Friday, July 22, 2016

Landing on Pluto

The Inclination of the Gas Giants in the Solar System Constrains Planet Nine

The inclination of the planetary system relative to the solar equator may be explained by the presence of Planet 9


Gomes et al


We evaluate the effects of a distant planet, commonly known as planet 9, on the dynamics of the giant planets of the Solar System. We find that, given the large distance of planet 9, the dynamics of the inner giant planets can be decomposed into a classic Lagrange-Laplace dynamics relative to their own invariant plane (the plane orthogonal to their total angular momentum vector) and a slow precession of said plane relative to the total angular momentum vector of the Solar System, including planet 9. Under some specific configurations for planet 9, this precession can explain the current tilt of approximately 6 degrees between the invariant plane of the giant planets and the solar equator. An analytical model is developed to map the evolution of the inclination of the inner giant planets' invariant plane as a function of the planet 9's mass, inclination, eccentricity and semimajor axis, and some numerical simulations of the equations of motion of the giant planets and planet 9 are performed to validate our analytical approach. The longitude of the ascending node of planet 9 is found to be linked to the longitude of the ascending node of the giant planets' invariant plane, which also constrain the longitude of the node of planet 9 on the ecliptic. Some of the planet 9 configurations that allow explaining the current solar tilt are compatible with those proposed to explain the orbital confinement of the most distant Kuiper belt objects. Thus, this work on the one hand gives an elegant explanation for the current tilt between the invariant plane of the inner giant planets and the solar equator and, on the other hand, adds new constraints to the orbital elements of planet 9.

NASA's Mars 2020 Rover Cost Just Increased by at Least $600 Million

As NASA’s next flagship Mars mission, the Mars 2020 rover, moves into its next phase of development, agency officials say the mission will cost $2.1 billion, more than originally estimated for a mission that they argue will also be more capable than first planned.

NASA announced July 15 that the Mars 2020 mission passed a development milestone known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C), allowing the mission to proceed into Phase C design and development work. The rover is scheduled for launch in mid-2020 and land on Mars in February 2021.

The rover’s primary mission will be to collect rock and soil samples for eventual return to Earth. “The Mars 2020 rover is the first step in a potential multi-mission campaign to return carefully selected and sealed samples of Martian rocks and soil to Earth,” said Geoff Yoder, NASA’s acting associate administrator for science, in a statement.

Completion of the KDP-C milestone for NASA missions is usually accompanied by a formal cost and schedule estimate. Those figures were not included in the July 15 announcement, but Jet Propulsion Laboratory spokesman Guy Webster said July 18 that Mars 2020 now has a cost estimate of $2.1 billion for its development and launch. An additional $300 million will cover operations for one Martian year, or 687 days. Both estimates are at the 70 percent confidence level, meaning that there is a 70 percent chance their costs will be no more than those values.

That amount is significantly higher than initial estimates for the mission when John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for science at the time, announced plans for the mission in December 2012. AHe said then the mission would cost about $1.5 billion, or 40 percent less than the $2.5 billion cost of the Mars Science Laboratory mission that landed the Curiosity rover on Mars in August 2012.

Did Something Crash Into DigitalGlobe's WorldView 2 Satellite?

The U.S. Air Force said one of DigitalGlobe’s high-resolution imagery satellites was part of what they described as a debris-causing event July 19, but the company said that the satellite remains operational.

The Joint Space Operations Center, which is the Defense Department’s nerve center for space operations and tracks space objects from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, tweeted July 19 that it had identified a debris-causing event related DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite

LRASM Successfully Test Fired From Underway Naval Test Ship

Lockheed Martin has completed the third of three test shots to prove that their air-launched Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) can be fired from a surface ship on the move, company officials told USNI News on Wednesday.

The Monday test at the Navy’s Point Mugu Sea Range, California took the same weapon Lockheed developed for a DARPA program to be launched against ships from fighters and bombers and loaded it into the same launch system used on the service’s guided missile destroyers and cruisers.

“We’re doing it to demonstrate that LRASM can be integrated onto a ship with software changes only and it won’t be a huge bill to put LRASMs in the surface fleet,” Scott Callaway — LRASM Surface-Launch director at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control — told USNI News.

Lockheed refurbished a Mk 41 Vertical Launch System cell for the test, combined the 500 nautical mile range LRASM with an additional booster and tied it to a Tactical Tomahawk Weapon Control System (TTWCS) for guidance – all installed on Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship, the former USS Paul Foster.

Robopocalypse #87


Facebook flew its giant communications drone for the first time.

Delivery drones might be paired with trucks.

There is a drone racing kit.

Airbus has been using drones for aircraft inspections.

Amazon has patented the idea of using lamp post lights to charge drones.

A Utah company claims to have the world's fast commercially available drone.

Self Driving Cars:

Ford is investing in a company making maps for self driving cars.

Tesla has stated one of the recent crashes did NOT have the Autopilot engaged.

In fact, Tesla is claiming Autopilot saved the life of a pedestrian.

And Tesla has unveiled its revised master plan.

Germany will require blackboxes for self driving cars.

Mercedes showed off its self driving bus.

Jaguar will start testing its self driving cars in Britain.

China is trying to put a halt to self driving car testing until they get the regulations in place.

Farmers are fighting for the right to fix their own tractors.  John Deere has stated the tractors only come with an operation for life license instead of true ownership.

3d Printing:

Exploring superconducting properties of 3d printed objects.

The culinary institute of america has been experimenting with 3d printing food.

3d printing being applied to meta materials.

A new company claims it has a 3d printer eliminating the post processing step.


One bot cooked a bunch of brats...tailgating threatened by the robopocalypse now?

Robotic furniture too!

There is a robot for feeding the paralyzed.

There is a robot for massage.

The RNC received 20 robots for bomb disposal just in case at the convention.

A new method for building swimming microbots has been created.

Robots can now move like centipedes.

Software Bots:

A new Baidu developed bot creates music based on pictures.

Machine learning is being used for hunting for virus reservoirs in bats.

The Amazon Echo might have been wire tapped.

Google is attempting to use a software bot to improve the cooling efficiency of its data centers.


The future of exoskeletons might be skin tight suits.

There is a downloadable 3d printable exoskeleton. 



Robots and humans working together, mass hysteria!

Does the robopocalypse have a white guy problem?

Ants Domesticated Fungus for Farming 60 to 55 Million Years ago During the Paleogene

A group of South American ants has farmed fungi since shortly after the dinosaurs died out, according to an international research team including Smithsonian scientists. The genes of the ant farmers and their fungal crops reveal a surprisingly ancient history of mutual adaptations. This evolutionary give-and-take has led to some species--the leafcutter ants--developing industrial-scale farming that surpasses human agriculture in its efficiency.

