Saturday, October 03, 2015

China's Quest for a Strategic Air Force

On September 10, People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) spokesman Shen Jinke stated that some PLAAF systems displayed to the public during the “9-3” military parade, including the H-6K bomber, the KJ-500 airborne early warning and control plane, and the H-9 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system testified to the quickening pace of China’s drive to transform the PLAAF into a “strategic service” (战略性军种) (Liberation Daily, September 10). Once dismissed by many outside observers, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has undergone an impressive transformation over the past two decades, emerging as one of the world’s premier air forces. As it continues to modernize, it is focused on becoming a “strategic air force” (战略空军). PLAAF strategists suggest this means the air force should play a decisive role in protecting Chinese national interests, field modern capabilities commensurate with China’s standing as a major power and enjoy the institutional status befitting its role as a “strategic service,” an important consideration given the historical dominance of ground forces in China’s military.

Has Russia's Economy hit Rock Bottom...Yet?

Across the Russian economy, businesses have shelved investment plans, worried that the ruble might extend its decline if oil prices slide further and that geopolitical tensions could bring new economic headwinds.

The prospect of a prolonged slump is a challenge for the Kremlin, which has relied on rising living standards to boost popular support, as well as foreign investors, who have bet billions on Russia as a growth market.

For the moment, the Kremlin has been dialing back the tensions in Ukraine, which could lead to an easing of the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe over the crisis there.

Russian officials say the economy has hit bottom; business executives are unpersuaded. Capital investment declined 6 percent in the first eight months of this year. Many companies have cash - corporate profits are up 38 percent this year, boosted mainly by the drop in the ruble - they just aren’t ready to spend it.

How Elon Musk Would Nuke Mars

Elon Musk has made no secret of his desire to colonize and, perhaps, travel to Mars.

Now, the possible discovery of liquid water on the red planet has reenergized his affection for it and now he's trying to clarify his idea for heating up the planet with nuclear bombs.

Musk's goal isn't to blow up Mars in the hopes of heating it up enough for livability. No, he wants to launch fusion bombs into the sky over Mars' two poles to create tiny pulse suns.

These suns would be similar to our own sun, but would only last for a short while.

Musk outlined his plan on Friday during the SolarCity solar panel launch event in Manhattan when I asked him if he was excited about the discovery of water on Mars. He said, "Yeah, that's good," and then launched into a relatively detailed explanation of his plan.

"What I was talking about," said Musk, "was having a series of very large, by our standards, but very small by calamity standards, essentially having two tiny pulsing suns over the poles. They’re really above the planet. Not on the planet."

1198 Valencia Renderings


Opponents Want Warriors Stadium Moved to Pier 80


2211 Harold Way, Berkeley, California Renderings


Flores Island in Indonesia had Open Savannah in the Early/Middle Pleistocene Quaternary

Avian remains from the Early/Middle Pleistocene of the So'a Basin, central Flores, Indonesia, and their palaeoenvironmental significance


Meijer et al


The So'a Basin in central Flores contains the earliest known evidence for hominins on this remote Indonesian island, with stone tools from this region dating back at least 1.0 Ma. At least 16 late Early to early Middle Pleistocene terrestrial fossil localities record evidence for highly insular endemic faunas and proxy evidence for hominins. The hominin presence in the So'a Basin raises many questions as to how, when, and from where hominins arrived on the island, and key issues regarding their adaptation to this insular environment remain poorly understood. Here, we provide palaeoenvironmental data based on avian remains recovered during recent, systematic excavations of late Early to early Middle Pleistocene deposits at Mata Menge and Bo'a Leza in the So'a Basin. At least six species of birds in five avian orders were recovered, forming the oldest bird remains recovered from Wallacea. Two species, a swan (Cygnus sp.) and an eagle owl (Bubo sp.), no longer occur on Flores. The avian assemblage from Mata Menge and Bo'a Leza described here is indicative of an open environment with a strong open, freshwater component and nearby grasslands, and with forests at a distance. In that, it differs from the Late Pleistocene limestone cave site of Liang Bua, the find locality of Homo floresiensis, and is more similar to the Early Pleistocene Homo erectus sites of the Sangiran Dome on Java. Although little is known regarding the identity of the So'a Basin toolmakers, the presence of an open, savannah-type environment in the late Early to early Middle Pleistocene of Flores may have facilitated their dispersal from the Asian shelf into Wallacea.

Russia's Most Syrian Adventure #2

Looks like the Su-34s are being advertised by Russia as being present.


Examing a Centrosaurus Bonebed: Another Herd of Campanian Cretaceous Ceratopsians Mass Killed by a Flood



Chiba et al


The horned dinosaur Centrosaurus apertus from the Belly River Group (Campanian) is represented by multiple articulated skulls and skeletons, and is particularly notable for its occurrence in dozens of large-scale monodominant bonebeds, which have been found in the Dinosaur Park Formation across southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Here we present a detailed taphonomic analysis of the first large-scale Centrosaurus apertus bonebed (McPheeters bonebed) from the Oldman Formation of southeastern Alberta. The McPheeters bonebed rivals the richest bonebeds in the Dinosaur Park Formation in terms of bone density and size, and the complete disarticulation of elements. The bonebed occurs in an overbank facies and is dominated by small bone clasts, suggesting that only low energy water current contributed to the formation of the bonebed before its final burial event. Patterns of taphonomic modification suggest that bones experienced little weathering, breakage, or scavenging. In turn, these conclusions are compatible with an overall interpretation of rapid burial in humid conditions after the disarticulation of elements. These taphonomic features are virtually identical to those seen in the well-documented bonebeds of this species in the Dinosaur Park Formation, which are interpreted to represent mass death events caused by seasonal tropical storms and associated large-scale flooding. Late Cretaceous dinosaur species typically have small geographic and stratigraphic ranges defined by the extent of single geological formations. The new bonebed extends the distribution of Centrosaurus apertus to the upper Oldman Formation, which is interpreted as more inland than the coastally influenced Dinosaur Park Formation, and suggests that mass death events related to seasonal tropical storms occurred over a broader geographic area and in a greater range of paleoenvironments than previously documented.

Friday, October 02, 2015

More Pictures of China's new Aircraft Carrier?


Korean KF-X Stealth Fighter Scandals Worsens, NSO Head Being Investigated for F-35 Purchase

National Security Office (NSO) chief Kim Kwan-jin may face an investigation over his role in the controversial decision to buy F-35 stealth fighters from Lockheed Martin.

Kim headed a panel that selected F-35s over Boeing's F15-SEs as a defense minister in March last year.

The office of the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs began its probe last week amid growing allegations that the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) lied about the terms of the contract in order to help Lockheed win the bid.

The agency admitted that it failed to receive four core F-35-related technologies from Lockheed, and this is expected to cause a setback for the nation's 8.5 trillion won KF-X project to develop indigenous fighter jets by 2025.

Chinese Economy Slows More?

Chinese manufacturing activity improved slightly in September while growth in service industries slowed due to disruptions from a massive military parade, surveys showed Thursday.

An official manufacturing index based on a survey of factory purchasing managers edged up to 49.8 in September from August's 49.7, which was the lowest level since August 2012. In July, it was 50.0.

