Friday, September 19, 2014

Ukraine: It Ain't Over - Ribbit - Til the Fat Babushka Sings

I have not posted about Ukraine in a bit.  There have been multiple reasons for this, but the public one is that things are complicated.  :)

The ceasefire stopped the major clash between the Ukrainians and the Russians.  However, the fighting as a whole has not stopped.  Its still ongoing in various places, but in lower levels.  One is outside of Donetsk, near Gorlovka and the Donetsk airport.  Another is at Debaltseve.  And largest of all is near Mariupol where artillery duels are taking place.  The Ukrainians report they have lost control of Krynychna, Krasnaya Polyana, Lutuhyno, Slavyanoserbsk, Schastye and Pervomaisk.

There are actors on both sides of the conflict who  do not want the ceasefire.  Based on what I've heard and read, they are going to try to trigger a collapse in the next two to four weeks.

Truthfully, right now, it is in Ukraine's best interest to keep the ceasefire.  It needs time to recover from the Russian army attack.  Its units need to be upgraded with equipment.  They had, barely, what they needed to fight the rebels.  They were woefully under-equipped to fight the Russians.  The volunteer battlions, frex, being upgraded from light infantry battalions to regiments with at least some armour.  Tanks and APCs are being built (or repaired or even potentially checked out after delivery from other sources) and delivered to the regular army as well.

Interestingly, the Poles, Lithuanians and Ukrainians have made a joint army brigade.  I have to wonder what its mandate is and chain of command.  I also wonder how many more might be 'cloned.'  The very least this makes for an interesting source of constant training for Ukrainian troops to NATO standards on the sly.  Even more so if the brigade will be formally based in Ukrainian territory.  Can the Ukrainian president request it go fight in, say, the Donbass?  Or to protect Kiev?  or...?  

In other news, Poroshenko signed a law stating the Donbass is an autonomous region.  Novorussiya will run and take care of itself for the next three years, including appointing their own police.  There is a lot of controversy over the law.  There are also a lot of rumors swirling around it.  The most frightening of which is Putin has threatened to open the land corridor between Crimea and the Donbass by force if the laws were not passed and enforced.  The second most frightening is Putin bribed everyone.  However, given the Russian soldiers have been moved to the 'border' between Crimea and the Ukrainian mainland and then reinforced across the Kerch straight, I give more credence to the former rather than the latter.

In frustration, Ukrainains have started doing the Trash Bucket Challenge: mobs hunt down a member of the Rada from the East or they think is corrupt and throw him into a trash dumpster.  This has happened twice so far and probably will happen again.  Or worse.

The formal reason for the move of the Russian troops was the start of the NATO-Ukrainian exercises - Rapid Trident - which around a brigade's worth of NATO troops are training with the Ukrainians.  That's a nontrivial number of very well equipped Western Troops.  They are a real threat...if they were to be used.  The difference in quality between even the Russian troops and NATO is significant.  Keep in mind the Russians lost hundreds, if not up to a thousand routing the Ukrainians and the Ukrainians were not well equipped or up to even the Russian army standards.  Even so.  The Russian troops might get slaughtered, but there are significantly more of them and the NATO countries are not looking for any sort of fight.  At least officially.

Poroshenko went to Canada and Washington, DC looking for support.  He got some, but not much.  Ironically, he might be getting more support from Congress than from Obama.  A bitpartisan bill was introduced to the Senate declaring Ukraine a major, nonNATO ally, to fund weapons up to and including antitank missiles for the Ukrainian army to the tune of $350 million and for American troops to train the Ukrainian army.  There are some powerful folks in support of it.  We'll see if it makes any headway given Obama is probably opposed.  Obama has pledged $50 worth of vehicles and nonarmaments.  

The Russians are not being shy about equipping Novorussiya though!  There are multiple fighter and other aircraft now baring the Novorussiya logos in their tails!  They have begun flying.  This is inspite of the fact there is supposed to be a ban on all aircraft over the region by all sides.

The Ukrainians passed the Association Treaty with Europe.  However, Europe and Ukraine agreed to a 15 month postponement in implementation to 'allay Russian fears.'  The Russians have since lodged a protest stating Russian requires the treaty be changed.  No small part of it is because the treaty has requirements on Ukraine bring into line the items being imported match EU standards.  Russia sells a lot of 'goods' which do not meet those requirements to the Ukrainians.  This will hurt the Russian economy.  The Russians are getting threatening over it.  May 2015 and on though, Ukrainians get visa free travel into Europe. 

The Russian economy was already in a recession or at least a stagnation when the war in Ukraine started.  In part due to the sanctions and the counter sanctions the Russians have imposed, Russia is definitely in recession and possibly headed into a depression.  Ironically, one of the biggest clubs the Russians have over Europe is the gas and oil it produces: no more.  Or at least not in the future.  Western companies are barred from helping, working with, doing business with or financing the Russian energy companies.  They need American and European knowledge and money to do deep sea drilling or fracking or financing.  This is a medium term impact, but Russia will see its gas and oil output begin to stagnate, drop and eventually halt unless either they can find alternate methods or money.  Russia has stated it will support those companies hit by sanctions, but there are limits there as for how much and how long.  There has been talk of the sanctions being good for Russia in the long run because it will force Russia to be self sufficient: even Medvedev has come out and said that is nonsense.

NATO has come out to state they see the same playbook as in Georgia and Ukraine starting to play out in Moldova.  I hope its hyperbole, but somehow doubt it.

Russia has decided its a prick in general and violated Swedish and Ukrainian airspace. British and American fighters intercepted Russian bombers and fighters as well. 

Oh, and Russia claimed the Scotland Decides Referendum was rigged.  just for S&Gs. 

Again, there is no good outcome for this tale.  This is a Ukrainian story, not an American one.  Its going to go bad again soon.  The best possible hope is for a Croatian Comeback.  However, to do so requires a delay, probably until spring, or even longer.  Perhaps as long as the three years of autonomy in the law passed by the Rada and signed by Poroshenko.

Intel has Developed RealSense: a 3d Scanner Built Into a Tablet

Intel has been working on a 3D scanner small enough to fit in the bezel of even the thinnest tablets. The company aims to have the technology in tablets from 2015, with CEO Brian Krzanich telling the crowd at MakerCon in New York on Thursday that he hopes to put the technology in phones as well.

"Our goal is to just have a tablet that you can go out and buy that has this capability," Krzanich said. "Eventually within two or three years I want to be able to put it on a phone."

Krzanich and a few of his colleagues demonstrated the technology, which goes by the name "RealSense," on stage using a human model and an assistant who simply circled the model a few times while pointing a tablet at the subject. A full 3D rendering of the model slowly appeared on the screen behind the stage in just a few minutes. The resulting 3D models can be manipulated with software or sent to a 3D printer.

"The idea is you go out, you see something you like and you just capture it," Krzanich explained. He said consumer tablets with built in 3D scanners will hit the market in the third or fourth quarter of 2015, with Intel also working on putting the 3D scanning cameras on drones.


heh.  Betcha this or a version after gets banned from art galleries.  

Popular online: Chinese Killing Bitcoin's Price (really, guys? really?)

AntiChinese Theory #1: Alibaba IPO Sucked Them Away!

The price of bitcoin has plummeted in the past few days, and some are blaming the Alibaba IPO for the virtual currency's fall.

Touching as low as $381.17 earlier Friday, bitcoin is trading at a far cry from its position around $513 less than a month ago or nearly $650 in July. And while the cryptocurrency has been languishing for several weeks, it's seen an increasing slide from Monday's open around $470.

AntiChinese Theory #2: Too Many Chinese Miners!
Bitcoin is getting hammered, marking the culmination of a rather gloomy summer in the market for the digital currency. After a 7.35% fall on Thursday, it is now down another 6% since that overnight close and has traded Friday at its lowest level since April, according to Coindesk’s Bitcoin Price Index.

