October 21, 2016

First Gulf War motivated accelerated military modernization in China

The National Interest illustrates how the first Gulf War prompted China to update its military.

In 1990 China's military was inferior to Iraq and Iraq was vastly inferior to the USA

By 1990, the technical sophistication of the PLA had deteriorated to the degree that Iraqi forces enjoyed a considerable advantage over their Chinese counterparts.

The Iraqi Air Force included MiG-23s, MiG-25s and MiG-29s, while the PLAAF relied on Chinese-produced copycats of the MiG-21, as well as older aircraft such as the MiG-19. Similarly, the Iraqi air defense system, which had failed to incur major damage on waves of attacking American aircraft, was at least as sophisticated as the systems China was capable of employing.

The Chinese had also discovered, through access to Iraqi tanks captured by the Iranians in the Persian Gulf War, that the Iraqi T-72s that presented no challenge whatsoever to the U.S. Army — and were considerably superior to extant Chinese tanks.

Quality and Technology and Air Power were more important than large quantities

The balance between quality and quantity has shifted back and forth historically. In the Chinese Civil War and in Korea, the PLA took advantage of numbers and tactical effectiveness to defeat (or at least level the ground with) more technologically sophisticated opponents.

In 1990, the US-led coalition cut through quantitatively superior Iraqi forces like a hot knife through butter.

The PLA hadn’t quite been on autopilot in the 1980s, but the pace of reform in the military sector had not matched that of social and economic life in China.

Army patents a shrapnel proof adult diaper like harness

Enngineers and designers at the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center have patented a new design for a harness that protects its wearer from blast debris.

Worn outside the pants, the harness is designed to protect the groin and femoral artery and prevent debris from embedding in and around the groin. Such injuries can be so severe that repeated surgeries are often needed to remove the debris, leading to extreme discomfort as well as health and hygiene issues. The harness has also been adapted to provide fragmentation protection.

Project lead Kristine Isherwood said NSRDEC began designing the piece of equipment after a joint urgent operational needs statement was issued for blast debris protection, while the Product Manager Soldier Protective Equipment looked for commercial off-the-shelf solutions.

Philippines and China closer to jointly developing the Reed Bank in the South China Sea

China and the Philippines could begin exploiting long-untapped energy reserves in the South China Sea, according to reports coming out of this week's meeting between Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte and high-ranking Chinese officials — including a Thursday sit-down with Chinese President Xi Jinping — in Beijing. How soon that may happen remains unclear, however, as Duterte cautioned reporters that he has not been empowered by his Congress to finalize any energy exploration deal with his Chinese counterparts.

Earlier reports by Philippine newspaper the "Inquirer" suggested that Beijing and Duterte were set to enter into an agreement to explore for energy sources in a part of the South China Sea close to the Philippine coastline. China has long sought to exploit what it believes could be more than 100 billion barrels of oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas lurking beneath the South China Sea. However, a litany of overlapping territorial claims in the region by the more than half-dozen nations rimming the South China Sea has rendered broad energy development there a nonstarter.

The fact that potential joint development of offshore energy deposits in the region is even being discussed underscores the tectonic shift in regional foreign policy undertaken by Duterte since winning the Filipino presidency in May.

For China, one of the sea’s key prizes is Reed Bank, a tablemount (an underwater mountain) near the Philippine coast rich in untapped oil and gas deposits.

Thales optronic targeting pod integrated, tested on Rafale fighter

TALIOS is the first optronic pod to cover the entire critical decision chain from intelligence gathering to weapon delivery.

Capabilities range from deep strike with long-range missiles and bombs to air-to-air target identification and close air support, and include the rapidly emerging requirement of Non-Traditional Information, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (NTISR).

Thales' new-generation TALIOS laser targeting pod has successfully completed a more than two-hour first flight on a Rafale fighter.

The prototype targeting long-range identification optronic system collected high-quality images taken using the "day" channel, and offered remarkable performances in pointing and telemetry, Thales said.

