US military aims to combat chemical threats with ‘smart uniform’

File photo: U.S. Army soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, B battery 2-8 field artillery, fire a howitzer artillery piece at Seprwan Ghar forward fire base in Panjwai district, Kandahar province southern Afghanistan, June 12, 2011.

File photo: U.S. Army soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, B battery 2-8 field artillery, fire a howitzer artillery piece at Seprwan Ghar forward fire base in Panjwai district, Kandahar province southern Afghanistan, June 12, 2011. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

In the next decade, U.S. soldiers could get new smart uniforms that are breathable but also designed to shield them from hazards like viruses and chemical weapons, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California announced on Wednesday.

The uniforms could be made of fabric that contains tiny carbon nanotubes that function as channels to let water vapor out, but at the same time block biological agents like viruses from entering. Each tube is tiny in diameter: a human hair is roughly 5,000 times wider. The lab said that that’s small enough to keep out biological hazards like the dengue virus.

According to the lab, the fabric— a technology they call “second skin”– is more breathable than Gore-Tex.

They’re also exploring new ways to use the fabric to protect soldiers from chemical agents, which actually could fit through the carbon nanotubes. One strategy involves having the tubes seal when they contact a threat— so the agent can’t get in— and another is based on the idea of a layer on the top of the fabric that can neutralize the agent, and then peel away.

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“This is thought to be a really new paradigm of protection, because you can imagine that the soldier will wear a suit that is very breathable and comfortable to start with,” but once in a place with a chemical or biological threat, it will protect him or her, Francesco Fornasiero, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said in a video released by the lab that explains the new technology.

The researchers have published their findings in the journal Advanced Materials.

“The material will be like a smart second skin that responds to the environment,” Kuang Jen Wu, the leader of the biosecurity and biosciences group at the lab, said in a statement. “In this way, the fabric will be able to block chemical agents such as sulfur mustard (blister agent), GD and VX nerve agents, toxins such as staphylococcal enterotoxin and biological spores such as anthrax.”

The lab said that the breathable, protective fabric is just one part of the new smart uniforms, which they estimate could be ready for use in less than 10 year’s time.

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger

The Marines now have robots that carry and fire heavy machine guns

File photo - The Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (U.S. Army)

File photo – The Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (U.S. Army)

We’ve seen all sorts of weapons mounted on drones, and military drones already wield impressive firepower, but that doesn’t mean we’re done building crazy machines with fire power. The next step is adding heavy machine guns and even grenade launchers to robots. Thankfully, these are not robots powered by artificial intelligence. Just like drones, they’re piloted by soldiers — the robots only do the heavy lifting and stabilize fire.

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Detailed in a Business Insider video, the MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System) is the military’s machine gun-toting robot. The robot is like a mini-tank with a remote control. It can travel at a top speed of 7 mph, which means it’ll walk alongside marines on a mission, and its battery is good for 8 to 12 hours.

When equipped with a M240 machine gun, the MAARS can carry some 400 rounds in addition to the weapon itself. But it can also be used to drag wounded Marines off the battlefield if need be.

A tactical robot controller is needed to operate the MAARS and fire the weapon, and the same device can be used for drones or other devices. The robot has cameras and sensors that transmit information to the controller, which may also make it a valuable weaponized scout.

The MAARS is not alone. A bigger version of the robot exists, the RVM/CART, which can carry a massive M134 minigun — a weapon capable of firing between 2,000 and 3,000 rounds per minute.

Business Insider‘s video is available at the source link, while a longer YouTube video shows the MAARS in action.

Himmler’s lost diaries from ‘last phase of war’ found

The undated file photo shows German Nazi party official and head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler.

The undated file photo shows German Nazi party official and head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler. (AP Photo/str/file)

Among their 1,000 pages, the newly found diaries of Holocaust architect Heinrich Himmler track his hourly schedule—filled with activities both mundane and grotesque—over the years 1938, 1943, and 1944.

