Currently, the largest and most powerful helicopter to have ever entered production is the gargantuan Mi-26 'Halo' of Russian origin, of which many still serve in governmental and commercial roles around the globe. After decades of the 'Halo' being on top, a new record holder is now said to be on the way, with Russia and China joining forces to make it happen.
Cockpit of the highly modernized Mi-26T2, currently the most powerful and largest helicopter in the world.
This new super-heavy lift class chopper was originally thought to be an outgrowth of the existing, all-weather capable and highly modernized Mi-26T2, but now it seems that it will only borrow a few elements from it, and will overwhelmingly be a 'clean sheet' design.
The fresh design approach is due to China's eye popping requirements. According to Russia, they are said to include almost twice the lifting capacity of the already freakishly powerful and huge Mi-26. That would put the new chopper's lifting ability at somewhere around 80,000lbs! In comparison, the CH-53K 'King Stallion,' America's latest heavy lift design, has a total gross weight just slightly above that figure at 88,000lbs.
You heard that right, this new Russian-Chinese super chopper is aiming to be able to lift roughly the equivalent of America's newest heavy-lift chopper in its entirety, at its maximum gross weight. That is one powerful helicopter.
Originally, this new Russian-Chinese design was thought to be an outgrowth of the Mi-26T2, although this is now inaccurate as Chinese performance demands are far outside any existing designs' theoretical capabilities.
The Mi-26 can already haul vehicles that are larger than what can fit even into a C-130 Hercules, including everything from armored personnel carriers to dump trucks. Yet China has had a uniquely large demand for heavy under-slung cargo carrying ability, for both construction and logistical purposes and there has been talk for the last decade or two about how a super-heavy lift helicopter could change the way some structures are built. This is especially true for modular vertical oriented structures that are intended to be built fast and replicated quickly, an area of architecture and construction that China continues to be the leader in.
Just part of the massive cargo hold of the Mi-26T2. The aircraft has been nicknamed the 'flying office building' for a reason.
According to Russian reports, multiple Chinese agencies are part of this new mega-chopper procurement program, including those that deal with emergency management and response. This makes some sense as during a natural disaster, or even a time of conflict, moving massive amounts of supplies quickly will be all that much more critical considering China's massive population.
Mi-26 lifting a stricken CH-47 in Afghanistan:
The only other helicopter ever flown that could lift anything in the weight class that China is looking for was also of Russian origin: the colossal Mil V-12. Only two prototypes were built and test flown in the late 1960s, and the design used a unique parallel/traverse rotor, quad-engine layout. At first, the aircraft almost tore itself apart during testing, but later, the second prototype was seen widely as a successful, although uneconomic design.
The V-12 was built to haul close to close to 100k lbs, although normal missions were thought to see the super-chopper carry about 85,000lbs, with lighter loads being carried over increasingly longer distances.
The V-12 was never put into series production because its intended mission, to deploy ballistic missiles around the vastness of the Russian countryside, was not a priority by the time the design was mature. It is not clear if Russia plans on reviving similar design elements of the V12 program to meet China's high, or should I say heavy, vertical lift aspirations.
A cost has not been publicly assigned to the program, nor has there been word regarding what percentage Russia will share in the costs of developing such an exotic machine. Regardless of the public absence of some details, Russia says this new design requirements will be locked by the first quarter of 2015.
Ever since the dawn of cloning technology, people have dreamed about bringing an extinct species back to life, and now a South Korean company is claiming it could bring back the woolly mammoth in a few decades’ time, according to Live Science reporter Tia Ghose.
Insung Hwang, a geneticist at the South Korean company Sooam, said the discovery of a mostly-intact mammoth in 2013 has opened the door to bringing the species back.
“We’re trying hard to make this possible within our generation,” he said recently, reports Tristan Kirk of The Telegraph.
However, just because science has the capability to bring back a woolly mammoth doesn’t mean we should – according to some scientists concerned about the ethics of such a Frankenstein-esque procedure.
Tori Herridge, a paleobiologist and mammoth specialist at the Natural History Museum in London, told Kirk that a female elephant would have to act as a surrogate mother and the birthing process isn’t without its dangers for the elephant. Also, once the mammoth is born – it could potentially live out a lonely captive existence in a world it may not be evolved to deal with.
“The most fundamental step and ethical concern with this kind of procedure is that you need to have an Asian elephant surrogate mum at some point,” Herridge told the telegraph reporter. “Cloning a mammoth will require you to experiment on probably many, many Asian elephants.”
“I don’t think they are worth it – the reasons just aren’t there,” she added.
