July 02, 2016

China wants to be a Maritime Superpower with a big and modern Navy, coast guard and merchant fleets

Remarks made by senior leaders since 2012 make it clear that the long-term goal is for China to be a leader across all aspects of maritime power; having some of these capabilities means that China has some maritime power but that it is “incomplete.” Research strongly suggests that China will achieve the goal of being the leading maritime power in all areas except its navy, by 2030.

China defines maritime power as a country that could “exert its great comprehensive power to develop, utilize, protect, manage, and control oceans.” China would not become a maritime power until it could deal with the challenges it faces in defense of its maritime sovereignty, rights, and interests, and could deal with the threat of containment from the sea.

The maritime power equation includes a large and effective coast guard; a world-class merchant marine and fishing fleet; a globally recognized shipbuilding capacity; and an ability to harvest or extract economically important maritime resources, especially fish.

In a few years China will have the world’s second most capable navy. China is already a world leader in shipbuilding, and it has the world’s largest fishing industry. Its merchant marine ranks either first or second in terms of total number of ships owned by citizens. It already has the world’s largest number of coast guard vessels.

For China to satisfy the maritime power objective, it must be able to defend all of China’s maritime rights and interests in its near seas in spite of U.S. military presence and alliance commitments. In short, it must be able to successfully execute what the latest defense white paper terms “offshore waters defense” for China to be considered a maritime power.

Around 2020, China will have both the largest navy in the world (by combatant, underway replenishment, and submarine ship count) and the second most capable “far seas” navy in the world. The total “far seas” capable warships/Underway replenishment/submarines forecast to be in PLAN’s inventory around 2020 total between 95 and 104 major warships. If one adds this number to the 175-odd warships/submarines the PLAN has commissioned since 2000 that are largely limited to near seas operations and likely will still be in active service through 2020, the total PLAN warship/replenishment/submarine strength circa 2020 is in the range of 265-273, all of which are homeported in China.

Chinese projections suggest that by 2030 China will surpass Greece and Japan to have the world’s largest merchant fleet by DWT and that its “international shipping capacity” will double, to account for 15 percent of the world’s shipping volume. China’s goal is that 85 percent of crude oil should be carried by Chinese-controlled ships. China will become the largest tanker owner by owner nationality around 2017-18.

Current American, Russian and Chinese hypersonic weapon timelines see initial deployments from 2020-2025

US Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias said based upon the current trajectory, the US Air Force will likely have some initial hypersonic weapons ready by sometime in the 2020s.

In the 2030s, the air force could have a hypersonic drone or ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) vehicle. “I don’t yet know if this is envisioned to be survivable or returnable. It may be one way,” Zacharias explained. A super high-speed drone or ISR platform would better enable air vehicles to rapidly enter and exit enemy territory and send back relevant imagery without being detected by enemy radar or shot down.

By the 2040s, however, the Air Force could very well have a hypersonic “strike” ISR platform able to both conduct surveillance and delivery weapons, he added.

A key component of this is the fact that weapons traveling at hypersonic speeds would present serious complications for targets hoping to defend against them – they would have only seconds with which to respond or defend against an approaching or incoming attack.

Some hypersonic vehicles could be developed with what Zacharias called “boost glide” technology, meaning they fire up into the sky above the earth’s atmosphere and then utilize the speed of decent to strike targets as a re-entry vehicle.

The US currently has no scheduled hypersonic flight tests. The last successful US hypersonic test was in 2013.

DARPA has funded development of the Advanced Full Range Engine which will be a reusable hypersonic engine. It will have a regular turbine engine and then a dual combined cycle to reach Mach 5+. “Instead of designing an entirely new kind of engine, we’re envisioning an inventive hybrid system that would combine and improve upon the best of off-the-shelf turbine and ramjet/scramjet technologies,” said Christopher Clay, DARPA program manager. “This won’t be the first time that ambitious engineers will attempt to combine turbine and ramjet technologies. But with recent advances in manufacturing methods, modeling, and other disciplines, we believe this potentially groundbreaking achievement may finally be within reach.”

AFRE aims to explore a turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) engine concept, which would use a turbine engine for low-speed operations and a dual-mode ramjet—which would work efficiently whether the air flowing through it is subsonic (as in a ramjet) or supersonic (as in a scramjet)—for high-speed operations. The two components of the hybrid engine would share a common forward-facing air intake and rear-facing exhaust nozzle to release thrust.

AFRE aims to develop critical technologies and culminate in ground-based testing of a full-scale, integrated technology demonstration system. If that testing is successful, further development of the AFRE technology would require flight testing in a potential follow-on demonstration program.

China and Russia both had more successful hypersonic tests early in 2016.

Parkinson disease found to have different cellular cause and partially cured Parkinsons in fruit flies

Scientists believe they have discovered that Parkinson’s disease is caused in a different way than previously thought and also a possible new way of treating the severely debilitating condition.

It was believed Parkinson’s occurs when mitochondria – which supply power to cells – malfunctioned, causing brain cells that produce the key hormone dopamine to die.

But Leicester University researchers found most of the problem related to another part of the cell, called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)

In a study with fruit flies that had been genetically modified to develop Parkinson’s, the scientists managed to at least partially correct the problem so that the number of brain cells increased and the flies’ muscles remained healthy.

Cell Death and Disease - Mitofusin-mediated ER stress triggers neurodegeneration in pink1/parkin models of Parkinson’s disease

High performance computing was a $11.4 billion market in 2015

IDC presented its annual HPC (High Performance Computing - aka big and small supercomputers) Update

11 percent revenue growth to $11.4 billion in 2015, Projected 5.9% average from 2015 to 2020

Self built supercomputers like the current world's largest the 93 petaflop Sunway do not fit into the IDC structure. They only track computers that are built and then sold to someone else.

HPE/HP (2015 sales) led the pack of ten named supercomputer suppliers with $1.2B.
Cray was nearest ($583M)
Lenovo ($391M),
NEC ($138M),
Fujitsu ($106M),
SGI ($88M),
Dell ($54M),
Bull Atos ($41M)
Sugon ($13M)
Other’ category was actually third with $422M.

IDC recently begun characterizing HPDA in four categories:

  • Fraud and anomaly detection. This “horizontal” workload segment centers around identifying harmful or potentially harmful patterns and causes using graph analysis, semantic analysis, or other high performance analytics techniques. The patterns may point to fraud, which is the deceptive exploitation or annotation of data for wrongful or illegal personal gain, or they may point to cyber security crime or insider threats, significant errors, or other anomalies that may deserve further investigation.
  • Marketing. This segment covers the use of HPDA to promote products or services, typically using complex algorithms to discern potential customers’ demographics, buying preferences and habits.
  • Business intelligence. The workload segment uses HPDA to identify opportunities to advance the market position and competitiveness of businesses, by better understanding themselves, their competitors, and the evolving dynamics of the markets they participate in.
  • Other Commercial HPDA. This catchall segment includes all commercial HPDA workloads other than the three just described. Over time, IDC expects some of these workloads to become significant enough to split out of this “other” category and command their own segments. An example of such a high-potential workload is the use of HPDA to manage large IT infrastructures, ranging from on premise data centers to public clouds and Internet-of-Things (IoT) infrastructures.


July 01, 2016

In Search of vanishing stars and galaxies

A team of astronomers say that the next search for advanced extraterrestrial civilizations should look for stars – or even galaxies – that have vanished without a trace, as anything so unexplainable could only be due to life far more intelligent than us.

