Sunday, July 30, 2017

China's Other Base in Africa

The construction of the campsite of China's first peacekeeping helicopter detachment to Sudan was completed in Al Fashir, Sudan on the morning of July 20, local time.

The project has passed the acceptance inspection by the engineering department of the African Union/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and is now ready to accommodate the Chinese peacekeepers.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Pondering the Precambrian #5


Evidence of anoxic and alkaline oceanic conditions in the Vempalle and Tadpatri formations in India from stromatolites.


The evolution of sponges is reviewed.


There was a very negative and unexplained carbon-13 shift during the aftermath of the Snowball Earth episode.

At the dawn of the Ediacaran, during the retreat of the Ghaub Glaciation, the Ediacaran oceans' oxygen levels fluctuated.

Relatives of Cloudina from China are helping our understanding of the Ediacaran biomineralized metazoan.

Using x-ray tomography, attempts are made to interpret trace fossils made by metazoans during the Ediacaran.

Why did metazoans start growing in size during the Ediacaran?

Could the discovery of certain acanthomorphic acritarchs allow for better correlation of different Ediacaran fossils localities?

A unique fossil of Rangea has been found in ironstone and demonstrates a semi rigid skeleton for the Ediacaran critter.

There was an anoxic ocean volume in Brazil during the Ediacaran.

A transitional fauna from the end Ediacaran was found in Nevada.


A very thick layer of sediment from the Cryogenian has been found in Death Valley.  Evidence of glacial activity and rifting is present.


Did animals diverge into different lineages in the Tonian prior to the Snowball Earth episode?

The chemical weathering and Rodinia's continental drift in the Tonian contributed to the lead up to the Cryogenian Snowball Earth episode.  It also had a lot of parallels with the lead up to the Huronian Snowball Earth episode.

The evidence of evolutionary radiation of eukaryotes in Africa at the time of the MesoProterozoic/NeoProterozoic boundary.

Vase shaped microfossils have been found in Arizona, USA from the Tonian.


Was there an oceanic oxygenation spike during the Ectasian 1.36 billion years ago?

Evidence from Mauritania suggests what the paleoecology of the MesoProterozoic might have been like.


Examining a paleoproterozoic gold deposit suggests there were two different sources for its carbon content and some caution about inferring the deposition temperatures from Raman spectroscopy.

Examining a paleosol from the Statherian shows atmospheric carbon dioxide was 4.8x preindustrial levels.

Evidence of continental assembly prior to the supercontinent Columbia from Brazil during the Orosirian.

There is evidence of significant geological turmoil during the Orosirian and is interpreted as a true polar wander.

The iron deposits of the Dongshan in China from the Orosirian show evidence of two different sources for the iron.

Siderian fossils from Western Australia seem to show benthic microbial mats seem to have continued to thrive during the Great Oxidation Event.

The evidence from the first known Snowball Earth episode during the Siderian appears to support the Jormungund scenario (slushball earth).


Microbial dissimilatory iron reduction was common across the Archean/Proterozoic Boundary.

Plankton-like micro fossils from Australia have been found in South Africa.

Evidence of anaerobic photosynthetic microbes has been found from the PaleoArchean of Australia.

Did life really start on land?


How did the Earth stay warm enough for life despite the Faint Young Star Paradox?

The importance of methane to prebiotic chemistry.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Is Musk (and SpaceX) Steering Away From Mars?

During an appearance at the International Space Station Research & Development Conference on Wednesday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said plans for propulsive crew Dragon landings and Red Dragon missions to Mars had been scrapped, downplayed the probability that the first Falcon Heavy launch will succeed, and even had a good word to say about the moon.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The US Navy is Getting Much Closer to an Operational Railgun

The Navy’s futuristic electromagnetic railgun is set to take a major developmental step forward this summer as developers work to increase the number of shots it can fire per minute and the power behind the system.

The railgun has been a pet project for the Navy for more than a decade since early testing of a prototype for a shipboard system began in 2006. The gun uses electromagnetic force to launch projectiles at high speeds, allowing the system to function without the powder mechanism conventional shipboard guns.