  • Latest generation of high-resolution sensors and high-precision line-of-sight stabilization
  • Wide-angle vision providing critical contextual information and making the pod a key component of the pilot’s visual environment throughout the mission.
  • Open architecture and a high level of functional integration

October 20, 2016

NASA working on improved thermocouples for spacecraft power and to covert waste heat in car into electricity

A cutting-edge development in spacecraft power systems is a class of materials with an unfamiliar name: skutterudites (skut-ta-RU-dites). Researchers are studying the use of these advanced materials in a proposed next-generation power system called an eMMRTG, which stands for Enhanced Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator.

NASA's Mars Curiosity rover and the New Horizons mission, which flew by Pluto in 2015 both used Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators.

The new eMMRTG would provide 25 percent more power than Curiosity's generator at the start of a mission, according to current analyses. Additionally, since skutterudites naturally degrade more slowly that the current materials in the MMRTG, a spacecraft outfitted with an eMMRTG would have at least 50 percent more power at the end of a 17-year design life than it does today.

"Having a more efficient thermoelectric system means we'd need to use less plutonium. We could go farther, for longer and do more," Bux said.

Samad Firdosy, a materials engineer at JPL, holds a thermoelectric module made of four thermocouples, which are devices that help turn heat into electricity. Thermocouples are used in household heating applications, as well as power systems for spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Stanford created scalable optical quantum annealing computer using special lasers and electrical circuits

An entirely new type of computer that blends optical and electrical processing could get around this impending processing constraint and solve superlarge optimization problems. If it can be scaled up, this non-traditional computer could save costs by finding more optimal solutions to problems that have an incredibly high number of possible solutions.

There is a special type of problem – called a combinatorial optimization problem – that traditional computers find difficult to solve, even approximately. An example is what’s known as the “traveling salesman” problem, wherein a salesman has to visit a specific set of cities, each only once, and return to the first city, and the salesman wants to take the most efficient route possible. This problem may seem simple but the number of possible routes increases extremely rapidly as cities are added, and this underlies why the problem is difficult to solve.

An Ising machine based on lasers

The Stanford team has built what’s called an Ising machine, named for a mathematical model of magnetism. The machine acts like a reprogrammable network of artificial magnets where each magnet only points up or down and, like a real magnetic system, it is expected to tend toward operating at low energy.

The theory is that, if the connections among a network of magnets can be programmed to represent the problem at hand, once they settle on the optimal, low-energy directions they should face, the solution can be derived from their final state. In the case of the traveling salesman, each artificial magnet in the Ising machine represents the position of a city in a particular path.

Rather than using magnets on a grid, the Stanford team used a special kind of laser system, known as a degenerate optical parametric oscillator, that, when turned on, will represent an upward- or downward-pointing “spin.” Pulses of the laser represent a city’s position in a path the salesman could take. In an earlier version of this machine, the team members extracted a small portion of each pulse, delayed it and added a controlled amount of that portion to the subsequent pulses. In traveling salesman terms, this is how they program the machine with the connections and distances between the cities. The pulse-to-pulse couplings constitute the programming of the problem. Then the machine is turned on to try to find a solution, which can be obtained by measuring the final output phases of the pulses.

The problem in this previous approach was connecting large numbers of pulses in arbitrarily complex ways. It was doable but required an added controllable optical delay for each pulse, which was costly and difficult to implement.

Science - A fully-programmable 100-spin coherent Ising machine with all-to-all connections

Science - A quantum annealing architecture with all-to-all connectivity from local interactions


Unconventional, special-purpose machines may aid in accelerating the solution of some of the hardest problems in computing, such as large-scale combinatorial optimizations, by exploiting different operating mechanisms than standard digital computers. We present a scalable optical processor with electronic feedback that can be realized at large scale with room-temperature technology. Our prototype machine is able to find exact solutions of, or to sample good approximate solutions to, a variety of hard instances of Ising problems with up to 100 spins and 10,000 spin-spin connections.

