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Sat, 27 Aug 2016
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Russia successfully tests clean pulse-detonation rocket engine: First in the world

© fpi.gov.ru
In a breakthrough move, Russian scientists have become the first ever to successfully test a pulse-detonation rocket engine (PDRE) on clean fuel, claiming this will be the future of space travel. The tests were run in July and August, but the announcement was only made on Friday on the homepage of the Russian Advanced Research Foundation (FPI), which is in charge of the project. The scientists say they have built and tested "the world's first full-size pulse-detonation rocket engine demonstrator" that uses clean fuel, namely an oxygen-kerosene pairing.

The current liquid fuel engines used by rockets to get to space have reached their maximum capabilities, according to the FPI. Instead, a pulse-detonation engine that uses high thermodynamic efficiency will allow spacecraft to reach previously unattainable performance. It would also result in additional workload for rockets and the reduction of cost for orbital deliveries. "We took up the challenge - to prove the possibility to create a detonation in oxygen-kerosene rocket engines. And now we can firmly say that this is possible, and we know how to do it," Igor Denisov, the FPI's deputy director, said in comments on the successful tests.

Comment: In June 2008, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) unveiled Blackswift, which was intended to use this technology to reach speeds of up to Mach 6. However the project was reported cancelled soon afterward, in October 2008.
See also:

Bizarro Earth

'No one is safe': Expert warns of overdue high magnitude earthquakes along earth's major fault lines

© Kyodo News /AP
Houses were swallowed by tsunami waves and burned in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture (state) after Japan was struck by a strong earthquake off its northeastern coast on March 11, 2011.
A SERIES of overdue high magnitude earthquakes is expected to strike at any moment along some of Earth's major fault lines, an expert says.

UTS Geotechnical and Earthquake Engineering senior lecturer Dr Behzad Fatahi said "no one in the world is safe" from the looming natural disasters of potentially apocalyptic proportions.

"There are a lot of magnitude 6-plus earthquakes overdue in the Middle East, India, China, Japan and the US," Dr Fatahi told news.com.au.

"There are some fault lines that have not released their energy for a while.

"There are at least 5-10 that are overdue, but we don't know when they're going to happen.

"The question is not will they be activated. The question is when."

Dr Fatahi said there was a "return period" for earthquakes and those that didn't strike within the expected time frame only came back stronger. He said an example of this was the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal that left more than 8000 people dead in April last year.

"You expect a particular fault line will be activated every 100 years or 500 years," he said.

"If the period is longer we expect higher magnitude earthquakes ... looking at the history of some of those major fault lines, some are very overdue.

Comment: Increasing earthquake and volcanic activity: Prepping for natural disasters


Man-made "wind trees" will finally make it possible to power homes

© Unknown
Picture a steady breeze blowing through the leaves of a tree. Now imagine these leaves could do more than simply churn in the current of air—what if they could capture the wind and transform it into renewable energy?

Energy from wind is the fastest-growing source of electricity in the world, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental and social research institution. This development of wind power has mostly taken place on a large scale, usually by utility companies providing power to a grid of millions of customers. That's because wind energy is most efficient when it's capturing very strong winds, more common in remote areas and at heights greater than 50 feet off the ground. Those turbines need to be as tall as a five-story building, and they take up a lot of horizontal room, too—several hundred feet per turbine, in many cases. They also require more maintenance than solar panels.


Japan scientists detect rare, deep S wave Earth tremor for first time

© AFP/Adek Berry
Scientists who study earthquakes in Japan said Thursday they have detected a rare deep-Earth tremor for the first time and traced its location to a distant and powerful storm.

The findings, published in the US journal Science, could help experts learn more about the Earth's inner structure and improve detection of earthquakes and oceanic storms.

The storm in the North Atlantic was known as a "weather bomb," a small but potent storm that gains punch as pressure quickly mounts. Groups of waves sloshed and pounded the ocean floor during the storm, which struck between Greenland and Iceland.

Using seismic equipment on land and on the seafloor that usually detects the Earth's crust crumbling during earthquakes, researchers found something they had not detected before -- a tremor known as an S wave microseism.

Microseisms are very faint tremors. Another kind of tremor, known as P waves, or primary wave microseisms, can be detected during major hurricanes. P waves are fast-moving, and animals can often sense them just before an earthquake hits. The elusive S waves, or secondary waves, are slower, and move only through rock, not liquid. Humans feel them during earthquakes.


Israeli university creates mind-controlled nanobots from DNA that could release drugs inside your brain

© Joel Sartore/National Geographic/Getty Images
A man has used thought alone to control nanorobots inside a living creature for the first time. The technology released a drug inside cockroaches in response to the man's brain activity - a technique that may be useful for treating brain disorders such as schizophrenia and ADHD.

Getting drugs to where they need to be exactly when you want them is a challenge. Most drugs diffuse through the blood stream over time - and you're stuck with the side effects until the drug wears off.

Now, a team at the Interdisciplinary Center, in Herzliya, and Bar Ilan University, in Ramat Gan, both in Israel, have developed a system that allows precise control over when a drug is active in the body.

The group has built nanorobots out of DNA, forming shell-like shapes that drugs can be tethered to. The bots also have a gate, which has a lock made from iron oxide nanoparticles. The lock opens when heated using electromagnetic energy, exposing the drug to the environment. Because the drug remains tethered to the DNA parcel, a body's exposure to the drug can be controlled by closing and opening the gate.

