Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Here Are Some Weird Facts About Pooping in Space

Gemini 5 was NASA's first real long-duration mission. In August of 1965, Gordon Cooper and Pete Conrad spent eight days in orbit testing their spacecraft's fuel cells to make sure this new technology was up for the minimum length of a trip to the Moon. Between the two astronauts, they had four bowel movements during the flight. It wasn't pretty, and it didn't get prettier throughout the Apollo era.

Al Shepard sealed in Freedom 7


Waste management was a bit of an afterthought when the space age started. Waiting for his Redstone to launch on May 5, 1961, astronaut Al Shepard famously (or perhaps infamously) wet himself. The mission was slated to last just fifteen minutes, so mission planners reasoned he would certainly be able to hold it for a quarter of an hour. The problem NASA hadn't foreseen was that Shepard was sealed in his Freedom 7 capsule for hours before the short flight. With no urine collection system on board and no way to get him out of the spacecraft without significantly delaying the launch, Shepard was forced to urinate in his suit. He lay in his waste until the suit's cooling system evaporated the liquid.

After Freedom 7, urine collection improved. The astronauts could use simple bags to store the waste and, being a liquid, it was easy to jettison from the side of the spacecraft. Fecal containment was another matter.

The Gemini missions were the first missions long enough that astronauts would need to defecate, in spite of low-residue diets designed to minimize bowel movements. The fecal containment system, properly called a defecation device, was a rudimentary solution to this need. It was a cylindrical bag about a foot long with a 1.5-inch opening on the end covered in an adhesive. The bag came with wipe and a material that would kill bacteria and neutralize odors when added to the waste. This was an important part of the system since there was no provision to jettison solid waste. The astronauts had to store their filled defecation devices on board the spacecraft for the duration of the flight. The stowing problem was actually the biggest challenge on Gemini 5.

But there were others. We don't think about it on Earth, but gravity plays a part in defecation, namely in separating the waste from the one producing said waste. In space, everything is falling at the same rate giving the impression of floating, so waste that would fall away from the buttocks on Earth doesn't separate from the buttocks in space. To circumvent this problem, NASA added a little extension in the defecation device to help the astronauts with the separation issue. The extra material gave them a clean way to manually flick waste away from their bums.

Adding to the indignity of the act, the physical act of defecating in a bag was difficult. On Gemini flights, the defecating astronaut couldn't give his companion too much distance from the bowel movement; the spacecraft was about the size of the front seat of a small car. On Apollo missions, the astronaut needing to move his bowels would float his way into one corner while the other two men would move as far away as possible. He'd typically strip completely nude, removing rings and everything. Water was limited on board so washing fecal matter from clothing was impossible. Then he'd stick the adhesive opening to his naked buttocks and use the facilities. The whole exercise from stripping down to redressing could take more than an hour.

The Apollo fecal containment system

National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

And it didn't always go according to plan. Rogue waste terrorized Apollo 10 on their trip back from the Moon.

LMP Gene Cernan: Where did that come from?

CDR Tom Stafford: Give me a napkin quick. There's a turd floating through the air.

CMP John Young: I didn't do it. It ain't one of mine.

LMP Cernan: I don't think it's one of mine.

CDR Stafford: Mine was a little more sticky than that. Throw that away.

CMP Young: God almighty.

All three: (Laughter)

Of course, being on the Moon doing an EVA meant an astronaut couldn't strip down to defecate in a bag. During lunar sojourns, the astronauts wore a fecal containment subsystem as part of the personal hygiene equipment. It was, in essence, a diaper. Similarly, spacewalking astronauts on shuttle missions and aboard the International Space Station can't exactly strip down to go. So they wear what NASA calls the maximum absorbency garment, which is also basically a diaper. But astronauts try not to use it, preferring to use an actual toilet.

