Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Robopocalypse is Coming for Cooks: Baxter is Learning to Cook via Youtube

How’s this for a dystopian future: You finally receive your personal robot assistant, delivered to your door by Amazon drone. You unpack the shiny new machine, dust off the Styrofoam peanuts, and charge up the batteries. Then you switch it on and lead it to the kitchen so it can cook you dinner. The robot points its camera at you, waiting. Suddenly you realize in horror that your assistant doesn’t know how to cook, either—you’re supposed to teach it.

To prevent this nightmare dinnertime scenario, computer scientists are working on a robot that can teach itself to cook. It learns by watching YouTube videos.

This is much harder for a robot than it is for you, no matter how inept a cook you are. Imagine a mind that’s stumped by CAPTCHAs (“Letters with a squiggle through them? I’m out!”) trying to follow a video host who’s chatting and chopping at the same time. To tackle the task, University of Maryland graduate student Yezhou Yang and his coauthors broke it down into a few simpler pieces.

First, their robot would look at the person’s hands. For each hand, it would decide what type of grip the person was using. Was it a powerful grasp, as when holding a knife or a jar lid? Or was it a more delicate, precise grasp, maybe to lift a slice of bread from the counter? How wide was the object? The scientists taught the robot to recognize six grasps in all.

Next, the robot would try to identify the objects in the video. The researchers taught it 48 objects, including tools (such as spatula, bowl, and brush) and foods (meat, lettuce, yogurt, and so on).

After the robot had matched what the video host was holding in each hand came the crucial step—actually doing something.

“Due to the huge variation in human actions,” Yang says, it’s not yet possible for the robot to deduce what someone’s doing just by watching. So the researchers taught their robot to guess instead. Given the objects in its hands, the robot picked the most likely verb from 10 options: cut, pour, transfer, spread, grip, stir, sprinkle, chop, peel, or mix?

The authors chose 88 cooking videos from YouTube and used most of them to train their robot. The last dozen video clips—each showing just one cooking action—were the robot’s final exam.

The aspiring robot chef performed pretty well. After watching the test videos, it chose the right kind of grasp about 90% of the time. It correctly identified the objects about 80% of the time, and did equally well at guessing the action. Some of its mistakes happened when the videos included objects it hadn’t been trained on. When it saw a person using a knife to slice tofu, for example, the robot guessed that it was supposed to slice up a bowl.

make sure he stays focused on the right videos.  Otherwise you might end up with some funky results.

India may get American EMALS (Eletro Magnetic Launch System) Catapult for Aircraft Carriers

India and the United States are likely to expedite during US President Barack Obama's visit discussions on joint production of electromagnetic system to smoothen takeoff and landing of fighter jets on board India's indigenously developed aircraft carrier.

Officials said India is keen to jointly develop Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) with the US for the aircraft carrier that is under production in Kochi.

Frank Kendall, the US undersecretary of defence for acquisition, technology and logistics, who is arriving ahead of Obama, will discuss with his Indian counterparts the possibility of joint production of defence items including EMALS, officials said, adding there is a possibility that EMALS might be one of the items where chances of joint production are high.

JLTV Prototypes hit Rough Seas: Cannot Deploy Fast Enough for US Marines due to Weight

Pentagon testers have found that Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) prototypes are slow to deploy from ship to shore and, therefore, leaves US Marine Corps (USMC) units "vulnerable to threats".

The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation annual report on the previous year's testing, released on 20 January, found that during developmental test/operational test (DT/OT) events, USMC units with JLTVs were able to execute amphibious assault missions, but were hampered by the new trucks' lack of deployability.

Anoxia was Gradual in Appalachian During Frasnian–Famennian Kellwasser Event



Boyer et al


The Frasnian–Famennian boundary is correlated with one of several Late Devonian extinction pulses that resulted in a significant decrease in diversity as well as ecological restructuring. This event is recognized within the globally correlated Upper Kellwasser interval that is well exposed and biostratigraphically well constrained in shale units of western New York State. The ichnological and geochemical signals of the interval stratigraphically below the Upper Kellwasser event at these localities provides insight into the onset of this important extinction event. Detailed analysis of ichnogeneric composition, relative size of burrow populations, amount of bioturbation, and trace metal concentrations vary in concert. Deep-penetrating, pyritized Skolithos burrows terminate abruptly at a thin, laminated black shale interval with enriched Mo levels, up to 31 ppm, and are overlain by an interval of gray-green bioturbated shales dominated by Chondrites. These textural and chemical shifts reveal that bottom-water oxygen levels decrease rapidly below the base of the Upper Kellwasser interval. Relative oxygen levels are interpreted to remain low through the Chondrites-dominated interval, with protracted stressed conditions followed by a gradual decrease to anoxic conditions within the Upper Kellwasser interval. These results suggest that, at least locally in the Appalachian Basin, bottom-water oxygen stress and/or fluctuating oxygen conditions were present leading up to the extinction event. This evidence does not support an instantaneous onset of anoxia as causal mechanism for extinction.

No New Large Bright Objects in the Kuiper Belt, 32% Chance of one in the Galactic Plane



Brown et al


We use seven yearʼs worth of observations from the Catalina Sky Survey and the Siding Spring Survey covering most of the northern and southern hemisphere at galactic latitudes higher than 20° to search for serendipitously imaged moving objects in the outer solar system. These slowly moving objects would appear as stationary transients in these fast cadence asteroids surveys, so we develop methods to discover objects in the outer solar system using individual observations spaced by months, rather than spaced by hours, as is typically done. While we independently discover eight known bright objects in the outer solar system, the faintest having $V=19.8\pm 0.1,$ no new objects are discovered. We find that the survey is nearly 100% efficient at detecting objects beyond 25 AU for $V\lesssim 19.1$ ($V\lesssim 18.6$ in the southern hemisphere) and that the probability that there is one or more remaining outer solar system object of this brightness left to be discovered in the unsurveyed regions of the galactic plane is approximately 32%.
Brown's own pop sci write up.

Penghu 1: An Archaic, Robust, Late Surviving Hominin From Ionian (Late) Pleistocene Quaternary Taiwan

The first archaic Homo from Taiwan


Chang et al


Recent studies of an increasing number of hominin fossils highlight regional and chronological diversities of archaic Homo in the Pleistocene of eastern Asia. However, such a realization is still based on limited geographical occurrences mainly from Indonesia, China and Russian Altai. Here we describe a newly discovered archaic Homo mandible from Taiwan (Penghu 1), which further increases the diversity of Pleistocene Asian hominins. Penghu 1 revealed an unexpectedly late survival (younger than 450 but most likely 190–10 thousand years ago) of robust, apparently primitive dentognathic morphology in the periphery of the continent, which is unknown among the penecontemporaneous fossil records from other regions of Asia except for the mid-Middle Pleistocene Homo from Hexian, Eastern China. Such patterns of geographic trait distribution cannot be simply explained by clinal geographic variation of Homo erectus between northern China and Java, and suggests survival of multiple evolutionary lineages among archaic hominins before the arrival of modern humans in the region.

Three Oldest Known Snake Fossils Found From Jurassic Bathonian Jurassic Britain, Kimmeridgian Jurassic Portugal

Fossilized remains of four ancient snakes have been dated between 140 and 167 million years old - nearly 70 million years older than the previous record of ancient snake fossils - and are changing the way we think about the origins of snakes, and how and when it happened. The findings have been published in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications.

"The study explores the idea that evolution within the group called 'snakes' is much more complex than previously thought," says lead author and professor Michael Caldwell in the Faculty of Science at the University of Alberta. "Importantly, there is now a significant knowledge gap to be bridged by future research as no fossils snakes are known from between 140 to 100 million years ago."

The oldest known snake, from Southern England, near Kirtlington, Eophis underwoodi, is known only from very fragmentary remains and was a small individual, though it is hard to say how old it was at the time it died. The largest snake, Portugalophis lignites, from coal deposits in Portugal, near Guimarota, was a much bigger individual at nearly a meter or more in length. Several of these ancient snakes (Eophis, Portugalophis and Parviraptor) were living in swampy coastal areas on large island chains in western parts of ancient Europe, while the North American species, Diablophis gilmorei, is found in river deposits from some distance inland in Western Colorado.