Mind medicine

To get the DNA bots to respond to a person's thoughts, the team trained a computer algorithm to distinguish between a person's brain activity when resting and when doing mental arithmetic.

The team then attached a fluorescent drug to the bots and injected them into a cockroach that sat inside an electromagnetic coil. A person wearing an EEG cap that measures brain activity was then instructed either to do mental calculations, or rest. The cap was connected to the electromagnetic coil, switching it on when the man was calculating and off when he was resting. By examining when fluorescence appeared inside different cockroaches, the team confirmed that this worked.


New treatment: Coma patient 'regains full consciousness' following novel ultrasound procedure

A device developed at UCLA may have been responsible for a barely-conscious patient recovering from a coma and becoming fully able to comprehend language just three days after being the first subject of a novel brain treatment, a new study has found.

The device, which is the size of a coffee cup saucer, focuses acoustic energy on a specific region of the brain, stimulating it. For the new study, it was aimed at the thalamus of a 25-year-old man recovering from a coma. The procedure took 10 minutes, during which the patient received ten 30-second stimulating impulses.

The Thalamus is a structure located between the cerebral cortex and the midbrain that acts as a relay for information. It processes signals from all senses, apart from smell, to other regions of the brain. In people suffering from reduced mental function after a coma, the thalamus typically performs worse than in healthy individuals. However, stimulating it with electrodes requires risky surgery, while medications can only target it indirectly.


The US Air Force reveals radical plan to 'bomb the atmosphere' to improve radio reception

The US Air Force has granted contracts to three research teams, with hopes that CubeSats could carry massive amounts of ionized gas to the ionosphere to create radio-reflecting plasma. An artist's impression of a CubeSat is pictured above

A fleet of tiny satellites could one day be used to detonate plasma bombs in Earth's upper atmosphere to improve the range of radio communications.

The US Air Force has granted contracts to three research teams to develop the technology needed to do this, with hopes that CubeSats could carry massive amounts of ionized gas to the ionosphere to create radio-reflecting plasma.

The ionosphere begins roughly 40 miles above the surface and becomes denser with charged particles at night, allowing signals to travel much farther.

Ground-based radio signals are limited by the curvature of Earth's surface, and those travelling more than about 44 miles are typically stopped if they aren't given a boost, according to New Scientist.


Previously unknown tectonic plate discovered in the Philippine Sea

© Journal of Geophysical Research
Present-day Philippine Sea and East Asian tectonic setting.
A previously unknown tectonic plate — one that has been swallowed up by the Earth — has been discovered in the Philippine Sea, according to a recent study.

Using images constructed from earthquake data, geoscientists have developed a method for resurrecting a "slab graveyard" of tectonic plate segments buried deep within the Earth, unfolding the deformed rock into what it may have looked like up to 52 million years ago. This helped the researchers identify the previously unknown East Asian Sea Plate, where an ancient sea once existed in the region shortly after dinosaurs went extinct.

The Philippine Sea lies at the juncture of several major tectonic plates. The Pacific, Indo-Australian and Eurasian plates frame several smaller plates, including the Philippine Sea Plate, which researchers say has been migrating northwest since its formation roughly 55 million years ago.

In the process, the Philippine Sea Plate collided with the northern edge of the East Asian Sea Plate, driving it into the Earth's mantle. The southern area of the East Asian Sea Plate was eventually subducted by, or forced beneath, other neighboring plates, the researchers said.

Geologists attempting to reconstruct the past were once limited to visible evidence of slow-moving changes, such as mountains, volcanoes or the echoes of ancient waterways. But with new imaging technologies, scientists can now glean information from hundreds of miles within the Earth's interior to map distant history.

Eye 1

New type of eye movement synchronized with blinking discovered

© Alessandra Celauro/Flickr
We probably do it every day, but scientists have only just discovered a distinct new way in which we move our eyes.

The team from the University of Tübingen in Germany assessed the eye movements of 11 subjects using tiny wires attached to the cornea and with infrared video tracking. In results published in eLife, they discovered a new type of eye movement that is synchronised with blinking.

The movement they discovered helps to reset the eye after it twists when viewing a rotating object. It is like avoiding tiny rotations of a camera to stabilise the image we perceive. We don't notice the eye resetting in this way because it happens automatically when we blink.

"We were really surprised to discover this new type of eye movement and it was not what we had anticipated from the experiment," says lead author Mohammad Khazali.


DHS: Wearable Intelligent Nuclear Detection (WIND) devices in the making

© www.nextgov.com
DHS: Beyond flagging this play.
The Homeland Security Department is trying to ramp up wearable devices that can detect nuclear radiation. DHS has made a handful of awards for well-developed prototypes, of wearable products from companies including Leidos and Physical Sciences, Inc., according to a recent FBO posting.

Last year, DHS made a broad agency announcement soliciting proposals for so-called Wearable Intelligent Nuclear Detection, or WIND, technology. Employees would wear the products to ensure nuclear devices weren't secretly being transported in areas like marine vessels, metro systems, or other public areas, according to DHS.

DHS was specifically searching for "advanced technology demonstrations," which are for "mature prototype capable of providing reliable performance measurements in a challenging and realistic, albeit simulated, operational environment," the BAA said. Awards were for roughly $4 million to $5 million.

DHS' Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, whose mission is to protect the U.S. from nuclear devices, was specifically searching for a modular wearable system that could sense, localize and identify nuclear particles, including gamma rays and neutrons.

Comment: It probably beats the dying canary.