Monday, September 30, 2013

Life in the Jurassic & Cretaceous

Portable Laser Cutter...Almost Laser Rifle

Kids At the California Academy of Sciences

Supearth or Mini Neptune? How to Tell Them Apart...

Perhaps the most intriguing exoplanets found so far are those bigger than our rocky, oceanic Earth but smaller than cold, gas-shrouded Uranus and Neptune. This mysterious class of in-between planets—alternatively dubbed super-Earths or mini-Neptunes—confounds scientists because nothing like them exists as a basis for comparison in our solar system.

"We don't really know what they are," said Björn Benneke, a graduate student in astronomy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "They can be a scaled-down version of the giant planets in our solar system, a scaled-up version of terrestrial planets like Earth, or something completely different."

Benneke is co-author of a paper accepted by the Astrophysical Journal that attempts to solve this vexing riddle. Based on numerical computer models, he developed an observational strategy that would let astronomers distinguish between two very different types of atmospheres associated with these planets. Learning about their atmospheres will speak to the overall nature of these heretofore unknowable worlds with masses ranging up to about 10 times that of Earth. (Uranus and Neptune have 14 and 17 Earth-masses, respectively.)
The pop sci write up for those that didn't chew on the paper.

American West, Middle East, southern Amazonia to Projected Drier; Monsoonal Asia, northern South America, and Equitorial Africa to be Wetter

Hydrologic impacts of past shifts of Earth’s thermal equator offer insight into those to be produced by fossil fuel CO2


Wallace S. Broecker and Aaron E. Putnam


Major changes in global rainfall patterns accompanied a northward shift of Earth’s thermal equator at the onset of an abrupt climate change 14.6 kya. This northward pull of Earth’s wind and rain belts stemmed from disintegration of North Atlantic winter sea ice cover, which steepened the interhemispheric meridional temperature gradient. A southward migration of Earth’s thermal equator may have accompanied the more recent Medieval Warm to Little Ice Age climate transition in the Northern Hemisphere. As fossil fuel CO2 warms the planet, the continents of the Northern Hemisphere are expected to warm faster than the Southern Hemisphere oceans. Therefore, we predict that a northward shift of Earth’s thermal equator, initiated by an increased interhemispheric temperature contrast, may well produce hydrologic changes similar to those that occurred during past Northern Hemisphere warm periods. If so, the American West, the Middle East, and southern Amazonia will become drier, and monsoonal Asia, Venezuela, and equatorial Africa will become wetter. Additional paleoclimate data should be acquired and model simulations should be conducted to evaluate the reliability of this analog.

Long March 9: Chinese Own Version of NASA's SLS?

Chinese engineers are proposing a Moon rocket more powerful than the Saturn V of the Apollo missions and matching the payload of NASA's planned Space Launch System (SLS) Block 2, the unfunded launcher that would put the U.S. back into super-heavy space lift.

Drawing up preliminary designs for the giant Long March 9 launcher, Chinese launch vehicle builder CALT has studied configurations remarkably similar to those that NASA considered in looking for the same capability: to lift 130 metric tons (287,000 lb.) to low Earth orbit (LEO). One of the two preferred Chinese proposals has a similar configuration to the design finally adopted for SLS Block 2, though the takeoff mass for both CALT concepts, 4,100-4,150 tons, is greater. On that measure, at least, China wants to build the largest space launcher in history.

Preliminary work is underway for the intended engines. At the Xian Space Propulsion Institute, engineers are certainly planning and probably doing risk-reduction work for a kerosene-fueled engine, apparently called YF-660, that would be comparable to the 690 tons thrust of the Saturn V's F-1. The Beijing Aerospace Propulsion Institute, meanwhile, is working on critical technologies for a 200-ton-thrust liquid-hydrogen engine that would be used for the first stage of one launcher design and for the second stage of both. That engine is apparently called the YF-220.

Comparison with current launchers and engines highlights the scale of China's ambitions: Whereas U.S. SLS engineers are aiming at a 10% increase on the throw weight of the Saturn V and would use mainly familiar propulsion technology, CALT's super-heavy launcher would have 10 times the throw weight of anything that China now has in service, and would be four times bigger than even the largest rocket it is developing—the Long March 5. The YF-660 engine would be five times as powerful as the biggest engine China has so far built, one that has not yet flown.

The Chinese industry is seeking permission to begin developing a Moon rocket. Studies encompass payloads as low as 70 tons to LEO, says an industry official, suggesting that China may follow the SLS concept by first building a smaller launcher adaptable to enlargement.


Crane Installed for LBNL/NERSC's New Building Named (yes) CRT

link to webcam.

Temnospondyl Sclerocephalus haeuseri Cannibalism Fossil to be Auctioned

Nearly 300 million years ago, a large predatory amphibian known as Sclerocephalus haeuseri died while eating what may have been a smaller member of its own species. This "death scene" is up for auction at Heritage Auctions, along with other intriguing fossils, on Oct. 19-20.

Lystrosaurus Subadults Were Trying to Keep Warm When They Died Creating Bonebeds in Induan (?) Triassic South Africa

Origin and palaeoenvironmental significance of Lystrosaurus bonebeds in the earliest Triassic Karoo Basin, South Africa


Pia A. Viglietti, Roger M.H. Smith, and John S. Compton


Earth experienced its most devastating extinction event at the end of the Permian period 251 million years ago (Ma). Despite an estimated 75 to 90% loss of species globally in both marine and terrestrial realms across the Permian–Triassic Boundary (PTB), around 20% of the terrestrial tetrapod genera in southwestern Gondwana survived and were immediately joined by a number of immigrant taxa to occupy most of the vacant niches of the earliest Triassic. Preserved in the Karoo Basin of South Africa is an almost continuous stratigraphic record of terrestrial sedimentation through the PTB that hosts a fossil record of ecosystem collapse, survivorship and recovery. The adaptation of the mammal like reptiles (therapsids) of the Lystrosaurus Assemblage Zone to a highly seasonal, potentially drought prone semi-arid earliest Triassic Karoo Basin is associated with changes in modes of fossilisation. Isolated dicynodont skulls and postcranial elements are commonly found in the latest Permian. However, in the earliest Triassic the dicynodonts occur as articulated, curled-up skeletons and multi-individual monotaxic bonebeds. Lack of epiphyses and relatively small skull length confirm that the bonebeds comprise several subadult Lystrosaurus declivis (L. declivis) carcasses. No significant evidence for hydraulic bone concentration along with clusters of ribs in life position points to complete carcasses being present at the site of death, and suggests that animals behaviourally congregated before perishing together. The bonebeds are hosted by an 8 m thick horizon of floodplain mudrocks in the lower Katberg Formation named the Lystrosaurus abundant zone. The bonebed horizon is overlain by sand-filled mud cracks capped by coarse sediments indicative of rapid deposition during waning floods. Stable isotope analyses of pedogenic and early diagenetic calcite nodules in association with the bonebeds yield average δ13C values ranging from − 9.5 to − 5‰ and δ18O values of 13.5 to 16‰, respectively. These isotope values support a seasonally cold, semi-arid climate at high latitude (~ 55°S). The presence of vertebrate burrow casts on bonebed horizons and evidence of shelter sharing suggests that tetrapods were attempting to escape extreme climatic conditions. Aggregation behaviour of subadult Lystrosaurus during unusual cold snaps may best explain the origin of bonebed assemblages.

