March 31, 2015

DARPA wants modular, specialized, cheaper and drop in upgradable swarm cloud of drones, missiles and mothership airplanes

DARPA's System of Systems (SoS) Integration Technology and Experimentation (SoSITE) program aims to develop and demonstrate concepts for maintaining air superiority through novel SoS architectures--combinations of aircraft, weapons, sensors and mission systems--that distribute air warfare capabilities across a large number of interoperable manned and unmanned platforms.

The vision is to integrate new technologies and airborne systems with existing systems more quickly and at lower cost than near-peer adversaries can counter them.

DARPA has kicked off the System of Systems (SoS) Integration Technology and Experimentation (SoSITE) program. SoSITE aims to develop and demonstrate concepts for maintaining air superiority through novel SoS architectures—combinations of aircraft, weapons, sensors and mission systems—that distribute air warfare capabilities across a large number of interoperable manned and unmanned platforms. The vision is to integrate new technologies and airborne systems with existing systems faster and at lower cost than near-peer adversaries can counter them.

The computer analogy would be not having a single supercomputer or mainframe but a google server farm in a data center. Google can seamlessly swap out failed servers, or drop in upgraded servers.

DARPA’s System of Systems (SoS) Integration Technology and Experimentation (SoSITE) program aims to develop and demonstrate concepts for maintaining air superiority through novel SoS architectures—combinations of aircraft, weapons, sensors and mission systems—that distribute air warfare capabilities across a large number of interoperable manned and unmanned platforms. The vision is to integrate new technologies and airborne systems with existing systems faster and at lower cost than near-peer adversaries can counter them.

Screenshot from video of mothership airplane releasing drones and missiles

War is Boring has some coverage.

“The mission truck launches a swarm of small low-cost cruise missiles, or LCCMs, that speed toward the enemy radar target,” the DARPA video narrated. “While each missile has a relatively small warhead, collectively they can have a tremendous impact.”

This makes the tactic — in theory — asymmetrical, like a guerrilla army using a fusillade of cheap rocket-propelled grenades to destroy a big, expensive armored vehicle. The mothership in this scenario is also beyond the range of the missile launchers on the ground — that’s important, too.

The project is still in its conceptual phase. The agency wants to begin experiments in 2017 and scale it up to testing “integrated air-air and precision strike kill chains” in 2019.

DARPA wants the system to rely on modular, “open” software architectures. If the Air Force wants to upgrade any part of the system, engineers could simply upload new “apps” developed separately — rather than rebuilding the entire system from scratch.

But this makes the software easier to hack. For instance, a hacker might be able to “spoof” the software into uploading a piece of malware that it thinks is an upgrade.

General expectation that Tesla Motors non-car product will be home battery charging system

New estimate of 300 to 900 billion planets in habitable zone in the milky way galaxy is triple the old prediction

With about 300 billion stars in our galaxy, researchers analyzing Kepler data and modified theory calculate there are 600 ± 300 billion planets in circumstellar habitable zones in our galaxy.

In the observable universe there are about 100 billion galaxies. Thus there are approximately 10^22 stars in the observable universe and twice that many planets in circumstellar habitable zones in the universe.

That’s a lot of real estate for alien development. Not all of these habitable zone planets will be wet and rocky like the Earth, but a fair fraction (about 30%) should be. Now we need some zippy interstellar spaceships to colonise and over-populate all these worlds before the aliens do.


The Goldilocks zone or habitable zone around a star is where the temperature is just right to have liquid water. Our new result suggests that there are, on average, two planets in the habitable zone. Aditya Chopra, ANU, adapted from NASA/JPL

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society- Using the inclinations of Kepler systems to prioritize new Titius–Bode-based exoplanet predictions

Nextbigfuture covered this paper two weeks ago. This new look is applying the results of a prediction tripling the estimate of habitable zone exoplanets to galactic and universal estimations.

Antibiotic resistant MRSA 90% killed by 1000 year old medieval remedy

Medieval medics might have been on to something. A modern-day recreation of an ancient remedy seems to alleviate infections caused by the bacteria that are usually responsible for styes. The work might ultimately help create drugs for hard-to-treat skin infections.

Take cropleek and garlic, of both equal quantities, pound them well together…
take wine and bullocks gall, mix with the leek… let it stand nine days in the brass vessel

The project was born when Freya Harrison, a microbiologist at the University of Nottingham, UK, got talking to Christina Lee, an Anglo Saxon scholar. They decided to test a recipe from an Old English medical compendium called Bald's Leechbook, housed in the British Library.

Some of the ingredients, such as copper from the brass vessel, kill bacteria grown in a dish – but it was unknown if they would work on a real infection or how they would combine.


