Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bitcoin ATM Debuts in China

BTC China, one of the country's leading digital currency exchanges, has installed China's first bitcoin ATM and launched an online app allowing individuals to buy and sell bitcoins using mobile phones, skirting local banking regulations seen as increasingly hostile to so-called crypto-currencies.

Rising interest from mainland Chinese speculators was credited for driving up global bitcoin prices last year to above $1,000 on some exchanges. But a subsequent crackdown by the People's Bank of China (PBOC) has seen the digital currency sag, changing hands below $530 on Wednesday, according to exchange-tracker CoinDesk.

That, in combination with scandals involving hacking, theft, and fraud, have put pressure on digital currency markets around the world. Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox has given up plans to rebuild under bankruptcy protection and asked a local court to allow it to be liquidated, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Unlike conventional money, bitcoin and other crypto-currencies are generated by computers and are not backed by any central bank or government, or by physical assets. They can be exchanged through nearly any file transfer mechanism for goods, services or cash - but the latter has proved a problem.

Many regulatory agencies around the world are concerned that digital currencies can be easily used for money laundering or the illegal purchase of weapons and narcotics, and have moved to control or prohibit their use in ordinary commerce.

In December, the PBOC banned financial institutions from trading in bitcoin, saying the government would act to prevent money laundering risks from the digital currency. It did not ban trading by individuals. Last week, two bitcoin exchanges said their trading accounts at certain domestic banks would be closed down by the lenders.

BTC China's chief executive Bobby Lee said by telephone that his exchange is still in operation and has yet to receive any notice from the bank that his accounts are being closed. "News reports said it would be shut down by April 15. It's April 16 and nothing has happened," he said.

Using a Starshade to See Exoplanets Directly

NRO Wants to Place Haloe LIDAR on Spy Sats

Light detection and ranging (lidar), one of the latest sensor technologies to get a boost thanks to the Afghanistan war, could make its way to space.

Lidar could follow in the footsteps of wide-area motion imagery, full-motion video and hyperspectral technologies that have also garnered interest and funding due to their ability to be tested and prove their value in Iraq and Afghanistan.

National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Director Betty Sapp highlighted the High-Altitude Lidar Operational Experiment (Haloe) program as a success for quickly providing three-dimensional, high-resolution mapping of areas in Afghanistan. Though she did not directly say NRO has lidar sensors in orbit, she introduced the Haloe project after noting that her agency often test-flew payloads for satellites in airborne applications to validate them prior to launch.

Developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the payload has been deployed to both Africa and Afghanistan. It was originally deployed on a WB-57 in 2010 to survey 72,000 sq. km of land there. This was roughly 10% of Afghanistan, according to Darpa Director Arati Prabhakar in recent testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Watch for Yourself: Snowden and Putin on Russian TV

Dig the grave, dude.

Life has had Diverse Cryptic Refugia Through Ice Ages

Diverse cryptic refuges for life during glaciation


Pointing et al


A long-standing paradigm in ecology has been that contemporary biodiversity require a diverse array of life to have survived through repeated Pleistocene glaciations when much of the higher latitudes on earth were covered in thick ice sheets. The notion that isolated pockets of ice-free land or “cryptic refugia” also persisted within glaciated areas has been postulated to explain this. Under the cryptic refugia scenario, animal and plant life survived, albeit in a scattered distribution and at low densities, in ice-free areas determined largely by topography. These have been proposed to include mountainous areas and deeply incised valleys in terrestrial biomes and marine trenches in ocean biomes. The existence of cryptic refugia is supported by multiple threads of evidence from paleontological, biogeographic, and phylogeographic research (2, 3). They are envisaged to have played a key role in the maintenance of biodiversity through major severe climate events. In PNAS, Fraser et al. (4) present empirical support for the hypothesis that geothermal areas may also have been important as cryptic refuges. The authors apply spatial modeling to a comprehensive terrestrial biodiversity dataset for Antarctica. They identify compelling evidence that geothermal refugia have left indelible and measurable patterns on contemporary biogeography for this

Diacetylene in Titan's Atmosphere

Revised Infrared Bending Mode Intensities For Diacetylene (C4h2): Application To Titan


Jolly et al


Diacetylene (C4H2) has been observed in various astrophysical environments in the infrared range through the bending modes ν8 at 628.0 and ν9 at 220.1 cm−1. Accurate intensity measurements of both modes are necessary to obtain precise abundance determination. Laboratory spectra covering both bending modes have been recorded with a pure diacetylene sample. Precise band intensities have been measured showing large discrepancies compared to previous studies, reaching a factor 2.3 for the ν9 band and a smaller difference of 20% for the ν8 band. Consequences on the determination of abundances of diacetylene in Titan's atmosphere are discussed.

Ancestral Pueblo Indians (Anasazi) had Huge Trade Network

About a millennium ago, the ancestral Pueblo Indians in the Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico obtained their precious turquoise using a large trade network spanning several states, new research reveals.

In the new study, researchers traced Chaco Canyon turquoise artifacts back to resource areas in Colorado, Nevada and southeastern California. The results definitively show, for the first time, that the ancestral Puebloans — best known for their multistoried adobe houses — in the San Juan Basin area of New Mexico did not get all of their turquoise from a nearby mining site, as was previously believed.

What's more, the study reveals the Puebloan people in the Moapa Valley of southern Nevada obtained some of their turquoise from as far away as Colorado and New Mexico, suggesting the trade network ran in both directions.

"People usually think of the Chaco Canyon as this big center [for turquoise]," said study lead author Sharon Hull, an anthropologist at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. "But we show that people were bringing the turquoise back and forth between the western and eastern sites."

Nimbacinus dicksoni: a Thylacinidae Marsupial Predator From Miocene Neogene Australia

The reconstruction of an extinct meat-eating marsupial's skull, Nimbacinus dicksoni, suggests that it may have had the ability to hunt vertebrate prey exceeding its own body size, according to results published April 9, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Marie Attard from the University of New England together with colleagues from the University of New South Wales.

Nimbacinus dicksoni is a member of an extinct family of Australian and New Guinean marsupial carnivores, Thylacinidae. Aside from one recently extinct species, the majority of information known about species in this family stems from recovered skull fragments, which limits species ecology and diversity analysis. Scientists recovered a ~16-11.6 million year old preserved skull of N. dicksoni from the Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil Site in northwestern Queensland, Australia, and used it to determine if N. dicksoni was more likely to hunt small or large prey. They applied virtual 3D reconstruction techniques and computer modelling to reconstruct the skull of Nimbacinus, digitally 'crash-testing' and comparing it to models of large living marsupial carnivores (Tasmanian devil, spotted-tailed quoll and northern quoll), and to the recently extinct Tasmanian tiger, N. dicksoni's close relative.

Teyumbaita sulcognathus: A Triassic Rhynchosaur With a GREAT Sense of Smell

Paleoneurology of Teyumbaita sulcognathus (Diapsida: Archosauromorpha) and the sense of smell in rhynchosaurs


Sales et al


Rhynchosaurs were a group of archosauromorphs that dominated the guild of herbivores during the early Late Triassic. Despite the large number of specimens available, paleobiological studies are rare in the literature, especially concerning the South American species. The present study analyzes the paleoneurology of Teyumbaita sulcognathus, a Brazilian hyperodapedontine rhynchosaur, along with its nasal cavity, based on tomographic images of the specimen UFRGS-PV-0232-T. Although the endocast only reveals the morphology of the posterior half of the encephalon due to the incompletely ossified braincase, it is possible to infer the presence of great olfactory bulbs because of their impressions left on the ventral surface of the frontals. Although the snout is relatively short, the areas of the nasal cavity probably devoted to olfaction were also large and, along with the size of the olfactory bulbs, it is possible to infer that olfaction was important for the behavior and ecology of T. sulcognathus, as previously proposed for Hyperodapedon.

Does the Fossil Record Show Ediacaran Biota Being Out-Competed by Bilaterans?

