Friday, November 18, 2016

GeoMapping Titan's Polar Terrain Reveals Potential Sedimentary Deposits


Birch et al


We present a geomorphologic map of Titan's polar terrains. The map was generated from a combination of Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Imaging Science Subsystem imaging products, as well as altimetry, SARTopo and radargrammetry topographic datasets. In combining imagery with topographic data, our geomorphologic map reveals a stratigraphic sequence from which we infer process interactions between units. In mapping both polar regions with the same geomorphologic units, we conclude that processes that formed the terrains of the north polar region also acted to form the landscape we observe at the south. Uniform, SAR-dark plains are interpreted as sedimentary deposits, and are bounded by moderately dissected uplands. These plains contain the highest density of filled and empty lake depressions, and canyons. These units unconformably overlay a basement rock that outcrops as mountains and SAR-bright dissected terrains at various elevations across both poles. All these units are then superposed by surficial units that slope towards the seas, suggestive of subsequent overland transport of sediment. From estimates of the depths of the embedded empty depressions and canyons that drain into the seas, the SAR-dark plains must be >600 m thick in places, though the thickness may vary across the poles. At the lowest elevations of each polar region, there are large seas, which are currently liquid methane/ethane filled at the north and empty at the south. The large plains deposits and the surrounding hillslopes may represent remnant landforms that are a result of previously vast polar oceans, where larger liquid bodies may have allowed for a sustained accumulation of soluble and insoluble sediments, potentially forming layered sedimentary deposits. Coupled with vertical crustal movements, the resulting layers would be of varying solubilities and erosional resistances, allowing formation of the complex landscape that we observe today.

Planet Nine may be Especially Faint in the red and Infrared


Mallama et al


Complete sets of reference magnitudes in all 7 Johnson-Cousins bands (U, B, V, R, I, RC and IC) and the 5 principal Sloan bands (u’, g’, r’, i', and z’) are presented for the 8 planets. These data are accompanied by illumination phase functions and other formulas which characterize the instantaneous brightness of the planets. The main source of Johnson-Cousins magnitudes is a series of individualized photometric studies reported in recent years. Gaps in that dataset were filled with magnitudes synthesized in this study from published spectrophotometry. The planetary Sloan magnitudes, which are established here for the first time, are an average of newly recorded Sloan filter photometry, synthetic magnitudes and values transformed from the Johnson-Cousins system. Geometric albedos derived from these two sets of magnitudes are consistent within each photometric system and between the systems for all planets and in all bands. This consistency validates the albedos themselves as well as the magnitudes from which they were derived. In addition, a quantity termed the delta stellar magnitude is introduced to indicate the difference between the magnitude of a planet and that of its parent star. A table of these delta values for exo-planets possessing a range of physical characteristics is presented. The delta magnitudes are for phase angle 90° where a planet is near the greatest apparent separation from its star. This quantity may be useful in exo-planet detection and observation strategies when an estimate of the signal-to-noise ratio is needed. Likewise, the phase curves presented in this paper can be used for characterizing exo-planets. Finally, magnitudes for the proposed Planet Nine are estimated, and we note that P9 may be especially faint at red and near-IR wavelengths.

Meteorites Show Mars Dry, Inhospitable for Billions of Years

he lack of liquid water on the surface of Mars today has been demonstrated by new evidence in the form of meteorites on the Red Planet examined by an international team of planetary scientists.

In a study led by the University of Stirling, an international team of researchers has found the lack of rust on the meteorites indicates that Mars is incredibly dry, and has been that way for millions of years.

The discovery, published in Nature Communications, provides vital insight into the planet's current environment and shows how difficult it would be for life to exist on Mars today.

Mars is a primary target in the search for life outside Earth, and liquid water is the most important pre-requisite for life.

Dr Christian Schröder, Lecturer in Environmental Science and Planetary Exploration at the University of Stirling and Science Team Collaborator for the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity mission, said:

"Evidence shows that more than 3 billion years ago Mars was wet and habitable. However, this latest research reaffirms just how dry the environment is today. For life to exist in the areas we investigated, it would need to find pockets far beneath the surface, located away from the dryness and radiation present on the ground."

A study published last year, which used data from the Curiosity Rover investigating Gale crater on Mars, suggested that very salty liquid water might be able to condense in the top layers of Martian soil overnight.

"But, as our data show, this moisture is much less than the moisture present even in the driest places on Earth," explains Dr Schröder.

China's Long March 5 Placed two Satellites Where One was Declared

Analytical Graphics, Inc.’s (AGI) Commercial Space Operations Center (ComSpOC) is demonstrating unparalleled commercial innovation in the swift and accurate tracking of the inaugural launch of a new, more capable Chinese rocket with two apparent payloads, one of which is the reported Shijian-17 experimental satellite. This display of technological readiness and responsiveness utilizing varied sources of commercial sensor data, bolsters the growing awareness that commercial space situational awareness (SSA) services provide a viable source for monitoring activities in space.

