June 13, 2015

China building 42000 military drones over next eight years and many are copies of US designs

China is advancing its development and employment of UAVs. Some estimates indicate China plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and seabased unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023. During 2013, China began incorporating its UAVs into military exercises and conducted ISR over the East China Sea with the BZK-005 UAV. In 2013, China unveiled details of four UAVs under development—the Xianglong, Yilong, Sky Saber, and Lijian. The last three of which are designed to carry precision-strike capable weapons. The Lijian, which first flew on November 21, 2013, is China’s first stealthy flying wing UAV.

The $10.5 billion budget would suggest that most of the UAVs would be mid to lowend systems.

Lijian UAV

Chinese drone models on display at the Zhuhai show included the CH-4 and the Wing Loong, or Pterodactyl, described as apparent clones of the US Reaper and Predator drones; the Xianglong, or Soaring Dragon, that appears modeled after the US RQ-4 Global Hawk.

The Pentagon itself only operates 7,000 aerial drones, according to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, although others have estimated it has more. The estimate of 7,000 drones also doesn’t include underwater UAVs.

China could have started construction of the Type 055 missile cruiser and future US destroyer construction

China's type 055 cruisers will have a length of 160-180 meters, a width of 21-23 meters, and displace between 12,000-14,000 tons. It could carry at least 112 to 128 vertical launch systems (VLS) cells for missiles. With that amount of firepower, the Type 055 cruiser could exceed the 122 VLS cells of the USN's Ticonderoga class Aegis Cruisers.

Navy Recognition shows a picture that was taken last week at the Changxing Jiangnan shipyard (member of CSSC - China State Shipbuilding Corporation) near Shanghai. It shows a sign with the mention "Commencement Ceremony for the Construction of 055 destroyer number 1". Such ceremonies are common practice in Chinese naval shipyards and should the picture be authentic, this would indicate that construction of the first Type 055 destroyer has indeed just started with the first cut of steel ceremony.

The LUYANG III DDG and Type 055 CG will be fitted with a variant of China’s newest ASCM, the YJ-18 (290 nautical mile range), which is a significant step forward in China’s surface ASUW capability. Older Chinese surface combatants carry variants of the YJ-8A ASCM (65nm), while newer surface combatants such as the LUYANG II DDG are fitted with the YJ-62 (120nm).

The USA built 27 Ticonderoga class cruisers from 1980-1993 22 of the cruisers are still active.

Estimating the scope and cost of US involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria

President Obama will send up to 450 more U.S. troops to Iraq to step up the training of local forces as they battle the Islamic State. The move will bring the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq to about 3,550.

There are about 5,000 mainly State Department contractors in Iraq which represents a relatively modest footprint as compared to previous years, where there were over 160,000 during the height of the fighting. There are also 54,000 civilian contractors working across the Middle East for US Central Command.

According to an analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, DOD spent $375 billion on contracts in 2011, up from $163 billion in 2000. “Between 2001 and 2011, dollars obligated to contract awards by DOD more than doubled, and contract spending outpaced growth in other DOD outlays,” CSIS found.

Here is the first quarter census of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan

There are also mercenaries and private military contractors that are directly hired by the Iraq and Afghanistan government. In 2014, it was reported that 5000 mercenaries were hired by the Iraq government. The US has allegedly spent over $200 billion on contractors in both Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade. Now that the US administration has transferred many of these expenditures to the Iraqi government.

US veteran soldiers that become mercenaries still have veterans benefits.

The US has provided and continues to provide billions each year in aid to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Teamsters versus the AARP and the rest of society for Robotic cars

Suncor is getting self driving trucks for the Oilsands. By 2020, they plan to convert to robotic trucks

Ken Smith, president of Unifor Local 707A, which represents 3,300 Suncor employees. Smith said Suncor has signed agreements to purchase 175 driverless trucks.

Truck, bus, delivery, and taxi drivers account for nearly 6 million professional driving jobs in the United States.

Too bad for the drivers over the next few decades but I want my commute time automated and I want grandma to be independent and mobile and I want to save lives and reduce injury from accidents

So millions of driving jobs would be lost but
* I and others could have a productive commute. I have 2 hours per day commuting. I could theoretically boost productivity by 20%
* Many elderly people can no longer drive safely. Robotic cars will help them to be more mobile and independent
* costs saved throughout the supply chain have the potential to lower costs and provide big economic gains
* a trillion to the US economy from lower accident costs, lower insurance and boosted productivity
* over 30,000 lives saved and 240,000 reduced car accident hospitalizations in the US alone every year

According to an AARP spokeswoman, by 2030 over 78 million boomers will be 65+, and research shows that men will outlive their driving abilities by six years and women by 10.

