Archive for Alan

US Navy test fires futuristic railgun

The US Navy has revealed a video of the first commissioning tests of a railgun, a futuristic weapon that many people hope could shift the balance of power in naval warfare away from aircraft carriers and back to surface warships.

The Navy has been pursuing the railgun for years, but the project has been hamstrung by the sheer amount of power required to make it work, measured in megajoules of electricity.

UK-based BAE Systems appears to have made an operational railgun, however, and test fired it at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia in November 2016. A short video of that test was made public by the Office of Naval Research on Tuesday.

The railgun is designed around the principle of launching a metal projectile using a series of magnetic coils, rather than chemical propellant. Because of this, it is also known as the coilgun or Gauss rifle, after the German mathematician credited with discovering the concept in the 19th century.

BAE Systems tested a 32-joule half-power prototype at Dahlgren in 2013. The full-power version was scheduled for testing in mid-2016 aboard the USNS Trenton, a Spearhead-class expeditionary transport, but the schedule was pushed back to mid-2017 without an explanation.

Popular Mechanics has speculated that the railgun might end up being installed on board one of the three ships in the Zumwalt class, the experimental super-destroyer with a power plant strong enough to operate the weapon. The recently commissioned USS Zumwalt has been experiencing difficulties with its 155mm Advanced Gun Systems, designed around the projectiles that cost around $800,000 apiece.

Source: https://www.rt.com/usa/381901-navy-railgun-dahlgren-test/

Also noteworthy:

North Korea sabre-rattling, again

In a remarkable statement last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that “the political and diplomatic efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to the point of denuclearization have failed.” Shortly afterward, in response to joint military exercises being conducted by the United States and South Korea, the North Korean government held a news conference and declared that “the situation is already on the brink of nuclear war.”

The threat of nuclear war, mostly background noise for the past 25 years, is alarming. But given the uniqueness of North Korea’s position in the world, it’s worth wondering how concerned we should actually be.

To answer that question, we need to first identify the “we” we’re talking about. If that “we” includes South Koreans, the answer is: Quite a bit.

The South Korea problem

The North Korean capital, Pyongyang, is about 120 miles from the South Korean capital, Seoul, home to 10 million people. That’s within easy striking range of North Korea’s existing arsenal of missiles, which is a key reason that the United States recently began deploying a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, in South Korea, aimed at intercepting an incoming attack. Whether those missiles could carry an atomic or hydrogen bomb is another question, one we’ll get to in a moment.

Of course, the proximity of North and South Korea means that there is a large risk from conventional weapons, as well. There are artillery already at the North Korean border that could strike Seoul, although it’s not clear how much damage would result.

The threat of a missile hitting the U.S.

If the “we” is the “we” most likely to read this article — residents of the United States — the calculus is a bit different.

Excluding American forces in South Korea (about 25,000 of them), the greatest threat faced by the United States is of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Raising three questions: Does it have nuclear weapons? Are those weapons small enough to fit on a missile? And does North Korea have a missile that could reach the United States?

The answer to the first question is yes, the North Koreans have repeatedly tested some form of nuclear device. In September, North Korea tested a bomb with an estimated yield of 10 to 20 kilotons — about the yield of the bomb that struck Hiroshima during World War II. That can do a lot of damage, but it pales in comparison with the sort of warhead currently in U.S. or Russian arsenals.

At the time of that test, the North Koreans also claimed to have developed a weapon small enough to fit onto a missile, though this can be hard to verify. In February, the country released a photo showing a relatively small bomb that expert analysis figured might yield 20 kilotons and could be small enough to fit on a missile — if the photo actually depicted a working device.

The broader question, and the most easily verified, is whether any North Korean missiles could reach the United States. North Korea unquestionably has missiles capable of traveling long distances, and in February 2016, it launched a satellite into space. (That satellite wasn’t deployed properly and soon began to tumble uncontrollably in orbit, suggesting that North Korea’s capabilities were not yet refined.)

