May 24, 2015

SR72 hypersonic spy drone could be flying by 2030

The SR-72 will travel at six times the speed of sound—the fastest military jet ever made—and fly as high as 80,000 feet. The SR-72,will evade assault, take spy photos, and attack targets at speeds of up to Mach 6. That’s twice as fast as its predecessor.

Aeronautical engineers at Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocket­dyne have been designing the SR-72 at their Skunk Works black site in California for the past several years. It will require a hybrid propulsion system: a conventional, off-the-shelf turbo jet that can take the plane from runway to Mach 3, and a hypersonic ramjet/scramjet that will push it the rest of the way. Its body will have to withstand the extreme heat of hypersonic flight, when air friction alone could melt steel. Its bombs will have to hit targets from possibly 80,000 feet. Lockheed says the craft could be deployed by 2030. Once it is, the plane’s ability to cover one mile per second means it could reach any location on any continent in an hour—not that you’ll see it coming.

The aircraft will accelerate to about Mach 3 under turbojet power, switch to ramjet power to take it to about Mach 5, and then switch again to scramjet mode, which uses supersonic air for combustion.

The SR-72 may face significant challenges to being accepted by the Air Force, as they are opting to develop the Northrop Grumman RQ-180 stealth UAV to perform the task of conducting ISR missions in contested airspace. Compared to the SR-72, the RQ-180 is less complex to design and manufacture, less prone to problems with acquisition, and can enter service as soon as 2015.

In December 2014 NASA awarded Lockheed Martin a contract to study the feasibility of building the SR-72's propulsion system using existing turbine engine technologies. The $892,292 contract funds a design study to determine the viability of a TBCC propulsion system by combining one of several current turbine engines, with a very low Mach ignition Dual Mode Ramjet (DMRJ). NASA previously funded a Lockheed Martin study that found speeds up to Mach 7 could be achieved with a dual-mode engine combining turbine and ramjet technologies. The problem with hypersonic propulsion has always been the gap between the highest speed capabilities of a turbojet, from around Mach 2.2 to the lowest speed of a ramjet at Mach 4. Typical turbine engines cannot achieve high enough speeds for a ramjet to take over and continue accelerating. The NASA-Lockheed study is looking at the possibility of a higher-speed turbine engine or a ramjet that can function in a turbine engine's slower flight envelope; the DARPA HTV-3X had demonstrated a low-speed ramjet that could operate below Mach 3. Existing turbofan engines powering jet fighters and other experimental designs are being considered for modification. If the study is successful, NASA will fund a demonstrator to test the DMRJ in a flight research vehicle

In the Late-2020s a microlensing survey could tell if Rogue planets are more common than planets around Stars

The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is a proposed infrared space observatory which was selected by National Research Council committee as the top priority for the next decade of astronomy. The WFIRST space telescope could be in space by 2024 if it is started in 2017.

Estimates suggested that every planetary system in the galaxy booted at least one planet into interstellar space. With billions of planetary systems in the Milky Way, there may be billions, maybe even hundreds of billions, of rogue planets in the galaxy, says planetary scientist Sara Seager of MIT.

“A census of rogues,” Liu says, “is the only way we are going to fully understand the extent of what’s out there in the Milky Way.”

Two traits distinguish a star from a brown dwarf and to an extent, from a planet: mass and the presence or absence of nuclear fusion. Stars, even small ones, are at least 80 times the mass of Jupiter, which at 318 times the mass of Earth is the most massive planet in the solar system — and is often used by astronomers to gauge the size of other gaseous objects. According to theoretical calculations about how stars work, objects must be 80 Jupiter masses or more to fuse hydrogen nuclei (protons) into helium. This process liberates energy, which is how stars burn bright, speckling the night sky.

Brown dwarfs are smaller, anywhere between 13 and 80 Jupiter masses. They are not dense enough to fuse hydrogen. But they may have been big and hot enough to fuse deuterium nuclei (a proton plus a neutron) with protons or other nuclei, which means they once generated energy but no longer do.