Simulating the Archean Earth's Atmosphere and Surface to Solve the Young Faint Sun Paradox

Investigating the early earth faint young sun problem with a general circulation model


M. Kunze, M. Godolt, U. Langematz, J.L. Grenfell, A. Hamann-Reinus, and H. Rauer


The faint young Sun problem, i.e. the contradiction of a reduced solar luminosity by 15–25% during the Archaean and the geological evidence for relatively high surface temperatures that allowed the presence of liquid water, is still mostly open. It is suggested that the cooling induced by a fainter Sun was e.g. offset by higher levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) during the Archaean, but achieving the amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) that are necessary to solve the problem can not be supported by proxy data and the estimates of other additional GHGs diverge.

In our study we investigate this problem by using the Climate model EMAC with a spectrally resolved irradiance dataset valid for the Archaean epoch of the Earth. Our experimental setup contains a series of model runs which allow the investigation of the role of the continents, the ozone and oxygen content of the atmosphere, the solar luminosity, and the CO2 concentration on the climate of the Archaean.

Replacing the present day continents with a global ocean lead to a warming at the surface by ∼3 K and an intensified hydrological cycle. The generation of planetary waves and their propagation to the middle atmosphere is reduced, which intensifies the polar night jet and decelerates the Brewer-Dobson circulation. Slightly lower global annual mean temperatures can be found for an anoxic atmosphere. The absent ozone heating in the middle atmosphere, leads to very low temperatures in the middle atmosphere and a vanishing polar night jet, whereas the subtropical jets and the Hadley circulation are intensified. The reduction of the solar luminosity to 82% of the present value leads to a globally ice-covered planet and very dry conditions. Prescribing 10 times the present atmospheric level of CO2 with the same solar luminosity lead to a broad belt of liquid surface water throughout the year, although the global annual mean temperature is below the freezing point of water. On reducing the solar luminosity to 77% of the present value with the same amount of CO2, the area of ice-free ocean water narrows, but still suggesting a habitable environment during the Archaean for a CO2 concentration consistent with paleosol data.

Will Ukraine Pick Europe or Russia (Eurasia)?

The good times, smoke-threaded, it’s-11:30-and-the-club-is-jumpin’ wakeup call from Beyonce Knowles is the perfect lead-in to what I’d like to talk about today: the lengthy courtship spat between Russia, Ukraine and the EU is about to end, and it’s make-your-mind-up time. The EU is offering an association agreement, provided Ukraine meets certain requirements and jumps through certain hoops – one of which is freeing Yulia Tymoshenko, although both national and international analysts are divided on how serious they are about it and whether they will sign the agreement even if Ukraine refuses to do it – while Russia is offering membership in the customs union and in what it hopes will eventually become a muscular Eurasian Union. Ukraine is in the position of maiden to whom two energetic suitors are paying courtship, and Yanukovich plainly relishes both the drama and his own role in it. But which path will Ukraine choose?

Kremlin Stooge as an interesting piece on whether or not Ukraine will pick the EU or Putin's Customs Union.  I may or may not agree, but it is definitely worth the read.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

SpaceX's Falcon9 v1.1 Launch

The Nile Started Because of Eocene Neogene Uplift in East Africa

Eocene initiation of Nile drainage due to East African uplift


Charlie J. Underwood, Chris King, and Etienne Steurbaut


The Late Eocene and Early Oligocene sedimentary succession in the Fayum, Egypt, records the progressive development of northerly flowing Nile-type African drainage. New biostratigraphic dating of these units allows the calibration of the paleomagnetic record, the combination of dating methods enabling a detailed chronology of events to be studied. Between about 38 and 35 Ma there was a dramatic change in sedimentary regime and vast quantities of clastic material were transported into the area, smothering the underlying carbonate platform and initiating a stepwise progradation of clastic units. The sudden change in sediment availability coincides with the beginning of uplift and volcanic activity in the Turkana region of East Africa, cutting off preexisting easterly drainage from the middle of the continent. The Fayum succession therefore records the initiation of northerly drainage of central and eastern Africa, and the origins of the modern Nile watershed. The development of the current route of the Nile, with the incision of the current Nile Valley, was slightly later and related to mid Oligocene uplift of the Red Sea margins and Messinian base level fall.

The Dear JJ Abrams Letter About Star Wars (roflmao)

Serious city hate there....true, but funny.

Closing in on 1000 Exoplanets Confirmed


TIme Lapse Video of the Cygnus Approach and Berthing to the International Space Station

There are gaps, but that is because of the video failing at different times.  Even so, damned kewl.  Actually, the Cygnus looked like a mini Sky Lab to me at times in the video.

This Really Ought to be my Theme Song

Allen Marshall: I am going to find you and give you a good kick in your fundament.  Chinese curses at graduation.  Jerk.  (Kidding.  mostly)

Red or Green? The Ultimate Question Makes it to CNN


He needed to go south down I-25 to Hatch, for crying out loud...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Stunning Sci Fi Spacecraft Size Comparison Mural


Sikorsky's Raider Airframe Revealed

Sikorsky has begun final assembly of the first S-97 Raider light tactical helicopter following delivery of the single-piece, all-composite fuselage by Aurora Flight Sciences.

555 Fulton Design Updated


Mandagomphodon hirschsoni: a Traversodont Cynodont From Anisian Triassic Tanzania

The Traversodontid Cynodont Mandagomphodon hirschsoni from the Middle Triassic of the Ruhuhu Valley, Tanzania


James Hopson


Mandagomphodon hirschsoni (gen. nov., comb. nov.) is one of three species of traversodontid cynodont placed in Scalenodon [type species S. angustifrons (Parrington, 1946)] by Crompton (1972). It is based on a partial skull and lower jaws from the Middle Triassic of the Ruhuhu Valley, southwestern Tanzania. The upper postcanine teeth were used to diagnose species of Scalenodon, but newer traversodontid material indicates that the three species represent distinct genera. Material of “S.” hirschsoni, except for the postcanines, has not been described. It is unusual among traversodontids in having only three upper incisors, which are enlarged and procumbent. Three enlarged, procumbent anterior lower teeth are interpreted as two incisors and a canine. Analysis of postcanine wear facets indicates that the power stroke of the lower teeth was entirely in a posterior direction, including a slightly downward and backward grinding movement at the end of the stroke.
Role of orthopyroxene in rheological weakening of the lithosphere via dynamic recrystallization


Robert J. M. Farla, Shun-ichiro Karato, and Zhengyu Cai


For plate tectonics to operate on a terrestrial planet, the surface layer (the lithosphere) must have a modest strength (Earth, ≤200 MPa), but a standard strength profile based on olivine far exceeds this threshold value. Consequently, it is essential to identify mechanisms that reduce the strength of the lithosphere on Earth. Here we report results of high-strain laboratory deformation experiments on a representative olivine–orthopyroxene composition that show the addition of orthopyroxene substantially reduces the strength in the ductile regime within a certain temperature window. The reduction in strength is associated with the formation of small orthopyroxene and olivine grains. Our samples show heterogeneous microstructures similar to those observed in natural peridotites in shear zones: fine-grained regions containing both orthopyroxene and olivine that form interconnected bands where a large fraction of strain is accommodated. A model is developed to apply these results to geological conditions. Such a model, combined with our experimental observations, suggests that orthopyroxene may play a key role in the plastic deformation of the lithosphere in a critical temperature range, leading to long-term weakening associated with strain localization in the lithosphere.

Russians Unveil Kitchen Sink Armoured Fighting Vehicle

Russia's Uralvagonzavod defense manufacturer on Wednesday unveiled the BMPT-72 tank support fighting vehicle, dubbed the “Terminator-2,” at the Russia Arms Expo 2013 in Nizhny Tagil.