The clearest explanation for this latest collapse is more technical than fundamental: essentially, there’s been an absence of big new buyers over the past three months, which has given sellers an excessive impact on the price. It is now down more than 30% since June 19 and while the decline has been more gradual, it is now running into automated triggers that are exacerbating the slide. Other fundamental explanations are offered up as well, the most interesting theory being that Chinese bitcoin miners are dumping the digital currency for dollars.

Return of the Cobbler: 3D Printing Revolution Begun for Shoes

What makes 3D printed shoes so enticing for consumers is that the shoes are tailored for each person’s unique feet. Few people have feet that are identical. In other words, your left foot might be slightly wider or smaller than your right foot. Because of this, finding shoes that fit both feet perfectly is rare. Additionally, because the current shoe sizing system is limited to half-integer measurements (6, 6.5, 7, 7.5, etc.), it’s only taking into account how long someone’s feet are. Finding shoes for wide or thick feet is difficult. 3D Printing solves all this.

With 3D Printing of shoes, rather than try on box after box of pre-made shoes in standard sizes, customers get photographs taken of their feet from various angles. This allows the computer to create an accurate 3D model of the person’s feet. This information is then combined with details about the customer’s height, weight, and activities they engage in. After inputting all the data, customers receive a personalized pair of shoes tailored exactly for them.

In some cases, such as with Feetz, the shoes are printed and then shipped to the customer. In other cases, like with United Nude, the shoes are printed in the store, right before the customers’ eyes.

Long-Range Stand-Off Cruise Missile is as Important for Nuclear Deterence as new Bombers, Boomers

In the dog-eat-dog, admiral-eat-general world of budget warfare in the age of sequestration, it’s easy to pit programs against each other. The Navy’s new nuclear missile submarine and the Air Force’s Long-Range Strike Bomber, for example, are both huge strategic-weapons programs with enormous bills coming due in the next decade and much debate over who should pay. Strategic Command chief Adm. Cecil Haney emphasized here this afternoon that he needs both of them — and more.

“Strategic deterrence is more than the triad platforms,” the bombers, submarines, and ICBMs, Haney said. Other aspects — from EMP-proof communications to early warning satellites are equally important — and potentially as expensive. In particular, Haney said today, “moving forward with the replacement for the Air-Launched Cruise Missile [ALCM] is just as important as having a future bomber.”

Built in the 1980s but upgraded since, the nuclear-tipped ALCM gives Air Force bombers the ability to reach out and touch a target from hundreds of miles away, instead of having to fight or sneak through enemy air defenses to drop bombs. A single B-52H can carry 20 ALCMs, arguably the sole reason that the subsonic, non-stealth bomber remains relevant to nuclear warfare half a century after it entered service. Indeed, as stealth-defeating radars and long-range anti-aircraft missiles improve further — as part of the Pentagon’s efforts to defeat what it calls “Anti-Access/Area Denial” (AD/2AD) — even the stealthy B-2 and the future Long-Range Strike Bomber may well need cruise missiles to strike the hardest targets.

“As we look at the world and as it gets more and more complicated,” with the proliferation of A2/AD, Haney said, “it’s very important to be able to have standoff capability.”

But the ALCM is getting old. Its successor would be something called the Long-Range Stand-Off (LRSO) weapon, but work on the LRSO has slowed. Though the Air Force is invested in extending the ALCM’s lifespan, but a replacement would need to be ready ca. 2030.

US Navy's UCLASS Delayed due to Budget, Direction Clashes

The US Department of Defense (DoD) is carefully considering how much funding it will allocate to the US Navy's (USN's) Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) system before it publicly opens a competition for the new programme, the department's acquisition chief said in early September.

Asked why the department has delayed release of a UCLASS Request for Proposal (RfP), Frank Kendall, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said cost concerns are responsible for the planning slowdown.

"It's driven by the uncertainty about our future budget and about affordability concerns," Kendall said at a defence conference in Washington. "We're looking at all the things the [navy] may not have made provisions for. Affordability is a major concern for us right now, and any new start is going to be done very carefully, the UCLASS is a new start."

Kendall added that officials: "want to be reasonably confident that we are going to be able to actually do that programme, and afford it" before soliciting bids from industry.

NAVAIR did release a series of RfPs directly to the four competitors for the programme: Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. The details of those documents are not publicly known.

The USN has reportedly been studying two UCLASS plans - a lightly armed surveillance aircraft and a larger, stealthy and well-armed vehicle capable of navigating through contested environments.

Ichthyosaur Falls Filled a Similar Role as Whale Falls Today

Ecological succession of a Jurassic shallow-water ichthyosaur fall


Danise et al


After the discovery of whale fall communities in modern oceans, it has been hypothesized that during the Mesozoic the carcasses of marine reptiles created similar habitats supporting long-lived and specialized animal communities. Here, we report a fully documented ichthyosaur fall community, from a Late Jurassic shelf setting, and reconstruct the ecological succession of its micro- and macrofauna. The early ‘mobile-scavenger’ and ‘enrichment-opportunist’ stages were not succeeded by a ‘sulphophilic stage’ characterized by chemosynthetic molluscs, but instead the bones were colonized by microbial mats that attracted echinoids and other mat-grazing invertebrates. Abundant cemented suspension feeders indicate a well-developed ‘reef stage’ with prolonged exposure and colonization of the bones prior to final burial, unlike in modern whale falls where organisms such as the ubiquitous bone-eating worm Osedax rapidly destroy the skeleton. Shallow-water ichthyosaur falls thus fulfilled similar ecological roles to shallow whale falls, and did not support specialized chemosynthetic communities.

Seasonal Changes in the North Polar Martian Ice Cap

Interannual and seasonal changes in the north polar ice deposits of Mars: Observations from MY 29-31 using MARCI


Calvin et al


The MARCI camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter provides daily synoptic coverage that allows monitoring of seasonal cap retreat and interannual changes that occur between Mars Year (MY) and over the northern summer. The northern seasonal cap evolution was observed in MY 29, 30 and 31 (12/2007 to 04/2012). Observation over multiple Mars years allows us to compare changes between years as well as longer-term evolution of the high albedo deposits at the poles. Significant variability in the early season is noted in all years and the retreating seasonal cap edge is extremely dynamic. Detailed coverage of the entire seasonal and residual ice caps allows a broader view of variations in the high albedo coverage and identifies numerous regions where high albedo areas are changing with time. Large areas of disappearance and reappearance of high albedo features (Gemini Scopuli) are seasonally cyclical, while smaller areas are variable on multi-year time scales (Abalso Mensae and Olympia Planitia). These seasonal and interannual changes directly bear on the surface-atmosphere exchange of dust and volatiles and understanding the current net processes of deposition and erosion of the residual ice deposits. Local and regional variation in high albedo areas reflects an interplay between frost deposition, evolution, and sublimation along with deposition and removal of dust.

Identifying the Source Quarry of the Clovis Points From the Gault Site

LA-ICP-MS analysis of Clovis period projectile points from the Gault Site




A key tenet of Clovis period hunter–gatherer mobility is the utilization of large ranges based on the appearance of exotic raw materials, particularly chert, in Clovis assemblages. The identification of the sources of chert in Clovis period assemblages is problematic as it has relied on macroscopic properties.

Macroscopic characteristics of chert can be highly variable in a single outcrop, occur across very large areas, and have correlates in unrelated and far removed contexts. An instrumental geochemical approach was utilized that potentially offers advances in the capacity to link chert artifacts to their sources. Trace element data was recovered from 33 Clovis period projectile points from the Gault Site (41BL323) using Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). This data was compared to trace element data recovered from 224 primary geologic samples of chert from multiple primary sources across the Edwards Plateau in Texas. The Clovis points were compared to the geologic sources using canonical discriminant analysis to establish group membership at three spatial scales: macro-regional (greater than 500 km), regional (between 30 and 500 km), and local (between 1 and 30 km). It was found at the macro-regional scale that 21 of the 33 Clovis points were to be geochemically similar to Edwards Plateau sources. At the regional scale, 15 of the 21 identified Edwards Plateau Clovis points could be attributed to a particular source. Lastly, only two Clovis points could be identified to particular sources at the local scale.

