

The ruling was lauded by Bitcoin experts who believe the ruling will encourage the use of the virtual currency, and offer a roadmap to governments across the world that have struggled to understand and regulate it.

What if Ukraine was Fighting a сидеть война and nobody noticed?

Ukraine’s top military commander promised an “adequate response” after seven Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 14 injured in the past 24 hours in fighting with Russian-backed separatists controlling the country’s breakaway far east.


OSCE Report July 19, July 20, July 22 & July 24.

And the Donnie Rebs have trained people to be insurgents.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Landing on Pluto

The Inclination of the Gas Giants in the Solar System Constrains Planet Nine

The inclination of the planetary system relative to the solar equator may be explained by the presence of Planet 9


Gomes et al


We evaluate the effects of a distant planet, commonly known as planet 9, on the dynamics of the giant planets of the Solar System. We find that, given the large distance of planet 9, the dynamics of the inner giant planets can be decomposed into a classic Lagrange-Laplace dynamics relative to their own invariant plane (the plane orthogonal to their total angular momentum vector) and a slow precession of said plane relative to the total angular momentum vector of the Solar System, including planet 9. Under some specific configurations for planet 9, this precession can explain the current tilt of approximately 6 degrees between the invariant plane of the giant planets and the solar equator. An analytical model is developed to map the evolution of the inclination of the inner giant planets' invariant plane as a function of the planet 9's mass, inclination, eccentricity and semimajor axis, and some numerical simulations of the equations of motion of the giant planets and planet 9 are performed to validate our analytical approach. The longitude of the ascending node of planet 9 is found to be linked to the longitude of the ascending node of the giant planets' invariant plane, which also constrain the longitude of the node of planet 9 on the ecliptic. Some of the planet 9 configurations that allow explaining the current solar tilt are compatible with those proposed to explain the orbital confinement of the most distant Kuiper belt objects. Thus, this work on the one hand gives an elegant explanation for the current tilt between the invariant plane of the inner giant planets and the solar equator and, on the other hand, adds new constraints to the orbital elements of planet 9.

NASA's Mars 2020 Rover Cost Just Increased by at Least $600 Million

As NASA’s next flagship Mars mission, the Mars 2020 rover, moves into its next phase of development, agency officials say the mission will cost $2.1 billion, more than originally estimated for a mission that they argue will also be more capable than first planned.

NASA announced July 15 that the Mars 2020 mission passed a development milestone known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C), allowing the mission to proceed into Phase C design and development work. The rover is scheduled for launch in mid-2020 and land on Mars in February 2021.

The rover’s primary mission will be to collect rock and soil samples for eventual return to Earth. “The Mars 2020 rover is the first step in a potential multi-mission campaign to return carefully selected and sealed samples of Martian rocks and soil to Earth,” said Geoff Yoder, NASA’s acting associate administrator for science, in a statement.

Completion of the KDP-C milestone for NASA missions is usually accompanied by a formal cost and schedule estimate. Those figures were not included in the July 15 announcement, but Jet Propulsion Laboratory spokesman Guy Webster said July 18 that Mars 2020 now has a cost estimate of $2.1 billion for its development and launch. An additional $300 million will cover operations for one Martian year, or 687 days. Both estimates are at the 70 percent confidence level, meaning that there is a 70 percent chance their costs will be no more than those values.

That amount is significantly higher than initial estimates for the mission when John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for science at the time, announced plans for the mission in December 2012. AHe said then the mission would cost about $1.5 billion, or 40 percent less than the $2.5 billion cost of the Mars Science Laboratory mission that landed the Curiosity rover on Mars in August 2012.

Did Something Crash Into DigitalGlobe's WorldView 2 Satellite?

The U.S. Air Force said one of DigitalGlobe’s high-resolution imagery satellites was part of what they described as a debris-causing event July 19, but the company said that the satellite remains operational.

The Joint Space Operations Center, which is the Defense Department’s nerve center for space operations and tracks space objects from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, tweeted July 19 that it had identified a debris-causing event related DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite

LRASM Successfully Test Fired From Underway Naval Test Ship

Lockheed Martin has completed the third of three test shots to prove that their air-launched Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) can be fired from a surface ship on the move, company officials told USNI News on Wednesday.

