Saturday, August 31, 2019

Robopocalypse Report #119


Amazon is seeking FAA approval for its drone delivery plans.

Bell's APT-70 cargo drone has flown.

The first FAA approved beyond line of sight drone has flown.

The FAA is warning everyone it is illegal to weaponize your drone.

DLR has been working on autonomous gyrocopters to act as cargo haulers.

The drone racing league is letting anyone buy the Racer4 drone.

Watch a drone take over a nearby smart tv.

Extinction Rebellion is threatening to shut down Heathrow with drones on September 13th.

Self Driving Cars:

What are the regulatory barriers in the US to full self driving?

Driverless scooters are coming.

Didi will offer self driving cars for its service in Shanghai.

Ford bought a robotics company to improve its self driving cars.

Kodiak Robotics has started a self driving truck route between Houston and Dallas.

Navya is abandoning the autonomous shuttle market.

Optimus Ride has started its self driving shuttle business in the Brooklyn Naval Yard.

Sony and Yamaha are working on a self driving cart for theme parks.

Tesla's Elon Musk has hinted at Project Dojo as his way to leap forward in the self driving car race.

UPS has been quietly using self driving trucks in Arizona for a while now.

Waymo has been using evolutionary competition to improve its self driving cars.

Waymo is sharing its data with researchers.

3d Printing:

3d printing has been successfully used in spinal implant work.

Researchers bioprinted living tissue in seconds.

Exploring how 3d printing might help with hip joint replacements.

A spinoff of the University of Pisa is 3d printing drone parts.

How to 3d print a human heart.  Sorta.

James Cook University compared different 3d printed rocket fuels.

SQ3D printed a prototype house is 12 hours.

3d printing is being used to try to create actuators for soft robots.


Meet FEDOR.  The scary, cylon looking robot being sent to the ISS by Russia.

Autonomous combines are being tested in Russia.

A chameleon inspired soft robot can change color.

A cockroach inspired robot cannot be squashed.

The Jellyfish robot swims untethered again.

Joola has made a robot for pingpong training.

Meet Kiki the social robot.

Apparently, Marty the grocery store bot is pretty useless and ominous.

Mesbot is a UUV intended to explore the mesopelagic depths of the ocean.

There is a robot that moves (sorta) like the human tongue.

New flexible sensors mimic human skin.

Autonomous USVs will hunt for Amelia Earhart's crash site.

Meet Astro, the robo dog.

Rollbot is a self folding, soft robot capable of self movement.

Consumer UUVs are a thing it seems.

DARPA's Underground Challenge presses ahead.

KAIST as developed artificial muscles.

MIT has developed a robot that can move through your arteries and veins.  Oh, and it's shaped like a worm.

MIT has developed boats that can reconfigure themselves.

Harvard has developed a robotic hand capable of grabbing jellyfish.

There is a new type of synthetic skin for robotics.


Harvard developed some soft robotic shorts that assist running and walking.


The Arque is a robotical tail for a person to improve balance.

Bionic (functional prosthetic) eyes will possibly be able to see into the infrared.

Say hello to the Harvard developed cyborg organelles.

Japan will be offering $1 billion worth of research grants in 25 areas for cyborg tech and human augmentation.

Software Bots:

There are calls for an international ethics board to be independent of any nation and company.

Should software bots be required to go through FDA like trials?

Should China and the US collaborate on software bots for medical science or compete?

Will China lead the world in AI develop by 2030?

Researchers have developed a rigorous benchmark for software bots to be measured by for language understanding.

Amazon and Microsoft are putting the world at risk for killer AI.

Can open source take on Amazon and Google for software bots?

Cerebas is building a massive chip to power its AI development.

Facebook is training a digital assistant with Minecraft.

Google's DeepMind AI can supposedly predict kidney disease 48 hours ahead of time.

Google's DeepMind is being used to track Serengeti wildlife.

The cofounder of Google's DeepMind has been placed on leave while improprieties are being investigated.

Sony is using software bots to replace drummers.

Squirrel AI is a new 'school marm' software bot to tutor students in China.  The Chinese are looking to export it.