This new study makes it clear that the sudden appearance of snakes, some 100 million years ago, reflects a gap in the fossil record, not an explosive radiation of early snakes. From 167 to 100 million years ago, some 70 million years, snakes were radiating and evolving towards the elongate, limb-reduced body plan characterizing the now well known, ~100-90 million year old, marine snakes from the West Bank, Lebanon, and Argentina, that still possess small but well developed rear limbs. As is always the case, the distribution of these newer oldest snakes, and the anatomy of the skull and skeletal elements, makes it clear that even older snake fossils are waiting to be found.

"Based on the new evidence and through comparison to living legless lizards that are not snakes," explains Caldwell, "the paper explores the novel idea that the evolution of the characteristic snake skull and its parts appeared long before snakes lost their legs."


paper link.

New Kannemeyeriiforme Dicynodonts From Middle Triassic China

New discoveries from the Sinokannemeyeria-Shansisuchus Assemblage Zone: 1. Kannemeyeriiformes from Shanxi, China




Recently, some new tetrapod fossils were collected along the Yellow River in Shanxi Province. From the Member I of the Tongchuan Formation at Baidaoyu in Linxian County, at least one species of Parakannemeyeria, and one new species of Sinokannemeyeria, S. baidaoyuensis, are identified. The new species is characterized by prefrontal anterior extension level to posterior margin of postnarial excavation. From the Ermaying Formation in Liulin County, a third kannemeyeriid genus is identified for the Sinokannemeyeria-Shansisuchus Assemblage. The new findings increase the content and time extension of the Sinokannemeyeria-Shansisuchus Assemblage.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Robopocalypse Comes for the Shopping Cart

(they seriously need a marketing person to help here)

At the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, 5 Elements Robotics demonstrated a robot assistant called Budgee Bot designed to help with one specific task: carrying stuff.

Budgee uses a combination of wireless Zigbee and sonic technologies to track its owner and follow him or her around. Designed in particular to help the elderly or disabled, Budgee can carry up to 50 pounds at a time. Watch the video above to see it in action.

Your own follow-me robot assistant will cost $1400, and will start shipping in March.

Another Sign North Korea is Trying to Develop a Nuclear Missile Submarine

North Korea is attempting to put nuclear weapons to sea, according to a longtime regime watcher.

Joseph Bermudez—an expert on North Korean weapons—believes the evidence is commercial satellite imagery showing a submarine with possibly two vertical launch tubes. The regime also appears to have constructed a test stand for launching sea-based ballistic missiles.

Littoral Combat Ships' Survivability Questioned Again

Less than a month after U.S. Navy leaders announced modified versions of both variants of the Littoral Combat Ship would be the Navy’s pick for its for a more lethal and survivable small surface combatant, one of the chief LCS critics said the upgrades would do little to improve the survivability of the class.

Chief Pentagon weapon tester Michael Gilmore still remains fundamentally dissatisfied with the survivability of the Navy’s littoral combatant ship (LCS) and its upgraded follow-on, the small surface combatant (SSC).

“Notwithstanding reductions to its susceptibility” compared with the design of the first 32 ships, he told Bloomberg on Jan. 8.
“The minor modifications to the LCS will not yield a ship that is significantly more survivable.”

It remains to be seen, however, how the Navy can improve the other legs of the “survivability triangle” of a hull displacing 3,000 tons and is less than 425 feet in length.

Small ships have been historically unsurvivable. Modern small warships are not in any way the equivalent of the World War II predecessors. Every warship is a compromise in armament, endurance, speed and survivability. This is especially true of the LCS, as its modular operational profile demands absolute adherence to weight limitations.

Small warships are historically unsurvivable in combat. They have a shorter floodable length, reduced reserve buoyancy and more likely to be affected by fire and smoke damage than larger combatants. In both World Wars, losses in ships below 3000 tons in displacement far exceeded those of larger vessels.

In World War II, for example, the U.S. lost a total of 71 destroyers and 11 destroyer escorts — all under 3400 tons displacement and less than 400 feet in length.

By comparison, only 23 larger ships were lost. Part of that figure is undoubtedly due to their operational employment, but in simple terms of engineering and physics, larger ships are inherently more survivable than their smaller counterparts.

link. and again.

Marine Productivity and Redox Conditions During Ordovician Hirnantian Glaciation

Changes in marine productivity and redox conditions during the Late Ordovician Hirnantian glaciation


Zhou et al


Changes in marine productivity and redox conditions during the end-Ordovician (Hirnantian) glaciation and Ordovician–Silurian transition were investigated through Mo-isotope and major- and trace-element analyses of the Wangjiawan (Hubei Province) and Nanbazi (Guizhou Province) sections from the Yangtze Platform of South China. Katian shales of the Wufeng Formation, which yield the graptolites Dicellograptus complanatus, Dicellograptus complexus, and Paraorthograptus pacificus, were deposited under euxinic conditions at both localities, as shown by high MoEF, UEF, and δ98Mo values. A major sea-level regression during the Hirnantian glaciation resulted in shallowing and a shift toward better-oxygenated conditions within the Yangtze Sea, as well as deposition of thin-bedded siliceous sediments, calcirudite debris flows, and limestone turbidites of the Kuanyinchiao Formation, the base of which correlates with the first phase of the end-Ordovician mass extinction. The termination of the Hirnantian glaciation at the top of the Kuanyinchiao Formation was associated with a major sea-level transgression, a rapid expansion of euxinia in the Yangtze Sea (as documented by a return of high MoEF, UEF, and δ98Mo values), and the second phase of the mass extinction, during which the cool-adapted Hirnantian Fauna went extinct.

The long-term cooling trend of the Middle and Late Ordovician, which culminated in the Hirnantian glaciation, was driven by enhanced burial of organic carbon, as documented by δ13Ccarb, δ13Corg, and δ34Spy records. Increased organic carbon burial was linked to high rates of marine productivity, as shown by high TOC and biogenic Ba concentrations especially at the deeper, less-restricted Wangjiawan locale, producing the HICE (Hirnantian Isotopic Curve Excursion) δ13Ccarb excursion. The locus of organic carbon burial during the Hirnantian crisis shifted to deeper-water environments that were located outside the study region. The relatively rapid onset and termination of the Hirnantian glaciation were probably due to crossing of tipping points in the Late Ordovician climatic–oceanic system.

3d Modeling of Pluto's Atmosphere

An Atmospheric General Circulation Model for Pluto with Predictions for New Horizons




Results are presented from a 3-D Pluto general circulation model (PGCM) that includes a subsurface model and volatile cycle. Conductive heating and cooling are present, as is non-local thermodynamic equilibrium (non-LTE) heating by methane at 2.3 and 3.3 microns, non-LTE cooling by heating by methane at 7.6 microns, and LTE CO rotational line cooling. This model is novel in that it has both detailed subsurface and atmospheric model components. Yet, there is little dependence of the model results on surface albedo, emissivity, or conductivity. Predictions are also provided for the Alice and REX instruments on New Horizons and for ground-based stellar occultations. Due to the weak temperature gradients, Alice (both solar and background star consultations) and REX are predicted to observe nearly the same temperature profiles on immersion and emersion. In the stratosphere, differences of up to 20 K are possible, while at higher altitudes (100-350 km), the differences are as large as 10 K. For both methane concentration and initial surface pressure, it should be possible to distinguish between the 0.2 and 1.0 methane concentrations and 8 and 24 microbar initial surface concentrations used here. For the ground-based stellar occultation, there is a detectable difference between light curves with the different methane concentrations used here, but not for the initial surface pressures.

The Impact of Climate on Language

Climate, vocal folds, and tonal languages: Connecting the physiological and geographic dots


Everett et al


We summarize a number of findings in laryngology demonstrating that perturbations of phonation, including increased jitter and shimmer, are associated with desiccated ambient air. We predict that, given the relative imprecision of vocal fold vibration in desiccated versus humid contexts, arid and cold ecologies should be less amenable, when contrasted to warm and humid ecologies, to the development of languages with phonemic tone, especially complex tone. This prediction is supported by data from two large independently coded databases representing 3,700+ languages. Languages with complex tonality have generally not developed in very cold or otherwise desiccated climates, in accordance with the physiologically based predictions. The predicted global geographic–linguistic association is shown to operate within continents, within major language families, and across language isolates. Our results offer evidence that human sound systems are influenced by environmental factors.

