Monday, June 30, 2014

Ukraine: Ending Patterns of Farce

Poroshenko has ended the ceasefire. This was something of a fictious ceasefire, since the the LGM and their allies never stopped attacking, including with tanks and whatnot. 

The fighting has actually been very heavy.  It has only been the Ukrainians which are not allowed to go on the offensive.  That's now changed.  Let's see if the build up of Ukrainian troops will make a difference.  The problem is the other side will have reinforced and built up as well.  This is going to be bloody.  All the ceasefire may have done is 'shown' the West Poroshenko is a 'good guy.'

The Ukrainians captured a tank which the paper trail shows was definitely part of the Russian arsenal.  This sucker didn't come from anywhere else.

Equally interesting from the videos online: the number of Hummers being used by the Ukrainians is very rapidly climbing.  We used to leave them behind during exercises in Crimea between the US Marine reservists an the Ukrainians, but there are a lot more now than can be accounted for by that.  Another interesting bit, the 'fritz' style helmet the US military uses has popped up multiple times as well.  I guess those go along with the MREs are some of the noncombatant supplies the US has been providing.

General Boryyskyn part of the Ukrainian HQ for the operations in the east has been arrested as a spy.

A huge armored column moved outside of Slavyansk.  I sense an offensive.

This is the Donetsk airport.   I've flown out of there.

Dolzhanskyi is here.  Yes, that's the border post with Russia at the base of the M03 highway I keep harping about.

In both cases, they'd make good stand-ins for zombie apocalypse movie.

There has been more railroad bridge sabotage.

The Russians have continued to build up their forces again.  

The Russians have also continued to stream in equipment.  

Also on the bad side of things, people are getting very frustrated and angry with Poroshenko.  They have started rallying to demand various actions by the President.  More than once I've encountered folks talking about Maidan 3.0.  This is...more than troublesome.  Furthermore, I am also troubled by the national guard units: representatives and even some of their commanders have been on the maidan stage in Kiev.  Who to they report to?

CRISPR: a new Genetic Tool for Gene Repair

Scientists from many areas of biology are flocking to a technique that allows them to work inside cells, making changes in specific genes far faster — and for far less money — than ever before.

"It's really powerful, it's a really exciting development," says of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He won the in 2006 for that also lets scientists modify how genes work. But, Mello says, this new genetic tool – known as CRISPR for — is more powerful, "because now you can essentially change a genome at will to almost anything you want. The sky's the limit."

Sure, scientists previously have made enormous strides in their ability to do things with genes: modifying them, moving them from cell to cell, even animal to animal.

But doing these things has been time consuming and expensive. It looks like CRISPR will change all that.

California LEgalizes Bitcoin

A new California law removes a ban on using currencies other than the U.S. dollar, which is intended to accommodate the growing use of alternative payment methods such as bitcoin.

The law, signed by state Governor Jerry Brown on Saturday, is likely to boost confidence around bitcoin, as regulators and tax authorities worldwide examine how to handle the popular virtual currency.

It repeals Section 107 of California's Corporations Code, which prohibited companies or individuals from issuing money other than U.S. dollars, according to the bill, introduced by Assembly Member Roger Dickinson.

Dickinson wrote earlier this month in a news release that people using digital currencies, community currencies and reward points were in violation of the law but not penalized. From Amazon's Coins to Starbucks' Stars to bitcoin, "it is impractical to ignore the growing use of cash alternatives," he wrote.

In March, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service said it will treat bitcoin as a form of property for tax purposes, rather than as currency, making it subject to similar rules as stocks and barter transactions.

Those receiving goods and services in bitcoin will have to add the value of the virtual currency at the time it was received into their gross income, the agency said in its guidance.

Using Abstraction in Cyberwarfare

Russian Army T-64BV From 205th Infantry Brigade Captured, IDed in Ukraine

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence (MoD) published pictures on 29 June of a T-64BV main battle tank (MBT), captured in east Ukraine, that it claims has come from Russian military stocks.

"Based on a preliminary analysis of these samples of weapons and equipment, most likely we can speak of the Russian Federation as the country of origin of seized vehicles and weapons," an MoD statement read.

The T-64 in question was captured during an attack on the Ukrainian military near Artemivsk, in Donetsk region, the MoD stated, adding it "was not and is not" registered as part of the inventory of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The MoD states that the "T-64BV under this serial number was issued in October 1987 at the Kharkov Tank Factory and sent to a military unit, which at that time [was] stationed in Russia. Currently, there is an opportunity to argue that [the tank]... until recently, was on the list [of the] 205th Infantry Brigade, which is stationed in the Russian city [of] Budenovskiy. These [serial] numbers are the tank hull number, the numbers of its units and batteries manufactured at a business in St Petersburg".

China to Have 1500 4th Generation Fighers by 2020

An Asian government source has disclosed to IHS Jane's estimates of China's future combat aircraft fleet size and composition that are larger - and more specific - than those offered in the annual China Military Power reports published by the US Department of Defense.

The latest Pentagon report issued on 5 June 2014 sounded an alarm about China air combat forces, saying the People's Liberation Army Air Force "is pursuing modernisation on a scale unprecedented in its history and is rapidly closing the gap with Western air forces across a broad spectrum of capabilities including aircraft, command and control, jammers, electronic warfare, and datalinks".

Bioevents and Palaeoenvironmental Changes in Barremian Cretaceous France

Bioevents and palaeoenvironmental changes in carbonate platforms: The record of Barremian “Urgonian” limestones of SE France ☆


Masse et al


Biostratigraphic studies of Barremian platform carbonates from SE France, and nearby regions indicate the Last Occurrence (LO) horizons of some common shallow water taxa. Firstly two dasycladale algae: Piriferella paucicalcarea and Salpingoporella genevensis, which have their first occurrence in the upper Hauterivian disappear in the lower Barremian, at the Nicklesia pulchella–Kotetishvilia compressissima transition. Secondly a rudist bivalve: the genus Agriopleura, which has its first occurrence in the upper Hauterivian has its LO in the lower upper Barremian, within the Gerardhtia sartousiana zone. The specific stratigraphic levels of the above bioevents recorded in platform carbonates may be used for dating corresponding ammonite free-successions. Stratigraphic implications are constrained by the biogeographical extent of the key species which is essentially the Western and Central European margin of the Mediterranean Tethys. The joint LO of P. paucicalcarea and S. genevensis are inferred to have been linked with oceanographic and climatic changes, i.e. a cooling event. Platform carbonates were interrupted by a drowning event represented by a Maximum Flooding Surface or Transgressive surface. Shallow water Orbitolinidae record significant extinctions and deep water ammonites show a significant turnover. Similarly, modifications in ammonite faunas, bottom currents, temperature changes, i.e. cooling, and a major extinction among the family Orbitolinidae coincided with the LO of Agriopleura. Platform perturbations, including exposure, possibly a sequence boundary, and basin margin instability, both with a tectonic background, were associated with this event. The foregoing events and the linkage of palaeobiogeographic changes, that is the migration of the key taxa towards southern latitudes, in correspondence with the LO bioevents indicate that thermal changes, including seasonality, appear to have been the prominent controlling factor.

Fireballs Associated with Asteroid 2007LQ19

Bright Fireballs Associated with the Potentially Hazardous Asteroid 2007LQ19


Maldiedo et al


We analyze here two very bright fireballs produced by the ablation in the atmosphere of two large meteoroids in 2009 and 2010. These slow-moving and deep-penetrating events were observed over Spain in the framework of our Spanish Fireball Network continuous meteor monitoring campaign. The analysis of the emission spectrum imaged for one of these fireballs has provided the first clues about the chemical nature of the progenitor meteoroids. The orbital parameters of these particles suggests a likely association with the recently identified July rho-Herculid meteoroid stream. In addition, considerations about the likely parent body of this stream are also made on the basis of orbital dissimilarity criteria. This orbital analysis reveals that both meteoroids and PHA 2007LQ19 exhibit a similar evolution during a time period of almost 8,000 years, which suggests that either this NEO is the potential parent of these particles or that this NEO and both meteoroids had a common progenitor in the past.

