September 05, 2015

Israel gets fifth diesel electric submarine as backbone of nuclear deterrent against Iran

Israel has inaugurated its fifth Dolphin-class submarine, allegedly capable of launching cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. There is a sixth submarine being built for Israel. The submarines are advanced diesel electric submarines.

After the submarine is fully equipped and passes all tests, it will cost $500 million and will enter service as possibly the most sophisticated and expensive weapon of Israeli Navy. Delivery to client is reportedly expected by the end of 2013.

In June 2012, Der Spiegel reported that Germany is actually strengthening Israel’s nuclear capabilities. The magazine claimed that Dolphin-class submarines are equipped with hydraulic ejection systems that enable the underwater launch of Israeli Popeye Turbo SLCM long-range cruise missiles, believed to have nuclear warheads.

Israel’s Popeye cruise missile is believed to have a range of up to 1500km and carry a 200kg payload, enough to fit in a nuclear warhead. The first launch of the missile was carried out in 2002 in the Indian Ocean.

Thus the German-built submarines are believed to be the backbone of the Israeli nuclear deterrent against Iran.

Israeli Dolphin-class submarines:

INS Dolphin – commissioned 1999
INS Leviathan (Whale) – commissioned 2000
INS Tekumah (Revival) – commissioned 2000
INS Tannin (Crocodile) – delivered May 3, 2012, to be commissioned in 2013
INS Rahav (Demon) – delivery expected by the end 2013

Popeye Turbo SLCM is reportedly stretched version of the Popeye Turbo missile developed for use as a submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) was widely reported in a US Navy observed 2002 test in the Indian Ocean to have hit a target at 1500 km, it can allegedly carry a 200 kt nuclear warhead. It is believed that the stretched Popeye Turbo is the primary strategic second strike nuclear deterrent weapon that can be fired from the 650 mm secondary torpedo tubes of the Israeli Dolphin-class submarines. It is believed that the SLCM version of the Popeye was developed by Israel after the US Clinton administration refused an Israeli request in 2000 to purchase Tomahawk long range SLCM's because of international MTCR proliferation rules. While the standard Popeye is 533 mm the Dolphin class submarines have four 650 mm torpedo tubes in addition to the six standard 533 mm tubes allowing for the possibility that a SLCM Popeye derivative may be a larger diameter.

Russia building a military base with up to 1000 personnel and on verge of deploying thousands to support Assad

Russia is building a military base in Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s heartland, according to American intelligence officials, in the clearest indication yet of deepening Russian support for the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The anonymous officials say Russia has set up an air traffic control tower and transported prefabricated housing units for up to 1,000 personnel to an airfield serving the Syrian port city of Latakia.

Russia has also requested the rights to fly over neighbouring countries with military cargo aircraft during September, according to the reports.

The claims, which will raise fears that Russia is planning to expand its role in the country’s civil war, will ratchet up tensions between Moscow and Washington over the future of Syria and its brutal ruler.

Mr Obama on Friday met King Salman of Saudi Arabia to repeat their demand that any lasting settlement in Syria would require an end to the Assad regime.

It leaves the US and Russia implacably opposed in their visions for Syria.

Russian troops are said to be 'fighting alongside Assad's army against Syrian rebels' Photo: @ValkryV

Using CRISPR-CAS9 gene editing six times more effective for creating mutations

Scientists have developed a method for generating large numbers of mutated genes with CRISPR/Cas9 and a pipeline for identifying interesting mutations that enables high-throughput, multiplexed gene editing research.

"What this paper did was lay out a pipeline for making mutants at a relatively high throughput," senior author Shawn Burgess of the Translational and Functional Genomics Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute told GenomeWeb. "Almost anything can be done on a small scale, but everything changes when you try to increase numbers."

The researchers were able to target zebrafish genes using CRISPR/Cas9, achieving germline mutations in about a quarter of the fish in the study. They targeted 162 locations in 83 genes, successfully mutating 82 of the 83 genes in the study, while using only about 1,000 fish. Burgess added that scientists in his lab have created about five times as many mutations in zebrafish with CRISPR/Cas9, but just haven't published data on them yet.

Creating mutations with CRISPR/Cas9 was six times more effective than other gene editing technologies, including both zinc finger nucleases and transcription activator-like effector nucleases, Burgess said, even when those other methods were optimized. And when comparing CRISPR/Cas9 to pre-gene editing technologies, like random mutagenesis followed by exome re-sequencing, it's not even close.

"You would have to go through usually five to ten thousand genomes to find the mutant you wanted," Burgess said. To find just one mutation, the cost of reagents alone could be $20,000 to $30,000. "Now the reagent cost for this is $30," he said.

Multiplex gene editing had been demonstrated in mouse and zebrafish before, Burgess said, but this paper showed it was possible to do it in a large-scale, repetitious fashion.

Genome Research - High-throughput gene targeting and phenotyping in zebrafish using CRISPR/Cas9

China reducing army by 300,000 troops as part of modernization plans

- President Xi Jinping's announcement Thursday that China will cut its military by 300,000 troops was couched in the language of peace. Yet analysts say that it was intended as a move to modernize and strengthen, not diminish, the country's armed forces.

Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at Australian National University, said however that Beijing may have planned the troop cut "in the name of efficiency and cost saving so that the defense budget can be reallocated to 21st century capabilities."

"Infantry are no longer a measure of power," he said. "One metric to watch is overall military spending, which goes up in China by double digits each year -- ahead of economic growth. Another metric to watch is the development of new and leading-edge technologies like cyber, hypersonic missiles and submarines.

Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said that Beijing would complete the troop cuts by 2017 "in its latest effort to build slimmer but stronger armed forces," according to the official New China News Agency. He added that the cuts would target "outdated armaments, administrative staff and noncombatant personnel."

China has 2.3 million troops, compared with the 1.3 million members of the U.S. armed forces.

