Saturday, March 31, 2018

Terminator Times #43

Drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles):

The Predator kicked off the unmanned revolution.

The Predator has been officially retired.  The USAF might have been the end user (and who retired the Predator), but the US Army started the Predator program.

DARPA awarded Raytheon a contract for its OFFSET program to write software to control drone swarms.

The New York National Guard has been evaluating the DB-110 recon system on the Reaper.

DIUx, the pentagon's silicon valley branch, is looking for sub launched UAV proposals.

The US Army wants drones for the infantry.

The USAF is looking at equipping Reaper UCAVs with air to air missiles.

The USAF is pushing Global Hawk upgrades.

The USAF conducted its first drone strike against al Qaida in southern Libya.

The first USMC infantry battalion has received mini drones.

The USMC has released an RFI for the MUX VTOL ISR/EW/strike drone.

The USMC is experimenting on delivering supplies, in small amounts, via drones.

The US Navy is purchasing 8 Firescout VTOL UCAVs.

Afghanistan is getting ScanEagle UAVs.

Australia has cleared the heavy fuel variant of the S-100 VTOL UAV for shipborne tests.

Britain is preparing for its Protector UCAVs.

Britain's Watchkeeper drones are having serious reliability problems.

The Canadian Navy has selected the Puma II UAV.

China's Xianglong UAV has been spotted on Hainan.

Egypt is buying the Puma UAV.

An Indian Heron crashed shortly after takeoff.

The Japanese are testing to see whether or not the RQ-21 and the Firescout UAVs can work from the Izumo.

Latvia is getting the Puma UAV.

The Philippines received six ScanEagle UAVs from the US.

The Russians are using drones to improve the accuracy of their artillery.

Serbia has shown off its two new UAVs.

South Korea's KUS-FS UAV continues flight trials.

Qatar has ordered Bayraktar UAVs.

Russia unveiled the first high resolution picture of its Orion UAV.

A new version of Turkey's Anka UAV has emerged.

AeroVironment has updated the Puma UAV.

Boeing's entry into the MQ-25A tanker UAV competition for the US Navy has been mostly unveiled in Aviation Week.

Kratos has been given clearance to export its UTAP-22 Mako UCAV.

Lockheed's X-44A flying wing UAV has broken cover.

Lockheed has unveiled its MQ-25A UAV tanker competition entrant.

Unmanned Ground Vehicles:

The US Army wants a prototype robotic combat vehicle by 2019.

The US Army wants a robotic combat vehicle to be paired with its Next Gen Combat Vehicle and both ought to be optimized for urban combat.

How can the US Army have a functional robotic combat vehicle by 2024?

The USMC has contracted with Launch Forth for its new unmanned cargo vehicle.

The USMC has contracted Endeavor Robotics for a followup contract for small UGVs.

China is testing unmanned tanks derived from their T-59 tank.

Russia's plans and developments for UGVs are discussed.

Russia is supposedly developing a remotely operated anti helicopter/anti drone weapon system.

Unmanned Underwater Vehicles:

A Polish team is developing stealthy autonomous underwater vehicles.

Software Bots:

China has developed a driver assistance program for military vehicles.

Dassault has teamed with Thales to develop AI.

Google is helping the US military train AI to watch its drone feeds.


The USMC doesn't want tech to weigh down its soldiers.

The USMC is also experimenting with what robopocalyptic warfare might be like in an urban setting.

What happens when robots fight our wars?

Roboteam is working on software that allows for control of multiple unmanned platforms simultaneously.

Friday, March 30, 2018

ULA's Plans for a Cislunar Economy

United Launch Alliance (ULA) President and CEO Tory Bruno has provided a new overview of his company’s role in a proposed “Econosphere” in space. Although it will take decades to fully realize its potential, ULA hardware is set to provide the key elements via its CisLunar 1000 roadmap, allowing numerous commercial companies to come together to create a self-sustaining community of around 1000 people in the space between the Earth and the Moon.

The CisLunar 1000 plans revolve creating an in-space economy that would tap into the vast amount of resources that could be harnessed from objects such as Near Earth Asteroids (NEA) and on the surface of the Moon.

Eventually, the community would become self-sufficient via in situ resource utilization (ISRU), while becoming economically viable via the prospecting of precious materials that are rare on Earth but abundant in space.

“What we understand today is there’s over 17,000 of these (varying range of NEAs) that come in different classes. Best estimates, there are two trillion kilograms of industrial metals residing in that region,” noted Mr. Bruno during his address to students at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

US Omnibus Budget Bill Doubled Funding for ITER, Avoiding Reactor Prototype Delays

The United States has agreed to double its planned 2018 budget contribution to the ITER project to build a prototype nuclear fusion reactor, avoiding delays to the international project this year, its director said on Monday.

