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Two ‘extinct’ snakes spotted swimming off Australia’s coast

(Grant Griffin, W.A. Dept. Parks and Wildlife)

(Grant Griffin, W.A. Dept. Parks and Wildlife)

Scientists feared the last of Australia’s short-nosed sea snakes died about 15 years ago, which makes this new sighting doubly auspicious: A wildlife official snapped a photo of not one but two of the snakes swimming off the western coast—and they were making googly eyes at each other.

“What is even more exciting is that they were courting, suggesting that they are members of a breeding population,” says researcher Blanche D’Anastasi of James Cook University in a press release.

No such snake had been spotted since the species disappeared from its habitat at Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea more than a decade ago. Scientists at JCU confirmed that the photos, taken at Ningaloo Reef, captured images of the sea snakes in the journal Biological Conservation.

“We were blown away, these potentially extinct snakes were there in plain sight, living on one of Australia’s natural icons,” says D’Anastasi. The journal article had another piece of good news: A decent population of another species, called the rare leaf-scaled sea snake, was spotted in Shark Bay, more than 1,000 miles from the snakes’ only previously known habitat, notes Gizmodo.

Both species are officially listed as critically endangered. The good news, however, was tempered with the bad. Generally speaking, sea snakes are on the decline in Western Australia, and the reason “remains unexplained.” (Scientists, do however, have a pretty good idea about why snakes lost their legs.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: 2 ‘Extinct’ Snakes Found Swimming Happily

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Company unveils airplane design with seats on top of aircraft

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Sit high above it all in a transparent canopy that sits on top of the airplane. (Windspeed Technologies)

We’ve seen some pretty scary airplane seat designs.

From unwieldy bicycle-seat triangles to split level stackers, most design firms are just looking for new ways to cram more and more passengers into the cabin.

But a new design from Washington-based firm Windspeed Technologies is really a breath of fresh air.

Introducing the SkyDeck— a patent-pending seat design that aims to give a few lucky passengers a 360 degree view of the surrounding clouds by sitting them on top of the plane in a fully transparent bubble.

Unlike other seat design models, the SkyDeck is designed to be incorporated into existing types of aircraft and would cost between $8 million to $25 million to install depending on the type of plane.

Experience 360 views in Windspeed’s latest video animation.

“Current in-flight entertainment offerings have not changed much over the decades. We wanted to come up with a product that would provide a higher level of entertainment to reduce the boredom of long flights,” says Windspeed of the new design.

The canopy itself will be comprised of “the same high strength proprietary material as those used on supersonic fighter jets” and will be able to withstand a variety of hits including bird strikes. An aerodynamic “teardrop” shape of the canopy will help reduce the drag factor while anti-condensation film will be applied to stop it fogging up and a UV-protection coating will passengers from burning up inside the transparent vestibule.

Guests can access the SkyDeck via a Jetsons-era looking elevator chute or take stairs from the main level galley.

Though an airline has yes to put in an order for a SkyDeck, the company says it would take just 18 months from order date until the plane is up and running with its seats in the clouds.

 

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F-35A Lightning II fighter gets new gun

Ultra advanced stealth, fighter jet speed … and now the military’s F-35 has a new weapon.

The F-35 Lightning II is a truly fifth-generation fighter jet. This advanced powerful single-seat and single-engine fighter is designed to be capable of a range of missions with just one aircraft.

Test pilot Maj. Charles “Flak” Trickey recently fired the F35A’s internal Gun Airborne Unit -22/A 25mm Gatling gun system in three airborne gunfire bursts. A success, this first aerial gun test was conducted out at the China Lake, Calif., test range on Oct. 30 2015.

Raw video of first aerial gun test above the China Lake, California, test range

Related: 11 stunning F-22 fighter jet images

This is a key step in certifying the gun for use in the F-35A and the aircraft is on track to enter initial operational capability with the U.S. Air Force next year.

The F-35 is the result of collaboration between prime contractor Lockheed Martin and principal partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems.

Next-Gen Air Dominance

Stealth was built into this aircraft from the very start. The F-35 also possesses other fifth-generation features like integrated avionics, sensor fusion and incredibly powerful sensor packages.

The Pratt & Whitney F135 propulsion system gives the aircraft phenomenal power – it is able to reach speeds of over 1199 mph.

