Friday, August 22, 2014

Gorlovka Evac Fundraiser Day 7

This will be the last post asking for help getting our contacts out of Gorlovka.   We have raised a total of $1,750 out of the $5,000 we hoped.
The good news is we have enough to get them out of the town.  The problem is what to do afterwards.  Our original plan was to remove them from Gorlovka to a new destination outside of Ukraine.  We would set them up somewhere not to be disclosed, but definitely safe and then start their paperwork for immigrating.
We can get them out of the current warzone, but past that...not much more.  Please don't think we're not putting in money of our own.  As much as we can (around the same amount to be raised) is going to be used for this.
Please use my email address (anzhalyu at gmail There are no dots or other characters, just to warn you except for the obvious final extension) for both questions and where to send the funds to on paypal. I can take cryptocurrencies, but, please, email me first. That's a little more complicated.
Anyone who has contributed may ask for any blog post they wish. I'll whip one up almost immediately.
I will put up two more posts, both on sunday, and that will be it.  I'll still take contributions, but not bother the blog readers.
Thank you for your help.

SpaceX's Grasshopper Rocket Explodes

Just in case the embed doesn't work above. Here's the link to the video.

Using Electrocorticography for Mind-Machine Interfaces

Last year, an epilepsy patient awaiting brain surgery at the renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital occupied her time with an unusual activity. While doctors and neuroscientists clustered around, she repeatedly reached toward a video screen, which showed a small orange ball on a table. As she extended her hand, a robotic arm across the room also reached forward and grasped the actual orange ball on the actual table. In terms of robotics, this was nothing fancy. What made the accomplishment remarkable was that the woman was controlling the mechanical limb with her brain waves.

The experiment in that Baltimore hospital room demonstrated a new approach in brain-machine interfaces (BMIs), which measure electrical activity from the brain and use the signal to control something. BMIs come in many shapes and sizes, but they all work fundamentally the same way: They detect the tiny voltage changes in the brain that occur when neurons fire to trigger a thought or an action, and they translate those signals into digital information that is conveyed to the machine.

To sense what’s going on in the brain, some systems use electrodes that are simply attached to the scalp to record the electroencephalographic signal. These EEG systems record from broad swaths of the brain, and the signal is hard to decipher. Other BMIs require surgically implanted electrodes that penetrate the cerebral cortex to capture the activity of individual neurons. These invasive systems provide much clearer signals, but they are obviously warranted only in extreme situations where doctors need precise information. The patient in the hospital room that day was demonstrating a third strategy that offers a compromise between those two methods. The gear in her head provided good signal quality at a lower risk by contacting—but not penetrating—the brain tissue.

DARPA's GXV-T: An X Program for Tanks

The US Army has revealed plans to replace tanks with small, 'off road' vehicles covered in smart armour.

Military bosses says the current tanks are hindering soldier's ability to get into battle.

They say the future is a small vehicle called the GXV-T.

For the past 100 years of mechanized warfare, protection for ground-based armored fighting vehicles and their occupants has boiled down almost exclusively to a simple equation: More armor equals more protection,' Darpa said.

The Paleoenvironment of Northwest Oxfordian Juassic Spain

Timing of sea level, tectonics and climate events during the uppermost Oxfordian (Planula zone) on the Iberian ramp (northeast Spain)


Colombie et al


The middle Oxfordian warming climate and sea-level rise initiated the development of vast carbonate platforms in some western European basins. At the same time, however, siliciclastics and siliceous sponges dominated certain marginal areas of the Iberian ramp. There, siliciclastic input was particularly prominent during the latest Oxfordian and may have been related to a global sea-level fall, synsedimentary tectonic activity, or humid climatic conditions in the hinterland. Field analyses and computer modelling have been previously used to determine the factors that controlled sedimentation. However, it is still unclear if the specific conditions that prevailed during the latest Oxfordian were due to eustasy, tectonics or climate, and when precisely they occurred. Here, we document major changes in sedimentological, micropalaeontological, and mineralogical records on the Iberian ramp during this interval. Detailed sedimentary facies and palynofacies analyses combined with sequence-stratigraphic and cyclostratigraphic analyses of the Ricla Barranco section enable the establishment of a high-resolution time frame. Based on the quartz and mica percentage fluctuations, one large- and seven small-scale sequences are defined. The large-scale sequence boundaries correlate with third-order sequence boundaries Ox 8 and Kim 1 defined by Hardenbol et al. (1998). The large-scale maximum-flooding surface corresponds to the base of the most calcareous interval and to the maximum abundance of marine phytoplankton and opaque, equidimensional phytoclasts. The small-scale sequences correspond to the 100-kyr orbital eccentricity cycle. Calcareous nannofossils and clay minerals were used as palaeoclimatic proxies. Nannofossil abundances and fluxes are lower in the upper part than in the lower part of the interval studied, suggesting a decrease in sea-surface trophic conditions, also shown by an increase in the relative abundance of oligotrophic taxa. This upper part is also characterised by an increase in smectite, which coincides with the base of the large-scale highstand deposit, and is interpreted as reflecting the establishment of dry conditions. A first increase in smectite occurs in the lower part of the succession, and coincides with high percentages of quartz and mica. This latter mineralogical assemblage is interpreted as recording the onset of the Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous rifting stage, which occurred just before the Planula–Galar ammonite subzone transition. The present study points out a return toward optimum conditions for carbonate sedimentation only 300 kyr after the prominent increase in siliciclastic input due to tectonic activity. The recovery of carbonate production was accompanied by a global sea-level rise and by decreasing rainfall on nearby land.

How "Hot" Kuiper Belt Objects Migrated Out



Brasil et al


Several models have been suggested in the past to describe the dynamical formation of hot Kuiper Belt objects (hereafter Hot Classicals or HCs for short). Here, we discuss a dynamical mechanism that allows orbits to evolve from the primordial planetesimal disk at lsim 35 AU to reach the orbital region now occupied by HCs. We performed three different sets of numerical simulations to illustrate this mechanism. Two of these simulations were based on modern theories for the early evolution of the solar system (the Nice and jumping-Jupiter models). The third simulation was performed with the purpose of increasing the resolution at 41-46 AU. The common aspect of these simulations is that Neptune scatters planetesimals from lsim 35 AU to >40 AU and then undergoes a long phase of slow residual migration. Our results show that to reach an HC orbit, a scattered planetesimal needs to be captured in a mean motion resonance (MMR) with Neptune where the perihelion distance rises due to the Kozai resonance (which occurs in MMRs even for moderate inclinations). Finally, while Neptune is still migrating, the planetesimal is released from the MMR on a stable HC orbit. We show that the orbital distribution of HCs expected from this process provides a reasonable match to observations. The capture efficiency and the mass deposited into the HC region appears to be sensitive to the maximum eccentricity reached by Neptune during the planetary instability phase. Additional work will be needed to resolve this dependency in detail.

The Deep Ecliptic Survey Finds Kuiper Belt Objects Come in Two Flavours: Hot and Cold



Adams et al


The Deep Ecliptic Survey (DES) was a survey project that discovered hundreds of Kuiper Belt objects from 1998 to 2005. Extensive follow-up observations of these bodies has yielded 304 objects with well-determined orbits and dynamical classifications into one of several categories: Classical, Scattered, Centaur, or 16 mean-motion resonances with Neptune. The DES search fields are well documented, enabling us to calculate the probability on each frame of detecting an object with its particular orbital parameters and absolute magnitude at a randomized point in its orbit. The detection probabilities range from a maximum of 0.32 for the 3:2 resonant object 2002 GF 32 to a minimum of 1.5 × 10–7 for the faint Scattered object 2001 FU 185. By grouping individual objects together by dynamical classes, we can estimate the distributions of four parameters that define each class: semimajor axis, eccentricity, inclination, and object size. The orbital element distributions (a, e, and i) were fit to the largest three classes (Classical, 3:2, and Scattered) using a maximum likelihood fit. Using the absolute magnitude (H magnitude) as a proxy for the object size, we fit a power law to the number of objects versus H magnitude for eight classes with at least five detected members (246 objects). The Classical objects are best fit with a power-law slope of α = 1.02 ± 0.01 (observed from 5 ≤ H ≤ 7.2). Six other dynamical classes (Scattered plus five resonances) have consistent magnitude distribution slopes with the Classicals, provided that the absolute number of objects is scaled. Scattered objects are somewhat more numerous than Classical objects, while there are only a quarter as many 3:2 objects as Classicals. The exception to the power law relation is the Centaurs, which are non-resonant objects with perihelia closer than Neptune and therefore brighter and detectable at smaller sizes. Centaurs were observed from 7.5 less than H less than 11, and that population is best fit by a power law with α = 0.42 ± 0.02. This is consistent with a knee in the H-distribution around H = 7.2 as reported elsewhere. Based on the Classical-derived magnitude distribution, the total number of objects (H ≤ 7) in each class is: Classical (2100 ± 300 objects), Scattered (2800 ± 400), 3:2 (570 ± 80), 2:1 (400 ± 50), 5:2 (270 ± 40), 7:4 (69 ± 9), 5:3 (60 ± 8). The independent estimate for the number of Centaurs in the same H range is 13 ± 5. If instead all objects are divided by inclination into "Hot" and "Cold" populations, following Fraser et al., we find that αHot = 0.90 ± 0.02, while αCold = 1.32 ± 0.02, in good agreement with that work.