The BMPT-72 is an extensive modernization of the world-famous T-72 main battle tank, also produced by Uralvagonzavod. Compared with its predecessor – the BMPT – the BMPT-72 has an improved fire control system and better turret weapon station protection.

“The key advantage that the BMPT-72 gives to all the counties that operate T-72 tanks is that they can promptly and at minimal cost upgrade their armies to an ultra-modern level, and enhance capacity, mobility, protection and armament without purchasing new high-cost machines,” Uralvgonzavod said in press release prior to the Nizhny Tagil show.

The BMPT-72 is armed with two 30-mm cannons, two 30-mm grenade launchers, four launchers for 130-mm Ataka-T anti-tank guided missiles, a 7.62-mm machine gun, and two 81-mm smoke grenade launchers.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Wednesday that the idea to build new heavily armed tank support vehicles emerged on the basis of experience acquired by the Russian military during the First Chechen War in North Caucasus, especially during the urban fighting in Grozny in 1995 when Russian troops lost a large number of combat vehicles to “guerrilla warfare” tactics used by Chechen separatists.


Is China Going to Unveil Another

An advanced fighter concept (AFC) model launched by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) made its debut at the 15th Beijing Aviation Exhibition unveiled yesterday at the China National Convention Center in Beijing.

In the series of fighters developed by AVIC, the AFC model, which made its debut at the Beijing Aviation Exhibition, is a multi-purpose advanced fighter designed to meet the demand of this kind of fighter in the future international arms trading, according to sources.

The fighter adopts the design of single seat, double engines, twin vertical tails and normal layout with such features as high stealth performance, low cost, large bomb load, large combat radius and perfect integration of systems.

In terms of the comprehensive combat effectiveness, China’s advanced fighter is superior to the 3.5-generation fighter and the modified third-generation fighter, basically equivalent to the typical fourth-generation fighters.


Or did they just decide to show the specs for the J-31?

Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Invent Inventors

Hackers Are Getting Younger Every Day

US Army to Award Contacts for Next Generation Helicopter Development

The U.S. Army is preparing to award demonstrator contracts to four vendors to help design and engineer the next-generation helicopter fleet slated to fly by 2030, service officials said.

The contracts will be the latest step in an ongoing multi-year program called Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator, or JMR TD. It is an Army Science and Technology effort to explore and demonstrate the realm of the possible regarding a new generation of helicopters.

The Army plans to fly two demonstrator JMR helicopters in 2017, service officials said.

“We are looking to bring transformational vertical lift capabilities across the spectrum of operations,” said William Lewis, director of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, Aviation Development Directorate.

While some of the requirements for the helicopter are still being determined, some early indications call for a high-speed helicopter that can travel at speeds between 170 and 300 knots. In addition, the specifications call for an air vehicle that can fly with a combat radius of 424 kilometers and hover with a full-load at what’s called high/hot conditions – 95-degrees Fahrenheit and altitudes of 6,000 feet.

“The JMR informs the realm of the potential from an S&T perspective and that marries up with the operational side. This will be a demonstrator vehicle. They are not building the objective vehicle,” an Army official said.

Army officials want a faster, more fuel-efficient helicopter that could cover a vastly larger mission area. This would increase the combat radius and also improve arrival times for rescues operations and medical evacuations.

A faster helicopter would decrease the need to at times forward position fuel and supplies for crews on longer or extended missions. A big part of the push is to engineer a new helicopter able to reach super high speeds while retaining an ability to hover, service officials explained.

So far, the Army has spent about $20 million on the effort, but plans to spend up to $217 million on air vehicle demonstration efforts and another $70 million on mission equipment technologies such as software, electronics and sensors.

This next phase of the program is designed to build upon recently completed configuration trade analyses wherein four teams of vendors, and government experts, studied parameters for a potential air vehicle. The air vehicle assessments and studies are part of what’s called Phase 1 of the program. The 18-month trade study contracts went to Boeing, a Bell-Boeing team, Sikorsky and a 15-month contract to the AVX Corporation, Army officials said.

The Army and its industry partners have been exploring a range of potential air vehicle configurations, to include a tilt-rotor option, coaxial rotorblades and pusher props for additional thrust, among others, service officials explained.

The Army plan with these anticipated contract awards is to award four vendors the opportunity to further refine and develop their respective designs. Following these awards, the Army will then move toward an eventual down select to two demonstrator teams — before working toward a ground test and eventual flight test.

*head to desk*
2032 is TOO LONG.   A program should not be someone's career.  All the developmental knowledge is lost when the NEXT program gets started.  oy.

72 Townsend Street Rendering


Perchlorates May be Universal Across the Martian Surface

The quest for evidence of life on Mars could be more difficult than scientists previously thought.

A scientific paper published today details the investigation of a chemical in the Martian soil that interferes with the techniques used by the Curiosity rover to test for traces of life. The chemical causes the evidence to burn away during the tests.

In search of clues to life's presence on Mars – now or in the past – Curiosity checks Martian soil and rocks for molecules known as organic carbon compounds that are the hallmark of living organisms on Earth.

While trekking around the Rocknest sand dune in November 2012, the rover found evidence of perchlorate—a salt comprised of chlorine and oxygen. When Curiosity heats a scoop of Martian soil to test it for organic carbon, perchlorates can cause a chemical reaction that destroys organic carbon. Daniel Glavin, an astrobiologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and first author on the new paper, said he now believes the troublesome perchlorates are likely prevalent throughout the Martian surface.


Then as Now: Iceberg Discharges During Last Glacial Maximum Driven by Oceanic Circulation Changes

Iceberg discharges of the last glacial period driven by oceanic circulation changes


Alvarez-Solas et al


Proxy data reveal the existence of episodes of increased deposition of ice-rafted detritus in the North Atlantic Ocean during the last glacial period interpreted as massive iceberg discharges from the Laurentide Ice Sheet. Although these have long been attributed to self-sustained ice sheet oscillations, growing evidence of the crucial role that the ocean plays both for past and future behavior of the cryosphere suggests a climatic control of these ice surges. Here, we present simulations of the last glacial period carried out with a hybrid ice sheet–ice shelf model forced by an oceanic warming index derived from proxy data that accounts for the impact of past ocean circulation changes on ocean temperatures. The model generates a time series of iceberg discharge that closely agrees with ice-rafted debris records over the past 80 ka, indicating that oceanic circulation variations were responsible for the enigmatic ice purges of the last ice age.

Tyrannosauroid Theropods From Campanian Cretaceous Big Bend, Texas

Tyrannosauroid dinosaurs from the Aguja Formation (Upper Cretaceous) of Big Bend National Park, Texas


Thomas M. Lehman and Steven L. Wick


Rare remains of tyrannosauroid dinosaurs from the Aguja Formation in West Texas indicate the presence here of a relatively gracile species, comparable in form and adult size to Appalachiosaurus or subadult albertosaurines, Gorgosaurus and Albertosaurus. Histologic analysis of one of the specimens indicates that the Aguja tyrannosaur attained an adult size substantially smaller than adult albertosaurines (700 kg, 6·5 m body length). The frontal bone is narrow with a wide orbital slot and a bipartite joint for the postorbital, features thought to be diagnostic of Albertosaurinae; but there is a tall sagittal crest and reduced parietal wedge separating the frontals on the midline, features thought to be diagnostic of Tyrannosaurinae. The tall sagittal crest may be a synapomorphy of Tyrannosaurinae, and the Aguja tyrannosaur is herein referred to that clade. However, the unique combination of character states exhibited by the frontal prevents confident attribution to any known species. The Aguja tyrannosaur provides further evidence that North American Campanian tyrannosauroids were remarkably diverse for such large predators, and that each species was apparently endemic to a relatively small geographic province.

