September 12, 2015

Boeing Supercopter SB-1 Defiant will be flying in 2017, Eurocopter X2 first flew in 2013

The Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 DEFIANT™ Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) helicopter is their third X2® aircraft in less than 10 years. The aircraft will prove the scalability of the X2 design to a 30,000-lb. class weight. (This contrasts with the 6,000-lb X2 Technology Demonstrator and the RAIDER™ at 11,400 lbs.) Sikorsky-Boeing expects to begin final assembly of the SB-1 DEFIANT in June 2016, followed by flight tests during 2017-2018.

Boeing and Sikorsky are building and testing a propulsion system test bed into 2016, while their systems integration lab will be fully operational in the first quarter of the year.

Defiant will be flown at speeds up to 250 kt, slightly in excess of the 230 kt required by the army's 2012 Broad Area Announcement. "We have designed fuel tanks to support the requirement, presuming that a modern technology engine will be available at a later time," he explained.

Flying the 30,000 lb Defiant will also be a demonstration of scalability. The S-97 it is based on was a 7,000 lb vehicle, while the S-97's precursor, the X2, weighed 2,000 lb

The 250 kt (470 km/h) speed will be about 50% faster than the 315km/h speed of the CH-47F Chinook which is the world's fastest military helicopter.

Eurocopter X3

The Eurocopter X³ (X-Cubed) is an experimental high-speed compound helicopter developed by Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters). A technology demonstration platform for Eurocopter "high-speed, long-range hybrid helicopter" or H³ concept, the X³ achieved 255 knots (472 km/h; 293 mph) in level flight on 7 June 2013, setting an unofficial speed record for a helicopter. Eurocopter/Airbus Helicopters has suggested that a production H³ application could appear as soon as 2020.

* Defiant is in its 'detailed design' phase and approaching a critical design review
* The milestones will set the stage for final assembly of the flight demonstrator next year

Super Stonehenge 15 times bigger than Stonehenge found buried 2 miles from Stonehenge

Archaeologists have found evidence for a circle of 90 huge standing stones buried near Stonehenge.

On September 7, 2015, researchers announced they have discovered evidence for the remains of a major new prehistoric stone monument, buried below ground less than 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from Stonehenge. The site is 15 times the size of Stonehenge. The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project team – a group of British archaeologists – used multi-sensor technologies to reveal evidence for a row of about 90 standing stones hidden beneath the bank of what is now called Durrington Walls, a super-henge in Britain.

Durrington Walls is one of the largest known henge monuments measuring 500 meters (0.3 miles) in diameter. It’s thought to have been built around 4,500 years ago. The word henge refers to a particular type of earthwork, typically consisting of a roughly circular or oval-shaped bank with an internal ditch surrounding a central flat area. Henges may have contained (or may still contain) ritual structures such as stone circles, timber circles and coves.

Artist’s concept of how the stones at Durrington Walls may have been positioned. Image via LBI ArchPro, Juan Torrejón Valdelomar, Joachim Brandtner

New Protein Manufacturing Process Unveiled

Researchers from Northwestern University and Yale University have developed a user-friendly technology to help scientists understand how proteins work and how to fix them when they are broken. Such knowledge could pave the way for new drugs for a myriad of diseases, including cancer.

The human body has a nifty way of turning its proteins on and off to alter their function and activity in cells: phosphorylation, the reversible attachment of phosphate groups to proteins. These “decorations” on proteins provide an enormous variety of function and are essential to all forms of life. Little is known, however, about how this dynamic process works in humans.

Using a special strain of E. coli bacteria, the researchers have built a cell-free protein synthesis platform technology that can manufacture large quantities of these human phosphoproteins for scientific study. This will enable scientists to learn more about the function and structure of phosphoproteins and identify which ones are involved in disease.

CFPS platform with an expanded genetic code for the production of phosphoproteins.

Nature Communication - Robust production of recombinant phosphoproteins using cell-free protein synthesis.

September 11, 2015

Growth in China's car sales has slowed but will still be about 34% more than US sales in 2018

IHS Automotive has reduced its full year 2015 light vehicle sales forecast for China to 23.4 million units, reflecting a growth rate over 2014 of just 1.4 percent, compared with its previous forecast of 4.4 percent year-over-year growth. Recent sales data -- when combined with the slump in the Purchasing Manager’s Index and currency devaluation in early August, as well as the summer stock market rout -- suggests a significant rebound in light vehicle sales is unlikely in the coming months. However, sales activity may not be as negative as current media reports suggest.

The sales slowdown is widespread throughout China, according to the IHS analysis of its proprietary province- and city-level forecast, along with the current economic climate. Nearly one in four cities (out of 340 monitored by IHS) is reporting declining light vehicle sales.

IHS preliminary readings of car sales in China for the month of August suggest some stabilization and that the selling rate has improved during the month, although it is still likely to show a small year-over-year decline estimated to be less than 2 percent. If sales in August do follow these readings, once all figures are reported, this would mark the third consecutive month of declines in China. This has happened just once in the past 15 years -- in 2008, at the height of the global recession.

Retail vehicle registrations have maintained volumes far better than wholesale vehicle sales, which may provide stronger guidance for dealer orders. However, registration data also show that the selling pace for new customer deliveries has stalled since March of this year, according to the analysis.

IHS analysts are also looking ahead to 2016 and still expect some growth in light vehicle sales next year, though just about 3 percent, to 24.2 million units.

Looking further ahead, early indications for light vehicle sales reflect a modest recovery in 2017 to nearly 26 million units and 26.9 million in 2018.

The US auto industry is expected to sell 17 million vehicles in 2015 and could reach 20 million in 2018

Cancer patient gets 3D printed titanium ribs and sternum

A Spanish cancer patient has received a 3D printed titanium sternum and rib cage designed and manufactured right here in Australia.

Suffering from a chest wall sarcoma (a type of cancerous tumor that grows, in this instance, around the rib cage), the 54 year old man needed his sternum and a portion of his rib cage replaced. This part of the chest is notoriously tricky to recreate with prosthetics, due to the complex geometry and design required for each patient. So the patient’s surgical team determined that a fully customizable 3D printed sternum and rib cage was the best option.