Washington cut the United States’ 2017 contribution from a scheduled $105 million to $50 million and had planned to cut its 2018 contribution from a scheduled $120 million to $63 million.

But in last-minute talks about the U.S. 2018 budget last week, the U.S. Congress approved a draft Omnibus Spending Bill with a $122 million in-kind contribution for ITER, which President Donald Trump signed into law on Friday, ITER said.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

MIT, Private Company Plan Fusion Reactor by 2033

Progress toward the long-sought dream of fusion power — potentially an inexhaustible and zero-carbon source of energy — could be about to take a dramatic leap forward.

Development of this carbon-free, combustion-free source of energy is now on a faster track toward realization, thanks to a collaboration between MIT and a new private company, Commonwealth Fusion Systems. CFS will join with MIT to carry out rapid, staged research leading to a new generation of fusion experiments and power plants based on advances in high-temperature superconductors — work made possible by decades of federal government funding for basic research.

CFS is announcing today that it has attracted an investment of $50 million in support of this effort from the Italian energy company Eni. In addition, CFS continues to seek the support of additional investors. CFS will fund fusion research at MIT as part of this collaboration, with an ultimate goal of rapidly commercializing fusion energy and establishing a new industry.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Lockheed Got a Patent for its Fusion Design

Lockheed Martin has quietly obtained a patent associated with its design for a potentially revolutionary compact fusion reactor, or CFR. If this project has been progressing on schedule, the company could debut a prototype system that size of shipping container, but capable of powering a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier or 80,000 homes, sometime in the next year or so.

The patent, for a portion of the confinement system, or embodiment, is dated Feb. 15, 2018. The Maryland-headquartered defense contractor had filed a provisional claim on April 3, 2013 and a formal application nearly a year later. Our good friend Stephen Trimble, chief of Flightglobal's Americas Bureau, subsequently spotted it and Tweeted out its basic details.

In 2014, the company also made a splash by announcing they were working on the device at all and that it was the responsibility of its Skunk Works advanced projects office in Palmdale, California. At the time, Dr. Thomas McGuire, head of the Skunk Works’ Compact Fusion Project, said the goal was to have a working reactor in five years and production worthy design within 10.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

How Russia Will Deploy its Avangard Hypersonic Boost Glide Weapon

Russia will apparently use surplus UR-100UTTKh — NATO: SS-19 Stiletto — and the RS-28 Sarmat liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles as the launch vehicle for its Avangard hypersonic boost-glide weapon.

The new weapons will initially be deployed onboard UR-100UTTKn missiles that were returned from Ukraine after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Once the Sarmat is ready for operations, the Avangard will be deployed on that 200-ton missile also.

Most of Putin's new weapons actually date back to at least the Soviet Union's response to Reagan's SDI.  The exception appears to be the Russian Project Pluto.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Robopocalypse Report #101


Mini, really mini, drones.

Amazon is patenting drones that understand your hand motions.

In Arizona, north of Flagstaff, a drone crash caused a 335 acre wild fire.

In Britain, aircraft/drone near misses have tripled.

Britain might shed its beyond line of sight regulations for drones.

BMW is helping to build the world's fastest racing drone.

DJI is building 1,000 custom drones for the construction firm Komatsu.  Or is it Skycatch?

Drones and art...

A drone used an origami inspired robotic arm.

Drone Delivery Canada has been testing in the US, specifically NY.

Drone deliveries are coming really soon to the US.

Drones hunting drones is about to be a thing, too.

The FAA expects the commercial drone industry to quadruple by 2022.

Facebook and Uber are interested in testing drones in Kenya.

Ford wants to build drones.

Awards for the GeniusNY competition will amount to $3 million.

Flying Legos, folks.

LeveTop has a new form factor for drones.

Riga is becoming a haven for drone development.

A Russian hobby drone reached 33,000 ft.

A Russian billionaire intercepted a drone.

Walmart has applied for a patent on using drones to pollinate plants.

Walmart is patenting drones that will help customers.

Self Driving Cars:

An Uber self driving car hit and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona.  Uber, as a result, has halted its self driving car tests.  Uber may not actually be at fault.  However, the video of the incident would argue otherwise, I'd say.  Others agree and have far, far harsher words for Uber (Theranos of self driving cars?  ouch).  Experts are saying a human, paying attention, would have easily avoided the accident.  The tech clearly failed.  The Uber sensor provider is just as baffled as everyone else.

Many companies developing self driving cars have suspended driving their vehicles on public roads in the aftermath: nuTonomy and Toyota for two.  Toyota's suspension of testing is indefinite.

Sharing info is vital for making self driving cars safer.  The accident may slow down development and deployment of self driving cars.  Washington, DC isn't likely to change legislation for self driving cars because of the accident.  Arizona is not interested in changing legislation.

Some are very angry over the reactions to the death caused by the Uber car.