The key chapters of the history of ant agriculture are written into the genes of both the insects and their crop fungi. A team including Jacobus Boomsma, research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and biology professor at the University of Copenhagen with his colleagues there, Sanne Nygaard and Guojie Zhang, looked at the genes of seven species of farming ants and their associated fungi to understand how the partnership developed. In a study published in Nature Communications, the scientists found that 55 to 60 million years ago ants belonging to the tribe Attini switched from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to subsistence farming of fungi that grew on decomposing, woody plant matter. The slow-growing fungi sustained tiny colonies of ants, but it was the first step toward agriculture on a much larger scale.

"The ants lost many genes when they committed to farming fungi," said Boomsma. This tied the fate of the ants to their food--with the insects depending on the fungi for nutrients, and the fungi increasing their likelihood of survival if they produced more nutritious crop. "It led to an evolutionary cascade of changes, unmatched by any other animal lineage studied so far."

The researchers found that around 25 million years ago one lineage of fungus-farming ants began cultivating fungi that produced tiny, protein-rich bulbs that the ants preferentially harvested. More nutritious food supported larger colonies, spurring even more advances in ant-fungus co-evolution until, 15 million years ago, the leafcutter ants emerged. Leafcutter ant species cut and sow their underground farms daily with fresh, green plant matter, cultivating a fully domesticated species of fungus on an industrial scale that can sustain colonies with up to millions of ants.

Domestication changed both partners in the relationship. Unlike its ancestors and present-day wild relatives, the leafcutter ants' fungus can no longer produce enzymes that digest woody plant matter, making it reliant on leafy greens brought in by the ants. In turn, the fungus produces fruiting bodies swollen with proteins essential for the ants' growth. The ants have evolved special enzymes to easily digest this superfood and cannot eat anything else. Unable to survive without each other, the symbiotic leafcutters and their fungi nonetheless form the largest colonies of any of the fungus-farming ants. They work together as the dominant herbivores in Neotropical forests.

Feeding ecology and habitat preferences of top predators from two Miocene Neogene Locales

Feeding ecology and habitat preferences of top predators from two Miocene carnivore-rich assemblages


Domingo et al


Carnivore-rich fossil sites are uncommon in the fossil record and, accordingly, provide valuable opportunities to study predators from vantages that are rarely applied to ancient faunas. Through stable isotopes of carbon and a Bayesian mixing model, we analyze time-successive (nearly contemporaneous), late Miocene carnivoran populations from two fossil sites (Batallones-1 and Batallones-3) from central Spain. Stable isotopes of carbon in tooth enamel provide a reliable and direct methodology to track ancient diets. These two carnivoran-dominated fossil sites display differences in the composition and abundance of the carnivoran species, with some species present at both sites and some present only at one site. This disparity has been interpreted as the consequence of habitat differences between Batallones-1, the older site, and Batallones-3, the younger site. However, carbon isotope values of carnivore and herbivore tooth enamel suggest a common habitat of C3 woodland originally present at both sites. The differences in the carnivoran faunas rather may be the consequence of the dynamics of species entrance and exit from the Madrid Basin during the time elapsed between Batallones-1 and Batallones-3 and changes in population densities due to biotic factors. We infer higher levels of interspecific competition in Batallones-3 than in Batallones-1 because of the larger number of similar-sized, sympatric predators; the clear overlap in their δ13C values (except for the amphicyonid Magericyon anceps); and similarity of their preferred prey: the hipparionine horses. Finally, carbon stable isotopic composition of Indarctos arctoides teeth implies that this ursid was a carnivorous omnivore rather than a herbivorous omnivore. This work demonstrates the insights that stable isotopes can provide in characterizing the feeding ecology and trophic interactions of ancient carnivoran taxa.

New Evidence About the Emergence of New World Monkeys During the Oligocene Paleogene

Neotropics provide insights into the emergence of New World monkeys: New dental evidence from the late Oligocene of Peruvian Amazonia


Marivaux et al


Recent field efforts in Peruvian Amazonia (Contamana area, Loreto Department) have resulted in the discovery of a late Oligocene (ca. 26.5 Ma; Chambira Formation) fossil primate-bearing locality (CTA-61). In this paper, we analyze the primate material consisting of two isolated upper molars, the peculiar morphology of which allows us to describe a new medium-sized platyrrhine monkey: Canaanimico amazonensis gen. et sp. nov. In addition to the recent discovery of Perupithecus ucayaliensis, a primitive anthropoid taxon of African affinities from the alleged latest Eocene Santa Rosa locality (Peruvian Amazonia), the discovery of Canaanimico adds to the evidence that primates were well-established in the Amazonian Basin during the Paleogene. Our phylogenetic results based on dental evidence show that none of the early Miocene Patagonian taxa (Homunculus, Carlocebus, Soriacebus, Mazzonicebus, Dolichocebus, Tremacebus, and Chilecebus), the late Oligocene Bolivian Branisella, or the Peruvian Canaanimico, is nested within a crown platyrrhine clade. All these early taxa are closely related and considered here as stem Platyrrhini. Canaanimico is nested within the Patagonian Soriacebinae, and closely related to Soriacebus, thereby extending back the soriacebine lineage to 26.5 Ma. Given the limited dental evidence, it is difficult to assess if Canaanimico was engaged in a form of pitheciine-like seed predation as is observed in Soriacebus and Mazzonicebus, but dental microwear patterns recorded on one upper molar indicate that Canaanimico was possibly a fruit and hard-object eater. If Panamacebus, a recently discovered stem cebine from the early Miocene of Panama, indicates that the crown platyrrhine radiation was already well underway by the earliest Miocene, Canaanimico indicates in turn that the “homunculid” radiation (as a part of the stem radiation) was well underway by the late Oligocene. These new data suggest that the stem radiation likely occurred in the Neotropics during the Oligocene, and that several stem lineages independently reached Patagonia during the early Miocene. Finally, we are still faced with a “layered” pattern of platyrrhine evolution, but modified in terms of timing of cladogeneses. If the crown platyrrhine radiation occurred in the Neotropics around the Oligocene–Miocene transition (or at least during the earliest Miocene), it was apparently concomitant with the diversification of the latest stem forms in Patagonia.

Iron-rich, Hyopxic Seas Might Have Helped Delay Biotic Recovery After the Permian Extinction

Scientists have shed light on why life on Earth took millions of years to recover from the greatest mass extinction of all time.

The study provides fresh insight into how Earth's oceans became starved of oxygen in the wake of the event 252 million years ago, delaying the recovery of life by five million years.

Findings from the study are helping scientists to better understand how environmental change can have disastrous consequences for life on Earth.

The Permian-Triassic Boundary extinction wiped out more than 90 per cent of marine life and around two thirds of animals living on land. During the recovery period, Earth's oceans became starved of oxygen - conditions known as anoxia.