Argonne researchers posit way to locally circumvent Second Law of Thermodynamics where entropy always increases

For more than a century and a half of physics, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that entropy always increases, has been as close to inviolable as any law we know. In this universe, chaos reigns supreme.

But researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Argonne National Laboratory announced recently that they may have discovered a little loophole in this famous maxim.

Their research, published in Nature Scientific Reports, lays out a possible avenue to a situation where the Second Law is violated on the microscopic level.

A particle incident from the lead 1 is scattered into two other leads 2 and 3. Propagating particle induces magnetic field perpendicular to the lead direction. The spin is placed at the point where the respective fields induced by particles propagating along leads 2 and 3 are perpendicular to each other. To simplify consideration, we choose the set up design allowing to neglect the field induced by the particle in the lead 1.

Nature Scientific Reports - H-theorem in quantum physics

Argonne Labs makes solar thermal energy storage 20 times better to enable concentrated solar power plants to provide power at night

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory have designed an inexpensive thermal energy storage system that will be significantly smaller and perform more than 20 times better than current thermal systems.

Argonne’s thermal energy storage system relies on a “phase-change” material that melts as it stores thermal energy and releases energy as it re-freezes — similar to the charge-discharge cycle in a battery.

Inexpensive salts like rock salt (sodium chloride) can be used as phase-change materials, but their use in existing thermal storage systems is limited because of the poor thermal conductivity of the salts.

However, the Argonne LHTES system drastically improves the conductivity of these salts by integrating them with a high-conductivity graphite foam. This combination reduces the overall amount of material needed to build the system and its cost, while making the thermal energy transfer significantly more efficient and still providing up to 8 to 12 hours of energy storage — a typical night of storage for a concentrating solar power plant.

“Phase-change materials tend to have low conductivity but meet the heat energy storage requirements,” said Dileep Singh, leader of Argonne’s Thermal-Mechanical Technologies group. “High-conductivity graphite foam meets the conductivity requirements, so we thought: why not combine the two?”

The SunShot Initiative supports research and development of concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies that reduce the cost of solar energy. CSP helps to achieve the SunShot Initiative cost targets with systems that can supply solar power on demand, even when there is no sunlight, through the use of thermal storage. Since SunShot’s inception, the levelized cost of electricity for CSP has decreased about 36 percent, from $0.21 cents per kilowatt hour to $0.13 cents per kilowatt hour, already over half of the way toward achieving the SunShot goal of $0.06 per kilowatt hour.

High quality graphene can be grown on ultrananocrystalline diamond in minutes at less than half the cost

Argonne Labs and UC Riverside have developed a method to grow graphene that contains relatively few impurities and costs less to make, in a shorter time and at lower temperatures compared to the processes widely used to make graphene today.

The new technology taps ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD), a synthetic type of diamond that Argonne researchers have pioneered through years of research. UNCD serves as a physical substrate, or surface on which the graphene grows, and the source for the carbon atoms that make up a rapidly produced graphene sheet.

“When I first looked at the [scanning electron micrograph] and saw this nice uniform, very complete layer, it was amazing,” said Diana Berman, the first author of the study and former postdoctoral research associate who worked with Sumant and is now an Assistant Professor at the University of North Texas. “I’d been dealing with all these different techniques of growing graphene, and you never see such a uniform, smooth surface.”

Current graphene fabrication protocols introduce impurities during the etching process itself, which involves adding acid and extra polymers, and when they are transferred to a different substrate for use in electronics.

“The impurities introduced during this etching and the transferring step negatively affect the electronic properties of the graphene,” Sumant said. “So you do not get the intrinsic properties of the graphene when you actually do this transfer.”

The team found that the single-layer, single-domain graphene can be grown over micron-size holes laterally, making them completely free-standing (that is, detached from the underlying substrate). This makes it possible to exploit the intrinsic properties of graphene by fabricating devices directly over free-standing graphene.

