July 25, 2015

Pakistan will buy 8 Yuan Class Type-041 diesel electric submarines from China

Pakistan will buy eight submarines from China in a multi-billion dollar deal that will boost Pakistani navy's maritime capabilities.

An agreement was reached in Islamabad during a meeting between Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Xu Ziqin, President of state-owned China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company Limited (SCOC) — the trade arm of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation. It was reported then that the contract could be worth USD 4 billion to USD 5 billion, the biggest arms export deal for China.

Pakistan would make payments in four installments and the delivery will be made in coming years.

There have been reports that Yuan-class Type-041 diesel-electric submarines were being considered. The-Type 041 'Yuan' class is described by IHS Jane's Fighting Ships as a diesel electric attack submarine, potentially with stirling air independent propulsion.

The Type 039A submarine (Yuan-class) is a class of diesel-electric submarine in China's People's Liberation Army Navy. It is China's first AIP powered submarine. This class is the successor of the Type 039 submarine. The official Chinese designation is 039A as the ship is based on the 039 class, but as the 039A has very little resemblance to the 039 it is commonly referred to as the Type 041.

New night vision gear allows Soldiers to accurately shoot from hip

New night-vision equipment promises an enhanced image of the battlefield and frees Soldiers from using traditional firing positions.

The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III, or ENVG III, is worn on a helmet in the same way earlier models were worn. The device can be wirelessly linked to the Family of Weapon Sights - Individual, or FWS-I, which can be mounted on the M4 carbine, M16A4 rifle, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, M136 AT4 rifle, or M141 Bunker Defeat Munition, Col. Michael Sloane said.

Because the FWS-I wirelessly transmits a video signal of the weapon sight to the ENVG III, a Soldier will be able to accurately fire his weapon without having to bring the weapon up to eye level. Soldiers will be able to point the weapon around a corner, acquire a target wirelessly though the FWS-I, and fire - all while remaining in defilade.

Other variants within the Family of Weapons Sights are being developed for sniper rifles and crew-served weapons such as the M240 and M2 machine guns, as well as the MK19 grenade launcher.

New night vision gear allows Soldiers to accurately shoot from hip
The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III, or ENVG-III, worn on a helmet like earlier models, can be wirelessly linked to the Family of Weapon Sights - Individual, or FWS-I, which is mounted on small-arms weapons.

New night vision gear allows Soldiers to accurately shoot from hip
Both vendors, BAE and DRS, are developing a FWS-I (mounted on weapon) and ENVG III product (helmet-mounted). This photo illustration depicts the prototype samples from BAE's FWS-I and DRS' ENVG III.

Direct Thrust Measurements of an EMDrive and Evaluation of Possible Side-Effects

The Emdrive has been proposed as a propellantless space propulsion.

NASA had investigated and found measurable propulsion.

Now German researchers Emdrive experiments have eliminated other possible sources of error and still measure a small (20 micronewtons) of propulsive force.

There is a lot of discussion of the Emdrive experiment on the NASA space flight forum.

Cavity Length(m) = 0.0686
Big Diameter(m) = 0.0541
Small Diameter(m) = 0.0385
Dielectric = None
Frequency = 2.44Ghz
Input Power = 700w (output of magnetron)
Pressure = 4×10^-6
Q = 20.3 (seems like this was measured and calculated after they finished all reported testing)
Force (milliNewtons) = 0.02 (20 micronewtons)

Martin Tajmar has looked at other possibile alternative space propulsion approaches.

* He looked at using "negative matter" from a theoretical perspective -- theoretical because of the difficulty of producing such a substance, which is not as easy as simple antimatter.

* He has investigated claims of "electrostatic torque," a twisting force meant to occur between charged spheres, and found the supposed anomaly was due to a slight asymmetry in the experimental setup.

* He experimented to look into claims of gravitational shielding with spinning superconductors. This led to a better understanding of sources of error in high-precision gyroscope measurements. These are cases where an apparatus apparently producing small anomalous forces needed to be examined closely.

Metal Foam can allow lighter radiation shielding that is twice as effective as Aluminum

North Carolina State University researchers have found that lightweight composite metal foams they had developed are effective at blocking X-rays, gamma rays, and neutron radiation, and are capable of absorbing the energy of high-impact collisions. The finding holds promise for use in nuclear power plants, space exploration, and CT-scanner shielding.

“This work means there’s an opportunity to use composite metal foam to develop safer systems for transporting nuclear waste, more efficient designs for spacecraft and nuclear structures, and new shielding for use in CT scanners,” says

Afsaneh Rabiei, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State, first developed the strong, lightweight metal foam made of steel, tungsten, and and vanadium for use in transportation and military applications. But she wanted to determine whether the foam could be used for nuclear or space exploration applications — could it provide structural support and protect against high impacts while providing shielding against various forms of radiation?

Lightweight composite metal foams like this one have been found effective at blocking X-rays, gamma rays and neutron radiation, and are capable of absorbing the energy of high impact collisions — holding promise for use in nuclear safety, space exploration, and medical technology applications (credit: Afsaneh Rabiei, North Carolina State University)

Attenuation efficiency of X-ray and comparison to gamma ray and neutrons in composite metal foams

• Composite metal foams (CMF) processed with various sphere sizes and matrix materials.
• Samples were experimentally tested against X-ray, neutron and gamma.
• High-Z elements in the matrix of CMFs improved their shielding effectiveness.
• Experimental results were compared with numerical model.
• High-Z elements did not degrade the mechanical performance of CMFs.

Tweaking One Enzyme Doubles a C Elegans Worms Lifespan

a team of Korean researchers has found a way to modify a particular type of enzyme in roundworms to double their lifespan—and they suspect the same mechanisms might work in humans.