Previous research suggested the mass extinction and delayed recovery were linked to the presence of anoxic waters that also contained high levels of harmful compounds known as sulphides.

However, researchers say anoxic conditions at the time were more complex, and that this toxic, sulphide-rich state was not present throughout all the world's oceans.

The team, led by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, used precise chemical techniques to analyse rocks unearthed in Oman that were formed in an ancient ocean around the time of the extinction.

Data from six sampling sites, spanning shallow regions to the deeper ocean, reveal that while the water was lacking in oxygen, toxic sulphide was not present. Instead, the waters were rich in iron.

The finding suggests that iron-rich, low oxygen waters were a major cause of the delayed recovery of marine life following the mass extinction.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hektor is a Strange D-Type Member of Jovian Trojan Asteroids

Hektor - an exceptional D-type family among Jovian Trojans


Rozehnal et al


In this work, we analyze Jovian Trojans in the space of suitable resonant elements and we identify clusters of possible collisional origin by two independent methods: the hierarchical clustering and a so-called "randombox". Compared to our previous work (Bro\v{z} and Rozehnal 2011), we study a twice larger sample. Apart from Eurybates, Ennomos and 1996RJ families, we have found three more clusters --- namely families around asteroids (20961)~Arkesilaos, (624)~Hektor in the L4 libration zone and (247341)~2001UV209 in L5. The families fulfill our stringent criteria, i.e. a high statistical significance, an albedo homogeneity and a steeper size-frequency distribution than that of background. In order to understand their nature, we simulate their long term collisional evolution with the Boulder code (Morbidelli et al. 2009) and dynamical evolution using a modified SWIFT integrator (Levison and Duncan, 1994). Within the framework of our evolutionary model, we were able to constrain the the age of the Hektor family to be either 1 to 4 Gyr or, less likely, 0.1 to 2.5 Gyr, depending on initial impact geometry. Since (624) Hektor itself seems to be a bilobed--shape body with a satellite (Marchis et al. 2014), i.e. an exceptional object, we address its association with the D--type family and we demonstrate that the moon and family could be created during a single impact event. We simulated the cratering event using a Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH, Benz and Asphaug, 1994). This is also the first case of a family associated with a D--type parent body.

Would the Presence of Planet Nine Explain the Solar Rotation/ Plane of the Ecliptic Misalignment?

Solar Obliquity Induced by Planet Nine


Bailey et al


The six-degree obliquity of the sun suggests that either an asymmetry was present in the solar system's formation environment, or an external torque has misaligned the angular momentum vectors of the sun and the planets. However, the exact origin of this obliquity remains an open question. Batygin & Brown (2016) have recently shown that the physical alignment of distant Kuiper Belt orbits can be explained by a 5-20 Earth-mass planet on a distant, eccentric, and inclined orbit, with an approximate perihelion distance of ~250 AU. Using an analytic model for secular interactions between Planet Nine and the remaining giant planets, here we show that a planet with similar parameters can naturally generate the observed obliquity as well as the specific pole position of the sun's spin axis, from a nearly aligned initial state. Thus, Planet Nine offers a testable explanation for the otherwise mysterious spin-orbit misalignment of the solar system.

When did Mars Form a Crust and Mantle?

NASA Issued RFI for Using Docking Port on International Space Station

As two companies move forward with plans to develop commercial modules for use on the International Space Station as precursors to independent space stations, NASA is soliciting concepts for use of a space station docking port.

NASA issued a request for information (RFI) July 1 about how “limited availability, unique International Space Station capabilities” could be used to support economic development in low Earth orbit. “This RFI is being used to determine private market interest in using unique ISS capabilities that have limited availability in order to advance economic development in LEO,” the document states.

That request specifically mentions future use of the aft docking port on the Node 3, or Tranquility, module. That port is currently occupied by the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), installed on the station earlier this year for a two-year test. It would thus be available for use by other modules as soon as 2018, when the BEAM is removed from the station.

New Nuclear Cruise Missiles are Supported by Former Defense Officials

The U.S. and Russia can easily tell the difference between a conventionally armed cruise missile en route to a target and a nuclear armed one, former senior defense officials told a Senate panel on Wednesday.

John Hamre, deputy secretary of defense during President Bill Clinton’s second term, and Franklin Miller, a special assistant on defense policy and arms control to President George W. Bush and a member of the National Security Council, told a Senate subcommittee that using a cruise missile for a conventional strike would not spur an adversary to go nuclear.

“The launch of a conventional weapon and the launch of a nuclear weapon occur in context,” Miller said. “So the launch of [U.S.] cruise missiles against Iraq or indeed the launch of Russian cruise missile against Syria did not raise any questions of nuclear use.”

Stealth Saga #50

MQ-25 Stingray:

The USN has made it official that the new tanker drone will be the MQ-25a Stingray instead of CBARS.

Fifth Generation Fighters:

Why the 5th gen is so critical to aerial combat these days.


Pakistan may be interested in buying the Turkish TFX fighter.


Boeing and Lockheed are turning out to be rivals over the Japanese F-3 fighter program.


More J-20s have started appearing on the flight line.


WiB argues, rightly, its highly unlikely the next Russian bomber will be a near space, hypersonic monster as described by the Russian media.

 The National Interest is also mocking the Russian media's pronouncements.

However, the Russians might actually be trying to get the Chinese to buy into the program.


Russia continues to claim to be testing sixth gen fighter components on the PAK-FA prototype 5th gen fighters.

WiB claims the PAK-FA is roughly comparable to the F-22.


The USAF has not decided on how many B-21s it will need and will not do so until after the aircraft is done with development.  The reason being the global situation in the 2020s may be better  than now...or worse.


What does the F-22 look like through a thermal imaging system?


The USAF is comfortable with sending the F-35A to war by year's end.

The modifications to the F-35A so the USAF can declare IOC are complete.

The F-35 deployments to Britain as part of the airshows have been testing ALIS, the software for maintenance. 

Israel is considering buying the F-35B.

Elbit Systems is looking to provide training systems for the F-35.

Will the Turkish coup attempt cause a problem in the F-35 program?  However, Lockheed has confirmed the F-35s for Turkey are in the early stages of production.

The British airshows have been welcome PR for the F-35.

WiB still hates the F-35.

ATAC calls the F-35B very 'Raptor-ish' in how it fights air to air. 

Here are some photos of the F-35B at the Red Flag exercise.

Lockheed has stated the F-35 is underfunded and apparently its cash flow is hurt by the delays in the negotiations for the next batches of F-35s.


British Aerospace has developed a laser sensor for determining air speed, doing away with the pivot tube.

