Thursday, August 21, 2014

Did a Superflare Cause the 775 AD Carbon Excursion?

A solar super-flare as cause for the 14C variation in AD 774/5 ?


Neuhaeuser et al


We present further considerations regarding the strong 14C variation in AD 774/5. For its cause, either a solar super-flare or a short Gamma-Ray Burst were suggested. We show that all kinds of stellar or neutron star flares would be too weak for the observed energy input at Earth in AD 774/5. Even though Maehara et al. (2012) present two super-flares with 10e35 erg of presumably solar-type stars, we would like to caution: These two stars are poorly studied and may well be close binaries, and/or having a M-type dwarf companion, and/or may be much younger and/or much more magnetic than the Sun - in any such case, they might not be true solar analog stars. From the frequency of large stellar flares averaged over all stellar activity phases (maybe obtained only during grand activity maxima), one can derive (a limit of) the probability for a large solar flare at a random time of normal activity: We find the probability for one flare within 3000 years to be possibly as low as 0.3 to 0.008 considering the full 1 sigma error range. Given the energy estimate in Miyake et al. (2012) for the AD 774/5 event, it would need to be \sim 2000 stronger than the Carrington event as solar super-flare. If the AD 774/5 event as solar flare would be beamed (to an angle of only 24 deg), 100 times lower energy would be needed. A new AD 774/5 energy estimate by Usoskin et al. (2013) with a different carbon cycle model, yielding 4 or 6 time lower 14C production, predicts 4-6 times less energy. If both reductions are applied, the AD 774/5 event would need to be only 4 times stronger than the Carrington event in 1859 (if both had similar spectra). However, neither 14C nor 10Be peaks were found around AD 1859.

Tuatara Relative Survived Through KT/K-Pg Extinction Into Paleogene in South America

The youngest South American rhynchocephalian, a survivor of the K/Pg extinction


Apesteguía et al


Rhynchocephalian lepidosaurs, though once widespread worldwide, are represented today only by the tuatara (Sphenodon) of New Zealand. After their apparent early Cretaceous extinction in Laurasia, they survived in southern continents. In South America, they are represented by different lineages of Late Cretaceous eupropalinal forms until their disappearance by the Cretaceous/Palaeogene (K/Pg) boundary. We describe here the only unambiguous Palaeogene rhynchocephalian from South America; this new taxon is a younger species of the otherwise Late Cretaceous genus Kawasphenodon. Phylogenetic analysis confirms the allocation of the genus to the clade Opisthodontia. The new form from the Palaeogene of Central Patagonia is much smaller than Kawasphenodon expectatus from the Late Cretaceous of Northern Patagonia. The new species shows that at least one group of rhynchocephalians not related to the extant Sphenodon survived in South America beyond the K/Pg extinction event. Furthermore, it adds to other trans-K/Pg ectotherm tetrapod taxa, suggesting that the end-Cretaceous extinction affected Patagonia more benignly than the Laurasian landmasses.

The Early Evolution of Vertebrates

Early vertebrate evolution


Donoghue et al


Debate over the origin and evolution of vertebrates has occupied biologists and palaeontologists alike for centuries. This debate has been refined by molecular phylogenetics, which has resolved the place of vertebrates among their invertebrate chordate relatives, and that of chordates among their deuterostome relatives. The origin of vertebrates is characterized by wide-ranging genomic, embryologic and phenotypic evolutionary change. Analyses based on living lineages suggest dramatic shifts in the tempo of evolutionary change at the origin of vertebrates and gnathostomes, coincident with whole-genome duplication events. However, the enriched perspective provided by the fossil record demonstrates that these apparent bursts of anatomical evolution and taxic richness are an artefact of the extinction of phylogenetic intermediates whose fossil remains evidence the gradual assembly of crown gnathostome characters in particular. A more refined understanding of the timing, tempo and mode of early vertebrate evolution rests with: (1) better genome assemblies for living cyclostomes; (2) a better understanding of the anatomical characteristics of key fossil groups, especially the anaspids, thelodonts, galeaspids and pituriaspids; (3) tests of the monophyly of traditional groups; and (4) the application of divergence time methods that integrate not just molecular data from living species, but also morphological data and extinct species. The resulting framework will provide for rigorous tests of rates of character evolution and diversification, and of hypotheses of long-term trends in ecological evolution that themselves suffer for lack of quantitative functional tests. The fossil record has been silent on the nature of the transition from jawless vertebrates to the jawed vertebrates that have dominated communities since the middle Palaeozoic. Elucidation of this most formative of episodes likely rests with the overhaul of early vertebrate systematics that we propose, but perhaps more fundamentally with fossil grades that await discovery.

The Four Ice Ages of NeoProterozoic Namibia and Associated Evidence of Crustal Growth

The four Neoproterozoic glaciations of southern Namibia and their detrital zircon record: The fingerprints of four crustal growth events during two supercontinent cycles


Hofmann et al


The transition from supercontinent Rodinia to Gondwana took place in the Neoproterozoic. The western margin of the Kalahari Craton in southern Namibia underwent rifting at c. 750 Ma, caused by the break-up of Rodinia, followed by drift-events and ongoing sedimentation throughout the Cryogenian (at least from 750 to 630 Ma) in Namibia. These sediments comprise at least three different deposits of glacio-marine diamictites (Kaigas at c. 750-720 Ma, Sturtian at c. 716 Ma and Marinoan at c. 635 Ma). The Ediacaran is characterised by collision during the assembly of Gondwana and includes a fourth glacial deposit (post-Gaskiers Vingerbreek glaciation at c. 547 Ma). This study presents more than 1050 single zircon grain U-Pb analyses of different diamictite horizons from southern Namibia and discusses their correlation. For all samples from sediments related to the Kaigas, Sturtian and Marinoan glacial events, the youngest obtained zircon ages were at c. 1.0 Ga, making differentiation by the maximum age of sedimentation impossible. But a correlation was still possible by using the complete detrital zircon U-Pb age patterns, with a significant change in the relative abundance of concordant Mesoproterozoic to Paleoproterozoic zircons. This P/M ratio seems to be a good tool to distinguish the Cryogenian diamictites (Marinoan: P/M less than 0.4, Sturtian: 0.4 less than P/M less than 10, Kaigas: P/M greater than 10). Although all the observed ages from the detrital zircons can be explained by derivation of local material, none of our samples correspond to the Cryogenian rifting events in southern Namibia. Therefore the source area can not be local and more probably is located in the east of the studied areas. The constancy of the main U-Pb ages suggests a constant sediment supply direction throughout the Cryogenian. The same age populations occurring in the Ediacaran Aar Member indicate the same sediment transport direction from the east, but with an increased proportion of zircon grains older than 2.2 Ga. This marks a transition to the unconformably overlying Vingerbreek (post-Gaskiers) diamictite horizons, which show a significant change in the age spectra. Probably due to mixed input from the east (Kalahari Craton) and from the west (Gariep Belt), the Vingerbreek diamictites show a wider range of zircon ages with youngest ages at c. 590 Ma. This time is characterised by collision events and the Gondwana formation. The Hf isotope record shows that the only input of juvenile material in our samples occurred in the Mesoproterozoic during the Namaqua Natal Orogeny (formation of the Namaqua Belt). In total, four Archean to Proterozoic crustal growth events are recognized in the western part of the Kalahari Craton: (1) Meso- to Paleoarchean (c. 3.42-2.8 Ga), (2) lower Paleoproterozoic to Neoarchean (c. 2.8- 2.27 Ga), (3) lower to upper Paleoproterozoic (c. 2.27-1.7 Ga) and (3) Mesoproterozoic (c. 1.6-1.0 Ga).

Snow on Arctic Ice has Radically Decreased

From research stations drifting on ice floes to high-tech aircraft radar, scientists have been tracking the depth of snow that accumulates on Arctic sea ice for almost a century. Now that people are more concerned than ever about what is happening at the poles, research led by the University of Washington and NASA confirms that snow has thinned significantly in the Arctic, particularly on sea ice in western waters near Alaska.

A new study, accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, a publication of the American Geophysical Union, combines data collected by ice buoys and NASA aircraft with historic data from ice floes staffed by Soviet scientists from the late 1950s through the early 1990s to track changes over decades.

Historically, Soviets on drifting sea ice used meter sticks and handwritten logs to record snow depth. Today, researchers on the ground use an automated probe similar to a ski pole to verify the accuracy of airborne measurements.

"When you stab it into the ground, the basket move up, and it records the distance between the magnet and the end of the probe," said first author Melinda Webster, a UW graduate student in oceanography. "You can take a lot of measurements very quickly. It's a pretty big difference from the Soviet field stations."