The 2013 mammoth was found in a remote part of Siberia, Ghose reports. Upon discovery and inspection, the animal carcass began to ooze a deep red liquid thought to be mammoth blood. The carcass was apparently so well-preserved – one scientist actually took a bite out of its meat.
The specimen, dubbed Buttercup, was eventually transferred to a Russian research center, where it was inspected and eventually refrozen to prevent decomposition. Tests would later reveal that blood cells in the red liquid were broken, but still held hemoglobin – an iron-rich chemical that stores oxygen. Researchers haven’t revealed the presence of a complete mammoth genome, meaning cloning the animal is still a theory for now.
Scientists suspect that mammoths were social creatures and therefore cloning one or two might be seen as placing these animals into an unnatural and cruel existence.
“There is no good reason to clone mammoths and many reasons not to, including forcing elephants to carry young,” Jack Ashby, the manager of Grant Museum of Zoology at University College London, recently posted on Twitter.
Scientists from the South Korean company have said that their method would take a long time to work out based on the current state of affairs – leaving plenty of time for the debate over cloning extinct species to rage on.
Sir Ian Wilmut, the Edinburgh-based professor who cloned the world’s first animal, said bringing back the woolly mammoth would be worth the effort.
“I think it should be done as long as we can provide great care for the animal,” he said last year. “If there are reasonable prospects of them being healthy, we should do it. We can learn a lot about them.”
The smallest, portable version of rHealth (Image: DNA Medical Institute)
US scientists have created a home device that replicates hundreds of complex and expensive lab tests by analyzing just one drop of blood. The constant monitoring offered by the device – which needs little training to use – could save millions of lives.
“There are two billion people on Earth who have no access to ready medical care. We set out to fix that – by developing a device that allows you to diagnose yourself no matter where you are,” said Eugene Chan, who leads the team at DNA Medical Institute, which has received grants from NASA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The rHEALTH (Reusable Handheld Electrolyte and Lab Technology for Humans) device operates using nano sensors that can measure everything from the presence of HIV or other viruses in the bloodstream, to the level of vitamins or calcium or cholesterol, with the results arriving within minutes.
It also comes with a small patch that monitors heart rate, body temperature, and other indicators, with the information all being pooled in a central unit, which comes in three sizes – one resembling a flask, to be used on the move, a walkie-talkie-sized unit for home testers, and a home-blender-like contraption for labs.
Image: DNA Medical Institute
“It’s a symphony of innovations, but we’ve pushed all of them individually to create the device,” Chan told Wired.
“The rHEALTH technology is highly sensitive, quantitative, and capable of meeting the FDA’s bar for sophistication, while still being geared for consumers.”
Not only are the tests cumbersome and expensive to do separately, but having so much data in the same place means that rHEALTH is a diagnostic device.
After submitting the data – at any time, within the comfort of a person's own house – the screen simply flashes up with suggestions for what is potentially wrong with the patient, which means they immediately know whether they need to call a doctor.
While the makers say their product will help most in developing countries – where laboratories are few and inaccessible – they could also become accepted, and even standard, in the West.
For example, according to Cancer Research, 50,000 people in the UK die needlessly from cancer each year, due to late diagnosis. An early abnormal blood test could prompt a visit to a doctor – not to mention the benefits of blood pressure, sugar, and cholesterol tests for diagnosing the cardiovascular diseases that remain the biggest killers.
If the devices become ubiquitous, Chan believes they could create a huge pool of health data, allowing health providers to allocate resources more efficiently, and giving researchers a giant, real-time, detailed health database for study.
Chan’s team has just been awarded the top $525,000 prize for the annual Nokia Sensing X challenge, which is pushing inventors to harvest the power of portable devices – including phones, bracelets, and cameras – to do more than the basic heart rate and distance monitoring that they are capable of now.
The home version of rHEALTH (Image: DNA Medical Institute)
The prizes are building up to a $10 million Tricorder Prize in 2016, which will be awarded to the makers of a single device – modeled after the Star Trek gadget – that will be able to simultaneously diagnose 15 key conditions. DNA Medical Institute believes that it is almost there with rHEALTH, which is constantly adding new diagnostic capabilities.
But the Holy Grail remains the commercialization of the project.
Chan says his team can already ship any researchers their own device within weeks, but before being on the shelves, it must receive FDA approval, after a battery of expensive lab trials – though as part of its original proposed role as the NASA onboard diagnostic device, rHEALTH has already been tested in reduced gravity. Chan is confident the tester will gain approval, and says his team is currently looking for manufacturers to scale-up production.