Uber had been considering selling its self driving tech to Toyota.  That may not be possible since Uber's miles driven before a driver must take control is only 13 vs 5,600 for Waymo and 1,200 for GM.

A loop hole might allow self driving cars companies to avoid being sued.

Could solar storms cause problems for self driving cars?

The US Senate has been considering a self driving car bill, but Democrats have been citing concerns with it due to the Tesla Autopilot problems.

Apple has more self driving cars in California than Google, ahem, Waymo does.

Aston Martin is looking at the autonomous vehicle future.

Baidu will continue its testing after the Uber crash, but in Beijing.

Ford thinks drones could compensate for failed self driving car sensors.

GM is spending $100 million on production ready self driving cars and their production starts next year...

GM's Cadillac poked fun at Tesla's Autopilot.

Hyundai is taking a conservative approach to self driving cars, especially after the Uber accident.

Land Rover will be testing its self parking capabilities in London.

Lyft has teamed up with Magna for its self driving car ridesharing.

MIT is developing ways to improve self driving car sensing in fog.

Norway has unleashed autonomous snow plows at one of their airports.

Torc Robotics has been testing their self driving car in the snow.

Volkswagen feels China might drive the self driving car market.

Waymo has a video of riders getting used to a self driving car.


Fedex is embracing the robopocalypse.

Neato has a voice commanded vac bot.

Picking strawberries appears to be actually hard for robots.

A soft robotic UUV is attempting to study fish.

A Turkish company has unveiled a humanoid robot.

Robots at SxSW.

India now has automated subways thanks to Bombardier.

Toyota uses robots for its rough road tests.

Robopocalypse comes for basketball?!  Robots can shoot better hoops than humans can.

The Robopocalypse might short circuit Africa's assent through manufacturing.

The Xprize Foundation is offering a $10 million prize for robotic avatars.

A pipe crawling bot is going to help DOE decommission a nuclear facility.

A agbot helps with data collection for precision farming.

And the robopocalypse comes for...artists?


A brain interface adds the sense of presence to prosthetic arms.

Brain scanning got easier.

Emotiv demoed a headset that allows you to mentally control drones and other electronic devices.

Implantable sensors can relay health data via cell phone.

Software Bots:

AI has taken a look at gender bias in Hollywood.

AI can tell gender based on smile.

AI has spotted a lot of viruses.

AI diagnostics must be deployed with care.

Alexa has a brief mode for less chattiness.

Amazon is supposedly readying an Alexa for business.

One of the original developers of Apple's Siri is surprised at how limited the assistant still is.

Siri won't be reading hidden notifications anymore.

EA is teaching AI to play Battlefield 1.

Google built a hardware interface for its AI music maker.

Google has open sourced its Exoplanet Hunting AI.

Google is building better bots to recognize eye disease.

Google has been intentionally damaging the neural net behind DeepMind to better understand how they work.

IBM's Watson is coming to vehicles.

Machine learning is being applied to notifications on your phone.

Machine learning is also classifying types of cancer.

Microsoft has stated its AI can translate Chinese to English as well as a human can.

A new test could tell whether AI has common sense.

There are new ways to classify and generate music using bots.

How accurate is your AI?

3d Printing:

The US AFRL demoed 3d printing of high temperature carbon fiber composite parts.

The USAF also funded a 3d printer with 4 different printing methods in one machine (it costs $350k, currently).

LSEV claims it has the first production 3d printed car.

Lawsuits are being filed over 3d metal printing patents.


A new group has been formed to forecast problems with AI.

Walmart is attempting to embrace the robopocalypse.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Deep Space Gateway gets a new Name, Support, Accelerated Timetable in Budget Proposal

The Trump Administration is proposing to formally start a cislunar space station program and begin assembly early in the next decade with launch of the first element. The Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) is the core module of the station, now named the “Lunar Orbital Platform – Gateway” (LOP-G).

As a part of commercial space industry initiatives for human exploration, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 NASA budget request submitted by the President to Congress in February also proposed an accelerated, dedicated commercial launch of the PPE in 2022.

The PPE was previously scheduled to launch as a secondary payload on Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2), which is currently planned to be the first crewed Orion spacecraft mission launch on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. With the PPE no longer on the EM-2 manifest, NASA is evaluating changes to that mission, including aspirations of flying the Habitation module on a more ambitious flight for Orion’s first crew.


Some proposals for the gateway were suggested.

More info on the DSG/LOPG.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

SEC Starting to Regulate Cryptocurrency Exchanges, Warns Investors

The SEC has been zeroing in on cryptocurrency since the beginning of the year. The agency announced it would scrutinize companies generating hype by pivoting to crypto before delving deeper into initial coin offerings with subpeonas. But today the agency turned its attention to people buying cryptocurrencies, warning consumers against trusting so-called 'exchanges' that state or imply that they're protected by federal law. Spoiler: They aren't, because the cryptocurrency world remains an unregulated mess.