Caenorhabditis elegans, the roundworm in question, may not look much like humans since they measure just one millimeter in length, but a number of their biological processes are similar to ours. In the study, published this week in PNAS, the researchers turned their attention to a family of enzymes called RNA helicase. These enzymes are known to regulate RNA, which is found in every living cell to carry instructions from DNA to control protein synthesis and maintain cells. Though RNA helicase is well studied, researchers don’t know much about the role it plays in the aging process.

When the researchers suppressed one particular helicase, HEL-1, as well as a gene called daf-2, the mutated roundworms were not only more immune to environmental stresses of heat, cold and pathogenic bacteria, but also their lifespans were double that of wild roundworms.

They suspect HEL-1 plays a key role in how cells convert DNA to RNA, and even conscript other enzymes to do it too. "In contrast to the expectation that RNA helicases have general housekeeping roles in RNA metabolism, our findings reveal that the RNA helicase HEL-1 has specific roles in a specific longevity pathway,” the researchers write.

HEL-1 is found in humans. Some evidence suggest that HEL-1 could also have a longevity effect on humans.

PNAS - RNA helicase HEL-1 promotes longevity by specifically activating DAF-16/FOXO transcription factor signaling in Caenorhabditis elegans

Faulty strut and complacency cause of Spacex rocket failure

SpaceX thinks a steel strut holding down a bottle of high-pressure helium inside the Falcon 9 snapped on June 28, leading to a rapid "overpressure event" in the rocket's upper-stage liquid-oxygen tank.

The strut was probably poorly made, since it apparently broke under a load of 2,000 lbs. (900 kilograms) of force, despite being certified to withstand 10,000 lbs. (4,500 kg), Musk said. The company plans to individually test every one of the hundreds of struts that flies on each Falcon 9 and will probably source the struts from a different supplier going forward, he added.

Prior to the June 28 Falcon 9 rocket explosion — which ended the company's seventh robotic cargo mission to the International Space Station less than 3 minutes after it blasted off — SpaceX had enjoyed a string of 20 straight successful launches over a seven-year stretch.

"To some degree, I think the company became maybe a little bit complacent," Musk told reporters Monday (July 20) during a teleconference that discussed the probable cause of the mishap. "I think this is certainly an important lesson, and something we're going to take with us into the future.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 broke apart shortly less than 3 minutes after launching on a cargo mission to the International Space Station on June 28, 2015.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Texas A and M University

July 24, 2015

Pictures of several of China's large drone designs and some nearly have the wingspan of a 747

China is developing at least five models of large-sized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), reports Duowei News, a US-based Chinese political news outlet.

Based on Duowei's research, China is currently developing the "Sharp Sword" combat UAV, the "Soar Dragon" high altitude long endurance (HALE) UAV, the "Condor" drone series, the "Sky Wing 3" UAV and the "Long Eagle" HALE drone.

Condor - Shendiao drone

The Shendiao is a double-fuselage drone, developed by China, and will give the People’s Liberation Army long-range surveillance and strike capabilities. It is larger than the U.S Air Force’s Global Hawk long-range surveillance drone.

There is no information about the drone except in a book titled Going Straight Forward: Aircraft Design Specialist Li Ming, which mentions Li Ming vigorously promoting cooperation with foreigners related to a high altitude anti-stealth drone.

According to the book, China needed to develop small multifunctional cheap early warning aircraft that are connected to a network and easy to use, as China was lacking in this area.

The Shendiao, also called the Condor, is a HALE anti-stealth drone which is said to have a higher performance level and better operational capabilities than America's RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV. With a greater wingspan, the Condor can reportedly fly at a height of 25 km and a speed of Mach 0.8. Additionally, it has a takeoff load of 15-20 tons, meaning it can carry a radar that works at both X and UHF wavebands, offering both accurate fire control information and stealth detection.

The dual-hull drone Condor, with a length of 25 meters and wingspan of 50 meters, is said to have vastly boosted China's ability to strike US warships, airfields and other land-based targets with long-range weapons, and will make it difficult for the US to attack China with strategic bombers due to its anti-stealth capabilities.

747s had a 60 meter wingspan.

Drawing of the Condor drone

China drone chart and the evolution from manned planes

Terrafugia premiers new next generation flying car TF-X™ Outer Mold Line

Terrafugia is excited to premier the new Outer Mold Line for the TF-X™, the four-seat, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) hybrid electric aircraft that will make flying easier and safer than ever before.

The updated Outer Mold Line (OML) design for the TF-X™ was developed in collaboration with Ben Schweighart and Transportation/Automotive Designer Vedran Martinek.

In addition, a one-tenth scale wind tunnel test model of the TF-X™ has been successfully developed based on the new OML, and is currently on display at EAA’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI. The model will be tested at the MIT Wright Brothers wind tunnel, the same tunnel that was used to test models of Terrafugia’s Transition. The wind tunnel test model will be used to measure drag, lift and thrust forces while simulating hovering flight, transitioning to forward flight and full forward flight.

They have a working roadable airplane but are making adjustments and getting FAA approval

In April 2014, 12 two-person test flights had taken place; this was the first time that anyone other than Terrafugia's chief test pilot had flown the Transition. As of 22 August 2014, first customer delivery was hoped for in about 18 months "in the second quarter of 2016."

In December 2014 the company asked the FAA to allow the Transition to be operated at a gross weight of 1,800 lb (816 kg) instead of the light-sport aircraft maximum weight of 1,320 lb (599 kg) and have a stall speed of 54 kn (100 km/h; 62 mph) instead of the category maximum of 45 kn (83 km/h; 52 mph). The company indicated that the increases were required to allow inclusion of structures to meet FMVSS ground operation safety regulations. The company had previously been granted an increase in gross weight of 110 lb (50 kg) and another LSA aircraft, the ICON A5, was granted a 250 lb (113 kg) exemption to meet FAA spin resistance requirements; this new application would increase the Transition's allowed weight by a total of 480 lb (218 kg) or 36%. During consultations the request for the weight increase was supported by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association. Only a few individuals expressed opposition to the request.