Any sphere less than about 13 Jupiter masses is not large or dense enough to fuse any kind of atomic nuclei. As a result, some astronomers define orbs with less than roughly 13 Jupiter masses — even untethered ones — as planets.

One study suggests there could be 100,000 rogue planets for every star in the Milky way.

Astronomy and Astrophysics - CFBDSIR2149-0403: a 4–7 Jupiter-mass free-floating planet in the young moving group AB Doradus?

MASS MATTERS Small stars, brown dwarfs and rogue planets can be similar in diameter but have different masses. Mass is one characteristic used to distinguish the objects. However, for classification purposes, astronomers may need to look beyond mass to consider how an orb formed and what elements it’s made of.

May 23, 2015

Truck Platooning timeline through 2030

A platoon of two trucks is like a short train driving on the road, with the trucks driving very closely
behind each other.
The distance between the two trucks can really be extremely small – creating a desirable form of tailgating. The distance can be as low as 0.3 seconds, which at 80 km/h is about 6.7 metres distance between the vehicles. Driving so close together is made possible by advanced Automated Driving technology, in conjunction with wireless vehicle-tovehicle (V2V) communication that makes it possible that the vehicles communicate with each other.

Once platooning is activated, a Following Vehicle in the platoon trails the Leading Vehicle. The Following Vehicle now follows the Leading Vehicle automatically, without interference of its driver. Because the vehicles are able to communicate with each another, they can adjust their speed and position without the typically delayed response time of a human driver. The vehicles communicate both ways, so also the Leading Vehicle can adjust its speed or position based on the response of the Following Vehicle. And since the vehicles are wirelessly coupled, it is possible to easily hop-on and hop-off from the platoon on-the-fly. There is no need to stop driving; connecting to a platoon or disconnecting can happen while driving by a push of a button.

Truck platooning has great potential for reducing transport costs, by lowering fuel consumption due to improved aerodynamics from reduced air resistance, eliminating the need for an attentive driver in the second vehicle, and better usage of truck assets, by optimisation of driving times and minimisation of idle time. On the societal level, driving safety increases as typically 90% of all accidents are human-induced, and platooning technology prevents human errors, leading to less accidents and damages. Greenhouse gas and air-quality related emissions decrease, and congestion and traffic jams are reduced.

A phased implementation is crucial for widespread acceptance of platooning technology in the society at large, and especially of other road users. We expect that large-scale deployment in the commercial transportation industry is possible within approximately a five year period (see Fig. 5), so that in 2020, a form of truck platooning (e.g., SAE levels 2 or 3) is legally permitted and commercially available. More extensive applications of platooning (e.g., SAE level 4 or 5) are not expected before 2030. Of course, there is a fair amount of guesswork in this timeline, as timing is very much dependent on political support, innovation funding, technological advancement and public acceptance. This timeline is elaborated in Section 6.2, in which we propose to commission a five-year Dutch open innovation programme towards the goal of commercial platooning in 2020.

In terms of development process, we might compare truck platooning with the growth trajectory of the LZV developments in the Netherlands. Initial small-scale experimentation started in 2000, the first wide-scale tests initiated in 2006. Final developments were wrapped up in 2012 when the LZV was officially allowed on Dutch main roads, so about 6 years later. Leveraging the encouraging experience of the LZV, we expect that developments will be along the lines of the LZV, such that platooning trucks are officially allowed on Dutch main roads in about five years’ time. Required changes to European legislation and alignment in Dutch legislation with regard to driving/resting times (EC 561/2006) and the digital tachograph (EEC 3821/85) legislation will be among the greatest threats to this timeline, as well as the technological difficulty associated with ensuring robust control over the platoon under all circumstances.

