Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6210 on: Feb 19th, 2012, 09:11am »
Raising the Dead: New Species of Life Resurrected from Ancient Andean Tomb
Ecuadorian scientists have revived a new species of yeast from pre-Incan tomb, illuminating prehistoric life
By R. Douglas Fields February 19, 2012
QUITO, ECUADOR—Long before the Spanish conquered the Incas in 1533, and centuries before the Incas inhabited this area, the present-day site of Quito International Airport was a marshy lake surrounded by Indian settlements—the Quitus on one shore and the Ipias on the other. Between A.D. 200 and 800 these cultures prospered here, fishing the lake, growing corn, beans and potatoes in the fertile soil, and fermenting an alcoholic drink—chicha—made of a watery corn broth.
In 1980, while clearing land for new construction in a warren of graffiti-covered cinderblock shanties bristling with barbwire and defended by concrete walls tipped with broken glass, workers scraped open a tomb that had been hidden for over a millennium beneath the ramshackle neighborhood. Then, nine more deep-welled tombs were uncovered in the volcanic rock, each containing about 20 bodies. The walls of the shafts were lined with Quitus remains, each one crouched in the fetal position, clothed in the finest textile, adorned with gold jewelry, and surrounded by pottery containing offerings of food and chicha for the afterlife.
Yeast biologist Javier Carvajal Barriga, of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador in Quito, collected scrapings from inside large, torpedo-shaped clay fermentation vessels taken from one of the tombs in an attempt to recover microbes that had fermented the ancient chicha and, if possible, revive them.
Under the sterile conditions of his laboratory, he scratched away the surface layers from inside the fermentation vessels hoping to collect yeast trapped deep in the pottery's pores. Using a special method that he devised to humidify the desiccated cells, repair their damaged membranes, and jump-start their arrested metabolisms, he coaxed a community of yeasts, which had lain dormant in the entombed vessels since A.D. 680, back to life. Carvajal says he resurrected "a consortium of yeasts" from the containers, but none of the yeasts were Saccharomyces cerevisiae—the type used in modern fermentation. They were primarily strains of the genus Candida, closely related to the well-known yeast that causes skin and vaginal infections. But careful genetic analysis showed that two strains of yeast were a new species of Candida, which he named C. theae, meaning "tea."
These findings confirm 16th-century reports of how indigenous people in the Ecuadorian Andes fermented their chicha. According to Spanish chroniclers, Inca Indians initiated fermentation using animal bones, human saliva and even human feces.
"The most closely related species to C. theae are C. orthopsilosis, C. metapsilosis and C. parapsilosis, all of which are found in human saliva and feces," Carvajal says. Indeed he found human-associated C. parapsilosis, along with C. tropicalis, among the community of yeast in the ancient fermentation vessels. C. parapsilosis is the second-most commonly isolated pathogenic species of Candida infecting people. "Also [there are] the Crytococcus saitoi and C. laurentii that are related to respiratory diseases. They [the Quitus] were chewing and spitting the corn [into the fermentation vessels], so we can assume this population probably had some respiratory problems caused by pathogenic yeasts."
These species of yeast can produce alcohol up to 4 percent in strength but, unlike S. cerevisiae, Candida dies when alcohol levels reach higher concentrations. S. cerevisiae is not common in the South American environment because it is most widely associated with oak trees, which are not indigenous to the region, so the Indians utilized Candida. "It is much better to have 3 to 4 percent alcohol than nothing," Carvajal says.
Caravajal fermented his own chicha from C. tropicalis that he resurrected from fermentation vessels taken from the tomb to relive the experience of these prehistoric Indians. "The flavor was very good. The aroma was very good. The alcohol was relatively good, but the effect was horrible. Just two drinks of this chicha and I had this bad headache typical of aldehydes and esters."
He also recovered Rhodotorula mucilaginosa from the ancient fermentation vessels. Although one of the most abundant yeast species, it does not produce alcohol, rather it is associated with flowering plants, evidence that the Quitus folded flowers into the brew for flavor enhancement—and most likely to increase the kick of their low-alcohol drink: Adding plants such as Datura produces psychotropic effects.
"Chicha must be drunk young, while it is still fermenting, because it quickly develops a rancid taste with time," Carvajal says. "But if you drink it too early in the fermentation process, you will experience food poisoning because the bacteria, amoeba and harmful yeasts have not yet been killed off by the alcohol."
After much searching, I was able to sample a modern version of chicha in Mama Clorinda Ecuadorian Food, a Quito restaurant. It was made from cooked corn, cinnamon, orange leaves, coriander and several other ingredients, including rotten pineapple skin added to initiate fermentation in the mix, which was contained in a plastic gallon-size jug. The cloudy yellow brew looked like a drink from an organic juice bar. It smelled of spicy cardamom and cinnamon, and fruity papya and fermented pineapple. It tasted delightful: lightly carbonated, with a sweet pineapple and papaya flavor, and a thick body and a clean finish.
"This is only about 2 to 3 percent alcohol," I was told by the restaurant manager, Roberto Guoma, "because we made it today. By tomorrow it will be 4 to 5 percent." The chef, Nelson Cardenas, who makes the chicha daily, generously provided his recipe for readers interested in brewing their own chicha, which uses rotten pineapple rind to initiate fermentation:
Recipe: Morocho Chicha
1.0.45 kilograms of morocho corn flour 2.500 grams of brown sugar (panela) 3.Aromatic herbs (lemon verbena, cedron (quassia family, Simaroubaceae, native to Colombia and Central American), leaves of the orange tree 4.10 grams whole cloves 5.Five grams cinnamon sticks 6.Five grams allspice 7.250 grams white sugar 8.Skin of one pineapple 1. Boil two liters of water 2. Mix the morocho corn flour in one half liter of water and mix with the two liters of boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes. 3. Boil two liters of water and add the herbs, orange tree leaves, cloves, cinnamon and allspice. Cook for 10 minutes and strain out liquid. 4. Combine the water–corn mix with the water–herb mix. Strain and add the pineapple skin. 5. Ferment for one day. 6. Check the consistency of the drink and add more water as needed. Add the brown sugar and white sugar until sweetened to taste. Add ice and serve.
(Translated by Claudia Alderman)
Global yeast? Recalling of the movie Jurassic Park, one wonders about the potential dangers of reviving an ancient pathological microbe that could produce a modern plague. "There exists the possibility," he says, but Carvajal thinks that these species have been living with man for thousands of years." Indeed, that suspicion proved to be true.
Simultaneously, on the other side of the globe two cases of bottled tea were found clouded with contamination in 2010. The manufacturer sent the bottles to Ching-Fu Lee at the National Hsinchu University of Education, one of the few yeast taxonomists in Taiwan. He identified the contaminant as a new species of Candida and began to write a paper describing his discovery. During the peer review process, the anonymous reviewer suggested that Lee check the National Institutes of Health GenBank database. There he found the genetic sequence of the new species of Candida that Carvajal had recovered from the ancient fermentation vessel. Lee immediately contacted Carvajal, along with the latter's collaborator Stephen James, a yeast taxonomist at the Institute of Food Research in England, and the three teams of scientists jointly published their paper in the February issue of the International Journal of Food Microbiology.
