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Mon, 21 Jan 2019
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Putin: The 'best New Year's gift to Russia', successful test of Avangard hypersonic glider

Avangard glider
© Russian Defense Ministry
CGI showing deployment of an Avangard glider
The Russian defense ministry has conducted the final successful test of the Avangard hypersonic glider before its entry into service, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced. The weapon will be deployed in 2019, he added.

A hypersonic glider is a special type of a warhead, which can fly through the atmosphere at a high speed. This extends the range of a missile, potentially increases accuracy and makes defending against it harder through unexpected maneuvers. But prolonged controlled flight requires special protection of the glider from heat and shock produced at hypersonic speeds. China, the US and Russia are considered the most advanced nations in the relevant technologies, and Moscow claims it is winning the race with the Avangard project.

"The test was finished just now in a complete success," Putin told the cabinet on Wednesday. "All its specifications were confirmed."

The president said the first regiment armed with missiles carrying Avangard gliders will be deployed in Russia next year. "It's a big event for the armed forces, and probably for the entire country. Russia has a new kind of strategic weapons."

Comment: See also:


Six spectacular ice phenomena to look out for this winter

Sun Dogs

Sun dogs
© Martin Ruegner/Getty
You aren't seeing triple. Sun dogs, brightly coloured blobs of light sometimes visible on either side of the sun (pictured above), are really mirror images of our star.

They appear when it is cold enough for tiny ice crystals to be present in the atmosphere. The illusion is the result of sunlight bending or refracting through these floating crystals, which act as prisms. Consequently, sun dogs are rainbow-hued: the inner edges, closer to the sun, are tinged with shades of red, while the outer edges are blue. They belong to a group of optical phenomena called halos, which all involve sunlight interacting with ice crystals.

Sun dogs are officially called parhelia. Their more common name derives from their appearing to follow the sun, like a dog follows its master. The best time to try to spot them is when the sun is close to the horizon, around sunrise or sunset.

Comment: See also: Thousands of rare 'ice flowers' bloom on Russian lake


Poseidon in action: Russia begins underwater trial of strategic nuclear drone

Poseidon drone
© Russian Defense Ministry
Poseidon drone's propulsion system.
A Russian strategic drone propelled by a miniaturized nuclear reactor is undergoing underwater trials, according to reports. The weapon, called Poseidon, is slated to become a new class of the country's nuclear deterrence.

Poseidon, which was previously dubbed Status-6, was officially announced in March along with other upcoming weapon systems, meant to counter the development of anti-ballistic missile technologies by the US. It's a long-range submersible drone capable of traveling at high speed deep underwater thanks to a miniaturized nuclear reactor.

According to a defense source cited on Wednesday by TASS, Poseidon is currently undergoing underwater trials as part of its development.

"The nuclear propulsion system of the Poseidon drone is currently being tested in a sea area protected from surveillance by the likely opponent," the source said, using an old Soviet military term for the US and its NATO allies.

According to the source, the torpedo is carried by a nuclear-propelled submarine of the Russian Navy and that the developer hopes to complete the project before 2027.


Private Russian company aims to create orbital spaceport for interplanetary transport

Russian firm S7 Space orbital spaceport
© Facebook S7 Space
The Orbital Cosmodrome will become a transit hub for servicing and refueling of interplanetary spaceships and Earth satellites, a research laboratory, a training ground and tourist center.
A privately-run Russian firm, S7 Space, has called on state corporations, commercial firms and start-ups to begin a project aimed at creating an orbital spaceport for future interplanetary transportation.

"We are launching work to implement the 'Orbital Cosmodrome' project. To do this we are proposing to apply the entire experience gained by the domestic space program in long-term manned missions," S7 Space announced on Tuesday via its Facebook account.

The new orbital spaceport is set to become a crucial element for an interplanetary space transportation system, according to the company. The Orbital Cosmodrome will reportedly be necessary for deep space exploration.

"It will become a transit hub for servicing and refueling of interplanetary spaceships and Earth satellites, a research laboratory, a training ground and tourist center," S7 Space said.

Better Earth

Conservationists clone 5 massive redwood tree stumps, planting 75 trees

redwood stump
© (Rob Lovato/Archangel Ancient Tree Archive)
The so-called Barrett Stump is the source tree for 25 of the saplings.
When David Milarch first learned about ancient coast redwood stumps hidden in California, he says he was "the most thunderstruck" he'd ever been.

At about 10 metres in diameter, he'd never heard of any tree growing that big.

Now the non-profit that Milarch co-founded is using genetic information from five massive tree stumps to help in the fight against climate change.