12 days after the surgery the patient was discharged and has recovered well.

This isn’t the first time surgeons have turned the human body into a titanium masterpiece. Thoracic surgeons typically use flat and plate implants for the chest. However, these can come loose over time and increase the risk of complications. The patient’s surgical team at the Salamanca University Hospital thought a fully customised 3D printed implant could replicate the intricate structures of the sternum and ribs, providing a safer option for the patient.

Using high resolution CT data, the Anatomics team was able to create a 3D reconstruction of the chest wall and tumour, allowing the surgeons to plan and accurately define resection margins. We were then called on to print the sternum and rib cage at Lab 22.

Steps to Interstellar laser pushed propulsion and a 16 year trip to Alpha Centauri

The impossible task of traveling 25.6 trillion miles to Alpha Centauri, our closest star, is now possible. Using a Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation (DE-STAR), a versatile, scalable phased-array laser system, it can be reached in a short 16 years. Our project entails carrying out both computational and experimental studies of specific uses of DE-STAR to investigate photon recycling and spacecraft propulsion. Photon recycling is a unique term used to describe a form of energy conservation relative to this project. This effect will greatly improve the efficiency of spacecraft making interstellar flight more plausible. What lies beyond our solar system is one of the biggest mysteries of mankind and it finally has the potential to be solved.

The DESTAR interstellar laser propulsion system is modular, scalable and on a very rapid development path. It lends itself to a roadmap.

There has been a game change in directed energy technology whose consequences are profound for many applications including photon driven propulsion. This allows for a completely modular and scalable technology without "dead ends".

Laser efficiencies are near 50%. The rise in efficiency will not be one of the enabling elements along the road map but free space phase control over large distances during the acceleration phase will be. This will require understanding the optics, phase noise and systematic effects of our combined on-board metrology and off-board phase servo feedback.

Reflector stability during acceleration will also be on the critical path as will increasing the TRL of the amplifiers for space use. For convenience we break the roadmap into several steps. One of the critical development items for space deployment is greatly lowering the mass of the radiators. While this sounds like a decidedly low tech item to work on, it turns out to be one of the critical mass drivers for space deployment. Current radiators have a mass to radiated power of 25 kg/kw, for radiated temperatures near 300K. This is an area where some new ideas are needed. With our current Yb fiber baseline laser amplifier mass to power of 5kg/kw (with a likely 5 year roadmap to 1 kg/kw) and current space photovoltaics of less than 7 kg/kw, the radiators are a serious issue for large scale space deployment.

The same basic system can be used for many purposes including both stand-on and stand-off planetary defense from virtually all threats with rapid response, orbital debris mitigation, orbital boosting from LEO to GEO for example, future ground to LEO laser assisted launchers, standoff composition analysis of distant object through molecular line absorption, active illumination of asteroids and other solar system bodies, beamed power to distant spacecraft among others. The same system can also be used for beaming power down to the Earth via micro or mm waves for selected applications. This technology will give us transformative options that are not possible now and allows us to go far beyond our existing chemical propulsion systems.

Consider a 1 gram payload attached to a 0.7 meter diameter sail. Image Adrian Mann

Fiber solid state lasers (SSLs) are widely used in industry—tens of thousands are used by auto and truck manufacturing firms for cutting and welding metal. They are considered to be a very robust technology. One fiber SSL prototype demonstrator developed by the Navy, called the Laser Weapon System(LaWS), had a beam power of 33 kW.

Operational Maturation and Steps:

Step 1 - Ground based - Small phased array, beam targeting and stability tests - 10 kw
Step II – Ground based - Target levitation and lab scale beam line acceleration tests - 10 kw
Step III – Ground based - Beam formation at large array spacing –
Step IV – Ground based - Scale to 100 kW with arrays sizes in the 1-3 m size –
Step V – Ground based - Scale to 1 MW with 10 m optics –
Step VI – Orbital testing with small 1-3 class arrays and 10-100kw power – ISS possibility
Step VII – Orbital array assembly tests in 10 m class array
Step VIII – Orbital assembly with sparse array at 100 m level –
Step IX – Orbital filled 100 m array
Step X – Orbital sparse 1km array
Step XI – Orbital filled 1 km array
Step XII – Orbital sparse 10 km array
Step XIII – Orbital filled 10 km array

The more modest size systems can be completely tested on the ground as well as sub-orbital flight tested on balloons or possibly sounding rocket. While the largest sized systems (km scale) are required for interstellar missions, small systems have immediate use for roadmap development and applications such as sending small probes into the solar system and then working our way outward as larger laser arrays are built. The laser array is modular, leading to mass production, so that a larger array can be built by adding elements to a smaller array. Array testing and propulsion tests are feasible at all levels allowing for roadmap development rather than "all or nothing". Small array can also be used for orbital debris removal, ISS defense from space debris as well as stand-on systems for planetary defense so again there is a use at practically every level and funding is well amortized over multiple uses. This allows practical justification for construction. In addition there is an enormous leveraging of DoD and DARPA funds for Directed Energy systems that dramatically lowers the NASA costs.

Phase lockable lasers and current PV performance - New fiber-fed lasers at 1 μm have efficiencies near 40% (DARPA Excalibur program currently at 5 kg/kW with near term goal of 1 kg/kW). They assume incremental efficiency increases to 70% though current efficiencies are already good enough to start the program. It is conceivable that power density could increase to 10 kW/kg in 10-20 years given the current pace. Current space multi-junction PV has an efficiency of nearing 40% with deployable mass per power of less than 7 kg/kW (ATK Megaflex as baselined for DE-STARLITE). Multi junction devices with efficiency in excess of 50% are on the horizon with current laboratory work exploring PV at efficiencies up to 70% over the next decade. We anticipate over a 20 year period PV efficiency will rise significantly, though it is NOT necessary for the roadmap to proceed. The roadmap is relatively "fault tolerant" in technology develop. Array level metrology as a part of the multi level servo feedback system is a critical element and one where recent advances in low cost nanometer level metrology for space applications is another key technology. One surprising area that needs significant work is the simple radiators that radiate excess heat. Currently this is the largest mass sub system at 25 kg/kw (radiated). The increase in laser efficiency reduces the radiator mass as does the possibility to run the lasers well above 300K. Radiation hardening/ resistance and the TRL levels needed for orbital use are another area they are currently exploring.