But how did the identical yeast turn up simultaneously in Taiwan and Quito? "I don't think this is a beverage-related yeast, I think it is a human-related yeast," Carvajal says. "We know now that there were contacts between Polynesians and South American peoples. [Polynesians] departed from Taiwan 6,000 years ago."
Carvajal cites the example of another new yeast he has discovered, C. fodens, to buttress his argument. The yeast was collected in Australia, Costa Rica and Ecuador's Galápagos Islands. Genetic analysis shows that the yeast from all three Pacific locations are identical. "It is very hard to imagine that such a distance was covered by one single strain," he says. "This yeast is tightly associated with the flowers of the sweet potatoes. This probably has some relation with human migration, because we know that sweet potatoes come from the Andes. We are using yeasts to track human migration and contacts. That is part of what we call 'microbiological archaeology.'"
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6211 on: Feb 20th, 2012, 08:51am »
Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York)
Lights in the night sky over Carmel prompt UFO questions 9:03 AM, Feb. 20, 2012
David Murphy, a 53-year-old contractor from Carmel, said he’s the kind of guy who notices things. So when something didn’t seem right about the night sky over Carmel on Saturday, he noticed.
Murphy was driving home with his 7-year-old daughter at around 8:30 p.m. Saturday when unusual lights in the sky caught his eye. At first he thought reflections from the surface of the West Branch Reservoir were playing tricks on him. Then he thought something was wrong with his windshield. Soon enough, though, he’d ruled out both possibilities.
He pulled off Route 6 and joined more than a dozen other motorists who had stopped their cars to stare at the bright orange lights gliding across the sky. There were at least 20 of them, and they flew silently from west to east, Murphy said. “In the last month, I’ve seen a bald eagle and a bobcat,” Murphy said in an interview Sunday. “Now I can say I’ve seen 20 UFOs. I’m a guy who notices things, but I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Murphy said although it had been raining earlier that evening, the night sky was so clear the constellations stood out. There was just one cloud, and several of the orbs vanished as they flew behind it before reappearing seconds later. They moved in a loose formation, flying at about the speed of an airplane. Each light shone constantly; none blinked or flashed.
Murphy figures what he saw was one of two things: a secret military operation or something not of this world. He later ran into a Carmel police officer who said three people had called in to report the sightings. He said the cop had no explanation.
The lower Hudson Valley has a long history of alleged UFO visits. In 1983, thousands of area residents reported seeing a giant boomerang-shaped object glowing in the sky. “I’ve kept an open mind about it,” Murphy said about the question of UFOs. “I think it’s arrogant to think we’re the only people in the universe.” The rest of his family isn’t as intrigued with Saturday night’s light show.
His daughter wanted to get home and watch television. And his wife has been urging him just to accept what he saw as one of life’s many oddities. “Well, I can’t dismiss things that easy,” Murphy said. “I really want to know what it is.” Carmel Police confirmed early Monday that they were sent out after an anonymous caller reported lights in the sky and people pulled off Route 6 about 8:30 p.m. Saturday. A police officer sent to the scene didn’t see anything. The report was filed under “suspicious activity” because the police department doesn’t have a code number for UFO’s, a dispatcher said.
Staff writer Randi Weiner contributed to this report.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6212 on: Feb 20th, 2012, 09:04am »
NATO speedup of transfer to Afghan forces highlights problems
As allied commanders call Afghan forces capable of taking over most fighting by the end of 2013, the problems of the police and army come into sharper focus.
By Laura King, Los Angeles Times 9:13 PM PST, February 19, 2012 Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan
At the gate of the capital's army recruitment headquarters, a young Afghan sergeant in crisp camouflage and a jaunty beret demanded a letter of introduction from arriving visitors. But when one was produced, written in Dari, the dominant language in Kabul, he asked one of the visitors to read it to him.
These days, Afghanistan's armed forces are under pressure as never before to dramatically step up their performance in everything from literacy to logistics. NATO is speeding up its transfer of fighting duties to the national police and army, and at the same time, the cash-pinched coalition intends to cut back substantially on plans for funding a long-term Afghan force strength of more than 350,000.
Even as senior allied commanders proclaim that a leaner, better-trained Afghan force will be capable of taking over most fighting duties from Western troops by the end of next year, the problems that have long plagued the Afghan police and army — repeated turncoat shootings aimed at Western mentors, drug use, high attrition rates, inadequate vetting of recruits, persistent logistical weakness and vulnerability to insurgent infiltration — are coming into sharper focus.
Recently leaked classified military reports, together with an unusually candid public assessment from an experienced U.S. military officer, have served to spotlight the degree of mistrust, mutual distaste and sometimes outright enmity between Afghan forces and their ostensible North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies at joint bases across Afghanistan.
Army Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, who served two tours in Afghanistan, published his scathing assessment of the Afghan police and army in an essay in the Armed Forces Journal this month. In a vividly recalled anecdote from Kunar province, in Afghanistan's east, he recounted a conversation last year with a police captain whose position had been attacked by the Taliban.
When Davis asked whether he and his men, knowing the insurgents' position, intended to counterattack, "the captain's head wheeled around, looking first at the interpreter and turning to me with an incredulous expression.... 'No! We don't go after them,' he said. 'That would be dangerous!'"
The combination of proximity and cultural differences sometimes produces a volatile atmosphere between Afghan and Western troops who live and work together on joint bases, according to more than a dozen current and former junior officers in the NATO force and their Afghan counterparts who were interviewed about training practices.
Western military public-affairs officers may constantly highlight success stories arising from the training program, particularly the measurable improvement in the abilities of elite Afghan forces. Afghan troops are also beginning to take the lead in major military operations, and thousands of recruits are learning to read and write.
But day-to-day encounters between Western and Afghan foot soldiers are often fraught with anger and misunderstanding, these officers said.
Often, the Afghans describe their Western mentors as crass, patronizing and overbearing, while the NATO forces struggle to combat what they describe as a sometimes shocking lack of motivation and discipline on the Afghan side.
Afghan men are traditionally sensitive to any perceived insult, and with weapons readily at hand, what might otherwise be a small altercation can swiftly flare into a tragedy. An Afghan soldier from Balkh province in the north, who spoke on condition of anonymity after having deserted his unit last year, bitterly described being belittled by his German trainers for what he considered a minor infraction, though he considered himself a superior fighter.
"I was ready to confront my enemies, while they only want to hide in their bases," he scoffed. "I could have done something to them they would always remember."
Ominously, the Taliban and other insurgent groups have come to understand that so-called green-on-blue shootings — Afghan police or soldiers opening fire on Western troops — can have a dramatic effect on the willingness of NATO countries and their allies to meet previously agreed-to training commitments. That was illustrated last month when France announced a sped-up end to its combat role, days after an Afghan soldier killed four French soldiers and wounded more than a dozen others, some seriously.