Beatriz Villarroel at Uppsala University in Sweden says this crazy idea has been gnawing at her since her first year of graduate studies. Now she and two undergraduates have finally taken the plunge. They scoured multiple surveys of the night’s sky by eye in order to see if any of nearly 300,000 light sources disappeared from one survey to the next.

So far the results are mixed. The team found one interesting artefact that looks like it might have vanished, but they can’t be sure. “It was a depressing case in the sense that we neither could reject it and neither could we say that it was a real candidate,” says Villarroel. Although the team checked for so-called false positives, throwing out hundreds of similar disappearing objects, this one withstood all tests – but only just.

Even if the disappearance is real, there could still be an astrophysical explanation. Quasars – the bright centres of galaxies powered by supermassive black holes – can shut down in less than a decade and drop drastically in brightness. Stars, too, can be highly variable.

Arxiv - Our Sky now and then − searches for lost stars and impossible effects as probes of advanced extra-terrestrial civilisations

The Recession Generation Unconference: How to Maximize Your Impact and Thrive in Uncertain Time

BIL Conference and EarthSharing.org to Host ”The Recession Generation Unconference: How to Maximize Your Impact and Thrive in Uncertain Times.”

On Saturday, July 9, 2016 BIL Conference and Earthsharing.org are hosting an event in Oakland, “The Recession Generation: How to Maximize Your Impact and Thrive in Uncertain Times.” The event aims to help the millennial generation navigate the uncertainties of economic life through networking, skill-sharing sessions, and a number of talks that address the causes and solutions to economic inequality and other large problems.

“The Recession Generation conference is about maximizing one’s potential for positive economic and social change," said EarthSharing.org organizer Jacob Shwartz-Lucas.. “The partnership with BIL Conference will expand the focus of this event and help reach many more people in the Bay Area and beyond.”

Speakers and panelists from a variety of professional backgrounds will provide insight on correcting structural inequality and building a better society. Topics include: environmental advocacy, artificial intelligence, social entrepreneurship, economic justice, nonprofit management, open-source technology, and land value taxation. Also, following the typical BIL Conference format, the Recession Generation will include “unconference” sessions that allow participants to suggest topics for further discussion.

Robin Hanson of George Mason University and the Future of Humanity Institute; “stand-up” economist Yoram Bauman of the University of Washington; Civil Engineer and Strong Town President Chuck Marohn; TechCrunch reporter Kim-Mai Cutler; Christine Peterson, co-founder of the Foresight Institute; and, Center for Economic Studies Executive Director Joshua Vincent head the event’s speaker lineup.

The event will take place on Saturday July 9, 2016 10am-7pm at the Omni Oakland Commons at 4799 Shattuck Avenue in Oakland, California 94609. Tickets are $49-$99. There are special discounts available and volunteers receive free admission. This event is not for profit.

Nextbigfuture probably be at this event (or at least part of it). If not I will reach out to readers to help cover it.

Gene Editing could destroy latent viruses in the human body like herpes

Almost all of us carry one form or another of herpes virus, and the consequences can be far worse than the occasional cold sore. Herpes viruses also cause shingles and can be implicated in blindness, birth defects and even cancer – and as yet, we can’t rid ourselves of them.

One of our best ways to combat herpes viruses is by blocking the enzyme they need to copy their DNA so that they can replicate. But although this can keep the level of virus in your body down, it cannot wipe out the infection. Worse, it doesn’t work on dormant herpes viruses that are waiting inside our cells for the right time to flare up again.

But gene editing may allow us to destroy these latent viruses. Robert Jan Lebbink at the University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands, and his colleagues are developing a therapy that might safely clear certain herpes viruses from the body by messing with their DNA.

Lebbink’s team have been experimenting with CRISPR, the gene-editing technique that can be used to cut DNA at precise points in a sequence. When carried out on DNA inside an organism or virus, the DNA snip is usually repaired, but this process often introduces mutations or errors at this cut site.

This means gene editing can help destroy dormant viruses. When CRISPR is used to cut viral DNA in two or more important places, there is a good chance that the DNA will not be repaired properly, leaving the virus unable to function.

When they tried this technique on monkey or human cells infected with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV, pictured above) – a herpes virus that causes glandular fever and is associated with a range of cancers – they found that cutting the DNA in one spot reduced viral activity by about 50 per cent, while cutting it in two places led to 95 per cent of dormant viruses being lost from the cells.

PLOS - CRISPR/Cas9-Mediated Genome Editing of Herpesviruses Limits Productive and Latent Infections

Viruses that can establish a latent relationship with the host are capable of causing disease. Examples of viruses include the Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (also dubbed HSV 1) and retroviruses . The latter group of viruses includes the Human Immunodeficiency Viruses (HIVs ) that are the most likely cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS ).

Coming Soon: Gut Bacteria That Actually Cure conditions like obesity and diseases like liver disease, and cancer

There’s very little evidence that probiotic supplements do any good. The probiotics promise has built a $34 billion market as of last year, according to a new report from BCC Research, $6 billion of which was in supplements. The biggest share of the probiotics market was in food and beverages, at $24.8 billion.

Seres Therapeutics, a microbiome-based biopharmaceutical company in Cambridge, Mass., is developing a pill, subject to a rigorous approval process under the Food and Drug Administration, to tackle recurrent Clostridium difficile. (The digestive system's microbiome is the community of healthy gut bacteria that normally reside in the body.) Half a million people a year are infected with C. diff in the U.S., the CDC estimates, with 29,000 annual deaths related to the diarrheic bacterium. More than 65 percent of C. diff infections involve exposure in a health-care facility, according to a 2015 study, creating more than $4.8 billion in excess health-care costs at acute-care facilities alone.

Seres aims to put the science behind a proven treatment of recurrent C. diff, fecal transplants, in a pill, which wouldn't require a colonoscopy. Like probiotic supplements, it’s a gut bacteria product. Unlike the supplements, by the time it’s available it will have gone through the FDA wringer. It will contain about 50 strains of bacteria proven effective in treating C. diff and will require a doctor's prescription.

Recurrent C. diff is an obvious entry point for Seres, said Chief Executive Officer Roger Pomerantz. “We asked, what is the lowest-hanging fruit?” But it’s hardly the end. The company has built a microbiome library of 14,000 strains of human bacteria it hopes will help it treat a range of diseases, eventually without needing feces at all.

Seres has embarked on the research with some pretty lofty goals, including finding treatments for obesity, liver disease, and cancer. It has partnerships with Massachusetts General Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and other respected medical institutions.

Second careers are an issue now and not just for those who might live to a hundred or more

London Business School professor of management practice Lynda Gratton, argues that the trajectory of our lives—professionally and personally—remains trapped in a mind-set that applied when life spans were much shorter Gratton draws on her new book, The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, to explain why lives are moving from two stages to three and what that means not only for individuals but for corporations and government as well.

One of the most fundamental facts about living to a hundred is if you live to a hundred and you save at a normal savings rate and you want to retire on 50 percent of your final income, you will be working until you’re in your late 70s, early 80s.

Japan and many other long lived asian countries where many can already expect to live to 90 or more are poor examples of happily living and working longer

Japanese women took the top spot in average life expectancy worldwide for the third consecutive year in 2014 at 86.83 years, while Japanese men climbed a notch to tie for third place at 80.50 years.

