Month: February, 2018

The Chinese Military’s Next Generation: Exoskeletons

 

When looking at advances in technology, the hope is it will be used in non-violent or destructive ways; in other words, not for military use.

Unfortunately, thinking along these lines are unrealistic and with the current climate we are living in, the military will gladly accept anything with technology that can protect soldiers from harm, cause ultimate damage on the enemy and protect civilians from any kind of a missile attack.

Recently, an article described such an advance in military technology as China is working right now on a new generation of military exoskeletons.

Reportedly, they are moving closer to having Iron Man-like capabilities.




Writers Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer posted an article that looks at how China is working on advancing their technology when it comes to military exoskeleton’s.

Their latest powered exoskeleton is able to transport roughly one-hundred pounds of supplies, gear and ammunition. This would increase the self-sufficiency and combat capability of the infantry for the Chinese.

What Is an Exoskeleton?

Before moving on, it is important to understand first what an exoskeleton is and why the military would want to develop one.

Known as an exosuit, powered armor, hardsuit, power armor and an exoframe; a powered exoskeleton is a wearable machine that is mobile and powered using a system of hydraulics, electric motors, pneumatic’s, levers or a combo of technologies that enable movement of limbs with added endurance and strength.

Obviously, this would allow a soldier to perform important tasks on a mission that would not have been accomplished without using one.

Norinco Manufacturer’s Second-Generation Exoskeleton

Norinco is a manufacturer that is owned by China that produces heavy ground munitions and armored vehicles. They also have created its second-generation military exoskeleton.

The debut of this new exoskeleton boasts a designed body brace that will assist members of the infantry to carry roughly one-hundred pounds of ammunition, weapons and supplies.

Norinco had previously debuted its first-generation exoskeleton back in 2015 and comparing it to their new one, it has a streamlined harness, the battery is considered better, and a more robust pneumatic and hydraulic actuator.

This new generation is said to be lighter and most likely will lower the strain felt by the wearer of the exoskeleton; this would be more beneficial for soldiers finding themselves in a mountainous terrain.

The Implications for Combat Operations

The push by China to develop powerful exoskeletons will impact almost every area involving combat operations.  Their special operators and infantry would be able to transport heavy equipment over long distances as well as individuals being able to utilize body armor.

That is, if their plans become successful.  Also, the exoskeletons would look like the Americans concepts that include the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit – none of these can yet fly like Iron Man.

While the exoskeletons would not be able to accomplish the amazing feats as seen in Iron Man comics and movies, the more practical uses for soldiers would be to help completing many support tasks, which include repairing ships, loading supplies and getting missiles onto airplanes.

Meanwhile, China’s next generation of military Exoskeletons are one step closer to executing feats that were once considered to be science fiction; son, they will become science fact.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Snaps Image From 3.8 Billion Miles Away From Earth

At first glance it might not look like much – but, with a fuzzy purple and green photo, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has made history.

On December 5, New Horizons captured an image said to be the farthest from Earth ever taken, at a staggering 3.79 billion miles away.

And, just hours later, it beat its own record.

According to NASA, the remarkable false-color images sent back by New Horizons are also the closest-ever images captured of objects in the Kuiper Belt.

When New Horizon’s snapped a photo with its telescopic camera for a routine calibration frame of the Wishing Well star cluster, it was farther into space than even NASA’s Voyager 1 had been when it captured its famous ‘Pale Blue Dot’ image of Earth, the space agency says.

At the time, New Horizons was 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers) from Earth.


Voyager, by comparison, was 3.75 billion miles (6.06 billion kilometers) from Earth when it captured its famous photo in 1990.

According to NASA, New Horizons is now the fifth spacecraft to fly beyond the outer planets of our solar system.

Hours after its first record-breaking image on Dec 5, it captured another. The latter shows a look at Kuiper Belt objects HZ84 and 2012 HE85.

The images were captured using the spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). And, NASA says they’re the closest images yet of objects in this region.