Australia, another troop-contributing nation, was roiled early this month by a video on a Taliban-affiliated website that purported to show a fugitive Afghan soldier who had shot and seriously injured three Australian troops in southern Afghanistan in November boasting of his deed, and saying others in his unit had often spoken of their wish to carry out similar attacks.
"I had one mission on my mind: to kill foreigners and teach them a lesson," he said. "We are Muslims. We cannot accept foreigners."
Afghanistan's largest ethnic group — the Pashtuns, from which the Taliban movement is largely drawn — is underrepresented in the police and army, leading to simmering ethnic resentments within the ranks, as well as a tense relationship between Afghan troops and villagers in the mainly Pashtun south and east. Those are the regions where fighting has been most intense, and where Afghan soldiers from the north of Afghanistan — mainly ethnic Tajiks or Uzbeks — are considered almost as foreign as the NATO troops.
Potential Pashtun enlistees are more often turned away, recruiters said, a practice that may serve as something of a safeguard against inappropriate loyalties, but also breeds a sense of grievance.
"From the 'safe' parts of the country, we can take almost anyone," said Col. Mohammad Akbar Stanikzai of the Afghan national recruitment command. "But from the places where there are security problems, we would maybe take five or six out of 20 who applied."
Also worrisome to some local Afghan officials are plans to turn a number of particularly dangerous areas over to Afghan control sooner than initially planned. Several district leaders in areas to be handed over in coming months expressed strong misgivings about whether police and army units could confront the insurgents without Western help.
The No. 2 commander of the NATO force, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, acknowledged to reporters at the Pentagon this month that among American troops, there is a widespread negative view of the Afghans whom they serve alongside.
"Let's take an American soldier or a private. At times this private will tell me that they [Afghan forces], they're not that good," he said. "But a private is looking at it from the perspective of how he's trained, or the Marines are trained, and the standards are very different."
The ultimate size and role of Afghan forces are to be a prime topic at a NATO summit in May in Chicago. In advance, the allies — mindful of burgeoning costs in a difficult economic climate — are seeking consensus on a "sustainable" target size for Afghan forces, perhaps around 230,000.
With both the police and army still undergoing a rapid buildup that has doubled the security forces' size over the last 18 months, the notion of reining in that growth raises the specter of a large bloc of "armed unemployed" who might bear a grudge against the Afghan government if what they had believed would be a steady long-term job came to a premature end.
A report this month by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies contends that the Western military command "sharply downplays" structural problems, including a shortfall of trainers, rushed development, corrupt leadership and fealty to warlord figures.
Although Afghan army recruiters accumulate a voluminous paper file on each applicant, they appear to make little meaningful effort to assess the likelihood that a given man might eventually prove a danger to Western troops.
Col. Stanikzai, the recruiting official, acknowledged that basic questions go unasked, such as how potential recruits feel about the insurgency, or whether they consider themselves loyal to the Afghan government.
"Why would we ask them that?" he said. "Who would tell the truth?"
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6213 on: Feb 20th, 2012, 09:16am »
Decision day for second Greek bailout despite financing gaps
By Luke Baker BRUSSELS | Mon Feb 20, 2012 9:41am EST
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone finance ministers are expected to approve a second bailout for Greece on Monday to try to draw a line under months of uncertainty that has shaken the currency bloc, although work remains to be done to make the numbers add up.
Diplomats and economists say they do not expect the package to resolve Greece's economic problems. That could take a decade or more, a bleak prospect that brought thousands of Greeks onto the streets to protest against austerity measures on Sunday.
French Finance Minister Francois Baroin said all the elements were in place to reach an agreement and Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said he expected a deal. The finance ministers are scheduled to meet at around 1500 GMT.
Euro zone ministers need to agree new measures to make the financing work, given the ever-worsening state of the Greek economy. But they say an agreement on Monday will help restructure Athens' vast debts, put it on a more stable financial footing and keep it inside the 17-country euro zone.
Senior Greek finance ministry and European Central Bank officials held a conference call on Sunday to go over the final details of the 130-billion-euro ($171-billion) program, including a report assessing the likelihood of Greece lowering its debt which is critical to the International Monetary Fund.
While there is skepticism in Germany and other countries that Greece will be able to meet its commitments, including implementing 3.3 billion euros of spending cuts and tax increases, officials said momentum was building for a deal.
"We expect today the long period of uncertainty -- which was in the interest of neither the Greek economy nor the euro zone as a whole -- to end," Venizelos said in a statement.
Finnish Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen said Greece had done everything it could although work remained to be done.
"There are many open details ... A big issue is that we have to get Greece's debt on a level that is sustainable and enables Greece to survive," she told reporters in Helsinki.
A euro zone official in contact with those involved in the Sunday conference call said the financing gaps were not so large that they risked derailing the whole process.
"I don't see anybody wanting to be responsible for pulling the plug on the deal at this late stage," he said.
"The gut feeling is that this is going to go through - everyone feels the pressure this time to deliver," he said, indicating that the Netherlands, Finland and Germany, which have been the most critical of Athens' ability to commit, looked likely to come on board if the financing gaps could be closed.
European shares and the euro moved higher on Monday as investor appetite for riskier assets was boosted by expectations of an agreement and after a surprise policy easing by China.
One note of caution came from economists at Citigroup, who said they expected the go-ahead for a bond swap to reduce Greece's debts on Monday, but said final approval of the full deal may not come until after an EU leaders' summit on March 1.
GREEK ANGER UNABATED
Several thousand Greeks demonstrated on Sunday against the austerity measures to reduce the country's debt, although the numbers were much lower than earlier protests.
Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos flew to Brussels for last-minute preparations as about 3,000 demonstrators massed on the capital's central Syntagma square and riot police shielded the national assembly from the threat of attack.
Under one crucial element of the deal, Greece will have around 100 billion euros of debt written off via a restructuring involving private-sector holders of Greek government bonds.
Banks and insurers will swap bonds they hold for longer-dated securities that pay a lower coupon, resulting in a real 70 percent reduction in the value of the assets.
The bond exchange is expected to launch on March 8 and complete three days later, Athens said on Saturday. That means a 14.5-billion-euro bond repayment due on March 20 would be restructured, allowing Greece to avoid default.
The vast majority of the funds in the 130-billion-euro program will be used to finance the bond swap and to ensure Greece's banking system remains stable: 30 billion euros will go to "sweeteners" to get the private sector to sign up to the swap, 23 billion will go to recapitalize Greek banks.
A further 35 billion will allow Greece to finance the buying back of the bonds, and 5.7 billion will go to paying off the interest accrued on the bonds being traded in.
The overall objective is to reduce Greece's debts from 160 percent of GDP to around 120 percent by 2020 - the figure and timeframe the IMF, ECB and the European Commission, together known as the troika, have established as sustainable.