For women, Hong Kong was second at 86.75 years and Spain third at 85.60 years. Hong Kong men ranked top at 81.17 years, followed by men in Iceland at 80.8 years. Japanese men shared third place with men in Singapore and Switzerland.

Older Japanese have a strong preference to continue working until relatively old ages and this is achieved by shifting from career jobs to bridge jobs that might last for another decade. The participation rate of men 55 to 59 is similar to that of men 50 to 54.

Mandatory retirement has long been a major component of Japanese employment contracts in large firms. Shimizutani (2011) reports that 60 percent of firms with 30 or more employees had mandatory retirement policies in 1980 but coverage by compulsory retirement had risen to almost 100 percent by 2000. Despite the prevalence of mandatory retirement at age 60, three quarters of men age 60 to 64 remain in the labor force and almost half of women of this age are also in the labor force

The second career often has a meager salary. They are on yearly contracts and the companies view the jobs as an obligation to the state.

Preparing for a successful second or third career with a three to five year transition

Millions of Americans looking for a successful second act or encore career. About 65% of workers say they plan to work for pay after they retire, but only 27% of retirees report working for pay, according to a national survey released Tuesday from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

When it comes to finding a successful second act, most people simply don't know what they're passionate about, even when they know they want to move in another direction, says Kerry Hannon, author of What's Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties, and Beyond. She has interviewed hundreds of people about their career changes.

For many, their passion is something they did when they were younger, often in childhood, she says. One of her favorite career-change stories is a retired Navy officer who loved going to the circus as a kid, so he became the company manager for a non-profit circus. His wife, who was a nurse, became the circus wardrobe designer.

Hannon advises career switchers to give themselves three to five years to make the transition. "Go slowly. No one dives into a second career on a whim."

A Productivity Revolution in China would enable an economy with about twice the growth over the current investment growth model

China faces an important choice: whether to continue with its old model and raise the risk of a hard landing for the economy, or to shift gears. A new McKinsey Global Institute report, China’s choice: Capturing the $5 trillion productivity opportunity, finds that a new approach centered on productivity could generate 36 trillion renminbi ($5.6 trillion) of additional GDP by 2030, compared with continuing the investment-led path. Household income could rise by 33 trillion renminbi ($5.1 trillion), as the exhibit shows.

China has the capacity to manage the decisive shift to a productivity-led model. Its government can pull fiscal and monetary levers, such as raising sovereign debt and securing additional financing on the basis of 123 trillion renminbi in state-owned assets. China has a vibrant private sector, earning three times the returns on assets of state-owned enterprises. There are now 116 million middle-class and affluent households (with annual disposable income of at least $21,000 per year), compared with just 2 million such households in 2000. And the country is ripe for a productivity revolution. Labor productivity is 15 to 30 percent of the average in countries that are part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

First person to die in a Tesla car on autopilot was watching Harry Potter movie at time of crash

A driver was so enamored of his Tesla Model S sedan that he nicknamed the car “Tessy,” praised the safety benefits of its “Autopilot” system and was watching a Harry Potter video when he became the first person to die in a wreck involving a car in self-driving mode.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the driver’s death Thursday, and said it is investigating the design and performance of the Autopilot system.

Joshua D. Brown of Canton, Ohio, the 40-year-old owner of a technology company, was killed May 7 in Williston, Florida, when his car’s cameras failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky and didn’t automatically activate its brakes, according to statements by the government and the automaker. Just one month earlier, Brown had credited the Autopilot system for preventing a collision on an interstate.

Frank Baressi, 62, the driver of the truck and owner of Okemah Express, said the Tesla driver was “playing Harry Potter on the TV screen” at the time of the crash and driving so quickly that “he went so fast through my trailer I didn’t see him.”

The movie “was still playing when he died,” Baressi told The Associated Press in an interview from his home in Palm Harbor, Florida, saying the careening car “snapped a telephone pole a quarter mile down the road.”

June 30, 2016

Artificial pancreas likely to be available by 2018

The artificial pancreas -- a device which monitors blood glucose in patients with type 1 diabetes and then automatically adjusts levels of insulin entering the body -- is likely to be available by 2018, conclude authors of a paper in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes). Issues such as speed of action of the forms of insulin used, reliability, convenience and accuracy of glucose monitors plus cybersecurity to protect devices from hacking, are among the issues that are being addressed.

1.5 million people in the United States have Type 1 diabetes. The amount of insulin they need at any given moment is always changing — day to day, hour to hour, even minute to minute. Insulin is the hormone that allows your body’s cells to absorb glucose, the gasoline that makes cells go. No insulin, no life.

Three of these academic competitors — Hovorka, Kovatchev and Phillip — have already partnered with companies to commercialize their efforts. Hovorka and Phillip are with Medtronic, the current industry leader in diabetes technology; Kovatchev is with a startup named TypeZero Technologies.

Another competitor Damiano founded a “public benefit” corporation in October, the kind normally used to run transit systems and utilities. The firm, Beta Bionics, quickly secured $5 million in funding from Eli Lilly and Co., the pharmaceutical giant. Damiano serves as CEO but remains a professor at Boston University, where he continues to seek research grants from NIH.

Currently available technology allows insulin pumps to deliver insulin to people with diabetes after taking a reading or readings from glucose meters, but these two components are separate. It is the joining together of both parts into a 'closed loop' that makes an artificial pancreas. In trials to date, users have been positive about how use of an artificial pancreas gives them 'time off' or a 'holiday' from their diabetes management, since the system is managing their blood sugar effectively without the need for constant monitoring by the user.

US Air Force is prepped to test a 60-120 KW combat laser on an AC-130W gunship

US Air Force Special Operations Command has designated an AC-130W gunship to have a laser weapon installed. There are ready crews and funded flight hours available for industry partners to leverage.

The aircraft does not carry the 105mm cannon installed on other operational “Stinger II” gunships—affording more size, weight and power—but any proposed laser unit will occupy the 30mm gun position forward of the wing, where airflow is less disturbed.

They are pushing for a 60-kW or 120-kW high-powered laser, depending on technology readiness, for disabling stationary vehicles, aircraft and fixed communications nodes such as cellphone towers.

AFSOC already has published a secret-level concept of operations document addressing the way a laser-equipped gunship would be used in battle, and other organizations within the Defense Department are defining tactics, techniques and procedures for laser weapons.

The AC-130 will also become a flying aircraft carrier, launching mini-drones mid-flight to scope out threats and targets. The mini-drone project is further along, with actual testing underway in 2015. It relies on fitting the existing Coyote UAV to the Common Launch Tube already used by some AC-130 variants to launch Griffin missiles.

Fifth Generation Air Combat - how best to use the F35 and F22

A ten page paper describes how best to use the F35 and F22 in a hypothetical all our war with China in 2026

They lay out the characteristics and requirements of fifth generation aircraft systems, and describe how these assets are leveraged in present and future joint and combined warfare.

F35 just becoming operational so the scenario where the F35 and F22 make the difference in future war is propoganda to justify the $1 trillion F35 program

The Air Force is expected between August and December to declare its first squadron of F-35s ready for war. That means a regional military commander could request those planes for combat. The Marines declared its F-35s ready for war last year, but they have not been used in the air campaign against ISIS, Afghanistan and in Africa, all areas where the military has bombed enemy strongholds in recent years.

Five basic concepts are highlighted, as focus areas for commanders and others, to ensure an adequate understanding of the support structure these aircraft require.

  1. preparations,
  2. mission data elements,
  3. deployment,
  4. employment,
  5. as well as logistics and sustainment.

