Thursday, September 03, 2015

What Drove the Ediacaran Biota Mass Extinction? Were They EATEN Into Extinction?

Biotic replacement and mass extinction of the Ediacara biota


Darroch et al


The latest Neoproterozoic extinction of the Ediacara biota has been variously attributed to catastrophic removal by perturbations to global geochemical cycles, ‘biotic replacement’ by Cambrian-type ecosystem engineers, and a taphonomic artefact. We perform the first critical test of the ‘biotic replacement’ hypothesis using combined palaeoecological and geochemical data collected from the youngest Ediacaran strata in southern Namibia. We find that, even after accounting for a variety of potential sampling and taphonomic biases, the Ediacaran assemblage preserved at Farm Swartpunt has significantly lower genus richness than older assemblages. Geochemical and sedimentological analyses confirm an oxygenated and non-restricted palaeoenvironment for fossil-bearing sediments, thus suggesting that oxygen stress and/or hypersalinity are unlikely to be responsible for the low diversity of communities preserved at Swartpunt. These combined analyses suggest depauperate communities characterized the latest Ediacaran and provide the first quantitative support for the biotic replacement model for the end of the Ediacara biota. Although more sites (especially those recording different palaeoenvironments) are undoubtedly needed, this study provides the first quantitative palaeoecological evidence to suggest that evolutionary innovation, ecosystem engineering and biological interactions may have ultimately caused the first mass extinction of complex life.
PR pop sci version.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Wait! What?! A Dish to Celebrate the Victory Over Japan in China

A friend sent this to me.  Not sure what to think.

Once Upon the Permian: Therocephalians, the Near Mammals Before Mammals

Euchambersia, a potentially venomous akidnognathid eutherocephalian

Introducing the Therocephalians

It has been a long time since I wrote a therapsid post.  Part of the problem is there are two groups I find the most fascinating and want to write about.  However, they are incredibly diverse.  Far, far more so than either the dicynodonts or the gorgonopsids.  While the former filled niches of herbivores from those like gophers to giant cattle or rhinos and the latter were carnivores filling top or middle predator niches, the others fill virtually everything.    Herbivore, carnivore, omnivore, aquatic, arboreal, flying and more.  So, it's really hard to do a single post for them.  Those groups are the therocephalians and the cynodonts.  The latter encompass our modern mammals.  Some day, I'll get the cynodonts, but not today.  Today, I'll be covering the therocephalians.

Annatherapsis, an otter-like akidnognathid eutherocephalian

While the therocephalians are somewhat known from a couple of appearances in the popular media, in Primeval and Walking With Monsters, they are largely unknown in truth.  They were large and small.  Sabre toothed top predators and rodent-like herbivores.  They had a far greater range of bauplans than did either of the other two groups I have written about.  

Therocephalians ("beast heads") were the sister clade to cynodonts ("dog teeth"): meaning they are very closely related.  Cynodonts were the lineage that gave rise to and encompasses mammals.  Early on they were almost exclusively carnivorous, but after the Permian Mass Extinction they would go on to fill even more roles.  They would develop a number of traits in parallel to the cynodonts.  So much so, that it was long thought they were the ancestors of mammals through the Bauroids rather than cynodonts. Some of those features were the secondary palate, phalanges like those of mammals, evidence of warm bloodedness and even whiskers.

The therocephalians existed from the Middle Permian (Capitanian) through the early Middle (Anisian) Triassic.  They diversified after the Guadalupian Mass Extinction, along with many other advanced therapsid forms, survived the Permian Extinction and then made it into the early Middle Triassic.  They seem to have been victims of whatever changed over the ecology from being a mix of therapsids and archosaurs in the megafauna to an archosaur dominated megafauna in the Late Triassic.  Some have speculated they were merely outcompeted by cynodonts and the rising archosauriformes.  They are last recorded in Namibia during the Anisian Triassic with Microgomphodon.

Therocephalians were fairly common.  They seem to have been discovered on all continents save North America.  They appear to have evolved in Gondwana and spread.  They survived, as far as we can tell, last in what is now southern Africa. 

They varied in size from as small as about 3 1/2 inch Microgomphodon up to the estimated giant 3m (10 ft) long Megawhaitsia.  Most seemed to be around 1.5m (5 ft) long though, but later species were much smaller.

There were many clades


The earliest and basal most (sorta, most primitive) were the Lycosuchidae.  These "wolf crocodiles" were the earliest known therocephalians living during the Capitanian.  The most famous was, of course, Lycosuchus. While distinct, Lycosuchus has similar to the gorgonopsids.  However, one of the distinct features was the double canines.  There have been a lot of arguments over whether or not the double canines are a case of tooth replacement being seen in the fossil record, a defect in that particular animal or a true feature of the animal throughout its life.  Lycosuchus was fairly large, being 1.2m (almost 4 ft) long.  Simorhellia appears to be a close relative.

Pristeragnathus, a scylacosaurid

Scylacosaurus and its relatives in Scylacosauridae were the next most basal of the therocephalians.  Glanosuchus is one of the most famous of group and has the beginnings of many of the more advanced features that the therocephalians would develop in convergent evolution with the cynodonts and mammals.  Most of this group were large-ish carnivores being about 1.5 meters (5 ft) in length, roughly the length of a large wolf.