NASA is Considering Scrapping the Orion Capsule

Eric Berger at Ars Technica reports that NASA has begun to consider possible alternatives to the Orion spacecraft beyond the initial crewed flights of the Lockheed Martin-built deep-space vehicle.

Robopocalypse Report #94


Dominoes delivered pizza in New Zealand via a Flirtey drone.  (that's an awfully big target needed...)

The British want prisons to be geoblocked by drone manufacturers.

The Cormorant (formerly airmule) has had its first autonomous flight.

A new drone helps design wireless networks.

The DartDrone is intended to shoot tranqs at animals (for and by pros!  not the kids!)

Disney is employing drones for entertainment purposes (more here).

DJI has unveiled new drones.

And a drone for professional level filming.

Drone photography is becoming impressive.

Echodyne has a mini radar designed for drones.

The FAA is testing anti drone tech at the Denver Airport.

FleetLights is the concept of making drones into street lights.  I can see the UFO reports now...

Google's Project Wing delivery drones will NOT be bringing you your latte.

GoPro has recalled its Karma drone.

HyWing is a fuel cell powered drone with a 10 hour flight time.

Local Motor's 3d printed car now has a drone.

An optionally manned helicopter and drones did an exercise to fight a fire and do search and rescue.

Self Driving Cars:

For those of you in San Francisco, go down to Harrison and 4th: there is a garage full of Uber self driving cars there.

Altmotive has developed an all weather self driving car capability.

Hyundai's Ioniq is its latest self driving car concept.

Intel is investing $250 million in self driving car tech.

A Japanese company started passenger testing a self driving shuttle bus.

Self driving cars are now joined by a self driving scooter.

Supposedly, a self driving delivery van can be built in 4 hours.

The Telsa crashes are not going to stop self driving cars.

Tesla has told Germany 98% of drivers understand the limitations of its Autopilot capabilities.

Do the lives saved by Tesla's software balancing out the lives lost?

Uber is arguing not all of its drivers will be replaced by self driving cars.  (ha!)

3d Printing:

Builder 3d has released a giant sized 3d printer.

Cazza Construction is looking at 3d printing housing in the US.

GE tested a turbo prop engine made with 35% 3d printed parts.

Sunconomy is teaming up to 3d print houses with a nonprofit.

A teenager was killed by an explosion in his 3d printer.

There is a new way to 3d print tissue.


Hrönn is a self sailing robo ship.

Take a look at the future of pizza...robot factories?

A new bot can solve the rubik's cube in .637 seconds.


suitX announced its new exoskeleton for work.


A brain implant allows a locked-in woman to play games (and more).

Cyborg cockroaches to the rescue...ick.

DARPA wants to increase the rate the brain learns.

A new wireless brain to spine implant 'cures' paralysis in monkeys.

Software Bots:

Amazon's Alexa is now in Hyundai cars.

Can software bots help save scientists drowning in data?

Google's Deep Mind AI is attempting to play Starcraft II.

Google's AI also needs your cute doodles to play pictionary with..

Google's RAISR is a bot to sharpen low res images.

IBM's Project Intu is bringing Watson's capabilities to any device.

Intel is determined to fuel the AI revolution.  hmm...

A software bot ranked the most influential brain researchers.

Telegram announced the winners of its bot challenge.

A new web crawler is designed to extract data from the net and improve performance.


Musk is predicting the robopocalypse will produce a universal basic income.

The UN says the robopocalypse threatens 2/3s of jobs in developing countries.

Coming Cyber War #21

Cyber Warfare:

The US was mulling a response to any cyber attacks on election day.

The best strategy for the US may not to have a cyber strategy?

US Army wargames have refined the use of cyber warfare teams.

The US Army is rushing to build up its cyber warfare corps.

The US Navy has outlined its cyber defense plans for its warships.  Amongst those plans are the last resort of unplugging the warship from the network in case of compromise.

The US military is looking to tap into its social media forces. 

The US military's attempts to recruit hackers were harmed in a significant way by Snowden.

Massive DDOS attacks are on the rise (*cough*IOT*Cough*)

Russians are accused of conducting massive post election hacks on US based think tanks, NGOs and even some parts of the US government. 

In turn massive DDOS attacks were launched on the top 5 Russian banks on November 10th through 12th.  It seems to be the Mirai software again.

Smaller nations will start employing cyber weapons.

 A DDOS attack took out the heating in two buildings in Lappeenranta, Finland.

Cyber Security:

Adult Friends Finder's websites have been cracked and expose 400 odd million user accounts.

A chess champion reached out to Microsoft to protect him from Russian hackers.

Columbia University has come up with new software to help foil cyber attacks.

China's new tough cyber security law has come into effect.

The cryptsetup bug allows for remote root shell access on linux systems.

The DIRTY COW exploit is still not patched in Android. 

A Google engineer has stated anti virus software is a waste of time and worse than useless.

 Malware detecting CPUs are being developed.

The OATH2.0 bug has left 1 billion mobile apps exposed.

PoisonTap is a new hacking device that can crack a machine in under a minute.