China troop reductions

Taking synthetic biology to next level with engineered multicellular cooperation

Instead of engineering cells to work as tiny individuals, researchers are working on a new class of cellular machines that “talk” to each other – and behave in more sophisticated ways. Put simply, synthetic biology is going multicellular.

“Initially, there was more emphasis on engineering individual cells and real progress was made,” says Ron Weiss at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “But now there are an increasing number of demonstrations showing what’s possible with multiple cells. It’s another dimension.”

The latest example comes from a team led by Matthew Bennett at Rice University in Houston, Texas. They developed a system that at its simplest encourages cooperation between two distinct populations of Escherichia coli. One produces an “activator” signalling molecule that triggers the bacteria in the second population to produce a “repressor”. This signal can travel the other way and turn off production of the activating molecule

The team also engineered the E. coli so they would fluoresce depending on the strength of the signals. What’s interesting is the sophisticated way the two populations respond. They found that about every two hours, the cells in both populations fluoresced more and more, before gradually fading away again

Team work: three ecoli cells working togetherRon Weiss/SP

Science mag - Emergent genetic oscillations in a synthetic microbial consortium

8K ultra-high definition televisions could reach 1 million units by 2019 with consumer shift to continually larger TVs

8K ultra-high definition (UHD) resolution television unit shipments have yet to begin commercial volume roll out, shipments will steadily increase over the next five years reaching nearly 1 million units by 2019, according to a new report from IHS.

8K UHD TVs offer a resolution of 7680 x 4320 pixels and are forecast to reach 2,700 units shipped worldwide this year. However, with the advent of 8K broadcasting in Japan beginning in preparation for the 2020 Olympics, IHS forecasts this will spur a new round of TV purchases resulting in a rise of units to 911,000 by 2019. However, this rise is dependent upon the 65-inch screen size—the highest volume in production—which will account for nearly 80% of 8K TV shipments in 2019.

According to Paul Gray, principal analyst for IHS, the biggest inhibitor to the growth of 8K TVs is consumer screen size preferences. “8K requires a very large screen or the higher resolution becomes invisible at normal viewing distances,” Gray says. “The average screen size in the TV market has grown by an inch each year over the past decade, but it is still a long haul before sizes over 70 inches become commonplace.”

Big TVs are needed to get the benefit of 8K resolution

Japan may only restart 7 more nuclear reactors in the next few years

Of Japan's 43 operable reactors, only seven are likely to be turned on in the next few years, down from 14 reactors the Reuters news agency predicted would return to operation in an analysis last year. The survey also found that nine reactors are unlikely to ever restart, while the fate of the remaining 26 looked uncertain.

Japan will likely restart its second reactor in mid-October, 2015

Japan has been relying on record quantities of liquefied natural gas to make up for its lost nuclear capacity.

Kansai Electric Power, the utility most reliant on nuclear generation, sought to restart four of its reactors, but was blocked by the courts, despite NRA approval for restarting two of them. Kansai has appealed the rulings but the cases may take years to resolve, Reuters reported.

Japan Atomic Power is fighting a regulatory ruling that requires one of its reactors, which sits above an active fault, to be decommissioned. And equipment failures have slowed down Kyushu Electric's resumption of nuclear power generation.

Future jelly fish inspired multi-jet propelled submarines

Researchers are studying the unique swimming techniques of a simply designed yet highly maneuverable jellyfish-like creature in order to inspire designs for underwater vehicles of the future.

Dubbed Nanomia bijuga, it's a member of the siphonophores, a group of gelatinous planktonic creatures that are related to jellyfish, anemones and coral. Similar to coral, the two-inch Nanomia is colonial: It sports a gelatinous body that's motored about by a nectosome made of genetically identical but separate components known as swimming bells (nectophores). Each of these act as mini turbo jets that shoot out streams of water, propelling the creature through the ocean.

Nature Communications - Multi-jet propulsion organized by clonal development in a colonial siphonophore

NASA investigating magnetic manipulation of cubesats with magnetic hoverboard maker

Arx Pax is moving ​beyond hoverboards to take its magnetic technology off the Earth entirely. The company announced a partnership deal to bring its magnetic field manipulation technology to NASA, with two specific purposes in mind (and many more to come): first, to retrieve small satellites, and second, to create microgravity environments here on Earth.

Arx Pax has the hover engine, which creates a strong magnetic field. That magnetic field then interacts with a conductive surface of aluminum or copper to create a secondary magnetic field, which can then be manipulated to attract or repel the engine.

The company demonstrated this tech through the Hendo hoverboard to capture the public imagination, but its real purposes go deeper. It was conceived as a way to stabilize buildings during an earthquake, and it has since been diversified to other applications, including some that could be used in hyperloop concepts.

For NASA's purposes, the system would be perfect for CubeSats—small "microsatellites" designed for light payload missions.

Arx Pax has Magnetic Field Architecture (MFA™) technology.

The Arx Pax patented 3-part foundation system is the most cost effective means of decoupling an object or building from the earth and is a turnkey solution available today for architects, designers, builders and developers to provide real protection against earthquakes, floods and sea-level rise.

September 04, 2015

3D printing of transparent glass

It’s already possible to use tiny granules of glass in a powder bed with conventional 3-D printing techniques like jetting and sintering, but the products turn out opaque. Now researchers at MIT have demonstrated the first-ever machine that can print molten glass through a nozzle and make transparent glass objects layer by layer according to digital instructions.

The most challenging aspect of printing glass is that it must happen at extremely high temperatures. To flow well enough to be extruded through a nozzle, the material must be kept at a temperature greater than 1000 °C.

MIT and Stanford will work with Toyota to develop better self driving cars

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) announced a new $25 million research center funded by Toyota to further the development of autonomous vehicle technologies, with the goal of reducing traffic casualties and potentially even developing a vehicle incapable of getting into an accident.

