July 04, 2015

Anti-white blood cell drug causes remission of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and explains the mystery disease

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) first entered the medical lexicon in 1988 to describe a cluster of symptoms without an obvious cause that doctors were seeing in the Lake Tahoe area of Nevada. The principal symptom was debilitating tiredness, but people also complained of sore throats, headaches, muscle pain and various other manifestations of general malaise.

The lack of a clear biological cause, the fuzziness of the symptoms and the fact that many of the people diagnosed were young professionals opened the door to a smear campaign. The media were quick to dub CFS "yuppie flu".

Now an anti-white blood cell drug treats two of three people with CFS and shows the cause antibodies after an infection disrupted blood flow.

Researchers in Norway have been trialling a drug normally used to knock out white blood cells in people with lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis. Two thirds of the people who took it experienced major remission of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) symptoms, essentially returning to normal life, with bursts of vitality unthinkable while they were ill.

The discovery – which sprang from a serendipitous observation – offers more than just the promise of a much-needed treatment. It also suggests that the symptoms are somehow caused by antibodies originally produced to fight off an infection. The researchers speculate that they might disrupt blood flow, leaving muscles drained of energy.

If correct, this brings the scientific story full circle. CFS was initially suspected to be a "post-viral" syndrome – the lingering after-effects of an infection with Epstein-Barr. More importantly, it could offer people diagnosed with CFS both physical relief and psychological closure.

There are wider implications too. Pain and fatigue without an obvious cause account for a large percentage of visits to the doctor, and usually have an unsatisfactory outcome. On top of that, there are many other conditions – Morgellons, for example – that struggle for credibility. If the CFS mystery is finally solved, that offers hope to countless others struggling with unexplained symptoms. It may take another serendipitous discovery, but science is good at those.

Russia rebuilding and repairing its navy

11 ships will be handed over to the Russian Navy after repairs and one vessel will be the fourth Varshavyanka class submarine that should be handed over to the military by the end of the year.

Russia’s shipbuilding industry is not in good shape, as the delays in refitting the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier as the Indian Vikramaditya showed. The United Shipbuilding Corporation has had integration problems and some shipyards have not been modernised since the Soviet period. Additionally, certain elements of the rearmament programme could be delayed as a result of the ending of defence cooperation with Ukraine.

While the industry is not likely to meet the targets set by the current armament programme, it will probably be able to produce 50-70% of the weapons and equipment required by 2020.

Russia intends to restore its navy’s global reach, but given the time needed to renovate shipyards, develop new designs, and build large ships, the effort will not be fully launched until the 2020s. The earliest that Russia could built a new aircraft carrier is 2027, while new destroyers are still on drawing board, with the first unlikely to be commissioned for ten years.

Russia can realistically expect to get modernized and repaired frigates and some destroyers and cruisers. They should also have a handful of new ballastic missile submarines and some multi-purpose diesel submarines.

New 65,000 ton british aircraft carrier powers up for the first time and should begin operational testing in 2016

HMS Queen Elizabeth's huge diesel generators have been powered up for the first time at the home of the UK's aircraft carrier programme in Rosyth.

The move brings the 65,000-tonne future flagship of the Royal Navy closer to becoming an operational warship.

The first of the ship's four generators was officially started by defence procurement minister Philip Dunne.

The warship is due to be handed over to the Ministry of Defence in 2016 ahead of being put into service in 2020.

Work is already under way on a second aircraft carrier, HMS Prince Of Wales.

Tesla Gigafactory on track to begin battery production by the end of 2015 and the Tesla 3 low price coming from batteries and more robotic production

Tesla Motors is on track for initial lithium-ion battery production at the Gigafactory by the end of 2015 and significant production for existing Tesla models in 2016. Of course, Tesla intends to get production up to 500,000 battery packs a year by 2020, but it is going to complete the Gigafactory and ramp up production in phases.

Pacific Crest Securities analyst Brad Erickson toured Tesla’s Fremont factory, and he estimated that the Tesla Model X production line has 3–4 times more robots than the Model S production line.

Tesla is relying on the economies of scale of the huge factory to allow it to sell the Model 3 at a base price of $35,000 before incentives.