DARPA and Navy developing advanced fab facilities for less supply line dependence

High-tech fabrication facilities are being developed to enhance ship maintenance and repair by enabling more cost-effective training and rapid onsite production of parts and components.

DARPA and the Navy recently agreed to locate a fabrication laboratory, or Fab Lab, at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC, pronounced “mar-mack”) in Norfolk, Virginia, under DARPA’s Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach Two (MENTOR2) program.

The goal of MENTOR2 is to reduce logistics supply chain costs and boost defense readiness by improving training and tools for operating, maintaining and adapting complex military equipment in low-tech environments—for example, repairing unmanned aerial vehicles in austere locations or fixing ship systems at sea. Some machine shops and fabrication capabilities exist aboard ships and in deployed areas, but these facilities provide only a fraction of the components needed for deployed operations—largely due to limited access to the adaptive manufacturing technology and comprehensive design expertise needed for in-theater fabrication. MENTOR2 aims to provide troops advanced tools and training, so they can rapidly design and fabricate needed components on the spot.

DARPA MENTOR2 performers observe current industrial-scale laser cutting at Norfolk area industrial Ship Yards. The Fab Lab installation at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center will include a smaller laser cutter and other prototyping equipment. Navy personnel will be able to train on the Fab Lab equipment to gain insight into the operation of larger equipment while fabricating creative solutions to maintenance problems. (Photo courtesy of BAE Norfolk Systems Ship Repair).

Likely features of the Long Range Strike bomber

Forbes has some deductions about the Long Range bomber

It is known that the Air Force plans to buy 80-100 strike aircraft at a cost of $550 million each with initial fielding in 2025.

1. It will have an unrefueled range of over 5,000 nautical miles. The new bomber must be able to reach targets located deep in the interior of Russia and China.

2. It will carry less payload than previous bombers. The cost of a bomber rises roughly in proportion to the size of its payload, so the imposition of a firm unit cost ceiling will tend to drive designs toward payloads much smaller than the 40,000 pounds on the very pricey B-2, the only stealthy long-range bomber currently in operation. But even at half the payload of the B-2, the LRS-B could still destroy dozens of different targets in a single flight (“sortie”) due to the advent of lightweight smart bombs.

Boeing and Lockheed delivered over 300 military aircraft last year, including some of the stealthiest fighters in the world; Northrop Grumman delivered nine aircraft, none of them stealthy. Boeing is the likely winner of the LRSB contract. Above is the Boeing -Lockheed design concept for the long range strike bomber.

Iran could enrich 32 nuclear bombs each year according to the nuclear treaty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned on Sunday the framework Iranian nuclear agreement being sought by international negotiators, saying it was even worse than his country had feared.

Israel has mounted what it terms an "uphill battle" against an agreement that might ease sanctions on the Iranians while leaving them with a nuclear infrastructure with bomb-making potential. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

"This deal, as it appears to be emerging, bears out all of our fears, and even more than that," Netanyahu told his cabinet in Jerusalem as the United States, five other world powers and Iran worked toward a March 31 deadline in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Robert Zubrin explains the details of enrichment and why too many centrifuges for Iran will enable them to get a nuclear bomb

In order to enable atomic bombs, the 0.7 percent U235 fraction of natural uranium needs to be enriched to 10 percent or more. This is typically done using centrifuges, and the amount of effort required by such systems to accomplish a given amount of enrichment is measured in Separation Work Units, or SWUs. The table below shows the number of SWUs needed to refine an initial feedstock of 100 metric tons (100,000 kilograms) of 0.7 percent U235 natural uranium into smaller amounts of more enriched materials.

Under Obama’s proposed treaty, Iran will be allowed 6,500 centrifuges to enrich uranium from its natural level of 0.7 percent U235 to a reactor grade of 3 percent to 5 percent, but not to higher grades that would be useful for making bombs. However, we see that close to 80 percent of the total effort required to turn 0.7-percent-enriched natural uranium into 93-percent-enriched, top-quality bomb-grade material is spent on the first step, to 4-percent-enriched reactor grade stuff, which, as noted, the treaty will permit. Only the last 20 percent is forbidden.


Russian Air Force to buy fewer PAK FA fighters

The military is likely to buy fewer fifth generation T-50 fighters, scaling back requirements to 12 after initially planning for 52, due to economic considerations, Deputy Defence Minister Yuri Borisov has said.

Russia will buy only 12 fighters initially and, after their operational testing and commissioning, will decide on how many more aircraft of this type it can afford. They had previously made commitments to acquire 52 aircraft according to the State Armament Program until 2020.