India Commissions INS Kolkata, First in Class DDG

The Indian Navy (IN) commissioned INS Kolkata , the first of three locally designed and built 7,400-tonne Project 15A guided-missile destroyers, on 16 August in Mumbai.

Two follow-on warships - Kochi and Chennai - are also under construction at Mumbai's Mazagaon Dockyard Limited and will be commissioned at eight-month intervals, IN officials said.

Tensions in the South China Sea

TENSION in the South China Sea has now reached the point where references to tension have become an issue. “Someone has been exaggerating or even playing up the so-called tension in the South China Sea,” Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, said on August 9th. By “someone”, of course, he meant America. He was speaking in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital, where the ten foreign ministers of ASEAN, the Association of South-East Asian Nations, were holding their annual meeting. So when they agreed on a communiqué referring to “increased tensions” in the sea, many scored it as a diplomatic victory for the United States.

American officials saw the inclusion of the phrase as a sign that ASEAN’s members were readier to present a united front against Chinese aggression towards rival claimants to territory in the sea. China’s “nine-dashed line”, its vague cartographic claim to most of the sea, encroaches on the claims of four ASEAN members. A State Department official cheered the group’s movement away from “diversionary issues” and “happy talk”. It was reasonable to conclude, he said, that “the Chinese are feeling the heat”. Reasonable, perhaps, but almost certainly inaccurate. If China is alarmed about the mounting regional antagonism stoked by its behaviour in the South China Sea, it is certainly not letting on.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gorlovka Evac Fund Raiser Day 5

Once again, I am continuing the fundraiser to extract the individuals from Gorlovka. We have made some progress, but we need a significantly larger amount than we have received so far to extract them.

The reason for needing to pull them out is the local militants (I have other words to describe them) have taken notice of our contacts. Given the militants have started disappearing people, our contacts need to be pulled out asap. We have someone who will do so, but it will cost in order to go and extract them.

The reason for the original date on the fundraiser was to try to get the funds into a usable form by this friday. Since there isn't a sufficient amount to do even the minimum quite yet, I'll keep reposting at 6 or 7 PM each night for this week at least until Monday.

Please use my email address (anzhalyu at gmail There are no dots or other characters, just to warn you except for the obvious final extension) for both questions and where to send the funds to on paypal. I can take cryptocurrencies, but, please, email me first. That's a little more complicated.

Through people's generosity, we are getting there. We still have $3,270 of the $5,000 goal left to raise. I will keep a running tally.

Anyone who has contributed may ask for any post they wish. I'll whip one up almost immediately.

Thank you for your help.

Three Largest Bitcoin Exchanges in China Weigh in on New York State Proposed Cryptocurrency Regulations

The three biggest bitcoin exchanges in China have weighed in on a critical regulatory proposal on the other side of the planet, submitting comments on the New York Department of Financial Services’ “BitLicense” proposal, in a gesture that shows just how far Benjamin Lawsky‘s regulatory arm could reach.

Bobby Lee, Lin Li, and Mingxing Xu, the CEOs of, respectively, BTC China, Huobi, and OKCoin, submitted a joint letter on Wednesday to the New York Department of Financial Services, a copy of which was given to MoneyBeat. The department is in the middle of a 45-day open comment period. All three think the outcome of Lawsky’s efforts will be felt across the globe, and therefore wanted to add their voice to the process.

The Limits of the Limits for Processors

Limits on fundamental limits to computation




An indispensable part of our personal and working lives, computing has also become essential to industries and governments. Steady improvements in computer hardware have been supported by periodic doubling of transistor densities in integrated circuits over the past fifty years. Such Moore scaling now requires ever-increasing efforts, stimulating research in alternative hardware and stirring controversy. To help evaluate emerging technologies and increase our understanding of integrated-circuit scaling, here I review fundamental limits to computation in the areas of manufacturing, energy, physical space, design and verification effort, and algorithms. To outline what is achievable in principle and in practice, I recapitulate how some limits were circumvented, and compare loose and tight limits. Engineering difficulties encountered by emerging technologies may indicate yet unknown limits.

pop sci write up of the same.

US Navy Laser Propels Projectile 1/300th the Speed of Light

The Nike krypton fluoride (KrF) laser at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL; Washington, DC) has earned the coveted Guinness World Records title for achieving "Highest Projectile Velocity" of greater than 1,000 km/s, a speed equivalent to two-and-a-quarter million miles per hour.

The previous record was held by researchers at Osaka University's Institute of Laser Engineering in Japan, who in 2006 used a neodymium glass (Nd:glass) laser to accelerate a target to 700 km/s. The record, currently held by NRL, was achieved in collaboration with the NRL Plasma Physics Division and the group from Japan, demonstrating the advantages of the high uniformity and short wavelength of the KrF laser technology.

"The impact of the highly accelerated target on a stationary foil generated thermonuclear fusion neutrons whose energy spread indicated that a gigabar--that's the pressure of a billion atmospheres--was achieved in the collision," said Max Karasik, NRL Laser Plasma Branch. "The results highlight the advantages of a krypton-fluoride laser in efficiently generating uniform pressures required for fuel compression in inertial confinement fusion."

In the experiments, thin plastic foils were accelerated to 1,000 km/s over a distance of less than a millimeter. The moving foils then collided with a stationary foil, generating thermo-nuclear temperatures and neutrons from fusion reactions. The high ablative pressure applied to compress and accelerate targets is used in inertial confinement fusion and high energy density research.

US Navy's POV on the UCLASS Requirements

It’s crunch time for UCLASS. On September 10th — after multiple delays — the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer and his Defense Acquisition Board will sit in judgment on the proposed combat drone. The question: how best to bring the robot revolution to the deck of the 90-year-old aircraft carrier.

The “Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike” aircraft is most controversial and high-stakes component of the Navy’s multi-front strategy to employ drones alongside– not replacing — traditional piloted aircraft. Land-based, long-range patrols will use the MQ-4C Triton (derived from the Air Force Global Hawk) alongside the manned P-8A Poseidon. Small surface warships like the Perry-class frigate and the Littoral Combat Ship will use the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter alongside SH-60 Sea Hawks. But UCLASS will fly from the Navy’s thousand-foot-long flagships, its nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, multi-billion-dollar ships whose strategic value depends on the planes they carry.

Vocal critics in Congress and quieter ones inside the Pentagon contend that the Navy has dumbed down its specifications for UCLASS, turning it from a robotic stealth bomber into a modestly armed scout drone. Navy officials counter that the design will “be able to grow” from the technically achievable, fiscally affordable scout that enters service ca. 2021 into a high-end war machine.

The Navy hasn’t changed its requirements for UCLASS, it’s just “refined” them to reflect “the art of the possible” given current technology, said Rear Adm. Mat Winter, head of unmanned aviation at the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).

“We’ve gone back and forth with industry to make sure, ‘is this the art of the possible?,” the admiral told reporters Sunday after flight tests of a prototype carrier-launched drone, the X-47B. “That’s what the last nine months have been [about]. Warfighter requirements for UCLASS have been stable since April 2013, when the Chief of Naval Operations signed the CDD [Capability Development Document]. The design requirements had been continually refined to ensure that we had a technically feasible solution.” (Emphasis mine).

Everyone wants to give the warfighters the best technology they can, but “we don’t want to provide something to industry that we technically can’t accomplish,” Winter went on. “Survivability, payload, and endurance” form an “iron triangle” of inevitable tradeoffs, he said. (The Navy’s desire for a fuel-efficient UCLASS with big gas tanks to do long reconnaissance patrols, in particular, wars with maximizing bombload, speed, and stealth for strike missions).

