April 26, 2015

US plans at sea railgun tests in summer of 2016 and will explore installation on the third Zumwalt Destroyer

In 2016, Naval Sea Systems Command will conduct the first at sea test of its electromagnetic railgun, hurling a guided 44 pound projectile and hypersonic speeds off the coast of Florida, NAVSEA officials said on Tuesday.

The BAE Systems designed test weapon will be mounted on the newly delivered Joint High Speed Vessel USNS Trenton (JHSV-5) and taken to Eglin Air Force Base’s maritime test range off the Florida panhandle late in the summer of 2016. The Navy originally planned to use the JHSV USNS Millinocket (JHSV- 3) for the test.

“It’s a naval surface fire support demonstration, the Navy’s first to engage an over the horizon target [with a railgun],” Capt. Mike Ziv, NAVSEA’s program manager directed energy and electronic warfare program office told attendees at the Navy’ League’s Sea-Air-Space 2015 Exposition.

An artist rendering shows the Office of Naval Research-funded electromagnetic railgun installed aboard the joint high-speed vessel USNS Millinocket (JHSV- 3). US Navy Image

Russian Navy wants eight supercarriers

While Russia's aircraft carrier plans are still on the drawing board, the Russian Navy has expressed a desire for two carriers in each fleet: one at sea and one in reserve. That would mean a total of eight new carriers by 2040, compared to the US' current 10 and China's allegedly planned five.

The new carrier would also need to address an entire complex of challenges, from new multirole submarines to ballistic missiles and possibly even drone attacks. At that rate, the cost of systems to defend the carriers could outmatch the cost of the carriers themselves.
In that respect, the Russian Navy's ambitious plans for a supercarrier could be more of a political bargaining chip. The demands for an ambitious eight carriers and effective defense measures that even the US Navy has not been able to develop after decades of attempts, and even the plans for a "supercarrier" may be part of a political strategy to build a reserve ship for the Kuznetsov.

Such an arrangement would also be practical in that Russia's Navy would get an updated carrier to maintain its naval aviation capabilities. A slim program that does not make politicians and the public see the idea of carriers as a boondoggle would also keep the door open for future plans to expand the program.

Krylov boasts that it has early designs for a carrier that "can carry 100 aircraft on board," surpassing all competitors, according to Defense Ministry television news agency Zvezda.


Star Wars 7 expected to beat Avengers 2 in Box office per Nextbigfuture survey

Nextbigfuture ran a survey asking if Star Wars 7 or Avengers 2 would have the larger global box office. Star Wars 7 is expected to have more box office by 73% of those surveyed.


47% think Avengers 2 will exceed $2 billion in global box office. Avengers 2 opened this weekend in several international markets and already has $201 billion in global box office. It is currently running at a faster pace than Avengers 1 which finished with over $1.5 billion.



73% believe Star Wars 7 will exceed $2 billion in global box office.

46% believe Star Wars 7 could pass Titanic in global box office and 35% think Star Wars 7 could become the largest non-inflational adjusted global movie box office.





April 25, 2015

Americans worry about the Terminator Robot Apocalypse but what about a Japanese Sexbot Apocalypse ?

There are interesting cultural differences between Americans and Japanese. Americans fear the Terminator movie scenario of a robot or Artificial intelligence apacolypse. However, Japan is facing sharp population decrease from lowering birth rates. This could be accelerated with more realistic sexbots that extend the Japanese sex doll industry. This is part of Japan's greater cultural acceptance of robots where they think that robots will like Astroboy or the manga fembots or the bots that care for the elderly.

The Japanese sex doll industry is reaching new levels with the release of a new line of dolls, which claims to be more genuine than ever. The dolls, which are made of rubber and silicon, were described in a video as having realistic feeling skin and authentic looking eyes and hair.

A-Lab’s has had the android Asuna since 2014






Will Avengers 2 or Star Wars 7 be the bigger box office movie ?

Avengers 1 was the third highest grossing movie after Titanic and Avatar.
Avengers 2 Age of Ultron will open next week.
Star Wars 7 will open at Xmas 2015. The Star Wars prequels did not perform as well at the box office but Phantom Menace still was 17th for domestic box office when inflation adjusted. The original Star Wars is number 2 when inflation adjusted. The first Star Wars had $1.4 billion in inflation adjusted domestic box office.

The new Star Wars 7 will have the original cast back and transitioning to new actors. However, Han, Chewie, Luke and Leia will be in the movie. Can Star Wars 7 catch that old box office magic?



Will the Marvel movie box office keep growing ?

One head wind that they are facing for global box office is that the US dollar is up about 10-40% against many major foreign currencies.