In April 2015 the company announced that parts were being built for the third version of the aircraft, and that current planning estimated the first customer delivery after roughly two years.

Researchers Boost Wireless Power Transfer with Magnetic Field Enhancement - five times better than metamaterials

Research from North Carolina State University and Carnegie Mellon University shows that passing wireless power transfer through a magnetic resonance field enhancer (MRFE) – which can be as simple as a copper loop – can boost the transfer efficiency by at least 100 percent as compared to transferring through air alone. MRFE use could potentially boost transfer efficiency by as much as 5,000 percent in some systems, experts say.

Wireless power transfer works by having a transmitter coil generate a magnetic field; a receiver coil then draws energy from that magnetic field. One of the major roadblocks for development of marketable wireless power transfer technologies is achieving high efficiency.

“Our experimental results show double the efficiency using the MRFE in comparison to air alone,” says David Ricketts, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and corresponding author of a paper describing the work.

Enhancing wireless power efficiency has been a major goal of many research groups. One of the leading candidates proposed for enhancing efficiency has been a technology called metamaterials. “We performed a comprehensive analysis using computer models of wireless power systems and found that MRFE could ultimately be five times more efficient than use of metamaterials and 50 times more efficient than transmitting through air alone,” Ricketts says.

From left to right: performance of wireless power transfer using an MRFE, a metamaterial, and through air alone.

the journal IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters -Magnetic field enhancement in wireless power with metamaterials and magnetic resonant couplers

China will bigger than ITER test Tokamak for testing magnetic fusion by 2030

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a $20 billion machine being built in France. Constructing ITER has already cost three times as much as budgeted, and completion has slipped from 2016 to 2019, with the first plasma experiments the following year.

Steven Cowley, director of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, told the science and technology committee of the UK’s House of Lords “ITER says 2020, but I believe the first plasma will be [generated] in 2025.” Burning plasma is unlikely before “the early 2030s”, he said.

China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor, which will be bigger than ITER and may be finished by 2030, he said.

China's approach to magnetic fusion

* superconducting-tokamak and bootstrap current plus the external CD to achieve the SS burning
plasma operation

* By the efficient breeding blanket and advanced tritium factory technology to achieve the Tritium

The Road Map China's Magnetic Fusion development was presented at the end of 2014

NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers Exoplant closest to being like Earth

NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another “Earth.”

The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone -- the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet -- of a G2-type star, like our sun. The confirmation of Kepler-452b brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030.

Kepler-452b is 60 percent larger in diameter than Earth and is considered a super-Earth-size planet. While its mass and composition are not yet determined, previous research suggests that planets the size of Kepler-452b have a good chance of being rocky.

While Kepler-452b is larger than Earth, its 385-day orbit is only 5 percent longer. The planet is 5 percent farther from its parent star Kepler-452 than Earth is from the Sun. Kepler-452 is 6 billion years old, 1.5 billion years older than our sun, has the same temperature, and is 20 percent brighter and has a diameter 10 percent larger.
This artist's concept compares Earth (left) to the new planet, called Kepler-452b, which is about 60 percent larger in diameter.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

This size and scale of the Kepler-452 system compared alongside the Kepler-186 system and the solar system. Kepler-186 is a miniature solar system that would fit entirely inside the orbit of Mercury.
Credits: NASA/JPL-CalTech/R. Hurt

Could 'Windbots' Someday Explore the Skies of Jupiter?

Among designers of robotic probes to explore the planets, there is certainly no shortage of clever ideas. There are concepts for robots that are propelled by waves in the sea. There are ideas for tumbleweed bots driven by wind, rolling across Antarctica or Mars. Recently a team of engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, wondered if a probe could be buoyant in the clouds of Earth or a distant gas giant planet, like Jupiter.

That team has recently begun studying their question, thanks to a one-year, $100,000 study, funded by NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. They're investigating the feasibility of creating a windbot, a new class of robotic probe designed to stay aloft in a planet's atmosphere for a long time without wings or hot-air balloons. The NASA-funded study will systematically investigate how future spacecraft of this kind could stay airborne and harvest energy.

An artist's rendering shows a windbot bobbing through the skies of Jupiter
An artist's rendering shows a windbot bobbing through the skies of Jupiter, drawing energy from turbulent winds there. This notional windbot is portrayed as a polyhedron with sections that spin to absorb wind energy and create lift, although other potential configurations are being investigated.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Futuristic brain probe allows for wireless control of neurons

A study showed that scientists can wirelessly determine the path a mouse walks with a press of a button. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, and University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, created a remote controlled, next-generation tissue implant that allows neuroscientists to inject drugs and shine lights on neurons deep inside the brains of mice. The revolutionary device is described online in the journal Cell. Its development was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health.

"It unplugs a world of possibilities for scientists to learn how brain circuits work in a more natural setting." said Michael R. Bruchas, Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesiology and neurobiology at Washington University School of Medicine and a senior author of the study.


• Neural probes with ultrathin, soft microfluidic channels coupled to μ-ILEDs
• Optofluidic probes minimize tissue damage and are suitable for chronic implants
• Wireless in vivo fluid delivery of viruses, peptides, and small-molecule agents
• Combined wireless optogenetics with pharmacology for neural circuit dissection

Cell Journal - Wireless Optofluidic Systems for Programmable In Vivo Pharmacology and Optogenetics

July 23, 2015

Carnival of nuclear energy 270

1. Forbes - Plutonium Propels Spacecraft To A Close Encounter With Pluto

Having the same namesake as the planet it helped to explore, the radionuclide plutonium-238 powered NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft to Pluto on Tuesday, visiting the last planet in our Solar System proper. Pu-238 will now take the spacecraft out into the Kuiper Belt where thousands of small planets slowly circle the Sun. The mission was possible only because Pu-238 generates continuous power out where solar energy is too weak, chemical energy is too heavy, and batteries and fuel cells are too short-lived to be of use.