MEETING THE TARGET
The focus of Monday's finance ministers' meeting will be what "around 120 percent" means in practice.
A debt sustainability report delivered to euro zone finance ministers last week showed that under the main scenario, Greek debt will only fall to 129 percent by 2020.
The IMF has said if the ratio cannot be cut to around 120 percent, it may not be able to help finance the bailout. U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner urged the IMF to do its bit.
"This is a very strong and very difficult package of reforms, deserving of support of the international community and the IMF," Geithner said in a statement on Sunday.
A number of measures, including restructuring the accrued interest portion, reducing the "sweeteners" and having euro zone national central banks take part in the debt swap are being considered to move the figure closer to 120.
There are also discussions about marginally lowering the interest rate on 110 billion euros of bilateral loans already made to Greece in May 2010, the first package of support, to lighten the financing burden on Athens.
The ECB could also decide to forgo the profit on around 40 billion euros of Greek bonds it holds to lower Athens' burden.
Sources involved in the conference call on Sunday said a combination of the measures was likely to be used to reduce the gap to between 129 percent and around 120 percent.
"If we can get it down to 123 or 124 percent, I think everyone's going to be okay with that," the euro zone official said after the conference call. "Everyone will find a way to tweak the numbers."
If the finance ministers do succeed in reaching an agreement, it will provide immediate relief to Athens and financial markets, which have been kept guessing since the bailout package was announced last October.
But no one is pretending it will end Greece's problems. Figures last week showed its economy shrank 7 percent year-on-year in the last quarter of 2011, much more than expected, with further cuts likely to make matters worse.
The troika, responsible for monitoring Greece's reform progress, carries out quarterly reviews, while the European Commission will soon have dozens more monitors on the ground.
Already there is concern that at any one of those reviews of the new program, if it is approved on Monday, Greece will be bound to be behind, especially if GDP continues to slump.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Flynn in Paris, Terri Kinnunen in Helsinki and George Georgiopoulos in Athens,; writing by Mike Peacock, editing by Elizabeth Piper)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6214 on: Feb 20th, 2012, 09:24am »
Single-Atom Transistor Is End of Moore's Law; May Be Beginning of Quantum Computing ScienceDaily (Feb. 19, 2012)
The smallest transistor ever built -- in fact, the smallest transistor that can be built -- has been created using a single phosphorus atom by an international team of researchers at the University of New South Wales, Purdue University and the University of Melbourne.
A controllable transistor engineered from a single phosphorus atom has been developed by researchers at the University of New South Wales, Purdue University and the University of Melbourne. The atom, shown here in the center of an image from a computer model, sits in a channel in a silicon crystal. The atomic-sized transistor and wires might allow researchers to control gated qubits of information in future quantum computers. (Credit: Purdue University image)
The single-atom device was described Sunday (Feb. 19) in a paper in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Michelle Simmons, group leader and director of the ARC Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication at the University of New South Wales, says the development is less about improving current technology than building future tech.
"This is a beautiful demonstration of controlling matter at the atomic scale to make a real device," Simmons says. "Fifty years ago when the first transistor was developed, no one could have predicted the role that computers would play in our society today. As we transition to atomic-scale devices, we are now entering a new paradigm where quantum mechanics promises a similar technological disruption. It is the promise of this future technology that makes this present development so exciting."
The same research team announced in January that it had developed a wire of phosphorus and silicon -- just one atom tall and four atoms wide -- that behaved like copper wire.
Simulations of the atomic transistor to model its behavior were conducted at Purdue using nanoHUB technology, an online community resource site for researchers in computational nanotechnology.
Gerhard Klimeck, who directed the Purdue group that ran the simulations, says this is an important development because it shows how small electronic components can be engineered.
"To me, this is the physical limit of Moore's Law," Klimeck says. "We can't make it smaller than this."
Although definitions can vary, simply stated Moore's Law holds that the number of transistors that can be placed on a processor will double approximately every 18 months. The latest Intel chip, the "Sandy Bridge," uses a manufacturing process to place 2.3 billion transistors 32 nanometers apart. A single phosphorus atom, by comparison, is just 0.1 nanometers across, which would significantly reduce the size of processors made using this technique, although it may be many years before single-atom processors actually are manufactured.
The single-atom transistor does have one serious limitation: It must be kept very cold, at least as cold as liquid nitrogen, or minus 391 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 196 Celsius). "The atom sits in a well or channel, and for it to operate as a transistor the electrons must stay in that channel," Klimeck says. "At higher temperatures, the electrons move more and go outside of the channel. For this atom to act like a metal you have to contain the electrons to the channel.
"If someone develops a technique to contain the electrons, this technique could be used to build a computer that would work at room temperature. But this is a fundamental question for this technology."
Although single atoms serving as transistors have been observed before, this is the first time a single-atom transistor has been controllably engineered with atomic precision. The structure even has markers that allow researchers to attach contacts and apply a voltage, says Martin Fuechsle, a researcher at the University of New South Wales and lead author on the journal paper.
"The thing that is unique about what we have done is that we have, with atomic precision, positioned this individual atom within our device," Fuechsle says.
Simmons says this control is the key step in making a single-atom device. "By achieving the placement of a single atom, we have, at the same time, developed a technique that will allow us to be able to place several of these single-atom devices towards the goal of a developing a scalable system."
The single-atom transistor could lead the way to building a quantum computer that works by controlling the electrons and thereby the quantum information, or qubits. Some scientists, however, have doubts that such a device can ever be built.
"Whilst this result is a major milestone in scalable silicon quantum computing, it does not answer the question of whether quantum computing is possible or not," Simmons says. "The answer to this lies in whether quantum coherence can be controlled over large numbers of qubits. The technique we have developed is potentially scalable, using the same materials as the silicon industry, but more time is needed to realize this goal."
Klimeck says despite the hurdles, the single-atom transistor is an important development.
"This opens eyes because it is a device that behaves like metal in silicon. This will lead to many more discoveries."
The research project spanned the globe and was the result of many years of effort.
"When I established this program 10 years ago, many people thought it was impossible with too many technical hurdles. However, on reading into the literature I could not see any practical reason why it would not be possible," Simmons says. "Brute determination and systemic studies were necessary -- as well as having many outstanding students and postdoctoral researchers who have worked on the project."
Klimeck notes that modern collaboration and community-building tools such as nanoHUB played an important role.
"This was a trans-Pacific collaboration that came about through the community created in nanoHUB. Now Purdue graduate students spend time studying at the University of New South Wales, and their students travel to Purdue to learn more about nanotechnology. It has been a rewarding collaboration, both for the scientific discoveries and for the personal relationships that were formed."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6217 on: Feb 21st, 2012, 08:59am »
Rise in crime intensifies unease in once-safe Egypt
Egyptians say they don't recognize the country now, a place with carjackings, soccer melees and brazen bank robberies.