Software bots are being used by the Mayo Clinic for screening for atrial fibrillation. 

Are software bots making office life easier?

Software bots are being used for breast cancer screenings in London.

Software bots can help predict if storms will cause blackouts.

How software bots may be helping revolutionize medical diagnosis.

Researchers are pushing for software bots to be granted two patents.

There is a software bot to make sure patrons at bars are served in the right order.

A software bot can improve digital breast tomosynthesis.

Software bots are learning to detect fake smiles.

Three pitfalls to avoid when developing software bots.

See a software bot rendering your digital footprint.

A software bot predicts cell response to disease and treatment.

Software bots are coming for the coders, too.

There is a call for software bots to embrace social sciences in their coding.

Software bots could yield more accurate breast cancer diagnoses.

The human brain has inspired a new type of software bot algorithm.

Software bots are classifying words from where the brain activates.

Software bots need your data and you ought to be paid for it.

Software bots intended to flag hate speech are 1.5x as likely to flag black posters online than white.

Software bots are being used to test the math behind evolutionary theory.

Software bots have been developed to read ebooks in the author's voice.

Software bots are able to help track tiny particles.

A new brain map could help with machine vision.

Flawed software bots are grading millions of student essays.

Software bots can ID people in need of strong depression treatment.

Software bots can help ID genetic influence on behavior.

Software bots can play 6 person poker.

Software bots are helping track night time migrations of birds.

Software bots can help improve eye exams.

Software bots are helping to find a 'green' path to nylon.

Software bots take a stab at simulating the universe.

Software bots are being used to study old art master pieces.


How much does robo coffee cost?

A robochemist set up uses software bots with robotics to make new compounds.

Georgia Tech has developed a robot that can build its own tools for a task.


Strap on your exoskeleton, give up control and dance at the Gray Area Festival!

The "ethics" of hiding your data from the bots.

Former Uber, former Otto, former Waymo employee Levandowski is being charged by the federal government for stealing trade secrets of Waymo's self driving cars.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

What Happened on the White Sea near Nyonoksa, Russia?

Something strange happened near Nyonoksa, Russia. There was an explosion. There was a radiation spike. At least five Russian nuclear personnel were killed. Information is dribbling out. The Russians are slowly fessing up to what happened. However, details are very, very elusive and there is an enormous amount of speculation.

Nyonoksa, Russia is in the Archangelsk Oblast (district) near Severodinsk and Archangels. It is located off the east shore of the White Sea and in the general vicinity of a lot of Russian naval bases. The accident or incident didn't happen at the town itself though, but rather at a site nearby. If the Russians are to be believed, it was out on the White Sea itself.

On August 8th, an accident took place. The accident was supposedly due to rocket fuel catching fire and at least five people have so far have died. The reports initially just stated there was an accident with a rocket. This happens rockets having far, far more energy stored in them than even a 747 and when precautions are not sufficiently taken, people die. It even happens here in the US: ask the Challenger astronauts or Virgin Galactic employees. It would have been a tragedy rather than a mystery.  This is not a strictly Russian thing.

But then...

Radiation counters spiked in in Nyonoksa, Russia and elsewhere. The radiation levels spiked to 20x the norm. And then returned to normal within days. Even possibly a day. The Norwegians reported no spike in Norway until several days later, but it was a spike of radioactive iodine. Previous radioative iodine spikes have been attributed to medical manufacturing in Russia in the past.

Therein lies the mystery.

Had this been a case where a nuclear weapon or whatnot had had a subcritical explosion, the fallout would have contaminated the area and the radiation would be persistent and VERY detectable with the cloud it would have generated in Norway with far more isotopes than merely the glowy-version of iodine. Yet it did not. Whatever caused the spike did so with a gas or something very transiently and easily dispersible.

The Moscow initially denied there was no radiation spike. They originally stated there was an explosion with a liquid fuel rocket engine. Now they are saying the stating the 7 killed were working on iso tope power sources' for new weapon systems. Yet, they still deny the radiation release: the city of Nyonoksa stated there was a radiation spike though and there was a run on iodine in town (iodine can protect the thyroid from radiation damage).  The Russians later announced and then cancelled an evacuation of Nyonoksa.

