Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Son in the Tree

A Step Forward in Quantum Routing

The prospect of a quantum Internet has excited physicists for two decades. A quantum Internet will allow the transmission of information around the world with perfect security and make cloud-based quantum computing a reality.

But first, physicists must perfect the technology of quantum routing—the ability to receive and transmit quantum information without destroying it.

That’s a significant challenge. The key is a technique called quantum teleportation, which transmits information from one point to another without it passing through the space in between. This is a routine operation in any decent quantum optics lab but quantum routing—which concatenates the process—is another challenge altogether.

Today, Wolfgang Pfaff at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience Delft in the Netherlands and a few pals say they’ve take a significant step toward this goal with the first demonstration of diamond teleporters that can act as nodes in a quantum network. “These results establish diamond spin qubits as a prime candidate for the realization of quantum networks for quantum communication and network-based quantum computing,” they say.

The fundamental difficulty in quantum routing is that quantum information is fragile stuff. So quantum teleportation has always involved creating a qubit, teleporting it and then immediately measuring it to check whether teleportation has been successful.

However, the process of measurement destroys quantum information. So an important goal is to create routers that can read and write quantum information without destroying it.

Finland Interested in F-35 Joint Strike Fighters?!

Finland should reject overtures to procure the Saab Gripen E fighter aircraft, if the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) can be acquired at a comparable cost, the country's defence minister said on 22 April.

As reported in the Helsinki Times , Carl Haglund said Finland should not put Nordic defence co-operation ahead of performance when choosing between the Swedish-built Gripen E and the US-built F-35, providing there is little difference in cost between the two types.

"Although I advocate co-operation with Sweden, we should not acquire Swedish [Gripen E] fighters if we could acquire American F-35 stealth fighters for roughly the same price. Performance must take precedence in the investment," he is quoted as saying.

The proposal to strengthen Finland's defence ties with its Nordic neighbour Sweden through a Gripen E buy was made by the speaker of parliament, Eero Heinäluoma, and the country was named by Saab officials in March as a potential future customer.

While Haglund's comments would appear to indicate Finland favours the F-35 as a potential replacement for the air force's current 55 Boeing F/A-18C and seven F/A-18D Hornet fighters, his use of the word 'if' would suggest the Gripen E might be best placed to secure any such requirement.

Then again, maybe not.  Comparable price?!  riiiiiiight.

Meet Taifun-M: Russia's Combat Bot Protecting its Nuclear Missile Silos

The new Russian mobile security robot Taifun-M, designed to provide security at strategic missile facilities, has been shown on the Russian Vesti news program.

The combat robots, which have no foreign analogue, will be used to secure Yars and Topol-M missile sites and can be operated remotely by a secure wireless connection and in the future with an autonomous artificial intelligence system, the program reported Monday.

A spokesman for the Defense Ministry said last month several of the robots, which feature laser-targeting and a cannon, will be deployed at five sites by the end of the year, part of an upgrade of existing automated security systems.

The official said the robots will carry out reconnaissance and patrol missions, detect and destroy stationary or moving targets and provide fire support for security personnel at the guarded facilities.

Did the Himalayas Start With the Deccan Traps?

Latest Cretaceous Himalayan Tectonics: Obduction, Collison Or Deccan-Related Uplift?


Garzanti et al


Diverging interpretations and incompatible scenarios have been proposed for the early stages of Himalayan history. Numerous researchers have postulated that northern India was involved in ophiolite obduction, arc-continent, or continent-continent collision during the Late Cretaceous or Early Paleocene, but firm geological evidence was never produced. In this article we argue against orogenic events predating the Late Paleocene, when the Neotethys Ocean was still open. The Tethys Himalayan sedimentary record testifies to anorogenic evolution, primarily controlled by dynamic uplift of the passive margin prior to the massive outburst of Deccan lavas and eventually followed by thermal subsidence. Major stratigraphic gaps in pelagic sediments suggest that such tectono-magmatic episode started to affect the base of the Indian Plate in the Campanian or possibly even in the Santonian, 10 to 20 Ma before the climax of Deccan flood-basalt eruptions. The abrupt increase in siliciclastic supply and accumulation rates recorded in sedimentary basins all around the Indian subcontinent during the Maastrichtian was followed by progradation of coastal quartzarenites along the northern Indian margin in the Early Paleocene. Sandstones derived from the rejuvenated craton and uplifted inner continental margin in the south are dominantly but not exclusively quartzose. Felsitic volcanic rock fragments and Cr-spinels, many of which with the same geochemical fingerprint as Deccan spinels and newly found throughout the Maastrichtian to Danian succession, resisted the combined effect of subequatorial weathering and subsequent diagenesis, and testify that detritus from Deccan basalts reached the Indian passive margin as far as South Tibet. At the close of the Early Paleocene India drifted away from the Seychelles block, and thermal subsidence led to widespread carbonate deposition along the Tethys Himalaya. This article illustrates how mega-events of magmatic upwelling followed by lithospheric cooling may control passive-margin sedimentation and stratigraphic patterns, as occurred in northern India first in the Early Cretaceous and next in the latest Cretaceous/Paleocene.

Venus' Crust Heals too Fast for Plate Tectonics

The emergence of plate tectonics is arguably Earth's defining moment, the authors of a new Nature paper write. Out of all the planets we’ve looked at carefully, Earth is the only one that has a hard outer crust with distinct pieces that shift and move. Our home is unique in its continents and quakes.

Some scientists think that plate tectonics are essential for life—so much so that if they could figure out a way to spot tectonic action on exoplanets, they think it would be a good indication that there might be life there, too. Tectonic activity recirculates minerals and recycles carbon. As one plate slides under another (a process called subduction), it pushes carbon down into the mantle with it.

Without plate tectonics, carbon would build up in the atmosphere. Venus, which does not have tectonics, shows the results: an atmosphere that is 96 percent carbon dioxide. It's toxic. Yet Venus is about the same size and composition as our planet, so why doesn't it have plate tectonics?

Some researchers made a model to explore how Earth initiated plate movements, and these same researchers made one model of its neighbor for comparison. A 1.5-billion-year-old Earth and a similarly aged Venus were modeled as a hot, mushy material made of tiny particles of rock. The model uses physics at the one-millimeter rock grain scale to explain how the whole planet behaves. According to David Bercovici, a geophysicist at Yale who was an author on the paper, the model also shows how plate tectonics emerged on Earth but not on her twin.

The mantle moved material around beneath the material, causing it to sink or drip down in some places. This sinking of the mushy pre-plate material is called proto-subduction to contrast it with modern subduction, where one plate meets and slides under another.

At this point, you reach the core of the paper: the concept of damage mechanics. This describes what happens once the proto-subduction begins. If a nascent crust starts to bend, does it repair itself or snap into distinct plates?

Dripping causes the grains of rock to get smaller. With heat, these clusters rebuild or heal the crust. The researchers calculated dimensionless damage parameters based on the way the material responded to stress. Earth had a damage parameter of 100. On the other hand, Venus had a mere 10. Similarly, they input two healing numbers, determined from earlier experimental work: Venus has 10, and 10-4; Earth 1 and 10-1.