Climate had a big Impact on the Maya


Akers et al


The stalagmite MC01 was recovered from Macal Chasm cave on the Vaca Plateau of Belize in 1995, and an initial paleoclimate interpretation was published in 2007. Additional uranium-thorium ages have extended the paleoenvironmental record back from 3250 to 5250 cal yr BP, and the stable isotope (δ18O and δ13C) record is dramatically improved by 660 new values. A series of major dry events (MDEs) evident in stable isotopes, ultraviolet-stimulated luminescence, and petrography began ~ 3100 cal yr BP, and the initiation of these events coincides with an increase in El Niño dominance and southern shift in the Intertropical Convergence Zone. Three MDEs, centered at 1750 cal yr BP (200 CE), 1100 cal yr BP (850 CE), and 850 cal yr BP (1100 CE) and found in other regional climate records, coincide with Maya sociopolitical changes. Residuals from regression of δ13C versus δ18O are interpreted as a proxy for maize cultivation and land clearing, with residual values gradually increasing at the start of Preclassic Period settlement (3950 cal yr BP/2000 BCE), peaking after 2250 cal yr BP (300 BCE) during major Maya development in the Late Preclassic and Classic Periods, and dropping to pre-Preclassic values after regional land abandonment (~ 850 cal yr BP/1100 CE). Regional Maya population growth and cultural expansion may have been aided by abnormally low precipitation variability, as stable isotope variability suggests the Late Preclassic through the Late Classic was the most stable precipitation regime of the past 4000 years. This additional research on MC01 complements other regional paleoenvironmental records that suggest that MDEs coincided with disruptions in Maya society from the Preclassic through the Postclassic Periods. Although it is clear that not all significant sociopolitical changes can be attributed to the MDEs, these events likely played an antagonistic role in social stability.

Thylacoleo carnifex (Marsupial Lion) Appears to Have had a Semi Opposable Claw-Thumb

Ecomorphological determinations in the absence of living analogues: the predatory behavior of the marsupial lion (Thylacoleo carnifex) as revealed by elbow joint morphology


Figueirido et al


Thylacoleo carnifex, or the “pouched lion” (Mammalia: Marsupialia: Diprotodontia: Thylacoleonidae), was a carnivorous marsupial that inhabited Australia during the Pleistocene. Although all present-day researchers agree that Thylacoleo had a hypercarnivorous diet, the way in which it killed its prey remains uncertain. Here we use geometric morphometrics to capture the shape of the elbow joint (i.e., the anterior articular surface of the distal humerus) in a wide sample of extant mammals of known behavior to determine how elbow anatomy reflects forearm use. We then employ this information to investigate the predatory behavior of Thylacoleo. A principal components analysis indicates that Thylacoleo is the only carnivorous mammal to cluster with extant taxa that have an extreme degree of forearm maneuverability, such as primates and arboreal xenarthrans (pilosans). A canonical variates analysis confirms that Thylacoleo had forearm maneuverability intermediate between wombats (terrestrial) and arboreal mammals and a much greater degree of maneuverability than any living carnivoran placental. A linear discriminant analysis computed to separate the elbow morphology of arboreal mammals from terrestrial ones shows that Thylacoleo was primarily terrestrial but with some climbing abilities. We infer from our results that Thylacoleo used its forelimbs for grasping or manipulating prey to a much higher degree than its supposed extant placental counterpart, the African lion (Panthera leo). The use of the large and retractable claw on the semiopposable thumb of Thylacoleo for potentially slashing and disemboweling prey is discussed in the light of this new information.

The Different Paleoenvironments of the Vellberg's Middle Triassic Lagerstätten


Schoch et al


The lacustrine deposits of Vellberg, southern Germany, rank among the richest vertebrate fossil-lagerstätten of the Triassic worldwide. Continued excavation over one decade produced two chondrichthyans, 14 taxa of bony fishes, seven temnospondyls, one chroniosuchian, the stem-turtle Pappochelys, two procolophonians, four lepidosauromorphs, a choristodere, four archosauriforms, three pseudosuchian archosaurs, and around ten further reptile taxa only known by teeth. Sedimentary facies, fossil assemblage composition, and taphonomy suggest this deposit comprises a succession of rather different water bodies, situated on a floodplain dominated by dolomitic muds: (1) a coal swamp with occasional reptiles and temnospondyls, (2) a large but shallow, brackish lagoon inhabited by Bakevellia, Acrodus, Nothosaurus, and the temnospondyl Plagiosternum, (3) a small and shallow, well-protected, oligohaline freshwater lake dominated by various temnospondyls, and (4) a larger (6 km) and deeper freshwater lake, again with a rich fauna of fishes, temnospondyls, and small aquatic reptiles that was eventually filled by dolomitic coastal muds. Reworking and desiccation cracks indicate repeated phases of regression and drought, during which bonebeds formed and skeletons of terrestrial tetrapods were deposited.

A new way of Determining Paleoatmospheric Oxygen Content


Blamey et al


We present a new and innovative way of determining the oxygen level of Earth's past atmosphere by directly measuring inclusion gases trapped in halite. After intensive screening using multiple depositional, textural/fabric, and geochemical parameters, we determined that tectonically undisturbed cumulate, chevron, and cornet halite inclusions may retain atmospheric gas during crystallization from shallow saline, lagoonal, and/or saltpan brine. These are the first measurements of inclusion gas for the Neoproterozoic obtained from 815 ± 15–m.y.–old Browne Formation chevron halite of the Officer Basin, southwest Australia. The 31 gas measurements afford us a direct glimpse of the composition of the mid- to late Neoproterozoic atmosphere and register an average oxygen content of 10.9%. The measured pO2 puts oxygenation of Earth's paleoatmosphere ∼100–200 m.y. ahead of current models and proxy studies. It also puts oxygenation of the Neoproterozoic atmosphere in agreement with time of diversification of eukaryotes and in advance of the emergence of marine animal life.

Russia Will Continue to Support Development of the SR-10/CP-10 Trainer

The Russian Ministry of Defense had a meeting last month to discuss the future of the SR-10 forward-swept-wing jet trainer and it was decided that the state will continue to provide scientific and technical support.

Flight Deck is Nearly Complete on China's First Indigenous Aircraft Carrier

Satellite imagery captured on 10 July reveals that most of the flight deck has been installed on China's first indigenous aircraft carrier (CV), the Type 001A, which is under construction at Dalian shipyard.

The Airbus Defence and Space image shows that significant progress has been made on the CV's hull since the last time construction was observed in late May 2016. For instance, between 17 May and 10 July most of the starboard and port flight deck overhanging sections were installed. The only significant flight deck component still absent was the bow's ski-jump section.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

An Argument Against Universal Basic Income

At first blush, universal basic income (UBI) seems a very attractive idea, especially to a progressive. Yet it suffers from two serious problems. First, the odds are very high that an effort to secure UBI would prove quixotic. Second, and more disconcerting, any possibility of overcoming the formidable obstacles to UBI will almost certainly require a left-right coalition that has significant conservative support — and conservative support for UBI rests on an approach that would increase poverty, rather than reduce it.