To strike the United States, though, the country would need a missile that could travel for thousands of miles, requiring a very specific type of missile.

The Federation of American Scientists catalogues the missiles that North Korea has in its arsenal and those it hopes to add. To strike Alaska, it would need a long-range ICBM that could travel 7,000 kilometers, or about 4,300 miles. To hit the continental United States, it would need a full-range ICBM, which can range from 8,000 to 12,000 kilometers, or 5,000 to about 7,500 miles. The missiles that are under development in North Korea are of the Taepodong-2 variety. If launched from the Sohae launching station in the northwest corner of the country, nearly all of the United States would conceivably be within range, with the exception of southern Florida.

On Saturday, North Korea announced that it had tested a rocket engine of “historic significance” — perhaps a liquid-fueled rocket that could serve as the second-stage of a full-range ICBM.

But there’s no indication at this point that North Korea has such a device prepared — much less a missile that could reliably deliver a nuclear weapon at that distance with accuracy. While North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said last year that his regime had “entered the final stage of preparation for the test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile,” there are a lot of parts that need to work together flawlessly to be effective: the stages of the missile, the bomb itself.

That said, during World War II, the Japanese launched balloon-based bombs that they hoped would reach the U.S. mainland. Some did, killing six people in Oregon. Point being that even if there are low odds of a lot of things working perfectly, sometimes they can. In 2015, Adm. Bill Gortney told reporters that it was not likely that North Korea could strike the United States but that it was “prudent” to assume that it might be able to.

Source: What to worry about when you worry about North Korea – The Washington Post

The US Military Will Usher in a Widespread Use of Laser Weapons in the 2020s

Lasers have been a mainstay of sci-fi battles for decades. But making them practical for the battlefield has proven difficult. Now, private contractors and government agencies have developed weapons systems that are making science fiction a reality. This was made evident when Lockheed Martin and the US Army recently announced, a successful test of a 60-kilowatt (kW) laser. This one was twice as powerful as one they assessed in 2015.

The weapon itself is a combined fiber laser, which means it doesn’t actually fire one but two lasers condensed into one beam, making it stronger. It uses fiber optics bundled together where each contributes energy to the beam, making the process scalable. The particular laser tested however was “diffraction-limited,” meaning it was close to the place where the beam could no longer be concentrated on a fixed point.

Most military lasers today are too big and need too much power. New designs are blowing these models away. Getty Images.

The beam is actually invisible and as with most lasers, silent. Not only that, it’s proved extremely accurate and efficient. 43% of the overall power goes to the laser, allowing the rest to go to the truck. Robert Afzal is a senior fellow for laser and sensor systems at Lockheed Martin. He told The Washington Post, “We’re really at the dawn of an era of the utility of laser weapons.”

The system will soon be delivered to the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (USASMDC/ARSTRAT), in Huntsville, Alabama, where it will undergo further testing. Initially, the system reached 58 kW, a record. But Lockheed officials assured it will produce a 60 kW beam by the time it’s ready, sometime in the next few months.

SMDC spokesman John Cummings said, “Our ultimate goal is to have a 100kW laser on a vehicle.” He added, “We have to take baby steps to get there.” Besides trucks, such lasers could be mounted on planes, helicopters, and ships.

The US Air Force and DARPA are even working on laser shielding. That’s right. Force fields.

Source: The US Military Will Usher in a Widespread Use of Laser Weapons in the 2020s | Big Think

Dogma/Belief

(This was written in 2013 on another blog and just rediscovered again.)

One of the most enlightening stories ever told was the one about the three blind men who examined the elephant—one feeling the tail and saying, “An elephant is like a rope”; another feeling the leg and saying, “It is like a tree,” while the third felt the trunk and said, “It is like a large snake.”