Russia will be ready to start mass production of the fifth generation fighter starting in 2016. However, the Deputy Minister added, the Ministry of Defence reserves the right to revise the number of units purchased. “Given the new economic conditions, the original plans may have to be adjusted,” he explained. “It is better to have the PAK FA kept as a reserve, and later move forward, while squeezing everything possible for now out of the 4+ generation fighters (Su-30 and Su-35 – Kommersant).

T50 fighters

Myostatin insufficiency produces stronger mice who live 15% longer

Fighting aging reports that loss of myostatin mutations in mice produce extended life spans, but too much suppression of myostatin may remove that benefit due to the cardiac issues that can accompany an overly large heart.

Aging Cell Journal -Haploinsufficiency of myostatin protects against aging-related declines in muscle function and enhances the longevity of mice

The molecular mechanisms behind aging-related declines in muscle function are not well understood, but the growth factor myostatin (MSTN) appears to play an important role in this process. Additionally, epidemiological studies have identified a positive correlation between skeletal muscle mass and longevity. Given the role of myostatin in regulating muscle size, and the correlation between muscle mass and longevity, we tested the hypotheses that the deficiency of myostatin would protect oldest-old mice (28-30 months old) from an aging-related loss in muscle size and contractility, and would extend the maximum lifespan of mice. We found that MSTN+/− and MSTN−/− mice were protected from aging-related declines in muscle mass and contractility. While no differences were detected between MSTN+/+ and MSTN−/− mice, MSTN+/− mice had an approximately 15% increase in maximal lifespan. These results suggest that targeting myostatin may protect against aging-related changes in skeletal muscle and contribute to enhanced longevity.

The mechanism behind the increased longevity of MSTN+/− mice is not known, but inhibition of myostatin can reduce systemic inflammatory proteins and body fat


March 30, 2015

Call for Superpills with Single-Dose Cures for Malaria, Other Diseases

One of the world’s preëminent biomedical researchers is calling for a concerted effort by scientists to develop pills that would stay in the stomach or gut for weeks or months once swallowed, delivering one or more drugs continuously or over set intervals.+

Such “super pills” would greatly simplify the treatment of diseases such as malaria. They could address a major concern in medicine, says MIT professor Robert Langer: the fact that many people don’t take all their drugs, especially when undergoing long-term treatment.

He and his colleague Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist and researcher at MIT, note that failure to keep up with drug treatments leads to about $100 billion a year in avoidable hospitalizations. In poor countries, compliance with treatment can be even lower. “We have a lot of great medicines, but under 50 percent of folks actually take them,” Traverso says



Eighteen wheeler with over 32 tons of weight achieved 12.2 mpg which is over double regular efficiency

Daimler Trucks North America’s (DTNA) SuperTruck program has achieved 115 percent freight efficiency improvement – surpassing the Department of Energy (DOE) program’s goal of 50 percent improvement and exhibiting the best results of all reporting OEMs.

Testing was also conducted at the DTNA Detroit engineering facility to demonstrate engine efficiency by achieving 50.2 percent engine brake thermal efficiency.

The final SuperTruck demonstrator ran a five-day, 312-mile round trip route on Texas Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Dallas, at a weight of 65,000 lbs GVWR at a speed of 65 mph, where it achieved an average result of 12.2 mpg.



DARPA’s Anti-Submarine Warfare developing submarine hunter killer drone

DARPA’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program seeks to develop a new type of unmanned surface vessel that could independently track adversaries’ ultra-quiet diesel-electric submarines over thousands of miles. One of the challenges that the ACTUV program is addressing is development of autonomous behaviors for complying with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, known as COLREGS. Substantial progress has been made in developing and implementing those behaviors. Currently, ACTUV’s system for sensing other vessels is based on radar, which provides a “90 percent solution” for detecting other ships. However, radar is less suitable for classification of the type of other vessels, for example determining whether the vessel is a powered vessel or a sailboat. Additionally, one of the requirements of COLREGS is to maintain “a proper lookout by sight and hearing.”

Nextbigfuture - This system will be the underwater equivalent of a Predator drone. There is no way you make a silent submarine drone for trailing enemy submarines criss-crossing the ocean without putting a torpedo or two into the system. The submarine hunter is in the DARPA project description, but the killer would come with the torpedo capability.

DARPA’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) seeks to develop an independently deployed unmanned surface vessel that would operate under sparse remote supervisory control and safely follow the maritime “rules of the road” for collision avoidance known as COLREGS. The hull for the ACTUV prototype is under construction in preparation for planned water-borne testing of the full prototype later this year.

There was an earlier ACTUV concept



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