Announced at a press conference in California, the Toyota-CSAIL Joint Research Center will be part of a combined $50 million that Toyota has committed to dual centers at MIT and Stanford University to advance the state of autonomous systems.

CSAIL researchers plan to start by exploring a new alternative approach, in which the human driver pays attention at all times with an autonomous system that is there to jump in to save the driver in the event of an unavoidable accident. This type of system could not only improve safety by reducing the number of accidents, but could also enhance the overall driving experience, Rus explains. She envisions creating a system that could prevent collisions and also provide drivers with assistance navigating tricky situations; support a tired driver by watching for unexpected dangers and diversions; and even offer helpful tips such as letting the driver know she is out of milk at home and planning a new route home that allows the driver to swing by the grocery store.

“A highly advanced system like this would be a major advance in the field of autonomy and an important step on the way to creating a safer world for drivers,” Rus says.

Research at MIT will focus on “advanced architectures” that will let cars perceive, understand, and interpret their surroundings. That will be led by Daniela Rus, who recently worked on self-driving golf carts and the laser, or LIDAR, sensors autonomous vehicles typically use to map the world around them.

Stanford will concentrate on computer vision and machine learning.

Printable holograms will enable holographic lens telescopes and smart windows

Researchers have developed a method for printing optical holographic lenses that could greatly simplify their fabrication. Because the method can be performed quickly and easily, it could potentially be used by astronauts to print lenses while in space for holographic lens telescopes.

While current holographic lens fabrication methods are often expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive, the new printing method can produce a lens in just a few seconds using only a single step. The method uses a nanosecond laser pulse to create interference patterns on a transparent substrate coated with light-absorbing materials. The laser is reflected off a concave mirror back onto itself, so that interference occurs between two laser beams traveling in opposite directions. The resulting interference pattern, consisting of circular fringes, is "printed" on a substrate between the two beams, storing the optical information as a holographic lens. The resulting flat, ultra-thin lenses consist of hundreds of nanoscale circular zones that contribute to focusing light.

Using this new method, the researchers demonstrated that they could achieve mass production within a few minutes. The method should also work with a wide variety of materials on substrates that are semitransparent, with geometries that are flat, curved, or of other arbitrary form.

Besides having niche applications like printing telescope lenses in space, the new printing method could also be used for security, data storage, and biosensors. Due to the flexibility of the fabrication method, lenses can be printed on certain materials that are not compatible with conventional fabrication techniques. In the future, the scientists plan to use the method to print lenses on thin films of semiconductors, with applications in applied optics and infrared imaging.

ACS Nano - Printable Nanophotonic Devices via Holographic Laser Ablation

Holography plays a significant role in applications such as data storage, light trapping, security, and biosensors. However, conventional fabrication methods remain time-consuming, costly, and complex, limiting the fabrication of holograms and their extensive use. Here, we demonstrate a single-pulse laser ablation technique to write parallel surface gratings and Fresnel zone plates. We utilized a 6 ns high-energy green laser pulse to form interference patterns to record a surface grating with 820 nm periodicity and asymmetric zone plate holograms on 4.5 nm gold-coated substrates. The holographic recording process was completed within seconds. The optical characteristics of the interference patterns have been computationally modeled, and well-ordered polychromatic diffraction was observed from the fabricated holograms. The zone plate showed a significant diffraction angle of 32° from the normal incident for the focal point. The nanosecond laser interference ablation for rapid hologram fabrication holds great potential in a vast range of optical devices.

US Military buying 55,000 Oshkosh L-ATV's for protection of light tank and MRAP but half MRAP weight and more mobility

Oshkosh Defense was awarded a $6.7 billion contract, Aug. 25, for production of the joint light tactical vehicle, or JLTV. Col. John Cavedo, the former JLTV program manager, said the average unit procurement cost will be below the original $399,000 acquisition report, when all the kits are included, in base year 2012 dollars. The average manufacturing cost per vehicle, minus kits and add-ons, will actually be below $250,000.

Oshkosh's L-ATV will deliver a level of protection similar to that of current, but far heavier and less maneuverable, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) class designs, these having far more protection from blast than even the latest up-armored HMMWVs.

The first JLTVs will be fielded to the Army in fiscal 2018, Davis said.

JLTV has been extensively tested and is proven to provide the ballistic protection of a light tank, the underbody protection of an MRAP-class vehicle, and the off-road mobility of a Baja racer. The Oshkosh JLTV allows troops to travel over rugged terrain at speeds 70% faster than today’s gold standard, which is the Oshkosh M-ATV.

Up armored Humvees cost about $220,000 and weight about 2.6 tons. 280,000 Humvees were built.

The Oshkosh Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle will weigh about 6.4 tons and might cost less than $250,000
MRAPs weight 12-25 tons and cost $400,000 to 600,000

September 03, 2015

Smarter humans and smarter machines will work together

The potential for improved human intelligence is enormous. Cognitive ability is influenced by thousands of genetic loci, each of small effect. If all were simultaneously improved, it would be possible to achieve, very roughly, about 100 standard deviations of improvement, corresponding to an IQ of over 1,000. We can’t imagine what capabilities this level of intelligence represents, but we can be sure it is far beyond our own. Cognitive engineering, via direct edits to embryonic human DNA, will eventually produce individuals who are well beyond all historical figures in cognitive ability. By 2050, this process will likely have begun.

These two threads—smarter people and smarter machines—will inevitably intersect. Just as machines will be much smarter in 2050, we can expect that the humans who design, build, and program them will also be smarter. Naively, one would expect the rate of advance of machine intelligence to outstrip that of biological intelligence. Tinkering with a machine seems easier than modifying a living species, one generation at a time. But advances in genomics—both in our ability to relate complex traits to the underlying genetic codes, and the ability to make direct edits to genomes—will allow rapid advances in biologically-based cognition. Also, once machines reach human levels of intelligence, our ability to tinker starts to be limited by ethical considerations. Rebooting an operating system is one thing, but what about a sentient being with memories and a sense of free will?