Patterns of Evolution of the Ediacaran Soft-Bodied Biota




When each of the Avalon-, Ediacara-, and Nama-type fossil assemblages are tracked through geological time, there appear to be changes in species composition and diversity, almost synchronized between different sedimentary environments, allowing a subdivision of the late Ediacaran into the Redkinian, Belomorian and Kotlinian geological time intervals. The Redkinian (580–559 Ma) is characterized by first appearance of both eumetazoan traces and macroscopic organisms (frondomorphs and vendobionts) in a form of Avalon-type communities in the inner shelf environment, whereas coeval Ediacara-type communities remained depauperate. The Belomorian (559–550 Ma) is marked by the advent of eumetazoan burrowing activity in the inner shelf, diversification of frondomorphs, migration of vendobionts from the inner shelf into higher energy environments, and appearance of tribrachiomorphs and bilateralomorphs. Ediacaran organisms formed distinctive ecological associations that coexisted in the low-energy inner shelf (Avalon-type communities), in the wave- and current-agitated shoreface (Ediacara-type communities), and in the high-energy distributary systems (Nama-type communities). The Kotlinian (550–540 Ma) witnessed an expansion of the burrowing activity into wave- and current-agitated shoreface, disappearance of vendobionts, tribrachiomorphs and bilateralomorphs in wave- and current-agitated shoreface, together with a drop in frondomorph diversity. High-energy distributary channel systems of prodeltas served as refugia for Nama-type communities that survived until the end of the Ediacaran and disappeared when the burrowing activity reached high-energy environments. This pattern is interpreted as an expression of ecosystem engineering by eumetazoans, with the Ediacaran organisms being progressively outcompeted by bilaterians.

New Mexico Chile Production Falls Sharply

While red and green chili peppers still sit on top of the list as New Mexico's favorite food crop, commercial production fell sharply last year according to a USDA year-end crop production report and confirmed by the latest crop statistics from the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.

The official report indicates fewer acres of chili peppers planted and harvested in 2013, down about 16 percent from the previous year. USDA says 65,000 tons of New Mexico chili peppers were produced in 2013 compared to nearly 78,000 tons in 2012. Over a decade ago New Mexico chili pepper farmers were harvesting over 100,000 tons of green and red peppers each fall.

The Surprising, Hidden Vulnerabilities of the Air Traffic Network

In April 2010, an Icelandic volcano called Eyjafjallajökull suddenly erupted, spewing millions of tons of dust and ash into the atmosphere above western and northern Europe. Airborne ash can clog jet engines, so some 20 countries immediately closed their air space to commercial air traffic.

The eruption lead to the cancellation of more than 60 percent of European flights over a period of five days and affected more than 100,000 travelers.

This kind of disruption is unprecedented, but it raises an important question. How vulnerable is the global airline network to disruptions of this kind? And if one part of the network is shut, how does this disruption spread?

Today we get an answer thanks to the work of Trivik Verma at ETH Zurich and a few pals. Their conclusion is unexpected.

Ukraine the Frustration

Whose chopper is that?

If White Wolf had made a game for what is happening in Ukraine, that is what they would have named it.  Good grief.

Ten cities are occupied by the LGM & supporters. 

Kramatorsk has had a wild last day.  Supposedly a battle for the airport took place and the attackers were repulsed.  There's been little news other than it happened.

Likewise in Slavyansk, this got weirder still.  6 BMD APCs were ridden into town under Russian colors.  The claim was the troops just handed over the APCs to the LGM and the bolts from their rifles.  The Russian media claim the troops went over to the LGM.  The Ukrainians claim these were captured APCs...from somewhere.  Stocks?  The uniforms do NOT support the idea these are Ukrainians.  OTOH, it appears the troops did surrender their equipment.

Mariupol  had a very large group attack the troops there: over 300 attackers.  The attack was repulsed with 3 dead LGM, 13 wounded and 63 captured.

The talks are supposed to begin in Geneva. The earlier rumors of a Russian boycott were obviously false.

After the great courage of the Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea, this is just disheartening.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

DogeCoin DogeCon

Finally - the conference Dogecoin investors have been waiting for.

The amusingly titled "Dogecon" will be hosted in San Francisco on 25 April, with six hours of panels and keynotes.

They'll be bringing together top entrepreneurs, investors, and activists interested in the meme-based cryptocurrency.

And it's one that already boasts a range of speakers, including the creator of the coin, and other top names in crypto.

Registration is free, and aside from the formal events, attendees are set to compete in a costume contest - the most creative Dogecoin-related attire will win - and participate in "other Doge games for Dogecoin prizes".

Would-be attendees can sign up here, and can contribute to prize funds by sending Dogecoin to this address (which at the time of writing holds a balance of zero).

It looks like fun, at least for those who get excited by cryptocurrency conferences, but are the organisers taking Dogecoin's potential seriously?

Self Healing Composites

Internal damage in fiber-reinforced composites, materials used in structures of modern airplanes and automobiles, is difficult to detect and nearly impossible to repair by conventional methods. A small, internal crack can quickly develop into irreversible damage from delamination, a process in which the layers separate. This remains one of the most significant factors limiting more widespread use of composite materials.

However, fiber-composite materials can now heal autonomously through a new self-healing system, developed by researchers in the Beckman Institute's Autonomous Materials Systems (AMS) Group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, led by professors Nancy Sottos, Scott White, and Jeff Moore.

Sottos, White, Moore, and their team created 3D vascular networks—patterns of microchannels filled with healing chemistries—that thread through a fiber-reinforced composite. When damage occurs, the networks within the material break apart and allow the healing chemistries to mix and polymerize, autonomously healing the material, over multiple cycles. These results were detailed in a paper titled "Continuous self-healing life cycle in vascularized structural composites," published in Advanced Materials.

"This is the first demonstration of repeated healing in a fiber-reinforced composite system," said Scott White, aerospace engineering professor and co-corresponding author. "Self-healing has been done before in polymers with different techniques and networks, but they couldn't be translated to fiber-reinforced composites. The missing link was the development of the vascularization technique."

"The beauty of this self-healing approach is, we don't have to probe the structure and say, this is where the damage occurred and then repair it ourselves," said Jason Patrick, a Ph.D. candidate in civil engineering and lead author.

US Navy Christens USS Zumwalt

The US Navy (USN) has officially named the lead ship of its new class destroyer.

Zumwalt (DDG 1000) was christened on 12 April 2014 at shipbuilder General Dynamics Bath Iron Works' main shipyard in Bath, Maine.

Named for the USN's 19th chief of naval operations, the late Admiral Elmo 'Bud' Zumwalt Jr, the destroyer is the first in a class of three ships expected in the fleet. The USN originally intended for the Zumwalt class to replace its fleet of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers. However, officials in 2008 decided to truncate the Zumwalt class in favour of restarting the Arleigh Burke production line because of new threat assessments at the time.

Zumwalt is being delivered in two phases - hull, mechanical, and electrical delivery in late 2014 followed by combat systems delivery about one year later. The ship is on track to conduct builder's and acceptance trials in 2014. Initial operational capability is expected in 2016.

US Navy Deploying Active Anti Torpedo System

In response to an urgent operational need (UON) from combatant commanders, the US Navy (USN) rapidly installed a prototype torpedo countermeasures system onto the USS George H W Bush (CVN 77), which deployed to US Fifth Fleet on 15 February 2014.

Bush is equipped with a prototype Surface Ship Torpedo Defense (SSTD) system, which combines two technologies to combat enemy torpedoes: the passive technology of the torpedo warning system (TWS) and the hard-kill capability of the Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo (CAT).

Evaluating the Geochronological Placement of the De Geer, Thulean and Bering Land Bridges

The De Geer, Thulean and Beringia routes: key concepts for understanding early Cenozoic biogeography




I re-evaluate the specific biogeographical significance of each of the land bridges (Beringia, Thulean and De Geer) in the Northern Hemisphere during the latest Cretaceous–early Cenozoic, showing that the Thulean and De Geer routes did not operate contemporaneously.


Northern Hemisphere landmasses.