The Tussle Over the Croc-like Spinosaurus Goes on


Geochronology of East Australian Gondwana Mapped From Middle Permian Through Lower Triassic

High-precision U-Pb CA-TIMS calibration of Middle Permian to Lower Triassic sequences, mass extinction and extreme climate-change in eastern Australian Gondwana


Metcalfe et al


Twenty-eight new high-precision Chemical Abrasion Isotope Dilution Thermal Ionisation Mass Spectrometry U-Pb zircon dates for tuffs in the Sydney and Bowen Basins are reported. Based on these new dates, the Guadalupian-Lopingian/Capitanian-Wuchiapingian boundary is tentatively placed at the level of the Thirroul Sandstone in the lower part of the Illawarra Coal Measures in the Sydney Basin. The Wuchiapingian-Changhsingian boundary is at or close to the Kembla Sandstone horizon in the Illawarra Coal Measures, southern Sydney Basin, in the middle part of the Newcastle Coal Measures in the northern Sydney Basin, and in the middle of the Black Alley Shale in the southern Bowen Basin. The end-Permian mass extinction is recognised at the base of the Coal Cliff Sandstone in the southern Sydney Basin, at the top of the Newcastle Coal Measures in the northern Sydney Basin, and close to the base of the Rewan Group in the Bowen Basin and is dated at c. 252.2 Ma. The end-Permian mass extinction is interpreted to be synchronous globally in both marine and terrestrial environments, and in high and low latitudes (resolution < 0.5 my). The GSSP-defined Permian-Triassic boundary is interpreted to be approximately at the level of the Scarborough Sandstone in the lower Narrabeen Group, Sydney Basin, and in the lower Rewan Group, Bowen Basin. New dates presented here suggest that the P3 and P4 glacial episodes in the Permian of eastern Australia are early Roadian to early Capitanian, and late Capitanian to mid Wuchiapingian in age respectively. The greenhouse crisis in the uppermost Pebbly Beach and Rowan Formations of the Sydney Basin is interpreted as early mid Roadian, a mid-Capitanian age for the crisis at the base of the Illawarra/Whittingham Coal Measures is confirmed. Greenhouse crises in the upper Illawarra/Newcastle Coal Measures and lower Narrabeen Group of the Sydney Basin are dated as upper Changhsingian-Induan, and in the upper Narrabeen Group/lower Hawksbury Sandstone as upper Olenekian.

Is the Tarim Craton Composed of Multiple Terranes?

Is the Precambrian basement of the Tarim Craton in NW China composed of discrete terranes?


Zhang et al


The Precambrian evolution of the Tarim Craton in NE China, in particular during the early Precambrian stage, remains enigmatic. In this contribution, we report field observation, petrology, geochemistry, zircon Lu-Hf isotopes and U-Pb ages of the major rock formations of the Aketage area in the southeastern section of the Tarim Craton. The Milan Group in Aketage is dominantly composed of 2.7-2.5 Ga gneissic amphibolite–TTG complex with minor paragneiss. Both the mafic and silicic rocks exhibit geochemical features consistent with an arc affinity. The arc-signature of the 2.01-2.03 Ga gneissic granites and gabbros which intrude the Archean basement, as well as the major 2.0 Ga metamorphic event revealed by zircon U-Pb dating, suggest an important subduction-collision event possibly related to the assembly of the Paleoproterozoic Columbia supercontinent. The ca.1848-1856 Ma massive potassic granites, 1867 Ma mafic dyke swarm and 1844 Ma massive leucogranite dykes reveal magmatism in a post-collisional extensional setting.

A comprehensive synthesis of the major orogenic events and continental crust growth process from the different Precambrian terranes in Tarim Craton show significant discrepancy in time related to the late Neoarchean crust formation ages and the Paleoproterozoic orogenic events. For example, the major orogenic event took place at ∼1.85 Ga in Quruqtagh-Dunhuang terrane, at ∼1.90 Ga in the southwest Tarim Craton and at ∼2.0 Ga in the Aketage-Qaidam terrane. These different terranes exhibit distinct periods of continental crust growth in the early Precambrian. Continental growth in the Aketage area took place during 2.7 Ga to 4.3 Ga. The 3.6 Ga xenocrystic zircons as well as the peak of 4.2 Ga zircon Hf model ages, indicate the possible existence of Paleoarchean and even Hadean crust in the Aketage area. In the Quruqtagh-Dunhuang terrane, the growth of early Precambrian continental crust took place at 2.6-3.3 Ga with peaks at ca. 2.6-2.7 Ga and 3.0 Ga. The diachronous late Paleoproterozoic orogenic events and the significant difference in continental growth process suggest that the Precambrian basement of the Tarim Craton is composed by independent continental terranes possibly detached from the cores of discrete ancient cratonic nuclei, which were not unified until the early Neoproterozoic during assembly of the Rodinia supercontinent.

2014 may be Hottest Year on Record

You wouldn't know it in San Francisco, where summer temperatures have been characteristically moderate, but last month was the hottest August on record worldwide, according to federal climate data released Thursday.

Last month's heat adds to a historic year, with two of the prior three months also posting their warmest average temperatures since record-keeping began in 1880. July marked the exception - it went down as the fourth-hottest on record.

At the current pace, 2014 could very well end up the globe's hottest year.

China Unveils Model of Fixed Wing VTOL UCAV "Harrier II"/Haiyao

China has recently unveiled drones capable of taking off from ships to conduct patrol and possibly combat or attack missions at recent trade shows, according to the British military armaments journal Jane’s Defense Weekly.

The VD200, China’s first drone to take-off and land vertically, showed off its capabilities for the first time at an international trade fair in Chengdu. The flying-wing drone can remain airborne for up to eight hours and lands on pods attached to its four vertical fins instead of wheels like conventional drones. It was built by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG) to be deployed by the coast guard from patrol vessels.

The VD2000 has capabilities similar to small tactical helicopter drones but not their vulnerabilities, according to the report.

A recent Guizhou trade fair also unveiled the Harrier II unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) which can carry bombs and missiles on its four wing pylons. It was built jointly by CAIG and Guizhou Aircraft Corporation (GAC), but its capabilities are so similar to those of the US MQ-9 that Washington Free Beacon alleged that it was developed using technology stolen from US defense contractors. The allegation may be based on more than the similarities between the two drones. A 2012 NY Times report on the successes of a PLA hacking unit in accessing the computer systems of numerous US defense contractors over a period of several years.

Pax Sinica: China's Efforts to Build a new, America-less World Order

THE clue is in the name. The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) groups six countries—China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan—and aims to be the dominant security institution in its region; but its origin and purposes are largely Chinese. So it looks rather worrying from a Western point of view that the group has agreed to expand and that India, Pakistan and Iran are all keen to join: the rise of a kind of China-led NATO to which even America’s friends, such as India and Pakistan, seem drawn. Yet that is to misunderstand the sort of organisation the SCO aspires to be. It does indeed pose a challenge to the American-led world order, but a much more subtle one.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Obviously the Song for Scotland's Vote Tonight is...

Scotland: The Results are...?

Barring a radical change, I'd say the UK survives intact: right now its about 55/45.  Edinburgh and Glasgow have not reported in though.  From the sounds of things, some SNP strongholds - or supposedly strongholds - voted to stay.  This may be as big a setback from Scottish Independence as 1995 was for Quebec.