Beginning of thousands of jobs losses to robotic trucks and cars and to saving billions of dollars

Suncor Energy, Canada’s largest oil company, confirmed this week it has entered into a five-year agreement with Komatsu Ltd., the Japanese manufacturer of earthmoving and construction machines, to purchase new heavy haulers for its mining operations north of Fort McMurray. All the new trucks will be “autonomous-ready,” meaning they are capable of operating without a driver, Suncor spokesperson Sneh Seetal said.

Suncor and its competitors in the oilsands are looking for opportunities to cut costs and boost productivity, an effort that has intensified amid the year-long plunge in oil prices. The steep fall in prices has already forced the sector as a whole to lay off thousands, with Suncor itself letting go 1,000 people this year.

Suncor has signed agreements to purchase 175 driverless trucks.

Suncor has been testing “autonomous haulage systems” in its oilsands mining operations since 2013 to determine whether the GPS-assisted trucks can work year-round in the oilpatch, Seetal said, adding the company doesn’t expect to make a decision until 2017 on whether to fully bring in the system, with implementation spread out over several years.

Suncor is working to replace its fleet of heavy haulers with automated trucks “by the end of the decade.”

“That will take 800 people off our site,” Cowan said of the trucks. “At an average (salary) of $200,000 per person."

This will save about $160 million per year (of base salary). More savings including benefits.

If all competitors follow this path it would be a billion dollars per year and over 5000 trucking jobs.

Truck, bus, delivery, and taxi drivers account for nearly 6 million professional driving jobs in the United States.

Too bad for the drivers over the next few decades but I want my commute time automated and I want grandma to be independent and mobile and I want to save lives and reduce injury from accidents

So millions of driving jobs would be lost but
* I and others could have a productive commute. I have 2 hours per day commuting. I could theoretically boost productivity by 20%
* Many elderly people can no longer drive safely. Robotic cars will help them to be more mobile and independent
* costs saved throughout the supply chain have the potential to lower costs and provide big economic gains
* a trillion to the US economy from lower accident costs, lower insurance and boosted productivity
* over 30,000 lives saved and 240,000 reduced car accident hospitalizations in the US alone every year

According to an AARP spokeswoman, by 2030 over 78 million boomers will be 65+, and research shows that men will outlive their driving abilities by six years and women by 10.

Hyperinflation is evil

Zimbabwe offers its people a new exchange rate: US$1 for 35,000,000,000,000,000 old Zimbabwe dollars.

Zimbabweans have until September to turn in their old banknotes, which some people sell as souvenirs to tourists.

Bank accounts with balances of up to 175 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars will be paid $5. Those with balances above 175 quadrillion dollars will be paid at an exchange rate of $1 for 35 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars.

The highest – and last – banknote to be printed by the bank in 2008 was 100tn Zimbabwean dollars. It was not enough to ride a public bus to work for a week.

The bank has set aside US$20 million to buy up all of the old notes.

June 11, 2015

US Navy plans to make a network of undersea charging stations for robotic minisubs

Sometime in the early 2020s the Navy will start deploying unmanned, underwater pods where robots can recharge undetected — and securely upload the intelligence they’ve gathered to Navy networks.

The Office of Naval Research calls them FDECO. (Forward-Deployed Energy and Communications Outpost).

The utility of this plan can be seen by the usefulness of gas stations to enable cars to travel freely around countries and for the fast charging network being built by Tesla (Elon Musk Electric car company).

Here is a presentation on future naval technology. Innovative Technology Programs by Thomas Killion Naval Research Technology Director

Current Active INPs:
* Electromagnetic Railgun (EMRG)
* Integrated Topside (INTOP)
* Autonomous Aerial Cargo Unmanned System (AACUS)
* Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV)
* Netted Emulation of Multi Element Signatures Against Integrated Sensors (NEMESIS)

FY16 New Start INPs
* Electromagnetic Maneuver and Control Capability (EMC2);
* Forward Deployed Energy and Communications Outpost (FDECO)

Genetic modification of mice embyros approaching 100% efficiency using CRISPR CAS9 gene therapy

Mice embryos can be genetically modified with CRISPR gene therapy. The procedure is approaching 100% efficiency already.

Prof Perry said the technique could one day be performed during fertility treatment.

Dr Tony Perry believes genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis could be prevented before conception

Invitro fertilization (IVF) treatments are currently about 1.5% of births in the USA. There is estimated demand of 4.8 million IVF in China. This based on 90 million Chinese men and women with fertility problems who have the ability to pay the USD 80 thousand to USD 120 thousand cost the typical surrogacy program in the United States, and not many more can afford to pay the n times USD 12.5 thousand per IVF cycle average cost charged by the typical US-based fertility clinic.

If the cost of IVF drops to $300 per treatment, the success rate goes up to 60% and the income levels increase then over the next ten years the IVF amounts in China and around the world should rapidly increase.