In the Earth-crust simulation, the damage accumulated faster than the grains could rebuild into clusters and heal it. By contrast, the Venus model, which was a couple hundred Kelvin hotter, saw damage that tended to heal faster than it accumulated. The tiny grains of minerals were able to accumulate and stick together faster than the mantle caused them to drip and pull apart.

The Beloved Chile Pepper Domesticated in East-Central Mexico

Central-east Mexico gave birth to the domesticated chili pepper — now the world's most widely grown spice crop — reports an international team of researchers, led by a plant scientist at the University of California, Davis.

Results from the four-pronged investigation — based on linguistic and ecological evidence as well as the more traditional archaeological and genetic data — suggest a regional, rather than a geographically specific, birthplace for the domesticated chili pepper. That region, extending from southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca to southeastern Veracruz, is further south than was previously thought, the researchers found.

The region also is different from areas of origin that have been suggested for common bean and corn, which were presumably domesticated in Western Mexico.

The study findings will be published online April 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as part of a series of research papers on plant and animal domestication.

A Lagerstätte From Tithonian Jurassic France

Palaeontology of the Purbeck-type (Tithonian, Late Jurassic) bonebeds of Chassiron (Oléron Island, western France)


Vullo et al


The paralic flora and fauna from the Late Jurassic of Chassiron (Oléron Island, western France) are described. The Tithonian-aged bonebeds of Purbeck facies of this locality have yielded a rich and diverse vertebrate assemblage including fishes, amphibians, reptiles and mammals, alongside numerous plant and invertebrate remains. The Chassiron locality thus appears as a peculiar Konzentrat-Lagerstätte in which most of the palaeoecosystem's biological components (both aquatic and terrestrial) have been preserved. The depositional environment was probably subject to salinity fluctuations, as indicated by the co-occurrence of freshwater and euryhaline organisms. This is one of the richest localities and the first mammal-bearing site known from the Jurassic of France.

Vertebrates from the Late Triassic Thecodontosaurus-bearing Strata

Vertebrates from the Late Triassic Thecodontosaurus-bearing rocks of Durdham Down, Clifton (Bristol, UK)


Foffa et al


Since the discovery of the basal sauropodomorph dinosaur Thecodontosaurus in the 1830s, the associated fauna from the Triassic fissures at Durdham Down (Bristol, UK) has not been investigated, largely because the quarries are built over. Other fissure sites around the Bristol Channel show that dinosaurs represented a minor part of the fauna of the Late Triassic archipelago. Here we present data on microvertebrates from the original Durdham Down fissure rocks, which considerably expand the taxonomic diversity of the island fauna, revealing that it was dominated by the sphenodontian Diphydontosaurus, and that archosauromorphs, including sphenosuchian crocodylomorphs, coelophysoid theropods, and the basal sauropodomorph Thecodontosaurus, were diverse. Importantly, a few fish teeth provide new information about the debated age of the fissure deposit, which is identified as lower Rhaetian. Thecodontosaurus had been assigned an age range over 20–25 Myr of the Late Triassic, so this narrower age determination (209.5–204 Myr) is important for studies of early dinosaurian evolution.

Just What was Plexus ricei From the Ediacaran NeoProterozoic?

A New Enigmatic, Tubular Organism from the Ediacara Member, Rawnsley Quartzite, South Australia


Joel et al


Here we reconstruct a new tubular, serially divided organism with a bilateral morphology from the Ediacaran of South Australia. The organism, Plexus ricei new genus new species, was a broadly curving tube that resided on the Ediacaran seafloor. Plexus ricei individuals range in size from 5 to 80 cm long and 5 to 20 mm wide, and are comprised of two main components: a rigid median tubular structure and a fragile outer tubular wall. Plexus ricei is preserved as an external mold on bed soles, and as a counterpart cast on bed tops in sandstones interpreted to represent deposition between storm and fairweather wave-base. The phylogenetic affinities of P. ricei are uncertain; P. ricei symmetry implies a bilaterian origin, but a lack of defined anterior and posterior ends precludes definitive assignment.

Chinese Manufacturing Slows for 4th Straight Month

Factory activity in China shrank for the fourth straight month in April, though the decline was slightly slower, a survey on Wednesday said, in a possible sign the slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy is stabilizing.

The preliminary version of HSBC's purchasing managers' index edged up 48.3 from March's 48.0 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 indicate expansion.

The report said output and new orders decreased at a slower rate. However, new orders for customers in export markets overseas shrank after expanding the previous month.

The report comes after China last week said economic growth slowed further in the first quarter, though it still looked robust enough to satisfy authorities in Beijing who are trying to guide the economy to more sustainable growth without politically dangerous job losses. The 7.4 percent expansion in the January-March period was down from the previous quarter's 7.7 percent and matched a mini-slump in late 2012 for the slowest growth since the 2008-09 global crisis.

Beijing has ruled out sweeping stimulus to help jumpstart growth, but leaders have introduced small-scale measures to boost certain sectors, such as tax cuts for small businesses and speeding up construction of railways and public housing.

"China's economy is still likely to slow further this quarter but the slowdown appears to be moderating, helped in part by the government's move to support growth with spending on railways and social housing," said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics in Singapore.

Australia Orders 58 More F-35 Stealth Fighters for a Total of 72

Australia announced Wednesday that it had increased its order for F-35 Joint Strike Fighters by 58 to 72 to be fully operational by 2023 in a declaration of confidence in the troubled stealth war plane.

The government expects the additional 58 U.S. jets, developed by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., will cost 12.4 billion Australian dollars ($11.5 billion), Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.

"This is one of the largest defense purchases that Australia has ever made," Abbott told reporters. "It will ensure our edge as a regional power."

Japan Works to Reassure its Main Ally, The United States

After a difficult few months, Mr Abe seems to recognise the need to reassure Japan’s main ally about his government’s intentions. His visit last year to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, where high-ranking war criminals are honoured, drew protests from the country’s neighbours, especially China. The United States declared itself “disappointed” with Mr Abe.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ukraine After the Pause

The LGM & levees seem to have refused to lay down their weapons. They have stated the Geneva talks have nothing to do with them.

In response the Ukrainian President has ordered the troops to resume rooting out the LGM et al. 

We are back to where we were before the talks.  Diplomacy has failed.

The US State department has presented a series of images showing the LGM to be Russian soldiers rather than local protestors or pro russian locals or even separatists.  

Let us be honest: Russia is attempting another Crimea, but it is not going as smoothly.  Its all on Ukraine to stop it.  Its time for them to take off the gloves.  Let's hope the Ukrainian military is up for this.

Federal Election Commission may Allow Bitcoin Donations to American Political Candidates

Bitcoin enthusiasts may soon be able to use the digital currency to support political campaigns.

The Federal Election Commission will consider a request this Wednesday that could open the floodgates for donors to make political contributions in Bitcoin in the upcoming mid-term elections.

It's a sign of increased acceptance of the upstart currency, as more businesses and individuals are starting to embrace Bitcoin payments as an alternative to credit cards.

If the panel rules in favor, it would be a turnaround from last fall, when the election commission deadlocked on a similar request.


