July 11, 2015

Multiple Monkey brains and multiple rat brains linked into brainnets

Researchers have linked multiple rat brains and multiple monkey brains and synchronized them and trained them to perform classificiation and other tasks

Nature Scientific Reports - Building an organic computing device with multiple interconnected brains

Researchers proposed that Brainets, i.e. networks formed by multiple animal brains, cooperating and exchanging information in real time through direct brain-to-brain interfaces, could provide the core of a new type of computing device: an organic computer. They describe the first experimental demonstration of such a Brainet, built by interconnecting four adult rat brains. Brainets worked by concurrently recording the extracellular electrical activity generated by populations of cortical neurons distributed across multiple rats chronically implanted with multi-electrode arrays. Cortical neuronal activity was recorded and analyzed in real time, and then delivered to the somatosensory cortices of other animals that participated in the Brainet using intracortical microstimulation (ICMS). Using this approach, different Brainet architectures solved a number of useful computational problems, such as discrete classification, image processing, storage and retrieval of tactile information, and even weather forecasting. Brainets consistently performed at the same or higher levels than single rats in these tasks. Based on these findings, they propose that Brainets could be used to investigate animal social behaviors as well as a test bed for exploring the properties and potential applications of organic computers.

A 4-rat Brainet was capable of maintaining a level of global neuronal synchrony across multiple brains that was virtually identical to that observed in the cortex of a single rat.

In conclusion, they propose that animal Brainets have significant potential both as a new experimental tool to further investigate system neurophysiological mechanisms of social interactions and group behavior, as well as provide a test bed for building organic computing devices that can take advantage of a hybrid digital-analogue architecture.

A) A Brainet of four interconnected brains is shown. The arrows represent the flow of information through the Brainet. Inputs were delivered as simultaneous ICMS patterns to the S1 cortex of each rat. Neural activity was then recorded and analyzed in real time. Rats were required to synchronize their neural activity with the remaining of the Brainet to receive water B) Inputs to the Brainet were delivered as ICMS patterns to the left S1, while outputs were calculated using the neural responses recorded from the right S1. C) Brainet architectures were set to mimic hidden layers of an artificial neural network. D) Examples of perievent histograms of neurons after the delivery of ICMS.

The Brainet can synchronize neural activity

A) The different colors indicate the different manipulations used to study synchronization across the network. During the pre-session, rats were tested for periods of spurious neural synchronization. No ICMS or rewards were delivered here. During sessions, rats were tested for increased neural synchronization due to detection of the ICMS stimulus (red period). Successful synchronization was rewarded with water. During the post session, rats were tested for periods of neural synchronization due to the effects of reward (e.g. continuous whisking/licking). Successful synchronization was rewarded with water, but no ICMS stimulus was delivered. B) Example of neuronal activity across the Brainet. After the ICMS there was a general tendency for neural activity to increase. Periods of maximum firing rate are represented in red. C) The performance of the Brainet during sessions was above the pre-sessions and post-sessions. Also, delivery of ICMS alone or during anesthetized states also resulted in poor performances. ** and *** indicate P < 0.01 and P < 0.0001 respectively. D) Overall changes in R values in early and late sessions show that improvements in performances were accompanied by specific changes in the periods of synchronized activity. E) Example of a synchronization trial. The lower panels show, in red, the neural activity of each rat and, in blue, the average of neural activity for the remaining of the Brainet. The upper panels depict the R value for the correlation coefficient between each rat and the remaining of the Brainet. There was an overall tendency for the Brainet to correlate in the beginning of the test period.

Skylon spaceplane developers reveal the antifreeze method for the sabre hypersonic engine

Reaction Engines of the UK is developing the hypersonic Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (Sabre). It is designed to power a vehicle from a standing start to Mach 5.5 in air-breathing mode, and from the edge of the atmosphere to low Earth orbit in pure rocket mode. A fundamental enabler of the concept is a complex heat-exchanger system made up of miles of fine tubing that allows oxygen to be taken straight from the atmosphere for use as fuel.

The system chills incoming air from more than 1,000C to minus 150C in less than 1/100th of a second before passing the pre-cooled air through a turbo-compressor and into the rocket combustion chamber, where it is burned with sub-cooled liquid hydrogen. But until now the means by which the system does this without clogging up the pre-cooler with ice has remained a closely guarded company secret.

Reaction Engines uses methanol as an antifreeze. The methanol is used with the objective of minimizing the amount that is needed.

They use chemical process industry tricks.

* inject the methanol at one of the coldest points
* get the mix of water and methanol to flow forward in the matrix – against the direction of the airflow
* use multiple injection and extraction points in the matrix
* Eventually you end up with a situation where you have extracted all the water vapor as liquid from the airflow and that leaves you essentially with dry air below 215 Kelvin. The partial pressure of the water vapor at this point is so low that you can allow it to pass through the heat exchanger and it does not freeze

Skylon Spaceplane

3D Printed injector


Sabre engine

Engine test rig

Rocket nozzle

Squad level large wheeled robot, robot helicopter bot and combat lasers

A squad level mission support ground transport robot has been operated in Afghanistan and has been tested for several years. Squad Mission Support System is an unmanned all terrain wheeled vehicle developed by Lockheed Martin.

The SMSS Block 1 went to Afghanistan for a military utility assessment in late 2011. The Block 1 version has a lighter frame, infrared driving lights, a smaller and more efficient sensor package, and insulated exhaust and hydraulics that make them quieter in the field. It is heavier at 3,800 pounds unloaded, but can carry a larger 1,200 pound payload, and has a 125 mile operating range. The SMSS can operate autonomously, be programmed to "follow the leader," be tele-operated, or controlled manually by getting on the vehicle and using a joystick to steer. The vehicle has a litter carrying kit for casualty evacuation.