By Jeffrey Fleishman and Amro Hassan, Los Angeles Times 6:46 PM PST, February 20, 2012 Reporting from Cairo
The headlines reflect a previously unknown cruelty: a woman gunned down in a rich Cairo neighborhood, a rash of carjackings, a deadly soccer riot, a stream of smuggled arms that have given muscle to criminal gangs once easily outgunned by police.
The revolution that inspired this country one year ago has set loose a menacing air that Egyptians find unfamiliar. Bristling beneath the political battle for power against the ruling generals is an insecurity over crime and a bitterness that has darkened Egypt's congenial nature.
Soldiers guard streets but few people feel safe. Police have largely returned to duty after months of work slowdowns, but their presence is sporadic; they appear and disappear at whim. Many Egyptians wonder whether security forces are complacent about or complicit in the mayhem around them, a sense of unease felt by fruit vendors and bankers alike.
"This is an Egypt I do not know," said Tarek Fouad, a sales manager at an international corporation. He said he saw this bewilderment in the faces at the funeral for a relative, who was shot in a January carjacking on the affluent outskirts of Cairo.
The car he was driving wasn't expensive, "but they murdered him to get it," Fouad said. "We kept hearing about such crimes in the news, but now they are common. We're having bank robberies, which is another thing we only saw in Hollywood movies and never, ever imagined they would happen in Egypt."
There are few reliable statistics on the nationwide rise in crime. The state-run Al Ahram newspaper reported an unprecedented jump in violent crimes in 2011, largely attributed to prison breakouts and lack of police. The paper, which offered no comparable figures, said there were 2,774 killings and 2,229 kidnappings last year. The Interior Ministry said recently that crime rates were beginning to fall.
But it is the brazenness of violence that has the country troubled. Seven men burst into a bank firing weapons and robbing tellers in late January; the same day three bandits stormed an armored truck and made off with about $500,000. Days later, scores of families lined up outside a Cairo morgue, watching a broken procession of coffins that carried most of the 74 people killed in the Port Said soccer melee.
Egypt has traditionally been safer than many Western countries, but recent images have turned the nightly news into a catalog of felonies and funerals. Arms smuggled in from Libya to the west and Sudan to the south have fueled tribal clashes in southern Egypt and have wound up on the streets of the capital, where Nermeen Gomaa Khalil, a United Nations consultant, was shot and killed last week by gunmen in a passing car.
Such boldness led to the brief kidnappings this month of American and South Korean tourists in the Sinai peninsula by Bedouin tribesmen. Police have been startled by this type of lawlessness and by intensifying violence in gritty city neighborhoods that have slipped further from their grasp.
"It's bad these days and we keep reading about crimes that never before existed in our community," said Mohamed Radwan, owner of a Cairo gift shop. "After so many years of financial frustration under [President Hosni] Mubarak, a certain class of people is willing to do anything for more money, even if that means killing people while robbing them."
He said political instability and months of deadly clashes between protesters and military-backed security forces give "many thugs the feeling that authorities are too busy confronting politics to chase thieves or provide security."
Mubarak is gone, on trial for murder, but the ruling military council refuses to step aside before a president is elected in May or June, a decision that leaves the newly elected parliament, which is dominated by Islamists, with scant authority.
The fervor from the early days of rebellion has faded into a dirge-like sentiment of promises left unfulfilled. That is the Egypt one hears, whether wandering in Tahrir Square, which in an instant can turn from sad carnival to searing battlefield, or through the towns of the Nile Delta and villages deep in the deserts of the south.
Crime and unrest have also brought a strange degree of equality. The poor have noticed their worries are shared by those with bigger bank accounts and nicer homes.
"We got used to burglaries and attacks and assaults in our poor neighborhoods," said Soad Mahmoud, a Cairo street vendor. "But I see this everywhere now, cars getting stolen and people murdered for money in places that once used to be the safest."
In an article in Al Ahram Weekly, analyst and writer Abdel Moneim Said wondered about the volatile arc of the last year.
"When you arrive at Cairo International Airport, one of the first things you see is Barack Obama's exhortation to American youth to learn from Egyptian youth who waged the most successful revolution in the world. Do these words still apply?" he said.
"Surely they lose their glimmer when mobs attack and kill people just like them, when families are at each other's throats, when roads and railways are obstructed, when ears are severed and churches burned, when banks and currency exchange stores are robbed and even nuclear reactors are broken into, when security breaks down and our national currency reserves seep through our fingers, when the moment our national economy shows a sign of recovery a massacre takes place the next day. The revolution succeeded, but the nation did not!"
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6218 on: Feb 21st, 2012, 09:03am »
Insight: ECB preparing to close liquidity floodgates
By Paul Carrel and John O'Donnell FRANKFURT/BRUSSELS Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:18am EST
FRANKFURT/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Central Bank wants its second offer of cheap ultra-long funds next week to be its last, putting the onus back on governments to secure the euro zone's longer-term future.
Powerful members of the central bank's 23-man governing council are privately hoping demand at the February 29 auction will fall well short of the 1 trillion euros some expect, backing their view that it should be the last.
Central bank sources say they are worried that banks will become too reliant on ECB funds, removing the incentive to restart lending between themselves.
The ECB first offered banks low cost three-year money in December to stave off a freeze in interbank lending that threatened to make the region's debt crisis much worse.
Banks flocked to take advantage of the offer, filling their coffers, and ECB President Mario Draghi said "a major, major credit crunch" had been averted.
Some European officials have been hoping the central bank would carry on supporting the economy with a series of subsequent cheap money auctions, known as LTROs.
But the ECB wants to keep pressure on governments to improve their defense of the euro zone with better economic policies and by bolstering their European Stability Mechanism (ESM) firewall which will come into being by mid-year.
Making hundreds of billions of euros easily available to banks over a three-year period also risks fuelling a credit binge that some central bankers worry could push up inflation.
The ECB funneled banks nearly half a trillion euros in cash at the first operation on December 21. A Reuters poll of over 60 economists showed a mid-range expectation for it to allot another 492 billion euros next week with some expecting up to a trillion to be taken.
The first LTRO, or longer-term refinancing operation, has already eased market pressures.
Borrowing costs for Italy and Spain - at the epicenter of the crisis last year - have fallen, while parts of the interbank lending market have reopened and stock markets have rallied.
Only 15 out of 63 analysts polled by Reuters said banks would bid in the second auction because they needed the cash to shore up their own balance sheets. But with the money costing just one percent, bid they will.
ECB officials accept they have to help the banking sector but they also want to send a message that the unprecedented liquidity provision will end.
Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann has warned that "too generous" supply of liquidity could create risky incentives for banks, which could in turn store up future inflation risks.
Bank of Finland chief Erkki Liikanen is also worried about ample liquidity provision leading to future problems and has said the ECB must think about how to unwind the extraordinary measures. Other senior policymakers are concerned too.
If banks used the first LTRO to plug their funding needs and fend off a credit crunch, ECB officials hope they could use the second more aggressively to buy higher-yielding bonds, especially from Italy.