An Event Reported in 775 AD by al-Tabari may Support Impact

A transient event in AD 775 reported by al-Tabari: A bolide - not a nova, supernova, or kilonova


Neuhaeuser et al


Given that the cause for the strong increase in 14C in AD 774/5 in Japanese and German trees is still a matter of debate (e.g. short Gamma-Ray Burst or solar super-flare), we have searched in Arabic chronicles for reports about unusual transient celestial events. In the {\em History of al-Tabari we found two (almost identical) reports about such an event. The group around caliph al-Mansur observed a transient event while on the way from Baghdad to Mecca on AD 775 Aug 29 - Sep 1 (Julian calendar), most probably during the morning twilight of AD 775 Aug 29. A celestial object kawkab was seen to fall or set inqadda, and its trace atharuhu was seen for at least tens of minutes (up to 70-90 min) during morning twilight. The reports use the Arabic words kawkab and athar(uhu), which were also used in the known Arabic reports about supernovae SN 1006 and 1054, so that one might consider an interpretation as a nova-like event. The kawkab (celestial object) was observed only during the morning twilight at a brightness of probably between about -3 and 0 mag. Such a brightness and time-scale would be expected for optical kilonovae (at 3 to 9 kpc) in the context of short Gamma-Ray Bursts. There are no similar reports from eastern Asia for this time. However, the short reports are fully consistent with a bolide: The word kawkab can be used for meteor, the verb inqadda normally means "falling down", the word atharuhu can mean "its trace". We therefore prefer the interpretation as bolide. We discuss in detail how to convert the Muslim calendar date to a date in the Julian calendar using first the calculated Islamic calendar and then considering the time when the crescent new moon could be visible at the given location.

Caiuajara dobruskii: a Gregarious Upper Cretaceous Pterosaur Found in a Bonebed in Brazil

Discovery of a Rare Pterosaur Bone Bed in a Cretaceous Desert with Insights on Ontogeny and Behavior of Flying Reptiles


Manzig et al


A pterosaur bone bed with at least 47 individuals (wing spans: 0.65–2.35 m) of a new species is reported from southern Brazil from an interdunal lake deposit of a Cretaceous desert, shedding new light on several biological aspects of those flying reptiles. The material represents a new pterosaur, Caiuajara dobruskii gen. et sp. nov., that is the southermost occurrence of the edentulous clade Tapejaridae (Tapejarinae, Pterodactyloidea) recovered so far. Caiuajara dobruskii differs from all other members of this clade in several cranial features, including the presence of a ventral sagittal bony expansion projected inside the nasoantorbital fenestra, which is formed by the premaxillae; and features of the lower jaw, like a marked rounded depression in the occlusal concavity of the dentary. Ontogenetic variation of Caiuajara dobruskii is mainly reflected in the size and inclination of the premaxillary crest, changing from small and inclined (~115°) in juveniles to large and steep (~90°) in adults. No particular ontogenetic features are observed in postcranial elements. The available information suggests that this species was gregarious, living in colonies, and most likely precocial, being able to fly at a very young age, which might have been a general trend for at least derived pterosaurs.

Evidence of the Chicxulub Impact Derived Tsunami From Woody Plant Biomarkers

A spike of woody plant biomarkers in the deep-sea iridium layer at the Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary


Mizukami et al


At the Cretaceous/Paleogene (K/Pg) boundary, 66 million years ago, the Chixulub impact resulted in significant environmental changes and a mass extinction of dinosaurs and marine invertebrates such as ammonites. Here, we report that accumulation of woody plant biomarkers in the deep water occurred in the iridium anomaly at ~ 700 km from the impact crater. The results reveal that the concentration of terrestrial organic molecules derived from woody plants, namely biphenyl and dibenzofuran, shows synchronized changes and increases abruptly in the red layer (fine ejecta), which has an iridium spike, above tsunami-like coarse deposits indicating a significant increase in the influx of woody plant fragments into the ocean a few years after the impact. Long-chain n-alkanes and cadalene derived from land vegetation in the tsunami-like coarse deposits prior to the transportation of trees were also transported to the deep sea. This implies that transportation of grass to the deep sea started within a few days of the bolide impact. Transportation of trees then began a few years later. A rapid increase in the concentration of dibenzothiophenes also occurs in the red layer, indicating that low-dissolved-oxygen conditions had expanded in the bathypelagic zone over the seafloor. An increase in the influx of terrestrial organic matter into the deep ocean could have resulted in the low-dissolved-oxygen conditions. Furthermore, the stratigraphic distribution of planktonic foraminifera at Beloc shows that Cretaceous planktonic foraminifera became extinct as the result of an asteroid impact.

Evidence of a Continental Collision/Subduction at the NeoArchean/PaleoProterozoic Boundary

Neoarchean to Paleoproterozoic high-pressure mafic granulite from the Jiaodong terrain, North China Craton: Petrology, zircon age determination and geological implications


Liu et al


The North China Craton is an ideal place for studying the transition of the Earth's thermal structure and tectonics at the Archean-Proterozoic boundary due to its good preservation of the ~ 2.5 Ga tectono-thermal events. We report the discovery of a high-pressure mafic granulite from the Jiaodong Terrain in the North China Craton. The mafic granulite occurs as garnet-clinopyroxene-orthopyroxene-hornblende gneiss enclaves within a late-Archean trondhjemite-tonalite-granodiorite (TTG) gneiss. Typical high-pressure mineral assemblage of garnet - clinopyroxene - plagioclase - quartz ± rutile has been identified. Plagioclase + clinopyroxene ± orthpyroxene ± hornblende symplectite surrounding garnet ("white eye") is also observed. Using the conventional geothermobarometry and the pseudosection modeling, a clockwise metamorphic P-T path with the peak conditions at ~ 17 kbar and ~ 880 °C was determined. Zircon U-Pb analyses (SHRIMP) on the overgrowth rim of zircon grains of two samples from the same outcrop yielded a metamorphic age of 2473 ± 6 Ma (MSWD = 0.8). The analyses on magmatic core gave a probable magmatic age of 2527 ± 12 Ma (MSWD = 1.9). The high-pressure granulite facies metamorphism corresponds to a collisional event between the ~ 2.5 Ga crust and ~ 2.9 Ga crust at the dawn of Paleoproterozoic in the North China Craton. It also represents a new but rare case of a subduction-collision tectonics at the Archean-Proterozoic transition and provides insight into the change of the Earth's thermal structure.

Antarctica Could Contribute up to 37 cm (14 in) to Sea Level Rise

The results reproduce Antarctica's recent contribution to sea level rise as observed by satellites in the last two decades and show that the ice continent could become the largest contributor to sea level rise much sooner than previously thought.

"If greenhouse gases continue to rise as before, ice discharge from Antarctica could raise the global ocean by an additional 1 to 37 centimeters in this century already," says lead author Anders Levermann. "Now this is a big range – which is exactly why we call it a risk: Science needs to be clear about the uncertainty, so that decision makers at the coast and in coastal megacities like Shanghai or New York can consider the potential implications in their planning processes," says Levermann.

Australian Jeep Carrier Sets Sail for Final Sea Trials

The first of the Royal Australian Navy's (RAN's) two new Canberra-class landing helicopter docks (LHDs) has embarked on final contractor sea trials, officials announced on 19 August.

Lead ship Canberra set sail from BAE Systems' Williamstown shipyard in Melbourne on 12 August for trials in Port Phillip Bay and off the southern coast of New South Wales. The ship will return to Williamstown in late August, and is expected to enter service by year-end.

The final trials programme will demonstrate the combat and communication systems, some platform systems, as well as giving the crew the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the ship, the shipbuilder said.

What is the Eurasian Union for?

“IT IS like you’ve been dating a girl for a long time,” grins Pavel Andreev, an editor at a state-controlled broadcaster, Rossiya Segodnya, explaining why it has taken so long to press ahead with the Eurasian Union. “You’ve met the parents, you’ve spent a weekend with the families, and now you want to get engaged…Eurasian integration has been painfully slow, but it’s moving forward.”