New Horizons has long been a mission of firsts – first to explore Pluto, first to explore the Kuiper Belt, fastest spacecraft ever launched,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

“And now, we’ve been able to make images farther from Earth than any spacecraft in history.”

New Horizons is now on its way to a KBO named 2014 MU69, with which it’s expected to make a close encounter on Jan 1, 2019.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Breakthrough As Human Eggs Developed In The Lab For First Time

Women at risk of premature fertility loss might have cause for new hope as researchers reveal that human eggs can be developed in the lab from their earliest stages to maturity.

While the feat has previously been achieved for mouse eggs, and has given rise to live young after fertilization, the process has proved tricky in humans.

Experts say the latest development could not only aid the understanding of how human eggs develop, but open the door to a new approach to fertility preservation for women at risk of premature fertility loss – such as those undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

The research could be particularly relevant for girls who have not gone through puberty. Currently, to preserve their fertility ovarian tissue is taken before treatment and frozen for later implantation.




[For young girls] that is the only option they have to preserve their fertility, said Prof Evelyn Telfer, co-author of the research from the University of Edinburgh.

But the approach has drawbacks. In the case of re-implanted tissue, “the big worry, and the big risk, is can you put cancer cells back,” said Stuart Lavery, a consultant gynaecologist at Hammersmith Hospital, who was not involved in the study.

The new research offers a way for eggs to be extracted, grown and used, without the need to re-implant the tissue.

When you have got the eggs, of course you would have no contaminating cells – hopefully it would be an embryo that you would be implanting back in,” said Telfer.

But, she warned, it would be several years before the technique could be used in clinics, with further tests needed to make sure the mature eggs are normal and the process safe.

Writing in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction, researchers from Edinburgh and New York describe how they took ovarian tissue from 10 women in their late twenties and thirties and, over four steps involving different cocktails of nutrients, encouraged the eggs to develop from their earliest form to maturity.

Of the 48 eggs that reached the penultimate step of the process, nine reached full maturity.

Although various teams have achieved different stages of the process before, the new work is the first time researchers have taken the same human eggs all the way from their earliest stages to the point at which they would be released from the ovaries.

Before reaching this level of maturity, eggs cannot be fertilised.

Lavery added the new technique could also prove useful for women who have passed through puberty. While these women can have mature eggs collected before treatment, that approach also has problems.

Telfer adds that the new approach could also be useful for women whose eggs fail to fully develop in the body and, more fundamentally, will help boost our understanding of the mechanisms underpinning the development of human eggs.

However, it will be many years before the research leads to new fertility preservation treatments.

Among other issues, the authors note that the eggs developed faster than they would in the body, while a small cell known as a polar body – ejected in the final stages of the egg’s development when the number of chromosomes is halved – was unusually large, which might suggest abnormal development.

Prof Robin Lovell-Badge, a group leader at the Francis Crick Institute, was also cautious, noting it was possible that not all of the eggs were at the earliest stage of development to start with.

Telfer admits far more research is necessary, and hopes to get regulatory approval for future research.

The next step would be to try and fertilise these eggs and then to test the embryos that were produced, and then to go back and improve each of the steps.”

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If Asteroids Don’t Destroy Elon Musk’s Space Tesla, Radiation Will, Experts Say

Its billion-year mission: To circle the sun, to hopefully not crash into Mars, to boldly go where no car has gone before.

Elon Musk’s old Roadster became the first car in history to be blasted into space on Tuesday, riding the successful test launch of the Falcon Heavy mega rocket to an orbital path that’s projected to send it out to Mars—or maybe even further.

In a tweet, Musk reported that the “third burn” procedure to push the Roadster out of Earth’s orbit worked a little too well, with the trajectory now slated to reach the edge of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

But as Live Science reported, big space rocks aren’t really the most significant threat to the spacefaring sports car.




No, that would be good ol’ radiation, which has the potential to mostly disintegrate the Tesla Roadster within a year or two, according to William Carroll, an Indiana University chemist and molecular expert.