September 10, 2015

Detailed mosaic photos of Pluto with features down to half a mile in size

New close-up images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reveal a bewildering variety of surface features that have scientists reeling because of their range and complexity.

“Pluto is showing us a diversity of landforms and complexity of processes that rival anything we’ve seen in the solar system,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado. “If an artist had painted this Pluto before our flyby, I probably would have called it over the top — but that’s what is actually there.”

New Horizons began its yearlong download of new images and other data over the Labor Day weekend. Images downlinked in the past few days have more than doubled the amount of Pluto’s surface seen at resolutions as good as 400 meters (440 yards) per pixel. They reveal new features as diverse as possible dunes, nitrogen ice flows that apparently oozed out of mountainous regions onto plains, and even networks of valleys that may have been carved by material flowing over Pluto’s surface. They also show large regions that display chaotically jumbled mountains reminiscent of disrupted terrains on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

“The surface of Pluto is every bit as complex as that of Mars,” said Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging (GGI) team at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “The randomly jumbled mountains might be huge blocks of hard water ice floating within a vast, denser, softer deposit of frozen nitrogen within the region informally named Sputnik Planum.”

This synthetic perspective view of Pluto, based on the latest high-resolution images to be downlinked from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, shows what you would see if you were approximately 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) above Pluto’s equatorial area, looking northeast over the dark, cratered, informally named Cthulhu Regio toward the bright, smooth, expanse of icy plains informally called Sputnik Planum. The entire expanse of terrain seen in this image is 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) across. The images were taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers). Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Solid State drives 128 Terabytes by 2018 and mass produced Hard Drives at 100TB by 2025

Seagate plans to build the first HAMR (Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording ) HDD prototypes towards the end of next year. Initially the drives will be produced in admittedly pedestrian capacities, for testing of the technology. However the head of HAMR development at Seagate, Jan-Ulrich Thiele, expects the technology to be able to facilitate the mass production of 100TB capacity drives by 2025.

Toshiba said SSDs with its 3D NAND will reach capacities of 128TB SSDs sometime in 2018.

Discovery of cause and potential treatment for muscle weakness and loss due to aging

Scientists at the University of Iowa have discovered the first example of a protein that causes muscle weakness and loss during aging. The protein, ATF4, is a transcription factor that alters gene expression in skeletal muscle, causing reduction of muscle protein synthesis, strength, and mass. The UI study also identifies two natural compounds, one found in apples and one found in green tomatoes, which reduce ATF4 activity in aged skeletal muscle.

"Many of us know from our own experiences that muscle weakness and atrophy are big problems as we become older," says Christopher Adams, M.D., Ph.D., professor of internal medicine in the UI Carver College of Medicine, and senior study author. "These problems have a major impact on our quality of life and health."

Previously, Adams and his team had identified ursolic acid, which is found in apple peel, and tomatidine, which comes from green tomatoes, as small molecules that can prevent acute muscle wasting caused by starvation and inactivity. Those studies set the stage for testing whether ursolic acid and tomatidine might be effective in blocking the largest cause of muscle weakness and atrophy: aging.

Journal of Biological Chemistry - Identification and Small Molecule Inhibition of an ATF4-dependent Pathway to Age-related Skeletal Muscle Weakness and Atrophy

Solutions to issues preventing highly integrated carbon nanotube chips resolved

Individual transistors made from carbon nanotubes are faster and more energy efficient than those made from other materials. Going from a single transistor to an integrated circuit full of transistors, however, is a giant leap.

“A single microprocessor has a billion transistors in it,” said Northwestern Engineering’s Mark Hersam. “All billion of them work. And not only do they work, but they work reliably for years or even decades.”

When trying to make the leap from an individual, nanotube-based transistor to wafer-scale integrated circuits, many research teams, including Hersam’s, have met challenges. For one, the process is incredibly expensive, often requiring billion-dollar cleanrooms to keep the delicate nano-sized components safe from the potentially damaging effects of air, water, and dust. Researchers have also struggled to create a carbon nanotube-based integrated circuit in which the transistors are spatially uniform across the material, which is needed for the overall system to work.

Now Hersam and his team have found a key to solving all these issues. The secret lies in newly developed encapsulation layers that protect carbon nanotubes from environmental degradation.

Nature Nanotechnology - Solution-processed carbon nanotube thin-film complementary static random access memory

Complementary SWCNT TFT structures.

Elon Musk discusses making Mars more habitable by nuking the poles and being reading to ferry astronauts to ISS within 2-3 years

Elon Musk told Stephen Colbert, Spacex will be ready for human passengers within two to three years.

Mars is "a fixer upper of a planet," Musk says, but it can be made to be more like Earth if it can be made hotter. When it comes to turning on the planetary furnace, there's a slow way and fast way, he explained.

The slow way is to release greenhouse gases, the same process being blamed for global warming on Earth. The fast way is to drop nuclear weapons over Mars' poles.

Musk says his rocket firm, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, will be capable of ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station in two or three years. At present, SpaceX' Falcon rockets deliver cargo to the ISS.

September 09, 2015

Ultrathin Optical Devices Shape Light in Exotic Ways

Researchers have developed innovative flat, optical lenses as part of a collaboration between NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology, both in Pasadena, California. These optical components are capable of manipulating light in ways that are difficult or impossible to achieve with conventional optical devices.

The new lenses are not made of glass. Instead, silicon nanopillars are precisely arranged into a honeycomb pattern to create a "metasurface" that can control the paths and properties of passing light waves.

Applications of these devices include advanced microscopes, displays, sensors, and cameras that can be mass-produced using the same techniques used to manufacture computer microchips.

"These flat lenses will help us to make more compact and robust imaging assemblies," said Mahmood Bagheri, a microdevices engineer at JPL and co-author of a new Nature Nanotechnology study describing the devices.

