Monday, March 31, 2014

Ukraine: And then?

Kerry and Lavrov have been meeting a lot since the last update.  There have been some bitterness from Ukrainians, although not much, since the US has been insistent that no agreements can be made without Ukraine involved.

The interior ministry has moved against the Right Sector.  They raided the Dnipro hotel and removed the Right Sector from there.  They are being disarmed (so reports say) and transported out of Kiev.  I hope this is not the start of tearing at one another.

There are reports Russia has pulled back a battalion of troops from the Ukrainian border.  One Battalion is not much, really.  They are also supposed to be reducing the number of troops in Crimea.

The Russians have unilaterally declared the Black Sea basing agreement as null and void.

The Russians keep talking about federalization for Ukraine.  No one else seems to be listening.

The Crimean Tatars have voted for autonomy.  What that means remains to be seen.

Yanukovich continues to demonstrate what an idiot he is.

Data Mining Mt GOX Bitcoin Transactions

When hackers posted 750 megabytes of data pilfered from the bankrupt bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, many people seized on it as a kind of treasure map, hoping it would help locate the nearly half a billion dollars in digital currency that went missing from the exchange.

But not Kai Chang and Mary Becica.

Chang is a design technologist at San Francisco visualization studio Stamen Design, and Becica is a product manager at cloud management outfit AppDirect, also in San Francisco. Both love to geek out on data. When the Gox data was released into the wild, they weren’t interested in finding the allegedly stolen bitcoins. They went looking for patterns in the way the digital currency was flowing across the net. The result is a set of some 500 visualizations that show the activity of the 500 Gox accounts that traded the most bitcoin, a graphical representation of the exchange that shows how it progressed from a casual trading table for a small group of cryptocurrency enthusiasts to a hyper-speed market dominated by fairly sophisticated traders. “As you get later in the data,” Chang says, you see the development of “more consistent techniques.”


Tumbleweed Apocalypse: Catching Fire!

Turn off the sound when you watch though.

Getting a bit Fanboy with Poland's 35 Ton PL-01 Tank

Other than it looks cool, the damned thing seems to be cut from the cloth Rumsfeld wanted the FCS to be made from.  Sheesh.

Sweetman Might be on to Something: USAF Neither Confirms nor Denies Texas Mystery Plane

The identity of what appears to be a blended wing-body aircraft type photographed over Amarillo, Texas, on March 10 remains uncertain, with the U.S. Air Force declining any comment on the aircraft.

Three aircraft were observed flying in formation southwest of Amarillo around 4:20 p.m. CDT, by photographers on the fence line of the city's international airport. IbOne of the aircraft could be a B-2, but the clearest color photos and monochrome images enhanced (for contrast and resolution) with commercial software suggest a blended shape with a straight trailing edge. Steve Douglass, one of the photographers and an experienced aircraft observer, says the aircraft were “larger than fighter-size” and appeared similar in wingspan to commercial traffic.

The formation was not using Mode S transponders, according to a review of records at the Flightradar24 air-traffic-tracking site. Radio transmissions apparently associated with the flight were intercepted and recorded, possibly including the call sign “Sienna.”

An Air Force representative in Washington responded to queries about the aircraft, and about flight activities at that time and place, with the statement “I have nothing for you,” a phrase long associated with responses to queries about classified programs and operations. The 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Mo., home of the Air Force's B-2 fleet, says that none of its aircraft were operating near Amarillo on March 10. However, test units have also flown B-2s.

The fact that three aircraft were in formation suggests an aircraft that is operational or close to reaching that status. The unidentified aircraft are not likely to have been examples of the Northrop Grumman stealth reconnaissance drone known as the RQ-180 (AW&ST Dec. 9, 2013, p. 20) because unmanned air systems are seldom flown in formation of any kind. Likewise, the Lockheed Martin demonstrator that is reportedly being built to support the Long Range Strike-Bomber program is likely to be a one-off product.

The Late Paleozoic Transition From Ice House to Extreme Hot House Paleoclimate in Gondwana

A paleoclimatic review of southern South America during the late Paleozoic: A record from icehouse to extreme greenhouse conditions


Limarino et al


This paper provides a review of the Late Mississippian to Permian paleoclimatic history for southern South America based on lithologic indicators, biostratigraphic information, and chronostratigraphic data. The region is divided into three major types of basins: 1. Eastern intraplate basins (e.g., Paraná Basin), 2. Western retroarc basins (e.g., Paganzo Basin) and 3. Western arc-related basins (e.g., Río Blanco Basin). Four major types of paleoclimatic stages are recognized in these basins: 1. glacial (late Visean–early Bashkirian), 2. terminal glacial (Bashkirian–earliest Cisuralian) 3. postglacial (Cisuralian–early Guadalupian), and 4. semiarid–arid (late Guadalupian–Lopingian). The glacial stage began in the late Visean and continued until the latest Serpukhovian or early Bashkirian in almost all of the basins in southern South America. During the Bashkirian–earliest Cisuralian (terminal glacial stage), glacial deposits disappeared almost completely in the western retroarc basins (e.g., Paganzo Basin) but glaciation persisted in the eastern basins (e.g., Paraná and Sauce Grande Basins). A gradual climatic amelioration (postglacial stage) began to occur during the earliest Permian when glacial deposits completely disappeared across all of South America. During this interval, glacial diamictites were replaced by thick coal beds in the Paraná Basin while north–south climatic belts began to be delineated in the western basins, which were likely controlled by the distribution of mountain belts along the Panthalassan Margin of South America. Towards the late Permian, climatic belts became less evident and semiarid or arid conditions dominated in the southern South America basins. Eolian dunes, playa lake deposits, and mixed eolian–fluvial sequences occur in the Paraná Basin and in the western retroarc basins. Volcanism and volcaniclastic sedimentation dominated along the western margin of South America at that time. The stratigraphic record obtained in southern South America supports a long duration transition from icehouse to extreme greenhouse conditions.

Climatic Changes in Martian Fluvial Systems at Xanthe Terra




An unnamed valley system was analyzed in Xanthe Terra south of Havel Vallis on Mars where three separate episodes of fluvial activity could be identified with different morphology, water source and erosional processes, inferring formation under different climatic conditions. The oldest scattered valleys (1. group) form interconnecting network and suggest areally distributed water source. Later two valley types formed from confined water source partly supported by possible subsurface water. The smaller upper reaches (2. group) with three separate segments and also a similar aged but areal washed terrain suggest contribution from shallow subsurface inflow. These valleys fed the main channel (3. group), which morphology (wide, theatre shaped source, few tributaries, steep walls) is the most compatible with the subsurface sapping origin. While the first valley group formed in the Noachian, the other two, more confined groups are younger. Their crater density based age value is uncertain, and could be only 1200 million years. After these three fluvial episodes etch pitted, heavily eroded terrain formed possibly by ice sublimation driven collapse. More recently (60–200 million years ago) dunes covered the bottom of the valleys, and finally the youngest event took place when mass movements produced debris covered the valleys’ slopes with sediments along their wall around 5–15 million years ago, suggesting wind activity finished earlier than the mass movements in the region. This small area represents the sequence of events probably appeared on global scale: the general cooling and drying environment of Mars.

Comparing the longitudinal profiles here to other valleys in Xanthe Terra, convex shaped valley profiles are usually connected to steep terrains. The location of erosional base might play an important role in their formation that can be produced convex shapes where the erosional base descended topographically (by deep impact crater or deep outflow channel formation) as time passed by. The analysis of such nearby systems that probably witnessed similar climatic forces in the past, provides ideal possibility to identify reasons and geomorphological context of longitudinal profile shape formation for fluvial valleys in general.

