May 07, 2016

F-35 production rate will quadruple by 2019

F-35 production is slated to hit full steam in 2019, and Lockheed Martin is reshaping its final assembly line to get ready. Earlier plans called for full production by now, but that was delayed by problems that ultimately added billions of dollars to the cost. But now, production is poised to explode. This year, Lockheed will build 53 F-35s here and at another assembly facility in Italy, pushing the worldwide total past 200. That’s more than the Air Force has F-22 Raptors.

Lockheed and its partners are eyeing new manufacturing techniques that they hope could trim $10 million from each plane’s price tag, bringing it to $80 million by 2019. (The Pentagon says each one currently costs $100 million.) Collectively, Lockheed, Northrop and BAE have invested $132 million to help reduce the cost of the planes, Rein said.

For example, Lockheed is experimenting with a new way to drill the F-35’s wings. Currently, water and oil are used to cool a robotic drill bit so it doesn’t overheat and break. It’s a messy process, with fluid dripping down each wing. The new way uses cryogenic machining — essentially, freezing the drill bit beforehand instead of cooling it as it goes, Rein said. The company spent $119,000 testing the process, which it says will save $400,000 per jet, saving $12 million over the life of the program.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 307

1. James Conca, Forbes - Will The Truth About Chernobyl Ever Come Out?

Yes, it already has, but the truth is so much more boring than the assertions of megadeath, that it generally gets ignored. Today, April 26th, marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident, and it is well-known that only about a hundred, not thousands, of people died as a result of radiation, and mostly those were emergency workers, not the public.

2. Neutron Bytes - Dan Yurman, New paradigms emerge for innovation and investment in advanced nuclear energy reactor designs

Designers of advanced nuclear reactors seek to bridge the gap between concept and prototype. While it is early for investors and potential customers to easily pick winners from an increasingly crowded field of advanced reactor projects, new patterns of investment, including public/private partnerships, are creating opportunities for entrepreneurial developers.

3. Yes Vermont Yankee - More bad news for Vernon: Guest Post by Guy Page

Vernon Vermont, Vermont Yankee's town, is suffering a perfect storm of bad financial news. First, the town tax revenues took quite a hit when VY shut down. Next, many townspeople hoped for a proposed gas-fired plant which would take advantage of the VY switchyard, and would increase town tax revenues. The gas-fired plant won't be built, though, because Kinder Morgan has cancelled the pipeline that would have supplied the proposed plant. In the latest bad news, TransCanada is planning sell the Vernon Dam ---and the state of Vermont is thinking of buying it. A state purchase would also take Vernon Dam off the town tax rolls. These are depressing times for a pretty little town in Vermont.

US Army 2025-2040 will be shaped by leap forward technology

"Shaping the Army Network: 2025-2040,” is a guiding document to provoke thought and a means to inform and shape research, development and experimentation to ensure that the US Army maintains a technology edge in future conflict.

The five main focus areas are

  1. dynamic transport, computing and edge sensors,
  2. data to decisive action,
  3. human cognitive enhancement,
  4. robotics and autonomous operations
  5. cybersecurity and resiliency.

They are leveraging the capabilities of the Internet of Things, software-defined networks, advanced analytics, diverse sensors and actuators and self-healing networks.

Basically they desire a global mesh network that connects every soldier and all their devices with intuitive ease of use and automation that anticipates what information and communication is needed.

The US army of 2040 will be a dynamic global hive mind directing a global combat force.

May 06, 2016

Self driving cars will transform the economy, society, jobs, highways and cities

General Motors and Lyft will test a fleet of autonomous cars that may include the Chevrolet Bolt EV within a year in a step toward eliminating the major cost of operating ride-sharing fleets — the human driver. The plan is still a work in progress, according to Taggart Matthiesen, Lyft director of product. The two companies have not chosen the city, nor have they settled on which GM vehicles would be used in the pilot program.

Taggart Matthiese said that the Chevrolet Bolt EV is the ideal platform for ride-sharing solutions.

The Bolt design, which features a high level of wireless connectivity, could be a test bed for full, or Level 4, autonomy.

GM is buying self driving car technology in its acquisition of Cruise Automation. Cruise Automation is a 3-year-old San Francisco startup that GM bought for about $1 billion.

In January, GM announced it was investing $500 million in Lyft, the second-largest ride-sharing service in the U.S. after Uber.

Uber also has invested heavily in the robotics and artificial intelligence needed to take full control of a vehicle. In March, the German publication Manager Magazin reported that Uber had placed an order for at least 100,000 Mercedes S-Class cars, citing sources at both companies. Neither company has confirmed that report.

Google has been testing its self-driving cars on public roads in and around its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters for several years.

Spacex lands another rocket stage on the floating platform and Elon tweets Spacex may need to increase size of rocket storage

SpaceX now has two successful rocket stage landings at sea and one on land. Four previous sea landing attempts resulted in the stage tipping over or landing too hard. This rocket launch was to geosynchronous orbit which meant it was travelling faster. A successful landing was “unlikely,” SpaceX wrote on YouTube before the successful sea landing. However, Spaces did succeed.

Reusing first stage rocket stages should lower costs by 40% and reduce launch prices by 30%.

Spacex will try to reuse all stages which could ultimately reduce costs by 10 to 100 times.

Before launch

After landing

The Spacex vision of reusable rockets

May 05, 2016

Modern Conventional Weapons are more powerful than the Davey Crockett Battlefield Nuclear bomb

Battlefield nuclear weapons were deployed with US Army forces from 1961 to 1971.

Production of the Davy Crockett battlefield nuclear bomb began in 1956, with a total of 2,100 being made. The weapon was tested between 1962 and 1968 at the Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaiʻi island, with 714 M101 spotter rounds (not live warheads) that contained depleted uranium. The weapon was deployed with US Army forces from 1961 to 1971. It was deactivated from US Army Europe (in West Germany) in August, 1967.

Versions of the W54 warhead were also used in the Special Atomic Demolition Munition project and the AIM-26A Falcon.