This has increased the speculation as to what happened. The Warzone (and others) have suggested there was an explosion related to the Burevestnik nuclear powered cruise missile the Russians have been working on: NATO calls the weapon 'Skyfall' which I find to be way more awesome, btw. This uses an exposed nuclear reactor to heat air into providing thrust. This was explored by the US in Project Pluto back in the 1960s/1970s. A premature or accidental test run would fit the profile for the radiation spike, but would not be a match for the description of an explosion: the engine exhaust can be radioactive even if no radioactive material from the engine is lost. The workers being present when the engine started and unexpectedly would also fit why they died and what they were doing.


If the workers were killed in an accidental test, it would be a massive case of negligence. Worse than that, actually. Heads ought to be rolling so much that Putin could field a bowling team using the severed heads as bowling balls.

Burevestnik has been an air launched weapon. Russia has been testing it over in Siberia. Archangelsk's area is more naval. The location seems rather strange for the Burevestnik then unless they were working on it to integrate with naval assets. Possible, but strangely premature. The weapon is still in very early testing and the flight regime is still being expanded.   Adding the capability to, say, the Tu-144 Backfires, would be really dumb at this point. Likewise attempting to do the same with a sub or surface ship is also stupid: with money tight in the Russian defense budget, getting the missile working ought to come first and the Russians are far from stupid in that regard. This should have greatly decreased the possibility of the Burevestnik being the source of the radiation.  


The engineers killed were related to the nuclear industry in Russia.  the Russians have copped to the explosion being related to their nuclear weapons development.  The US gov has stated they think the explosion was related to the Burevestnik.  In a weird and blatant twist, the Russians have been disabling radiation sensors in the area.  And doctors reported Cesium-137 in patients.

Other possibilities - unlikely ones - were a nuclear sub had to do an emergency reactor venting after an explosion.  Yet another possibility was the explosion and the radiation leak were from difference incidents.   Some have thrown out some crazy ideas based on the fact the Russians called the test as using a isotopic power source: a deliciously obfuscating phrase that covers nuclear reactors, RTGs and several other oddities.

The weirdness about the very transient nature of the radioactive cloud and Russia's obfuscations leave a lot of unknowns.  So, while, far less of a mystery than two weeks ago, the real nature of what happened continues to remain murky.

What caused the radiation spike? Why did it clear so quickly? What is going on on the shores of the White Sea?   We suspect, but don't know.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Paleolithic Papers #31

Genus Homo:

Apparently, there has been selection against the archaic components of the genome when interbreeding hast taken place between modern humans and other hominin species.   

Could cooking have shaped our evolution for the last 2 million years?

More articles about the two previously undetected hominin relatives people seem to have interbred with.

Rock art requires a relatively high density demographic.

Modern Humanity (H. sapiens):

Tetrapod Zoology goes into five "mysterious" cave paintings.

Two Patagonian volcanic caves have evidence of people for the last 19,000 years.

Late Pleistocene fossils of modern humans have been found across the Wallace Line.

Mesolithic fire pits from the Netherlands get studied.

Modern humans occupied the Ethiopian highlands sometime between 31 kya to 47 kya.

An infant burial was found from Late Pleistocene Morocco

Human presence evidence from the Upper Paleolithic of Joran.

Ancient tools suggest modern humans spread across Eurasia earlier than previously thought.

Neandertals (H. neanderthalensis):

Studying Neandertal brains may give insights to modern human brain evolution.

The virtual reconstruction of the Apidima-2 skull.

The paleogenetic analysis of the Gibraltar Neandertals shows two different populations separated by time.

Half of Neandertals suffered from surfers ear, strongly implying they spent a lot of time in the water gathering food.

A Neandertal tooth was found in the Zagros Mountains.


Could the 3 rooted second molar in the first Denisovan mandible be morphological evidence of introgression into modern populations?

Did Denisovans intentionally carve and paint this rock?

Denisovans are starting to come into the paleoanthropological light.