Gigafactory picture from Feb, 2015

GM is stepping up the challenge from Tesla and is reported to be getting to 200 mile range for its next Chevy Bolt electric car.

New IPhone 6S starting mass production in July with touch screen

Apple will likely begin mass production of its next iPhone (iPhone 6S and 6S Plus) in July according to a report from Bloomberg. The future iPhone will come with a touch technology called Force Touch.

Force Touch -- which senses how hard the screen is tapped -- was first used in the Apple Watch and 12-inch Retina MacBook. For example, with the Watch, pressing firmly on the screen lets you select new watch faces, control a workout, or search an address in Maps. Apple claims Force Touch “is the most significant new sensing capability since Multi‑Touch” – the tap, scroll, pinch, and swipe gestures found on MacBooks.

The usual upgrades are also expected
* more memory
* faster performance
* stronger processor
* better camera

The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are expected to have the same form factor as the 6 and 6 plus

NASA creates a color protrait of Pluto's northern hemisphere

New Horizons scientists combined the latest black and white map of Pluto’s surface features (left) with a map of the planet’s colors (right) to produce a detailed color portrait of the planet’s northern hemisphere (center). (Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

What color is Pluto? The answer, revealed in the first maps made from New Horizons data, turns out to be shades of reddish brown. Although this is reminiscent of Mars, the cause is almost certainly very different. On Mars the coloring agent is iron oxide, commonly known as rust. On the dwarf planet Pluto, the reddish color is likely caused by hydrocarbon molecules that are formed when cosmic rays and solar ultraviolet light interact with methane in Pluto’s atmosphere and on its surface.

“Pluto’s reddish color has been known for decades, but New Horizons is now allowing us to correlate the color of different places on the surface with their geology and soon, with their compositions,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. “This will make it possible to build sophisticated computer models to understand how Pluto has evolved to its current appearance."

US depends on Russia for Space Station resupply with Progress mission nearing success and until Spacex gets launching again

The US is depending upon Russia for the resupply of the International Space station with the failed Spacex launch and the apparent likely success of the Russian Progress launch.

Carrying more than 6,100 pounds of food, fuel, and supplies for the International Space Station crew, the unpiloted ISS Progress 60 cargo craft launched at 12:55 a.m. EDT (10:55 p.m. local time in Baikonur) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

At the time of launch, the International Space Station was flying about 249 miles over northwestern Sudan, near the border with Egypt and Libya.

Less than 10 minutes after launch, the resupply ship reached preliminary orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas as planned. The Russian cargo craft will make 34 orbits of Earth during the next two days before docking to the orbiting laboratory at 3:13 a.m. Sunday, July 5.

The ISS Progress 60 resupply ship launches on time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Credit: NASA TV

Chairman of the Joint Chief says global security is most unpredictable in his 40 years of service in latest US military strategy

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs indicates that today’s global security environment is the most unpredictable than he has seen in 40 years of service. Since the last National Military Strategy was published in 2011, global disorder has significantly increased while some of our comparative military advantage has begun to erode. The US now faces multiple, simultaneous security challenges from traditional state actors and transregional networks of sub-state groups – all taking advantage of rapid technological change. Future conflicts will come more rapidly, last longer, and take place on a much more technically challenging battlefield. They will have increasing implications to the U.S. homeland.

The 2015 US National Military Strategy (NMS) continues the call for greater agility, innovation, and integration. It reinforces the need for the U.S. military to remain globally engaged to shape the security environment and to preserve our network of alliances. It echoes previous documents in noting the imperative within our profession to develop leaders of competence, character, and consequence.

July 02, 2015

Best ever images of Pluto and Charon show unusual dark spots

The closest-ever pictures of Pluto and its moon Charon shows two separate hemispheres in color. There are unknown dark spots that look like pepperoni slices. New Horizons is now less than 9.5 million miles (15 million kilometers) from the Pluto system. The spacecraft is healthy and all systems are operating normally.