Mk-54 (Davy Crockett) – 10 or 20 ton yield, Davy Crockett Gun warhead
Mk-54 (SADM) – variable yield 10 ton to 1 kiloton, Special Atomic Demolition Munition device
W-54 – 250 ton yield, warhead for AIM-26 Falcon air-to-air missile

The XM-388 projectile was launched from the XM-28 recoilless rifle A small, man-portable recoilless rifle, the XM-28 had a range of just 1.24 miles. An improved launcher, the XM-29, had a range of 2.5 miles. Both were operated by a three-man crew and an a M151 jeep could carry the entire system.

The 55th and 56th Infantry Platoons, attached to the Division Artillery of the US 82nd Airborne Division, were the last units equipped with the M-29 Davy Crockett weapons system. These two units were parachute deployed and, with a 1/2 ton truck per section, (3 per platoon) were fully air droppable.

Tactical Nuclear bombs, mines and artillery to wipe large columns of armor

The Davy Crockett recoilless spigot gun was developed in the late 1950s for use against Soviet and North Korean armor and troops in case war broke out in Europe or the Korean peninsula. Davy Crockett Sections were assigned to United States Army Europe and Eighth United States Army armor and mechanized and non-mechanized infantry battalions. During alerts to the Inner German border in the Fulda Gap the Davy Crocketts accompanied their battalions. All V Corps (including 3rd Armored Division) combat maneuver battalions had preassigned positions in the Fulda Gap. These were known as GDP (General Defense Plan) positions. The Davy Crockett sections were included in these defensive deployment plans. In addition to the Davy Crocketts (e.g., assigned to the 3rd Armored Division), V Corps had nuclear artillery rounds and Atomic Demolition Mines, and these were also targeted on the Fulda Gap. On the Korean peninsula, units assigned the Davy Crockett weapons primarily planned to use the passes that funneled armor as killing grounds, creating temporarily deadly radioactive zones roadblocked by destroyed tanks and other vehicles.

People waiting for the Tesla Model 3 in 2017 are buying more of the currently available Model S and X

Tesla Motors is actually benefiting from a sort of reverse cannibalization as sales of the $70,000-90,000 Tesla Model S have increased after the announcement of the 2017 release of the $35000 Model 3.

Tesla is seeing is that all the excitement and interest around Model 3 is actually boosting demand for the Model S and Model X. Many customers reserved a Model 3 purely on the strength of Tesla's brand and reputation. The vast majority of Model 3 reservation holders (93%) had never had any prior experience with the company or its vehicles.

Tesla is also gently encouraging Model S and X sales since it is giving Model 3 production priority to current vehicle owners. The company is doing this as a special thanks to all the customers that have helped it get to where it is today. It might sound extreme, but a faster route to taking delivery of a Model 3 is to buy a Model S or X now, in order to get priority status.

Many people are averse to test driving a car that they have no intention of buying, in part because they expect a hard sales pitch after the test drive. Plus, they don't want to feel as if they're wasting a salesperson's time. This expectation has been drilled into our heads thanks to the antiquated dealer model, and the related high-pressure sales environment that we've all come to know and love. This is especially true for high-end luxury cars.

In contrast, Tesla employees are more than happy to grant most people test drives. Since they're primarily compensated on education rather than sales, they're often happy enough just showing off the car to spread the word. Sure, they'd prefer if you bought a car, since they will get a small commission, but their compensation is not predicated on sales volumes.

Most people are not aware of this, and as such have never test driven a Tesla vehicle. Customers that have placed a Model 3 reservation feel more entitled to a Model S test drive just to experience a Tesla vehicle. But once those people test drive the Model S, they don't want to wait the 18 months (or more) to buy a Model 3. A lot of these customers would rather just buy the Model S right now.

Tesla Motors is stepping up production plans for its upcoming Model 3 mass-market sedan and would build a total of 500,000 all-electric vehicles in 2018, two years ahead of schedule, but warned that spending will ramp up in tandem.

The company, which three months ago aimed to make a net profit in the final quarter of this year, gave no profit target on Wednesday and said capital spending would rise about 50 percent more than previously forecast this year, to around $2.25 billion.

Tesla reported a wider first-quarter net loss, although results broadly beat Wall Street targets. It also said it was on track to deliver 80,000 to 90,000 electric vehicles this year, as it accelerated its target for Model 3 output.

Systems of molecular origami devices and their uses for molecular computing, quorum sensing and programmable drug delivery

A patent by Ido Bachelet and his team for a system acting as logic gates and systems exhibiting quorum sensing. The systems comprise at least one effector nucleic acid origami device, at least one regulator nucleic acid origami device, at least one input and at least one output. The nucleic acid origami devices are non-immunogenic and / or resistant to nucleases.

2014 paper from Nature Nanotechnology, Universal computing by DNA origami robots in a living animal

They tested DNA nanorobots controlled by a gate that opens if and only if two cues were present. These DNA robots emulate a logical AND gate. Other DNA robots and systems of robots emulated OR, XOR, NAND, NOT, CNOT, and a half adder. This was described in 2014 but this article provides the 2014 research paper details and the 2016 patent.

The system can be plausibly scaled to exceed the capacity of older 8-bit computers such as Commodore 64 or Atari 800.

Biological systems are collections of discrete molecular objects that move around and collide with each other. Cells carry out elaborate processes by precisely controlling these collisions, but developing artificial machines that can interface with and control such interactions remains a significant challenge. DNA is a natural substrate for computing and has been used to implement a diverse set of mathematical problems, logic circuits and robotics. The molecule also naturally interfaces with living systems, and different forms of DNA-based biocomputing have previously been demonstrated. Here we show that DNA origami can be used to fabricate nanoscale robots that are capable of dynamically interacting with each other in a living animal. The interactions generate logical outputs, which are relayed to switch molecular payloads on or off. As a proof-of-principle, we use the system to create architectures that emulate various logic gates (AND, OR, XOR, NAND, NOT, CNOT, and a half adder). Following an ex vivo prototyping phase, they successfully employed the DNA origami robots in living cockroaches (Blaberus discoidalis) to control a molecule that targets the cells of the animal.