The F-22 Raptor has now operated in the combat air force for over a decade, and played a key role in the kickoff of Operation Inherent Resolve over Syria in September 2014, and subsequent operations.

In addition to its speed, maneuverability, and stealth capabilities, commanders have discovered the Raptor brings immense situational awareness capabilities by utilizing its sensors in ways few could have imagined in the program’s infancy over three decades ago. The F-22’s ability to perform strikes, conduct escort operations, collect and manage information, pass taskings in real time, and provide dynamic targeting information “has even exceeded our expectations,” said Air Combat Command chief Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle in February 2015.

The F-22 has the ability to make every asset it works with better, as it connects and leverages the entirety of a strike package in ways older combat aircraft could not do.

There are many characteristics of fifth generation aircraft that separate them from older aircraft. These include, primarily, multi-spectral low observable (LO) design features (such as radar, infrared sensors, and visual situational awareness tools), along with self-protection and radar jamming capabilities that delay or deny enemy systems the ability to detect, track, and engage the aircraft. These aircraft also feature integrated avionics, which autonomously fuse and prioritize the aircraft’s multi-spectral sensors and off board data, providing an accurate real-time operations picture for the pilot, and the ability to download data for post-mission analysis. This is a present-day example of “man-machine teaming.” Advanced on-board diagnostics help vital monitoring of the aircraft’s health, accurately reporting faults as they occur, increasing overall system performance and reliability.

Resilient communications, navigation, and identification tools and techniques are also crucial aspects of fifth generation aircraft, designed to counter enemy attempts to jam, deny, or confuse these vital capabilities.

To realize the potential of fifth generation aircraft in modern joint operations, fifth generation communities in the USAF must make several improvements.

1. units must improve deployment reaction time and speed, as windows of opportunity to penetrate IADS or to destroy high value targets may be fleeting.
2. Fifth generation aircraft units must work diligently to minimize the required amount of forward-deployed equipment and personnel, and fully understand the logistics, sustainment, and communications limitations at a deployed location.
3. the Air Force must work to increase flexible basing options available for fifth generation aircraft (such as increasing the
number of airfields the Air Force can deploy to), and build a fuller understanding of the impact these options will have on operations, maintenance, and command and control in dispersed locations
4. fifth generation aircraft sustainment and support systems must be hardened with sufficient redundancy to ensure resilience under attack. This hardening must be multi-domain, and the sustainment and support systems must be able to survive and operate in the face of both kinetic and cyber attack

Discovery powerful defense against free radicals that cause aging, disease

A new University of Michigan study outlines the discovery of a protein that acts as a powerful protectant against free radicals. Ironically, the protein is activated by excessive free radicals. Human mutations of the gene for this protein are previously known to cause a rare, neurodegenerative disease.

Lysosomes, which comprise the cell's recycling center, are crucial for cleaning up injured and dying parts of the cells, said lead researcher Haoxing Xu, U-M associate professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

When lysosomes "sense" an overload of free radicals, they activate a calcium channel on their membranes. This triggers the expression of many genes and the production of more and stronger lysosomes, which rev into overdrive to rid the damaged parts of the cells.

Free radicals are guilty in the aging process, Xu said.

The red dye in the cell show healthy mitochondria in a healthy cell. Images courtesy: Haoxing Xu

Nature Communications - MCOLN1 is a ROS sensor in lysosomes that regulates autophagy

US Air force claims seven F35s performed well against eight twin-engine F-15Es in mock combat

William Redmond, the executive director of the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico has a presentation which claims the F35 is difficult to challenge in their war game tests.

During mock combat, seven F-35s reportedly shot down eight twin-engine F-15Es, for no losses of their own — this despite the 2015 revelation that the F-35 is inferior to a single-engine F-16 in a simulated dogfight. It’s possible that the Lightning pilots have devised special air-combat tactics that take advantage of the F-35’s stealth and cutting-edge sensors.

The US military plans to replace nearly all of its current tactical jets with as many as 2,400 F-35s at a total program cost, including maintenance, of around $1 trillion. The Air force is claiming the F35 is great despite software flaws, costs overruns and delays in making the F35 operational and a 2015 report that the F35 is inferior to a single engine F16 in a dogfight

China's One Belt One Road is an attempt to physically and economically unify Europe and Asia and $890 billion in deals are a start

There are 900 deals under way on China's One Belt One Road initiative. The deals are worth $890 billion, such as a gas pipeline from the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar to south-west China and a rail link between Beijing and Duisburg, a transport hub in Germany. China says it will invest a cumulative $4 trillion in OBOR countries, though it does not say by when. Its officials tetchily reject comparison with the Marshall Plan which, they say, was a means of rewarding America’s friends and excluding its enemies after the second world war. OBOR, they boast, is open to all. But, for what it is worth, the Marshall Plan amounted to $130 billion in current dollars.

President Xi’s chief foreign adviser, Yang Jiechi, has tied OBOR to China’s much-touted aims of becoming a “moderately well-off society” by 2020 and a “strong, prosperous” one by mid-century.

Mr Xi seems to see the new Silk Road as a way of extending China’s commercial tentacles and soft power. It also plays a role in his broader foreign-policy thinking. The president has endorsed his predecessors’ view that China faces a “period of strategic opportunity” up to 2020, meaning it can take advantage of a mostly benign security environment to achieve its aim of strengthening its global power without causing conflict. OBOR, officials believe, is a good way of packaging such a strategy. It also fits with Mr Xi’s “Chinese dream” of recreating a great past. It is not too much to say that he expects to be judged as a leader partly on how well he fulfils OBOR’s goals.

Third, OBOR matters because it is a challenge to the United States and its traditional way of thinking about world trade. In that view, there are two main trading blocs, the trans-Atlantic one and the trans-Pacific one, with Europe in the first, Asia in the second and America the focal point of each. Two proposed regional trade deals, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, embody this approach. But OBOR treats Asia and Europe as a single space, and China, not the United States, is its focal point.

In April a Chinese shipping company, Cosco, took a 67% stake in Greece’s second-largest port, Piraeus, from which Chinese firms are building a high-speed rail network linking the city to Hungary and eventually Germany. In July work is due to start on the third stage of a Chinese-designed nuclear reactor in Pakistan, where China recently announced it would finance a big new highway and put $2 billion into a coal mine in the Thar desert.

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft to Kick into Planned Autopilot for July 4 Jupiter Burn

At about 12:15 pm PDT today (3:15 p.m. EDT), mission controllers will transmit command product “ji4040” into deep space, to transition the solar-powered Juno spacecraft into autopilot. It will take nearly 48 minutes for the signal to cover the 534-million-mile (860-million-kilometer) distance between the Deep Space Network Antenna in Goldstone, California, to the Juno spacecraft. While sequence ji4040 is only one of four command products sent up to the spacecraft that day, it holds a special place in the hearts of the Juno mission team.

“Ji4040 contains the command that starts the Jupiter Orbit insertion sequence,” said Ed Hirst, mission manager of Juno from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “As soon as it initiates -- which should be in less than a second -- Juno will send us data that the command sequence has started.”

NASA's Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in July, 2016 to study our solar system's largest planet. From a unique polar orbit, Juno will repeatedly dive between the planet and its intense belts of charged particle radiation, coming only about 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) from the cloud tops at closest approach.