Best quote I saw for tonight:

"Not so fast--according to Karl Rove there are still a few precincts in Glasgow yet to report."

San Francisco Open Exchange Intends to be Kayak for Bitcoin Exchanges

One of the remarkable – and perhaps most confusing – aspects of bitcoin is the fact that every bitcoin exchange seems to have a different price for the cryptocurrency.

Of course, no two exchanges are ever alike because they all serve different markets. When it comes to how much it costs to buy or sell bitcoin, this is especially true.

The reasoning for this has to do with bitcoin being a global and largely unregulated market. Because it is bought and sold all over the world, there are numerous prices for it – with no centralization dictating any one.

A new startup called San Francisco Open Exchange aims to fix that. Or, at the very least, its platform will allow users an opportunity to potentially capitalize on the spread across different bitcoin exchange markets.

Robopocalypse Good for the Environment? Self Driving Cars Could Reduce Oil Use by 2 to 4%

Excitement around connected and autonomous vehicles has been building for years with consumers interested in the convenience of never having to touch the steering wheel and governments anticipating significant improvements in road safety. It's presumed that these technologies will also have energy efficiency and emissions reductions benefits, but only recently have experts been able to quantify them.

A recent report by the Intelligent Transportation Society of America projects that so-called intelligent transportation systems (ITS) could achieve a 2 to 4 percent reduction in oil consumption and related greenhouse gas emissions each year over the next 10 years as these technologies percolate into the market.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 on Track for F-35B IOC in 2015

Pilots at Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, the US Marine Corps' (USMC's) first operational squadron of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters began training in early September to the standards required for the jump-jet version of the aircraft's initial operational capability (IOC) declaration, according to the squadron's pilots and leaders.

"We shifted into IOC training last week," Lieutenant Colonel Steve Gillette, the squadron's commanding officer, told IHS Jane's on 12 September. He explained that the skills checklist the pilots are training to now features more specific and rigorous standards than it did when they first began flying the F-35 in 2012.

After taking over command of the squadron in 2013, Lieut. Col. Gillette began overseeing the move to the more detailed IOC-specific training and readiness standards. "The big difference between what we were doing then and what we're doing now is the rigidity of the standards we're holding people to in order to call a [training] event complete," he explained. Eight pilots in the squadron must master the entire training package in time for the planned July 2015 IOC declaration, he added.

An Overview of Russian, Chinese Strategic Bomber Development

While the U.S. Air Force pursues development of the Long-Range Strike Bomber project, striving to launch full-scale development next year, both Russia and China are also proceeding with bomber plans. In the case of Russia, the PAK-DA (perspektivnyi aviatsionnyi kompleks dal’ney aviatsii, or future long-range air system) is the first all-new bomber to start development since the Tupolev Tu-160, in 1977, while China’s prospective new system would be the nation’s first indigenous bomber.

Nanodiamond-Rich Layer across Three Continents at the Younger Dryas Boundary

Nanodiamond-Rich Layer across Three Continents Consistent with Major Cosmic Impact at 12,800 Cal BP


Kinzie et al


A major cosmic-impact event has been proposed at the onset of the Younger Dryas (YD) cooling episode at ≈12,800 ± 150 years before present, forming the YD Boundary (YDB) layer, distributed over greater than 50 million km2 on four continents. In 24 dated stratigraphic sections in 10 countries of the Northern Hemisphere, the YDB layer contains a clearly defined abundance peak in nanodiamonds (NDs), a major cosmic-impact proxy. Observed ND polytypes include cubic diamonds, lonsdaleite-like crystals, and diamond-like carbon nanoparticles, called n-diamond and i-carbon. The ND abundances in bulk YDB sediments ranged up to ≈500 ppb (mean: 200 ppb) and that in carbon spherules up to ≈3700 ppb (mean: ≈750 ppb); 138 of 205 sediment samples (67%) contained no detectable NDs. Isotopic evidence indicates that YDB NDs were produced from terrestrial carbon, as with other impact diamonds, and were not derived from the impactor itself. The YDB layer is also marked by abundance peaks in other impact-related proxies, including cosmic-impact spherules, carbon spherules (some containing NDs), iridium, osmium, platinum, charcoal, aciniform carbon (soot), and high-temperature melt-glass. This contribution reviews the debate about the presence, abundance, and origin of the concentration peak in YDB NDs. We describe an updated protocol for the extraction and concentration of NDs from sediment, carbon spherules, and ice, and we describe the basis for identification and classification of YDB ND polytypes, using nine analytical approaches. The large body of evidence now obtained about YDB NDs is strongly consistent with an origin by cosmic impact at ≈12,800 cal BP and is inconsistent with formation of YDB NDs by natural terrestrial processes, including wildfires, anthropogenesis, and/or influx of cosmic dust.

Saving Soviet Space Station Salyut 7...

The following story happened in 1985 but subsequently vanished into obscurity. Over the years, many details have been twisted, others created. Even the original storytellers got some things just plain wrong. After extensive research, writer Nickolai Belakovski is able to present, for the first time to an English-speaking audience, the complete story of Soyuz T-13’s mission to save Salyut 7, a fascinating piece of in-space repair history.

Exploring the Bantu Expansion in Africa Through Genetics

Genetic variation reveals large-scale population expansion and migration during the expansion of Bantu-speaking peoples


Li et al


The majority of sub-Saharan Africans today speak a number of closely related languages collectively referred to as ‘Bantu’ languages. The current distribution of Bantu-speaking populations has been found to largely be a consequence of the movement of people rather than a diffusion of language alone. Linguistic and single marker genetic studies have generated various hypotheses regarding the timing and the routes of the Bantu expansion, but these hypotheses have not been thoroughly investigated. In this study, we re-analysed microsatellite markers typed for large number of African populations that—owing to their fast mutation rates—capture signatures of recent population history. We confirm the spread of west African people across most of sub-Saharan Africa and estimated the expansion of Bantu-speaking groups, using a Bayesian approach, to around 5600 years ago. We tested four different divergence models for Bantu-speaking populations with a distribution comprising three geographical regions in Africa. We found that the most likely model for the movement of the eastern branch of Bantu-speakers involves migration of Bantu-speaking groups to the east followed by migration to the south. This model, however, is only marginally more likely than other models, which might indicate direct movement from the west and/or significant gene flow with the western Branch of Bantu-speakers. Our study use multi-loci genetic data to explicitly investigate the timing and mode of the Bantu expansion and it demonstrates that west African groups rapidly expanded both in numbers and over a large geographical area, affirming the fact that the Bantu expansion was one of the most dramatic demographic events in human history.

Anurognathus ammoni: an Anurognathid Pterosaur From Late Jurassic China

Short note on an anurognathid pterosaur with a long tail from the Upper Jurassic of China


Jiang et al


Pterosaurs consist of an extinct group of flying reptiles that show short- and long-tailed species. Among those are the anurognathids whose phylogenetic position has been considered quite controversial. So far, there are about 10 described specimens from the Anurognathidae, from which only a few show the preservation of caudal elements. Here, we report a new anurognathid specimen (IVPP V16728) from Mutoudeng, Qinglong, Hebei, China that shows the most complete tail of this non-pterodactyloid clade. The preserved part of the tail has at least 20 caudal vertebrae, some showing extended chevrons and zygapophyses, which is a very primitive character within pterosaurs.