Often seen as an artefact of Vladimir Putin’s nostalgia for the Soviet Union, the Eurasian Union has been largely ignored in the West. Yet it is in the margins of a Eurasian Union summit in Minsk next week that Mr Putin will meet the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko. And it was the decision by Mr Poroshenko’s predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, to embrace the project, rejecting a deal with the European Union, which touched off last winter’s protests in Kiev. That decision was not simply a capitulation to Russian empire-building, for this is not what Russia wants. Rather, says Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, it chafes over the lack of a big group that gives it more standing with the EU.

The offices of the Eurasian Union, or the Eurasian Economic Commission as it is officially known, are in a swanky Moscow high-rise building festooned with gold letters. In the lobby, clocks showing the time in the union’s three capitals—Moscow, Minsk, and Astana—cluster together, leaving plenty of room for more. Besides Belarus and Kazakhstan, Russia is keen to add Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia’s president, Serzh Sargsyan, has said he will join. But Mr Poroshenko is just an observer.

Russian officials tout the union’s potential—trade could include everything from Belarus’s heavy machinery to Kazakhstani beef (see article). Trade within the union has grown by over 30% since 2011, they say. Yet Mr Trenin says the economic benefits of expansion are questionable. Discounting the initial burst after the removal of trade barriers in early 2011, annual trade growth has been more like 1.5%. Some officials say it will pick up, as it did with the EU. But the union’s own trade minister, Andrey Slepnev, does not think it will pull Russia’s economy out of stagnation.

With expectations so low, you might wonder what the Eurasian Union is for.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Gorlovka Evac Fundraiser Day 6: Stalled?

Once again, I am continuing the fundraiser to extract the individuals from Gorlovka. We have made some progress, but we need a significantly larger amount than we have received so far to extract them.

We didn't make much progress today.  The amount we have is usable but will entail more...risk and leave them potentially in not good circumstances.  They'll be much better, but not good all the same.  I've already started on what I can with what I have on hand.

Please use my email address (anzhalyu at gmail There are no dots or other characters, just to warn you except for the obvious final extension) for both questions and where to send the funds to on paypal. I can take cryptocurrencies, but, please, email me first. That's a little more complicated.

Through people's generosity, we are getting there. We still need to raise another $3,250 if we can (of the original $5,000 goal). 

Anyone who has contributed may ask for any post they wish. I'll whip one up almost immediately.

Thank you for your help.

Australian Tax Office Declares Bitcoin, Cryptocurrencies to be Property

The Australian Tax Office has finally released their tax guidance ruling on the how they will treat Bitcoins and all cryptocurrency, which include Litecoin and Dogecoin. The verdict? Bitcoin, and the rest, will be considered property.

1,000 Bot Robopocalyptic Flash Mob

The first thousand-robot flash mob has assembled at Harvard University.

"Form a sea star shape," directs a computer scientist, sending the command to 1,024 little bots simultaneously via an infrared light. The robots begin to blink at one another and then gradually arrange themselves into a five-pointed star. "Now form the letter K."

The 'K' stands for Kilobots, the name given to these extremely simple robots, each just a few centimeters across, standing on three pin-like legs. Instead of one highly-complex robot, a "kilo" of robots collaborate, providing a simple platform for the enactment of complex behaviors.

Just as trillions of individual cells can assemble into an intelligent organism, or a thousand starlings can form a great flowing murmuration across the sky, the Kilobots demonstrate how complexity can arise from very simple behaviors performed en masse (see video). To computer scientists, they also represent a significant milestone in the development of collective artificial intelligence (AI).

This self-organizing swarm was created in the lab of Radhika Nagpal, Fred Kavli Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. The advance is described in the August 15 issue of Science.

"The beauty of biological systems is that they are elegantly simple—and yet, in large numbers, accomplish the seemingly impossible," says Nagpal. "At some level you no longer even see the individuals; you just see the collective as an entity to itself."

US Navy Tests SM-6 AAW Missile at White Sands Missile Range

The Navy’s Standard Missile is, as the bland name says, the Navy’s standard missile to defend the fleet against incoming strikes by enemy aircraft and anti-ship missiles. (Attacking enemy ships and ground targets is done by other missiles altogether). In recent years, though, the Raytheon-made missile has branched out. The standard Standard, the SM-2, is a straightforward fleet-defense weapon, with some capability to intercept targets over the land and even hit enemy ships. But the military is developing a long-range, high-altitude SM-3 variant to intercept ballistic missiles as they coast through space.

Then there’s the SM-6, first issued to the fleet last fall. “It’s the latest evolution of the Standard Missile family,” said Navy Cdr. Sidney Hodgson, the deputy program manager for the Standard series. (SM-4 and SM-5 never saw service). “It doesn’t replace the SM-2,” which will stay in service alongside the SM-6, he emphasized, but “it gives you increased firepower, it gives you extended range.”

To save costs, the Standard Missile Six is an unholy hybrid of the long-range rocket motor from the SM-3, the agile aerodynamic body of the SM-2, and the nose of an AMRAAM air-to-air missile, normally carried by fighter planes. It’s the borrowed AMRAAM components in particular that let the SM-6 pick out tricky targets like a cruise missile maneuvering at low altitude and low speed over land. Even in the desert, the land is never as smooth and flat as the sea, so a low-flying target can hide itself amidst the “ground clutter” of natural features — hills, rocks, buildings — that also show up on radar.

“What we were attempting to show was, [given] something that was subsonic, very low, could we discriminate and engage it?” said Raytheon’s senior program director for SM-6, Mike Campisi. “It was wonderful to see.”

US Navy Evaluating Lockheed FORTIS Exoskeletons

From Aliens to Avatar, Hollywood movies have long fueled the exoskeleton fantasy. In real life, the idea has come somewhat close to actual production, but the world is still leaps away from seeing fleets of machine-clad soldiers barreling down the battlefield.

But a recent partnership between Lockheed Martin and the US Navy brings a new use case to the exoskeleton fray. Lockheed has secured a contract through the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences for the US Navy to evaluate and test two FORTIS exoskeletons, which are unpowered versions of the suit that could be used to ease the strain on Navy shipbuilders.

The FORTIS exoskeleton is designed to increase an operator's strength and endurance by transferring the weight of heavy loads away from the their body and directly to the ground, sparing an operator’s muscles and allowing them to work longer with reduced overall fatigue.

"Ship maintenance often requires use of heavy tools, such as grinders, riveters or sandblasters," Adam Miller, director of new initiatives at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said in a statement. "Those tools take a toll on operators due to the tools’ weight and the tight areas where they are sometimes used. By wearing the FORTIS exoskeleton, operators can hold the weight of those heavy tools for extended periods of time with reduced fatigue."

Connectivity of the Portions of th Paratethys During the Miocene Neogene

Miocene connectivity between the Central and Eastern Paratethys: Constraints from the western Dacian Basin


ter Borgh et al


The Dacian Basin formed an important link between the central and eastern parts of the Paratethys, a chain of late Tertiary inland seas and lakes. This study presents constraints on Miocene sea and lake level fluctuations in the Dacian Basin and on the connectivity between it and other Paratethys basins, based on the interpretation of seismic lines, a micropalaeontological study and lithofacies analysis of a large number of outcrops. It is shown that relative sea level fluctuations in the western part of the Dacian Basin during the Middle Miocene were primarily driven by tectonic activity in the nearby Carpathian Mountains. From the Maeotian (Late Miocene) onwards, however, tectonic activity was minor and relative sea level fluctuations were primarily driven by changes in basin connectivity and climate. The connection between the Central and Eastern Paratethys was broken at the end of the Middle Miocene, leading to the development of an endemic fauna in the former, but new data presented here suggest that isolation was not sustained completely as Central Paratethys species appeared in the Dacian Basin during the Maeotian (Late Miocene). Besides the isolation two falls in water level occurred in the basin during the latest Miocene: Of these, the intra-Pontian sea-level drop is the best known. We show, however, that this drop was preceded by a larger sea or lake-level drop in the late Sarmatian/Maeotian. This latter event may have affected much larger parts of the Paratethys, and we recommend more study of the bordering basins. The hypothesis that the connection between the Dacian and Central Paratethys basins was located in the region where the Danube River presently crosses the Carpathians was tested, but no supporting evidence was found.