* IVF costs are decreasing by orders of magnitude
* IVF success rates are increasing from 30% to 60%
* the genetic manipulation and genetic screening and embryo selection capabilities are increasing

(A) Schematic of 1-step (upper) and sequential methods of Cas9-mediated mII editing. mII, metaphase II. (B) Paired Hoffman modulation (upper) and eGFP expression (eGFP) images of E4.0 blastocysts produced by 1-step injection of wt mII oocytes with 129-eGFP sperm from hemizygotes, with concentrations of injected Cas9 cRNA and eGFP gRNA indicated below. An asterisk indicates a presumptively phenotypic mosaic. Bar, 100 μm. (C) Numerical representation of embryo development and green fluorescence following injection of sperm from 129-eGFP hemizygous males. Percentages are of blastocyst development on embryonic day 4 (E4.0) (open) and of blastocysts that fluoresced green (filled) indicating 129-eGFP transgene expression in 1-step (green) or sequential (red) methods. Starting embryo numbers and injected concentrations of Cas9 cRNA and eGFP gRNA (gRNA) are shown beneath. (D) Paired Hoffman modulation (upper) and eGFP expression (eGFP) images as for (B) except that the sequential method of injection (Fig. 1A) was used. (E) Histograms as for (C) except that one of either the injected sperm (left) or oocyte carried a Nanog-eGFP knock-in allele. Red highlights provide at-a-glance indication of RNA concentrations in (B) to (E)

Scientific Reports - Asymmetric parental genome engineering by Cas9 during mouse meiotic exit

Mammalian genomes can be edited by injecting pronuclear embryos with Cas9 cRNA and guide RNA (gRNA) but it is unknown whether editing can also occur during the onset of embryonic development, prior to pronuclear embryogenesis. We here report Cas9-mediated editing during sperm-induced meiotic exit and the initiation of development. Injection of unfertilized, mouse metaphase II (mII) oocytes with Cas9 cRNA, gRNA and sperm enabled efficient editing of transgenic and native alleles. Pre-loading oocytes with Cas9 increased sensitivity to gRNA ~100-fold. Paternal allelic editing occurred as an early event: single embryo genome analysis revealed editing within 3 h of sperm injection, coinciding with sperm chromatin decondensation during the gamete-to-embryo transition but prior to pronucleus formation. Maternal alleles underwent editing after the first round of DNA replication, resulting in mosaicism. Asymmetric editing of maternal and paternal alleles suggests a novel strategy for discriminatory targeting of parental genomes.

Spacex Files with FCC to begin testing satellite internet service

Spacex has asked the federal government for permission to begin testing on an ambitious project to beam Internet service from space, a significant step forward for an initiative that could create another major competitor to Comcast, AT&T and other telecom companies.

The plan calls for launching a constellation of 4,000 small and cheap satellites that would beam high-speed Internet signals to all parts of the globe, including its most remote regions.

Google and Fidelity recently invested $1 billion into SpaceX, in part to support the satellite broadband Internet project.

Musk’s FCC filing proposes tests starting next year. If all goes well, the service could be up and running in about five years.

Elon Musk has proposed a network of some 4,000 micro-satellites to provide broadband Internet services around the globe. SpaceX is partnering with Google and Fidelity Investments, which are investing $1 billion for a 10 percent stake in the endeavor. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Qualcomm, meanwhile, are investing in a competing venture called OneWeb, which aims to build a similar network of micro-satellites.

Satellite technology has advanced, bringing the cost of deployment down significantly. Toaster-sized micro-satellites can be launched dozens at a time, and don’t have to operate at very high orbits, reducing launch costs, but they can deliver performance comparable to larger, older satellites at higher altitudes.

The speed of light is 40 per cent faster in the vacuum of space than it is for fiber. Elon plans to use optical lasers to communicate between the micro-satellites.

Elon will have 60 people working on the space Internet project initially and that could rise to 1,000 in a few years.

Broad Group CEO says the approvals are nearing for the 202 story Sky City skyscraper for late 2015 or early 2016

A 57 story mini Sky City was completed on 17 February 2015. The 57 story tower was built in two bursts: the first 20 storeys went up in a week in 2014, but red tape held up construction for a year, with the final 37 stories completed in 12 working days in February. In total 19 days was needed for onsite assembly.

Broad Group has six huge hangar-like factories, where they machine-cut and welded into one of a few basic modules - a column, crossbeam or floor section.

These are then loaded on to lorries and driven to the site, where they are slotted into place like Tetris pieces, and finally bolted and welded together.

All modules bear serial numbers. The more advanced ones, like the 12m x 2m rectangular floor sections, come pre-installed with plumbing, electric wiring and air ducts.

The company says 90% of their buildings' components are prefabricated like this, with only interior finishing required on site.