Future Oil Prices and Future World Shale Oil and Gas

Crude oil slipped back into a bear market Thursday, disappointing U.S. shale drillers that pinned their hopes on higher prices.

West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark U.S. contract, tumbled 21 percent since June 10 to $48.45 a barrel, erasing more than $100 billion in market value from the companies in the Bloomberg Intelligence North America Independent Explorers and Producers Index.

Even Saudi Arabia's oil minister Ali al-Naimi said that while he expects the price of oil will stabilize "eventually," OPEC is no longer assuming $100 per barrel in any of its medium-term forecasts.

Rebound coming?

PIRA Energy Group founder Gary Ross An oil forecaster who predicted last year's calamitous drop in oil says the price of a barrel of crude will get back to the $100 US level.

But just as the supply and demand imbalance is unsustainable, so too is the current low price of oil, says Ross, who correctly predicted last summer that oil prices were in for a precipitous drop. "Current prices are unsustainable," Ross told Bloomberg. "It's hard not to see oil hitting $100 a barrel at some point in the next five years."

The shale revolution has unlocked tremendous natural resource potential in the United States and Canada, with other countries trying to take advantage of shale gas and tight oil. As recently as last year, only four countries in the world were producing commercial volumes of either shale gas or tight oil, reports the Energy Information Administration (EIA). For the last two years, China has drilled more than 200 wells, and Argentina has drilled more than 275 wells. Each country has the potential to significantly increase production of shale gas and tight oil, according to the EIA.

Russia pushes back PAK DA stealth bomber to upgrade existing Tu-160 Bomber

Russia's Air Force has suffered from a string of crashes over the past month that highlight the country's maintenance and modernization woes.

On June 4, a MiG-29 and an Su-34 both crashed. The SU-34 is one of Russia's most advanced fighter jets, and was officially introduced into service in March of 2014. On July 14, a Tu-95MS bear bomber crashed.

Russia is flying a lot of flights. Both for the Ukraine war and because they are following a policy of increasing patrols close the western countries. The conflict with the Ukraine and the sanctions from the west and low oil and gas prices have put their economy into a bad shape.

Russia has been flying sorties across Europe, the Atlantic, and the Pacific with a frequency unseen since the Cold War. This increased workload has put heavy strain on an aging fleet of mostly Cold War-era bombers and fighters.

Russia let a lot of their gear get into poor repair after the fall of the Soviet Union.

They had planned to make an advanced PAK DA stealth bomber.

Cheaper and faster to get more bomber capability by building an upgraded Tu-160M2 bomber

Now, Russia's new-generation PAK DA bomber will be delayed past 2023 due to the development of the new-build Tupolev Tu-160M2 bomber, according to Russian deputy defence minister Yury Borisov

"According to the plans, serial production of the [Tu-160] aircraft new version [the Tu-160M2] is to be implemented starting from 2023," Borisov said during a visit on 17 July to the Samara-based Kuznetsov Plant of the United Engine Corporation.

What would low cost international flight tickets and no jet lag mean for your future vacation planning ?

Other airlines have tried a low-fare approach on long-haul flights, with little success. But Bjorn Kjos, Norwegian’s ebullient chief executive, is confident that his unconventional approach will allow the airline to offer fares 50 percent cheaper than the competition’s.

Norwegian will more than double their fleet of 787 dreamliners from 2016 to 2018 and could increase it by 4 times. During an interview with The Wall Street Journal in July 2014, Bjørn Kjos hinted at wishes to buy 20 more Dreamliners of the 787-9 type, with deliveries from 2018, though the airline refuses to confirm this order plan.

Why does this matter ?

Boeing 787 Dreamliners have longer range and can connect secondary international airports like Oakland and Sweden directly with no transfers.

Direct flights to non-hub airports means existing airlines cannot block out the gates at the hubs.

The 787 flight is more comfortable

6,000 feet cabin means you feel better after the flight. I experienced virtually no jetlag on my international flight.

That’s the simulated elevation of the cabin of the 787 at cruise. That is 2,000 ft. lower than every other jetliner today. For the traveler, especially on long-haul flights, this will be transformative to how they feel when they get to their destination.

Almost one mobile phone for every person in the World already and by 2020 completing the conversion to all smartphones and mobile broadband

In 2015 there are more than 7 billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide, up from less than 1 billion in 2000. Globally 3.2 billion people are using the Internet of which 2 billion are from developing countries.

By end 2015, there are more than 7 billion mobile cellular subscriptions, corresponding to a penetration rate of 97%, up from 738 million in 2000.

The number of Chinese mobile phone users accounted for 94.5% of its total population by the end of June, latest data showed.

In the first half, China saw 6.88 million new mobile phone users, bringing the country's total mobile phone users to 1.29 billion, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said in a statement.

The ratio of mobile phone users to population was higher than 100% in nine provincial-level regions, including Beijing, Shanghai, as well as provinces of Guangdong and Zhejiang.

China will have 1.3 billion mobile phone users by the end of 2015.

India is nearing 1 billion mobile phone users.

The switch of all mobile phones to smartphones is also rapidly occuring

The number of users choosing broadband mobile internet services (3G and 4G services) reached 674 million by the end of June, accounting for 52.1% of all mobile phone users.

Many African countries are lagging with about 33% mobile phone penetration and 20% mobile broadband.

Mobile broadband internet for developed countries is about 86%.