The new process is also much more cost-effective than conventional methods based on using silicon carbide as a substrate. Sumant says that the 3- to 4-inch silicon carbide wafers used in these types of growth methods cost about $1,200, while UNCD films on silicon wafers cost less than $500 to make.

The diamond method also takes less than a minute to grow a sheet of graphene, where the conventional method takes on the order of hours

Characterization of graphene on UNCD sample.

Nature Communications - Metal-induced rapid transformation of diamond into single and multilayer graphene on wafer scale

2013 Arrest records and 2013 estimated racial statistics analysis

Nextbigfuture reader Goatguy has compiled the 2013 FBI ARREST records from their website, along with the 2013 estimated racial statistics of population of the United States for the closest (2010) year.

The results are … striking.
Read the “normalizations” at the top of the data block.
And the “notable observations” at the bottom.

REMEMBER - these are NOT the statistics of crime AGAINST a particular ethnic group, but statistics of the people arrested in suspicion of the crimes.

They are telling.

  Table of normalized crime rate data, FBI, 2013 stats. The normalization of the data is first...
  to extract out hispanic numbers and adjust them for the FBI-state reporting agency accounting 
  (in which all reporting agencies do not necessarily track hispanic/latino ethnicities)
  Then to adjust the relative crime rate by race/ethnicity by their fraction of the total population
  of the United States, again by race. This is critical for FAIRLY assessing the relative proclivity
  of a race's members to commit each particular type of crime AND be arrested for it.
  It is unknown how much crime is committed that does NOT result in an arrest. Since the police investigative
  agencies typically do NOT pursue the 'rampant crimes' of the inner cities, the actual crime commit rate is
  likely much higher.  It would NOT be fair tho' to place the blame on any particular race beyond the
  proportionality implied by the attached table numbers.
  Or, more to the point, it is not very likely that members of ANY race or ethnicity are more EFFICIENTLY
  apprehended and arrested for criminal violations, the narrative of 'Black Lives Matter' activists
  and other race-fairness groups notwithstanding.
Offense             race and population :  white    196817k  black    37685k hispanic 50477k  amerind    2247k   asian  14465k islander  481k
aggravated assault                      :   101432   54.7%    98748  278.0%    81660  171.6%     4356  205.7%     4423   32.4%      412   90.9% 
all other offenses (except traffic)     :  1358589   81.9%   790854  248.9%   383266   90.1%    43953  232.0%    25090   20.6%     1187   29.3% 
arson                                   :     4961   93.0%     1925  188.6%     1237   90.5%      130  213.6%      107   27.3%        4   30.7% 
burglary                                :    91978   71.0%    61709  248.9%    45012  135.6%     1966  133.0%     2196   23.1%      228   72.1% 
curfew and loitering law violations     :    14533   47.9%    21351  367.3%    10474  134.5%      610  176.0%      630   28.2%       24   32.3% 
disorderly conduct                      :   193943   81.7%   129782  285.7%    37661   61.9%     7982  294.7%     2775   15.9%       59   10.2% 
driving under the influence             :   567221   97.7%   113928  102.5%   199219  133.8%    12575  189.8%    16831   39.5%      696   49.1% 
drug abuse violations                   :   592646   77.2%   365785  248.9%   222535  113.0%     9408  107.4%    12930   22.9%      858   45.7% 
drunkenness                             :   205732   90.5%    56885  130.8%    82414  141.4%     7399  285.2%     3550   21.3%      447   80.5% 
embezzlement                            :     6532   81.5%     4386  285.8%     1350   65.7%       87   95.1%      207   35.1%       12   61.3% 
forgery and counterfeiting              :    23972   77.4%    16375  276.1%     7236   91.1%      288   81.5%      677   29.7%       33   43.6% 
fraud                                   :    64714   89.9%    35958  260.9%     9968   54.0%     1145  139.3%     1094   20.7%       41   23.3% 
gambling                                :      917   28.5%     3362  544.9%      516   62.4%       27   73.4%      226   95.4%        7   88.9% 