Autism is Tied to Parental Age, Especially Maternal Age

Older parents are more likely to have a child who develops an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than are younger parents. A recent study from researchers from the Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia and Karolinska Institute in Sweden provides more insight into how the risk associated with parental age varies between mothers' and fathers' ages, and found that the risk of having a child with both ASD and intellectual disability is larger for older parents.

In the study, published in the February 2014 issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology, researchers report that fathers' and mothers advancing ages have different impacts on their child's risk. The rise in ASD risk with parental age was greater for older mothers as compared to older fathers.

"The open question at hand really is, what biological mechanisms underlie these age effects?" said Brian K. Lee, PhD, an assistant professor in the Drexel University School of Public Health and research fellow of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, and senior author of the study. The observed differences in risk based on mothers' and fathers' ages point to a need to continue investigating underlying mechanisms of ASD that may be influenced by a mother's age, Lee said, even though much recent discussion has focused on fathers' and even grandfathers' ages.

The risk of having a child with ASD had a more complicated relationship to age in women than in men – whose risk of fathering a child with ASD increased linearly with age across their lifespan. Among women giving birth before the age of 30, the risk of ASD in the child showed no association with age -- it was simply very low. But for babies born to mothers aged 30 and older, the chance of developing ASD rose rapidly with the mother's age.

Lee noted that the non-linear maternal age effect that is relatively stronger than the paternal age effect on ASD risk has been observed in previous studies, but has not received much attention.

DARPA to Test Basing Military Supplies on the Sea Floor Bed

The Pentagon wants to set up a network of seafloor-bedded “nodes” that would include anything from supplies to weaponry to be called to the surface for military action when needed.

The Defense Department could begin field testing its “Upward Falling Payloads” anytime after October, according to the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency.

The system will be made up of a payload – a surveillance or communications system, for example – that goes into action once it reaches the surface in its “riser,” an ocean-resting pod and launch system, and the communications link that will trigger the “riser” to launch, according to DARPA.

During the first phase of the project, DARPA funded more than 10 study and design efforts, the agency’s program manager for UPF said on the DARPA’s science blog earlier this month. The first part also dealt with different kinds of mission payloads, Andy Coon said.

“We really learned about how the pieces come together, and built a community of developers to think differently about unmanned distributed solutions for the maritime domain,” he said.

The seafloor-based node – in which the UFP will live until summoned to the surface – has to survive at depths greater than 6 kilometers, according to the DARPA announcement. It also must last up to five years and operate within two hours after a command to launch.

They also have to be able to report on their “health status,” the DARPA announcement states, so that defense officials always know if they’re functioning normally.

Phase 2 testing is slated for the first half of fiscal year 2015 through the first quarter of 2016.

ALIAS: DARPA's Robopocalypse for the Military Pilot

Some think that the Defense Department couldn’t possibly reduce its forces as much as it claims it will. After all, who would fly the planes?

Now DARPA has an answer. The Pentagon’s research arm is developing a sophisticated, drop-in autopilot that can replace as many as five crew members of a military aircraft, and turn the pilot into a high-level “mission supervisor” issuing commands through a touch screen.

The Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program is a tailorable, removable kit that will assist in all phases of aircraft flight — even dealing with emergency system failures in-flight. The agency says the system will reduce pilot workload, augment mission performance and improve aircraft safety.

“Our goal is to design and develop a full-time automated assistant that could be rapidly adapted to help operate diverse aircraft through an easy-to-use operator interface,” said Daniel Patt, DARPA program manager, in a statement. “These capabilities could help transform the role of pilot from a systems operator to a mission supervisor directing intermeshed, trusted, reliable systems at a high level.”

What sort of changes this would force on civilian airliners is going to be interesting.  

Modeling Extinct Plants, Starting with a 375 Million Year old Frasnian Devonian Lycopod

Jeff Benca is an admitted über-geek when it comes to prehistoric plants, so it was no surprise that, when he submitted a paper describing a new species of long-extinct lycopod for publication, he ditched the standard line drawing and insisted on a detailed and beautifully rendered color reconstruction of the plant. This piece earned the cover of March's centennial issue of the American Journal of Botany.

"Typically, when you see pictures of early land plants, they're not that sexy: there is a green forking stick and that's about it. We don't have many thorough reconstructions," said Benca, a graduate student in the Department of Integrative Biology and Museum of Paleontology at the University of California, Berkeley. "I wanted to give an impression of what they may have really looked like. There are great color reconstructions of dinosaurs, so why not a plant?"

Bringing extinct plants to life

Benca's realistic, full-color image could be a life portrait, except for the fact that it was drawn from a plant that lay flattened and compressed into rock for more than 375 million years.

Called Leclercqia scolopendra, or centipede clubmoss, the plant lived during the "age of fishes," the Devonian Period. At that time, lycopods – the group Leclercqia belonged to – were one of few plant lineages with leaves. Leclercqia shoots were about a quarter-inch in diameter and probably formed prickly, scrambling, ground-covering mats. The function of Leclercqia's hook-like leaf tips is unclear, Benca said, but they may have been used to clamber over larger plants. Today, lycopods are represented by a group of inconspicuous plants called club mosses, quillworts and spikemosses.

Both living and extinct lycopods have fascinated Benca since high school. When he came to UC Berkeley last year from the University of Washington, he brought a truckload of some 70 different species, now part of collections at the UC Botanical Garden.

Now working in the paleobotany lab of Cindy Looy, UC Berkeley assistant professor of integrative biology, Benca continues to establish a growing list of living lycopod species, several of which will eventually be incorporated into the UC and Jepson Herbaria collections.


Mars & Earth's Atmospheres Diverged Around 4 Billion Years ago

Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published April 17 in the journal Nature, shows that the atmospheres of Mars and Earth diverged in important ways very early in the 4.6 billion year evolution of our solar system.

The results will help guide researchers' next steps in understanding whether life exists, or has ever existed, on Mars and how water—now absent from the Martian surface—flowed there in the past.

Heather Franz, a former University of Maryland research associate who now works on the Curiosity rover science team at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, led the study with James Farquhar, co-author and UMD geology professor. The researchers measured the sulfur composition of 40 Mars meteorites—a much larger number than in previous analyses. Of more than 60,000 meteorites found on Earth, only 69 are believed to be pieces of rocks blasted off the Martian surface.

The meteorites are igneous rocks that formed on Mars, were ejected into space when an asteroid or comet slammed into the red planet, and landed on Earth. The oldest meteorite in the study is about 4.1 billion years old, formed when our solar system was in its infancy. The youngest are between 200 million and 500 million years old.

Whoa! Reconstruction of Neandertal & Denisovan Epigenetics

Reconstructing the DNA Methylation Maps of the Neandertal and the Denisovan


Gokhman et al


Ancient DNA sequencing has recently provided high-coverage archaic human genomes. However, the evolution of epigenetic regulation along the human lineage remains largely unexplored. We reconstructed the full DNA methylation maps of the Neandertal and the Denisovan by harnessing the natural degradation processes of methylated and unmethylated cytosines. Comparing these ancient methylation maps to those of present-day humans, we identified ~2000 differentially methylated regions (DMRs). Particularly, we found substantial methylation changes in the HOXD cluster that may explain anatomical differences between archaic and present-day humans. Additionally, we found that DMRs are significantly more likely to be associated with diseases. This study provides insight into the epigenetic landscape of our closest evolutionary relatives and opens a window to explore the epigenomes of extinct species.