Extraordinary Claim: A Gamma Ray Burst CAUSED the Cambrian Explosion?!

Did Gamma Ray Burst Induce Cambrian Explosion?


Chen et al


One longstanding mystery in bio-evolution since Darwin's time is the origin of the Cambrian explosion that happened around 540 million years ago (Mya), where an extremely rapid increase of species occurred. Here we suggest that a nearby GRB event ~500 parsecs away, which should occur about once per 5 Gy, might have triggered the Cambrian explosion. Due to a relatively lower cross section and the conservation of photon number in Compton scattering, a substantial fraction of the GRB photons can reach the sea level and would induce DNA mutations in organisms protected by a shallow layer of water or soil, thus expediting the bio-diversification. This possibility of inducing genetic mutations is unique among all candidate sources for major incidents in the history of bio-evolution. A possible evidence would be the anomalous abundance of certain nuclear isotopes with long half-lives transmuted by the GRB photons in geological records from the Cambrian period. Our notion also imposes constraints on the evolution of exoplanet organisms and the migration of panspermia.

The Drivers for Mosasaur Evolution

Physical drivers of mosasaur evolution


Polcyn et al


Mosasaurs are marine squamates with a 32.5 million-year history from their appearance at 98 Ma to their extinction at the K–Pg boundary (65.5 Ma). Using a database of 43 generic and 94 species-level taxa, we compare the taxonomic diversity and patterns of morphological disparity in mosasaurs with sea level, sea surface temperature, and stable carbon isotope curves for the Upper Cretaceous to explore factors that may have influenced their evolution. No single factor unambiguously accounts for all radiations, diversification, and extinctions; however, the broader patterns of taxonomic diversification and morphological disparity point to niche differentiation in a “fishing up” scenario under the influence of “bottom-up” selective pressures. The most likely driving force in mosasaur evolution was high productivity in the Late Cretaceous, driven by tectonically controlled sea levels and climatically controlled ocean stratification and nutrient delivery. When productivity collapsed at the end of the Cretaceous, coincident with bolide impact, mosasaurs became extinct.

Open Water Marine Reptiles Resisted Extinction During Triassic Better

Selective extinction of Triassic marine reptiles during long-term sea-level changes illuminated by seawater strontium isotopes


Kelley et al


The relationship between cycles of sea-level change and marine diversity has long been the subject of debate. Large predators may be particularly sensitive to changes in habitat availability and marine productivity driven by changes in sea-level, especially those dependent on nearshore benthic food resources. To test this relationship, we compared the proportional diversity of differing marine reptile ecotypes through the Triassic with the isotopic composition of seawater strontium (87Sr/86Sr), a geochemical index linked to tectonically controlled sea-level change. The proportional abundance of marine reptiles adapted toward a diet of shelled prey rose during times of rapid sea-level rise and fell during times of rapid sea-level fall, while open water forms were more resistant to these changes. Our results indicate that the rate of sea-level change, rather than the absolute magnitude of sea-level or flooded shelf area, played a role in shaping patterns of ecological diversification and ecologically selective extinction during the Triassic. The link between the isotopic composition of seawater strontium and the evolution of marine reptiles demonstrates that sea-level change played an important role in the structuring of marine ecosystems over geologic time.

Possible Spherule Beds From Orosiria PaleoProterozoic Vredefort Impact

Impact spherules from Karelia, Russia: Possible ejecta from the 2.02 Ga Vredefort impact event


Huber et al


Spherule beds of possible impact origin have been discovered in two drill cores in the Paleoproterozoic Zaonega Formation, Karelia, northwest Russia. Spherules are found within the dolomite matrix of in-situ brecciated sedimentary dolostones. Spherules are millimeter size and generally round, although teardrop and dumbbell morphologies are present. Spherules contain up to 0.75 ppb Ir, with a Ru/Ir of 2, indicating a mixing of target rocks with a minor chondritic component. The age of the Zaonega Formation is constrained between limits of 1.975 ± 0.024 Ga (Sm-Nd) and 1.980 ± 0.057 Ga (Pb-Pb), and 2.050 Ga (Re-Os), which brackets the age of the 2020 Ma Vredefort impact structure in South Africa, and suggests that the spherule beds could represent ejecta from that event. If the link is confirmed, the size of the spherules and thickness of the beds suggest that the distance from the impact site was less than 2500 km, thereby constraining the paleogeographic distance between the Fennoscandian Shield and Kaapvaal craton during the late Paleoproterozoic.

Phillipines Purchasing 12 South Korean FA-50s

The Philippines on Friday signed contracts worth $527 million to buy 12 fighter jets from South Korea and four combat utility helicopters from Canada to boost the capability of its air force, one of the weakest in Southeast Asia.

Armed forces chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista signed a contract with Korean Aerospace Industries for 12 FA-50 fighters worth 18.9 billion pesos ($420.4 million) and another with Canadian Commercial Corp. for four Bell 412 combat utility helicopters worth 4.8 billion pesos ($106.8 million). Deliveries will start next year.

The fighter jets contract is the biggest deal so far signed under the military's long-delayed modernization program.

Thales to Develop Optionally Piloted Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance Aircraft

Thales has today signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Qatar Armed Forces to assist in the development of an Optionally Piloted Vehicle – Aircraft (OPV-A), a high performance Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) system, and the delivery of a full end-to-end training solution.

The OPV-A airframe, to be selected by the Qatar Armed Forces, will be integrated with a mission systems capability to enable the optionally piloted capability.

The Real Cost of Snowden has yet to be Paid

Regardless of how you feel about Edward Snowden’s domestic surveillance program revelations, it’s time to get real about the cost we are paying for Snowden’s leaks about America’s signals intelligence programs. In a conversation a few months ago with a very senior former US intelligence official, I was struck by their apocalyptic assessment of the damage Snowden’s leaks had caused America’s intelligence capabilities. While he naturally considered the domestic concerns overblown, he was even more upset at Snowden undoing of decades of groundbreaking American work securing our own communications and spying on foreign governments.

Success in signals intelligence relies almost entirely on the opponent not knowing where and how he is being spied upon. As soon as your methods are discovered, your opponent can evade your espionage or, even worse, spoof you with false intelligence. Be detailing the methods that the US uses to spy on other countries, Snowden’s revelations immediately and directly limited the NSA’s capabilities. We are just now beginning to see the fruit of that.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

2012 VP113: a new Dwarf Planet in the Kuiper Belt

New work from Carnegie's Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory reports the discovery of a distant dwarf planet, called 2012 VP113, which was found beyond the known edge of the Solar System. This is likely one of thousands of distant objects that are thought to form the so-called inner Oort cloud. What's more, their work indicates the potential presence of an enormous planet, perhaps up to 10 times the size of Earth, not yet seen, but possibly influencing the orbit of 2012 VP113, as well as other inner Oort cloud objects.

Their findings are published March 27 in Nature.

The known Solar System can be divided into three parts: the rocky planets like Earth, which are close to the Sun; the gas giant planets, which are further out; and the frozen objects of the Kuiper belt, which lie just beyond Neptune's orbit. Beyond this, there appears to be an edge to the Solar System where only one object, Sedna, was previously known to exist for its entire orbit. But the newly found 2012 VP113 has an orbit that stays even beyond Sedna, making it the furthest known in the Solar System.

"This is an extraordinary result that redefines our understanding of our Solar System," says Linda Elkins-Tanton, director of Carnegie's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism.

Sedna was discovered beyond the Kuiper Belt edge in 2003, and it was not known if Sedna was unique, as Pluto once was thought to be before the Kuiper Belt was discovered. With the discovery of 2012 VP113 it is now clear Sedna is not unique and is likely the second known member of the hypothesized inner Oort cloud, the likely origin of some comets.