A “configuration guide” on the company’s website allows prospective clients to select the type of building they require, from hotel to kindergarten to museum.

They can also choose extras, such as a “sky garden”, an “indoor farm” or a helipad.

A model skyscraper has withstood the equivalent of a magnitude nine earthquake.

* Broad Group claims their technology stops 99% of air pollution particulates them from getting inside their buildings.
* windows are quadruple-paned glass which is part of what makes the Broad Group buildings “five times more energy efficient” than regular buildings

In February, Zhang predicted that all the necessary permissions for Sky City would be obtained within three or four months, and that construction would start in late 2015 or early 2016.

And in the past few days, Hunan province - in which Changsha is located - has signalled further support for the construction of modular buildings.

“But in accordance with the regulations, buildings of 350 meters need to be approved at the national level in Beijing,” said a Broad Group spokesperson. “Because of this, the official start date for Sky City is still unclear.”

USA Revamping military to re-establish superiority gap over China and Russia with a lot of drones and missiles

The military playing field is more even than it has been for many years.

The US effort to pull away from military peers is what Secretary of Defence Hagel calls the “third offset strategy”, because it is the third time since the second world war that America has sought technological breakthroughs to offset the advantages of potential foes and reassure its friends.

1. In the early 1950s, when the Soviet Union was fielding far larger conventional forces in Europe than America and its allies could hope to repel. The answer was to extend America’s lead in nuclear weapons to counter the Soviet numerical advantage—a strategy known as the “New Look”.

2. In the mid-1970s. American military planners, reeling from the psychological defeat of the Vietnam war, recognised that the Soviet Union had managed to build an equally terrifying nuclear arsenal. They had to find another way to restore credible deterrence in Europe. Daringly, America responded by investing in a family of untried technologies aimed at destroying enemy forces well behind the front line. Precision-guided missiles, the networked battlefield, reconnaissance satellites, the Global Positioning System (GPS) and radar-beating “stealth” aircraft were among the fruits of that research.

3. Colossal computational power, rapid data processing, sophisticated sensors and bandwidth—some of the components of the second offset—are all now widely available. China and Russia are using a lot of cheap missiles.

China has an arsenal of precision short- to medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles, submarines equipped with wake-homing torpedoes and long-range anti-ship missiles, electronic warfare, anti-satellite weapons, modern fighter jets, integrated air defences and sophisticated command, control and communications systems.

The US military now has five critical vulnerabilities.
* carriers and other surface vessels can now be tracked and hit by missiles at ranges from the enemy’s shore which could prevent the use of their cruise missiles or their tactical aircraft without in-flight refuelling by lumbering tankers that can be picked off by hostile fighters.
* defending close-in regional air bases from a surprise attack in the opening stages of a conflict is increasingly hard.
* aircraft operating at the limits of their combat range would struggle to identify and target mobile missile launchers.
* modern air defences can shoot down non-stealthy aircraft at long distances.
* the satellites America requires for surveillance and intelligence are no longer safe from attack.

The USA is looking to put missiles and counter missiles on every ship in the Navy.

DARPA is developing mid-range drones that can be placed on every ship.

The goal of the DARPA Tern project is to give forward-deployed small ships the ability to serve as mobile launch and recovery sites for medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial systems (UAS). These systems could provide long-range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other capabilities over greater distances and time periods than is possible with current assets, including manned and unmanned helicopters. Further, a capacity to launch and retrieve aircraft on small ships would reduce the need for ground-based airstrips, which require significant dedicated infrastructure and resources. The two prime contractors selected by DARPA are AeroVironment, Inc., and Northrop Grumman Corp.

Tern, a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), seeks to enable forward-deployed small ships to serve as mobile launch and recovery sites for medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial systems (UAS). In an important step toward that goal, DARPA has awarded prime contracts for Phase 2 of Tern to two companies: AeroVironment, Inc. and Northrop Grumman Corp.

“To offer the equivalent of land-based UAS capabilities from small-deck ships, our Phase 2 performers are each designing a new unmanned air system intended to enable two previously unavailable capabilities: one, the ability for a UAS to take off and land from very confined spaces in elevated sea states and two, the ability for such a UAS to transition to efficient long-duration cruise missions,” said Dan Patt, DARPA program manager. “Tern’s goal is to develop breakthrough technologies that the Navy could realistically integrate into the future fleet and make it much easier, quicker and less expensive for the Defense Department to deploy persistent ISR and strike capabilities almost anywhere in the world.”

The first two phases of the Tern program focus on preliminary design and risk reduction. In Phase 3, one performer will be selected to build a full-scale demonstrator Tern system for initial ground-based testing. That testing would lead to a full-scale, at-sea demonstration of a prototype UAS on an at-sea platform with deck size similar to that of a destroyer or other surface combat vessel.

It might cost about $22 million per ship to outfit it drone capability.