An Apex Predator Eat Apex Predator World in the Norian Triassic Chinle Formation

Direct evidence of trophic interactions among apex predators in the Late Triassic of western North America


Drumheller et al


Hypotheses of feeding behaviors and community structure are testable with rare direct evidence of trophic interactions in the fossil record (e.g., bite marks). We present evidence of four predation, scavenging, and/or interspecific fighting events involving two large paracrocodylomorphs (=‘rauisuchians’) from the Upper Triassic Chinle Formation (∼220–210 Ma). The larger femur preserves a rare history of interactions with multiple actors prior to and after death of this ∼8–9-m individual. A large embedded tooth crown and punctures, all of which display reaction tissue formed through healing, record evidence of a failed attack on this individual. The second paracrocodylomorph femur exhibits four unhealed bite marks, indicating the animal either did not survive the attack or was scavenged soon after death. The combination of character states observed (e.g., morphology of the embedded tooth, ‘D’-shaped punctures, evidence of bicarination of the marking teeth, spacing of potentially serial marks) indicates that large phytosaurs were actors in both cases. Our analysis of these specimens demonstrates phytosaurs targeted large paracrocodylomorphs in these Late Triassic ecosystems. Previous distinctions between ‘aquatic’ and ‘terrestrial’ Late Triassic trophic structures were overly simplistic and built upon mistaken paleoecological assumptions; we show they were intimately connected at the highest trophic levels. Our data also support that size cannot be the sole factor in determining trophic status. Furthermore, these marks provide an opportunity to start exploring the seemingly unbalanced terrestrial ecosystems from the Late Triassic of North America, in which large carnivores far outnumber herbivores in terms of both abundance and diversity.

Evidence of Ediacaran NeoProterozoic Sponges From China?

Potential Ediacaran Sponge Gemmules from the Yangtze Gorges area in South China


Du et al


Sponges are widely viewed as the most primitive metazoans. Sponge gemmule-like structures have been recovered from the lower part of the Doushantuo Formation in the Yangtze Gorges area (South China), that was deposited between 635 to 580 Ma. Gemmoscleres-like structures are embedded in the outer coat of the sponge structures. Electron probe microanalyses EPMA) of the gemmoscleres-indicate that they have siliceous composition. The naked subspheroidal sponge structures are composed of three layers, consistent with the preservation of a tri-layered theca embedded with the gemmosclere-like structures. The potential fossils of the Ediacaran sponge gemmules in the Doushantuo Formation may provide one of the earliest records of sponges.

How Salt Marshes Respond to Sea Level Rise

Eh?! Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill Given Su-35 Fighter

Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, was presented with an unlikely gift for a religious leader this week as he toured a factory in Russia's far-east - a single-seater fighter jet SU-35.

Kirill was presented with the jet after giving workers at the civilian and military aircraft plant icons blessed by himself, the church said in a statement on its official website on Tuesday.

The patriarch, with whom President Vladimir Putin has fostered increasingly close ties in recent years, addressed the workers on the importance of protecting Russia.

"Russia cannot be a vassal. Because Russia is not only a country, it is a whole civilization, it is a thousand-year story, a cultural melting-pot, of enormous power," RIA news agency quoted him as saying.

"In order for us to be able to live a sovereign life, we must, if necessary, be able to defend our homeland."

Japan's Economy

IT IS crisis mode in the Kantei, the office of Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister. A succession of awful data has pummelled his economic programme, which consists of three “arrows”: a radical monetary easing, a big fiscal stimulus and a series of structural reforms. On September 8th revised figures showed that GDP shrank by 1.8% in the second quarter, or by 7.1% on an annualised basis, even worse than the initial estimate of 1.7%.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

In Honor of the Scottish Independence Referendum, a theme song

I'm guessing the polls ought to be opening about this time.   Good luck and make the right choice.

The Coming Changes to San Francisco and its Transbay Transit Center, a video by bluesteel

Erk: Devil's Hole Pupfish Might be "Man Made"

Evaluating an icon of population persistence: the Devil's Hole pupfish


Reed et al


The Devil's Hole pupfish Cyprinodon diabolis has iconic status among conservation biologists because it is one of the World's most vulnerable species. Furthermore, C. diabolis is the most widely cited example of a persistent, small, isolated vertebrate population; a chronic exception to the rule that small populations do not persist long in isolation. It is widely asserted that this species has persisted in small numbers (less than 400 adults) for 10 000–20 000 years, but this assertion has never been evaluated. Here, we analyse the time series of count data for this species, and we estimate time to coalescence from microsatellite data to evaluate this hypothesis. We conclude that mean time to extinction is approximately 360–2900 years (median 410–1800), with less than a 2.1% probability of persisting 10 000 years. Median times to coalescence varied from 217 to 2530 years, but all five approximations had wide credible intervals. Our analyses suggest that Devil's Hole pupfish colonized this pool well after the Pleistocene Lakes receded, probably within the last few hundred to few thousand years; this could have occurred through human intervention.

Boston Federal Reserve Report on Bitcoin: Flawed, but With Significant Potential

In a report released earlier this month but which only caught the bitcoin community’s eyes these past two days, the Boston Fed concludes that “the lasting legacy of Bitcoin most likely lies in the technological advances made possible by its protocol for computation and communication.”

Authors J. Christina Wang, a senior economist in the Boston Fed’s research department, and Harvard University economist Stephanie Lo note that this decentralized technology could disrupt a current bank-centric payment system that’s “fragmented” and “inefficient.”

They join St. Louis Fed Chief Economist David Andalfatto, who put out a report on cryptocurrency earlier this year, in specifically acknowledging bitcoin competitor Ripple as a contender for this role. Describing that startup’s network as “essentially a protocol that allows disparate systems to communicate in order to transfer funds and make payments,” the report says Ripple shows that “the development of new technologies for making payments does not need to be accompanied by a new financial claim” – in other words, a new digital currency to compete with traditional currencies. (Ripple has its own native currency, called XRP, but not every transaction requires it and end users typically don’t trade in it, with most transfers passing only momentarily through XRP. The financial service providers that serve as Ripple gateways can distribute and receive payments in sovereign fiat currencies.)

Bitcoin did not miss out on praise. The authors say “it’s conceivable for bitcoin to capture a nonnegligible market share” of e-commerce, noting that despite extreme volatility in its exchange rate, data show that people engaging in bitcoin transactions on average save money over traditional payment methods by avoiding the bigger transaction fees imposed by banks. They especially highlighted bitcoin’s promise in cross-border remittances and while they pointed out thatthis could be held back by underdeveloped personal computing technology and knowledge in developing countries, cellphone technology offers an attractive way around these limitations.

Notably, the report takes a critical look at the mining network, a vital component of the bitcoin infrastructure through which its coins are issued and its transaction ledger is updated. The report describes the competition mechanism that has produced a concentration of mining power as one of bitcoin’s “serious design flaws,” raising concern that reduced profitability for small miners will further concentrate power and could undermine the integrity of the system. The authors even raise the prospect of regulation to manage the mining network – “it suggests the need for enhanced oversight, either by the players themselves or by an independent third party, to guard against the likelihood of collusion or other noncompetitive behavior,” they wrote.

Ms. Wang and Ms. Lo also highlight the fact that more high-powered, independent computers could soon be needed to store the large amounts of data that bitcoin’s blockchain ledger of transactions will contain.

Based on these concerns, they contend that the bitcoin network, “as originally designed, and especially its associated digital currency, will probably not survive in the long run.”

The Next War Will be 3D Printed

We have 3-D printed keys, guns and shoes—now a research team at the University of Virginia has created a 3D printed UAV drone for the Department of Defense.

In the works for three years, the aircraft, no bigger than a remote-controlled plane, can carry a 1.5-pound payload. If it crashes or needs a design tweak for a new mission, another one can be printed out in a little more than a day, for just $2,500. It’s made with off-the-shelf parts and has an Android phone for a brain.

“We weren’t sure you could make anything lightweight and strong enough to fly,” says David Sheffler, who led the project. Sheffler is a former engineer for Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce who now teaches at the university. After he created a 3-D printed jet engine in one of his classes, the MITRE Corporation, a DoD contractor, asked him to create a 3-D printed UAV that could be easily modified and built with readily available parts.