The Economics of the American Civil War

The Civil War has been something of an enigma for scholars studying American history. During the first half of the twentieth century, historians viewed the war as a major turning point in American economic history. Charles Beard labeled it “Second American Revolution,” claiming that “at bottom the so-called Civil War – was a social war, ending in the unquestioned establishment of a new power in the government, making vast changes – in the course of industrial development, and in the constitution inherited from the Fathers” (Beard and Beard 1927: 53). By the time of the Second World War, Louis Hacker could sum up Beard’s position by simply stating that the war’s “striking achievement was the triumph of industrial capitalism” (Hacker 1940: 373). The “Beard-Hacker Thesis” had become the most widely accepted interpretation of the economic impact of the Civil War. Harold Faulkner devoted two chapters to a discussion of the causes and consequences of the war in his 1943 textbook American Economic History (which was then in its fifth edition), claiming that “its effects upon our industrial, financial, and commercial history were profound” (1943: 340).

In the years after World War II, a new group of economic historians — many of them trained in economics departments — focused their energies on the explanation of economic growth and development in the United States. As they looked for the keys to American growth in the nineteenth century, these economic historians questioned whether the Civil War — with its enormous destruction and disruption of society — could have been a stimulus to industrialization. In his 1955 textbook on American economic history, Ross Robertson mirrored a new view of the Civil War and economic growth when he argued that “persistent, fundamental forces were at work to forge the economic system and not even the catastrophe of internecine strife could greatly affect the outcome” (1955: 249). “Except for those with a particular interest in the economics of war,” claimed Robertson, “the four year period of conflict [1861-65] has had little attraction for economic historians” (1955: 247). Over the next two decades, this became the dominant view of the Civil War’s role industrialization of the United States.

Historical research has a way of returning to the same problems over and over. The efforts to explain regional patterns of economic growth and the timing of the United States’ “take-off” into industrialization, together with extensive research into the “economics” of the slave system of the South and the impact of emancipation, brought economic historians back to questions dealing with the Civil War. By the 1990s a new generation of economic history textbooks once again examined the “economics” of the Civil War (Atack and Passell 1994; Hughes and Cain 1998; Walton and Rockoff 1998). This reconsideration of the Civil War by economic historians can be loosely grouped into four broad issues: the “economic” causes of the war; the “costs” of the war; the problem of financing the War; and a re-examination of the Hacker-Beard thesis that the War was a turning point in American economic history.

Evidence of a Significant Biological/Enviromental Event During the Upper Sinemurian Jurassic

Isotopic and palynological evidence for a new Early Jurassic environmental perturbation


Riding et al


The Early Jurassic Epoch was a predominantly greenhouse phase of Earth history, but a comprehensive understanding of its climate dynamics is hampered by a lack of high resolution multi-proxy environmental records. Here we report a geologically brief (approximately several hundred thousand years) negative carbon isotope excursion (CIE) of 2–3‰ in both marine and terrestrial materials, recognised for the first time for the Late Sinemurian Substage (Early Jurassic, ~ 194 Ma) of eastern England. The Late Sinemurian carbon isotope excursion, which is termed the S-CIE herein, is accompanied by peaks in the abundance of the pollen grain Classopollis classoides and the dinoflagellate cyst Liasidium variabile. Classopollis classoides was thermophilic and is a reliable proxy for hot/warm climatic conditions. Liasidium variabile is interpreted as thermophilic and eutrophic using multivariate statistics, its fluorescence properties being similar to living heterotrophic dinoflagellate cysts, and its association with C. classoides. Moreover, the morphological and ecological similarities of L. variabile to the Cenozoic genus Apectodinium are noteworthy. The co-occurrence of the acmes of C. classoides and L. variabile with a negative CIE is interpreted here as having wide geographical significance due to the marine and terrestrial carbon isotope signals being precisely in phase within an open marine setting. This is consistent with an oceanic–atmospheric injection of isotopically-light carbon, coupled with global warming and increased marginal marine nutrient supply, possibly the result of increased precipitation due to an enhanced hydrological cycle or a seasonally-stratified water column. A probable sea level rise of at least regional extent has been identified at the L. variabile event in other records, which supports this putative phase of global warming. All these features are common to the Paleocene/Eocene thermal maximum (PETM, ~ 56 Ma), and there are also similarities with the Early Toarcian oceanic anoxic event (T-OAE, ~ 182 Ma).

Evidence of Insect Herbivory From Middle Permian Antarctica

Animal–plant interactions in a Middle Permian permineralised peat of the Bainmedart Coal Measures, Prince Charles Mountains, Antarctica


Slater et al


Evidence for invertebrate feeding on glossopterid gymnosperms is documented from Middle Permian silicified peats of the Prince Charles Mountains, Antarctica, in the form of coprolites occurring both free in the peat matrix and clustered within excavations in roots, aerial wood and leaves. Observations of coprolites in thin-sections of the peats and from scanning electron microscopy of examples extracted via bulk maceration reveal nine morphotypes distinguished by size, shape, surface texture and contents. These include coprolites with coarse plant debris, spirally ornamented coprolites, coprolites containing spore/pollen remains and fern sporangia, coprolites within Glossopteris leaves, an ellipsoidal morphotype within a fern sporangium, large isolated coprolites between matted leaves, clustered forms filling galleries inside Vertebraria roots and Australoxylon wood, forms with coarse indeterminate constituents and others with fungal contents. Other faunal evidence is limited to indeterminate arthropod exoskeleton fragments. Collectively, the coprolites within the permineralised peat from the Prince Charles Mountains document the presence of diverse feeding behaviours including stem feeding, sporangial feeding, palynivory, root feeding and mycophagy. The first evidence of invertebrate feeding traces in Vertebraria (glossopterid) roots is identified. These findings indicate that herbivory by invertebrates in the high-latitude Permian forest-mire ecosystems of Antarctica was more intense and diverse than previous studies have reported, and affected all parts of the Glossopteris plant, together with components of associated herbaceous taxa.

Coprolites From the Cambrian Duyun Fauna of China

Phosphatized coprolites from the middle Cambrian (Stage 5) Duyun fauna of China


Shen et al


Minute phosphatized coprolites have been recovered from the middle Cambrian (Stage 5) Gaotai Formation in Duyun, Guizhou, southern China. They occur as ellipsoidal, rod-like and coiled or sinusoidal objects that can be classified into four morphotypes. Three of these consist of finely crystalline (‘amorphous’) apatite that replaced digested organic matter and possibly muddy sediment, while a fourth is composed of bioclasts belonging to the prey animals of either palaeoscolecid dermal sclerites, bradoriid carapaces or lingulate brachiopod valves. Pellets occur in elongate clusters of up to about 100 ellipsoids. These clusters indicate that the producers' digestive systems were able to compress ingested material into individual pellets which were then expelled en masse without being shaped by muscle contractions in the latter portion of the intestine and anus. On the other hand, rod-like faeces with irregular annular grooves indicate a process of extrusion of digested material involving strong muscle contraction and compaction. Rods packed with sclerites and valves indicate that these hard parts are undigested organism fragments. Sinusoidal faeces point to ingestion of a great deal of material before extrusion, and possibly accompanied by movement of the anus-bearing posterior. The coiled morphotype suggests defecation of loosely compacted material from a long animal with a correspondingly long gut. Pellet clusters were produced by either a suspension feeder or a deposit feeder. Two or more types of invertebrates consumed organic matter and possibly lime mud, probably as deposit-feeders, while at least one other preyed upon worms, bradoriids and/or brachiopods. The different shapes and contents of these uniquely preserved coprolites confirm that the middle Cambrian benthic community exhibited a complex trophic structure involving a wide array of nutritional behaviours, including predator–prey and scavenger relationships, possibly along with prey selectivity in the context of prey life cycles.