“There’s a requirement to operate UCLASS in a permissive environment” — that is, one without an anti-aircraft threat — “but be able to grow to a non-permissive [one]” where it needs high-end stealth and other countermeasures to avoid detection and destruction, Winter said. “Engineers have got turn that into, what, frequency spectrums and threats and squeaks and beeps, because we’ve got to be able to truly quantify what that is. ”

Equatorial Pacific Ocean Productivity Rose Near the Eocene-Oligocene Boundary

Equatorial Pacific Productivity Changes near the Eocene-Oligocene Boundary


Moore et al


There is general agreement that productivity in high latitudes increased in the late Eocene and continued high in the early Oligocene. Evidence for both increased and decreased productivity across the Eocene – Oligocene Transition (EOT) in the tropics has been presented, usually based on only one paleoproductivity proxy and often in sites with incomplete recovery of the EOT itself. A complete record of the Eocene – Oligocene transition was obtained at three drill sites in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean (ODP Site 1218 and IODP Sites U1333 and U1334). Four paleoproductivity proxies that have been examined at these sites, together with carbon and oxygen isotope measurements on early Oligocene planktonic foraminifera, give evidence of ecologic and oceanographic change across this climatically important boundary. Export productivity dropped sharply in the basal Oligocene (~33.7 Ma) and only recovered several hundred thousand years later; however, overall paleoproductivity in the early Oligocene never reached the average levels found in the late Eocene and in more modern times. Changes in the isotopic gradients between deep and shallow-living planktonic foraminifera suggest a gradual shoaling of the thermocline through the early Oligocene that, on average, affected accumulation rates of barite, benthic foraminifera, and opal, as well as diatom abundance near 33.5 Ma. An interval with abundant large diatoms beginning at 33.3 Ma suggests an intermediate thermocline depth, which was followed by further shoaling, a dominance of smaller diatoms, and an increase in average primary productivity as estimated from accumulation rates of benthic foraminifera.

A bit Contrarian: Cool Tropics in the Middle Eocene

Cool tropics in the Middle Eocene: Evidence from the Changchang Flora, Hainan Island, China


Spicer et al


The middle Eocene (Lutetian–Bartonian, 48.6–37.2 Ma) near-equatorial megafossil flora from swamp and lacustrine facies of the lower Changchang Formation, Hainan Island, South China (19.631463°N, 110.445049°E) is highly diverse (> 200 taxa) dominated by an unusual mixture of angiosperms typical of modern temperate, subtropical and tropical evergreen and deciduous forms. It is also rich in palms. Multivariate analysis of the architecture of minimally transported woody dicot leaves reveals a mean annual air temperature (MAT) of ~ 22 ± 4.7 °C with a marked thermal seasonality range of ~ 21 °C. The year-round humid climate lacked any monsoonal signature. The overall climate signal is compatible with the growth characteristics exhibited by fossil wood, but is warmer than the climate signal derived from pollen and spores using Co-existence Analysis. Corrections for possible palaeoelevation of the basin bring the megafossil-derived MAT estimate in line with 54–52 Ma sea surface and soil temperatures obtained from the Gulf Coast, USA, (palaeolatitude ~ 30°N) using multiple geochemical proxies and supports the claim that the low latitude Eocene climate was not uniformly warm. This challenges previous conclusions based on ∂18O analysis of unaltered calcareous microfossils. Our air temperature data also adds to the challenge of understanding heat transport away from the equator to higher latitudes during ‘hothouse’ climate regimes.

New to me: Furahan Biology and Allied Matters

This is a blog I found via Darren Naish's Tetrapod Zoology.  It discusses and even does a great job of designing and even animating an alien ecosystem.


Chinese Text Translated to Suggest 775 AD Comet Impact Done Badly

The Chinese comet observation in AD 773 January


Chapman et al


The strong 14C increase in the year AD 774/5 detected in one German and two Japanese trees was recently suggested to have been caused by an impact of a comet onto Earth and a deposition of large amounts of 14C into the atmosphere (Liu et al. 2014). The authors supported their claim using a report of a historic Chinese observation of a comet ostensibly colliding with Earth's atmosphere in AD 773 January. We show here that the Chinese text presented by those authors is not an original historic text, but that it is comprised of several different sources. Moreover, the translation presented in Liu et al. is misleading and inaccurate. We give the exact Chinese wordings and our English translations. According to the original sources, the Chinese observed a comet in mid January 773, but they report neither a collision nor a large coma, just a long tail. Also, there is no report in any of the source texts about "dust rain in the daytime" as claimed by Liu et al. (2014), but simply a normal dust storm. Ho (1962) reports sightings of this comet in China on AD 773 Jan 15 and/or 17 and in Japan on AD 773 Jan 20 (Ho 1962). At the relevant historic time, the Chinese held that comets were produced within the Earth's atmosphere, so that it would have been impossible for them to report a "collision" of a comet with Earth's atmosphere. The translation and conclusions made by Liu et al. (2014) are not supported by the historical record. Therefore, postulating a sudden increase in 14C in corals off the Chinese coast precisely in mid January 773 (Liu et al. 2014) is not justified given just the 230Th dating for AD 783 \pm 14.

Using Mammalian Femora to Discern Paleodiversity Across KT/K-Pg Boundary

Mammalian femora across the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary in eastern Montana


DeBey et al


Our understanding of latest Cretaceous and earliest Paleogene mammalian evolution is based almost entirely on the dental fossil record. Mammalian postcranial fossils are rare and mostly found as isolated elements in latest Cretaceous and earliest Paleogene vertebrate microfossil assemblages of North America. Although placing these fossils in a tooth-based taxonomic framework is difficult, they can provide insight into locomotor diversity and habitat preference to complement diet reconstructions and diversity estimates from dental fossils. Here, we describe 64 femora of mammals recovered from latest Cretaceous (Lancian) and earliest Paleogene (Puercan) localities in eastern Montana. We sorted these based on morphology and size (morphotypes). In some cases, morphotypes were tentatively assigned to dentally based taxa that are known from these strata.

Although our resulting femoral dataset is small relative to the study area's dental dataset, we show several key findings. First, there is a greater morphological diversity of multituberculate femora than previously recognized, especially in the latest Cretaceous sample. In contrast, metatherians, which have a high relative abundance in Lancian Hell Creek Formation dental assemblages, are absent from our postcranial samples; eutherian femora are only present in the Puercan assemblages. Second, we record a minor decrease in morphotype richness across the K–Pg boundary that is associated with an increase in mean specimen size, due to the appearance of a few significantly larger-bodied, immigrant taxa. Among the eutherians, there are two specimens of larger-bodied early Puercan archaic ungulates, a very large specimen of a middle/late Puercan taeniodont, pantodont, or triisodontid, as well as a specimen possibly attributed to a “plesiadapiform” archaic primate. Third, preliminary functional morphologic analyses of the more complete specimens suggest that locomotor diversity increased from mainly arboreal or terrestrial/saltatorial multituberculates in the latest Cretaceous to include a fossorial multituberculate and potentially an arboreal eutherian in the early Paleocene. These patterns parallel those previously reported from a dental dataset and indicate that postcranial data are valuable as an independent means to test hypotheses of taxonomic and ecomorphological diversity across the K–Pg boundary.

Revised Chronostratigraphy of Chinle Formation has Implications for Late Triassic Dinosaur Evolution

Revised chronostratigraphy of the Lower Chinle Formation strata in Arizona and New Mexico (USA): High-precision U-Pb geochronological constraints on the Late Triassic evolution of dinosaurs


Ramezani et al


The early history of dinosaurs in North America is obscured by an incomplete fossil record, taxonomic uncertainties and speculative correlations of tetrapod-bearing rocks, as well as poor calibration of the Late Triassic time scale. High-precision U-Pb geochronology provides a reliable means of correlating terrestrial rock formations independent of equivocal lithostratigraphy or vertebrate biostratigraphy, and hence the possibility of properly evaluating models for the early radiation and diversification of Dinosauria. Here we present new, high-precision, U-Pb ID-TIMS zircon geochronology from the presumed lowermost strata of the Upper Triassic Chinle Formation of the Colorado Plateau in Southwest United States, including a mean 206Pb/238U date of 219.39 ± 0.16 Ma from the renowned Placerias Quarry Bone Bed in eastern Arizona. The new results prompt revisions to the chronostratigraphy of the lower Chinle and provide a new temporal context for its rich tetrapod fauna.

The oldest documented dinosaurs of North America coexisted with their non-dinosaurian near-relatives for a minimum of 12 m.y., from ca. 223 Ma to ca. 211 Ma, in the Norian. This early dinosauromorph record follows a ca. 6 m.y. period from which no tetrapod fossils have been documented and which was itself preceded by a ca. 10 m.y. depositional hiatus spanning nearly the entire Ladinian and Carnian stages of the terrestrial North America. The supposed late appearance of dinosauromorphs in North America compared to those in South America thus appears to be an artifact of incomplete preservation, as well as unsubstantiated age interpretations. This, together with the conspicuous biogeographic distinctions among the Triassic dinosauromorph assemblages, invalidates a simple diachronous model for the transcontinental radiation of early dinosaurs.

Is the Wilson Cycle/Supercontinent Assembly/Plate Tectonics Speeding UP?

Is the rate of supercontinent assembly changing with time?