DNA origami nanorobots described previously. These robots are controlled by a gate that opens in response to a correct combination of protein cues, which bind a sensing strand, typically an aptamer, and displace it from its complementary strand. Upon displacing the gate strands from each other the robot undergoes a drastic conformational shift, exposing the payload inside it and making it available to engage target cells. Here, these payloads mediate and control collisions between robots as described below.

In our design, the gate can be opened also by an external DNA key, which hybridizes with the complementary strand in the gate, displacing the sensing strand by toehold-mediated migration and activating the robot. This DNA key can now be mounted as payload into one robot, such that when this robot is active, the strand can access the gate of an adjacent robot, subsequently altering its state to active as well. This assigns a “positive regulator” (P) phenotype to the robot loaded with the external key. A “negative regulator” (N) phenotype can be assigned as well: here, the first robot is loaded with DNA clasps that cross-link two juxtaposed sides of the second robot’s gate, forcing it to close or preventing it from becoming open. These dynamic DNA interactions were designed and simulated using visual DSD

They designed various architectures by mixing P and N robots with effector (E) robots at defined ratios in the presence or absence of their cognate protein cues. To demonstrate this platform in a living biological system, they used living adult Blaberus discoidalis as model organisms. They found this animal to be an excellent model for initial prototyping of DNA nano-devices for its very low systemic nuclease activity, small systemic volume, and chemical compatibility with DNA structures. After loading E robots with an antibody recognizing the insect’s hemocytes (the hemolymph cells analogous to human white blood cells), robot mixtures were tested on freshly isolated hemocytes and then injected into the living animals

Robots emulating AND, OR and XOR gates in a living animal. A, schematic architecture representations. E robots (first from left) are equivalent to an AND gate, requiring both X and Y (in this study PDGF and VEGF, respectively) to open. EP1P2 architecture (second from left) functions as an OR gate, requiring either X, Y, or both to open. EP1P2N architecture (third from left) functions as a XOR gate, opening with either X or Y, but closing with both X and Y. EFP1P2N (right) emulates a half adder encoding the sum bit in E and carry bit in F. B, Top panels, AFM images (bars in nm) of robot architectures. Below every image is the corresponding flow cytometric analysis of insect cells isolated from B. discoidalis several hours following the injection of robots and appropriate keys. The table on the left shows key combination corresponding to each row of the histograms. E robots (FL1 channel) were tagged with FAM. Blue/red peaks represent negative/positive signals, respectively. C, flow cytometric analysis of the EFP1P2N architecture, emulating a half adder. E robots representing the sum bit (FL1 channel) and F robots (FL4 channel) representing the carry bit of the half adder were measured simultaneously in-vivo using FAM and Cy5 tagged robots. 1,000 hemocytes were collected for each experiment.

DNA Origami Computing Patent

The invention relates in general to systems of molecular origami devices and their uses for molecular computing, quorum sensing and programmable drug delivery.

Inspired by communication mechanisms occurring in biological systems, molecular communication (MC) is a novel interdisciplinary paradigm in which the research areas of biotechnology, communication technology and nanotechnology converge [Hiyama, S. et al., 2005]. The rapid advances in these fields have brought about the miniaturization of mobile machines and robots down to nanometer dimensions. At this scale, a bio-inspired nanorobot (nanobot in short) is the most basic functional unit, consisting of nanoscale components, that is capable of performing specific tasks such as computing, data storing, sensing or actuation.. Such tasks can be executed through the capacity of receiving inputs and generating outputs, which in a molecular communication context requires transceiver capabilities, as nanobots receive information by reacting to specific molecules and broadcast information by releasing other molecules, according to predefined parameters.

Different molecular communication systems have been proposed depending on the way message molecules propagate from transmitters to receivers [Pierobon, M. et al., 2010].

Molecular communication systems have been categorized into three classifications:

  1. walkway-based,
  2. diffusion based and
  3. flow-based Molecular Communication (MC).

For each category, several efforts have been undertaken to design systems and laboratory condition feasibility has been investigated.

For walkway-based MC systems, a walkway-motor-interaction transport model has been proposed. In such systems, signal molecules are propagated over protein filaments (i.e. microtubules) via molecular motors.

Diffusion-based MC is achieved by encapsulating information molecules into vesicles that are emitted into a medium where they subsequently propagate via diffusion or unpredicted turbulence of the medium. This approach also includes systems utilizing diffusion through gap-junctions between cells and long range systems that are envisioned to make use of platforms such as hormones, pheromones, pollen or spores. There have also been accounts of a new group of longer range, actively propelled systems utilizing flagellated bacteria and catalytic nanomotor systems in which information is encoded in DNA plasmids and transmitted via bacteria or synthetic nanomotors.

In flow based MC systems, signal molecules are released into a fluid medium where they are guided to their destination via currents or drifts. Such systems offer some of the most biologically realistic scenarios; i.e. as nanomachines can be deployed in flows which introduce a drift for the motion of signal molecules, such as in hormonal communication through the blood stream. Interestingly, even though vesicle and long range hormones, pheromones, pollen or spores systems might be applicable in flow guided MC systems, no research on physical systems employing such propagation systems has been published.

Original Patent details on DNA Origami Molecular buckets which enables nanomedicine

Ido Bachelet, Shawn Douglas and George Church filed a patent in 2011 for DNA origami devices useful in the targeted delivery of biologically active entities to specific cell populations.

This is the patent for the DNA nanorobot for molecular precise delivery of treatments to cells. This has been covered several times by Nextbigfuture

Their DNA origami device comprises a scaffold strand and a plurality of staple strands, wherein:

  • one of the staple strands comprises an aptamer domain capable of binding to an antigen;
  • another of the staple strands comprises a latch domain hybridized to the aptamer domain, the latch domain sequence selected such that the aptamer domain is capable of binding to the antigen such that the antigen displaces the latch domain;
  • the aptamer domain and the latch domain, when hybridized to one another, hold the device in a closed configuration; and
  • the device transitions to an open configuration when the aptamer domain and the latch domain are not hybridized to one another.