The index, compiled by the Chinese Federation for Logistics and Purchasing, is based on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 indicate expansion.

Manufacturing may have been weighed down by temporary factory closures and a two-day national holiday for a military parade in Beijing in early September. Manufacturing, however, also faces ongoing downward pressure from weak foreign demand and official efforts to make consumption a bigger part of the Chinese economy.

NASA Weighing two Discovery Mission Awards

NASA might end up funding two of the five mission concepts just selected for further study in the latest Discovery-class planetary science mission competition, a senior agency official said.

“We are not committing to selecting two, but we are stating that we may choose either one or two,” David Schurr, NASA’s deputy director for Planetary Science, wrote in an Oct. 1 email.

NASA winnowed a field of 27 competitors down to five Sept. 30, evenly splitting $15 million in one-year study money among two Venus concepts and three asteroid concepts in the long-awaited first down-select for the agency’s 13th small robotic solar-system mission competition. Final selection, of either one mission or two, is expected in September 2016, NASA said in a press release.

French Developing Reusable Rocket

The French government’s two aerospace-focused agencies on Oct. 2 said they are pooling resources to study a launching system that would return its entire first stage to Earth for reuse, a goal shared by SpaceX but not one being pursued by Europe’s Airbus Defence and Space rocket prime contractor.

In a joint statement, the French space agency, CNES, and France’s ONERA aerospace research institute said the objective of the work is to “develop a rocket first stage that is capable of returning to its launch base.”

Earlier this year, Airbus disclosed that it had been working on a reusable design that would separate the rocket’s first-stage engines and part of the avionics suite for a return to Earth and later reuse.

Airbus said the value of the first stage lies mainly in its engines and that returning the entire first stage for refurbishment and reuse would not improve the economics of launching satellites.

Lockheed Eliminated From NASA's Next Commercial Cargo Competition for Cost

NASA has quietly eliminated Lockheed Martin Corp. from a pending multibillion-dollar competition to ship cargo to the international space station, according to people familiar with the matter.

direct link.

Way to get around WSJ's silliness link.

Neandertal Art From Gorham Cave via John Hawks


Say Hullo to Gorgeous Detailed Charon

Fall's Early Light

Did the Chicxulub Impact Affect the Deccan Traps Eruptions?

State shift in Deccan volcanism at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, possibly induced by impact


Renne et al


Bolide impact and flood volcanism compete as leading candidates for the cause of terminal-Cretaceous mass extinctions. High-precision 40Ar/39Ar data indicate that these two mechanisms may be genetically related, and neither can be considered in isolation. The existing Deccan Traps magmatic system underwent a state shift approximately coincident with the Chicxulub impact and the terminal-Cretaceous mass extinctions, after which ~70% of the Traps' total volume was extruded in more massive and more episodic eruptions. Initiation of this new regime occurred within ~50,000 years of the impact, which is consistent with transient effects of impact-induced seismic energy. Postextinction recovery of marine ecosystems was probably suppressed until after the accelerated volcanism waned.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Robopocalypse #25: Self Driving Chinese Buses Take Over the World!


India's Home Ministry has restricted the use of drones for commercial activities.

Drones could reduce the cost of forest conservation.

This science fiction series is being shot entirely with drones.

The FAA is concerned 1 million drones could be sold this Christmas.

Rwanda has approved medical supply deliveries by drone.

Paparazzi are starting to crash events with...drones.

The FAA has missed an important deadline to regulate drones.

Minnesota has started inspecting bridges with drones.

Self Driving Cars:

While everyone is looking at the US for self driving cars, here's China's self driving bus (see video above too).

Tesla will introduce a 1,000 mil range electric vehicle within a year or two and self driving car within 3 years.

Self driving cars could reduce accidents by 90%.

What is it like to ride in Google's self driving car?

How Google plans to roll out its self driving cars.

Who is liable if self driving cars get into an accident?

Volvo as teamed up with Autoliv for developing and testing a self driving car.

Here's a nay-sayer for self driving cars.

Mercedes has announced a plan for self driving limos that could be ordered via a smart phone app.

General Motors is claiming to be taking on Google and Apple for self driving cars now.

Freightliner's self driving truck is garnishing praise.

The Economist takes a gander at how left wing European politicians are reacting to self driving cars.

3d Printing:

The Robopocalypse must be doing something right: Kanye West is terrified of 3d printing. Especially of textiles! Woo!

MDA has begun development of 3d printed satellite antenna's.

Z3DLab has introduced a new 3d printable titanium-ceramic composite.

Two companies have teamed up to 3d print parts that are no longer available for older machinery.

You can now 3d print a functional ion drive.  


Disney has developed inflatable grippers for robots (see above).

The Robogami makes its appearance from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

Researchers in Singapore are making progress is getting robots to be able to assemble an Ikea chair.

Some insight on how Amazon's robopocalyptic warehouses work. In the future, all warehouses will have embraced the robopocalypse even more than Amazon has!

An unmanned surface vehicle and unmanned sub are working together to monitor ocean wildlife.

This bot paints based on where the human eyes look.

Nature talks about squishy bots.

Boston Dynamics' Spot does some "dancing."

A new robotic hand can identify objects through touch.

Here's another look at bots down on the farm.

Dom Indoors wants to completely reconfigure your home in minutes using mini robots.

Computing Advancement & Artificial Intelligence:

A new 'natural computing chip architecture' allows for chips to be trained into functions without explicitly designing them.

 A new AI can pass an IQ test on the level of a 4 year old.

Human Machine Interface:

The question is can we complete a map of the human brain.  Or not.

A student has developed a new glove that translates sign language into speech.

Kurzweil does his thing.

Watch F-22s Deploy From Hawaii to the Middle East

Another Article In Support of Guaranteed Minimum Income in the USA

What if the government simply paid everyone enough so that no one was poor? It's an insane idea that's gaining an unlikely alliance of supporters.

There's a simple way to end poverty: the government just gives everyone enough money, so nobody is poor. No ifs, buts, conditions, or tests. Everyone gets the minimum they need to survive, even if they already have plenty.

This, in essence, is "universal minimum income" or "guaranteed basic income"—where, instead of multiple income assistance programs, we have just one: a single payment to all citizens, regardless of background, gender, or race. It's a policy idea that sounds crazy at first, but actually begins to make sense when you consider some recent trends.

F-35 Pilots Under 136 lbs Restricted From Flight

Concerns about increased risk of injury to F-35 pilots during low-speed ejections have prompted the US military services to temporarily restrict pilots who weigh less than 136 pounds from flying the aircraft, Defense News has learned.

During August tests of the ejection seat, built by Martin-Baker, testers discovered an increased risk of neck injury when a lightweight pilot is flying at slower speeds. Until the problem is fixed, the services decided to restrict pilots weighing under 136 pounds from operating the plane, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, F-35 integration office director, told Defense News in a Tuesday interview.

“The bottom line is, they have to get into the realm where the seat allows that weight of a pilot less than 136 pounds [to] safely eject out of the airplane,” Harrigian said. “They found some areas that particularly at slower speeds they were concerned about, so that drove the restriction that we have right now.”