DNA of Extinct Pleistocene Quaternary Macropod (kangaroos, wallabies) Studied

Late Pleistocene Australian Marsupial DNA Clarifies the Affinities of Extinct Megafaunal Kangaroos and Wallabies


Llamas et al


Understanding the evolution of Australia’s extinct marsupial megafauna has been hindered by a relatively incomplete fossil record and convergent or highly specialized morphology, which confound phylogenetic analyses. Further, the harsh Australian climate and early date of most megafaunal extinctions (39–52 ka) means that the vast majority of fossil remains are unsuitable for ancient DNA analyses. Here, we apply cross-species DNA capture to fossils from relatively high latitude, high altitude caves in Tasmania. Using low-stringency hybridization and high-throughput sequencing, we were able to retrieve mitochondrial sequences from two extinct megafaunal macropodid species. The two specimens, Simosthenurus occidentalis (giant short-faced kangaroo) and Protemnodon anak (giant wallaby), have been radiocarbon dated to 46–50 and 40–45 ka, respectively. This is significantly older than any Australian fossil that has previously yielded DNA sequence information. Processing the raw sequence data from these samples posed a bioinformatic challenge due to the poor preservation of DNA. We explored several approaches in order to maximize the signal-to-noise ratio in retained sequencing reads. Our findings demonstrate the critical importance of adopting stringent processing criteria when distant outgroups are used as references for mapping highly fragmented DNA. Based on the most stringent nucleotide data sets (879 bp for S. occidentalis and 2,383 bp for P. anak), total-evidence phylogenetic analyses confirm that macropodids consist of three primary lineages: Sthenurines such as Simosthenurus (extinct short-faced kangaroos), the macropodines (all other wallabies and kangaroos), and the enigmatic living banded hare-wallaby Lagostrophus fasciatus (Lagostrophinae). Protemnodon emerges as a close relative of Macropus (large living kangaroos), a position not supported by recent morphological phylogenetic analyses.

Dongusuchus efremovi: an Archosauriform Reevaluated From Anisian Triassic Russia

The osteology and systematic position of Dongusuchus efremovi Sennikov, 1988 from the Anisian (Middle Triassic) of Russia


Niedźwiedzki et al


European Russia has yielded several fragmentary but potentially important archosauriform specimens from the Middle Triassic, but these have been only briefly described in the literature. One of these puzzling taxa is Dongusuchus efremovi Sennikov, 1988, described from the Donguz Svita. We present a redescription of Dongusuchus efremovi, which includes the first photographic atlas and thorough anatomical description of the holotype and referred specimens. This taxon is shown to be a gracile, probably fast-running species with elongate and slender limbs. A phylogenetic analysis recovers Dongusuchus efremovi as an early-diverging, non-archosaurian archosauriform. Previous work had suggested that this taxon was a ‘rauisuchid’. The gracile proportions of the femur and somewhat wedge-shaped head, however, are unusual for basal archosauriforms and are similar to the plesiomorphic state in crocodile and avian-line crown archosaurs. Several Early-Middle Triassic basal archosauriforms and early members of the crocodile and avian lineages were gracile with elongate, slender limbs. This suggests that the limb morphology of Dongusuchus efremovi may be plesiomorphic for Archosauria and proximal clades.

Friday, January 23, 2015

2030: Privacy's Dead. What happens next?

Africa is Going to Experience a Chinese Surge, a Chinese /Military/ Surge

Chinese activities in Africa have expanded massively during the last decade. To be sure, most of this has been purely economic—such as bartering access to natural resources in exchange for loans.

But these money-making activities have grown so much in recent years, China is realizing it can’t keep relying on African governments to protect them—and the thousands of Chinese nationals who’ve moved to the continent.

Beijing isn’t giving up on making business deals in Africa. Far from it. It’s just that protecting those economic ties is turning into a job for the Chinese military.

Despite Reports, Significant Disputes Remain Between Russia & India Over FGFA Stealth Fighter

India and Russia agreed on 21 January to expedite their joint military programmes, particularly the delayed Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project.

"We discussed all issues, including the FGFA, and have decided to fast-track many of them as there are apprehensions about the slow pace in their execution," Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar said in New Delhi.

Speaking after jointly chairing the Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IGC-MTC) with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, Parrikar said the two sides would hold regular "interactions" to maintain project deadlines.

Official sources told IHS Jane's that differences persisted on the FGFA's preliminary design features despite a 10 January Russian media report claiming that the two sides had managed to resolve them following a four-year delay.

Quoting FGFA project director Andrev Marshankin, the Sputnik news agency had reported agreement between Indian and Russian officials on the specifications of the 30-tonne fighter, which is based on the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA. Enduring Indian reservations over the FGFA programme include those over the fighter's AL-41F1 engine and its stealth and weapon-carrying capability.

India is also insistent on Russia restoring its workload in the USD10.5 billion developmental programme after recently reducing it from 25% to 13% without consulting Delhi. It is also seeking greater access to the fighter's design configuration, which it claims it is denied.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) plans on acquiring around 130 FGFA, down from an earlier projected requirement of around 220.

Long Range Strike-Bomber Details may Emerge When US Air Force Selets Contractor

In late spring or early summer, the US Air Force will decide who will build its next-generation bomber. Yet, despite all the hype and public interest, the program remains shrouded in mystery.

The Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) program is stealthy, literally and figuratively. Few details are actually known about the bomber's capabilities or design. But the program's impact is already being widely felt throughout the Pentagon and its industry partners.

The half a dozen analysts and experts interviewed by Defense News for this piece all agree on one thing: the LRS-B has the chance to shape American military aerospace for the next 20 years. Whichever competitor wins will reap a windfall of development money; the loser could find itself out of the military attack airframe business entirely.

And while the program appears to be on track, Congress is waiting in the wings for any sign of cost overrun or technological problems.


The program is targeting a production line of 80-100 planes. It will replace the fleet of B-52 and B-1 bombers. It will be stealthy, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, and optional manning has been discussed. A down-selection will be made this spring or early summer, with initial operating capability planned for the mid-2020s. Nuclear certification will follow two years after that.

The target price, set by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is $550 million a copy. To keep the price down, the Air Force is looking to use mature technologies that are available now, rather than launching new developments. At the same time, the program will have an open architecture approach for future technologies.

Unless there is a secret competitor still unknown — highly unlikely, but like many things with the program, impossible to rule out — there are two teams are bidding for the contract. One is Northrop Grumman, which developed the B-2 stealth bomber. The other is a team of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Together, those companies represent three of the top five defense firms in the nation.

Correlations of Atmospheric water ice and dust in the Martian Polar regions

Correlations of atmospheric water ice and dust in the Martian Polar regions


Brown et al


We report on the interannual variability of the atmospheric ice/dust cycle in the Martian polar regions for Mars Years 28-30. We used CRISM emission phase function measurements to derive atmospheric dust optical depths and data from the MARCI instrument to derive atmospheric water ice optical depths. We have used autocorrelation and cross correlation functions in order to quantify the degree to which dust and ice are correlated throughout both polar regions during Mars Years 28-29. We find that in the south polar region, dust has the tendency to "self clear", demonstrated by negative autocorrelation around the central peak. This does not occur in the north polar region. In the south polar region, dust and ice are temporally and spatially anti correlated. In the north polar region, this relationship is reversed, however temporal correlation of northern dust and ice clouds is weak - 6 times weaker than the anticorrelation in the south polar region. Our latitudinal autocorrelation functions allow us to put average spatial sizes of event cores and halos. Dust events in the south are largest, affecting almost the entire pole, whereas dust storms are smaller in the north. Ice clouds in north are similar in latitudinal extent to those in the south (both have halos < 10{\deg}). Using cross-correlation functions of water ice and dust, we find that dust events temporally lag ice events by 35-80 degrees of solar longitude in the north and south poles, which is likely due to seasonality of dust and ice events.

Did Stone Tools Help Drive Human/Hominin Evolution?

Two and a half million years ago, our hominin ancestors in the African savanna crafted rocks into shards that could slice apart a dead gazelle, zebra or other game animal. Over the next 700,000 years, this butchering technology spread throughout the continent and, it turns out, came to be a major evolutionary force, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Liverpool and the University of St. Andrews, both in the UK.