Four vehicles were deployed to Afghanistan. They were used to resupply small combat outposts and strongpoints, and construction projects on its larger forward operating base. One unit used the SMSS to carry 10,000 pounds of supplies over the course of two days to a small combat outpost two kilometers away, regularly carrying 2,000-pound loads. One time, soldiers loaded one vehicle up with 100 sandbags, which was estimated to weigh 4,000 pounds (exceeding Lockheed’s recommended carrying weight of 1,200 pounds), and succussfully drove it up a 30-degree slope. While initially planned as a squad-level asset, it is being used more at the platoon level. From fielding experiences, Lockheed is planning improvements to the system. They are considering adding another alternator to increase its power output, since one group of soldiers in Afghanistan had been trying to use it as a mobile operations center by loading it up with generators and batteries while out on missions. Lockheed is also considering adding a manipulator arm so it can load unload cargo itself.

On 7 August 2014, the SMSS was used in an exercise at Fort Benning to combine the abilities of both an unmanned ground vehicle and unmanned aerial vehicle. It involved the SMSS and an unmanned K-MAX helicopter, both Lockheed Martin systems, operating in a simulated area deemed too risky for human presence. The K-MAX autonomously transported the SMSS by sling load into the area and set it down over an intended point, releasing it upon command from a remote operator. The K-MAX returned to base, then the SMSS used autonomous operation and limited tele-operation from a remote site to move around the area. Once deployed, the vehicle used a mast-mounted Gyrocam electro-optical sensor and satellite communications (SATCOM) terminal with a datalink for area surveillance. The exercise was intended to demonstrate that large UAVs and UGVs could operate alongside each other by themselves and beyond line-of-sight to perform missions to keep personnel out of harm's way

The Kaman K-MAX (Company designation K-1200) is an American helicopter with intermeshing rotors (synchropter) built by Kaman Aircraft. It is optimized for external cargo load operations, and is able to lift a payload of over 6,000 pounds (2,722 kg), which is more than the helicopter's empty weight. A remote controlled unmanned aerial vehicle version is being developed and is being evaluated in extended practical service in the war in Afghanistan.

July 10, 2015

Gamma-ray bursts that last thousands of times longer than normal and extra powerful supernovas are driven by magnetars

Observations from ESO’s La Silla and Paranal Observatories in Chile have for the first time demonstrated a link between a very long-lasting burst of gamma rays and an unusually bright supernova explosion. The results show that the supernova was not driven by radioactive decay, as expected, but was instead powered by the decaying super-strong magnetic fields around an exotic object called a magnetar. Pulsars make up the most common class of observable neutron stars, but magnetars are thought to develop magnetic field strengths that are 100 to 1000 times greater than those seen in pulsars.
Magnetars are characterized by their extremely powerful magnetic fields of 10^8 to 10^11 tesla. These magnetic fields are hundreds of millions of times stronger than any man-made magnet, and quadrillions of times more powerful than the field surrounding Earth. Earth has a geomagnetic field of 30–60 microteslas, and a neodymium-based, rare-earth magnet has a field of about 1.25 tesla, with a magnetic energy density of 4.0×10^5 J/m3. A magnetar's 10^10 tesla field, by contrast, has an energy density of 4.0×10^25 J/m3, with an E/c2 mass density over 10000 times that of lead. The magnetic field of a magnetar would be lethal even at a distance of 1000 km due to the strong magnetic field distorting the electron clouds of the subject's constituent atoms, rendering the chemistry of life impossible. At a distance halfway to the moon, a magnetar could strip information from the magnetic stripes of all credit cards on Earth. As of 2010, they are the most magnetic objects ever detected in the universe.

Like other neutron stars, magnetars are around 20 kilometres (12 mi) in diameter and have a greater mass than the Sun. The density of the interior of a magnetar is such that a thimble full of its substance would have a mass of over 100 million tons. Magnetars are differentiated from other neutron stars by having even stronger magnetic fields, and rotating comparatively slowly, with most magnetars completing a rotation once every one to ten seconds, compared to less than one second for a typical neutron star. This magnetic field gives rise to very strong and characteristic bursts of X-rays and gamma rays. The active life of a magnetar is short. Their strong magnetic fields decay after about 10,000 years, after which activity and strong X-ray emission cease. Given the number of magnetars observable today, one estimate puts the number of inactive magnetars in the Milky Way at 30 million or more. Starquakes triggered on the surface of the magnetar disturb the magnetic field which encompasses it, often leading to extremely powerful gamma ray flare emission

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are one of the outcomes associated with the biggest explosions to have taken place since the Big Bang. They are detected by orbiting telescopes that are sensitive to this type of high-energy radiation, which cannot penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere, and then observed at longer wavelengths by other telescopes both in space and on the ground.

GRBs usually only last a few seconds, but in very rare cases the gamma rays continue for hours. One such ultra-long duration GRB was picked up by the Swift satellite on 9 December 2011 and named GRB 111209A. It was both one of the longest and brightest GRBs ever observed.

Long-duration gamma-ray bursts are produced only once every 10 000 to 100 000 supernovae, the star that exploded must be somehow special. Astronomers had assumed that these GRBs came from very massive stars — about 50 times the mass of the Sun — and that they signalled the formation of a black hole. But now our new observations of the supernova SN 2011kl, found after the GRB 111209A, are changing this paradigm for ultra-long duration GRB.

The only explanation that fitted the observations of the supernova following GRB 111209A was that it was being powered by a magnetar — a tiny neutron star spinning hundreds of times per second and possessing a magnetic field much stronger than normal neutron stars, which are also known as radio pulsars. Magnetars are thought to be the most strongly magnetised objects in the known Universe. This is the first time that such an unambiguous connection between a supernova and a magnetar has been possible.