Juno's primary goal is to improve our understanding of Jupiter's formation and evolution. The spacecraft will investigate the planet's origins, interior structure, deep atmosphere and magnetosphere. Juno's study of Jupiter will help us to understand the history of our own solar system and provide new insight into how planetary systems form and develop in our galaxy and beyond.

This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft approaching Jupiter. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Home IMAX theater starts at $400,000 versus average regular private home cinema rooms at $30,000 to $100,000+

IMAX's Private Theatre division will now build an IMAX cinema setup in your own home The entry-level IMAX Private Theatre is the "Palais," which starts at about $400,00 for a screening room with up to 18 seats. For your money you get dual 4K 2D/3D projectors, a proprietary IMAX sound system, and a media playback system that supports everything you might want to throw at it (TV, games, Blu-ray, etc.) No word on the exact specifications of the projectors, but they're probably not IMAX-with-laser. Screen size will vary depending on the setup, but generally they will be 3 meters (10ft) tall or more.

Stepping up to the "Platinum" IMAX home theatre for about $1 million gets you a much larger screening room with space for up to 40 people.

According to Hanley Wood and their "Remodeling" magazine the average home theater addition in a new room added to the home, finished with drywall, functional doors and windows, and soundproofing will cost $82,756 (16 foot by 25 foot room). The resale value of this update would hold at $54,051, or a roughly 65% return on investment.

The above figures place the home theater addition at $207 per square foot. This pricing structure assumes that carpenters charge an average of $70 per hour, electricians between $65 to $85 per hour, and painters between $20 and $35 per hour.

June 29, 2016

Japan shooting for exaflop supercomputer using ARM processors by 2020 using nearly $1 billion budget

At the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany this week, officials at Fujitsu and RIKEN confirmed that they will use ARM cores for its next generation of supercomputers.

The exact plans that Fujitsu has for its future ARM processor were not divulged at ISC16, but Yutaka Ishikawa, project leader for the Advanced Institute of Computational Science located in RIKEN’s Kobe, Japan facility, confirmed not only that the successor to the K supercomputer, which is being developed under the Flagship2020 program, would use ARM-based processors but that these chips would be at the heart of a new system built by Fujitsu for RIKEN that would break the exaflops barrier by 2020.

In his presentation at ISC16, Ishikawa said that the target performance of the Post-K machine was for it to be 100 times that of K in terms of capacity computing and 50 times that of K when looked at through capability computing, which is a way of saying 100X on peak flops and 50X on real-world applications that will probably not go anywhere near the exaflops level in their scalability. What that means is that Fujitsu is committing to delivering a machine with more than 1 exaflops of aggregate peak performance, and you can be pretty sure that there will be enough extra performance in the box so the Linpack number will break 1 exaflops. The system is expected to consume somewhere between 30 MW and 40 MW.

The exascale target of a 25 MW system by 2020 was always optimistic. They may be willing to pay for more electricity to get to exaflops earlier so long as this much power can be brought into centers like RIKEN. The K super burns 12.7 megawatts. Those numbers are for the compute and storage part of the system and does not include the power distribution and cooling within the datacenter that wraps around them, which takes an enormous amount of energy.

The post K computer is the successor of K computer, that will be the next Japanese flagship machine, being developed by RIKEN. It will be operated from 2020. The post T2K computer, whose peak performance will be about 30 PF, is being designed under the joint project of two universities, Tsukuba and Tokyo, and will be operated from 2016.

Japan's 2020 project has a budget of about US$910 million

So what could Post-K look like from a processor perspective?

The next logical jump for Fujitsu with the Sparc64 chips was to a 16 nanometer process and another core shrink, perhaps to 48 cores on a die. The drop down to 10 nanometer in 2019 or so might have allowed it to put as many as 64 cores to 96 cores on a die. So just holding clock speeds steady and raising core counts would have gotten Fujitsu to somewhere between 200 petaflops and 300 petaflops two Sparc64 fx generations from now. Double up the SIMD units to 512 bits each, and you can hit 400 petaflops to 600 petaflops. Scale out the interconnect with Tofu3, and if you did maybe 165,000 nodes instead of 100,000 max, that gets you to 1 exaflops peak with a core running at about 2.2 GHz. Global replacing Sparc64 fx cores with ARMv8 cores in such designs as speculated above would be the way to go. If the core counts can’t get that high, Fujitsu could push out the width of the SIMD units to – gasp – 1,024 bits.

No matter how the math crunching gets crammed into the future Fujitsu ARM chips, one thing is for sure. The memory bandwidth from HMC and from Tofu3 will have to increase – maybe by something on the order of 3X to 4X – to keep the cores and vector units all fed.

LPP Fusion can consistently achieve the ion energy to ignite hydrogen boron in an average shot

LPP Fusion’s President and Chief Scientist Eric Lerner reported on June 21 new record ion energies of over 260 keV (equivalent to a temperature of over 2.8 billion degrees K) to 150 plasma scientists assembled in Prague, Czech Republic for the 27th International Symposium on Plasma Physics and Technology. The new results, obtained with the FF-1 plasma focus experimental device in Middlesex, NJ were a 50% advance over the previous record for a single shot, 170 keV, also achieved at FF-1 in 2011. Equally significantly, the mean ion energy for 10 shots at the same conditions also increased by 50% to 124 keV. Combined with other advances reported at the same conference these results mean that FF-1 now has achieved the ion energy needed to ignite hydrogen-boron fuel in an average shot, not just in the best shots.

Lerner reported that in the same 10 shots, the variability in fusion yield from shot to shot was only about 14%, a factor of four reduction over previous results with FF-1.

These new results were possible only with the glow-discharge preionization used in the May-June experiments. This preionization, caused by a tiny, several-microampere current flowing in advance of each shot, smoothes the path for the main current, making breakdowns more symmetric and reducing or eliminating the vaporization of the anode material. “We see evidence of the reduction of vaporization from the reduction in the oscillations of the current,” Lerner explained. “This indicates that less energy is being drawn from the circuit to vaporize and then to ionize tungsten atoms.”

The more symmetric current sheath in turn leads to the elimination of the “early beam” phenomenon, when the current sheath splits in two during the compression of the plasma, robbing energy from the plasmoid. Just moving to the monolithic tungsten electrode alone considerably reduced the early beam, which LPP Fusion researchers first identified as a problem back in 2010. This is likely due to the elimination of arcing between parts of the electrodes, since there are no such parts in the single-piece tungsten electrodes. But preionization completely eliminated the early beam.

Although a record yield of 0.25 Joules was possible just with the new monolithic electrodes (as reported in the May LPPFusion report), it took preionization to get the reduced variability and the record ion energy.

US research make progress to supercavitation submarines able to go thousands of miles per hour

Engineers from Penn State Applied Research Laboratory have a new approach for supercavitation which could enable submarines traveling at hundreds of miles per hour. In theory, a supercavitating vessel could reach the speed of sound underwater, or about 5,800km/h, which would reduce the journey time for a transatlantic underwater cruise to less than an hour, and for a transpacific journey to about 100 minutes, according to a report by California Institute of Technology in 2001.

In supercavitation, a bubble of gas encompasses an underwater vehicle reducing friction drag and allowing high rates of speed through the water.

"Basically supercavitation is used to significantly reduce drag and increase the speed of bodies in water," said Grant M. Skidmore, recent Penn State Ph.D. recipient in aerospace engineering. "However, sometimes these bodies can get locked into a pulsating mode."

To create the bubble around a vehicle, air is introduced in the front and expands back to encase the entire object. However, sometimes the bubble will contract, allowing part of the vehicle to get wet. The periodic expansion and contraction of the bubble is known as pulsation and might cause instability.