Condie et al


To address the question of secular changes in the speed of the supercontinent cycle, we use two major databases for the last 2.5 Gyr: the timing and locations of collisional and accretionary orogens, and average plate velocities as deduced from paleomagnetic and paleogeographic data. Peaks in craton collision occur at 1850 and 600 Ma with smaller peaks at 1100 and 350 Ma. Distinct minima occur at 1700–1200, 900–700, and 300–200 Ma. There is no simple relationship in craton collision frequency or average plate velocity between supercontinent assemblies and breakups. Assembly of Nuna at 1700–1500 Ma correlates with very low collision rates, whereas assemblies of Rodinia and Gondwana at 1000–850 and 650–350 Ma, respectively correspond to moderate to high rates. Very low collision rates occur at times of supercontinent breakup at 2200–2100, 1300–1100, 800–650, and 150–0 Ma. A peak in plate velocity at 450–350 Ma correlates with early stages of growth of Pangea and another at 1100 Ma with initial stages of Rodinia assembly following breakup of Nuna. A major drop in craton numbers after 1850 Ma corresponds with the collision and suturing of numerous Archean blocks.

Orogens and passive margins show the same two cycles of ocean basin closing: an early cycle from Neoarchean to 1900 Ma and a later cycle, which corresponds to the supercontinent cycle, from 1900 Ma to the present. The cause of these cycles is not understood, but may be related to increasing plate speeds during supercontinent assembly and whether or not long-lived accretionary orogens accompany supercontinent assembly. LIP (large igneous province) age peaks at 2200, 2100, 1380 (and 1450?), 800, 300, 200 and 100 Ma correlate with supercontinent breakup and minima at 2600, 1700–1500, 1100–900, and 600–400 Ma with supercontinent assembly. Other major LIP age peaks do not correlate with the supercontinent cycle. A thermochemical instability model for mantle plume generation can explain all major LIP events by one process and implies that LIP events that correspond to the supercontinent cycle are independent of this cycle.

The period of the supercontinent cycle is highly variable, ranging from 500 to 1000 Myr if the late Archean supercratons are included. Nuna has a duration of about 300 Myr (1500–1200 Ma), Rodinia 100 Myr (850–750 Ma), and Gondwana–Pangea 200 Myr (350–150 Ma). Breakup durations are short, generally 100–200 Myr. The history of angular plate velocities, craton collision frequency, passive margin histories, and periodicity of the supercontinent cycle all suggest a gradual speed up of plate tectonics with time.

Forest Carbon Cycle Effected by Habitat Fragmentation

Drier conditions at the edges of forest patches slow down the decay of dead wood and significantly alter the cycling of carbon and nutrients in woodland ecosystems, according to a new study.

Forests around the world have become increasingly fragmented, and in the UK three quarters of woodland area lie within 100 metres of the forest edge. It has long been known that so-called 'edge effects' influence temperature and moisture (the 'microclimate') in woodlands, but the influence on the carbon cycle is largely unknown.

Researchers from the University of Exeter and Earthwatch in the UK combined experiments with mathematical modelling to fill this knowledge gap. Wood blocks were placed in Wytham Woods near Oxford at various distances from the forest edge, and left to decay over two years. The measured decay rates were applied to a model of the surrounding landscape, to allow comparison between the current fragmented woodland cover and decay rates in continuous forest.

The research, published today in the journal Global Change Biology, shows that wood decay rates in the southern UK are reduced by around one quarter due to fragmentation. This effect is much larger than expected due to variation in temperatures and rainfall among years.

Chinese Troops Enter Disputed Indian Territory

Chinese troops have advanced in recent days into disputed territory claimed by India, echoing a similar incursion last year that raised tensions between the two rival giants, official sources said Tuesday.

Chinese troops twice crossed over the border into a remote area of the western Himalayas, with some unfurling a banner that read "this is Chinese territory, go back", an official said on condition of anonymity.

Indian border police noticed the troops on Sunday in an unpopulated area of Ladakh during a patrol of the informal border that separates India and China.

Russia Pulls 5th Bond Auction in a Row

Russia canceled its fifth ruble-bond auction in a row after the government’s borrowing costs reached the highest in almost five years earlier this month.

The Finance Ministry pulled tomorrow’s sale, citing “unfavorable market conditions” in a statement on its website. The yield on the 10-year government ruble bond reached 9.9 percent on Aug. 8, the highest since October 2009. It added eight basis points to 9.36 percent as of 1:49 p.m. in Moscow, increasing for a second day after falling as low as 9.27 percent on Aug. 15.

Russia has skipped 13 auctions this year as President Vladimir Putin’s standoff with the U.S. and its allies over Ukraine and the threat of tougher sanctions triggered a sell-off in the nation’s assets. The ministry voided four other sales where bidders sought higher yields than it was ready to offer. Borrowing costs climbed this week after four-way talks to halt fighting in Ukraine reached an impasse in Berlin.

The yield on the government’s local-currency securities maturing in February 2027 is trading 140 basis points above the central bank’s key interest rate, which it raised by 50 basis points, or 0.5 percentage points, in a surprise move on July 25. The spread was 124 basis points the last time the ministry said it would proceed with a local bond auction on July 15.

Russia has raised 124 billion rubles ($3.4 billion) this year from selling the local bonds, known as OFZs, and has placed 100 billion rubles in untraded government savings bonds, known as GSO, with the Pension Fund.

The government, which initially planned to raise 808 billion rubles in 2014, won’t sell bonds when borrowing costs are too high, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said April 1.

“Overall, the federal budget is in good shape this year and, if oil prices hold at $101 per barrel until the end of the year, there will be no pressure in the primary market,” Maxim Korovin and Anton Nikitin, analysts at Moscow-based VTB Capital, said in an e-mailed note before the announcement.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Gorlovka Evac Fundraiser Continues

Once again, I am continuing the fundraiser to extract the individuals from Gorlovka.  We have made some progress, but we need a significantly larger amount than we have received so far to extract them.

The reason for needing to pull them out is the local militants (I have other words to describe them) have taken notice of our contacts.  Given the militants have started disappearing people, our contacts need to be pulled out asap.  We have someone who will do so, but it will cost in order to go and extract them.   

The reason for the original date on the fundraiser was to try to get the funds into a usable form by this friday.  Since there isn't a sufficient amount to do even the minimum quite yet, I'll keep reposting at 6 or 7 PM each night for this week at least until Monday.

Please use my email address (anzha lyu at gmail There are no dots or other characters, just to warn you except for the obvious final extension) for both questions and where to send the funds to on paypal.  I can take cryptocurrencies, but, please, email me first.  That's a little more complicated.

Through people's generosity, we are getting there.  We have $3,280 of the $5,000 goal left to raise.  I will keep a running tally.

Anyone who has contributed may ask for any post they wish.  I'll whip one up.

Thank you for your help.

What Caused the Recent Bitcoin Price Crash?

The price of bitcoin on the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index (BPI) has declined more than $60 today (by the time of publication), falling to a low of $435.60. However, a more serious decline was observed at one major bitcoin exchange.

The development is the latest blow to the price of bitcoin, which had slumped to its lowest level since May late last week. The decline has since been largely attributed to a worsening short-term news outlook, as well as the industry’s margin traders, though alternative theories have been proposed.

At press time, at least one notable industry analyst, along with a host of exchange users are suggesting that margin trading may have once again played a factor in today’s decline, as a flash crash observed on popular bitcoin trading platform BTC-e caused the price of bitcoin on its exchange to decline sharply to a low of $309.

FarmBot Project Aims to Bring the Robopocalypse to the Fields

When most of us think of 3D printers, we typically imagine the desktop machines that are used for creating small plastic objects, or the larger scale industrial level machines used for prototyping, and in some cases the printing of production ready parts. Then there are the extremely large 3D printers that have been created for the printing of concrete structured buildings and other large objects. Perhaps the printers which have the most intriguing uses are those which can print food. These printers, which are still only in the early stages of development, allow those with minimal food preparation experience to print out meals using specially designed software. All of these 3D printers have the potential to bring resources to countries and people who typically don’t have access to traditional means of manufacturing. Yet, none of them ensure massive food production that could help feed the world’s hungry.

The FarmBot Foundation, may have come up with a solution. They plan to take this technology to an entirely new level by creating a 3D Printer that is capable of, you guessed it, farming. The Farmbot is a CNC/3D printer-like machine that can be used for farming and gardening. Their goal is a lofty one. They hope to create an open source hardware, software and data solution that allows anyone, anywhere to build and operate their 3D farming printer, the FarmBot.