The remaining clade of the basal therocephalians is Trochosuchidae. These were similar to their cousins, the Scylacosauridae and Lycosuchidae. They lacked the crest on the skull of scylacosaurs, had a broader, more flatten skull and only had one, large canine tooth (yet for some reason many of the popular drawings have them with two.  odd that).

The True Beast Heads

Eutherocephalia, the "true beast heads" were the clade that could be described as more derived than the earlier, basal clades.  It was even more mammal like than its predecessors and is divided into several subclades as well: Akidnognathidae, Hofmeyriidae, Whaitsiidae, Baurioidea and others. We'll discuss, briefly, Akidnognathidae, Nanictidopidae, Whaitsiidae and Baurioidea.

Akidnognathidae is often the clade thought of if and when someone thinks of the therocephalians.  They encompassed the sabre toothed and much studied Moschorhinus and the famous Euchambersia, notable for being potentially venomous.  Moschorhinus is the most heavily studied of the group and survived the Permian Extinction.  After the extinction, it became smaller, demonstrating the so-called Lilliput Effect and developed even larger canines, becoming more sabre toothed than before.  Euchambersia was famous for being sorta portrayed in Walking with Beasts for having a poisonous bite.  That's controversial, to say the least, but it did have the grooves in its canines and a socket above for a poison gland consistent with venomous animals.  Akidnognathidae was fairly large, often about 1.5m (5 ft in length).  While members survived the Permian Extinction, most of its diversity was wiped out and it did not last long after.  In many ways Akidnognathidae appeared to be convergent with modern carnivores for its bauplans and niches.

Purlova, a nanictidopid therocephalian from Russia

Nanictidopidae is another clade of eutherocephalians.  They are notable for their distribution, found so far in South Africa and Russia, but also because they appear to be the first therocephalians to have become herbivores during the Late Permian.  They had reduced canines and tooth wear consistent with herbivory.  Their skulls were more robust and trianular than other eutherocephalains of their time and this has been suggested as support for herbivory as well.  Their skulls were about 20 cm in length and if their bauplan was consitent with other therocephalians, they were not small and had an overall length of 120 cm (4 ft).

Megawhaitsia, a highly speculative reconstruction of the whaitsiid therocephalian

Whaitsiidae is another notable clade within eutherocephalia.  They were general carnivores and around 1 meter in length.  Interestingly, they have 5 upper incisors and then 4 lower.  However, the most notable bit is one of its members (Megawhaitsia) is the largest therocephalian found to date: the maximilla found in Russia makes for an estimated skull length of up to 50 cm.  If the body plan follows that of other whaitsiids, then the body length is around 3 meters.  Since it lived during the time of the Gorgonopsids, it makes you wonder if they were locally absent for Megawhaitsia to become so large.

Bauria, the quintessential Bauroid

The last group of eutherocephalians I will be covering is the Baurioidea.  There is no way I can do any credit to this diverse and interesting group.  They tended to be small and they developed into near mammals.  Some were convergent with rodents (Bauria, Microgomphodon) and others started reconverging with the larger sabre toothed forms that had gone extinct (Nothogomphodon), but it might be better to call it a sabre-toothed badger.  They were herbivorous (Bauria et al) and carnivorous (Nothogomphodon).  They survived the Permian Extinction and even diversified during the disaster taxa stages, the earliest Triassic.  They were also the smallest therocephalians of any stripe: Microgomphodon was 9 cm (3.6 in) long.  The largest of them, Nothogomphodon, was around 50 cm long (20 inches).

Nothogomphodon, a bauroid therocephalian.

And that's all he wrote...

The therocephalians lasted for at least 20 million years.  Its likely we have not found the last of species they had, given there was a dicynodont recovered from the Australian Cretaceous, nor have we found the earliest of them either.  They had a good run.  However, for all their mad evolutionary innovation, it ought to be remembered, 20 million years from now in the past is in the Miocene Neogene for us.  Its a relative blink of time and yet they evolved and changed in some radical ways.  They were as big as short-faced bears to as small as a mouse.  They were aquatic like otters and were mini rodents and the amongst the largest of carnivores.  They were amazing in their own right.  Unfortunately, they are incredibly diverse and ought to have their own post like the dicynodonts and gorgonopsids for each of the clades given what we know, but, alas, I am a rocket scientist and ought to get back to that fun paperwork.

Is This the Royal Navy Destroyer (warship) of 2050?


US Navy Successfully Flies 50 UAV Swarm

Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Assistant Professor Timothy Chung met with members of NPS’ Advanced Robotic Systems Engineering Laboratory (ARSENL) during a field exercise at Camp Roberts, Aug. 27. Members of ARSENL flew 50 autonomous UAVs breaking their previous record of 30, set just five weeks ago.

“I’m very proud of reaching our goal of successfully flying 50 autonomous UAVs simultaneously,” said Chung.

The 50 UAVs were launched and flown autonomously in two “sub-swarms” of 25 UAVs each and guided using ARSENL-developed swarm operator interfaces. The UAVs performed basic leader-follower cooperative behaviors and exchanged information amongst themselves via wireless links.