Without the protection afforded by the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field, the Roadster will be bombarded by radiation that will eventually tear apart anything not made of metal on the car.

All of the organics will be subjected to degradation by the various kinds of radiation that you will run into there,” Carroll said, noting that the term “organics” in this case includes not only fabric and leather but all plastic components as well as the car’s carbon fiber body.

Those organics, in that environment, I wouldn’t give them a year.”

Musk’s cherry-red Tesla already survived a full blast of radiation as it traveled through the planet’s Van Allen belt on its way out of Earth’s orbit, but the extended timeline of its journey creates a much different situation; eventually, the spacefaring Roadster could wind up stripped down to its aluminum chassis.

Any metal parts that do survive probably won’t look exactly the same either; Carroll added that it would be nearly impossible to avoid micrometeoroids that will pockmark exposed surfaces a thousand times over.

Live Science also got in touch with Richard Sachleben, a member of the American Chemical Society’s expert panel, who “largely agreed” with Carroll’s points, though he thought the Tesla might stay intact for a little longer than a year.

A direct impact with an asteroid could always change that timeline, though.

Then again, even if some future human were pluck it out of orbit and haul it home to see if it still works, it wouldn’t run: Musk & Co. reportedly stripped the car’s powertrain entirely before mounting it on the rocket.

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North Korean Technicians Cross Into South For Olympics Preparation

A 23-member advance team of North Koreans arrived in South Korea on Monday to prepare for the North’s participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics, South Korean officials said.

The South’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean issues, said the North Korean team is mostly made up of technicians. The South’s Yonhap news agency said they came with sound, lighting and other systems.

The North Koreans’ participation in the Olympics is part of a series of conciliatory measures the war-separated rivals took for the Pyeongchang Games.




South Korea sees the Olympics as an opportunity to revive meaningful communication with North Korea following an extended period of animosity and diplomatic stalemate over the North’s nuclear program.

The Olympics begun last Friday.

North Korea plans to send hundreds to the games, including athletes, officials, artists and a 230-member cheering group.

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Ehang’s Passenger-Carrying Drones Look Insanely Impressive In First Test Flights

Two years ago, Chinese drone maker Ehang came to CES in Las Vegas and promised to build a completely autonomous, passenger-carrying quadcopter that would revolutionize mobility.

Many of us in the tech community chortled under our breath, wondering if such a thing was even possible, let alone advisable.

Today, the company released footage of its first piloted test flights in China — and color us impressed: this thing is no joke.

Ehang’s engineers put the quadcopter, dubbed the Ehang 184, through a battery of tests over the last several months, and with good measure.




The company conducted over 1,000 test flights with human passengers, including a 984-foot vertical climb, a weight test carrying over 500 pounds, a routed test flight covering 9.3 miles, and a high-speed cruising test that reached 80.7 mph.

Ehang’s engineers also tested the 184 in a variety of weather conditions, including high heat, heavy fog, night tests, and during a Category 7 typhoon with gale-force winds.

Clearly, it would seem that Ehang heard our skepticism after its first announcement and it aimed to respond with supporting data.

What we’re doing isn’t an extreme sport, so the safety of each passenger always comes first,” said Ehang founder and CEO Huazhi Hu in a statement.

Now that we’ve successfully tested the Ehang 184, I’m really excited to see what the future holds for us in terms of air mobility.”

The key word there is “mobility,” as it often is with these types of ventures. Ehang wants to put its egg-shaped, multirotor aircraft in use as an air taxi, shuttling passengers across dense urban environments.

The company has said it would demonstrate this service for Dubai’s World Government Summit later this month, but a spokesperson didn’t respond whether that was still the case.

Dubai is also working with Germany’s Volocopter on a similar air taxi service. If that doesn’t work, Ehang has permission from the state of Nevada to test the Ehang 184 at its FAA-approved UAV test site.