Mobile broadband already accounts for over three-quarters of connections in the developed world and, by 2020, the figure will reach 92%. In contrast, less than a third of connections are currently on higher speed networks in the developing world. However, this is projected to nearly reach two-thirds of connections by 2020. In absolute terms, the number of mobile broadband connections in developing markets will increase by 3.1 billion over the period.

Fourth-generation (4G) mobile network, which offers faster Internet access than previous modes, witnessed explosive user growth last month, with total 4G users up 24.69 million from a month earlier to 225 million.

July 22, 2015

Evidence of small scale farming 23000 years ago well before when full scale farming was "invented" some 12000 years ago

Until now, researchers believed farming was "invented" some 12,000 years ago in the Cradle of Civilization — Iraq, the Levant, parts of Turkey and Iran — an area that was home to some of the earliest known human civilizations. A new discovery by an international collaboration of researchers from Tel Aviv University, Harvard University, Bar-Ilan University, and the University of Haifa offers the first evidence that trial plant cultivation began far earlier — some 23,000 years ago.

"While full-scale agriculture did not develop until much later, our study shows that trial cultivation began far earlier than previously believed, and gives us reason to rethink our ancestors' capabilities," said Prof. Sternberg. "Those early ancestors were more clever and more skilled than we knew."

Evidence among the weeds

Although weeds are considered a threat or nuisance in farming, their presence at the site of the Ohalo II people's camp revealed the earliest signs of trial plant cultivation — some 11 millennia earlier than conventional ideas about the onset of agriculture

PLOS ONE - The Origin of Cultivation and Proto-Weeds, Long Before Neolithic Farming

Current nuclear reactors have 40-60 year operating lives but new nickel alloy could make 120 year reactor vessel

A new 'ultra pure' nickel alloy has been used to create a reactor vessel, which Rosatom says could potentially last 120 years.

Reactors that could last 120 years would have better economics than reactors with shorter lives.
Also, a reactor vessel that lasted 120 years could enable the economics for retrofitting existing powerplants for long life retrofit.

In a nuclear power plant the reactor pressure vessel contains the reactor core itself, demanding the highest resilience to temperature, pressure and radiation, while the component sits low in the reinforced centre of the concrete reactor building and is one of the only major components that cannot be replaced.

Russian state nuclear company Rosatom says it has developed a new 'extra strong' reactor pressure vessel for its forthcoming VVER-TOI pressurized water reactors. It could give that design a lifespan of 120 years, compared to the 100 years offered by Rosatom's current VVER-1200 as built at Novovoronezh and Leningrad Phase II.

Around the world a range of advanced reactor designs offer 60 year lives as standard, with this commonly expected to be extendable to 80 or 100 years. This represents a substantial improvement on the benchmark of 50-60 years for current reactors, which were usually licensed for an arbitrary 30 or 40 years when they were constructed in the second wave of nuclear build.

The first of the new parts was recently cast from a 450-tonne ingot and shaped into a weld-less shell 6 metres long and 4.5 metres in diameter, which "proves that OMZ SpetStal, supported by the Central Research Institute for Machine Building Technology, is now able to produce reactor shells of required dimensions and properties," according to Alexander Romashkin, acting deputy director of metallurgy associated with the Institute.

US Shale oil finances are shaky but doing better than deepwater oil and oilsands

Six months after the oil-price slump ($100 to $43 and today about $57) only five firms out of the hundreds in the US shale-drilling business have gone bankrupt.

The typical shale well costs just $10 million and can be producing within a matter of months. That means the industry can adapt fast. Since December shale firms have cut costs by 20-25%, according to Bob Brackett of Sanford C. Bernstein, a research firm. This has been achieved by brutally squeezing the oil-services firms that provide them with rigs, pumps and staff—big services companies such as Halliburton have fallen into losses and small ones are on life support.

The shale producers have also cherry-picked which wells they drill, concentrating on the best prospects and fine-tuning their engineering methods. As a result the number of rigs active in America has dropped by half since the start of the year.

Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator from Boeing

The Army, supported by NASA and the Navy, is combining its areas of technical expertise to accomplish the aggressive scientific and engineering goals necessary to develop a new fleet of joint aircraft, said Ned Chase, deputy program director of science and technology for the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator/Future Vertical Lift, also known as JMR TD.

The Department of Defense is using JMR TD to design and integrate the technologies that will eventually feed into the Future Vertical Lift, or FVL, and replace the military's vertical lift fleet with a new family of aircraft.

First flight testing is expected in summer 2017. The technologies to be integrated onto the platform should be at technology readiness level 6, or a prototype level, between 2022 and 2024.

The U.S. Army is leading the Department of Defense's revolutionary approach to aviation development with Future Vertical Lift (FVL), an initiative to develop the next generation of vertical lift aircraft for the Joint Warfighter. Program (JWP) tenets are to improve aircraft performance and survivability, and to significantly reduce operating costs. This will help the aircraft to fly farther and faster, carry heavier payloads, be easier and less expensive to sustain, team with unmanned systems, and perform certain optionally-piloted missions. The FVL family of aircraft share common hardware such as sensors, avionics, engines and countermeasures.