In some embodiments, the staples of the DNA origami devices are selected such that the DNA origami device is held in a particular conformation by a molecular latch. In general, such latches are formed from two or more staple stands, including at least one staple strand having at least one stimulus-binding domain that is able to bind to an external stimulus, such as a nucleic acid, a lipid or a protein, and at least one other staple strand having at least one latch domain that binds to the stimulus binding domain. The binding of the stimulus-binding domain to the latch domain supports the stability of a first conformation of the DNA origami device. The contacting of one or more of the stimulus-binding domains by an external stimulus to which it can bind displaces the latch domain from the stimulus-binding domain. This disruption of the molecular latch weakens the stability of the first conformation and may cause the DNA origami device to transition to a second conformation. In certain embodiments, this conformational change may result in previously sequestered moieties becoming externally presented and thereby rendering them capable of exerting a biological effect upon proximal cells.

In certain embodiments, the staple strands of a DNA origami device are selected such that the DNA origami device includes multiple molecular latches. For example, in certain embodiments, the DNA origami device includes two molecular latches. In some embodiments the various molecular latches may recognize different external stimuli, while in certain embodiments they recognize the same external stimuli. In certain embodiments, multiple external-stimuli binding domains and/or latch domains may be present on a single staple strand. In some embodiments, a stimuli-binding domain or a latch domain may span multiple staple strands which come together when the stimulus binds. In some embodiments, a stimuli-binding domain may bind multiple latch domains, or multiple stimuli-binding domains may bind a single latch domain.

The external stimulus to which the stimulus-binding domain can be any type of molecule including, but not limited to, a protein, a nucleic acid, a lipid, a carbohydrate and a small molecule. In certain embodiments, the external stimulus is preferentially expressed by a particular population of cells to be targeted by the DNA origami device. In such embodiments, the external stimulus may be present on or near the surface of the targeted cell population. For example, in certain embodiments the external stimulus is a cancer cell-specific antigen. In some embodiments the external stimulus is a molecule that is able to specifically bind to a particular population of cells. For example, the external stimulus can be a moiety bound to an antibody specific for an antigen expressed by a particular population of cells (e.g. a cancer cell-specific antigen).

The stimulus-binding domain is capable of forming a bond with a latch domain that is displaced upon the binding of an external stimulus. In certain embodiments, the stimulus binding domain binds to the external stimulus with a higher affinity than it binds to the latch domain.

May 04, 2016

Elon Musk hired the designer of suits for Superman, Batman and Black Panther in movies to make real spacesuits

Jose Fernandez is the founder and lead designer at Ironhead Studios, the company responsible for designing numerous superhero suits for the big screen. The studio has tackled Spiderman, Thor, and most recently, Batman. But the next big suit with Ironhead's touch sounds like it'll be for real-life spacemen. Namely, the ones that will work for our real-life Tony Stark, Elon Musk.

In an interview with Tested, Fernandez offhandedly mentioned his work for SpaceX. "I designed a spacesuit for SpaceX," Fernandez says, at the end of a clip highlighted by a Redditor on the subreddit devoted to the private spaceflight company. "I can't show [it], but they're gonna reveal it in the next possible year."

Fernandez told BLEEP:

I worked with [Musk] for six months and at the end of that, we created a suit that they are now reverse-engineering to make functional for flight. The look they are going to unveil in the next few months is something we created here in the studio. He wanted it to look stylish. It had to be practical but also needed to look great. It's pretty bad ass. He kept saying, "Anyone looks better in a tux, no matter what size or shape they are," and when people put this space suit on, he wants them to look better than they did without it, like a tux. You look heroic in it. It's an iconic thing be a part of.

Fiat and Google will make 100 self driving Chrisler Pacifica Hybrid Minivans

Google plans to integrate its autonomous tech [self driving car technology] into 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, expanding the fleet of 70 autonomous Lexus RX SUVs it built in-house. Engineers from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Google will work together in Michigan to integrate Google’s tech into the vans, a big upgrade from the cobbled-together look of the current cars.

Fiat Chrysler could leapfrog rivals like Volkswagen, Daimler, General Motors, Nissan, and Ford in an increasingly competitive field. And Google makes good on its longstanding goal of working with partners “to bring this technology into the world safely.”

“The opportunity to work closely with FCA engineers will accelerate our efforts to develop a fully self-driving car, that will make our roads safer and bring everyday destinations within reach for those who cannot drive,” John Krafcik, who leads Google’s autonomous vehicle program, said in a statement.

Ukraine makes an upgraded BMP-1 armored vehicle

Ukrainian industry has developed to the prototype stage a major upgrade package for the Russian BMP-1 tracked infantry fighting vehicle (IFV).

The first prototype vehicle, designated the BMP-1 UM IFV, is being tested in Ukraine.

The BMP-1 was a Soviet amphibious tracked infantry fighting vehicle. BMP stands for Boyevaya Mashina Pekhoty 1, meaning "infantry fighting vehicle". The BMP-1 was the first mass-produced infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) of USSR.

  • Over 20,000 original BMP-1 and variants were produced in the USSR.
  • 18000 were produced in Czechoslovakia)
  • Another 3000 were produced in China
  • 800 were made in India

The extensive modifications include the replacement of the original one-man BMP-1 turret, which was armed with a 73 mm 2A28 smoothbore gun, a 7.62 mm PKT co-axial machine gun (MG), and a KBM 9K11 Malyutka (Sagger) anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW) that was originally mounted on top of the main gun's barrel.

Many operators have removed the original wire-guided ATGW as it is difficult to control, especially in windy conditions.

In the upgrade, the baseline turret has been replaced by the locally developed Shkval overhead weapon station (OWS), production quantities of which have been developed for installation on a number of platforms including the locally manufactured BTR-3 8x8 series of armoured personnel carriers (APCs).

The OWS is armed with a stabilised 30 mm ZTM-1 dual-feed cannon, 7.62 mm KT coaxial machine gun (MG), and a 30 mm AG-17 automatic grenade launcher, which is mounted externally on the left side of the turret.