Hobbits (H. floresiensis):

Meet the hobbits of Indonesia.

H. erectus:

The Koobi Fora site in Kenya gets more support for being evidence of early use of fire.

H. naledi:

Meet Homo naledi.

Genus Australopithecus:

A. africanus mothers appear to have nursed their children for at least a year.

Authors of a new paper are arguing StW 573's skull shows it to be a different species than A. africanus.


Hominin fossils seem to indicate early human species had teeth development similar to modern humans.

A single gene mutation 2 million years ago might explain why humans are prone to heart attacks.

There were significant environmental changes in the Middle Pleistocene in Europe.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Is This China's Next Gen Space Capsule?

Pictures have emerged of what appears to be China's next generation space capsule.  It looks like the drawings I've seen, but...

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Terminator Times #61

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Drones):

DARPA tested OFFSET, a drone swarm building tool.  Can it be used to map battles in real time?

Four companies have been selected to compete for the US Army's Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems.

The US Army has awarded General Atomics a contract for work on their Gray Eagle UAVs.

The US Army wants to add a UAV to its Assault Breacher vehicles.

The US Army has started using its Black Hornet mini drones in Afghanistan for infantry patrols.

The "secretive" drone base near Groom Lake that the Warzone has been obsessing over gets new sat photographs.

The USAF is already testing software for Skyborg.

USAF RQ-4 Global Hawks will be soon operating out of Yokota air base.

The USAF is expecting a revolution in small turbines.

The USAF has designated the Dynetics Gremlins as the X-61A.

The USAF's AFRL made a robo pilot that flew a Cessna for 2 straight hours.

The USAF is seeking information on the small UAV supply chain.

The first two Marines have graduated from the training for MQ-9 Reaper operations as the USMC moves to operating their own.

The British unveiled the LANCA program, a British Loyal Wingman.

The British unveiled the Reaper to Protector transition.

How a British Watchkeeper drone went down.

China had a Soar Dragon UAV shadow the USS Antietam's transit of the Taiwan Strait.

A French Rafale has been spotted with a marking for killing a UAV.

Iraq only has one operational CH-4 drone and its ScanEagles are in terrible shape, too.

Japan is considering buying the MQ-8C FireScout.

A drone strike in southern Libya has killed 43 people.

The LNA claims a counterstrike against Turkish UAVs.

The Russian flying wing Ohotnok-B/Hunter-B UCAV had its first flight.  More on the S-70 Ohotnik-B flight.

The Russians have an interesting hybrid drone.

South Korea's KUS-VH unmanned variant of the MD 500 helicopter has flown.

The US State Department approved the possible sale of support for South Korea for the Global Hawk.

South Korea will take delivery of its first RQ-4 Global Hawk next month.

Taiwan's Chien Hsiang antiradiation drone was unveiled.

Taiwan's Hong Que small UAVs have been unveiled as well.

Taiwan is also working on a new MALE UAV.

Yemeni Houthis attacked Saudi Arabia with drones again.  The Houthis also attacked a military parade in Aden.  Apparently 30 were killed.  Another attack again.  And again.  And again.  And Again.  And again (and the Saudis shot a drone down).

Boeing Australia is stepping up its unmanned work.

Kratos is expecting orders totaling up to 40 for its Valkyries UCAV by year's end.

MartinUAV's V-Bat gets profiled.  the drone is under consideration for the US Army's FTUAS program mentioned above.

Northrop won two contracts for the MQ-4C Triton.

Orbital Corp of Australia is eying the tactical UAV market.

Unmanned Ground Vehicles (Bolos and Ogres):

Can robots make an Army platoon 10x more effective?

The USMC is looking at unmanned ground systems to refuel F-35s and other assets on islands and remote bases.

The Australian Army trialed logistics UGVs at an exercise.

Israel is exploring manned-unmanned teaming for armoured warfare.

The Russian Marker UGV is being used for R&D.

ST Engineering demonstrated a new UGCV, an unmanned version of its NGAFV.

Umanned Surface Vehicles (Ro-boats);

The US Navy released the draft RFP for the Overlord Large USV.