India's Farm Land is Turning to Desert

About a quarter of India's land is turning to desert and degradation of agricultural areas is becoming a severe problem, the environment minister said, potentially threatening food security in the world's second most populous country.

India occupies just 2 percent of the world's territory but is home to 17 percent of its population, leading to over-use of land and excessive grazing. Along with changing rainfall patterns, these are the main causes of desertification.

"Land is becoming barren, degradation is happening," said Prakash Javadekar, minister for environment, forests and climate change. "A lot of areas are on the verge of becoming deserts but it can be stopped."

Land degradation - largely defined as loss of productivity - is estimated at 105 million hectares, constituting 32 percent of the total land.

According to the Indian Space Research Organisation that prepared a report on desertification in 2007, about 69 percent of land in the country is dry, making it vulnerable to water and wind erosion, salinization and water logging.

Yasen Class Severodvinsk Fast Attack Submarine Enters Service After 20 Years in Construction

Russia's lead Project 885 Yasen-class nuclear-powered attack/guided-missile submarine (SSN/SSGN) Severodvinsk (K 329) has been accepted into full service, it has been announced.

A flag raising ceremony took place on 17 June on the Kola Peninsula in northern Russia. The event was attended by Navy Commander Admiral Victor Chirkov, Northern Fleet Commander Admiral Vladimir Korolev, and senior officials from builder Sevmash and designer Malachite Central Design Bureau.

The vessel was previously handed over to the fleet on 30 December 2013 for operational trials.

Severodvinsk will reportedly operate under the (newly created) 10th Anti-Aircraft Carrier Division of the Northern Fleet, stationed at the Zapadnaya Litsa Naval Base on Motovka Bay, previously known as Murmansk-150.

Future Russian Hydrocarbon Production Depends on Western Technolical Help

Even as the decision to stop gas supplies to Ukraine aggravates tensions with the U.S. and Europe, Russia faces a dilemma: it still needs Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM:US), Halliburton Co. (HAL:US) and BP Plc (BP/) to maintain output from Soviet-era oil fields and develop Arctic and shale reserves.

Russia will require Western companies to provide the modern drilling and production gear -- and techniques such as hydraulic fracturing -- that are essential to unlocking its $8.2 trillion worth of barrels still underground.

The cutoff to Ukraine’s gas supply adds another layer of complexity for energy companies navigating a shifting geopolitical landscape in the search for new oil and gas supplies. Decision-makers from some of the West’s biggest oil explorers are gathering in Moscow this week at the World Petroleum Congress to pave the way to new deals.


Without Western expertise and technology, it’s unlikely Russia could sustain its current production levels, much less increase them, David Pursell, an analyst at Tudor Pickering Holt & Co., said in a phone interview. The country has “zero chance” of exploiting deep-water reserves without Western help, he said.

I smell sanctions target.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

580 Hayes Street Rendering


Hunter's View Redevelopment Rendering


835 Jackson Street Rendering


Transbay Tower & Center Aerial Rendering


Central SoMa Proposed Heights Plan


Mesoproterozoic Metamorphism in Tanzania, Africa

Mesoproterozoic high-grade metamorphism in pelitic rocks of the northwestern Ubendian Belt: Implication for the extension of the Kibaran intra-continental basins to Tanzania


Boniface et al


Paleoproterozoic basement rocks are thought to form the northwestern end of the Ubendian Belt in Tanzania that disappears towards the north below a Mesoproterozoic sedimentary cover. The northwestern end of the Ubendian Belt is known to constitute three litho-tectonic terranes of Katuma, Wakole and Ubende. Through dating of zircon (SHRIMP U–Pb) and monazite (U–Th–total Pb electron microprobe ages) of high-grade metasedimentary rocks of the Wakole Terrane we have detected solely Mesoproterozoic ages, showing no sign of reworking of older Paleoproterozoic basement. These findings signify that the Wakole Terrane hosts younger sediments of Mesoproterozoic times metamorphosed to high-grade P–T conditions (peaked at 670–680 °C/8.5–8.9 kbar).

Two distinct phases of Mesoproterozoic metamorphic events separated by 160 Ma have been dated at 1166 ± 14 Ma and 1007 ± 6 Ma (SHRIMP U–Pb zircon). Zircon ages are supported by in-situ dating of monazite with ages at 1170 ± 10 Ma, and 1022 ± 5–1016 ± 10 Ma. The first age is closely related to the period of S-type granitoid emplacement at about 1200 Ma in the Karagwe-Ankolean and Kibaran Belts. The second age cluster overlaps with a period of global Mesoproterozoic orogenic cycle, also recorded in the neighboring Irumide and Kibaran Belts. This age group is associated with the assembly of the hypothetical Mesoproterozoic Rodinia Supercontinent.

The recent model for the evolution of the Kibaran Belt suitably explains the spatial and temporal settings of Mesoproterozoic metasedimentary rocks of the Wakole Terrane overlying the Paleoproterozoic Ubendian Belt. Due to its proximity to the Kibaran Belt and by being bound by the Paleoproterozoic Terranes of Ubende and Katuma, it can be interpreted that the Wakole Terrane metasediments initially were deposited in an intra-continental basin that was later squeezed between these old terranes by the regional ca. 1000 Ma compressional event recorded in the Irumide, Kibaran and Karagwe-Ankolean Belts.

China's Turn at Garden Diplomacy

TO ASIAN culture buffs, a tranquil Japanese garden built two decades ago in Houston is in the Daimyo strolling style. Economic historians, an unromantic bunch, see a peace-offering to a rattled American superpower, presented at a moment when Japan’s rise inspired something like panic. Today the garden is a shady oasis, thronged at weekends by Hispanic families filming themselves by its carp-filled pond. But its origins were tangled up with a tense economic summit for G7 nations, held in Houston in 1990. Japan’s prime minister announced a gift of a precious teahouse during that meeting; work on the garden began the next year. Not long before, Japanese buyers had snapped up the Rockefeller Centre and Pebble Beach golf course. Both proved poor investments, but many people at the time saw them as evidence that Japan was overtaking America. (A 1993 film, “Rising Sun”, marked the peak of Japanophobia, mixing sex and murder with dollops of self-doubt: “catch-up” is our national game, mutters an American cop chasing Japanese villains.)

Houston was not Japan’s first go at garden diplomacy. As trade tensions built in the 1970s, Japanese authorities helped to build a fine garden in Missouri and—to mark America’s bicentenary in 1976—sent scores of priceless bonsai to the National Arboretum, a park and research station in Washington, DC. The gift deftly combined generosity, reminders of Japan’s long history and subtle jabs (the tiny trees included a four-centuries-old pine that had survived the atomic blast at Hiroshima). The bonsai won warm headlines. It was an early display of soft power: a term coined by Joseph Nye of Harvard for a country’s ability to inspire and sway others without using force.

Now it is China’s turn.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Ukraine: Patterns of Dying or Flaring Embers

The ceasefire has been ordered to be extended for another three days. 

The negotiations continue, but nothing has come to fruition.

Ukraine signed the association agreement with the EU.  So did Moldova and Georgia. 

The Russians have threatened the Ukrainians if the EU pact harms the Russian economy.

A national guard base in Donetsk was taken by the pro Russians.

In Kramatorsk, the LGM used a reported *8* tanks to attack the Ukrainian army.  Casualties reported were very light considering.  Were they really tanks?  Or AFVs of some other stripe?

Another tank was used at Artemivsk against the Ukrainian army.

Another attack took place near Slavyansk.

Near Lugansk, another 25 armoured fighting vehciles crossed into Ukraine.