On May 15, 2015, New Horizons‍ '​ imaging resolution of Pluto exceeded Hubble's, which will last until two months after the flyby. From the May date forward on approach the probe should be able to detect any rings or any additional moons (eventually down to 2 km diameter), for avoidance and targeting maneuvers, and observation scheduling. New Horizons‍ '​ best spatial resolution of the small satellites is 460 meters / pixel at Nix, 1.1 km / pixel at Hydra, 3.2 km / pixel at Kerberos, and 3.2 km / pixel at Styx. Estimates for the diameters of these bodies (assuming albedo 0.35) are: Hydra, 61 to 167 km (38 to 104 mi.); Nix, 46 to 137 km (29 to 85 mi.); Kerberos, 13 to 34 km (8 to 21 mi.); and Styx, 10 to 25 km (6 to 16 mi.). This translates to a minimum of 55, 100, 4, and 3 pixels in width for Hydra, Nix, Kerberos, and Styx, respectively.

New Horizons is intended to pass within 10,000 km (6,200 mi) of Pluto, with this closest approach date estimated to occur on July 14, 2015 at 11:50 UTC. New Horizons will have a relative velocity of 13.78 km / s (49,600 km / h; 30,800 mph) at its closest approach, and will come as close as 27,000 km (17,000 mi) to Charon, although these parameters may be changed during flight. Starting 3.2 days before the closest approach, long-range imaging will include the mapping of Pluto and Charon to 40 km (25 mi) resolution. This is half the rotation period of the Pluto–Charon system and will allow imaging of all sides of both bodies. Coverage will repeat twice per day, to search for changes due to snows or cryovolcanism.

For more than two decades, planetary scientists have raced to get a spacecraft to Pluto against predictions that its atmosphere would disappear—literally freezing onto the surface—before it could be explored. This week, planetary scientists using ground-based telescopes and NASA’s SOFIA airborne observatory confirmed that “Pluto’s atmosphere is alive and well, and has not frozen out on the surface,” according to New Horizons deputy project scientist Leslie Young, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder. Added Young, “We’re delighted!”

“The SOFIA observations will also be essential for linking ground-based studies to the results from the New Horizons Pluto encounter for decades to come”, said Cathy Olkin, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, co-investigator on NASA’s New Horizons mission.

For more than two decades, planetary scientists have raced to get a spacecraft to Pluto against predictions that its atmosphere would disappear—literally freezing onto the surface—before it could be explored. This week, planetary scientists using ground-based telescopes and NASA’s SOFIA airborne observatory confirmed that “Pluto’s atmosphere is alive and well, and has not frozen out on the surface,” according to New Horizons deputy project scientist Leslie Young, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder. Added Young, “We’re delighted!”

“The SOFIA observations will also be essential for linking ground-based studies to the results from the New Horizons Pluto encounter for decades to come”, said Cathy Olkin, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, co-investigator on NASA’s New Horizons mission.

New color images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft show two very different faces of the mysterious dwarf planet, one with a series of intriguing spots along the equator that are evenly spaced. Each of the spots is about 300 miles (480 kilometers) in diameter, with a surface area that’s roughly the size of the state of Missouri.

Scientists have yet to see anything quite like the dark spots; their presence has piqued the interest of the New Horizons science team, due to the remarkable consistency in their spacing and size. While the origin of the spots is a mystery for now, the answer may be revealed as the spacecraft continues its approach to the mysterious dwarf planet. “It’s a real puzzle—we don’t know what the spots are, and we can’t wait to find out,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder. “Also puzzling is the longstanding and dramatic difference in the colors and appearance of Pluto compared to its darker and grayer moon Charon.”

New Horizons team members combined black-and-white images of Pluto and Charon from the spacecraft’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) with lower-resolution color data from the Ralph instrument to produce these views. We see the planet and its largest moon in approximately true color, that is, the way they would appear if you were riding on the New Horizons spacecraft. About half of Pluto is imaged, which means features shown near the bottom of the dwarf planet are at approximately at the equatorial line.

July 01, 2015

A 21st Century Submarines arms race could see numbers exceeding the 1000 German U-boats of WW2

There were about 1000 German U-boats built over the course of World War 2.

The main German sub was the Type 7C which was about 800 tons and 67 meters (220 feet) long.