DARPA Wants Vast Oceanic Monitoring Network

Probably one of the last and perhaps unforgiving areas of the world not truly “wired” is above and below the ocean.

Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) want to explore the possibility of seriously changing that notion and develop what it calls “a system-of-systems architecture and critical components to support networked maritime operations, to include undersea, surface, and above surface domains.”

Austal USA on a Roll: Delivers 4th Joint High Speed Vessel, Launches 4th Indepedence Class

The US Navy's (USN's) eighth Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) has launched in Mobile, Alabama, and is undergoing final outfitting before activation in the first quarter of 2015, Austal USA officials told IHS Jane's on 14 August.

Montgomery (LCS 8), the USN's fourth Independence variant, entered the water for the first time on 6 August after being moved onto a floating dry dock - BAE Systems' Drydock Alabama . Montgomery is moored in the Mobile River where it will be completed and activated before conducting its first sea trials in the second quarter of 2015, Michelle Bowden, a spokesperson for Austal USA, told IHS Jane's .

After recently completing acceptance trials, the US Navy's (USN's) fourth Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), Fall River (JHSV 4), is expected to be handed over to US Military Sealift Command (MSC) in the fourth quarter of 2014, shipbuilder Austal USA told IHS Jane's .

Fall River is the fourth of ten planned JHSVs to be built at the Mobile, Alabama-based shipyard under a USD1.6 billion contract. Launched in January 2014, the 103 m vessel conducted its tests and evaluations in the Gulf of Mexico under the auspices of the navy's Board of Inspection and Survey, completing the acceptance trials on 25 July.

Once the vessel is delivered to MSC - which operates the navy's auxiliaries and fleet support ships - a crew of 22 civilian mariners will take it through final contract trials and introduction to the fleet.

Evidence of Mega Icebergs in the Artic From the Pleistocene

Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have found between Greenland and Spitsbergen the scours left behind on the sea bed by gigantic icebergs. The five lineaments, at a depth of 1,200 metres, are the lowest-lying iceberg scours yet to be found on the Arctic sea floor. This finding provides new understanding of the dynamics of the Ice Age and the extent of the Arctic ice sheet thousands of years ago. In addition, the researchers could draw conclusions about the export of fresh water from the Arctic into the North Atlantic. The AWI scientists have published their findings in the online portal of the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"Whenever icebergs run aground, they leave scours on the seabed. Depending on their depth and location, those markings may continue to exist over long periods of time," explained Jan Erik Arndt, AWI bathymetrician and lead author for this paper.

It is traces exactly like this that he, together with three colleagues at AWI, discovered on the Hovgaard Ridge. The Hovgaard Ridge is a plateau in the deep Arctic Sea, located a good 400 kilometres off of Greenland's eastern coast. Found at a depth of 1,200 metres the five lineaments are the deepest iceberg scours found to date in the Arctic. The scours are as much as four kilometres long and 15 metres in depth. "Such scours are a window into the past. Thanks to these iceberg scours we now know that a few very large, but also many smaller icebergs, passed across the Hovgaard Ridge," the scientist said.

The discovery of the scours on Hovgaard Ridge was fortuitous and by no means the result of a defined search. Jan Erik Arndt and his colleagues discovered the lineaments when examining bathymetric data from the year 1990. The data were collected by the research ship Polarstern while preparing cartography for the Fram Strait. "When we examined the data once again and in greater detail, we became aware of the scours. Given their depth, it quickly became clear that we had found something very interesting," says Jan Erik Arndt.

The scientists today work with better hardware and software than what was available in the 1990s. This new technology allows closer scrutiny of the old data. That is why the scours have surfaced on the scientists' monitors only now, 24 years after the data were collected.

The scientists can, however, only roughly bracket the period within which the icebergs scoured the ridge crest. It is clear, however, that it must have taken place within the past 800,000 years. Since sea level during the glacial period was a good 120 metres lower than today, the icebergs reached to a depth of at least 1,080 metres below sea level. Since about a tenth of an iceberg will, as a rule, be exposed, AWI scientists estimate the height of the iceberg to be roughly 1,200 metres – about three times the height of the Empire State Building. "To calve such megascale icebergs, the edge of the ice sheet covering the Arctic Ocean must have been at least 1,200 metres thick," Jan Erik Arndt notes.

Today scientists search in vain for such megascale icebergs. "We currently find the largest icebergs in the Antarctic. The very biggest reach only 700 metres below the water's surface," noted the bathymetrician. One remaining riddle is the birthplace of the massive icebergs that scraped Hovgaard Ridge. The AWI scientists suggest that two areas off the northern coast of Russia are the most likely sites.

Titan's Climate History Hinted at by Evaporite Locations

Evidence of Titan's Climate History from Evaporite Distribution


MacKenzie et al


Water-ice-poor, 5-μm-bright material on Saturn's moon Titan has previously been geomorphologically identified as evaporitic. Here we present a global distribution of the occurrences of the 5-μm-bright spectral unit, identified with Cassini's Visual Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) and examined with RADAR when possible. We explore the possibility that each of these occurrences are evaporite deposits. The 5-μm-bright material covers 1\% of Titan's surface and is not limited to the poles (the only regions with extensive, long-lived surface liquid). We find the greatest areal concentration to be in the equatorial basins Tui Regio and Hotei Regio. Our interpretations, based on the correlation between 5-μm-bright material and lakebeds, imply that there was enough liquid present at some time to create the observed 5-μm-bright material. We address the climate implications surrounding a lack of evaporitic material at the south polar basins: if the south pole basins were filled at some point in the past, then where is the evaporite?

Precolumbian South American Chicken Fight

here (dates are fine on the chicken bones).

here. (chicken bones not contaminated by modern chicken dna)

here.  (counter claims have statistical flaws)

Pentaceratops and Kosmoceratops Found in Campanian Cretaceous Alberta, Canada

The horned dinosaurs Pentaceratops and Kosmoceratops from the upper Campanian of Alberta and implications for dinosaur biogeography




The upper Campanian of the American Southwest has produced dinosaurs that are unknown from the northern Great Plains and vice versa. This has led to the idea that North America's Campanian dinosaur fauna was characterized by high levels of endemism and distinct faunal provinces. Here, two horned dinosaurs known from the Southwest, Pentaceratops and Kosmoceratops, are described from southern Canada. Pentaceratops aquilonius sp. nov. is represented by two frill fragments from the uppermost Dinosaur Park Formation near Manyberries, southeast Alberta. Features shared with Pentaceratops include large, triangular epiparietals, an M-shaped parietal posterior bar, and an epiparietal P1 that curls up and twists laterally. The Manyberries specimens differ from Pentaceratops sternbergii and Utahceratops gettyi in that the posterior bar is broader, emargination is weakly developed, and P1 is directed dorsally, rather than anteriorly. Phylogenetic analysis places P. aquilonius as sister to a clade comprising P. sternbergii and Utahceratops. Kosmoceratops is documented by a partial skull from Dinosaur Provincial Park. Previously referred to Chasmosaurus, the skull exhibits derived features inconsistent with this referral, including a reduced septal flange, a caudally inclined narial strut, a triangular narial process, a reduced frontal fontanelle, a weakly hooked rostral, and a narrow, caudally inclined internal naris. Phylogenetic analysis recovers the animal as sister to Kosmoceratops richardsoni, but differences in the shape of the naris and nasal horn suggest that it likely represents a distinct species. The presence of Pentaceratops and Kosmoceratops in Canada argues against the idea of distinct northern and southern faunal provinces, but the fact that they differ from their southern relatives confirms that endemism was high in the Campanian. The ability of dinosaur lineages to disperse long distances across North America suggests that dinosaur distribution was not constrained by geographic barriers, climate, or flora. Instead, dinosaur endemism may result from competitive exclusion of immigrants by established populations adapted to local environmental conditions.

British Triassic Pterosaur is Really a Drepanosaur

Re-examination of the purported pterosaur wing metacarpals from the Upper Triassic of England


Dalla Vecchia et al


Two small bones from the Upper Triassic of Cromhall Quarry (Gloucestershire, England), which are referred in the literature to pterosaurian wing metacarpals, are compared with wing metacarpals of unequivocal pterosaur specimens from the Upper Triassic of Italy and Greenland as well as those of the Liassic Dimorphodon macronyx from England. The two are morphologically distinct from the unequivocal wing metacarpals. Comparison with the phalanges of drepanosauromorphs suggests that they are probably penultimate phalanges of those bizarre diapsids. Drepanosauromorphs are now known from Cromhall Quarry, but they were not in 1990 when the two presumed wing metacarpals were described. There is no definitive evidence of the presence of pterosaurs in the Triassic of the UK.