In theory, a railgun would be safer and potentially cheaper to fire than traditional weapons. Navy plans have called for installing the railgun on the Navy’s three DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers, but it’s not clear when that will happen.

For now, officials with the Office of Naval Research are working to build the program up to its target capability envelope.

This summer and into next year, work will focus on increasing the power with which projectiles are fired to the target of 32 megajoules, and increasing what’s known as the rep rate to 10 shots per minute, or one every six seconds, said Dr. Tom Beutner, head of Naval Air Warfare and Weapons for ONR.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Turkey Moved More Troops Into Qatar

The slow build-up of Turkish soldiers in Qatar has continued, despite their withdrawal being one of the demands that Saudi Arabia and its allies have insisted Doha complies with before they lift their blockade of the emirate.

The Qatari ministry of defence (MoD) announced on 11 July that a fifth instalment of Turkish soldiers had arrived in Doha to join their comrades at the Tariq bin Zayid Battalion base, under the provisions of the military co-operation agreement signed by the two countries. The ministry released photographs showing Turkish troops disembarking from a Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) C-130J-30 transport aircraft.

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) did not confirm the statement, but Turkish newspapers reported on the following day that that a 45-strong commando unit affiliated to the Istanbul-based 1st Army Command had arrived in Doha. The Dogan News Agency (DHA) reported that another contingent of about 25 soldiers from an artillery unit would arrive in Qatar between 16 and 19 July with T-155 Fırtına self-propelled howitzers.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Paleolithic Papers #15

Genus Homo:

Long endurance in modern Humans seems to have arisen in the genus Homo around 1 million years ago.

Humans lost strength relative to chimpanzees due to a need for low energetic cost, repetitive motions.

Different times when people are better awake (night owls, early birds, etc) may have increased the human ancestors' chances of survival.

Did a dog domestication take a wrong turn?

A Mesolithic rock shelter's biomarkers might be useful for studies around the world.

How female chimps differ from male on how they acquire meat may shed light on how humanity evolved gender roles.

Old age insomnia might actually be a survival mechanism.

When did music originate in the human line?

Modern Humans (H. sapiens):

The oldest known fossils of modern humans date from around 300 kya and show the diet of that ancient modern human was very meat heavy.  Additionally, the site is mesolithic, further tying our species to the advent of that level of technology.  The fossil raises interesting questions about how modern humans evolved in Africa.

Examining the Omo-Kibish pelvis, one of the oldest known fossils of modern humans.

In the late Pleistocene, PaleoIndians in Peru had an interestingly advanced culture.

A Mesolithic culture in Ethiopia used ochre for thousands of years at one site.

Mesolithic era human remains have been found in South Africa.

Rice domestication has been pushed back to the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary.

The first use of potatoes in North America has been dated to the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary.

Upper Paleolithic behaviors changed based on evidence from an Armenian cave.

Late Paleolithic beads made from Ostrich shells in northern China show evidence of different craftsmen.

It appear the Aboriginals reached Australia 65,000 years ago based on new archaeological evidencea.

Neandertals (H. neanderthalensis):

A commentary on the recent paper about Neandertal diet.

The Apidima 2 hominin is a Neandertal from 160,000 years ago.

The transition from Neandertals to modern human occupation in the Czech Republic.

The transition from Neandertals to modern human occupation in Iran's Zagros Mountains took place between 45,000 to 40,000 years ago.

Dating the Mousterian in France.

Neandertals apparently used toothpicks based on tooth wear evidence.

Rabbits may have disturbed a Neandertal gravesite bringing into question the dating of the remains there.

Mitochondrial DNA suggests Neandertals interbred with a close relative of modern humans between 220,000 to 470,000 years ago.

H. naledi:

Homo naledi chipped its teeth an awful lot.

H. ergaster:

How Homo ergaster might have organized socially due to predation.


The evolution of the hominin ankle and knee.

Examining the depositional environment in South African hominin fossil sites that are paleokarsts.

Increasing aridity and hominin evolution may not be as tightly coupled as originally thought.