“This project came from the notion that quantity is a quality,” said Chung. “It’s like trying to play a game of tennis against an entire 5th grade class. If they were are all lobbing tennis balls across the court, it would be very hard to defend against them.”

In the past, each aircraft would be operated by a single person, which makes for a very large footprint with many moving parts.

Saudi Arabia Buying 2 Lockheed Built Freedom Class LCS Derived Frigates for $1 Billion

Saudi Arabia is in advanced discussions with the U.S. government about buying two frigates based on a coastal warship that Lockheed Martin Corp is building for the U.S. Navy, and could reach agreement by the end of the year, according to sources familiar with the talks.

The frigate sale, valued at well over $1 billion, will be the cornerstone of a long-delayed multi billion dollar modernization of the Royal Saudi Navy’s Gulf-patroling eastern fleet of aging U.S. warships and would include smaller patrol boats. It underscores the strong business and military ties between the two countries, despite tensions over the U.S.-led Iran nuclear deal.

Paperwork for the Saudi deal could be finalized by year's end, the sources told Reuters this week. The larger modernization effort will encompass training, infrastructure and anti-submarine warfare equipment, and could include orders from other countries, the sources said.


Amusingly, McCain et al want the minehunting UUV replaced on the LCS classes.

Long Range Strike Bomber Designs Very Mature, NOT Flown Yet & Competing Designs VERY Different

The two designs competing to be the US Air Force's next generation bomber have undergone extensive testing by the service and are far more mature than previously known, to a level nearly unheard of in the Pentagon before a contract award, Defense News has learned.

The designs also feature significantly improved stealth capabilities when compared to the B-2 and still feature plans for future certification of nuclear weaponry and the ability to be optionally manned.

Considered one of the US Air Force's three top acquisition priorities, the Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) program has been kept primarily in the dark as the service weighs two competing proposals, one from Northrop Grumman, and the other from a team of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. A contract award is expected soon, with indications it could come before the end of September.

On Tuesday, the Air Force held a meeting with outside stakeholders laying out new details on the secretive bomber. According to two individuals with knowledge of the meeting, the service has conducted far greater testing of the bomber designs than is normal for a pre-award program.

One source said the Air Force officials who briefed made it clear that both designs are "very mature," having undergone wind tunnel testing and extensive survivability tests to evaluate the design from all angles. However, neither design has actually flown, both sources said.


  • 21 bombers at a LRIP
  • Smaller than a B-2; bigger than a UCLASS
  • Initial Bombers all manned
  • Bomber not  certified for nukes at the get go
  • cost plus incentive for the first part of the contract
  • remaining 79 bombers in a second contract
  • Supposedly each design radically different, but some sources claim both designs are flying wings


Come. Know Thyself

What everyone pictures the Fruit of Knowledge looked like.

What it probably really looked like.

Podolimirus mirus: a Bilateral Animal From Ediacaran NeoProterozoic Ukraine

Taphonomy of the Ediacaran Podolimirus and associated dipleurozoans from the Vendian of Ukraine


Dzik et al


Fossiliferous strata of the late Ediacaran Lomoziv Member of the Mohyliv Formation, once known from now flooded outcrops along the Dniester River, have been recently exposed in a large quarry near the Novodnistrovs’k electric plant dam in Podolia, Ukraine. Finely bedded arkosic sandstone with claystone/siltstone intercalations is locally rich in ‘elephant skin’ surfaces indicating original presence of microbial mats. Imprints of soft-bodied organisms frequently occur on the sole surfaces of the sandstones. There are no signs of early diagenetic cementation with iron sulfides and the fossils are usually strongly compacted, with low relief. Specimens of bilaterally symmetrical latest Precambrian animals newly collected at the quarry offer additional evidence that their bodies had a complex internal anatomy. This relates especially to Podolimirus mirus, previously known from only fragmentary specimens representing only marginal parts of its chambered organ (‘quilt’). It appears that there is a large region of the body in front of the ‘quilt’, with a lobate organ resembling bifurcating anterior structures earlier thought to represent intestinal diverticula in other dickinsoniids. The ‘quilt’ (presumably a dorsal muscular organ) of Podolimirus has a deep medial sinus that may have hosted a cylindrical axial organ analogous to that reported in the dickinsoniids from northern Russia and Australia.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Wait! What?! Neandertals in Spain had a HEATED WATER? (????) Basin?!?!

The Neanderthals of the Abric Romaní (Capellades, Barcelona) site excavated a concave hole on the ground of 40x30x10 cm. It could be a container excavated with a digger stick with a finality of heat water. This hole is located near the wall of the rockshelter and is enclosed of a high quantity of hearths, limestones and speleothemes with thermical fractures. The discovery took place during this month’s excavation managed by the IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social); it started on August 7th and finished on August 28th. This fieldwork supplied new 10 000 archaeological remains whose provide very important information about the domestic activities of Neanderthals.