It is easy to forget that the computer revolution was led by a handful of geniuses: individuals with truly unusual cognitive ability. Alan Turing and John von Neumann both contributed to the realization of computers whose program is stored in memory and can be modified during execution. This idea appeared originally in the form of the Turing Machine, and was given practical realization in the so-called von Neumann architecture of the first electronic computers, such as the EDVAC. While this computing design seems natural, even obvious, to us now, it was at the time a significant conceptual leap.

Turing and von Neumann were special, and far beyond peers of their era. Both played an essential role in the Allied victory in WWII. Turing famously broke the German Enigma codes, but not before conceptualizing the notion of “mechanized thought” in his Turing Machine, which was to become the main theoretical construct in modern computer science. Before the war, von Neumann placed the new quantum theory on a rigorous mathematical foundation.

AI research also pushes even very bright humans to their limits. The frontier machine intelligence architecture of the moment uses deep neural nets: multilayered networks of simulated neurons inspired by their biological counterparts. Silicon brains of this kind, running on huge clusters of GPUs (graphical processor units made cheap by research and development and economies of scale in the video game industry), have recently surpassed human performance on a number of narrowly defined tasks, such as image or character recognition. We are learning how to tune deep neural nets using large samples of training data, but the resulting structures are mysterious to us.

The detailed inner workings of a complex machine intelligence (or of a biological brain) may turn out to be incomprehensible to our human minds—or at least the human minds of today. While one can imagine a researcher “getting lucky” by stumbling on an architecture or design whose performance surpasses her own capability to understand it, it is hard to imagine systematic improvements without deeper comprehension.

Perhaps we will experience a positive feedback loop: Better human minds invent better machine learning methods, which in turn accelerate our ability to improve human DNA and create even better minds.

The feedback loop between algorithms and genomes will result in a rich and complex world, with myriad types of intelligences at play: the ordinary human (rapidly losing the ability to comprehend what is going on around them); the enhanced human (the driver of change over the next 100 years, but perhaps eventually surpassed); and all around them vast machine intellects, some alien (evolved completely in silico) and some strangely familiar (hybrids). Rather than the standard science-fiction scenario of relatively unchanged, familiar humans interacting with ever-improving computer minds, we will experience a future with a diversity of both human and machine intelligences.

NBF Comment
There will also be many kinds of quantum computers. Currently there are over dozen approaches to quantum computing.
There will be many kinds of neuromorphic machines.
There will be optical computers.
Many different approaches to computing will be useful for different kinds of problems.

There is no genomic dark matter or missing heritability, it is merely a matter of sample size

There is NO genomic "dark matter" or "missing heritability" -- it's merely a matter of sample size (statistical power) to identify the specific variants that account for the total expected heritability. The paper below (see also HaploSNPs and missing heritability) suggests that essentially all of the expected heritability can be accounted for once rare (MAF less than 0.01) and common SNPs are taken into account. Stephen Hsu suspects the small remaining gap in heritability is accounted for by nonlinear effects.

Nature Genetics - Genetic variance estimation with imputed variants finds negligible missing heritability for human height and body mass index

Researchers propose a method (GREML-LDMS) to estimate heritability for human complex traits in unrelated individuals using whole-genome sequencing data. We demonstrate using simulations based on whole-genome sequencing data that ~97% and ~68% of variation at common and rare variants, respectively, can be captured by imputation. Using the GREML-LDMS method, we estimate from 44,126 unrelated individuals that all ~17 million imputed variants explain 56% (standard error (s.e.) = 2.3%) of variance for height and 27% (s.e. = 2.5%) of variance for body mass index (BMI), and we find evidence that height- and BMI-associated variants have been under natural selection. Considering the imperfect tagging of imputation and potential overestimation of heritability from previous family-based studies, heritability is likely to be 60–70% for height and 30–40% for BMI. Therefore, the missing heritability is small for both traits. For further discovery of genes associated with complex traits, a study design with SNP arrays followed by imputation is more cost-effective than whole-genome sequencing at current prices.

Estimates of heritability using sequence variants under different simulation scenarios based on the UK10K-WGS data set.

Star Trek Axanar feature film on track to start filming October 2015 and for release in the first half of 2016

Axanar is the first fully-professional, independent Star Trek film. While some may call it a "fan film" as we are not licensed by CBS, Axanar has professionals working in front and behind the camera, with a fully-professional crew--many of whom have worked on Star Trek itself--who ensure Axanar will be the quality of Star Trek that all fans want to see.

Axanar is in pre-production now and will start filming in October 2015 with an anticipated release in the first half of 2016.

Alex Peters at Axanar Productions discussed the relationship that they have with CBS.

Alex Peters met with CBS while at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention. The meeting was with two of the top people in CBS and they were very frank about Axanar. The CBS people told them everyone at CBS and Paramount was aware of Axanar.

They told them that Axanar Productions was certainly doing more than any fan film before and that has some people concerned. CBS say what CAN or CANNOT be done for legal reasons. Axanar Productions is left to make assumptions and if we cross the line the lawyers will let them know.

Going into Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, the last thing CBS would want is any negative publicity related to Star Trek. As of August 30th, 1.5 million fans have watched Prelude to Axanar on Youtube, and other fan productions have large viewerships, as well. All of the fans watching these productions are Star Trek consumers. Alienating them by changing CBS’ relationship with fan films would not be good for business, particularly now, in the age of social media.

4K OLED TVs going into mass production and could become 20% of overall sales by 2020

Skyworth announced on Aug. 25 that its first mass-produced 4K OLED TVs will soon hit the market and that it is targeting sales of 30,000 units this year. Liu Tangzhi, CEO of Skyworth's TV division, said the company has been preparing for the product launch for two years and can now go ahead with its plans after LG Display began mass production of 4K OLED panels in June.