The key issues related to UBI include what it would cost, how it would be paid for, and the risks it poses. Let’s take these one at a time.

A new astrobiological model of the atmosphere of Titan


Willacy et al


We present results of an investigation into the formation of nitrogen-bearing molecules in the atmosphere of Titan. We extend a previous model (Li et al. 2015, 2016) to cover the region below the tropopause, so the new model treats the atmosphere from Titan's surface to an altitude of 1500 km. We consider the effects of condensation and sublimation using a continuous, numerically stable method. This is coupled with parameterized treatments of the sedimentation of the aerosols and their condensates, and the formation of haze particles. These processes affect the abundances of heavier species such as the nitrogen-bearing molecules, but have less effect on the abundances of lighter molecules. Removal of molecules to form aerosols also plays a role in determining the mixing ratios, in particular of HNC, HC3N and HCN. We find good agreement with the recently detected mixing ratios of C2H5CN, with condensation playing an important role in determining the abundance of this molecule below 500 km. Of particular interest is the chemistry of acrylonitrile (C2H3CN) which has been suggested by Stevenson et al. (2015) as a molecule that could form biological membranes in an oxygen-deficient environment. With the inclusion of haze formation we find good agreement of our model predictions of acrylonitrile with the available observations.

Is There a Planet Nine *AND* Ten?!


de la Fuente Marcos et al


The distribution of the orbital elements of the known extreme trans-Neptunian objects or ETNOs has been found to be statistically incompatible with that of an unperturbed asteroid population following heliocentric or, better, barycentric orbits. Such trends, if confirmed by future discoveries of ETNOs, strongly suggest that one or more massive perturbers could be located well beyond Pluto. Within the trans-Plutonian planets paradigm, the Planet Nine hypothesis has received much attention as a robust scenario to explain the observed clustering in physical space of the perihelia of seven ETNOs which also exhibit clustering in orbital pole position. Here, we revisit the subject of clustering in perihelia and poles of the known ETNOs using barycentric orbits, and study the visibility of the latest incarnation of the orbit of Planet Nine applying Monte Carlo techniques and focusing on the effects of the apsidal anti-alignment constraint. We provide visibility maps indicating the most likely location of this putative planet if it is near aphelion. We also show that the available data suggest that at least two massive perturbers are present beyond Pluto.

Figuring out Mars' Heat Flow from Shallow Subsurface Measurements

Planetary Heat Flow from Shallow Subsurface Measurements: Mars


Cornwall et al


Planetary heat flow probes measure heat flow (depth-resolved temperature and thermal conductivity) to provide insight into the internal state of a planet. The probes have been utilized extensively on Earth, twice on the Moon, and once on the Surface of comet 67P-CG. Mars is an important target for heat flow measurement as heat flow is a critical parameter in Martian thermal history models. Earlier studies indicate that Martian planetary heat flow can be accessed at 5 m below the surface in dry regolith monitored over at least one Martian year. A one Martian year monitoring period is necessary because, in the shallow subsurface, heat flow from the interior is superposed with time varying heat flow contributions, primarily due to insolation. Given that a heat flow probe may not achieve its target depth or monitoring period, this study investigates how the depth (2-5 m), duration (0-1 Martian year) and quality of measurements influence the accuracy of planetary heat flow. An inverse model is used to show that, in the preceding scenarios, the accuracy of planetary heat flow directly estimated from depth-dependent thermal conductivity with 10–20 % precision errors, temperatures with 50–100 mK precision errors and modelling uncertainties up to 500 mK, can, on average, be improved by a factor of 27 with optimization to 13 %. Accuracies increase with sensor penetration depth and regolith monitoring period. Heat flow optimized from instantaneous measurements or those with the shortest regolith monitoring periods have increased accuracy where the frequency and amplitude of the temperature variation are lowest. The inverse model is based on the Function Specification Inversion method. This study demonstrates that a solution subspace can be identified within a space of uncertainties modelled for the temperature measurements and planetary heat flow: the subspace is defined by a constant log-ratio of their respective standard deviations. Optimized heat flow estimates display reduced correlation with increasing temperature precision and systematic conductivity errors, with the constraint of other known model parameters. Consequently, the model permits upper bounds to be placed on the conductivity estimate without conductivity optimization, as heat flows are optimized to a limiting value with increasing systematic conductivity errors for any given parameter set. Overall, the results demonstrate a 52 % chance of achieving a direct heat flow estimate accurate to within 40 %, with the same being 82 % after optimization.

SpaceX Successfully Launches, Lands Resupply Mission to Space Station

Instruments to perform the first-ever DNA sequencing in space, and the first international docking adapter for commercial spacecraft, are among the cargo scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station after Monday’s launch of the SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services-9 (CRS-9) mission.

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft launched at 12:45 a.m. EDT on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with almost 5,000 pounds of cargo. The spacecraft will be grappled to the space station at 7 a.m. Wednesday, July 20, by NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, supported by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins.

“Each commercial resupply flight to the space station is a significant event. Everything, from the science to the spare hardware and crew supplies, is vital for sustaining our mission,” said Kirk Shireman, NASA’s International Space Station Program manager. “With equipment to enable novel experiments never attempted before in space, and an international docking adapter vital to the future of U.S. commercial crew spacecraft, we’re thrilled this Dragon has successfully taken flight.”

The mission is the company’s ninth cargo flight to the station under NASA’s CRS contract. Dragon’s cargo will support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations during the station’s Expeditions 48 and 49.

Railgun Projectiles Being Adapted to 5" Naval Guns & US Army 155mm Artillery

The Pentagon’s office tasked with tweaking existing and developing military technology for new uses is pushing development of ammo meant for the electromagnetic railgun for use in existing naval guns and artillery pieces.

The initiative will recast existing weapons as potential air defense platforms through a change in ammunition.

About year and a half ago, researchers at the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office and inside the service realized that there was more short-term promise for not only the Navy but the Army to use the Hyper Velocity Projectiles (HVP) rounds overseen by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in both services existing powder guns, said SCO head William Roper said last week.

The Coming Cyber War #14

Cyber Warfare:

Here's the Chinese Army's perspective on rules for the restricting hacking of each other's countries.

NATO is stating it needs to raise its game with respect to cyber warfare.

China's capabilities and plans are looked at in the article entitled 'The Cyber Dragon.'

Did the US pwn Iran with Nitro Zeus?

Raytheon is developing significant cyberwarfare capabilities.

Cyber Security:

Google is trying to protect its Chrome browser from quantum computing encryption crackers.