Tidal Dissipation and Enceladus' Observed Heat Flow

Tidal dissipation in the oceans of icy satellites




Dissipation of tidal energy is an important mechanism for the evolution of outer Solar System satellites, several of which are likely to contain subsurface oceans. We extend previous theoretical treatments for ocean tidal dissipation by taking into account the effects of ocean loading, self-attraction, and deformation of the solid regions. These effects modify both the forcing potential and the ocean thicknesses for which energy dissipation is resonantly enhanced, potentially resulting in orders of magnitude changes in the dissipated energy flux. Assuming a Cassini state obliquity, Enceladus’ dissipated energy flux due to the obliquity tide is smaller than the observed value by many orders of magnitude. On the other hand, the dissipated energy flux due to the resonant response to the eccentricity tide can be large enough to explain Enceladus’ observed heat flow.

Did a Superflare Cause the 775 AD Carbon Excursion?

A solar super-flare as cause for the 14C variation in AD 774/5 ?


Neuhaeuser et al


We present further considerations regarding the strong 14C variation in AD 774/5. For its cause, either a solar super-flare or a short Gamma-Ray Burst were suggested. We show that all kinds of stellar or neutron star flares would be too weak for the observed energy input at Earth in AD 774/5. Even though Maehara et al. (2012) present two super-flares with 10e35 erg of presumably solar-type stars, we would like to caution: These two stars are poorly studied and may well be close binaries, and/or having a M-type dwarf companion, and/or may be much younger and/or much more magnetic than the Sun - in any such case, they might not be true solar analog stars. From the frequency of large stellar flares averaged over all stellar activity phases (maybe obtained only during grand activity maxima), one can derive (a limit of) the probability for a large solar flare at a random time of normal activity: We find the probability for one flare within 3000 years to be possibly as low as 0.3 to 0.008 considering the full 1 sigma error range. Given the energy estimate in Miyake et al. (2012) for the AD 774/5 event, it would need to be \sim 2000 stronger than the Carrington event as solar super-flare. If the AD 774/5 event as solar flare would be beamed (to an angle of only 24 deg), 100 times lower energy would be needed. A new AD 774/5 energy estimate by Usoskin et al. (2013) with a different carbon cycle model, yielding 4 or 6 time lower 14C production, predicts 4-6 times less energy. If both reductions are applied, the AD 774/5 event would need to be only 4 times stronger than the Carrington event in 1859 (if both had similar spectra). However, neither 14C nor 10Be peaks were found around AD 1859.

Tuatara Relative Survived Through KT/K-Pg Extinction Into Paleogene in South America

The youngest South American rhynchocephalian, a survivor of the K/Pg extinction


Apesteguía et al


Rhynchocephalian lepidosaurs, though once widespread worldwide, are represented today only by the tuatara (Sphenodon) of New Zealand. After their apparent early Cretaceous extinction in Laurasia, they survived in southern continents. In South America, they are represented by different lineages of Late Cretaceous eupropalinal forms until their disappearance by the Cretaceous/Palaeogene (K/Pg) boundary. We describe here the only unambiguous Palaeogene rhynchocephalian from South America; this new taxon is a younger species of the otherwise Late Cretaceous genus Kawasphenodon. Phylogenetic analysis confirms the allocation of the genus to the clade Opisthodontia. The new form from the Palaeogene of Central Patagonia is much smaller than Kawasphenodon expectatus from the Late Cretaceous of Northern Patagonia. The new species shows that at least one group of rhynchocephalians not related to the extant Sphenodon survived in South America beyond the K/Pg extinction event. Furthermore, it adds to other trans-K/Pg ectotherm tetrapod taxa, suggesting that the end-Cretaceous extinction affected Patagonia more benignly than the Laurasian landmasses.

The Early Evolution of Vertebrates

Early vertebrate evolution


Donoghue et al


Debate over the origin and evolution of vertebrates has occupied biologists and palaeontologists alike for centuries. This debate has been refined by molecular phylogenetics, which has resolved the place of vertebrates among their invertebrate chordate relatives, and that of chordates among their deuterostome relatives. The origin of vertebrates is characterized by wide-ranging genomic, embryologic and phenotypic evolutionary change. Analyses based on living lineages suggest dramatic shifts in the tempo of evolutionary change at the origin of vertebrates and gnathostomes, coincident with whole-genome duplication events. However, the enriched perspective provided by the fossil record demonstrates that these apparent bursts of anatomical evolution and taxic richness are an artefact of the extinction of phylogenetic intermediates whose fossil remains evidence the gradual assembly of crown gnathostome characters in particular. A more refined understanding of the timing, tempo and mode of early vertebrate evolution rests with: (1) better genome assemblies for living cyclostomes; (2) a better understanding of the anatomical characteristics of key fossil groups, especially the anaspids, thelodonts, galeaspids and pituriaspids; (3) tests of the monophyly of traditional groups; and (4) the application of divergence time methods that integrate not just molecular data from living species, but also morphological data and extinct species. The resulting framework will provide for rigorous tests of rates of character evolution and diversification, and of hypotheses of long-term trends in ecological evolution that themselves suffer for lack of quantitative functional tests. The fossil record has been silent on the nature of the transition from jawless vertebrates to the jawed vertebrates that have dominated communities since the middle Palaeozoic. Elucidation of this most formative of episodes likely rests with the overhaul of early vertebrate systematics that we propose, but perhaps more fundamentally with fossil grades that await discovery.

The Four Ice Ages of NeoProterozoic Namibia and Associated Evidence of Crustal Growth

The four Neoproterozoic glaciations of southern Namibia and their detrital zircon record: The fingerprints of four crustal growth events during two supercontinent cycles


Hofmann et al


The transition from supercontinent Rodinia to Gondwana took place in the Neoproterozoic. The western margin of the Kalahari Craton in southern Namibia underwent rifting at c. 750 Ma, caused by the break-up of Rodinia, followed by drift-events and ongoing sedimentation throughout the Cryogenian (at least from 750 to 630 Ma) in Namibia. These sediments comprise at least three different deposits of glacio-marine diamictites (Kaigas at c. 750-720 Ma, Sturtian at c. 716 Ma and Marinoan at c. 635 Ma). The Ediacaran is characterised by collision during the assembly of Gondwana and includes a fourth glacial deposit (post-Gaskiers Vingerbreek glaciation at c. 547 Ma). This study presents more than 1050 single zircon grain U-Pb analyses of different diamictite horizons from southern Namibia and discusses their correlation. For all samples from sediments related to the Kaigas, Sturtian and Marinoan glacial events, the youngest obtained zircon ages were at c. 1.0 Ga, making differentiation by the maximum age of sedimentation impossible. But a correlation was still possible by using the complete detrital zircon U-Pb age patterns, with a significant change in the relative abundance of concordant Mesoproterozoic to Paleoproterozoic zircons. This P/M ratio seems to be a good tool to distinguish the Cryogenian diamictites (Marinoan: P/M less than 0.4, Sturtian: 0.4 less than P/M less than 10, Kaigas: P/M greater than 10). Although all the observed ages from the detrital zircons can be explained by derivation of local material, none of our samples correspond to the Cryogenian rifting events in southern Namibia. Therefore the source area can not be local and more probably is located in the east of the studied areas. The constancy of the main U-Pb ages suggests a constant sediment supply direction throughout the Cryogenian. The same age populations occurring in the Ediacaran Aar Member indicate the same sediment transport direction from the east, but with an increased proportion of zircon grains older than 2.2 Ga. This marks a transition to the unconformably overlying Vingerbreek (post-Gaskiers) diamictite horizons, which show a significant change in the age spectra. Probably due to mixed input from the east (Kalahari Craton) and from the west (Gariep Belt), the Vingerbreek diamictites show a wider range of zircon ages with youngest ages at c. 590 Ma. This time is characterised by collision events and the Gondwana formation. The Hf isotope record shows that the only input of juvenile material in our samples occurred in the Mesoproterozoic during the Namaqua Natal Orogeny (formation of the Namaqua Belt). In total, four Archean to Proterozoic crustal growth events are recognized in the western part of the Kalahari Craton: (1) Meso- to Paleoarchean (c. 3.42-2.8 Ga), (2) lower Paleoproterozoic to Neoarchean (c. 2.8- 2.27 Ga), (3) lower to upper Paleoproterozoic (c. 2.27-1.7 Ga) and (3) Mesoproterozoic (c. 1.6-1.0 Ga).

Snow on Arctic Ice has Radically Decreased

From research stations drifting on ice floes to high-tech aircraft radar, scientists have been tracking the depth of snow that accumulates on Arctic sea ice for almost a century. Now that people are more concerned than ever about what is happening at the poles, research led by the University of Washington and NASA confirms that snow has thinned significantly in the Arctic, particularly on sea ice in western waters near Alaska.

A new study, accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, a publication of the American Geophysical Union, combines data collected by ice buoys and NASA aircraft with historic data from ice floes staffed by Soviet scientists from the late 1950s through the early 1990s to track changes over decades.