Ehang says the 184, which is all electric, can carry a single passenger up to 10 miles or roughly 23 minutes of flight. The person in the cockpit doesn’t do any piloting; they just input their destination and enjoy the ride.

The company claims its aircraft is able to take off autonomously, fly a route, sense obstacles, and land.

And if anything goes wrong, a human pilot is supposed to step in and take over the controls from a remote command station.

Ehang sees luxury rides for rich folks as the first phase of this new market, with autonomous aircraft becoming more widely available at lower prices after fleets and flight paths have become well established, and, of course, once the cost of having a human pilot around is eliminated.

Despite its early successful test flights, Ehang says it is making improvements to the aircraft.

More emphasis will be placed on improving passenger experience and on adding an option for manual control, giving passengers with piloting experience the choice to operate the vehicle manually.

In addition, the company has already developed and tested a two-seater with a payload of up to 617 pounds (280 kilograms).

Ehang has proven that its autonomous aerial vehicle can fly, which is no small feat.

But proving that it can scale up into a full-blown aerial taxi service is an entirely different challenge and something with which a number of giant, multibillion-dollar companies are currently wrestling.

There’s a vertical take-off and landing gold rush going on right now, and Ehang clearly wants to prove itself a major player.

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Study Reveals Prehistoric Humans Loved Their Dogs

The longstanding belief about human-canine relationships is that the world’s earliest dogs were mere work animals used to hunt game, but it turns out 7,000 to 8,000 years ago, Early Neolithic Siberian foragers had a soft spot for prehistoric Fido.

By analyzing 17 canine burial sites throughout the region, a team of anthropologists was able to determine quite a bit about the relationship between ancient Siberian foragers and their canine companions, which scientists believe looked a lot like large versions of the Siberian Husky.

University of Alberta anthropologist and lead author of the study Robert Losey says dog owners commonly lived near bodies of water, and the Lake Baikal region in modern day Siberia, as well as the areas near the Angara and Lena Rivers, seemed to fit the bill.

By examining sites in these areas, Losey and his team discovered that these Neolithic foragers and their dogs subsisted on the same diet, which included a lot of fish and seal.




“Dog burials appear to be more common in areas where diets were rich in aquatic foods because these same areas also appear to have had the densest human populations and the most cemeteries,” Losey tells Discovery News.

While humans in largely pastoral communities seemed to rarely bury their dogs after death, dogs who lived in hunter-gatherer communities like those in Siberia seemed to share a close and personal connection with their people and were often buried ceremoniously — and not as a celebration of the canine’s hunting skills, evidence suggests.

If the practice of burying dogs was solely related to their importance in procuring terrestrial game, we would expect to see them in the Early Holocene (around 9,000 years ago),” Losey explains.

The level of care with which these dogs were buried — alongside treasured items the dogs likely used everyday, and in some cases alongside their human companions — suggest a special bond must have existed between these ancient peoples and their four-legged friends.

One dog was laid to rest with what looked like a small round stone in his mouth, which the team interpreted to be either some sort of a toy or a special token. Other prehistoric pooches were entombed in death with trinkets like spoons and knives.

Unearthing another site revealed the skeleton of a man who was buried alongside his two dogs, the remains of each dog carefully placed to the left and right of the person.

Maybe the most interesting — and heartwarming, even — burial site contained the ancient remains of a dog whose owner lovingly placed a necklace made of four red deer tooth pendants around the pup’s neck.

A necklace fashioned in the same style as others worn by humans of the time. Perhaps the necklace was the forager’s way of honoring his best friend.

I think the hunter-gatherers here saw some of their dogs as being nearly the same as themselves,” Losey says, “even at a spiritual level.

People came to know them as unique, special individuals,” he adds.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Rare Deep-Sea Creatures May Use Underwater Chimneys To Keep Their Eggs Warm

Nearly two centuries ago, among the crystalline waters and jagged volcanic outcrops of the Galapagos Islands, a young British naturalist noticed something special: Each inhabitant of these islands was so perfectly adapted to its landscape that one could tell where an animal came from just by glancing at it.