Nature - A very luminous magnetar-powered supernova associated with an ultra-long γ-ray burst

2016 is when the 21st century gets awesome with Japan vs USA with 15 foot tall humanoid fighting robots

MegaBots uses cutting-edge robotics technology to create the giant piloted fighting robots of science fiction, videogames and movies. These robots fight in epic-scale arena combat the likes of which the world has never seen before.

MegaBots are 15-foot-tall, internally piloted humanoid robots that fire cannonball-sized paintballs at each other at speeds of over 120 miles per hour. As the robots battle, armor panels crack and break off, smoke and sparks pour out of the robots, limbs eventually fall off, and robots fall to the ground until only one is left standing.

The giant robots from science fiction are coming.

They built an upper body prototype of a MegaBot, a missile turret adversary, and a walking simulation of a to-scale robot by building off of Andreas Hofmann's Ph.D. thesis. They are currently developing a new, tracked version of a MegaBot in partnership with Autodesk in time for Maker Faire Bay Area 2015. Soon, they will be designing full-scale walking robots that can compete in arena combat.

Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industries has accepted Megabot's challenge. The Japan vs US giant robot fight is on. They have to work out the ground rules, and figure out how to not die. Giant fighting robots will be piloted by teams of two – a driver and a gunner, who use massive paintballs to knock off the armor of opponents.

Femtosecond lasers provide control of chemical bonding of molecules

Coherent control is when a molecule is dropped into a light field, the electrons begin to move with the light's electric field. This happens even when the light does not have the right frequency to drive the electron from one state to another. As the electrons rock out to the beat of an intense laser pulse, their movement distorts the shape of the electron cloud around the molecule. If this distortion becomes too large, then the electrons will leave their current state and jump to a new quantum state. In this process, even though the color of the light is wrong, the electrons can jump from a bonding to an anti-bonding state, destroying the molecule.

The typical laser used for coherent control has a pulse duration of just 100fs (10^-15s). Typically, the pulses are spaced by about a microsecond. That means that the light is doing its thing for only 1ns (10^-9s) out of every second of experimental time. So, let's imagine that we choose a reaction that, on its own, proceeds very slowly at one reaction per second. Let's also imagine that an optimized pulse shape enhances that rate by one million (an unreasonably high number). Given those numbers, every 20 minutes, we expect one additional new molecule. And that is for the optimized pulse.

Faster is better, though. Lets take a reaction that proceeds at a rate of 10^12 reactions per second. Now, for the optimized pulse, we get 10^9 additional molecules. Or, in other words, we have to detect a 0.1 percent increase in molecular product.

Coherent Control of Bond Making

Researchers demonstrate coherent control of bond making, a milestone on the way to coherent control of photoinduced bimolecular chemical reactions. In strong-field multiphoton femtosecond photoassociation experiments, we find the yield of detected magnesium dimer molecules to be enhanced for positively chirped pulses and suppressed for negatively chirped pulses. Our ab initio model shows that control is achieved by purification combined with chirp-dependent Raman transitions. Experimental closed-loop phase optimization using a learning algorithm yields an improved pulse that utilizes vibrational coherent dynamics in addition to chirp-dependent Raman transitions. Our results show that coherent control of binary photoreactions is feasible even under thermal conditions.

Carbon 3D provides more information on their rapid 3D printing technology

Joseph DeSimone, founder and CEO of Carbon 3D, a startup in Redwood City, California. His company claims to have a technology that is 25 to 100 times faster, depending on the object and the material than other 3D printers.

DeSimone hopes Carbon 3D’s printers will be used to make airplane or car parts that are stronger and yet lighter than ones used today, helping to reduce fuel consumption. He also wants to make it possible to rapidly print custom shoe soles, fitted to the quirks of individual arches, and place printers in operating rooms to generate stents matched to patients’ arteries.

CLIP — Continuous Liquid Interface Production — is a breakthrough technology that grows parts instead of printing them layer by layer. CLIP allows businesses to produce commercial quality parts at game-changing speeds, creating a clear path to 3D manufacturing.

This March, the company came out of stealth mode with a Science paper describing its technology and a captivating video of a small blue model of the Eiffel Tower emerging rapidly from a viscous little pool.

DeSimone says that while most commercial 3-D printing systems have been designed by mechanical engineers, his chemistry focus sets Carbon 3D apart. “We want to offer materials properties that haven’t been seen before,” he says.

Nextbigfuture covered Carbon 3D in March

Science - Continuous liquid interface production of 3D objects

India will depend on foreign tanks like the Russian Armata

India might likely use Russia's new Armata tank as a prototype for its own armored vehicle, Gazeta.ru reported. Earlier this month, defense expert Samir Patil from India's Gateway House analytical center said his country was willing to buy the Armata platform or some of its elements for future development of their own tank.

Soviet and Russian military hardware makes up around 40 percent of all hardware in the Indian ground forces. The proportion is even higher in India's Air Force (80 percent), and Navy (75 percent). In total, there are around 600 T-55 tanks, almost 2,000 T-72M1 and 640 T-90C tanks.

India has been trying to work on its own main battle tank designs but this effort has produced under engined tanks

While no Ministry of Defence official would comment on the fate of the decade-old Futuristic Main Battle Tank (FMBT) project to be developed by DRDO, an Army official said FRCV has "surely killed" the FMBT. The Indian Army this month floated a global request for information to seek partners to design the new tank under a program called Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV). As a medium-weight platform it would weigh 40-plus tons, compared with the locally developed Arjun, which weighs 60 tons.

The Army plans to begin induction of the basic FRCV by 2025-27, which would be the platform on which numerous variants would be developed to serve different functions. These variants will include a tracked light tank, a wheeled version, a bridge layer tank, a trawl tank and mine plows, armored recovery vehicle, self-propelled gun, anti-aircraft tank, artillery observation vehicle, engineer reconnaissance vehicle, and armored ambulance.