At least one F-35 pilot is affected by the weight restriction, according to Joint Program Office spokesman Joe DellaVedova, who added that the rule was announced Aug. 27. The issue does not affect the first and only female F-35 pilot, Lt. Col. Christina Mau, 33rd Operations Group deputy commander, he noted.

Note: Lt Col Mau hunts down reporter stating her weight and strafes him.

Russian Missile Test Violated INF Treaty

A top U.S. Defense Department official said Russia violated a landmark nuclear treaty with the recent test of a new surface-to-air missile.

Russia on Sept. 2 tested a new cruise missile that the Pentagon is calling the SSC-X-8, which may be based on the SS-N-30A Kalibr, according to an article on the conservative website The Washington Free Beacon. The latter is a variant of the SS-N-27B (shown above).

The 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty signed by the U.S. and the then-Soviet Union bans nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 300 miles to 3,400 miles.

While Russia’s new missile reportedly didn’t fly beyond 300 miles, the test nevertheless violated the terms of the INF, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said on Tuesday during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Diverse Flowering Plant Pollen Found in Albian Cretaceous China

Palynology of the Early Cretaceous Hanxia Section in the Jiuquan Basin, Northwest China: The discovery of diverse early angiosperm pollen and paleoclimatic significance


Zhang et al


The Lower Cretaceous deposits of the Jiuquan Basin (Northwestern China) located in central Asia are famous for the abundant and diverse fossil products with distinct characteristics of Jehol Biota. However, few early angiosperm remains have been published in their entirety. This study presents a palynomorph record from the recently reported fossil-bearing Zhonggou Formation of the Hanxia Section in the Jiuquan Basin. Here, we first discovered abundant and diverse angiosperm pollen with 16 taxa, which can be classified into four morphological types: tricolpate, polyaperturate, monosulcate and etrachotomocolpate apertures. The palynomorph assemblages contain a large number of biostratigraphically significant palynomorphs, such as numerically abundant tricolpate and rare polyaperturate angiosperm pollen grains, which indicate an Early Albian age for the Zhonggou Formation of the Hanxia Section. The overall palynomorph assemblage is dominated by the Perinopollenites, followed by the Classopollis; bisaccate pollen indicate Taxodiaceae-dominant vegetation types. As such, a relatively temperate and humid climatic condition is suggested for this area. Furthermore, two palynomorph assemblages can be distinguished in a stratigraphically upward order with an obviously increasing Classopollis content, indicating a gradual aridification trend during the Early Albian. This climatic change may affect the diversification of early angiosperms based on the correlation with the stratigraphic distribution of discovered angiosperm pollen.

You Salty Dog! Ceres' Bright Spots are Probably SALT!

After months of probing ever-sharper images of dwarf planet Ceres sent back by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, the space agency thinks it has a pretty good guess about the source of a series of mysterious bright spots reflecting back from the surface of the largest object in the asteroid belt.

"We believe this is a huge salt deposit," Dawn's principal investigator Chris Russell told a crowd of scientists Monday at the European Planetary Science Congress in Nantes, France, in a talk that was posted online Thursday. "We know it's not ice and we're pretty sure it's salt, but we don't know exactly what salt at the present time. "

This may come as something of a surprise to many watching the drama on Ceres unfold who guessed that the spots were reflective ice, given that the dwarf planet is believed to harbor a subsurface ocean that could have been exposed and then frozen by asteroid impacts.

The Russians Most Syrian Adventure #1

The Russians hit the Free Syrian Army.  This is not IS.  Ironically, Lavrov has stated the FSA is NOT a terrorist organization and ought to be included in the talks.

The Russians have stated they will NOT join the US led coalition against IS.

The Russians have stated they will conduct air strikes in Iraq if asked.

They has demanded the West stay out of Assad's air space.  They have deployed antiaircraft missile batteries to support this.

The Russians have stated they have 50 combat aircraft in Syria.  Its unclear what the mix is or if they are just referring to fixed wing planes or both fixed wing and helicopter.

They have conducted another wave of air strikes and at least one attack with helicopters.

Look for some insightful articles on Syria at The Power and the Money.

Flat Squirrel

Menadon besairiei: a Gomphodontosuchinae Traversodont Previously Only Found in Madagascar now Found in Middle-Upper Triassic Brazil

The Malagasy cynodont Menadon besairiei (Cynodontia; Traversodontidae) in the Middle–Upper Triassic of Brazil


Melo et al


The traversodontid cynodont Menadon besairiei, previously known from the ‘Isalo II’ group of Madagascar, is reported for the first time from the Triassic of southern Brazil. New material referable to M. besairiei was collected in the Schoenstatt outcrop (Santa Cruz do Sul municipality), which belongs to the Santacruzodon Assemblage Zone (Carnian) in the Santa Maria Supersequence. Their attribution to the Malagasy taxon is based on the presence of a deep snout; four upper incisors, with procumbent first and second incisors, and three lower, procumbent incisors; five upper postcanines, the first one ‘peg-like’; six lower postcanines, the two most anterior and the most posterior being reduced; the quadrangular form of the postcanines; a pterygoid reaching the jugal and excluding the maxilla from the suborbital fenestra; a mandible with a tall coronoid process covering the last lower postcanine laterally; and a posteriorly projected angular process. A cladistic analysis of traversodontid cynodonts was performed based on a matrix composed of 30 taxa and 78 characters. In the resulting trees, M. besairiei nested within the clade Gomphodontosuchinae, the only traversodontid subclade reasonably well supported. Thus, the presence of M. besairiei is established in the Santa Cruz do Sul fauna, constituting the first record for South America and confirming the previously proposed biostratigraphic correlation between the ‘Isalo II’ and the Santacruzodon Assemblage Zone.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ukraine War Update: Лучше надеяться внимание медведя находится в другом месте, лягушка!

The fighting is pretty mellow compared to times past.  Its by and large by individuals and their own automatic weapons.  Sometimes it escalates to using automatic grenade launchers and squad level mortars, but rarely more.  The primary places of fighting like this are around Donetsk.

On the other hand, there has been a significant attack on the Ukrainian armed forces at Zaitsevo, north of Gorlovka. This was a major clash where the DNR attempted to overrun the UAF positions. The UAF repelled the attack.

Maryinka had another attacks as well.  This had tank cannons being used.

There has been an intense battle raging in Avdiivka for several hours.  Mortars and less so far, but nothing bigger.

Supposedly, both sides have agreed to remove more weapons from the contact line.  The only things left are the automatic grenade launchers, squad level mortars and infantry weapons, supposedly.  The tanks are already supposed to be gone.  They aren't.  They are supposed to be though.

Pushilin heralded the move as possibly the end of the war.  Immediately afterwards, Avdiivka and Maryinka blew up.

Ukraine has placed sanctions on several Russian officials and companies including a Russian railroad company and banned all Russian airlines in and out of Ukraine.  The Russians reciprocated the ban of Ukrainian airlines in Russia.