Here is the survey and below are the trailers.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

April 24, 2015

OECD calculates that China about 65% urbanized and has 17 megacities based on Functional urban area

Instead of just looking at cities' administrative borders or "statutory city population," OECD’s study takes into account surrounding “functional urban areas” (FUA), which may lie outside the administrative borders but are significant to the social and economic makeup of the city. A lot of this is the result of China’s complex “hukou” system, the registration license given to residents of a city, which limits the mobility of citizens from outside from residing inside administrative borders.

OECD functional urban area statistics are here

OECD figured china had 15 cities with at least 10 million people (defined as megacities) back in 2010 but now two more likely joined

UN Figures China is urbanizing faster than official estimates

If Functional urban areas are used to calculate urbanization then China was61.2% urbanized in 2010 and likely is about 65% urbanized now

Uranium deal was only national security adjacent but deal is like the Gerhard Schröder Gazprom situation

Are there strategic implications for increasing Russian control of uranium production based on the Hillary Clinton Uranium One deal ? I would say no. It is national security adjacent and mainly corruption similar to the Gerhard Schröder Gazprom situation.

As Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schröder was a strong advocate of the Nord Stream pipeline project, which aims to supply Russian gas directly to Germany, thereby bypassing transit countries. The agreement to build the pipeline was signed two weeks before the German parliamentary election. On 24 October 2005, just a few weeks before Schröder stepped down as Chancellor, the German government guaranteed to cover 1 billion euros of the Nord Stream project cost, should Gazprom default on a loan. However, this guarantee had never been used.] Soon after stepping down as chancellor, Schröder accepted Gazprom's nomination for the post of the head of the shareholders' committee of Nord Stream AG, raising questions about a potential conflict of interest. German opposition parties expressed concern over the issue, as did the governments of countries over whose territory gas is currently pumped.

The Uranium deal I am referring to is the Uranium One buyout that was approved by Hillary Clinton. This appeared to be in exchange for millios to tens of millions donated to the Clinton foundation and perhaps millions of speaking fees for Bill Clinton.

Uranium production matters more than Uranium reserves

Reserves is only how much they bothered to find and the quality of how easy the source is to produce.

Russia and Kazakhstan already produce about 50% of world uranium.
It is about 15 times more than the USA.

USA at about 1900 tons per year
Kazak at about 24000 tons per year
russia at about 4000-5000 tons per year.

Canada having big oilsand reserves but produces a lot less than Saudi Arabia.

The USA has less uranium reserves than Russia and less than Kazakhstan.





Wing in Ground Effect Plane from South Korea

The Wing Ship Technology Corporation, a South Korean company, is trying to revive the wing in ground effect idea. South Korea's armed forces have already agreed to buy some and the firm says it hopes to announce its first commercial sales (to an oil-and-gas firm and a Mediterranean ferry company) shortly.

In Korea, Wing Ship Technology Corporation has developed and tested a 50 seat passenger version of a WIG craft named the WSH-500 and they have a new design the WSH 1500.

The WSH500 turboprop and can carry 50 passengers. It has a catamaran-style hull and a reverse delta wing. Its cruising speed, 180kph (110mph), makes it faster than a jetfoil, its principal rival. And the production version will have a range of 1,000km.

A ground effect vehicle (GEV) is one that attains level flight near the surface of the Earth, making use of the aerodynamic interaction between the wings and the surface known as ground effect. The ground effects makes flight more efficient and in theory would allow for very big planes with a lot more cargo. Best known are the Soviet ekranoplanes, but names like wing-in-ground-effect (WIG), flarecraft, sea skimmer, or wing-in-surface-effect ship (WISE) are also used. In recent years a large number of different GEV types have been developed for both civilian and military use. However, these craft have yet to enter widespread use.

The delta wing’s geometry amplifies the ground effect, allowing the new craft to cruise as high as five metres above the water’s surface. That means it is less likely to be confined to harbour by rough seas, which was one of the problems encountered by previous designs. It also launches itself by directing some of the airflow from the turbo props downwards, to create a temporary hovercraftlike effect until it is travelling forwards at full tilt. The difficulty of getting airborne was another bugbear of previous designs.

WSH1500 design

WSH500

New Armata Tanks and Variants Seen at Parade Rehearsal, First Redesigned Russian Tanks since 1970s

The Russian Ground Forces' new suite of armoured vehicles have been officially revealed for the first time by the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD), ahead of their formal debut at the 9 May Moscow Victory Day Parade.

The new vehicles are principally clean-slate designs and represent the biggest change in Russia's armoured fighting vehicle families since the 1960s and 1970s.

Armata
The flagship of the new armoured vehicles is the Armata main battle tank (MBT), also known as the T-14 and built by UralVagonZavod. The images show an MBT much more in keeping with recent western philosophies on tank design, appearing larger and taller than the T-72/90 it will replace.