I review the recent climatic, sea-level, geotectonic, palaeofloristic, and marine and terrestrial faunal data that have emerged since the establishment in the 1980s of the biogeographical concepts of the early Cenozoic Northern Hemisphere land bridges and present a synthesis supporting a revised scenario for early Cenozoic biogeographical development.

Palaeogeographical and geotectonic data, supported by strong floral and faunal evidence, suggest that the palaeogeographical and chronological frames for the formation of all three land bridges are different from those originally proposed. Dispersal events via the causeways seem to have taken place during specific time intervals resulting from fluctuations in sea level and climate.

Main conclusions

The De Geer and Thulean routes were not contemporaneous. The former existed during the latest Cretaceous to the early Palaeocene, joining North America with Eurasia. The Thulean route became established well after the interruption of the De Geer route, offering a southerly connection between western Europe and North America in at least two episodes: c. 57 Ma and c. 56 Ma. The Bering route functioned in two warm periods: 65.5 Ma (coinciding with the De Geer route) and c. 58 Ma, during the Palaeocene (possible Eocene exposures are not considered here). The formation of the De Geer route explains faunal similarities between the Puercan and Torrejonian North American land mammal ages (NALMAs) and the Shanghuan Asian land mammal age (ALMA). The Thulean route explains faunal similarities between the Clarkforkian (Cf1) and Wasatchian (Wa0, 1) NALMAs, and the Cernaysian and Neustrian (PE I, II) European land mammal ages. The Bering route explains faunal similarities between the Gashatan ALMA and the Tiffanian (Ti5) NALMA.

Mars' Gusev Crater Definitely had a Lake

If desert mirages occur on Mars, "Lake Gusev" belongs among them. This come-and-go body of ancient water has come and gone more than once, at least in the eyes of Mars scientists.

Now, however, it's finally shifting into sharper focus, thanks to a new analysis of old data by a team led by Steve Ruff, associate research professor at Arizona State University's Mars Space Flight Facility in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. The team's report was just published in the April 2014 issue of the journal Geology.

The story begins in early 2004, when NASA landed Spirit, one of its two Mars Exploration Rovers, inside 100-mile-wide Gusev Crater. Why Gusev? Because from orbit, Gusev looked, with its southern rim breached by a meandering river channel, as if it once held a lake – and water-deposited rocks were the rover mission's focus. Yet when Spirit began to explore, scientists found Gusev's floor was paved not with lakebed sediments, but volcanic rocks.

Less than two miles away however stood the Columbia Hills, 300 feet high. When Spirit drove up into them, it indeed discovered ancient rocks that had been altered by water. But to scientists' chagrin, no lake sediments were among them. Instead, scientists discovered evidence of hydrothermal activity, essentially hot springs like those in Yellowstone National Park.

But there's hope yet for Lake Gusev, thanks to a Columbia Hills rock outcrop dubbed Comanche. This outcrop is unusually rich in magnesium-iron carbonate minerals, a discovery made in 2010 that Ruff played a major role in making. While Comanche's carbonate minerals were originally attributed to hydrothermal activity, the team's new analysis points to a different origin.

Cool waters

Says Ruff, "We looked more closely at the composition and geologic setting of Comanche and nearby outcrops. There's good evidence that low temperature surface waters introduced the carbonates into Comanche rather than hot water rising from deep down."

Comanche started out as a volcanic ash deposit known as tephra that originally covered the Columbia Hills and adjacent plains. This material, Ruff explains, came from explosive eruptions somewhere within or around Gusev.

Then floodwaters entered the crater through the huge valley that breaches Gusev's southern rim. These floods appear to have ponded long enough to alter the tephra, producing briny solutions. When the brines evaporated, they left behind residues of carbonate minerals. As the lake filled and dried, perhaps many times in succession, it loaded Comanche and its neighbor rocks with carbonates.

"The lake didn't have to be big," Ruff explains. "The Columbia Hills stand 300 feet high, but they're in the lowest part of Gusev. So a deep, crater-spanning lake wasn't needed."

Today, the Columbia Hills rise as an island of older terrain surrounded by younger lava flows, Ruff says. "Comanche and a neighbor outcrop called Algonquin are remnants of the older and much more widespread tephra deposit. The wind has eroded most of that deposit, also carrying away much of the evidence for an ancient lake."

Australian Aboriginal Wardaman People Used Celestial Songlines for Navigation

Songlines and Navigation in Wardaman and other Australian Aboriginal Cultures


Norris et al


We discuss the songlines and navigation of the Wardaman people, and place them in context by comparing them with corresponding practices in other Australian Aboriginal language groups, using previously unpublished information and also information drawn from the literature. Songlines are effectively oral maps of the landscape, enabling the transmission of oral navigational skills in cultures that do not have a written language. In many cases, songlines on the earth are mirrored by songlines in the sky, enabling the sky to be used as a navigational tool, both by using it as a compass, and by using it as a mnemonic

Labes: a Maastrichtian Cretaceous Eutherian Mammal From France

A Late Cretaceous eutherian mammal from southwestern France


Martin et al


The first jaw remain of the Late Cretaceous eutherian Labes is a mandibular fragment from the Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) locality Massecaps in Departement Herault in southwestern France. The mandible holds three double-rooted molars (m1–3) with broken trigonids and preserved talonids of which m1 apparently was the largest. The entoconid is slightly approximated to the hypoconulid (69–74 % of the distance between the hypoconulid and hypoconid). The talonid basin has a rectangular shape, and the molar roots are not fused. An upper molar (M1) from the same locality bears three roots; it is characterized by a strong ectoflexus and a well-developed parastylar lobe. The largest cusp is the conical pyramidal paracone, followed by the tetrahedral shaped, very low protocone, and the small, distally placed metacone. Previously, Labes was only known by a few isolated lower molars from the late Campanian of Champ-Garimond (France) and the Maastrichtian of El Molino near Quintanilla del Coco (northwestern Spain).

Observing the Lilliput Effects in Therocephalians Across the Permian Triassic Mass Extinction

Bone microstructure and the evolution of growth patterns in Permo-Triassic therocephalians (Amniota, Therapsida) of South Africa


Huttenlocker et al


Therocephalians were a speciose clade of nonmammalian therapsids whose ecological diversity and survivorship of the end-Permian mass extinction offer the potential to investigate the evolution of growth patterns across the clade and their underlying influences on post-extinction body size reductions, or ‘Lilliput effects’. We present a phylogenetic survey of limb bone histology and growth patterns in therocephalians from the Middle Permian through Middle Triassic of the Karoo Basin, South Africa. Histologic sections were prepared from 80 limb bones representing 11 genera of therocephalians. Histologic indicators of skeletal growth, including cortical vascularity (%CV) and mean primary osteon diameters (POD), were evaluated in a phylogenetic framework and assessed for correlations with other biologically significant variables (e.g., size and robusticity). Changes in %CV and POD correlated strongly with evolutionary changes in body size (i.e., smaller-bodied descendants tended to have lower %CV than their larger-bodied ancestors across the tree). Bone wall thickness tended to be high in early therocephalians and lower in the gracile-limbed baurioids, but showed no general correlation with cross-sectional area or degree of vascularity (and, thus, growth). Clade-level patterns, however, deviated from previously studied within-lineage patterns. For example, Moschorhinus, one of few therapsid genera to have survived the extinction boundary, demonstrated higher %CV in the Triassic than in the Permian despite its smaller size in the extinction aftermath. Results support a synergistic model of size reductions for Triassic therocephalians, influenced both by within-lineage heterochronic shifts in survivor taxa (as reported in Moschorhinus and the dicynodont Lystrosaurus) and phylogenetically inferred survival of small-bodied taxa that had evolved short growth durations (e.g., baurioids). These findings mirror the multi-causal Lilliput patterns described in marine faunas, but contrast with skeletochronologic studies that suggest slow, prolonged shell secretion over several years in marine benthos. Applications of phylogenetic comparative methods to new histologic data will continue to improve our understanding of the evolutionary dynamics of growth and body size shifts during mass extinctions and recoveries.

