Friday, December 30, 2016

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

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

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

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

Oh no.

That would have been too wonderful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

China CLaims to be Testing Controversial EM Drive in Space

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

Hunting for Nonice on Europa's Surface


Fischer et al


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

Where Planet Nine Might be Hiding


Millholland et al


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

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


D'Inecco et al


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

Chinese Space Exploration Plans

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

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

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

Robopocalypse Report #97


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

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

Amazon has conducted its first drone delivery in England. 

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

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

Are drones the new big cat toys?!

The best (?) drone photography of the year.

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

Casey Neistat built a custom drone he used in snowboarding.

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

Drone controllers have evolved to allow for second screens.

Drones are herding elephants away from danger.

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

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

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

John Hopkins demonstrated blood can be delivered by drone safely.

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

NovAerial's helicopter drones get profiled.

The Swedish Griff drone can lift over 300 lbs.

Now there is a Swiss feathered drone.

A video captured killer whales eating a shark.

Self Driving Cars:

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

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

Self driving cars will headline CES.

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

Florida does not require permits for self driving cars.

Ford will unveil its self driving Ford Focus at CES.

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

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

Norway wants to start testing self driving cars in 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How lidars work for self driving cars.

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

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

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

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

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

Self driving trucks that travel in platoons are more efficient.  

3d Printing:

Adidas has launched its first 3d printed shoe.

A man 3d printed a Camaro engine.

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

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

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

How to navigate the 3d bioprinting patent minefield.

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

Pinshape has released a 3d printable materials guide.

What does the future hold for 3d printing?

What is the strongest 3d printer filament?


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

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

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

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


New EEG tech allows people to control robots without implants.

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

Software Bots:

2016 was the year software bots got creative.

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

AI is being used to create new drugs.

Amazon's Alexa has infested a lamp.

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

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

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

Apple has published its first paper on AI.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hayao Miyazaki finds AI generated animation offensive.

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

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

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

Automated Systems:

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

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

The Brits are testing an automated beer dispenser.

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

The Japanese automated hotel gets profiled again.


How do we manage the downsides of the robopocalypse?

2017 is going to be a big year for AI.

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

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

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

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

Will human-robot marriage become a thing?

2016 in robotics.

The Coming Cyber War #23

Cyber Warfare:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russian hackers tracked Ukrainian artillery units through android malware.

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

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

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

Ukraine had another cyber attack on its power grid.

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

Cyber Security:

Airline entertainment system hacks are back.

This is how cellebrite works.

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

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

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

KillDisk malware has become ransomware.

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

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

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

PwC is threatening to sue security researchers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cyber Espionage:

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

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

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

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

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

The Chinese have reaffirmed their commitment to cyber surveillance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter is blocking intel agencies' access to its data.

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

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

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

What the US intelligence agencies think of Trump.

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

Did a typo lead to the Podesta email hack?

Cyber Crime:

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

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

The FBI has started arresting users of DDoS bot networks.

Here's a guide to hacks in 2016.

Hackers defaced Thai websites over restrictive internet laws.

IBM found most businesses pay when hit by ransomware.

The Leet botnet is bigger than Mirai.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ransomware infected an LG smart tv.

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

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

SWIFT was hacked again.

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

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

Occupied Ukraine has become a hot spot for cybercriminals.

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

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

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


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

Paleolithic Papers #12

Genus Homo:

Modern Humans (H. sapiens):

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

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

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

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

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

Similar era burials in South America had mutilation rituals.

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

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

Neandertals (H. neanderthalensis):

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

Were Neandertals religious?

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


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

Sierra Atapuerca Hominin:

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

Homo erectus:

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

Genus Australopithecus:

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

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

A. afarenesis:

Lucy was extremely arboreal.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Tumor Found in 255 Million Year old Gorgonopsid Tooth Fossil

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

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

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

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

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

Evidence Pareiasaurs had a Lifestyle Very Different From Modern Megafauna


Canoville et al


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

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

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

What Kind of Asteroids Impacted the Earth During the PaleoProterozoic?