Historically, Soviets on drifting sea ice used meter sticks and handwritten logs to record snow depth. Today, researchers on the ground use an automated probe similar to a ski pole to verify the accuracy of airborne measurements.

"When you stab it into the ground, the basket move up, and it records the distance between the magnet and the end of the probe," said first author Melinda Webster, a UW graduate student in oceanography. "You can take a lot of measurements very quickly. It's a pretty big difference from the Soviet field stations."

India Commissions INS Kolkata, First in Class DDG

The Indian Navy (IN) commissioned INS Kolkata , the first of three locally designed and built 7,400-tonne Project 15A guided-missile destroyers, on 16 August in Mumbai.

Two follow-on warships - Kochi and Chennai - are also under construction at Mumbai's Mazagaon Dockyard Limited and will be commissioned at eight-month intervals, IN officials said.

Tensions in the South China Sea

TENSION in the South China Sea has now reached the point where references to tension have become an issue. “Someone has been exaggerating or even playing up the so-called tension in the South China Sea,” Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, said on August 9th. By “someone”, of course, he meant America. He was speaking in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital, where the ten foreign ministers of ASEAN, the Association of South-East Asian Nations, were holding their annual meeting. So when they agreed on a communiqué referring to “increased tensions” in the sea, many scored it as a diplomatic victory for the United States.

American officials saw the inclusion of the phrase as a sign that ASEAN’s members were readier to present a united front against Chinese aggression towards rival claimants to territory in the sea. China’s “nine-dashed line”, its vague cartographic claim to most of the sea, encroaches on the claims of four ASEAN members. A State Department official cheered the group’s movement away from “diversionary issues” and “happy talk”. It was reasonable to conclude, he said, that “the Chinese are feeling the heat”. Reasonable, perhaps, but almost certainly inaccurate. If China is alarmed about the mounting regional antagonism stoked by its behaviour in the South China Sea, it is certainly not letting on.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gorlovka Evac Fund Raiser Day 5

Once again, I am continuing the fundraiser to extract the individuals from Gorlovka. We have made some progress, but we need a significantly larger amount than we have received so far to extract them.

The reason for needing to pull them out is the local militants (I have other words to describe them) have taken notice of our contacts. Given the militants have started disappearing people, our contacts need to be pulled out asap. We have someone who will do so, but it will cost in order to go and extract them.

The reason for the original date on the fundraiser was to try to get the funds into a usable form by this friday. Since there isn't a sufficient amount to do even the minimum quite yet, I'll keep reposting at 6 or 7 PM each night for this week at least until Monday.

Please use my email address (anzhalyu at gmail There are no dots or other characters, just to warn you except for the obvious final extension) for both questions and where to send the funds to on paypal. I can take cryptocurrencies, but, please, email me first. That's a little more complicated.

Through people's generosity, we are getting there. We still have $3,270 of the $5,000 goal left to raise. I will keep a running tally.

Anyone who has contributed may ask for any post they wish. I'll whip one up almost immediately.

Thank you for your help.

Three Largest Bitcoin Exchanges in China Weigh in on New York State Proposed Cryptocurrency Regulations

The three biggest bitcoin exchanges in China have weighed in on a critical regulatory proposal on the other side of the planet, submitting comments on the New York Department of Financial Services’ “BitLicense” proposal, in a gesture that shows just how far Benjamin Lawsky‘s regulatory arm could reach.

Bobby Lee, Lin Li, and Mingxing Xu, the CEOs of, respectively, BTC China, Huobi, and OKCoin, submitted a joint letter on Wednesday to the New York Department of Financial Services, a copy of which was given to MoneyBeat. The department is in the middle of a 45-day open comment period. All three think the outcome of Lawsky’s efforts will be felt across the globe, and therefore wanted to add their voice to the process.

The Limits of the Limits for Processors

Limits on fundamental limits to computation




An indispensable part of our personal and working lives, computing has also become essential to industries and governments. Steady improvements in computer hardware have been supported by periodic doubling of transistor densities in integrated circuits over the past fifty years. Such Moore scaling now requires ever-increasing efforts, stimulating research in alternative hardware and stirring controversy. To help evaluate emerging technologies and increase our understanding of integrated-circuit scaling, here I review fundamental limits to computation in the areas of manufacturing, energy, physical space, design and verification effort, and algorithms. To outline what is achievable in principle and in practice, I recapitulate how some limits were circumvented, and compare loose and tight limits. Engineering difficulties encountered by emerging technologies may indicate yet unknown limits.

pop sci write up of the same.

US Navy Laser Propels Projectile 1/300th the Speed of Light

The Nike krypton fluoride (KrF) laser at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL; Washington, DC) has earned the coveted Guinness World Records title for achieving "Highest Projectile Velocity" of greater than 1,000 km/s, a speed equivalent to two-and-a-quarter million miles per hour.

The previous record was held by researchers at Osaka University's Institute of Laser Engineering in Japan, who in 2006 used a neodymium glass (Nd:glass) laser to accelerate a target to 700 km/s. The record, currently held by NRL, was achieved in collaboration with the NRL Plasma Physics Division and the group from Japan, demonstrating the advantages of the high uniformity and short wavelength of the KrF laser technology.

"The impact of the highly accelerated target on a stationary foil generated thermonuclear fusion neutrons whose energy spread indicated that a gigabar--that's the pressure of a billion atmospheres--was achieved in the collision," said Max Karasik, NRL Laser Plasma Branch. "The results highlight the advantages of a krypton-fluoride laser in efficiently generating uniform pressures required for fuel compression in inertial confinement fusion."

In the experiments, thin plastic foils were accelerated to 1,000 km/s over a distance of less than a millimeter. The moving foils then collided with a stationary foil, generating thermo-nuclear temperatures and neutrons from fusion reactions. The high ablative pressure applied to compress and accelerate targets is used in inertial confinement fusion and high energy density research.

US Navy's POV on the UCLASS Requirements

It’s crunch time for UCLASS. On September 10th — after multiple delays — the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer and his Defense Acquisition Board will sit in judgment on the proposed combat drone. The question: how best to bring the robot revolution to the deck of the 90-year-old aircraft carrier.

The “Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike” aircraft is most controversial and high-stakes component of the Navy’s multi-front strategy to employ drones alongside– not replacing — traditional piloted aircraft. Land-based, long-range patrols will use the MQ-4C Triton (derived from the Air Force Global Hawk) alongside the manned P-8A Poseidon. Small surface warships like the Perry-class frigate and the Littoral Combat Ship will use the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter alongside SH-60 Sea Hawks. But UCLASS will fly from the Navy’s thousand-foot-long flagships, its nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, multi-billion-dollar ships whose strategic value depends on the planes they carry.

Vocal critics in Congress and quieter ones inside the Pentagon contend that the Navy has dumbed down its specifications for UCLASS, turning it from a robotic stealth bomber into a modestly armed scout drone. Navy officials counter that the design will “be able to grow” from the technically achievable, fiscally affordable scout that enters service ca. 2021 into a high-end war machine.

The Navy hasn’t changed its requirements for UCLASS, it’s just “refined” them to reflect “the art of the possible” given current technology, said Rear Adm. Mat Winter, head of unmanned aviation at the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).

“We’ve gone back and forth with industry to make sure, ‘is this the art of the possible?,” the admiral told reporters Sunday after flight tests of a prototype carrier-launched drone, the X-47B. “That’s what the last nine months have been [about]. Warfighter requirements for UCLASS have been stable since April 2013, when the Chief of Naval Operations signed the CDD [Capability Development Document]. The design requirements had been continually refined to ensure that we had a technically feasible solution.” (Emphasis mine).

Everyone wants to give the warfighters the best technology they can, but “we don’t want to provide something to industry that we technically can’t accomplish,” Winter went on. “Survivability, payload, and endurance” form an “iron triangle” of inevitable tradeoffs, he said. (The Navy’s desire for a fuel-efficient UCLASS with big gas tanks to do long reconnaissance patrols, in particular, wars with maximizing bombload, speed, and stealth for strike missions).