Al Shepard's Moon diaper

National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

With the dawn of the shuttle era, fecal disposal became much more sophisticated and more complicated. The first space toilet used a slinging mechanism to separate solid from liquid waste, the former being vacuum-frozen and stored while the former was jettisoned. And because this toilet was meant for astronauts of different shapes and sizes, NASA had to take all kinds of things into consideration designing these modern facilities.

One 1973 study for a space toilet considered the effects of pubic hair and labia in cleanly separating urine from female astronauts: "The residual urine remaining on the female vulva area with the 40 ft/sec air velocity will be removed by the use of tissue wipes. The residual will be relatively easy to wipe with a tissue because the pubic hair and the recess of the labial folds act to contain the small amount of residual in the area. The action of the pubic hair in containing the residual precludes any necessity to shave the pubic area." The same attention to detail went into the diapers. Technicians had to consider the average growth rate of pubic hair and the relative placement of genitals between men and women in creating a unisex diaper.

As sophisticated as modern space facilities are, bags are still on board the space station just in case the toilets break. Because they can break. On STS-1, the very first shuttle mission, a problem with the toilet left freeze-dried fecal material floating through the spacecraft at the end of the mission. Not the best way to come home from orbit, eh?

Sources: Swider, Waste Collection Subsystem Development; NASA, Habitability Data Handbook Volume 6 Personal Hygiene; Charlie Duke "Moonwalker"; Apollo 10 transcript; Gemini VII mission report; Smithsonian; Megan Gannon on; Stapleton et al, Development of a Universal Waste Management System.

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We Can Now Sequence A Whole Human Genome In 26 Hours

A new genomic data analysis technology can perform whole genome sequencing and successfully diagnose critically-ill newborns in 26 hours.

Genetic diseases are the leading cause of death for infants in the United States. Many doctors treating these infants rely on whole-genome sequencing to target the exact cause of the illness, and hopefully treat the disease in time. However, even the fastest sequencing technique till now has taken about 50 hours to complete, and many severely ill infants simply can't wait that long.

Researchers at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO, and the biotech company Edico Genome--the same group that developed the original 50-hour test--have managed to cut that time almost in half by using a new device that performs whole genome sequencing in 26 hours--the fastest sequencing technique to date. Their results were published Tuesday in the journal Genome Medicine.

While genome sequencing could help diagnose any individual with an unknown genetic disease, its rapid results are critically important for infants, as their symptoms are relatively vague--often just a fever, weight loss, or a cough--and they don't yet have the ability to communicate the pain they feel. Whole genome sequencing can speak for that infant.

"In some babies, we have minutes or hours. If a baby's blood sugar is low, basically you are counting the number of minutes without sugar," said Stephen Kingsmore, the lead author of the study and the researcher who led the development of the technique, "In those cases, any delays can result in disease complications."

The new technique has yet to be used in a hospital setting, but has been tested on the genomic data of infants who were previously treated via the 50-hour sequencing technique. The team tested 35 infants--all of whom were critically ill, less than four months old, and had a suspected but undiagnosed genetic disease. The new technique gave a correct diagnosis in 57 percent of the infants. Kingsmore and his team hope this faster sequencing technique could help in two ways: to diagnose patients more rapidly and be much more scalable so that it can be implemented in more hospitals and thus reach and help more patients--something the previous technique wasn't able to do.

The slower, 50-hour sequencing technique was significantly more costly (three million dollars versus $6,500 with the new technique), both because of the technology it used and the number of technicians needed to run and analyze the data. In order to significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to complete, the researchers engineered an entire hardware system called DRAGEN, whose sole function is genome sequencing. DRAGEN is the first processor designed for genomic applications only and speeds up the data analysis from 22.5 hours to 41 minutes. "It's a processor that is developed specifically for genomic analysis, and is something that makes it significantly better than any software based solution," said Pieter van Rooyen, the CEO of Edico Genome.

They also employed faster software systems that were able to reduce the time even further including an ultra-rapid run mode on their sequencing instrument which saved five hours, an optimized software program that detects mutations in gene sequences, which saved two hours, and a software program called VIKING that translates the complex genomic data into clinical information that any pediatrician, neonatologist, or other doctor who hasn't had specialized training in reading genomic data can use, saving another three hours. Using DRAGEN and its accompanying software, both Kingsmore and van Rooyan think this technique could be implemented in other hospitals to help more doctors diagnose patients with genetic diseases more quickly.

Kingsmore points out that "genome testing is still in its infancy," and there aren't enough doctors today who are trained in interpreting genomic data. It may take another generation of doctors who will learn this in school, so having the data given to the treating physician in a clinically usable format is crucial--especially in a neonatal intensive care unit where critical decisions must be made in a fastidious manner.

Edico Genome

The DRAGEN hardware system for whole genome sequencing is the first processor designed for genomic applications.

"At the end of the day, we have to deliver the information to generalist physicians in a way that they can grab it and use it," Kingsmore said.

While the speed is crucial for diagnosing infants, Kingsmore thinks the relative ease of reading the genetic information could also have implications in treating cancer as part of the precision medicine initiative, which looks at cancer as a genetic disease and treats patients by using their unique genetic makeup and biological milieu.

Over the next three months, Kingsmore and his colleagues hope to test the new technique in a clinical setting at Rady's Children's Hospital in San Diego, where Kingsmore is now the chief executive officer of the Pediatric Genomics and Systems Medicine Institute within the hospital, as well as at Children's Mercy in Kansas City. In the future, his team, in conjunction with Edico Genome, hope to further address readability by incorporating artificial intelligence into their system--which would interpret and analyze the results--so that physicians will be able to spend less time interpreting data and more time treating patients.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

iPhone 6s Uses Different-Sized A9 Chips From Samsung and TSMC

Ahead of the launch of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, there were rumors suggesting both TSMC and Samsung were developing Apple's A9 chip for the device. There was some confusion over how the split would work, because the two companies used different technologies - TSMC was rumored to be using a 16-nanometer process while Samsung used a 14-nanometer process.

Chipworks has now confirmed via several iPhone 6s teardowns that the new devices do indeed contain application processors from both Samsung and TSMC. Comparatively, the die size of the Samsung processor is smaller than the die size of the TSMC processor.

The APL0898 chip was developed by Samsung and measures in at 96 square millimeters, while the APL1022 chip manufactured by TSMC measures in at 104.5 square millimeters. Chipworks suggests Apple's decision to use processors from both companies points towards "major sourcing problems," but over the last few years, Apple has opted to diversify its supply chain to prevent manufacturing hurdles that can potentially lead to delays.

It is not yet clear how the size difference between the chips will affect the performance of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, but Chipworks plans to benchmark each of the processors to figure out whether iPhones equipped with Samsung chips and those equipped with TSMC chips perform differently.

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Six Russian Su-34 Fullback bomber have just arrived in Syria. And this is the route they have likely flown to get there.

Tu-154 FR24

The Russian military build up continues as six Su-34 Fullback attack planes arrive in Syria.

Six Sukhoi Su-34 aircraft have eventually arrived at Latakia to join the Russian contingent already there.

Images allegedly shot around the al-Assad International Airport clearly show one Russian Fullback about to land at the airbase in western Syria where 28 Russian aircraft have arrived last week.

@ain92ru @pfc_joker @oryxspioenkop They arrived!

— LuftwaffeAS (@LuftwaffeAS) 28 Settembre 2015

One of the photos taken from the ground shows the six aircraft trailing what seems to be an airliner over Idlib: the larger plane is probably a Russian Air Force Tu-154.

Said to be an airliner/transporter accompanied with 6 fighters crossing over Hama country side — LuftwaffeAS (@LuftwaffeAS) 28 Settembre 2015

Interestingly, a Russian Air Force Tu-154 using callsign RFF7085 could be tracked online on Flightradar24 during its flight to Latakia on Sept. 28, likely exposing the route followed by the six Su-34s trailing their accompanying Tu-154.

As the below image shows, the aircraft flew in international airspace over the Caspian Sea, to Iran and entered Syrian airspace after flying over northern Iraq: did the Su-34s have all the required diplomatic clearances to fly north of Baghdad or did they simply "sneak" into Syria by hiding under the cover of the transport plane?

Hard to say.

Last week, US officials said that the first 28 Russian combat planes hid under the radar signature on the larger transport aircraft, in an attempt to avoid detection but there are chances that the flights had all the required clearances from the Iraqi Air Traffic Control agencies and were conducted as a standard long-range ferry flight: one tanker/airlifter, using radio and transponder, supporting multiple fast jets.

Tu-154 FR24


H/T to @LuftwaffeAS and @obretix. Image credit:

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

iPhone 6S has twice as much RAM as iPhone 6, teardown confirms

Whenever Apple announces a new iPhone, there are certain things the company keeps secret for one reason or another. RAM is one of those things — year after year, Apple simply refuses to officially comment on how much memory its phones have to work with. Thankfully, all it takes is an iPhone and a few tools to see exactly what changes Apple has made.

The first teardowns are in, and now we can see what little secrets lie within the iPhone 6S. Let's answer that RAM question first: as rumored, the 6S has 2GB of RAM, according to iFixit's teardown. That's twice as much as the iPhone 6, and this represents the first time that Apple has increased the iPhone's memory since the iPhone 5, which came out in 2012. The RAM is also faster than before...

Continue reading…

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Passenger Car Aerodynamics

When we think of computing the external aerodynamics on a passenger car, we often assume a super-computer and months of grid generation are necessary for the task. However, Stallion 3D with HIST (Hanley Innovations Surface Treatment) can accomplish the task on your ordinary Windows Laptop or PC running 7, 8 or 10.

DrivAer model solution using Stallion 3D - RANS solver.

No Simplifications

Stallion 3D makes no simplification in the physics of the problem. Instead, it utilizes the computation power that is hidden in your personal computer (64 bit & multi-cores technologies). The software simultaneously solves seven unsteady nonlinear partial differential equations on your PC. Five of these equations (the Reynolds Averaged Navier-Stokes, RANS) ensure conservation of mass, momentum and energy for a compressible fluid. Two additional equations captures the dynamics of a turbulent flow field.

Actual Geometry Analysis

Stallion 3D does not require a grid from the user because grid generation is automatic. Also, it is not necessary to defeature the geometry. This saves weeks or even months in the solution of automobile aerodynamics problems.  The unique CFD technique employed by Stallion 3D gives users a tremendous advantage over other methods because they can analyze more cases in a shorter period of time.

The Results

The following video shows how Stallion 3D solves a difficult problem. In the problem, the software accurately computes the drag on a passenger car. Accurate computations of drag is necessary for sizing engines, fuel systems and designing fuel efficient vehicles.

More information can be found at or telephone us at (352) 240-3658.

Thanks for reading.
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The iPhone 6S Plus bend test you've been waiting for


This time last year, Apple geeks were losing their minds over #BendGate. (As a refresher: #BendGate was when everyone freaked out over reports that the iPhone 6 Plus could bend if a user sat down with the phone in his or her back pocket.)

Fast forward to September 2015, when the new 6S Plus became available. Its release begs the question: Will it bend?

YouTube channel uBreakiFix put the 6S Plus to the test with 100 pounds of pressure.

More about Viral Videos, Gadgets, Iphone, Tech, and Watercooler
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Latest iPhone screen bypass is tougher than the Contra code

Apple has just rolled out iOS 9.1, and it unfortunately has a flaw in tow that gives nosy techies a way to bypass your lock screen -- yet again. YouTube user videosdebarraquito posted a recording of how the hack is carried out, as you can see below...
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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Scientists remove first seeds from ‘doomsday’ Arctic seed vault. Why? War in Syria.

The Global Seed Vault in Norway. REUTERS

The ongoing war in Syria has led researchers to make the first withdrawal of seeds from a "doomsday" vault in an Arctic mountainside, to protect global food supplies.

The Crop Trust reports that the newly-removed seeds, which include samples of wheat, barley and grasses suited to dry regions, were requested by researchers elsewhere in the Middle East to replace seeds in a gene bank near the Syrian city of Aleppo which was damaged by the conflict.

"This diversity provides our scientists, breeders and farmers the raw material needed to improve agriculture to overcome the challenges of climatic changes, population growth, pests, and diseases," the researchers say.

[caption id="attachment_423028" align="alignnone" width="937"]The International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas, a research field station and gene bank about 20 miles south of war-torn Aleppo, Syria. Photo: ICARDA The International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas, research field station and gene bank in Syria.[/caption]

PRI did an amazing profile of the Aleppo seed bank earlier this year. You can listen or read here.

"We're very lucky that [the rebels] realize the importance of conserving biodiversity; it's one of the activities that has never been interrupted in Aleppo," Ahmed Amri of the Syrian seed bank told the radio news network a few months ago.

"But we cannot predict how each day will be."

[caption id="attachment_423038" align="alignnone" width="800"]Photo: The Crop Trust Photo: The Crop Trust[/caption]

From Reuters' coverage:

"Protecting the world's biodiversity in this manner is precisely the purpose of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault," said Brian Lainoff, a spokesman for the Crop Trust, which runs the underground storage on a Norwegian island 1,300 km (800 miles) from the North Pole.

The vault, which opened on the Svalbard archipelago in 2008, is designed to protect crop seeds - such as beans, rice and wheat - against the worst cataclysms of nuclear war or disease.

It has more than 860,000 samples, from almost all nations. Even if the power were to fail, the vault would stay frozen and sealed for at least 200 years.

Their seed bank in Aleppo miraculously managed to keep functioning, partly, until now. The Syrian location included a cold storage, despite the ongoing war. But the Aleppo bank was unable able to perform its duty as a hub where seeds could be grown and distributed to other nations, primarily in the Middle East.

[caption id="attachment_423035" align="alignnone" width="1920"]The Svalbard Svalbard "doomsday vault." Image: The Crop Trust[/caption] More from The Crop Trust's news release:

The vault was established in 2008, and is built to survive rising sea levels, power outages and other calamities that could affect the seeds. Its main storage area is kept well below freezing to preserve the contents, and it can hold 4.5 million varieties.

"There are seeds in the vault that have originated from nearly if not every single country," Lainoff says. "It really is kind of the only example of true international cooperation. There's seeds sitting on the same shelf from North Korea and South Korea, and they get along just fine up there."

Around 500 seeds of each variety are contained within the vault, according to Lainoff, and the different varieties are key to genetic resistance against potential disease that could affect the world's major crops.

What has caused the first withdrawal from the global vault is man-made, however, as fighting between the Syrian government and rebel groups, as well attacks from Islamic State militants, have devastated the country. The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands and forced more than 4 million people to become refugees.

ICARDA managed to move its headquarters from Syria in the early days of the war, while some of its workers remained at the gene bank in Aleppo in an attempt to save the collection. The organization managed to duplicate 80 percent of its collection in Svalbard as of March this year, where the seeds were safely stored along with others from around the world.

In food security, as with computer security, redundancy is key. How amazing does the Svalbard seed vault look? I want to go there.


read more "Scientists remove first seeds from ‘doomsday’ Arctic seed vault. Why? War in Syria."

No big deal, just a plane landing in the middle of this intersection


YouTube uploader CalicoStrike managed to capture some pretty astounding dash-cam footage of a Piper Cherokee plane landing in the middle of a busy street.

During a touch-and-go exercise between an Orange Coast College student pilot and instructor, the plane's engine had apparently shut off, forcing the student to make an emergency landing in the middle of an intersection on Red Hill Avenue

Fortunately, nobody was injured

And fortunately, the pilot did not run a red light.

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