In videos online, there's an increasing number of American Hummers and trucks the Ukrainian army is using. 

The Russians are staging a very large number of AFVs in the Voronezh Oblast.

ReWalk Exoskeleton Approved for use by US Regulators

U.S. health regulators have approved a first-of-a-kind set of robotic leg braces that can help some disabled people walk again.

The ReWalk system functions like an exoskeleton for people paralyzed from the waist down, allowing them to stand and walk with assistance from a caretaker.

The device consists of leg braces with motion sensors and motorized joints that respond to subtle changes in upper-body movement and shifts in balance. A harness around the patient's waist and shoulders keeps the suit in place, and a backpack holds the computer and rechargeable battery. Crutches are used for stability.

ReWalk is intended for people who are disabled due to certain spinal cord injuries.


11,200 Kilometers of Clear Skies

US Marine Corps is Adapting to Chinese Doctrine

Tarawa. Saipan. Iwo Jima. Peleliu. Okinawa, Inchon. These are among the most sacred names in Marine Corps history. They define the sea-borne warriors’ in so many ways: sacrifice, grit, honor, competence. To most Americans, and to many Marines, those amphibious assaults are the soul of the Corps.

But those bloody and costly frontal assaults are not the future of the Marines, even as they plan for a return to sea-based operations after more than a decade of land wars in Aghanistan and Iraq. For much of the last two years reporters have heard the Marines talk of going back to their roots. Some sort of successor to the failed but fast Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle was in the works, we heard.

Lt. Gen. Kenneth Guelick, deputy commandant for combat development and integration, made clear this morning that the Marines will sidestep the full force of an enemy’s firepower in future amphibious operations. I asked him at a Defense Writers Group breakfast how the Corps would cope with the environment of death expected in an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) battle for which the US military now trains and equips. “We want to pit strength against weakness,” Guelick told me, adding the Marines would look to exploit the “seams” in an enemy’s force and position.

The A2/AD battle is predicated on in-depth and layered defenses such as China’s advanced CSS-6 and CSS-7 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs), SA-10 SAMs, anti-ship cruise missiles and over-the-horizon targeting systems. A battle group of ships launching Marines in ship-to-shore connectors like the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) could be decimated by the rain of steel from such a power.

Careful not to identify any particular scenarios (though we were all thinking China), Guelick offered one other characterization: “The intent is not to go in force on force. The intent,” he said, “is to find the gaps.”

That sounds very much as if the Marines have read Chinese doctrine...

Osterhout Design's New X6 Augmented Reality Occulars for the US Military

Getting secret information to specific people, like the location of the nearest nuclear power plant, in a way that doesn’t draw attention from outside is a classic spy problem. Another one is giving agents the ability to match names to faces in the real world, at blackjack tables and fancy soirees and other places spies frequent. The Defense Department is buying some new spy specs to give spooks in the field an intelligence edge over everybody else.

The glasses, called simply the X6, are from San Francisco-based Osterhout Design Group. They look like the lovechild of Google Glass and the Oculus Rift, providing more information to the wearer than the small window on Google’s much-maligned headset but not obstructing vision like the Oculus Rift. (Admittedly, for spy glasses, they lack a certain subtlety.)

At a recent innovation symposium at Defense Intelligence Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C., Bobby King, vice president of special projects for Osterhout, demonstrated how the headset provides situational intelligence. Defense One looked through the glasses at a static, two-dimensional map and suddenly structures appeared in three dimensions related to objects of interest. King confirmed that the map was just a regular print of a satellite photograph. With that particular app, the glasses send information to a server that then processes the image against others to determine the location depicted. The glasses then present data from the database visually in the form of structures, special instructions, clues, etc. The view was smarter and more useful than what you would see with Google Glass, but didn’t get in the way of the user’s ability to actually see, like a clunky virtual reality headset.

“Augmented reality is the fusion of data and your real environment. We’re looking for an immersive feeling, but not virtual,” King said.

Cool map data aren’t the only secret messages you can receive on the X6.

Will this get bought by Google too?  half smiley there.

A Tithonian Jurassic Hydrocarbon Seep's Marine Fossil Snapshot

Hydrocarbon seeps from close to the Jurassic–Cretaceous boundary, Svalbard


Hammer et al


Fifteen carbonate bodies, interpreted as having been formed at hydrocarbon seeps, have been found in the Sassenfjorden area of Spitsbergen, Svalbard. The bodies, up to 5 m wide, are found in the siltstones and mudstones of the uppermost Slottsmøya Member, in the Upper Jurassic to lowermost Cretaceous Agardhfjellet Formation. The age of the seeps is close to the Volgian–Ryazanian (Jurassic–Cretaceous) boundary, and the Mjølnir impact event in the Barents Sea. The Sassenfjorden area carbonates show complex and heterogeneous structures typical of hydrocarbon seeps, including zoned (botryoidal) cement textures, fissure-infilling sparite, and breccias. Stable isotope analyses show highly negative δ13C values (down to ca. −43‰ VPDB) in the zoned carbonate cements, consistent with authigenic precipitation in a hydrocarbon-rich environment. Oxygen isotopes indicate secondary hydrothermal activity. The species-rich, well-preserved fauna includes at least 13 species of small to medium sized bivalves, some of which are abundant, as well as rarer rhynchonelliform and lingulid brachiopods, gastropods, echinoderms, sponges, and serpulid and probable vestimentiferan worm tubes. Although several bivalves (solemyids, lucinids, and probably Thyasira and Nucinella) had chemosymbionts, the Sassenfjorden seep fauna contains few, if any, seep obligate taxa, consistent with formation in a relatively shallow-water paleoenvironment. The seeps contain the earliest record of thyasirid bivalves, and a species-rich (six) brachiopod fauna including the first lingulid recorded in a seep environment. Ammonites, belemnites and large wood fragments represent ex situ fossils in the seep carbonate bodies.

Is This China's Sample Return Probe for the Moon?

Modeling the Disappearance of Wetlands in the end Pleistocene Quaternary Great Basin for Archaeology

A GIS model for predicting wetland habitat in the Great Basin at the Pleistocene–Holocene transition and implications for Paleoindian archaeology


Duke et al


The Great Basin's earliest inhabitants relied heavily on wetland systems that underwent a great decline culminating in the early Holocene. In this paper, we derive expectations for regional Paleoindian archaeology by modeling the distribution and disappearance of lake-margin wetland habitats. Basin geomorphology and hydrology are used to predict change through time in the occurrence of these habitats. Fifty-two pluvial lakes are drained from their Pleistocene highstands by computer simulation using GIS, and the changing extent of associated wetlands is quantified. We find that as these lakes declined to shallow depths, many experienced corresponding increases in wetland habitat prior to complete desiccation; thus, while the total area of wetland habitat in the region could have maintained some stability through this process, the number of available basin wetlands would have dropped relatively rapidly as smaller basins completely dried up. The model therefore implies that those lakes that disappeared earliest should hold the archaeological signatures most restricted to early Paleoindian times. Assemblages associated with these lakes should also reflect higher forager mobility corresponding with the greater number of basin wetlands available. We find preliminary support for the model in several archaeological cases but emphasize the need for further basin-specific research to clarify the nature and timing of wetland habitat loss and the extent to which this was a constraint for Paleoindian populations.

Jurassic Park Needs Parasites! Callovian Jurassic Fly Larva Volunteers!

Around 165 million years ago, a spectacular parasite was at home in the freshwater lakes of present-day Inner Mongolia (China): A fly larva with a thorax formed entirely like a sucking plate. With it, the animal could adhere to salamanders and suck their blood with its mouthparts formed like a sting. To date no insect is known that is equipped with a similar specialised design. The international scientific team is now presenting its findings in the journal "eLIFE".