Mougel et al


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

Friday, December 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Enceladus is too hot




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

Makemake has a Surprisingly Uniform Surface


Perna et al


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

Boron has been Detected on Mars

Boron has been identified for the first time on the surface of Mars, indicating the potential for long-term habitable groundwater in the ancient past. This finding and others from NASA's Curiosity rover science team will be discussed in a press conference today in San Francisco during the American Geophysical Union conference.

"No prior mission to Mars has found boron," said Patrick Gasda, a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory. "If the boron that we found in calcium sulfate mineral veins on Mars is similar to what we see on Earth, it would indicate that the groundwater of ancient Mars that formed these veins would have been 0-60 degrees Celsius [32-140 degrees Fahrenheit] and neutral-to-alkaline pH." The temperature, pH, and dissolved mineral content of the groundwater could make it habitable.

The boron was identified by the rover's laser-shooting Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument, which was developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in conjunction with the French space agency. Los Alamos' work on discovery-driven instruments like ChemCam stems from the Laboratory's experience building and operating more than 500 spacecraft instruments for national defense.

Boron is famously associated with arid sites where much water has evaporated away--think of the borax that mule teams once hauled from Death Valley. However, environmental implications of the boron found by Curiosity are still open to debate. Scientists are considering at least two possibilities for the source of boron that groundwater left in the veins: It could be that the drying out of part of Gale lake resulted in a boron-containing deposit in an overlying layer, not yet reached by Curiosity. Some of the material from this layer could have later been carried by groundwater down into fractures in the rocks. Or perhaps changes in the chemistry of clay-bearing deposits and groundwater affected how boron was picked up and dropped off within the local sediments.

The discovery of boron is only one of several recent findings related to the composition of Martian rocks. Curiosity is climbing a layered Martian mountain and finding rock-composition evidence of how ancient lakes and wet underground environments changed, billions of years ago, in ways that affected their favorability for microbial life.

SpaceX Delays First Crewed Dragon Flight

SpaceX has delayed by several months a pair of test flights of its Crew Dragon spacecraft being developed for NASA’s commercial crew program, in part because of a Falcon 9 pad explosion in September.

A revised schedule released by NASA Dec. 12 stated that an uncrewed test flight of the spacecraft, previously scheduled for May 2017, is now planned for November 2017. A crewed test flight, carrying two NASA astronauts, has been delayed from August 2017 to May 2018.

The NASA statement did not give a reason for the revised schedule other than it reflected a “fourth quarter update” from SpaceX. Kathy Lueders, NASA commercial crew program manager, said at a Nov. 14 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council’s human exploration and operations committee that schedules are formally changed at quarterly review meetings with commercial crew companies, and that at the time the fourth quarter meeting with SpaceX, the first since the pad explosion, had not yet taken place.

Stealth Saga #58


The Anglo-French  FCAS may not be unmanned.

The French and British have agreed on the interim work for the FCAS.


South Korea will develop a new air to surface missile for its KFX.

South Korea will start the design of the KFX in 2017.


The second prototype of the FC-31 has taken flight.


The Chinese have confirmed they are working on the H-20 stealthy strategic bomber.


Did the J-20's just go IOC?  (image source)Some are stating this is the Chinese equivalent of Nellis AFB where tactics are worked out.

Two new J-20As were spotted and supposedly assigned to the 126th Air Brigade.

The J-20 gets a comparison to the F-35.


Russia has stated they will put the PAK-FA into production on schedule in 2017.

The PAK-FA is getting a new set of weapons.  Supposedly.

CNN has new photos of the PAK-FA.

The eighth prototype of the PAK-FA has entered testing.

Stealth Recon Drones:

The USAF is looking for new stealthy recon drones.

The USAF F-22s are having a problem in the Middle East. The stealth coating on the fighter is warping and shedding.

The F-22 gets a cheer from the F-35 haters.

F-22s are going to be deployed from Australia next year.


The Pentagon is hopeful the F-35 block buy will proceed.