With this new gun, pilots will have the ability to engage air-to-ground and air-to-air targets. The 25mm gun is embedded into the F-35A’s left wing in a way that keeps the aircraft stealthy.

Over the next year, testing will continue with the gun integrated into the fighter’s sensor fusion software. The software will provide targeting data to the pilot through the pilot’s state of the art helmet-mounted display.

Related: 11 amazing A-10 Warthog images

Even the helmets on this aircraft are next generation. Pilots wearing them can see through the aircraft and the heads up display provides unprecedented data. Each pilot gets a personalized version.

Rather than deploy different aircraft specializing in different things, the F-35 can tackle a range of tasks by itself. Highly versatile, the F-35 can handle missions like air-to-air combat, electronic attack, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and air-to-ground strikes.

Stealth

The F-35 gives pilots the ability to penetrate deep into enemy areas without being detected. The advanced materials and airframe design mean that F-35s can evade radars that other fighters cannot. The plane can get through highly defended air spaces without ever being detected and then clear the way for U.S. forces.

Using weapons like precision-guided munitions and air-to-air radar-guided missiles, the pilots can engage long-range ground targets without being detected and tracked by the enemy.

Combat

When faced with enemy fighter aircraft, the F-35s have a number of advantages. For starters, the F-35 pilots will be able to detect the enemy aircraft long before they are detected themselves. In aerial combat, this means the F-35 can take lethal action first. The fighter’s weapons systems will also give it a big advantage over enemy aircraft.

Related: What you need to know about the new U.S. Air Force stealth bomber

Pilots can leverage the aircraft’s advanced electronic warfare abilities to

locate and track enemy forces. To reach highly protected targets, pilots can jam enemy radars and disrupt attacks on their aircraft using the advanced avionics system.

In an F-35, pilots have 360-degree real time battlespace data. The sensor package is state-of-the-art and any data the sensors collect can be securely shared with commanders all over the world, giving them a more complete picture of operations as they unfold.

The aircraft has a core processor that can perform a mind-blowing 400 billion operations per second.

This helps enable next-gen electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, but also helps to recommend the next target to attack and the best weapon to use.

Replacing Classic Fighters

Over the years, U.S. fighter fleets have been aging and becoming smaller.

There are three variants of the F-35, all of which will be replacing military aircraft. F-35A takes off and lands conventionally. The F-35B is capable of short-take off and vertical-landing and the F-35C is carrier-based.

For the U.S. Air Force, the F-35 variants will replace the A-10 Thunderbolt II and F-16 Fighting Falcon. For the U.S. Navy, they will replace the F/A-18 Hornet. The U.S. Marine Corps will be replacing the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier with F-35s.

Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at wargames@foxnews.com or follow her on Twitter@Allison_Barrie.

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Falcon Shield launches electronic attacks to take control of drones

Artist's impression. (Credit: Credit Finmeccanica-Selex)

Artist’s impression. (Credit: Credit Finmeccanica-Selex)

A new technology unleashes electronic attacks on enemy drones, enslaving them to its will.

Made by Finmeccanica-Selex ES, the Falcon Shield technology lets the good guys gain control of drones and land them safely.

Related: Anti-drone shoulder rifle lets police take control of UAVs with targeted radio pulses

Recently unveiled, Falcon Shield finds, fixes, tracks, identifies and defeats drones. Mini-drones are becoming a growing security concern, as evidenced by the quadcopter drone that crashed onto the White House grounds earlier this year.

The threat

Small-sized drones are cheap, widely commercially available, simple to assemble and easy to fly. These micro drones can be hard to detect and stop and could be used to attack targets by carrying threats like explosives or chemical and biological weapons.

The Falcon Shield is an adaptable system that can be deployed to protect VIPs. It could also be used to protect military convoys and patrols. Falcon Shield doesn’t need to be at a fixed location, and different versions of the technology can be carried by an individual or a vehicle.

On a much larger scale, Falcon Shield can be used to protect a military base or a skyscraper that acts as headquarters for a big corporation.

Related: The laser cannon that kills drones

Falcon Shield monitors an assigned area to detect potential threats and protect a specified location by going through five stages of engagement.

In the first stage, Falcon Shield locates both the drone threat and the ground station controlling it. The tech then uses this data to guide the next stage. To “fix” the target, radar and electronic monitoring work together with an electro-optical infrared camera.