Anecdotal evidence suggests banks in Spain used the first LTRO to make most use of this "Sarkozy trade" - a term adopted by markets after the French president suggested governments look to banks that tapped the ECB operation to buy their bonds.
Italy faces a debt issuance hump in the next few months and could do with the second LTRO fuelling demand for its debt. It needs to sell around 45 billion euros of its bonds a month in both March and April versus 19 billion in February.
John Fitzgerald of the Economic and Social Research Institute, a Dublin-based think tank, said further long-term funding from the ECB beyond February may not be necessary.
"Once they have got Spain and Italy over the line in terms of refinancing needs, with much of this refinancing set to be done by March, the need for the LTRO may well disappear," said Fitzgerald, who also sits on the Irish central bank's board.
"The ECB will be able to breath a sigh of relief. It appears this mechanism was enough to turn the markets and that the risk of a collapse in the system is less today."
While ECB officials expect the second LTRO to give a boost to lending as well as bond-buying, they are nonetheless worried about banks becoming dependent on the ECB or heightened liquidity provision leading to irresponsible banking decisions.
Some at the ECB believe banks should now be redoubling their efforts to raise fresh capital, as UniCredit recently did through its rights issue, and fear the ECB's help will create zombie banks reliant on central bank support.
The ECB is also concerned the interbank market is not yet functioning fully. Bankers themselves see this concern.
"If you are flooding the market with cheap refinancing then there comes a point when you are preventing the market from working because nobody is going to borrow from another bank at X percent if they can borrow from the ECB at Y percent," said a senior banker at a leading global bank.
The ECB expects governments to take responsibility for banks that prove too weak to help with extra liquidity and believes states should step in if, in three years when the funding term comes to an end, they are incapable of repaying the credit.
And while governments have made progress dealing with budgets, growth and economic governance, the ECB wants them to bolster the firewall provided by the EFSF and ESM bailout funds and is looking for progress at a March 1-2 meeting of leaders.
This puts the onus squarely on governments, led by euro zone paymaster Germany, to respond to the debt crisis once the ECB has unleashed its second three-year lending operation.
This may come as something of a shock to some banks and officials. One senior EU official said he had expected the ECB would offer banks a third round of long-term funding.
"We expected a third," he said. "They (ECB) have always said they will keep an eye on how the market is evolving. My guess is that they are hedging their bets."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6219 on: Feb 21st, 2012, 09:13am »
Obama, Paul Lead in Defense Contributions Feb. 20, 2012 - 10:53AM By ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS
Ron Paul may not support increasing defense spending, but he is certainly receiving the support of those who work in the defense industry.
U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC) contribution records analyzed by Defense News showed that the GOP presidential hopeful received both the most contributions and the largest total amount of cash among Republican candidates from employees of the world’s top 100 defense companies.
Those employees contributed a total of $177,413.39 to Paul’s campaign in 2011, spread over 824 individual contributions for an average of $215.31.
Mitt Romney, whose platform includes an increase in defense spending, barely trails Paul in the total value of contributions, with $173,835. But Romney, who is battling Rick Santorum for the lead in national opinion polls, received only 198 contributions. The resulting average — $877.95 — far outpaced any other candidate, more than doubling the next highest, Santorum’s $409.25.
“Of all the candidates seeking the nomination from either party, Romney is the most establishment oriented candidate,” said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer at the Lexington Institute. “You would expect more affluent people who are well established in the industry to be giving money to him in disproportionate amounts.”
The contribution records, from filings submitted by the campaigns to the FEC in January, lists each individual contribution received by candidates in 2011, along with information on the contributors, including their employer. The 110,945 total contributions listed by the Republican candidates pale in comparison to the 250,461 listed by President Barack Obama’s campaign, although incumbents typically have an advantage in fundraising.
Since individuals can contribute more than once in a calendar year, the total number of contributions does not necessarily reflect the total number of contributors.
Paul’s support, given his position that defense spending needs to be reined in, would seem to run contrary to the economic interests of the defense company employees donating to his campaign.
Thompson said the numbers reflect a wider political reality about contractors. “There’s a strong libertarian streak among many in the sector,” he said. “Just because people work in the defense industry, doesn’t mean that they always vote their economic interests.”
Gary Howard, a spokesman for the Paul campaign, cited the support of members of the military as evidence of Paul’s broad base.
“Those in the defense community, like other supporters, likely find that Dr. Paul’s common-sense foreign policy and the serious attention he pays to our nation’s number one security threat — our debt — are the most vital issues a presidential candidate must address,” he wrote in an email.
The Romney campaign did not immediately return calls or emails for comment.
The numbers do not include contributions to political action committees (PACs) or super PACs, which have poured millions into the Republican primary. Rules governing PACs and super PACs make it difficult to identify donors and who is receiving the money.
Both Newt Gingrich and Santorum trailed Paul and Romney in total dollars from defense employees. They received $27,310 and $8,185, respectively.
Boeing employees topped those of any other defense company in the value of contributions to both the Paul and Santorum campaigns, while also making the top five for Newt Gingrich.
Employees of the consulting firm Deloitte topped the list for Romney and Gingrich, ranking second for Santorum.
Employees of Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor by revenue, made the top five for contributions to every campaign, including Obama’s, save for Romney’s.
Obama, who collected $347,975.49 to lead all candidates, had the second lowest average per contribution behind Paul, at $225.52. Obama received 1,543 individual contributions, more than his four potential challengers combined.
“The upper ranks of the industry are full of lifelong Democrats,” Thompson said.
Paul is also receiving a majority of the contributions from members of the armed services, a Feb. 9 report by Military Times found.
Paul took in $242,507 from 1,405 donations in 2011, while Obama took in $130,041 from 1,156 donations. Romney ran a distant third with $22,753 from 55 donations.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6220 on: Feb 21st, 2012, 09:16am »
The Horror!: Hammer To Open Script Archive To Public Research & Study By NANCY TARTAGLIONE, International Editor Tuesday, 21 February 2012 11:47 UK Tags: Exclusive Media Group, Hammer Films, The Woman in Black
Enjoying a resurgence with The Woman In Black, venerable British horror studio Hammer has chosen the Cinema And Television History (CATH) Research Centre at the UK’s Leicester De Montfort University to house its script archive. The CATH center will catalogue and curate a collection that includes screenplays from most of the studio’s film and TV productions from 1947-1990 along with extensive corporate paperwork, correspondence and other ephemera. This is the first time the archive will be opened to public research and study.
Last month, Hammer announced a global restoration project for its library of films in partnership with Studiocanal, Pinewood and other international players and with the participation of 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros and Paramount.