 Researchers successfully hacked a Phillips Smart bulb via a drone.

A security company showed how to hack a US voting machine.

A security company also showed how to create an untraceable rootkit for industrial equipment.

Trump's election to the US Presidency is adding fuel to the fire in the encryption debate.

 US lawmakers are considering a new agency for IoT security.

What would you give up for cyber security?  Apparently, a lot.  

Yahoo is revealing more details of its massive hack.  Some within Yahoo knew of the breach in 2014!

Z-Wave, an IoT device maker, is announcing new security standards for their devices.

Cyber Espionage:

A new, powerful Android malware is targeting executives at companies.

Assange claims Wikileaks never intended to influence the US Election (ha!).

The British have passed a law stating all data, including browsing histories and domains visited, must be kept for up to one year.

China is collecting information off of smart phones in the US.

The FBI has hired a firm with a real time scan & feed from twitter.

linkedin is now blocked in Russia because linkedin refused to house the data for Russian citizens in Russia physically.

The NSA stated a nation-state (see below) attempted to influence the election.

How Russia attempted to influence the US election.

Will Trump's win of the US Presidency greatly increase surveillance?

Cyber Crime:

10% of cloud based repositories have been compromised by malware.

The Chinese passed a very controversial cyber security law.

The FBI seized 23 child porn sites on torrent and then deployed malware from them.

Tesco Bank stopped online transactions after a massive wave of theft.

University of Calgary banned bittorrents and saw a massive drop in the complaints about online IP theft.

Paleolithic Papers #11

Genus Homo:

Genital Warts are from interactions, ahem, between modern humans and Neandertals.

H. sapiens:

There is evidence of learning in the Magdalenian culture.

Modern humans may have hunted cave lions for their pelts.

Modern humans also recognize snakes far better than other animals when they are partially obscured.

Mesolithic cultures in Ethiopia may have used several methods to create ochre.

How Mesolithic cultures used small mammals.

How early Homo might have used tubers for food.

Evidence of early modern human tools from East Timor from 42,000 years ago?

H. neanderthalensis:

H. erectus:

Researchers looked at the cranial vaults of non human primates to try to explain the hypertrophied skull in H. erectus.

H. naledi:

Based on skull shape, H. naledi may be closely related to Homo erectus.

The upper limb, skull and thigh/leg of H. naledi get described.

Genus Paranthropus:

Paranthropus species may have eaten a softer diet than previously thought.

John Hawks discusses the monkey creation of stone flakes.

Evidence of Extensive Mercury Pollution During Permian Triassic Mass Extinction


Grasby et al


Sedimentary records from the northwest margin of Pangea and the Tethys show anomalously high Hg levels at the latest Permian extinction boundary. Background δ202Hg values are consistent with normal marine conditions but exhibit negative shifts coincident with increased Hg concentrations. Hg isotope mass-independent fractionation (Δ199Hg) trends are consistent with volcanic input in deep-water marine environments. In contrast, nearshore environments have Δ199Hg signatures consistent with enhanced soil and/or biomass input. We hypothesize that the deep-water signature represents an overall global increase in volcanic Hg input and that this isotope signature is overwhelmed in nearshore locations due to Hg from terrestrial sources. High-productivity nearshore regions may have experienced stressed marine ecosystems due to enhanced Hg loading.

Were Gorgonopsid Sabre Teeth for Mating Display Purposes?!

Hollywood celebrities spend large amounts of dollars on it. The hunky stud at the local pub thinks he knows it. But the age-old secret has been carefully kept for millions of years. Yet, it seemed obvious to pre-mammalian reptiles that went so far as to evolve mouths full of beautifully crafted teeth. It's your beautifully bleached smile that makes you sexy!

Mammals, like us, have a set of dentition that are neatly divided into three distinct types of teeth -- the incisors at the front of your mouth, the molars in your cheeks, and the canines, that Dracula-type teeth that separates the molars from the incisors. The origin of this separation can be traced back to 300 million years ago, when our ancestors still looked like sprawling reptiles, the pre-mammalian therapsids.

These creatures, like the gorgonopsians (a group of therapsids), had long, sometimes sabre-like canines that was often interpreted as a deadly hunting device. However, there was a problem. Some herbivorous species that only grazed on plants, like the dicynodonts (herbivorous animals, varying in sizes from a rat to an ox, and like warthogs, had two tusks, that gave them their name, which means "two dog tooth").

So, if not for hunting, what were these impressive sets of pointy teeth for? Defence against predators? Nope! These prehistoric characters used them to seduce the beauties!

The rebuttal to this would be immediately after the gorgons went extinct, a therocephalian genus went through rapid convergent evolution to develop its own sabre teeth implying there was an empty ecological niche.