Anti virus software is becoming increasingly useless and even makes computers more vulnerable.

There are nodes listening as spies on the TOR network.

Cyber security needs to be beefed up for 3d printing.

The FDIC was hacked multiple times between 2010 and 2013 by China.  The employees covered this up.

DARPA's Grand Cyber Challenge aims to improve cyber security.

Cyber Crime:

1,000 Wendy's restaurants were hacked and customer info stolen by malware.

The Baton Rouge police department was hacked.

Hackers have already been attacking the Republican Party Convention.

Wikileaks has also been under attack since they released Turkey related documents.

The OSCE has trained Ukrainian cyber security police.

Cyber crime has overtaken traditional crime in the UK.

Studying Mouse Lemur Genetics Reveals Ancient Forest Mosaic Environment

Today, Madagascar is home to a mosaic of different habitats--a lush rainforest in the east and a dry deciduous forest in the west, separated by largely open highlands. But the island off the southeast coast of Africa hasn't always been like that--a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences announces that these two ecologically different portions of the island were once linked by a patchwork of forested areas. And to figure it out, the scientists analyzed the DNA of some of the cutest animals on earth--mouse lemurs.

"For a long time, scientists weren't sure how or why Madagascar's biogeography changed in very recent geological time, specifically at the key period around when humans arrived on the island a few thousand years ago. It has been proposed they heavily impacted the Central Highland forests," says Steve Goodman, MacArthur Field Biologist at The Field Museum in Chicago, who co-authored the study and has been studying Malagasy animals for thirty years. "This study shows the landscape was changing thousands of years before humans arrived."

So scientists wanted to learn about the history of Madagascar's landscape--why study mouse lemurs? The tiny primates are the perfect combination of fast-breeding, hardy, and unique to the island. "They reach reproductive maturity within a year, and that means that a lot of generations are produced very quickly," explains Goodman. "That enables us to see evolution at work faster than we would in an animal that took, say, five years to first reproduce." The lemurs, which are found only on Madagascar, live across much of the island, even forested areas that have been damaged by humans. That means that for scientists studying how the island changed over time, mouse lemurs are a jackpot. "The mouse lemurs are forest dependent--as the forest changes, they change. By studying how mouse lemurs evolved in different areas of the island, we're able to glimpse how the island itself changed and learn whether those changes were caused by humans," says Goodman.

By analyzing DNA from five different mouse lemur species, the scientists were able to tell when the different kinds of lemurs branched out from each other. "We were able to characterize tens of thousands of changes in the genomes of mouse lemurs that are now isolated and form separate species. By analyzing these DNA changes, we were able to understand when the species diverged from each other, and by inference, identify the ecological forces that might have driven them apart," says Anne Yoder, Director of the Duke University Lemur Center and lead author on the paper.

The Differences in how Mammals and Cynodonts Grew

The evolution of growth patterns in mammalian versus nonmammalian cynodonts


O’Meara et al


One of the major evolutionary transitions of the mammaliaform lineage was the origin of a typically mammalian pattern of growth. This is characterized by rapid juvenile growth followed by abrupt cessation of growth at adult size and may be linked with other important mammaliaform apomorphies of dental replacement and morphology. Investigation of growth patterns in the tritylodontid cynodont Oligokyphus and the basal mammaliaform Morganucodon provides insight into this crucial transition. We collected mandibular depth measurements from large samples of Morganucodon and Oligokyphus and constructed distributions of mandibular depth versus frequency for each species. These were compared with distributions from species from three different growth classes of extant amniote: testudines + crocodilians, mammals + birds, and lepidosaurs. Discriminant function analysis was used to differentiate between known growth classes by using different combinations of three measures of mandibular depth distribution shape (skew, kurtosis, and coefficient of variation) as proxies for different juvenile and adult growth patterns. Classification of the fossil species showed that Morganucodon closely resembled extant placental mammals in having rapid juvenile growth followed by truncated, determinate adult growth. Oligokyphus showed intermediate growth patterns, with more extended adult growth patterns than Morganucodon and slightly slower juvenile growth. This suggests a gradual evolution of mammalian growth patterns across the cynodont to mammaliaform transition, possibly with the origin of rapid juvenile growth preceding that of truncated, determinate adult growth. In turn, acquisition of both these aspects of mammalian growth was likely necessary for the evolution of diphyodont tooth replacement in the mammaliaform lineage.

How Dominant Were Disaster Taxa After the Permian Extinction

Quantitative analysis of the ecological dominance of benthic disaster taxa in the aftermath of the end-Permian mass extinction


Petsios et al


The end-Permian mass extinction, the largest extinction of the Phanerozoic, led to a severe reduction in both taxonomic richness and ecological complexity of marine communities, eventually culminating in a dramatic ecological restructuring of communities. During the Early Triassic recovery interval, disaster taxa proliferated and numerically dominated many marine benthic invertebrate assemblages. These disaster taxa include the bivalve genera Claraia, Unionites, Eumorphotis, and Promyalina, and the inarticulate brachiopod Lingularia. The exact nature and extent of their dominance remains uncertain. Here, a quantitative analysis of the dominance of these taxa within the fossil communities of Panthalassa and Tethys benthic realms is undertaken for the stages of the Early Triassic to examine temporal and regional changes in disaster-taxon dominance as recovery progresses. Community dominance and disaster-taxon abundance is markedly different between Panthalassic and Tethyan communities. In Panthalassa, community evenness is low in the Induan stage but increases significantly in the Smithian and Spathian. This is coincident with a significant decrease in the relative abundance and occurrence frequency of the disaster taxa, most notably of the low-oxygen-affinity taxa Claraia and Lingularia. While the disaster taxa are present in post-Induan assemblages, other taxa, including two articulate brachiopod genera, outrank the disaster taxa in relative abundance. In the Tethys, assemblages are generally more even than contemporaneous Panthalassic assemblages. We observe an averaged trend toward more even communities with fewer disaster taxa in both Panthalassic and Tethyan assemblages over time.

Soft Bodied Metazoans (Animals) Found in From Ediacaran NeoProterozoic Namibia

A mixed Ediacaran-metazoan assemblage from the Zaris Sub-basin, Namibia


Darroch et al


It has been proposed that the terminal Neoproterozoic Ediacara biota were driven to extinction by the evolution of metazoan groups capable of engineering their environments (the ‘biotic replacement’ model). However, evidence for an overlapping ecological association between metazoans and soft-bodied Ediacaran organisms is limited. Here, we describe new fossil localities from southern Namibia that preserve soft-bodied Ediacara biota, enigmatic tubular organisms thought to represent metazoans, and vertically-oriented metazoan trace fossils. Although the precise identity of the tracemakers remains elusive, the structures bear several striking similarities with the Cambrian-Recent ichnogenus Conichnus. These new data support inference of stratigraphic and ecological overlap between two very different eukaryotic clades, and indicate the existence of unusual ecosystems comprising both Ediacara biota and metazoans immediately prior to the Cambrian explosion.