larceny-theft                           :   559275   88.5%   284358  235.1%   117898   72.8%    16402  227.4%    12605   27.2%      398   25.8% 
liquor laws                             :   187196  105.8%    40665  120.1%    35005   77.2%    10861  537.9%     3672   28.2%       45   10.4% 
motor vehicle theft                     :    19502   58.5%    15960  250.0%    15362  179.6%      685  179.9%      725   29.6%       73   89.6% 
murder and nonnegligent manslaughter    :     1829   34.2%     4379  428.0%     1970  143.7%       98  160.6%      101   25.7%        6   45.9% 
offenses against the family and children:    46319   92.6%    25519  266.4%     4698   36.6%     1414  247.6%      511   13.9%        4    3.3% 
other assaults                          :   450058   80.1%   283357  263.5%   123488   85.7%    14041  219.0%     9717   23.5%      425   31.0% 
property crime                          :   675715   84.5%   363952  237.6%   179510   87.5%    19183  210.1%    15633   26.6%      703   36.0% 
prostitution and commercialized vice    :    15548   58.1%    17378  339.4%     7118  103.8%      386  126.4%     1492   75.9%       24   36.7% 
rape                                    :     5190   60.2%     4229  256.4%     3756  170.0%      160  162.7%      173   27.3%        7   33.2% 
robbery                                 :    17063   34.1%    44271  461.8%    15882  123.7%      579  101.3%      649   17.6%       94   76.8% 
sex offenses (except rape and prostituti:    22337   75.3%    11462  201.7%    11358  149.2%      622  183.6%      744   34.1%       30   41.4% 
stolen property; buying receiving posses:    31529   66.4%    22687  249.3%    18708  153.5%      684  126.1%      862   24.7%       71   61.1% 
suspicion                               :      488   92.8%      303  300.9%       11    8.2%       12  199.9%       11   28.5%        0    0.0% 
vagrancy                                :    10496   77.1%     6802  261.0%     3236   92.7%      581  373.8%      222   22.2%       17   51.1% 
vandalism                               :    85427   83.2%    42566  216.5%    28415  107.9%     2951  251.7%     1638   21.7%       81   32.3% 
violent crime                           :   125512   50.3%   151627  317.3%   103270  161.4%     5193  182.3%     5346   29.1%      519   85.1% 
weapons; carrying possessing etc.       :    36698   51.3%    44671  326.1%    28619  156.0%      888  108.7%     1251   23.8%      101   57.8% 
total                                   :  4716111   82.1%  2549655  231.7%  1498086  101.6%   140290  213.8%   105109   24.9%     5384   38.3% 
  Some things of interest:
  Whites (at 82%, slightly below average)
  ... appear NEARLY LEVEL in 'crime commiting proclivity' across the board of crimes except for
  ... CURFEW (low)
  ... GAMBLING (very low)
  ... MURDER (low)
  ... PROSTITUTION (low)
  ... ROBBERY (very low)
  ... VIOLENT CRIME (low)
  ... Appear uniformly MUCH HIGHER (2.3x) than average in 'crime committing proclivity', but notably
  ... GAMBLING (very high)
  ... CURFEW (high)
  ... DUI (average)
  ... DRUNKENNESS (slightly above average)
  ... MURDER (very high)
  ... ROBBERY (very high)
  ... PROSTITUTION (high)
  ... WEAPONS (high)
  (note that these are RELATIVE to their already high average)
  ... Appear 'ABOUT AVERAGE' overall, with notable proclivity variances
  ... ASSAULT (high)
  ... BURGLARY (elevated)
  ... CURFEW (elevated)
  ... DUI (elevated)
  ... DRUNKENESS (elevated)
  ... VEHICLE THEFT (high)
  ... just look at the table.  Variations abound
  American Natives
  ... The statistics are 'much above average' (200%) in general, with notable proclivities in...
  ... and a very large (538%) proclivity for violating LIQUOR LAWS
  ... are STRIKINGLY low (1/4 of average) in criminal-arrest proclivity across the board, with 
  ... GAMBLING (near normal)
  ... PROSTITUTION (below normal)
  Pacific Islanders
  ... are also STRIKINGLY low (1/3 of average) in criminal-arrest proclivity across the board 
  ... a bit raised above Asians in general, but few statistically important variations

More evidence for Planet 9 suggests it should be visible by several existing telescopes and astronomers are confident of finding it directly in the next 16 months

The hypothetical giant planet 9, which is thought to be about 10 times more massive than Earth, will be discovered within 16 months or so, astronomer Mike Brown predicted.