Marveling at the diversity of the area’s finches, he wrote in his diary, “one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends.”

It was the kernel of the idea that would turn Charles Darwin into one of the most famous names in biology and “On the Origin of Species” into one of the most influential texts of all time.

From a simple single-cell organism sitting in a primordial soup, life has adapted, diversified, evolved and endured.

But little did Darwin know that an even more impressive testament to life’s stunning versatility was unfolding 30 miles out to sea and 5,500 feet below the waves.




There in the utter darkness and crushing pressures of the deep ocean, a rare stingray-like creature called a Pacific white skate today lays its eggs among the hot plumes that gush from hydrothermal vents.

This seems daring — the underwater equivalent of a bird building its nest at the mouth of a volcano — but it may be a stunningly sophisticated maneuver, scientists say.

Eggs incubate faster when they’re warm, increasing the likelihood that the offspring will survive to perpetuate their parents’ DNA.

I think it’s phenomenal,” said Dave Ebert, program director of the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Labs in California and co-author of a new study about the discovery.

As far as he is aware, it is the first time any marine animal has been seen exploiting the hydrothermal vent environment for this purpose.

This is a very complex behavior pattern,” Ebert said, “and it gets into why there are so many different species” of skate.

Skates, sometimes called “flat sharks,” are a diverse family within the class of fish called Elasmobranchs, which also includes sharks and rays. Like their cousins, skates are ancient, boneless and predatory.

Their kite-shaped bodies have been seen soaring over the bottoms of every ocean in the world.

The Pacific white skate is the deepest-dwelling species in this group. Ranging between half a mile to nearly two miles below the surface, they are an enigma to scientists — beyond the reach of all but the sturdiest submersibles.

Almost nothing is known about them,” said Pelayo Salinas de Léon, a marine biologist at the Charles Darwin Foundation. Only half a dozen specimen have ever been studied in a lab.

On a warm June morning, the researchers dropped their remote-operated underwater vehicle, or ROV, into the azure waters of the Pacific.

For 90 minutes it sank deeper and deeper, the ocean around it darkening to cobalt, then navy, then black. A long fiber-optic cable tethered the craft to the ship where scientists watched a live feed of the descent.

No sooner had the ROV reached the sea floor than they spotted a cluster of rectangular pouches clustered near the base of one of the black-smoker chimneys.

It was instant jackpot,” Salinas recalled.

The egg cases were about the size of iPhones and the color of banana peels, with tails at the corners that give them their common name — “mermaid’s purse.”

More than half were spotted within 65 feet of a chimney, and nearly 90 percent were in places where the water temperature was higher than its average of 37 degrees Fahrenheit.

The researchers’ report of their discovery was published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.

They continue to work on their analysis of the biodiversity survey at Iguanas-Pinguinos, with Salinas estimating that they identified about 30 new species.

There probably are hundreds, if not thousands more, to be found. The ocean floor is the largest habitat on Earth, but the surfaces of the moon and Mars are better known.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Why Elon Musk’s Reusable Rockets Are More Than A Publicity Stunt

SpaceX has made history: the rocket company, founded in 2002 by billionaire playboy Elon Musk, has launched his cherry-red Tesla Roadster into space, on course to the asteroid belt after overshooting its intended Mars orbit.

As with so much Musk does, the event was a hybrid of genuine breakthrough and nerd-baiting publicity stunt.

The presence of the car – replete with spacesuit-wearing crash test dummy, David Bowie playing from the speakers and a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quote on-screen – may not have any real point beyond generating good press pics, but the same can’t be said for the Falcon Heavy it was launched in.

Reusable rockets

SpaceX’s killer app has been the development of easily reusable booster rockets: once used up, they descend to Earth in a controlled drop, before landing vertically on land or sea, ready to be refuelled and sent off in another flight.

At least, that is the theory.