This schematic drawing shows how a "metasurface" can generate and focus radially polarized light. Credit: Amir Arbabi/Faraon Lab/Caltech

Russia developing underwater drone submarine to deliver megaton nuclear weapon

Russia is building a drone submarine to deliver large-scale nuclear weapons against U.S. harbors and coastal cities, according to Pentagon officials.

The developmental unmanned underwater vehicle, or UUV, when deployed, will be equipped with megaton-class warheads capable of blowing up key ports used by U.S. nuclear missile submarines, such as Kings Bay, Ga., and Puget Sound in Washington state.

Details of the secret Russian nuclear UUV program remain closely held within the U.S. government.

The Pentagon, however, has code-named the drone “Kanyon,” an indication that the weapon is a structured Russian arms program.

Officials familiar with details of the Kanyon program said the weapon is envisioned as an autonomous submarine strike vehicle armed with a nuclear warhead ranging in size to “tens” of megatons in yield. A blast created by a nuclear weapon that size would create massive damage over wide areas.

“This is an unmanned sub that will have a high-speed and long-distance capability,” said one official, who noted that the drone development is years away from a prototype and testing.

Artist rendering of Kanyon drones

Pre-emptive Nuclear Proliferation as a policy to disincentivize states from getting nuclear weapons

The Nonproliferation Treaty has failed because it has no teeth as North Korea has shown. Nonproliferation also failed to stop Pakistan and India.

The Nonproliferation treaty (NPT) was opened for signing in 1968. the Treaty entered into force in 1970.

Three states—India, Israel, and Pakistan—never joined the NPT and are known to possess nuclear weapons. Claiming its nuclear program was for peaceful purposes, India first tested a nuclear explosive device in 1974. That test spurred Pakistan to ramp up work on its secret nuclear weapons program. India and Pakistan both publicly demonstrated their nuclear weapon capabilities with a round of tit-for-tat nuclear tests in May 1998.

North Korea went nuclear in 2009. They had a dud test in 2006 but a successful test in 2009.

South Korea has been offered shared nuclear weapons by the USA but has refused them. South Korea has the clear conventional weapons advantage since the 1990s. Seoul has responded to North Korea’s growing nuclear capabilities in two ways. First, it has sought greater reassurances from the United States about its extended deterrence policies in the Asia-Pacific. Second, it is pursuing the necessary military capabilities—such as ISR, precision-strike, and missile defense—to preemptively destroy North Korea’s nuclear arsenal under the doctrine of “active deterrence.”

Main concern is proliferation after Iran goes nuclear

The main concern is that there will be nuclear proliferation after Iran goes nuclear. The belief is that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey would pursue nuclear weapons.

Sanctions and covert action have been the primary means of deterring states from pursuing nuclear programs.
Can other means be used to deter nuclear proliferation ?

‘Molecules’ Made of Light May Be Possible

A team including theoretical physicists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has taken another step toward building objects out of photons, and the findings* hint that weightless particles of light can be joined into a sort of “molecule” with its own peculiar force.

The findings build on previous research that several team members contributed to before joining NIST. In 2013, collaborators from Harvard, Caltech and MIT found a way to bind two photons together so that one would sit right atop the other, superimposed as they travel. Their experimental demonstration was considered a breakthrough, because no one had ever constructed anything by combining individual photons—inspiring some to imagine that real-life lightsabers were just around the corner.

Now, in a paper forthcoming in Physical Review Letters, the NIST and University of Maryland-based team (with other collaborators) has showed theoretically that by tweaking a few parameters of the binding process, photons could travel side by side, a specific distance from each other. The arrangement is akin to the way that two hydrogen atoms sit next to each other in a hydrogen molecule.

Researchers show that two photons, depicted in this artist’s conception as waves (left and right), can be locked together at a short distance. Under certain conditions, the photons can form a state resembling a two-atom molecule, represented as the blue dumbbell shape at center. Credit: E. Edwards/JQI

Arxiv - Coulomb bound states of strongly interacting photons (10 pages)

World's First Compact 300 GHz Receiver for Wireless Communications of Tens of Gigabits per Second

Fujitsu Limited and Fujitsu Laboratories announced the development of the world's first 300 GHz band compact receiver capable of high-speed wireless communications at a rate of several tens of gigabits per second.

Radio signals with a frequency greater than 100GHz, called the terahertz band, allow for increases in usable frequency range and communication speed of more than 100 times compared with the 0.8-2.0 GHz range used by current mobile devices.

Now, Fujitsu has developed technology that combines a receiver-amplifier chip and terahertz-band antenna with a low-loss connection. This has made it possible to reduce the receiver's size to one tenth that of previous receivers, making use in mobile devices possible.

Ceres' Bright Spots Seen in Striking New Detail

The brightest spots on the dwarf planet Ceres gleam with mystery in new views delivered by NASA's Dawn spacecraft. These closest-yet views of Occator crater, with a resolution of 450 feet (140 meters) per pixel, give scientists a deeper perspective on these very unusual features.

The new up-close view of Occator crater from Dawn's current vantage point reveals better-defined shapes of the brightest, central spot and features on the crater floor. Because these spots are so much brighter than the rest of Ceres' surface, the Dawn team combined two different images into a single composite view -- one properly exposed for the bright spots, and one for the surrounding surface.

This image, made using images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, shows Occator crater on Ceres, home to a collection of intriguing bright spots.

The bright spots are much brighter than the rest of Ceres' surface, and tend to appear overexposed in most images. This view is a composite of two images of Occator: one using a short exposure that captures the detail in the bright spots, and one where the background surface is captured at normal exposure.

The images were obtained by Dawn during the mission's High Altitude Mapping Orbit (HAMO) phase, from which the spacecraft imaged the surface at a resolution of about 450 feet (140 meters) per pixel.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

As Expected Apple Unveils iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus

The Apple iPhone 6S will be available in silver, gold, rose gold and space grey. The Apple 6S Plus returns with a 5.5-inch display. Both boast a new glass that's "incredibly durable," says Schiller. Apple confirms 3D Touch, a new way to interact with the phone. It's pressure sensitive, so it will read your inputs based on how hard or soft you press on the screen.

* they will have the A9 chip. It's 70% faster at computer processing tasks and 90% faster for graphics processing

* On Maps, users can peek in to quickly get directions or perform other tasks.