British Aerospace is demonstrating the P950 USV.

Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (robo subs):

Huntington Ingalls is expecting high demand from the US Navy for UUVs and is preparing for that future.

Saab has finished the first production Sea Wasp ROV.


Soft robotics might be the route forward for exoskeletons for the US Army.


The US Army is seeking software bots and unmanned tech to make infantry squads more effective.

The US Navy tested several unmanned systems on the USNS Spearhead.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Cargo DreamChaser to be Flown 6 Times on ULA Vulcan Rocket

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Cargo Dream Chaser has extended its agreement with United Launch Alliance (ULA) from two to six launches during its Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) missions to the International Space Station (ISS). All six missions will launch on ULA’s new rocket, Vulcan Centaur. The move was expected but requirement confirmation given Dream Chaser’s ability to launch on several launch vehicle options.

Dream Chaser will be flying at least six missions to the ISS in the 2020s, following NASA’s contract award to SNC – along with SpaceX and Orbital ATK for the CRS2 missions.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Is China Building a Naval Base in Cambodia?

Along pristine Cambodian beaches, past parades of elephants in its largest national park, sits an area half the size of Singapore that is raising alarm bells among military strategists in the U.S. and beyond.

Dara Sakor, a $3.8 billion China-backed investment zone encompassing 20% of Cambodia’s coastline, is unlike any other in the developing Southeast Asian nation. Controlled by a Chinese company with a 99-year lease, it features phased plans for an international airport, a deep-water seaport and industrial park along with a luxury resort complete with power stations, water treatment plants and medical facilities.

The size and scope of the plans for Dara Sakor have fanned U.S. concerns the resort could be part of a larger Chinese plan to base military assets in Cambodia, according to an official familiar with the situation. A naval presence there would further expand China’s strategic footprint into Southeast Asia, consolidating its hold over disputed territory in the South China Sea and waterways that carry trillions of dollars of trade.

Cambodia denies it.

China downplays it.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Stealth Saga #50

6th Generation Fighters:

The sixth gen of fighters gets profiled.

MDBA unveiled its weapons concepts for the European FCAS project.

The fighter component of the FCAS project is now known as the Next Generation Fighter and will be designed to work with carriers in the same way as the Rafale from the get go.

The Swedes have joined the Tempest project.

The Tempest will probably have hypersonic weapons.

Thales and Aeralis have signed an MOU to develop a combat training system for the Tempest.

US experts opine on the NGAD.

The USAF expects to do a lot of modeling and simulation in support of the NGAD effort.  This has always worked so well in the past (*cough*Zumwalt*cough*FCS*cough*).


Jakarta is still trying to get concessions on the cost of their participation in the KF-X program.

Jakarta is also exploring trying to send commodities instead of money for their payment of the KF-X program.


The Russians have stated the flying wing Ohotnik UCAV has made its first flight.


The SU-57 has supposedly entered serial production.  The first production model is supposed to be delivered this year.

The Su-57 will be put on static display at MAKS.


Supposedly, the PAK-DA will be tested (if its ever built) in Zhukovsky.  Article mostly talks about the other, older bombers Russia has.

Chengdu's Mystery Plane:

A flying pin from the Chengdu Aircraft company doesn't match with any known aircraft.  Real? Trolling? What?


AVIC officials are upbeat on the J-31/FC-31 progress and eventual adoption by the PLA.


The first J-20 has been assigned to a combat unit in Wuhu.


Northrop has started building the first EMD B-21.  There are additional test aircraft being built, which implies there were earlier demonstrators were flown.  The first flight will be in late 2021.


It is the 30th anniversary of the first flight of the B-2 bomber.


NASA tested scale models of the F-117 in 1995 to see what would happen if the aircraft carried external weapons.


Like the F-35, the F-22 will not reach the required 80% combat readiness.

Some great shots of the F-22 with aggressors were shot over Alaska.

There are some gorgeous videos of the F-22 and F-35.

The F-22 sent to Oshkosh had its RAM skin crumbling.

F-22s (and CF-18s) intercepted Russian bombers.


The F-35 won't reach the 80% availability due to parts problems.