It comes down to semantic wording. Whether or not these online trading platforms consider the 'digital asset' cryptocoins they're trafficking to be 'securities' under federal law, the SEC likely does. That means they satisfy the agency's definition of 'national security exchanges' and should register with the SEC. If they don't, they remain outside of government scrutiny and regulation, meaning the agency can't protect individuals from any manipulative or fraudulent practices.

"Many platforms refer to themselves as "exchanges," which can give the misimpression to investors that they are regulated or meet the regulatory standards of a national securities exchange. Although some of these platforms claim to use strict standards to pick only high-quality digital assets to trade, the SEC does not review these standards or the digital assets that the platforms select, and the so-called standards should not be equated to the listing standards of national securities exchanges," the SEC stated in a post.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Twitter may ban Cryptocurrency, ICO ads

Twitter may soon join Facebook and Google in cracking down on ads for cryptocurrency-related products. Sky sources have claimed the social network will institute worldwide ban against ads for initial coin offerings, cryptocurrency wallets and token sales within the next two weeks. It might also ban ads for cryptocurrency exchanges with "some limited exceptions," according to the apparent leak.

The company told Engadget it had no comment at the moment.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Google is Banning Cryptocurrency Ads in June

Google is cracking down on cryptocurrency-related advertising.

The company is updating its financial services-related ad policies to ban any advertising about cryptocurrency-related content, including initial coin offerings (ICOs), wallets, and trading advice, Google's director of sustainable ads, Scott Spencer, told CNBC.

That means that even companies with legitimate cryptocurrency offerings won't be allowed to serve ads through any of Google's ad products, which place advertising on its own sites as well as third-party websites.

This update will go into effect in June 2018, according to a company post.

Monday, March 19, 2018

A US City Banned Cryptocurrency Mining

The city of Plattsburgh, New York announced on Thursday that it is temporarily banning the commercial mining of cryptocurrency for 18 months. 
The official reasoning for the moratorium is to "protect and enhance the City's natural, historic, cultural and electrical resources." 
Plattsburgh residents have seen skyrocketing electrical bills — as much as $100 to $200 increases — as a result of commercial cryptomining operations that mine for cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, according to Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read, who spoke with Motherboard. The city is taking action to protect its citizens from those rising electrical bills that the city of Plattsburgh says is caused by cryptomining operations.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

US Navy Remains Committed to Railguns

Following a flurry of reports in December predicting the Navy's $500 million electromagnetic railgun experiment was dead on arrival, the chief of Naval Operations told lawmakers this week that the death of the program was greatly exaggerated.

"[We are] fully invested in railgun; we continue to test it," Adm. John Richardson told the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense during a Wednesday hearing on Navy and Marine Corps budget issues. "We've demonstrated it at lower firing rates and ... shorter ranges. Now we have to do the engineering to, sort of, crank it up and get it at the designated firing rates, at the 80- to 100-mile range."

Richardson was responding to a question from Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who expressed concern about the proven capability of the Navy's railgun weapon, which has yet to leave its test site at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Virginia.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Stealth Saga #73

Sixth Generation Fighter:

The US Air Force is warning the 6th gen fighter must arrive much faster than the F-35 did or it will be irrelevant.

China has begun work on its 6th gen fighter.


Japan is sending out an RFI for information from US aerospace companies to help build the follow-on to the F-2 fighter the second week of March 2018.

The next gen Japanese fighter will be based off a Western design.


The Anglo-French Future Combat Air System may be a casualty of Brexit.


The Indians are requiring any winning bid for the new fighters India wants to have help developing India's 5th generation stealth fighter.


The Russians have disclosed they sent the Su-57 to Syria to test radar and EW systems.  The aircraft has not been cleared for combat.

The Russians are now claiming they have withdrawn the Su-57s.

Israel is very concerned about the Su-57s in Syria.

A report claimed the Russians will be designing a new aircraft for use on its current (and possible future) carriers rather than use the Su-57.  However, the UAC came out and stated they are ready to make the Su-57 carrier compatible.


Is Tupolev struggling with being unable to find enough engineers and technically skilled people to build the PAK-DA?


The J-20 is not using the new engines (WS-15) designed by the Chinese.  The new engines are having problems during the development.  It seems to be related to metallurgy for the fan blades.

The J-20 was intended to be used as an air supremacy fighter, but will be developed into other variants like what was done with the F-15.


China's Shenyang Corporation has completed another J-31 prototype.  It should be noted the Chinese are calling the J-31 a research effort and not, as we americans call it, a program of record.  The J-31 designation is considered unofficial.


The prototype B-21 bomber(s) are being hinted at being unveiled because they need to be tested at Edwards AFB soon.