Liu said OLED TVs can be made even thinner than LCD panels because the former are not backlit, and OLED technology also achieves deeper black levels and better contrast than other screens.

Liu forecasts that the penetration of OLED TVs will reach 15%-20% of overall TV sales by unit and 30% of sales by value in 2020.

Liu Dan, president of Konka, which plans to begin selling 4k OLED TVs on Oct. 1, said OLED TV prices have dropped to only double the price of LCD units and now is the time to introduce such products to the market.

New General Relativity Area law theory suggests time runs backward inside a blackhole

Black holes are known to have many strange properties, such as that they allow nothing—not even light—to escape after falling in. A lesser known but equally bizarre property is that black holes appear to "know" what happens in the future in order to form in the first place. However, this strange property arises from the way in which black holes are defined, which has motivated some physicists to explore alternative definitions.

They reported a new area law in general relativity that is based on an interpretation of black holes as curved geometric objects called "holographic screens."

"The so-called teleology of the black hole event horizon is an artifact of the way in which physicists define an event horizon: the event horizon is defined with respect to infinite future elapsed time, so by definition it 'knows' about the entire fate of the universe," Engelhardt told "In general relativity, the black hole event horizon cannot be observed by any physical observer in finite time, and there isn't a sense in which the black hole as an entity knows about future infinity. It is simply a convenient way of describing black holes."

"Holographic screens are in a sense a local boundary to regions of strong gravitational fields," Engelhardt said. "Future holographic screens correspond to gravitational fields which pull matter together (e.g., black hole, big crunch), whereas past holographic screens correspond to regions which spread matter out (e.g., big bang, white hole)."

The new area law states that the area of a future holographic screen is always increasing in one direction, while the area of a past holographic screen is always increasing in a second (different) direction. This law has some intriguing interpretations when viewed from a thermodynamic perspective and using the idea that spacetime is a hologram. According to the holographic principle, the amount of information or entropy in a given area is related to the surface area. So by interpreting the area as a bound on the entropy, the area law can reveal the direction of thermodynamic time (which, as the scientists note, is not the same as mathematical time).

The new area law states that the area of a future holographic screen (the solid blue line in [a]) is always increasing in one direction, while the area of a past holographic screen (the solid blue line in [b.]) is always increasing in a different direction. Credit: Bousso and Engelhardt. ©2015 American Physical Society

As classical future and past holographic screens obey an area law, researchers expect that quantum holographic screens obey a Generalized Second Law. In particular, researchers expect the quantum extension of their results to yield a rigorous formulation of the Generalized Second Law in cosmology

Physical Review Letters - New Area Law in General Relativity

Researchers report a new area law in general relativity. A future holographic screen is a hypersurface foliated by marginally trapped surfaces. They show that their area increases monotonically along the foliation. Future holographic screens can easily be found in collapsing stars and near a big crunch. Past holographic screens exist in any expanding universe and obey a similar theorem, yielding the first rigorous area law in big bang cosmology. Unlike event horizons, these objects can be identified at finite time and without reference to an asymptotic boundary. The Bousso bound is not used, but it naturally suggests a thermodynamic interpretation of our result.

Arxiv - A New Area Law in General Relativity (5 pages)

Kratos gets $20 million railgun contract likely for more railgun fire control work

Kratos Defense and Security Solutions a leading National Security Solutions provider, announced today that it has recently received a $20 million electromagnetic railgun program contract award with an approximate two-year period of performance for a United States government customer. DRSS is a leading provider of hardware, products, solutions and support services for technology leading and disruptive National Security programs and initiatives, including electromagnetic railgun, directed and high energy systems, hypersonics and ballistic missile defense.

In 2014, Kratos received a $9 million contract award to support the prototype development of the railgun fire control system and hypervelocity guided projectile. Under the new contract award, KDRSS will design, engineer, manufacture, and deliver prototype projectiles and a fire control system to support at-sea and land demonstrations that are currently scheduled to begin in 2016. Due to customer related and other considerations, no additional information will be provided related to this contract award.

Robert Weaver, Kratos' Railgun Program Manager, said, " We are pleased to continue our support of the Railgun Program and look forward to working with the Fire Control and Hypervelocity Projectile Integrated Product Teams to develop and field a railgun weapon system."

Phagraphene, a 'relative' of graphene, discovered

A group of scientists from Russia, the USA and China, led by Artyom Oganov from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), using computer generated simulation have predicted the existence of a new two-dimensional carbon material, a "patchwork" analogue of graphene called phagraphene. The results of their investigation were recently published in the journal Nano Letters.

"Unlike graphene, a hexagonal honeycomb structure with atoms of carbon at its junctions, phagraphene consists of penta-, hexa- and heptagonal carbon rings. Its name comes from a contraction of Penta-Hexa-heptA-graphene," says Oganov, head of the MIPT Laboratory of Computer Design.

Nanoletters - Phagraphene: A Low-Energy Graphene Allotrope Composed of 5–6–7 Carbon Rings with Distorted Dirac Cones

UAE starts construction of fourth APR-1400 Korean nuclear reactor with commercial operation targeted by 2020

The first safety concrete has been poured for the basemat of the containment building of the fourth reactor at the United Arab Emirates' Barakah nuclear power plant.

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) received regulatory approval for the construction of Barakah units 3 and 4 last September. The company said preparatory work at unit 4 has been carried out over the past seven months which included excavation work, lining the foundation pit and installing reinforcing steel bars.

Construction of the reactor containment building for unit 4 will be completed over the next three years, Enec said. It added that unit 4 is on track to enter commercial operation by 2020.

In a $20 billion deal announced in December 2009, Enec selected a consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corporation to build four APR-1400 reactors. First concrete for Barakah 1 was poured in July 2012, while that for unit 2 was poured in May 2013 with unit 3 following in September 2014. Enec said that unit 1 is now 75% complete, while overall construction of the four-unit plant is more than 50% complete. All four units are scheduled to enter service by 2020.