2012 VP113's closest orbit point to the Sun brings it to about 80 times the distance of the Earth from the Sun, a measurement referred to as an astronomical unit or AU. For context, the rocky planets and asteroids exist at distances ranging between .39 and 4.2 AU. Gas giants are found between 5 and 30 AU, and the Kuiper belt (composed of thousands of icy objects, including Pluto) ranges from 30 to 50 AU. In our solar system there is a distinct edge at 50 AU. Only Sedna was known to stay significantly beyond this outer boundary at 76 AU for its entire orbit.

A Survey of the Kuiper Belt by Hershel & Spitzer

"TNOs are Cool": A survey of the trans-Neptunian region X. Analysis of classical Kuiper belt objects from Herschel and Spitzer observations


Vilenius et al


The classical Kuiper belt contains objects both from a low-inclination, presumably primordial, distribution and from a high-inclination dynamically excited population. Based on a sample of classical TNOs with observations at thermal wavelengths we determine radiometric sizes, geometric albedos and thermal beaming factors as well as study sample properties of dynamically hot and cold classicals. Observations near the thermal peak of TNOs using infra-red space telescopes are combined with optical magnitudes using the radiometric technique with near-Earth asteroid thermal model (NEATM). We have determined three-band flux densities from Herschel/PACS observations at 70.0, 100.0 and 160.0 μm and Spitzer/MIPS at 23.68 and 71.42 μm when available. We have analysed 18 classical TNOs with previously unpublished data and re-analysed previously published targets with updated data reduction to determine their sizes and geometric albedos as well as beaming factors when data quality allows. We have combined these samples with classical TNOs with radiometric results in the literature for the analysis of sample properties of a total of 44 objects. We find a median geometric albedo for cold classical TNOs of 0.14 and for dynamically hot classical TNOs, excluding the Haumea family and dwarf planets, 0.085. We have determined the bulk densities of Borasisi-Pabu (2.1 g/cm^3), Varda-Ilmare (1.25 g/cm^3) and 2001 QC298 (1.14 g/cm^3) as well as updated previous density estimates of four targets. We have determined the slope parameter of the debiased cumulative size distribution of dynamically hot classical TNOs as q=2.3 +- 0.1 in the diameter range 100

Pluto's Charon Probably Formed From an Earth-Theia Like Impact, Gave Pluto Plate Tectonics?

Tectonic Activity on Pluto After the Charon-Forming Impact


Barr et al


he Pluto-Charon system, likely formed from an impact, has reached the endpoint of its tidal evolution. During its evolution into the dual-synchronous state, the equilibrium tidal figures of Pluto and Charon would have also evolved as angular momentum was transferred from Pluto's spin to Charon's orbit. The rate of tidal evolution is controlled by Pluto's interior physical and thermal state. We examine three interior models for Pluto: an undifferentiated rock/ice mixture, differentiated with ice above rock, and differentiated with an ocean. For the undifferentiated case without an ocean, the Pluto-Charon binary does not evolve to its current state unless its internal temperature Ti greater than 200 K, which would likely lead to strong tidal heating, melting, and differentiation. Without an ocean, Pluto's interior temperature must be higher than 240 K for Charon to evolve on a time scale less than the age of the solar system. Further tidal heating would likely create an ocean. If New Horizons finds evidence of ancient tidally-driven tectonic activity on either body, the most likely explanation is that Pluto had an internal ocean during Charon's orbital evolution.

Centaur Asteroid 10199 Charilko has a Saturn-like Ring System

The rings of Saturn are one of the most spectacular sights in the sky, and less prominent rings have also been found around the other giant planets. Despite many careful searches, no rings had been found around smaller objects orbiting the Sun in the Solar System. Now observations of the distant minor planet [1] (10199) Chariklo [2] as it passed in front of a star have shown that this object too is surrounded by two fine rings.

"We weren't looking for a ring and didn't think small bodies like Chariklo had them at all, so the discovery — and the amazing amountof detail we saw in the system — came as a complete surprise!" says Felipe Braga-Ribas (Observatório Nacional/MCTI, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) who planned the observation campaign and is lead author on the new paper.

Chariklo is the largest member of a class known as the Centaurs [3] and it orbits between Saturn and Uranus in the outer Solar System. Predictions had shown that it would pass in front of the star UCAC4 248-108672 on 3 June 2013, as seen from South America [4]. Astronomers using telescopes at seven different locations, including the 1.54-metre Danish and TRAPPIST telescopes at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile [5], were able to watch the star apparently vanish for a few seconds as its light was blocked by Chariklo — an occultation [6].

But they found much more than they were expecting. A few seconds before, and again a few seconds after the main occultation there were two further very short dips in the star's apparent brightness [7]. Something around Chariklo was blocking the light! By comparing what was seen from different sites the team could reconstruct not only the shape and size of the object itself but also the shape, width, orientation and other properties of the newly discovered rings.

The team found that the ring system consists of two sharply confined rings only seven and three kilometres wide, separated by a clear gap of nine kilometres — around a small 250-kilometre diameter object orbiting beyond Saturn.

Finding Metal Rich Asteroids With WISE/NEOWISE

How to find metal-rich asteroids


Harris et al


The metal content of asteroids is of great interest, not only for theories of their origins and the evolution of the solar system but, in the case of near-Earth objects (NEOs), also for impact mitigation planning and endeavors in the field of planetary resources. However, since the reflection spectra of metallic asteroids are largely featureless, it is difficult to identify them and relatively few are known. We show how data from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)/NEOWISE thermal-infrared survey and similar surveys, fitted with a simple thermal model, can reveal objects likely to be metal rich. We provide a list of candidate metal-rich NEOs. Our results imply that future infrared surveys with the appropriate instrumentation could discover many more metal-rich asteroids, providing valuable data for assessment of the impact hazard and the potential of NEOs as reservoirs of vital materials for future interplanetary space activities and, eventually perhaps, for use on Earth.

Dating Siderian Palaeoproterozoic Glacial Deposits of the Kola Peninsula, Russia

Dating Palaeoproterozoic glacial deposits of the Fennoscandian Shield using detrital zircons from the Kola Peninsula, Russia


Gärtner et al


New age constraints from detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology from clastic sediments and diamict deposits obtained maximum depositional ages for the Seidorechka and Polisarka Sedimentary formations of the Imandra-Varzuga Greenstone Belt of theKola Province, NW-Russia. These delimit the deposition of Palaeoproterozoic Huronian-age glacial deposits of the Fennoscandian Shield from c. 2430 Ma to less than 2411 Ma. The time constraint allows comparison to the first two of three possible glacial intervals recognized in the Huronian Supergroup, Canada, and South African diamict deposits. Intercontinental comparisons support these constraints, the assumption of a glacial origin of the diamictites and, further, the eventually global extent of the event.Similar age distributions and depositional ages of c. 2400 Ma within the Neverskrukk Formation of the Pechenga Greenstone Belt support a correlation with the Imandra-Varzuga Greenstone Belt succession, which was traditionally based on lithostratigraphic observations.

The detrital zircon age spectra of eight analysed samples show an Archaean dominance and reoccurring peaks around 2800-2750 Ma,which indicate similar origins for the zircons. Such peaks are corroborating with a major global crustal generation event being recorded in detrital zircon spectra worldwide. Additionally, certain age populations around 2440 Ma and 2500 Ma are present andindicate a correlation with intrusive magmatism that affected the region at that time and support a correlation based on overlapping age distributions

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bitcoin Vaue Falls on Bank of China Ban

Bitcoin rose above $500 on the CoinDesk bitcoin price index Friday, after plunging more than 17% Thursday to $478.16. In recent trade, bitcoin exchanged hands at $503.01 on the index, which tracks prices on three exchanges. Thursday's drop came after the Chinese media reported that the People's Bank of China had ordered banks to close accounts of several virtual-currency exchanges, effective April 15.