Russian Armata tank

Pluto Geology being revealed with 17 mile per pixel resolution

Pluto is being revealed as an intriguing new world with distinct surface features, including an immense dark band known as the “whale.”

As the newest black and white image from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) appeared on the morning of July 10, members of the science team reacted with joy and delight, seeing Pluto as never before. There will no doubt be many similar moments to come. New images and data are being gathered each day as New Horizons speeds closer to a July 14 flyby of Pluto, following a journey of three billion miles.

“We’re close enough now that we’re just starting to see Pluto’s geology,” said New Horizons program scientist Curt Niebur, NASA Headquarters in Washington, who’s keenly interested in the gray area just above the whale’s “tail” feature. “It’s a unique transition region with a lot of dynamic processes interacting, which makes it of particular scientific interest.”

New Horizons’ latest image of Pluto was taken on July 9, 2015 from 3.3 million miles (5.4 million kilometers) away, with a resolution of 17 miles (27 kilometers) per pixel. At this range, Pluto is beginning to reveal the first signs of discrete geologic features. This image views the side of Pluto that always faces its largest moon, Charon, and includes the so-called “tail” of the dark whale-shaped feature along its equator. (The immense, bright feature shaped like a heart had rotated from view when this image was captured.)
Tantalizing signs of geology on Pluto are revealed in this image from New Horizons taken on July 9, 2015 from 3.3 million miles (5.4 million kilometers) away.

An annotated version indicates features described in the text, and includes a reference globe showing Pluto’s orientation in the image, with the equator and central meridian in bold.

Plutonium magnetism in constant flux making it nearly impossible to detect

Groundbreaking work at two Department of Energy national laboratories has confirmed plutonium’s magnetism, which scientists have long theorized but have never been able to experimentally observe. The advances that enabled the discovery hold great promise for materials, energy and computing applications. Plutonium is not devoid of magnetism, but in fact its magnetism is just in a constant state of flux, making it nearly impossible to detect.

Plutonium was first produced in 1940 and its unstable nucleus allows it to undergo fission, making it useful for nuclear fuels as well as for nuclear weapons. Much less known, however, is that the electronic cloud surrounding the plutonium nucleus is equally unstable and makes plutonium the most electronically complex element in the periodic table, with intriguingly intricate properties for a simple elemental metal.

While conventional theories have successfully explained plutonium’s complex structural properties, they also predict that plutonium should order magnetically. This is in stark contrast with experiments, which had found no evidence for magnetic order in plutonium.

Finally, after seven decades, this scientific mystery on plutonium’s “missing” magnetism has been resolved. Using neutron scattering, researchers from the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos and Oak Ridge (ORNL) national laboratories have made the first direct measurements of a unique characteristic of plutonium’s fluctuating magnetism.

Science Advances - The valence-fluctuating ground state of plutonium

Yarns of niobium nanowire can make supercapacitors five times better than carbon nanotube versions

Wearable electronic devices for health and fitness monitoring are a rapidly growing area of consumer electronics; one of their biggest limitations is the capacity of their tiny batteries to deliver enough power to transmit data. Now, researchers at MIT and in Canada have found a promising new approach to delivering the short but intense bursts of power needed by such small devices.

The key is a new approach to making supercapacitors — devices that can store and release electrical power in such bursts, which are needed for brief transmissions of data from wearable devices such as heart-rate monitors, computers, or smartphones, the researchers say. They may also be useful for other applications where high power is needed in small volumes, such as autonomous microrobots.

The new approach uses yarns, made from nanowires of the element niobium, as the electrodes in tiny supercapacitors.

Niobium is a fairly abundant and widely used material, Mirvakili says, so the whole system should be inexpensive and easy to produce. “The fabrication cost is cheap,” he says. Other groups have made similar supercapacitors using carbon nanotubes or other materials, but the niobium yarns are stronger and 100 times more conductive. Overall, niobium-based supercapacitors can store up to five times as much power in a given volume as carbon nanotube versions.

Niobium also has a very high melting point — nearly 2,500 degrees Celsius — so devices made from these nanowires could potentially be suitable for use in high-temperature applications.

In addition, the material is highly flexible and could be woven into fabrics, enabling wearable forms; individual niobium nanowires are just 140 nanometers in diameter — 140 billionths of a meter across, or about one-thousandth the width of a human hair.

So far, the material has been produced only in lab-scale devices. The next step, already under way, is to figure out how to design a practical, easily manufactured version, the researchers say.

Here in a scanning electron microscope image (background), can be used to make very efficient supercapacitors, MIT researchers have found. Adding a coating of a conductive polymer to the yarn (shown in pink, inset) further increases the capacitor’s charge capacity. Positive and negative ions in the material are depicted as blue and red spheres. Courtesy of the researchers

Sensors, memory switches, and circuits can be encoded in a common gut bacterium

The “friendly” bacteria inside our digestive systems are being given an upgrade, which may one day allow them to be programmed to detect and ultimately treat diseases such as colon cancer and immune disorders.

In a paper published today in the journal Cell Systems, researchers at MIT unveil a series of sensors, memory switches, and circuits that can be encoded in the common human gut bacterium Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron.

These basic computing elements will allow the bacteria to sense, memorize, and respond to signals in the gut, with future applications that might include the early detection and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease or colon cancer.