The new engines for the F-35 will improve fuel efficiency by 25% and increase thrust by 10%.

There has been a leadership change in the F-35 program.

F-35As are getting the Auto GCAS aircraft early.

4 F-35As landed in Powidz air base as part of a deployment to Poland.

F-35s have landed in Latvia for the first time.

The first permanent base in Europe for US F-35s is being built.

The first F-35A for the Vermont NG has flown from the Lockheed Ft Worth facility.

The F-35A demo team will fly in Canada.

An F-35 went on its first combat training mission 5 hours after being delivered from the factory.

An F-35 sent target data to a US Army missile command.

The USS Tripoli has completed builder's trials.

The newest LHA USS Tripoli (F-35B baby carrier) has been delayed.

Take a look at the shockwaves on the. F-35C

1st Lt Catherine Stark is the first female USMC pilot to be selected to fly the F-35C.

WiB reports the F-35 may have an issue with its canopy.  A new canopy glue may fix the readiness problems.

The first locally trained Australian F-35 pilots have flown.

Australia has consolidated its MRO support for the F-35.

Belgium is spending 375 million Euros on F-35 infrastructure.

Britains 2nd F-35B squadron arrived at Marnham.

Israel is going to have to pick between the F-15X and F-35I in their budget since they do not have the resources for both.

Are Israeli F-35Is making strikes in Iraq against Iranian assets?

The Netherlands has plans to order another 8 to 9 F-35s.

Turkey has taken delivery of the S-400 missiles.  Will Trump keep Turkey in the F-35 program?  The Pentagon is planning on raiding the spare parts budget - which is already 15 years behind schedule! - to pay for removing Turkey from the program.  Turkey is officially out of the F-35 fighter program by March 2020: Turkey cannot have the S-400 and the F-35. The Pentagon has started unwinding Turkey's involvement in the F-35 program.  Of course, Trump found a way to blame Obama: fscking man up, Trumpster.  Lockheed's CEO is stating the Turkish question is being addressed and is confident other customers will buy the F-35s built for Turkey.  A refund and details of how Turkey will be removed are up in the air.

South Korea has had two more F-35As arrive in country: its 3rd and 4th out of 40.

South Korea has started designing a light carrier for the F-35B.

South Korea is moving forward with its F-35B acquisition.  

Friday, August 09, 2019

X-37B Photographed in Orbit, has Surprising Ability

Skywatcher and satellite tracker Ralf Vandebergh of the Netherlands recently caught a rare glimpse of the U.S. Air Force's secretive X-37B space plane.

Vandebergh said he'd been hunting for the robotic spacecraft for months and finally managed to track it down in May. But it took a bit longer to get photos of the vehicle.

"When I tried to observe it again [in] mid-June, it didn't meet the predicted time and path," Vandebergh explained. "It turned out to have maneuvered to another orbit. Thanks to the amateur satellite observers' network, it was rapidly found in orbit again, and I was able to take some images on June 30 and July 2."

The X-37B's recent passes were almost overhead, Vandebergh added.

Apparently, the X-37B can change its orbit in a surprising way.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

China is Developing Reusable Satellites to Return 600 kg to Earth

China is developing a new type of recoverable satellite that is reusable and intends to use it for commercial purposes, according to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, a State-owned space giant in charge of the program.

The company said the new model will be designed to meet growing demand for space-based scientific experiments from a wide range of industries, including space science, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and energy. The first such satellite is scheduled to be launched in 2020, it said.

Zhao Huiguang, chief designer of recoverable satellites at the China Academy of Space Technology, said on Monday that researchers expect that 10 to 15 such satellites will be needed in the next decade by clients from home and abroad.

Zhao explained that the weightlessness inside the spacecraft will be beneficial to conducting many scientific experiments and recoverable satellites are the most suitable platform for such experiments.

Moreover, the research and development of new materials, electronic components and medicines have also benefitted from space-based experiments on such satellites, he said.

Compared with current recoverable satellites in China, the new type will feature reusability, better technology and stronger carrying capacity, Zhao said.