A Russian Destroyer Shadowed an Amphibious Assault Ship USS America

A Russian destroyer shadowed the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) on July 16 and 17 during the Rim of the Pacific 2016 exercise, generally staying about one or two nautical miles away but at times coming as close as about 1,000 yards, USNI News observed.

The Udaloy-class destroyer Admiral Vinogradov (DD-572) approached America around 5 p.m. local time on July 16 and shadowed the warship all night and well into the next day.

The destroyer appeared at one point to peel away and sail toward USS San Diego (LPD-22) an amphibious transport dock sailing in the same amphibious readiness group (ARG) but then turned back to America.

At the time, America was sailing in international waters, San Diego was closer to U.S. territorial waters.

Scuffle in the South China Sea #60

China is digging in its position. 

China has made it clear it will not stop building islands.

China has stated the freedom of navigation operations may end 'unfortunately.' 

China is again closing part of the South China Sea for military exercises.

China has admitted it sent H-6K bombers over the Scarborough Shoal.

Can China actually enforce an ADIZ in the South China Sea?

China will conduct regular combat air patrols over the South China Sea.

China has dismissed calls for boycotting Filipino trade over the ruling.

China is floating the island of placing nuclear reactors in the South China Sea.

China is criticizing the intra China protests against the ruling even though they are supportive of the regime.

Top admirals of the US and China met to discuss the South China Sea dispute.

Is it time for the US to take a stand on the Scarborough Shoal?

The Philippines won't sacrifice its recent ruling victory in its negotiations with China

Philippines declined a conditional negotiation with China.

Philippines stated its fishermen are still blocked from the Scarborough Shoal.

Japan and Vietnam both agree the ruling must be observed.

China replied Japan must not interfere with the situation in the South China Sea.

The EU's statement on the South China Sea ruling reflects on its internal divisions.

India may buy 4 Tu-22M3 Backfire Bombers

Russia’s Interfax is quoted to have said that India is keen to buy four Tu-22M3 strategic bombers from Moscow.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Europa Missions and the SLS

Europa, the icy Jovian moon with a subsurface liquid water ocean heated by tidal forces, presents a tremendous opportunity for scientific exploration and offers tantalizing possibilities for the search for extraterrestrial life. Despite the stark warning issued in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010: Odyssey Two to “attempt no landing there,” NASA has been working on a dedicated mission to Europa, which now involves a lander, for more than three years.

This mission’s profile has undergone considerable evolution since Congress first allocated money in 2013 to finance it, including a policy mandate to utilize the heavy-lift Space Launch System for launch.

Why DARPA is Pushing the XS-1 Spaceplane

Citing increasing U.S. launch costs and the “fleeing” of commercial customers to foreign launch service providers, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is continuing to push a bold strategy tied to a new, reusable spaceplane that the Agency envisions flying 10 times in 10 days for a cost of less than $5 million USD per flight.

The issue:

As defined by DARPA, the “Dramatic growth in U.S. launch costs since [the] early 1990s is driving much larger growth in space system costs.”

As part of DARPA’s “Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1): Aiming to Reduce the Time to Space and Cost to Space by Orders of Magnitude” overview (video and materials in L2), the program cites an annual DoD (Department of Defense) launch cost in excess of $3 billion USD, with small launches now cited as greater than $50 million USD each.

US Navy Nuclear Submarine Plans

Got subs? The Navy sounds increasingly confident it can squeeze an extra submarine into its construction plans. The additional Virginia-class attack sub, to be funded in the 2021 budget, would enter service just as the attack submarine force shrinks to historic lows while Chinese and Russian fleets grow in both numbers and sophistication.

The Navy had planned to cut back production of Virginias, which carry conventional cruise missiles and torpedoes, to make room for the much larger Ohio Replacement Program (ORP) boats, which carry nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. Maintaining the nuclear deterrent for the worst case scenario takes top priority — but attack submarines are in high demand every day. The growing threat of nuclear-armed great powers increases the need for both kinds of boats. It’s a painful tradeoff the Navy would rather not make.

Now new Navy studies suggest the shipyards can keep building two Virginias a year, the current rate, even as they start building the first “boomer” in 2021. As Ohio Replacement production ramps up after 2021, however, keeping up two Virginias a year will become harder.

The Navy will present an updated Ohio Replacement Program cost estimate to the Defense Department later this summer and seek approval to move into detailed design and engineering work, the Program Executive Officer for Submarines said today.

The new ballistic missile submarine program will request a Milestone B decision from the Pentagon’s acquisition chief and the Defense Acquisition Board, and “coincident with that, we’re also producing a new cost estimate,” Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley said at an event co-hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the U.S. Naval Institute. He said the Navy is still working through this component cost position, of the lifecycle cost estimate, and is awaiting final approval of that dollar figure before presenting to the DAB.

A 2014 cost estimate put the program’s average follow-ship cost — ships two through 12, not including the typically most-expensive lead ship – at $5.2 billion, squarely in between the mandatory threshold of $5.6 billion and the target objective of $4.9 billion. Jabaley added that the 2014 cost estimate put the non-recurring costs – engineering work and building facilities to produce the subs – at $17.4 billion. Updated figures will be publicly released after the DAB approves the Milestone B decision, he said.

Jabaley said he views it as his responsibility to not only control costs for ORP but to actively seek ways to reduce cost.


Terminator Times #15


What's next for drone warfare?

Especially for the next US President.

Drones strikes became more transparent.

Surrogate tests are being conducted for the MQ-25's refueling pod now.

General Atomics is building its latest variant on the Predator B.

Kratos will demonstrate a low cost UCAV for the AFRL.

Pentagon has asked for money to counter ISIL UAVs.

The USAF is looking at swarm drones to help offset their smaller size.  

Raytheon's Coyote is entering the next stage of swarm testing.

Honeywell & IAI have been tapped for an anti collision system for UAVs.

A multi spectral sensor has been selected for the Global Hawk.

Russian snipers are being trained to hunt drones.

Russian artillery is using UAVs for targeting. 

A Russian contractor unveiled a 3d printed drone.

Russia claims its 6th generation fighter will control swarms of drones.

A Brazilian-Israeli UAV joint project will take flight soon.

The Heron UAV will be getting a sense and avoid capability.

Elbit has developed a self protection system for UAVs.

India's Rustom 2 UCAV is about to take flight too.

Airbus is starting a study for a European MALE.

Airbus has also unveiled details about its Zephyr T HALE UAV.

The loss of the Hammerhead UAV prototype has pushed back deliveries.

The Falco Evo MALE has two launch customers.