The Planet of the Apes is NIgh: Koko the Gorilla Appears to be Learning to Talk

Koko, a 44-year-old gorilla famous for her ability to communicate with keepers using sign language, is now showing signs of early speech. “Koko has developed vocal and breathing behaviors associated with the ability to talk, which were previously thought to be impossible in her species,” The Daily Mail reports. The new development could further blur the line between what distinguishes humans from some of our more hirsute cousins.

Hat tip to Randy.

yes, I made the joke the original author referenced.

Has UC San Diego Discovered how to do Optical Stealth With Metamaterials?

Cloaking devices — or “metamaterials” that scatter light — have been in university labs for years. But electrical engineers at U.C. San Diego claim they’ve solved a few key problems that make existing cloaks too obvious to the human eye.

First, let’s back up a moment. For the most part, metamaterials in cloaking devices are really thick and bulky. Far too bulky to be practical. The second problem is that the cloaks scatter light at lower intensities than when the light first touches the cloak — and all that low-intensity light is still within visual frequencies.

This means we perceive the area around those cloaks to be darker than its surroundings. It’s a dead giveaway.

But the U.C. San Diego engineers claim they’ve corrected those two issues in a recent paper. A very thin sheet of Teflon peppered with tiny dielectric cylinders can scatter light while being “almost lossless,” they claim, meaning there’s little to no difference in the intensity of light around the cloak.

US Marine Corps Exploring Uses of Augmented Reality

Think of it as Google Glass goes to war — only less nerd and more Marine. Budget cuts and readiness shortfalls have the US military looking at virtual reality as a partial replacement for expensive field exercises. But VR has real limits. So this month, young Marines at the Infantry Officer Course in Quantico tested a technology to get the best of both worlds: augmented reality.

While virtual reality puts the user in a completely computer-generated environment, augmented reality superimposes computer-generated elements — say, a tank, a helicopter, or a building — on the real world. That lets troops go through the actual, physical motions of the skill they’re training for and build muscle memory, without restricting the targets and support units.

Google Glass and football broadcasts already use a limited form of augmented reality, superimposing static elements like a yellow first-down line on the footage of the actual game. Military training requirements are much more complex. Ground combat is a team sport, so different users in different places need to see the same computer-generated component — and the perspective has to change realistically as the users move around. The computer-generated components themselves need to move and interact, for example by blowing up.

Pentecopterus: a Giant Darriwilian Ordovician Sea Scorpion From 10 Million Years Earlier Than Expected

You don't name a sea creature after an ancient Greek warship unless it's built like a predator.

That's certainly true of the recently discovered Pentecopterus, a giant sea scorpion with the sleek features of a penteconter, one of the first Greek galley ships. A Yale University research team says Pentecopterus lived 467 million years ago and could grow to nearly six feet, with a long head shield, a narrow body, and large, grasping limbs for trapping prey. It is the oldest described eurypterid -- a group of aquatic arthropods that are ancestors of modern spiders, lobsters, and ticks.

A detailed description of the animal appears in the Sept. 1 online edition of the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

"This shows that eurypterids evolved some 10 million years earlier than we thought, and the relationship of the new animal to other eurypterids shows that they must have been very diverse during this early time of their evolution, even though they are very rare in the fossil record," said James Lamsdell, a postdoctoral associate at Yale University and lead author of the study.

"Pentecopterus is large and predatory, and eurypterids must have been important predators in these early Palaeozoic ecosystems," Lamsdell said.

Let's get a Feather!

Marine and Terrestrial Permian Extinctions Aren't Geochronologically Synchronous?

Is the vertebrate-defined Permian-Triassic boundary in the Karoo Basin, South Africa, the terrestrial expression of the end-Permian marine event?


Gastaldo et al


The end-Permian extinction records the greatest ecological catastrophe in Earth history. The vertebrate fossil record in the Karoo Basin, South Africa, has been used for more than a century as the standard for understanding turnover in terrestrial ecosystems, recently claimed to be in synchrony with the marine crisis. Workers assumed that systematic turnover at the Dicynodon assemblage zone boundary, followed by the appearance of new taxa directly above the base of the Lystrosaurus assemblage zone, is the continental expression of the end-Permian event and recovery. To test this hypothesis, we present the first high-precision age on strata close to the inferred Permian-Triassic boundary. A U-Pb isotope dilution–thermal ionization mass spectrometry zircon age of 253.48 ± 0.15 Ma (early Changhsingian) is from a silicified ash layer ∼60 m below the current vertebrate-defined boundary at Old Lootsberg Pass (southern South Africa). This section yields newly discovered plants and vertebrates, and is dominated by a normal polarity signature. Our collective data suggest that the Dicynodon-Lystrosaurus assemblage zone boundary is stratigraphically higher than currently reported, and older than the marine extinction event. Therefore, the turnover in vertebrate taxa at this biozone boundary probably does not represent the biological expression of the terrestrial end-Permian mass extinction. The actual Permian-Triassic boundary in the Karoo Basin is either higher in the Katberg Formation or is not preserved. The currently accepted model of the terrestrial ecosystem response to the crisis, both in this basin and its extension globally, requires reevaluation.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Robopocalypse Report #18: Paper Drones Act as Cheerleaders as the 3d Printed Self Driving Cars Drive to the First Robopocalyptical Football Game


Drones and data could significantly help oil fields in the US with the lower oil prices these days.