The ZTM-1 has an effective range in the ground-to-ground role of up to 2,000 m and can also be used to engage some types of aerial targets. It has a maximum muzzle velocity of 960 m/s.

Ready-use ammunition typically consists of 225 rounds of 30 mm ammunition and 2,500 rounds of 7.62 m ammunition; additionally it can carry 116 rounds of 30 mm grenade ammunition (of which 29 are ready use).

International Tokomak Fusion project delayed another ten years and will cost $4 billion euro more and there are better energy project choices

The international ITER project to build a prototype nuclear fusion reactor will be delayed by more than a decade and faces another 4 billion euros of cost overruns, its director told French daily Les Echos.

ITER chief Bernard Bigot said the experimental fusion reactor under construction in Cadarache, France, will not see the first test of its super-heated plasma before 2025 and its first full-power fusion not before 2035.

"The previous planning, which foresaw first plasma by 2020 and full fusion by 2023, was totally unrealistic," said Bigot, who succeeded Japan's Osamu Motojima at the head of ITER early last year

Bigot, the former head of French nuclear agency CEA, also said he expects the new delay will add 4 billion euros of cost overruns to the 14 to 15 billion euros estimated so far.

Nextbigfuture provided an update of the other nuclear fusion projects such as

  • General Fusion in Canada
  • Tri-Alpha Energy
  • Helion Energy
  • Lockheed Fusion
  • EMC2 Fusion
  • LPP Fusion
  • Dynomak Fusion
  • MagLIF at Sandia
  • Muon Fusion Japan

General Fusion and Tri-Alpha energy both have over $100 million in funding. Helion Energy has about $20-40 million in overall funding. They each are targeting earlier dates than the ITER project. A low technical risk project for revolutionizing nuclear fission is the Canadian company Terrestrial Energy who are developing a new molten salt nuclear fission reactor. The molten salt reactor project is low technical risk because a molten reactor unit with several MWth of power was built and operated for a few years. There were other smaller reactors as well. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) took the lead in researching the MSR through 1960s, and much of their work culminated with the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE). The MSRE was a 7.4 MWth test reactor simulating the neutronic "kernel" of a type of epithermal thorium molten salt breeder reactor called the liquid fluoride thorium reactor. The large, expensive breeding blanket of thorium salt was omitted in favor of neutron measurements. Canadian company Terrestrial Energy has secured CAD$10 million ($7 million) in Series A funding to support its program to bring its Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) technology to industrial markets in the 2020s. * No fuel fabrication cost or salt processing = extremely low fuel costs * Ultimately could reach costs of 0.86 cents/kwh, first versions will be at 3 cents per kwh * Right size reactors, right pressure steam * Uranium usage will initially be 6 times more efficient than conventional reactors * the reactor is passively safe * Mature versions will be able to close the fuel cycle. ie. have virtually no nuclear waste - aka unburned nuclear fuel Later units that include electricity generation can still send steam for cogeneration (use steam for desalination or the oilsand production. This provides another revenue stream for the IMSR nuclear plants.
The 25 MWe version of the IMSR is the size of a fairly deep hottub

Spacex Superdraco engines and unmanned Red Dragon mission to Mars planned for 2018

The Spacex SuperDraco's technical specifications were submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration as part of an environmental assessment of engine tests at the MacGregor site. Each SuperDraco thruster can produce 16,400 pounds of thrust. The total power of the eight-thruster system, clustered in four pairs around the spacecraft, is 122,600 pounds. The lower thrust level of the combined eight-thrusters is limited to maintain stability.. Each thruster has a 20-cm exit nozzle, with an exhaust velocity of 2,300 meters per second. The system's hypergolic propellant allows the Dragon 2 to accelerate from zero to 100 mph in 1.2 seconds.

SpaceX plans crewed tests of the SuperDraco-equipped Dragon 2 in 2017. The target is a possible uncrewed Red Dragon landing on Mars in 2018. Many more Mars missions will follow a successful Red Dragon mission.

May 03, 2016

New cancer drugs could treat lethal resistant prostate cancers

Men with aggressive prostate cancer that has stopped responding to conventional treatment could potentially benefit from a new class of cancer drug designed to overcome drug resistance, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that the drugs, called Hsp90 inhibitors, specifically target and inactivate a mechanism commonly used by prostate cancer cells to evade the effects of standard treatment.

The findings provide vital information about the role of Hsp90 in drug-resistant prostate cancers, and open up potential new routes to cancer treatment based on blocking this or related proteins.

A team at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, found that Hsp90 inhibitors countered the effect of malfunctions in the androgen receptor, which often occur in resistance to hormone treatments.

The research suggests that Hsp90 inhibitors could be effective in prostate cancers that have become resistant to treatment and started spreading round the body.

Lockheed Portable Fusion project still making progress

Lockheed Martin continues to invest in its portable nuclear fusion generator, with that investment recently entering a more advanced stage, according to the head of the company’s Skunk Works division.

Rob Weiss told an audience at the Atlantic Council that Lockheed is “about four months into a little bit more significant investment” into the technology, which was first revealed around two years ago.

At the time of the initial announcement, Lockheed said it was aiming for a 100 megawatt device which could fit on the back of a large truck. Such a reactor, the company claims, could power a city of up to 100,000 people.

The project began in 2010.

In October 2014 Lockheed Martin announced that they will attempt to develop a compact fusion reactor that will fit "on the back of a truck" and produce 100 MW output - enough to power a town of 80,000 people.

Lockheed is using magnetic mirror confinement that contains the plasma in which fusion occurs by reflecting particles from high-density magnetic fields to low-density ones.

Lockheed is targeting a relatively small device that is approximately the size of a conventional jet engine. The prototype is approximately 1 meter by 2 meters in size.

Even after rebuilding China's GDP, Conference Board believes China will contribute most world growth from 2018 onwards

The Conference Board estimates that by 2018, China’s contribution to global GDP will surpass that of the U.S. In other words, China’s economy will become more significant than America’s

This is based on the Conference Board reconstructing China's GDP. They use a bottom-up on a sector-by-sector basis, partly relying on official measures where they find those to be relatively unbiased, and partly constructing new estimates where we have concerns about the methodology of the published estimates. They feel the alternative GDP series provides a better description of China’s growth performance historically, and provides a better basis for projecting its growth going forward. They have discussed their alternative estimates at length with representatives from the academic and policy worlds in China and globally.