The studio was founded in 1934 and has produced such films as Frankenstein Created Woman, The Plague Of The Zombies, The Witches and The Mummy. Hammer stopped production in the 80s and returned to features in 2010 with Matt Reeves’ adaptation of Swedish hit Let Me In. Its most recent film, Daniel Radcliffe-starrer The Woman In Black, has taken in over $60 million worldwide. Since 2008, Hammer has been a division of the Exclusive Media Group.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6221 on: Feb 22nd, 2012, 08:51am »
Two Western journalists killed in besieged Syrian city February 22, 2012 | 5:29 am
REPORTING FROM PARIS -- An award-winning American-born journalist and a French photographer died in the besieged Syrian city of Homs on Wednesday, after the building in which they were taking shelter came under attack.
Veteran foreign correspondent Marie Colvin and photographer Remi Ochlik were killed by a rocket as they tried to escape from the house that was being shelled.
After the French government confirmed the deaths, tributes poured in for Colvin, 55, a reporter for the Sunday Times of London who had covered conflicts in Kosovo, Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and the Middle East.
She was known for her courageous reporting from the world's hot spots and the black eye patch that she wore after losing an eye from a shrapnel wound while working in Sri Lanka in 2001.
Colvin was the only journalist from a British newspaper in the Homs district of Baba Amr and had filed reports on the "absolutely sickening" bloodshed she witnessed there in the days leading up to her death. Her report in the Sunday Times last weekend said the citizens of Homs were "waiting for a massacre."
In an interview with CNN and the BBC on Tuesday, she said: "I watched a little baby die today. Absolutely horrific ... his little tummy just kept heaving until he died. That is happening over and over and over. ... There is just shells, rockets and tank fire pouring into the civilian areas of this city, and it is just unrelenting.”
Earlier this month, Ochlik, 28, won first prize in the World Press Photo contest's general news category for images taken during the Libyan conflict. Three other journalists were reportedly injured in the attack carried out by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime: Paul Conroy, a British photographer working with Colvin; French journalist Edith Bouvier, who was working for Le Figaro; and an unnamed American woman whose condition was said to be "very serious" by locals.
In Paris, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the deaths would be investigated.
"It's another demonstration of the degradation of the situation in Syria and of a repression that is more and more intolerable," he told reporters.
Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch's emergencies director and an expert in humanitarian crises, knew Colvin and said that "she was one of the most fearless and dedicated reporters I have ever met in my 14 years covering war, and someone I looked up to as a hero and an inspiration.
"For Marie, covering war wasn't about doing a few quick interviews and writing up a quick story. She experienced war alongside those who suffered in war, and her writings had a particular vividness because of what she had dared to see and experience."
Colvin, from Oyster Bay, N.Y., was married three times. She twice won the British Press Award for best foreign correspondent, as well as awards from the International Women's Media Foundation.
In November 2010, during a service to commemorate journalists who had died covering conflicts in the 21st century, Colvin outlined many of the dangers facing war reporters, whose mission is to report the horrors of war "with accuracy and without prejudice."
"We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story," she said. "What is bravery, and what is bravado? Journalists covering combat shoulder great responsibilities and face difficult choices. Sometimes they pay the ultimate price."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6222 on: Feb 22nd, 2012, 08:57am »
Arizona Daily Star
UFO conference flies into the Phoenix area
The Associated Press Arizona Daily Star Posted: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 6:53 am
Everything from the secret military base at Area 51 to flying saucers and little green men is up for discussion at the 21st annual International UFO Congress this week at the Fort McDowell casino near Scottsdale.
The conference lasts until Sunday and features films, lectures and all kinds of out of this world exhibitions. ABC 15.COM (http://bit.ly/zmbP2l) reports more than 20 speakers are expected to take part.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6223 on: Feb 22nd, 2012, 09:00am »
Iran defiant as U.N. nuclear talks fail
By Fredrik Dahl and Parisa Hafezi Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:50am EST
VIENNA/TEHRAN (Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear watchdog ended its latest mission to Iran after talks on Tehran's suspected secret atomic weapons research failed, a setback likely to increase the risk of confrontation with the West.
In a defiant response, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran's nuclear policies would not change despite mounting international pressure against what the West says are Iran's plans to obtain nuclear bombs.
"With God's help, and without paying attention to propaganda, Iran's nuclear course should continue firmly and seriously," he said on state television. "Pressures, sanctions and assassinations will bear no fruit. No obstacles can stop Iran's nuclear work."
As sanctions mount, ordinary Iranians are suffering from the effects of soaring prices and a collapsing currency. Several Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed over the past two years in bomb attacks that Tehran has blamed on its arch-adversary Israel.
In response, Iran has issued a series of statements asserting its right to self-defense and threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil tanker route.
The collapse of the nuclear talks came as Iran seems increasingly isolated, with some experts seeing the Islamic republic's mounting defiance in response to sanctions against its oil industry and financial institutions as evidence that it is in no mood to compromise with the West.
Elections on March 2 are expected to be won by supporters of Khamenei, an implacable enemy of the West.
The failure of the two-day visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency could now hamper any resumption of wider nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers as the sense grows that Tehran feels it is being backed into a corner.
In the view of some analysts, the Iranians may be trying to keep their opponents guessing as to their capabilities, a diplomatic strategy that has served them well in the past.
"But they may be overdoing the smoke and mirrors and as a result leaving themselves more vulnerable," said professor Rosemary Hollis of London's City University.
A team from the IAEA had hoped to inspect a site at Parchin, southeast of Tehran, where the agency believes there is a facility to test explosives.
"During both the first and second round of discussions, the agency team requested access to the military site at Parchin. Iran did not grant permission for this visit to take place," the Vienna-based IAEA said in a statement.
"It is disappointing that Iran did not accept our request to visit Parchin. We engaged in a constructive spirit, but no agreement was reached," said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.
A Western official added: "We think that if Iran has nothing to hide why do they behave in that way?"
"It is another missed opportunity," French Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said. "This refusal to cooperate adds to the recent statements made by Iranian officials welcoming the progress of their nuclear activities."
Iranian analyst Mohammad Marandi said providing the West with any more access than necessary to nuclear sites would be a sign of weakness.
"Under the current conditions it is not in Iran's interest to cooperate more than is necessary because the West is waging a war against the Iranian nation," he told Reuters.
Earlier, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said Tehran expected to hold more talks with the U.N. agency, but Amano's spokeswoman said no further meetings were planned.
Iran rejects accusations that its nuclear programme is a covert bid to develop a nuclear weapons capability, saying it is seeking to produce only electricity.
But its refusal to curb sensitive atomic activities which can have both civilian and military purposes, and its record of years of nuclear secrecy has drawn increasingly tough U.N. and separate U.S. and European measures.
The United States and Israel have not ruled out using force against Iran if they conclude that diplomacy and sanctions will not stop it from developing a nuclear bomb.
"This was only to be expected, given Iran's evasions," a senior Israeli official said.
The failure of the IAEA's mission may increase the chances of a strike by Israel on Iran, some analysts believe.
But this would be "catastrophic for the region and for the whole system of international relations," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said.
STILL TIME FOR DIPLOMACY?