Combining the tools of psychology, evolutionary biology and archaeology, scientists have found compelling evidence for the co-evolution of early Stone Age slaughtering tools and our ability to communicate and teach, shedding new light on the power of human culture to shape evolution.

To be reported Jan. 13 in the journal Nature Communications, the study is the largest to date to look at gene-culture co-evolution in the context of prehistoric Oldowan tools, the oldest-known cutting devices. It suggests communication among our earliest ancestors may be more complex than previously thought, with teaching and perhaps even a primitive proto-language occurring some 1.8 million years ago.

"Our findings suggest that stone tools weren't just a product of human evolution, but actually drove it as well, creating the evolutionary advantage necessary for the development of modern human communication and teaching," said Thomas Morgan, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at UC Berkeley.

"Our data show this process was ongoing two and a half million years ago, which allows us to consider a very drawn-out and gradual evolution of the modern human capacity for language and suggests simple 'proto-languages' might be older than we previously thought," Morgan added.

The Evolution of Mesozoic Mammals in China

Mesozoic mammals of China: implications for phylogeny and early evolution of mammals


Meng et al


All Mesozoic mammaliaforms reported from China are briefly documented herein. These forms can be divided into at least five major assemblages: Lufeng, Yanliao (Daohugou), Jehol, Fuxin and Bayan Mandahu, ranging from the Early Jurassic to the Late Cretaceous periods. Although the temporal and geographic distributions of these mammaliaforms are not dense, the records do reveal a pattern that is generally consistent with patterns that have been recognized globally. The initial stage of mammalian evolution was represented by stem mammaliaforms or primitive ‘triconodonts’ from the Lufeng. This was followed by the Middle-Late Jurassic Yanliao episode that showed a high diversity and disparity of mammaliaforms in which terrestrial, swimming, arboreal and gliding species were present. The disparity, at least in molar morphology and types of locomotion, decreased but the diversity persisted into the Cretaceous, a period that was dominated by eutriconodontans, multituberculates and trechnotherians. The superb specimens from nearly all major groups of Mesozoic mammals in China provided a great amount of information that contributed to our understanding on some major issues in phylogeny and the early evolution of mammals, such as divergences of mammals and the evolution of the mammalian middle ear. A hypothesis on the transformation of the allotherian tooth pattern is proposed as an example to illustrate the potential for future studies of mammalian evolution.

More Information About the Hettangian Jurassic/Post Triassic-Jurassic Mass Extinction Sponge Bob World

Andean sponges reveal long-term benthic ecosystem shifts following the end-Triassic mass extinction


Ritterbush et al


Thick cherts and cherty dolomites in the basal Jurassic Aramachay Formation of Peru preserve a thriving continental shelf community dominated by siliceous sponges that followed the end-Triassic collapse of metazoan-rich carbonate accumulation. Similar Hettangian and Sineumurian deposits from Nevada, U.S.A., Austria, and Morocco suggest that an Early Jurassic siliceous sponge takeover was a widespread phenomenon that persisted for ~ 2 m.y. until metazoan-driven carbonate sedimentation recovered. The post-extinction dominance of siliceous sponges likely resulted from the confluence of metazoan carbonate reef collapse (removal of incumbents) and geochemical conditions that fostered the success of the siliceous sponge-dominated ecosystem. Simple mass balance calculations suggest the siliceous sponge takeover was likely permitted by an increased silica flux as a consequence of weathering Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP) basalts. The CAMP basalts alone could supply all the silica needed to sustain the sponge takeover, although contributions were also likely from increased hot-climate weathering of other silicates and possible reductions in dissolved silica demand by radiolarians. Detailed sedimentological, fossil, and microfacies analyses were conducted at six field sites across a shallow shelf system recorded in the central Peruvian Andes (Yauli Dome), focusing on the metazoan contribution to sedimentation. Sedimentary structures at all six sites demonstrated on-shelf deposition, similar to the underlying upper Triassic Chambará Formation (in contrast to the black shale-rich facies of the Aramachay Formation in other areas of Peru). Examination of up to 147 m of cherty dolomite from the Aramachay Formation revealed a siliceous sponge-dominated ecosystem, including sponge body fossils, compressed in situ sponge materials, and abundant transported spiculite sediments. Siliceous sponges, mostly demosponges and rare hexactinellids, account for the chert lithology and apparently dominated the local ecology for approximately two million years. The role of metazoan biocalcifiers in sediment production and ecological structure was profoundly reduced compared to the under- and overlying formations, representing a clear ecological state shift from pre-extinction carbonate to post-extinction siliceous dominated ecosystems before the carbonate system recovered ~ 2 m.y. after the extinction.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Microsoft Hololens



Wired's review.

An easy to use developer toolkit is really, really key.  Otherwise this will be another Google Glass.

US Soldiers to Deploy to Ukraine as Trainers

American soldiers will deploy to Ukraine this spring to begin training four companies of the Ukrainian National Guard, the head of US Army Europe Lt. Gen Ben Hodges said during his first visit to Kiev on Wednesday.

The number of troops heading to the Yavoriv Training Area near the city of L'viv — which is about 40 miles from the Polish border — is still being determined, however.

The American training effort comes as part of a US State Department initiative "to assist Ukraine in strengthening its law enforcement capabilities, conduct internal defense, and maintain rule of law" Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Vanessa Hillman told Defense News.

After meeting with commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Anatoliy Pushnyakov and acting commander of the National Guard Lt. Gen. Oleksandr Kryvyenko during his visit, Hodges said he was "impressed by the readiness of both military and civil leadership to change and reform."

The training was requested by the Ukrainian government "as they work to reform their police forces and establish their newly formed National Guard," Hillman added. Funding for the initiative is coming from the congressionally-authorized Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF), which was requested by the Obama administration in the fiscal 2015 budget to help train and equip the armed forces of allies around the globe.

The training mission has been the subject of plenty of discussion among US policy makers for months, and the United States has already earmarked $19 million to help build the Ukrainian National Guard.


In other news, the Ukrainian army has retreated from the Donetsk Airport.  Cyborgs no more.  :(

Northrop Grumman has two Teams Working on F/A-XX & F-X Sixth Generation Fighters

Northrop Grumman has stood up a pair of teams dedicated to developing a "sixth-generation" fighter for both the Navy and Air Force, years before the US Navy or Air Force intends to issue requests for information on potential replacements for current aircraft.

It's an aggressive move that Tom Vice, president of Northrop's aerospace division, hopes will pay off in a big way for his company.

"Northrop Grumman will compete for the next generation fighter," Vice flatly declared, noting that there is a program manager already leading a team of Northrop staffers on the program.

When asked whether he envisioned Northrop acting as a prime contractor on a future fighter, he added "of course."

Vice's comments were made during a trip to Northrop facilities in California, arranged and paid for by the company.

Both the Air Force and Navy have begun preliminary planning for what is referred to as next-generation air dominance, or "sixth-generation" fighters. After working together on the F-35 joint strike fighter, the two services are looking at procuring their own respective jets.

The Navy's program is dubbed F/A-XX, while the Air Force's effort is known as F-X. In September, Col. Tom Coglitore, Air Superiority Core Function Team chief at Air Combat Command, told Defense News he wants to see Milestone A acquisition activity in early fiscal 2018.