The Monday test at the Navy’s Point Mugu Sea Range, California took the same weapon Lockheed developed for a DARPA program to be launched against ships from fighters and bombers and loaded it into the same launch system used on the service’s guided missile destroyers and cruisers.

“We’re doing it to demonstrate that LRASM can be integrated onto a ship with software changes only and it won’t be a huge bill to put LRASMs in the surface fleet,” Scott Callaway — LRASM Surface-Launch director at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control — told USNI News.

Lockheed refurbished a Mk 41 Vertical Launch System cell for the test, combined the 500 nautical mile range LRASM with an additional booster and tied it to a Tactical Tomahawk Weapon Control System (TTWCS) for guidance – all installed on Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship, the former USS Paul Foster.

Robopocalypse #87


Facebook flew its giant communications drone for the first time.

Delivery drones might be paired with trucks.

There is a drone racing kit.

Airbus has been using drones for aircraft inspections.

Amazon has patented the idea of using lamp post lights to charge drones.

A Utah company claims to have the world's fast commercially available drone.

Self Driving Cars:

Ford is investing in a company making maps for self driving cars.

Tesla has stated one of the recent crashes did NOT have the Autopilot engaged.

In fact, Tesla is claiming Autopilot saved the life of a pedestrian.

And Tesla has unveiled its revised master plan.

Germany will require blackboxes for self driving cars.

Mercedes showed off its self driving bus.

Jaguar will start testing its self driving cars in Britain.

China is trying to put a halt to self driving car testing until they get the regulations in place.

Farmers are fighting for the right to fix their own tractors.  John Deere has stated the tractors only come with an operation for life license instead of true ownership.

3d Printing:

Exploring superconducting properties of 3d printed objects.

The culinary institute of america has been experimenting with 3d printing food.

3d printing being applied to meta materials.

A new company claims it has a 3d printer eliminating the post processing step.


One bot cooked a bunch of brats...tailgating threatened by the robopocalypse now?

Robotic furniture too!

There is a robot for feeding the paralyzed.

There is a robot for massage.

The RNC received 20 robots for bomb disposal just in case at the convention.

A new method for building swimming microbots has been created.

Robots can now move like centipedes.

Software Bots:

A new Baidu developed bot creates music based on pictures.

Machine learning is being used for hunting for virus reservoirs in bats.

The Amazon Echo might have been wire tapped.

Google is attempting to use a software bot to improve the cooling efficiency of its data centers.


The future of exoskeletons might be skin tight suits.

There is a downloadable 3d printable exoskeleton. 



Robots and humans working together, mass hysteria!

Does the robopocalypse have a white guy problem?

Ants Domesticated Fungus for Farming 60 to 55 Million Years ago During the Paleogene

A group of South American ants has farmed fungi since shortly after the dinosaurs died out, according to an international research team including Smithsonian scientists. The genes of the ant farmers and their fungal crops reveal a surprisingly ancient history of mutual adaptations. This evolutionary give-and-take has led to some species--the leafcutter ants--developing industrial-scale farming that surpasses human agriculture in its efficiency.

The key chapters of the history of ant agriculture are written into the genes of both the insects and their crop fungi. A team including Jacobus Boomsma, research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and biology professor at the University of Copenhagen with his colleagues there, Sanne Nygaard and Guojie Zhang, looked at the genes of seven species of farming ants and their associated fungi to understand how the partnership developed. In a study published in Nature Communications, the scientists found that 55 to 60 million years ago ants belonging to the tribe Attini switched from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to subsistence farming of fungi that grew on decomposing, woody plant matter. The slow-growing fungi sustained tiny colonies of ants, but it was the first step toward agriculture on a much larger scale.

"The ants lost many genes when they committed to farming fungi," said Boomsma. This tied the fate of the ants to their food--with the insects depending on the fungi for nutrients, and the fungi increasing their likelihood of survival if they produced more nutritious crop. "It led to an evolutionary cascade of changes, unmatched by any other animal lineage studied so far."