First Rhamphorhynchoid Pterosaur Tracks Confirm Terrestrial Quadapedalism


Eocasea martini: a new Carnivorous Caseid Synapsid From Pennsylvanian Carboniferous Kansas

The Oldest Caseid Synapsid from the Late Pennsylvanian of Kansas, and the Evolution of Herbivory in Terrestrial Vertebrates


Reisz et al


The origin and early evolution of amniotes (fully terrestrial vertebrates) led to major changes in the structure and hierarchy of terrestrial ecosystems. The first appearance of herbivores played a pivotal role in this transformation. After an early bifurcation into Reptilia and Synapsida (including mammals) 315 Ma, synapsids dominated Paleozoic terrestrial vertebrate communities, with the herbivorous caseids representing the largest vertebrates on land. Eocasea martini gen. et sp. nov., a small carnivorous caseid from the Late Carboniferous, extends significantly the fossil record of Caseidae, and permits the first clade-based study of the origin and initial evolution of herbivory in terrestrial tetrapods. Our results demonstrate for the first time that large caseid herbivores evolved from small, non-herbivorous caseids. This pattern is mirrored by three other clades, documenting multiple, independent, but temporally staggered origins of herbivory and increase in body size among early terrestrial tetrapods, leading to patterns consistent with modern terrestrial ecosystem.

Complex Feeding Patterns Five Million Years Before The Precambrian–Cambrian Boundary

Trace Fossils with Spreiten from the Late Ediacaran Nama Group, Namibia: Complex Feeding Patterns Five Million Years Before The Precambrian–Cambrian Boundary


Macdonald et al


Here we describe large, complex trace fossils in the late Ediacaran Omkyk Member of the Zaris Formation, Nama Group, southern Namibia. The horizontal trace fossils are preserved on a number of talus blocks from a bedding plane of a cm-thick sandstone lens from a single stratigraphic horizon less than 100 m below an ash bed dated at 547.3 ± 0.7 Ma. The forms consist of overlapping U-shaped spreiten elements with parallel limbs surrounded by an outer tube. Individual U-shaped elements are 0.2 to 1 cm in diameter, the outer tube is less than 3 mm in diameter, and the forms as a whole range from 5 to 30 cm long and 3 to 10 cm wide. The specimens commonly show a change in direction and change in diameter. The morphology of these trace fossils is comparable to backfill structures, particularly specimens of Paleozoic Zoophycos from shallow water environments. Here we interpret these horizontal spreiten-burrows to record the grazing of the trace-maker on or below a textured organic surface. The identification of large late Ediacaran trace fossils is consistent with recent reports of backfilled horizontal burrows below the Precambrian–Cambrian boundary and is suggestive of the appearance of complex feeding habits prior to the Cambrian trace fossil explosion.

Should the United States Postal Service Add (back) Financial Services?

WITH a workforce of just over 491,000 in 2013, the United States Postal Service (USPS) is second only to Walmart among civilian employers in America. But it still employed more than 200,000 fewer people last year than it did just nine years earlier—when it handled nearly 500m more pieces of mail and had almost 2,000 more retail offices. The rise of e-mail has left America’s massive postal service with far less to do, and it has been scrambling to find ways to raise revenue.

Earlier this year its inspector-general released a white paper suggesting that post offices should begin offering financial services, such as cheque-cashing, small loans, bill payments, international money transfers and prepaid cards to which salaries or benefits could be transferred. The reasoning is simple: a lot of Americans have scant access to banks and a lot of post offices have too little to do.

Sino-Indian Territorial Disputes


How Sweden Turned Itself into Japan

Three years ago Sweden was widely regarded as a role model in how to deal with a global crisis. The nation’s exports were hit hard by slumping world trade but snapped back; its well-regulated banks rode out the financial storm; its strong social insurance programs supported consumer demand; and unlike much of Europe, it still had its own currency, giving it much-needed flexibility. By mid-2010 output was surging, and unemployment was falling fast. Sweden, declared The Washington Post, was “the rock star of the recovery.”

Then the sadomonetarists moved in.

The story so far: In 2010 Sweden’s economy was doing much better than those of most other advanced countries. But unemployment was still high, and inflation was low. Nonetheless, the Riksbank — Sweden’s equivalent of the Federal Reserve — decided to start raising interest rates.

There was some dissent within the Riksbank over this decision. Lars Svensson, a deputy governor at the time — and a former Princeton colleague of mine — vociferously opposed the rate hikes. Mr. Svensson, one of the world’s leading experts on Japanese-style deflationary traps, warned that raising interest rates in a still-depressed economy put Sweden at risk of a similar outcome. But he found himself isolated, and left the Riksbank in 2013.

Sure enough, Swedish unemployment stopped falling soon after the rate hikes began. Deflation took a little longer, but it eventually arrived. The rock star of the recovery has turned itself into Japan.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Kids This Weekend

Myelin's a Basal Characteristic of Neurons, More Derved Have Less

Harvard neuroscientists have made a discovery that turns 160 years of neuroanatomy on its head.

Myelin, the electrical insulating material long known to be essential for the fast transmission of impulses along the axons of nerve cells, is not as ubiquitous as thought, according to a new work lead by Professor Paola Arlotta of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) and the University's Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, in collaboration with Professor Jeff Lichtman, of Harvard's Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

"Myelin is a relatively recent invention during evolution," says Arlotta. "It's thought that myelin allowed the brain to communicate really fast to the far reaches of the body, and that it has endowed the brain with the capacity to compute higher level functions." In fact, loss of myelin is a feature of a number of devastating diseases, including multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia.

But the new research shows that despite myelin essential roles in the brain, "some of the most evolved, most complex neurons of the nervous system have less myelin than older, more ancestral ones" Arlotta, co-director of the HSCI neuroscience program, says.

What this means, Arlotta says, is that the higher in the cerebral cortex one looks – the closer to the top of the brain, which is its most evolved region - the less myelin one finds. Not only that, but "neurons in this part of the brain display a brand new way of positioning myelin along their axons that has not been previously seen. They have 'intermittent myelin' with long axon tracts that lack myelin interspersed among myelin-rich segments.

One I Missed: an Unknown Northrop Grumman Drone From September 2013? Or the X-47?


Another Mysterious Triangular Aircraft Spotted


Sure looks like an A-12 (flying dorito, not the SR-21 predecessor)

Ferns Stole 'neochrome' Gene From Hornworts During the Toarcian Jurassic 179 Million Years ago

During the age of the dinosaurs, the arrival of flowering plants as competitors could have spelled doom for the ancient fern lineage. Instead, ferns diversified and flourished under the new canopy -- using a mysterious gene that helped them adapt to low-light environments.