King Crabs are Likely to Devastate the Antarctic Sea Shelf Ecology in the Next few Decades

No barrier to emergence of bathyal king crabs on the Antarctic shelf


Aronson et al


Cold-water conditions have excluded durophagous (skeleton-breaking) predators from the Antarctic seafloor for millions of years. Rapidly warming seas off the western Antarctic Peninsula could now facilitate their return to the continental shelf, with profound consequences for the endemic fauna. Among the likely first arrivals are king crabs (Lithodidae), which were discovered recently on the adjacent continental slope. During the austral summer of 2010‒2011, we used underwater imagery to survey a slope-dwelling population of the lithodid Paralomis birsteini off Marguerite Bay, western Antarctic Peninsula for environmental or trophic impediments to shoreward expansion. The population density averaged ∼4.5 individuals × 1,000 m−2 within a depth range of 1,100‒1,500 m (overall observed depth range 841–2,266 m). Images of juveniles, discarded molts, and precopulatory behavior, as well as gravid females in a trapping study, suggested a reproductively viable population on the slope. At the time of the survey, there was no thermal barrier to prevent the lithodids from expanding upward and emerging on the outer shelf (400- to 550-m depth); however, near-surface temperatures remained too cold for them to survive in inner-shelf and coastal environments (less than 00 m). Ambient salinity, composition of the substrate, and the depth distribution of potential predators likewise indicated no barriers to expansion of lithodids onto the outer shelf. Primary food resources for lithodids—echinoderms and mollusks—were abundant on the upper slope (550–800 m) and outer shelf. As sea temperatures continue to rise, lithodids will likely play an increasingly important role in the trophic structure of subtidal communities closer to shore.

Say Hello to China's Second Aircraft Carrier


AeroVironment NOT Selected for DARPA's TERN Naval UAV

AeroVironment today announced it was informed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that the company was not selected to receive a phase III contract for DARPA’s Tern program. The announcement came after a competition for the phase III contract following successful phase I and II efforts.

Defense Officials Testify to Congress About CyberWarfare

The United States’ adversaries see cyber warfare as a potential American vulnerability in a military engagement, the Pentagon’s number two civilian told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said, “In terms of deterrence we are not where we need to be” as a nation or a department. In answer to a question, he said many DOD “systems were not built” to meet today’s threat. The same holds true for installations, Terry Halvorsen, acting DOD chief of information, testified.

Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of Cyber Command, added, “We are being challenged as never before.” In cyber, he identified Russia as a peer competitor with the United States and China and other nations, such as Iran and North Korea, actively developing a broad range of cyber capabilities.

He said his command “is trying to overcome decades of investment” decisions to build up resiliency and redundancy in DOD capabilities.

Rogers said in answer to a question that his greatest concerns were cyber being used to seriously damage or destroy critical infrastructure, shifting intrusions from stealing of information to manipulating data, and terrorist groups using the Internet as an offensive weapon.

At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, said, “What we could expect next is data manipulation, which then calls into question the integrity of the data [from financial transactions to the power grid, etc.], which in many ways is more insidious than the attacks we’ve suffered thus far.”

The Struggle to Define, Prevent Global Cyberwar

The cyberwar era arguably began two hours before midnight on April 26, 2007, when hordes of Internet traffic started quietly overwhelming servers in the small European nation of Estonia.

The barrage, prompted by the Estonian government’s decision to relocate a controversial monument to the country’s Russian liberators in World War II, went largely unnoticed for the first 24 hours. After a week, major government websites were offline. In the second week, the hackers, operating from an unknown location and controlling infected machines all over the world, brought down the websites of Estonia’s major newspapers. The papers’ IT experts eventually had to block all international traffic to stay online—saving themselves, but cutting off their best way of telling the world that they were under attack.

The hackers were using a technique called a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. They assembled botnets—networks of computers surreptitiously infected with their malware—to flood Estonian servers with data requests. This jumble of garbage traffic prevented packets of genuine data from getting through. DDoS attacks are a crude but highly effective tool, and they continue to be a major weapon in cyberattackers’ arsenals.

The attacks peaked at midnight, Russian time, on May 9, the anniversary of V-E Day. The symbolism was obvious and deliberate: Most of the attacks were the work of pro-Russian activists, who used software distributed on Russian-language forums and were furious about the relocation of a statue honoring their war heroes. When the nationwide political cyberattack reached a fever pitch, Estonian servers received a combined total of 4 million packets per second from almost 1 million computers worldwide.

“Never before had an entire country been targeted on almost every digital front all at once,” wrote Wired’s Joshua Davis in August 2007, “and never before had a government itself fought back.”

Video of the Russian Air Strikes in Syria: Looks Like They Missed Some Targets

Looks like they missed with some of the targets.  Either their PGMs are not so great or they were using unguided bombs.

Morrosaurus antarcticus: a new Ornithopod Dinosaur From Maastrichtian Cretaceous Antarctica

A new ornithopod (Dinosauria, Ornithischia) from the Upper Cretaceous of Antarctica and its palaeobiogeographical implications


Rozadilla et al


A new ornithopod dinosaur from the Upper Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) Snow Hill Island Formation, at James Ross Island, Antarctica is here described. This new taxon, named as Morrosaurus antarcticus gen. et sp. nov., is represented by a fragmentary right hind limb belonging to a medium-sized individual. Our phylogenetic analysis nests the new taxon in a monophyletic clade of Southern Hemisphere ornithopods that includes most Patagonian and Antarctic ornithopods. Several members of this group share a slender and bunched foot with narrow metatarsal IV, expanded chevrons, and bowed humerus without deltopectoral crest. Several features indicate that these ornithopods exhibit adaptations for a specialized cursorial mode of life. The recognition of Patagonian and Antarctic Ornithopoda belonging to a monophyletic clade reinforces palaeobiogeographical signals indicating that Patagonia, Antarctica and Australia shared a common Late Cretaceous terrestrial fauna.

Evidence of Organic Molecules From Another Star System From Carbonaceous Chondrite Asteroid

Multiple Cosmic Sources for Meteorite Macromolecules?


Sephton et al


The major organic component in carbonaceous meteorites is an organic macromolecular material. The Murchison macromolecular material comprises aromatic units connected by aliphatic and heteroatom-containing linkages or occluded within the wider structure. The macromolecular material source environment remains elusive. Traditionally, attempts to determine source have strived to identify a single environment. Here, we apply a highly efficient hydrogenolysis method to liberate units from the macromolecular material and use mass spectrometric techniques to determine their chemical structures and individual stable carbon isotope ratios. We confirm that the macromolecular material comprises a labile fraction with small aromatic units enriched in 13C and a refractory fraction made up of large aromatic units depleted in 13C. Our findings suggest that the macromolecular material may be derived from at least two separate environments. Compound-specific carbon isotope trends for aromatic compounds with carbon number may reflect mixing of the two sources. The story of the quantitatively dominant macromolecular material in meteorites appears to be made up of more than one chapter.

Russia Acknowledges Air Strikes in Syria, France States Strikes NOT Against Islamic State

France said it was "curious" that Russian air strikes in Syria on Wednesday had not targeted Islamic State militants and a diplomatic source added that Moscow's action appeared aimed at supporting President Bashar al-Assad against other opposition groups in the country's civil war.