Global Warming Will Have Weird Effects on Invasive Species

Rising temperatures may be seen as universally beneficial for non-native species expanding northward, but a Dartmouth College study suggests a warmer world may help some invaders but hurt others depending on how they and native enemies and competitors respond.

The study, which sheds light on the uncertain relationship between climate change and invasive species, appears in the journal Ecology. A PDF of the study is available on request.

Climate change and invasive species rank among the largest predicted threats to global ecosystems over the next century, but they are typically treated independently. To date, research focusing on the connection between these two threats has primarily focused on the idea that species from lower latitudes, which typically experience warmer temperatures than those in higher latitude ecosystems, will perform better at higher latitudes as temperatures warm. The Dartmouth study focuses instead on how a trait common among certain invasive species -- benefiting from "enemy release" -- can be influenced by changes in temperatures. The ''enemy release'' hypothesis holds that certain invading species succeed because they escape from their natural enemies -- pathogens, parasites, herbivores and predators -- in their native habitat. The Dartmouth study's approach takes into account that invading species are attempting to establish in locations where other species already exist, and the interactions with these existing species are important to consider.

The researchers conducted a six-week experiment manipulating the presence of sunfish and water temperature using two non-native and native crustacean zooplankton. They found that increases in water temperature favored the non-native crustacean due its faster growth rate at higher temperatures, as well as the fact that sunfish predators of both crustaceans eat more at higher temperatures. The sunfish's increased appetite disproportionally benefits the non-native crustacean because it has more effective defenses against fish predation -- hence its "release" from this particular enemy -- than the native crustacean.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Continuing the Fundraiser to Extract Contacts From Gorlovka

I am continuing the fundraiser to extract the individuals from Gorlovka.  We have made some progress, but we need a significantly larger amount than we have received so far to extract them.

The reason for needing to pull them out is the local militants (I have other words to describe them) have taken notice of our contacts.  Given the militants have started disappearing people, our contacts need to be pulled out asap.  We have someone who will do so, but it will cost in order to go and extract them.   

The reason for the original date on the fundraiser was to try to get the funds into a usable form by this friday.  Since there isn't a sufficient amount to do even the minimum quite yet, I'll keep reposting at 6 or 7 PM each night for this week at least until Monday.

Please use my email address (anzha lyu at gmail) for both questions and where to send the funds to on paypal.  I can take cryptocurrencies, but, please, email me first.  That's a little more complicated.

Through people's generosity, we have made it to $3,325 of the $5,000 goal.  I will keep a running tally.

Thank you for your help.

Cryptocurrencies From a Historical Perspective

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has unparalleled powers over nearly every consumer financial product and service. Given that virtual currencies can serve as a form of electronic money, the CFPB has, predictably, decided to weigh in on this topic.

A CFPB statement this week warned people about the dangers of private digital currencies such as Bitcoin, XRP, and Dogecoin. It started perfectly reasonably, noting that:
In a nutshell, while virtual currencies offer the potential for innovation, a lot of big issues have yet to be resolved – some of which are critical. If you are interested in using or buying virtual currencies, you should be aware of the associated risks.

It went on to list several risks associated with digital currencies, such as hackers, limited investor protection, cost, and outright fraud.

Fair enough. There are certainly legitimate risks associated with using digital currencies, and potential users of these services should understand those risks.

But then the CFPB statement goes on to perpetuate one of the great myths of history:

But virtual currencies aren’t regular money. To begin with, virtual currencies are not issued or backed by the United States or any other government or central bank.

Makes you wonder how the US survived until 1913 without just one government-backed currency.

Richard Cordray, the CFPB’s Director, then piled on by adding: “Virtual currencies are not backed by any government or central bank, and at this point consumers are stepping into the Wild West when they engage in the market.”

Sadly, this resembles what people are taught in school: the US economy was a mess until the federal government finally delivered a single (official) US currency, thus ending the “Wild West” days when US citizens used multiple currencies.

But there’s a hitch. These taught “facts” are dead wrong.

Nick Hanauer's Take on Economics

US Navy is Evaluating Designs for new Amphibious Warfare Ship (LXR)

The Navy is evaluating designs, costs and specifications for a new class of amphibious assault ships designed to replace the current fleet of cargo-carrying LSD 41/49 dock landing ships, service officials said.

The existing fleet of dock landing ships, which function in a key cargo-carrying capacity as part of an amphibious ready group, will be nearing the end of their expected 40-year life span in coming years, said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Robert Walsh, director of the Navy’s expeditionary warfare division.

“It is not often you replace a ship class,” he said.

Slated to be procured in 2020 and enter service by 2026, the new LXR amphib will need to function with more autonomy than its predecessor and be able to conduct what’s called disaggregated operations apart from an amphibious ready group.

The LXR will need more aviation, command and control and medical technologies compared to existing LSDs, Walsh explained.

“The LSD’s we’re replacing were meant to be the trucks – heavy cargo capability for the [amphibious ready group]. It has a landing platform but it doesn’t have a hangar and an aviation deck,” he said. “Due to the concept of operations we are under today, it needs independent capability. It needs to have aviation capability and be able to go somewhere and take helos with it. It needs an aviation detachment and be able to do the maintenance.”

Joint X-47B & FA-18E Operational Tests on the USS Roosevelt

Write up link.

New Zealand's Last Glacial Maximum Started Early and Ended Late

The early rise and late demise of New Zealand’s last glacial maximum


Rother et al


Recent debate on records of southern midlatitude glaciation has focused on reconstructing glacier dynamics during the last glacial termination, with different results supporting both in-phase and out-of-phase correlations with Northern Hemisphere glacial signals. A continuing major weakness in this debate is the lack of robust data, particularly from the early and maximum phase of southern midlatitude glaciation (∼30–20 ka), to verify the competing models. Here we present a suite of 58 cosmogenic exposure ages from 17 last-glacial ice limits in the Rangitata Valley of New Zealand, capturing an extensive record of glacial oscillations between 28–16 ka. The sequence shows that the local last glacial maximum in this region occurred shortly before 28 ka, followed by several successively less extensive ice readvances between 26–19 ka. The onset of Termination 1 and the ensuing glacial retreat is preserved in exceptional detail through numerous recessional moraines, indicating that ice retreat between 19–16 ka was very gradual. Extensive valley glaciers survived in the Rangitata catchment until at least 15.8 ka. These findings preclude the previously inferred rapid climate-driven ice retreat in the Southern Alps after the onset of Termination 1. Our record documents an early last glacial maximum, an overall trend of diminishing ice volume in New Zealand between 28–20 ka, and gradual deglaciation until at least 15 ka.

Uranus' Cupid is Doomed

Cupid is Doomed: An Analysis of the Stability of the Inner Uranian Satellites


French et al


We have explored the stability of the inner Uranian satellites using simulations based on the most recent observational data. We find that, across a wide range of mass assumptions, the system is unstable, resulting in the eventual crossing of orbits and probable subsequent collision of moons. Cupid and Belinda are usually the first satellites to cross orbits, and they do so on a time scale of 10^3-10^7 years. Cressida and Desdemona are generally the next pair to cross, on a time scale of 10^5-10^7 years. We show that the crossing times are highly sensitive to initial conditions and that Cupid's instability is related to its resonant interactions with Belinda. We also show that a previously discovered power law, which relates orbit crossing time to satellite mass, is valid across a wide range of masses. We generalize the power law to handle two unstable orbital pairs with overlapping lifetimes and show that it can be used to extend the time span of studies of orbital stability in a computationally efficient manner. Our results suggest that the current Uranian satellite system is in transition and that the moons will continue to collide and reaccrete for the foreseeable future.

Did Clovis Culture Originate in Central or South America?

Of the scores of North American archaeological sites claimed to provide evidence of human hunting of now-extinct Pleistocene mammals, only about a dozen have compelling evidence of such predation. In all instances, the animals involved were mammoth and mastodon (1). In PNAS, Sanchez et al. (2) contend that a third genus of proboscidean (elephants and their near relatives), the gomphothere Cuvieronius, should be added to the small list of large mammals pursued by Clovis hunters. It is an intriguing claim; skeptics, however, might require more proof than is currently available.