McCoppin Hub Plaza Plans


380 Fulton Rendering


Polk Street "Improvements"


Sinking Sand Dunes From Orosirian PaleoProterozoic India Hint at Warm Climate

Palaeoproterozoic fluvio-aeolian deposits from the lower Gulcheru Formation, Cuddapah Basin, India


Basu et al


An analysis of facies was done to understand the depositional environment and the palaeoclimate of the sedimentary succession from the lower part of the Palaeoproterozoic (∼2.0 Ga) Gulcheru Formation exposed along the southwestern margin of the Cuddapah Basin. Twelve distinct sedimentary facies were identified and grouped into three main facies associations - wadi fan, ephemeral fluvial and aeolian. Identification of the fluvial and the aeolian facies allowed a more elaborate interpretation of the depositional environment and its palaeoclimate. Facies characteristics indicated that the sediments in the beginning were deposited in a dominantly aeolian realm, under warm and semiarid climatic condition. Translatent strata, pin stripe lamination, zibars, high-index granule ripples, sand sheet deposits, grainflow cross-strata and grainfall laminae, asymptotically down-lapping cross-strata often with erosional lower bounding surface and massive sand-bodies with bimodal fabric, the unambiguous evidences of aeolian depositional regime led to this conclusion. However, the aeolian regime was often punctuated temporarily by fluvial input from ephemeral streams during sudden rainstorm. Depending upon the size, character and availability of sediments, relief difference and the sediment/water ratio cohesionless debris flow, hyperconcentrated flood flow and sheetflood deposits were formed near the basin margin, whereas, coarse-load braided channel deposits were laid further inside the basin. Ephemeral lakes/ponds were formed due to stagnation of floodwater in normally dry interdune lows. Overbank-interdune sediments were deposited in those ephemeral lakes/ponds. Amongst the aeolian facies, translatent strata and sand sheet dominate in the west, whereas, massive beds and dunes with well-developed slipfaces dominate in the eastern part. The spatial distribution of the aeolian bedforms suggests development of erg apron to the west and dune field (erg) to the east. The aeolian sediments identified in the Gulcheru Formation may be considered to be amongst the oldest Palaeoproterozoic aeolian sediments of the world.

China to Inject Economic Stimulus?

World stock markets mostly rose Friday as expectations grew that China will move to counter its economic slowdown.

European markets opened on an upbeat note, with Britain's FTSE 100 adding 0.4 percent to 6,611.36. Germany's DAX index jumped 0.7 percent to 9,512.57, while France's CAC 40 rose 0.3 percent to 4,393.37.

Futures augured gains on Wall Street. Dow futures rose 0.3 percent to 16,223 and S&P 500 futures gained 0.3 percent to 1,846.70.

In Asia, window dressing ahead of the fiscal year's end helped Japanese shares rebound from early losses after the government reported household spending fell in February, suggesting consumer demand is not rising as much as expected ahead of an April 1 sales tax hike.

Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.5 percent to close at 14,696.03. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.2 percent to 1,981.

Expectations have been rising for more stimulus in China as growth has slowed to its weakest since the financial crisis. Officials have set a target of 7.5 percent economic growth this year but are more concerned about ensuring sufficient new jobs are created than precisely meeting the GDP figure.

Phillipines Files Suit Against China Over South China Sea

The Philippines will file a case against China over the disputed South China Sea at an arbitration tribunal in The Hague next week, subjecting Beijing to international legal scrutiny over the increasingly tense waters for the first time.

Manila is seeking a ruling to confirm its right to exploit the waters in its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as allowed under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), its team of U.S. and British lawyers said.

A ruling against China by the five-member panel of the Permanent Court of Arbitration could prompt other claimants to challenge Beijing, experts said. But while legally binding, any ruling would effectively be unenforceable as there is no body under UNCLOS to police such decisions, legal experts said.

China, which has refused to participate in the case, claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea, displaying its reach on official maps with a so-called nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ukraine: Increasing Warnings & Some Hope

The Russian build up on the eastern border continues.  The Ukrainian government is giving second sources now of support units moving along.  The videos above vary from March 11 to yesterday.  The one with the APCs is impressive.  That's the full logistics train, not just AFVs, and it looks to be somewhere around 50 APCs.  That is at least a battalion.

Putin called Obama to discuss the situation.  

Obama warned Putin to move the troops back away from the border.

The Ukrainians have dug in along the border.  Its a big border.

The Russians also threatened the UN ambassadors in eastern europe and central asia just before the UN vote for supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine.  The Russians replied they just explained the situation.  ahem.

The candidates are coming out of the woodwork.  Poroshenko seems to be the leading contender.    Ukrainians I know call him a crook.   Since the presidency is supposed to be symbolic, a la European style, Klitschko might be the best pick.  Whoever it is MUST stick with the constitution.  Timoshenko must NOT be elected president.  She will rip up the constitution again for her own advantage.

It appears the Ukrainians avoided some of the pitfalls Greece made with the IMF.  Though that might be

I'm going to cave in for the moment to my inner arm chair general and wonder what would be the repercussions if the 173rd Airborne Brigade were deployed to Donetsk.  Would that make things better?  IE tripwire troops to make the Russians think twice?  Or would that make things worse?

MegaBigPower: a Bitcoin Mining Company With 2.2 Petahashes and Growing

In a couple of large buildings near the Columbia River in Eastern Washington, where hydroelectricity is cheap and plentiful, Dave Carlson oversees what he says is one of the largest Bitcoin mining operations on the planet.

At any given time, Carlson's goal is to account for seven to 10 percent of the entire world's Bitcoin mining as measured by processing or hashing power, he said. At the moment, he's slightly below that target but doesn't expect to remain below it for very long. The operations are fueled by thousands of mining rigs containing more than 1.4 million BitFury mining chips, while Raspberry Pis loaded with custom software direct traffic on each rig.

"We were looking for the lowest cost, highest volume production, tiny computer controller that had the ability to integrate with another electronic board design. There are many out there, but the Raspberry Pi is something like 40 bucks," Carlson told Ars.

Carlson's company, MegaBigPower, does the biggest portion of its mining on behalf of its primary investor, the BioInfoBank Institute in Poland. Carlson takes a cut in bitcoins and rents capacity to other people who want to mine without running their own hardware and software.

"We surface about half of our US mining power as something you can purchase as a leased hash product," he said.


The Honest Trailer of Frozen: not Entirely Safe for Kids

The commentary on "Let It Go" was sooooo freakin spot on I about fell out of chair.

Most US Navy LRASM Procured Will be Competitively Done

The U.S. Navy on Wednesday said it planned to launch an open competition around fiscal 2017 for a next-generation missile, seeking to reassure weapons makers they still have prospects after a separate deal with Lockheed Martin Corp for 90 air-launched missiles sparked a formal protest.

Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley told reporters the Lockheed program was limited in scope and the future, bigger missile development program would be open to all potential bidders.

"That will be competed. That is 100 percent competition," he said after a hearing held by the House Armed Services Committee's seapower and projection forces subcommittee.

Stackley defended the Pentagon's decision to order 90 long-range anti-ship missiles from Lockheed that were developed under a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He said the move was justified given the urgent needs of military commanders and said the initial DARPA research contract with Lockheed was awarded after a formal competition.

"The way to get it out there as quickly as possible is to take this system that DARPA has developed with Lockheed and build a limited number (of air-launched missiles) to get it out into the fleet's hands by the 2018 timeframe," he said.