The ‘‘Age of Dinosaurs’’ Properly Begins in the Early Jurassic

The problem of dinosaur origins: integrating three approaches to the rise of Dinosauria


Kevin Padian


The problem of the origin of dinosaurs has historically had three dimensions. The first is the question of whether Dinosauria is monophyletic, and of its relationships to other archosaurs. This question was plagued from the beginning by a lack of relevant fossils, an historical burden of confusing taxonomic terms and a rudimentary approach to devising phylogenies. The second dimension concerns the functional and ecological adaptations that differentiated dinosaurs from other archosaurs, a question also marred by lack of phylogenetic clarity and testable biomechanical hypotheses. The third dimension comprises the stratigraphic timing of the origin of dinosaurian groups with respect to each other and to related groups, the question of its synchronicity among various geographic regions, and some of the associated paleoenvironmental circumstances. None of these dimensions alone answers the question of dinosaur origins, and they sometimes provide conflicting implications. Since Dinosauria was named, one or another set of questions has historically dominated academic discussion and research. Paradigms have shifted substantially in recent decades, and current evidence suggests that we are due for more such shifts. I suggest two changes in thinking about the beginning of the “Age of Dinosaurs”: first, the event that we call the (phylogenetic) origin of dinosaurs was trivial compared to the origin of Ornithodira; and second, the “Age of Dinosaurs” proper did not begin until the Jurassic. Re-framing our thinking on these issues will improve our understanding of clade dynamics, timing of macroevolutionary events, and the effects of Triassic climate change on terrestrial vertebrates.

Hadean and Early Archean Earth Was More Like Jupiter's Moon Io With an Atmosphere Than Modern Earth

Heat-pipe Earth


William B. Moore & A. Alexander G. Webb


The heat transport and lithospheric dynamics of early Earth are currently explained by plate tectonic and vertical tectonic models, but these do not offer a global synthesis consistent with the geologic record. Here we use numerical simulations and comparison with the geologic record to explore a heat-pipe model in which volcanism dominates surface heat transport. These simulations indicate that a cold and thick lithosphere developed as a result of frequent volcanic eruptions that advected surface materials downwards. Declining heat sources over time led to an abrupt transition to plate tectonics. Consistent with model predictions, the geologic record shows rapid volcanic resurfacing, contractional deformation, a low geothermal gradient across the bulk of the lithosphere and a rapid decrease in heat-pipe volcanism after initiation of plate tectonics. The heat-pipe Earth model therefore offers a coherent geodynamic framework in which to explore the evolution of our planet before the onset of plate tectonics.

pop sci link.

Is It Possible For China to Rise Peacefully?

CHINA has long stressed that its rise as one of the world’s great powers will be “peaceful”. But it is also aware that, historically, peaceful rises are the exception. Speaking on a visit to Washington on September 20th, Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, referred to a study of 15 different countries. In 11 cases “confrontation and war have broken out between the emerging and established powers.” So the stakes are high when Chinese leaders speak of their hopes for a “new type of great-power relations”, or, in the humbler phrase they now prefer as a translation for the Chinese formulation, “a new model of major-country relations”. American officials echo the “new model” talk. Since neither side wants confrontation and war, they can be assumed to be sincere. Less certain is whether they mean the same thing.

Xi Jinping unveiled the concept on a visit to the American capital last year, before he took over the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. His informal “Sunnylands” summit with Barack Obama in June was portrayed as the “model” in action. As elaborated by the smooth Mr Wang in Washington, it is an admirable idea, based on Mr Xi’s formula of “no conflict or confrontation”, “mutual respect” and “win-win co-operation”. Nor is there much disagreement about how to achieve this: by reducing strategic mistrust through building habits of co-operation.
Although America and China seem to line up on the opposite sides of so many international issues, optimists can point to progress in some areas of co-operation. The two countries have in recent months avoided the periodic crises that used to test their ties. China has reacted calmly to allegations of American cyber-espionage against it, for example, enjoying the chance to turn the tables thanks to the revelations of Edward Snowden, a disaffected American former security-services contractor.

Military co-operation is also being stepped up. Next year China’s navy is to join those of America and a score of other countries in a big maritime exercise. China is negotiating an investment treaty with America. It also wants to join one American-led free-trade negotiation, the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), and has said it is studying another, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, once seen as part of an American effort to contain China.

On some international hotspots, too, China and America find themselves closer than for some time. America will have been pleased that China this week showed its anger with North Korea, banning a long list of items for export there. China has welcomed the agreement between America and Russia on destroying Syria’s weapons. Mr Wang raised Afghanistan, which he predicted might next year overtake Syria as a global concern, as another area with “great potential” for enhanced co-operation. This is true both because co-operation has so far been minimal, but also because, as Mr Wang pointed out, both have an interest in the country’s stability after most foreign troops leave in 2014. China worries about Islamic extremism seeping across the border to infect its own Muslim minorities, and about the security of its massive proposed investment in the Aynak copper mine.

In all these areas, however, co-operation is hampered by strategic distrust and profound differences.

I have been wondering for some time if China's rise ought to be compared with Japan's.  During the 1980s, there was a profound gnashing of teeth over Japan.  We were going to be overshadowed by the rising Japanese and they would be running the world.  And yet, two decades after the economic stagnation of Japan, we look back and see the fears as being far from justified. 

Now, some of the hind sight reasons for Japan's stall don't quite apply here; frex, China has a population far in excess of Japan's and a longer way still (!) until that population is as rich as Japan or America is. 

On the other hand, China has a demographic problem, which even with the easing or outright dismissal of the One Child Policy, will cause it a lot of problems in less than a decade.  It is also facing a banking crisis on the other of the Lehman Brother's fiasco here in the US.  They have a very different structure to deal with it, but from what I have been told, its frightening to watch from the outside.  Additionally, they have a huge real estate bubble like we, and back in the day, Japan, had.  Finally, their current model of purely manufacturing for the world has hit its limits and they need to change course with their economy to keep from stagnating.

I, personally, China failing to rise.  China will definitely rise to a superpower status and take at least a peer status with the US, if not greater.  However, I do have to wonder if China will hit a 'mature' economy status, and drop to the same growth rates as America and Europe about 2023.  If China and the US are neck and neck economically from there on out, it will be mighty interesting.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Life in the Triassic (a video)

A Look at the Flynn Effect

Curiosity Finds Martian Regolith is 2% Water

The first scoop of soil analyzed by the analytical suite in the belly of NASA's Curiosity rover reveals that fine materials on the surface of the planet contain several percent water by weight. The results were published today in Science as one article in a five-paper special section on the Curiosity mission. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Dean of Science Laurie Leshin is the study's lead author.

"One of the most exciting results from this very first solid sample ingested by Curiosity is the high percentage of water in the soil," said Leshin. "About 2 percent of the soil on the surface of Mars is made up of water, which is a great resource, and interesting scientifically." The sample also released significant carbon dioxide, oxygen, and sulfur compounds when heated.


Chinese UAV Conducts Simulated Carrier Landings

Chinese media reports indicate that the winner of the 2nd AVIC-Cup International UAV Innovation Grand Prix (UAVGP) in the fixed-wing category this week was fielded by a group of students representing Shenyang Aerospace University in Liaoning Province. The AVIC-Cup competition was held at Miyun Airport in northeast Beijing. According to media reports, the fixed-wing UAV attempted to land on a mock aircraft carrier in the center of the airfield. It successfully snagged the second hook. It is unclear how well other competitors performed.


First Octopus Farm Starting in the Yucatan, Mexico

Fish farms now produce million tons of fish each year around the globe. But octopuses have largely escaped this kind of confined aquaculturing, despite a growing global demand and overfishing. Why? That’s the million-ton question.