Ernietta from the late Edicaran NeoProterozoic Namibia was Weirdly Assymetrical




Ernietta plateauensis Pflug, 1966 is the type species of the Erniettomorpha, an extinct clade of Ediacaran life. It was likely a gregarious, partially infaunal organism. Despite its ecological and taxonomic significance, there has not been an in-depth systematic description in the literature since the original description fell out of use. A newly discovered field site on Farm Aar in southern Namibia has yielded dozens of specimens buried in original life position. Mudstone and sandstone features associated with the fossils indicate that organisms were buried while still exposed to the water column rather than deposited in a flow event. Ernietta plateauensis was a sac-shaped erniettomorph with a body wall constructed from a double layer of tubes. It possessed an equatorial seam lying perpendicular to the tubes. The body is asymmetrical on either side of this seam. The tubes change direction along the body length and appear to be constricted together in the dorsal part of the organism.

A MiG-29K From Russian Aircraft Carrier Crashed in the Mediterranean Sea

As reported by Combat Aircraft a Russian Navy Mig-29KUBR embarked aboard Adm. Kuznetsov aircraft carrier has crashed on Nov. 13.

The aircraft is one of the four naval Fulcrums operated by the 100th Independent Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment.

According to our sources, the incident occurred around 14.30Z and involved a two-seater Fulcrum in a formation of three Mig-29s operating from the carrier in the eastern Mediterranean Sea off Syria: whilst one of the remaining aircraft recovered aboard the Kuznetsov the third one diverted for unknown reasons to Syria.

Footage allegedly showing Mig-29s in the skies over Aleppo had happered earlier on the same day.

China's 1st Aircraft Carrier Ready for Combat

China's first aircraft carrier is now ready to engage in combat, marking a milestone for a navy that has invested heavily in its ability to project power far from China's shores.

The Liaoning's political commissar said in an interview with Tuesday's Global Times newspaper that his ship is "constantly prepared to fight against enemies," signaling a change from its past status as a platform for testing and training.

Senior Captain Li Dongyou's comments appear to indicate that the ship has taken on its full aviation complement. Purchased as an incomplete hull from Ukraine more than a decade ago, it was commissioned in 2013.

China hasn't described specifically how it intends to use the Liaoning, but it is seen as helping reinforce China's increasingly assertive claims in the South China Sea in the face of challenges from the U.S. Navy and others.

A Bad Sign for the Russian T-14 Armata

Russia's Ministry of Defense (MoD) is planning to bring back into service some of its mothballed T-80BV main battle tanks (MBTs) and to update them, according to a source in the country's defence industry.

"At present, the preparative works to start the modernisation of the first T-80BV MBTs are at a final stage," the source told IHS Jane's . "In accordance with the programme developed by Omsktransmash and the Special Design Bureau for Transport Machine-Building [SKBTM], the overhaul and modernisation of the MoD's T-80BV tanks will be launched next year. [We will be doing] the relevant works at the Omsktransmash facility," the source said adding that the numbers of the tanks to be updated and the terms of the programme will be defined by the military.

CRISPR has Been Used on People for the First Time

A team of Chinese scientists from Sichuan University in Chengdu have become the first to inject a person with cells modified with the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9. The trial involved modifying a patient's own immune system cells to make them more effective at combating cancer cells and then injecting them back into the patient. The Chinese trial was approved back in July, and United States medical scientists also plan to use CRISPR as an experimental treatment for cancer patients in early 2017.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Puzzling Detection of X-rays From Pluto by Chandra


Lisse et al


Using Chandra ACIS-S, we have obtained imaging Xray spectrophotometry of the Pluto system in support of the New Horizons flyby on 14 July 2015. 174 ksec of observations were obtained on 4 visits in Feb 2014 to Aug 2015. We measured a net signal of 6.8 counts and a noise level of 1.2 counts in a comoving 11 x 11 pixel box (100 x 100 R_Pluto) in the 0.31 to 0.60 keV passband for a detection at > 99.95 C.L. The Pluto photons do not match the background spectrum, are coincident with a 90% flux aperture comoving with Pluto, and are not sky source confused. The mean 0.31 to 0.60 keV Xray power from Pluto is 200 MW, in the midrange of Xray power levels seen for known solar system emission sources: auroral precipitation, solar Xray scattering, and charge exchange (CXE) between solar wind (SW) ions & atmospheric neutrals. We eliminate auroral effects as a source, as Pluto has no known magnetic field & the New Horizons Alice UV spectrometer detected no airglow from Pluto during the flyby. Nano-scale atmospheric haze particles could lead to enhanced resonant scattering of solar X-rays from Pluto, but the energy signature of the detected photons does not match the solar spectrum and estimates of Plutos scattered Xray emission are > 100 times below the 3.9e-5 cps found in our observations. CXE emission from SW carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen ions can produce the energy signature seen, and the 6e25 neutral gas escape rate from Pluto deduced from New Horizons data can support the 3.0e24 Xray photons/sec emission rate required by our observations. Using the SW proton density and speed measured by the Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument in the vicinity of Pluto at the time of the photon emissions, we find too few SW minor ions flowing into the 11 x 11 pixel box centered on Pluto than are needed to support the observed emission rate unless the SW is significantly focused and enhanced in this region.