When did hominins start eating large amounts of meat?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Chinese Troops are now Based in Djibouti

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has despatched its first troop contingent to Djibouti ahead of the official establishment of the East Asian country’s first military support base in a foreign country.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Stealth Saga #64

Sixth Generation Fighters:

The USAF Sixth Gen Fighter is likely to be a rather different aircraft than the 5th generation, potentially not even being a traditional fighter at all.

Is America facing an air superiority crisis?

The designer of the J-20 embraces and extends Lockheed's OODA 2.0 concept.


Hanwa unveiled a prototype AESA radar for the KF-X.


The decision on where the TF-X's engine will come from is approaching.


The Russians are trying to reassure the Indians the FGFA will not be inferior to the PAK-FA.


Rumors Vietnam is buying the PAK-FA are probably bunk.

The Russians will have two more PAK-FA delivered this year (more on the 'news').


The Russians will formally start the replacement for the MiG-35 in 2019 and it has been designated the PAK-DP.


Other sources are stating the PAK-DA is delayed.


The Chinese did some formation flying with five J-20s, seven J-11s and some AWACS.

The J-20 might make an appearance over Hong Kong.


The J-31 sorta made an appearance at the Paris air show.

China was attempting to market the FC-31 version.


Virginia Rep Wittman is pleased with the progress of the B-21 program and the article hints there are or have been flying prototypes.

The USAF is about to conduct a critical design review for the B-21.

A report was sent to the USAF warning not to make the B-21 nuclear capable when it is unmanned.


To restart the F-22 line to make another 194 F-22s will cost $50 billion.

The HASC received a secret report on the subject.

Why the F-22 didn't get the Su-22 kill in Syria.

The F-22 is getting a billion dollar upgrade to allow it to last for more than 40 years more.

The F-22 was to participate in France's Bastille Day.


The F-35 went from 'zero to hero.'

On the other hand, others still hate the F-35.

The F-35A and F-35B will be flying together at the Red Flag exercise this year.

The House authorizers only put in for 87 F-35s this year.  The Senate put in for 94.  They will have to reconcile.

The Pentagon announced a contract for 91 F-35s.

Due to the smaller buy than planned, the total acquisition costs have gone up.

Colorado Engineering will be developing GPUs for the Block 4 radar upgrade on the F-35s.

The F-35As at Paris showcased their acrobatics for the airshow.  Some are claiming the F-35 is superior in visual range combat (dog fighting).

The pilots that experienced hypoxia in the F-35 at Luke AFB were flying above FL250.  The USAF was still investigating.

The Luke AFB F-35As returned to flight on June 21st.

Hill AFB F-35As will participate in 4th of July celebrations.

The USAF F-35A engine fire is being blamed on a strong tail wind?

Due to problems with the ALIS software system, some F-35Bs were grounded.  That pause has been lifted.  More info.

The USMC would like another 13 F-35Bs ordered.  And they have.

Watch the F-35Bs land in Okinawa.

An F-35C test fired a sidewinder inverted.

Britain has declared the 207 Squadron the third RAF unit to be converted to using F-35Bs.

Britain will also decide on whether to do a split buy on the types of F-35s in the future.

Germany was given a classified briefing on how to buy F-35s (FMS process).

Israeli F-35s will be declared operational in December.

Italy has the first F-35s with special tail markings.

Rumors claim Japan may equip its F-35s with Norway's Joint Strike Missile.  The Japanese MoD denies them.

Lockheed is about to do a bulk sale of 440 F-35s to 11 countries.

Elbit and Harris will be replacing the heads-up display on the F-35.

Raytheon is making progress on getting work from the F-35 program.

Rockwell Collins has a fix for the so-called green glow of the F-35 helmets.


Russia will finally and formally merge Mikoyan and Sukhoi under the United Aircraft Corporation.