“There’s a requirement to operate UCLASS in a permissive environment” — that is, one without an anti-aircraft threat — “but be able to grow to a non-permissive [one]” where it needs high-end stealth and other countermeasures to avoid detection and destruction, Winter said. “Engineers have got turn that into, what, frequency spectrums and threats and squeaks and beeps, because we’ve got to be able to truly quantify what that is. ”

Equatorial Pacific Ocean Productivity Rose Near the Eocene-Oligocene Boundary

Equatorial Pacific Productivity Changes near the Eocene-Oligocene Boundary


Moore et al


There is general agreement that productivity in high latitudes increased in the late Eocene and continued high in the early Oligocene. Evidence for both increased and decreased productivity across the Eocene – Oligocene Transition (EOT) in the tropics has been presented, usually based on only one paleoproductivity proxy and often in sites with incomplete recovery of the EOT itself. A complete record of the Eocene – Oligocene transition was obtained at three drill sites in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean (ODP Site 1218 and IODP Sites U1333 and U1334). Four paleoproductivity proxies that have been examined at these sites, together with carbon and oxygen isotope measurements on early Oligocene planktonic foraminifera, give evidence of ecologic and oceanographic change across this climatically important boundary. Export productivity dropped sharply in the basal Oligocene (~33.7 Ma) and only recovered several hundred thousand years later; however, overall paleoproductivity in the early Oligocene never reached the average levels found in the late Eocene and in more modern times. Changes in the isotopic gradients between deep and shallow-living planktonic foraminifera suggest a gradual shoaling of the thermocline through the early Oligocene that, on average, affected accumulation rates of barite, benthic foraminifera, and opal, as well as diatom abundance near 33.5 Ma. An interval with abundant large diatoms beginning at 33.3 Ma suggests an intermediate thermocline depth, which was followed by further shoaling, a dominance of smaller diatoms, and an increase in average primary productivity as estimated from accumulation rates of benthic foraminifera.

A bit Contrarian: Cool Tropics in the Middle Eocene

Cool tropics in the Middle Eocene: Evidence from the Changchang Flora, Hainan Island, China


Spicer et al


The middle Eocene (Lutetian–Bartonian, 48.6–37.2 Ma) near-equatorial megafossil flora from swamp and lacustrine facies of the lower Changchang Formation, Hainan Island, South China (19.631463°N, 110.445049°E) is highly diverse (> 200 taxa) dominated by an unusual mixture of angiosperms typical of modern temperate, subtropical and tropical evergreen and deciduous forms. It is also rich in palms. Multivariate analysis of the architecture of minimally transported woody dicot leaves reveals a mean annual air temperature (MAT) of ~ 22 ± 4.7 °C with a marked thermal seasonality range of ~ 21 °C. The year-round humid climate lacked any monsoonal signature. The overall climate signal is compatible with the growth characteristics exhibited by fossil wood, but is warmer than the climate signal derived from pollen and spores using Co-existence Analysis. Corrections for possible palaeoelevation of the basin bring the megafossil-derived MAT estimate in line with 54–52 Ma sea surface and soil temperatures obtained from the Gulf Coast, USA, (palaeolatitude ~ 30°N) using multiple geochemical proxies and supports the claim that the low latitude Eocene climate was not uniformly warm. This challenges previous conclusions based on ∂18O analysis of unaltered calcareous microfossils. Our air temperature data also adds to the challenge of understanding heat transport away from the equator to higher latitudes during ‘hothouse’ climate regimes.

New to me: Furahan Biology and Allied Matters

This is a blog I found via Darren Naish's Tetrapod Zoology.  It discusses and even does a great job of designing and even animating an alien ecosystem.


Chinese Text Translated to Suggest 775 AD Comet Impact Done Badly

The Chinese comet observation in AD 773 January


Chapman et al


The strong 14C increase in the year AD 774/5 detected in one German and two Japanese trees was recently suggested to have been caused by an impact of a comet onto Earth and a deposition of large amounts of 14C into the atmosphere (Liu et al. 2014). The authors supported their claim using a report of a historic Chinese observation of a comet ostensibly colliding with Earth's atmosphere in AD 773 January. We show here that the Chinese text presented by those authors is not an original historic text, but that it is comprised of several different sources. Moreover, the translation presented in Liu et al. is misleading and inaccurate. We give the exact Chinese wordings and our English translations. According to the original sources, the Chinese observed a comet in mid January 773, but they report neither a collision nor a large coma, just a long tail. Also, there is no report in any of the source texts about "dust rain in the daytime" as claimed by Liu et al. (2014), but simply a normal dust storm. Ho (1962) reports sightings of this comet in China on AD 773 Jan 15 and/or 17 and in Japan on AD 773 Jan 20 (Ho 1962). At the relevant historic time, the Chinese held that comets were produced within the Earth's atmosphere, so that it would have been impossible for them to report a "collision" of a comet with Earth's atmosphere. The translation and conclusions made by Liu et al. (2014) are not supported by the historical record. Therefore, postulating a sudden increase in 14C in corals off the Chinese coast precisely in mid January 773 (Liu et al. 2014) is not justified given just the 230Th dating for AD 783 \pm 14.

Using Mammalian Femora to Discern Paleodiversity Across KT/K-Pg Boundary

Mammalian femora across the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary in eastern Montana


DeBey et al


Our understanding of latest Cretaceous and earliest Paleogene mammalian evolution is based almost entirely on the dental fossil record. Mammalian postcranial fossils are rare and mostly found as isolated elements in latest Cretaceous and earliest Paleogene vertebrate microfossil assemblages of North America. Although placing these fossils in a tooth-based taxonomic framework is difficult, they can provide insight into locomotor diversity and habitat preference to complement diet reconstructions and diversity estimates from dental fossils. Here, we describe 64 femora of mammals recovered from latest Cretaceous (Lancian) and earliest Paleogene (Puercan) localities in eastern Montana. We sorted these based on morphology and size (morphotypes). In some cases, morphotypes were tentatively assigned to dentally based taxa that are known from these strata.

Although our resulting femoral dataset is small relative to the study area's dental dataset, we show several key findings. First, there is a greater morphological diversity of multituberculate femora than previously recognized, especially in the latest Cretaceous sample. In contrast, metatherians, which have a high relative abundance in Lancian Hell Creek Formation dental assemblages, are absent from our postcranial samples; eutherian femora are only present in the Puercan assemblages. Second, we record a minor decrease in morphotype richness across the K–Pg boundary that is associated with an increase in mean specimen size, due to the appearance of a few significantly larger-bodied, immigrant taxa. Among the eutherians, there are two specimens of larger-bodied early Puercan archaic ungulates, a very large specimen of a middle/late Puercan taeniodont, pantodont, or triisodontid, as well as a specimen possibly attributed to a “plesiadapiform” archaic primate. Third, preliminary functional morphologic analyses of the more complete specimens suggest that locomotor diversity increased from mainly arboreal or terrestrial/saltatorial multituberculates in the latest Cretaceous to include a fossorial multituberculate and potentially an arboreal eutherian in the early Paleocene. These patterns parallel those previously reported from a dental dataset and indicate that postcranial data are valuable as an independent means to test hypotheses of taxonomic and ecomorphological diversity across the K–Pg boundary.

Revised Chronostratigraphy of Chinle Formation has Implications for Late Triassic Dinosaur Evolution

Revised chronostratigraphy of the Lower Chinle Formation strata in Arizona and New Mexico (USA): High-precision U-Pb geochronological constraints on the Late Triassic evolution of dinosaurs


Ramezani et al


The early history of dinosaurs in North America is obscured by an incomplete fossil record, taxonomic uncertainties and speculative correlations of tetrapod-bearing rocks, as well as poor calibration of the Late Triassic time scale. High-precision U-Pb geochronology provides a reliable means of correlating terrestrial rock formations independent of equivocal lithostratigraphy or vertebrate biostratigraphy, and hence the possibility of properly evaluating models for the early radiation and diversification of Dinosauria. Here we present new, high-precision, U-Pb ID-TIMS zircon geochronology from the presumed lowermost strata of the Upper Triassic Chinle Formation of the Colorado Plateau in Southwest United States, including a mean 206Pb/238U date of 219.39 ± 0.16 Ma from the renowned Placerias Quarry Bone Bed in eastern Arizona. The new results prompt revisions to the chronostratigraphy of the lower Chinle and provide a new temporal context for its rich tetrapod fauna.

The oldest documented dinosaurs of North America coexisted with their non-dinosaurian near-relatives for a minimum of 12 m.y., from ca. 223 Ma to ca. 211 Ma, in the Norian. This early dinosauromorph record follows a ca. 6 m.y. period from which no tetrapod fossils have been documented and which was itself preceded by a ca. 10 m.y. depositional hiatus spanning nearly the entire Ladinian and Carnian stages of the terrestrial North America. The supposed late appearance of dinosauromorphs in North America compared to those in South America thus appears to be an artifact of incomplete preservation, as well as unsubstantiated age interpretations. This, together with the conspicuous biogeographic distinctions among the Triassic dinosauromorph assemblages, invalidates a simple diachronous model for the transcontinental radiation of early dinosaurs.