The illustration depicts Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron (white) living on mammalian cells in the gut (large pink cells coated in microvilli) and being activated by exogenously added chemical signals (small green dots) to express specific genes, such as those encoding light-generating luciferase proteins (glowing bacteria). Image by: Janet Iwasa

Journal Cell Systems - Programming a Human Commensal Bacterium

Russia has new anti electronics and anti-satellite weapon

Russia’s Radio-Electronic Technologies Group (KRET) is developing a fundamentally new electronic warfare system capable of suppressing cruise missile and other high-precision weaponry guidance systems and satellite radio-electronic equipment, KRET Deputy CEO Yuri Mayevsky told TASS on Thursday.

"The system will target the enemy’s deck-based, tactical, long-range and strategic aircraft, electronic means and suppress foreign military satellites’ radio-electronic equipment," Mayevsky said.

The system will be mounted on ground-based, air-and seaborne carriers, he added.

"It will not be based on satellites as this is prohibited by international rules and we comply with this rule," he said.

Mobile electronic warfare systems 'Krasuha-4' suppress spy satellites, ground-based radars and airborne systems AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System).

'Complex 'Krasuha-4' fully covers an object from radar detection at 150-300 kilometers, and may also cause damage to enemy radar electronic warfare and communications systems.

'The complex functioning is based on creating powerful jamming at the fundamental radar frequencies and other radio-emitting sources.'

Experts claim a revolutionary new weapon that can jam enemy missile guidance systems and satellites is set to enter testing this year. An earlier version of the system, called Krasuha-4, is shown.

Russia recommissioning special operations midget submarines

Russian president Vladimir Putin is planning to recommission Cold War-era fleet of midget submarines, which are virtually undetectable.

The Piranha-class vessels can operate very close to the shore and can be used to drop mines or fire torpedoes.
With a crew of nine, the Piranha can approach silently and can even deploy combat divers or up to six special forces.

Putin is believed to be willing to sanction £230billion in military spending.

It is understood that one of the old Piranha vessels has been upgraded to act as a sales platform, to show off the potential of the weapons system to other buyers.

One military source told The Sun: 'Putin is breathing life into many old programmes and thinks subs are an effective way of getting what he wants militarily. The Piranhas can come extremely close to land and are almost impossible to detect as they are so small.

Project 865 Piranha is a type of Russian midget submarine. The NATO reporting name for the class is Losos, which means "salmon" in the Russian language.

The Losos was designed for special operations and engaging surface ships located offshore, and is thus very durable and almost completely silent.

The hull is made of a titanium alloy, which helps with signature management because it is not magnetic. The non-magnetic alloy would greatly reduce the effectiveness of enemy magnetic anomaly detectors or magnetic limpet mines against this type of vessel

July 09, 2015

Femtosecond lasers used to probe phase changes made by nanosecond lasers to develop computer memory follow up to Blu-ray

DVDs and Blu-ray disks contain so-called phase-change materials that morph from one atomic state to another after being struck with pulses of laser light, with data "recorded" in those two atomic states. Using ultrafast laser pulses that speed up the data recording process, Caltech researchers adopted a novel technique, ultrafast electron crystallography (UEC), to visualize directly in four dimensions the changing atomic configurations of the materials undergoing the phase changes. In doing so, they discovered a previously unknown intermediate atomic state—one that may represent an unavoidable limit to data recording speeds.

By shedding light on the fundamental physical processes involved in data storage, the work may lead to better, faster computer memory systems with larger storage capacity.

An artist's representation ultrafast electron crystallography: using ultrafast 4D imaging, the technique allows researchers to "film" the atomic mechanism behind the recording process in memories based on phase change materials.
Credit: Jianbo Hu, Giovanni M. Vanacore, and Ahmed H. Zewail

ACS Nano - Transient Structures and Possible Limits of Data Recording in Phase-Change Materials

Harvard's 3D Printed SoftBot Jumps 6 times its Body Height

Traditional industrial robots are rigid — mostly metal — and are fast, precise and powerful. Their speed and precision comes at the cost of complexity and can often pose a danger to humans who get too close. Soft robots are adaptable and resilient but slow, difficult to fabricate, and challenging to make autonomous because most motors, pumps, batteries, sensors, and microcontrollers are rigid.

SEAS researchers have built one of the first 3-D printed, soft robots that moves autonomously. The design offers a new solution to an engineering challenge that has plagued soft robotics for years: the integration of rigid and soft materials. This design combines the autonomy and speed of a rigid robot with the adaptability and resiliency of a soft robot and, because of 3-D printing, is relatively cheap and fast.

Journal Science - A 3D-printed, functionally graded soft robot powered by combustion

China military will become independent of Russian technology by 2025

Robert Farley, assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky, said China's dependence on Russian supplies and technology will come to an end in the next 10 years.

Despite the extraordinary steps that China’s defense industry has taken in the last decade, it remains depressingly dependent on Russian technology and Russian suppliers. Chinese weapons need Russian spare parts, and Chinese industry continues to require Russian advice. As of this writing, China continues to strongly consider the possibility of buying advanced Russian equipment off-the-shelf, including Su-35 fighters and advanced surface-to-air missile systems.

In the next decade, we should expect China to shed much of its remaining dependence. Russia itself seems to understand that it can no longer remain ahead of China on the technological frontier, and thus that it can relax its concerns about technology transfer. Chinese engines are improving, and the electronic components that it equips into its weapons increasingly come from China’s dynamic tech sector (abetted by intellectual property stolen from the West) rather than from Russia. The relationship between the Russian and Chinese military-industrial complexes has been long and deeply complicated, punctuated with several political and technological revolutions, but the next decade should see the final emergence of the Chinese military-industrial complex from the Russian shadow, along with the end of Chinese dependence on Russian supply and technology.

China will likely continue to grow its defense spending by 9-10% per year.

China will have cumulative defense spending from 2016-2025 in the range of US$2-3 trillion.
China will likely have 3 locally made aircraft carriers by 2025.
China will likely be producing decent fighter jet engines by 2025.