Many people with two good eyes are blinder than the blind. They come upon a religion or science and grasp a portion of it without making a complete circuit of study and inspection. If it is the tail of it they chance to grasp, that becomes for them the only part that is worth grasping, and neither flood nor fire can make them let go and move to examine the leg or the trunk. None are so blind as those who refuse to see.

A matter of supreme importance in learning to know ourselves is to try to open the eyes of the mind to examine our convictions. We must learn whether or not these stubborn ideas are something which we have grasped blindly and at random before a complete examination was made of the matter involved.

I’ve come to the point where I no longer carry beliefs or speak in certainties. I only have suspicions and curiosities. I travel every avenue and explore every path. A multifaceted mindset as open as an inquisitive child’s imagination. I am not ashamed or afraid to say “I do not know.” To have the mysterious unknown fill me with its infinite and timeless wisdom.

Massive Ancient Statue Discovered Submerged In Mud In Cairo

Archaeologists suspect that the damaged statue, more than 25 feet tall, depicts Ramses II — aka Ozymandias. One of English literature’s most famous poems describes a broken, forgotten statue of him.

Source: Massive Ancient Statue Discovered Submerged In Mud In Cairo : The Two-Way : NPR

A new glass electrolyte-based solid-state battery has been developed by the researchers at UT Austin. Led by the Li-ion battery inventor John Goodenough, the team demonstrated that their battery is better than Li-ion. It can hold an almost 3x charge, has more charging cycles, supports fast charging, and isn’t prone to catch fire.

Full article: https://fossbytes.com/goodenough-solid-state-battery-glass-electrolyte/

The Mysterious Origins of Civilization

Filmed in New York, December 2016, a month before John was diagnosed with cancer. Please show your support for this great man and for his work by making a donation to his crowdfunding campaign, The John Anthony West Project, here: https://fundly.com/john-anthony-west-…

Filmed, produced and edited by Dave Steffey. Additional camera by Bill Cote.

NES Classic hack fixes one of the system’s biggest problems

When the NES Classic Edition was hacked earlier this month, all eyes were on the console’s ability to house games beyond its 30 built-in offerings. But, it turns out, there was a more exciting enhancement just a few point releases beyond adding more games: You can now return to the NES Classic Edition’s home screen via a customizable gamepad shortcut (by default, Down + Select).

The NES Classic Edition is an excellent product that handily redefines the entire plug ‘n play console industry through a combination of well-built hardware, superb emulation, and a solid user interface that shames the competition. But it’s not perfect, and manually pressing the Reset button to return to the home screen — to change games and save or load a suspend point — is an unusually inelegant solution.

Source: NES Classic hack fixes one of the system’s biggest problems – Polygon

Psychodelic Tunnel

I finally had another dream that was interesting enough to share. Well, that’s not entirely true, I have other interesting dreams, but this one really stood out from the rest.

The details are a bit hazy now, but it just seems to start with me sliding through this colorful tunnel. At times I was floating rather than sliding, as the tunnel turned, sometimes vertical, sometimes angled.

The details of this tunnel were amazing. Like millions of different multicolored twinkling, gleaming gems. As I traveled through it there were other travelers as well. They all seemed to know what this place was, not lost and confused like I was. I was searching for a way out and I felt like they knew, but weren’t telling me. One person finally said something about needing the key. I went on traveling for what felt like a long time and I came upon this flying gem made of many colors.

I wasn’t sliding or floating anymore, but crawling, trying to reach out to this gem key, but it flew away and I kept sliding. A girl grabbed me by the hand as I was sliding away toward what looked like a hole in the tunnel. She redirected me down a side tunnel that opened up which I began to travel down as she passed me the key. The gem key disappears in my hands and I slide faster and faster, the tunnel now a colorful blur around me. The colors start to turn lighter in shade as things slow down again. The tunnel wrinkles as I come to a stop and falls around me like that parachute game in grade school. I wake up, snuggled in my bed sheets which are partly over my head.