Trace Fossils Tied to Mollusc-like Bilateral Animals From the Ediacaran NeoProterozoic

Scratch Traces of Large Ediacara Bilaterian Animals


Gehling et al


Ediacara fan-shaped sets of paired scratches Kimberichnus teruzzii from the Ediacara Member of the Rawnsley Quartzite, South Australia, and the White Sea region of Russia, represent the earliest known evidence in the fossil record of feeding traces associated with the responsible bilaterian organism. These feeding patterns exclude arthropod makers and point to the systematic feeding excavation of seafloor microbial mats by large bilaterians of molluscan grade. Since the scratch traces were made into microbial mats, animals could crawl over previous traces without disturbing them. The trace maker is identified as Kimberella quadrata, whose death masks co-occur with the mat excavation traces in both Russia and South Australia. The co-occurrence of animals and their systematic feeding traces in the record of the Ediacara biota supports previous trace fossil evidence that bilaterians existed globally before the Cambrian explosion of life in the ocean.

An Astounding Graph on Solar Power Costs


China's Economy NOT Expected to Grow Even 7.3 Percent

China’s loss of economic momentum in the first quarter was deeper than the most widely-cited data will show, according to analyst forecasts for a gauge that’s gaining increasing recognition.

Gross domestic product grew a seasonally adjusted 1.5 percent from the previous three months, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey ahead of data released tomorrow, down from 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter. That indicates a sharper deceleration than a median projection for 7.3 percent growth from a year earlier, from 7.7 percent.

Russian Overhauling 10 Nuclear Submarines

Russian Navy commander-in-chief Admiral Viktor Chirkov has announced that more than ten third-generation nuclear-powered attack and cruise missile submarines will be modernised before the end of this decade.

The repair and overhaul programme was previously publicised, but earlier reports did not specify the number of boats to be updated.

An official spokesman told news agencies that Chirkov said they include Akula (Shchuka-B/Project 971)-class and Sierra I (Barrakuda/Project 945)-class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) and Oscar-class (Antey/Project 949) guided-missile submarines (SSGNs).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ukraine Bites Back

The counter offensive by the Ukrainians has begun.  

The Karamatorsk airport has been retaken.  Easily even.  An Ukrainian general came out to state he was there to protect the locals and no harm would come to them.  That didn't go so well and he was roughed up.

Slavyansk has reported they are surrounded.  There are some reports the troops have entered or will be entering shortly.

The US reiterated they are considering offering weapons.  There are now calls for the US to send troops.  The American public is not very enthusiastic, however.

There is a rumor the Russians ordered a pullback of their special forces within Ukraine.  It might be to avoid capture.  Or it might be a hope there will be a blood bath somewhere.

The EU is preparing more sanctions.  The US is as well.  (C'mon...173/2/12!)

We shall see what the consequences are.  Russia threatened to use force if Ukraine did.  Well...

Amazon Says NO to Bitcoin

America’s largest online retailer has no plans to hop on the Bitcoin bandwagon. Amazon’s head of payments told Re/Code that the company has no current plans to accept the digital currency. “Obviously it gets a lot of press and we have considered it,” he said, “but we’re not hearing from customers that it’s right for them.”

Attack of the Killer Sponges

hat tip to the Running Ponies.

USMC Takes Delivery of USS America Jeep Carrier


Japan's ATD-X Stealth Fighter Prototype to Fly This Year

Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera has reaffirmed the nation's plan for a 2014 first flight of the Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X (ATD-X) fighter: a prototype for a future fighter to replace the Japan Air Self-Defence Force's Mitsubishi F-2.

"In February I myself visited at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' (MHI's) Komaki Minami plant where the ATD-X is being built," Onodera told the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of the Upper House on 10 April. "There I was briefed that the first flight will take place this year."

The ATD-X, also known as Shinshin ('Heart of God'), is being developed by the ministry's Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI), with the main contractor of the project being MHI. It has been designed to be a stealthy air-superiority fighter with enhanced manoeuvrability. The Japanese Ministry of Defence (MoD) will use it to research advanced technologies and system integration, after which it plans to produce a 'sixth-generation' fighter encompassing i3 (informed, intelligent and instantaneous) concepts and counter-stealth capabilities.

"Originally MHI planned to roll-out the ATD-X before the media in May, soon after Japan's Golden Week holidays, followed by the first test fight," an official at TRDI told IHS Jane's on 15 April. "Now it is several months behind schedule."

Onodera also said in the Diet that the MoD will decide by FY18 whether to build its future stealth fighter domestically or by international joint development, based on parameters such as technological achievements and cost effectiveness.

Japan's plans to develop an 'F-3' from the ADT-X could run into opposition from the United States, however, which has blocked Tokyo's attempts to develop an indigenous fighter in the past.

Assessing the Biases of the Pleistocene Quaternary Fossil Record Through Trace and Body Fossils

Contemporaneous Trace and Body Fossils from a Late Pleistocene Lakebed in Victoria, Australia, Allow Assessment of Bias in the Fossil Record


Camens et al


The co-occurrence of vertebrate trace and body fossils within a single geological formation is rare and the probability of these parallel records being contemporaneous (i.e. on or near the same bedding plane) is extremely low. We report here a late Pleistocene locality from the Victorian Volcanic Plains in south-eastern Australia in which demonstrably contemporaneous, but independently accumulated vertebrate trace and body fossils occur. Bite marks from a variety of taxa are also present on the bones. This site provides a unique opportunity to examine the biases of these divergent fossil records (skeletal, footprints and bite marks) that sampled a single fauna. The skeletal record produced the most complete fauna, with the footprint record indicating a markedly different faunal composition with less diversity and the feeding traces suggesting the presence, amongst others, of a predator not represented by either the skeletal or footprint records. We found that the large extinct marsupial predator Thylacoleo was the only taxon apparently represented by all three records, suggesting that the behavioral characteristics of large carnivores may increase the likelihood of their presence being detected within a fossil fauna. In contrast, Diprotodon (the largest-ever marsupial) was represented only by trace fossils at this site and was absent from the site's skeletal record, despite its being a common and easily detected presence in late Pleistocene skeletal fossil faunas elsewhere in Australia. Small mammals absent from the footprint record for the site were represented by skeletal fossils and bite marks on bones.

The Salty Seas of Ganymede and Callisto

Ganymede's Internal Structure Including Thermodynamics of Magnesium Sulfate Oceans in Contact with Ice


Vance et al


The large icy moons of Jupiter contain vast quantities of liquid water, a key ingredient for life. Ganymede and Callisto are weaker candidates for habitability than Europa, in part because of the model-based assumption that high-pressure ice layers cover their seafloors and prevent significant water-rock interaction. Water-rock interactions may occur, however, if heating at the rock-ice interface melts the high pressure ice. Highly saline fluids would be gravitationally stable, and might accumulate under the ice due to upward migration, refrng, and fractionation of salt from less concentrated liquids. To assess the influence of salinity on Ganymede's internal structure, we use available phase-equilibrium data to calculate activity coefficients and predict the freezing of water ice in the presence of aqueous magnesium sulfate. We couple this new equation of state with thermal profiles in Ganymede's interior—employing recently published thermodynamic data for the aqueous phase—to estimate the thicknesses of layers of ice I, III, V, and VI. We compute core and silicate mantle radii consistent with available constraints on Ganymede's mass and gravitational moment of inertia. Mantle radii range from 800 to 900 km for the values of salt and heat flux considered here (4 to 44 mW m−2 and 0 to 10 Wt% MgSO4). Ocean concentrations with salinity higher than 10 Wt% have little high pressure ice. Even in a ganymede ocean that is mostly liquid, achieving such high ocean salinity is permissible for the range of likely S/Si ratios. However, elevated salinity requires a smaller silicate mantle radius to satisfy mass and moment-of-inertia constraints, so ice VI is always present in Ganymede's ocean. For lower values of heat flux, oceans with salinity as low as 3 Wt% can co-exist with ice III. Available experimental data indicate ice phases III and VI become buoyant for salinity higher than 5 Wt% and 10 Wt%, respectively. Similar behavior probably occurs for ice V at salinities higher than 10 Wt%. Flotation can occur over tens of kilometers of depth, indicating the possibility for upward ‘snow’ or other exotic modes of heat and material transport.