Google's new Sidewalk Labs will try to use breakthrough technology to solve urban problems

Google CEO Larry Page announced a new Google Startup +Sidewalk Labs​. Sidewalk will focus on improving city life for everyone by developing and incubating urban technologies to address issues like cost of living, efficient transportation and energy usage. The company will be led by Dan Doctoroff, former CEO of Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor of Economic Development and Rebuilding for the City of New York. Every time Larry Page talks with Dan he feels an amazing sense of opportunity because of all the ways technology can help transform cities to be more livable, flexible and vibrant.

While this is a relatively modest investment for Google and very different from Google's core business, it’s an area where Larry hopes they can really improve people’s lives, similar to Google[x] and Calico. Making long-term, 10X bets like this is hard for most companies to do, but Sergey and Larry have always believed that it’s important.

new technologies- including ubiquitous connectivity and sharing,the internet of things, dynamic resource management and flexible buildings and infrastructure - are emerging to allow cities and citizens to tackle problems in real time.

Count Dooku, Count Dracula Saruman actor has died

Actor Christopher Lee has died at the age of 93

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee is perhaps the only actor of his generation to have starred in so many films (about 281 movies). Although most notable for personifying bloodsucking vampire, Dracula, on screen, he has portrayed other varied characters on screen, most of which were villains, whether it be Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), or Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002), or as the title monster in the Hammer Horror film, The Mummy (1959)

Lee played the role "Dracula" in a number of movies throughout the 1950s, 1960s and into the early 1970s.

He played Saruman in five Lord of the Ring and Hobbit movies.

Latest on CRISPR and genomics starting with compression of full genome data by over 1 million times and thousands of fold progress on CRISPR genome changes

It is now possible to record a human genome (differences relative to a reference is only 2 megabytes. This is instead of 9 terabytes for a human genome with image data.

Genomes for the entire human population is 2 petabytes.

70 more intelligence related genes found

At a European Society of human genetics talk a scientist reported 70 genome wide hits for genes associated with human intelligence.

An older paper reported 18 genome wide hits for genes associated with human intelligence.

Genome-wide association study of 200,000 individuals identified 18 genome-wide significant loci and provides biological insight into human cognitive function.

Educational attainment, measured as years of schooling, is commonly used as a proxy for cognitive function. A recent genome wide association study (GWAS) of educational attainment conducted in a discovery sample of 100,000 individuals identified and replicated three genome-wide significant loci. Here, we report preliminary results based on conducted in 200,000 individuals. We replicate the previous three loci and report 15 novel, genome-wide significant loci for educational attainment. A polygenic score composed of 18 single nucleotide polymorphisms, one from each locus, explains ~0.4% of the variance educational attainment.

Steve Hsu has estimated a few thousand to ten thousand genetic variations explain the genetic basis of human intelligence. A study of about a million people should enable the genetic differences of intelligence to be found.

There was a review of five years of genome-wide association studies in 2011.

June 10, 2015

California's slow motion economic high speed train wreck

In 2008, California voters approved a ballot measure to authorize $9.95 billion in bonds to fund construction of the country's first bullet train. It would, the ballot measure promised, whisk passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes.

Construction got off to a late start, but it finally broke ground in January, in beautiful Fresno. The California High Speed Rail Authority (or CHSRA) hopes to have the L.A.-to–San Fran section completed by 2029. The authority claims, to much doubt, that the bullet train will reach a top speed of 220 miles per hour (America's current fastest train tops out at around 150 mph). It will cost at least $68 billion, probably more – a lot can happen in 14 years.

Aside from the $9.95 billion in bond money and $3.3 billion that California got in stimulus money from the federal government, no one really has any idea where the rest of the $68 billion (or however much) is coming from.

Big Dig firm getting close to $1 billion for California high speed rail consulting.

The board overseeing California's high-speed rail project has voted to give a $700 million contract to consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff. $200 million in past fees for Parsons Brinckerhoff were also approved.

Parsons Brinckerhoff partnered with rival engineering firm Bechtel to build the troubled Big Dig in Boston, Massachusetts. The Big Dig, or Central Artery / Tunnel project, as it was officially known was intended to replace an elevated Interstate freeway and connecting roads with a tunnel system underneath Boston. The project was beset with bad engineering, shoddy workmanship, and the death of an automobile passenger as a poor ceiling design caused a tunnel roof section to collapse on a car in the tunnel, crushing the victim. The Big Dig was years over schedule and engineering costs to several times of Bechtel / Parsons Brinckerhoff's original estimates, from $8 Billion to in excess of $24 Billion.

I guess if they are going bungle a giant engineering project they should learn from the pros.