The key feature of the Armata is its unmanned turret, with all three crew members (commander, gunner, driver) seated in a crew capsule at the front of the vehicle's hull. Although the turret is covered in the MoD image, Armata is understood to be armed with a 2A82A 125 mm smoothbore main gun fed by a bustle-mounted automatic loader equipped with 32 rounds.

Armata is also reported to feature a 30 mm coaxial secondary armament and a 12.7 mm machine gun.



Complete Woolly Mammoth Genome Sequenced

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth.

A US team is already attempting to study the animals' characteristics by inserting mammoth genes into elephant stem cells.

Current Biology - Complete Genomes Reveal Signatures of Demographic and Genetic Declines in the Woolly Mammoth



Highlights

•Complete high-quality genomes from two woolly mammoths were sequenced and analyzed
•40,000-year time difference between samples enabled calibration of molecular clock
•Demographic inference identified two severe bottlenecks in the species’ history
•One of the last surviving mammoths had low heterozygosity and signs of inbreeding

Summary

The processes leading up to species extinctions are typically characterized by prolonged declines in population size and geographic distribution, followed by a phase in which populations are very small and may be subject to intrinsic threats, including loss of genetic diversity and inbreeding. However, whether such genetic factors have had an impact on species prior to their extinction is unclear; examining this would require a detailed reconstruction of a species’ demographic history as well as changes in genome-wide diversity leading up to its extinction. Here, we present high-quality complete genome sequences from two woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius). The first mammoth was sequenced at 17.1-fold coverage and dates to ∼4,300 years before present, representing one of the last surviving individuals on Wrangel Island. The second mammoth, sequenced at 11.2-fold coverage, was obtained from an ∼44,800-year-old specimen from the Late Pleistocene population in northeastern Siberia. The demographic trajectories inferred from the two genomes are qualitatively similar and reveal a population bottleneck during the Middle or Early Pleistocene, and a more recent severe decline in the ancestors of the Wrangel mammoth at the end of the last glaciation. A comparison of the two genomes shows that the Wrangel mammoth has a 20% reduction in heterozygosity as well as a 28-fold increase in the fraction of the genome that comprises runs of homozygosity. We conclude that the population on Wrangel Island, which was the last surviving woolly mammoth population, was subject to reduced genetic diversity shortly before it became extinct.

April 23, 2015

Gas Giant planets are being spotted up to 27000 light years away with microlensing and the Spitzer space telescope

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has teamed up with a telescope on the ground to find a remote gas planet about 13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known.

The discovery demonstrates that Spitzer, from its unique perch in space, can be used to help solve the puzzle of how planets are distributed throughout our flat, spiral-shaped Milky Way galaxy. Are they concentrated heavily in its central hub, or more evenly spread throughout its suburbs?

There is a collaboration between astronomers using Spitzer and the Poland-based Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment, or OGLE.

OGLE’s Warsaw telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile scans the skies for planets using a method called microlensing. A microlensing event occurs when one star happens to pass in front of another, and its gravity acts as a lens to magnify and brighten the more distant star’s light. If that foreground star happens to be orbited by a planet, the planet might cause a blip in the magnification.

Astronomers are using these blips to find and characterize planets up to 27,000 light-years away in the central bulge of our galaxy, where star crossings are more common. Our sun is located in the Milky Way’s suburbs, about two-thirds of the way out from the center. The microlensing technique as a whole has yielded about 30 planet discoveries so far, with the farthest residing about 25,000 light-years away.


Engineered Cas9 Genome-editing protein with 10- to 100-fold increase in specificity

David Liu, and a team of scientists has developed an engineered form of Cas9 that can be turned on with a small drug-like molecule. By using this activatable form of Cas9, the team could modify targets in the human genome with up to 25-fold higher specificity than when using the standard form of Cas9. The study is described in an April 6 paper in Nature Chemical Biology.

"This study sought to improve the specificity of genome editing by carefully controlling when Cas9 is active. We engineered a form of Cas9 that is only active in the presence of a harmless, drug-like small molecule which we provide to the cell," Liu explained. "We showed it's possible to achieve efficient genome editing using this system, but because you can stop the production of active Cas9 by withholding the small molecule once it's had enough time to modify the target genes, you limit the opportunity for off-target genome modification."


Insertion of an evolved ligand-dependent intein enables small-molecule control of ​Cas9.

Nature Chemical Biology - Small molecule–triggered ​Cas9 protein with improved genome-editing specificity

Directly modulating the activity of genome-editing proteins has the potential to increase their specificity by reducing activity following target locus modification. We developed ​Cas9 nucleases that are activated by the presence of a cell-permeable small molecule by inserting an evolved ​4-hydroxytamoxifen–responsive intein at specific positions in ​Cas9. In human cells, conditionally active ​Cas9s modify target genomic sites with up to 25-fold higher specificity than wild-type ​Cas9.

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