Leonardo-Finmeccanica's Helicopter Division and the British Ministry of Defence have signed a deal for unmanned choppers.

Brit's Watchkeeper drone production is about complete.

The RN will lose its shipboard UAVs on its frigates in 2017.

Thales unveiled Malaysia's new ship launched UAV.

The Chinese unveiled a box-wing UAV concept.

AUDS counter UAV system makes a debut.

Unmanned Ground Systems:

The US Navy wants a 'robo squirrel' for scouting missions on land that can climb trees, jump, etc.

The Dallas police used a robot delivered bomb to kill the sniper who shot several police officers.  This is not the killer robot you are looking for.

IAI is planning on offering a wide portfolio of UGV systems.


The USMC is pursuing unmanned systems, 3d printing for logistics in the future.

BAe wants to grow drones, etc.

Turtles Developed Their Shell to Help Them Burrow


Lyson et al


The turtle shell is a complex structure that currently serves a largely protective function in this iconically slow-moving group [ 1 ]. Developmental [ 2, 3 ] and fossil [ 4–7 ] data indicate that one of the first steps toward the shelled body plan was broadening of the ribs (approximately 50 my before the completed shell [ 5 ]). Broadened ribs alone provide little protection [ 8 ] and confer significant locomotory [ 9, 10 ] and respiratory [ 9, 11 ] costs. They increase thoracic rigidity [ 8 ], which decreases speed of locomotion due to shortened stride length [ 10 ], and they inhibit effective costal ventilation [ 9, 11 ]. New fossil material of the oldest hypothesized stem turtle, Eunotosaurus africanus [ 12 ] (260 mya) [ 13, 14 ] from the Karoo Basin of South Africa, indicates the initiation of rib broadening was an adaptive response to fossoriality. Similar to extant fossorial taxa [ 8 ], the broad ribs of Eunotosaurus provide an intrinsically stable base on which to operate a powerful forelimb digging mechanism. Numerous fossorial correlates [ 15–17 ] are expressed throughout Eunotosaurus’ skeleton. Most of these features are widely distributed along the turtle stem and into the crown clade, indicating the common ancestor of Eunotosaurus and modern turtles possessed a body plan significantly influenced by digging. The adaptations related to fossoriality likely facilitated movement of stem turtles into aquatic environments early in the groups’ evolutionary history, and this ecology may have played an important role in stem turtles surviving the Permian/Triassic extinction event.

Why Were Ornithopod Dinosaurs so Successful?

here has been a long debate about why dinosaurs were so successful. Say dinosaur, and most people think of the great flesh-eaters such as Tyrannosaurus rex, but the most successful dinosaurs were of course the plant-eaters.

A new study from the University of Bristol, led by Masters of Palaeobiology student Eddy Strickson, has presented clear evidence about how plant-eating dinosaurs evolved.

In the rich dinosaur deposits of North America, hundreds of skeletons of plant-eaters are found for every T. rex. But how did they survive and proliferate? Was it down to innovation or stimulus by plant evolution?

Eddy Strickson said: "The plant-eating ornithopods showed four evolutionary bursts; one in the middle of the Jurassic, and the other three in a cluster around 80 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous. This was down to innovation in their jaws and improved efficiency."

Gualicho shinyae: a Neovenatorid Carcharodontosaurian Theropod With a Tyrannosaur-like Hand From Cenomanian Cretaceous Argentina

An Unusual New Theropod with a Didactyl Manus from the Upper Cretaceous of Patagonia, Argentina


Apesteguía et al



Late Cretaceous terrestrial strata of the Neuquén Basin, northern Patagonia, Argentina have yielded a rich fauna of dinosaurs and other vertebrates. The diversity of saurischian dinosaurs is particularly high, especially in the late Cenomanian-early Turonian Huincul Formation, which has yielded specimens of rebacchisaurid and titanosaurian sauropods, and abelisaurid and carcharodontosaurid theropods. Continued sampling is adding to the known vertebrate diversity of this unit.

Methodology/ Principal Findings

A new, partially articulated mid-sized theropod was found in rocks from the Huincul Formation. It exhibits a unique combination of traits that distinguish it from other known theropods justifying erection of a new taxon, Gualicho shinyae gen. et sp. nov. Gualicho possesses a didactyl manus with the third digit reduced to a metacarpal splint reminiscent of tyrannosaurids, but both phylogenetic and multivariate analyses indicate that didactyly is convergent in these groups. Derived characters of the scapula, femur, and fibula supports the new theropod as the sister taxon of the nearly coeval African theropod Deltadromeus and as a neovenatorid carcharodontosaurian. A number of these features are independently present in ceratosaurs, and Gualicho exhibits an unusual mosaic of ceratosaurian and tetanuran synapomorphies distributed throughout the skeleton.

Conclusions/ Significance

Gualicho shinyae gen. et sp. nov. increases the known theropod diversity of the Huincul Formation and also represents the first likely neovenatorid from this unit. It is the most basal tetatanuran to exhibit common patterns of digit III reduction that evolved independently in a number of other tetanuran lineages. A close relationship with Deltadromaeus from the Kem Kem beds of Niger adds to the already considerable biogeographic similarity between the Huincul Formation and coeval rock units in North Africa.

pop sci write up.

Rhyacian PaleoProterozoic Magnesite Deposits are NOT Deposited Under Hydrothermal Conditions

Genesis of a giant Paleoproterozoic strata-bound magnesite deposit: Constraints from Mg isotopes


Dong et al


Giant strata-bound magnesite deposits are absent in modern and most Phanerozoic sedimentary environments but occur predominantly in Precambrian strata. These deposits may have formed directly through precipitation of evolved Mg-rich seawater in an evaporative shallow-marine setting or, alternatively, by epigenetic–hydrothermal replacement of the Mg-rich carbonate precursor. To test these hypotheses, we obtained the first Mg isotope data from the world’s largest strata-bound magnesite deposit belt, hosted by the ca. 2.1 Ga Dashiqiao Formation in Northeast China. The Mg isotope compositions (δ26Mg) of most magnesite ores in the Huaziyu deposit are heavier (–0.75 ± 0.26‰) than most Proterozoic sedimentary dolostones. The Mg isotope compositions and major and trace element data indicate that the magnesites are probably not of hydrothermal origin. Instead, a Mg-rich carbonate precursor precipitated from evaporating seawater in a semi-closed system. Diagenetic brines altered the Mg-rich carbonate precursor to magnesite. Subsequently, recrystallization during regional metamorphism produced coarsely crystalline and saddle magnesite. These interpretations are consistent with the geological features and other geochemical data (element concentrations and C and O isotopes) for the magnesite ores. Hence, we interpret the formation of the Huaziyu magnesite deposit to be dominated by evaporative sedimentation and brine diagenesis.