High speed train wreck in Spain. California is just an economic train wreck. Any actual high speed California train wreck will not be for decades and likely involve only people in hurry to go from Los Angeles to Shafter

Startup Sentent can link one million processors from excess data center capacity for deep learning artificial intelligence

A private company called Sentient with only about 70 employees, says it can cheaply assemble even larger computing systems to power artificial-intelligence software.

Sentient’s power comes from linking up hundreds of thousands of computers over the Internet to work together as if they were a single machine. The company won’t say exactly where all the machines it taps into are. But many are idle inside data centers, the warehouse-like facilities that power Internet services such as websites and mobile apps, says Babak Hodjat, cofounder and chief scientist at Sentient. The company pays a data-center operator to make use of its spare machines.

Data centers often have significant numbers of idle machines because they are built to handle surges in demand, such as a rush of sales on Black Friday. Sentient has created software that connects machines in different places over the Internet and puts them to work running machine-learning software as if they were one very powerful computer. That software is designed to keep data encrypted as much as possible so that what Sentient is working on–perhaps for a client–is kept confidential.

Sentient can get up to one million processor cores working together on the same problem for months at a time, says Adam Beberg, principal architect for distributed computing at the company. Google’s biggest machine-learning systems don’t reach that scale, he says.

Sentient was founded in 2007 and has received over $140 million in investment funding, with just over $100 million of that received late last year. The company has so far focused on using its technology to power a machine-learning technique known as evolutionary algorithms. That involves “breeding” a solution to a problem from an initial population of many slightly different algorithms. The best performers of the first generation are used to form the basis of the next, and over successive generations the solutions get better and better.

Sentient currently earns some revenue from operating financial-trading algorithms created by running its evolutionary process for months at a time on hundreds of thousands of processors. But the company now plans to use its infrastructure to offer services targeted at industries such as health care or online commerce, says Hodjat. Companies in those industries would theoretically pay Sentient for those products.

China, Ukraine, Russian tanks battle in the arms export market

In an effort to increase sales of its tanks in the face of declining global demand, China North Industries Group Corp, the country's biggest developer and maker of land armaments, is turning to a popular smartphone social networking app.
WeChat is often used by Chinese arms producers to release comparisons between their weapons and other nations' products - contents that they would not put on their websites in consideration of diplomatic issues.

So, like many other State-owned defense technology enterprises, Norinco, as the tank maker is known, is promoting its brand and products to WeChat's more than 500 million users.

Russia has only one new tank that is available for export - the T-90S. In contrast, Norinco the low-end VT-2, middle-end VT-1 as well as the high-end VT-4 (aka MBT 3000), covering the requirements of almost every client in the international market.

Norinco, which claims the Russian T-14 tank is weaker than the Chinese VT-4 in terms of automation, mobility, fire-control systems and cost competitiveness.

The T-14's transmission is not well-developed. There was a malfunctionof a T-14 during a rehearsal before the May 9 parade. By comparison, the VT-4 has never encountered such problems so far.

Norinco’s sales have expanded faster than any other major defense company over the past five years, surpassing Lockheed Martin Corp., maker of the F-35 fighter, and General Dynamics Corp., which produces Abrams tanks. The company’s $64.4 billion in revenue (2014) and 275,000 employees embody the clout of China’s defense industry as the party pours hundreds of billions of dollars into the People’s Liberation Army and molds Mao-era weapons makers into growth-driven conglomerates.

Norinco’s MBT-3000 tank boasts similar firepower and speed as the Abrams and costs about $4 million, compared with $6.9 million for the American tank. The T-14 Armata costs 7.4 million euro (US$8.2 million).

The main armament of the MBT-3000 has a 125mm smoothbore gun fitted with a thermal sleeve and fume extractor. It is fed by an automatic loader which holds a total of 22 projectiles and charges which can be loaded at the rate of eight per minute. The MBT-3000 can carry a total of thirty eight rounds of main ammunition. Types of separate loading ammunition that can be fired by the 125 mm smoothbore gun include kinetic energy penetrator, high explosive squash head and high explosive anti-tank warhead. The Mounted coaxial to the right of the main armament is a 7.62 mm machine gun, while mounted on the commander's cupola is a remotely weapon station armed with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun, for engaging ground and aerial targets. Mounted either rear side of the turret is a bank of six electrically operated smoke grenade launchers which fire forwards. In addition, the tank is equipped with a set of guided weapons, allowing use of a guided missile with a range of up to 5 km.

The MBT-3000 is motorized with water-cooled turbocharged electronic-controlled diesel engine developing 1,300 hp. Suspension is of the torsion bar type with hydraulic shock absorbers and either side consists of six large dual rubber-tyred roadwheels with the drive sprocket at the front, idler at the rear and track return rollers. To extend the operational range of the MBT-3000, two additional diesel fuel drums can be mounted externally at the rear. The 52-tonnes MBT-300 can run a maximum road speed of 70 km/h with a maximum cruising range of 500 km. The MBT-3000 can ford a depth of 4 to 5 meters with preparation and a trench of 2.7 meter. The tank can climb a gradient of 60% and a vertical obstacle of 1.2meter maximum.