7.7 Million Truck Platoon Systems to Ship by 2025 and Japanese truck platooning research

Truck platoons are the most imminently anticipated application of highly automated driving in commercial vehicles. A fusion of forward-looking radar and V2V communication enable fleets of trucks to safely maneuver with a short distance between vehicles. The reduction in aerodynamic drag for following vehicles, and buildup of pressure behind the lead vehicle yields impressive fuel efficiencies, with various tests reporting convoy savings of between 5% and 10%. “With most fleet operators attributing some 30 to 40% of their operating costs to fuel expenditure, the savings presented by platooning are significant,” comments James Hodgson, Research Analyst, ABI Research.

As technology progresses and regulations adapt to accommodate greater vehicle automation, further benefits to fleet operators will come in the shape of labor productivity gains and better asset utilization. Currently, solutions from pioneers such as Peloton Technology require active intervention from the following driver to keep the vehicle within the lane of travel, but in the future the driver of the lead vehicle could be in sole control of all vehicles in the convoy; allowing following drivers to rest, or eliminating the need for them altogether.

“The emerging market for platooning is promising; in no small part due to its relevance across a considerable spectrum of vehicle automation. The premise stretches all the way from a platoon comprised of two vehicles whose drivers seek to narrow the interval between them in a safe manner, through to scenarios which involve more vehicles than they do drivers,” Hodgson explains.

Recent high-profile investments in platooning technology have been made by the likes of Denso International America, Volvo Group Venture Capital, Magna International, Intel Capital, and the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund, among others.

Here is some 2012 research [updated Mar, 2013] on advanced Cooperative Vehicle–Highway Automation Systems (Federal Highway Administration review of Asian research)

The most ambitious fully automated driving activity appears to be occurring in Japan’s Energy ITS project, which has been developing and testing a platoon of three fully automated trucks for close to 5 years. This project, under the sponsorship of METI through its New Energy Technology Development Organization (NEDO), has been funded at the equivalent of about $12 million per year for 5 years. The work is being conducted by researchers at multiple universities, with coordination and management by the Japan Automobile Research Institute (JARI) but with little direct involvement by the truck manufacturers. The primary goal is to attain energy savings (CO2 reductions) through the reduction of aerodynamic drag by operating trucks in an electronically coupled platoon at shorter-than-normal gaps, with additional objectives of improving highway traffic flow and safety. Because of Japan’s rapidly aging population, its truck fleet operators are concerned about future shortages of truck drivers, which could be alleviated if the following trucks in the platoon could indeed be driverless.

Presentation slide. Energy ITS truck platoon definition of capabilities. NOTE: V2V = vehicle-to-vehicle communication, ACC = adaptive cruise control, CACC = cooperative adaptive cruise control.

Augmented Reality Systems set to Revolutionize Battlefield Operations

British engineers from BAE Systems are working in collaboration with academics at the University of Birmingham to develop applications for this ground-breaking technology concept, which intelligently ‘mixes’ together the real and virtual world to allow operators to take real-time control of their environments like never before.

This includes a briefcase sized portable command centre that can be easily deployed and set-up anywhere to tackle emergency scenarios by creating a ‘virtual’ information rich workspace, and a ‘wearable cockpit’ to provide pilots with a customisable environment to enhance their situational awareness while also reducing the cost of cockpit upgrades.

This revolutionary concept called ‘mixed reality’ allows the operator to see themselves and their surroundings along with virtual images, video feeds, objects and avatars, seamlessly bringing together the critical battlefield elements in a single place.

Augmented reality systems as small as a contact lens could revolutionise complex emergency response and military battlefield operations in the future, by drastically improving the situational awareness, decision-making and asset management of operators.

Russian Supercarrier design has two electromagnetic launchers

Krylovsky State Research Center (KRSC) came up with a scale model of a new aircraft carrier known as 23000 "Storm," daily newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported.

"Storm" can carry 90 deck-based aircraft for various combat missions. The carrier has two ramps and two electromagnetic catapults to launch aircraft from its deck.

The ship's power plant will be either a conventional power plant or a nuclear one, depending on potential customers' requirements, Rossiyskaya Gazeta said.