Stackley said the decision required a special "justification and authorization" by the Pentagon's acquisition chief since it was a sole-source deal and that move had sparked a protest by a rival company.

He declined further comment, but said he wanted to make very clear that the larger procurement would be competitively bid.

Sweetman @ AvLeak Claims Plane Chasers in Texas Find Mystery Aircraft

As far as I know, this sort of thing has happened only once since 1956.

That was when British magazines started getting eyewitness accounts and grainy photos of the Lockheed U-2, then operating out of RAF Lakenheath on its first spy flights over the Soviet Union. Classified programs have been exposed in all sorts of ways since then - for example, the A-12 Blackbird was disclosed under a degree of pressure - but until the RQ-170 Sentinel was seen at Kandahar in 2007-09 there has been no such aircraft photographed before it was declassified. (And in the case of the RQ-170, the operational security people were not trying too hard.)

With that in mind, let's look at the photos taken by Steve Douglass and Dean Muskett of an aircraft seen over Amarillo on March 10.

hmmm.  I remember the doughnuts on a rope pix from the late 80s early 90s as well.

Reassessing the Extent of Serpukhovian to Bashkirian Carboniferous Southwestern Gondwana's Glaciation

Reassessment of mid-Carboniferous glacial extent in southwestern Gondwana (Rio Blanco Basin, Argentina) inferred from paleo-mass transport of diamictites


Gulbranson et al


Late Paleozoic glacial diamictites occur in many localities in western Argentina, indicating that the region was strongly affected by glaciation during the mid-Carboniferous (late Serpukhovian–early Bashkirian). In most instances these diamictites are found in steeply walled paleovalley settings in the Andean Precordillera. This study presents new data from a locality north of the Precordillera that suggests an additional, distinct, volume of ice existed in the region during the Carboniferous. The glacigenic diamictites in the Rio Blanco Basin were ultimately emplaced as gravity flows, precluding inferences of paleo-ice volume. Fold nose orientation and soft-sediment groove orientations within the diamictites indicate that the deposits were emplaced from north to south, suggesting that glacial ice was most likely not sourced from the proto-Precordillera at this locality, requiring the need for another ice center to the north of the basin. Diamictite facies indicates that the sediment was initially supplied to the study area by a warm-based glacier.

Experimentally Testing Martian Pit Crater Formation



Michikami et al


High-resolution images reveal that numerous pit craters exist on the surface of Mars. For some pit craters, the depth-to-diameter ratios are much greater than for ordinary craters. Such deep pit craters are generally considered to be the results of material drainage into a subsurface void space, which might be formed by a lava tube, dike injection, extensional fracturing, and dilational normal faulting. Morphological studies indicate that the formation of a pit crater might be triggered by the impact event, and followed by collapse of the ceiling. To test this hypothesis, we carried out laboratory experiments of impact cratering into brittle targets with variable roof thickness. In particlular, the effect of the target thickness on the crater formation is studied to understand the penetration process by an impact. For this purpose, we produced mortar targets with roof thickness of 1–6 cm, and a bulk density of 1550 kg/m3 by using a mixture of cement, water and sand (0.2 mm) in the ratio of 1: 1: 10, by weight. The compressive strength of the resulting targets is 3.2±0.9 MPa. A spherical nylon projectile (diameter 7 mm) is shot perpendicularly into the target surface at the nominal velocity of 1.2 km/s, using a two-stage light-gas gun. Craters are formed on the opposite side of the impact even when no target penetration occurs. Penetration of the target is achieved when craters on the opposite sides of the target connect with each other. In this case, the cross section of crater somehow attains a flat hourglass-like shape. We also find that the crater diameter on the opposite side is larger than that on the impact side, and more fragments are ejected from the crater on the opposite side than from the crater on the impact side. This result gives a qualitative explanation for the observation that the Martian deep pit craters lack a raised rim and have the ejecta deposit on their floor instead.

Toarcian Jurassic Fossil Fern Preserves Chromosomes, Mitosis in Action

Researchers from Lund University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History have made a unique discovery in a well-preserved fern that lived 180 million years ago. Both undestroyed cell nuclei and individual chromosomes have been found in the plant fossil, thanks to its sudden burial in a volcanic eruption.

The well-preserved fossil of a fern from the southern Swedish county of Skåne is now attracting attention in the research community. The plant lived around 180 million years ago, during the Jurassic period, when Skåne was a tropical region where the fauna was dominated by dinosaurs, and volcanoes were a common feature of the landscape. The fossilised fern has been studied using different microscopic techniques, X-rays and geochemical analysis. The examinations reveal that the plant was preserved instantaneously, before it had started to decompose. It was buried abruptly under a volcanic lava flow.

"The preservation happened so quickly that some cells have even been preserved during different stages of cell division", said Vivi Vajda, Professor of Geology at Lund University.


The Origin of Modern Birds

The origins of crown group birds: molecules and fossils




Knowledge of the evolutionary history of crown group birds (Neornithes) has significantly improved through emerging congruence among phylogenetic hypotheses and the description of numerous new Palaeogene stem group representatives. However, controversies still persist about the precise interrelationships of many extant and fossil taxa and about the timing of the diversification of the neornithine crown group. Using the example of Phaethontiformes (tropicbirds) and Psittaciformes (parrots), it is shown how new sequence-based phylogenies may shed light on the relationships of fossils with an unexpected character mosaic, and how such fossils can improve our understanding of character evolution in morphologically disparate avian taxa. The earliest occurrences of neornithine birds are plotted on a current phylogeny. As noted by previous authors, an extensive diversification of neornithine birds before the latest Cretaceous is not supported by the fossil record, and the existence of essentially modern-type representatives of Telluraves (the clade including most arboreal birds) in the Cretaceous, such as suggested from molecular calibrations, is highly unlikely.

Biotic Recovery From the Permian Extinction From the Triassic Marine Predator "Perspective"

Early Triassic Marine Biotic Recovery: The Predators' Perspective


Scheyer et al


Examining the geological past of our planet allows us to study periods of severe climatic and biological crises and recoveries, biotic and abiotic ecosystem fluctuations, and faunal and floral turnovers through time. Furthermore, the recovery dynamics of large predators provide a key for evaluation of the pattern and tempo of ecosystem recovery because predators are interpreted to react most sensitively to environmental turbulences. The end-Permian mass extinction was the most severe crisis experienced by life on Earth, and the common paradigm persists that the biotic recovery from the extinction event was unusually slow and occurred in a step-wise manner, lasting up to eight to nine million years well into the early Middle Triassic (Anisian) in the oceans, and even longer in the terrestrial realm. Here we survey the global distribution and size spectra of Early Triassic and Anisian marine predatory vertebrates (fishes, amphibians and reptiles) to elucidate the height of trophic pyramids in the aftermath of the end-Permian event. The survey of body size was done by compiling maximum standard lengths for the bony fishes and some cartilaginous fishes, and total size (estimates) for the tetrapods. The distribution and size spectra of the latter are difficult to assess because of preservation artifacts and are thus mostly discussed qualitatively. The data nevertheless demonstrate that no significant size increase of predators is observable from the Early Triassic to the Anisian, as would be expected from the prolonged and stepwise trophic recovery model. The data further indicate that marine ecosystems characterized by multiple trophic levels existed from the earliest Early Triassic onwards. However, a major change in the taxonomic composition of predatory guilds occurred less than two million years after the end-Permian extinction event, in which a transition from fish/amphibian to fish/reptile-dominated higher trophic levels within ecosystems became apparent.