Just How Neandertal are YOU?!

Technical objections to the idea that Neandertals interbred with the ancestors of Eurasians have been overcome, thanks to a genome analysis method described in the April 2014 issue of the journal GENETICS. The technique can more confidently detect the genetic signatures of interbreeding than previous approaches and will be useful for evolutionary studies of other ancient or rare DNA samples.

"Our approach can distinguish between two subtly different scenarios that could explain the genetic similarities shared by Neandertals and modern humans from Europe and Asia," said study co-author Konrad Lohse, a population geneticist at the University of Edinburgh.

The first scenario is that Neandertals occasionally interbred with modern humans after they migrated out of Africa. The alternative scenario is that the humans who left Africa evolved from the same ancestral subpopulation that had previously given rise to the Neandertals.

Many researchers argue the interbreeding scenario is more likely, because it fits the genetic patterns seen in studies that compared genomes from many modern humans. But the new approach completely rules out the alternative scenario without requiring all the extra data, by using only the information from one genome each of several types: Neandertal, European/Asian, African and chimpanzee.

The same method will be useful in other studies of interbreeding where limited samples are available. "Because the method makes maximum use of the information contained in individual genomes, it is particularly exciting for revealing the history of species that are rare or extinct," said Lohse. In fact, the authors originally developed the method while studying the history of insect populations in Europe and island species of pigs in South East Asia, some of which are extremely rare.

Lohse cautions against reading too much into the fact that the new method estimates a slightly higher genetic contribution of Neandertals to modern humans than previous studies. Estimating this contribution is complex and is likely to vary slightly between different approaches.

Hadrosaur Vertebra Found in Arctic Campanian Cretaceous Nunavut, Canada

A Hadrosaurid (Dinosauria: Ornithischia) from the Late Cretaceous (Campanian) Kanguk Formation of Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut, Canada, and Its Ecological and Geographical Implications


Vavrek et al


A hadrosaurid vertebra was recovered during a palynological survey of the Upper Cretaceous Kanguk Formation in the eastern Canadian Arctic. This vertebra represents the farthest north record of any non-avian dinosaur to date. Although highly abraded, the fossil nonetheless represents an interesting biogeographic data point. During the Campanian, when this vertebra was deposited, the eastern Canadian Arctic was likely isolated both from western North America by the Western Interior Seaway and from more southern regions of eastern North America by the Hudson Seaway. This fossil suggests that large-bodied hadrosaurid dinosaurs may have inhabited a large polar insular landmass during the Late Cretaceous, where they would have lived year-round, unable to migrate to more southern regions during winters. It is possible that the resident herbivorous dinosaurs could have fed on non-deciduous conifers, as well as other woody twigs and stems, during the long, dark winter months when most deciduous plant species had lost their leaves.

Pietraroian Rhynchocephalians From Albian Cretaceous Italy are Jurassic Relicts

A new sphenodontian (Reptilia, Lepidosauria) from the Lower Cretaceous of Southern Italy and the phylogenetic affinities of the Pietraroia Plattenkalk rhynchocephalians


Cau et al


The Pietraroia Plattenkalk (Albian, Lower Cretaceous) of Southern Italy is known for well-preserved fossil vertebrates, including the rhynchocephalian lepidosaur Derasmosaurus pietraroiae. A previously described Pietraroian rhynchocephalian differs from Derasmosaurus in vertebral, pelvic and foot morphology. A third Pietraroian rhynchocephalian is described for the first time. The new specimen is smaller and more gracile than the other Pietraroian rhynchocephalians, shows a broad unpaired parietal with a small foramen, and robust dorsal neural spines. Comparison with the ontogenetic series of Sphenodon suggests that small body size and relatively broad parietal in the new rhynchocephalian indicate immaturity, although the complete obliteration of the interparietal suture and the relatively small size of the parietal foramen may support an ontogenetically mature condition for that specimen. The morphology of the dorsal vertebrae excludes referral to Derasmosaurus. Phylogenetic analyses placed the second specimen among the basal branch of Opisthodontia, and the third specimen and Derasmosaurus among Sphenodontinae. The phylogenetic reconstruction supports the interpretation of the Pietraroian rhynchocephalians as late-surviving members of Jurassic lineages.

The Ediacaran NeoProterozoic in Ganderia (New Brunswick, Canada)

Infrastructure and provenance of Ganderia: Evidence from detrital zircon ages in the Brookville terrane, southern New Brunswick, Canada


Barr et al


The Brookville terrane in southern New Brunswick contains some of the oldest known sedimentary rocks of the Ganderian microcontinent of the northern Appalachian orogen. It includes the stromatolitic metacarbonate- and quartzite-dominated Ashburn Formation and metasiltstone-dominated Martinon Formation, in mylonitic contact with the Brookville Gneiss, an assemblage of low-pressure/high-temperature paragneiss and tonalitic orthogneiss. All of the metasedimentary units were intruded by the ca. 550-528 Ma subduction-related Golden Grove Plutonic Suite. Analysis by LA-ICP-MS and TIMS of zircon grains from the Ashburn Formation quartzite yielded no < 10% discordant ages younger than ca. 1200 Ma, a predominance of Meso- and Paleoproterozoic ages back to ca. 2100 Ma, and a few Neoarchean ages. A sample from the metasiltstone matrix of a carbonate olistostrome in the Martinon Formation contains rounded grains with ages mainly between ca. 1000 Ma - 2200 Ma, indicating provenance similar to that of the Ashburn Formation. However, the sample also contains euhedral grains with ages averaging around 650 Ma, indicating the maximum depositional age. A quartzite/calc-silicate sample from the Brookville paragneiss yielded detrital zircon grains with most ages between 1150 Ma and 2000 Ma, indicating provenance similar to that of the Ashburn and Martinon formations. An orthogneiss sample yielded euhedral (igneous) zircon grains with a concordia age of 615 ± 4 Ma, indicating an interval of continental margin subduction at least 60 Ma older than that represented by the Golden Grove Plutonic Suite. The Ashburn and Martinon formations and Brookville paragneiss are evidence for development of a Late Cryogenian passive margin on the Proto-Andean - Caribbean edge of Amazonia after it had separated from Laurentia by ca. 650 Ma to open the Puncoviscana Ocean. By 615 Ma at least part of this margin had become a subduction zone which remained active during the late Neoproterozoic - Early Cambrian, part of the Pampean arc system. Brookville and related terranes rifted away in the mid-Cambrian to form the foundation of Early Paleozoic Ganderia, which ultimately collided with composite Laurentia during the Salinic orogeny

US Special Forces are Testing Cubesats for Communications, Other Roles

On November 19 of last year, the Department of Defense’s Office of Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) set a world record as a Minotaur 1 rocket lit up the sky at Wallops Island, Virginia, placing an unprecedented 29 CubeSats in orbit on a single launch. Among those were eight US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) CubeSats developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in Los Alamos, New Mexico. These eight “Prometheus” CubeSats are part a CubeSat technology development and demonstration effort to explore the viability of using a CubeSat constellation to meet existing Special Operation Forces (SOF) mission requirements.

USSOCOM is the Department of Defense’s lead combatant command for planning, synchronizing, and executing operations aimed at combating terrorism around the globe in coordination with and in support of other combatant commanders. It is USSOCOM’s responsibility to ensure SOF operators in the field are well trained and equipped to operate in the highly dynamic security environment. The ability to initiate and execute collaborative science and technology development efforts is a critical enabler to USSOCOM initiatives to rapidly field SOF peculiar equipment. The USSOCOM CubeSat effort is just one of a handful of initiatives that will continue to improve the responsiveness of space capabilities and provide SOF operators with tactically relevant information by reducing tasking and data dissemination timelines.