What Are The Bright Spots On Ceres?

A guest post by Joseph Friedlander

Paul Scott Anderson of The Meridiani Journal blog has written about the bright spots on Ceres, 

at  http://themeridianijournal.com/2015/05/image-gallery-closer-view-of-ceres-bright-spots/ Anderson has published a nice crop of the area of interest "taken by the Dawn spacecraft. It was taken on May 16, 2015, with a resolution of 700 metres (2,250 feet) per pixel"

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
Cropped zoom of bright spots. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/Paul Scott Anderson

 What are we looking at here?  My own guess is basically the space equivalent of 'black smokers' under the sea-- but better termed 'white sublimers' in vacuum.  In a phrase, vapor deposit in vacuum.  What's going on? Surfaces in a space environment (solar influx and cooling in dark (thermal cycling), vacuum desiccation,  go to faded colors (solar bleaching) and dustlike breakdown of crustal materials (in part from micrometeors but from multiple causes). In a word, surfaces look like the Moon, spectacular and faded and muted at the same time.

But these white spots look fresh. Pristine surfaces often need maintenance. Therefore, they are being maintained.
  Water is known to outgas from Ceres---losing about 6 kg a second in resublimation probably from these very spots.  http://themeridianijournal.com/2014/01/water-vapour-discovered-dwarf-planet-ceres/

What we are seeing, to my view- is either vapor deposit of some fraction of the water or other ices escaping vents on the surrounding terrain, (part takes more heat and escapes, part cools and deposits as ice) or chemicals like white salts that go out of solution and deposit on the terrain, or both, possibly in layers depending on what's coming out the vents. 

That is the most likely explanation of what the bright spots on Ceres are. 

The ice could easily be very undrinkable/poison/impure by human standards, containing chlorides, sulfides, ammonia compounds, cyanides, etc. But with the right equipment it could be easily refined.

We can see here on the rough order of a hundred square kilometers of outgassed ice or salts, if 1-2 meters thick easily massing over 100 million tons.  What a resource, right there on the surface.

If you're planning a landing on Ceres and hope to refuel you could do worse than pack a lab and a mini refinery into the lander stage, and take off only with the  already fuelled ascent stage if you are disappointed in your search for water ice. (Unlikely)

But if you are not disappointed you can easily launch a laden tanker into Ceres orbit, since the escape velocity is only 510 meters a second or so.

As the Dawn probe is lowered into mapping orbit,  we will soon have even better pictures. The mass of Ceres has been measured more precisely now, to be  1.03 billion billion English tons (939 billion billion kilograms) and about a quarter of that is estimated to be water.  I would not be shocked if it was salty water which on Earth is not good news to the farmer but in space is good news for all future colonists, since water soluble chemicals are high on the wish list of wanted resources.  

Progress to Mine Seawater for Lithium

Researchers at Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency have come up with a new method of processing seawater to extract lithium—an element that plays a key role in advanced batteries for electric vehicles and one that, if current predictions for the EV market prove accurate, could be in short supply before the end of the decade.

Tsuyoshi Hoshino, a scientist at the JAEA’s Rokkasho Fusion Institute, proposed a method for recovering lithium from seawater using dialysis. Still years from commercialization, the system is based on a dialysis cell with a membrane consisting of a superconductor material. Lithium is the only ion in the seawater that can pass through the membrane, from the negative-electrode side of the cell to the positive-electrode side.

If Hoshino’s method proves efficient and economical, it could transform a market that has seen lots of investment and supposed innovation in recent years but has remained stubbornly resistant to new technologies and new sources of supply. Most lithium is still recovered today in the way it has been for half a century: by evaporating brine collected from salt lakes in enclosed valleys in parts of Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia.

Schematic of Li ion recovery from seawater by electrodialysis by using LISM.

June 09, 2015

Joe Eck finds superconducting transition at 141C which is above soldering temperature

Superconductors.ORG herein reports the discovery of room temperature superconductors number 25 and 26 - further advancing the world record for high Tc. Sn9SbTe4Ba2MnCu15O30+ displays a critical transition temperature (Tc) near 136C (276F) and Sn10SbTe4Ba2MnCu16O32+ transitions near 141C (285F). Superconductivity at these temperatures was confirmed by averaging numerous resistance and magnetization tests. 141 Celsius is warmer than the melting points of more than 45 different solder alloys. Resistance plot for the progenitor compound Sn9SbTe4Ba2MnCu15O30+ are shown.