The Jewish Chronicle reports that some of Himmler’s diaries were discovered in the 1950s, and hundreds of letters surfaced in Tel Aviv more recently; these “service diaries” were reportedly taken by the Red Army, archived in Podolsk near Moscow, and forgotten.

Germany’s Bild newspaper on Tuesday began serializing the diaries, and theTimes of London has details. Himmler began many days with a lengthy massage in an effort to assuage chronic stomach cramps.

Hours of meetings would follow (one entry shows 19 policy meetings in a four-hour span); meetings occurred with 1,600 people over the course of the diaries.

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The Times reports plenty of innocuous moments: looking at the stars and planned phone calls with his daughter Gudrun, identified as “Puppi.” But interspersed are execution orders, the purchase of guard dogs for Auschwitz, and movements that sound innocuous but were anything but.

A February 2, 1943, entry lists a visit to the Sobibor death camp for “inspection of special commando”; the Times reports his visit was to include a demonstration of gassing, and 400 women and girls were reportedly brought to the camp from a nearby city for that purpose.

The German Historical Institute has authenticated the diaries, and its director says that what appears to be “rather dry” is actually very valuable. “We get a better structural understanding of the last phase of the war,” says Nikolaus Katzer.

Himmler killed himself with a cyanide pill in May 1945. (A trove of personal documents revealed more about Himmler.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Himmler’s Lost Diaries Reveal Nazi’s Last Years

AP Photos: In Brazil’s Amazon, worship with psychedelic tea

  • In this June 22, 2016 photo, a boatman gets ready to cross the Purus river near the city of Boca do Acre, Amazonas state, Brazil. The Purus river provides the main access to the community of Ceu do Mapia in a trip of more than four hours deep in the Amazon jungle of western Brazil. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

    In this June 22, 2016 photo, a boatman gets ready to cross the Purus river near the city of Boca do Acre, Amazonas state, Brazil. The Purus river provides the main access to the community of Ceu do Mapia in a trip of more than four hours deep in the Amazon jungle of western Brazil. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) (The Associated Press)

Canoes slide through a narrow river, dodging branches and trees for more than four hours to reach a tiny village deep in the Amazon jungle of western Brazil.

The community’s culture revolves around an ancient psychedelic tea locals know as the Holy Daime. The Ayahuasca brew is sacred to Ceu do Mapia villagers, who use it in rituals that blend Indian beliefs with Roman Catholicism.

The Cult of the Holy Daime was started in 1930 by a descendant of slaves. It wasn’t until the early 1980s that rubber tapper Sebastiao Mota de Melo, nicknamed Godfather Sebastiao, took hundreds of followers deeper into the forest to create a new village that would live by the doctrine of the Ayahuasca tea. People here believe the drink heals the body and expands the mind.

“There was nothing here. We had this cleansing ceremony with a candle and we built a house for everyone, for all the people who arrived first. We were all family,” said Rita Gregorio de Melo, wife of Sebastiao and the village’s matriarch.

Melo died in 1990, but his wife, who is now 91, still heads the sect with her two sons.

Brewing the sacramental tea is a ritual in itself. Men chant to a steady rhythm, banging mallets on jungle vines called Jagube. In a giant pot, a man cooks the juice that comes out of the hammered vines and mixes it with a plant with hallucinogenic properties named Psychotria viridis.

The tea is used several times during religious ceremonies, but otherwise not usually more than weekly. While the hallucinogenic effects are usually moderate, drinkers say it helps facilitate spiritual connections.

On a recent evening, villagers gathered for a celebration. Women wore shiny white crowns on their heads, green sashes over their shoulders and green belts around their waists.

At the church, Alfredo Gregorio de Melo, son of the village founder and spiritual leader of Holy Daime, lit candles on a table shaped like the Star of David. Men and women lined up in two separate rows to drink the tea after making the sign of the cross. They then sang together prayers and psalms in a large circle.