$100 in supplies can now make tens of thousands CRISPR gene editing units

University of California, Berkeley, researchers have discovered a much cheaper and easier way to target a hot new gene editing tool, CRISPR-Cas9, to cut or label DNA.

The CRISPR-Cas9 technique, invented three years ago at UC Berkeley, has taken genomics by storm, with its ability to latch on to a very specific sequence of DNA and cut it, inactivating genes with ease. This has great promise for targeted gene therapy to cure genetic diseases, and for discovering the causes of disease.

The technology can also be tweaked to latch on without cutting, labeling DNA with a fluorescent probe that allows researchers to locate and track a gene among thousands in the nucleus of a living, dividing cell.

The newly developed technique now makes it easier to create the RNA guides that allow CRISPR-Cas9 to target DNA so precisely. In fact, for less than $100 in supplies, anyone can make tens of thousands of such precisely guided probes covering an organism’s entire genome.

The process, which they refer to as CRISPR-EATING – for “Everything Available Turned Into New Guides” – is reported in a paper to appear in the August 10 issue of the journal Developmental Cell.


• dCas9-Neon is programmed to label repetitive chromosomal loci in egg extracts
• Enzymatic processing of any DNA source can generate a guide RNA library
• A library generated from PCR products labels a single 3.4 megabase locus
• A complex guide RNA library targets the E. coli genome at high frequency


CRISPR-based technologies have emerged as powerful tools to alter genomes and mark chromosomal loci, but an inexpensive method for generating large numbers of RNA guides for whole genome screening and labeling is lacking. Using a method that permits library construction from any source of DNA, we generated guide libraries that label repetitive loci or a single chromosomal locus in Xenopus egg extracts and show that a complex library can target the E. coli genome at high frequency.

Some DNA sequences appear multiple times in the genome. Here, an RNA guide probe labels repetitive regions in the nucleus of a sperm cell from the frog Xenopus laevis.

Development Cell - Enzymatically Generated CRISPR Libraries for Genome Labeling and Screening

Getting the functions and benefits of Star Trek Like Technology without the incorrect Star Trek Approaches

Phil Plait had a recent review of what Star Trek technology was possible but he categorized many technologies as not being possible without considering the functions commonly seen on Star trek shows and how those benefits could be delivered. Phil placed too much emphasis on the literal technobabble.

Turbolifts - going up, down and sideways

ThyssenKrupp places linear motors in elevator cabins, transforming conventional elevator transportation in vertical metro systems. MULTI elevator technology increases transport capacities and efficiency while reducing the elevator footprint and peak loads from the power supply in buildings. Several cabins in the same shaft moving vertically and horizontally will permit buildings to adopt different heights, shapes, and purposes. The first MULTI unit will be in tests by 2016.

MULTI will transform how people move inside buildings, just as the recently introduced ThyssenKrupp’s ACCEL, which also applies the same linear motor technology, is set to transform mobility between short distances in cities and airports.

In a manner similar to a metro system operation, the MULTI design can incorporate various self-propelled elevator cabins per shaft running in a loop, increasing the shaft transport capacity by up to 50% making it possible to reduce the elevator footprint in buildings by as much as 50%.

Using no cables at all, a multi-level brake system, and inductive power transfers from shaft to cabin, MULTI requires smaller shafts than conventional elevators, and can increase a building’s usable area by up to 25%, considering that, depending on the size of the building, current elevator-escalator footprints can occupy up to 40% of the building’s floor space. The overall increase in efficiency also translates into a lower requirement for escalators and additional elevator shafts, resulting in significant construction cost savings as well as a multiplication of rent revenues from increased usable space.

ThyssenKrupp’s MULTI consists of various cabs per shaft and enables vertical and horizontal movement.

Taiwan military intelligence confirms China building two new aircraft carriers

China is building two aircraft carriers that will be the same size as its sole carrier, a 60,000-tonne refurbished Soviet-era ship, according to a new Taiwanese Defence Ministry report on the capabilities of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Little is known about China's aircraft carrier program, which is a state secret, although Chinese state media have hinted new vessels are being built. The Pentagon, in a report earlier this year, said Beijing could build multiple aircraft carriers over the next 15 years.

One of the new vessels is being built in Shanghai and the other in the northeastern city of Dalian, said the Taiwanese report.

Previous reports on China's Aircraft carrier construction

June, 2015 photographs, show the beginnings of the hull of what has been called the Type 001A carrier taking form in the Dalian shipyard.

The shipyard appears to be employing a pyramid method of hull construction. Most civilian ships adopt a block method of hull construction for speed. As shipbuilding standards have improved, large military destroyers have also adopted this method of construction. The pyramid method of construction suggested by the photographs likely means that the project entails a greater level of difficulty than other civilian or military ships. The US still uses the pyramid method to build its carriers.

According to Western media reports, the Type 001A carrier incorporates an additional double rectangle structure, which, analysts say, is to allow for the installation of China's new X band active electronically scanned array radar system. The radar system, which will likely be installed on the second deck of the ship, will give the ship 360 degree coverage, making it more advanced than the Liaoning, the country's first aircraft carrier refitted from the hulk of a Soviet-era carrier purchased from Ukraine.

In 6 months Tesla will start taking pre-orders for $35K model 3 with deliveries starting about 2017

The Tesla model 3 cost of $35,000 was reconfirmed by Tesla Motors.

Tesla is well known for unveiling its cars well before they are available to buy. However the lower cost Tesla model 3 will not be available until 2017 at the very earliest.

Telsa will start taking pre-orders for model 3 starting March, 2016.

The batteries that would power the Model 3 currently cost about as much as the car is slated to. Tesla is building an enormous lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Nevada to make its own batteries for far less money — the "Gigafactory" mentioned in Musk's tweet.