Currently the USA has about 55 nuclear submarines that cost about $1-3 billion each. On average the cost of each submarine is about $1.6 to 2 billion. The annual operating cost for any of these subs is approximately $21 million. The typical service life of a nuclear sub is about 30 years. Refueling and modernizing at the half-life point costs about $200 million. Near the end of the service life, another refueling and extensive overhaul for about $410 million will extend the life another 12 years, for a total service life of 42 years. This totals to about $3.6 billion in constant dollars over the lifetime of a Seawolf class sub.

Air independent diesel electric can cost about $100 to 300 million. Operating costs are lower. Automation can reduce the crew required and further reduce costs. Mass production of robot submarines could see unit costs at $50 million.

Roughly $100 million for the Swedish Gotland submarine

Current DARPA is a robotic surface ship but robotic submarines will likely be developed

James Fanell (x- Navy captain and naval expert), prediced China's Navy would grow to include 99 submarines of all types, four aircraft carriers, 102 destroyers and frigates, 26 corvettes, 73 amphibious ships and 111 missile craft. All told, Fanell predicted, the Chinese Navy of 2030 will comprise 415 ships. This is up from about 300 ships now. This is based upon a projection of the current rate of production for the Chinese Navy. China building about 10 new submarines each year.

If there were an escalation of the submarine arms race that is currently beginning and the shift to low cost Air independent diesel submarines continued, then the 55 expensive US nuclear submarines could eventually be replaced by 1000 to 2000 robotic submarines and AIP diesel submarines. The USA and China could afford to spend $5 to 15 billion per year building up to the 1000 to 2000 low cost and robotic submarine fleet levels over ten years.

'Picking up the quiet hum of a battery-powered, diesel-electric submarine in busy coastal waters is 'like trying to identify the sound of a single car engine in the din of a major city,' says Rear Admiral Frank Drennan, commander of the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command.

June 30, 2015

Electric "Pulse" Technology May Replenish Skin's Collagen

A team of Tel Aviv University (TAU) and Harvard Medical School researchers has now devised a non-invasive technique that harnesses pulsed electric fields to generate new skin tissue growth. According to their research, the novel non-invasive tissue stimulation technique, utilizing microsecond-pulsed, high-voltage, non-thermal electric fields, produces scarless skin rejuvenation and may revolutionize the treatment of degenerative skin diseases.

An (effective) shock to the system

"Pulsed electrical field technology has many advantages, which have already proved effective — for example, in food preservation, tumor removal, and wound disinfection," said Dr. Golberg. "Our new application may jumpstart the secretion of new collagen and capillaries in problematic skin areas. Considering that, in the modern era of aging populations and climate change, degenerative skin diseases affect one in three adults over the age of 60, this has the potential to be an healthcare gamechanger."

Current therapies to rejuvenate skin use various physical and chemical methods to affect cells and the extracellular matrix, but they induce unsightly scarring. Pulsed electric fields, however, affect only the cell membrane itself, preserving the extracellular matrix architecture and releasing multiple growth factors to spark new cell and tissue growth. By inducing nanoscale defects on the cell membranes, electric fields cause the death of a small number of cells in affected areas. The released growth factors increase the metabolism of the remaining cells, generating new tissue.

Americans spend over $10 billion a year on products and surgery in their quest to find a "fountain of youth," with little permanent success. Botulinum toxin — notably Botox — which smoothes lines and wrinkles to rejuvenate the aging face has been the number one nonsurgical procedure in the U.S. since 2000. But injections of this toxic bacterium are only a temporary solution and carry many risks, some neurological.

Nature Scientific Reports - Skin Rejuvenation with Non-Invasive Pulsed Electric Fields

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 267

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 267 is up at the Energy Reality Project.

Neutron Bytes - Demand for small modular reactors may be significantly reduced by Supreme Court ruling on EPA coal plant emissions.

On June 29th the US Supreme Court threw out EPA’s coal emissions regulations that if implemented would have forced many utilities to close older coal-fired plants.

The new emissions controls are aimed at mercury and other toxic pollutants which are not removed from stack emissions by current air pollution controls.

The court ruling will require EPA to reconsider the regulations in light of the cost-benefit issue. if it comes forward with new regulations, which are less costly to industry, they will also surely be less stringent in their effects on utilities. Some coal-fired plants will still likely close, and be replaced by gas plants.

However, less pressure on utilities to give up coal plants altogether due to new emissions controls will also reduce interest in Small Modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) as replacements for them.