Evidence of Tectonic Uplift From Siderian/Rhyacian PaleoProterozoic China

Palaeopedogenesis of red palaeosols in Yunnan Plateau, southwestern China: Pedogenical, geochemical and mineralogical evidences and palaeoenvironmental implication


Lu et al


Red palaeosol, as an important archive of ancient pedoenvironments, effectively reflects the palaeoenvironmental change and tectonic uplift history of the plateau. Four red palaeosol profiles were collected at 2200 to 2400 m elevations from the Yunnan Plateau (YP) to investigate the pedogenic features, chemical weathering process and mineral assemblages of soils. Pedological, geochemical and mineralogical techniques were used to understand the palaeopedogenic, palaeoenvironmental change and landscape evolution of the Plateau. Pedologically, the red palaeosols were characterized by the dark red color (a hue of 5YR or redder), strong acidity (pH < 5.4), and high free iron oxide (> 50 g kg− 1) and clay (> 50%) contents. The red palaeosols were enriched with Fe2O3, Al2O3, and TiO2 with very low contents of CaO, MgO, Na2O, and K2O and slightly low contents of Si2O and MnO. Chemical weathering indices, such as CIA (CIA = [Al2O3 / (Al2O3 + CaO + Na2O + K2O)] × 100), Sa (Sa = SiO2 / Al2O3), Saf (Saf = SiO2 / Al2O3 + Fe2O3), and A–CN–K diagram (Al2O3–CaO + Na2O–K2O), indicated that the red palaeosols had experienced strong chemical weathering processes. Scanning electron microscopy analyses revealed that quartz grains of the red palaeosols were characterized by a number of deep dissolution pits and cracks on their surfaces. The clay minerals of the red palaeosols were composed of kaolinite, gibbsite, hematite, and vermiculite in the order of abundance. Pedogenical, geochemical and clay mineralogical evidences revealed that the red palaeosols were developed by palaeopedogenic processes under tropical climatic environments. The presence of highly weathered soils at an altitude of 2200–2400 m indicated the influence of tectonic uplift on the soil vertical distribution. It is estimated that the red palaeosols had uplifted about 1600–2000 m since their initial formation. Palaeopedogenesis of red palaeosols provides new insight into the palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental reconstruct and tectonic movement of YP.

Noachian and Hesperian Water Activity Causing Long-runout Landslides on Mars?

Long-runout landslides and the long-lasting effects of early water activity on Mars


Watkins et al


Long-runout subaerial landslides (greater than 50 km) are rare on Earth but are common features shaping Mars' Valles Marineris troughs. In this study, we investigated the highly debated emplacement mechanisms of these Martian landslides by combining spectral and satellite-image analyses. Our results suggest that hydrated silicates played a decisive role in facilitating landslide transport by lubricating the basal sliding zone. This new understanding implies that clay minerals, generated as a result of water-rock interactions in the Noachian and Hesperian (4.1–3.3 Ga), exert a long-lasting influence on geomorphic processes that shape the surface of the planet.

Using Magnesium Isotopes to Determine Paleodiets

Magnesium stable isotope ecology using mammal tooth enamel


Martin et al


Geochemical inferences on ancient diet using bone and enamel apatite rely mainly on carbon isotope ratios (δ13C) and to a lesser extent on strontium/calcium (Sr/Ca) and barium/calcium (Ba/Ca) elemental ratios. Recent developments in nontraditional stable isotopes provide an unprecedented opportunity to use additional paleodietary proxies to disentangle complex diets such as omnivory. Of particular relevance for paleodietary reconstruction are metals present in large quantity in bone and enamel apatite, providing that biologically mediated fractionation processes are constrained. Calcium isotope ratios (δ44Ca) meet these criteria but exhibit complex ecological patterning. Stable magnesium isotope ratios (δ26Mg) also meet these criteria but a comprehensive understanding of its variability awaits new isotopic data. Here, 11 extant mammal species of known ecology from a single locality in equatorial Africa were sampled for tooth enamel and, together with vegetation and feces, analyzed for δ26Mg, δ13C, Sr/Ca, and Ba/Ca ratios. The results demonstrate that δ26Mg incorporated in tooth enamel becomes heavier from strict herbivores to omnivores/faunivores. Using data from experimentally raised sheep, we suggest that this 26Mg enrichment up the trophic chain is due to a 26Mg enrichment in muscle relative to bone. Notably, it is possible to distinguish omnivores from herbivores, using δ26Mg coupled to Ba/Ca ratios. The potential effects of metabolic and dietary changes on the enamel δ26Mg composition remain to be explored but, in the future, multiproxy approaches would permit a substantial refinement of dietary behaviors or enable accurate trophic reconstruction despite specimen-limited sampling, as is often the case for fossil assemblages.

Tirotherium aptum: a new tribotherian Boreosphenid Mammal From Santonian/Campanian Cretaceous Alberta

A new tribotherian (Mammalia, Boreosphenida) from the late Santonian to early Campanian upper Milk River Formation, Alberta


Montellano-Ballesteros et al


A new tribotherian mammal, Tirotherium aptum gen. et sp. nov., is described from the late Santonian to early Campanian upper Milk River Formation of Verdigris Coulee, southern Alberta, Canada. The new mammal is known only from isolated teeth, five upper and three lower molars. The upper molars represent two or possibly three pre-ultimate loci and are marked by reduction and loss of the stylar shelf anteriorly, loss of the stylocone, a paracone that is larger than the metacone, weakly developed conules, a low, small protocone, and specialized postvallum single-rank shear. The lower molars probably represent two pre-ultimate loci and are characterized by an anteriorly positioned paraconid, trenchant paracristid, small, posterolingual metaconid, a distal metacristid, broadly open trigonid angle, and a short, basined talonid in which the hypoconulid is closer to the entoconid than to the hypoconid. The molars of Tirotherium most closely resemble those of Picopsis Fox, 1980, a tribotherian that also occurs in the upper Milk River Formation, but the molars of Tirotherium are significantly larger than those of Picopsis. Nonetheless, Tirotherium aptum is best classified in the Picopsidae, a boreosphenidan family of tiny mammalian faunivores of uncertain relationships to other tribotherians, and displaying a unique mosaic of primitive and derived characters.

Hettangian Jurassic Oceans Became Sponge Bob World After Triassic-Jurassic Extinction?



Ritterbush et al


Paleoecological consequences of the global Triassic–Jurassic mass extinction (201.3 Ma) are poorly understood. Fossiliferous marine boundary records are rare, commonly condensed, and typically reveal facies changes previously attributed to eustacy. Sedimentology and biofacies analyses from stratigraphically expanded successions of the lowest Jurassic strata, New York Canyon, Nevada, were investigated with high-resolution paleoenvironmental observations, fossil surveys, and microfacies analysis. Following the collapse of the uppermost Triassic carbonate ramp, the lowest Jurassic Ferguson Hill Member of the Sunrise Formation records a midshelf habitat dominated by previously unrecognized siliceous sponges for approximately two million years. In addition, the earliest Jurassic strata from the Pucara Group, central Peruvian Andes, were examined and record a more greatly expanded stratigraphic succession of facies across the inner to middle shelf. Like Nevada, the lowest Jurassic Aramachay Formation is replete with intense concentrations of siliceous sponges. The revelation of widespread, ecologically dominant siliceous sponges has been overlooked despite detailed biofacies studies in both depositional systems. Sponges expanded across shallow environments with sparse benthic biocalcifier populations, and were likely aided by increased ocean silica concentrations from the weathering of the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province. Facies changes previously attributed to sea-level change are thus interpreted to result from the collapse of the carbonate factory concomitant with the mass extinction, with transition to an alternate state dominated by siliceous sponges before a return to carbonate platform development in the Sinemurian. Our study highlights the need to separate biofacies from paleoenvironmental analysis during mass extinction times when nonactualistic assemblages may dominate and deviate from expected environments (e.g., siliceous sponges as indicators of deep paleoenvironments).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Little Captain America

Serbian Downed F-117 Sparked Russian Stealth Technology Revolution

In August 2001, nobody was quite sure what had happened to the wreckage of a Lockheed Martin F-117A stealth fighter that had been shot down over Serbia in March 1999. Aviation Week editors Dave Fulghum and Robert Wall, in Moscow for the MAKS air show, managed to secure an interview with a Russian general in charge of air defense programs. In the course of the interview, using what some would call low cunning and I would call tradecraft, they asked what the Russians had learned from examining the F-117's remains - and the officer told them, in detail.

It was the basis for a groundbreaking story about Russian stealth and counterstealth technology that ran in the October 8, 2001, issue. AW&ST discussed the development of anti-stealth radars: the early Nebo VHF radar at MAKS in 2001 was the ancestor of the huge active electronically scanned array that was shown in 2013. Stealth modifications to tactical aircraft were confirmed a couple of years later when engineers from Moscow's Institute for Theoretical and Applied Electromagnetics spoke at a London conference about radar cross section (RCS) reduction work on the Sukhoi Su-27 family.

DARPA's Atlas Unplugged

DARPA's Atlas robot is designed for its Robot challenge and in its first version it was impressive, if slightly threatening. Now it's back with an up-grade and its 75% new and amazing.