“The Daime is everything to me. It saved me from death,” said Luiz Lopes de Freitas, a village man. “I found a world that heals and teaches faith.”

Disney theme parks could harness foot recognition technology

(Disney patent/USPTO).

(Disney patent/USPTO).

Disney has received a patent for foot recognition technology that could be used to improve the guest experience at the entertainment giant’s theme parks.

One potential application of foot recognition technology could use a sensor to capture a foot shape and a camera to capture the foot’s appearance. This would be used to create a foot model that “can be used to identify a particular guest and the guest data can be used to output a customized guest appearance,” according to the patent documents.

Foot recognition technology could also be used to enroll guests in a venue and by a robot that interacts with guests. “The robot may also include a movement mechanism allowing the robot to roam the amusement park or a portion thereof and an input/output interface for receiving guest information from the guest,” the patent said.

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The technology could provide an alternative to “rather invasive methods” for acquiring guest information, such as retinal and fingerprint identification, according to the patent filing. “These methods are obtrusive and some guests may not feel comfortable providing this type of biometric information to a third party,” it added, noting that accessories such as hats and sunglasses could also limit the effectiveness of the technologies.

The technology could be used at amusement parks, theme parks, sporting events and other entertainment venues, according to Disney.

The entertainment company has no immediate plans to use the system, according to the Orlando Sentinel, which notes that the foot recognition technology is part of the firm’s ongoing research process.

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was the world’s top amusement park in 2015 with 20.5 million visitors, according to a report released earlier this year by engineering firm AECOM and the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA).

 

Colorado man suffers ‘vicious’ croc attack at Costa Rica beach resort

  • GettyImages-94168077.jpg

    MALELANE, SOUTH AFRICA – DECEMBER 09: A crocodile lies in wait by the 13th green during practice before the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club on December 9, 2008 in Malelane, South Africa. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images) (2009 GETTY IMAGES)

An American surfer was in serious but stable condition after he was attacked by a large crocodile at a popular tourist beach in Costa Rica on Friday, according to an emergency responder who credited the man’s friend for fighting off the reptile with his bare hands.

Pat McNulty, who works as a consultant and is a certified trained lifeguard in Tamarindo, a northwestern town favored by surfers and eco-tourists, said the man was crossing a river with the friend when the crocodile struck.

“It was a vicious attack, and he was bitten several times in the leg as well as the head,” McNulty told the Associated Press by phone from Costa Rica. “They were able to get him free, swim him to safety and then trained lifeguards responded … and we administered first aid and called an ambulance.”

McNulty said he accompanied the victim, who remained lucid after the attack, to Liberia, the provincial capital, where he underwent surgery. He declined to give specifics about the man’s injuries other than to say he suffered lower leg trauma and his condition was serious but stable.

“His friend saved his life … and then we the lifeguards helped keep him alive,” McNulty said. “It was a very traumatic scene, and all individuals attending him did a tremendous job.”

Costa Rican media reported that the victim suffered partial amputation of his right ankle and most of his calf muscle was stripped.

McNulty said he was familiar with the man before the attack because Tamarindo is a small town where everyone knows everyone else. He declined to identify him publicly by name but described him as a surfer from Colorado who maintains a residence in the village. Family members were traveling to be with him, McNulty added.

The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica said in a statement that it was aware of the case, and that consular officers help U.S. citizens when they are injured overseas but declined to comment further citing privacy considerations.

Earlier, Costa Rican press reports claimed the man was from Arizona.

Community, wildlife and tourism officials met after Friday’s attack to consider strategies for relocating crocodiles and making sure there’s proper signage to keep people safe.

McNulty said a few months ago there was a “minor incident” in which a smaller croc bit a person.

“We live in a country where there’s large crocodiles, and people take for granted that when you go into a river that you’re safe,” the lifeguard said. “But the fact of the matter is that you need to be aware of your environment … We’re in their world.