A team led by Duke University scientists has pinpointed the curious origins of this gene and determined that it was transferred to ferns from a group of unassuming moss-like plants called hornworts. The findings were announced today, April 14, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For years, researchers have suspected that a gene called neochrome played a role in the evolution of ferns. Neochrome is a hybrid of two other plant genes which code for photoreceptor proteins that sense blue and red light.

"Neochrome is a 'chimeric' gene," said Fay-Wei Li, lead author and Ph.D. student in Duke's biology department. It produces a photoreceptor that senses both blue and red light, affording ferns a unique advantage in forests shaded by flowering plants. "Most plants sense and grow toward blue light, but under the canopy, the filtered light spectrum has more red light than blue."

"Neochrome helped ferns to 'see' better," Li said. What hasn't been crystal clear is the gene's origin. Li set out to investigate its evolution by systematically combing through plant genomes from the Duke Herbarium and 1000 Plants Initiative.

Neochrome turned up in a surprising place: the genomes of hornworts, a damp-loving plant group related to mosses.

Three scenarios could have explained how the gene came to be shared by ferns and hornworts: 1) a common ancestor that had the gene; 2) independent evolution of the gene in both groups; or 3) a process called horizontal gene transfer, which ferried neochrome from one group to the other.

To sort out these theories, the team looked not only at the evolutionary relationships of land plants and algae, but also at how all of their light-sensitive genes were related.

Ferns and hornworts diverged in evolution 400 million years ago. If neochrome came from a common ancestor, it would have been passed on to many other plant families, too. But then it had to have been lost in all but the ferns, since no seed plants still have it. The analysis also didn't support the idea that an unusual gene like neochrome evolved independently in both hornworts and ferns.

What the scientists found instead was strong evidence that the fern version of neochrome descended from the hornwort version. By looking at sequence changes in the gene's various spellings, they constructed a family tree of light-sensitive genes, in which fern neochrome "nested" neatly within the hornwort lineage. The analysis also showed that the gene versions separated about 179 million years ago.

Only one mechanism could explain how the gene hopped from hornworts to ferns so long after the lineages themselves diverged: horizontal gene transfer. But researchers have only just begun to explore how this occurs in plants.


A Phoenix Derived Mars Drilling Mission

Robotics and Automation for “Icebreaker”


Glass et al


The proposed “Icebreaker” mission is a return to the Mars polar latitudes first visited by the Phoenix mission in 2007–2008. Exploring and interrogating the shallow subsurface of Mars from the surface will require some form of excavation and penetration, with drilling being the most mature approach. A series of 0.5–5 m automated rotary and rotary-percussive drills developed over the past decade by NASA Ames and Honeybee Robotics provide the capability to fly on a Mars surface mission within the next decade. Surface robotics have been integrated for sample transfer to deck instruments, and the Icebreaker sample acquisition system has been tested successfully in Mars chambers and analog field sites to depths between 1 and 3 m, most recently in the Antarctic Dry Valleys in January of 2013. This paper provides a hardware and software systems overview of the Icebreaker sample acquisition system, and discusses test results of this robotic system in relevant environments. Test results from recent Arctic and Antarctic field campaigns demonstrate a hands-off “dust to data” capability.

Modern Humans & Neandertals did NOT Live on the Iberian Peninsula Simultaneously

Until now, the carbon 14 technique, a radioactive isotope which gradually disappears with the passing of time, has been used to date prehistoric remains. When about 40,000 years, in other words approximately the period corresponding to the arrival of the first humans in Europe, have elapsed, the portion that remains is so small that it can become easily contaminated and cause the dates to appear more recent. It was from 2005 onwards that a new technique began to be used; it is the one used to purify the collagen in DNA tests. Using this method, the portion of the original organic material is obtained and all the subsequent contamination is removed.

And by using this technique, scientists have been arriving at the same conclusions at key sites across Europe: "We can see that the arrival of our species in Europe took place 8,000 years earlier than what had been thought and we can see the earliest datings of our species and the most recent Neanderthal ones, in which, in a specific regional framework, there is no overlapping," explained Alvaro Arrizabalaga, professor of the department of Geography, Prehistory and Archaeology, and one of the UPV/EHU researchers alongside María-José Iriarte and Aritza Villaluenga.

The three caves chosen for the recently published research are located in Girona (L'Arbreda), Gipuzkoa (Labeko Koba) and Asturias (La Viña); in other words, at the westernmost and easternmost tips of the Pyrenees and it was where the flow of populations and animals between the peninsula and continent took place. "L'Arbreda is on the eastern pass; Labeko Koba, in the Deba valley, is located on the entry corridor through the Western Pyrenees (Arrizabalaga and Iriarte excavated it in a hurry in 1988 before it was destroyed by the building of the Arrasate-Mondragon bypass) and La Viña is of value as a paradigm, since it provides a magnificent sequence of the Upper Palaeolithic, in other words, of the technical and cultural behaviour of the Cro-magnons during the last glaciation", pointed out Arrizabalaga.

The selecting of the remains was very strict allowing only tools made of bones or, in the absence of them, bones bearing clear traces of human activity, as a general rule with butchery marks, in other words, cuts in the areas of the tendons so that the muscle could be removed. "The Labeko Koba curve is the most consistent of the three, which in turn are the most consistent on the Iberian Peninsula," explained Arrizabalaga. 18 remains were dated at Labeko Koba and the results are totally convergent with respect to their stratigraphic position, in other words, those that appeared at the lowest depths are the oldest ones.

The main conclusion –"the scene of the meeting between a Neanderthal and a Cro-magnon does not seem to have taken place on the Iberian Peninsula"

The Origins of Dinosaurs in the Triassic

The origins of Dinosauria: much ado about nothing




Research this century has greatly improved our knowledge of the origin and early radiation of dinosaurs. The unearthing of several new dinosaurs and close outgroups from Triassic rocks from various parts of the world, coupled with improved phylogenetic analyses, has set a basic framework in terms of timing of events and macroevolutionary patterns. However, important parts of the early dinosauromorph evolutionary history are still poorly understood, rendering uncertain the phylogenetic position of silesaurids as either non-dinosaur Dinosauriformes or ornithischians, as well as that of various early saurischians, such as Eoraptor lunensis and herrerasaurs, as either noneusaurischians or members of the sauropodomorph or theropod lineages. This lack of agreement in part derives from a patchy distribution of traits among early members of the main dinosauromorph lineages and requires a more meticulous assessment of characters and homologies than those recently conducted. Presently, the oldest uncontroversial dinosaur records come from Late Triassic (Carnian) rocks of South America, southern Africa and India, hinting at a south-western Pangaea origin of the group. Besides, macroevolutionary approaches suggest that the rise of dinosaurs was a more gradual process than previously understood. Obviously, these tentative scenarios need to be tested by new fossil finds, which should also help close the major gaps recognized in the fossil record of Triassic dinosauromorphs.