* Navigating across apps is simpler, too, says Federighi. Applying a little force on Touch pulls up other apps quickly, similar to the double tap on the Home button.

* Sensors on the screen react to how hard the user presses. For example, in Messages, a subtle press brings up a preview of the message, while a deeper push down pulls up the full message. There are also shortcuts users can pull up for every day tasks.

* 3D Touch Demo. Starting with Mail, Federighi uses a mini-tap to take a quick look at a message. Flicking up quickly moves to actions such as Reply or Forward, or swipe left or right for additional actions. If there's a time involved, users tap to quickly view the Calendar. For flight times, a subtle tap quickly pulls up the itinerary.

* The phones will continue to run the M9 coprocessor. It also boasts a second-generation Touch ID fingerprint sensor, to run twice as fast. The camera receives an overhaul to 12 megapixels. Schiller says that's 50% more pixels than before.

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus during a Special Event at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium September 9, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Stephen Lam, Getty Images

China still on track to triple high speed rail network from 17000 km today to 50,000 km by 2020

Beijing’s grand plans to extend China’s high speed rail network, which would propel revenue growth for CRRC, appear to remain on track. China Railway Corporation said last weekend that the nation’s rail network “will soon stretch considerably further,” to a length of 50,000 kilometers by 2020 from 17,000 kilometers. Most of the new lines will be built in the western provinces, where Beijing is ramping up infrastructure development in a bid to rebalance economic activity away from the crowed east coast to inland regions.

China has a competitive advantage, both in terms of cost and technology, over foreign rivals in high speed rail. Many analysts like Barclays’ Yang Song, who rates CRRC overweight, still expect China’s locomotive powerhouse to “expand its dominance from China to the global market.” Overseas revenues have already showed positive signs in the first half, jumping 61% compared to a year ago.

Currently, China's high-speed rail service costs significantly less than similar systems in developed countries, but is considerably more expensive than conventional rail service. For the 419 km (260 mi) trip from Beijing to Jinan, HSR costs CNY185 (US$30) and takes 1 hour 32 minutes, while a conventional train costs CNY73 (US$12) and takes about 6 hours.By comparison, the Acela train from Washington DC to New York City covering a slightly shorter distance of 230 mi (370 km) costs US$152–180 (Y930) and takes 2 hour 50 minutes. As of October 2013, high-speed rail was carrying twice as many passengers each month as the country’s airlines

Apple unveils 12.9 inch iPad Pro which will have a physical keyboard like Microsoft and a Stylus like Samsung Galaxy

Apple has unveiled the new iPad Pro. The 12.9-inch screen is big enough to support a full-sized keyboard.

* The display measure 2732 x 2048 resolution, or 5.6 million pixels
* iPad Pro will boast an A9X chip, 1.8 times faster than the previous chip
* iPad Pro will have a four-speaker audio system.
* it will have a ten hour battery life
* iPad Pro is almost as thin as the iPad Air 2 -- its tablet predecessor -- and it weighs slightly more than the original iPad.
* Apple will have Smart Keyboard that adds a physical keyboard to the tablet (like Microsoft Surface Pro)
* iPad Pro will also support a stylus, called the Apple Pencil

Tim Cook holding an iPad Pro

The Live event is at this link

Samsung will double the memory of high end smartphones to 6 Gigabytes

Samsung Electronics announced that it is mass producing the industry’s first 12-gigabit (Gb) LPDDR4 (low power, double data rate 4) mobile DRAM, based on its advanced 20-nanometer (nm) process technology.

The newest LPDDR4 is expected to significantly accelerate the adoption of high capacity mobile DRAM worldwide. The 12Gb LPDDR4 brings the largest capacity and highest speed available for a DRAM chip, while offering excellent energy efficiency, reliability and ease of design – all essential to developing next-generation mobile devices.

Compared to the preceding 20nm-based 8Gb LPDDR4, the 12Gb version is more than 30 percent faster at 4,266 megabits per second (Mbps), and is twice as fast as DDR4 DRAM for PCs*, while consuming 20 percent less energy. In addition, manufacturing productivity of the 12Gb LPDDR4 has been raised more than 50 percent over that of 20nm-class** 8Gb LPDDR4, which will further fuel demand for higher memory capacity in flagship mobile devices.

The 12Gb LPDDR4 enables 3 gigabyte (GB) or 6GB of mobile DRAM in a single package using just two chips and four chips respectively, while being the only solution that can provide a 6GB LPDDR4 package. In next-generation flagship devices, 6GB of LPDDR4 mobile DRAM will allow consumers to enjoy seamless multitasking and maximum performance within the latest operating system (OS) environments.

Photonic laser propulsion roadmap to laser pushed wafersats to 25% lightspeed

DE-STAR, or Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation, is the brainchild of UC Santa Barbara physicist Philip Lubin and Gary B. Hughes. DE-STAR initial objective is to deflect asteroids.

The DE-STAR system could be leveraged for many other uses, such as stopping the rotation of a spinning asteroid and achieving relativistic propulsion.

Tests simulated space conditions. Using basalt — the composition of which is similar to known asteroids — they directed a laser onto the basalt target until it glowed white hot — a process called laser ablation, which erodes material from the sample. This changes the object’s mass and produces a “rocket engine” using the asteroid itself as the propellant. In space, this would be powerful enough to alter its course.

The team simulated a spinning asteroid using basalt to determine whether they could slow, stop and change its rotation direction. They used magnets to spin the basalt and then directed the laser in the opposite direction to slow the rotation.

“Our video shows the basalt sample slowing down, stopping and changing direction and then spinning up again,” said Brashears. “That’s how much force we’re getting. It’s a nice way to show this process and to demonstrate that de-spinning an asteroid is actually possible as predicted in our papers.”

Lab measurements have shown that in terms of thrust, the conversion of laser energy to force through this method is about 100 micronewtons per watt, which works out to 10 kilowatts per newton

According to Lubin, a professor of physics at UCSB, manipulating the speed of a spinning asteroid offers another important possibility in space: the ability to explore, capture and mine asteroids. This is something NASA aims to do with its Asteroid Redirect Mission. The mission — which remains theoretical — is intended to visit a large near-Earth asteroid, collect and return a boulder from its surface and possibly redirect the asteroid into a stable orbit around the moon.