In the interim, there is a new market hunting for for pilots...flying drones.

Drones are becoming a problem for those seeking quiet on their vacations.

The University of Arkansas has restricted drone use over campus.

In the WTF category, motorized paper airplanes are, according to the FAA, drones and need to be licensed.

The FAA is beta testing a smart phone app that would inform drone pilots if they can fly in an area or not.

In the world of self driving cars, here is a Roadmap to a World Without Drivers.

Self driving cars may actually be really good for cyclists and pedestrians.

In the oh-noes category, will self driving cars be a terrorist's best friend?

Multiple automakers are starting to bridge the gap between todays manually driven cars and the self driving cars through safety features.

Self driving cars are now expected to be common in 5 to 10 years according to a study.  Just in time for my daughter to get her driver's license!!!  Wee!

(Some) insurance companies are welcoming their new self driving car overlords.

In manufacturing, it seems in Tesla's factories, the Robopocalypse has been realized.  That's amusingly ironic, I think.

In 3d printing, an Israeli designer had her 3d printed fashion designs hit the catwalk.

There are questions about how fast 3d printing or additive manufacturing will grow between now and the end of the decade.  Some give it a high number.  Others are more skeptical.  

In Boca Raton, Florida, a 3d Printer has been added to the library.

In general robotics, like the Japanese, a University of Illinois professor is working on robots to assist the elderly.

Is the Robopocalypse coming for FOOTBALL!?!

Another opinion piece wonders if Terminators are not a bad thing, really, if you use them to hunt terrorists.

In the software side, IBM has come up with an AI to help predict air pollution, in a project dubbed 'Green Horizion,' in Beijing 72 hours before hand.

In the economics of the Robopocalypse, robots might take your job, but first they will be your annoying coworker.

Another opinion piece states the Robopocalypse is being badly overhyped.

Could robots be part of the problem for India's PM Modi not being able to create jobs faster?  If so, then what happens when the Robopocalypse is fully realized and there are not factories to place in foreign countries?  

China releases its market projections for robotics.

Moving onto the general thoughts and philosophy of the Robopocalypse, in an interview, the DARPA head of the Robotics Challenge discusses his thoughts on the coming Robopocalypse.

Ukraine War Update: Бум идет лягушачий

video of the grenade blast outside of the Rada

The only place that suffered through fighting today appears to have been Avdeevka and that was restricted to RPGs and infantry weapons, no mortars, tanks or artillery support.

There has been LOTS of movement in the occupied Donbas.  Artillery being shuffled around and fuel trucks, lots and lots of fuel trucks going to Makeevka. 

The US deployed Predator drones to Latvia.  This is hardly threatening, really, but might make everyone a bit more nervous.  After all, look what an Iraqi MiG-25 did to a Predator, even when it fought back.

Another Explosion in Shandong, Felt 50 km Away

An explosion shook a chemical plant in an industrial zone in China's Dongying, in Shandong province, shortly before midnight on Monday, according to state media.

There were no immediate reports of casualties. One person died last month after a blast hit a chemical plant in a different part of Shandong last month.

A private message indicates this happens on a regular basis.

SASC Hammers US Air Force Over Long Range Strike Bomber, Tanker Problems

In a sign that this town is slowly coming back to life after a laconic August, the Senate Armed Services Committee has written Defense Secretary Ash Carter about mistakes made about the price of the Long Range Strike Bomber (LRSB) in two reports to Congress and raised questions about the latest delays to Boeing’s problem-plagued KC-46 tanker.

The Chinese Dragon Awakens

This week will be a big one for China watchers as the People’s Liberation Army holds a massive parade on Thursday in Beijing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender during World War II.

The parade comes the same week Taiwan released its a report warning that China will declare an Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ, in the South China Sea after it finishes building military facilities on the Spratly Islands, according to the aviation blog Alert 5.

The PLA plans to showcase its increasingly capable weaponry, from guns and missiles to tanks and fighter jets. An estimated 12,000 troops, between 100 and 200 aircraft, and some 500 pieces of equipment are expected to participate in the event, according to CNN.

Shigir Idol Found in Russia Dates From the Twilight of the Pleistocene/Dawn of the Holocene


Ukraine War Update: о нет! лягушачий, нет!

As the Rada was voting on a law allowing for the special status of the Donbas, a protest broke out in front.  The protest turned violent: a grenade was thrown into the police by a member of the Sich Battalion and also a member of Svoboda.  A national guard member died and ~50 others were wounded.  Several seriously.  30 people have been arrested and more grenades recovered.

This is the tight rope Poroshenko must walk.  If he stops fighting in the east, he risks another revolution led by the extreme pro Ukraine elements.  Right Sector, Svoboda, etc all are a major risk of attempting a revolution.  I do not think they will necessarily win.  On the contrary, they probably would not unless Poroshenko totally bumbles it like Yanukovich did.  

However, Ukraine shredding itself from the inside is one of Putin's win scenarios. 

Let's hope that does not happen.