The parasite, an elongate fly larva around two centimeters long, had undergone extreme changes over the course of evolution: The head is tiny in comparison to the body, tube-shaped with piercer-like mouthparts at the front. The mid-body (thorax) has been completely transformed underneath into a gigantic sucking plate; the hind-body (abdomen) has caterpillar-like legs. The international research team believes that this unusual animal is a parasite which lived in a landscape with volcanoes and lakes what is now northeastern China around 165 million years ago. In this fresh water habitat, the parasite crawled onto passing salamanders, attached itself with its sucking plate, and penetrated the thin skin of the amphibians in order to suck blood from them.

"The parasite lived the life of Reilly", says Prof. Jes Rust from the Steinmann Institute for Geology, Mineralogy and Palaeontology of the University of Bonn. This is because there were many salamanders in the lakes, as fossil finds at the same location near Ningcheng in Inner Mongolia (China) have shown. "There scientists had also found around 300,000 diverse and exceptionally preserved fossil insects", reports the Chinese scientist Dr. Bo Wang, who is researching in palaeontology at the University of Bonn as a PostDoc with sponsorship provided by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The spectacular fly larva, which has received the scientific name of "Qiyia jurassica", however, was a quite unexpected find. "Qiyia" in Chinese means "bizarre"; "jurassica" refers to the Jurassic period to which the fossils belong.

Reptilian Rants on Biological Sails Through Deep Time

One of the quintessential depictions of prehistoric times is that of an ancient, often volcano ridden, landscape full of animals bearing large showy sails of skin stretched over their backs. Sailbacked animals are rather rare in our modern day and age, but back in the Mesozoic and Paleozoic there were sails a plenty.


Cloudina Made Reefs in the Ediacaran NeoProterozoic

Ediacaran metazoan reefs from the Nama Group, Namibia


Penny et al


Reef-building in metazoans represents an important ecological innovation whereby individuals collectively enhance feeding efficiency and gain protection from competitors and predation. The appearance of metazoan reefs in the fossil record therefore indicates an adaptive response to complex ecological pressures. In the Nama Group, Namibia, we found evidence of reef-building by the earliest known skeletal metazoan, the globally distributed Cloudina, ~548 million years ago. These Cloudina reefs formed open frameworks without a microbial component but with mutual attachment and cementation between individuals. Orientated growth implies a passive suspension-feeding habit into nutrient-rich currents. The characteristics of Cloudina support the view that metazoan reef-building was promoted by the rise of substrate competitors and predators.

Greenland is Darkening

Greenland’s white snow is getting darker. Scientists have generally attributed that darkening to larger, slightly less white snow grains caused by warmer temperatures. But researchers have found a new source of darkening taking hold: impurities in the snow.

“It can increase the speed of melting,” says Marie Dumont, a remote sensing scientist at Météo France in Grenoble, who publishes today with her colleagues in Nature Geoscience.

Scientists have known for years that Greenland’s snow is getting darker, based on satellite observations that have revealed lower albedos, or reflectivity. That’s a problem because the darker the snow is, the more sunlight it absorbs, and the faster it melts. Greenland’s melting ice sheets are already predicted to raise sea levels by 20 centimeters by 2100.

But Dumont and her colleagues have found that, since 2009, there has been a darkening that cannot be explained by larger snow grain size alone. Using satellite observations, they found lower albedos at elevations and at times of the year that are too cold for larger snow grains to form.

Interesting Chess Move Mr Assad: Syria's Airstrike Complicates Iraq

The brazen attack inside Iraq is a signal how Syria and northern Iraq have devolved into one battlefield, a defense analyst said.

“The border between Syria and Iraq has effectively been erased,” said Colin Kahl, a senior fellow and director of Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. “There is one battle space, so I would expect that you would see Syrian forces who are battling [ISIL] hit on both sides of the border.”

This is especially complicated should those battles take place in the air. The U.S. is already flying surveillance flights over northern Iraq to monitor movements of ISIL. The U.S. military is also scouting potential targets for airstrikes should President Obama order them.

President Obama said airstrikes are on the table, but yesterday Secretary of State John Kerry said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki must pursue a unified government and lessen the Shia influence before U.S. airstrikes would be ordered.

But now Syria has beaten the U.S. to the punch raising the question whether a U.S. airstrike in northern Iraq means the U.S. is supporting Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria.

Does Prime Minister Modi's Cabinet Selection Suggest a Sea Change in Indian Foreign Policy?

Modi’s rise has transformed Indian domestic politics in some fundamental ways. On the foreign policy front too, given his hand-chosen team, he has an opportunity to make a departure from the diffidence of the past. Reflecting his pragmatic instincts with a nationalistic bent, his national security team is well placed to achieve just that. Modi’s success in achieving his domestic agenda will also depend on how successful he is in getting his external priorities right. The world will be watching as closely as the Indian electorate.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ukraine: Patterns of Unraveling (again)

Whatever Kiev says, there is fighting in eastern Ukraine.

There have been several clashes on the border in Lugansk Oblast.  

The fighting in Donetsk has been particularly bad.  

The LGM attacked multiple checkpoints to try to break out again in Slavyansk. 

The pro russians attacked the Kramatorsk airport too.

The OSCE team in Donetsk has been released.

I am concerned about a confrontation between police and the Right Sector on the road to Kirovograd.

Poroshenko outlined his plan for peace and the Union of People's Republics stated they wanted to negotiate more.

In theory, tomorrow Poroshenko will be signing the deal with the European Union.  I wonder how Yanukovich feels about that?

A New Collaborative Machine Learning Algorithm

Machine learning, in which computers learn new skills by looking for patterns in training data, is the basis of most recent advances in artificial intelligence, from voice-recognition systems to self-parking cars. It's also the technique that autonomous robots typically use to build models of their environments.

That type of model-building gets complicated, however, in cases in which clusters of robots work as teams. The robots may have gathered information that, collectively, would produce a good model but which, individually, is almost useless. If constraints on power, communication, or computation mean that the robots can't pool their data at one location, how can they collectively build a model?

At the Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence conference in July, researchers from MIT's Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems will answer that question. They present an algorithm in which distributed agents — such as robots exploring a building — collect data and analyze it independently. Pairs of agents, such as robots passing each other in the hall, then exchange analyses.

In experiments involving several different data sets, the researchers' distributed algorithm actually outperformed a standard algorithm that works on data aggregated at a single location.

"A single computer has a very difficult optimization problem to solve in order to learn a model from a single giant batch of data, and it can get stuck at bad solutions," says Trevor Campbell, a graduate student in aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, who wrote the new paper with his advisor, Jonathan How, the Richard Cockburn Maclaurin Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics. "If smaller chunks of data are first processed by individual robots and then combined, the final model is less likely to get stuck at a bad solution."

Campbell says that the work was motivated by questions about robot collaboration. But it could also have implications for big data, since it would allow distributed servers to combine the results of their data analyses without aggregating the data at a central location.

"This procedure is completely robust to pretty much any network you can think of," Campbell says. "It's very much a flexible learning algorithm for decentralized networks."

U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is Looking Into Bitcoin

Bitcoin and other digital currencies will get more attention from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after prodding from a congressional watchdog.

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, wrote in a confidential report last month that the bureau, created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul, needed to become more active in developing U.S. digital-currency policies. In a written response, the agency agreed.

“We’re looking forward to increasing our involvement in formal working groups as they engage on specific issues relating to consumer protection,” William Wade-Gery, CFPB’s acting assistant director for card and payment markets, wrote in a May 6 letter to the GAO.

While the GAO report didn’t specify the issues that should be addressed by the CFPB, fraud and security have been serious problems for some bitcoin users. For example, an exchange based in Tokyo went bankrupt in February after losing most of its users’ accounts to hackers.

“Thus far, interagency efforts have had a law enforcement focus, reflecting the attractiveness of virtual currencies to those who may want to launder money or purchase black market items,” the GAO said in the report dated May 2014.