Why the European fighter market is worth fighting for.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

The INF Treaty is About to Collapse

The situation with the INF Treaty is getting worse pretty rapidly. U.S. Congress is moving to include what is known as "INF Treaty Preservation Act" in the National Defense Authorization bill. Judging by the language of the bill, its authors believe that the best way to preserve the INF Treaty is to join Russia in killing it (and to kill the New START extension for good measure). The current version of the bill would establish a U.S. program to develop an INF-range ground-launched cruise missile development program. Other proposals have been circulating as well - the Senate version of the INF Preservation Act mentions active defenses, counterforce capabilities, or things like "facilitating the transfer to allied countries of missile systems with [INF] ranges" (I am told that the plan is that the missiles would come from Israel). And it's not just Congress -- the Pentagon has already developed a set of five or so options that would address the INF violation (Israeli missiles is reportedly one of them).

In short, the process that would lead to destruction of the INF Treaty has been set in motion and at this point fewer and fewer people mention the option of resolving the issue through a discussion with Russia. In fact, a lot of people do not particularly care about the details of the alleged violation or its real military significance. For them, it is very convenient to start with a "blatant treaty violation" and move on to their favorite cause, be that missile defense, dismantlement of New START, or something else.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Terminator Times #31


A drone POV of an IED attack in Mosul.

The Chinese claim to have flown the world's largest fixed wing drone swarm: 119 drones vs the 103 flown by the US.

China also just flew a solar powered drone for an extended flight.

Some of China's new drones were shown off at the Paris airshow.

China also showcased its Wing Loong II UCAV.

Because the US is hesitating on selling its armed drones widely, China is stepping into fray.

Germany's Bundestag failed to fund the Heron TP procurement.

India has been cleared by the US State Dept to buy 22 Guardian UAVs from General Atomics.

India has signed an agreement with IAI to transfer UAV tech from Israel to India.

Iran has been flying drones over Pakistan since March.

Israel is developing a new UAV roadmap for its services.

Israel is buying mass market DJI drones for its defense forces.

Israel's Elbit has a rough equivalent of the Gorgon Stare system with their Skeye.

They have also debuted their SkyStriker loitering, suicide drone.

Israel is buying small drones that are armed with firearms.

Italy's HammerHead drone has its future outlined and test flights have resumed.

North Korea's drone that crashed in South Korea was photographing the THAAD location.  South Korea confirmed the drone's origin.

Pakistan shot down an Iranian drone.

The Russians have claimed they have developed an anti-drone laser.

The Russians claim to have some cargo carrying drones.

South Korea is planning on placing UAVs on its coast guard vessels.

Many drones are being shot down in Syria.

Taiwan plans to fire a Hellfire-class missile from one of its MALE drones next year.

Turkey has released an RFI for a new recon UAV.

A USAF F-15E shot down an Iranian made Shaheed-129 in Syria.

The USAF LCAAS will cost $2 to $3 million a piece, have a range of 1,500 miles and a payload of 500 lbs.  It may be stealthy.

A USAF Global Hawk crashed in California.

The data nodes for the USAF Global Hawk are in high demand.

The USAF's newest Reaper drones are deployed to Syria.

War is Boring claims to have found a new USAF drone base in Jordan.

An MQ-9 dropped a JDAM for the first time in combat.

USAF was sent a report strongly recommending the new B-21 bomber NOT be able to conduct nuclear strikes when unmanned.

The US MDA is seeking a High Altitude Long Endurance drone armed with a laser for showing down ballistic missiles in the boost phase.  Initial tests are aimed to be 2023.  The UCAV has performance specs that are greater what any current known UAV can handle.

The MQ-25A tanker drone for the US Navy will fly first from the USS Eisenhower and the USS Bush aircraft carriers first.

The House Armed Services Committee has expressed concerns the MQ-25A ought to have strike capabilities.

The US Navy is building a Triton UAV base in the United Arab Emirates.

Aeronautics has unveiled a 12 rotor Pegasus drone.

COTS quadcopters might be weaponized soon.

Gabbiano radar is being pitched for UAVs.

Kratos' XQ-222 and UTAP-22 will be unveiled at the Paris Air Show.  And they were.

Kratos won a first LRIP contract for the BQM-177A target drone.

Leonardo has launched its M-40 target drone.

Leonardo also flew the latest version of its Hero helicopter UAV.

Raytheon's new ARDS ELINT pod is set to fly on the Predator B next year.