The chemical precursors were pelletized at 60,000 PSI and pre-sintered for 24 hours at 715C. The pellet was then sintered for 10 hours at 880C and annealed for 10+ hours at 500C in flowing O2. Temperature was determined using an Omega type "T" thermocouple and precision OP77 DC amplifier. The magnetometer employed twin Honeywell SS94A1F Hall-effect sensors with a tandem sensitivity of 50 mv/Gauss.

In March 2015, Superconductors.ORG announces the discovery of two new superconductors with transition temperatures (Tc) more than 100 degrees above room-temperature. Sn9SbTe3Ba2MnCu14O28+ and Sn8SbTe4Ba2MnCu14O28+ are the 23rd and 24th compounds found to superconduct above room temperature, with the latter being the first to go above 400 Kelvin.

Disruptive CRISPR gene therapy is 150 times cheaper than zinc fingers and CRISPR is faster and more precise

Biologists have long been able to edit genomes with molecular tools. About ten years ago, they became excited by enzymes called zinc finger nucleases that promised to do this accurately and efficiently. But zinc fingers, which cost US$5,000 or more to order, were not widely adopted because they are difficult to engineer and expensive, says James Haber, a molecular biologist at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. CRISPR works differently: it relies on an enzyme called Cas9 that uses a guide RNA molecule to home in on its target DNA, then edits the DNA to disrupt genes or insert desired sequences. Researchers often need to order only the RNA fragment; the other components can be bought off the shelf. Total cost: as little as $30. “That effectively democratized the technology so that everyone is using it,” says Haber. “It's a huge revolution.”

Researchers have traditionally relied heavily on model organisms such as mice and fruit flies, partly because they were the only species that came with a good tool kit for genetic manipulation. Now CRISPR is making it possible to edit genes in many more organisms. In April, for example, researchers at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reported using CRISPR to study Candida albicans, a fungus that is particularly deadly in people with weakened immune systems, but had been difficult to genetically manipulate in the lab3. Jennifer Doudna, a CRISPR pioneer at the University of California, Berkeley, is keeping a list of CRISPR-altered creatures. So far, she has three dozen entries, including disease-causing parasites called trypanosomes and yeasts used to make biofuels

Australia plans mach 20 scramjet in 2018 that can fly 120 miles in 30 seconds

Australia's DSTO has been doing hypersonic experiments in Woomera, South Australia and Norway. In 2018, it plans to launch a glider with an air-breathing scramjet engine that will cruise at hypersonic speeds to travel about 200 kilometres in 30 seconds (mach 20).

“Hypersonics research is not new; it’s been conducted for 30 or 40 years. But the way the DSTO conducts its work is quite different in terms of experimentation. So we are effectively taking an IT approach. These experimentations would not be possible without IT systems. The whole payload is instrumented with IT systems,” Zelinsky said.

Sensors attached to the air-breathing engine measure the aerodynamic and thermodynamic properties in real time, which is gathered and analysed for insight into how the DSTO should shape its next experiment and to progressively advance the technology each time.

In 2011, the US prototype Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) achieved mach 20.

Carnival of Space 409

NASA begins testing of InSight Mars lander for launch in 2016 InSight is a robotic exploration mission that will record measurements of the interior of the Red Planet, giving scientists unprecedented detail into the evolution of Mars and other terrestrial planets. The InSight mission will address one of the most fundamental issues of planetary and Solar System science; understanding the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner Solar System (including Earth) more than four billion years ago.

Testing of the solar arrays on the InSight lander at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin

NASA Instrument on Rosetta Makes Comet Atmosphere Discovery

NASA’s Hubble Finds Pluto’s Moons Tumbling in Absolute Chaos

June 08, 2015

Ancient History repeating as Wolves associate with monkeys showing the early mechanisms that could have initiated domestication

In the alpine grasslands of eastern Africa, Ethiopian wolves and gelada monkey are giving peace a chance. The geladas – a type of a baboon – tolerate wolves wandering right through the middle of their herds, while the wolves ignore potential meals of baby geladas in favour of rodents, which they can catch more easily when the monkeys are present.

The unusual pact echoes the way dogs began to be domesticated by humans.

When walking through a herd – which comprises many bands of monkeys grazing together in groups of 600 to 700 individuals – the wolves seem to take care to behave in a non-threatening way. They move slowly and calmly as they forage for rodents and avoid the zigzag running they use elsewhere, Venkataraman observed.

This suggested that they were deliberately associating with the geladas. Since the wolves usually entered gelada groups during the middle of the day, when rodents are most active, he wondered whether the geladas made it easier for the wolves to catch the rodents – their primary prey.

Venkataraman and his colleagues followed individual wolves for 17 days, recording each attempted capture of a rodent, and whether it worked. The wolves succeeded in 67 per cent of attempts when within a gelada herd, but only 25 per cent of the time when on their own.

Journal of Mammalogy Solitary Ethiopian wolves increase predation success on rodents when among grazing gelada monkey herds

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