September 02, 2015

India and Russia BrahMos Missile pushing Mach 5 hypersonic ramjet technology as scramjet stopgap

India-Russia joint venture BrahMos Aerospace wants to double the speed of its ramjet-powered supersonic cruise missile to beyond Mach 5 as an interim step towards the development of a clean-sheet “BrahMos-II” hypersonic weapon.

BrahMos general manager of marketing and export Praveen Pathak says the company’s pursuit of a hypersonic missile remains in the decision phase and could take seven or eight years to fully realise.

He says the central challenge is finding the best materials to protect the hypersonic air vehicle against the extreme temperatures and shockwaves experienced during high-speed flight.

Today’s BrahMos missile travels at Mach 2.5 to 2.8, but the primary goal is to develop a weapon capable of sustaining a top speed of Mach 7 or greater using a supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet, engine.

NASA selects Kuiper Belt Flyby as next target beyond Pluto

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.

Artist's impression of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt.
Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker

Path of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft toward its next potential target, the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, nicknamed "PT1" (for "Potential Target 1") by the New Horizons team. NASA must approve any New Horizons extended mission to explore a KBO.
Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker

September 01, 2015

China, India, Japan, US and Europe have weakening or underperformaning GDP growth

Goldman Sachs slashed its forecasts for China's growth over the next three years amid broadening pessimism over the health of the world's second largest economy.

The bank on Monday marked down its 2016, 2017 and 2018 projections to 6.4 percent, 6.1 percent and 5.8 percent, respectively from 6.7 percent, 6.5 percent and 6.2 percent, previously. The government is targeting growth of "around 7 percent" this year.

Goldman's longer-term growth forecasts are based on three factors – labor, capital and productivity.

Indian GDP growth bottomed but not strongly rebounding

The June quarter real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in India works out to be around 5%, from 5.2% in March in the old GDP series. Bank of America Merrill Lynch in its report, 7%/ 5% growth: Very very slow recovery on track, said on balance, there is a 30 basis point (bps) downside risk to its 7.5% real GDP growth forecast for financial year 2016 due to poor rains. One basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point.

In the new series, real GDP growth, at 7%, surprisingly slipped below gross value added (GVA) growth, at 7.1% despite higher net oil taxes. But the nominal GDP growth, at 8.8%, was higher than 7.1% GVA growth in line with expectations. GVA growth, at 7.1%, expectedly improved from 6.1% in March on base effect.

However, lead indicators in the economy point to a very slow recovery. These indicators have signalled since last August that growth is bottoming out, although there has been no discernable improvement since.

It is lending rate cuts rather than capital expenditure that will drive recovery. Not surprisingly, capital expenditure has actually slipped to 29.4% of GDP in June quarter from 30.3% in March 2015. Although it is conventional wisdom to say that the last cycle was driven by investment, the fact is that this itself was spurred by rate cuts under former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Bimal Jalan

Japan had a negative second quarter

The second-quarter figures for Japan’s GDP revealed what is euphemistically known as “negative growth”: The figures, announced on Aug. 17, showed an annualized contraction of 1.6 percent from the first quarter. Despite the quarterly downturn, growth for the first half of the year was still a respectable 2.2 percent, and many economists are forecasting a return to the plus column in the third quarter. A sharply weaker yen has helped exporters and pushed up profits from the overseas operations of big Japanese companies.

US, Europe, Canada also have weak growth

The eurozone and US growth are also weak

NASA developing megawatt solar power arrays and will be used with solar electric propulsion

NASA Glenn Research Center, GRC, currently has several programs to advance near-term photovoltaic array development. One project is to design, build, and test two 20 kW-sized deployable solar arrays, bringing them to technology readiness level (TRL) 5, and through analysis show that they should be extensible to 300 kW-class systems (150 kw per wing). These solar arrays are approximately 1500 square meters in total area which is about an order-of-magnitude larger than the 160 square meters solar array blankets on the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS has the four (pair) sets of solar arrays that can generate 84 to 120 kilowatts of electricity. Each of the eight solar arrays is 112 feet long by 39 feet wide and weights 2400 pounds. There were space missions involving astronauts working in space to install and deploy the ISS solar panels.

Alliant Technical Systems, ATK, was selected in 2012 by NASA's Space Technology Program under a Game Changing Technology competition for development of a promising lightweight and compact solar array structure. The MegaFlex™ engineering development unit, EDU, was tested at NASA GRC Plumbrook facility this year. See below for the ATK deployment of the demonstration unit.

Use of high-power solar arrays, at power levels ranging from ~500 KW to several megawatts, has been proposed for a solar-electric propulsion (SEP) demonstration mission, using a photovoltaic array to provide energy to a high-power xenon-fueled engine. One of the proposed applications of the high-power SEP technology is a mission to rendezvous with an asteroid and move it into lunar orbit for human exploration (the Asteroid Retrieval mission). NASA is also exploring options for future power systems for extreme environments, including near-sun environments, solar electric propulsion, and operation on the Venus surface

The unit employs an innovative spar hinge to reduce stowed volume. Deployment is achieved in three stages: release from the spacecraft, unfolding the hinge, and rotating the wing. A single lanyard and motor operates the last two stages. The EDU is 10m in diameter and able to provide ~20kW BOL with TJ cells.

Similarly, Deployable Space System, DSS, developed a roll-out array, ROSA, EDU that employs an innovative stored strain energy deployment to reduce the number of mechanisms and parts. The elastic structure maintains stiffness throughout deployment for partially deployed power generation. The rectangular design can be configured in many ways by either lengthening the booms, adjusting the length and width, or attaching several winglets onto a deployable
backbone. Lengthening and/or shortening the booms provides power scaling without changing any of the subsystems or stowed configuration. See below for a fully deployed ROSA array.

* four 150 kilowatt wings would be 600 kilowatts in power. The new wings are easy to deploy and do not involve astronauts.
* eight 150 kilowatt wings would be 1.2 megawatts

Ion drives are ten to twenty times more fuel efficient than chemical engines.