Atlas was the robot from sci-fi, big, black and powerful - only it had these cables that provided it with power and made it look a little like a dog on a leash. It was designed to provide a hardware platform for teams competing in the DARPA Robotic's Challenge DRC - a competition designed to encourage the construction of an effective disaster response robot. Now it has been revealed that the finals of the DRC require that the robot used not to have a tether and hence Atlas needed a redesign.

Atmospheric Rivers Like the Pineapple Express Caused Major Antarctic Storms in 2009, 2011

Extreme weather phenomena called atmospheric rivers were behind intense snowstorms recorded in 2009 and 2011 in East Antarctica. The resulting snow accumulation partly offset recent ice loss from the Antarctic ice sheet, report researchers from KU Leuven.

Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow water vapour plumes stretching thousands of kilometres across the sky over vast ocean areas. They are capable of rapidly transporting large amounts of moisture around the globe and can cause devastating precipitation when they hit coastal areas.

Although atmospheric rivers are notorious for their flood-inducing impact in Europe and the Americas, their importance for Earth's polar climate - and for global sea levels - is only now coming to light.

In this study, an international team of researchers led by Irina Gorodetskaya of KU Leuven's Regional Climate Studies research group used a combination of advanced modelling techniques and data collected at Belgium's Princess Elisabeth polar research station in East Antarctica's Dronning Maud Land to produce the first ever in-depth look at how atmospheric rivers affect precipitation in Antarctica.

Exordinary Claim: Curiosity Mars Rover has Seen Structures Like Microbial Fossils on Earth

Ancient Sedimentary Structures in the less than 3.7 Ga Gillespie Lake Member, Mars, That Resemble Macroscopic Morphology, Spatial Associations, and Temporal Succession in Terrestrial Microbialites




Sandstone beds of the less than 3.7 Ga Gillespie Lake Member on Mars have been interpreted as evidence of an ancient playa lake environment. On Earth, such environments have been sites of colonization by microbial mats from the early Archean to the present time. Terrestrial microbial mats in playa lake environments form microbialites known as microbially induced sedimentary structures (MISS). On Mars, three lithofacies of the Gillespie Lake Member sandstone display centimeter- to meter-scale structures similar in macroscopic morphology to terrestrial MISS that include ‘‘erosional remnants and pockets,’’ ‘‘mat chips,’’ ‘‘roll-ups,’’ ‘‘desiccation cracks,’’ and ‘‘gas domes.’’ The microbially induced sedimentary-like structures identified in Curiosity rover mission images do not have a random distribution. Rather, they were found to be arranged in spatial associations and temporal successions that indicate they changed over time. On Earth, if such MISS occurred with this type of spatial association and temporal succession, they would be interpreted as having recorded the growth of a microbially dominated ecosystem that thrived in pools that later dried completely: erosional pockets, mat chips, and roll-ups resulted from water eroding
an ancient microbial mat–covered sedimentary surface; during the course of subsequent water recess, channels would have cut deep into the microbial mats, leaving erosional remnants behind; desiccation cracks and gas domes would have occurred during a final period of subaerial exposure of the microbial mats. In this paper, the similarities of the macroscopic morphologies, spatial associations, and temporal succession of sedimentary structures on Mars to MISS preserved on Earth has led to the following hypothesis: The sedimentary structures in the less than 3.7 Ga Gillespie Lake Member on Mars are ancient MISS produced by interactions between microbial mats and their environment. Proposed here is a strategy for detecting, identifying, confirming, and differentiating possible MISS during current and future Mars missions.

Upper Palaeolithic Population Histories of Southwestern France

Upper Palaeolithic population histories of Southwestern France: A comparison of the demographic signatures of 14C date distributions and archaeological site counts


French et al


Radiocarbon date frequency distributions and archaeological site counts are two popular proxies used to investigate prehistoric demography, following the assumption that variations in these data reflect fluctuations in the relative size and distribution of past populations. However, the two approaches are rarely applied to the same data-set and their applicability is heavily conditioned by the archaeological record in question, particularly research histories, agendas, and funding availability. In this paper we use both types of data to examine the population history of the Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers (∼40 000–12 000 cal BP) of Southwestern France, comparing the demographic signatures generated.

Both proxies produce similar signatures across the Upper Palaeolithic sequence of the region, strengthening the interpretation of relative demographic changes as the cause of the pattern. In particular, a marked population decline is seen in both datasets during the Late Gravettian (∼28 000 cal BP), as well as a population increase in the Late Solutrean (∼25 000 cal BP) supporting the notion that the region acted as a population refugium during the Last Glacial Maximum. Where the two proxies diverge in the demographic signatures they produce, the radiocarbon date distribution shows peaks compared to troughs in site counts; the opposite pattern expected given taphonomic issues surrounding cultural carbon. Despite differences in chronological resolution and sampling bias, our data suggest that the two proxies can be considered broadly equivalent; a finding which warrants the investigation of prehistoric demography in regions where either extensive survey data or radiometric dating programmes are unavailable. While some preliminary observations are made, the impact of changing mobility on diachronic patterns seen in both proxies remains, however, difficult to assess.

Evidence of Mammals Scavenging Theropod Corpses in Cretaceous Patagonia

Bioerosion trace fossils on bones of the Cretaceous South American theropod Buitreraptor gonzalezorum Makovicky, Apesteguía and Agnolín, 2005 (Deinonychosauria)


Gianechini et al


The ichnological record provides valuable information on the lifestyle, behaviour, and other palaeobiological and palaeoecological aspects of the biota. Here, we describe an interesting case of bioerosion trace fossils in bones of Buitreraptor gonzalezorum Makovicky, Apesteguía and Agnolín, 2005, a deinonychosaurian theropod from the fossiliferous locality of La Buitrera, Río Negro, Patagonia, Argentina. The trace fossils are morphologically diverse and preserved in a great percentage of the skeleton, including the jaw, vertebrae and limbs. Four main groups of trace fossils have been informally named as Parallel-Edge Furrows, Overlapped Grooves, Punctures and Lined. Parallel-Edge Furrows are in turn subdivided into four subgroups: isolated furrows, parallel pairs, opposed pairs and a combination of parallel and opposed pairs. The bioerosion trace fossils were probably generated by scavenging activities, and the semi-articulated preservation of the skeleton and the small size of each individual trace indicate small-sized tracemakers. Mammals are the main candidates although some traces may have been generated by crocodyliforms and insects such as dermestids and termites. This evidence provides additional information about palaeoenvironmental conditions, taphonomic processes, taxonomic diversity and ecological relationships that characterised this part of northern Patagonia at Early Cretaceous times.

Permian Extinction Revisited

The end-Permian mass extinction: a still unexplained catastrophe




The end-Permian mass extinction is widely regarded as the largest mass extinction in the past 542 million years with loss of about 95% of marine species and 75% of terrestrial species. There has been much focus and speculation on what could have caused such a catastrophe. Despite decades of study, the cause or causes remain mysterious. Numerous scenarios have been proposed, including asteroid impact, Siberian flood basalt volcanism, marine anoxia and euxinia, sea-level change, thermogenic methane release and biogenic methane release due to explosive growth of a methanogenic microbe.

It is now clear that a number of major environmental perturbations are approximately coincident with the end-Permian mass extinction. These include global negative excursions of both δ13Ccarb and δ13Corg near the extinction interval (see a review by Korte and Kozur [1] and a recent study by Shen et al. [2]); distinctive calcium isotope excursions [3]; a sudden expansion of microbialites [4]; a rapid temperature rise of ∼8°C in the extinction interval [5] followed by a long ‘hothouse’ period in the Early Triassic [6], large regression followed by rapid transgression [7], evidence for wildfires and cyanobacteria blooms [8], etc. There remains disagreement over the nature, timing and duration of the environmental perturbations and how they relate to detailed patterns of extinction, resolution of which is critical for understanding the causative mechanism(s).

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Revolution is Nigh: Chinese Company 3d Prints Apartment Building and Villa

On March 29, 2014, ten 3D printed houses, each measuring 200 square meters, appeared in Shanghai, China. The buildings were created entirely out of concrete using a gigantic 3D printer, and each costs only 30,000 RMB ($4,800).