Sikorsky Aircraft and Boeing were jointly producing a medium-lift-sized demonstrator they call SB-1 Defiant for phase one of the program. Now Boeing is buying Sikorsky. They will fly in 2017 and will be evaluated by the Army for further development. Sikorsky is leading the development of phase one with an aircraft based on their previous Sikorsky X2 design. Compared to conventional helicopters, the counter-rotating coaxial main rotors and pusher propeller offer a 185 km/h (115 mph) speed increase, combat radius extended by 60%, and performs 50% better in high-hot hover performance. Boeing plans to lead phase two, which is the mission systems demonstrator phase. The Boeing-Sikorsky team is seen to have an advantage, given their industrial base, the fact that their helicopter designs are the most used in the Army, and because the Army has had little interest in tiltrotor technology, like that submitted by Bell. The design will have a cruise speed of 250 kn (290 mph; 460 km/h), but less range due to using the "old" T55 engine. A new engine (the future affordable turbine engine (FATE) like on the V-280) would meet the range requirement of 229 NM (264 mi; 424 km

S97 Raider from Sikorsky. Sikorsky is being bought by Boeing

V-280 tiltrotot

Future Vertical Lift Twice as Far and twice as fast

One of the competing prototypes for the US Future Vertical Lift program is the Bell Valor 280

• Speed: 280 KTAS
• Combat Range: 500–800nm
• Strategically Self-Deployable: 2100+ nm Range
• High/Hot 6k/95F Hover Out of Ground Effect (HOGE) Performance
• Carries crew of four and 14 troops
• Useful load of 12,000+ lbs
• Triple redundant fly-by-wire flight control system
• Conventional, retractable landing gear
• Two 6’ wide large side doors for ease of rapid ingress/egress
• Enhanced situational awareness and sensing technologies

Whatever is picked for Future Vertical Lift will not be fielded through 2025-2035. Likely will be some war [maybe the same ones that did not end] which needs these better than helicopter machines

Israel putting merges four special ops battalions into a brigade embedded in a parachute division

Israel is reorganizing some of its special operations units by putting four separate special operations battalions together into one brigade. The new brigade will be part of the parachute division and will make the special skills of these four battalions available on a wide scale. Some members of these four units are complaining because the four battalions have different skills and tend to operate in different parts of the country. But the army leaders insist this will not be a problem.

Wonder what kind of big mission would need to parachute so many varied special operations units ?

Perhaps something to do with Iran.

* Duvdevan battalion spends most of its time in the West Bank carrying out undercover counter-terrorist operations

* Maglan battalion is a LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols) specialist that belongs to the combat engineers.

* Egoz battalion specializes in reconnaissance and counter-terror operations, mainly along the Lebanese and Syrian borders.

* The Rimon battalion specializes in desert operations and operates mainly in the south (the Negev Desert and along the Gaza and Egyptian borders).

Colbert Geeks Out about the New Horizon flyby of Pluto

Stephen discusses the latest news from 4.67 billion miles away.

Stephen talks about the Pluto photos and how we will keep getting photos from the spacecraft because of the distance transmission is less than 56 kb per second. Another reason transmission is slow is because they had to make the fastest craft that they could (so that it would get there before the people on the science team died). This meant the craft was small. Only big enough to do the job. The high resolution pictures will be transmitted to the end of 2016.

July 21, 2015

Molecular could boost the yield for an alternative desert rubber plant

Yulex hopes to break the Asian rubber monopoly using gene sequencing and an unassuming desert plant. The plant is called plant called guayule. Under the bark is soft layer called parenchyma. You can use it to make rubber, and that means you can make wetsuits, condoms, gloves, catheters, angioplasty balloons, and so many other medical devices. But most importantly, you can make tires. Car tires. Truck tires. Aircraft tires. In fact, this sort of natural rubber is essential to making tires. We now have synthetic rubber, but that isn’t as strong as the natural stuff. Our automobile tires contain about 50 percent natural rubber, and you simply can’t make a truck or aircraft tire without it.

Today, almost all natural rubber comes from hevea rubber trees grown in Southeast Asia.

The average guayule plant yields relatively small amounts of rubber. Yulex believes they can massively boost the yield and grow the new rubber plants in the USA.

Mathur was the chief technologist at SG Biofuels, which transformed a plant called jatropha into a source of jet fuel. Now, he’s applying the same science to guayule.

SGB raised jatropha seed yields by as much as 900 percent, eventually signing a deal with BP and others to plant 75,000 acres of the stuff in Brazil. “Their work really showed the potential of molecular breeding technologies, particularly for new crops,” says Iowa State professor Schnable
Guayule plant

Evolvable Lunar Architecture is a well thought plan for lower risk for moon and Mars development while lowering cost by ten times

A study by NexGen LLC looked at a lower cost approach to explore the moon and Mars.

Thestudy’s primary purpose was to assess the feasibility of new approaches for achieving our national goals in space. NexGen assembled a team of former NASA executives and engineers who assessed the economic and technical viability of an “Evolvable Lunar Architecture” (ELA) that leverages commercial capabilities and services that are existing or likely to emerge in the near-term. They evaluated an ELA concept that was designed as an incremental, low-cost and low-risk method for returning humans to the Moon in a manner that directly supports NASA’s long-term plan to send humans to Mars. The ELA strategic objective is commercial mining of propellant from lunar poles where it will be transported to lunar orbit to be used by NASA to send humans to Mars.

This plan can affordably

* Get humans back to moon by 2020-2023
* Get a permanent manned lunar base by 2030-2035

Based on these assumptions, the our analysis concludes that:
• Based on the experience of recent NASA program innovations, such as the COTS program, a human return to the Moon may not be as expensive as previously thought.

• America could lead a return of humans to the surface of the Moon within a period of 5-7 years from authority to proceed at an estimated total cost of about $10 Billion (+/- 30%) for two independent and competing commercial service providers, or about $5 Billion for each provider, using partnership methods.

• America could lead the development of a permanent industrial base on the Moon of 4 private-sector astronauts in about 10-12 years after setting foot on the Moon that could provide 200 MT of propellant per year in lunar orbit for NASA for a total cost of about $40 Billion (+/- 30%).

• Assuming NASA receives a flat budget, these results could potentially be achieved within NASA’s existing deep space human spaceflight budget.