Ediacaran Fossil Cloudina Reveals NeoProterozoic Proto Gondwana Seaway

The puzzle assembled: Ediacaran guide fossil Cloudina reveals an old proto-Gondwana seaway


Warren et al


During the Ediacaran the Clymene Ocean separated the Laurentia, Amazonia, and Río Apa cratons from several landmasses to the west forming the proto-Gondwana supercontinent. However, no clear evidence about the existence of Ediacaran epeiric seas over those landmasses has been found. Here we report and discuss the discovery of the Ediacaran guide fossil Cloudina sp. associated with other metazoan body and trace fossils in the Bambuí Group (central eastern Brazil). The Ediacaran age of the Bambuí Group and the paleogeographic position of Cloudina-bearing successions in Brazil, Antarctica, Namibia, and Argentina suggest a scenario of ocean connectivity among coeval intracratonic basins of South America, Africa, and Antarctica at the end of Neoproterozoic time. The new finding epitomizes one of the most important paleontological discoveries ever made in South America, helping to solve an old paleogeographic puzzle of the Gondwana supercontinent.

Russia's United Aircraft Company Reforming Tupolev

Russia's Tupolev design bureau (OAO Tupolev) has affirmed its agreement to merge with the Kazan-based KAPO Gorbunov aircraft factory, parent holding United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) announced following an extraordinary general meeting on 24 March.

KAPO Gorbunov has been associated with Tupolev for decades and has produced the designer's Tu-22M3, Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers. It has also been slated to produce the next-generation Russian bomber, the Tupolev designed PAK-DA, and manufactures aerostructure components in association with Aviastar-SP for the Ilyushin Il-76MD-90A.

The merger will also include an additional share issue by Tupolev of 15 billion shares with a nominal value of one ruble each, to be converted for shares in KAPO Gorbunov at a coefficient of 0.005455 for each Tupolev share.


Little Scotlanders get Some Financial Industry Allies

A group of Scottish financiers came out in support of independence on Thursday to counter a flood of warnings over Scotland going it alone, cautioning that staying within the United Kingdom could mean losing European Union membership.

George Mathewson, former head of the Royal Bank of Scotland and chairman of Toscafund, and five other current and former Scottish financial players raised the possible risks of remaining in the United Kingdom in a letter to a newspaper.

Their positive view of a solo Scotland comes after a string of banks and financial services companies raised concerns over a vote for independence at a referendum on September 18, citing uncertainty over the currency, regulation and EU membership.

Why One Economist Reporter Does NOT Think China is Headed for an Economic Crash


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ukraine: Precipitous or Peril

The IMF announced its deal.  The first part is $18 billion over two years.  Then if the reforms required are pushed through there is another $9 billion available.  I think we're over the $40 billion in promised aid to Ukraine now.  

However, the aid does not come without teeth, serious teeth which are going to bite the average Ukrainian hard.  The first is a rise in the price of natural gas starting in May of 50%.  Not a phased in, but rather a simple jump.  The second I have seen is a serious cut in social spending by the government.  This has been already passed as of today, if I am not mistaken.  Finally, which won't hurt the average Ukrainian much, the tax rates for the richest Ukrainians are going to go up.  A LOT.  

The US White House and Congress have become become EXTREMELY worried about the Russian troops on the eastern border.  The types of units being moved in, their constantly exercising and continuous reinforcement seem to belie the claim these are normal exercises. It also fits the pattern before the invasion of Chechnya and Georgia.

Putin is getting angry over the threat of cutting Visa and Mastercard off from Russia.  He's threatening to make a domestic equivalent, but how long and how corrupt would it be?

The Right Sector marched on and protested in front of the Rada.  They want the Interior Minister fired for the death of Oleksandr Muzychko. They "apologized" to the Russians for not turning violent and having no plans to do so.

Timoshenko is planning to run for president of Ukraine.  If she gets it, its a disaster.  She should not be let ANYWHERE near the levers of power in Kiev.  She and Yuschenko are to blame for the Orange Revolution failing.  


Bitcoins can be Hedged now

The value of Bitcoin swings wildly, but for the enterprising speculator there’s never been a way to profit from declines. A financial startup is trying to change that by creating an exchange where people can bet on the future direction of the currency’s value, up or down.

New Jersey-based Tera Group said Monday it has already facilitated a trade between a company nervously holding Bitcoins and one willing to take the risk of the currency’s value changing over the next 25 days. Leonard Nuara, Tera’s co-founder, wouldn’t identify the parties. Assuming that Bitcoin sticks around, this is a service many companies may consider. Merchants interested in taking Bitcoin payments have expressed concern about holding an asset prone to sudden fluctuations in price.

The first transaction was just a one-time deal, but Tera is also building an exchange to allow for standardized versions of such transactions to take place. Tera is waiting for permission from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to open the exchange for business, but says it is already fielding calls from companies that would like to participate.

Applying Network Theory to Organized Crime

Network theory has revolutionized the understanding of economics in recent years. No longer is the economy a mysterious heaving mass governed by arcane laws with little practical evidence to support them.

Instead, the economy is a network of firms that are linked if a financial transaction occurs between them. This approach has given economists a unique insight into the way that different parts of the economy depend on each other and how money, resources and information flows through the business world.

But here’s an interesting question: how does organized crime that into all this? Today we get an answer of sorts thanks to the work of Stefano Gurciullo at University College London. Gurciullo has studied the economic networks of businesses in a region of Sicily, Italy, highlighting the roles of firms known to be associated with the local Mafia.


Iranian Mockup of Nimitz Class Carrier to be used as a Film Prop?!

A mock-up of an aircraft carrier that is currently under construction at an Iranian shipyard will be used in a film about the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 by the US Navy (USN) in 1988, according to Iranian media reports.

The film is called Airbus and will be directed by Nader Talebzadeh. It is unclear from the Iranian media reports if any members of the film's production team have gone on the record to confirm the mock-up will be used in the movie.

The construction of the mock carrier was first reported by The New York Times on 20 March. The newspaper said it had been informed by US officials who wanted to "reveal the existence of the vessel to get out ahead of the Iranians".

The New York Times reported that the vessel is approximately two-thirds the length of the USN's Nimitz class, and has 68 - USS Nimitz 's fleet number - painted near its bow (this cannot be seen in the satellite imagery that has been published to date).

It said the USN and other intelligence analysts believe the mock-up will be used as a target and/or blown up for propaganda purposes if Iran's current negotiations with the international community stall.

The mock carrier has been under construction at the shipyard southwest of Bandar Abbas since at least August 2013, when its frame could be seen in the most recent satellite imagery published by Google Earth. That shipyard is used to repair and produce naval vessels, but also makes commercial ships.

Australia to buy F-35

Going ahead with the acquisition of F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) will best meet Australia's priorities for capability, industry participation, and alliance management with the United States, according to an Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) report released on 24 March.

The ASPI report came to its conclusion despite the unavoidable continuing cost of the 24 F/A-18F Super Hornet strike fighters already in service with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the 12 EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft on order.

"Risks to both [JSF] schedule and performance seem sufficiently under control to make that a responsible decision. Although the development program could still throw up surprises, it looks like the F-35 will be ready in time to retire the vintage Hornet fleet as scheduled, and will perform as required," the report stated.