Pictures of Wafer Scale Spacecraft with laser on reflector. Includes fiber optic cables for cloaking
and wafer as the payload. The red depicts the laser light.

Cas9 gRNA engineering for genome editing, activation and repression

Researchers demonstrated that by altering the length of Cas9-associated guide RNA (gRNA) we were able to control Cas9 nuclease activity and simultaneously perform genome editing and transcriptional regulation with a single Cas9 protein. We exploited these principles to engineer mammalian synthetic circuits with combined transcriptional regulation and kill functions governed by a single multifunctional Cas9 protein.

Initially, the CRISPR gene editing system took advantage of the Cas9 enzyme, a naturally occurring protein in the immune system of certain bacteria, which acts like a pair of molecular scissors to precisely cut or edit specific sections of DNA. However, scientists have recently begun to manipulate CRISPR-Cas9 variants as gene regulation tools, in order to reversibly turn genes on or off.

Both the gene editing and gene regulation processes start with the same step, which is the recruitment of Cas9 to the genes of interest by a matching sequence comprised of guide RNA, which aids the Cas9 attachment onto the DNA sequence. Yet, until now, investigators required the use of two variants of the Cas9 protein to perform either the gene editing or the gene regulation steps.

Currently, researchers from Harvard University and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new approach that will allow researchers to achieve both tasks using a single Cas9 isoform. The Harvard/MIT team found that the length of the guide RNA sequence played a critical role in determining the fate of Cas9—whether it would solely bind to DNA or if it would excise it as well.

"We decided to systematically test why it was that truncating the guides too much caused Cas9 to no longer cut the intended genomic site," stated Alejandro Chavez, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

Cells were transfected with a 20-nt guide directed toward ACTC1, 14-nt guides directed toward MIAT and TTN and either Cas9-VPR or Cas9. This picture represents the expected behavior of Cas9-VPR. The ACTC1 locus should be cut, while transcription occurs for the genes MIAT and ACTC1.

Activation and cutting of a transcriptional reporter using gRNAs with progressively shorter 5ʹ end lengths.

Simplified schematics of circuit

Nature Methods - Cas9 gRNA engineering for genome editing, activation and repression

Aegis getting more upgrades and will play increasingly important role in national ballistic missile defense

Lockheed Martin will continue to modernize Aegis hardware and software onboard Navy vessels beyond Baseline 9. In the next phase of integrating the Aegis Combat System on the U.S. Navy’s fleet, Lockheed Martin has won a ten-year contract that will, with options, have the potential to be worth about $428 million.

The Ship Integration and Test (SI and T) program will integrate Aegis onboard new Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and modernize destroyers and cruisers to operate the latest iteration of the Aegis configuration, called Baseline 9.

Through Baseline 9, ships can simultaneously defend against airborne threats, such as aircraft or cruise missiles, while also targeting and intercepting ballistic missiles. It is the only naval combat system in the world to demonstrate the ability to conduct integrated air and missile defense simultaneously.

The Aegis Weapon System in 1983 represented a true revolution in shipboard air defense. Based on an enormous investment in time, resources and management focus, Aegis was the first truly integrated ship-based system. It brought together radar and sensor detection, tracking and missile interception into a coherent, well-integrated weapon system.

It was originally focused primarily on the fleet air defense/anti-air warfare mission. Aegis has steadily expanded its mission set over the decades to successively include cruise missile defense, area theater ballistic missile defense, integrated air and missile defense (IAMD), and longer-range ballistic missile defense (BMD) cued by space-based sensors. (In Greek mythology, Aegis was the shield wielded by Zeus.) As more advanced radars and missiles enter the inventory in coming years, Aegis will play an increasingly important role in national BMD.

In mid-2014, Aegis was deployed on 84 ships: 22 cruisers and 62 destroyers.

The introduction of the Mk 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS), Tomahawk Land-Attack Missile (TLAM) and an integrated anti-submarine warfare (ASW) suite constituted Aegis Baseline 2.

Baseline 9 will deliver three major warfighting capability improvements. These are:
* the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA),
* Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) and
* Enhanced Ballistic Missile Defense.

September 08, 2015

DARPA has smallest highly integrated chip for authenticating any component

DARPA has semiconductor chiplets, or “dielets” which could become small electronic tamper-watching sentinels affixed to virtually every chip built into commercial and military systems.

Their future job? To safeguard against an expanding arena of 21st century crime that could threaten the trustworthiness of just about anything with a chip in it—from smart credit cards to engine- controlling automotive computers to F-16 fighter-jet radar systems. Counterfeit, cloned, and otherwise doctored electronic chips already are circulating in markets and the problem is only likely to grow in the coming years. Shown here are dummy dielets that DARPA-supported researchers have produced to help them learn how to dice, sort, pick, place and otherwise handle such teensy components, which would affix to individual chips with a footprint the size of a dust speck. If fully developed as envisioned in DARPA’s Supply Chain Hardware Integrity of Electronics Defense (SHIELD) program, each of these dielets will host up to 100,000 transistors and have features and functions remarkable for their scale, among them two-way radio communication, on-board encryption, an energy harvesting function that casts away the need for a battery, and passive sensors for tamper-detection—all the while consuming less than 50 microwatts and costing the equivalent of the portion of a penny occupied by Lincoln’s head, that is, a fraction of a cent. “We are on track to build the world’s smallest highly integrated computer chip,” says Kerry. “If we succeed, then an untrained operator at any place along the supply chain will be able to interrogate the authenticity of any component used by the Defense Department or in the commercial sector, and get high-confidence results back immediately, on site, securely and essentially for free.”

Sand grain sized black square chips

Russia has mach 3.5 missile for Sukhoi PAK FA fighter

The new X-58USHK missile for Russia’s fifth generation Sukhoi PAK FA fighter will exceed the speed of 3.5 Mach

Other New Russian missile

The Russian X-59Mk2 cruise missile was shown at MAKS 2015.