Study reveals substantial evidence of holographic universe

A UK, Canadian and Italian study has provided what researchers believe is the first observational evidence that our universe could be a vast and complex hologram.

Source: Study reveals substantial evidence of holographic universe

We just got the first real evidence of a strange quantum distortion in empty space

For the first time, astronomers have observed a strange quantum phenomenon in action, where a neutron star is surrounded by a magnetic field so intense, it’s given rise to a region in empty space where matter spontaneously pops in and out of existence.

Called vacuum birefringence, this bizarre phenomenon was first predicted back in the 1930s, but had only ever been observed on the atomic scale. Now scientists have finally seen it occur in nature, and it goes against everything that Newton and Einstein had mapped out.

“This is a macroscopic manifestation of quantum field,” Jeremy Heyl from the University of British Columbia in Canada, who was not involved in the research, told Science“It’s manifest on the scale of a neutron star.”

An international team of astronomers led by Roberto Mignani from INAF Milan in Italy made the discovery while observing a neutron star called RX J1856.5-3754 that’s 400 light-years from Earth.

Neutron stars are the crushed cores of massive stars that collapsed under their own weight when they ran out of fuel, and exploded as a supernova.

They’re made of some of the most dense material in the Universe – just 1 teaspoon of the stuff would weigh 1 billion tons on Earth – and their crust is 10 billion times stronger than steel.

Neutron stars also have the strongest magnetic fields in the known Universe – astronomers predict that the strongest neutron star magnetic fields are nearly 100 trillion times stronger than Earth’s.

These magnetic fields are so ridiculous, they’re thought to affect the properties of the empty space surrounding a neutron star.

In the classical physics of Newton and Einstein, the vacuum of space is entirely empty, but the theory of quantum mechanics assumes something very different.

According to quantum electrodynamics (QED) – a quantum theory that describes how light and matter interact – it’s predicted that space is actually full of ‘virtual particles’ that pop in and out of existence and mess with the activity of light particles (photons) as they zip around the Universe.

These virtual particles aren’t like regular physical particles like electrons and photons, but are fluctuations in quantum fields that have similar properties to a regular particle – the big difference being that they can appear and vanish at any point in space and time.

In regular empty space, photons aren’t affected by these virtual particles, and travel without interference.

But in the empty space near the incredibly intense magnetic field of a neutron star, these virtual particles are ‘excited’, and they have a dramatic effect on any photons passing through.

“According to QED, a highly magnetised vacuum behaves as a prism for the propagation of light, an effect known as vacuum birefringence,” Mignani explains in a press release.

“This effect can be detected only in the presence of enormously strong magnetic fields, such as those around neutron stars,” adds team member Roberto Turolla from the University of Padua in Italy.

As Jay Bennett reports for Popular Mechanics, the researchers directed the world’s most advanced ground-based telescope, the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), at their neutron star, and observed linear polarisation – the alignment of light waves influenced by electromagnetic forced – in the empty space around the star.

“This is rather odd, because conventional relativity says that light should pass freely through a vacuum, such as space, without being altered,” says Bennett.

“The linear polarisation was to such a degree (16 degrees, to be precise) that the only known explanations are theories of QED and the influence of virtual particles.”

You can see an illustration of this at the top of the page, where light coming from the surface of a neutron star (on the left) becomes linearly polarised as it travels through the vacuum of space on its way to the observer on Earth (on the right).

The next step now is for the observations to be replicated in another scenario to know for sure that vacuum birefringence is what we’re looking at here, and if that’s the case, we’ve got a whole new phenomenon to investigate in the field of quantum mechanics.

“When Einstein came up with the theory of general relativity 100 years ago, he had no idea that it would be used for navigational systems. The consequences of this discovery probably will also have to be realised on a longer timescale,” Magnani told New Scientist.

The research has been published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and you can access it for free at arXiv.org.