The Son's Lego Car

My son had it explained in general terms what to do and he put the car together himself.

F-35s "Grounded" Until Fire Cause Found

The F-35A struck by fire as it took off from Eglin Air Force Base still sits on the runway and the Air Force and Marines are not flying their versions of the Joint Strike Fighter program until they know more about the fire’s causes.

“We will resume flying once we know more about the cause of the F-35A fire that occurred at Eglin AFB earlier this week,” Capt. Richard Ulsh, a spokesman for Marine aviation, said in an email.

The 33rd Fighter Wing, responsible for F-35 training at Eglin Air Force Base, said Wednesday morning that its “commander has decided to continue the temporarily (sic) suspension of F-35A flights at Eglin in the interest of safety as we continue to investigate the cause of the mishap.” First Lt. Hope Cronin said in an email to reporters that “We have no further information regarding the nature or extent of the damage” yet.

Readers who may be wondering why you haven’t seen the word grounded should know that grounding has a specific meaning for the military and these aircraft have not been grounded — yet. Grounded means the plane won’t fly until further notice or the specific conditions that led to the plane being banned from flight is found and fixed. So far they’re expecting to get the planes back in the sky as soon as they have some idea as to the fire’s cause.

Meet Britain Scout Armoured Fighting Vehicle

The first pre-production member of the General Dynamics UK Scout Specialist Vehicle (Scout SV) family of tracked armoured fighting vehicles (AFV) for the British Army was shown for the first time at Defence Vehicle Dynamics (DVD) on 25 June 2014.

This was the Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support (PMRS) model that was rolled out at the facilities of General Dynamics European Land Systems - Santa Bárbara Sistemas in Spain on 12 June. The PMRS will soon return to Spain for its extensive trials programme.

The Scout vehicles are the intended replacement for the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) - CVR(T) - family of vehicles and are expected to enter service from later this decade as a key part of Army 2020.

Speaking at DVD, Philip Dunne, the UK minister for defence equipment, support, and technology, refused to be drawn on whether he would place a production contract for Scout before the country's general election in 2015, saying only that the project was currently in the demonstration phase and that progress was "so far, so good".

The PMRS is fitted with a Kongsberg Protector Remote Weapon Station (RWS) armed with a stabilised .50 M2 HB machine gun (MG) with a fire-on-the-move capability and banks of grenade launchers.

General Dynamics UK is quoting a combat weight of 38 tonnes for the PMRS but with a proven stretch potential to 42 tonnes to take into account any future requirements.

PMRS has a maximum crew of six including commander, gunner, and driver, plus three dismounts.

Mid-Cretaceous to Paleocene Paleogene North American Drainage Reorganization

Mid-Cretaceous to Paleocene North American drainage reorganization from detrital zircons


Blum et al


Detrital zircons (DZ) from fluvial sandstones of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin and the U.S. Gulf of Mexico (GoM) passive margin indicate mid-Cretaceous through Paleocene continental-scale drainage reorganization. DZ populations from the Early Cretaceous Mannville Group of Alberta represent a continental-scale system that routed sediment from the Appalachian Mountains and the eastern three-quarters of North America to the Boreal Sea. In contrast, DZ populations from the GoM coastal plain show that only the southern United States and Appalachian-Ouachita orogen contributed sediment to the GoM through the Late Cretaceous, whereas by the Paleocene, southern North America, from the Western Cordillera to the Appalachian Mountains, had been routed to the GoM. This continental-scale drainage reorganization reflects the culmination of an ∼300 m.y. trajectory that began with Paleozoic Appalachian assembly, and broad east to west sediment routing, followed by assembly of the Mesozoic Western Cordillera, which resulted in west-derived rivers in the United States draining to the GoM in Texas, or to an ancestral Mississippi River in the Mississippi embayment, setting up the template for sediment routing that persists today.

Evidence of Pluto's Atmospheric Structure From the July 2007 Stellar Occulation

Pluto’s atmospheric structure from the July 2007 stellar occultation


Olkin et al


In July 2007, we observed a stellar occultation by Pluto from three sites in New Zealand and Australia. From these occultation observations, we find that Pluto’s atmospheric pressure is still at the increased level measured in 2002 and 2006 with a pressure at a radius of 1275 km of 2.09 ± 0.09 μbar. One of the sites, Mt. John Observatory, was ∼70 km from the shadow center and we recorded the first central-flash occultation by Pluto. We carried out a dual-wavelength observation from this site with two different cameras using filtered high-time resolution observations in the visible from the one-meter telescope at Mt. John Observatory. From our central-flash observations, we find the elliptical shape that best matches the data corresponds to a nearly prolate atmosphere with an ellipticity of 0.09. The flux observed in the central-flash data can be fit equally well with either a haze layer or a thermal gradient in the altitudes probed by the occultation. However, the star light contributing to the central-flash occultation for the haze layer model would pass through a radius of 1130 km from Pluto’s center. Given our current best estimate of Pluto’s surface radius is greater than 1151 km (Tholen, D.J., Buie, M.W. [1997]. Bulk properties of Pluto and Charon. In: Stern, S.A., Tholen, D.J. (Eds.), Pluto and Charon. The University of Arizona Press), we prefer the thermal gradient solution or a combination of haze and thermal gradient to explain the occultation light curves.

Neandertals Were, in fact, Omnivores

The popular conception of the Neanderthal as a club-wielding carnivore is, well, rather primitive, according to a new study conducted at MIT. Instead, our prehistoric cousin may have had a more varied diet that, while heavy on meat, also included plant tissues, such as tubers and nuts.

Scientists from MIT and the University of La Laguna in Spain have identified human fecal remains from El Salt, a known site of Neanderthal occupation in southern Spain that dates back 50,000 years. The researchers analyzed each sample for metabolized versions of animal-derived cholesterol, as well as phytosterol, a cholesterol-like compound found in plants. While all samples contained signs of meat consumption, two samples showed traces of plants — the first direct evidence that Neanderthals may have enjoyed an omnivorous diet.

Rocks vs Genes: Timing the Evolution of Birds

Flying rocks and flying clocks: disparity in fossil and molecular dates for birds


Ksepka et al


Major disparities are recognized between molecular divergence dates and fossil ages for critical nodes in the Tree of Life, but broad patterns and underlying drivers remain elusive. We harvested 458 molecular age estimates for the stem and crown divergences of 67 avian clades to explore empirical patterns between these alternate sources of temporal information. These divergence estimates were, on average, over twice the age of the oldest fossil in these clades. Mitochondrial studies yielded older ages than nuclear studies for the vast majority of clades. Unexpectedly, disparity between molecular estimates and the fossil record was higher for divergences within major clades (crown divergences) than divergences between major clades (stem divergences). Comparisons of dates from studies classed by analytical methods revealed few significant differences. Because true divergence ages can never be known with certainty, our study does not answer the question of whether fossil gaps or molecular dating error account for a greater proportion of observed disparity. However, empirical patterns observed here suggest systemic overestimates for shallow nodes in existing molecular divergence dates for birds. We discuss underlying biases that may drive these patterns.

Two new Dinocephalian Stenocybus Specimens From China

New specimens of Stenocybus acidentatus (Therapsida: Dinocephalia) from the Middle Permian Dashankou Fauna of China


Jiang et al


The basal dinocephalian clade Stenocybusidae was known from two incomplete specimens representing one generus, Stenocybus, from Dashankou fanua in Yumen, Gansu Province of China. The holotype of Stenocybus acidentatus is laterally compressed, making some characters unclear. Here we describe two new specimens of Stenocybus acidentatus from the same locality, an anterior portion of skull with articulated jaws, and a right dentary with nearly complete dentition. They show some detailed features on the morphology of the premaxilla, maxilla, nasal, external nares and dentary. The phylogenetic relationship between Stenocybus acidentatus and the relatively large Sinophoneus yumenensis is still difficult to determine, and needs more new complete material and further evidences.