The B-21 is having some issues, but coming along well.  Supposedly.  The so-called Iron Bird is probably already flying based on reports from elsewhere.  This is how it gets transitioned into the White World.


The F-22 demo team changed pilots.

Watch an F-22 do an inverted somersault.

Listen to an F-22 pilot gas up his plane.

The F-22 pilot that reported the hypoxia problems may have been retaliated against.


The USMC is about to embark on the maiden operational deployment of the F-35B on the USS Wasp.

Watch the F-35Bs arrive on the USS Wasp.  The USS Wasp is headed to South Korea next month for exercises.

USMC Commandant is calling the F-35B key to the Marines.

The US Navy is getting frustrated it cannot connect the F-35 logistics software to its own.

Lockheed is being called 'uncooperative' on the F-35 contract.

Lockheed received an additional $148 million contract for more logistical support for the F-35.

Lockheed claims the F-35 will have really good readiness rates.

The Pentagon is doing a deep dive to figure out how to reduce the F-35's costs.

The F-35's costs are dropping, but not fast enough for the Pentagon.

The F-35 costs issues are fixable, but...

Half of F-35 manufacturing defects are stealth related.

Continued development and sustainment costs for the F-35 will be $1 billion annually.

US lawmakers quizzed the Pentagon over the F-35 costs.

The cost of the Block 4 software is increasing.

The Pentagon is seeking 400 GBU-49s for the F-35.

The US Navy gave Lockheed a $149 million contract mod.

One of the founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream was arrested for protesting the deployment of F-35s to Vermont.

The head of the Luftwaffe, German air force, is losing his job (in large part) for advocating the F-35 for Germany.

The Indian Air Force denies it asked for a briefing on the F-35.  However, the head of the US Pacific Command has stated he'd like to see India buy the jet.

Israeli F-35As may have made their combat debut in Syria.  The Israelis won't confirm, but won't deny either.

The Italian F-35As have gone IOC.

An Italian party that has vowed to end Italy's participation in the F-35 may gain power.

The Japanese Defense Minister stated he was the one who authorized the study of placing F-35Bs on the Izumo.

Taiwan still hopes to buy F-35B.

Terma has joined the F-35 avionics test center.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Google Announced a 72 qubit quantum computer

Google announced a 72-qubit universal quantum computer that promises the same low error rates the company saw in its first 9-qubit quantum computer. Google believes that this quantum computer, called Bristlecone, will be able to bring us to an age of quantum supremacy.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Africa was Wetter During the Medieval Warm Period


Lüning et al


The Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) is a recognized period of distinct pre-industrial climate change, with a core period of 1000–1200 CE. The field of palaeoclimatology has made major progress over the past 15 years during which a great number of high- and medium-resolution case studies were published, reconstructing climate change of the past millennia. In many parts of the world, regional data coverage has now reached a point which allows compiling palaeoclimate maps for well-defined time intervals. Here we present hydroclimatic trend maps for the MCA in Africa based on 99 published study locations. Key hydroclimatic proxy curves are visualized and compared in a series of 16 correlation panels. Proxy types are described and possible issues discussed. Based on the combined MCA dataset, temporal and spatial trends are interpreted and mapped out. Three areas have been identified in Africa in which rainfall seems to have increased during the MCA, namely Tunisia, western Sahel and the majority of southern Africa. At the same time, a reduction in precipitation occurred in the rest of Africa, comprising of NW and NE Africa, West Africa, Eastern Africa and the Winter Rainfall Zone of South Africa. MCA hydroclimate change in Africa appears to have been associated with characteristic phases of ocean cycles, as also supported by modern climate observations. Aridity in Morocco typically coincides with the positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), whilst increased rainfall in the western Sahel is often coupled to the positive phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). Reduction in rainfall in the region Gulf of Aden/southern Red Sea to Eastern Africa could be linked to a negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) or a derived long-term equivalent Indian Ocean cycle parameter. The Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) appears to have been shifted pole-wards during the MCA, for both the January and July positions. MCA hydroclimate mapping revealed major data gaps in the Sahara, South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, northern Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Special efforts are needed to fill these gaps, e.g. through a dedicated structured research program in which new multiproxy datasets are created, based on the learnings from previous African MCA studies.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Russia Shows off a Claimed Hypersonic Missile Test

Russia's deputy defense minister has offered new details on the new hypersonic missile announced by President Putin in a recent speech to lawmakers. This reported by Sputnik.

The Kinzhal hypersonic air-launched missile system, capable of rendering useless all existing and prospective anti-missile systems, is also able to destroy large, moving sea-based targets such as aircraft carriers, destroyers and cruisers, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov has confirmed.

"This is a class of precision weapons which has a multifunctional warhead capable of striking at both stationary and moving targets," Borisov said, speaking to Krasnaya Zvezda, the defense ministry's official newspaper.