The Norian Triassic Dinosaur & Dinosauriform Biota of Poland

Basal dinosauriform and theropod dinosaurs from the mid–late Norian (Late Triassic) of Poland: implications for Triassic dinosaur evolution and distribution


Niedźwiedzki et al


The rise of dinosaurs during the Triassic is a widely studied evolutionary radiation, but there are still many unanswered questions about early dinosaur evolution and biogeography that are hampered by an unevenly sampled Late Triassic fossil record. Although very common in western North America and parts of South America, dinosaur (and more basal dinosauriform) remains are relatively rare in the Upper Triassic deposits of Europe, making any new discoveries critically important. One of the most diverse dinosauriform assemblages from Europe comes from the Poręba site in Poland, a recently described locality with exposures of the Zbąszynek Beds, which have a palynomorph assemblage characteristic for the mid–late Norian in the biostratigraphic schemes of the Germanic Basin. Using a synapomorphy-based approach, we evaluate several isolated dinosauriform specimens from Poręba. This assemblage includes a silesaurid, a herrerasaurid and remains of another type of theropod (potentially a neotheropod). The Poręba herrerasaurid is the first record of this rare group of primitive dinosaurs from Europe and one of the youngest records worldwide, whereas the silesaurid is the youngest record of a silesaurid from Europe. These findings indicate that silesaurids persisted alongside true dinosaurs into the mid–late Norian of Europe and that silesaurid–herrerasaurid–neotheropod assemblages (which are also known from the Norian of North America, at low latitudes) were more widespread geographically and latitudinally than previously thought. Silesaurid–herrerasaurid–neotheropod assemblages may have been a common ecological structuring of dinosaurs during their early evolution, and their widespread distribution may indicate weak palaeolatitudinal controls on early dinosaur biogeography during the latest Triassic.

Deep-Water Ediacaran Fossils from Northwestern Canada

Deep-Water Ediacaran Fossils from Northwestern Canada: Taphonomy, Ecology, and Evolution


Narbonne et al


Impressions of soft-bodied Ediacaran megafossils are common in deep-water slope deposits of the June beds at Sekwi Brook in the Mackenzie Mountains of NW Canada. Two taphonomic assemblages can be recognized. Soles of turbidite beds contain numerous impressions of simple (Aspidella) and tentaculate (Hiemalora, Eoporpita) discs. A specimen of the frond Primocandelabrum is attached to an Aspidella-like holdfast, but most holdfast discs lack any impressions of the leafy fronds to which they were attached, reflecting Fermeuse-style preservation of the basal level of the community. Epifaunal fronds (Beothukis, Charnia, Charniodiscus) and benthic recliners (Fractofusus) were most commonly preserved intrastratally on horizontal parting surfaces within turbidite and contourite beds, reflecting a deep-water example of Nama-style preservation of higher levels in the community. A well-preserved specimen of Namalia significantly extends the known age and environmental range of erniettomorphs into deep-water aphotic settings. Infaunal bilaterian burrows are absent from the June beds despite favorable beds for their preservation. The June beds assemblage is broadly similar in age and environment to deep-water Avalonian assemblages in Newfoundland and England, and like them contains mainly rangeomorph and arboreomorph fossils and apparently lacks dickinsoniomorphs and other clades typical of younger and shallower Ediacaran assemblages. Fossil data presently available imply that the classically deep- and shallow-water taxa of the Ediacara biota had different evolutionary origins and histories, with sessile rangeomorphs and arboreomorphs appearing in deep-water settings approximately 580 million years ago and spreading into shallow-water settings by 555 Ma but dickinsoniomorphs and other iconic clades restricted to shallow-water settings from their first known appearance at 555 Ma until their disappearance prior to the end of the Ediacaran.

Saudi Arabia's One Kilometer Tall Kingdom Tower

Dubai, long champion of all things biggest, longest and most expensive, will soon have some competition from neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Dubai's iconic Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, could be stripped of its Guinness title if Saudi Arabia succeeds in its plans to construct the even larger Kingdom Tower in Jeddah -- a prospect looking more likely as work begins next week, according to Construction Weekly.

Consultants Advanced Construction Technology Services have recently announced testing materials to build the 3,280-feet (1 kilometer) skyscraper (the Burj Khalifa, by comparison, stands at a meeker 2,716 feet, or 827 meters).

The Kingdom Tower, estimated to cost $1.23 billion, would have 200 floors and overlook the Red Sea. Building it will require about 5.7 million square feet of concrete and 80,000 tons of steel, according to the Saudi Gazette.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

1600 Owens Street Rendering


2198 Market Rendering


New Warriors Stadium Rendering


Mission Vida Rendering


650 Indiana Rendering


A Pteridinium Simplex NOT Preserved by the Death Mask Model

Taphonomy of the Ediacaran Fossil Pteridinium Simplex Preserved Three-Dimensionally in Mass Flow Deposits, Nama Group, Namibia


Meyer et al


Ediacara-type fossils are found in a diverse array of preservational styles, implying that multiple taphonomic mechanisms might have been responsible for their preservational expression. For many Ediacara fossils, the “death mask” model has been invoked as the primary taphonomic pathway. The key to this preservational regime is the replication or sealing of sediments around the degrading organisms by microbially induced precipitation of authigenic pyrite, leading toward fossil preservation along bedding planes. Nama-style preservation, on the other hand, captures Ediacaran organisms as molds and three-dimensional casts within coarse-grained mass flow beds, and has been previously regarded as showing little or no evidence of a microbial preservational influence. To further understand these two seemingly distinct taphonomic pathways, we investigated the three-dimensionally preserved Ediacaran fossil Pteridinium simplex from mass flow deposits of the upper Kliphoek Member, Dabis Formation, Kuibis Subgroup, southern Namibia. Our analysis, using a combination of petrographic and micro-analytical methods, shows that Pteridinium simplex vanes are replicated with minor pyrite, but are most often represented by open voids that can be filled with secondary carbonate material; clay minerals are also found in association with the vanes, but their origin remains unresolved. The scarcity of pyrite and the development of voids are likely related to oxidative weathering and it is possible that microbial activities and authigenic pyrite may have contributed to the preservation of Pteridinium simplex; however, any microbes growing on P. simplex vanes within mass flow deposits were unlikely to have formed thick mats as envisioned in the death mask model. Differential weathering of replicating minerals and precipitation of secondary minerals greatly facilitate fossil collection and morphological characterization by allowing Pteridinium simplex vanes to be parted from the massive hosting sandstone.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

1036 Mission Rendering


2100 Market Street


388 Fulton Rendering


1000 16th Street Rendering


A Tale of San Francisco's Housing Woes From Tech Crunch

The Santa Clara Valley was some of the most valuable agricultural land in the entire world, but it was paved over to create today’s Silicon Valley. This was simply the result of bad planning and layers of leadership failure — nobody thinks farms literally needed to be destroyed to create the technology industry’s success.

Today, the tech industry is apparently on track to destroy one of the world’s most valuable cultural treasures, San Francisco, by pushing out the diverse people who have helped create it. At least that’s the story you’ve read in hundreds of articles lately.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But everyone who lives in the Bay Area today needs to accept responsibility for making changes where they live so that everyone who wants to be here, can.

The alternative — inaction and self-absorption — very well could create the cynical elite paradise and middle-class dystopia that many fear. I’ve spent time looking into the city’s historical housing and development policies. With the protests escalating again, I am pretty tired of seeing the city’s young and disenfranchised fight each other amid an extreme housing shortage created by 30 to 40 years of NIMBYism (or “Not-In-My-Backyard-ism”) from the old wealth of the city and down from the peninsula suburbs.