"Our current recoverable satellites are able to ferry 250 kilograms of scientific payloads back to Earth. The new model will be able to carry up to 600 kg," the designer said.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Pondering the Precambrian #39



Global microfossil changes across the Ediacaran/Cambrian are characterized.

A new method of characterizing oxygen availability across the Ediacaran/Cambrian boundary has been found.

The lack of attention to taphonomy can mislead about the late Ediacaran fossils.

Data from Argentina covers the Ediacaran's oxygenation event.

Simulations of Ernettia suggest it was a filter feeder and fed better in groups.

Has there been a case of lateral gene transfer detected in bilaterians?

Ancient paralogies suggest jellyfish are a sister group to all other metazoans.

Green algae transitioned to macroscopic growth multiple times, but only as recently as the NeoProterozoic.

There is evidence of strange magmatism in the Sahara from the Ediacaran 580 million years ago.

An astronomical time scale for the middle/upper Doushantuo Formation has been established.

Braided rivers were not the rule prior to the evolution of plant life despite previous thought.

The Paleo Hunan Ocean was completely closed by 830 million years ago during the Tonian.

Evidence of two carbon excursions are detected in Tonian deposits in Namibia.


A new model suggests a sluggish, tepid mesoproterozoic ecosystem.

A very large igneous magmatic province has been found in South Africa from Stenian of South Africa.  These provinces are associated with mass extinctions like the Permian and Triassic/Jurassic.

An impact has been found in Scotland dating from the Mesoproterozoic.

Was anaerobic photosynthesis the reason for the delayed rise in oxygen in Earth's atmosphere?


Iron stones were laid down by iron oxidizing bacteria during the Statherian.

There is evidence of deep subduction from North China from the Paleoproterozoic.

There is also evidence of a significant back arc continental collision during the Orosirian in the North China Craton.

There is evidence, according to Retallack, of macroscopic terrestrial life from the Orosirian.

The shape of the Dhala Crater in India from the Rhyacian is reconstructed.

Paleoproterozoic dolomites shed some light on the evolution of marine chemistry.


The early Earth's oceans may not have been as hot as originally thought.

Compared to later granites, Archean granites had relatively unstable compositions.

Archean sulfur isotopes from Australia's Fraser Zone have unexplained ratios and amounts.

Did the subduction of the oceanic basins take place during the mesoarchean?

Could continents have existed from the dawn of the Archean, during the Eoarchean?

Eoarchean hydrothermal vent boron deposits give some insight to the origin of life.

Origin of Life:

Peptides can form without amino acids.

Could microscopic bubbles (interfaces) have helped kickstart life?

Friday, August 02, 2019

NASA Sole Sources Gateway Habitation Module to Northrop

NASA has quietly decided to give Northrop Grumman a contract to build a “minimal” habitation module for its lunar Gateway after concluding it was the only company that could meet NASA’s schedule.

The agency made the determination in a low-key “Justification for Other Than Full and Open Competition” document published late July 19 on a procurement website, linked a special notice issued May 30 that stated that NASA intended to use an existing Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships 2 (NextSTEP-2) program to procure the habitation module.

Under NextSTEP-2 Appendix A, NASA made awards in August 2016 to study concepts for habitation modules to six companies: Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, NanoRacks, Orbital ATK (now Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, or NGIS) and Sierra Nevada Corporation. For all but NanoRacks, that work involved the development of ground prototypes followed by testing, which took place earlier this year at either NASA centers or company facilities.

In the May 30 filing, NASA said that, in “the interest of schedule, economy and efficiency,” it would procure one or more habitation modules it requires for the Gateway as a follow-on to NextSTEP-2 Appendix A. It didn’t specify the process by which it would select the company or companies to build those modules, beyond the use of justifications for other than full and open competition. It did allow other companies to submit information about their capabilities by June 13, but according to the agency none did so.

In the July 19 justification, NASA said it concluded Northrop Grumman was the only company that could provide a “minimal habitation module” on the agency’s desired schedule. “NGIS was the only NextSTEP-2 contractor with a module design and the production and tooling resources capable of meeting the 2024 deadline,” the document stated.