• A commercial lunar base providing propellant in lunar orbit might substantially reduce the cost and risk NASA of sending humans to Mars. The ELA would reduce the number of required Space Launch System (SLS) launches from as many as 12 to a total of only 3, thereby reducing SLS operational risks, and increasing its affordability.

• An International Lunar Authority, modeled after CERN and traditional public infrastructure authorities, may be the most advantageous mechanism for managing the combined business and technical risks associated with affordable and sustainable lunar development and operations.

• A permanent commercial lunar base might substantially pay for its operations by exporting propellant to lunar orbit for sale to NASA and others to send humans to Mars, thus enabling the economic development of the Moon at a small marginal cost.

Historically, the human mission cost beyond Earth’s orbit have been dominated by launch cost. However, the cost reduction revolution started by SpaceX with their Falcon launch vehicles and being matched by ULA’s Vulcan launch vehicle development will usher in a new era for human exploration. Launch cost is dramatically being reduced and may become a fraction of the mission cost rather than the dominating cost factor. For this study, the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy were used as representative of the new trend in launch costs because of the violable prices on the SpaceX web site. SpaceX currently operates the Falcon 9 that has a payload of 13.1t to LEO at 28.5° at a per launch cost of $62.1M ($4750/kg) as per there Web site. This compares to the Saturn V that delivered 130t at $46,000/kg. The economy of Falcon 9 is based on the large number of planned launches per year; as of 2016 there are 21 launches currently sold. In addition, SpaceX is actively developing a reusable Falcon 9 that should further reduce costs.

In addition, SpaceX is developing the Falcon Heavy using 3 modified Falcon 9 cores and the Falcon 9 second stage. Falcon Heavy has an advertised payload to LEO of 53t at a cost of $90M ($1700/kg).

Economic Assessment and Systems Analysis of an Evolvable Lunar Architecture that Leverages Commercial Space Capabilities and Public-Private-Partnerships (103 pages)

NexGen Space LLC (NexGen) was partly funded by a grant from NASA’s Emerging Space office in the Office of the Chief Technologist.

M4.2 Earthquake 3 km north of Fremont California

Indian Economic Planning think tank believes India can grow at 10% per year GDP growth over 15 years to reach US$8 triillion

Over the last few months, NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya has made quite a few statements about India's growth forecast in the next five years, ten and fifteen years.

In April, he said that India's economy is expected to grow at 8-10% for the next 15 years i.e till 2030, however, the growth in dollar terms may be even higher.

"If the economy actually grows at 8-10% in rupees, in dollar terms it would be about 11-12%, and that kind of growth will turn India into about an $8 trillion economy from the current $2 trillion," he said.

If this happens India would be the third largest economy in the world.

The US Department of Agriculture had previously forecasted a similar result for 2030.

PWC had also projected India to get into third (in Purchasing Power Parity) GDP.

NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India Aayog) is a policy think-tank of Government of India that replacedthe Planning Commission and aims to involve the states in economic policy-making in India. It provides strategic and technical advice to the central and the state governments

Foundation of Planned Skycity skyscraper being used for Fish Farming

The foundations of what was planned to be the world’s tallest building are being used as fish farm in China two years after the project stalled, according to a Xiaoxiang Chen Bao newspaper report.

Construction of the 838-metre tall “Sky City” in Changsha started in July 2013 when billionaire Zhang Yue, the president of Broad Group, arrived in a helicopter for the ground-breaking ceremony.

Zhang had expected the 9-billion yuan (HK$11.3 billion) project to be completed in nine months, using prefabricated building modules, and replace the Burj Khalifa in Dubai as the world’s tallest building.

But work stalled after concerns from regulators over the safety of the skyscraper and its environmental impact and funding.

At the Boao Forum of business and political leaders in March, the Broad Group CEO Zhang insisted Sky City was not a lost cause despite the local government’s suspension of the project.

“[Construction] shouldn’t be far away. We’ll start soon and complete soon,” he said.

A boat in the water-filled foundations of Sky City in Changsha. Photo: Xxcb.cn

July 20, 2015

India will build a 65000 ton aircraft carrier with catapult launch

The size and specifications of the Indian Navy's future aircraft carrier have been officially acknowledged. The navy has written to at least four major global shipbuilders, asking for proposals to help in designing a 65,000 tonne carrier that would be about 300 metres long.

The letter of request, issued by the Indian Navy on Wednesday, specifies the carrier should be capable of speeds greater than 30 knots (56 km per hour). However, it is silent on whether it prefers nuclear propulsion, or conventional diesel or gas turbines.

The navy's letter states the carrier will embark 30-35 fixed wing combat aircraft, and about 20 rotary wing aircraft (helicopters). It would have a catapult to launch fixed wing aircraft, which would make the carrier a "catapult launched but arrested landing", or CATOBAR vessel. For India's naval aviators, this would involve a major change from a long tradition of getting airborne from a "ski-jump" at the end of the flight deck.

While not mandating an "electromagnetic aircraft launch system" (EMALS), the navy has specifically mentioned it as an option. The United States Navy's latest carrier, the 100,000-tonne USS Gerald R Ford, which will be commissioned next year, is the world's only current carrier featuring EMALS.

There was an agreement between the USA and India for the USA to cooperate with India on their aircraft carriers and for the USA to allow access to some carrier technology.

France's Charles de Gaulle carrier has a steam catapult launched but arrested landing system and is about 42500 tons, 261 meters long and goes at up to 27 knots

UK HMS Queen Elizabeth is 70000 tons, 280 meters long and goes up to 25 knots. It has no catapult and will use aircraft with jump jets (F35 variant)

India completes Kudankulam 2 nuclear reactor and South Africa begins procurement for 9.6 GW of nuclear power by 2030

Construction of unit 2 of the c nuclear power plant in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu has been completed. In a 14 July statement, AERB also said that it had issued a licence for the regular operation of unit 1, which entered commercial operation on 31 December, and a siting permit for a project to build four reactors in Gorakhpur in Haryana.