The researchers found that around 25 million years ago one lineage of fungus-farming ants began cultivating fungi that produced tiny, protein-rich bulbs that the ants preferentially harvested. More nutritious food supported larger colonies, spurring even more advances in ant-fungus co-evolution until, 15 million years ago, the leafcutter ants emerged. Leafcutter ant species cut and sow their underground farms daily with fresh, green plant matter, cultivating a fully domesticated species of fungus on an industrial scale that can sustain colonies with up to millions of ants.

Domestication changed both partners in the relationship. Unlike its ancestors and present-day wild relatives, the leafcutter ants' fungus can no longer produce enzymes that digest woody plant matter, making it reliant on leafy greens brought in by the ants. In turn, the fungus produces fruiting bodies swollen with proteins essential for the ants' growth. The ants have evolved special enzymes to easily digest this superfood and cannot eat anything else. Unable to survive without each other, the symbiotic leafcutters and their fungi nonetheless form the largest colonies of any of the fungus-farming ants. They work together as the dominant herbivores in Neotropical forests.

Feeding ecology and habitat preferences of top predators from two Miocene Neogene Locales

Feeding ecology and habitat preferences of top predators from two Miocene carnivore-rich assemblages


Domingo et al


Carnivore-rich fossil sites are uncommon in the fossil record and, accordingly, provide valuable opportunities to study predators from vantages that are rarely applied to ancient faunas. Through stable isotopes of carbon and a Bayesian mixing model, we analyze time-successive (nearly contemporaneous), late Miocene carnivoran populations from two fossil sites (Batallones-1 and Batallones-3) from central Spain. Stable isotopes of carbon in tooth enamel provide a reliable and direct methodology to track ancient diets. These two carnivoran-dominated fossil sites display differences in the composition and abundance of the carnivoran species, with some species present at both sites and some present only at one site. This disparity has been interpreted as the consequence of habitat differences between Batallones-1, the older site, and Batallones-3, the younger site. However, carbon isotope values of carnivore and herbivore tooth enamel suggest a common habitat of C3 woodland originally present at both sites. The differences in the carnivoran faunas rather may be the consequence of the dynamics of species entrance and exit from the Madrid Basin during the time elapsed between Batallones-1 and Batallones-3 and changes in population densities due to biotic factors. We infer higher levels of interspecific competition in Batallones-3 than in Batallones-1 because of the larger number of similar-sized, sympatric predators; the clear overlap in their δ13C values (except for the amphicyonid Magericyon anceps); and similarity of their preferred prey: the hipparionine horses. Finally, carbon stable isotopic composition of Indarctos arctoides teeth implies that this ursid was a carnivorous omnivore rather than a herbivorous omnivore. This work demonstrates the insights that stable isotopes can provide in characterizing the feeding ecology and trophic interactions of ancient carnivoran taxa.

New Evidence About the Emergence of New World Monkeys During the Oligocene Paleogene

Neotropics provide insights into the emergence of New World monkeys: New dental evidence from the late Oligocene of Peruvian Amazonia


Marivaux et al


Recent field efforts in Peruvian Amazonia (Contamana area, Loreto Department) have resulted in the discovery of a late Oligocene (ca. 26.5 Ma; Chambira Formation) fossil primate-bearing locality (CTA-61). In this paper, we analyze the primate material consisting of two isolated upper molars, the peculiar morphology of which allows us to describe a new medium-sized platyrrhine monkey: Canaanimico amazonensis gen. et sp. nov. In addition to the recent discovery of Perupithecus ucayaliensis, a primitive anthropoid taxon of African affinities from the alleged latest Eocene Santa Rosa locality (Peruvian Amazonia), the discovery of Canaanimico adds to the evidence that primates were well-established in the Amazonian Basin during the Paleogene. Our phylogenetic results based on dental evidence show that none of the early Miocene Patagonian taxa (Homunculus, Carlocebus, Soriacebus, Mazzonicebus, Dolichocebus, Tremacebus, and Chilecebus), the late Oligocene Bolivian Branisella, or the Peruvian Canaanimico, is nested within a crown platyrrhine clade. All these early taxa are closely related and considered here as stem Platyrrhini. Canaanimico is nested within the Patagonian Soriacebinae, and closely related to Soriacebus, thereby extending back the soriacebine lineage to 26.5 Ma. Given the limited dental evidence, it is difficult to assess if Canaanimico was engaged in a form of pitheciine-like seed predation as is observed in Soriacebus and Mazzonicebus, but dental microwear patterns recorded on one upper molar indicate that Canaanimico was possibly a fruit and hard-object eater. If Panamacebus, a recently discovered stem cebine from the early Miocene of Panama, indicates that the crown platyrrhine radiation was already well underway by the earliest Miocene, Canaanimico indicates in turn that the “homunculid” radiation (as a part of the stem radiation) was well underway by the late Oligocene. These new data suggest that the stem radiation likely occurred in the Neotropics during the Oligocene, and that several stem lineages independently reached Patagonia during the early Miocene. Finally, we are still faced with a “layered” pattern of platyrrhine evolution, but modified in terms of timing of cladogeneses. If the crown platyrrhine radiation occurred in the Neotropics around the Oligocene–Miocene transition (or at least during the earliest Miocene), it was apparently concomitant with the diversification of the latest stem forms in Patagonia.