"Shrinking and expanding is not good," said Timothy A. Brungart, senior research associate at ARL and associate professor of acoustics."We looked at the problem on paper first and then experimentally."

The researchers first explored the problem analytically, which suggested a solution, but then verifying with an experiment was not simple. The ideal outcome for supercavitation is that the gas bubble forms, encompasses the entire vehicle and exits behind, dissipating the bubble without pulsation. The researchers report the results of their analytic analysis and experimentation online in the International journal of Multiphase Flow.

"It is easier to study this problem in the lab than in open water," said Michael J. Moeny, senior research engineer at ARL. "There are tow basins where you can pull models along, but it is harder to observe what is happening than in a water tunnel and the experimental runs are short because of the basin sizes."

The ARL researchers decided to use the Garfield Thomas Water Tunnel facility's 12-inch diameter water tunnel to test their numerical calculations.

"The water tunnel was the easiest way to observe the experiment," said Brungart. "But not the easiest place to create the pulsation."

Creating a supercavitation bubble and getting it to pulsate in order to stop the pulsations inside a rigid-walled water tunnel tube had not been done.

"Eventually we ramped up the gas really high and then way down to get pulsation," said Jules W. Lindau, senior research associate at ARL and associate professor of aerospace engineering. "It was a challenge because the walls of the tunnel are really close. Others couldn't get pulsation in a closed tunnel. That's what we did."

Once they could predictably create the phenomena in the water tunnel, they then had to apply their numerical solution to the experimental model. They found that once they had supercavitation with pulsation, they could moderate the air flow and, in some cases, stop pulsation.

"Supercavitation technology might eventually allow high speed underwater supercavitation transportation," said Moeney.

Photograph of a second order pulsating supercavity in the Penn State ARL Garfield Thomas Water Tunnel facility's 12-inch diameter water tunnel. The circular object is a window mounted hydrophone. Image: ARL / Penn State

Developed in the 1970s, Russia's Shkval torpedo is equipped with a bubble generator in the nose that envelops the torpedo in a gas membrane while a solid rocket fuel engine provides thrust. The Shkval is capable of speeds in excess of 200 knots—up to five times faster than conventional torpedoes.

In 2004, German weapons manufacturer Diehl BGT Defence announced their own supercavitating torpedo, Barracuda. According to Diehl, it reaches more than 400 kilometres per hour (250 mph).

Supercavitation technology has faced two major problems. First, the submerged vessel has needed to be launched at high speeds, approaching 100km/h, to generate and maintain the air bubble.

Second, it is extremely difficult - if not impossible - to steer the vessel using conventional mechanisms, such as a rudder, which are inside the bubble without any direct contact with water.

As a result, its application has been limited to unmanned vessels, such as torpedoes, but nearly all of these torpedoes were fired in a straight line because they had limited ability to turn.

Chinese scientists had found an innovative means of addressing both problems.

Once in the water, the team's supercavitation vessel would constantly "shower" a special liquid membrane on its own surface. Although this membrane would be worn off by water, in the meantime it could significantly reduce the water drag on the vessel at low speed.

After its speed had reached 75km/h or more the vessel would enter the supercavitation state. The man-made liquid membrane on the vessel surface could help with steering because, with precise control, different levels of friction could be created on different parts of the vessel.

"Our method is different from any other approach, such as vector propulsion," or thrust created by an engine, Li said. "By combining liquid-membrane technology with supercavitation, we can significantly reduce the launch challenges and make cruising control easier."
However, Li said many problems still needed to be solved before supersonic submarine travel became feasible. Besides the control issue, a powerful underwater rocket engine still had to be developed to give the vessel a longer range. The effective range of the Russian supercavitation torpedoes, for example, was only between 11 km and 15 km.

Progress to restoring vision for sufferers of retinal disorders

Engineers and neuroscientists at the University of Sheffield have demonstrated for the first time that the cells in the retina carry out key processing tasks. This could pave the way for improving retinal implants and therefore the sight of thousands of people suffering from retinal disorders.

Up to now, it was thought that the function of these retinal cells, or photoreceptors, was mainly to convert light into electrical signals, from which the brain can interpret images.

However, the new research from Sheffield, published in the journal PLOS ONE, shows that in fruit flies, the photoreceptors believed to be involved in motion detection play a key role in providing visual information about the world around us.

The similarities that exist between responses of human cone photoreceptors and fly photoreceptors suggest that the human eye processes visual signals in a similar way.

If this were true, the research could have significant implications for those developing retinal implants for patients with retinal disorders such as macular degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of sight loss in the developed world and currently affects more than 600,000 people in the UK.

Retinal implants replace damaged or dead cells by converting light into electrical signals that are sent to the brain. The implants do not restore vision completely but can help patients to detect patterns and shapes.

Daniel Coca, lead researcher from Sheffield's Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, said: "We think that implementing the processing tasks performed by photoreceptors into retinal implants could help the brain accomplish key tasks such as object recognition and motion detection. This could significantly improve the performance of artificial retinas and therefore the sight of thousands of people suffering from macular degeneration."

Recent Hydrothermal Activity May Explain Ceres' Brightest Area

The brightest area on Ceres, located in the mysterious Occator Crater, has the highest concentration of carbonate minerals ever seen outside Earth, according to a new study from scientists on NASA's Dawn mission. The study, published online in the journal Nature, is one of two new papers about the makeup of Ceres.

"This is the first time we see this kind of material elsewhere in the solar system in such a large amount," said Maria Cristina De Sanctis, lead author and principal investigator of Dawn's visible and infrared mapping spectrometer. De Sanctis is based at the National Institute of Astrophysics, Rome.

At about 80 million years old, Occator is considered a young crater. It is 57 miles (92 kilometers) wide, with a central pit about 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide. A dome structure at the center, covered in highly reflective material, has radial and concentric fractures on and around it.

De Sanctis' study finds that the dominant mineral of this bright area is sodium carbonate, a kind of salt found on Earth in hydrothermal environments. This material appears to have come from inside Ceres, because an impacting asteroid could not have delivered it. The upwelling of this material suggests that temperatures inside Ceres are warmer than previously believed. Impact of an asteroid on Ceres may have helped bring this material up from below, but researchers think an internal process played a role as well.

More intriguingly, the results suggest that liquid water may have existed beneath the surface of Ceres in recent geological time

The center of Ceres' mysterious Occator Crater is the brightest area on the dwarf planet. The inset perspective view is overlaid with data concerning the composition of this feature: Red signifies a high abundance of carbonates, while gray indicates a low carbonate abundance.

Dawn's visible and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIR) was used to examine the composition of the bright material in the center of Occator. Using VIR data, researchers found that the dominant constituent of this bright area is sodium carbonate, a kind of salt found on Earth in hydrothermal environments. Scientists determined that Occator represents the highest concentration of carbonate minerals ever seen outside Earth. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/ASI/INAF

Surface of Ceres has less water ice to explain craters

Researchers modeled how deep craters would evolve over time on different areas of Ceres (as on Earth, the poles of the dwarf planet are colder than the equatorial regions). While it's possible to have an icy Ceres that supports old craters near the poles, most of the rest of the planet would see the viscosity of water ice allow the interior of the crater to slowly deform. After sufficient time, even deep craters would be reduced to depths of less than 500m if water ice is the dominant material on Ceres. A 100km-wide crater would no longer be visible after just 10 million years.