Planet’s Deepest ‘Blue Hole’ Has Been Found

Image result for Planet's Deepest 'Blue Hole' Has Been Found
Scientists announce discovery in South China Sea
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 26, 2016 11:59 AM CDT
Exclusive video of world’s deepest blue hole in the South China Sea.
(YouTube/CCTV News)

(NEWSER) – “Blue holes” are mystifying to look at, the large, deep pits appearing a shade of blue that’s just as deep and in stark contrast to the shallow waters around them. And what we’ve long considered the planet’s deepest—the 663-foot Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas—has been relegated to second place, say Chinese researchers. They announced Friday that 11 months of study have confirmed that an underwater sinkhole in the South China Sea crushes that record. At 987 feet, it could nearly swallow the Eiffel Tower, reports theWashington Post. Known colloquially as “Dragon Hole” and the “eye ” of the South China Sea, the depth was confirmed using a VideoRay Pro 4 underwater robot equipped with a depth sensor, reports Xinhua.

The researchers further found that oxygen exists only in the top third of the blue hole, and they identified more than 20 fish and marine species in that top layer. The local government has drafted measures related to the protection and study of the hole. In its report on the discovery, Kyodo notes that when it’s humans, not robots, exploring these blue holes, the situation is “extremely dangerous.” On Nov. 17, 2013, a 32-year-old free-diver from Brooklyn drowned at Dean’s Blue Hole. The Economist ranks free-diving—relying on a single breath to dive as deep as you can —as second only to BASE-jumping in terms of its danger level. “Diving at extreme depths brutalizes the lungs, which at a depth of [100 feet] compress to a quarter of their normal size.” (This blue hole in Belize may hold the secret to the Mayan collapse.)

Navy funds study of underwater glue made using protein extracted from mussels

 Belgian cook Alexandre Vanlancker holds a handful of mussels at the Chez Leon restaurant in central Brussels November 24, 2011. Mussels start as larva, until they are heavy enough to sink to the bottom of the sea, where they grow wiry threads -- known as beards -- that allow them to latch on to anything around, forming great clumps of dark and heavily encrusted shells

Belgian cook Alexandre Vanlancker holds a handful of mussels at the Chez Leon restaurant in central Brussels November 24, 2011. Mussels start as larva, until they are heavy enough to sink to the bottom of the sea, where they grow wiry threads — known as beards — that allow them to latch on to anything around, forming great clumps of dark and heavily encrusted shells (REUTERS/Francois Lenoir )

Anyone who has ever made the mistake of wearing a Band-Aid in the shower knows all too well that adhesives which appear to be secure when dry quickly peel off when they get wet.

The challenge of creating glue that works underwater is the focus of Bruce Lee, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Michigan Technological University. To help him crack this conundrum, Lee has just been awarded three years of funding from the Office of Naval Research as part of its Young Investigator Program award.

Lee’s work is based on looking at one of the strongest natural undersea adhesives we know of — namely, that used by mussels to adhere themselves to rocks and the underside of boats.

“Mussels use a protein adhesive in order to attach to surfaces,” Lee tells Digital Trends. “It’s almost like injection molding: they inject it as a liquid, and then it adheres to a surface. One of those main proteins is an amino acid called DOPA. What we’ve done is to take that molecule and used chemistry to incorporate it into a synthetic adhesive.”

Lee says that there are two main possible applications for his work. The first of these would be useful for naval work involving the attaching of underwater sensors or devices on ships, submarines, or underwater robots. The second is a medical application involving the creation of dressings that will stay attached when a person sweats or otherwise gets wet.

As if underwater glue wasn’t enough of a challenge, Lee also wants to create an adhesive that can be switched “on” and “off” — meaning that it could be made sticky or non-sticky at will. Doing this means figuring out how to temporarily block the DOPA molecule, thereby triggering a structural change in the adhesive.

“By making our adhesive reversible, the hope is that we’ll be able to attach something underwater by turning it on, and then if you want to detach it, you simply turn it off again,” he says. “That’s something that’s quite novel, and is what makes the project exciting.”