Ironically, if the ceasefire fails, Poroshenko's seat is more secure, at least as far as Kiev is concerned.  There is a hotspot where it seems the DNR's foot soldiers are refusing to accept the ceasefire and started attacking with automatic weapons, but (so far) no artillery or mortars.

Oh and, VP Commissioner Timmermans, based on Europe's actions with respect to Ukraine, you are so full of shit (re soundbite: Europe "will never turn away those who need protection."

Something Fluffy This Way Came

Evidence of Rock Weathering From the EoArchean

3806 Ma Isua rhyolites and dacites affected by low temperature Eoarchaean surficial alteration: Earth's earliest weathering


Nutman et al


This paper reports evidence for Earth's oldest-recognised low temperature alteration, at ∼3800 Ma. Potassic felsic schists with a protolith age of 3806 ± 2 Ma form a ∼30 km long unit in the amphibolite facies, deformed, Isua supracrustal belt (West Greenland). At a single locality, boudinaged layers (nodules) within the schists are low strain zones: they are fine-grained, weakly feldspar-phyric, contain quartz amygdules and have fiamme-like structures, all supporting a volcanic protolith.

The nodules and surrounding schistose matrix contain abundant, 100–50 μm, euhedral, oscillatory zoned 3806 Ma zircons. The rare earth patterns of the zircons indicate crystallisation was magmatic. Some zircons contain axial lobate voids indicating that they grew at low pressure as the magma exsolved a fluid. Ti-in-zircon thermometry indicates crystallisation temperatures of 750–650 °C. Taken together, these zircon features indicates growth at eutectic temperatures in a hypabyssal chamber as the magma was exsolving a fluid phase. The magmatic zircons have ɛHf initial values of ∼0 and δ18OVSMOW of +5.0‰ ( Hiess et al., 2009), showing that the source of the volcanic rocks was devoid of assimilated markedly older or weathered crustal material, and probably essentially juvenile. In contrast, the whole rock δ18OVSMOW values are elevated at +14.7 to +16.2‰, indicative of superimposed low-temperature alteration processes.

The nodules and matrix schists have non-igneous bulk compositions, exemplified by strong enrichment in K2O and depletion in Na2O. They are depleted in Sr, have no negative Eu anomalies, but have high Rb/Sr, with an Rb–Sr age of 3760 ± 140 Ma (Jacobsen and Dymek, 1988). This indicates that the alteration involving strong degradation of plagioclase occurred in the Eoarchaean. Trace element compositions and establishment of alteration vectors suggest the protoliths were likely rhyolitic and dacitic in composition.

The strongest-modified matrix schist compositions contain biotite ± calcite ± dolomite with increase in MgO relative to the nodules, which indicates early magnesian carbonate growth. The whole-rock chemistry, decoupling of the igneous zircon and whole-rock oxygen isotope signatures and the Rb–Sr dating indicate that after eruption, the 3806 Ma felsic volcanic rocks underwent Eoarchaean low-temperature potassic alteration with weathering and groundwater circulation the most likely process. The geochemistry of the Isua felsic schists is compared with that of better-preserved volcanic rocks where the alteration conditions are known. This suggests a subaerial environment. The carbonatisation of the Isua felsic schists demonstrates drawdown of atmospheric CO2 into rocks made porous by the weathering.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ukraine War Update: Кто хрипит сегодня, лягушачий?

Today was Miner's Day in Ukraine.  It was the single most quiet day in the Donbass War since it began.  Tomorrow is the start of the ceasefire, the so-called Minsk III.  

It has been so quiet, people are starting to get their hopes up this might be the end of the fighting.  That worries me.  Little hurts more than rekindled hope thoroughly crushed.

There was another sentiment I heard today.   Its one that is so Ukrainian its hard to convey its bitterness and relief all at once to an American reading it.  There is hope that there is peace, but all hope for recovering the Donbass is lost.

I'd not get anyone's hopes up.  Zakharchenko has resurfaced and he's stated there will be no peace until all of the Donbass has been "liberated" from Ukraine. 

And a 5 month old child, a little girl, wounded in the shelling in Maryinka, died today.  Rest in peace, devichka.  

Let's see what happens.

That's not a Chinese Predator! That's a Reaper!


China's Z-10 Attack Helicopter


Tread Carefully Around the Hype: Leptons Behaving Badly at the LHC

Subatomic particles have been found that appear to defy the Standard Model of particle physics. The team working at Cern's Large Hadron Collider have found evidence of leptons decaying at different rates, which could possibly point to some undiscovered forces.

Publishing their findings in the journal Physical Review Letters, the team from the University of Maryland had been searching for conditions and behaviours that do not fit with the Standard Model. The model explains most known behaviours and interactions of fundamental subatomic particles, but it is incomplete – for example it does not adequately explain gravity, dark matter and neutrino masses.

Researchers say the discovery of the non-conforming leptons could provide a big lead in the search for non-standard phenomenon. The Standard Model concept of lepton universality assumes leptons are treated equally by fundamental forces.

They looked at B meson decays including two types of leptons – the tau lepton and the muon, both of which are highly unstable and decay within just a fraction of a second. The tau lepton and muon should decay at the same rate after mass differences are corrected. But the researchers found small but important differences in the predicted rates of decay.