Confirming that the Kinzhal ('Dagger') system is based on the MiG-31 supersonic interceptor aircraft, the general explained that that plane "takes off into the air, accelerates to a certain speed at a high altitude, and then the missile begins its own autonomous movement."

According to Borisov, the system's capability to reach speeds of about Mach 10 "allows [the missile] to approach its target quickly, in contrast to cruise missiles, which fly at an average cruising speed of about 850-900 km/h."


The Russian Aerospace Forces have conducted the first successful test firing of the air-launched Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile according to state sponsored media outlets.

The missile, supposedly named Kh-47M2 and referred to as the “Kinzhal”, was fired from a modified MiG-31BM (NATO reporting name “Foxhound”) over Southwest Russia. A report published on Facebook by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the “unique” MiG-31 that fired the missile had been “modernized”. Rogozin did not specify what modifications or “modernized” meant.

In video and still photos portions of the weapon seen in the test launch are obscured by imaging software, presumably for security purposes.


Note!  This is a missile that is NOT scramjet powered.  There are no inlets.  This is just a traditional missile that goes fast.  That limits its range.  It's also not all that different in some ways than an ATACMS missile: this is a ballistic missile the US Army uses, one that has been used to accelerate our scramjet testbeds up to mach 5+.  The Russian missile is not a huge innovation as such.  The Indian Brahmos-II is more of one, honestly.  Note: the Russians were jointly developing the Brahmos-II with the Indians when they suddenly jacked up the price on the Indians.  The Indians went it alone since.

Inhabitants of Vanuatu Were Replaced, but Their Language Lives on

The study, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution and led by a multidisciplinary research team at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH) together with researchers in France, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Vanuatu, reveals that migrations of people from the Bismarck Archipelago in Oceania to the previously settled islands of the Pacific began as early as 2,500 years ago, much earlier than previously thought. The Remote Oceanian island nation of Vanuatu is the gateway to the rest of the Pacific and understanding its demographic history is critical to uncovering that of the wider region. The earliest inhabitants of Vanuatu, arriving about 3,000 years ago, were the Lapita peoples who spoke a form of Austronesian language and who had largely East Asian genetic ancestry. But Vanuatu's contemporary population has largely Near Oceanian heritage, showing that over time the genetic ancestry of the early inhabitants was mostly replaced by that of Bismarck Archipelago migrants, who began arriving very soon after initial settlement. Yet the original Austronesian language persisted and over 120 descendant languages continue to be spoken today, making Vanuatu the per capita most linguistically diverse place on Earth. Vanuatu therefore presents an unprecedented case, where a population's genetic ancestry but not its languages were replaced. Through analyses of new ancient and modern genome-wide data, the researchers show that rather than occurring in one wave, the genetic replacement was long and complex, likely the result of a sustained long-distance contact between Near and Remote Oceania. This provides demographic support for a model from historical linguistics, in which the initial Austronesian language of Vanuatu survived by being continually adopted by incoming Papuan migrants.

The Austronesian Expansion, which began around 5,500 years ago likely in modern-day Taiwan, was the most geographically extensive dispersal of farming peoples in prehistory, ultimately carrying people as far west as Madagascar and all the way east to Rapa Nui. These seafaring Neolithic people initially expanded out across Island Southeast Asia, carrying farming technology and a major branch of the Austronesian language family, eventually reaching Near Oceania where they encountered the indigenous Papuan peoples of New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago. The initial settlement east beyond the Solomon Islands and out into Remote Oceania only began around 3,000 years ago, with Austronesian-speaking groups associated with the Lapita pottery culture rapidly expanding east out to Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji and the islands of Western Polynesia. A previous ancient DNA study of Lapita burial sites has shown that these earliest inhabitants had East Asian ancestry with negligible evidence of Papuan genetic admixture. But the present-day genetic make-up of Remote Oceania suggests at least some degree of Papuan ancestry, meaning there must have been subsequent Papuan migration and admixture into the Pacific from Near Oceania.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

There was a Huge Steppe Migration into Europe Circa 3,300 BC

Consider the unexpected movement of people who originally lived on the steppes of Central Asia, north of the Black and Caspian seas. About 5,300 years ago, the local hunter-gatherer cultures were replaced in many places by nomadic herders, dubbed the Yamnaya, who were able to expand rapidly by exploiting horses and the new invention of the cart, and who left behind big, rich burial sites.

Archeologists have long known that some of the technologies used by the Yamnaya later spread to Europe. But the startling revelation from the ancient DNA was that the people moved, too - all the way to the Atlantic coast of Europe in the west to Mongolia in the east and India in the south. This vast migration helps explain the spread of Indo-European languages. And it significantly replaced the local hunter-gatherer genes across Europe with the indelible stamp of steppe DNA, as happened in Britain with the migration of the Bell Beaker people to the island.