First Sea Lord Warns Little Scotlanders

Britain's Royal Navy chief on Tuesday warned that an independent Scotland would "damage the very heart" of the military service.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, First Sea Lord Admiral George Zambellas highlighted the pivotal role played by Scotland throughout the history of the Royal Navy, pointing out that almost a third of Admiral Nelson's men at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar were Scottish.

"I believe that independence would fundamentally change maritime security for all of us in the United Kingdom and damage the very heart of the capabilities," he said.

"While the continuing United Kingdom would eventually adapt and cope, the deeper impact would be felt in Scotland which would no longer have access of right to the security contribution of one of the finest and most efficient navies in the world."

A vote for independence at the September 18 referendum would "greatly weaken the carefully evolved 'whole', as bases, infrastructure, procurement, spares, personnel and training face a carve up," he cautioned.

Chinese President Xi Calls for More Space Weapons

Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the air force to adopt an integrated air and space defence capability, in what state media on Tuesday called a response to the increasing military use of space by the United States and others.

While Beijing insists its space program is for peaceful purposes, a Pentagon report last year highlighted China's increasing space capabilities and said Beijing was pursuing a variety of activities aimed at preventing its adversaries from using space-based assets during a crisis.

Fears of a space arms race with the United States and other powers mounted after China blew up one of its own weather satellites with a ground-based missile in January 2007.

A detailed analysis of satellite imagery published in March provided additional evidence that a Chinese rocket launch in May 2013, billed as a research mission, was actually a test of a new anti-satellite weapon.

Visiting air force headquarters in Beijing, Xi, who is also head of the military, told officers "to speed up air and space integration and sharpen their offensive and defensive capabilities", Xinhua news agency said late on Monday.

It gave no details of how China expects to do this.

China has to pay more attention to its defensive capabilities in space, the official China Daily said on Tuesday.

"The idea of combining air and space capability is not new to the Chinese air force, as a host of experts have underscored the importance of space," it said.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ukraine: Beginning of the Slide Into Russian Oblivion?

The last 24 hours were NOT good for Ukraine.  

Supposedly at least half the cities in the Donbass are now controlled by Little Green Men.  Gorlovka's police fell today.  The police chiefs were badly beaten based on photos.

In Slavyansk, the LGM seized the airport.  Huh.  that seems to be a similar pattern.

Russian media reported the battle for Slavyansk has begun.  I have not found another source of info to support that though.  It fits within the timeframe the Ukrainians talked about moving against the separatists.  

There was an interesting phone intercept.  If it proves to be true, its a damning piece of evidence the Russians are the ones entirely behind the unrest. It makes you wonder if the NSA was giving support.

There have been a number of sightings of RPG-30s on the Little Green Men.  This is a recent, Russia only using antitank weapon.

Someone ambushed some Little Green Men outside of Donetsk and killed 3.  What that means remains to be seen.  Maybe the LGM should be "concerned?"

The Russians had an Su-24 buzz a Burke class destroyer in the Black Sea.

CIA Director John Brennan was in Kiev this past weekend.

The US is now saying arming Ukraine is an option given what Russia has been up to: here's looking forward to the first shipments of ATGMs and MANPADs.  At this point, perhaps a few mercs like the Russians accused the US of sending are actually in order.

Apparently, Obama and Putin had it out over the phone.  Putin claimed Russia was not behind the counter revolution in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.  I guess its pretty easy to tell when Putin's lying these days: he opens his mouth.

Europe is considering more sanctions.  ooooo.

hrmph.  I keep feeling the urge to play armchair general: the 173rd, 2nd CR and 12th CAB would send a serious message to Putty-Pie.

Bitcoin Miners to Owe Self Employment, Social Security & Medicare Taxes

The IRS made a very important ruling recently regarding the status of bitcoins in the eyes of the government. According to the IRS, bitcoin is not a currency. The IRS views bitcoin as a taxable property. Any capital gains from spending bitcoins or converting them into real currency is also taxable. This ruling has been applied to all past and future transactions and mining efforts involving bitcoins. For the early adapters who have been in the bitcoin business from the start will need to go back and report all their bitcoin activity applicable to the IRS.

It has also been determined that Bitcoin minors are self-employed individuals. That means they will need to report all Bitcoin earnings both past and present when filing their taxes. They will have to pay self-employment taxes, which include social security and Medicare withholding.

Two Can Play That Game: an Intercept From Russian Forces Already in Ukraine

So. Real or not?

Google Beats Facebook to Buy Drone Maker Titan Aerospace

The technology company announced Monday that it has acquired Titan Aerospace, a start-up founded in 2012 that makes high-altitude, solar-powered drones.

The purchase is part of the new push in Silicon Valley to find ways of delivering Internet service to underserved areas, particularly in the developing world.

"Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world," Google said. "It's still early days, but atmospheric satellites could help bring internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation."

The companies didn't respond to requests for comment on the terms of the deal.

Facebook had been rumored to be trying to buy Titan back in the beginning of March.

India to Conduct Exoatmospheric Missile Intercept Test This Month

In another fortnight, India will be conducting one of the most complex interceptor missile tests. For the first time a state-of-the-art interceptor missile at supersonic speed will seek to engage and destroy an incoming target missile at a very high altitude of 120-140 km over the Bay of Bengal.

Entirely new interceptor and target missiles have been developed by scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the upcoming engagement, to be conducted in exo-atmosphere (altitude above 40-50 km) on April 27 or 28. The test was originally planned to be conducted in November, 2013 but had been delayed since then.

A real battle-like scenario would be simulated for the test, DRDO missile technologists told The Hindu. For the first time, the interceptor missile (PDV) would be seeking to destroy the separating payload of the target missile (a modified PAD) after discriminating between the booster and the payload.

Describing it as a “big challenge,” they said the interceptor’s “kill vehicle,” equipped with a dual seeker, would attack the payload (warhead portion) as it descends towards its intended target. The advantage of intercepting an incoming missile at such a high altitude was that the debris would not fall on the ground and there would be no collateral damage.

Antarctic Circumpolar Current Began in the Middle Eocene Paleogene?

Bipolar Atlantic deepwater circulation in the middle-late Eocene: effects of Southern Ocean gateway openings


Borrelli et al


We present evidence for Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC)-like effects on Atlantic deepwater circulation beginning in the late middle Eocene. Modern ocean circulation is characterized by a thermal differentiation between Southern Ocean and North Atlantic deepwater formation regions. In order to better constrain the timing and nature of the initial thermal differentiation between Northern Component Water (NCW) and Southern Component Water (SCW), we analyze benthic foraminiferal stable isotope (δ18Obf and δ13Cbf) records from Ocean Drilling Program Site 1053 (upper deepwater, western North Atlantic). Our data, compared with published records and interpreted in the context of ocean circulation models, indicate that progressive opening of Southern Ocean gateways and initiation of a circum-Antarctic current caused a transition to a modern-like deep ocean circulation characterized by thermal differentiation between SCW and NCW beginning ~38.5 Ma, in the initial stages of Drake Passage opening. In addition, the relatively low δ18Obf values recorded at Site 1053 show that the cooling trend of the middle-late Eocene was not global, because it was not recorded in the North Atlantic. The timing of thermal differentiation shows that NCW contributed to ocean circulation by the late middle Eocene, ~1-4 Myr earlier than previously thought. We propose that early NCW originated in the Labrador Sea, based on tectonic reconstructions and changes in foraminiferal assemblages in this basin. Finally, we link further development of meridional isotopic gradients in the Atlantic and Pacific in the late Eocene with the Tasman Gateway deepening (~34 Ma) and the consequent development of a circumpolar proto-ACC.

Herschel Looks at Titan's Stratosphere

Rengel et al


We investigate the composition of Titan's stratosphere from new medium-resolution far-infrared observations performed with the full range of Herschel's Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) (51-220 μm at a resolution λ/Δλ ranging from 950 to 5500 depending on wavelength and grating order).


Using PACS, we obtained the spectral emission of several features of the Titan's stratosphere. We used a line-by-line radiative transfer code and the least-squares fitting technique to infer the abundances of the trace constituents.