In the absence of action-forcing mechanisms of one kind or another, few utilities are going to shift from fossil to nuclear just because the science of global warming is established fact.

Russia has fourth test of Mach10 Yu71 missile and is targeting deployment of 24 hypersonic missiles by 2020 to 2025

Russia's hypersonic mach 10 Yu-71 missile can break through any missile defense system, military experts said. Russia has reportedly carried out four tests already.

The Russians have been developing the new Yu-71 vehicle for several years and conducted the most recent flight test in February, according to an article published this month in Jane’s Intelligence Review.

The development of the Yu-71 vehicle took several years, and Russia reportedly conducted the most recent test flight on February 26, with an SS-19 missile trying to deliver the Yu-71 to space. The new hypersonic aircraft is part of Moscow's plans to modernize its Strategic Missile Forces.

Yu-71, a secret missile program codenamed "Project 4202", has probable speed of up to 11,200 kmh (7,000 mph) and is extremely maneuverable, which makes it an incredibly dangerous and a hardly targetable weapon.

Jane’s concludes that Russia over the past five years has stepped up the secret program as part of efforts to defeat U.S. missile defenses that were designed to counter predictable ballistic targets.

China has reportedly conducted four flight tests of the Wu-14 aircraft, which can travel up to 7,000 mph.

A Sputnik News report maintains that Russia could deploy up to 24 nuclear-capable Yu-71 payloads between 2020 and 2025. Putin is also reportedly expected to develop the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, which could be capable of carrying hypersonic devices, during the same time frame.

Indian Government policy think tank believes India can hit and sustain 8% GDP growth and reach US$3 trillion by 2020

India's growth rate is expected to accelerate to 8 per cent in the current financial year and the economy will surpass USD 3 trillion mark in less than five years, NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya said on Monday. National Institution for Transforming India Aayog (NITI AAtog) is a policy think-tank of Government of India that replaces the Planning Commission and aims to involve the states in economic policy-making in India

"I will be greatly disappointed if we do not hit the 8 per cent mark in 2015-16. I expect the economy to hit USD 3 trillion within five years or less," he told PTI in an interview.

Indian economy, which is little more than USD 2 trillion, recorded a growth rate of 7.3 per cent in 2014-15. India is presently the third largest economy in Asia after China and Japan.

F35 loses to 1970's era F16 carrying weights in a dogfight

There is a report from a F35 test pilot in a report obtained by War is Boring's David Axe.

A single-seat F-35A with the designation “AF-02” — one of the older JSFs (Joint Strike Fighters) in the Air Force — took off alongside a two-seat F-16D Block 40, one of the types of planes the F-35 is supposed to replace.

The F-35 was flying “clean,” with no weapons in its bomb bay or under its wings and fuselage. The F-16, by contrast, was hauling two bulky underwing drop tanks, putting the older jet at an aerodynamic disadvantage.

But the JSF’s advantage didn’t actually help in the end. The stealth fighter proved too sluggish to reliably defeat the F-16, even with the F-16 lugging extra fuel tanks. “Even with the limited F-16 target configuration, the F-35A remained at a distinct energy disadvantage for every engagement,” the pilot reported.

“Insufficient pitch rate.” “Energy deficit to the bandit would increase over time.” “The flying qualities in the blended region (20–26 degrees AoA) were not intuitive or favorable.”

The F-35 jockey tried to target the F-16 with the stealth jet’s 25-millimeter cannon, but the smaller F-16 easily dodged. “Instead of catching the bandit off-guard by rapidly pull aft to achieve lead, the nose rate was slow, allowing him to easily time his jink prior to a gun solution,” the JSF pilot complained.

The F-35 — the only new fighter jet that America and most of its allies are developing — is demonstrably inferior in a dogfight with the F-16, which the U.S. Air Force first acquired in the late 1970s.

The test pilot explained that he has also flown 1980s-vintage F-15E fighter-bombers and found the F-35 to be “substantially inferior” to the older plane when it comes to managing energy in a close battle.

- F35 program costing a trillion dollars

The best option for an F35 pilot in a dogfight is the ejection seat.

