October 05, 2015

BGI creates micropigs the size of a medium sized dog to be sold as pets

On 23 September, at the Shenzhen International Biotech Leaders Summit in China, BGI revealed that it would start selling the pigs as pets. The animals weigh about 15 kilograms when mature, or about the same as a medium-sized dog.

The institute quoted a price tag of 10,000 yuan (US$1,600) for the micropigs, but that was just to "help us better evaluate the market”, says Yong Li, technical director of BGI’s animal-science platform. In future, customers will be offered pigs with different coat colors and patterns, which BGI says it can also set through gene editing.

Animal models

Compared to rats or mice, pigs are closer to humans physiologically and genetically, making them potentially more useful as a model organism for human disease. However, their larger size means that they cost more to keep and require bigger drug doses when they are used to test a pricey experimental medicine.

Bama pigs, which weigh 35–50 kilograms (by contrast, many farm pigs weigh more than 100 kilograms), have previously been used in research.

To make the smaller, gene-edited micropigs, BGI made cloned pigs from cells taken from a Bama fetus. But before they started the cloning process, they used TALENs to disable one of two copies of the growth hormone receptor gene (GHR) in the fetal cells. Without the receptor, cells do not receive the ‘grow’ signal during development, resulting in stunted pigs.

Japan will restart second nuclear reactor

Kyushu Electric Power Co. will restart one of its nuclear reactors on Oct. 15, making it the second to return to operation after the government introduced stricter safety regulations following the 2011 meltdowns in Fukushima Prefecture, a source familiar with the restart plan said.

Kyushu Electric reported its plan to reactivate the No. 2 reactor at its Sendai complex to the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Friday.

The No. 1 unit at the two-reactor plant resumed operation in August, becoming the first reactor to do so under what the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calls “the world’s toughest” safety rules, implemented in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The restart ended a near two-year hiatus in the country’s nuclear power generation.

The government plans to have nuclear power account for 20 percent to 22 percent of Japan’s total electricity supply in 2030, compared with roughly 30 percent before the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 complex, despite the majority of the public opposing nuclear plant restarts.

October 04, 2015

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 281

The Carnival of Nuclear Enery 281 is up at Neutron Bytes

Forbes – Jim Conca - Bill Gates Forges Nuclear Deal With China

Bill Gates and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Seattle to sign an agreement between his nuclear power company, TerraPower, and the China National Nuclear Corporation that will allow the two countries to collaborate on advanced nuclear technologies that address safety, environmental and cost issues, and even burns spent nuclear fuel from old reactors. Hovering over the meeting was climate change, cyber-theft, trade-sanctions and Chinese military aggression in South East Asia.

Nuclear Economics - Some of the ideas discussed in the NEI brainstorming session are covered in this Commentary.

Short-term nuclear operating flexibility may be able to enhance the returns for existing nuclear power plants. Long-term flexibility to mothball nuclear power plants may allow uneconomic units to return to service years later when electricity market prices are higher.

Russia fielding second generation Ratnik future soldier gear with better armor, sensors and communications

Ratnik is a Russian infantry combat system. It is designed to improve the connectivity and combat effectiveness of the Russian army. Improvements include modernized body armor, helmet with special monitor (eye monitor, thermal, night vision monocular, flashlight), systems of communication and special headphones.

The "Strelets" ("Musketeer") system gives ability of voice and video communication. Also, it includes a GLONASS navigation module, so a squad leader can see location of each soldier on his small, book-sized, computer. With this computer, he also can give orders to his squad, send videos and photos to headquarters. Each soldier has his own tactical computer, but instead of the leader's computer, this one is smaller, telephone-sized.

"Ratnik" protects almost 90% of soldier's body. In general, weight of full "Ratnik" equipment with the special thigh and shoulder bulletproof shields is 19-20 kilograms. Basic "Ratnik" (for engineers and medics) weighs 15 kg ( without thigh and shoulder guards).