Comment: Cloning some lovely tree's aint going to do anything about the quieting sun and meteors raining through the skies

On Dec. 14, the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive planted 75 coast redwood saplings at Presidio, a park in San Francisco, that are exact clones of those stumps.

Comment: While their efforts are in some ways admirable, one hopes conservationists are learning from each others mistakes from all these rewilding and cloning experiments:


NASA's 'New Horizons' probe detects weird anomaly days ahead of Ultima Thule flyby

Ultima Thule Kuiper belt object
Discovery images of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 (Ultima Thule) taken on June 24, 2014, by the Hubble telescope
Just days ahead of an extra-planetary rendezvous, a NASA spacecraft has detected something very strange about its intended target.

Only a week before its expected meeting with Kuiper Belt object (KBO) Ultima Thule on New Year's Day, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has not been able to detect the predictable and consistent variations in reflectivity - or 'light curve' in the jargon of astronomers - that accompany all celestial objects in orbit near a bright star.

"It's really a puzzle," agreed Alan Stern, NASA's New Horizons principal investigator, cited by Gizmodo.

"I call this Ultima's first puzzle," Stern remarked, adding, "why does it have such a tiny light curve that we can't even detect it?"


Boy or girl? It's in the father's genes

Father and son
© Global Look Press
A Newcastle University study involving thousands of families is helping prospective parents work out whether they are likely to have sons or daughters.

The work by Corry Gellatly, a research scientist at the university, has shown that men inherit a tendency to have more sons or more daughters from their parents. This means that a man with many brothers is more likely to have sons, while a man with many sisters is more likely to have daughters.

The research involved a study of 927 family trees containing information on 556,387 people from North America and Europe going back to 1600.


Elon Musk: 'Shame on Boeing', hails Russian-made rocket engine design as 'brilliant'

Rocket engine
© roscosmos/Twitter
Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk praised the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine for looking awesome but said his bitter rivals Lockheed and Boeing ought to be ashamed of using it during their launches.

The eccentric tech billionaire said a few nice words about the RD-180 on Twitter, while mocking his competitors at the same time. "It's embarrassing that Boeing and Lockheed need to use a Russian engine on Atlas," the rocket-maker wrote on Saturday "but that engine design is brilliant."

The RD-180 was developed by NPO Energomash in the 1990s, based on an older Soviet model, RD-170. Since the early-2000s, the Colorado-based United Launch Alliance (ULA), jointly run by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, has been using the engine to power the first stages of its Atlas carrier rockets, including Atlas V.

The design Musk likes so much is not its only great feature. The ULA website calls RD-180 "a powerful combination of innovation and performance." A research paper published by the company in 2011 described it as an "efficient, reliable engine," that was "unmatched" among its competitors and "specifically tailored" for the Atlas family.

Gold Bar

Chinese scientists discover way to turn copper into 'gold'

gold bar
A team of Chinese researchers have turned cheap copper into a new material "almost identical" to gold, according to a study published in peer-reviewed journal Science Advances on Saturday.

The discovery will significantly reduce the use of rare, expensive metals in factories, said the authors.

Professor Sun Jian and colleagues at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Liaoning, shot a copper target with a jet of hot, electrically charged argon gas.

The fast-moving ionised particles blasted copper atoms off the target. The atoms cooled down and condensed on the surface of a collecting device, producing a thin layer of sand.

Each grain of the sand had a diameter of only a few nanometres, or a thousandth of the size of a bacterium.

Comment: See also:

People 2

New study shows why X and Y chromosomes alone don't determine sex

© iStock
Scientists have discovered a new genetic regulator that plays a big role in determining whether a baby is born male or female, as well as whether or not their reproductive system is likely to develop differently after birth.

In the standard course of events, an embryo with two X chromosomes becomes a girl, while an embryo with an X and a Y chromosome becomes a boy - but the new gene and the genes it relates to can interfere with that process.

And the findings could also give us insight into what used to be known as 'junk' DNA: the parts of our genetic coding that don't actually hold any genes, but do contain regulators that have an impact on gene activity; more correctly referred to as noncoding DNA.

"The Y chromosome carries a critical gene, called SRY, which acts on another gene called SOX9 to start the development of testes in the embryo. High levels of the SOX9 gene are needed for normal testis development," says one of the researchers, Brittany Croft from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) in Australia.

"However, if there is some disruption to SOX9 activity and only low levels are present, a testis will not develop resulting in a baby with a disorder of sex development."

Comment: Evidently how our DNA affects us is based on a symphony of events rather than one 'switch' doing just one thing. It also goes to show just ignorant mainstream science could be when it considered vast swathes DNA as 'junk': Also check out SOTT radio's: