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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hero Rats Train to Detect Landmines

A giant African rat has become man's second best friend as it joins forces with the dog to sniff out landmines in Mozambique. The Belgian de-mining research group APOPO has eight of the rodents working alongside dogs and metal detectors on a minefield in Mozambique's coastal town of Vilanculos, some 650 kilometers north-east of the capital Maputo. The Gambian giant pouched rats are helping to clear a stretch of fertile land that has lain fallow since a savage civil war ended in 1992. 

Landmines are an insidious legacy of that conflict that maim and kill Mozambicans to this day, including rural children who were born long after the guns were silenced. The biggest problem in landmines is that from the moment there is a mine somewhere, a very large area becomes suspect and has to be cleared before people can go back to farming there.

Enter the Gambian giant pouched rat, the latest weapon in the war to remove more than 100 million landmines scattered in some 60 countries that kill or injure an estimated 50 people daily. Leaders of 143 countries met in Nairobi in November to plan the next steps in their global campaign. They started off in Africa because a very large chunk of mine-affected countries in the world are actually in Africa. And of these countries a lot have really dilapidated infrastructure because of that. There is a sense of priority for Africa. That is also why they looked for an animal that would thrive well in Africa and thrive it does. The rat's home range is found throughout much of Africa. It gets its name from the large pouches on the inside of its cheeks, which it uses for carrying food. Easily tamed, the animal is a favourite in the pet trade.

The idea occurred to Weegens as he realized that rats were both easy to train and had an excellent sense of smell. Combining these two would, he considered, provide a cheap way to detect unexploded mines and limited danger to human life. He founded APOPO, which is a non-profit organization, the aim of which is to train up African Giant Pouched Rats and to deploy them in the field. Not only would the rats be a cheaper alternative to mine clearance methods already in use? He figured that they would be considerably more efficient as well. An army of sniffer rats, would, it seemed save hundreds if not thousands of human lives. Not bad, considering that rats do not generally have a great press with a lot of people.

Having said that, the Giant Pouched Rats used in this project are only a distant relative of the common rat we hold in such great esteem.  It is an intelligent species and easy to train – with many new recruits easy to breed.  The female of the species can produce up to ten litters a year.  Although this is a scary fact, only one to five arrive with each litter, despite the mother having eight nipples.  In many African countries they are kept as pets but also are predominantly used as a food source.  Perhaps the mine field is a better option than the casserole dish after all.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

F/A 37 Talon: Real OR Fake?

Below are photographs of a prototype aircraft known as the Talon. Reportedly it was taken onboard the USS George Washington CVN-73 for catapult fit checks. It noted that it was not exactly still Top Secret but certainly not yet made public.  

The type design is an interesting concept shown in 'Stealth' movie, yet I don't know how practical it is. 
F/A-37 Talon Specification:
  • ·         Speed: Mach 3.5
  • ·         Top Speed: Mach 4+
  • ·         Classified Aircraft:  Super-Cruise Stealth Fighter / Bomber / Interceptor
  • ·         Flying Range: 4,000 Nautical Miles (nm)
From some information I have, Talon has a 10,000 hour life airframe and engines that require replacement only at failure or signs of trouble.

My standpoint: It was FAKE! Why???

From wing stand-point: 

  • Look at the wings while they are folded up. The control surfaces are facing forward. It would be extremely hard to control the aircraft especially since there is no way to control the yaw. I know the B-2 has no vertical stabilizers but it does have double-flapped ailerons that open and cause that half of the plane to slow, therefore turning it.
  • Although the design is fantastic, the foldable wings can prove faulty.  It should be extremely difficult to control and if it does it would be to slow to even maneuver around tracers.

From an engine stand-point:

  • 1.   The intakes seem smaller than that of the Vipers (Which just feeds the F100-PW-229) You wouldn't get enough airflow to any engine to make that much power with small inlets.
  • 2.   Intake position is poor for high Angle of Attack, AOA flight. Ever notice fighter intakes are on the sides or bottom of most combat aircraft.
  • 3.   Cannon position directly ahead of intakes. Allows gun gas ingestion problems.
  • 4.   The "spare engine" shown in the movie doesn't look like it would fit in the length / height of the available fuselage. (Then again it looks as if most known engines wouldn't fit anyhow?)
Now if a "true engine" used Methane for fuel: ?

Methane has a flash point around -300*F (-187*C). For comparison the "special" fuel needed for the SR-71 Blackbird (JP7) had a flash point of 140*F (60*C) Now how do you keep methane under control in an aircraft traveling MACH 3+ when it begins to heat?

If the F/A 37 not a Fake, Nothing can I say. AWESOME!!.  Another generation of aviation engineering was born. 

The Concept Design of The Aircraft 

Odd design cuts the cost of high-speed flying. Rolling down the runway, the little twin-engine jet looked like any rich man's weekend toy, but as it picked up speed over the California airstrip and began climbing, the craft underwent a bizarre and visually unsettling transformation. Its wing began slowly to swing around—its right half angling forward in the direction of flight, the left back.

This flying pair of scissors looked like the joke of some eccentric inventor. In fact, the 38-ft.-long aircraft is a test design that comes from the same no-nonsense people who created the space shuttle. Pursuing what NASA officials refer to as the "small A" (for the less publicized, low-budget aeronautics in their agency's name), they built the single-seat model to overcome two major obstacles in supersonic flight: high fuel consumption and thundering noise.

At high speeds, an aircraft operates most efficiently if its wings intercept the air at an angle. Trouble occurs when the plane is flying at slower, subsonic speeds: swept-back wings reduce lift and increase fuel consumption. One way designers have tried to overcome this problem is by creating "variable geometry" aircraft that can swing back their wings at higher speeds and bring them forward for reduced speeds, especially during takeoffs and landings, when the plane needs maximum lift.

But swing-wing planes are difficult to build. They require greater structural strength, weigh more and burn more fuel than a comparable fixed-wing aircraft. As far back as 1945, Robert T. Jones of NASA's Ames Research Center, who proposed the first U.S. swept-wing aircraft, saw a simple solution: a single, rigid wing that would swing on a single pivot point. The oblique wing, as he called it, would vastly simplify the structural problem. The fact that one end of the wing would be pointing forward might look odd, but it was, he realized, aerodynamically unimportant. In high-speed flight, what matters is the angle at which the wing meets the onrushing air.


U.S. was seriously considering construction of a large SST, a commercial supersonic transport, and wind-tunnel tests confirmed that the oblique wing should do the things he claimed it could. At supersonic speeds conventional swept-back wings create noticeable pressure on each other, like two motorboats speeding side by side through the water and slamming waves into each other's hulls. But this mutual interference is reduced when one boat pulls ahead of the other. Despite raised eyebrows at the plane's odd appearance and fears that the forward wing might break off at high speed, NASA finally built a test version at a bargain basement tab of $218,000, and has found it performs up to expectations.

Oblique wing is heading into an uncertain future, nevertheless. A full-scale plane big enough to carry 150 passengers should be twice as fuel efficient as the 100-passenger Concorde. But its maximum speed of 1 ½ times the speed of sound (Mach 1.5) would be 25% less than the Anglo-French craft's Mach 2.04. A likelier role for a scissor plane might be as a military patrol craft whose pivoting wing would allow both long flights and the bursts of speed needed for hot pursuit. NASA thinks the flying scissors also has a role as a cost-cutting corporate jet.

Another top secret is "Project Aurora"

Project Aurora is about a high-speed, low altitude stealth bomber, not a single-pilot stealth fighter. I will come with the article later.