The diplomatic source said it was in line with Russia's stance since 2012 that until there was a viable alternative to Assad, Moscow would not drop its support for him in the war that began in 2011 after a government crackdown on anti-Assad protests.

"Russian forces struck Syria and curiously didn't hit Islamic State," Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers.

A French diplomatic source said the strikes, which seemed to have been carried out near Homs, an area crucial to Assad's control of western Syria.

"It is not Daesh (Islamic State) that they are targeting, but probably opposition groups, which confirms that they are more in support of Bashar's regime than in fighting Daesh," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


Fossils of a 'Lost City' Hydrothermal Ecology From Cretaceous Spain

Fluid mixing and the deep biosphere of a fossil Lost City-type hydrothermal system at the Iberia Margin


Klein et al


Subseafloor mixing of reduced hydrothermal fluids with seawater is believed to provide the energy and substrates needed to support deep chemolithoautotrophic life in the hydrated oceanic mantle (i.e., serpentinite). However, geosphere-biosphere interactions in serpentinite-hosted subseafloor mixing zones remain poorly constrained. Here we examine fossil microbial communities and fluid mixing processes in the subseafloor of a Cretaceous Lost City-type hydrothermal system at the magma-poor passive Iberia Margin (Ocean Drilling Program Leg 149, Hole 897D). Brucite−calcite mineral assemblages precipitated from mixed fluids ca. 65 m below the Cretaceous paleo-seafloor at temperatures of 31.7 ± 4.3 °C within steep chemical gradients between weathered, carbonate-rich serpentinite breccia and serpentinite. Mixing of oxidized seawater and strongly reducing hydrothermal fluid at moderate temperatures created conditions capable of supporting microbial activity. Dense microbial colonies are fossilized in brucite−calcite veins that are strongly enriched in organic carbon (up to 0.5 wt.% of the total carbon) but depleted in 13C (δ13CTOC = −19.4‰). We detected a combination of bacterial diether lipid biomarkers, archaeol, and archaeal tetraethers analogous to those found in carbonate chimneys at the active Lost City hydrothermal field. The exposure of mantle rocks to seawater during the breakup of Pangaea fueled chemolithoautotrophic microbial communities at the Iberia Margin, possibly before the onset of seafloor spreading. Lost City-type serpentinization systems have been discovered at midocean ridges, in forearc settings of subduction zones, and at continental margins. It appears that, wherever they occur, they can support microbial life, even in deep subseafloor environments.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Long Range Strike Bomber Contract Award Likely Delayed at Least two Months

The Pentagon may take another two months or more to award a closely watched contract to build a new long-range bomber, a senior U.S. Air Force official said Tuesday.

Northrop Grumman Corp. is vying with a team of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. to build up to 100 new jets that would to be fielded from the mid-2020s to replace aging B-52s and B-1 bombers.

“It’s coming soon,” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, a senior Air Force acquisition official, said during a congressional hearing. “My hope is within the next couple of months.”

The Pentagon had initially planned to make the award in the spring, but has pushed back the timetable several times. Analysts had expected an announcement in the next few weeks.

Nuking Mars Will Not Meet Planetary-Protection Standards

SpaceX founder Elon Musk raised some (more) eyebrows with his suggestion that in order to colonize Mars with humans, it may be necessary to start by nuking the planet’s polar icecaps. Musk made the remarks to late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert, a comedian, but he wasn’t joking. Later he tweeted that nuking Mars was merely an “option” for releasing carbon dioxide and triggering greenhouse-gas global warming as a prelude to terraforming the red planet.

link (paywall).

Would you buy a Bama? Its a Genetically Engineered Micro Pig From China to be a *PET*

Over the years, chihuahuas have become chihuahuas and pugs have become pugs because people have bred those dogs to bring out certain traits and inhibit others. A genomics institute in China called BGI is doing the same thing with pigs -- but in a much faster way.

The Shenzhen-based company started with a small breed of pig called a Bama. It then used a gene-editing technique to make that already small pig even smaller. On September 23, the company announced at a summit in Shenzhen that it would start selling the micropigs for 10,000 yuan (about $1,570, £1,037, AU$2,245). Customers will be able to choose their very own pig color and coat patterns, which the company can create through further gene editing.

Hope long until we see them in purses like the little dogs?

Some Naval and Marine Aviation News, Including UCLASS, From DOD Authorization Act

Here's a short list:

1.  6 Additional F-35Bs for the US Marine Corps, bring their total for 2016 to 15.

2.  12 Additional F-18Es for the US Navy.

3.  An additional MQ-4C Triton.

4.  $350 million for UCLASS (navy asked for $135M).   Up to $305M may be used for competitive prototyping and at least some of it is supposed to be used for the X-49B testing to reduce the risk of UCLASS.  The committee also said:

“The conferees believe that the Navy should develop a penetrating, air-refuelable, unmanned carrier-launched aircraft capable of performing a broad range of missions in a non- permissive environment. The conferees believe that such an aircraft should be designed for full integration into carrier air wing operations—including strike operations—and possess the range, payload, and survivability attributes as necessary to complement such integration,” according to the statement.

“Although the Defense Department could develop land-based unmanned aircraft with attributes to support the air wing, the conferees believe that the United States would derive substantial strategic and operational benefits from operating such aircraft from a mobile seabase that is self-deployable and not subject to the caveats of a host nation.”

More Russians in Syria News

Additionally, at least six Su-34s are confirmed to have arrived in Syria.

India Seeking American, French Help in Building Nuclear Attack Subs

For the first time India has options when it comes to finding a partner to build a military nuclear asset. Besides Russia, ship builders from France and the US have started initial conversations with the defence ministry on participating in an Indian effort to build a new class of nuclear-powered attack submarines.

Russia has been the traditional ally of India when it comes to sensitive technology and strategic systems.

But a Navy plan for constructing six new nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) to patrol the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and beyond has prompted 'discussions' with the two western nations, sources familiar with the development told ET. The Cabinet Committee on Security had cleared Navy's proposal in February.

An Amazing Flyover of Charon

Flightless Diving Duck From Pleistocene Quaternary Japan

Flightless diving duck (Aves, Anatidae) from the Pleistocene of Shiriya, Northeast Japan


Watanabe et al


A flightless fossil duck (Aves, Anatidae), Shiriyanetta hasegawai, gen. et sp. nov., is described as a member of the Shiriya local fauna, a middle–late Pleistocene marine and terrestrial vertebrate fauna from fissure-fill deposits in the Shiriya area, northeast Japan. The species is represented by isolated bones, including skull fragments, vertebrae, pectoral and pelvic girdle elements, and most of the major limb elements. Osteological features of Shiriyanetta suggest that it had taxonomic affinity with tribe Mergini (seaducks) of subfamily Anatinae, and specifically with Recent Polysticta and Somateria (eiders). Although the overall large size, several unique skeletal features, and the proportions of the limb bones of Shiriyanetta strongly resemble North American seaducks of the genus Chendytes Miller, 1925, extinct relatives of Somateria, most elements of the two genera are diagnostically different from one another. Comparisons of these taxa and other flightless anatids with their relatives show that some of the apparently shared osteological features of Shiriyanetta and Chendytes are probably associated with flightlessness rather than reflecting a close relationship between the two genera. Given that Recent Somateria has an impaired flight ability, or the occurrence of a temporary flightless condition, it is quite possible that Shiriyanetta and Chendytes might have lost their flight ability independently, resulting in the contemporaneous occurrence of flightless ducks on both sides of the Pleistocene North Pacific.