The Office of Naval Research funding will help Lee study the biochemistry involved with the concept. “Once we have worked out the basic mechanism, then we can focus on establishing the materials to turn this into a physical application,” he said

So, smart underwater adhesives by 2020, then? We’ll stick around to find out.

Oldest cancer in human ancestor found in 1.7-million-year-old bone

An image of the 1.7-million-year-old foot bone showing cancer.

An image of the 1.7-million-year-old foot bone showing cancer. (Patrick Randolph-Quinney (UCLAN))

An ancient foot bone from South Africa with an aggressive form of cancer on it is the oldest evidence of cancer in a human relative, researchers from South Africa reported recently.

While the researchers aren’t sure exactly what species the foot bone came from, they do know that it belonged to a bipedal hominin and that it dates to about 1.7 million years ago. The scientists also know that this type of cancer, in modern times, usually causes death if untreated.

“Due to its preservation, we don’t know whether the single cancerous foot bone belongs to an adult or child, nor whether the cancer caused the death of this individual, but we can tell this would have affected the individuals’ ability to walk or run,” Bernhard Zipfel, a scientist at the University of the Witwatersrand, said in a statement announcing the discovery. “In short, it would have been painful.”

The fossilized foot bone with cancer came from a cave complex called Swartkrans outside of Johannesburg, South Africa.

And another bone from another cave near Johannesburg, called Malapa, has given researchers an additional important finding to announce: the oldest known tumor in the human lineage. It was found in one of the vertebra of a boy from the species Australopithecus sediba, and he may have been only eight or nine years old when he died.

While the ancient foot bone had evidence of cancer in it, the tumor found in the vertebra— which is nearly two million years old—  was not cancerous.

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Before these discoveries, researchers had evidence of a noncancerous tumor in part of a rib from a Neanderthal that was 120,000 years old, and also a tumor from an Egyptian mummy that is 3000 year old. These South African findings are much, much older.

“Modern medicine tends to assume that cancers and tumours in humans are diseases caused by modern lifestyles and environments,” Edward Odes, a doctoral candidate at the University of the Witwatersrand, said in the statement. “Our studies show the origins of these diseases occurred in our ancient relatives millions of years before modern industrial societies existed.”

Both the study announcing the cancer and the tumor were published in the South African Journal of Science.

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger

Hyena meets Tasmanian devil: Ancient ‘hypercarnivore’ unearthed

An illustration showing the size comparison of Australian marsupials, including a newly described extinct species of carnivorous marsupial, Whollydooleya tomnpatrichorum.

An illustration showing the size comparison of Australian marsupials, including a newly described extinct species of carnivorous marsupial, Whollydooleya tomnpatrichorum. (Karen Black/UNSW)

A newfound extinct marsupial “hypercarnivore” from Australia — one that researchers say looked like a cross between a Tasmanian devil and a hyena — was about twice as big as Australia’s largest living flesh-eating marsupials, a new study finds.

Named Whollydooleya tomnpatrichorum, the predator is just one of a bevy of what scientists said were “strange, new animals” found in a fossil-rich site Down Under.

Although scientists have so far discovered only a single lower molar tooth of this predator, they deduced from the animal’s tooth that “almost certainly it was a very active predator with an extremely powerful bite,” said study lead author Mike Archer, a paleontologist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. [Image Gallery: 25 Amazing Ancient Beasts]

Judging from the size and shape of this fossil molar, the researchers suggest W. tomnpatrichorum was what scientists call a hypercarnivore. This term “generally refers to a predator that is larger than a cat whose diet is at least 75 percent meat,” Archer told Live Science. “These are animals that specialize in killing and eating other animals, although they probably wouldn’t pass up a juicy bit of fruit from time to time.”

The scientists estimated that this hypercarnivore weighed at least 44 to 55 lbs. (20 to 25 kilograms). In comparison, Australia’s largest living carnivorous marsupial, the Tasmanian devil, weighs only about 22 lbs. (10 kg).