Today, just ten months after the initial project, the company behind these 3D printed buildings, Shanghai WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co, made a new announcement that will take 3D printed buildings to a whole new level: they have built the highest 3D printed building, a 5-storey residential house and the world's first 3D printed villa. The villa measures 1,100 square meters and even comes complete with internal and external decorations.

first link.

second link.

China Cyber Spies Stole Vast Amounts of Data on F-35, Including Critical Engine and Radar Designs

Chinese spies stole key design information about Australia's new Joint Strike Fighter, according to top secret documents disclosed by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

German magazine Der Spiegel has published new disclosures of signals intelligence collected by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and its "Five Eyes" partners, including the Australian Signals Directorate. The intelligence reveals new details of the directorate's efforts to track and combat Chinese cyber-espionage.

According to a top secret NSA presentation, Chinese cyber spies have stolen huge volumes of sensitive military information, including "many terabytes of data" relating to the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) - also known as the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

The leaked document shows that stolen design information included details of the JSF's radar systems which are used to identify and track targets; detailed engine schematics; methods for cooling exhaust gases; and "aft deck heating contour maps".

US Navy Expands Use of SM-6 Missile From Five to 35 Warships

The Navy is massively expanding its planned use of the Standard Missile-6, a new high-tech ship-launched surface-to-air missile that can destroy enemy missiles, aircraft and unmanned systems.

In total, the Navy has authorized use of the SM-6 to expand from five ships to more than 35 ships.

“This effort is steeped in fleet requirements, focusing on delivering capability to support urgent operational needs in targeted areas of responsibility,” a Navy official told Military​.com

Previously, the SM-6 was only configured to fire from the most recent Aegis radar combat weapons system on Navy ships, a system called Aegis baseline nine. The Navy’s new authorization allows the SM-6 to integrate with the software and electronics used in Aegis Combat Weapon System baselines 5.3 and 3.A.0.

The Navy’s Aegis Weapon System, currently deployed on cruisers and destroyers, is a command and control technology using computers linked to a multi-function, phased array AN/SPY-1B radar. The high-powered, four megawatt Aegis radar is able to search and track more than 100 potential targets, Navy officials said.

“We came to the realization that we can do AAW(anti-air warfare) with baseline 5. That opened up a world of potential for concept of operations for the Navy –for fleet defense and area defense strategies,” said Mike Campisi, SM-6 program director, Raytheon.

The SM-6, which first became operational in December of last year, is engineered with both an active and semi-active seeker, giving it an increased ability to discern and discriminate targets when compared to other missiles, Campisi explained.

“It has capabilities to go over-the-horizon,” he said.

In addition to missile defense and defense against fixed and rotary wing aircraft, the SM-6 can also defend against land-attack and anti-ship cruise missiles in flight. Having an over-the-horizon ability against anti-ship cruise missiles could prove extremely advantageous as it brings the possibility of destroying them at much greater ranges.

Evidence of the Sulfur Cycle During PaleoArchean

Micro-scale quadruple sulfur isotope analysis of pyrite from the ∼3,480 Ma Dresser Formation: New insights into sulfur cycling on the early Earth


Wacey et al


We report in situ quadruple sulfur isotope analysis (32S, 33S, 34S and 36S) of a pyritized microbial mat from the ∼3,480 Ma Dresser Formation, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia. These data yield positive δ34S and Δ33S, indicative of sulfur sourced from a pool with similar character as the putative atmospheric elemental sulfur channel of Pavlov and Kasting (2002). Contrary to previous data from the Dresser Formation, however, this pyrite is heavily depleted in 36S with a Δ36S/Δ33S slope of c. -3.6, much steeper than slopes typically seen in other early Archean rock successions (Δ36S/Δ33S ≈ -1) which suggests either a different atmospheric signature for deposited S or a different pool altogether. Significant micro-scale isotopic heterogeneity is observed within the microbial mat (δ34S = +1.6‰ to +6.7‰; Δ33S = +0.4‰ to +2.6‰; Δ36S = -3.1‰ to -8.1‰), implying a role for microbial S metabolism. While metabolic S cycling has been shown to shift Δ36S to lower values, microbial metabolization of S does not appear sufficient to account for the full range of Δ36S.

We conclude that the isotopic composition of the pyrite was controlled by the relative proportions of mass independently fractionated (MIF) S0 and sulfate-derived sulfur incorporated into polysulfide pyrite precursors during reactions in the microbial mat. The dominance of the MIF-S0 isotopic signature (+δ34S, +Δ33S, -Δ36S) indicates that contributions from the sulfate-derived sulfur pool were relatively small, consistent with low concentrations of sulfate in Archean seawater, and that contributions from a non-sulfate pool were significant. Micro-scale isotopic heterogeneity in the pyrite points to mixing between the two sulfur pools in selected micro-environments within the microbial mat. The particularly negative Δ36S observed here reveals a 3,480 Ma sulfur reservoir with novel Δ36S/Δ33S chemistry whose significance now requires further investigation.

How Much Water Gets Depositied in the Northern Martian Polar Ice Cap During Summer?

Quantification of summertime water ice deposition on the Martian north polar ice cap


Brown et al


We use observations from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) of the north polar cap during late summer for two Martian years, to monitor the complete summer cycle of albedo and water ice grain size in order to place quantitative limits of the amount of water ice deposited in late summer.

We establish here for the first time the complete spring to summer cycle of water ice grain sizes on the north polar cap. The apparent grain sizes grow until Ls=132, when they appear to shrink again, until they are obscured at the end of summer by the north polar hood.

Under the assumption that the shrinking of grain sizes is due to the deposition of find grained ice, we quantify the amount of water ice deposited per Martian boreal summer, and estimate the amount of water ice that must be transported equatorward.

Interestingly, we find that the relative amount of water ice deposited in the north cap during boreal summer (0.7-7 microns) is roughly equivalent to the average amount of water ice deposited on the south polar cap during austral summer (0.6-6 microns).

Opportunity's Incredible View


Trust in Chimpanzees

Chimpanzees trust conspecifics to engage in low-cost reciprocity


Engelmann et al


Many of humans' most important social interactions rely on trust, including most notably among strangers. But little is known about the evolutionary roots of human trust. We presented chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) with a modified version of the human trust game—trust in reciprocity—in which subjects could opt either to obtain a small but safe reward on their own or else to send a larger reward to a partner and trust her to reciprocate a part of the reward that she could not access herself. In a series of three studies, we found strong evidence that in interacting with a conspecific, chimpanzees show spontaneous trust in a novel context; flexibly adjust their level of trust to the trustworthiness of their partner and develop patterns of trusting reciprocity over time. At least in some contexts then, trust in reciprocity is not unique to humans, but rather has its evolutionary roots in the social interactions of humans' closest primate relatives.

Paleocene Paleogene Purgatorius was Arboreal, Close Basal Relative to Primates

Oldest known euarchontan tarsals and affinities of Paleocene Purgatorius to Primates


Chester et al


Earliest Paleocene Purgatorius often is regarded as the geologically oldest primate, but it has been known only from fossilized dentitions since it was first described half a century ago. The dentition of Purgatorius is more primitive than those of all known living and fossil primates, leading some researchers to suggest that it lies near the ancestry of all other primates; however, others have questioned its affinities to primates or even to placental mammals. Here we report the first (to our knowledge) nondental remains (tarsal bones) attributed to Purgatorius from the same earliest Paleocene deposits that have yielded numerous fossil dentitions of this poorly known mammal. Three independent phylogenetic analyses that incorporate new data from these fossils support primate affinities of Purgatorius among euarchontan mammals (primates, treeshrews, and colugos). Astragali and calcanei attributed to Purgatorius indicate a mobile ankle typical of arboreal euarchontan mammals generally and of Paleocene and Eocene plesiadapiforms specifically and provide the earliest fossil evidence of arboreality in primates and other euarchontan mammals. Postcranial specializations for arboreality in the earliest primates likely played a key role in the evolutionary success of this mammalian radiation in the Paleocene.