The camera and radar then track and identify the threat. In the final phase, Falcon Shield focuses on defeating the drone. When Falcon defeats a drone it doesn’t just jam it. It seizes control of the drone.

How the technology takes control of the drones is shrouded in secrecy … but take control it does.  Say a micro drone is targeting a VIP, for example, the good guys can fly it away from the target. They can force it to land at a safe location where a team can investigate and fully neutralize the threat.

Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at wargames@foxnews.com or follow her on Twitter@Allison_Barrie.

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Futuristic warship design takes shape

What will warships look like in three decades? Meet the next-generation HMS Dreadnought.

The British Ministry of Defence and Royal Navy challenged young scientists and engineers to design a future warship and the results may surprise you. Defense procurement specialist Startpoint has released stunning images of what the futuristic ship could look like.

This cutting-edge ship concept has been dubbed Dreadnought 2050 in honor of the 1906 HMS Dreadnought, a Royal Naval battleship that eclipsed all other warships at the time.

Dreadnought 2050, made of futuristic material, features state of the art weapons, command center and more. The ship’s structure is made of ultra-strong acrylic composites that can be turned translucent so that crew can see through it.

This means that from the Ops Room, commanders could see through the hull and watch close-in battles play out.

Weapons

The new Dreadnought would be equipped with a range of state-of-the art weapons like high-velocity torpedoes, speed-of-light weapons and drones constructed on the ship using 3D printers.

The graphene coated acrylic hull would be super strong.

At the bow, Dreadnought 2050 has an electromagnetic railgun that can fire projectiles as far as long-range cruise missiles can go today.

Along the sides of the ship there are missile tubes. These tubes can launch missiles faster than Mach 5 – a hypersonic speed. The futuristic vessel is also equipped with directed energy weapons to thwart incoming threats.

Related: CTruk taps THOR for new military workboats

In the outrigger hulls, there are torpedo tubes that fire supercavitating torpedoes that travel at more than 300 knots.  Supercavitating torpedoes can travel at such whopping speeds because they move through water in a sort of air bubble that reduces drag and friction.

Instead of a standard mast, Dreadnought 2050 has a tethered quadcopter that flies above the ship.

The quadcopter is equipped with multi-spectral sensors that provide critical data. But it is also armed with a laser to take out threats like enemy aircraft, missiles and more.

To provide the significant power these capabilities require, the quadcopter’s tether is made of carbon nanotubes that are cryogenically cooled.

Assault

A floodable dock, or “moon pool,” is incorporated into the design so that amphibious teams like SEALs or Royal Marines can rapidly deploy. The moon pool could also be used to deploy unmanned underwater vehicles on missions such as searching for explosive devices.

Above the dock there is an extendable flight deck and hangar that can be used for a fleet of weaponized drones.

A similarly-sized warship operating today would require about 200 crew, but the innovative warship would require less than half as many personnel. A current Ops Room, for example, could require 25 sailors to run it. Dreadnought 2050’s Ops Room could be run by as few as five Sailors.

Command Table

Dreadnought 2050 features an Ops Room with a 3-D holographic command table. The holographic image can be rotated and commanders can zoom in on specific parts of the battlefield.

From the Ops Room, five or six people can control all operations from the deepest parts of the ocean through to outer space. From underwater and sea surface through to land and air, all areas of operation can be displayed and reviewed. Crew can use smaller holographic pods to manage specific areas of operation.

Real time data can be transmitted including secure voice, video or data to wherever it is needed.

Power

The Dreadnought 2050 warship is powered by a fusion reactor or highly efficient turbines. The turbines drive silent electric motors to water jets.

The graphene coating on the hull helps reduce drag and enhance speed. And the Dreadnought will have a low profile to ensure it is stealthy and hard to detect.

Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at wargames@foxnews.com or follow her on Twitter@Allison_Barrie.

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Scientist shocked by what he sees moon jellyfish doing

Scientist shocked by what he sees moon jellyfish doing

Moon jellyfish are pictured. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau, File)

When Caltech biologist Michael Abrams cut two arms off a young jellyfish in 2013, he figured it would do what many marine invertebrates do—grow new ones. But no.