A changing landscape

Back when W. tomnpatrichorum dwelledin the forests of northwest Australia during the late Miocene period, which lasted from about 12 million to 5 million years ago, Australia was beginning to dry out.

“Although Whollydooleya terrorized the drying forests around 5 million years ago, its own days were numbered,” Archer said in a statement. “While it was at least distantly related to living and recently living carnivorous marsupials such as devils, thylacines and quolls, it appears to have represented a distinctive subgroup of hypercarnivores that did not survive into the modern world. Climate change can be a merciless eliminator of the mightiest of mammals.”

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Much remains a mystery about the animals from the late Miocene of Australia; fossils of land animals from this period are extremely rare because of Australia’s increasing aridity back then, the researchers said.

“Fortunately, in 2012, we discovered a whole new fossil field that lies beyond the internationally famous Riversleigh World Heritage Area fossil deposits in northwestern Queensland,” Archer said in a statement. “This exciting new area, New Riversleigh, was detected by remote sensing using satellite data.”

Exploring Australia

This discovery “reminds us about how much of the Australian continent remains virtually unexplored,” Archer said. “Much of remote, northern Australia has yet to be explored for potentially even more exciting paleontological deposits.” [6 Extinct Animals That Could Be Brought Back to Life]

But these regions tend to be difficult to reach, Archer said. “We can’t get vehicles anywhere near this area, hence we have to use helicopters, and they’re very expensive,” he added. The scientists began to carefully explore New Riversleigh in 2013 with the help of a grant from the National Geographic Society.

The new species’ molar was one of the first fossil teeth unearthed from an especially fossil-rich site in the area, which study team member Phil Creaser discovered. This fossil-rich locale was named Whollydooley Hill in honor of Creaser’s partner, Genevieve Dooley. The species was, in turn, named after Whollydooley Hill, as well as Tom and Pat Rich, “who are well-respected research colleagues,” Archer said.

All in all, the site is yielding “the remains of a bevy of strange, new, small- to medium-sized creatures, with W. tomnpatrichorum the first one to be described,” Archer said in a statement.

One strange feature of these fossil teeth is that they were often worn down, Archer said. This suggests there was abrasive dust in the hypercarnivore’s habitat and that the plants some of these animals were eating in the late Miocene may have been tough and drought-resistant, he said.

Not alone

Previous research did unearth medium to large-size late Miocene animals in Australia, but “those deposits give almost no information about the small to medium-sized mammals that existed at the same time, which generally provide more clues about the nature of prehistoric environments and climates,” study co-author Suzanne Hand, a professor in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of New South Wales, said in a statement.

In contrast, “the small to medium-size mammals from the New Riversleigh deposits will reveal a great deal about how Australia’s inland environments and animals changed between 12 [million] and 5 million years ago, a critical time when increasing dryness ultimately led to the ice ages of the Pleistocene,” study co-author Karen Black, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of New South Wales, said in a statement.

All in all, W. tomnpatrichorum‘s large size is an early sign of the trend toward gigantism seen in many lineages of Australian marsupials, Archer said. “These new discoveries are starting to fill in a large hole in our understanding about how Australia’s land animals transformed from being small denizens of its ancient, wet forests to huge survivors on the second most arid continent on Earth,” Archer said in a statement.

The Whollydooley site also contains signs of windblown sand grains, which are absent from the older nearby Riversleigh World Heritage deposits. These windblown sand grains suggest “that at least two aspects of a drier Australia were taking shape — less water and more wind,” Archer said. “Today, windblown sand grains are a normal part of every deposit forming in almost the whole of the continent.”

In the future, “we have to raise funds to continue the remote exploration and dissolve the bone-rich blocks that we recover during these explorations,” Archer said.

The scientists detailed their findings in the July 30 issue of the journal Memoirs of Museum Victoria.

Original article on Live Science.

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