The Late Paleozoic Deglaciation Transition in Southwestern Gondwana

The late Paleozoic El Imperial Formation, western Argentina: Glacial to post-glacial transition and stratigraphic correlations with arc-related basins in southwestern Gondwana


Henry et al


The El Imperial Formation of the San Rafael Basin records a succession of depositional environments during the latest Mississippian to earliest Permian that span before, during, and after the glaciation of west central Argentina. At the base of the formation, a restricted marine environment is recorded in mudstone containing marl and rippled and deformed sandstone beds. This unit, or sequence 1, is incised by a deltaic facies association composed of cross-bedded sandstone and conglomerate that form at least 5 stacked Gilbert deltas. The deltaic facies association grades upward into the glacially-influenced facies association, made up of stratified diamictite, mudstone with dropstones, and massive deformed sandstone, indicating deposition by wet-based tidewater glaciers that calved icebergs into the basin, with contributions from mass movement processes. The glacially-influenced facies association is overlain by mudstone and horizontally laminated and cross-bedded sandstone of the post-glacial open marine facies association, recording post-glacial transgression followed by relative sea level fall. The deltaic, glacially-influenced, and post-glacial open marine facies associations comprise sequence 2. Sequence 2 is incised by conglomerate of the upper fluvial member, or sequence 3.

The strata of the El Imperial Formation are correlated to those of the other arc-related basins of western Argentina: Río Blanco, Calingasta–Uspallata, and Tepuel. A Bashkirian transgression and fluvial incision in the El Imperial Formation correlate with events in the Río Blanco and Calingasta–Uspallata Basins to the north, whereas glaciation continues to the south in the Tepuel Basin through the Early Permian. The deviating stratigraphic record of the Tepuel Basin may be the result of its higher latitudinal position during the Pennsylvanian–Early Permian and higher altitude due to either tectonic convergence of the Patagonian microplate or convergence along the Panthalassan margin of southwestern Gondwana.

Titan's Ligeia Mare is Waveless and Glassy Smooth

New radar measurements of an enormous sea on Titan offer insights into the weather patterns and landscape composition of the Saturnian moon. The measurements, made in 2013 by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, reveal that the surface of Ligeia Mare, Titan’s second largest sea, possesses a mirror-like smoothness, possibly due to a lack of winds.

“If you could look out on this sea, it would be really still. It would just be a totally glassy surface,” said Howard Zebker, professor of geophysics and of electrical engineering at Stanford who is the lead author of a new study detailing the research.

The findings, recently published online in Geophysical Research Letters, also indicate that the solid terrain surrounding the sea is likely made of solid organic materials and not frozen water.

Humanity's Unique Fossil Foot Print in the Geological Record

A new study by an international team of scientists, including Dr Jan Zalasiewicz and Professor Mark Williams of the University of Leicester's Department of Geology, suggests that the fossil impact humans have made on the planet is vast and unprecedented in nature – and that there's been nothing remotely like it since the Earth formed, over four and half billion years ago.

The study, entitled 'The technofossil record of humans' and published by SAGE in The Anthropocene Review, argues that, like dinosaurs, who left their bones and footprints behind for future generations to discover, humans will also leave a footprint behind – one made up of material goods unique to mankind that are so different from anything else produced by animals in the history of the Earth that they deserve their own name: technofossils.

Dr Zalasiewicz said: "Palaeontologists call preserved animal-made structures trace fossils. Most animal species make only one – or at most a very few – different types of trace. For example, dinosaurs made footprints and worms leave burrows. Just one species, though, Homo sapiens, now manufactures literally millions of different types of traces that range from nano-scale to city-sized.

"Whereas trace fossils such as animal burrows changed their pattern with geological slowness, over millions of years, as the organisms that produced them evolved, the things that humans manufacture now evolve with lightning speed, as our factories bring new goods to the market each year – and make old ones obsolete. Many of the cast-off objects that now litter the landscape will become buried in sediment – and will be well on the way to becoming technofossils."

The study suggests that humanity's equivalent of the dinosaur's footprint will be in the form of a wide array of technofossils such as motorways, cities, airports, toothbrushes, ballpoint pens and mobile phones – everything that we build or manufacture.

First Clarkforkian Equivalent Land Mammal Age Found in Paleocene Paleogene Europe

First Clarkforkian Equivalent Land Mammal Age in the Latest Paleocene Basal Sparnacian Facies of Europe: Fauna, Flora, Paleoenvironment and (Bio)stratigraphy


Smith et al


The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is correlated with the first occurrences of earliest modern mammals in the Northern Hemisphere. The latest Paleocene Clarkforkian North American Land Mammal Age, that has yielded rodents and carnivorans, is the only exception to this rule. However, until now no pre-PETM localities have yielded modern mammals in Europe or Asia. We report the first Clarkforkian equivalent Land Mammal Age in the latest Paleocene deposits of the basal Sparnacian facies at Rivecourt, in the north-central part of the Paris Basin. The new terrestrial vertebrate and macroflora assemblages are analyzed through a multidisciplinary study including sedimentologic, stratigraphic, isotopic, and palynological aspects in order to reconstruct the paleoenvironment and to evaluate biochronologic and paleogeographic implications. The mammals are moderately diverse and not abundant, contrary to turtles and champsosaurs. The macroflora is exceptional in preservation and diversity with numerous angiosperms represented by flowers, fruits, seeds and wood preserved as lignite material, revealing an abundance of Arecaceae, Betulaceae, Icacinaceae, Menispermaceae, Vitaceae and probably Cornaceae. Results indicate a Late Paleocene age based on carbon isotope data, palynology and vertebrate occurrences such as the choristoderan Champsosaurus, the arctocyonid Arctocyon, and the plesiadapid Plesiadapis tricuspidens. However, several mammal species compare better with the earliest Eocene. Among these, the particular louisinid Teilhardimys musculus, also recorded from the latest Paleocene of the Spanish Pyrenees, suggests a younger age than the typical MP6 reference level. Nevertheless, the most important aspect of the Rivecourt fauna is the presence of dental remains of a rodent and a “miacid” carnivoran, attesting to the presence of two modern mammalian orders in the latest Paleocene of Europe. Interestingly, these two groups are also the only modern groups recorded from the latest Paleocene of North America, making Rivecourt the first direct equivalent to the Clarkforkian Land Mammal Age outside of North America.

Tamisiocaris: a A FIlter Feeding Anomalocarid From Cambrian

Rob Nicholls, Palaeocreations

The animals lived 520 million years ago during the Early Cambrian, a period known as the 'Cambrian Explosion' in which all the major animal groups and complex ecosystems suddenly appeared. Tamisiocaris belongs to a group of animals called anomalocarids, a type of early arthropod that included the largest and some of the most iconic animals of the Cambrian period. They swam using flaps down either side of the body and had large appendages in front of their mouths that they most likely used to capture larger prey, such as trilobites.

However, the newly discovered fossils show that those predators also evolved into suspension feeders, their grasping appendages morphing into a filtering apparatus that could be swept like a net through the water, trapping small crustaceans and other organisms as small as half a millimetre in size.

The evolutionary trend that led from large, apex predators to gentle, suspension-feeding giants during the highly productive Cambrian period is one that has also taken place several other times throughout Earth's history, according to lead author Dr Jakob Vinther, a lecturer in macroevolution at the University of Bristol.

Dr Vinther said: "These primitive arthropods were, ecologically speaking, the sharks and whales of the Cambrian era. In both sharks and whales, some species evolved into suspension feeders and became gigantic, slow-moving animals that in turn fed on the smallest animals in the water."

In order to fully understand how the Tamisiocaris might have fed, the researchers created a 3D computer animation of the feeding appendage to explore the range of movements it could have made.

"Tamisiocaris would have been a sweep net feeder, collecting particles in the fine mesh formed when it curled its appendage up against its mouth," said Dr Martin Stein of the University of Copenhagen, who created the computer animation.

"This is a rare instance when you can actually say something concrete about the feeding ecology of these types of ancient creatures with some confidence."

The discovery also helps highlight just how productive the Cambrian period was, showing how vastly different species of anomalocaridids evolved at that time, and provides further insight into the ecosystems that existed hundreds of millions of years ago.