Serial deliveries and batch production of Ratnik began in the first half of 2015. The Russian military will get about 80,000 sets of the Ratnik-2 “future soldier” gear before the end of 2015

The Ratnik gear comprises more than 40 components, including firearms, body armor, and optical, communication and navigation devices, as well as life support and power supply systems.

Russia is trying to match the US systems for transmitting situational awareness and large scale field coordination to soldiers.

A pair of large-caliber sniper rifles has been added to the new Ratnik combat gear The 12.7 mm 6VM7-1 and the 6VM7 sniper systems, built by the Degtyarev plant in Kovrov, are relatively lightweight (11 kg) and designed in a bullpup (i.e., magazine behind grip/trigger section) configuration. Both have an effective range of 1,500 m and come equipped with a 1-P88-2 variable-range sight and can be fitted with a 1PN139 thermal visor.

IBM has Carbon Nanotube Electronics Breakthrough

IBM Research announced a major engineering breakthrough that could accelerate carbon nanotubes replacing silicon transistors to power future computing technologies.

IBM scientists demonstrated a new way to shrink transistor contacts without reducing performance of carbon nanotube devices, opening a pathway to dramatically faster, smaller and more powerful computer chips beyond the capabilities of traditional semiconductors.

IBM's breakthrough overcomes a major hurdle that silicon and any semiconductor transistor technologies face when scaling down. In any transistor, two things scale: the channel and its two contacts. As devices become smaller, increased contact resistance for carbon nanotubes has hindered performance gains until now. These results could overcome contact resistance challenges all the way to the 1.8 nanometer node – four technology generations away.

Carbon nanotube chips could greatly improve the capabilities of high performance computers, enabling Big Data to be analyzed faster, increasing the power and battery life of mobile devices and the Internet of Things, and allowing cloud data centers to deliver services more efficiently and economically.

Spreading resistance of carbon nanotube end-contacting bulk electrodes. (A) Schematic showing the geometries of the simulated system with the calculated potential profile and (B) the plot showing the current density distribution of a point-like contact between 20 nm thick 300 nm wide Mo electrode and a 1 nm diameter nanotube

AFM images and line scans of the SWNTs used to build the set of devices with different

Science - End-bonded contacts for carbon nanotube transistors with low, size-independent resistance

China's J20 Stealth Fighters currently lacks the engine power to count as a Fifth Generation Fighter

China's Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter which conducted its first test flight in 2011 cannot be counted as a fifth-generation fighter yet, the Kanwa Defense Review.

The J-20 prototypes have Russian-built AL-31F or domestic WS-10 engines designed for fourth-generation fighters like the Russian Su-27 and Chinese J-10. Because the J-20 cannot achieve supersonic flight or supermaneuverable performance with either of these engines, the aircraft does not qualify as a fifth-generation fighter despite its stealth capability.

It took Lockheed Martin 16 years to put the F-22 Raptor into service after the aircraft's first flight in 1998. It spent another 15 years to have F-35 Lighting II ready for service. Russia will put its T-50 stealth fighter into service next year after its first flight in 2010. If China can get the J-20 ready for action by next year, it will set a record by achieving the feat in just five years.

The F22 has 51% more thrust with 26000 lbs vs 17125 lbs for the J-20.
The F22 has 27% thrust with afterburners at 35,000 lbs vs 27000 lbs for the J-20.

US Army tests remote controlled weapons for base protection

Remotely-controlled weapons systems have drastically reduced the number of Soldiers needed for perimeter security at an expeditionary base camp here.

"Every Soldier I have assigned to securing the perimeter is one I don't have that can execute support missions," said Lt. Col. Raphael Heflin, commander, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, or CSSB, 1st Armored Division.

At a conventional combat outpost, it takes four to six Soldiers doing eight- or 12-hour shifts to man one weapons system on the perimeter, he said.

Using relatively new remote control weapons systems, he said, pointing to a series of unmanned, weaponized towers at the edge of the razor wire, two Soldiers inside the base camp tactical operation center can do the security work once done by 10.