* The weapon is designed for air-ground attack at ranges of 290 km.
* The missile carries a warhead weighing 300-700 kg.
* Its length is 4.2 meters and the wingspan is 2.45 meters.
* X59Mk2 can hit its target at angle of 45 degrees at a terminal speed of 1,000 km/h and an accuracy of 3-5 meters.
* Typical targets for the weapon are ships and fixed land-based targets.

Photo: Tamir Eshel, Defense-Update

Future US Marines need speed to cover 300 mile battlezone before reaching the beach

The US Office of Naval research had a meeting bringing together leaders in academia, industry and military leaders to discuss technology to impact future amphibious naval operations. The topic of the meeting was “Expeditionary and Irregular Warfare: The Amphibious High Water Speed Challenge.”

Leaders spoke about the urgent need for technology to advance amphibious operations and create a high speed capability to enable the Marine Corps’ concept of operational maneuver from the sea.

Some of the topics highlighted as key areas for short and long-term development opportunities included:

• Hull form and propulsor hydrodynamics
• Powertrain/power generation/fuel efficiency/autonomy
• Survivability/materials/structures
• Human factors/habitability

Fast hydroplaning ships will need triple the engine power of current vehicles.

Why Speed matters :
• Ships enable naval maneuver creating conditions for littoral maneuver
• Speed enable littoral maneuver from distance reducing exposure to ships
• Speed over distance enables maneuver options
• Speed limits exposure of the landing force
• Speed reduces risk and creates opportunity and enhances littoral maneuver

New Appoach targets Cancer Stem Cells and uses tens of thousands of animal models

Stemcentrx, has raised $500 million and is valued at $3 billion, people familiar with its finances say, a nearly unprecedented value for a company with no revenue, facing the usual R and D obstacles, and that almost no one has heard of.

Silicon Valley is used to “unicorns,” those private, usually profitless, and fast-growing tech companies worth a billion dollars or more, like Snapchat, Square, and Uber. Now the same phenomenon is spreading to biotech, where investors are throwing money at companies that promise to beat the historically low odds of drug success.

The company is unusual because it’s betting on a scientific idea that’s not universally accepted—that cancer is caused not by any cell that goes rogue, but by rare and powerful cancer stem cells.

Stemcentrx’s contrarian premise—that stem cells can be bad, not good—has drawn some impressive backers, including Sequoia Capital, Elon Musk, and most notably Founders Fund, the investment firm led by Peter Thiel, the Midas-touch investor who discovered Facebook.

Thiel says his fund has invested $200 million into Stemcentrx. It is the fund’s largest investment ever in a single company, he says, surpassing well-known names like SpaceX, Spotify, and Palantir. It’s also two to three times the total Thiel has invested in about 25 other biotechnology firms

Cancer Stem Cells: the roots of a tumor

Cancer stem cells initiate and perpetuate tumor growth, and are more resistant to chemotherapy and radiation therapies. Cancer stem cells are the tumor cells that metastasize, causing cancer to spread throughout the body.

Smart targeting

Stemcentrx therapies are engineered to target cancer stem cells, subsequently delivering a potent drug that can kill them. We believe that targeting and eliminating cancer stem cells will enable long-term patient survival.

Disease-specific cancer drugs

Cancers occur in many forms and our data indicate each cancer subtype should be targeted specifically. Stemcentrx has discovered and is developing drugs for a number of cancer subtypes. We are also developing companion diagnostic tests that can be used to identify patients most likely to benefit from those drugs.

Stemcentrx has five investigational drugs in human clinical trials. As single agents, three have generated objective clinical responses in patients with small cell lung cancer, triple-negative breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and peritoneal cancer, and two have recently begun phase I clinical trials. Beyond these five clinical programs, we have a pipeline of additional novel targets to address other major cancer types.

Laboratory Investigation - Patient-derived xenografts, the cancer stem cell paradigm, and cancer pathobiology in the 21st century

Science Translational Medicine - A DLL3-targeted antibody-drug conjugate eradicates high-grade pulmonary neuroendocrine tumor-initiating cells in vivo

September 07, 2015

Researchers use laser to levitate, glowing nanodiamonds in vacuum

Researchers have, for the first time, levitated individual nanodiamonds in vacuum. The research team is led by Nick Vamivakas at the University of Rochester who thinks their work will make extremely sensitive instruments for sensing tiny forces and torques possible, as well as a way to physically create larger-scale quantum systems known as macroscopic Schrödinger Cat states.

While other researchers have trapped other types of nanoparticles in vacuum, those were not optically active. The nanodiamonds, on the other hand, can contain nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers that emit light and also have a spin quantum number of one. In the paper, published in Nature Photonics, the researchers from Rochester's Institute of Optics explain this is the first step towards creating a "hybrid quantum system." Their system combines the mechanical motion of the nanodiamond with the internal spin of the vacancy and its optical properties to make it particularly promising for a number of applications.

In a previous paper, the researchers had shown that nanodiamonds could be levitated in air using a trapping laser. The new paper now shows this can be done in vacuum, which they say is "a critical advance over previous nanodiamond optical tweezer experiments performed in liquids or at atmospheric pressure.

A nanodiamond containing hundreds of nitrogen vacancies glows while levitated by a laser during an experiment in Nick Vamivakas' lab at the University of Rochester. The team have now continued the research to use nanodiamonds with single vacancies and to do the experiments in vacuum. They report their results in Nature Photonics.
CREDIT Photo by J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester.