Found! Squirrel Nutkin's Tail

The PaleoBioDiversity of the Ecosystem of Romania's Hateg Island From the Campanian to the Terminal Maastrichtian Cretaceous

The East Side Story – The Transylvanian latest Cretaceous continental vertebrate record and its implications for understanding Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary events


Csiki-Sava et al


The latest Cretaceous continental vertebrate faunas of the wider Transylvanian area figured prominently in discussions concerning the Cretaceous–Paleogene Boundary (K-Pg) events when they were first described by Nopcsa between 1897 and 1929, because they were assumed to be late Maastrichtian in age. Subsequently their age was reconsidered as early Maastrichtian, and were thus regarded of lesser importance in understanding the K-Pg boundary events in Europe and worldwide. Moreover, Transylvanian continental vertebrate assemblages (the so-called ‘Haţeg Island’ faunas) were often lumped together as a temporally restricted assemblage with a homogenous taxonomic composition. Recent fossil discoveries and more precise dating techniques have considerably expanded knowledge of the Transylvanian vertebrate assemblages, their ages, and their evolution. A synthesis of the available stratigraphic data allows development of the first comprehensive chronostratigraphic framework of the latest Cretaceous Transylvanian vertebrates. According to these new data, expansion of continental habitats and emergence of their vertebrate faunas started locally during the latter part of the late Campanian, and these faunas continued up to the second half of the Maastrichtian. During this time, long-term faunal stasis appears to have characterized the Transylvanian vertebrate assemblages, which is different from the striking turnovers recorded in western Europe during the same time interval. This suggests that there was no single ‘Europe-wide’ pattern of latest Cretaceous continental vertebrate evolution. Together, the available data shows that dinosaurs and other vertebrates were relatively abundant and diverse until at least ca. 1 million years before the K-Pg boundary, and is therefore consistent with the hypothesis of a sudden extinction, although this must be tested with future discoveries and better age constraints and correlations.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Stealth Saga #7: Slips, Blunders and Anticipation

The PAK-FA/T-50 will be tested in wargames next year.

The PAK-FA has been officially delayed at least until 2017: supposedly, it will be a total of 12 fighters.  If it does, development slips are quite common.

The PAK-FA will be equipped with a new Mach 3.5 anti radiation missile from the get-go.  This will help it in an anti AWACS and SEAD role as it will be possible to carry it internally.

More information on the public 'leak' of the Chinese FC-31/J-31 stealth fighter.

How China is catching up to the US with its stealth technology.

South Korea's KF-X stealth fighter project is endangered because they have failed to secure four critical technologies.  There was a hint the project would be delayed whether or not they got the tech transfers though.

The KF-X program gets blasted by the press many times.

Turkey's selection of the engine for its F-X stealth fighter project is critical.

Boeing in the 1960s looked into stealth technology with its semi successful model 'Quiet Bird.'

The Long Range Strike Bomber contract is still a toss up.

Lessons from the LRS-B program are going to be applied to the Long Range Strike Weapon and T-X.

The US Air Force is considering an F-22 base in Europe.

General Carlisle considers ending F-22 production at 195 a complete mistake, wants to restart production, but realizes it is unlikely given the budget realities.  Foxtrot Alpha reiterates the fact shutting down F-22 production was a mistake.

Canada may not be able to afford the F-35 due to the falling Canadian dollar.  The Liberal Party in Canada has stated it will not buy the F-35 if it wins the election.

The first F-35 for Norway has been rolled out

General Bogdan is more than confident the F-35 will be more than a match for any aircraft currently under development, inclusive of the J-20, PAK-FA and J-31.

The F-35C shipboard testing will include a  full internal weapons load and the new helmet.

Extraordinary Claim: How to Detect Dark Matter...From the Earth's Core

Dark Photons from the Center of the Earth: Smoking-Gun Signals of Dark Matter


Feng et al


Dark matter may be charged under dark electromagnetism with a dark photon that kinetically mixes with the Standard Model photon. In this framework, dark matter will collect at the center of the Earth and annihilate into dark photons, which may reach the surface of the Earth and decay into observable particles. We determine the resulting signal rates, including Sommerfeld enhancements, which play an important role in bringing the Earth's dark matter population to their maximal, equilibrium value. For dark matter masses mX∼ 100 GeV - 10 TeV, dark photon masses mA′∼ MeV - GeV, and kinetic mixing parameters ε∼10−9−10−7, the resulting electrons, muons, photons, and hadrons that point back to the center of the Earth are a smoking-gun signal of dark matter that may be detected by a variety of experiments, including neutrino telescopes, such as IceCube, and space-based cosmic ray detectors, such as Fermi-LAT and AMS. We determine the signal rates and characteristics, and show that large and striking signals---such as parallel muon tracks---are possible in regions of the (mA′,ε) plane that are not probed by direct detection, accelerator experiments, or astrophysical observations.

Mining Helium-3 on the Moon is Nonsensical

In recent years the subject of sending humans back to the Moon has largely gone mute, initially overwhelmed by talk of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, and more recently by the agency’s media drumbeat about sending humans to Mars. Because of this, there is also subsequently very little talk about a weird bit of magical thinking that often accompanies discussions of humans on the Moon: mining the Moon for helium-3 to power nonexistent fusion reactors. But that magical thinking still lurks, like a small burning ember in a burned-down house, waiting for a chance to flare up again. Last month at the Mars Society convention in Washington, DC, the subject of helium-3 briefly sparked once more, brought up by one of its longtime proponents, Apollo astronaut Harrison Schmitt.

Schmitt is probably the smartest astronaut who walked on the Moon, and certainly the most educated. He is a Harvard-trained geologist who NASA admitted to the Apollo program under pressure from Congress, and his presence undoubtedly increased the scientific return of his Apollo 17 mission as well as the entire program considering his role in training astronauts on earlier missions. Schmitt can still deliver graduate-level geology lectures if given the opportunity. But he also embraces the dubious scientific and engineering idea of mining helium-3 on the Moon for use in fusion reactors.

The last big flurry of articles and publications, and even a congressional hearing, about helium-3 fusion occurred in 2007, when NASA was still planning to send humans to the Moon. NASA did not drive that discussion then, but rather Schmitt and a few others. But even eight years later helium-3 still pollutes the environment of discussions about human spaceflight, despite its very nebulous assumptions.

Russia Installing Advanced AntiAircraft Defenses in Syria to Protect Against...the Islamic State! yeah! That's it!

In keeping with its increasingly aggressive behavior over the past two years, Russia is deploying lethal and long-ranged anti-aircraft defenses to keep Western forces out of three key regions: the Baltics, the Black Sea, and, now, the Levant. From where NATO’s top commander Gen. Philip Breedlove sits, the Russian forces flowing into Syria don’t look like counter-terrorists out to stop the Islamic State, which Vladimir Putin has said is his highest priority. They look like the first pieces of a layered “anti-access/area denial” system that could complicate US and allied operations in Syria and well beyond.