President-elect Trump has taken aim at the F-35 program calling it out of control (why?).  McCain agrees but has stated Trump can't cancel the program.  Others are not so sure.  Cancellation would end jobs in 45 states.   Others are stating the F-35 needs to be produced faster, not cancelled.  Still others have pointed out the cost per plane has dropped for most models.  Does Trump's tweet indicate an assault on the defense industry is coming?

Trump, after meeting with the CEOs of Lockheed and Boeing, has vowed to cut costs on the F-35 (and Air Force One replacement) and the head of the F-35 program for that matter.  Trump is now calling for Boeing to bid a F/A-18 variant with the same capabilities as the F-35.  This. is.  stupid.

Some dispute the costs for the F-35 cited by the Pentagon.

Unilateral negotiations are still in play despite Lockheed's threat of legal action.

The USAF has named the ANG bases vying for the F-35A.

The F-35A is likely to go to Europe next summer.

USMC pilots speak out about the F-35B and they are wildly positive.

USMC F-35Bs will be the aircraft embarked on the British Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier's maiden voyage.

The fire in the weapons bay of an F-35B was from a known defect that was already being worked on.  Apparently, the problem was a loose bracket.

The British are progressing with their weapons certification for the F-35.

Canada still considers the F-35 an option for its new fighter even though the Liberal government promised its cancellation.

Israel's first F-35Is have arrived in country.  Netanyahu has stated Israel is stronger for the arrival.   The first two were delayed enroute due to fog.  More pix.

Italy has become the first nation outside the US to operate the F-35.

Japan's first F-35 was handed over at Luke AFB.

The Netherlands' F-35s buzzed Star Wars Canyon.

The Netherlands also joined the Norwegians to develop a brake chute for the F-35.

Counter Stealth:

The Russians are looking at a new coutner stealth radar (again).

Terminator Times #24


The British committed funds to developing its version of the Reaper, the so-called Protector drone.

DARPA & Northrop Grumman's TERN gets more profiling ahead of its 2018 flight.

US drone pilots defend their tactics in Afghanistan. 

US drone pilot is being called one of the worst jobs in the US military.  I suspect some hyperbole here.

The USMC posted an RFI for a Group 2 class UAV.

China's Xianglong HALE UAV is about to enter service.

How Department 13's anti drone system works.

Israel is purchasing more Hermes 900 drones.

Israel has also awarded BlueBird a contract for target UAVs.

General Atomics has flight tested the US Army's improved Grey Eagle drone.

North Korea may be developing a long endurance drone.

Poland wants 1000 drones for combat operations.

Russian drone flights increased by 1.5 x in 2016.

The Skeldar VTOL UAV has a new meteorological payload.

New sensors are being tested on the ScanEagle drone.

TCI International showed off its counter drone system.

Tunisia has confirmed US drones are patrolling its border with Libya.

Why drone proliferation matters.

The drones provided to Ukraine by the US for the Donbass war have been very disappointing and virtually worthless.

Unmanned Ground Vehicles:

The first robotic targets have made their debut.

Robo Boats (Unmanned Surface Vehicles):

The US Navy's Office of Naval Research has demonstrated more advanced capabilities with its swarming USVs.

Boeing has bought USV builder Liquid Robotics.

DARPA's Sea Hunter has begun operational testing.

Robo Subs:

China seized a US Navy unmanned underwater vehicle, a SeaGlider, from the South China Sea.  The SeaGlider was taken by an armed People's Liberation Army Navy warship.   The US Navy stated the underwater drone was conducting weather data collection.  The PLAN and USN began discussions over its return and China has stated the return would happen.  China feels the US is overhyping the incident and the Chinese are handling the situation appropriately.  Trump has stated the Chinese ought to keep the drone.  The Chinese have returned the drone.  China says not to read too much into the affair.

3d Printing:

The USMC is working on providing opportunities for Marines to use 3d Printing.


The US Navy wants to weave the LCS corvette/frigates, unmanned systems and subs into a battle network.

The US Navy is also looking into off the shelf, ready to field counter drone tech.

The unmanned era, Robopocalypse, is already here.

The UN wants to ban killer robots.  haha.