Numerous spectral features attributable to CH4, CO, HCN, and H2O are present. From the flux density spectrum measured and by a detailed comparison with synthetic spectra, we constrain the stratospheric abundance of CH4, which is assumed to be constant with altitude, to be 1.29 ± 0.03%. Similarly, we constrain the abundance of CO to be 50 ± 2 ppm, and the HCN vertical distribution consistent with an increase from 40 ppb at ∼100 km to 4 ppm at ∼200 km, which is an altitude region where the HCN signatures are sensitive. Measurements of three H2O rotational lines confirm the H2O distribution profile recently obtained with Herschel. Furthermore, we determine the isotopic ratios 12C/13C in CO and HCN to be 124 ± 58, and 66 ± 35, respectively. Comparisons between our results and the values derived with other instruments show that our results are consistent with the vertical distributions and isotopic ratios in previous studies, except for the HCN distribution obtained with Cassini/CIRS, which does not agree with the PACS lines at the 1-sigma confidence interval.

Biofuels not Really a Help With Climate Change?

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has for the first time acknowledged the risks of uncontrolled biofuels development, a skepticism that has slowly emerged into the mainstream scientific community, say academics.

IPCC's Working Group II report, released this morning in Yokohama, Japan, indicates that the U.N. scientific body on climate change has loosened its 2007 position that defines biofuels as a mitigation strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The report affirms that the science that has raised questions around the sustainability of biofuels in the last six years, said Jeremy Martin, a senior scientist in the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Vehicles program.

"I think that's switched from being something novel and controversial to something that is common sense," he said.

A table from the report was leaked last week in which authors list the potential negative risks of development. These issues include indirect land-use change, the conflicts between land for fuels and land for food, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity and nitrogen pollution through the use of excess fertilizer.

Sixty-two countries have biofuel targets or mandates. Environmental and anti-poverty groups like Oxfam and the Environmental Working Group have long opposed biofuel mandates because the groups believe they push up prices for food. Government-backed biofuel programs allow fuel crops to compete with food crops for resources like water and land, they say.

Although Martin is conscious of biofuels' potential to compete for land and emit pollution, he does not reject them outright. He is supportive of the federal renewable fuel standard, the United States' biofuel mandate to produce 36 billion gallons per year by 2022, and has backed the expansion of E85 pumps, stations that supply 85 percent ethanol fuel.

"It would be a mistake to read this report as a repudiation or an about-face," he said. "Biofuels are not going to go away, so rather than looking for a thumbs-up/thumbs-down assessment, policymakers need to be smart about the scale and specific sources of biofuels when they make and implement policies to reduce impacts and manage risks."

Did Orinthschian Dinosaurs Engage in Combat?

Evaluating combat in ornithischian dinosaurs




Ornithischia, a diverse clade of herbivorous dinosaurs, has numerous members with structures hypothesized to function in combat. These include the horned ceratopsids, dome-headed pachycephalosaurs, spike-thumbed iguanodonts, tail-clubbed ankylosaurs and spiked stegosaurs, among others. Three main lines of evidence support such inferences: (1) analogy with modern animals; (2) biomechanical analysis and simulation; and (3) paleopathology. The most solid inferences utilize multiple pieces of evidence, although this is hampered by a limited understanding of combat in modern animals.

Sungeodon kimkraemerae: a Kannemeyeriiform Dicynodont From Earliest Triassic China

Sungeodon kimkraemerae n. gen. n. sp., the oldest kannemeyeriiform (Therapsida, Dicynodontia) and its implications for the early diversification of large herbivores after the P/T boundary


Maisch et al


The dicynodont Sungeodon kimkraemerae n. gen. n. sp. is described on the basis of a skull from the Lower Triassic Jiucaiyuan Formation of Dalongkou (Junggar Basin, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China). It is the first representative of Kannemeyeriiformes from the earliest Triassic. Kannemeyeriiforms were the predominant clade of Triassic dicynodonts, which constituted a major component of terrestrial Triassic ecosystems. The new taxon helps closing one of the most significant gaps in the fossil record of dicynodonts, since stem-kannemeyeriiforms are known from the Late Permian, whereas the first true kannemeyeriiforms previously known are late Early Triassic in age. After a phylogenetic analysis Sungeodon belongs to the family Stahleckeriidae. Therefore, the Stahleckeriidae may not have had its origin in Africa as previously assumed, but in Central Asia. More importantly, Sungeodon also suggests that the major radiation of kannemeyeriiform dicynodonts, including the emergence of all relevant subgroups of this clade, occurred not later than in the Early Triassic, soon after the end-Permian extinction. To date, only few dicynodont taxa are known from the earliest Triassic, none of which are kannemeyeriiforms. The addition of Sungeodon confirms previous predictions that our knowledge of Early Triassic dicynodont diversity and evolution is far from being complete, and that new discoveries from historically low-sampled geographic regions may fill this gap. A rapid post-extinction diversification of kannemeyeriiforms also fits with the emerging picture from other clades, such as archosaurs, of a rapid recovery from the end-Permian event in the terrestrial realm.

Was the Siderian/Rhyacian PaleoProterozoic Huronian Glaciation Really a Snowball Earth, or Even Global?

Contradictory correlations of Paleoproterozoic glacial deposits: local, regional or global controls?




There is little agreement among recently proposed correlation schemes for Paleoproterozoic glaciogenic rocks scattered thinly around the globe. Correlations are hindered by the dearth of tight geochronological control on the ages of glacial deposits, which are notoriously difficult to date. Most attempts at global correlation are based on comparison to the Huronian Supergroup in Canada, which contains three glaciogenic formations. Although the two lower glacial units were deposited in a rift setting and have a restricted distribution even in North America, they have been used in attempts to effect international correlations. The Gowganda Formation, together with correlatives, comprises the thickest and by far the most widespread Paleoproterozoic glacial deposits in North America. Glacial deposits are also reported from South Africa, Western Australia and elsewhere, where they appear to fall within the time period as the Huronian Supergroup (2.45-2.2 Ga) but attempts to correlate individual diamictite-bearing units to the three Huronian glaciogenic formations have proved difficult. None of the Huronian glacial formations has been precisely dated. Until such geochronological data are available it is practical and prudent to recognize that, during the early Paleoproterozoic, as in the Cryogenian, the Earth was susceptible to glaciations that could be triggered by a variety of local events including uplift, related to rifting and compressional orogeny. Within the 250 million years of the ‘Huronian Glacial Event’ (2.45 - 2.2 Ga) it is commonly assumed that ice sheet fluctuations were globally synchronous but this has not been demonstrated.

Cyber Warfare and More

Ukraine: The Deadline is Here

I doubt the LGM have backed down.  let's see if Kiev's got the cajones...

and if the Russians react like they say they will.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ukraine Preparing for Herodom? Or Hero-Doom?

The situation in Ukraine has considerably worsened.  More cities in eastern Ukraine have been occupied by the Little Green Men.

Mariupol, Khartsyzk, Krasnyi Lymon, Druzhkovka and Debaltsevo the pro Russian forces have taken over.

In Zaporizhzhya the locals stopped them and set up check points to prevent their entry.

In Kherson, the locals chased the pro Russians intensely.

In Gorlovka, the cops have holed up not letting the pro Russians to take over.

In Kharkov, the pro russians seized buildings, but the cops got them to leave. There are reports the acting mayor has stated he will support the separatists and that is why they left.

The police in Odesa have come out in public now wearing the Saint George's medal (the separatist symbol) and the cops in Donetsk have gone over to the pro russians.

Several of the Little Green Men have admitted they are Russians here to 'help their Ukrainian brothers.' 

The Ukrainian army has moved to outside of Slavyansk and is supposed to assault. They are waiting for armor support. There is a deadline in two hours to lay down their weapons.

The UNSC met.  Russia claims this is all peaceful protests (!) and the West called Russia a liar.  The expressed concern.  

The West has threatened more sanctions.  Woopie.  