Based on their brief life cycles, prolific reproduction and efficient metabolisms, octopuses should be ideal candidates for aquaculture. They have short lives, many taking only a year or two to reach full maturity. Females lay thousands and thousands of eggs. And as poikilotherms, they are incredibly efficient at turning calories consumed into body mass.

Groups of scientists and entrepreneurs across the world—from Japan to Australia to Italy to Mexico—have been trying to find a way to rear these finicky creatures from egg to export. And most of them have struggled. But now, one farm has reported success, a move that could help wild populations and researchers alike.

On the Yucatan coast in Mexico, a small cooperative is finally rearing Octopus maya from eggs after a decade of research and unsuccessful attempts, according to news reports. Called Mayab Mollusks, it is still in its infancy, but the group is planning to gear up to larger commercial operations.


Turbulence in Stellar Disks is Key to Planetary Formation



1. Philip F. Hopkins (a,b)
2. Jessie L. Christiansen (c)


a. TAPIR, Mailcode 350-17, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

b. Department of Astronomy and Theoretical Astrophysics Center, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

c. SETI Institute/NASA Ames Research Center, M/S 244-30, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA


A fundamental assumption in our understanding of disks is that when the Toomre Q Gt 1, the disk is stable against fragmentation into self-gravitating objects (and so cannot form planets via direct collapse). But if disks are turbulent, this neglects a spectrum of stochastic density fluctuations that can produce rare, high-density mass concentrations. Here, we use a recently developed analytic framework to predict the statistics of these fluctuations, i.e., the rate of fragmentation and mass spectrum of fragments formed in a turbulent Keplerian disk. Turbulent disks are never completely stable: we calculate the (always finite) probability of forming self-gravitating structures via stochastic turbulent density fluctuations in such disks. Modest sub-sonic turbulence above Mach number $\mathcal {M}\sim 0.1$ can produce a few stochastic fragmentation or "direct collapse" events over ~Myr timescales, even if Q Gt 1 and cooling is slow (t cool Gt t orbit). In transsonic turbulence this extends to Q ~ 100. We derive the true Q-criterion needed to suppress such events, which scales exponentially with Mach number. We specify to turbulence driven by magneto-rotational instability, convection, or spiral waves and derive equivalent criteria in terms of Q and the cooling time. Cooling times gsim 50 t dyn may be required to completely suppress fragmentation. These gravo-turbulent events produce mass spectra peaked near ~(Q M disk/M *)2 M disk (rocky-to-giant planet masses, increasing with distance from the star). We apply this to protoplanetary disk models and show that even minimum-mass solar nebulae could experience stochastic collapse events, provided a source of turbulence.

Attempting to Model the Carbon Cycle of the Paleogene Exposing Gaps in Understanding

Understanding long-term carbon cycle trends: The late paleocene through the early eocene


1. N. Komar (a)
2. R. E. Zeebe (a)
3. G. R. Dickens (b,c)


a. Department of Oceanography, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

b. Department of Earth Sciences, Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA

c. Department of Geological Sciences, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden


The late Paleocene to the early Eocene (~58-52 Ma) was marked by significant changes in global climate and carbon cycling. Among evidence for these changes, stable isotope records reveal prominent decreases in δ18O and δ13C, suggesting a rise in temperature on Earth's surface (~4 °C) and a drop in net carbon output from the ocean and atmosphere. Concurrently, deep-sea carbonate records at several sites indicate a deepening of the calcite compensation depth (CCD). Here, we investigate possible causes (e.g., increased volcanic degassing, decreased net organic burial, and accelerated dissociation of gas hydrate) for these observations, but from a new perspective. The basic model employed is a modified version of GEOCARB III. However, we have coupled this well-known geochemical model to LOSCAR, a model that enables simulation of seawater carbonate chemistry, the CCD, and ocean δ13C. We have also added a capacitor, in this case presented by gas hydrates, that can store and release 13C-depleted carbon to and from the shallow geosphere over millions of years. We further consider accurate input data (e.g., δ13C of carbonate) on a currently accepted time scale that spans an interval much longer than the perturbation. Several different scenarios are investigated with the goal of consistency amongst inferred changes in temperature, the CCD, and surface ocean and deep ocean δ13C. The results strongly suggest that a decrease in net organic carbon burial drove carbon cycle changes during the late Paleocene and early Eocene, although an increase in volcanic activity might have contributed. Importantly, a drop in net organic carbon burial may represent increased oxidation of previously deposited organic carbon, such as stored in peat or gas hydrates. The model successfully recreates trends in Earth surface warming, as inferred from δ18O records, the CCD, and δ13C. At the moment, however, our coupled modeling effort cannot reproduce the magnitude of change in all these records collectively. Similar problems have arisen in simulations of short-term hyperthermal events during the early Paleogene (PETM), suggesting one or more basic issues with data interpretation or geochemical modeling remain.

New Paleogene Paleoclimate Data From Leaf Fossils From Washington

New Paleogene paleoclimate analysis of western Washington using physiognomic characteristics from fossil leaves


1. Renee L. Breedlovestrout (a)
2. Bradly J. Evraets (b)
3. Judith Totman Parrish (c)


a. ExxonMobil Exploration Co., 233 Benmar Drive, Houston, TX 77060, United States

b. ConocoPhillips, 600 N. Dairy Ashford Rd, Houston, TX 77079, United States

c. University of Idaho, Department of Geological Sciences, PO Box 443022, Moscow, ID 83844-3022, United States


The Chuckanut and Manastash formations were deposited in a lowland fluvial environment in western Washington during the Paleocene–Eocene. We provide a thorough paleotemperature analysis using the physiognomic characteristics from the fossil dicotyledonous leaves from these formations using two techniques, Leaf Margin Analysis (LMA) and Climate Leaf Analysis Multivariate Program (CLAMP). This work differs from previous analyses by 1) analyzing more localities and including the assessment of the never-before described Taneum Ridge Body and Manastash Main Body within the Manastash Formation and the Maple Falls Member of the Chuckanut Formation, and 2) using two different techniques to decipher mean annual temperatures through time. In this study, mean annual temperatures (MAT) were determined from 125 distinct morphotypes and are several degrees higher at each locality than previously reported. MAT values derived from LMA ranged from 17.0° to 28.8 °C for the lowermost and 13.4° to 19.5 °C for the uppermost Chuckanut Formation. The Manastash Formation had MATs ranging from 17.1 °C to 29.1 °C. Using CLAMP, paleotemperatures ranged from 15.3° to 19.4 °C for the lowermost and 12.3° to 15.6 °C for the uppermost Chuckanut Formation and 15.8 to 21.3 °C for the Manastash Formation. These data are compared to other Eocene–Paleocene formations in the western US; the Chuckanut and Manastash formations record some of the warmest paleotemperatures in the Paleogene in the western US because of their low-elevation locations. These paleotemperatures may reflect the terrestrial signal of paleoclimate optima defined in marine rocks during the Paleocene–Eocene.

New Pareiasaur Fossils From Changhsingian Permian China Have Taxonomy Implications

New specimens of pareiasaurs from the Upper Permian Sunjiagou Formation of Liulin, Shanxi and their implications for the taxonomy of Chinese pareiasaurs


1. Li Xing-Wen (a)
2. Liu Jun (a)


a. Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences Beijing 100044


New pareiasaur specimens from the Sunjiagou Formation of Xuecun, Liulin, Shanxi,China are described. These new specimens comprise two marginal teeth from the upper jaw (IVPP V 18613) and an incomplete left dentary with teeth (IVPP V 18614). They provide novel anatomical information and allow the direct comparison of Sanchuansaurus pygmaeus with Huanghesaurus liulinensis. The two taxa cannot be differentiated by the known features, and both taxa are declared junior synonyms of Shansisaurus xuecunensis.