They then compared that to a catalog of actual crater depths as mapped by Dawn and showed that there's a large discrepancy: many of the actual craters, including some quite old ones, are very deep. In fact, they calculate that the persistence of these craters requires that whatever comprises Ceres' crust has to be over 100 times more viscous than water ice. "Ceres’ outer layer is therefore probably relatively ice poor, with non-ice material constituting 60–70 percent of the volume," the authors conclude.

The typically dark surface of the dwarf planet Ceres is punctuated by areas of much higher albedo, most prominently in the Occator crater. These small bright areas have been tentatively interpreted as containing a large amount of hydrated magnesium sulfate, in contrast to the average surface, which is a mixture of low-albedo materials and magnesium phyllosilicates, ammoniated phyllosilicates and carbonates. Here we report high spatial and spectral resolution near-infrared observations of the bright areas in the Occator crater on Ceres. Spectra of these bright areas are consistent with a large amount of sodium carbonate, constituting the most concentrated known extraterrestrial occurrence of carbonate on kilometre-wide scales in the Solar System. The carbonates are mixed with a dark component and small amounts of phyllosilicates, as well as ammonium carbonate or ammonium chloride. Some of these compounds have also been detected in the plume of Saturn’s sixth-largest moon Enceladus. The compounds are endogenous and we propose that they are the solid residue of crystallization of brines and entrained altered solids that reached the surface from below. The heat source may have been transient (triggered by impact heating). Alternatively, internal temperatures may be above the eutectic temperature of subsurface brines, in which case fluids may exist at depth on Ceres today

Occator crater on Ceres

Nature - Bright carbonate deposits as evidence of aqueous alteration on (1) Ceres

June 28, 2016

Tesla motors rumored to have a $9 billion joint venture for a new factory in China

Tesla Motors has agreed to a non-binding agreement with the Chinese state-owned company Jinqiao Group to jointly build a $9 billion factory. It is believed that Tesla will give the rights to Jinqiao Group to construct a production plant in the Chinese city of Shanghai.

Six months ago Tesla chief Elon Musk publicized his intention to pick a production facility based in China in the middle of 2016.

Tesla and Jinqiao Group will each invest $4.5 billion on the project. If the rumors are true, the Tesla Motors-Jinqiao Group deal will be significantly bigger than the Walt Disney Shanghai Resort project with cost $5.5 billion.

Many industry experts believe that Tesla's decision to locate its production in China is to avoid the 25 percent import tax on electric cars shipped to China.

The latest deal was not announced to the public, so no estimated timeline regarding when the project will start was released. On the other hand, two other Chinese cities are also attempting to persuade Tesla Motors to locate its assembly plant in their respective cities. The two cities are Suzhou and Hefei.

Russia's 152 mm tank gun could penetrate 1 meter of armor

Russia sent three 152-mm self-propelled guns into Ukraine.

The next version of Russia's T14 Armata main battle tank will be armed with a previously rumored 152mm gun.

The 152 mm tank gun could penetrate 1 meter of armor.

For 11 years, China has been testing a 140mm gun on one its Type 98 tanks. The 140mm gun could fire an armor piercing round with twice the penetrating power of one fired from a 120mm gun (about 22 mega joules of energy, versus 11), the amount of ammunition carried was reduced by about a third (to 20-30 rounds, depending on the tank). The 140mm shell was about fifty percent larger than the 120mm one, and could probably knock out an M-1 tank with a frontal shot.

When the Armata (T-14) tank gets the 152mm gun, it will be the most powerful cannon to be mounted on a main battle tank of any country ever.

The unmanned remote-controlled turrets of T-14 tanks that rolled on the Red Square in Moscow on Victory Day, May 9, were armed with a brand new 125mm 2A82-1M smoothbore cannon with improved accuracy and angular dispersion.

Next generation German and French main battle tank will use new 130 mm tank gun to defeat Russian Armata tank

German defense company Rheinmetall has a prototype of a 130mm smoothbore gun for a future main battle tank (MBT). According to the company, the increase of 8 percent in caliber results in 50 percent more kinetic energy over the 120mm gun from Rheinmetall.

The 130mm gun, which was financed entirely by the German company, weighs more than 3.5 tons, compared to the approximately 3-ton 120mm gun, and uses a cartridge of more than 30 kilograms at about 1.3 meters long. Given these enhanced parameters, Rheinmetall engineers believe the weapon can only be used with an automatic loader and a new turret design.

Rheinmetall is waiting for a new NATO standard, which will identify what level of armor has to be penetrated by weaponry going forward. While the engineers hope to receive this standard by the end of this year, they will likely have to spend eight to 10 years finalizing the development of both the gun and ammunition.

After the show, the gun will take place in shooting trials. Should the trials be successful, the company may set a similar worldwide benchmark for the 130mm gun as happened with the 120mm smoothbore gun, which in its short barrel version was also produced under license in the US for the Abrams MBT.

Rheinmetall is developing a new armor-piercing fin-stabilized round for the gun, which will feature a semi-combustible cartridge case, new propellant and a tungsten penetrator. Another munition variant is a new 130mm high-explosive air-burst round, based on the 120mm round currently in production.

Germany is working with France developing the next-generation Main Ground Combat System (MGCS).

According to a November 2015 presentation by Armin Papperger, chief executive officer of Rheinmetall, which builds key components of the Leopard 2 and the American M1A2 Abrams, the journey toward MGCS will be an incremental evolution. The first step will be to upgrade the Leopard 2 with a new digital turret core system, new situational awareness system and an Active Defense System (ADS).

The tank will also need a new high-pressure 120mm cannon and new ammunition. Papperger expects that the new gun and ammunition will yield twenty percent better performance than the current L55 120mm cannon.

There are significant drawbacks to a longer cannon—which is one of the reasons the U.S. Army retains the shorter L44 120mm cannon for its Abrams. It’s possible that Rheinmetall is using new materials to increase the pressure within the cannon without increasing the cannon’s length.

In the medium term, Germany will have to refit the Leopard 2 with a new 130mm cannon.

Papperger said that work on the MGCS concept development has already started. The new main battle tank is in a concept development phase between the German and French governments and industry. The concept development phase should be completed by 2017.

The new MGCS’s focus on increased firepower is directly being driven by Russia’s Armata program.

The Armata series armored vehicles—particularly with their focus on active protection systems (APS)—are forcing Western designer to focus more direct fire weapons.

History and Future of Laser Pushed Sails which have a clear technology roadmap and $100 million in funding

James Benford has written a historical timeline for the development of laser pushed space sails.