 

Source: We just got the first real evidence of a strange quantum distortion in empty space – ScienceAlert

It’s official: NASA’s peer-reviewed EM Drive paper has finally been published

After months of speculation and leaked documents, NASA’s long-awaited EM Drive paper has finally been peer-reviewed and published. And it shows that the ‘impossible’ propulsion system really does appear to work.

The NASA Eagleworks Laboratory team even put forward a hypothesis for how the EM Drive could produce thrust – something that seems impossible according to our current understanding of the laws of physics.

In case you’ve missed the hype, the EM Drive, or Electromagnetic Drive, is a propulsion system first proposed by British inventor Roger Shawyer back in 1999.

Instead of using heavy, inefficient rocket fuel, it bounces microwaves back and forth inside a cone-shaped metal cavity to generate thrust.

According to Shawyer’s calculations, the EM Drive could be so efficient that it could power us to Mars in just 70 days.

But, there’s a not-small problem with the system. It defies Newton’s third law, which states that everything must have an equal and opposite reaction.

According to the law, for a system to produce thrust, it has to push something out the other way. The EM Drive doesn’t do this.

Yet in test after test it continues to work. Last year, NASA’s Eagleworks Laboratory team got their hands on an EM Drive to try to figure out once and for all what was going on.

And now we finally have those results.

The new peer-reviewed paper is titled “Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio-Frequency Cavity in Vacuum“, and has been published online as an open access ‘article in advance’ in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)’s Journal of Propulsion and Power. It’ll appear in the December print edition.

[…]

The scientific community is also notoriously unconvinced about the propulsion system – just yesterday a Motherboard article on the EM Drive was deleted by the moderators of the popular subreddit r/Physics because they “consider the EM Drive to be unscientific”.

But is the first peer-reviewed research ever published on the EM Drive, which firmly takes it out of the realm of pseudoscience into a technology that’s worth taking skeptically, but seriously.

The next step for the EM Drive is for it to be tested in space, which is scheduled to happen in the coming months, with plans to launch the first EM Drive having been made back in September.

read full article: http://www.sciencealert.com/it-s-official-nasa-s-peer-reviewed-em-drive-paper-has-finally-been-published

Researchers use novel materials to build smallest transistor with 1-nanometer carbon nanotube gate

For more than a decade, engineers have been eyeing the finish line in the race to shrink the size of components in integrated circuits. They knew that the laws of physics had set a 5-nanometer threshold on the size of transistor gates among conventional semiconductors, about one-quarter the size of high-end 20-nanometer-gate transistors now on the market.

Some laws are made to be broken, or at least challenged.

A research team led by faculty scientist Ali Javey at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has done just that by creating a transistor with a working 1-nanometer gate. For comparison, a strand of human hair is about 50,000 nanometers thick.

“We made the smallest transistor reported to date,” said Javey, a lead principal investigator of the Electronic Materials program in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Science Division. “The gate length is considered a defining dimension of the transistor. We demonstrated a 1-nanometer-gate transistor, showing that with the choice of proper materials, there is a lot more room to shrink our electronics.”

The key was to use carbon nanotubes and molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), an engine lubricant commonly sold in auto parts shops. MoS2 is part of a family of materials with immense potential for applications in LEDs, lasers, nanoscale transistors, solar cells, and more.

The development could be key to keeping alive Intel co-founder Gordon Moore’s prediction that the density of transistors on would double every two years, enabling the increased performance of our laptops, mobile phones, televisions, and other electronics.

“The semiconductor industry has long assumed that any gate below 5 nanometers wouldn’t work, so anything below that was not even considered,” said study lead author Sujay Desai, a graduate student in Javey’s lab. “This research shows that sub-5-nanometer should not be discounted. Industry has been squeezing every last bit of capability out of silicon. By changing the material from silicon to MoS2, we can make a transistor with a gate that is just 1 nanometer in length, and operate it like a switch.”

Source: Researchers use novel materials to build smallest transistor with 1-nanometer carbon nanotube gate