“Anti-access/area denial, or A2/AD, is a growing problem,” Gen. Breedlove told the German Marshall Fund this afternoon, speaking just hours before Putin’s teeth-clenched meeting with President Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The northernmost danger zone or “bubble” is the oldest, based out of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad between Poland and Lithuania. “Kaliningrad is a large platform for A2/AD capability,” Breedlove said. His subordinates Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc and Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges have warned taht Kaliningrad-based missiles reach well into Polish airspace and could shut down NATO reinforcements to the Baltics in a crisis.

To the south, by contrast, Russia lacked a suitable forward base — until last year. “[Since] their occupation of Crimea, Russia has developed a very strong A2/AD capability in the Black Sea,” Breedlove said. “Essentially, their [anti-ship] cruise missiles range the entire Black Sea, and their air defense missiles range about 40 to 50 percent of the Black Sea.”

Now, it seems, comes Syria. “As we see these very capable air defense [systems] beginning to show up in Syria, we’re a little worried about another A2/AD bubble being created in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Breedlove said. “We see some very sophisticated air defenses going into these airfields. We see some very sophisticated air-to-air [fighter] aircraft going into these airfields.”

The Islamic State has no air force that Russia might use such sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons to counter, Breedlove continued. “These very sophisticated air defense capabilities are not about ISIL,” he argued, despite Putin’s publicly stated priorities.

Russian Army Vision of Robotic Ground Combat Channels Steve Jackson and Keith Laumer

In a far-off future war, an infantry platoon awaits a Russian assault.

The defending soldiers are in a fortified position on elevated ground or a reverse slope. They’ve arranged machine guns and anti-tank weapons to kill anything that comes into view. They’ve dug into the ground to help them survive the initial artillery barrage. To bolster their defenses even more, they’ve covered the area in front of them with mines.

If the Russian assault force was human, then it’d probably be too dangerous to go ahead with the attack. But it’s not. Over the horizon comes a mix of mostly-robotic vehicles — and the NATO troops don’t have much of a chance.

Bell Helicopter V-280 Tiltrotor Demonstrator Fuselage Delivered

Spirit AeroSystems rolled out the first fuselage for the Bell Helicopter V-280 tiltrotor demonstrator on 22 September, revealing much about how the team hopes to make tiltrotor technology affordable for widespread military application.

The V-280 features several design innovations as a generational improvement on the tiltrotor technology used with the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, including a potential breakthrough with a straight wing that replaces the dihedral and swept swing on the V-22.

But Bell chief executive John Garrison tells Flightglobal in an interview that the most critical breakthrough on the V-280 is also manufacturing process intended to dramatically lower the price point and operating cost of tiltrotor technology.

These are the Amphibious Combat Vehicle 1.1 Procurement Entrants

British Aerospace:

General Dynamics:





Maritime Patrol UAVs: Reapers With Freakin Sono Bouys in Their Payloads!

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has introduced a new sonobuoy capability for its MQ-9 Guardian maritime unmanned air vehicle which, alongside a number of other developing technologies, could make it a contender to help fill the UK’s maritime patrol gap.

A concept was presented at the Royal Navy’s maritime awareness conference at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall on 24 September, which showed a number of sonobuoys being released from a bay on the UAV.

While a requirement for a maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) acquisition has yet to be released from the UK government, the developments that General Atomics is incorporating into the MQ-9 suggests that it will look to offer a modified Guardian to complement a manned MPA that is expected to be procured.

The new sonobuoy capability has been developed alongside Ultra Electronics over two years, Jonny King, director for General Atomics’ UK division, says.

“What we’re really looking at is a Predator B carrying sonobuoys, controlling them, and sending sonobuoy information back to the ground station over a SATCOM link,” King says.

What Color Were Those Eocene Bats in the Fossils?

What colour were the animals that roamed the Earth 50 million years ago? For the first time, the original colour of a fossil mammal has been described by scientists from the University of Bristol, UK and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, US.

The researchers combined morphological, experimental and chemical techniques to determine the colour of two species of bat, which lived in the Eocene Epoch, 56-33.9 million years ago.

By studying microscopic spherical and oblong-shaped structures in the fossils, they found that the bats were reddish-brown in colour. For years, scientists have been divided on whether these structures are melanosomes -organelles (subunits within in cell) that contain melanin and have distinct shapes in modern animals, which can be used to infer colour - or fossilised bacteria, which had eaten away at an animal before it was buried.

In this new study, Bristol-based Dr Jakob Vinther and Masters student Caitlin Colleary, now a PhD student at Virginia Tech, along with researchers from UT Austin and a number of other universities, show that the organic microbodies in the skin, hair, feathers and eyes of exceptionally preserved fossils (ranging in age from the Carboniferous to the Miocene, 300-20 million years ago) contain the remnants of melanin.

In order to identify the origin of these curious structures, the researchers replicated the conditions under which the fossils formed using high pressure, high temperature autoclave experiments. They showed that the fossils contain fossilised melanin by using Time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectroscopy (TOF-SIMS), which had changed in chemical composition over time.

Dr Vinther, who first described fossil melanosomes and reconstructed the colours of a feathered dinosaur, said: "This is a great leap forward in our understanding of how fossils are preserved. We now know how melanin is preserved and we have the methods to confidently detect it."

Melanin comes in two distinct colours: reddish brown phaeomelanin and black eumelanin.

Evolutionary Genomics and Conservation of the Endangered Przewalski’s Horse

Evolutionary Genomics and Conservation of the Endangered Przewalski’s Horse


Der Sarkissian et al


Przewalski’s horses (PHs, Equus ferus ssp. przewalskii) were discovered in the Asian steppes in the 1870s and represent the last remaining true wild horses. PHs became extinct in the wild in the 1960s but survived in captivity, thanks to major conservation efforts. The current population is still endangered, with just 2,109 individuals, one-quarter of which are in Chinese and Mongolian reintroduction reserves [ 1 ]. These horses descend from a founding population of 12 wild-caught PHs and possibly up to four domesticated individuals [ 2–4 ]. With a stocky build, an erect mane, and stripped and short legs, they are phenotypically and behaviorally distinct from domesticated horses (DHs, Equus caballus). Here, we sequenced the complete genomes of 11 PHs, representing all founding lineages, and five historical specimens dated to 1878–1929 CE, including the Holotype. These were compared to the hitherto-most-extensive genome dataset characterized for horses, comprising 21 new genomes. We found that loci showing the most genetic differentiation with DHs were enriched in genes involved in metabolism, cardiac disorders, muscle contraction, reproduction, behavior, and signaling pathways. We also show that DH and PH populations split ∼45,000 years ago and have remained connected by gene-flow thereafter. Finally, we monitor the genomic impact of ∼110 years of captivity, revealing reduced heterozygosity, increased inbreeding, and variable introgression of domestic alleles, ranging from non-detectable to as much as 31.1%. This, together with the identification of ancestry informative markers and corrections to the International Studbook, establishes a framework for evaluating the persistence of genetic variation in future reintroduced populations.