Over the past decade, thye have worked closely with Professor Harry X. Wu (Japan’s Hitotsubashi University) – to develop alternative growth and productivity estimates for China. Based on his latest work, as well as earlier studies he conducted in collaboration with the late Professor Angus Maddison (University of Groningen in the Netherlands), we have fully integrated Professor’s Wu alternative estimates into this year’s annual Global Economic Outlook

At the center of the historical debate on China’s growth performance has been whether growth during the reform period since 1978 can be primarily attributed to productivity growth or is mainly driven by factor accumulation. The new GDP series show that the growth contribution of capital to the economy has been much larger than the official estimates suggested, while the growth of total factor productivity (TFP) has been much weaker. This weakening in TFP growth is feeding into the underlying model for The Conference Board Global Economic Outlook, and puts China’s economy on a slowing trend for the medium term to 2025. However, they also find that China’s current growth performance, at 3.7 percent in 2015, is somewhat below their five-year trend estimate of 4.5 percent. Hence it is possible that the economy may see some temporary recovery in the next few years

Global GDP growth is now projected at 2.5 percent, which is 0.3 percentage point lower than their November outlook. The largest downward adjustments are seen in emerging markets, of which Brazil and Russia are the most pronounced, as their economic outlook has deteriorated more rapidly than they expected.

Uncertainty and pessimism have dominated the economic and business news in recent months. While at face value the mood seems justified as many negative factors (China’s financial gyrations, volatility in oil prices, and the further weakening of the US economy) are colluding, the recent developments by themselves do not yet signal an imminent global economic recession.

  • Growth rates of China, India and Southeast Asia are unlikely to see significant improvement in 2016 compared to last year.
  • Chinese growth in 2016 is expected to stay the same as that of 2015 at 3.7 percent (Alternative China GDP Series FAQ)
  • After adjusting for China’s overstated official growth rates, India has already overtaken China as the growth champion of the region, but we do not expect an improvement in India’s growth performance in 2016 relative to 2015.

Stryker has 100 mix and match drills and attachments for their surgical robots

Stryker's Instruments group announces full availability of its most comprehensive and customizable high speed drill line, the Signature Portfolio which is used with Stryker's medical robots. Stryker re-engineered and restyled its Signature Portfolio components in collaboration with surgeons to fulfill their criteria for power, function and ergonomics. The Signature Portfolio of high speed drills includes electric motors, pneumatic motors and over 90 attachments and cutting accessories, which contribute to optimal surgeon customization.

In addition to the Signature Portfolio's 100 mix-and-match components, surgeons can further customize the tactile feel, response and performance of PiDrive electric drills through Stryker I.D. Touch software on the CORE Console power unit. The console saves unlimited user profiles so surgeons can quickly retrieve their personal style setting, providing the confidence that comes from having a consistent drill feel and performance.

"A surgeon's 'touch' is one of their greatest assets, and our I.D. Touch software maximizes this by allowing surgeons to adjust torque from 0-100 percent to customize how the electric drill feels and responds when pressure is applied, from low to high motor sensitivity," explains Jim Marucci, VP and General Manager of Stryker Neuro, Spine, ENT and Navigation. "Redefining drill performance to their liking, in as many ways as possible, is what the Signature Portfolio is all about."

In addition to torque/motor sensitivity, other customizable features of the Signature Portfolio include speed, acceleration and breaking rates, irrigation flow, hand switches, foot pedals and new multi-notch telescoping cutting accessories. Telescoping capability optimizes cost and inventory management by providing up to five choices (up to 10mm) in reach and shaft exposure in just one cutting tool. Stryker's Elite Series cutting accessories are also compatible with Signature Portfolio components, providing an additional 200 telescoping instruments for use and customization.

In 2015, Stryker added the Mako Total Knee application to their market-leading Triathlon Knee System. It was a key milestone in reconstructive surgery. The new application expands the growth of robotic-arm assisted surgery in orthopaedics and has the potential to enhance both the surgeon and the patient experience.

At the end of 2015, more than 50,000 Mako Partial Knee and 10,000 Mako Total Hip procedures have been performed. As demand for knee and hip procedures continues to rise, Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted Systems are designed to enable surgeons to reduce variability within reconstructive procedures

Femtosecond clock synchronization for ultraprecise satellite formations, radio astronomy and military applications

DARPA has projects for developing clocks that are 10,000 times more precise than the atomic clocks used for the global positioning system.

The Global Positioning System (GPS), the Internet and many defense-critical applications for example—demand exceptionally precise time and frequency standards. Today’s systems, however, rely on 1950s atomic physics technologies. Recent advances in optical atomic systems give promise to a new generation of optical atomic clocks and quantum metrology that stands to transform numerous DoD applications. The Quantum-Assisted Sensing and Readout (QuASAR) program is developing new quantum control and readout techniques to provide a suite of measurement tools that will be broadly applicable across disciplines, with likely applications relating to biological imaging, inertial navigation and robust global positioning systems. Recently the program demonstrated the world’s most accurate clock with a total uncertainty of 2 parts in 10^18 , or about 10,000 times better than GPS clocks. This means that if the clock began ticking at the Big Bang nearly 14 billion years ago it would be accurate to better than one second today.

Clocks of this caliber could lead to improved positioning and navigation, and enable novel imaging and geological sensing techniques.

DARPA’s Ultrafast Laser Science and Engineering (PULSE) program is developing the technological means for engineering improved spectral sources, such as ultra-fast optical lasers—advances that in turn could facilitate more efficient and agile use of the entire electromagnetic spectrum and generate improvements in existing capabilities such as geolocation, navigation, communication, coherent imaging and radar, and perhaps give rise to entirely new spectrum-dependent capabilities. Recent PULSE demonstrations include synchronization of clocks with femtosecond precision across kilometers of turbulent atmosphere, corresponding to a 1,000-fold improvement over what is possible using conventional radio-frequency techniques.