Raytheon is also considering its next generation of Coyote drone.

Textron unveiled its NightWarden drone.

Thales is making advances with their military UAVs.

Xender is putting an elint package into even small commercial quadcopters.

Ogres & Bolos (UGVs):

Milrem has started testing its THeMIS UGV with the Estonian military.

Serbia has rolled out its own prototype UGCV, Milos, armed with a 7.68mm machine gun and a 40mm grenade launcher.

Ukraine has an antitank UGCV called the Phantom.

The US Marine Corps wants self repairing, learning unmanned systems.

Robo Boats (Unmanned Surface Vehicles):

The Chinese have unveiled their first USVs.

USVs will become increasingly important to the LCS program for the US Navy.

Unmanned vehicles will not count for the 355 ship navy Congress and the USN are pursuing.

Robo Subs (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles):

Boeing has teamed up with Huntington Ingalls for the XLUUV program with its Echo Voyager, a 51 ft long, 50 ton UUV.

The Boeing Echo Voyager has taken to sea for trials.

The US Navy hopes to fill the gap created by not having enough nuclear attack subs with unmanned subs.

3d Printing:

The US Marine Corps is sending 3d printers into combat zones to speed up repairs on equipment.


Should the Pentagon's bots be able to kill humans?  Maybe.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson: Epilogue

Maven pushed back from her desk.  She looked like she had bitten a bitter fruit.  She was seldom happy these days.  She had not been happy in years.  Not since she had been caught and implicated in the Merry Pranksters' interstellar intrigue.

She had grown angrier.  Grown darker.  Grown Lovecraftian, if anything.

She looked her Derp, Juan, who had brought her the news.  The information.  The prize.  yet, he was still not Tom.  Tom, the one who had evaded her.  Tom, the one who was protected.  Tom, the one who got away.

She looked at Juan very intensely.

"Do they know?  Have the Merry Pranksters found this?"

Juan shrugged that he did not know.  He didn't want to speak.  Not when Maven was like this.  This was bad.  It could be worse.  If his voice cracked when he replied, it would be worse.  And worse was something he feared.  He adored and feared her.  It was heady.  It was terrifying.  Like beijng on the knife edge, constantly.

"Then we are in a rush.  Gather the others.  Let us see what this Elias Evander Estevez put on Jefferson.  BEFORE THEY DO."

Juan whirled and left.  He had the others to gather.  And a Maven's Brood as in a race with the Merry Pranksters.  And the Pranksters might not even know it.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 42: And I Know the Answer

Ha!  Arthur!  All you mice!  Zaphod!  I know the answer!  And the question!

I'm 13 now.


Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 41: And all I got was this lousy Tshirt

A week later, my parents let me return to school.  Apparently, all of our parents returned us together.  The whispers and stares at school were pretty intense and freakier than dealing with Captain Li.  More intimidating in their own way.  The kids no longer saw us as one of them.  

We were something else.  Something more like living legends.

That was freakier than I would like to admit.

I thought I wanted to run and hide a lot.  I was only twelve after all.  I was no immortal or demigod.  But I wasn't the same twelve.  I was different.  Too much had changed.  I had seen too much.  Helmet.  Li.  Jaideep.  Too much.

My friends and I finally got to talk.  The story I got was pretty much the same. Everyone majorly grounded. Some parents were cooler than mine. Some were less. Poor Veena! Her parents were considering homeschool and whether or not she'd be allowed to even talk to us, never mind be friends. On the other hand, Rosa's parents were stunned and thrilled and let her off with a light grounding. I guess I didn't get it too bad compared to Veena though.

The adults did ransack our fort.  They took everything from there.  They were considering tearing it down altogether.  Dad counseled caution though.  Once torn down, it would not be rebuilt easily.  The adults grumbled, but accepted it for that moment.   They didn't tear it down, but we didn't get to go back until the next school year.

Everyone felt like we needed to chill out for a while and lay off the pranks. That lasted until the next school year only though.

And then there was Maven.