A Psittacosaurus Bonebed Found From Aptian Cretaceous China

The osteology and taphonomy of a Psittacosaurus bonebed assemblage of the Yixian Formation (Lower Cretaceous), Liaoning, China


Hedrick et al


We present the first detailed description of the osteology and mineralogy of an assemblage of Psittacosaurus juveniles (DMNH D2156) associated with a larger specimen from the Lujiatun beds of the Yixian Formation in Liaoning, China. We fully describe all of the material as well as discuss intraspecific variation in the sample set of twenty-four juveniles with associated postcranial material and compare with previously described ceratopsian juvenile material. Based on the development of the ends of long bones, it is suggested that the juveniles are not embryonic, but are post-hatchlings. In comparison with previous histologic analyses on P. lujiatunensis, it is shown that the large specimen associated with the juveniles is likely not yet an adult and that this assemblage is not an exemplar of parental care, but may be an example of post-hatching cooperation. The large specimen is however, shown to be positively associated with the assemblage and was not added on after excavation. Additionally, an allometric analysis of Psittacosaurus bone lengths is performed in order to determine ontogenetic trajectories and allometry using femur length as a proxy. This demonstrates that the vast majority of long bones and girdle elements in Psittacosaurus are isometric with body size, but supports previous analyses that the forelimb grew slower than the hindlimb. Finally, a mineralogical analysis using X-ray diffraction and petrographic thin sections of the block where DMNH D2156 is preserved shows that the animals were preserved in a volcanic-lithic arenite. The statistically significant alignment of specimens and preservation in a volcanic rock suggests that the taphonomic setting and reasoning for the exceptional preservation of the specimen is due to burial by a volcaniclastic debris flow. The vast majority of specimens in the Yixian Formation are found in lacustrine strata, recently suggested to be carried into lakes by pyroclastic debris flows. The preservation of DMNH D2156 in a clastic flow further supports the volcaniclastic flow preservation model for the fauna of the Yixian Formation, but we prefer a lahar flow interpretation for DMNH D2156 since there is no evidence of the bone microstructure being affected by intense heat associated with pyroclastic debris flows.

Last Universal Common Ancestor of all Life on Earth had a Leaky Membrane, Lived in Deep Sea Vents

All life on Earth came from one common ancestor – a single-celled organism – but what it looked like, how it lived and how it evolved into today's modern cells is a four billion year old mystery being solved by researchers at UCL using mathematical modelling.

Findings published today in PLOS Biology suggest for the first time that life's Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) had a 'leaky' membrane, which helps scientists answer two of biology's biggest questions:

1. Why all cells use the same bizarre, complex mechanism to harvest energy

2. Why two types of single-celled organism that form the deepest branch on the tree of life – bacteria and archaea – have completely different cell membranes

The leakiness of the membrane allowed LUCA to be powered by energy in its surroundings, most likely vents deep on the ocean floor, whilst holding in all the other components necessary for life.

The team modelled how the membrane changed, enabling LUCA's descendants to move to new, more challenging environments and evolve into two distinct types of single-celled organism, bacteria and archaea, creating the deepest branch of the tree of life.

Bacteria and archaea share many common features such as genes, proteins and mechanisms of reading DNA, initially leading scientists to believe they were just different types of bacteria. Their classification changed in the 1970's after extreme differences were found in the way they replicate DNA and in the structure of their cell membrane. As they both stemmed from LUCA, scientists set out to find answers in the structure and function of LUCA's membrane.

Dr Nick Lane (UCL Biosciences) who led the study said, "I find this work just beautiful – it constrains a sequence of steps going from the strange cell that seems to have been the ancestor of all life today, right through to the deep division between modern cells. From a single basic idea, the model can explain the fundamental differences between bacteria and archaea. Is it right? I'd like to think so, but more importantly, it makes some clear predictions that we plan to test in the future."

Data from the study strongly suggest that LUCA lived in the area where ancient seawater, dense with positively charged particles called protons, mixed with warm alkaline vent fluid, which contained few protons. The difference in the concentration of protons across these two environments enabled protons to flow into the cell, driving the production of a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which powered the growth of cells, just as it does today. However, unlike modern cells the scientists believe this could only happen if the membrane was 'leaky', enabling protons to leave the cell spontaneously so more protons could enter to power growth.

Dr Lane said: "In these deep sea vents, there is a continuous flow of alkaline fluids, which mix with the ocean waters. When they mix, the fluids neutralise each other, and that stops any build-up of charge which would otherwise prevent protons flowing into the cell. If the first cells had leaky membranes, then protons could enter and then be neutralised, or leave again, almost as if there was no barrier at all. What we've shown is that the rate at which protons enter and leave is high enough to power the growth of cells via proteins embedded in the membrane. So LUCA could have been powered by natural proton gradients in vents, but only if it had a really leaky membrane, completely unlike today's cells."

To escape from these seabed vents, LUCA had to adapt its membrane to pump protons out of the cell, in order for them to flow back in again to help drive ATP production. The study suggests that the bacteria and archaea developed completely different cell membrane structures and proton pumps, whilst keeping the same machinery for powering growth. It also explains why they differ in fundamental traits that depend on the membrane such as DNA replication.

Tropical Waters may Become More Oxygenated From Global warming

As the complex story of climate change unfolds, many of the endings are grim. But there are exceptions. Predictions that the lowest-oxygen environments in the ocean would get worse may not come to pass. Instead, University of Washington research shows climate change, as it weakens the trade winds, could shrink the size of these extreme low-oxygen waters.

"The tropics should actually get better oxygenated as the climate warms up," said Curtis Deutsch, a UW associate professor of oceanography. He is lead author of the study published Aug. 8 in Science.

Warmer water contains less gas, so climate change is expected to reduce oxygen levels worldwide. Observations show this is already taking place in many places. Declines during the past 20 years in the tropical low-oxygen zones, the lowest-oxygen waters on the planet, had led to a 2008 study proposing that these zones would also get worse over time.

Tropical regions are usually associated with an abundance of life, but they have some of the most inhospitable places for ocean dwellers. The oxygen minimum zones off Mexico and Peru have oxygen levels already too low to support most animals (so, unlike in other low-oxygen zones, here there's no risk of killing fish).

But when those levels drop even further, a particular group of bacteria, which can use nitrogen instead of oxygen as a source of energy, thrive. Nitrogen is an essential and very scarce nutrient for marine plants. When oxygen levels get low enough for that particular group of bacteria to take over, significant amounts of the ocean's fertilizer get deep-sixed to the bottom of the tropical ocean.

The new paper shows that water flowing into the tropics is indeed likely to get lower in oxygen, decreasing the initial oxygen supply. But demand will also shift under climate change. Specifically, as the trade winds weaken, the whole sequence of events that feeds this bacterial food chain will slow down, and the low-oxygen zone will shrink.

MiG-31 Replacement to Start in 2017?

Russia will start developing a replacement for its MiG-31 "Foxhound" interceptors in 2017, Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev, commander of the Russian Air Force, said.

“From 2017 we will start working on a new long-range interceptor to replace MiG-31,” he said.

According to the official, the new aircraft is to enter service in 2025.

Bondarev said last year that the Russian Air Force is hoping to receive a new long-range fighter-interceptor by 2020 and retire its existing fleet of at least 122 MiG-31 interceptors by 2028.

The MiG-31 is a long-range supersonic interceptor. The two-seater aircraft can intercept targets up to 124 miles (200 kilometers) away thanks to its advanced radar and long-range missiles. It can operate efficiently in all weather conditions and is equipped with state-of-the-art digital avionics.

The MiG-31 entered service with the Soviet Air Force in 1981. Production of the aircraft ended in 1994 but MiG-31 jets remain in service in the Russian and Kazakh air forces.

Spin for Rogozin's stupid comments before?

Is North Korea Exporting Rare Earth Elements to China?


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Need Your Help: Pulling People Out of Ukraine


For those of you that know me, you know whom I am speaking of.  However, for many of you, I am going to just leave this a little vague.  if you want to know details, email me.  I am going to be a little vague for the reason I worry about their safety, but you will understand in a moment.  

There are some contacts which I have in eastern Ukraine which are now under threat and need to be pulled out.  Their situation has radically changed for the worst and we need to get them out now.  If I were a rich man, I'd have no problems.  While not poor, mostly, I cannot turn on a dime.  My other sources are tapped out at the moment.  So, I turn to you, my readers for help.

If it is at all possible, send some money via paypal.  anzha lyu at gmail is my email address.  We need to raise about $5k.  I can take some cryptocurrencies, but I ask you email me before attempting to send.  

The situation has turned really ugly in the last 24 hours.  We think we know why and because of what we know, we need to get them out now.

So.  Please.  Whatever you can do.

I will close this out Monday.

Update:  I am willing to take requests for blog posts.  There are some limits on what I can write about, but if you email me, I can respond the the request.