"This whole phenomenon of the steppe expansion is an amazing example of what ancient DNA can show," says Reich. And, adds Cunliffe, "no one, not even archeologists in their wildest dreams, had expected such a high steppe genetic content in the populations of northern Europe in the third millennium B.C."

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Copper Age Iberian Bell Beaker Culture Exported Culture & Technology, not Genes

Prehistoric Iberians 'exported' their culture throughout Europe, reaching Great Britain, Sicily, Poland and all over central Europe in general. However, they did not export their genes. The Beaker culture, which probably originated in Iberia, left remains in those parts of the continent. However, that diffusion was not due to large migrations of populations that took this culture with them. These are the conclusions of an international study in which the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) was involved. Its findings, published in the journal Nature, indicate no evidence of any genetic outflow from Iberia to those areas has been discovered. "Therefore, the diffusion of the Beaker culture from Iberia is the first example of a culture being transmitted as an idea, basically due to a question of social prestige (since it was associated with the virtues of being virile and of being warriors), which is why it is adopted by other populations", indicates researcher Carles Lalueza-Fox, from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, a mixed research centre run by CSIC and the Pompeu Fabra University, in Barcelona, Spain.

Between 4,700 and 4,400 years ago, a new type of bell-shaped beaker pottery was introduced throughout western and central Europe. For more than a century, archaeologists have been trying to determine whether the spread of this beaker pottery - and the (Beaker) culture associated with it - represented a large-scale migration or whether it was due simply to the exchange of new ideas. Now, this new study, which includes DNA data from 400 prehistoric skeletons collected from sites across Europe, resolves the debate of whether the spread was due to migrations or ideas, indicating that both arguments are correct. The findings show that the culture which produced these bell-shaped beakers extended from Iberia to central Europe without a significant movement of populations, although the Beaker culture would spread to other places through migrations at a later date.

The study, whose first author is the Spanish researcher Íñigo Olalde, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, shows that once the (Bell) Beaker culture reaches the centre of Europe (around Germany and its surrounding area), it expands backwards to other places, notably to the British Isles. Yet, in this case, it does represent a migration, replacing around 90% of the population with it. "That is to say, the Neolithic people who built Stonehenge (and who had a greater genetic similarity with Neolithic Iberians than with those from Central Europe) almost disappear and are replaced by the populations from the Beaker culture from the Netherlands and Germany. This replacement is almost absolute in terms of the Y chromosome, which is transmitted by the paternal line, indicating an extreme reproductive bias, and therefore a previously unheard of social dominance. The backward flow also reaches other places such as Italy (at least in the north) and Iberia. I believe it is possible that this is also associated with the expansion of the Celtic or Proto-Celtic languages," Mr. Lalueza-Fox points out.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

US Navy Wants Almost $300 Million for Laser Weapons in FY2019

The Navy proposed spending $299 million in Fiscal Year 2019 on laser systems to protect ships against current and anticipated future threats, as part of a rapid prototyping, experimentation and demonstration initiative.

For nearly a decade, the Navy has considered laser technology a more cost-efficient and effective tool to protect ships from emerging threats such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and small patrol craft that could swarm a surface ship, according to a Congressional Research Service report, Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress.

The Navy wants to move development of lasers a step closer to deployment, according to budget documents released by the Navy earlier this month.

In the upcoming fiscal year, the Navy wants to purchase four ship-mounted Surface Navy Laser Weapon Systems (SNLWS), which include a High Energy Laser with an integrated low-power laser dazzler. If successful, this system would provide ships with a new means of countering unmanned aerial vehicles, fast inshore attack craft and adversary intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets.

The Navy also hopes to install two Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy systems (ODIN) on Arleigh-Burke-class guided-missile destroyers in the upcoming fiscal year. This system is described by budget documents as being a near-term shipboard counter-ISR capability.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Robopocalypse Report #100


The Brits have developed a drone for mapping and monitoring the radiation at Fukushima.

Dedibot is a 3d printer married to a drone.

Dedrone can not only find rogue drones, but also their operators.

Dolce and Gabbana just had drones fly their bags down the runway.

Drones could help self driving cars navigate.

Edgybees has raised money to bring AR to first responder UAVs.

The EU Aviation safety board has submitted its proposed regulations for drones.

A drone was used to deliver bread in Ireland.

Drones are being used in sea turtle conservation efforts.

Watch drone footage of the 2011 eruption of Kirishima.

Ford proposed a tracker for all drones in the US.

Parrot's Flight Director mode automatically edits your drone videos.

A police drone found a driver that had left the car and collapsed from hypothermia.

San Diego State University has launched a lab to accelerate UAV development.

Skydroid has been contracted by the Brits to stop drones smuggling items into prisons.