The first prototype, the orange and blue model seen in the video above, was based on a conventional radio-controlled (RC) aircraft made of balsa wood, which is much lighter and stronger than the ABS plastic used in the university’s 3-D printers. The same plane made of plastic would have weighed five times as much as the wood version. “You’re printing out of a material that’s really not well-suited to making an airplane,” Sheffler explains. On top of that, the way 3-D printing works—building things in layers—led to structural weaknesses in the aircraft.

To account for those downsides, Sheffler’s team reworked the design. They settled on a “flying wing” design, in which the whole aircraft is basically one big wing, and called it the Razor. The latest (third) prototype is made of nine printed parts that click together like LEGO. The center of the plane is all one piece, with a removable hatch that offers access the inner cargo bay. All of the electronics live in there, including a Google Nexus 5 smartphone running a custom-designed avionics app that controls the plane, and an RC-plane autopilot that manages the control surfaces with input from the phone. The Razor’s wing structure is one piece, with an aileron, winglets, and mount for the small jet engine that clip on

Why Lockheed's ABC Laser Beam Director/Turret is Such a big Deal

Defense giant Lockheed Martin, Notre Dame University, DARPA and the Air Force Research Lab have begun flight testing a streamlined and greatly miniaturized airborne laser turret that has the potential to totally transform air combat as we understand it today.

This new state-of-the-art beam control turret allows for 360 degree aiming coverage for directed energy weapons that will be flying on military aircraft in the not so distant future. In other words, this turret is able to rapidly aim at targets and focus a directed energy burst through the atmosphere at those targets to disable or destroy them, all while flying on a aircraft barreling through the sky at high-speed.

Maj. Gen. Tom Masiello: US Air Force to Invest Heavily in Hypersonic Technologies, Should Have Test Aircraft Within 5 Years

The head of the Air Force Research Laboratory on Sept. 16 said the first test of a hypersonic aircraft could come within five years, and the technology could be applied to cruise missiles by the 2020s.

Maj. Gen. Tom Masiello, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, said hypersonics is one of the most promising technologies the lab is working on. It is currently testing the Boeing X-51 WaveRider unmanned hypersonic vehicle.

Hypersonic planes, lasers and unmanned aircraft are all considered major aviation game changers, he said.

“Hypersonic is the technology of the future,” Masiello said during the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference at National Harbor, Maryland. “I can’t overemphasize the significance of the X-51.”

Following a successful and historic test of the X-51 last year, momentum has been growing, Masiello said. During the test, the vehicle reached speeds of Mach 5.1 and traveled 230 nautical miles in about six minutes.

When operational, a hypersonic aircraft will give the military the ability to strike time-sensitive targets and could be used in an anti-access/area-denial environment, Masiello said. Survivability in A2/AD situations is critical as the nation focuses on the Asia-Pacific region, which has a higher threat of such attacks, he said.

“[From] a survivability stand point, it’s about altitude, it’s about speed. It’s just plain physics in terms of a missile being able to intercept a cruise missile going at Mach 5 plus, up at 50,000 [or] 60,000 feet,” Masiello said. “In any A2/AD environment, regardless of the Asia Pacific or anywhere else … that ability to survive in a highly contested environment is a huge attribute.”

The test was the fourth of its kind, and followed two previous failures. Previously, the aircraft’s supersonic combustion ramjet engine — also known as a scramjet — failed to light during the second test. A fin fell off of the aircraft during the third test.

Masiello said past failures were opportunities to better understand the technology, and a necessary part of the test-and-evaluation process.

“Within an S&T environment, we have to protect the opportunity to fail or else you’re not going to make any real progress,” Masiello said. “In early R&D and S&T, there are going to be failures.”

The success of the fourth test proved that this type of futuristic technology is real, Masiello said.

Demonstrations of an aircraft should happen within the next five years, he said. The X-51 resembles a missile and is launched from a B-52. By the 2020s, the Air Force wants to weaponize the technology to use it as a cruise missile, he added.

huh.  The funny thing is the timing he mentions is almost identical to the LRS-B timing.  Not saying there is a connection, but rather...huh.

Chicxulub Impact Forced Plant Ecological Strategies Shift

Plant Ecological Strategies Shift Across the Cretaceous–Paleogene Boundary


Blonder et al


The Chicxulub bolide impact caused the end-Cretaceous mass extinction of plants, but the associated selectivity and ecological effects are poorly known. Using a unique set of North Dakota leaf fossil assemblages spanning 2.2 Myr across the event, we show among angiosperms a reduction of ecological strategies and selection for fast-growth strategies consistent with a hypothesized recovery from an impact winter. Leaf mass per area (carbon investment) decreased in both mean and variance, while vein density (carbon assimilation rate) increased in mean, consistent with a shift towards “fast” growth strategies. Plant extinction from the bolide impact resulted in a shift in functional trait space that likely had broad consequences for ecosystem functioning.

Blue Origin Teams With United Launch Alliance Rocket Engine Development for Atlas V Replacement

Jeff Bezos, founder of the online retailing giant Amazon​.com, has unveiled a new commercial engine design for legacy military rockets.

Bezos, who also heads up the private spaceflight company Blue Origin LLC, was on hand with Tony Bruno, the new chief executive officer of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-Boeing Co. joint venture, United Launch Alliance LLC, on Wednesday at the National Press Club to announce an agreement to jointly fund development of the BE-4 engine.

A single engine is designed to provide 550,000 pounds of thrust and replace the Russian-made RD-180 propulsion system currently on the Atlas V rocket, one of two boosters used by the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program to lift military and spy satellites into space.

“This business is too hard if you’re not passionate about it,” Bezos said, referring to space launch. “Cost and reliability are the two driving factors.”

In a statement released after the event, he said, “The team at Blue Origin is methodically developing technologies to enable human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability, and the BE-4 is a big step forward. With the new ULA partnership, we’re accelerating commercial development of the next great US-made rocket engine.”

Bruno, who last month replaced Michael Gass in a sudden change in leadership at ULA, said the partnership between the defense contracting giant and the space tourism start-up represented “the best of both worlds.”

In the statement, he said, “Blue Origin has demonstrated its ability to develop high-performance rocket engines and we are excited to bring together the best minds in engineering, supply chain management and commercial business practices to create an all-new affordable, reliable, American rocket engine that will create endless possibilities for the future of space launch.”

The pact calls for developing the engine over four years, with full-scale testing in 2016 and first flight in 2019. The system will be available for use on either ULA or Blue Origin rockets.

Basal Eurasians are a Third ANcestral Group to Modern Europeans, Related to Ancestral Native Americans

New studies of ancient DNA are shifting scientists' ideas of how groups of people migrated across the globe and interacted with one another thousands of years ago. By comparing nine ancient genomes to those of modern humans, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) scientists have shown that previously unrecognized groups contributed to the genetic mix now present in most modern-day Europeans.

"There are at least three major, highly differentiated populations that have contributed substantial amounts of ancestry to almost everybody that has European ancestry today," says David Reich, an HHMI investigator at Harvard Medical School. Those include hunter-gatherers from western Europe, the early farmers who brought agriculture to Europe from the Near East, and a newly identified group of ancient north Eurasians who arrived in Europe sometime after the introduction of agriculture. That means there were major movements of people into Europe later than previously thought. The team, led by Reich and Johannes Krause at the University of Tübingen in Germany, reported their findings in the September 18, 2014, issue of the journal Nature.

In the last five years, genetic evidence has demonstrated that migrants from the Near East brought agriculture with them to Europe when they arrived about 8,500 years ago. But the genomes of present-day Europeans show signs that they come from more than just the indigenous hunter-gatherers and these early farmers.

Two years ago, Reich's group uncovered genetic evidence that most present-day Europeans are a mixture of groups related to southern Europeans, Near Easterners, and a third group most closely related to Native Americans. "That was a crazy observation, but it's very strong statistically," Reich says. "We argued that this is because of the contribution of an ancient north Eurasian population some of whose members contributed to the peopling of the Americas more than 15,000 years ago, and others of which later migrated to Europe."