June 29, 2015

Reaction Engines UK will have new tests of their Skylon Single stage to orbit Sabre Spaceplane engines prototype

Reaction Engines Ltd. have begun their latest round of rocket engine testing in Westcott, UK.

The SABRE engine requires a novel design of the rocket engine's thrust chamber and nozzle to allow operation in both air-breathing and rocket modes, as well as a smooth transition between the two. The Advanced Nozzle project is demonstrating the feasibility of this concept and represents a significant technology development effort towards the SABRE demonstrator engine.

The test engine, which has been successfully fired 15 times during its initial commissioning phase in spring 2015, incorporates several new technologies including a 3D printed, actively cooled propellant injector system. Aerodynamic data collected from the firings is being used to validate in-house computational modelling and advance the nozzle design. The test campaign is being operated by Airborne Engineering Ltd in Westcott, Buckinghamshire. Operations are planned to continue throughout 2015, including long duration burns and tests investigating the transition between air- breathing and rocket operation planned for later in the year.

Dr Helen Webber, Reaction Engines' Project Lead for the Advanced Nozzle Programme, commented:. "This experimental engine is an important step into a new era of propulsion and space access We are using it to test the aerodynamics and performance of the advanced nozzles that the SABRE engine will use, in addition to new manufacturing technologies such as our 3D-printed injection system

Hyperloop technology probably doable but would not speed up LA to SF much because of Geography and Politics

Any solution for speeding up California's high speed rail would mean acquiring new overland rights or tunneling through hundreds of miles and taking out a lot of stops between San Francisco and Los Angeles to seek the straightest and flattest possible path. With a little Chinese-style land appropriation, you could build a train closer to 300 mph through most of the rout

Eengineers trying to find the most efficient bullet-train route from Bakersfield to Palmdale encountered unexpected difficulties, including steep grades and a previously undisclosed wetlands protection requirement costing as much as $1 billion.

The rail authority's has self-imposed limit (but also practical engineering limits) of 3.5 percent average grade for sections measuring about four miles.

The Tehachapi Mountains are a tough climb, even for a train that can travel up to 220 mph. The primary alternative, the Grapevine, also has steep grades that agency officials have said would require extensive tunneling and viaducts, both of which would be very expensive.

A progress report the rail authority received from its contracted engineers in the summer of 2013, building a high-speed rail through the wetlands would require environmental remediation work costing about $100,000 per acre.

* to build California's high-speed rail with magnetic levitation or Hyperloop would make things like track sharing in the SF and LA area all but impossible. Although Hyperloop could be placed into smaller and lighter tubes which could be elevated and placed beside existing track.

* Hyperloop would need to use its technical advantages to enable a straighter route with flatter grades

* When the agency undertook a study in 2011 comparing the two alternatives' relative strengths, the city of Palmdale filed a lawsuit alleging the rail authority may not use its federal grants and state bond money to revisit an earlier announced decision to build an alignment through the Antelope Valley.

China readying deployment of synchronous traction system for high speed rail that would enable 50% faster operation starting around 2018

China has become a world leader in high-speed railway technology with its development of a cutting-edge permanent magnet synchronous traction system that will take bullet trains to an ultrafast 500 kilometers per hour (300 miles per hour).

The advanced 690-kilowatt traction system was developed by CRRC Corp, the country's train-making behemoth, at its Zhuzhou Institute in Hunan province. It will soon enter mass production, said Ding Rongjun, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering who heads the institute.

"Now we have our own permanent magnet synchronous traction system with full intellectual property rights, marking a new chapter in China's high-speed railways," he said, adding that only a handful of countries are capable of manufacturing the sophisticated apparatus, including Germany and Japan.

* new synchronous traction will allow high speed rail to go 50% faster
* new system boasts more power
* simpler configuration
* lower electrical consumption
* more reliable and efficient

June 28, 2015

Greece looks certain to default on Tuesday

Cash-strapped Greece looks certain to miss its debt repayment to the IMF on Tuesday as Greece's European partners shut the door on extending a credit lifeline after Greece's surprise move to hold a referendum on bailout terms.

Fear of an imminent default by Greece hit Greek banks, a major buyer of Greek government bills, triggering bank runs over the weekend and forcing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to announce a bank holiday and capital controls.