"The construction of unit 2 of KK-NNPP is complete and the unit is presently undergoing initial commissioning activities," AERB said.

Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Pariyojana (GHAVP) is a nuclear power plant construction project to build four 700 MWe units. These proposed units belong to a new generation of indigenous pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs), AERB said. GHAVP units 1 to 4 will be a "repeat design" of Kakrapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP 3 and 4) and the Rajasthan Atomic Power Project (RAPP 7 and 8), which are "in advanced stages of construction", AERB said. These PHWRs will have additional passive safety design features for enhanced levels of safety, it added.

AERB said it had granted siting clearance for GHAVP following an extensive multi-tier safety review of the application and supporting documents that NPCIL had submitted.

India has a largely indigenous nuclear power program and expects to have 14,600 MWe of nuclear capacity on line by 2020. It aims to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear power by 2050.

Kudankulam is the country's first large nuclear power plant, comprising two VVER-1000 (V-412) reactors, under a Russian-financed $3 billion contract and built as part of a bilateral agreement between India and Russia signed back in 1988. The units were originally scheduled to begin commercial operation in December 2007 and December 2008 respectively.

130 million person Beijing - Tianjin - Hebei megacity needs a lot of infrastructure, tax reform and government overhaul

Nextbigfuture covered Chinese President Xi's Jing-Jin-ji plan to integrate Beijing with surrounding cities to create a 130 million person megacity in 2014.

President Xi Jinping has a signature project to link 130 million people across Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province into a single megalopolis, the so-called Jing-Jin-Ji region. Xi has held out the model as a template for China's urbanisation in the future. For the project to work, he will need to align policy and interests that are often in conflict - ones that touch on urban planning, industry, state and private enterprises, and environmental protection.

Xi's plan calls for the three northern areas to be united into one economic sphere. The Bohai Bay area would become a key growth plank, similar to the Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta. Vice-Minister of Finance Wang Baoan has said the new metropolis would require an investment of 42 trillion yuan (HK$52.7 trillion) over the years. The region's gross domestic product was US$1 trillion last year, similar to South Korea's, and the 15th highest in the world. But wealth is spread unevenly: per-capita GDP of Beijing is US$15,000, while Tianjin's is US$11,500 and Hebei's only US$6,300.

The New York Times has a recent article about the work towards integrating the cities

Jing-Jin-Ji, as the region is called (“Jing” for Beijing, “Jin” for Tianjin and “Ji,” the traditional name for Hebei Province), is meant to help the area catch up to China’s more prosperous economic belts: the Yangtze River Delta around Shanghai and Nanjing in central China, and the Pearl River Delta around Guangzhou and Shenzhen in southern China.

The Beijing city government announced its part of the plan last month, vowing to move much of its bureaucracy, as well as factories and hospitals, to the hinterlands in an effort to offset the city’s strict residency limits, easing congestion, and to spread good-paying jobs into less-developed areas.

New $100 Breakthrough Initiative version of SETI from Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking will be 50 times more sensitive

A new $100 million “Breakthrough Initiatives” program from Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking, was unveiled today at the Royal Society in London. Drake, as well as Ann Druyan, Martin Rees, Geoff Marcy, and Pete Worden were also on hand for the announcement; all will have various leadership roles in the initiatives.

The program will consist of two main pieces. The first, Breakthrough Listen, will employ the 100-meter Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, and the 64-meter Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, two of the most powerful telescopes on the planet, over a period of 10 years. The search will be 50 times more sensitive than any SETI program before it, cover 10 times the sky of previous programs, involve the 1,000,000 stars closest to Earth, and scan five times as much radio spectrum 100 times faster than before. It will also search for laser transmissions.

In addition to the above, the telescopes will scan the center of our galaxy, as well as listen for messages from the 100 closest galaxies to us — “closest” being a relative term, since even the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), the nearest, is two million light years away.

“It’s a dream come true,” says Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and another leader on the initiative. The key purchase will be thousands of hours per year of observation time on two of the world’s most powerful radio telescopes, the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia. (A specialized optical telescope at the Lick Observatory in California is also involved.) They will scan the entire 1-to-10 gHz range, the so-called “quiet zone” in the spectrum where radio waves are unobscured by cosmic sources or Earth’s atmosphere; presumably, intelligent aliens will know to broadcast in this zone if they want anyone to hear them.

Exosuit soft exoskeleton update

Harvard Biodesign Lab is developing next generation soft wearable robots that use innovative textiles to provide a more conformal, unobtrusive and compliant means to interface to the human body. These robots will augment the capabilities of healthy individuals (e.g. improved walking efficiency) in addition to assisting those with muscle weakness or patients who suffer from physical or neurological disorders. As compared to a traditional exoskeleton, these systems have several advantages: the wearer's joints are unconstrained by external rigid structures, and the worn part of the suit is extremely light. These properties minimize the suit's unintentional interference with the body's natural biomechanics and allow for more synergistic interaction with the wearer.

They believe they can create passive and active systems that offload the high forces in the muscles and tendons in the leg – thus reducing the risk of injury and increasing the walking efficiency of the wearer. Another translational focus of our group is on gait assistance for medical applications. We foresee soft exosuits being able to restore mobility on patients with muscle weakness (e.g. elderly) or who suffer from a neurological disease such as a Stroke. Beyond our active systems, we envision translational potential in the area of sports and recreation where fully passive soft suits with structured functional textiles can provide small amounts of assistance during walking, hiking, running and other activities.

They are also developing exosuits that can assist soldiers walking while carrying heavy loads.

The International Journal of Robotics Research - A biologically inspired soft exosuit for walking assistance

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