The high coherence and full time synchronization demonstrated here could enable applications from time distribution to long-baseline radio astronomy. If extended to moving platforms by appropriate compensation for Doppler shifts, this technique could similarly enable applications such as precise formation flying of phased satellite arrays.

Optica - Tight real-time synchronization of a microwave clock to an optical clock across a turbulent air path

For greater phase coherence at Fourier frequencies beyond the effective synchronization bandwidth of 100 Hz, the quartz–DRO pair could be replaced by an optical-frequency-divisiongenerated signal or a cryogenic sapphire oscillator.

(a) Conceptual multistatic synthetic aperture radar where an array of microwave oscillators are synchronized to a single master optical oscillator; LO, local oscillator. (b) The master site’s clock is based on a laser stabilized to an optical cavity (optical oscillator). The remote site’s clock is based on a combined quartz oscillator and DRO. This remote microwave clock is tightly synchronized to the optical clock over a folded 4 km long air path via O-TWTFT. The time and the frequency outputs from each clock are compared in a separate measurement to verify femtosecond time offsets and high phase coherence of the synchronized signals

China using air pollution to reduce the effectiveness of enemy combat lasers

The presence of microscopic particles in the air causes lasers to lose their intensity. Lasers naturally lose intensity over distance due to particulates in the air, a problem that grows much worse if a laser tries to penetrate a cloud, rain, fog, or man-made smoke. According to this article, China's PLA is now working to thwart enemy lasers by creating smoke screens over its own combat forces. These would not only obstruct weaponized lasers, but also laser designators that guide other weapons, such as the Paveway family of laser-guided bombs.

The PLA is experimenting with creating smoke in two ways: creating sulfur trioxide smoke through burning materials (spraying oil on a hot diesel engine is one way to do it) or creating an oily fog. The PLA Chemical Corps plans to use a new multiple canister launcher (pictured) to rapidly lay down protective smoke screens for nearby friendly forces.

China is developing fume generating vehicles to provide cover for other vehicles and launch incendiary devices.

India's navy wants 100 technologies by 2031 including railguns, hypersonic weapons and lasers

The Indian Navy has finalized a plan to acquire 100 cutting-edge technologies in the next 15 years to build its war-fighting capabilities, but how realistic that will be is a million-dollar question.

The 15-year prospective plan unveiled last month calls for acquiring a range of futuristic technologies. These include naval missiles and guns, propulsion and power generation, surveillance and detection systems, torpedoes and directed energy weapons, submarines and anti-submarine warfare systems, naval aviation, network-centric warfare and combat management systems.

"By 2027, we want 200 warships and around 600 aerial assets, hypersonic and loitering missiles, and laser weapons," said Rear Adm. Dinesh Tripathi, the Indian Navy's assistant chief of naval staff for policy and plans.

The navy has 138 warships and submarines and about 230 aerial assets, he said.

Highest on the Indian military technology wishlist is

  • reduce foreign dependence for sensors and weapons
  • high-definition radars, sonars, infra-red seeker and electronic warfare
  • develop a high-range of hypersonic and loitering missiles
  • develop lasers and directed energy weapons
  • electromagnetic rail guns and kinetic energy projectiles
  • spaceplanes
  • autonomous advanced drones and unmanned combat vehicles that are truly autonomous
  • fusion-based power sources.

India immediately wants larger-caliber guns, 127mm and anti-missile guns (Vulcan Phalanx type), extended range and guided munitions. They will try to get foreign licenses to allow for domestic production.

India is working with Russia to develop a short range hypersonic missiles. BrahMos-II is a hypersonic cruise missile currently under joint development by Russia's NPO Mashinostroeyenia and India's Defence Research and Development Organisation, which have together formed BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited. It is the second of the BrahMos series of cruise missiles. The BrahMos-II is expected to have a range of 290 kilometres (180 mi; 160 nmi) and a speed of Mach 7. During the cruise stage of flight the missile will be propelled by a scramjet airbreathing jet engine. Other details, including production cost and physical dimensions of the missile, are yet to be published. It is expected to be ready for testing by 2017

BrahMos-II mockup

UAE performing design study of artificial mountain to increase rainfall

The UAE is currently in the first stage of a man-made mountain development project as the country mulls different approaches to maximizing rainfall.

Experts from the US-based University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are in the “detailed modeling study” phase, NCAR scientist and lead researcher Roelof Bruintjes told Arabian Business.

The presence of mountains forces air to rise, creating clouds that can then be seeded, Bruintjes said.
Cloud seeding, a weather modification process designed to increase the amount of rainfall produced from clouds, has a permanent unit at the NCMS’s meteorological department, which conducts operations across the UAE.

The department recently revealed $558,000 was spent on UAE cloud-seeding last year.

“Building a mountain is not a simple thing,” added Bruintjes. “We are still busy finalizing assimilation, so we are doing a spread of all kinds of heights, widths and locations [as we simultaneously] look at the local climatology.”

One proposal to build a 1.2-mile-high mountain in the notoriously flat Netherlands was found to be feasible if the mountain were hollow. Estimates for the cost went as high as $230 billion.

Arxiv - Cheap Artificial AB-Mountains, Extraction of Water and Energy from Atmosphere and Change of Regional Climate by Alexander Bolonkin

Bolonkin's idea is creating a cheap range of inflatable ‘mountains’ (really immense gasbags) from a thin film whose presence forces humid air (a wet wind) to rise to high altitude. It is well known that air expands and cools at altitude. The air humidity decreases, exceeds the maximal saturation level and superfluous water vapor condenses in various forms, including rain or rain clouds.

The top of the gasbags’ film is located at an altitude of ~3 - 5 km. It is supported at this altitude by a small additional air pressure produced by ground ventilators. The film is connected to Earth's ground by controlled cables, which allow some change in the height and orientation of the artificial mountain(s). The gasbag’s external surface may require double-layer film. We can control the heat conductivity of the dome cover by pumping an air between two layers of the dome cover and change the solar heating (solar radiation) by control of cover clarity or pumping a warm air between layers if icing-over or show is at the dome top. That allows selecting for different conditions (solar heating) in the covered area and by pumping air into the dome.