Here is a very long explainer. Sorry, this isn’t a shorter post or that I didn’t break it into 20 pieces. If you’re wondering why people are protesting you, how we got to this housing crisis, why rent control exists or why tech is even shifting to San Francisco in the first place, this is meant to provide some common points of understanding.

This is a complex problem, and I’m not going to distill it into young, rich tech douchebags-versus-helpless old ladies facing eviction. There are many other places where you can read that story.

It does us all no justice.

An Overview of Earth's Middle Age (Proterozoic/ Boring Billion)

Earth's middle age


Cawood et al


Earth's middle age, extending from 1.7 to 0.75 Ga, was characterized by environmental, evolutionary, and lithospheric stability that contrasts with the dramatic changes in preceding and succeeding eras. The period is marked by a paucity of preserved passive margins, an absence of a significant Sr anomaly in the paleoseawater record and in the εHf(t) in detrital zircon, a lack of orogenic gold and volcanic-hosted massive sulfide deposits, and an absence of glacial deposits and iron formations. In contrast, anorthosites and kindred bodies are well developed and major pulses of Mo and Cu mineralization, including the world's largest examples of these deposits, are features of this period. These trends are attributed to a relatively stable continental assemblage that was initiated during assembly of the Nuna supercontinent by ca. 1.7 Ga and continued until breakup of its closely related successor, Rodinia, ca. 0.75 Ga. The overall low abundance of passive margins is consistent with a stable continental configuration, which also provided a framework for environmental and evolutionary stability. A series of convergent margin accretionary orogens developed along the edge of the supercontinent. Abundant anorthosites and related rocks developed inboard of the plate margin. Their temporal distribution appears to link with the secular cooling of the mantle, at which time the overlying continental lithosphere was strong enough to be thickened and to support the emplacement of large plutons into the crust, yet the underlying mantle was still warm enough to result in widespread melting of the lower thickened crust.

Friday, April 18, 2014

HA! Ron Paul Doesn't Believe Bitcoin is a Currency

Bitcoin is a very interesting subject because for many years in Congress, I was a champion of legalizing competition in currencies.

We have a terrible monetary system today. We have a government that purposely counterfeits and debases the currencies and I believe that the alternative would be a competition. That means that anything that wants to substitute for the American dollar should be permitted. There should be no prohibitions; there should not be a monopoly and a cartel running our monetary system because it so often benefits the privileged few. We certainly saw this in the bailing out of the financial system where the wealthy bankers got bailed out it in this recent and severe recession. I am a strong believer in competition. Bitcoin is an introduction to that.

Though I don’t personally believe that Bitcoin is true money, it should be perfectly legal and there should be no restrictions on it, there should be no taxes on it. The people who operate Bitcoin would, of course, be prohibited from committing fraud but the people should be able to have competition whether it is a basket of commodities or crypto-currencies – it should be perfectly legal. For this to operate, we need to have freedom from government intervention when it comes to the Internet. I am concerned that the government ultimately wants to curtail the Internet and there have been attempts to do so.

Flight Test of the Falcon9-R(esuable)

Dramatic Local Environmental Change During the Early Eocene Green River, Wyoming

Dramatic local environmental change during the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum detected using high resolution chemical analyses of Green River Formation stromatolites


Frantz et al


The Eocene Green River Formation represents a system of lakes that covered parts of what is now Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, and captures the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO, 52–50 million years ago or Ma), the warmest period of the Cenozoic Era, and a period associated with very high levels of atmospheric CO2. Lakes, especially closed basin lakes, can respond dramatically to environmental change because of their sensitivity to precipitation and evaporation. In this study, stromatolites from the Rife Bed of the Green River Formation are used as fine-scale records of terrestrial paleoenvironmental change during a global hothouse climate, and investigate how the environmental dynamics within the lake system affected the growth of stromatolites. The stromatolites are composed of branching microdigitate columns laminated on the 10–100 μm scale. Laminae are grouped in cm-scale layers that alternate between calcite fan, micritic, and mixed microstructures. The fan layers are depleted in 18O, Na, and Mg/Ca. The micrite layers, in contrast, are comparatively enriched in 18O, Na, and Mg/Ca. The δ13C and δ18O are strongly positively correlated, suggesting the stromatolites formed in a closed basin lake and consistent with the regional stratigraphy. Additionally, clumped isotope analyses provide the first quantitative values for water temperatures in lake water from the Green River Formation (~ 35 °C for micrite layers and ~ 28 °C for fan layers). Changes in δ18O and sodium ion concentration are likely related to periods of evaporation and recharge, and thus can be used to estimate lake volume change during stromatolite growth. Two models, one using sodium ion concentrations in a conserved system, the other using Rayleigh fractionation and mixing equations to explain changes in oxygen isotopes converge upon similar results for lake volume changes, revealing multiple episodes of meter-scale lake level rise and fall during the accretion of the ~ 30 cm thick stromatolite. Because of the broad, flat bathymetry of the lake, such lake volume and depth changes would have been accompanied by shoreline shifts on the order of tens of kilometers while the stromatolites were actively growing, challenging the view of a single stromatolite paleoenvironment in the lake. Therefore, the fan microfabric, interpreted here as abiogenic in nature, formed in cooler waters when the lake was deeper, possibly below a thermocline. In contrast, the micrite microfabric, for which there is evidence of biogenicity, formed when the lake was shallow and warm. The alternation between biogenic and abiogenic microfabrics present in the Rife Bed stromatolites is hypothesized to result from dramatic changes in lake level influencing the microbiology and chemistry of the waters in which the stromatolites formed, indicating that stromatolite growth can occur under disparate conditions and are therefore do necessarily represent a single facies.

Aram Chaos are the Channeled Scablands of Mars

Catastrophic ice lake collapse in Aram Chaos, Mars


Roda et al


Hesperian chaotic terrains have been recognized as the source of outflow channels formed by catastrophic outflows. Four main scenarios have been proposed for the formation of chaotic terrains that involve different amounts of water and single or multiple outflow events. Here, we test these scenarios with morphological and structural analyses of imagery and elevation data for Aram Chaos in conjunction with numerical modeling of the morphological evolution of the catastrophic carving of the outflow valley. The morphological and geological analyses of Aram Chaos suggest large-scale collapse and subsidence (1500 m) of the entire area, which is consistent with a massive expulsion of liquid water from the subsurface in one single event. The combined observations suggest a complex process starting with the outflow of water from two small channels, followed by continuous groundwater sapping and headward erosion and ending with a catastrophic lake rim collapse and carving of the Aram Valley, which is synchronous with the 2.5 Ga stage of the Ares Vallis formation. The water volume and formative time scale required to carve the Aram channels indicate that a single, rapid (maximum tens of days) and catastrophic (flood volume of 9.3?104 km3) event carved the outflow channel. We conclude that a sub-ice lake collapse model can best explain the features of the Aram Chaos Valley system as well as the time scale required for its formation.