To clarify that early history, Reich's team, including more than 100 collaborators worldwide, collected genetic data from nine ancient skeletons and 203 present-day populations living all over the world. Collaborators isolated human DNA and sequenced the complete genomes from the bones of a 7,000-year old skeleton found in Germany and eight skeletons of hunter-gatherers who lived in Luxembourg and Sweden about 8,000 years ago. They compared those genomes to those of the 2,345 people in their contemporary populations.

That required developing new computational methods for genetic analysis. "Figuring out how these populations are related is extremely hard," Reich says. "There's a lot that happened in Europe in the last 8,000 years, and this history acts like a veil, making it difficult to discern what happened at the beginning of this period. We had to find statistics that were able to tell us what happened deep in the past without getting confused by 8,000 years of intervening history, when massive and important events occurred."

"What we find is unambiguous evidence that people in Europe today have all three of these ancestries: early European farmers who brought agriculture to Europe, the indigenous hunter-gatherers who were in Europe prior to 8,000 years ago, and these ancient north Eurasians," Reich says. Further analyses showed that describing present-day Europeans as a mixture of the three populations is a good fit for most, although not all, populations.

When the study began, the ancient north Eurasian population was a "ghost population" – identified based on genetic patterns without any ancient DNA. But in 2013, another group analyzed DNA from two skeletons found in Siberia, one from 24,000 years ago and one from 17,000 years ago, and found that it shared genetic similarities with Europeans and North Americans. The ghost, Reich says, had been found.

Although DNA from ancient north Eurasians is present in nearly all modern Europeans, Reich's team did not find it in their ancient hunter-gatherers or the ancient farmers. That means the north Eurasian line of ancestry was introduced into Europe after agriculture had been established, a scenario most archaeologists had thought unlikely.

"We have this amazing observation that only two ancestries are represented among the first farmers, from about 7,000 to 5,000 years ago. And then suddenly everybody today has ancient north Eurasian ancestry," Reich says. "So there must have been a later movement of this ancestry into Europe."

Anthropologists have long thought that densely settled populations would be resistant to the arrival of new groups. "But this is hard evidence that exactly such a major migration occurred," Reich says. "It's very important because it's a major contributor to Europeans today." The time of the ancient north Eurasians' arrival remains to be determined, but Reich says their later-than-expected movement into Europe might help explain the complex mix of languages that exists there today.

The team's data also reveals that the first farmers to reach Europe from the Near East had ancestors from a previously unidentified lineage, which Reich's group named the Basal Eurasians. Basal Eurasians were the first people to separate from the larger group of non-Africans, before other non-African groups diversified. Reich says that attempts to identify the first group to split from the non-Africans had always been puzzling: genetic evidence indicates that this is likely to be Europeans or Near Easterners, even though some archaeological evidence has indicated that people were in New Guinea and Australia before they were Europe.

The new analysis shows that the Near Easterners who came into Europe 8,000 years ago brought with them a strand of ancestry that had separated before the ancestors of Australian aborigines separated from the indigenous people of Europe. "That population must have been hanging out somewhere in the Near East for a very long time," Reich says. Now he would like to know how that population fits into the archaeological history of the region. Ancient DNA from Basal Europeans, if found, might lead to new revelations about early human history.

Medullary Bone-like Tissue in Found in Satonian Cretaceous Pterosaur Bakonydraco

Medullary bone-like tissue in the mandibular symphyses of a pterosaur suggests non-reproductive significance


Prondvai et al


Medullary bone is a special bone tissue forming on the endosteal surface of the medullary cavity in the bones of female birds prior to and during egg-laying to serve as a calcium reservoir for building the hard eggshell. It has also been identified in non-avian dinosaurs, where its presence is considered as a reliable indicator of a sexually mature female. Here, we reveal that multiple mandibular symphyses of the azhdarchid pterosaur Bakonydraco galaczi possess a special bone tissue that shows all microanatomical, histological, and developmental characteristics of medullary bone, despite its unusual location. Its frequent occurrence in the sample renders a pathologic origin unlikely. Our findings as well as the extremely thin-shelled eggs of pterosaurs suggest that this medullary bone-like tissue probably had a non-reproductive role in these animals. Although the non-reproductive significance and the anatomical location of this medullary bone-like tissue in Bakonydraco suggest independent evolutionary appearance from dinosaurian medullary bone, a common origin and later diverging function and physiological regulation is an equally viable phylogenetic hypothesis.

Parapytanga catarinensis: a new Stereospondylomorph Temnospondyl From Permian Brazil

On a new stereospondylomorph temnospondyl from the Middle/Late Permian of Southern Brazil


Strapasson et al


A new temnospondyl is described from the Middle/Upper Permian sequence of the Paraná Basin (Rio do Rasto Formation) in southern Brazil. The material consists of disarticulated cranial and postcranial elements, preserved in association. The cranial elements include part of the orbital region of the skull roof, the basicranium, a number of endocranial elements, stapes and a right hemimandible. The postcranial elements include vertebrae, ribs, pectoral girdle elements, a right femur and a cluster of scales. The new species displays a rhinesuchid pattern, which is similar to the South African rhinesuchids from the Upper Permian Beaufort Group of the Karoo Basin, but differs from them by the presence of a robust and elongated epipterygoid with a blade-like anterior process in addition to elongated and deeper muscular pockets on the parasphenoid, which allow the assignment of this specimen to a new species. However, the phylogenetic analysis grouped the material described herein and Australerpeton cosgriffi (Barberena, 1998) inside Stereospondylomorpha, in a transitional position between the Laurasian assemblages and South African temnospondyls. This result supports a connection between the Brazilian and Eastern European Permian fauna and provides important data for future biostratigraphic studies.

Where the Tarim Block was in Gondwana and Rodinia Supercontinents

Detrital zircon U–Pb ages and Hf isotopes of Neoproterozoic strata in the Aksu area, northwestern Tarim Craton: Implications for supercontinent reconstruction and crustal evolution


He et al


The northern margin of the Tarim Craton plays a pivotal role in understanding the crustal evolution and supercontinent reconstruction of the Tarim Craton. Here we integrate LA-ICP-MS U–Pb ages and Hf isotopic data for detrital zircons from Neoproterozoic successions in the Aksu area, NW Tarim. A total of 679 concordant U–Pb ages define four age populations of 2600–2200 Ma, 2050–1800 Ma, 950–700 Ma and 680–600 Ma, which are consistent with the episodes of magmatism and metamorphism documented in the northern Tarim Craton, suggesting that the detritus were likely sourced from the northern Tarim Craton itself. The oldest age population corresponds to the Neoarchean to early Paleoproterozoic magmatic event related to an important stage in the development of the proto continental crust in the Tarim Craton. The 2050–1800 Ma age population represents a magmatic–metamorphic event during a middle Paleoproterozoic orogeny, possibly related to the assembly of Tarim to the Columbia supercontinent. The dominant Neoproterozoic detrital zircons display a major cluster between 950 Ma and 700 Ma (peak at ca. 850 Ma), much younger than the typical Grenvillian ages. This is similar to detrital zircon data sets from Yangzte and northern India, implying that these blocks shared a similar evolution pattern in the Rodinia supercontinent. The early Pan-African (680–600 Ma) ages are comparable with those reported from the Arabian-Nubian Shield, but quite different from those from other Gondwana blocks, implying a possible correlation of Tarim with the Eastern Africa Orogen. Abundant zircons yield Archean (3.9–2.5 Ga) Hf model ages (TDMC), suggesting the presence of extensive Archean basement as old as Paleoarchean in the Tarim Craton. Some Neoarchean and Neoproterozoic zircons have high positive ɛHf(t) values, indicating significant juvenile addition from the depleted mantle at those periods. However, most detrital zircons show negative ɛHf(t) values, suggesting that crustal reworking was the dominant process in the generation of the episodes of magmatism in the Tarim Craton. At last, based on the stratigraphic settings and the comparison of detrital zircon data, the Aksu Group and the Qiaoenbrak Formation are most likely units with equivalent depositional age.