One expeditionary tower can be put together by six Soldiers in less than an hour with minimal training. When it's time to pack up and leave, everything fits neatly back inside the container.

October 03, 2015

Mitosens Mitochondrial Repair Project Funded and still raising funds

Engineering backup copies of mitochondrial genes to place in the nucleus of the cell, aiming to prevent age-related damage and restore lost mitochondrial function.

This is attacking one of seven kinds of known aging damage.

Each cell in the body is dependent on the efficient generation of cellular energy by mitochondria to stay alive. Critical to this process are genes encoded within the mitochondrial genome. Over time however, mutations in these genes occur as a result of constant exposure to reactive oxygen species produced by oxidative phosphorylation, the mitochondrial energy generation process. Unlike genes within the nucleus, mitochondria lack an efficient system to repair damaged DNA. This leads to accumulated mutations, resulting in mitochondrial defects and an increase in oxidative stress throughout the body. Closely correlated with this is the observation that organisms which age more slowly also consistently display lower rates of mitochondrial free radical damage. Thus, reversing and/or preventing damage to mitochondrial DNA may be a key factor in slowing the aging process.

At the SENS Research Foundation, we are in the early stages of creating an innovative system to repair these mitochondrial mutations. If this project is successful we will have demonstrated, for the first time, a mechanism that can provide your cells with a modified backup copy of the entire mitochondrial genome. This genome would then reside within the protective confines of the cell’s nucleus, thereby mitigating damage to the mitochondrial genome. In fact, during the long course of evolution, this gradual transfer of genetic information into the nucleus has already occurred with the majority of mitochondrial genome, leaving behind a mere 13 protein coding genes within the mitochondria. Demonstrating the effectiveness of this technology would be a major milestone in the prevention and reversal of aging in the human body.

Visualization of engineered ATP8 expressed in mutant cells

Humans split from chimps 10 million years ago and gorillas appeared 12.5 million years ago

A new analysis of an ape that lived 12.5 million years ago suggests it is a type of gorilla. If that’s true, it means gorillas evolved much earlier than thought, and also pushes back the time when humans split from chimps by about 2 million years.

David Begun of the University of Toronto in Canada reanalysed fossils of Dryopithecus apes, which lived in what is now Europe as early as about 12.5 million years ago. He says that the characteristics of the skull suggest that rather than evolving earlier than the great apes, as was previously thought, Dryopithecus was actually a great ape itself.

Features suggest Dryopithecus split from the human lineage about 14 million years ago, Begun says. From that, he says, we can extrapolate that the human lineage split from chimps about 10 million years ago.

That’s more than 2 million years earlier than the previous estimate based on the fossil record, but is actually close to recent estimates based on genetic analysis.

Current molecular clocks date the split between humans and chimps to at least 7 million years ago, matching the age of the oldest fossil thought to be in the human line, Sahelanthropus. But some reports quote molecular dates up to 13 million years.

Orang-utans are the earliest of the apes to have split from the human lineage, thought to be followed by Dryopithecus, then gorillas, then chimps. But if Dryopithecus is in fact a gorilla, that puts the species closer to humans and chimps.

Russia Su-25 Frogfoot is their equivalent to the US A-10 Warthog

The Frogfoot (SU-25) is an armored beast of an aircraft with an armored cockpit and multiple redundant systems. The Russian air force has upgraded dozens of Su-25s to the latest SM standard, which includes a glass cockpit, a GLONASS satellite navigation system and modern avionics that would allow for the use of precision-guided munitions. Eventually, the Russian air force will likely upgrade its entire Su-25 fleet since the Frogfoot still plays an important role in the service’s order of battle—as demonstrated by the Syrian deployment.

The Russian air force has deployed a dozen of the slow, low-altitude flying tanks to its base in Latakia. But it’s not clear which version of the jet Russia has sent to Syria, however it’s probable that these are the latest Su-25SM version of the aircraft.