Here is the part on the laser pushed sail Becoming Real

May 21, 2010: First deployment of a functional solar sail in space, “IKAROS” (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) is demonstrated by the Japanese Space Agency JAXA.
2011: “100 Year Starship”, a joint project between NASA (Pete Worden) and DARPA (David Neyland), convenes a colloquium in Orlando to discuss interstellar travel, stimulating interest in practical starflight.
2012: Greg Matloff proposes graphene for sail material that can sustain high accelerations.
2013: Starship Century Symposium held at UC San Diego May 20, date of the publication of the book Starship Century. A second Starship Century Symposium is held at the Royal Astronomical Society in London. In the book James Benford predicts “the first starship will be a sail – a sailship – driven by a beam of photons.”
2013: James Benford creates a cost-optimization equation for beam-driven propulsion systems.
April 2015: Philip Lubin introduces concept for small ultra-light ‘spacecraft on a wafer’ using multi-layer dielectric on metalized plastic film. In “A Roadmap to Interstellar Flight,” Lubin draws on Forward’s laser-sail work and extends it into much smaller sail designs.
August 2013: 1st Interstellar Congress held in Dallas, Texas by Icarus Interstellar. Eric Malroy introduces concepts for the use of nanomaterials in sails.
March 2016: Yuri Milner concludes the only credible way to achieve interstellar travel in the near-term is beam-driven sails, in consultation with Avi Loeb, Pete Worden and Pete Klupar.
April 12, 2016: Yuri Milner, Stephen Hawking and Pete Worden announce the beginning of Breakthrough Starshot, a [$100 million] project to launch beam-driven sails to Alpha Centauri within 20 years. Freeman Dyson is present.
2016: Kevin Parkin creates an engineering inference engine for optimizing beamed sail systems, including cost minimization.
April 15, 2016: Breakthrough: Discuss, a 2 day symposium, brings together the Breakthrough Starshot team, as well as that of Breakthrough: Listen, a SETI project begun it 2015.

Here is a 68 page roadmap by Philip Lubin of the University of Santa Barbara for developing laser pushed sails.

Lubin's designs would enable wafersats to reach 25% of lightspeed and a 100 ton spaceship to reach 1000 kilometers per second.

Nextbigfuture notes that for manned missions going beyond 1000 km per second, the wafer chips could be accelerated at a manned ship with a pusher plate (like the Project Orion ship) but the energy would be kinetic and not nuclear.

For large object construction, we need to develop the Tether Unlimited Spiderfab technology. This is construction in space with robots which means systems can be lighter and bigger like robots assembling an outdoor tent of sticks in space instead of building something on the ground and making it tough enough to withstand 3Gs or more of acceleration at launch.

They propose a roadmap to a program that will lead to sending relativistic probes to the nearest stars and will open up a vast array of possibilities of flight both within our solar system and far beyond. Spacecraft from gram level complete spacecraft on a wafer (“wafersats”) that reach more than ¼ c and reach the nearest star in 20 years to spacecraft with masses more than 100,000 kg (100 tons) that can reach speeds of greater than 1000 km/s. These systems can be propelled to speeds currently unimaginable with existing propulsion technologies. To do so requires a fundamental change in our thinking of both propulsion and in many cases what a spacecraft is. In addition to larger spacecraft, some capable of transporting humans, we consider functional spacecraft on a wafer, including integrated optical communications, imaging systems, photon thrusters, power and sensors combined with directed energy propulsion. The costs can be amortized over a very large number of missions beyond relativistic spacecraft as such planetary defense, beamed energy for distant spacecraft, sending power back to Earth, stand-off composition analysis of solar system targets, long range laser communications, SETI searches and even terraforming. The human factor of exploring the nearest stars and exo-planets would be a profound voyage for humanity, one whose non-scientific implications would be enormous. It is time to begin this inevitable journey far beyond our home.

Photon propulsion is an old idea going back many years, with some poetic references several hundred years ago. A decade ago what they now propose would have been pure fantasy. It is no longer fantasy. Recent dramatic and poorly-appreciated technological advancements in directed energy have made what we propose possible, though difficult. 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 with radical consequences

The photon driver is a laser phased array which eliminates the need to develop one extremely large laser and replaces it with a large number of modest (kW class) laser amplifiers that are inherently phase locked as they are fed by a common seed laser. This approach also eliminates the conventional optics and replaces it with a phased array of small optics that are thin film optical elements. Both of these are a follow on DARPA and DoD programs and hence there is enormous leverage in this system. The laser array has been described in a series of papers we have published and is called DE-STAR (Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and ExploRation). Powered by the solar PV array the same size as the 2D modular array of modest and currently existing kilowatt class Yb fiber-fed lasers and phased-array optics it would be capable of delivering sufficient power to propel a small scale probe combined with a modest (meter class) laser sail to reach speeds that are relativistic. DE-STAR units are denoted by numbers referring to the log of the array size in meters (assumed square). Thus DE-STAR-1 is 10 meters on a side, -2 is 100 meters, etc. Photon recycling (multiple bounces) to increase the thrust is conceivable and has been tested in our lab but it NOT assumed. The modular sub systems (baselined here at 1-4 meters in diameter) fit into current rocket launchers

Spacecoach concept is to use urine and gas as propellent for electric engine propulsion for long duration space missions to reduce mass by 20 times

On an 800 day space mission, astronauts would need 24 tons for six people for consumables (water, oxygen and food). McConnell and Alex Tolley have an idea is to deploy electric engines that use reclaimed water and waste gases to do the job.

Spacecoach enables us to begin building a space infrastructure that can extend past Mars to include the main asteroid belt. Using electric propulsion driven by a solar photovoltaic array, it achieves higher exhaust velocity than chemical rockets by a factor or ten, pulling much greater delta v from the same amount of propellant. Use water as propellant and you reduce the mass of the system by what McConnell estimates to be a factor of between 10 and 20.

The ships are propelled mostly by electric propulsion technology, and use water, carbon dioxide and gasified waste as propellant, essentially they convert the crew waste streams and reclaimed water into propellant after first pass use by the crew. Water and water rich material is used for other purposes, such as radiation shielding and heat management, while in passive storage.

Habitable areas are derived from inflatable structures, such as Bigelow Aerospace units, to allow large structures to be fit into existing launch systems and then be self-assembled in space with less manual intervention.

The ships are interplanetary vessels that never enter an atmosphere. They’re also completely reusable, allowing costs to be amortized, and their habitable areas are large inflatable structures that can be assembled in space. Thus we travel within a modular spacecraft using external landers and whatever other modules are required by the mission at hand.

They will also be able to fly many missions, with a useful life comparable to the ISS (20+ years) so their construction and initial launch cost can be amortized across 5 to 10 missions. Everything about the design is for reusability and multiple uses.

Rendering of the “kite” design pattern for a Spacecoach, with a person shown to the right for scale. This is but one possible configuration, but McConnell notes that the pattern minimizes the materials required even as it provides a sizeable habitable area. Credit: Rudiger Klaen.

Water as radiation shielding and propellant

The use of water and waste gases as propellant, besides reducing the mass of the system by a factor of ten or more, has enormous safety implications. 90% oxygen by mass, water can be used to generate oxygen via electrolysis, a simple process. By weight, it is comparable to lead as a radiation shielding material, so simply by placing water reservoirs around crew rest areas, the ship can reduce the crew’s radiation exposure several fold over the course of a mission. It is an excellent heat sink and can be used to regulate the temperature of the ship environment. The abundance of water also allows the life support system to be based on a one-pass or open loop design. Open loop systems will be much more reliable and basically maintenance free compared to a closed loop system such as what is used on the ISS. The abundance of water will also make the ships much more comfortable on a long journey.

McConnell calls the Spacecoach the basis of a ‘real world Starfleet,’ and adds this:

These ships will not be destination specific. They will be able to travel to destinations throughout the inner solar system, including cislunar space, Venus, Mars and with a large enough solar photovoltaic sail, to the Asteroid Belt and the dwarf planets Ceres and Vesta. They’ll be more like the Clipper ships of the past than the throwaway rocket + capsule design pattern we’ve all grown up with, and their component technologies can be upgraded with each outbound flight.

2015 book at Amazon - A Design for a Reusable Water-Based Spacecraft Known as the Spacecoach (SpringerBriefs in Space Development)

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