Early Tetrapods Lived in Shallow Tideless Lagoons in Eifelian Devonian Poland

Palaeonvironments of the Eifelian dolomites with earliest tetrapod trackways (Holy Cross Mountains, Poland)


Narkiewicz et al


The Eifelian dolomites in the Zachełmie Quarry (Holy Cross Mountains, Poland) contain trackways and tracks of tetrapods 390-391 Ma old, and thus the oldest known so far. The environments of the trackway-bearing beds have been investigated using sedimentological, palaeontological, geochemical and palaeomagnetic methods. The reconstructed tetrapod habitats comprised shallow-water lagoons separated from an open marine basin by sparsely vegetated islands and spits. The lagoonal waters were well-aerated and a few-meters deep at most, undergoing periodic desiccation. The dolomitic sediments, primarily of microbial origin, formed in tropical waters of slightly modified marine composition. Oxygen isotope data obtained from the dolomicrites suggest water temperatures around 30 °C. The seasonal semi-arid to subhumid climate, deduced from paleosol characteristics, was probably of a tropical monsoonal type. The degree of restriction of the lagoonal system evolved from relatively open, evaporation-dominated towards increasingly closed, fresh-water influenced.

The detailed observations of the footprint-bearing beds, as well as the characteristics of the tracks, indicate that they were formed mostly under subaqueous conditions, by wading, walking on the bottom or swimming animals. Lack of tidal indicators in the restricted Zachełmie lagoons argues against previous concept that tidal flats served as a food source for the early tetrapods. Nor is a hypothesis of flooded woodlands confirmed as a habitat promoting the “fish-to-tetrapod” transition. We propose that functional limbs emerged among aqueous animals that acquired their locomotional capabilities in a shallow lagoonal water before attempting longer excursions on land.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Awesome Evilness of Deep Sea Bacterial Viruses

Sulfur Oxidation Genes in Diverse Deep-Sea Viruses


Anantharaman et al


Viruses are the most abundant biological entities in the oceans and a pervasive cause of mortality of microorganisms that drive biogeochemical cycles. Although the ecological and evolutionary effects of viruses on marine phototrophs are well recognized, little is known about their impact on ubiquitous marine lithotrophs. Here, we report 18 genome sequences of double-stranded DNA viruses that putatively infect widespread sulfur-oxidizing bacteria. Fifteen of these viral genomes contain auxiliary metabolic genes for the α and γ subunits of reverse dissimilatory sulfite reductase (rdsr). This enzyme oxidizes elemental sulfur, which is abundant in the hydrothermal plumes studied here. Our findings implicate viruses as a key agent in the sulfur cycle and as a reservoir of genetic diversity for bacterial enzymes that underpin chemosynthesis in the deep oceans.

Egypt may Procure Rafale Fighters

It seems Egypt and France signed an MOU for the procurement of 20 Rafale and two FREMM frigates.

US Navy Redesignating Upgraded LCS Corvette Ships as Frigates (FF)

The US Navy (USN) has decided to classify its upgraded fast, shallow-water Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) as a frigate (FF), Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced on 15 January at the Surface Navy Association national symposium near Washington, DC.

The FF designation comes only weeks after the USN announced that it would modify current LCS designs to accommodate increased lethality and survivability requirements in its small surface combatant fleet.

Declinate in Oceanic Sulfate During Calymmian MesoProterozoic

Decline in oceanic sulfate levels during the early Mesoproterozoic


Luo et al


Multiple-sulfur isotope compositions (32S, 33S, 34S and 36S) were analyzed for paired carbonate-associated sulfate (CAS) and disseminated pyrite (PY) from the ∼1.6-Ga Gaoyuzhuang Formation of the North China Craton to reconstruct the history of sulfate levels in Proterozoic oceans. The 200-m-thick study interval yielded relatively constant values for δ34SCAS (13.0 ± 1.8‰), δ34SPY (8.0 ± 2.3‰), and Δ34SCAS-PY (∼5‰), as well as relatively constant Δ33S (0 ± 0.05‰) and Δ36S (0.35 ± 0.15‰) for both CAS and pyrite. Limited variation in δ34SPY and slightly lower Δ33S of pyrite relative to CAS suggest water-column precipitation of pyrite. Limited fractionation of sulfur during microbial sulfate reduction (as documented by Δ34SCAS-PY) implies low seawater sulfate concentrations in the early Mesoproterozoic ocean. We quantitatively constrained paleo-seawater [SO42−] using a novel modeling approach based on measured values of Δ34SCAS-PY and ∂δ34SCAS/∂t(max). For the study unit, Δ34SCAS-PY is 5.4 ± 1.4‰ (n = 17), and ∂δ34SCAS/∂t(max) is 6.8-34‰ Myr−1 based on sedimentation rates of 30-150 m Myr−1. These data indicate early Mesoproterozoic seawater [SO42−] of ∼ < 0.1 to 0.35 mM (with a maximum possible concentration of 1.8 mM), a range that is lower and more tightly constrained than earlier estimates for the Mesoproterozoic. Compilation of published data suggests that low seawater sulfate concentrations began about ∼1.7 Ga and persisted until at least the mid-Mesoproterozoic (∼1.4 Ga), documenting a distinct early Mesoproterozoic perturbation in ocean chemistry that may have been related to a decline in atmospheric pO2 after Great Oxidation Event I.

Where did the Water Come From in the Martian Late Noachian “Icy Highlands” Model

Sources of water for the outflow Channels on Mars: Implications of the Late Noachian “Icy Highlands” Model for Melting and Groundwater Recharge on the Tharsis Rise


Cassenelli et al


From the Late Noachian period, through the Hesperian, and into the Amazonian periods on Mars, large outflow channels were formed. Many are interpreted to have originated through the catastrophic discharge of groundwater from martian aquifers, involving the release of up to millions of cubic-kilometers of water. Such a mechanism for outflow channel formation requires that martian aquifers were supplied with significant quantities of water some time prior to the discharge events. Typical groundwater recharge occurs due to the infiltration of surficial waters through a permeable substrate down into aquifers. However, some climate models predict an early martian climate dominated by generally “cold and icy” conditions. In this scenario, a globally continuous, impermeable cryosphere prevents infiltration of liquid water (that might be generated at the surface through anomalous heating conditions), leaving the martian aquifers without an apparent source of recharge to supply later outflow channel formation by groundwater discharge. More recent global climate modeling of an early, thicker CO2 martian atmosphere predicts that, when coupled with a full water cycle, the atmosphere of Mars will behave adiabatically causing temperatures to decrease with elevation. The high standing areas of Mars, such as the southern highlands and the Tharsis region, then act as cold traps. This leads to the preferential accumulation of snow and ice, resulting in the formation of regional ice sheets throughout the highlands that characterize the Late Noachian “icy highlands” early Mars climate model (LNIH). We make the initial assumption that the LNIH model is representative of the early Mars climate, and seek to test the model against the presence of the Hesperian and Amazonian outflow channels to determine if it can be consistent. In order to reconcile the LNIH early Mars climate model with the presence of the later outflow channels a groundwater recharge mechanism that can operate under the predicted “cold and icy” conditions is required. We test basal melting of surface snow and ice in response to a regionally elevated geothermal heat flux throughout the Tharsis rise (resulting from widespread volcanic and magmatic activity during the Noachian) as a mechanism that can provide: (1) liquid water generation at the surface of Mars under generally “cold and icy” conditions, and (2) potentially large scale integration of the hydrological system (through thinning or breaching of the cryosphere), allowing for infiltration of meltwater to provide groundwater recharge during the Late Noachian to supply the later formation of outflow channels. We find: (1) Regional scale basal melting of LNIH ice sheets is not likely to occur at the predicted nominal average ice sheet thicknesses, even in the presence of the anomalous bottom-up heating conditions expected in the Tharsis region (although the increased baseline heating will render the LNIH ice sheets more susceptible to melting through additional anomalous heating conditions introduced by top-down and bottom-up processes). (2) Local scale basal melting and groundwater recharge through a “heat-pipe drain pipe” mechanism is likely to occur, but is not predicted to produce sufficient groundwater recharge to supply the water needed to form the outflow channels. (3) Under the assumption of an ice saturated cryosphere, regional scale melting of the cryosphere due to the insulating effect of the LNIH ice sheets does not provide enough water to explain the formation of all of the outflow channels. Therefore, if the LNIH model is correct, the groundwater recharge that supplied outflow channel formation requires a source that operated earlier in martian history, or the recharge was supplied by other mechanisms.