Louisiana Only has a Holey Sock, no Boot


Australia Considering Procurement of 10 Japanese Soryu Class Submarines (SSK)

Despite political opposition and apparently contradictory ministerial statements, it appears increasingly likely that Australia will replace its Collins-class submarines with 4,200-tonne Soryu-class submarines built in Japan.

Amid intense media speculation about such an agreement, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on 8 September that a decision on replacing the six Australian-built, 3,400-tonne Collins-class submarines under Project Sea 1000 would be based on capability, value for money, and regional rather than industrial policy.

"The most important thing is to get the best and most capable submarines at a reasonable price for the Australian taxpayer," he said.

The current life-of-type of the Collins fleet runs from 2024 to 2031, although there are no apparent issues to prevent some or all of the class having service life extended by up to 10 years.

Several sources have put the cost of 10 Japanese-constructed submarines at about AUD20 billion (USD18.3 billion), compared with an estimated AUD36 billion for an Australian-designed and built replacement.

On 9 September Defence Minister David Johnston said the bulk of what he described as "the Australian work" on future submarines would be carried out in South Australia - a remark which an authoritative source subsequently clarified as referring to maintenance, not construction.

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten meanwhile accused Abbott of putting Australia's national security at risk by considering the acquisition of completed submarines from Japan, and pledged to cancel any such agreement should the Labor Party win the next election - due in August 2016.

Although a decision on Sea 1000 had been anticipated as part of a Defence White Paper due to be published in mid-2015, there is now speculation that selection of the Japanese option could be announced as early as the Group of 20 leaders' meeting in Brisbane in November.

In April Johnston described the Soryu class as the platform closest to Australia's requirements and repeated earlier remarks about Australia's interest in the type's drive train.

Little Scotlander Chief: This is the Only Referendum on Independence for a Generation

Alex Salmond has said the independence vote is a "once in a generation" opportunity as he pledged not to quickly bring back another referendum if Scots choose to remain in the UK.

Commentators have been predicting a "neverendum" if the No campaign wins on Thursday by a narrow margin, with nationalists calling for a new independence poll within a few years.

As a series of polls indicate the vote remains too close to call, Mr Salmond was asked if he could pledge not to bring back another referendum if the Yes campaign does not win on Thursday, he said: "That's my view. My view is this is a once in a generation, perhaps even a once in a lifetime, opportunity for Scotland."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Transbay Block 5 Tower: Beale and Howard



one of those cities is a shock.

Russia Banning Converting Cryptocurrencies into Fiat Currency

Russia is set to become the latest country to restrict virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, after a top official announced that a law will be passed banning their exchange into real money by next spring due to their use by criminals and terrorists.

Deputy Finance Minister Aleksey Moiseev said: “People can play with their chips, and they can call them money, but they can’t use these surrogate currencies as tender.

“We will discuss this law in the current session of parliament, and possibly even pass it then, or at the very latest by spring next year.

"We are currently dealing with comments from the law enforcement agencies, about the specifics of legal measures, and we will take their remarks into account. But the overall concept of the law is set in stone.”

Although the draft of the proposed legislation has not been published, officials say they will open criminal proceedings against both those who mint digital currency, usually with the help of powerful computers, and those who use them for transactions. The finance ministry has also asked regulators to ban access to exchanges and online stores that accept bitcoin.

MIT's Pure Electric Cheetah Runs 10 MPH/16 km/h Towards Robopocalypse

DARPA Funds Harvard Soft Exoskeleton

A biologically inspired smart suit that fits under clothing and could help soldiers walk farther, tire less easily, and carry heavy loads more safely has been given a boost that could be as much as $2.9 million.

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University announced today that it has been awarded a first-phase, follow-on contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to further develop its Soft Exosuit — a wearable robot — alternative versions of which could eventually help those with limited mobility as well.

Technologies developed by DARPA’s Warrior Web program aim to prevent and reduce musculoskeletal injuries for military personnel, but can have civilian applications, too. The suit could reduce long-term health care costs and enhance the quality of life for people on and off the battlefield.

The award is the first of what could be a two-phase contract, and it enables Wyss Institute core faculty member Conor Walsh and his team to build upon their earlier work (also funded by DARPA) demonstrating the proof-of-concept of this radically new approach to wearable robot design and fabrication. Inspired by a deep understanding of the biomechanics of human walking, Soft Exosuit technology is spawning development of entirely new forms of functional textiles, flexible power systems, soft sensors, and control strategies that enable intuitive and seamless human-machine interaction.

“While the idea of a wearable robot is not new, our design approach certainly is,” said Walsh, an assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and founder of the Harvard Biodesign Lab.

The lightweight Soft Exosuit overcomes the drawbacks of traditional, heavier exoskeleton systems, such as power-hungry battery packs and rigid components that can interfere with natural joint movement. It is made of soft, functional textiles woven into a piece of smart clothing that is pulled on like a pair of pants, and is intended to be worn under a soldier’s regular gear. The suit mimics the action of leg muscles and tendons when a person walks, and provides small but carefully timed assistance at the leg joints without restricting the wearer’s movement.

In a current prototype, a series of webbing straps around the lower half of the body contain a low-power microprocessor and a network of supple strain sensors. These act as the “brain” and “nervous system” of the Soft Exosuit, respectively, continuously monitoring various data signals, including suit tension, wearer position (walking, running, crouched), and more.

Lockheed Martin Test Flies Aero-adaptive Aero-optic Beam Control Turret for High Energy Laser Weapons

Lockheed Martin in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the University of Notre Dame, has demonstrated the airworthiness of a new beam control turret being developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and AFRL to give 360-degree coverage for high-energy laser weapons operating on military aircraft. A research aircraft equipped with the Aero-adaptive Aero-optic Beam Control (ABC) turret conducted eight flights in Michigan.

"These initial flight tests validate the performance of our ABC turret design, which is an enabler for integrating high energy lasers on military aircraft," said Doug Graham, vice president of advanced programs, Strategic and Missile Defense Systems, Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

The ABC turret system is designed to allow high-energy lasers to engage enemy aircraft and missiles above, below and behind the aircraft. Lockheed Martin's flow control and optical compensation technologies counteract the effects of turbulence caused by the protrusion of a turret from an aircraft's fuselage.

All turret components met U.S. Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration airworthiness requirements.

Subsequent flight tests over the next year will demonstrate the turret in increasingly complex operations.

Sedimentary Conext Matters: That Carbon Isotope Excursion may NOT Mean What you Think it Does

Interpreting carbonate and organic carbon isotope covariance in the sedimentary record


Oehlert et al


Many negative δ13C excursions in marine carbonates from the geological record are interpreted to record significant biogeochemical events in early Earth history. The assumption that no post-depositional processes can simultaneously alter carbonate and organic δ13C values towards more negative values is the cornerstone of this approach. However, the effects of post-depositional alteration on the relationship between carbonate and organic δ13C values have not been directly evaluated. Here we present paired carbonate and organic δ13C records that exhibit a coupled negative excursion resulting from multiple periods of meteoric alteration of the carbonate δ13C record, and consequent contributions of isotopically negative terrestrial organic matter to the sedimentary record. The possibility that carbonate and organic δ13C records can be simultaneously shifted towards lower δ13C values during periods of subaerial exposure may necessitate the reappraisal of some of the δ13C anomalies associated with noteworthy biogeochemical events throughout Earth history.

pop sci version.