Methane Humidity Near TItan's Surface


Lora et al


We retrieve vertical and meridional variations of methane mole fraction in Titan's lower troposphere by re-analyzing near-infrared ground-based observations from 17 July 2014 UT (Adamkovics et al., 2016). We generate synthetic spectra using atmospheric methane profiles that do not contain supersaturation or discontinuities to fit the observations, and thereby retrieve minimum saturation altitudes and corresponding specific humidities in the boundary layer. We relate these in turn to surface-level relative humidities using independent surface temperature measurements. We also compare our results with general circulation model simulations to interpret and constrain the relationship between humidities and surface liquids. The results show that Titan's lower troposphere is undersaturated at latitudes south of 60N, consistent with a dry surface there, but increases in humidity toward the north pole indicate appreciable surface liquid coverage. While our observations are consistent with considerably more liquid methane existing at the north pole than is present in observed lakes, a degeneracy between low-level methane and haze leads to substantial uncertainty in determining the extent of the source region.

The Intriguing Active Drainage System Into Titan's Ligeia Mare

Liquid-filled canyons on Titan


Poggiali et al


In May 2013 the Cassini RADAR altimeter observed channels in Vid Flumina, a drainage network connected to Titan's second largest hydrocarbon sea, Ligeia Mare. Analysis of these altimeter echoes shows that the channels are located in deep (up to ~570 m), steep-sided, canyons and have strong specular surface reflections that indicate they are currently liquid filled. Elevations of the liquid in these channels are at the same level as Ligeia Mare to within a vertical precision of about 0.7 m, consistent with the interpretation of drowned river valleys. Specular reflections are also observed in lower order tributaries elevated above the level of Ligeia Mare, consistent with drainage feeding into the main channel system.

A Faint Young Sun Paradox Solution for Mars


Wordsworth et al


The evidence for abundant liquid water on early Mars despite the faint young Sun is a long-standing problem in planetary research. Here we present new ab initio spectroscopic and line-by-line climate calculations of the warming potential of reduced atmospheres on early Mars. We show that the strength of both CO2-H2 and CO2-CH4 collision-induced absorption (CIA) has previously been significantly underestimated. Contrary to previous expectations, methane could have acted as a powerful greenhouse gas on early Mars due to CO2-CH4 CIA in the critical 250-500 cm^-1 spectral window region. In atmospheres of 0.5 bar CO2 or more, percent levels of H2 or CH4 raise annual mean surface temperatures by tens of degrees, with temperatures reaching 273 K for pressures of 1.25-2 bar and 2-10% of H2 and CH4. Methane and hydrogen produced following aqueous alteration of Mars' crust could have combined with volcanically outgassed CO2 to form transient atmospheres of this composition 4.5-3.5 Ga. This scenario for the late Noachian climate can be tested via future in situ and orbital studies of the martian crust.

The US Navy Trains to Recover the Orion Space Capsule

Robpocalypse Report #93


Commercial drones can be easily hacked and stolen.

Drones are being used extensively for ecological work. 

More money than sense: a gold plated drone

Police shot down a drone at the Dakota access pipeline protest.

Taser is considering making a drone armed with a stun gun for American police.

How many drones does it take to replace a light bulb?

Self Driving Cars:

Audi has dropped the WEC endurance race in favor of the new self driving car race, Formula E.

In Britain, self driving test cars will be unmarked to avoid problems with Luddites. just dropped its self driving device when the NHTSA asked for information.  He really ought to have seen this coming.

DMCA restrictions on modifying your car's firmware have been lifted.  This has implications for self driving cars.

Fisker's Emotion electric car will have a 400 mile range and be self driving (in the future)

 Intel has developed a new chip for your car.

Google/Alphabet will be spinning off its self driving car business soon. 

Kia has a concept car that will supposedly self drive. 

Lucid Motors, a Silicon Valley startup, promises a self driving competitor to Tesla in 2018.

Lyft was never for sale.

In New York, self driving cars will face massive roadblocks.

Tesla's overstatements of its capabilities are causing harm.

Toyota's plans for self driving car sharing are beginning to take form.

Uber has a problem.  It lacks an Airmail Act of 1934 and its dreams for 2026 may get smashed by the automakers.  Or even smaller players.

3d Printing:

3d printers can now print magnets. will be offering online 3d printing classes.
Aston Martin will be using 3d printing for its next gen engine.

Dubai has acknowledged the need for standards in 3d concrete printing for construction. 

MIT has come up with a new 3d printable material that shrinks when heated. 

Ultra sound can be controlled by 3d printed devices.


Automated cleaning techniques could help in neuroscience research.

Complete sanitation of robotic instruments for surgery is being called impossible.

MIT is working on NASA"s humanoid robot.

The robopocalypse will entertain you: see the giant robot that was supposed to fight the Japanese test out its new treads. 

Stanford and MIT have developed bots that crawl, yes, crawl! on your clothes.


Its perfectly possible to wire adult brains with new sensesIncluding touch, sight and more.


There is a new exoskeleton for therapeutic use.

Software Bots:

AI run body scanners may speed up airport security lines.