"The fact that large, free-swimming suspension feeders roamed the oceans tells us a lot about the ecosystem," Dr Vinther said. "Feeding on the smallest particles by filtering them out of the water while actively swimming around requires a lot of energy – and therefore lots of food."

Huaibei, Huainan, and Feishui Groups are Tonian Neoproterozoic (and may have an interesting vase shaped fossil)

Biostratigraphic and chemostratigraphic constraints on the age of early Neoproterozoic carbonate successions in North China


Xiao et al


Thick carbonate successions of Proterozoic age were deposited in the Huaibei and Huainan regions along the southern margin of the North China Block. These successions, including the Huaibei Group in the Huaibei region and the Huainan and Feishui groups in the Huainan region, have been correlated with the Qingbaikou Group which outcrops in the Jixian area of North China and is the eponymous succession of the Qingbaikouan System (traditionally regarded as 1000–800 Ma). Recently, it has been shown that lower Qingbaikouan strata in the Jixian area may be as old as 1300–1400 Ma. By correlation, the Huaibei, Huainan, and Feishui groups may include Mesoproterozoic strata, but these units have also been interpreted as Tonian or Cryogenian–Ediacaran–Cambrian in age. These contradictory age interpretations hamper our ability to explore the rich paleontological and sedimentary records preserved in these rocks and to assess paleogeographic reconstructions. In this report, we describe new microfossils and stable isotope data (δ13Ccarb, δ18Ocarb, δ34SCAS) from the Huaibei, Huainan, and Feishui groups. Possible vase-shaped microfossils from the Jiayuan Formation of the lower Huaibei Group and characteristic early Neoproterozoic acritarchs (particularly Trachyhystrichosphaera aimika) from the Gouhou and Liulaobei formations are consistent with a Tonian age for the Huaibei and Huainan groups. Similarly, carbon isotope trends in the Huaibei, Huainan, and Feishui groups are comparable with Tonian δ13Ccarb patterns in South Australia and Laurentia, with a plateau of moderately positive (1–5‰) values followed by pronounced negative δ13Ccarb excursion in the Gouhou Formation, which may be equivalent to the Bitter Springs anomaly in South Australia. δ34SCAS values of the Huaibei Group are mostly 25–40‰, similar to values from the stratigraphically equivalent Jingeryu Formation in the Jixian area. Overall, the combination of biostratigraphic, chemostratigraphic, and available radiometric data suggests that the Huaibei, Huainan, and Feishui groups are early Neoproterozoic (Tonian) in age

South Korea Considering Leasing 20 F-16 Fighters From US Air Force

South Korea is considering leasing second-hand F-16 fighter jets from the United States to fill a potential vacuum in its air power from delays in aircraft acquisition and development, a senior Air Force official here said Wednesday.

Seoul recently confirmed a plan to buy 40 F-35s by Lockheed Martin from 2018-21, scaling down from the initial program for 60 advanced combat aircraft, while pushing to develop midlevel fighter jets with a goal of deploying them between 2023 and 2025.

The move, however, falls short of replacing the aging fleet of 160 F-4s and F-5s, which are expected to be phased out in the next five years.

By 2019, about 60 FA-50 light fighter jets and the early batch of F-35s will be added to the existing fleet, which leaves about 80 jets falling short of the appropriate number of jets, according to the state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA).

"The Air Force is considering leasing used combat jets as part of ways to provide the interim defense capability because replacement of aging F-4s and F-5s wouldn't take place in a timely manner," a senior Air Force official said, asking for anonymity. "As midlevel combat jets are mostly in shortage, the Air Force is considering renting 16 to 20 used F-16s from the U.S. Air Force."

Maybe China's Economy NOT Going to Crash?

What are the prospects for the Chinese economy? Few, if any, economic questions can be more important. I have just attended this year’s China Development Forum in Beijing, which brings western business leaders and scholars together with senior Chinese policy makers and academics, with this question very much in my mind.

Outside China, pessimism has been growing about the ability of the colossus to sustain its rapid growth. Worriers are paying particular attention to excessive capacity, investment and debt. I share the view that making the transition to slower and more balanced growth is an extraordinarily hard challenge even by the standards of those China has already met. Yet betting against the success of Chinese policy makers has been a foolish wager. When a superb horse meets a new obstacle, the odds must be on the horse. But even the best horse may fall.

What is China's Space Station Doing?

Months after its scheduled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere—and a surprise cameo appearance in hit space flick Gravity—China’s first space station boosted into a higher orbit. It still speeds around the planet, doing … what, exactly?

No one outside of China’s popular but opaque space program seems to know.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ukraine: The Newest Threat

There has been a lot going on.   There have actually been some good developments.  However, there have been humiliations and a new threat.

First off, the IMF and Ukraine seem to have reached a deal.  The amount to be loaned is supposed to be $15 billion.  The Japanese have announced they will loan $1.5 billion as well (contingent to the IMF deal going through).  With the previously promised amounts, we have now exceeded $35 billion.   This is good news.  But it comes with some pain.

The IMF required Ukraine to end subsidies on a lot of things and other reforms.  One of them is the cost of consumer gas.  That will rise 50% in price in May.  That will hurt the average Ukrainian.

The East and south have been rounding up the trouble makers, arresting many of the separatist leaders and the protests for Russian integration/intervention have been dwindling in size.

The Russians are paying substantially for their acquisition of Crimea: $70 billion have left Russia already in the first quarter and more, a lot more soon.  Its not as bad as the amoutn siphoned off by Yanukovich et al percentage wise from Ukraine, but still enough to hurt. And its going to hurt more. 

The West is getting set to do another round of sanctions on the Russians.  As I said, this will hurt even more.

On the bad side...

The Russians have finished capturing the Ukrainian navy.  They have started releasing Ukrainian troops to go to the mainland.  They claim to have had 50% of them flip sides to the Russian military.  The Russians also have increased the number of troops on the eastern border. 

There have been more than one claim the Russians, if they are going to, will have to intervene before the end of May. 

Now the new threat.  That is Trident on Trident violence.

Oleksandr Muzychko was killed by police.  He was far from a hero and was threatening the new government and was accused of war crimes in Chechnya against captured Russian troops.  However, his death could trigger a backlash against the government from the 'Right Sector.'

Likewise the Marines I had been praising so much in Feodosia are pissed off.  They were about to leave, surrendering their base, when the Russians swooped in.  Despite some personal apologies from the Russian troops ("Sorry, brother."), the Marines were humiliated.  Some of them have been saying when they get back to the mainland, they will storm the defense ministry's HQ.  While I've commented before on Ukrainians seemingly lacking much filter between their brains and mouths, that's a scary prospect.

Why?  And that would give Russia EXACTLY the pretext they need to intervene.  I hope the Marines and the Right Sector realize that...and refrain from rash actions.  You're getting damned close to being on course for Europe.  Hang on guys! 

Another Bitcoin Flaw?

One thing cannot be disputed about the person (or persons) responsible for creating Bitcoin: they were skilled in math, and expert at coding. Five years after the Bitcoin software was first released, no major fixes have been needed to the core code, which uses cryptography to generate and transfer virtual money.

Yet signs are emerging of more subtle flaws in the vision of Satoshi Nakamoto (which may or may not be a pseudonym), with analysis suggesting the rules governing how Bitcoin operates as a currency may be far from perfect. Some researchers claim that these rules leave room for cheats to destabilize Bitcoin. Others have concluded that major changes to the currency’s rules will be needed as the number of bitcoins in circulation increases.

“In the real world, people don’t always follow the rules—they do what’s best for them,” says Joshua Kroll, a researcher at Princeton. “Understanding this is the key to understanding whether and how Bitcoin survives—it tells you whether the system can last for a long time, [and] how robust is it in the face of shocks.”