Ukraine has about 72 hours, from my point of view to start mopping up the LGM.  if they do not, or their forces switch sides, they are screwed.  They will lose the East and Southern Ukraine.  At this point, they must act decisively.  Or all is lost. 

X-47B Conducts Night Operations


French NEURON UCAV Prototype Flies in Formation with Rafale


Just how big WAS the PaleoArchean Vredefort Impact?

A massive asteroid almost as wide as Rhode Island and about three to five times larger than the rock thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs slams into Earth. The collision punches a crater into the planet's crust that's nearly 500 kilometers (about 300 miles) across: greater than the distance from Washington, D.C. to New York City, and up to two and a half times larger in diameter than the hole formed by the dinosaur-killing asteroid. Seismic waves bigger than any recorded earthquakes shake the planet for about half an hour at any one location – about six times longer than the huge earthquake that struck Japan three years ago. The impact also sets off tsunamis many times deeper than the one that followed the Japanese quake.

Although scientists had previously hypothesized enormous ancient impacts, much greater than the one that may have eliminated the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, now a new study reveals the power and scale of a cataclysmic event some 3.26 billion years ago which is thought to have created geological features found in a South African region known as the Barberton greenstone belt. The research has been accepted for publication in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

The huge impactor – between 37 and 58 kilometers (23 to 36 miles) wide – collided with the planet at 20 kilometers per second (12 miles per second). The jolt, bigger than a 10.8 magnitude earthquake, propelled seismic waves hundreds of kilometers through the Earth, breaking rocks and setting off other large earthquakes. Tsunamis thousands of meters deep – far bigger than recent tsunamis generated by earthquakes -- swept across the oceans that covered most of the Earth at that time.

"We knew it was big, but we didn't know how big," Donald Lowe, a geologist at Stanford University and a co-author of the study, said of the asteroid.

US Costs for ITER Fusion Reactor Grows Enormously

ITER, the international fusion experiment under construction in Cadarache, France, aims to prove that nuclear fusion is a viable power source by creating a "burning plasma" that produces more energy than the machine itself consumes. Although that goal is at least 20 years away, ITER is already burning through money at a prodigious pace. The United States is only a minor partner in the project, which began construction in 2008. But the U.S. contribution to ITER will total $3.9 billion—roughly four times as much as originally estimated—according to a new cost estimate released yesterday. That is about $1.4 billion higher than a 2011 cost estimate, and the numbers are likely to intensify doubts among some members of Congress about continuing the U.S. involvement in the project.

The United States and ITER share a complicated history. The project was first proposed in 1985 as a joint venture with the Soviet Union and Japan. The United States backed out of that effort in 1998, citing concerns over cost and feasibility—only to jump in again in 2003. At the time, ITER was envisioned to cost roughly $5 billion. That estimate had grown to $12 billion by 2006, when the European Union, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and United States signed a formal agreement to build the device. The United States agreed, essentially, to build 9% of the parts for the reactor, at whatever price was necessary.

ITER was supposed to start running by 2016. Since then, however, the project has been plagued by delays, cost increases, and management problem. ITER is now expected to cost at least $21 billion and won't turn on until 2020 at the earliest. And a recent review slammed ITER's management.

The cost of the U.S. contribution has increased, too, although by how much has been unclear. Officials with U.S. ITER had not released an updated cost profile for several years, until Ned Sauthoff, project manager for U.S. ITER at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, did so yesterday. Speaking to a meeting of the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee in Rockville, Maryland, Sauthoff reported that the total cost of the U.S. contribution would be $3.9 billion by the time the project is done in 2034. The schedule assumes that ITER won't start running until 2024 or 2025. In comparison, an April 2011 funding profile pegged the cost of U.S. ITER at $2.5 billion.

Early Neoarchean Thermo Tectono-thermal Events in the North China Craton

Early Neoarchean (∼2.7 Ga) tectono-thermal events in the North China Craton: A synthesis


Wan et al


The North China Craton (NCC) is characterized by major ∼2.5 Ga tectono-thermal events and is thus different from many other cratons worldwide where ∼2.7 Ga events are well developed. However, whole-rock Nd and Hf-in-zircon isotopic compositions of ∼2.5 Ga crustally-derived granitoids reveal that they mainly formed through reworking of late Mesoarchean to early Neoarchean continental material. We review the spatial distribution, rock types, geochemical and Nd–Hf isotopic compositions of ∼2.7 Ga granitiods that are widely identified in the NCC, including eastern Shandong, western Shandong, Huoqiu, Hengshan, Fuping, Zanhuang, Zhongtiao and Wuchuan. These granitoids are mainly tonalitic in composition and frequently underwent strong metamorphism, deformation and anatexis. They show large variations in SiO2, total FeO, MgO and CaO, and can be subdivided into two types in terms of their REE patterns. More importantly, whole-rock Nd and Hf-in-zircon isotopic compositions indicate that the strong ∼2.7 Ga tectono-thermal event mainly involved juvenile additions to the continental crust. The early Neoarchean was the most important period for rapid production of new continental crust in the NCC. The main difference of the NCC from many other cratons worldwide is a strong and widespread superimposed tectono-thermal event at ∼2.5 Ga that stabilized the cratonic assemblage

Austal USA Looking Into Turning Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship (Corvette) Into a Frigate

The US Navy's (USN) Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) shipbuilder said that the seaframe's flexible design will accommodate any changes resulting from the navy's ongoing programme review and that the company's engineers are already studying weapons options to augment the ships' lethality.

Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle told IHS Jane's on 9 April that the 127.6 m aluminium trimaran Independence-class variant possesses design margins able to handle changes in requirement.

"We're focusing right now on doing some studies ourselves on what can be done to 'up-gun' the ship, and we've made a lot of progress," he said. "We have concept engineers looking at other weapons, based on what we think [the navy] would want, confirming that the platform could handle that - missiles or whatever other things that we feel [it] might be looking for."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ukraine: Clawing to Keep From Being Pulled Under

The Pro Russian forces - the Little Green Men - made some pretty bold moves today.  They hit at least Gorlovka, Kraysni Lymon, Slavyansk and Kramatorsk.  They succeeded in taking Slavyansk and Kramatorsk.  There was a shoot out in Kramatorsk: the video was taken and resides above.  In Slavyansk, the mayor even came out in support of the Little Green Men and helped build the modest, more symbolic barricade and the LGM set up check points outside of town.  In Kraysni Lymon, the people came out to make a human chain to block the LGMs from taking the police station.  In Gorlovka, the police won the shootout with the LGM.  Reports are the LGM worked as a unit, a platoon, actually.  That's not a good sign.  It definitely means they are not merely locals.  

A similar attempt was made in Donetsk to grab more buildings.  It did not succeed.  There may have been something similar in Kharkov, but the populace was out in spades today for Ukraine.

A bus full of LGM was caught outside Artemovska.  The police and activists chased down and disabled the bus.  here's a link.  Its something I've been avoiding in these updates.  This time I think I ought.

The Ukrainian authorities need to make a move against these groups.  By dithering over Donetsk, they have encouraged the second wave of LGM.  I understand their reasoning: Russia has been threatening to intervene.  The problem is the Russians are effectively in process of intervening now and no action makes it completely likely the regular russian army will follow.  This is the playbook of Crimea.  They are doing it again.   Dithering plays into the hands of the Russians.  There has been a report or two they may be getting together an armed response.  We'll see.

There are reports Lavrov has pulled out of the four way talks with the EU, US, Russia and Ukraine.  this is conflicting with a lot of others.  I sincerely hope they are not pulling out and the Russians are not just playing for time.  It has been confirmed Russia is talking about pulling out of the talks if Ukraine responds to the LGM with force.  That'd definitely imply the Russians didn't want to have them in the first place because the Ukrainians MUST reply with force.

In other news, Biden is going to go to Ukraine later in the month to show support.  It'd be support if the 173rd went with him.  Otherwise, it's what the Ukrainians call 'empty words.'

The Chinese in other news have expressed support for the IMF to bailout Ukraine.  While there was a bit of equivocating, it was much less than before.