University of Warwick students created a drone for search & rescue in mountainous terrain.

The US Whitehouse wants to allow law enforcement

Windhorse Aerospace wants to make and fly edible, yes, edible drones.

The WingtraOne PPK drone can make ultra precise 3d maps of locales.

Winter surveys of farmland by drone could be very helpful.

Self Driving Cars:

The backlash against self driving cars has begun.  In California, some people are attacking self driving cars.

Will autonomous vehicles improve traffic flow?

Self driving cars might actually make traffic worse?

Self driving cars can't use the automated car washes.

How do you get self driving cars to bend the traffic rules?

The US Senate is being urged to move the stalled self driving car bill forward.

Arizona is now allowing fully autonomous vehicles with no safety drivers.

Self driving cars that may launch in California in April will have remote drivers if there is a problem.

The British have kicked off a review of self driving car regulations.

California has changed the rules that allow truly driverless cars on its roads.

The Chinese are the most trusting of the idea of self driving cars on the road.  Germans and Americans are only half as trusting.

Computer vision systems for self driving cars are starting to be used for motion prediction.

A new lidar sensor could allow self driving vehicles to see around corners.

Fisker talks autonomous transportation amongst other topics.

Ford has launched its self driving car service in Florida.

A Gallup conducted a poll on self driving cars where Americans are rather uncomfortable with self driving cars and trucks.  Some are calling the poll interesting, but flawed.

Huawei claims its new smartphone can make cars autonomous.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also released their findings from a poll.

Lyft will start its self driving car tests in Concord, California on the former military base.

Nissan's self driving taxi will begin tests in Yokohama, but the program will only last two weeks. has launched its own self driving ride sharing car program in China.

The next gen Porsche will not have self driving tech.

Qualcomm will be testing out self driving shuttles at Miramar, the USMC base.

Renault unveiled its EZ-GO autonomous car sharing service.

Starsky tested a completely driverless semi.  It had a problem.

Toyota has launched TRI-AD, a company dedicated to only working on self driving cars, with a $2.8 billion investment.

Uber's self driving trucks are making runs for paying customers in Arizona.

Volkswagen's Vizzion concept dumps the ability to steer for a digital chauffeur and unveiled in person in Geneva.

Waymo took some journalists on a ride in their self driving car.

Waymo's self driving trucks may begin work in Atlanta next week.


Biomimicing robots get discussed.

Boston Dynamics is teaching robots how to resist human interference.

In Brazil, papayas may soon be harvested by robots.

The Deebot N79S vaccumbot gets reviewed.

Canadarm2, the robotic arm on the ISS, has an earth bound derivative being used in surgery.

Flippy the robot has started cooking burgers at Caliburger in Pasadena.  It was turned off for being too slow.

Harvard has developed an extremely thin artificial eye.

MIT has developed a basic robotic autosaw.

Oslo wants to use unmanned underwater vehicles to help clean up trash in the Norwegian fjords.

Researchers have developed a robot that can pick and sort objects pretty well.

A robot wolf is going into production in Japan to protect crops.

Segway's Loomo transporter doubles as a robot and apparently doesn't impress some.

Tokyo's robots are getting a new way of controlling their motion.

Long range autonomous underwater vehicles are being designed to sample the ocean and its microscopic life.

Robots are getting a sense of touch.


Oregon Health and Science University has a prototype of a permanent artificial replacement for the heart.


Cyberdyne (hmm) has launched their medical exoskeleton in the US.

Harvard has applied machine learning to exoskeletons so they can learn to help you walk.

Software Bots:

AI research may be facing a reproducibility problem.

AI researchers have been using Blockchain tech to share medical data.

Alibaba wants to overtake Google et al to become the foremost Cloud based AI provider.

Amazon wants Alexa to be a real time universal translator.

Alexa is also randomly laughing and its creeping people out.

Cortana can now check your Outlook mail.

Google's AI has been scanning and tagging old Life photos.

Google's Assistant now has more capabilities.

The Lawgeex software bot can do a better job of evaluating contracts than lawyers can now.

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab has developed a image recognition bot trainable with minimal data.

Why Humans can learn faster than AI does.

Machine learning is being used for medical decisions.

Software bots are being used to understand quantum systems faster.

Porsche is testing a neural net to ID problems based on vibrations detected in running cars.


AI will create jobs, but the skills needed will change.

Automating jobs is how society makes progress, or some say.

Most Americans believe the robopocalypse will take away other people's jobs, but not their's.

The first robopocalyptic farm successfully grew barley in Britain.

AiFi has replicated Amazon Go's system for personless markets without needing much retrofitting.

I'm a bit uncomfortable with this one: automated smart mazes?  Doesn't that normally end up as a young adult dystopia?

A single malicious vehicle can block a 'smart' intersection.