Running tally: we're at $3325 needed now.

Copper Foam is a Good Electrocatalyst for Carbon dioxide

A catalyst made from a foamy form of copper has vastly different electrochemical properties from catalysts made with smooth copper in reactions involving carbon dioxide, a new study shows. The research, by scientists in Brown University's Center for the Capture and Conversion of CO2, suggests that copper foams could provide a new way of converting excess CO2 into useful industrial chemicals.

The research is published in the journal ACS Catalysis.

As levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continue to rise, researchers are looking for ways to make use of it. One approach is to capture CO2 emitted from power plants and other facilities and use it as a carbon source to make industrial chemicals, most of which are currently made from fossil fuels. The problem is that CO2 is extremely stable, and reducing it to a reactive and useful form isn't easy.

"Copper has been studied for a long time as an electrocatalyst for CO2 reduction, and it's the only metal shown to be able to reduce CO2 to useful hydrocarbons," said Tayhas Palmore, professor of engineering and senior author of the new research. "There was some indication that if you roughen the surface of planar copper, it would create more active sites for reactions with CO2."

Copper foam, which has been developed only in the last few years, provided the surface roughness that Palmore and her colleagues were looking for. The foams are made by depositing copper on a surface in the presence of hydrogen and a strong electric current. Hydrogen bubbles cause the copper to be deposited in an arrangement of sponge-like pores and channels of varying sizes.

After depositing copper foams on an electrode, the researchers set up experiments to see what kinds of products would be produced in an electrochemical reaction with CO2 in water. The experiments were performed by Sujat Sen and Dan Liu, graduate students in chemistry working in Palmore's lab at Brown's School of Engineering.

The experiments showed that the copper foam converted CO2 into formic acid — a compound often used as a feedstock for microbes that produce biofuels — at a much greater efficiency than planar copper. The reaction also produced small amounts of propylene, a useful hydrocarbon that's never been reported before in reactions involving copper.

"The product distribution was unique and very different from what had been reported with planar electrodes, which was a surprise," Palmore said. "We've identified another parameter to consider in the electroreduction of CO2. It's not just the kind of metal that's responsible for the direction this chemistry goes, but also the architecture of the catalyst."

Viv: Watson's Robopocalyptic Little Sister

When Apple announced the iPhone 4S on October 4, 2011, the headlines were not about its speedy A5 chip or improved camera. Instead they focused on an unusual new feature: an intelligent assistant, dubbed Siri. At first Siri, endowed with a female voice, seemed almost human in the way she understood what you said to her and responded, an advance in artificial intelligence that seemed to place us on a fast track to the Singularity. She was brilliant at fulfilling certain requests, like “Can you set the alarm for 6:30?” or “Call Diane’s mobile phone.” And she had a personality: If you asked her if there was a God, she would demur with deft wisdom. “My policy is the separation of spirit and silicon,” she’d say.

Over the next few months, however, Siri’s limitations became apparent. Ask her to book a plane trip and she would point to travel websites—but she wouldn’t give flight options, let alone secure you a seat. Ask her to buy a copy of Lee Child’s new book and she would draw a blank, despite the fact that Apple sells it. Though Apple has since extended Siri’s powers—to make an OpenTable restaurant reservation, for example—she still can’t do something as simple as booking a table on the next available night in your schedule. She knows how to check your calendar and she knows how to use Open­Table. But putting those things together is, at the moment, beyond her.

Now a small team of engineers at a stealth startup called Viv Labs claims to be on the verge of realizing an advanced form of AI that removes those limitations. Whereas Siri can only perform tasks that Apple engineers explicitly implement, this new program, they say, will be able to teach itself, giving it almost limitless capabilities. In time, they assert, their creation will be able to use your personal preferences and a near-infinite web of connections to answer almost any query and perform almost any function.

Why is There a *NEW* Giant Hanger at "Area 51?"

In the latest satellite imagery released to the public, dated June 30th (partial) and June 2nd (full), Area 51 continues to undergo changes, and one of them is significant in nature. This new construction project is of especially high interest, not just because of its physical size, but also because of its very peculiar location and timing.

US Army Selects Bell Helicopter & Sikorsky/Boeing for JMR-TD

Bell Helicopter and a Sikorsky/Boeing team will each build flying prototypes for a US Army programme that aims to demonstrate a new generation of high-speed rotorcraft.

The army selected Bell’s V-280 Valor optimum speed tiltrotor and the Sikorsky-Boeing concept for a compound coaxial rotor called the SB-1. Both aircraft are planned to fly for three years starting in fiscal 2017.

The selection means that start-up companies AVX Corp and Karem Aircraft will have to find ways to finance continued development. Other companies, such as Airbus Helicopters, declined to participate in the joint multirole – technology demonstrator (JMR-TD) programme.

The army still plans to hold an open competition in the next decade for the future vertical lift (FVL) programme, which aims to replace all of the army’s helicopters with high-speed rotorcraft.

The JMR-TD winners, however, will receive tens of millions of dollars each from the army to develop and demonstrate their prototype aircraft. The selected companies also have pledged to at least match the government’s investment with internal funding.

For Bell, the V-280 also represents an opportunity to build on the V-22 Osprey programme with what it calls the third-generation of tiltrotor technology, including the original XV-15 prototype first flown in the 1980s.

“We remain focused on providing exceptional capabilities and flexibility in an advanced aircraft with reduced weight, complexity and cost,” Bell says in a statement.

Sikorsky and Boeing, meanwhile, are leveraging the former’s investment in compound, coaxial rotor technology with the SB-1 (pictured below). Sikorsky has already tested and retired the X2 proof-of-concept vehicle, as well as launched the S-97 Raider programme. The SB-1 will further scale up the technology, using Honeywell T55 turbofan engines to power the aircraft for the demonstration.

The Paleoenvironment of a Marine Shelf From Albian Cretaceous

Integrated taphonomy in an open-marine platform: The Lower Cretaceous of Sierra Helada (Betic Cordillera, SE Spain)


Giannetti et al


A detailed taphonomic analysis was carried out on the lower Albian deposits of the Sierra Helada section (Alicante, Betic Cordillera, southeastern Spain). Ten taphonomic characters were studied and ten skeletal concentrations were defined on the basis of taphonomic features and the dominant taxa. Cluster analysis was performed on the dataset represented by the abundance of the taphonomic characters in each skeletal concentration. This enabled the definition of four different taphonomic categories: 1) skeletal concentrations characterized by the presence of fossils preserved in life position, 2) skeletal concentrations showing very little physical reworking, 3) skeletal concentrations related to high-energy background conditions, and 4) skeletal concentrations produced by medium- to high-energy events.

Four taphofacies were defined on the basis of the main sedimentological features and the most representative skeletal concentrations. Taphofacies A represents the low energy outer platform, rich in skeletal concentrations with echinoids in life position and only slightly reworked. The second taphofacies (taphofacies B) is very rich in reworked echinoid tests and calcarenitic beds and records the transition to shallower areas, while taphofacies C shows abundant thick-bedded calcarenites and skeletal concentrations produced by sediment transport and rapid deposition. Finally, cross-bedded grainstone beds, which are rich in fine-grained fragmented, locally reoriented bioclasts (taphofacies D), record the existence of shifting sandy dunes in the shallow inner part of the platform.

Comprehensive Model of Enceladus' Geysers



Porco et al


We present the first comprehensive examination of the geysering, tidal stresses, and anomalous thermal emission across the south pole of Enceladus and discuss the implications for the moon's thermal history and interior structure. A 6.5 yr survey of the moon's south polar terrain (SPT) by the Cassini imaging experiment has located ~100 jets or geysers erupting from four prominent fractures crossing the region. Comparing these results with predictions of diurnally varying tidal stresses and with Cassini low resolution thermal maps shows that all three phenomena are spatially correlated. The coincidence of individual jets with very small (~10 m) hot spots detected in high resolution Cassini VIMS data strongly suggests that the heat accompanying the geysers is not produced by shearing in the upper brittle layer but rather is transported, in the form of latent heat, from a sub-ice-shell sea of liquid water, with vapor condensing on the near-surface walls of the fractures. Normal stresses modulate the geysering activity, as shown in the accompanying paper; we demonstrate here they are capable of opening water-filled cracks all the way down to the sea. If Enceladus' eccentricity and heat production are in steady state today, the currently erupting material and anomalous heat must have been produced in an earlier epoch. If regional tidal heating is occurring today, it may be responsible for some of the erupting water and heat. Future Cassini observations may settle the question.