Complex Life During the Rhyacian PaleoProterozoic From the Francevillian Biota

The 2.1 Ga Old Francevillian Biota: Biogenicity, Taphonomy and Biodiversity


El Albani et al


The Paleoproterozoic Era witnessed crucial steps in the evolution of Earth's surface environments following the first appreciable rise of free atmospheric oxygen concentrations ~2.3 to 2.1 Ga ago, and concomitant shallow ocean oxygenation. While most sedimentary successions deposited during this time interval have experienced thermal overprinting from burial diagenesis and metamorphism, the ca. 2.1 Ga black shales of the Francevillian B Formation (FB2) cropping out in southeastern Gabon have not. The Francevillian Formation contains centimeter-sized structures interpreted as organized and spatially discrete populations of colonial organisms living in an oxygenated marine ecosystem. Here, new material from the FB2 black shales is presented and analyzed to further explore its biogenicity and taphonomy. Our extended record comprises variably sized, shaped, and structured pyritized macrofossils of lobate, elongated, and rod-shaped morphologies as well as abundant non-pyritized disk-shaped macrofossils and organic-walled acritarchs. Combined microtomography, geochemistry, and sedimentary analysis suggest a biota fossilized during early diagenesis. The emergence of this biota follows a rise in atmospheric oxygen, which is consistent with the idea that surface oxygenation allowed the evolution and ecological expansion of complex megascopic life.

Keep in mind Rettalack also claims complex terrestrial life in the Rhyacian PaleoProterozoic (100 million years after the critters from the above).

Constant Barrage of Ice Bergs on the Antarctic Shore is Scouring Clean the Ecology

The Antarctic shore is a place of huge contrasts, as quiet, dark, and frozen winters give way to bright, clear waters, thick with algae and peppered with drifting icebergs in summer. But as the planet has warmed in the last two decades, massive losses of sea ice in winter have left icebergs free to roam for most of the year. As a result, say researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on June 16, boulders on the shallow seabed—once encrusted with a rich assemblage of species in intense competition for limited space—now mostly support a single species. The climate-linked increase in iceberg activity has left all other species so rare as to be almost irrelevant.

"The Antarctic Peninsula can be considered an early warning system—like a canary in a coal mine," says David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey. "Physical changes there are amongst the most extreme and the biology considered quite sensitive, so it was always likely to be a good place to observe impacts of climate change—but impacts elsewhere are likely to be not too far behind. A lot of the planet depends on the near-shore environment, not least for food; what happens there to make it less stable is important."

Earlier studies had noted an increase in mortality of the pioneer species, Fenstrulina rugula, a rather unremarkable suspension feeder that belongs to a group sometimes referred to as moss animals. Barnes and his colleagues suspected that those losses would be more widespread. Indeed, a 2013 survey dive at a nearby spot showed large areas where no live animals could be found, the first time that had ever been reported, despite frequent diving in the area.

In the new study, the researchers detail the first assemblage-level changes coincident with increased scouring. Not one species present in 1997 has disappeared entirely, they found, yet many have become so rare as to play little role in the community. In 2013, almost all interactions (96 percent, to be exact) involved just one species, F. rugula, making it one of the simplest seabed systems to be found anywhere. In almost all of those competitive interactions, there was no clear winner or loser, because F. rugula individuals battle against each other.

Barnes says he and his colleagues were surprised to see such a large effect so quickly, given that climate change is expected to be a slowly evolving, long-term process. On that note, the losses in complexity observed along the Antarctic shores are surely the beginning of more shifts to come.

Russia Loses Last Geostationary Early-Warning Satellite

Russia's only geostationary early-warning satellite, Cosmos-2479, launched in March 2012, has ceased operations. In March-April 2014 the satellite did not perform its regular station-keeping maneuver and, according to Kommersant, was formally declared nonoperational by the ministry of defense in April 2014.

Despite "new type great power relationship", China's Strategic Vision for Asia Clashes With US' View & Role

While the back and forth between the Chinese and U.S. and Japanese speakers at the Shangri-La Dialogue has gained considerable attention, less scrutiny has been paid to the comments by General Wang Guanzhong advocating a “new Asian security concept.” His comments echoed those of Xi Jinping, who outlined a vision of an Asian security order managed by Asian countries at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures (CICA) held on 20-21 May in Shanghai.

In many ways, advocacy of a revised security order to better accord with Chinese preferences is not new. PRC officials first introduced the principles of the new security concept in 1997. Around 2005, Chinese leaders introduced a series of major concepts, including “Harmonious World,” and its derivative, “Harmonious Asia,” to provide a clearer vision of how China hoped to shape the global and regional order to accommodate the country’s rise. The Asian new security concept introduced by Xi at the CICA summit, like the ideas promoted by preceding leaders, proposes the development of political and security relationships, institutions and structures to complement China’s growing economic clout and to replace the U.S.-led system of alliances as the basis of the region’s security architecture.

The sources of China’s growing dissatisfaction with the U.S. alliance system are deep and structural. They have little to do with the personal preferences of PRC leaders. Nor do they stem from reactions to statements by individual leaders or U.S. policies, such as the Rebalance, although these may aggravate Chinese frustrations. Criticism of U.S. “hegemonism” and “Cold War mentality” has a long history, but for years these have been aimed at specific policies, such as arms sales to Taiwan. The latest round of criticism, by contrast, is more generally aimed at structural obstacles to China’s pursuit of economic growth and security. In the eyes of PRC leaders, the U.S.-led system of security alliances and partnerships in Asia is one of the most important of these obstacles.

To be clear, Chinese leaders have not designated the United States an enemy. On the contrary, the urgency behind China’s advocacy of the “new type great power relationship”—a policy ideal of close cooperation between relative peer powers to co-manage contentious issues—demonstrates the extent to which China, as a rising power, has hoped to avoid the onset of a classic security dilemma with United States, the status quo power. China continues to require regional stability to maintain its focus on national development. However, a powerful and regionally integrated China is increasingly finding its security and development needs at odds with the current security order.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ukraine: UnPatterned Quiet

Ukraine has been relatively quiet.  That's relatively.

Talks are ongoing.  No progress really.

The Lugansk People's Republic cut off the webcams they could find there.  This followed a large number of tanks and apcs being seen on the webcams this morning.

That followed attacks on the border guards near Lugansk and the national guard troops there, too.

Near Krasny Liman, Ukrainian soldiers were attacked with several wounded.

NATO countries are setting up some sort of trust funds for the Ukrainian military.  What this is exactly, I am not sure. 

Russia officially repealed its legal statute allowing it to invade Ukraine (what about Crimea?!)

And the west has stated they are ready to introduce more sanctions.

Ukraine is set to sign the agreement which sparked the entire Euromaidan revolution on friday.

Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology Produce Cloacking Material for Touch

In the popular folktale, “The Princess and the Pea,” a young girl proves her princess-like sensitivity after a pea, inserted beneath 20 mattresses and 20 featherbeds, ruins her night of sleep. But if she had slept atop a thin sheet of scientists’ new touch-cloaking nanomaterial, she would have slept like a rock.

Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have created a material that sounds like something from a fictional tale: an elasto-mechanical unfeelability cloak. The polymer-based, scaffold-like structure can mask the presence of an object so it’s imperceptible to the human touch.

Canada Regulates Crypto Currencies Like Bitcoin

The gloves are off for Bitcoin legality – Canada has implemented what is the first official national law on Bitcoin use.

Its signing was quiet, notes Christine Duhaime, B.A., J.D., Financial Crime and Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist of Duhaime Law. Last Thursday, royal assent was given by Canada’s Governor General to the discretely-named Bill C-31, An Act to Implement Certain Provisions of the Budget Tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and Other Measures (“Bill C-31“).