Paleosols Indicate Atmospheric Oxygen During MesoArchean Archean, 700 Million Years Earlier

Oxygen appeared in the atmosphere up to 700 million years earlier than we previously thought, according to research published today in the journal Nature, raising new questions about the evolution of early life.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen and University of British Columbia examined the chemical composition of three-billion-year-old soils from South Africa – the oldest soils on Earth – and found evidence for low concentrations of atmospheric oxygen. Previous research indicated that oxygen began accumulating in the atmosphere only about 2.3 billion years ago during a dynamic period in Earth's history referred to as the Great Oxygenation Event.

"We've always known that oxygen production by photosynthesis led to the eventual oxygenation of the atmosphere and the evolution of aerobic life," says Sean Crowe, co-lead author of the study and an assistant professor in the Departments of Microbiology and Immunology, and Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at UBC.

"This study now suggests that the process began very early in Earth's history, supporting a much greater antiquity for oxygen producing photosynthesis and aerobic life," says Crowe, who conducted the research while a post-doctoral fellow at Nordic Center for Earth Evolution at the University of Southern Denmark in partnership with the centre's director Donald Canfield.

paper link.

Order of the Stick Does Paleo Humor

Go read.

Chinese Synthetic Gas Plants Will be Worse Than Fracking

Coal-powered synthetic natural gas plants being planned in China would produce seven times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional natural gas plants, and use up to 100 times the water as shale gas production, according to a new study by Duke University researchers.

These environmental costs have been largely neglected in the drive to meet the nation's growing energy needs, the researchers say, and might lock China on an irreversible and unsustainable path for decades to come.

"Using coal to make natural gas may be good for China's energy security, but it's an environmental disaster in the making," said Robert B. Jackson, Nicholas Professor of Environmental Sciences and director of the Duke Center on Global Change.

"At a minimum, Chinese policymakers should delay implementing their synthetic natural gas plan to avoid a potentially costly and environmentally damaging outcome," said Chi-Jen Yang, a research scientist at Duke's Center on Global Change. "An even better decision would be to cancel the program entirely."

Yang is lead author of the new study, which was published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

MIT's Leg Labs Robots from 1998 to 2008

Paleo types jump to 2:50.

Boston Dynamics' Big Dog at the Beach

US Marine Corps Testing Robopocalypse With Big Dog

Marines will get their hands this November on the Big Dog — a robot built to scale hillsides, walk through brush and even crosss creeks all while carrying 400 pounds of gear.

Engineers will hand over the Big Dog to a group of Marines this November to test at Fort Devens, Mass., to see how well Marines can operate the robot and test how it operates under simulated combat conditions, said Maj. James Richardson, head of the Logistics Combat Element Branch of the Science and Technology Division of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory.

Engineers at Boston Dynamics and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have spent years developing the Big Dog, which is now technically called the Legged Squad Support System (LS3). Of course, no military development project could survive without a proper abbreviation.

Marines are displaying the Big Dog here at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab display at the Modern Day Marine Exposition. The one on display has visible signs of wear from a recent test at the TwentyNine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center.

If all goes well at its test at Fort Devens, the Marine Corps plans on sending the Big Dog to Hawaii in July where it will receive further testing alongside Marines at the RIMPAC 2013 exercise, Richardson said.

The goal of the Big Dog is to offer Marine units a solution to taking weight off their backs with a robot that can traverse any terrain a Marine patrol may face. The robot is designed to walk seven to eight miles per hour. The Big Dog has a walk, trot and run mode.

Early feedback on the robot said it was too loud. Engineers have since reduced the noise it makes ten-fold. Engineers also engineered the Big Dog to pick itself back up after it falls down.

Europe's 'Deep Impact' for Europa

Using Transit Spectrums to Characterize Superearth GJ 1214b's Atmosphere



1. Knicole D. Colón (a)
2. Eric Gaidos (a)


a. Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA


GJ 1214 is a nearby M dwarf star that hosts a transiting super-Earth-size planet, making this system an excellent target for atmospheric studies. Most studies find that the transmission spectrum of GJ 1214b is flat, which favors either a high mean molecular weight or cloudy/hazy hydrogen (H) rich atmosphere model. Photometry at short wavelengths (greater than 0.7 μm) and in the K band can discriminate the most between these different atmosphere models for GJ 1214b, but current observations do not have sufficiently high precision. We present photometry of seven transits of GJ 1214b through a narrow K-band (2.141 μm) filter with the Wide Field Camera on the 3.8 m United Kingdom Infrared Telescope. Our photometric precision is typically 1.7 × 10–3 (for a single transit), comparable with other ground-based observations of GJ 1214b. We measure a planet-star radius ratio of 0.1158 ± 0.0013, which, along with other studies, also supports a flat transmission spectrum for GJ 1214b. Since this does not exclude a scenario where GJ 1214b has an H-rich envelope with heavy elements that are sequestered below a cloud/haze layer, we compare K-band observations with models of H2 collision-induced absorption in an atmosphere for a range of temperatures. While we find no evidence for deviation from a flat spectrum (slope s = 0.0016 ± 0.0038), an H2-dominated upper atmosphere ( greater than 60 mbar) cannot be excluded. More precise observations at greater than 0.7 μm and in the K band, as well as a uniform analysis of all published data, would be useful for establishing more robust limits on atmosphere models for GJ 1214b.

Methanogenic Microorganism Found Which Can Survive in Martian Environment

Methanogen Survival Following Exposure to Desiccation, Low Pressure and Martian Regolith Analogs


1. Timothy A. Kral (a, b)
2. S.Travis Altheide (b)


a. Dept. of Biological Sciences, SCEN-601, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA

b. Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences, SCEN-601, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA


Any life existing in the martian environment must be able to deal with relatively extreme factors including desiccation, low pressure, and the presence of different martian regoliths. We have been studying methanogens, microorganisms in the domain Archaea, as models for life on Mars. Previously, we have examined methanogens in the presence of these three factors individually. Here, four methanogen species were tested for survival under the three conditions combined. Two of the methanogens survived desiccation at low pressure. One survived desiccation at low pressure on different martian regolith analogs.

Entelgnathus primordialis: Earliest Known Jawed Fish From Pridoli Silurian China

A Silurian placoderm with osteichthyan-like marginal jaw bones


Min Zhu et al (I'm going to start doing shorter authors and whatnot, not enough time in the day now)


The gnathostome (jawed vertebrate) crown group comprises two extant clades with contrasting character complements. Notably, Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fish) lack the large dermal bones that characterize Osteichthyes (bony fish and tetrapods). The polarities of these differences, and the morphology of the last common ancestor of crown gnathostomes, are the subject of continuing debate. Here we describe a three-dimensionally preserved 419-million-year-old placoderm fish from the Silurian of China that represents the first stem gnathostome with dermal marginal jaw bones (premaxilla, maxilla and dentary), features previously restricted to Osteichthyes. A phylogenetic analysis places the new form near the top of the gnathostome stem group but does not fully resolve its relationships to other placoderms. The analysis also assigns all acanthodians to the chondrichthyan stem group. These results suggest that the last common ancestor of Chondrichthyes and Osteichthyes had a macromeric dermal skeleton, and provide a new framework for studying crown gnathostome divergence.

pop sci link too.

Oldest Known Lepidosaur Found in Ladinian Triassic Germany

The fossilised remains of a reptile closely related to lizards are the oldest yet to be discovered.