NASA Selects Astronauts for First U.S. Commercial Spaceflights of SpaceX Dragon and Boeing CST-100

“Today, NASA announced that it has selected four, veteran astronauts to be the first to fly to space on commercial carriers,” said John Holdren, assistant to the President for Science and Technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “Their selection allows NASA to move forward with the training necessary to deliver on President Obama’s ambitious plan for returning the launch of U.S. astronauts to U.S. soil, while creating good-paying American jobs, and moving us closer to the President’s goal of sending astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.”

The commercial crew astronauts will work closely with company-led teams to understand their designs and operations as they finalize their Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and operational strategies in support of their crewed flight tests and certification activities as part of their contracts with NASA.

The Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts with Boeing and SpaceX each require at least one crewed flight test with at least one NASA astronaut on board to verify the fully-integrated rocket and spacecraft system can launch, maneuver in orbit, and dock to the space station, as well as validate all systems perform as expected, and land safely.

BAE Wireless charging of soldier gear can reduce batteries and weight carried by soldiers

Broadsword is a product family of interconnecting components for the next generation of soldier systems. Broadsword delivers ground breaking technology to the 21st century warfighter.

Spine uses so-called e-textiles to wirelessly charge military equipment and this energy use can be monitored using a smartphone app.

Other equipment in the range includes the Q-Warrior augmented reality headset and car seats that wirelessly charge the wearable technology.

BAE has additionally created an inductive seat charger that automatically transfers energy from a vehicle to the vest.
This means the Spine never runs out of energy and can be charged as soldiers travel around battle zones.

The Spine is a garment's insert that delivers power and data connectivity through a revolutionary e-textile combined with a power and data management system.

Broadsword Spine
The e-textile is woven from conductive yarns to create a patented fabric power-and-data distribution network.

* More flexible
* More robust
* Lighter
* Lower profile
* Integrated into load-carriage to remove snag and tangle issues

A solution for professions such as armed forces, fire and rescue services, and law enforcement – that benefit from connected electronic equipment on their clothing.

The Spine conforms to the new Generic Soldier Architecture Standard being developed by the UK MoD.

BAE Systems' Broadsword range revolve around a vest called Spine. Spine uses so-called e-textiles to wirelessly charge military equipment and this energy use can be monitored using a smartphone app. Other equipment includes the Q-Warrior augmented reality headset and car seats that wirelessly charge devices

IBM achieves 7 nanometer chips using EUV lithography and strained silicon germanium

IBM Research today announced that it has produced the semiconductor industry’s first 7nm (nanometer) node test chips with functioning transistors. The breakthrough, accomplished in partnership with GLOBALFOUNDRIES and Samsung at SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (SUNY Poly CNSE), could result in the ability to place more than 20 billion tiny switches -- transistors -- on the fingernail-sized chips that power everything from smartphones to spacecraft.

Microprocessors utilizing 22nm and 14nm technology power today’s servers, cloud data centers and mobile devices, and 10nm technology is well on the way to becoming a mature technology. The IBM Research-led alliance achieved close to 50 percent area scaling improvements over today’s most advanced technology, introduced SiGe channel material for transistor performance enhancement at 7nm node geometries, process innovations to stack them below 30nm pitch and full integration of EUV lithography at multiple levels. These techniques and scaling could result in at least a 50 percent power/performance improvement for next generation mainframe and POWER systems that will power the Big Data, cloud and mobile era.

IBM leapfrogged Intel to the 7-nanometer node by perfecting extreme ultra-violet (EUV) lithography and using silicon-germanium channels for its finned field-effect transistors (FinFETs). This breakthrough demonstration should also keep IBM on-track in delivering its next-generation Power 8+ next year and it Power-9 processors the year after, manufactured for it by GlobalFoundries. Alliance development partner Samsung will also get a leg-up on its race to catch up with Intel by 2018 when the first production 7-nanometer chips are expected to appear. The 7-nanometer test chips were fabricated at the alliance's 300 millimeter fab at the State University of New York.

The three major breakthroughs made by IBM to produce its test chip is the perfection of EUV lithography, the successful deposition of strained silicon-germanium transistor channels on bulk silicon wafers, and its optimization of middle-of-the-line and back-end-of-line processing for minimization of parasitic capacitance, thereby making its process manufacturable by merely transferring it to a 7-nanometer fab (which will cost GlobalFoundries and Samsung upwards of $6-to-10 billion each to build).

Third generation space telescope 1000 times better than Hubble could scan exoplanets for decent statistics of whether life is common

There is a proposed High-Definition Space Telescope (HDST) which would have a mirror up to 12 meters across. That's 5 times the width of the 2.4-metre Hubble, which revolutionized astronomy with its sharp views of the cosmos, and nearly twice as wide as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is being readied for its 2018 launch.

An HDST would need to be at least 10 metres across to be able to spy on the atmospheres of dozens of exoplanets — the number needed to establish decent statistics on whether life is common in the Universe, Postman says. The telescope’s upper size limit of 12 metres is dictated by how much weight a feasible rocket system could launch into space.

Overall the HDST would be "100 to 1,000 times as powerful as Hubble." That number comes from combining multiple factors of HDST as they compare with Hubble, including "25 to 35 times the collecting area," or surface area of the telescope (the aperture squared), and four times the area of coverage. AURA's plan for the HDST would place it in a region known as the second Lagrangian point (L2), about 932,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth, which would give it a clearer and darker sky than the Earth-orbiting Hubble, reducing background noise from image

It would cost US$10 billion or more. However, it would allow imaging like we are getting from a closeup of Pluto on regular basis for years all around the solar system and beyond to other stars and exoplanets. We should also develop arrays of many space telescopes to create hypertelescopes with even better resolution and kilometer sized telescopes on the moon.