Nature Photonics - Multi-dimensional single-spin nano-optomechanics with a levitated nanodiamond

The Hardest Superconducting Metal Nitride

Transition–metal (TM) nitrides are a class of compounds with a wide range of properties and applications. Hard superconducting nitrides are of particular interest for electronic applications under working conditions such as coating and high stress (e.g., electromechanical systems). However, most of the known TM nitrides crystallize in the rock–salt structure, a structure that is unfavorable to resist shear strain, and they exhibit relatively low indentation hardness, typically in the range of 10–20 GPa. Here, we report high–pressure synthesis of hexagonal δ–MoN and cubic γ–MoN through an ion–exchange reaction at 3.5 GPa. The final products are in the bulk form with crystallite sizes of 50 – 80 μm. Based on indentation testing on single crystals, hexagonal δ–MoN exhibits excellent hardness of ~30 GPa, which is 30% higher than cubic γ–MoN (~23 GPa) and is so far the hardest among the known metal nitrides. The hardness enhancement in hexagonal phase is attributed to extended covalently bonded Mo–N network than that in cubic phase. The measured superconducting transition temperatures for δ–MoN and cubic γ–MoN are 13.8 and 5.5 K, respectively, in good agreement with previous measurements.

a–c) XRD patterns collected at ambient conditions with a copper radiation target. SEM images corresponding to (a,b) are shown in (d,e). The run product in (a,d) is phase–pure hexagonal δ–MoN synthesized at ~5 GPa and ~1300 °C for 20 min. (b,e) show mixed γ– and δ–MoN phases synthesized at 3.5 GPa by program–controlled heating for 3 hours (see Experimental Section). (c) Cubic γ–MoN0.86 obtained from re–sintering of phase–pure δ–MoN in (a,d) at ~5 GPa and ~2200 °C for 15 s. Insets show polyhedral views of crystal structures for δ and γ phases.

Nature Scientific Reports - The Hardest Superconducting Metal Nitride

Self-sweeping laser could dramatically shrink 3D mapping systems

A new approach that uses light to move mirrors could usher in a new generation of laser technology for a wide range of applications, including remote sensing, self-driving car navigation and 3D biomedical imaging.

A team of UC Berkeley engineers led by Connie Chang-Hasnain, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, used a novel concept to automate the way a light source changes its wavelength as it sweeps the surrounding landscape.

This self-sweeping laser couples an optical field with the mechanical motion of a high-contrast grating (HCG) mirror. The HCG mirror is supported by mechanical springs connected to layers of semiconductor material. The red layer represents the laser’s gain (for light amplification), and the blue layers form the system’s second mirror. The force of the light causes the top mirror to vibrate at high speed. The vibration allows the laser to automatically change color as it scans. (Schematic by Weijian Yang)

Nature Scientific Reports - Laser optomechanics

September 06, 2015

Full invisibility for UAVs and other vehicles might be possible in near future with cloaking progress

University of California, San Diego have created a new design for their cloaking device, using a Teflon substrate, studded with cylinders of ceramic, that is thinner than any prior development and does not alter the brightness of light around concealed objects. The Teflon has a low refractive index, while the ceramic’s refractive index is higher, which allows light to be dispersed through the sheet without any absorption. Compared to an invisibility cloak, this technology has not only the ability to conceal, but the ability to increase optical communication signal speed and to collect solar energy.

Cloaking device would be valuable to many technologies, including unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) due to the capability to disappear from view and leaving no visual, electronic or infrared signature for an enemy to detect.

Creating the effect of an invisibility cloak offers a real-world solution to concealment, which can provide the military with air superiority. While this cloak has numerous applications for the military, this technology will create a ripple effect beyond the battlefield that will improve the performance of other diverse applications.

Nextbigfuture has covered the UCSD cloaking work in July.

Extremely Thin Dielectric Metasurface for Carpet Cloaking

Researchers demonstrate a novel and simple geometrical approach to cloaking a scatterer on a ground plane. We use an extremely thin dielectric metasurface to reshape the wavefronts distorted by a scatterer in order to mimic the reflection pattern of a flat ground plane. To achieve such carpet cloaking, the reflection angle has to be equal to the incident angle everywhere on the scatterer. We use a graded metasurface and calculate the required phase gradient to achieve cloaking. Our metasurface locally provides additional phase to the wavefronts to compensate for the phase difference amongst light paths induced by the geometrical distortion. We design our metasurface in the microwave range using highly sub-wavelength dielectric resonators. We verify our design by full-wave time-domain simulations using micro-structured resonators and show that results match theory very well. This approach can be applied to hide any scatterer under a metasurface of class C1 (first derivative continuous) on a ground plane not only in the microwave regime, but also at higher frequencies up to the visible.

Researchers propose in this paper a dielectric metasurface with a tailored phase gradient for carpet cloaking. We show that a single extremely thin (λ/12) all-dielectric metasurface is sufficient to accomplish invisibility. Once the scatterer is covered with the designed metasurface, no observer can distinguish it from a flat surface

Armed Robotic ground vehicles patrolling Israeli borders

Israel has unmanned ground vehicles that can carry remote-controled weapons and sensors for surveillance missions for patroling the Gazan border.

The Tomcar-based Guardium, produced by Israeli defense company G-NIUS Autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicles, has spent the past six years patrolling the Gaza border, carrying out reconnaissance missions. This year, it will be replaced by a UGV called Border Patroller, which will soon enter operations.

The new UGV, also produced by G-NIUS (a joint venture company established by Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems), is based on the Ford F-350 Super Duty Truck, which the army has converted into a remote-controled vehicle.

At the start of 2015, there were eight to ten robotic vehicles patrolling Israel's borders.

THE BORDER PATROLLER vehicle can be armed with a remotecontroled weapon and reconnaissance means. . (photo credit:G-NIUS)

Guardium MK III - Fully-autonomous unmanned ground vehicle for complex combat missions

Geared for use in complex combat missions, the Guardium MK III, Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle™ (UGCV) is fully autonomous, featuring excellent reconnaissance and weapons operation capabilities, as well as superb maneuverability in even the harshest warfare conditions. , The Guardium MK III creates deterrence by rapid closure of the sensor-to-shooter loop, identifies and classifies hostile activity, gives advance warning to military forces, and provides a threat response all without endangering personnel. The Guardium MK III is part of the G-NIUS Unmanned Ground Systems suite of unmanned ground vehicles for defense and security applications.

* weight 3000 kg
* 2000 kg payload
* Up to 120 kph (in semi autonomous mode)

Avantguard MK II

Already trialed and certified by the Israeli army and relying on the technological strength and capabilities of the Guardium UGV™ system, the AvantGuard® Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle (UGCV) expands the applications envelop to further encompass ground maneuvering combat missions.

Based on varied of tracked platforms such as tactical amphibious ground support (TAGS) vehicle, APC and others, the AvantGuard® UGCV features superb maneuverability even in harsh terrain

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