Canada has been toying with the idea of regulation for quite some time, as CoinTelegraph reported earlier this month, with the publication of a report entitled “How Should Bitcoin Be Regulated?” by the Montreal Economic Institute in May. Now, however, it would seem theory has definitively been put into practice.

The implications? Duhaime highlights what should be taken away from the pioneering event.

The Son Made a Cake

China Academy of Engineering Physics has Made Breakthrough in Modeling Hypervelocity Gas Guns

In the past 20 years, the Laboratory for Shock Wave and Detonation Physics Research in Institute of Fluid Physics (IFP), China Academy of Engineering Physics (CAEP) has conducted the research in hypervelocity launch technology. The State Key Laboratory of Advanced Technology for Materials Synthesis and Processing of Wuhan University of Technology participated in the research as a cooperator, and took charge of the flier processing. In this project, significant progresses have been made in optimization of the physical design, material processing and experimental measurement technology. Their work, entitled "The gas gun launch advances in numerical simulation of hypervelocity impact", was published in SCIENTIA SINICA Physica, Mechanica & Astronomica, 2014, Vol 44(5).

Numerous space debris in the orbit of the earth, especially the small ones that are untraceable and unevadable, have seriously threatened the safety of the spacecraft. It is of great importance to carry out the numerical simulation and experiment of the impact between the debris and spacecraft, and to investigate the physical process and characteristics, which can be used to enhance or improve the protection structure of the spacecraft, and reduce the harm of the space debris.

In their project, not only significant progresses have been made in optimization of the launcher's configuration, physical design of the flier plate, material processing and experimental measurement technology, but also the experimental data of equation of state (EOS) for the material under ultra-high pressure was also obtained.

Those mysterious big tubes in the Chinese desert may just be gas guns they have been experimenting with.

Boeing Talks Phantom Swift

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is to undertake conceptual design reviews for the four vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) X-Plane contenders in the coming weeks, a Boeing programme official disclosed on 24 June.

Speaking at the company's St Louis facility in Missouri, Brian Ritter, programme manager for Phantom Swift, said that initial reviews of the solutions being proposed by Aurora Flight Sciences, Boeing, Karem, and Sikorsky will be undertaken at the end of July. This will be followed with a preliminary design review by the end of 2015.

Announced by DARPA in early 2013, the VTOL X-Plane programme is geared at demonstrating efficient hover and high-speed flight. The specific requirements are that the aircraft achieve a top sustained flight speed of 300 kt to 400 kt; raise aircraft hover efficiency from 60% to at least 75%; present a more favourable cruise lift-to-drag ratio of at least 10, up from the current 5-6; and carry a useful load of at least 40% of the vehicle's projected gross weight of 10,000-12,000 lb (4,500-5,450 kg).

Of the four contenders, Boeing's Phantom Swift is currently the only one to have been built (as a 17% scale model) and flown. Speaking to reporters at St Louis, Ritter disclosed details of the Phantom Swift, which plans to achieve DARPAs goals through the use of ducted-fan technology.

"The combination of body-fans and tilt-wing fans for improved controllability is the unique feature of the Phantom Swift," Ritter said, adding: "In the challenge of efficient hover and high-speed flight the answer is in ducted-fan technology, and this is something that Boeing is now investing heavily in."

In its full-sized configuration the Phantom Swift will measure 15.2 m (50 ft) from wingtip to wingtip, 13.4 m (44 ft) from nose to tail, and weighs in at to 5,450 kg (12,000 lb). With two downward facing fans in the main body of the aircraft for vertical lift, payloads would be housed in bays in the nose, mid-section, and tail of the Phantom Swift.

The Paleoclimate of Cenomanian to Turonian Cretaceous of Western Queensland, Australia



Fletcher et al


Although there is an emerging consensus about global climate patterns during the Cretaceous, details about the climate in Australia at this time are poorly resolved, and estimates for terrestrial climate are scarce. Using Climate Leaf Analysis Multivariate Program (CLAMP) and Bioclimatic Analysis (BA) on plant fossils from the mid- to Upper Cretaceous Winton Formation, central-western Queensland, and working within the context of global paleoclimatic reconstructions and the vertebrate fauna from this unit, we have improved the temporal and geographic resolution of Australia's Cretaceous climate. During the time that the Cenomanian–Turonian portion of the Winton Formation was deposited, the climate in central-western Queensland was warm, wet, and relatively equable. Frost would have been extremely uncommon, if it occurred at all, and much of the year would have been favorable for plant growth. These results are consistent with both previous isotope records for northern Australia, and the fauna of the Winton Formation, and are in keeping with current reconstructions of global Cretaceous climates.

Carbon monoxide's Impact on Titan's Atmosphere

Influence of CO on Titan atmospheric reactivity


Fleury et al


The atmosphere of Titan is mainly composed of N2 and CH4 which are the source of various CxHyNz photochemical volatiles products. Laboratory simulations of the Titan’s atmospheric reactivity were mainly interested in the study of the complex organic chemistry which leads to the formation of analogues of Titan’s aerosols, called tholins. These studies were mainly interested in the reactivity of the N2/CH4 gaseous mixture and with the primary products of reactions without oxygen. However, the atmosphere of Titan also contains oxygenated volatile species. The most abundant one to have been detected is CO with a concentration about 50 ppmv. The work presented here is an experimental simulation devoted to estimate the influence of CO on the Titan’s atmospheric reactivity. With this aim, CO is introduced in a standard N2/CH4 mixture at different mixing ratio up to 4.5%. The kinetics of the methane consumption is monitored with in situ mass spectrometry and the compositions of the gaseous phase and tholins produced in the reactor are characterized ex situ with GC–MS and elemental analysis. This work shows that CO modifies the composition of the gas phase with the detection of oxygenated compounds: CO2 and N2O. The presence of CO also drastically decreases the production rate of tholins, involving also a perturbation on the methane kinetics. Tholins are produced in lower global amounts, but their sizes are found to be significantly larger than without CO. The oxygen incorporation in tholins is found to be efficient, with an oxygen content of the same order of magnitude as the amount of CO in the initial gas mixture.

Remains of the 3rd Century Cyprian Plague Found in Egypt

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of an epidemic in Egypt so terrible that one ancient writer believed the world was coming to an end.

Working at the Funerary Complex of Harwa and Akhimenru in the west bank of the ancient city of Thebes (modern-day Luxor) in Egypt, the team of the Italian Archaeological Mission to Luxor (MAIL) found bodies covered with a thick layer of lime (historically used as a disinfectant). The researchers also found three kilns where the lime was produced, as well as a giant bonfire containing human remains, where many of the plague victims were incinerated.

Pottery remains found in the kilns allowed researchers to date the grisly operation to the third century A.D., a time when a series of epidemics now dubbed the "Plague of Cyprian" ravaged the Roman Empire, which included Egypt. Saint Cyprian was a bishop of Carthage (a city in Tunisia) who described the plague as signaling the end of the world.

Occurring between roughly A.D. 250-271, the plague "according to some sources killed more than 5,000 people a day in Rome alone," wrote Francesco Tiradritti, director of the MAIL, in the latest issue of Egyptian Archaeology, a magazine published by the Egypt Exploration Society.

Tiradritti's team uncovered the remains of this body-disposal operation between 1997 and 2012. The monument his team is excavating was originally built in the seventh century B.C. for a grand steward named Harwa. After Harwa's death, the Egyptians continuously used the monument for burial (Akhimenru was a successor who built his own tomb there). However, after its use for body disposal during the plague, the monument was abandoned and never used again.

The use of the complex "for the disposal of infected corpses gave the monument a lasting bad reputation and doomed it to centuries of oblivion until tomb robbers entered the complex in the early 19th century," Tiradritti writes.