1700 Years of Vegation and 900 Years of Intensive Land use From the Cahokia Region, Illinois

A record of sustained prehistoric and historic land use from the Cahokia region, Illinois, USA

Munoz et al


In eastern North America, large prehistoric settlements were concentrated in and along the floodplains of the midcontinent, but few sedimentary records have been examined adjacent to these sites to evaluate the impacts of Native American land use on terrestrial ecosystems. Here we report a high-resolution and multiproxy paleoecological record from Horseshoe Lake, an oxbow lake in the central Mississippi River valley that is adjacent to the Cahokia site (Illinois, USA), the largest prehistoric settlement north of Mexico. Palynological and carbon isotope data document pronounced vegetation changes over the past 1700 yr driven primarily by land use, including 900 yr (450–1350 CE) of sustained prehistoric human impacts. Rapid forest clearance was followed closely by the proliferation of indigenous seed crops of the Eastern Agricultural Complex beginning ca. 450 CE, centuries before the emergence of Cahokia at 1050 CE. Agricultural intensification that included the use of maize (Zea mays subsp. mays) followed this initial clearance, with peak land use intensity between 900 and 1200 CE. A large flood event ca. 1200 CE marks the onset of agricultural contraction and Cahokia's decline. Reforestation follows the abandonment of the Cahokia region at ca. 1350 CE. The Horseshoe Lake record thus indicates that regional agricultural activity began abruptly at 450 CE and intensified over the following centuries, well before the formation of Cahokia and other large prehistoric settlements. The evidence that a major flood coincided with the onset of Cahokia's decline is noteworthy, but will require corroboration from additional records.

The Diversity of Small Theropod Dinosaurs From the Santonian to Maastrichtian Cretaceous in New Mexico

Small Theropod Teeth from the Late Cretaceous of the San Juan Basin, Northwestern New Mexico and Their Implications for Understanding Latest Cretaceous Dinosaur Evolution


Williamson et al


Studying the evolution and biogeographic distribution of dinosaurs during the latest Cretaceous is critical for better understanding the end-Cretaceous extinction event that killed off all non-avian dinosaurs. Western North America contains among the best records of Late Cretaceous terrestrial vertebrates in the world, but is biased against small-bodied dinosaurs. Isolated teeth are the primary evidence for understanding the diversity and evolution of small-bodied theropod dinosaurs during the Late Cretaceous, but few such specimens have been well documented from outside of the northern Rockies, making it difficult to assess Late Cretaceous dinosaur diversity and biogeographic patterns. We describe small theropod teeth from the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico. These specimens were collected from strata spanning Santonian – Maastrichtian. We grouped isolated theropod teeth into several morphotypes, which we assigned to higher-level theropod clades based on possession of phylogenetic synapomorphies. We then used principal components analysis and discriminant function analyses to gauge whether the San Juan Basin teeth overlap with, or are quantitatively distinct from, similar tooth morphotypes from other geographic areas. The San Juan Basin contains a diverse record of small theropods. Late Campanian assemblages differ from approximately co-eval assemblages of the northern Rockies in being less diverse with only rare representatives of troodontids and a Dromaeosaurus-like taxon. We also provide evidence that erect and recurved morphs of a Richardoestesia-like taxon represent a single heterodont species. A late Maastrichtian assemblage is dominated by a distinct troodontid. The differences between northern and southern faunas based on isolated theropod teeth provide evidence for provinciality in the late Campanian and the late Maastrichtian of North America. However, there is no indication that major components of small-bodied theropod diversity were lost during the Maastrichtian in New Mexico. The same pattern seen in northern faunas, which may provide evidence for an abrupt dinosaur extinction.

Theropod Found in Hettangian Jurassic Luxembourg

The first Early Jurassic (late Hettangian) theropod dinosaur remains from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg


Delsate et al


Body fossils of earliest Jurassic (Hettangian) dinosaurs are scarce worldwide. Here we report two isolated dinosaur remains from the marine upper Hettangian (the Schlotheimia angulata ammonite Zone) Luxembourg Sandstone Formation, collected at Brouch, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The small to medium-sized pedal phalanx III-1 is referred to a neotheropod dinosaur based on the combination of the following features: proximal end with a lateral margin formed by two straight margins meeting at a wide angle, distal end with a well-defined semilunate extensor fossa and a proximodistally elongated shaft. The isolated tooth crown most likely belongs to an indeterminate theropod, because of its labiolingually compressed shape and the presence of sharp mesial and distal carinae and denticles along its distal edge. These remains represent the first Jurassic dinosaur specimens reported from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, enlarging the meagre record of the group immediately after the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction event.

The Evolution of Behavioral Complexity Across the Ediacaran/Cambrian Boundary

When Life Got Smart: The Evolution of Behavioral Complexity Through the Ediacaran and Early Cambrian of NW Canada


Carbone et al


Ediacaran and early Cambrian strata in NW Canada contain abundant trace fossils that record the progressive development of complex behavior in early animal evolution. Five feeding groups can be recognized: microbial grazing, deposit-feeding, deposit-feeding/predatory, filter-feeding/predatory, and arthropod tracks and trails. The lower Blueflower Formation (ca. 560–550 Ma) contains abundant burrows that completely cover bedding surfaces with small (∼1 mm diameter) cylindrical burrows that were strictly restricted to microbial bedding surfaces and exhibited only primitive and inconsistent avoidance strategies. The upper Blueflower contains three-dimensional avoidance burrows and rare filter-feeding or possibly predatory burrows, suggesting increased behavioral responses in food gathering that marked the beginning of the agronomic revolution in substrate utilization. Cambrian strata of the Ingta Formation contain systematically meandering burrows and more diverse feeding strategies, including the onset of treptichnid probing burrows that may reflect predation. These observations imply that Ediacaran burrowers were largely characterized by crude, two-dimensional avoidance meanders that represented simple behavioral responses of individual burrowers to sensory information, and that the subsequent development of more diverse and complex feeding patterns with genetically programmed search pathways occurred during the earliest stages of the Cambrian explosion. These observations further imply that changes occurred in both the food source and substrate during the ecological transition from Proterozoic matgrounds to Phanerozoic mixgrounds.

How Much Methane is Released From Fracking Fields? A lot!

Toward a better understanding and quantification of methane emissions from shale gas development


Caulton et al


The identification and quantification of methane emissions from natural gas production has become increasingly important owing to the increase in the natural gas component of the energy sector. An instrumented aircraft platform was used to identify large sources of methane and quantify emission rates in southwestern PA in June 2012. A large regional flux, 2.0–14 g CH4 s−1 km−2, was quantified for a ∼2,800-km2 area, which did not differ statistically from a bottom-up inventory, 2.3–4.6 g CH4 s−1 km−2. Large emissions averaging 34 g CH4/s per well were observed from seven well pads determined to be in the drilling phase, 2 to 3 orders of magnitude greater than US Environmental Protection Agency estimates for this operational phase. The emissions from these well pads, representing ∼1% of the total number of wells, account for 4–30% of the observed regional flux. More work is needed to determine all of the sources of methane emissions from natural gas production, to ascertain why these emissions occur and to evaluate their climate and atmospheric chemistry impacts.

Admiral R K Dhowan Appointed Indian Chief of Naval Staff


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.