She showed up a week later with Derplicates in tow.  She made her displeasure known and she would get us back.  Yet, Tom didn't seem phased.  Whatever used to scare him about her was dispelled by the adventure.  She was disturbed.  And turned on me and vented, I just looked at her and dismissed her.  She didn't have anything even remotely as scary as Li did in that moment and I had stood my ground then.  No two bit crabby brat was going to phase me again.

We dismissed her.  She looked shocked.  Our great and terrible enemy - in her mind and once upon a  time - had been dismissed as a nothing more than an annoyance.  

Our message was loud and clear:

Go away kid: you're bothering us.

We went back to the manmade cave where Helmet died.  We erected a marker.  We never knew his name and the BII agents were not saying if they did.  We came for years afterwards.  Even has Shadwell slowly encroached on the site.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 40: And Then We Were Totally Sauteed!

If you had any delusion we were welcomed as heroes, let me disabuse you of that notion right this very second.  We were not.  After all our parents met us for a few minutes of hugs and tears and happiness, we fished away just before they started to kick into the 'WAITASECONDHERE,YOUNGIN! WHATWEREYOUTHINKING! to be quickly followed by YOUAREGROUNDEDINTOTHENEXTLIFETIME!'

When Shadwell's Sheriff saw us, she sighed.  You would almost think she expected us to do something like this at some point and was expected worse, much worse in the future.

Well, she had a point.

The BII agents swept us into separate rooms and our parents followed in.  You are not allowed to grill a kid without their parents present.  I think I might have preferred to be WITHOUT my parents, actually.  This could get ugly.  Too reasonable Dad with uber mama bear Mom and me between with the BII agent across from me.  


I was just thinking I might want to vomit.

I actually think this scenario might actually scare me than when I was facing down Captain Li.  I could only die there.  This was going to be much, much worse.  I wondered for a moment if they had a special prison for kids that caused major international - no, INTERPLANETARY - incidents.  For the thirty seconds before the agent was situated, I became entirely convinced in that brief eternity.

Dad pulled out his booster and up popped a lawyer bot.  The BII agent grimaced.

"Aurora.  May I call you Aurora?  I doubt you are in any real trouble.  This situation is just too bizarre, too out of this world" - that made me suppress a smirk then - "to be real. we are.  Would you be so kind as to tell me what exactly happened?"

The lawyer bot interrupted and told me not to talk.  

The agent looked exasperated and pulled out her own official booster.  Her bot and my Dad's bot worked out an agreement faster and more detailed than people could in a week in seconds.  I was off the hook unless I'd killed anyone in any other way than in self defense.

Considering I hadn't killed anyone, I felt pretty confident.

So, I spilled my guts.  The prankster escape.  The defense against the drones.  The trek to the Church.  The body there - the BII agents had found already - the fight with the cockatrice and basilisk.  The Indians.  The Nigerian.  The Chinese.  And the data chip.

That made her sit upright.

I had to agree to take the BII agents there.  Which, duh, I did.  How could I not?  After all this?  What would I do with that chip?!

Even so, I felt grilled.  Like a good cheese sandwich.  or perhaps even a burger or steak.  The BII agent didn't let any detail get away.

With the conclusion of the interview, we were lifted to the spot where I left the chip.  My parents insisted they come.  A squad of the Marines came, too.  Just in case the Chinese were not alone or the Indians were still out there.

We retrieved the chip and I was feeling proud and cocky.

Until I got home to Mom's.

Then I was worse than roasted.

I sauteed.


Mom let me have it.  She was in full out rage mommy bear mode letting her cub know the cub'd screwed up.  Beyond screwed up.  I felt I barely survived.  

Dad did too in his own way.  When someone does the same thing as ripping you apart without ever raising their voice, well, it can be just as devastating, if not more.  There's no hiding behind the idea you were being yelled at.  No yelling can be a devastating thing.

But.  I couldn't help it.  I noticed.  There was a hint of pride and a slight smirk on Dad's face.  A bemused one.  Dad!  You dork!  Your rip me up but at the same time!  gah!  Parents!  What would we ever do with them.

Mom was probably just as proud.  She had a certain reaction to things though.  Her pride would be shown later, I'm sure.  

But in the mean time, I was going to be soooo grounded.