• A 10-12 meter aperture UVOIR space telescope, with resolution of 100 pc everywhere in the visible universe
• Equipped with a coronagraph for direct imaging of exoplanets, for discovery and characterization of tens of exoEarths

A feasible, streamlined concept with:
– A segmented, deployable mirror in a warm telescope
– Diffraction-limited performance at visible wavelengths
– Full complement of coronagraphic, imaging, and spectroscopic instruments
– Covering UV to near-IR wavelengths
– Photon-counting detectors in gigapixel arrays

• Most key HDST technologies are already being developed, under NASA COR and ExEP Programs, WFIRST/AFTA, JWST, and other sources
• Most of the highest HDST technical risks will be retired by successful completion of these projects, especially the WFIRST/AFTA Coronagraph – a technology precursor for HDST
• An HDST can be credibly proposed to the 2020 Decadal Survey for start in the mid to late 2020s, with some additional study, starting now
• These HDST-specific studies should build incrementally on current activities, to exploit the current rapid progress while keeping costs low

July 08, 2015

Russia developing multipurpose missile launch tubes and new destroyer with 200 missile capacity

Russia is developing a multi-role missile launcher for ship-borne missiles to be equipped on state-of-the-art watercraft of the Russian Navy, Technodynamika's head Maxim Kuzyuk told RIA Novosti.

Earlier it was reported that Russia was developing a new class of anti-air destroyers, known as Leader. The Russian Navy is expected to operate twelve Leader-class ships by 2025.

The nuclear-powered Leader-class destroyer is planned to be equipped with more than 200 silo-based missiles of different class. It is meant to replace the Sovremennyy-class destroyer, the Udaloy I class and the Slava-class cruiser.

The US Arleigh Burke Destroyers area bout 10,000 tons and can have about 90 missile launch tubes.

US Ticonderoga class missile cruisers have about 122 missiles and are about 9600 tons.

The next-generation destroyer would be most likely be equipped with a Caliber high-precision cruise missile system and a S-500 Prometey antiaircraft defense system, which is more capable than US Aegis Ballistic Missile defense systems.

Each destroyer would have a Redut-Poliment anti-ship weapons system as well as Pantsir-M and Palash antiaircraft artillery. The destroyer’s nuclear-powered and gas turbine propulsion power plant would be manufactured in Russia and would allow the ships to travel at 30 knots. The warships would be capable of combatting submarines and would also be equipped with two special helicopters and a modern sonar system.

As of January 2015 the military-industrial commission is calculated on the creation of a new destroyer about 2018, and the first destroyer can be built no earlier than 2023-2025. The new destroyers are to replace the representative of the project 956 and 1155, which remain the main ocean warships Russia.

Janes reported 14 May 2015 that the Project 23560E Shkval (Squall), destroyer had a full-load displacement of 15,000-18,000 tons, a length of 200 meters, beam of 23 meters, draft of 6.6 meters, maximum speed of 32 knots, cruise speed of 20 knots, endurance of 90 days, and a crew of 250-300. The destroyer is intended to be powered by a gas turbine engine (although Russia lacked any adequate sources for naval gas turbines). The destroyer's armament comprises 60-70 anti-ship or anti-land cruise missiles, 128 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), and 16-24 anti-submarine missiles. The ship is also equipped with a 130 mm multipurpose naval gun. It was proposed to be fitted with a battle management system integrated with tactical and operational-tactical ACSs.

Russia’s Defense Ministry amended a technical assignment for developing the Leader-type missile destroyer for the Navy, which will have a nuclear power unit as the sole option, a source in the defense industry said on 19 May 2015.

Russia's new S-350 Vityaz missiles will enter service in 2016. These are short-to-mid range air defense missile system. The S-350 Vityaz missiles are more maneuverable than the S-400 and have improved self-homing warheads.

Russia Plans New Interceptor and Carrier-Killer Nuclear Submarines by 2020

According to the Moscow Times, Russia will design two new classes of nuclear-powered submarines as part of President Vladimir Putin's 20 trillion ruble ($356 billion) rearmament campaign through 2020.

Though the designs have not yet been named, one will be classified as an "underwater interceptor" and the other an "aircraft carrier killer," the head of the state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation's state defense order department, Anatoly Shlemov, told news website Lenta.ru late last week.

After years of decline in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse, Russia's Defense Ministry has poured money into the construction of a new generation of nuclear-powered submarines. The first new types, the Borei- and Yasen-class, have already entered service.

But the original designs for the Borei- and Yasen-class vessels date back to the end of the Soviet Union and early 1990s, and do not take advantage of improvements in technology and manufacturing.

Pravda also discusses these fifth generation submarines. Work on the fifth-generation submarines is already underway according to various sources. Vladimir Dorofeyev, CEO of Russia’s Malakhit Marine Engineering Design Bureau, told TASS in June, that work was underway.

Near term Solar sail technology for missions beyond Pluto

Here is a NASA study of the near term potential of solar sails.

The Sunjammer solar sail spacecraft will use 5 micron thick Kapton film as a sail material. An investigation into the materials available and determined that 5 micron Kapton and .9 micron Mylar are the two leading materials for this application. Mylar however does not survive radiation environments well and further study is required to determine whether this fully precludes the use of Mylar as a solar sail material.

Several manufacturers of Kapton (DuPont, 3M) said that 2 micron thick Kapton film is within manufacturing capability. We will see in a later section how this change affects Heliopause cruise times. The .5 micron thick Kapton film is theoretically possible but has not been significantly investigated because even 2 micron Kapton has yet to find a commercial application significant enough to justify the necessary modification to manufacturing facilities.