Amazon's Alexa is now running on its Fire tablets.

Alexa can now take physical form.

Autonomous search agents may be useful for researchers. 

GM is integrating IBM's Watson with Onstar.

Two Google AIs worked out their own form of encryption.

Honda is touting Tokyo over Silicon Valley for AI research.

Joey, from the sitcom Friends, has been made into an avatar.  ugh.

A Liverpool (UK) hospital will be using IBM's Watson to diagnose patients.

Mayayoshi Son of Softbank is betting on AI.

Is Microsoft mainstreaming machine learning?

Should we use robotic tutors for kids?

Software bots have IDed Shakespeare's collaborators on his famous works. 

A new software bot can predict the outcome of human rights trials with a 79% accuracy.  You have to wonder if something like this might be used for litigation.  

A software bot assessed Clinton and Trump's emotional intelligence.

A new technique reveals how machine learning makes its decisions.


Bloomberg has stated people are petrified of losing jobs to the robopocalypse.  Um.  I'm not sure this is even on the radar of most people.  Even tech people!  At least based on the literally thousands of conversations I've had lately.

The Robopocalypse will eliminate 50% of mining jobs over the next ten years.

Is the Robopocalypse exaggerated?

A New Dinosauromorph & Carnivorous Sauropod Ancestor Fossils Discovered in Norian/Rhaetian Triassic Brazil


Cabreira et al


Dinosauromorpha includes dinosaurs and other much less diverse dinosaur precursors of Triassic age, such as lagerpetids [1]. Joint occurrences of these taxa with dinosaurs are rare but more common during the latest part of that period (Norian-Rhaetian, 228–201 million years ago [mya]) [2, 3]. In contrast, the new lagerpetid and saurischian dinosaur described here were unearthed from one of the oldest rock units with dinosaur fossils worldwide, the Carnian (237–228 mya) Santa Maria Formation of south Brazil [4], a record only matched in age by much more fragmentary remains from Argentina [5]. This is the first time nearly complete dinosaur and non-dinosaur dinosauromorph remains are found together in the same excavation, clearly showing that these animals were contemporaries since the first stages of dinosaur evolution. The new lagerpetid preserves the first skull, scapular and forelimb elements, plus associated vertebrae, known for the group, revealing how dinosaurs acquired several of their typical anatomical traits. Furthermore, a novel phylogenetic analysis shows the new dinosaur as the most basal Sauropodomorpha. Its plesiomorphic teeth, strictly adapted to faunivory, provide crucial data to infer the feeding behavior of the first dinosaurs.

Litorosuchus somnii: A new Armored and Aquatic Archosauriform From Ladinian Triassic China


Li et al


Reptiles have a long history of transitioning from terrestrial to semi-aquatic or aquatic environments that stretches back at least 250 million years. Within Archosauria, both living crocodylians and birds have semi-aquatic members. Closer to the root of Archosauria and within the closest relatives of the clade, there is a growing body of evidence that early members of those clades had a semi-aquatic lifestyle. However, the morphological adaptations to a semi-aquatic environment remain equivocal in most cases. Here, we introduce a new Middle Triassic (245–235 Ma) archosauriform, Litorosuchus somnii, gen. et sp. nov., based on a nearly complete skeleton from the Zhuganpo Member (Ladinian [241–235 Ma]) of the Falang Formation, Yunnan, China. Our phylogenetic analyses suggest that Litorosuchus is a stem archosaur closely related to the aberrant Vancleavea just outside of Archosauria. The well-preserved skeleton of L. somnii bears a number of morphological characters consistent with other aquatic-adapted tetrapods including: a dorsally directed external naris, tall neural spines and elongate chevrons in an elongated tail, a short and broad scapula, webbed feet, long cervical vertebrae with long slender ribs, and an elongated rostrum with long and pointed teeth. Together these features represent one of the best-supported cases of a semi-aquatic mode of life for a stem archosaur. Together with Vancleavea campi, the discovery of L. somnii demonstrates a growing body of evidence that there was much more diversity in mode of life outside Archosauria. Furthermore, L. somnii helps interpret other possible character states consistent with a semi-aquatic mode of life for archosauriforms, including archosaurs.

Periodicity AGAIN?!?! Dark Matter 'Caused' Mass Extinctions?


Kramer et al


We consider whether the observed periodicity of mass extinctions and of comet impacts on Earth is consistent with Solar oscillation about the Galactic midplane and spiral arm crossings. It is of further interest to determine whether a hypothetical thin dark disk is necessary to give the right periodicity, and whether such a dark disk is allowed given kinematic and other observational constaints on the Galaxy's gravitational potential. We show that a dark disk consistent with recent bounds, combined with data for spiral arm crossing, can lead to the required periodicity. Moreover, we find that the best fit values correctly predict the date of the Chicxulub crater dated to 66 My ago.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Could an Astronaunt's Corpse Spread Life to Other Planets?

One day, it’s bound to happen. An astronaut dies in space.