Two new fossil jaws discovered in Vellberg, Germany provide the first direct evidence that the ancestors of lizards, snakes and tuatara (known collectively as lepidosaurs), were alive during the Middle Triassic period – around 240 million years ago.

The new fossil finds predate all other lepidosaur records by 12 million years. The findings are published in BMC Evolutionary Biology.

The international team of scientists who dated the fossil jaws have provided evidence that lepidosaurs first appeared after the end-Permian mass extinction event, a period when fauna began to recover and thrive in the more humid climate.

Lead author Dr Marc Jones, who conducted the research at UCL, explained: "The Middle Triassic represents a time when the world has recovered from the Permian mass extinction but is not yet dominated by dinosaurs. This is also when familiar groups, such as frogs and lizards, may have first appeared."

The small teeth and lightly built jaws suggest that the extinct animal preyed on small insects. The new fossils are most closely related to the tuatara, a lizard-like reptile.


(the press release is a little odd mixing the molecular clock and dating fossils...)

Turonian Cretaceous Probably Did Not Experience a Glaciation Event

For years, scientists have thought that a continental ice sheet formed during the Late Cretaceous Period more than 90 million years ago when the climate was much warmer than it is today. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has found evidence suggesting that no ice sheet formed at this time. This finding could help environmentalists and scientists predict what the earth's climate will be as carbon dioxide levels continue to rise.

"Currently, carbon dioxide levels are just above 400 parts per million (ppm), up approximately 120 ppm in the last 150 years and rising about 2 ppm each year," said Ken MacLeod, a professor of geological sciences at MU. "In our study, we found that during the Late Cretaceous Period, when carbon dioxide levels were around 1,000 ppm, there were no continental ice sheets on earth. So, if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, the earth will be ice-free once the climate comes into balance with the higher levels."

In his study, MacLeod analyzed the fossilized shells of 90 million-year-old planktic and benthic foraminifera, single-celled organisms about the size of a grain of salt. Measuring the ratios of different isotopes of oxygen and carbon in the fossils gives scientists information about past temperatures and other environmental conditions. The fossils, which were found in Tanzania, showed no evidence of cooling or changes in local water chemistry that would have been expected if a glacial event had occurred during that time period.


China to Lease 3 Million Hectares From Ukraine for Farming

China will plough billions of yuan into farmland in Ukraine that will eventually become its biggest overseas agricultural project.

The move is a significant step in China's recent efforts to encourage domestic companies to farm overseas as China's food demand grows in pace with urbanisation.

Under the 50-year plan, Ukraine will initially provide China with at least 100,000 hectares - an area almost the size of Hong Kong - of high-quality farmland in the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region, mainly for growing crops and raising pigs.

The produce will be sold to two Chinese state-owned grain conglomerates at preferential prices. The project will eventually expand to three million hectares.

Ding Li, a senior researcher in agriculture at Anbound Consulting in Beijing, said the deal was a big move for China compared with earlier overseas agriculture.

In April 2009, China had slightly over two million hectares of farmland abroad, he said. "So three million hectares would mean a very big project."

The agreement was signed in June between the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and KSG Agro, Ukraine's leading agricultural company, XPCC said in a statement.

Too bad the Europeans didn't work out this sort of deal. 

Russia Really Does Not Want Ukraine to Join the European Union

When Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a shout-out to Ukrainian chocolate, it was clear the battle had been joined.

Russia wants Ukraine firmly in its camp, but time is running out. To gain the predominant say over its neighbor’s destiny, Moscow has been furiously trying to derail a pending trade agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government has been deploying insults, dire warnings and customs delays in its efforts to sway the decision.

And, for a while, it refused to import chocolates from Ukraine’s premier confectionery company after Russia’s usually pliant health inspectors suddenly discovered heretofore undetected sanitary shortcomings in the candy boxes.

Russia’s tactics in a struggle that pits East vs. West are “totally stupid and counterproductive,” said Viktor Pinchuk, one of Ukraine’s wealthiest men and the host of an international conference here that ended Saturday, after Clinton and a parade of American and European leaders urged Ukraine to finalize the deal with the E.U.

Putin wants Ukraine to join the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan instead, but his strategy has been all vinegar and no honey. The Ukrainian prime minister, Mykola Azarov, called Russia’s demands an attempt at “humiliation.”

And yet, as much as Putin seems to be pushing Ukraine into Europe’s embrace, ambivalence here runs deep. Azarov and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych have said they intend to sign with the E.U. in November, but they have a way of hedging every statement.

It’s a momentous choice. Ukraine has the chance to opt for a road that in theory would extend European values of transparency and the rule of law far to the east. Or it can join Russia in a financial and cultural zone that is increasingly defining itself as separate from the West and not answerable to Western norms. As a nation of 46 million, Ukraine would be a significant addition to Putin’s Eurasian Union.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mesozoic Life by PaleoArt Studios

Groping in the Dark for a Black Cat Which Might Not Even Be There

Kids! On! A! Plane!

South Korea Dumps Boeing F-15 Silent Eagle, Restarts Fighter Competition

South Korea’s government bowed to public pressure on Tuesday and voted down a bid by Boeing (BA.N) to supply 60 warplanes, saying it would restart the multi-billion tender process to get a more advanced fighter.

Lockheed Martin’s (LMT.N) F-35A, previously considered too expensive, has shot to the front of the line in the race for the contract after the defense ministry singled out a fifth-generation fighter as the preferred option.

The fifth generation F-35A, complete with its hi-tech stealth capability, has already been ordered by seven countries, including Japan and Israel.

Boeing’s F-15 Silent Eagle had been in the box seat to win the 8.3 trillion won ($7.7 billion) tender - as the only bid to fall within budget - but former military top brass and even the ruling party’s lawmakers had criticized the plane as it lacked crucial stealth capabilities.

“Our air force thinks that we need combat capabilities in response to the latest trend of aerospace technology development centered around the fifth generation fighter jets and to provocations from North Korea,” defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters.

Some Astronomers Won't Give Up: Periodicity & Mass Extinctions Rides Again

Mass Extinction And The Structure Of The Milky Way


1. M. D. Filipović (a)
2. J. Horner (b,c)
3. E. J. Crawford (a)
4. N. F. H. Tothill (a)


a. University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith South DC, NSW 1797, Australia

b. School of Physics, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia

c. Australian Centre for Astrobiology, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia


We use the most up to date Milky Way model and solar orbit data in order to test the hypothesis that the Sun's galactic spiral arm crossings cause mass extinction events on Earth. To do this, we created a new model of the Milky Way's spiral arms by combining a large quantity of data from several surveys. We then combined this model with a recently derived solution for the solar orbit to determine the timing of the Sun's historical passages through the Galaxy's spiral arms. Our new model was designed with a symmetrical appearance, with the major alteration being the addition of a spur at the far side of the Galaxy. A correlation was found between the times at which the Sun crosses the spiral arms and six known mass extinction events. Furthermore, we identify five additional historical mass extinction events that might be explained by the motion of the Sun around our Galaxy. These five additional significant drops in marine genera that we find include significant reductions in diversity at 415, 322, 300, 145 and 33 Myr ago. Our simulations indicate that the Sun has spent ~60% of its time passing through our Galaxy's various spiral arms. Also, we briefly discuss and combine previous work on the Galactic Habitable Zone with the new Milky Way model.

The problem with periodicity is the extinctions in question often have wildly disparate basal causes.  Periodicity requires a single driver which is extraterrestrial in nature.  Exceedingly few of these look like that is even a remote possibility: especially the Eocene.