The new aircraft carrier has a displacement of 100,000 tons, is 330 meters in length, 40 meters in width and has a draft of 11 meters. The ship has a top speed of 30 kt and a sea-keeping performance of up to grade 7.

The model features a split air wing comprising navalised T-50 PAKFAs and MiG-29Ks, as well as jet-powered naval early warning aircraft, and Ka-27 naval helicopters.

NASA NIAC - Quaser and Pulsar space navigation and Cubesat planetary exploration

One of the new NASA NIAC (NASA Innovative Advanced concept) studies is Differential Deployable Autonomous Radio Navigation (ΔDARN). This will be carried out by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Haystack Observatory. This will bring astronomical radio observations of quasars, masers and pulsars into play as a means to autonomously guide spacecraft among the planets, and even to the stars. The roadmap leads to a demonstration mission and utilization on deep space missions large and small. Phase 1 will produce a preliminary catalog of reference maser sources, a system analysis, and conceptual design of a demonstration mission.

CubeSat with Nanostructured Sensing Instrumentation for Planetary Exploration

The University of Southern California and University of Utah propose an innovative concept study to develop a CubeSat integrated with a new, nanosensor based instrument for low cost in situ analysis of asteroid and comet composition. The new instrument utilizes a TiO2 nanotube sensing platform with integrated compound semiconductor nanowires to determine surface composition element via Neutron Activated Analysis (NAA). This technique requires no sample preparation and collection operation, and is able to detect over 74 trace elements in parts per billion (ppb) range. The instrument is low cost, low power, low mass, compact, and disposable, thus making it potentially useful for integration with a CubeSat. This research will investigate the feasibility of an innovative, low cost, CubeSat based planetary mission concept which applies the proposed instrument for in situ ground truth analysis of small asteroids and comets.

Deep Space Industries will get propellant from asteroids

NASA has funded more NIAC (Innovative advanced concept) studies.

Deep Space Industries has been funded to develop In-Space Manufacture of Storable Propellants

Many deep-space, missions, especially those that return material or crews to near-Earth space, are severely limited by the need to carry propellants and heat shields to achieve their mission goals. Lifting these assets from the surface of Earth, landing them on the target body, launching them from there into an Earth-intercept trajectory, and capturing them into Earth orbit requires Earth launch of masses of propellant that increase exponentially with the mission’s total delta V requirement. Preliminary studies of the logistics of gathering material from the Moon and selected Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) have demonstrated very large enhancements of mass-retrieval capabilities using propellants derived from sources in space rather than propellants launched from Earth and carried throughout the mission. They also have clearly shown the enormous advantages inherent in deriving propellants from NEAs. This study examines water-based propulsion using NEA volatiles to manufacture storable chemical propellants. The problem of storable propellants on Earth has been solved by the use of hydrazine derivatives as fuel and N2O4 as oxidizer, both made possible by Earth’s nitrogen-rich atmosphere. Nitrogen is scarce on asteroids, and would be best devoted to creating fire-retardant atmospheres for crews. There are plausible paths known for making asteroid-derived carbon-based storable fuels, but the provenance of a suitable storable oxidizing agent that does not employ nitrogen is an unsolved and difficult problem.
Deep Space Industries will develop asteroid regolith simulants for use in terrestrial testing of DSI’s harvesting and processing technologies. This simulant will also be commercially available for scientific and industrial uses throughout the space resource community. Image: Artists concept of DSI’s harvesting technologies. Credit: Bryan Versteeg, Deep Space Industries

DSI is planning a series of reconnaissance spacecraft such as this Mothership craft, which will be sent in search of mineral-rich asteroids. Mothership will deliver nanosats to deep space destinations, acting as the power and communications hub while daughter craft perform exploratory and scientific missions. Credit: Bryan Versteeg, Deep Space Industries

High Iron levels in brain associated with Alzheimers and hastened onset

Studies have suggested that people with Alzheimer's also have higher iron levels in their brains. Now it seems that high iron may hasten the disease's onset.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia followed 144 older people who had mild cognitive impairment for seven years. To gauge how much iron was in their brains, they measured ferritin, a protein that binds to the metal, in their cerebrospinal fluid. For every nanogram per millilitre people had at the start of the study, they were diagnosed with Alzheimer's on average three months earlier.