In practice, SpaceX’s rockets have hardly proven infallible: during the development of the technology, the company went so far as to release a blooper reel of all the various explosions caused by failed attempts to land the boosters, ending on the first successful landing in April 2016.




Tuesday’s launch was no exception.

The Falcon Heavy – which is essentially three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together – successfully landed its two outer stages in beautiful synchronisation, but the core module was a different story, hitting the water 100 metres from its intended landing barge at 300mph.

[It] was enough to take out two thrusters and shower the deck with shrapnel,” Musk said.

Really Falcon big

Reusable rockets have been an ace in SpaceX’s pocket for a couple of years.

The real success of Tuesday’s event was managing to build a launch vehicle out of those reusable rockets that is capable of lifting almost twice as much into orbit as any other rocket in production.

The Falcon Heavy should be able to carry more than 60 tonnes to low Earth orbit (LEO), compared with 27.5 tonnes for the Space Shuttle, and 28.8 tonnes for the Boeing/Lockheed Martin co-produced Delta IV, previously the biggest rocket in contemporary use.

All those pale compared to the fireworks of the past, however: the Saturn V, which took man to the moon, had an LEO capacity of 140 tonnes.

But it also cost almost $2bn in 2018 dollars, as opposed to the $95m SpaceX is charging for a Falcon Heavy launch.

Since 1969, as space flight budgets have been slashed and the focus has shifted from gadding about on the moon to getting satellites in orbit, priorities have changed, and the glory days have faded into the past.

There is a long way to go before we are back where we started.

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See The Amazing Way A Beetle Survives After Being Eaten

The toad’s reaction to the explosion deep in its stomach is not instantaneous. But in time the body shakes, the mouth opens, and the culprit is expelled: a mucus-covered beetle that will live to fight another day.

Japanese scientists captured footage of the great escape during lab tests that pitted the walking powder kegs that are bombardier beetles against hungry toads of different species and sizes.

So effective were the beetle’s defences against being eaten alive that even the researchers were taken aback.

The escape behaviour surprised us,” said Shinji Sugiura, an agricultural scientist who performed the studies with Takuya Sato at Kobe University.

An explosion was audible inside several toads just after they swallowed the beetles.”

From a chemical standpoint, bombardier beetles are among the most unstable animals on the planet.




When threatened, they mix chemicals in their hindquarters, hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinones, to produce an explosion of searing benzoquinone irritant.

The boiling spray repels most predators the beetles encounter.

Sugiura and Sato wanted to know if the bombardier’s defences might help them survive being swallowed by the toads they encountered in the forests of central Japan.

To find out, they collected beetles, Japanese common toads, and Japanese stream toads, and filmed what happened when predator met prey.

The footage captured heroic feats of survival. The toads caught the bombardier beetles with lightning fast flicks of the tongue. But once ingested, the beetles detonated their toxic bombs.

At times, Sugiura said, the explosions made an audible “bu” sound inside the amphibians. Vomiting ensued.

The defence was not always effective though. Only 34.8% of common toads and 57.1% of stream toads vomited up the beetles, which all survived their encounter with the predator’s stomach juices.

The odds of survival favoured large beetles being gobbled by small toads, probably because the bigger beetles unleashed more devastating toxic explosions.

While some beetles were thrown up within 15 minutes, others remained in the toads’ stomachs for nearly two hours, the equivalent of a Jonah-esque three-day ordeal in human terms.

To check that the explosions were key to survival, the scientists disarmed a batch of beetles by triggering their sprays until the chemicals ran out, and then left them alone with toads.

Only 5% of those eaten were vomited up, according to a report in Biology Letters.

How some bombardiers lived for so long in the toads’ stomachs remains a mystery.

In tests, Sugiura found bombardier beetles had a better chance than other ground beetles of surviving for 20 minutes inside toads’ stomachs, perhaps because they are better protected against stomach acid.

The bombardier beetle species may have evolved a high tolerance for toads’ digestive juices,” he said.

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