May 04, 2016

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

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

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

Fernandez told BLEEP:

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

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

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

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

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

Ukraine makes an upgraded BMP-1 armored vehicle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 03, 2016

New cancer drugs could treat lethal resistant prostate cancers

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

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

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

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

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

Lockheed Portable Fusion project still making progress

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

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

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

The project began in 2010.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highest on the Indian military technology wishlist is

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

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

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

BrahMos-II mockup

UAE performing design study of artificial mountain to increase rainfall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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