Is the Wilson Cycle/Supercontinent Assembly/Plate Tectonics Speeding UP?

Is the rate of supercontinent assembly changing with time?


Condie et al


To address the question of secular changes in the speed of the supercontinent cycle, we use two major databases for the last 2.5 Gyr: the timing and locations of collisional and accretionary orogens, and average plate velocities as deduced from paleomagnetic and paleogeographic data. Peaks in craton collision occur at 1850 and 600 Ma with smaller peaks at 1100 and 350 Ma. Distinct minima occur at 1700–1200, 900–700, and 300–200 Ma. There is no simple relationship in craton collision frequency or average plate velocity between supercontinent assemblies and breakups. Assembly of Nuna at 1700–1500 Ma correlates with very low collision rates, whereas assemblies of Rodinia and Gondwana at 1000–850 and 650–350 Ma, respectively correspond to moderate to high rates. Very low collision rates occur at times of supercontinent breakup at 2200–2100, 1300–1100, 800–650, and 150–0 Ma. A peak in plate velocity at 450–350 Ma correlates with early stages of growth of Pangea and another at 1100 Ma with initial stages of Rodinia assembly following breakup of Nuna. A major drop in craton numbers after 1850 Ma corresponds with the collision and suturing of numerous Archean blocks.

Orogens and passive margins show the same two cycles of ocean basin closing: an early cycle from Neoarchean to 1900 Ma and a later cycle, which corresponds to the supercontinent cycle, from 1900 Ma to the present. The cause of these cycles is not understood, but may be related to increasing plate speeds during supercontinent assembly and whether or not long-lived accretionary orogens accompany supercontinent assembly. LIP (large igneous province) age peaks at 2200, 2100, 1380 (and 1450?), 800, 300, 200 and 100 Ma correlate with supercontinent breakup and minima at 2600, 1700–1500, 1100–900, and 600–400 Ma with supercontinent assembly. Other major LIP age peaks do not correlate with the supercontinent cycle. A thermochemical instability model for mantle plume generation can explain all major LIP events by one process and implies that LIP events that correspond to the supercontinent cycle are independent of this cycle.

The period of the supercontinent cycle is highly variable, ranging from 500 to 1000 Myr if the late Archean supercratons are included. Nuna has a duration of about 300 Myr (1500–1200 Ma), Rodinia 100 Myr (850–750 Ma), and Gondwana–Pangea 200 Myr (350–150 Ma). Breakup durations are short, generally 100–200 Myr. The history of angular plate velocities, craton collision frequency, passive margin histories, and periodicity of the supercontinent cycle all suggest a gradual speed up of plate tectonics with time.

Forest Carbon Cycle Effected by Habitat Fragmentation

Drier conditions at the edges of forest patches slow down the decay of dead wood and significantly alter the cycling of carbon and nutrients in woodland ecosystems, according to a new study.

Forests around the world have become increasingly fragmented, and in the UK three quarters of woodland area lie within 100 metres of the forest edge. It has long been known that so-called 'edge effects' influence temperature and moisture (the 'microclimate') in woodlands, but the influence on the carbon cycle is largely unknown.

Researchers from the University of Exeter and Earthwatch in the UK combined experiments with mathematical modelling to fill this knowledge gap. Wood blocks were placed in Wytham Woods near Oxford at various distances from the forest edge, and left to decay over two years. The measured decay rates were applied to a model of the surrounding landscape, to allow comparison between the current fragmented woodland cover and decay rates in continuous forest.

The research, published today in the journal Global Change Biology, shows that wood decay rates in the southern UK are reduced by around one quarter due to fragmentation. This effect is much larger than expected due to variation in temperatures and rainfall among years.

Chinese Troops Enter Disputed Indian Territory

Chinese troops have advanced in recent days into disputed territory claimed by India, echoing a similar incursion last year that raised tensions between the two rival giants, official sources said Tuesday.

Chinese troops twice crossed over the border into a remote area of the western Himalayas, with some unfurling a banner that read "this is Chinese territory, go back", an official said on condition of anonymity.

Indian border police noticed the troops on Sunday in an unpopulated area of Ladakh during a patrol of the informal border that separates India and China.

Russia Pulls 5th Bond Auction in a Row

Russia canceled its fifth ruble-bond auction in a row after the government’s borrowing costs reached the highest in almost five years earlier this month.

The Finance Ministry pulled tomorrow’s sale, citing “unfavorable market conditions” in a statement on its website. The yield on the 10-year government ruble bond reached 9.9 percent on Aug. 8, the highest since October 2009. It added eight basis points to 9.36 percent as of 1:49 p.m. in Moscow, increasing for a second day after falling as low as 9.27 percent on Aug. 15.

Russia has skipped 13 auctions this year as President Vladimir Putin’s standoff with the U.S. and its allies over Ukraine and the threat of tougher sanctions triggered a sell-off in the nation’s assets. The ministry voided four other sales where bidders sought higher yields than it was ready to offer. Borrowing costs climbed this week after four-way talks to halt fighting in Ukraine reached an impasse in Berlin.

The yield on the government’s local-currency securities maturing in February 2027 is trading 140 basis points above the central bank’s key interest rate, which it raised by 50 basis points, or 0.5 percentage points, in a surprise move on July 25. The spread was 124 basis points the last time the ministry said it would proceed with a local bond auction on July 15.

Russia has raised 124 billion rubles ($3.4 billion) this year from selling the local bonds, known as OFZs, and has placed 100 billion rubles in untraded government savings bonds, known as GSO, with the Pension Fund.

The government, which initially planned to raise 808 billion rubles in 2014, won’t sell bonds when borrowing costs are too high, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said April 1.

“Overall, the federal budget is in good shape this year and, if oil prices hold at $101 per barrel until the end of the year, there will be no pressure in the primary market,” Maxim Korovin and Anton Nikitin, analysts at Moscow-based VTB Capital, said in an e-mailed note before the announcement.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Gorlovka Evac Fundraiser Continues

Once again, I am continuing the fundraiser to extract the individuals from Gorlovka.  We have made some progress, but we need a significantly larger amount than we have received so far to extract them.

The reason for needing to pull them out is the local militants (I have other words to describe them) have taken notice of our contacts.  Given the militants have started disappearing people, our contacts need to be pulled out asap.  We have someone who will do so, but it will cost in order to go and extract them.   

The reason for the original date on the fundraiser was to try to get the funds into a usable form by this friday.  Since there isn't a sufficient amount to do even the minimum quite yet, I'll keep reposting at 6 or 7 PM each night for this week at least until Monday.

Please use my email address (anzha lyu at gmail There are no dots or other characters, just to warn you except for the obvious final extension) for both questions and where to send the funds to on paypal.  I can take cryptocurrencies, but, please, email me first.  That's a little more complicated.

Through people's generosity, we are getting there.  We have $3,280 of the $5,000 goal left to raise.  I will keep a running tally.

Anyone who has contributed may ask for any post they wish.  I'll whip one up.

Thank you for your help.

What Caused the Recent Bitcoin Price Crash?

The price of bitcoin on the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index (BPI) has declined more than $60 today (by the time of publication), falling to a low of $435.60. However, a more serious decline was observed at one major bitcoin exchange.

The development is the latest blow to the price of bitcoin, which had slumped to its lowest level since May late last week. The decline has since been largely attributed to a worsening short-term news outlook, as well as the industry’s margin traders, though alternative theories have been proposed.

At press time, at least one notable industry analyst, along with a host of exchange users are suggesting that margin trading may have once again played a factor in today’s decline, as a flash crash observed on popular bitcoin trading platform BTC-e caused the price of bitcoin on its exchange to decline sharply to a low of $309.

FarmBot Project Aims to Bring the Robopocalypse to the Fields

When most of us think of 3D printers, we typically imagine the desktop machines that are used for creating small plastic objects, or the larger scale industrial level machines used for prototyping, and in some cases the printing of production ready parts. Then there are the extremely large 3D printers that have been created for the printing of concrete structured buildings and other large objects. Perhaps the printers which have the most intriguing uses are those which can print food. These printers, which are still only in the early stages of development, allow those with minimal food preparation experience to print out meals using specially designed software. All of these 3D printers have the potential to bring resources to countries and people who typically don’t have access to traditional means of manufacturing. Yet, none of them ensure massive food production that could help feed the world’s hungry.

The FarmBot Foundation, may have come up with a solution. They plan to take this technology to an entirely new level by creating a 3D Printer that is capable of, you guessed it, farming. The Farmbot is a CNC/3D printer-like machine that can be used for farming and gardening. Their goal is a lofty one. They hope to create an open source hardware, software and data solution that allows anyone, anywhere to build and operate their 3D farming printer, the FarmBot.