This suggests there are undiscovered forces or particles interfering in the process. Study co-author Hassan Jawahery said: "The Standard Model says the world interacts with all leptons in the same way. There is a democracy there. But there is no guarantee that this will hold true if we discover new particles or new forces. Lepton universality is truly enshrined in the Standard Model. If this universality is broken, we can say that we've found evidence for non-standard physics."

Check your instruments.  Last tim something like this happened, it turned out to be dirty fiber optics.  

The Morel of the Story

ok.  just a mushroom.  dried and hard.

Cancer Cells Turned Benign by Doctors

Cancer cells have been programmed back to normal by scientists in a breakthrough which could lead to new treatments and even reverse tumour growth.

For the first time, aggressive breast, lung and bladder cancer cells have been turned back into harmless benign cells by restoring the function which prevents them from multiplying excessively and forming dangerous growths.

Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Florida in the U.S. said it was like applying the brakes to a speeding car.

So far it has only been tested on human cells in the lab, but the researchers are hopeful that the technique could one day be used to target tumours so that cancer could be “switched off” without the need for harsh chemotherapy or surgery.

“We should be able to re-establish the brakes and restore normal cell function,” said Prof Panos Anastasiadis, of the Department for Cancer Biology.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Stealth Saga #3: China and Russia and Drones! Oh My!

A satellite image of China's "Divine Eagle" drone.  This is generally thought to be a Global Hawk equivalent, but reports have been arising that its a stealth aircraft hunter.

More information is coming out about the stealth aircraft hunting drones being developed by China (Divine Eagle) and Russia.

Beijing A-Star Science and Technology has new sensors for the J-20 and J-31.

There is a claim the J-20 will enter service in 2017.

The PAK-FA's radar is supposed to be close to ready for mass manufacture.

The Russians  showed off the PAK-FA at the MAKS 2015 airshow (video at the link).

In fact, there's LOTS of buzz about the PAK-FA.  That's not a great sign.  IMO, when Russia starts pushing something hard like that in the buzzosphere, it means there are issues. 

There's more news from MAKS, but especially note the Zond Project.  Three notes: the Russians seem to have run out of original names like the Americans have.  The AWACS radar on a drone is something we Americans ought to be doing.  Finally, this is, as far as I can tell, just another model.  When we see something flying is to stand up and take interest.

The first F-22s have arrived in Europe to reassure the Europeans and defend against the Russians.

B-2 bombers are back in Guam.

The F-35 will face off in tests against the A-10.  The US Air Force is against it, but the Pentagon on high has ordered it.

A Taiwanese site discusses the B-3/Long Range Strike Bomber in the context of a conflict with China.

Popular Mechanics speculates what the  6th generation fighters the US Air Force and US Navy are working on will be like.

Japan is trying to tune its stealth fighter project to take into account China's advances in their own stealth designs.

Europe is said to be playing catch-up in drone technology according to the Financial Times as they discuss the Neuron and Tarranis drones.

New Horizons Team Proposes 2014 MU69 as Kuiper Belt Object for January 1, 2019 Encounter

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.

This remote KBO was one of two identified as potential destinations and the one recommended to NASA by the New Horizons team. Although NASA has selected 2014 MU69 as the target, as part of its normal review process the agency will conduct a detailed assessment before officially approving the mission extension to conduct additional science.

Lessons From Venus: Impact Origin of Archean Cratons

Impact origin of Archean cratons




Archean cratons consist of crustal granite-greenstone terrains (GGTs) coupled to roots of strong, buoyant cratonic lithospheric mantle (CLM). Although this association is unique to the Archean and formed from ca. 4.0 to 2.5 Ga, the origins of terrestrial cratons are debated. I propose that crustal plateaus, quasi-circular craton-like features (∼1400−2400 km diameter, 0.5−4 km high), on Earth’s sister planet Venus might serve as analogs for Archean cratons. Crustal plateaus, which are isostatically supported by a compositionally controlled low-density root, host a distinctive surface called ribbon-tessera terrain. Ribbon-tessera also occurs as arcuate-shaped inliers in the Venus lowlands, widely interpreted as remnants of rootless crustal plateaus. Within each crustal plateau, surface ribbon-tessera terrain comprises a vast igneous province analogous to terrestrial GGTs, and the plateau root is analogous to CLM. Crustal plateaus and ribbon-tessera terrain collectively represent Venus’ oldest preserved features and surfaces, and they formed during an ancient period of globally thin lithosphere. To explain the linked features of crustal plateaus, a bolide impact hypothesis has been proposed in which a large bolide pierces ancient thin lithosphere, leading to massive partial melting in the sublithospheric mantle. In this model, melt escapes to the surface, forming an enormous lava pond, which evolves to form ribbon-tessera terrain; mantle melt residue forms a strong, resilient buoyant root, leading to plateau support and long-term stability of an individual crustal plateau. Building on the similarity of GGT−CLM and Venus crustal plateaus, I propose an exogenic hypothesis for Archean craton formation in which a large bolide pierces thin Archean lithosphere, causing localized high-temperature, high-fraction partial melting in the sublithospheric mantle; melt rises, forming an igneous province that evolves as a GGT, and melt residue develops a complementary CLM. By this mechanism, Archean cratons may have formed in a spatially and temporally punctuated fashion at a time when large bolides showered Archean Earth.