Tesla Model S driven 452 Miles On A Single Charge

A Telsa Model P85D that two hypermilers drove has an EPA estimated range of 253 miles. They drove it 452 miles on a single charge.

”If we had P90D, 800 km/500 mi would be very likely,” said Bjørn Nyland, one of the drivers, in an email, referring to the newest Model S variant that has a higher EPA estimated range. “Using a P85D was not a coincidence. The front motor and inverter is smaller and more effective than the bigger rear motor,” he said. “When using ‘Range Mode,’ it enables torque sleep. The car will figure out which motor to use. Sometimes it’s a rear wheel drive. Sometimes it’s a front wheel drive. And sometimes four wheel drive. During this hypermiling, it was basically a front wheel drive,” he added.

* no air conditioning
* mostly flat roads
* driven at 39 kph or about 24 mph

August 31, 2015

Proposed Armored Nuclear Powered Cruiser Design with a Dozen Railguns

The Center for International Marine Security considers a battleship style ship design with armor and a dozen railguns.

The CARN (cruiser gun armor, nuclear powered) will need to adapt the principles of the ‘armored citadel’ concepts developed a century ago for battleships to the needs of securing the two, possibly three, nuclear reactors aboard and their associated pumps and other equipment.

It would be a new over 25,000 ton armored cruiser.

Depending on the amount of power twelve railguns firing broadsides will require, two or three of the standardized nuclear plants.

The primary use of the CARN will be to accompany the fleet’s carriers to provide defensive AAW (anti-aircraft warfare) capabilities.

12 railguns mounted in six dual mounts. In the attached sketch A and B mounts are placed forward of the bridge while C, D, E and F mounts are located starting roughly amidships and extend back to the helicopter deck. Dual mounts are suggested since the large size of the capacitors that need to be located directly below each railgun will in practice utilize the full 120 feet of beam provided. Obviously if the capacitors are even larger than this, then single mounts will have to be employed. Let’s hope not as doubling up makes for a much more efficient ship class.

36 VLS (Vertical launch system) tubes capable of a varying load out of ASW, SM-2, SM-6 and long-range strike missiles as the mission at hand calls for.

4 CIWS with one located in the bow, a pair port and starboard amidships and one aft, just behind F mount.

2 ISR drones if VTOL capable. None if VTOL capability is not available

2 Seahawk helicopters

An online set of designs for railgun ships is at

CIMSEC considers a scenario where a carrier group with a railgun ship would try to survive an attack by 1029 missiles arriving within a 5 minute window.

Proposed design for future armored warship with railguns, lasers and drones

Startpoint brings together the best teams in naval defence systems to tackle the twin challenges of providing advanced technology set against the backdrop of funding constraints. It encompasses the structures, processes, people and policies that exist to deliver equipment and support to the Royal Navy (UK).

Patrick Tucker at Defense One describes the Starpoint design for a future warship called Dreadnought 2050. It is the product of an open-thought experiment at the informal request of the U.K. Ministry of Defense.

The ship would be powered by hydrogen fusion — or if that proves unworkable, then at least by “highly efficient turbines driving silent electric motors to waterjets.” The hull is composed of “ultra-strong” composites of the finest acrylic.

Dreadnaught 2050 would have

* railguns
* microwave guns
* combat lasers
* drones
* supercavitating torpedoes

Largest gas field in the Mediterranean Sea off the shore of Egypt

A natural gas discovery could hold a potential of 30 trillion cubic feet of lean gas in place (5.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent in place) covering an area of about 100 square kilometres. It's the largest gas discovery ever made in Egypt and in the Mediterranean Sea and could become one of the world’s largest natural-gas finds. This exploration success, after its full development, will be able to ensure satisfying Egypt’s natural gas demand for decades.

Russia plans to fly new hypersonic scramjet prototypes in 2019 or 2020

Russia’s Gromov Flight Research Institute (LII) expects its latest GLL-AP-02 hypersonic scramjet test vehicle to fly in “three or four years,” with officials telling Flightglobal that funding constraints and technical issues have slowed progress.

LII’s Sergei Pernitsky and Sergei Vasilievich said via a translator at the MAKS air show in Moscow that work on the flight sciences vehicle is progressing, but slowly.

“Mostly because of the lack of funding, but there are lots of difficulties despite the funding because this project is very ambitious,” they explain.

GLL-AP-02 is the Russian equivalent of America’s Boeing X-51 and China’s “WU-14”. It is the latest in a series of Russian rocket-boosted hypersonic test vehicles, proceeding the GLL-VK and GLL-31 projects.

DARPA pursues launching dozens of drones from bombers, fighters and drone carriers

An ability to send large numbers of small unmanned air systems (UAS) with coordinated, distributed capabilities could provide U.S. forces with improved operational flexibility at much lower cost than is possible with today’s expensive, all-in-one platforms—especially if those unmanned systems could be retrieved for reuse while airborne. So far, however, the technology to project volleys of low-cost, reusable systems over great distances and retrieve them in mid-air has remained out of reach.

To help make that technology a reality, DARPA has launched the Gremlins program. Named for the imaginary, mischievous imps that became the good luck charms of many British pilots during World War II, the program seeks to show the feasibility of conducting safe, reliable operations involving multiple air-launched, air-recoverable unmanned systems. The program also aims to prove that such systems, or “gremlins,” could provide significant cost advantages over expendable systems, spreading out payload and airframe costs over multiple uses instead of just one.

“Our goal is to conduct a compelling proof-of-concept flight demonstration that could employ intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other modular, non-kinetic payloads in a robust, responsive and affordable manner,” said Dan Patt, DARPA program manager.

Artist's concept of the Gremlins, which would supplement multi-role aircraft them with simpler, cheaper, specialized drones that can be deployed and recovered multiple times (Credit: DARPA)

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