The Sukhoi Su-25 (NATO reporting name: "Frogfoot") is a single-seat, twin-engine jet aircraft developed in the Soviet Union by the Sukhoi Design Bureau. It first flew in 1975. Early variants included the Su-25UB two-seat trainer, the Su-25BM for target-towing, and the Su-25K for export customers. Some aircraft were being upgraded to Su-25SM standard in 2012. The Su-25, and the Su-34, were the only armoured, fixed-wing aircraft in production in 2007

There are some similarities between the Su-25 and the A-10. For example, the Su-25 also utilises a dual redundant hydraulic control system and its cockpit is also placed in a ‘tub’ of titanium armour. Both aircraft are very suitable for unprepared, rough airfields close to the combat area. However, if an A-10 could be compared with a modern BMW X5, the Su-25 would be a classic Land Rover with a tyre on its bonnet and a spade tied to one of its doors.

October 02, 2015

War and Peacetime Profiteering Update - Gerald Ford Aircraft Carriers over budget, years behind schedule and technologically doomed on arrival

The Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier is now $6 billion over budget and will fall years behind schedule.

The program is now $6 billion over budget, according to a review by McCain’s staff. And while the lead ship is expected to be delivered next year, the second ship in the fleet is five years behind schedule and won’t be ready until 2024. The first ship will also be incomplete when delivered.

In an attempt to contain the cost of the ships, built by Newport News-based Huntington Ingalls Industries, Congress imposed caps. But those were blown, and now the cost of the first ship is estimated to be nearly $13 billion.

The Ford-class carriers suffered from unrealistic cost estimates and overly optimistic timelines. And key Pentagon officials pushed the program forward even though key technologies hadn’t been fully tested, developed or designed, officials testified.

As early as 2007, before the Navy awarded the contract to build the ship, the GAO said that there “were key risks in the program that would impair the Navy’s ability to deliver [the first ship] at cost, on time and with its planned capabilities.” The program consists of three nuclear-powered ships designed to serve as successors to the Nimitz-class carriers.

The GAO even predicted in 2007 that the cost of the first ship was in danger of going 22 percent over budget. “Fast forward to today, 2015, cost increases are 22 percent,” said Paul Francis, the GAO’s managing director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management.

The undersecretary’s office authorized the Navy to begin construction “when only 27 percent of the ship was designed and just five of its 13 new systems were mature,” McCain said. And it failed to heed the warnings from watchdogs and weapons testers.

Naval Experts believe reports that China will launch new 001A aircraft carrier by yearend and make it fully operational by 2020

Collin Koh Swee Lean, an associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore said taht “Assuming the [new type 001A aircraft] carrier is launched on Dec. 26 this year, and fitted out subsequently before entering into a series of harbor and sea trials, the carrier should be ready for service by 2020.”

Another clue that an indigenous carrier is under construction was the start of the serial production of the carrier-based J-15 jet fighter, which would be destined for the Liaoning and other carriers. IHS Jane’s reported last year that mass production of the fighter was gathering pace.

China currently dominates in the anti-ship missile field.

The 3,000 kilometer (1,800 mile) range DF-26 ballistic missile, as well as the 1,750 kilometer range DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile. Both "carrier killers" were displayed during China’s Sept. 3 military parade in Beijing.

In the future, aircraft carriers may become less important than quieter submarines and more-sophisticated surface warships, both with long-range anti-ship missiles and support from land-based, precision missiles deployed by PLA Second Artillery Force, Davis said.

Doomed on Arrival

Henry J. Hendrix of the Center for a New American Security argues that, like the battleships which carriers were originally designed to support, carriers may now be too expensive and vulnerable. US aircraft carriers are doomed and so are the Chinese aircraft carriers in terms of an actual war with a relatively equal opponent. They are useful for projecting power and bullying vastly weaker opponents.

Currently China has the Liaoning which is a refitted aircraft carrier from the Ukraine

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