Maybe the death occurred en route to Mars. Maybe she was interstellar, on board solo spacecraft. Or maybe the body was thrust out an airlock, a burial at space.

That corpse (or the corpse’s spacecraft) could spend anywhere from decades to millions of years adrift. It would coast listlessly in the void, until the creeping tendrils of gravity eventually pulled it into a final touchdown. Likely this corpse will burn up in a star.

But lets say it lands on a planet. Could our corpse, like a seed on the wind, bring life to a new world?

Sputnik Planitia may Dominate Pluto




Pluto’s icy heart beats with a planetary rhythm.

When NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft whizzed by the dwarf planet in July 2015, it famously spotted a heart-shaped feature just north of the equator. Now, researchers are recognizing how that enormous ice cap drives much of Pluto’s activity, from its frosty surface to its hazy atmosphere.

Planetary scientists revealed their latest insights this week at a joint meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences and the European Planetary Science Congress in Pasadena, California. Many of those discoveries revolve around Sputnik Planitia, the icy expanse that makes up the left lobe of Pluto’s ‘heart’. “All roads lead to Sputnik,” says William McKinnon, a planetary scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Researchers already knew that Sputnik Planitia (formerly dubbed Sputnik Planum) is made mostly of nitrogen ice, churning and flowing in massive glaciers1. But its sheer size — 1,000 kilometres across and at least several kilometres deep — means that it exerts extraordinary influence over the dwarf planet’s behaviour.

The heart may have even knocked Pluto on its side. At the meeting, James Tuttle Keane of the University of Arizona in Tucson showed how the feature’s formation could have altered Pluto’s tilt. Sputnik Planitia may be a crater punched by a giant meteorite impact, which later filled with ice. The sheer mass of all that ice caused the dwarf planet to rotate relative to its spin axis, Keane says, so that Sputnik Planitia ended up permanently facing away from Pluto’s biggest moon, Charon. “Pluto followed its heart,” he says. (Other scientists, such as Douglas Hamilton of the University of Maryland in College Park, have suggested that Sputnik Planitia might have accumulated ice without an impact, and that the hole instead comes from the sheer weight of the ice depressing the ground beneath it.)

Was Titan's Nitrogen Atmosphere was Originally Ammonia?




Nitrogen isotope fractionation in predissociation of N2 (Liang et al., 2007) is combined with production of N(4S), N(2D), and N+ in dissociation and dissociative ionization by the solar EUV photons, photoelectrons, magnetospheric electrons and protons, and cosmic rays from the photochemical model. The calculated 14N/15N ratio in nitriles is 57, in excellent agreement with the observed ratio in HCN. Loss of nitrogen in condensation and polymerization of nitriles is 392 g cm−2 Byr−1 with nitrogen isotope fractionation factor of 2.8. Loss of nitrogen by sputtering is 57 g cm−2 Byr−1 (De La Haye et al., 2007) with fractionation factor of 0.73 (Mandt et al., 2014). If the current loss was constant throughout the age of the Solar System, then the initial 14N/15N ratio on Titan is 129, similar to 127±32 for ammonia in comets (Rousselot et al., 2014). However, the solar EUV and wind were stronger from the young Sun, and this tends to further reduce the initial 14N/15N ratio. Nevertheless uncertainties of the problem and of the ratio in comets support the idea that nitrogen on Titan appeared as ammonia ice with 14N/15N similar to that in comets.

Using Small Craters to Determine the Erosion Rates of Martian Sedimentary Rock


Kite et al


Small-crater counts on Mars light-toned sedimentary rock are often inconsistent with any isochron; these data are usually plotted then ignored. We show (using an 18-HiRISE-image, >10^4 crater dataset) that these non-isochron crater counts are often well-fit by a model where crater production is balanced by crater obliteration via steady exhumation. For these regions, we fit erosion rates. We infer that Mars light-toned sedimentary rocks typically erode at ~10^2 nm/yr, when averaged over 10 km^2 scales and 10^7-10^8 yr timescales. Crater-based erosion-rate determination is consistent with independent techniques, but can be applied to nearly all light-toned sedimentary rocks on Mars. Erosion is swift enough that radiolysis cannot destroy complex organic matter at some locations (e.g. paleolake deposits at SW Melas), but radiolysis is a severe problem at other locations (e.g. Oxia Planum). The data suggest that the relief of the Valles Marineris mounds is currently being reduced by wind erosion, and that dust production on Mars older than 3 Gya greatly exceeds the modern reservoir of mobile dust.

China's new Space Station


Jeff Bezos is Aiming for O'Neill Cylinder Colonies

SpaceX’s Elon Musk wants to settle humans on Mars. Others talk about a Moon Village. But Seattle billionaire Jeff Bezos has a different kind of off-Earth home in mind when he talks about having millions of people living and working in space.

His long-range vision focuses on a decades-old concept for huge artificial habitats that are best known today as O’Neill cylinders.