Short PR.


From when I finally got to take my lunch.  It was hot and hungry, too.

Tasting the Proto Pita Bread of the Pleistocene

A group of intrepid Israeli researchers recently went back to the dawn of the Stone Age to make lunch.

Using 12,500-year-old conical mortars carved into bedrock, they reconstructed how their ancient ancestors processed wild barley to produce groat meals, as well as a delicacy that might be termed "proto-pita" - small loaves of coal-baked, unleavened bread. In so doing, they re-enacted a critical moment in the rise of civilization: the emergence of wild-grain-based nutrition, some 2,000 to 3,000 years before our hunter-gatherer forebears would establish the sedentary farming communities which were the hallmark of the "Neolithic Revolution".

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ukraine War Update: лягушачий дает стрижка

The Bild (in german, sorry) demonstrates the DNR is shelling itself with 120mm mortars on the schools of Gorlovka. 

Ukraine got a nice debt restructuring.  Noel Maurer digs into the deal and finds it was a good one in his posted entitled "The Barber of Kiev."  We've heard this from ancedotal sources for some time.  Its really nice to see this backed up with someone do the analysis.

Artillery duels have increased up and down the line ahead of the supposed truce.  However, about midnight everything got quiet.  That sort of thing makes most in the Donbas rather nervous.

Russia has closed it border to men under 50 from Ukraine.  This is to prevent draft dodgers in the DNR & LNR.

SETI Talks: Kepler's K2 Mission

Evidence of Wildfire From Aptian/Albian Cretaceous Brazil

Evidence of palaeo-wildfire from the upper Lower Cretaceous (Serra do Tucano Formation, Aptian–Albian) of Roraima (North Brazil)


Scaramuzza dos Santos et al


Wood fossil charcoal is identified from the upper Lower Cretaceous (Serra do Tucano Formation, Aptian–Albian) of Roraima (North Brazil). The presence of charcoal demonstrates the occurrence of Early Cretaceous palaeo-wildfires for the first time in this region and only the third time for the entirety of South America. A gymnospermous taxonomic affinity can be established for the charred woods and a relationship with conifers is likely, thus providing additional evidence for the taxonomic composition of Early Cretaceous floras in this region.

Climate Models Must Incorporate Biological Interactions for Accuracy

When a plant dies, its leaves and branches fall to the ground. Decomposition of soil organic matter is then mainly carried out by fungi and bacteria, which convert dead plant materials into carbon dioxide and mineral nutrients.

Until now, scientists have thought that high quality organic materials, such as leaves that are rich in soluble sugars, are mainly decomposed by bacteria. Lower quality materials, such as cellulose and lignin that are found in wood, are mainly broken down by fungi.

Previous research has also shown that organic material that is broken down by fungi results in a reduced leakage of carbon dioxide and nutrients compared to material decomposed by bacteria.

This has consequences for climate models, since more loss of carbon dioxide and mineral nitrogen would have a direct bearing on the soil's contribution to greenhouse gases and eutrophication.

First the Hulk, now...Xenomorphs With Money?!

Looks like a $1.50 in quarters superglued.

The strange things I see on the way to the office in the morning these days.

Robopocalypse #17: Droning on about the economics of the Robopocalypse

Drone maker Yuneec got a $60M investment from Intel.

Big brother is a drone!  Construction workers are now being monitored by drone.

Iowa State University is pitching drones to local farmers.

Farm drones are not in Virginia yet, but they are coming.

A team of burglars raided a store in Los Angeles for GoPro cameras and drones!  I wonder if they are going to use them to scout for houses and stores to burglarize.  Good thing Thoren didn't have a drone.  That'd have made Smaug's life a nightmare.

The question is becoming whether or not local communities ought to (or even can legally) ban drones.

Kansas state officials are going to have their first summit about drones.

Drones are currently banned in Boulder County, Colorado's parks and open areas.  They are considering changing that rule for scientific work and "operation monitoring."

Four universities received a grant from the National Science Foundation to create weather drones.

Yup, there's an online "university" offering an advanced degree in drones.

Intel and Qualcom are attempting to bring advanced computer vision to drones.

The Russians claim they have started work on an unmanned tilt rotor drone.

In the self driving car arena, who will benefit from their existence asks the Business Insider.  The answer: everyone.   And who will profit?  Go read.

Should self driving cars risk driving into the uncanny valley?  Would they with a 'Siri' virtual assistant?

In general robotics, the University of Twente developed a steerable robotic needle.

Agri bots are the future, not just drones.

In the economics of the Robopocalypse, Tim O'Reilly talks about the WTF economy in two videos.

Business leaders (ahem) think robotics offer jobs for the future in the Robopocalypse.

Medical robotics are seen growing to a $7.6 billion market over the next five years.

On the philosophical, these are the nightmares the Robopocalypse brings to the Turing Award Winners awake at night.

For the conference on the Robopocalypse, Robobusiness, what are the must sees?