The building of a film dome is very easy. The collapsed film is spread out over Earth’s surface, turn on the pumping propellers and the film is raised by air overpressure to the needed altitude limited by the support cables. Damage to the film is not a major trouble because the additional air pressure is very small (0.005 - 0.05 atm) and air leakage is compensated for by the air impellers.

Singapore's sports stadium, SportsHub, is the largest free-spanning dome structure ever built—stretching more than 1,010 feet across at its widest point.

Radiation and immunotherapy combination can destroy both primary and secondary tumors

Radiation therapy not only kills cancer cells, but also helps to activate the immune system against their future proliferation. However, this immune response is often not strong enough to be able to cure tumors, and even when it is, its effect is limited to the area that has been irradiated. Now, however, research to be presented to the ESTRO 35 conference today (Sunday) has shown that the addition of an immune system-strengthening compound can extend the radiation therapy-induced immune response against the tumor sites and that this response even has an effect on tumours outside the radiation field.

A combination of radiation therapy and L19-IL2, an immunotherapy agent, can increase significantly the immune response when given to mice with primary colorectal tumors. L19-IL2 is a combination of an antibody that targets the tumor blood vessels and a cytokine, a small protein important in cell signaling in the immune system.

The researchers found not only that the mice were tumor-free following treatment, but also that when re-injected with cancer cells 150 days after cure, they did not form new tumors. There was also an increase in the number of cells with an immunological memory.

May 02, 2016

Chinese Hypersonic Weapons Development

China has an anti-access/area-denial strategy (A2/AD) [a lot of missiles] for combating the US Navy and airforce. China’s A2/AD strategy is about to become even more deadly — thanks to the growing sophistication of Beijing’s hypersonic weapons program, or in layman’s terms, missiles that can move 5 more times faster than the speed of sound (Mach 5+).

The Jamestown foundation has an article about Chinese Hypersonic Weapons Development by Karen Montague and Erika Solem

China, the United States and Russia are pursuing various iterations of hypersonic glide vehicle (HGVs) and all three have developed prototypes of this high-tech weapon. The X-51A, Yu-71, and DF-ZF are the current HGV prototypes for the U.S., Russia and China, respectively. This new class of weapons has prompted each nation to adopt different approaches, with each model using a different engine, fuel type, and delivery method, but all HGV weapons’ core characteristic is sustained and controlled Mach 5 (3,836 mph) flight

Collapsible-rent-a-fridges can lower the cost of keeping transported food cool in India where 40% of fruits and vegtables spoil

A team of MIT and Harvard University students won the first-ever MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize on Thursday night for an idea to make India’s temperature-controlled supply chain for food — or “cold chain” — more affordable.

The team, GoMango, is developing smart, modular, refrigerated shipping boxes that can be rented out individually to cut costs and save billions of dollars in spoiled perishable goods in India. This innovation earned GoMango the first-place prize of $12,000 at the competition, which was organized by the student-run MIT Food and Agriculture Club to support early-stage ventures focusing on food and agriculture sustainability.

For the competition, six finalist teams pitched ideas to a panel of judges from academia and industry, and a capacity crowd, in the Samberg Conference Center. A team of MIT students, Safi Organics, earned the $8,000 second-place prize, and a team of MIT and Harvard University students, Ricult, won a $5,000 third-place prize. Other inventions included edible eating utensils, nanosensors for plants, and robotic hay compactors.

gomango is building a network of modular, intelligent refrigerated boxes to transport perishable goods using any existing truck or train. An on-demand network of low-cost refrigerated boxes will distribute the benefits of refrigerated transport widely. Reduced food waste and increased food choice will increase food access and availability, stabilize food prices, and improve nutrition.

Rentable cold chain

In GoMango’s pitch, team member and MIT alumnus Naren Tallapragada ’13, now a PhD student at Harvard University, said refrigerated trucks are rare in India, because they’re too expensive for producers and wholesalers to rent or own. By some estimates, there are as many refrigerated trucks in Boston as there are in the whole country of India.

With shipping routes sometimes spanning hundreds of miles in very hot temperatures, nearly 40 percent of India’s fruit and vegetables spoil before reaching customers, Tallapragada said: “This means hundreds of millions of people are malnourished [and] billions of dollars are wasted.”

To address the issue, GoMango invented refrigerated boxes that can be collapsed, and stored in partnering cold-storage warehouses. Food producers and wholesalers can rent exactly as many boxes as needed and stack them on traditional dry trucks, which cost roughly $100 less than refrigerated trucks.

Boxes are stuffed with packs filled with innovative phase-change materials, much like giant ice packs. They’re kept frozen until packed with food — such as fruits and vegetables and meats and fish — and liquefy throughout a trip to keep contents cool for up to three days. Each box also connects to the Internet to track location, temperature, humidity, and payment information.

Net Market Share joins StatCounter as ranking Google Chrome as the king of Browsers

For the month of April, Google Chrome took home a 41.6 percent share of all desktop browser traffic picked up by Web tracker Net Market Share, up from 39 percent in March. Over the same time, Internet Explorer's share dropped to 41.3 percent from 43.4 percent. This marks the first time Chrome has surpassed IE to assume the top spot, at least in the eyes of Net Market Share.

While the browser battles aren't as intense as they once were, browser makers continue to fiddle with their approaches. Most dramatically, after years of riding IE's dominance, Microsoft is moving on with the more modern Edge browser in Windows 10.

oogle Chrome has actually been in first place since 2012, according to fellow Web tracker StatCounter, which puts Firefox in second and Internet Explorer in third. Why the difference?

Each Web tracker uses its own somewhat unique methods and sources to determine Web traffic data. For example, Net Applications counts unique visitors per day rather than page views, covers around 40,000 websites and has a stronger presence in certain countries than other Web trackers. StatCounter analyzes the overall volume of Web traffic and tracks more than 3 million sites around the world.

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