Iron-rich, Hyopxic Seas Might Have Helped Delay Biotic Recovery After the Permian Extinction

Scientists have shed light on why life on Earth took millions of years to recover from the greatest mass extinction of all time.

The study provides fresh insight into how Earth's oceans became starved of oxygen in the wake of the event 252 million years ago, delaying the recovery of life by five million years.

Findings from the study are helping scientists to better understand how environmental change can have disastrous consequences for life on Earth.

The Permian-Triassic Boundary extinction wiped out more than 90 per cent of marine life and around two thirds of animals living on land. During the recovery period, Earth's oceans became starved of oxygen - conditions known as anoxia.

Previous research suggested the mass extinction and delayed recovery were linked to the presence of anoxic waters that also contained high levels of harmful compounds known as sulphides.

However, researchers say anoxic conditions at the time were more complex, and that this toxic, sulphide-rich state was not present throughout all the world's oceans.

The team, led by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, used precise chemical techniques to analyse rocks unearthed in Oman that were formed in an ancient ocean around the time of the extinction.

Data from six sampling sites, spanning shallow regions to the deeper ocean, reveal that while the water was lacking in oxygen, toxic sulphide was not present. Instead, the waters were rich in iron.

The finding suggests that iron-rich, low oxygen waters were a major cause of the delayed recovery of marine life following the mass extinction.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hektor is a Strange D-Type Member of Jovian Trojan Asteroids

Hektor - an exceptional D-type family among Jovian Trojans


Rozehnal et al


In this work, we analyze Jovian Trojans in the space of suitable resonant elements and we identify clusters of possible collisional origin by two independent methods: the hierarchical clustering and a so-called "randombox". Compared to our previous work (Bro\v{z} and Rozehnal 2011), we study a twice larger sample. Apart from Eurybates, Ennomos and 1996RJ families, we have found three more clusters --- namely families around asteroids (20961)~Arkesilaos, (624)~Hektor in the L4 libration zone and (247341)~2001UV209 in L5. The families fulfill our stringent criteria, i.e. a high statistical significance, an albedo homogeneity and a steeper size-frequency distribution than that of background. In order to understand their nature, we simulate their long term collisional evolution with the Boulder code (Morbidelli et al. 2009) and dynamical evolution using a modified SWIFT integrator (Levison and Duncan, 1994). Within the framework of our evolutionary model, we were able to constrain the the age of the Hektor family to be either 1 to 4 Gyr or, less likely, 0.1 to 2.5 Gyr, depending on initial impact geometry. Since (624) Hektor itself seems to be a bilobed--shape body with a satellite (Marchis et al. 2014), i.e. an exceptional object, we address its association with the D--type family and we demonstrate that the moon and family could be created during a single impact event. We simulated the cratering event using a Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH, Benz and Asphaug, 1994). This is also the first case of a family associated with a D--type parent body.

Would the Presence of Planet Nine Explain the Solar Rotation/ Plane of the Ecliptic Misalignment?