An IAEA report in November suggested Iran had pursued military nuclear technology and helped precipitate the latest sanctions by the European Union and United States.
One key finding was information that Iran had built a large containment chamber at Parchin to conduct high-explosives tests. The U.N. agency said there were "strong indicators of possible weapon development".
The IAEA said intensive efforts had been made to reach agreement on a document "facilitating the clarification of unresolved issues" in connection with Iran's nuclear programme.
"Unfortunately, agreement was not reached on this document," it said in an unusually blunt statement on Wednesday.
The IAEA mission's failure may reduce the chance of any resumption of wider nuclear negotiations between Iran and the six world powers - the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.
The West last week expressed some optimism at the prospect of new talks, particularly after Iran sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton promising to bring "new initiatives", without stating preconditions.
But the United States and its allies may be reluctant if they feel that the Islamic state is unlikely to engage in substantive discussions about its nuclear activities.
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams, John Irish and William Maclean; writing by Giles Elgood; editing by Janet McBride)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6224 on: Feb 22nd, 2012, 09:23am »
Old Weapon Gives Precision Punch to Helos By David Fulghum Feb 22, 2012 Washington
What combat helicopters and unmanned aircraft in Afghanistan need in a hurry is an inexpensive, lightweight rocket that can be fired with enough accuracy to guide itself through a window-size target from outside the range of small-arms and light anti-aircraft fire.
The U.S. Navy believes it has the answer in a modified version of an unguided, Vietnam War-era rocket. The Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) II has already hit a basketball-size target at a range of 5 km (3 mi.).
BAE Systems intends to deliver the next batch of its low-rate-production APKWS directly to the U.S. Marine Corps for shipment to operational units. The first 325 missiles had completed delivery to the Navy in December, and the second lot of 600 will be dispatched in early fiscal 2012. With the end of operational testing in January, a full-rate-production decision for 1,000 missiles a year is expected to follow soon.
There is a rapid-deployment effort to arm the MQ-8B Fire Scout rotary-wing unmanned aerial system (UAS).
“APKWS is what we plan to put on [the MQ-8B] in the near future,” says Navy Capt. Brian Corey, program manager for the missile. “We expect that to be the Navy Department’s first armed UAS. We could put a three-tube launcher on each of the two stations on a Fire Scout for a total of six rounds. The number of rounds actually on board depends on what other payloads are carried and the length of the mission.”
A Joint Concept Technology Demonstration also is underway to equip fixed-wing aircraft with the missile, which is being modified to survive a tougher, high-speed environment in the Air Force/Marine Corps project. The initial goal is to install the weapon on AV-8B and A-10 ground attack aircraft. The first operational launch of the missile from a fixed-wing aircraft, a modified AT-6 Texan II trainer, was made in mid-January. The combination developmental and operational test was conducted at Eglin AFB, Fla., using a lengthened launcher to protect the mid-body sensor system from damage by the firing of adjacent missiles. The APKWS rocket is usually bundled seven to a launcher. The Eglin tests also are part of a program to increase the firepower of light helicopters and fixed-wing attack aircraft.
“The future of light attack is not 0.50-caliber machine guns and 500-pound bombs,” says Derek Hess, Hawker Beechcraft’s director of AT-6 development. “We’ve always been interested in deep-magazine, standoff-precision weapons with low collateral damage. Certainly laser-guided rockets are front and center in that capability.”
The Marines’ aim is to field APKWS on the AH-1W and UH-1Y helicopters first. “Then we’d like to see it on the AH-1Z . . . for its first deployment,” says Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matt Sale, air-to-ground weapons requirement officer. “Depending on how long the legacy F/A-18s are going to be around, that could be the next logical step.”
Combat in Afghanistan is generating the pressing need for precise rapid-fire missile systems on Marine helicopters.
“What’s important to us is an appropriate target and weapons match,” says Lt. Col. Raymond Schreiner, lead H-1 test pilot for VX-31 at the China Lake, Calif., Naval Air Warfare Center. That means minimum collateral damage from small-yield precision weapons like the APKWS missile’s 10-lb., Mk. 151 and Mk. 152 warheads. Logistics also offer an advantage, since many 2.75-in. rockets and warheads are already in place in theater and only guidance sections have to be delivered.
“The capability that APKWS provides is well suited for current operations,” says Sale. “Marine Corps headquarters is confident of a fielding decision early in the year. With APKWS, you can increase the volume of precision fire by carrying 7-14 missiles on each aircraft. Depending on the success of the program in the next year or two, we’ll look at expanding envelopes and other material solutions.”
One idea is to adapt the package to the longer-range 5-in. Zuni rocket, which the Navy has in large numbers. However, it would be impossible for the larger rocket to be carried by UAS and helicopters in the same numbers.
As part of the APKWS’s operational testing, the missile was subjected to a number of variables including altitude, airspeed, range to target, laser code, lighting conditions, target type and movement. Evaluations involved a threshold range of 5 km and an objective range of 8 km.
“As far as operational availability, the current effort is integrated. Developmental and operational testers are working side-by-side and we are evaluating two aircraft simultaneously,” says Schreiner. “We’re minimizing the number of test resources required . . . that will answer both the developmental and operational requirements and minimize the schedule.”
The test program has yielded improvements including the ability to protect the missiles. The rocket pods have been extended to keep the mid-body guidance section out of the path of debris. Wing-slot seals have been added to keep particulate matter off the optics and protect them from blast damage.
“We worked with BAE about getting the wing-slot seals right,” says Corey. “That required a delicate engineering balance because we needed a seal that was affordable but rugged enough to protect the rocket and withstand the captive-carry environment on helicopters. Yet it needed to fracture to deploy the wings.”
The test results are promising.
“We had failures in testing, but when we put [the guidance units] on the flight line they worked. They’re accurate and hitting well within requirements. The aircrew—if the targeting system camera is good enough—can put this thing through a window.” Targets included pickup trucks, lightly armored vehicles, walls of various construction types, moving targets and simulated gun positions.
The Navy took over the APKWS program from the Army in 2008 to fill the gap between the service’s short-range airborne cannon and machine guns and Lockheed Martin’s long-range, high-precision Hellfire anti-armor missile carried by helicopters. Hellfires cost roughly $68,000 each and weigh 100 lb. In comparison, the mid-range APKWS has a 10-lb. warhead for low collateral damage, is estimated by non-BAE analysts to cost $10,000 per missile, weighs roughly 32 lb. and has the precision to go through a window 5 km away. Moreover, the weapon is a threat to moving targets since it has flaperons to make high-speed flight corrections.
During this initial phase, BAE Systems developed a simple guidance package that did not require communications with its launch aircraft.
“Any airplane that can shoot an unguided 2.75-inch rocket can shoot an APKWS,” Corey says. “The only thing required to launch it is a 28-volt fire signal from the airplane. All the precision takes place after the rocket is launched. No integration with the platform, no signal transfers, no software updates are required.”