“[Abrams] started yelling… ‘You won’t believe this, you’ve got to come here and see what’s happening,'” his PhD adviser Lea Goentoro tells National Geographic.Reporting this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Abrams says he watched the jellyfish, which relies on being symmetrical to move about, not regenerate the missing arms but rather rearrange its remaining six limbs so that they were symmetrical again.

The phenomenon, dubbed symmetrization, has never before been observed in nature, and Abrams was floored. The jellyfish was using its own muscles to push and pull on its remaining six arms to space them out evenly again.

(They confirmed this by observing that muscle relaxants made the jellies unable to rearrange their arms, while increasing muscular pulses allowed them to rearrange their arms faster.) And the discovery was accidental; Abrams and his team had only been cutting into the common moon jellyfish to practice for their future study on what are called immortal jellyfish, which had yet to arrive in the lab.

They’ve since observed symmetrization in moon jellies many times, and it takes anywhere from 12 hours to four days to complete. (Scientists recently made another staggering observation, this one in Norway.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Moon Jellyfish Shock Scientists With This Trick

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GAO reports warns hackers could bring down plane using passenger Wi-Fi

Report: Hackers could control planes through inflight Wi-Fi

The same Internet access now available on most commercial flights makes it possible for hackers to bring down a plane, a government watchdog warned Tuesday.

The finding by the Government Accountability Office presents chilling new scenarios for passengers. The report doesn’t suggest it would be easy to do, or very likely. But it points out that as airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration attempt to modernize planes and flight tracking with Internet-based technology, attackers have a new vulnerability they could exploit.

The avionics in a cockpit operate as a self-contained unit and aren’t connected to the same system used by passengers to watch movies or work on their laptops. But as airlines update their systems with Internet-based networks, it’s not uncommon for Wi-Fi systems to share routers or internal wiring.

According to the report, FAA and cybersecurity experts told investigators that airlines are relying on “firewalls” to create barriers. But because firewalls are software, they could be hacked.

“According to cybersecurity experts we interviewed, Internet connectivity in the cabin should be considered a direct link between the aircraft and the outside world, which includes potential malicious actors,” the report states.

Chris Roberts, founder of OneWorld Labs, a Colorado based cyber security intelligence firm, told FoxNews.com that vulnerabilities exist within the in-flight entertainment systems.

“We can still take planes out of the sky thanks to the flaws in the in-flight entertainment systems,” said Roberts, who discovered susceptibilities in the system passengers use to watch television at their seats and is sharing his findings with the federal government. “Quite simply put, we can theorize on how to turn the engines off at 35,000 feet and not have any of those damn flashing lights go off in the cockpit.”

While commercial planes are potential targets, business, private and military aircraft also are at risk, according to another aviation security analyst who shared his findings with FoxNews.com.

“I discovered a backdoor that allowed me to gain privileged access to the Satellite Data Unit, the most important piece of SATCOM (Satellite communications) equipment on aircraft,” said Ruben Santamarta, principal security consultant for IOActive. “These vulnerabilities allowed unauthenticated users to hack into the SATCOM equipment when it is accessible through WiFi or In-Flight entertainment networks.”

The theoretical vulnerabilities exist within the In Flight Entertainment systems on both the Panasonic and Thales installations, the two main providers of these systems, across a wide variety of planes, Roberts said. The systems can breached wirelessly, and, once in, a clever hacker can gain access into other areas of the plane’s network, Roberts said.

“Worst case would likely be the ability to access the avionics systems, monitor and possibly influence the control interfaces and other critical flight environments typically found on the private plane subnet,” giving the hacker the ability “to intercept and possibly modify the packets of data being sent from the controls to the actuators using readily available software,” Robert said.

The GAO released a separate report last March that determined the FAA’s system for guiding planes and other aircraft also was at “increased and unnecessary risk” of being hacked.

One area of weakness is the ability to prevent and detect unauthorized access to the vast network of computer and communications systems the FAA uses to process and track flights around the world, the report said. The FAA relies on more than 100 of these air traffic systems to direct planes.

A worst-case scenario is that a terrorist with a laptop would sit among the passengers and take control of the airplane using its passenger Wi-Fi, said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee who requested the investigation.

“That’s a serious vulnerability, and FAA should work quickly” to fix the problem, DeFazio said.

Fox News’ Malia Zimmerman and The Associated Press contributed to this report

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