Solar Obliquity Induced by Planet Nine


Bailey et al


The six-degree obliquity of the sun suggests that either an asymmetry was present in the solar system's formation environment, or an external torque has misaligned the angular momentum vectors of the sun and the planets. However, the exact origin of this obliquity remains an open question. Batygin & Brown (2016) have recently shown that the physical alignment of distant Kuiper Belt orbits can be explained by a 5-20 Earth-mass planet on a distant, eccentric, and inclined orbit, with an approximate perihelion distance of ~250 AU. Using an analytic model for secular interactions between Planet Nine and the remaining giant planets, here we show that a planet with similar parameters can naturally generate the observed obliquity as well as the specific pole position of the sun's spin axis, from a nearly aligned initial state. Thus, Planet Nine offers a testable explanation for the otherwise mysterious spin-orbit misalignment of the solar system.

When did Mars Form a Crust and Mantle?

NASA Issued RFI for Using Docking Port on International Space Station

As two companies move forward with plans to develop commercial modules for use on the International Space Station as precursors to independent space stations, NASA is soliciting concepts for use of a space station docking port.

NASA issued a request for information (RFI) July 1 about how “limited availability, unique International Space Station capabilities” could be used to support economic development in low Earth orbit. “This RFI is being used to determine private market interest in using unique ISS capabilities that have limited availability in order to advance economic development in LEO,” the document states.

That request specifically mentions future use of the aft docking port on the Node 3, or Tranquility, module. That port is currently occupied by the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), installed on the station earlier this year for a two-year test. It would thus be available for use by other modules as soon as 2018, when the BEAM is removed from the station.

New Nuclear Cruise Missiles are Supported by Former Defense Officials

The U.S. and Russia can easily tell the difference between a conventionally armed cruise missile en route to a target and a nuclear armed one, former senior defense officials told a Senate panel on Wednesday.

John Hamre, deputy secretary of defense during President Bill Clinton’s second term, and Franklin Miller, a special assistant on defense policy and arms control to President George W. Bush and a member of the National Security Council, told a Senate subcommittee that using a cruise missile for a conventional strike would not spur an adversary to go nuclear.

“The launch of a conventional weapon and the launch of a nuclear weapon occur in context,” Miller said. “So the launch of [U.S.] cruise missiles against Iraq or indeed the launch of Russian cruise missile against Syria did not raise any questions of nuclear use.”

Stealth Saga #50

MQ-25 Stingray:

The USN has made it official that the new tanker drone will be the MQ-25a Stingray instead of CBARS.

Fifth Generation Fighters:

Why the 5th gen is so critical to aerial combat these days.


Pakistan may be interested in buying the Turkish TFX fighter.


Boeing and Lockheed are turning out to be rivals over the Japanese F-3 fighter program.


More J-20s have started appearing on the flight line.


WiB argues, rightly, its highly unlikely the next Russian bomber will be a near space, hypersonic monster as described by the Russian media.

 The National Interest is also mocking the Russian media's pronouncements.

However, the Russians might actually be trying to get the Chinese to buy into the program.


Russia continues to claim to be testing sixth gen fighter components on the PAK-FA prototype 5th gen fighters.

WiB claims the PAK-FA is roughly comparable to the F-22.


The USAF has not decided on how many B-21s it will need and will not do so until after the aircraft is done with development.  The reason being the global situation in the 2020s may be better  than now...or worse.


What does the F-22 look like through a thermal imaging system?


The USAF is comfortable with sending the F-35A to war by year's end.

The modifications to the F-35A so the USAF can declare IOC are complete.

The F-35 deployments to Britain as part of the airshows have been testing ALIS, the software for maintenance. 

Israel is considering buying the F-35B.

Elbit Systems is looking to provide training systems for the F-35.

Will the Turkish coup attempt cause a problem in the F-35 program?  However, Lockheed has confirmed the F-35s for Turkey are in the early stages of production.

The British airshows have been welcome PR for the F-35.

WiB still hates the F-35.

ATAC calls the F-35B very 'Raptor-ish' in how it fights air to air. 

Here are some photos of the F-35B at the Red Flag exercise.

Lockheed has stated the F-35 is underfunded and apparently its cash flow is hurt by the delays in the negotiations for the next batches of F-35s.


British Aerospace has developed a laser sensor for determining air speed, doing away with the pivot tube.