The team also found that the biggest risk gene for Alzheimer's, ApoE4, was strongly linked with higher iron, suggesting this is why carrying the gene makes you more vulnerable.

CSF ferritin associates with ApoE levels and varies according to APOE genotype.

Nature Communications - Ferritin levels in the cerebrospinal fluid predict Alzheimer’s disease outcomes and are regulated by APOE

Keen Software House makes AI that can learn and create a hierarchy of goals

Keen Software House has improved their General artificial intelligence. It could already Pong, a Breakout Game and an Artificial Brain simulator and now it is able to work with delayed rewards and create a hierarchy of goals.

The AI was able to control movement through a maze like map and learn the rules of a game.

It used reinforcement learning to seek rewards and avoid punishment.

AI is able to follow a complex chain of strategy in order to complete its main goal. It can assign a hierarchical order to its various goals and plan ahead so it reaches an even bigger goal.

May 22, 2015

Having young blood keeps your bones healing faster

Young blood has once again shown its promise as an elixir of youth: blood from young mice helps bones of older animals heal.

Over the past few years, researchers have reversed muscle atrophy, memory loss, heart degradation and some of the effects of cognitive decline by pumping the blood of young mice into old mice. The results from these animal experiments were so intriguing that last year a team at Stanford University began the ultimate rejuvenation trial: giving blood plasma from under 30s to people with Alzheimer's. Results are expected next year.

Now, Benjamin Alman, a professor of surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, and his colleagues have tested young blood's ability to heal bones.

The team surgically joined the circulatory systems of mice of various ages, in a procedure known as parabiosis. Fractured shin bones of old mice healed faster and better when the rodents were joined to young mice than to mice their own age.

Nature Communication - Exposure to a youthful circulaton rejuvenates bone repair through modulation of β-catenin

Fully automated and one person retail kiosks

There are about three million interactive [fully automated] kiosks for other types of services globally.

Other markets where interactive kiosks have a particularly large impact are:

• Entertainment (e.g. DVD rental, photo printing, movie ticket ordering)
• Retail (e.g. self-checkout, deli-counter ordering, product information)
• Travel (e.g. airport check-in, hotel check-in/check-out)
• Financial services (e.g. bill payment, coin exchange, check cashing)
• Healthcare (e.g. patient check-in, patient information, prescription refills)
• Municipal & government (e.g. train/bus ticketing, driver’s license renewal, tax payment)
• Information/other (e.g. wayfinding, information, human resources)

Coinstar estimates a $6.7 billion sweet spot for companies offering automated vending of food and beverages, compared with the next biggest market--entertainment, which already includes Redbox -- at $3.8 billion.

The self-service kiosk industry grew 24 percent globally in 2013, and it is projected to continue this growth trend for at least the next five years. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, stated that he expects “2015 will be the year of Apple Pay.” Recently, Apple announced that over 200,000 new self-service machines, including parking meters, laundry machines, and vending machines, are now integrated with Apple Pay. Since launching in September, Apple Pay has already become the most popular mobile payment method available. Apple Pay continues to add financial institutions to its roster of integrated payment providers, and now is integrated by over 750 banks and credit unions.

Redbox has 44,000 kiosks. Redbox had a 38% stake in all movie rentals, including VOD. Overall, the prospects for the disc market are not bright. In a study this week, PwC estimated that physical home entertainment revenue will fall more than 28% from $12.2 billion last year to $8.7 billion in 2018. kiosks bring in more money for the studios per transaction than pay TV or streaming. Redbox does not depress sales of movies.

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