China has Rolled out its Long March 5 Rocket

The Chinese have rolled out its new Long March 5 booster, which is scheduled for its maiden flight from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Nov. 3. China’s most powerful launch vehicle, the Long March 5 is capable of placing 25,000 kg (55,116 lb) into low Earth orbit (LEO) and 14,000 kg (30,865 lb) into geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).

Long March 5 is comparable to the most powerful U.S. launcher. The Delta IV Heavy can lift 25,980 kg (57,276 lb) to LEO and 14,220 kg (31,350 lb) to GTO.

Long March 5 stands 62 meters (203 ft) and is 5 meters (16 ft) in diameter. The booster’s first and second stages are powered by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Four booster rockets are fueled by RP-1 and liquid oxygen.

Stealth Saga #56

Cloud Shadow UCAV:

China has unveiled its Cloud Shadow UCAV.  This UCAV is a parallel to the General Atomics Avenger.

Chinese Stealth Bomber:

There is speculation on the bomber and the number of engines it will have.


Despite the appearance of the J-20 at the Zhuhai airshow, the FC-31/J-31 was largely absent other than a display model.  AVIC officials did not discuss the status of the FC-31 (or J-20) with journalists.

New details about the FC-31 have emerged: it seems a second, improved prototype is being constructed.


The Chinese J-20 stealth fighter has debuted with a new camo pattern.

The inside of the J-20 weapons' bay has been seen.  Now we hae an idea of what the Chinese plan for their new fighter.

A pair of J-20 did a flyby at the Zhuhai airshow and gets profiled a lot.  The J-20 is known as the 'Mighty Dragon.'

China may be working on a larger version of the J-20.

Aviation Week wonders just how stealthy the J-20 is.

The J-20 unveil was meant as a  display of Beijing's firepower.

Some are questioning just how good the J-20 is since Beijing keeps ordering Russian 4th gen fighters.


Russia claims it will unveil the PAK-DA in 2018 and have its first flight in 2023.


The PAK-FA testing is done and will start being procured by the Russian Aerospace Forces.  However, the first batch is only 5.  The Russians have stated they will only be buying 20 to 25 per year.

The PAK-FA will be tested with its final engines in 2017, supposedly.

Russia is rolling out a 9th PAK-FA prototype for testing.

The PAK-FA derivaive for India, the FGFA, is back to the discussion table between the Russians and Indians.


Iran's test site for its RQ-170 derivatives has been geolocated.


Japan's military scientists and engineers are to start testing the X-2.

It is becoming crunch time to decide on the F-3 or not for Japan.

Mitsubishi & Lockheed have teamed for the F-3.

Combat Support Unmanned Aircraft:

Japan is seeking to create a program for drone/UCAVs to accompany its F-3 fighters much like the American 'Loyal Wingman' project.

Sixth Generation Fighter/Penetrating Counter Air:

Boeing released its latest concept for the PCA/6th gen fighter.

We have three different takes on what the sixth gen fighter will look like and what capabilities it will have.

The US Air Force Advisory Board will be reviewing the Penetrating CounterAir program.

Northrop was awarded a contract for a beam director for a laser weapon for fighters.


WiB takes a look at the war pigeon, ahem, Boeing losing design to the F-35 in the JSF program.


B-2 pilots have stated the B-21 ought to remain a manned aircraft.

Some of the details of the Boeing protest over the contract being awarded to Northrop have been revealed.

Northrop won the contract primarily on cost.


32 F-22s were moved out of the path of Hurricane Matthew.  

Moscow claims it could shoot down F-22s in Syria.  Others are skeptical because the F-22 was designed with those systems in mind.


A fix for the insulation problems on some of the F-35As is nigh.    In fact, two have been returned to service.  Norway's F-35s are returning to flight.

The F-35 software update is hopefully going to silence the ALIS critics.

BAe is getting a contract to develop a new software to automatically adapt to new radar threats and jam them for the F-35.

During a recent exercise, F-35 avionics caused a problem because radars were not within the threat parameters and they were dismissed.

The Pentagon just awarded $743 million to Lockheed in support of the Lot 9 procurement of the F-35.  The supplier deal suggests the LRIP 9 & 10 contracts are nigh.  The LRIP 9 contract was awarded: $6.1 billion for 57 F-35s: 42 F-35As, 13 F-35Bs and 2 F-35Cs.  However!  The contract as a unilateral award meaning the gov got tired of negotiating with Lockheed and just stated this is how much they are going to pay, take it or leave it.  Lockheed is not happy and might sue.  LRIP 10 is still not done being negotiated.

US DOD is starting up the global support network for the F-35.

The F-35 was a major profit driver for Lockheed.

The F-35 capable USS Wasp is being deployed to Japan in support of the F-35B squadron to be based there.

The USMC is looking at teaming unmanned platforms with the F-35B.

A F-35B had a fire in its weapon's bay.  An investigation has started.

Israel wants FOC for its F-35Is ASAP.

Norway is looking to buy 12 more F-35s in a block.

Turkey has placed a second order for F-35s pulling forward its first two aircraft to 2018 instead of 2021.


Some are still unhappy with US aircraft.