Iran's Buildup in Syria

The news media has focused on Russia increasing its military power in Syria. Iran, however, has been doing the same in recent months, albeit with more subtlety.

During the past year, officers and soldiers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps reinforced territory valuable to the Syrian government — in particular Hama Governorate. The countryside surrounding Hama contains supply chains that connect Aleppo, the country’s largest city; Homs, a former rebel stronghold and current government one; and Latakia, the heartland of the Syrian’s government’s base of support.

The Syrian opposition has ousted Syrian troops from Idlib Governorate, just north of Hama, and hopes to advance on these supply chains. Tehran knows very well that to keep its Syrian Pres. Bashar Al Assad in power, it must keep his army fighting in Hama.


Russian Granit 3 UAV Over Rebel Positions in Syria

Mars Wept: Evidence of Periodic, Flowing Salty Water on Martian Slopes Found

Spectral evidence for hydrated salts in recurring slope lineae on Mars


Ojha et al


Determining whether liquid water exists on the Martian surface is central to understanding the hydrologic cycle and potential for extant life on Mars. Recurring slope lineae, narrow streaks of low reflectance compared to the surrounding terrain, appear and grow incrementally in the downslope direction during warm seasons when temperatures reach about 250–300 K, a pattern consistent with the transient flow of a volatile species1, 2, 3. Brine flows (or seeps) have been proposed to explain the formation of recurring slope lineae1, 2, 3, yet no direct evidence for either liquid water or hydrated salts has been found4. Here we analyse spectral data from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars instrument onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter from four different locations where recurring slope lineae are present. We find evidence for hydrated salts at all four locations in the seasons when recurring slope lineae are most extensive, which suggests that the source of hydration is recurring slope lineae activity. The hydrated salts most consistent with the spectral absorption features we detect are magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate. Our findings strongly support the hypothesis that recurring slope lineae form as a result of contemporary water activity on Mars.

Knowledge yet to be Touched

First Evidence of a Wild Fire From Campanian Cretaceous North Africa

The first evidence of paleo-wildfire from the Campanian (Late Cretaceous) of North Africa


El Atfy et al


Although the fossil record of plant macro- and mesofossils, including fossil charcoal, is patchy geographically and temporally, such remains play an important role for the interpretation of paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic developments in the continental realm. In Egypt, previous palynological studies on the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) deposits suggested presence of lush subtropical forests, dominated by angiosperms and pteridophytes, which developed under warm and wet climatic conditions. In the present study, the occurrence of paleo-wildfires during the Late Cretaceous (Campanian) is presented for the first time, based on samples from a surface exposure in the vicinity of the Baris Oasis, south Western Desert, Egypt. Macroscopic charcoal was collected and subsequently analyzed under a stereomicroscope and scanning electron microscope (SEM). The charred wood remains were identified as belonging to gymnosperms, which were important components of the North African paleoflora during the Cretaceous. These charcoal remains represent the first verified occurrence of paleo-wildfires in Africa during the Campanian.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Robopocalypse #24: Shivers, Shuttles and Sneaks


A drone filmed a very large shiver (aka school) of sharks (see video above).

The FAA is under pressure to increase enforcement of regulation of consumer drones.  The most recent mishap is of a drone crashing and injuring a 11 month old toddler.

The FAA is looking at requiring collision avoidance systems and other restrictions for large drones.

The NFL has gotten permission to fly drones for game coverage.  I am waiting for the ball to take out a drone at some point.

A university professor is boosting drones for agricultural use.

Another entrepreneur is getting drones to work for agriculture rather than researching it.

Is that a drone in your pocket?

The Flybi drone has VR goggles that allow you to see what the drone's camera does and points the camera where your head turns.  It also has automatic battery changing.

One drone maker thinks drones are part of the internet of things.

And prisons are using drones to counter smuggling.

Drones are playing a critical role looking for the missing in Central Texas flooding.

Self Driving Cars:

The WePod (above) self driving shuttle is going to be tested in the Netherlands in November, but under hefty restrictions.

A former GM and BMW exec is warning Apple that its car efforts are going to be a big money pit.

DriveAI is attempting to develop an equivalent kit of sensors and computers needed for self driving cars at 1/50th the cost of what Google currently pays.

Tesla, Google and Apple are racing to the first salable self driving car.

A Forbes article counters the auto industry stating Apple can succeed in developing its own self driving car.

Self driving buses are likely to follow the cars and trucks onto the road.  Given how little the tech bus drivers are paid, self driving buses are a good idea.

3d Printing:

Here's more on the monster 3d printer for 'houses.'

Architectural detailing may make a come back with 3d printing.

They are now able to 3d print smart memory materials, allowing them to change shape after being printed.

The US Navy and Royal Navy are greatly expanding their 3d printing experiments.

The 3d printer market might be going through some significant turnover.

Samsung got a patent for multicolored inks in 3d printers.  Erm.  Prior art?

Autodesk has bought 3d printing software company netfabb.

Caterpillar has been in 3d printing for a while now.

The first bio-ink 3d printing cartridges have been created with a living cells.

There is now a a way to print 'fabric' with thermoplastic polyurethane.

Porcelain is a material now added to the list of things that can be 3d printed.

Why MakerBot is placing 3d printers in schools.


Every playground needs robots, right?

Buyers of the Pepper 'emotional' robot have to sign a good behavior release.

Don't want to wait for an item because you can't make it?  Send a telepresence bot!

Timing can be better!  The day after a Target store in Brooklyn announces it will be unionizing, Target announces its interest in robotic and information solutions to improve costs, etc.  It invested in a startup accelerator for that purpose.

Rethink Robotics' Sawyer goes on sale and Rethink gets profiled.

Thiel Backed Auris Surgical Robotics raised $150 Million.

Surgical bots are already helping out.

China is embracing robots in its factories.  What will they do with the workers?

The Russians have unveiled a creepy cockroach looking spy robot.

Savioke's attempts to bring robot delivery into the hotel are looked at again.

5 robots that could possibly revolutionize industry.

Bad professor white board writing might get a hand from the robopocalypse!


Sometimes the Robopocalypse can be fun.
The Cerberus equipment adds video feeds and more from dogs.

Using self driving cars as an example, here's a call for medical devices to develop in a similar way to save lives.

A paralyzed man has been granted the ability to walk by allowing his brain to communicate directly with the limbs through implants.

Machine Learning:

Machine learning algorithms may be able to better predict whether or not various breast cancer treatments will work.

How can machines forget something?

Machine learning is being unleashed to track down the sources of Ebola.

Watson is being used to study the public's vacation photos. 

Watson may also be used for teaching robots social skills.  What could possibly go wrong, Mr Connor?

Body language is the next great frontier for Watson et al.

Software bots:

Software bots are already changing outsourcing is conducted.

Virtual assistants are the prototypes for tomorrow's bots.


MarketWatch contrasts the regulatory environment between drones and self driving cars.


Should we worry about the machine uprising?  Or will the bots not only take our jobs but our very LIVES?!

Our expectations of bots have been overinflated in a big, big way.