Another study will include CP-1, a potential successor to CP-1 known as CORIN™ XLS, and Thermalbright®x. CP-1 is a space-durable material developed at NASA Langley (LaRC) and exhibits a high resistance to UV radiation. It has currently been fabricated in large sheets and rolls to as thin as 1.5 micron. CP-1 has flown on Hughes HS-702 geosynchronous communications satellite. CORIN™ XLS is a potential next-generation CP-1. Thermalbright® polyimide is a high temperature highly reflective white polyimide film which is expected to be particularly beneficial for thermal control while maintaining good UV and VUV durability.

With these sail materials in mind, and an assumed spacecraft mass of 110kg, they modeled the transit time for sails with the different materials to 100AU. We also moved to a more realistic characteristic acceleration of .5 mm/s2. We chose two sail sizes to compare, the 250 meter x 250 meter size that is the limit of current techniques, and a hypothetical 500 meter x 500meter sail. Material choices are represented by the line color. We also estimated a scaling factor for the boom masses. They assumed two methods of boom mass scaling – linear (here called aggressive) and geometric (here called conservative). This factor is represented by the line style. Solid lines represent a conservative boom mass scaling factor, and dashed lines represent an aggressive boom mass scaling factor. The curve plots in figures 19 and 20 represent these results. Finally, vertical black lines represent the distance to the sun below which the listed material begins to degrade.

The below charts were derived from the initial spacecraft mass assumption of 110kg. When they completed their detailed spacecraft configuration, they concluded that a more realistic spacecraft mass is 175kg. The transit times were relatively insensitive to this change in spacecraft mass.

The estimated final mission cost for 10 long range (100AU) solar sail Spacecraft is $3.44 Billion.

NASA developing technology for exploring lunar caves and volcanic tunnels

Periscope is an instrument and mission concept with the goal of investigating and mapping lunar skylights from an orbiting platform using photon time-of-flight imaging. This project has received phase 2 NASA NIAC funding.

A spacecraft in a very low orbit would direct laser pulses into the lunar skylights, detect light returning to the spacecraft after multiple reflections in the cave, and transmit a summary of those data back to the Earth. A team on the ground would process that data to develop a 3d map of the interior void of the skylight that was at all times beyond the direct line of sight of the spacecraft. In phase I they showed the theoretical feasibility of this mission concept with a variety of simulations and analytical tools. In phase II they intend to bring this concept to a level capable of supporting a full mission proposal. We will perform more detailed trade studies, analyses, and experiments using real world materials as analogous to expected lunar subsurface material as possible.

China's market has lost US$3 trillion in one month but foreign institutions are not exposed but long term risks exist for China

China’s stock market has lost over $3.25 trillion in value in less than a month without creating a domino effect across the world. Chinese markets continued their plunge this week, wiping close to 37 percent off the market’s valuation from June 12 peak. The intensity of the loss can be judged from the fact that it is nearly twice the market capitalisation of all stocks traded in India and more than the Spanish, Russian, Italian, Swedish and Dutch stock markets combined.

Since June 12, the Shanghai Composite has lost an unnerving 32%. The Shenzhen market, which has more tech companies and is often compared to America's Nasdaq index, is down 41% over the same period.

Normally when one market falls, especially of the size of China, other markets follow suit. China in fact is the second biggest market in terms of market capitalisation but despite a 37 per cent fall in its value, Dow Jones, representing the largest market, is down by less than only one per cent in a month.

Why is it that China is falling in isolation?

The answer is absence of foreign institutional investors (FIIs) in the country. FIIs exposure to China is through stocks listed in Hong Kong in what is known as H shares. China prevented entry of foreign investors in its country. Reuters reports that a landmark scheme linking Hong Kong and Shanghai stock markets launched last November has failed to get much foreign participation, with concerns about stock ownership and how trades are settled dogging investors. Even MSCI (Morgan Stanley Capital International) index decided to delay inclusion of China’s A share in its list of investable shares.

According to Thomson Reuters data, foreign investors account for less than 1 percent of the mainland equity market as compared to nearly 25 per cent for India. Thanks to this limited exposure by foreign players directly in China, a contagion to other markets has been prevented.

The Economist explains the risks to China's long term financial reforms and economic development

The Shanghai Composite, the country’s main index, has fallen nearly 30% in less than a month. The sell-off of small-cap stocks, which had led the rally, has been even sharper. Chinese regulators may have more levers to pull than their peers in most countries, but even they, it turns out, are powerless to tame the alternation between exuberance and fear that makes stockmarkets yoyo. In fact, their efforts to do so may be exacerbating the volatility.

China built high speed rail in Turkey and is building economically important rail in Africa

In 2014, the first high-speed railway project built by Chinese companies in a foreign country was completed in Turkey. The 533-kilometer railroad links Turkey's capital of Ankara with the country's most populous city of Istanbul. The operating speed is 250 km/h (160 mph)

The China Railway Construction Corporation and the China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation won the bid in 2005 to build the railway line in partnership with two Turkish companies, Cengiz Construction and Ibrahim Cecen Ictas Construction. The project was financed in part by a $750 million loan granted to Turkey by China.

Later in the year, Chinese companies put the finishing touches on a 1,344 kilometer railroad project spanning the African country of Angola. This is a regular speed line that operates at 90 km per hour. The line will serve as a significant economic corridor there. The Chinese government provided a total of $500 million in interest-free loans for the construction of the railway and technical and equipment support since its operation.

The Lobito-Angola railway, built since 2004, will be linked with the Angola-Zambian railway and the Tanzania-Zambia railway in the future, according to the company.

And in May China signed a deal to build a rail link worth 3.8 billion US dollars between the Kenyan cities of Mombasa and Nairobi. It's the first phase of a line that will eventually connect Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. This will initially be a 120 km per hour line.

China Road and Bridge Corp is building a Mombasa-Nairobi railway that eventually will be extended to five other countries at a total cost of $13.8 billion.

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