DARPA Wants Vast Oceanic Monitoring Network

Probably one of the last and perhaps unforgiving areas of the world not truly “wired” is above and below the ocean.

Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) want to explore the possibility of seriously changing that notion and develop what it calls “a system-of-systems architecture and critical components to support networked maritime operations, to include undersea, surface, and above surface domains.”

Austal USA on a Roll: Delivers 4th Joint High Speed Vessel, Launches 4th Indepedence Class

The US Navy's (USN's) eighth Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) has launched in Mobile, Alabama, and is undergoing final outfitting before activation in the first quarter of 2015, Austal USA officials told IHS Jane's on 14 August.

Montgomery (LCS 8), the USN's fourth Independence variant, entered the water for the first time on 6 August after being moved onto a floating dry dock - BAE Systems' Drydock Alabama . Montgomery is moored in the Mobile River where it will be completed and activated before conducting its first sea trials in the second quarter of 2015, Michelle Bowden, a spokesperson for Austal USA, told IHS Jane's .

After recently completing acceptance trials, the US Navy's (USN's) fourth Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), Fall River (JHSV 4), is expected to be handed over to US Military Sealift Command (MSC) in the fourth quarter of 2014, shipbuilder Austal USA told IHS Jane's .

Fall River is the fourth of ten planned JHSVs to be built at the Mobile, Alabama-based shipyard under a USD1.6 billion contract. Launched in January 2014, the 103 m vessel conducted its tests and evaluations in the Gulf of Mexico under the auspices of the navy's Board of Inspection and Survey, completing the acceptance trials on 25 July.

Once the vessel is delivered to MSC - which operates the navy's auxiliaries and fleet support ships - a crew of 22 civilian mariners will take it through final contract trials and introduction to the fleet.

Evidence of Mega Icebergs in the Artic From the Pleistocene

Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have found between Greenland and Spitsbergen the scours left behind on the sea bed by gigantic icebergs. The five lineaments, at a depth of 1,200 metres, are the lowest-lying iceberg scours yet to be found on the Arctic sea floor. This finding provides new understanding of the dynamics of the Ice Age and the extent of the Arctic ice sheet thousands of years ago. In addition, the researchers could draw conclusions about the export of fresh water from the Arctic into the North Atlantic. The AWI scientists have published their findings in the online portal of the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"Whenever icebergs run aground, they leave scours on the seabed. Depending on their depth and location, those markings may continue to exist over long periods of time," explained Jan Erik Arndt, AWI bathymetrician and lead author for this paper.

It is traces exactly like this that he, together with three colleagues at AWI, discovered on the Hovgaard Ridge. The Hovgaard Ridge is a plateau in the deep Arctic Sea, located a good 400 kilometres off of Greenland's eastern coast. Found at a depth of 1,200 metres the five lineaments are the deepest iceberg scours found to date in the Arctic. The scours are as much as four kilometres long and 15 metres in depth. "Such scours are a window into the past. Thanks to these iceberg scours we now know that a few very large, but also many smaller icebergs, passed across the Hovgaard Ridge," the scientist said.

The discovery of the scours on Hovgaard Ridge was fortuitous and by no means the result of a defined search. Jan Erik Arndt and his colleagues discovered the lineaments when examining bathymetric data from the year 1990. The data were collected by the research ship Polarstern while preparing cartography for the Fram Strait. "When we examined the data once again and in greater detail, we became aware of the scours. Given their depth, it quickly became clear that we had found something very interesting," says Jan Erik Arndt.

The scientists today work with better hardware and software than what was available in the 1990s. This new technology allows closer scrutiny of the old data. That is why the scours have surfaced on the scientists' monitors only now, 24 years after the data were collected.

The scientists can, however, only roughly bracket the period within which the icebergs scoured the ridge crest. It is clear, however, that it must have taken place within the past 800,000 years. Since sea level during the glacial period was a good 120 metres lower than today, the icebergs reached to a depth of at least 1,080 metres below sea level. Since about a tenth of an iceberg will, as a rule, be exposed, AWI scientists estimate the height of the iceberg to be roughly 1,200 metres – about three times the height of the Empire State Building. "To calve such megascale icebergs, the edge of the ice sheet covering the Arctic Ocean must have been at least 1,200 metres thick," Jan Erik Arndt notes.

Today scientists search in vain for such megascale icebergs. "We currently find the largest icebergs in the Antarctic. The very biggest reach only 700 metres below the water's surface," noted the bathymetrician. One remaining riddle is the birthplace of the massive icebergs that scraped Hovgaard Ridge. The AWI scientists suggest that two areas off the northern coast of Russia are the most likely sites.

Titan's Climate History Hinted at by Evaporite Locations

Evidence of Titan's Climate History from Evaporite Distribution


MacKenzie et al


Water-ice-poor, 5-μm-bright material on Saturn's moon Titan has previously been geomorphologically identified as evaporitic. Here we present a global distribution of the occurrences of the 5-μm-bright spectral unit, identified with Cassini's Visual Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) and examined with RADAR when possible. We explore the possibility that each of these occurrences are evaporite deposits. The 5-μm-bright material covers 1\% of Titan's surface and is not limited to the poles (the only regions with extensive, long-lived surface liquid). We find the greatest areal concentration to be in the equatorial basins Tui Regio and Hotei Regio. Our interpretations, based on the correlation between 5-μm-bright material and lakebeds, imply that there was enough liquid present at some time to create the observed 5-μm-bright material. We address the climate implications surrounding a lack of evaporitic material at the south polar basins: if the south pole basins were filled at some point in the past, then where is the evaporite?

Precolumbian South American Chicken Fight

here (dates are fine on the chicken bones).

here. (chicken bones not contaminated by modern chicken dna)

here.  (counter claims have statistical flaws)

Pentaceratops and Kosmoceratops Found in Campanian Cretaceous Alberta, Canada

The horned dinosaurs Pentaceratops and Kosmoceratops from the upper Campanian of Alberta and implications for dinosaur biogeography




The upper Campanian of the American Southwest has produced dinosaurs that are unknown from the northern Great Plains and vice versa. This has led to the idea that North America's Campanian dinosaur fauna was characterized by high levels of endemism and distinct faunal provinces. Here, two horned dinosaurs known from the Southwest, Pentaceratops and Kosmoceratops, are described from southern Canada. Pentaceratops aquilonius sp. nov. is represented by two frill fragments from the uppermost Dinosaur Park Formation near Manyberries, southeast Alberta. Features shared with Pentaceratops include large, triangular epiparietals, an M-shaped parietal posterior bar, and an epiparietal P1 that curls up and twists laterally. The Manyberries specimens differ from Pentaceratops sternbergii and Utahceratops gettyi in that the posterior bar is broader, emargination is weakly developed, and P1 is directed dorsally, rather than anteriorly. Phylogenetic analysis places P. aquilonius as sister to a clade comprising P. sternbergii and Utahceratops. Kosmoceratops is documented by a partial skull from Dinosaur Provincial Park. Previously referred to Chasmosaurus, the skull exhibits derived features inconsistent with this referral, including a reduced septal flange, a caudally inclined narial strut, a triangular narial process, a reduced frontal fontanelle, a weakly hooked rostral, and a narrow, caudally inclined internal naris. Phylogenetic analysis recovers the animal as sister to Kosmoceratops richardsoni, but differences in the shape of the naris and nasal horn suggest that it likely represents a distinct species. The presence of Pentaceratops and Kosmoceratops in Canada argues against the idea of distinct northern and southern faunal provinces, but the fact that they differ from their southern relatives confirms that endemism was high in the Campanian. The ability of dinosaur lineages to disperse long distances across North America suggests that dinosaur distribution was not constrained by geographic barriers, climate, or flora. Instead, dinosaur endemism may result from competitive exclusion of immigrants by established populations adapted to local environmental conditions.

British Triassic Pterosaur is Really a Drepanosaur

Re-examination of the purported pterosaur wing metacarpals from the Upper Triassic of England


Dalla Vecchia et al


Two small bones from the Upper Triassic of Cromhall Quarry (Gloucestershire, England), which are referred in the literature to pterosaurian wing metacarpals, are compared with wing metacarpals of unequivocal pterosaur specimens from the Upper Triassic of Italy and Greenland as well as those of the Liassic Dimorphodon macronyx from England. The two are morphologically distinct from the unequivocal wing metacarpals. Comparison with the phalanges of drepanosauromorphs suggests that they are probably penultimate phalanges of those bizarre diapsids. Drepanosauromorphs are now known from Cromhall Quarry, but they were not in 1990 when the two presumed wing metacarpals were described. There is no definitive evidence of the presence of pterosaurs in the Triassic of the UK.