The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly.

The researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun.

"I'm pretty sure, I think, that by the end of next winter — not this winter, next winter — I think that there'll be enough people looking for it that … somebody's actually going to track this down," Brown said during a news conference Wednesday (Oct. 19) at a joint meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) and the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Pasadena, California. Brown said that eight to 10 groups are currently looking for the planet

Artist's illustration of Planet Nine, a world about 10 times more massive than Earth that may lie undiscovered in the outer solar system.
Credit: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

3-D wiring technique is progress to scalable quantum computers

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

“The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits,” said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD candidate with IQC and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Waterloo.

Computer-aided designs of the three-dimensional wire, microwave package, and package holder. (a) A wire of length ℓ=30.5  mm along with a detail of the contact head (inset). (b) Assembled microwave package including six three-dimensional wires, washer, washer springs, and chip (shown in green). The arrow indicates the screw-in microconnector mated to the back end of the wire. Forward hatching indicates the washer cutaway, whereas backward hatching indicates both lid and sample-holder cutaways. (c) Cross section of the microwave package showing the height of the upper cavity

“The technique connects classical electronics with quantum circuits, and is extendable far beyond current limits, from one to possibly a few thousand qubits.”

The device operates efficiently at the cryogenic temperatures and high (about 10 GHz) frequencies needed for a superconducting quantum computer.

The quantum socket could be used to realize a “super qubit”—an assembly of a few hundred qubits that works as a single logical qubit but with an error rate 1 order of magnitude lower than that of the individual qubits. The researchers also envision that their socket could be scaled up to connect ∼105∼105 qubits, which could then be used to solve quantum chemistry problems that are hard to tackle with classical computers.

Physical Review Applied - Three-Dimensional Wiring for Extensible Quantum Computing: The Quantum Socket

Fujitsu has optimized FPGA architecture that is 1000 to 10,000 times faster than conventional computers for optimization problems and expects commercial prototype in 2018

Fujitsu has collaborated with the University of Toronto to develop a new computing architecture to tackle a range of real-world issues by solving combinatorial optimization problems, which involve finding the best combination of elements out of an enormous set of element combinations.

This architecture employs conventional semiconductor technology with flexible circuit configurations to allow it to handle a broader range of problems than current quantum computing can manage. In addition, multiple computation circuits can be run in parallel to perform the optimization computations, enabling scalability in terms of problem size and processing speed. Fujitsu Laboratories implemented a prototype of the architecture using FPGAs for the basic optimization circuit, which is the minimum constituent element of the architecture, and found the architecture capable of performing computations some 10,000 times faster than a conventional computer.

Through this architecture, Fujitsu Laboratories is enabling faster solutions to computationally intensive combinatorial optimization problems, such as how to streamline distribution, improve post-disaster recovery plans, formulate economic policy, and optimize investment portfolios. It will also make possible the development of new ICT services that support swift and optimal decision-making in such areas as social policy and business, which involve complex intertwined elements.

Fujitsu says it has implemented basic optimisation circuits using an FPGA to handle combinations which can be expressed as 1024 bits, which when using a ‘simulated annealing’ process ran 10,000 times faster than conventional processors in terms of handling the aforementioned thorny combinatorial optimisation problems.

The company says it will work on improving the architecture going forward, and by the fiscal year 2018, it expects “to have prototype computational systems able to handle real-world problems of 100,000 bits to one million bits that it will validate on the path toward practical implementation”.

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