Some investors, however, are pinning their hopes on the possibility that Greek voters will back the creditors' bailout terms in next weekend's referendum, returning Athens to the negotiating table, despite Tsipras urging a no vote.

"Right now the surprise is that the euro is not weaker. The logic may either be that the Greek government will come back to the negotiating table or that it will not survive long, if 'Yes' prevails contrary to their recommendation," said Steven Englander, Global Head of G10 FX Strategy at CitiFX in New York.

People line up to withdraw cash from an automated teller machine (ATM) outside a National Bank branch in Iraklio on the island of Crete, Greece June 28, 2015.

Greece, which may default on an International Monetary Fund debt repayment due on Tuesday after talks with creditors broke down, owes its official lenders 242.8 billion euros ($271 billion), according to a Reuters calculation based on official data, with Germany by far the largest creditor.

Greece has a population of about 11.2 million. Greek unemployment has been about 25-30% for several years.

Greece has about $25,000 worth of debt for every man, women and child. The debt is $50,000 to 60,000 for every employed adult.

Greek per capita income is about US$22,000 on an exchange rate basis. However, if they were to fall out of the Euro then their currency could end up being half the exchange rate.

Samsung could commercialize lithium ion batteries with double the battery life by 2018

The research arm of Samsung Electronics announced on June 25 that it has developed a technology to make a silicon cathode material for coating high crystal graphene on a silicon surface to realize an energy density almost two times more than that of existing lithium batteries.

Existing lithium batteries, which were developed and commercialized by Sony in the 90’s, has been developed in a way of extending the capacity rather than increasing the life and density owing to limitations of material itself. The expansion of capacity has remained at best two times more than that of the first commercialized batteries.

Currently, the development of high-capacity battery materials has been mostly done in the United States. In particular, the research is active on silicon as a substitute material capable of raising the capacity more than 10 times that of the graphite currently used as an existing cathode material. There is, however, still the technological problem of the shortening the battery life by repeated charging and discharging.

Nature Communications - Silicon carbide-free graphene growth on silicon for lithium-ion battery with high volumetric energy density

Spacex Commercial Resupply Services 7 (CRS-7) mission exploded during the launch

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the loss Sunday of the SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services 7 (CRS-7) mission.

“We are disappointed in the loss of the latest SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. However, the astronauts are safe aboard the station and have sufficient supplies for the next several months. We will work closely with SpaceX to understand what happened, fix the problem and return to flight. The commercial cargo program was designed to accommodate loss of cargo vehicles. We will continue operation of the station in a safe and effective way as we continue to use it as our test bed for preparing for longer duration missions farther into the solar system.

“A Progress vehicle is ready to launch July 3, followed in August by a Japanese HTV flight. Orbital ATK, our other commercial cargo partner, is moving ahead with plans for its next launch later this year.

“SpaceX has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first six cargo resupply missions to the station, and we know they can replicate that success. We will work with and support SpaceX to assess what happened, understand the specifics of the failure and correct it to move forward. This is a reminder that spaceflight is an incredible challenge, but we learn from each success and each setback. Today's launch attempt will not deter us from our ambitious human spaceflight program.”

During a post-launch press conference on June 28, managers from SpaceX and NASA discussed the mishap following the liftoff of the SpaceX CRS-7 mission from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The mission was to deliver supplies, hardware and other important cargo to the International Space Station. SpaceX is leading the investigation of the cause of the issue.

PJMedia Rand Simberg had coverage

Today was Elon Musk’s forty-fourth birthday. I can’t know for sure, but it was probably the worst one of his life. His company had planned to fly a cargo mission to the International Space Station this morning from Florida, and then attempt to land its first stage on a ship out at sea. Instead, the Falcon 9 rocket blew up a little before two minutes into the flight, losing the cargo — including a new spacesuit for EVA’s — and the landing opportunity. It’s been confirmed that controllers did not send a “destruct” signal.

It was the nineteenth launch of the system, and its first-ever mission failure for that vehicle. It was in fact the first mission failure since 2008.

It’s too early to know the root cause, but indications are that there was a problem in the second stage as it prepared to light, but prior to separation from the first stage.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft breaks apart shortly after liftoff at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Sunday, June 28, 2015. The rocket was carrying supplies to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

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