Existing Coal Power Plants Not Required to Install Carbon Capture Technologies

Power plants already in operation in the United States will not be required to be retrofitted with equipment to capture carbon emissions, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency said on Monday.

Agency chief Gina McCarthy addressed concerns raised after the EPA on Friday announced the first regulations setting strict limits on the amount of carbon pollution that can be generated by any newly built plant.

Coal and utility industry groups denounced the rules, and complained that the agency was forcing the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which they say is unproven and expensive.

Some companies expressed fears that EPA rules expected to be announced by June 2014 would call for conventional coal plants already in operation to be retrofitted with CCS technology.

"It (CCS) is not seen, at least at this stage, as an add-on that could be used to put on an existing conventional coal facility," McCarthy told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

She said CCS technology is only an effective technology when it is designed as part of a new plant.

McCarthy said the EPA is engaging with states, industry and other groups about how best to establish federal emissions standards for nation's existing fleet of more than 1,000 power plants.


More on Evaporating Exoplanets



1. James E. Owen (a)
2. Yanqin Wu (b)


a. Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, 60 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3H8, Canada

b. Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 3H4, Canada


Inspired by the Kepler mission's planet discoveries, we consider the thermal contraction of planets close to their parent star, under the influence of evaporation. The mass-loss rates are based on hydrodynamic models of evaporation that include both X-ray and EUV irradiation. We find that only low mass planets with hydrogen envelopes are significantly affected by evaporation, with evaporation being able to remove massive hydrogen envelopes inward of ~0.1 AU for Neptune-mass objects, while evaporation is negligible for Jupiter-mass objects. Moreover, most of the evaporation occurs in the first 100 Myr of stars' lives when they are more chromospherically active. We construct a theoretical population of planets with varying core masses, envelope masses, orbital separations, and stellar spectral types, and compare this population with the sizes and densities measured for low-mass planets, both in the Kepler mission and from radial velocity surveys. This exercise leads us to conclude that evaporation is the driving force of evolution for close-in Kepler planets. In fact, some 50% of the Kepler planet candidates may have been significantly eroded. Evaporation explains two striking correlations observed in these objects: a lack of large radius/low density planets close to the stars and a possible bimodal distribution in planet sizes with a deficit of planets around 2 R ⊕. Planets that have experienced high X-ray exposures are generally smaller than this size, and those with lower X-ray exposures are typically larger. A bimodal planet size distribution is naturally predicted by the evaporation model, where, depending on their X-ray exposure, close-in planets can either hold on to hydrogen envelopes ~0.5%-1% in mass or be stripped entirely. To quantitatively reproduce the observed features, we argue that not only do low-mass Kepler planets need to be made of rocky cores surrounded with hydrogen envelopes, but few of them should have initial masses above 20 M ⊕ and the majority of them should have core masses of a few Earth masses.

Crustaceans Suffered as Much as Coral Reefs Between the Permian Extinction to the Tithonian Jurassic

Many ancient crustaceans went extinct following a massive collapse of reefs across the planet, and new University of Florida research suggests modern species living in rapidly declining reef habitats may now be at risk.

Available online and scheduled to appear in the November issue of Geology, the study shows a direct correlation between the amount of prehistoric reefs and the number of decapod crustaceans, a group that includes shrimp, crab and lobster. The decline of modern reefs due to natural and human-influenced changes also could be detrimental, causing a probable decrease in the biodiversity of crustaceans, which serve as a vital food source for humans and marine animals such as fish, said lead author Adiël Klompmaker, a postdoctoral researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus who started the study at Kent State University.

“We estimate that earth’s decapod crustacean species biodiversity plummeted by more than 50 percent during a sharp decline of reefs nearly 150 million years ago, which was marked by the extinction of 80 percent of crabs,” Klompmaker said. “If reefs continue to decline at the current rate during this century, then a few thousand species of decapods are in real danger. They may adapt to a new environment without reefs, migrate to entirely new environments or, more likely, go extinct.”

Some scientists predict as much as 20 percent of the world’s reefs may collapse within 40 years, with a much higher percentage affected by the end of the century due to natural and human-influenced changes such as ocean acidification, diseases and coral bleaching.

The study is the first comprehensive examination of the rise of decapod crustaceans in the fossil record. Researchers created a database of fossils from the Mesozoic Era, 252 million to 66 million years ago, from literature records based on museum specimens worldwide. The data included 110 families, 378 genera and 1,298 species. They examined the patterns of diversity and found an increase in the number of decapod species was influenced by the abundance of reefs, largely due to the role of reefs as a provider of shelter and foraging. Researchers call this period the “Mesozoic decapod revolution” because of the 300-fold increase in species diversity compared with the previous period and the appearance and rapid evolution of crabs.

Compiling information about crustaceans on this scale has historically been a challenge for researchers because most decapods possess a fragile and weakly calcified exoskeleton that does not fossilize well.

“Only a scant fraction of decapod crustaceans is preserved in rocks, so their fossil record is limited,” said study co-author Michal Kowalewski, curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum. “But, thanks to efforts of paleontologists many of those rare fossils have been documented all around the world, finally giving us a chance to look at their evolutionary history in a more rigorous, quantitative way.”

“This new work builds a good case for the role of reefs in promoting the evolutionary diversification of crustaceans,” said David Jablonski, a paleontologist in the department of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago who was not involved in the study. “We have to take their argument for the flipside of that story very seriously. The positive relation between reefs and crustaceans implies that the damage caused to reefs by human activities — from overfishing to ocean acidification — is likely to have cascading consequences for associated groups, including crustaceans.”


Proposed Mechanism for the Frasnian-Famennian Devonian Mass Extinctions: Global Conflagration

A forest fire and soil erosion event during the Late Devonian mass extinction


1. Kunio Kaiho (a)
2. Susumu Yatsu (a)
3. Masahiro Oba (a)
4. Paul Gorjan (b)
5. Jean-Georges Casier (c)
6. Masayuki Ikeda (d)


a. Institute of Geology and Paleontology, Tohoku University, Sendai 980-8578, Japan

b. Department of Earth and Planetary Science, Washington University, St. Louis MO 63130, USA

c. Department of Paleontology, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, rue Vautier, 29, B-1000, Brussels, Belgium

d. Faculty of Science, Ehime University, Matsuyama 790-8577, Japan


The Late Devonian mass extinction occurred in a stepwise manner and culminated close to the Frasnian-Famennian (F-F) boundary (372 million years ago). Organic-molecular indices from marine sedimentary rocks at the Sinsin section, Belgium, indicate that the sequence of combustion of land vegetation, soil erosion, and anoxia-euxinia occurred close to this boundary. The increased concentrations of biomarkers indicating forest fire and soil erosion measured in the Sinsin section suggest that fire became widespread at this time, leading to various damaging consequences (increased runoff and oceanic anoxia) that caused marine extinctions. Magnetic susceptibility data in the Sinsin section indicate a relatively dry climate spanning the F-F boundary, which would have encouraged forest fires. The study of organic biomarkers presents several lines of evidence to link forest fire and soil erosion to the Late Devonian mass extinction.


 More samples from other sites.  Make sure this is not local.  Too many cases of projecting a globally what may have been a local event for paleontology.

Check for platinum group metals, please.  You know this is coming anways, get ahead of the curve.

Do some experimental tests with similar plants in the same oxygen levels.  See if you get a conflagration.  Larger size, better.  Build a big terrarium, grow some devonian analog plants (not many around, but...)  Attempt to match the paleoatmospheric content.  Pull the trigger.  Wet, dry and otherwise.  If you built this right, you can do multiple studies of multiple eras.  Past and future.