Friday, November 28, 2014

Robopocalypse for Singapore by end of 2015

Restaurant-goers in Singapore can expect to be served by autonomous flying robots – the world’s first commercial attempt – by the end of next year.

Infinium-Serve, the autonomous flying robotic waiters, will be first launched at one of Timbre Group’s five outlets in Singapore. Infinium Robotics CEO Woon Junyang estimated the project to cost a “low seven-figure sum” for the five outlets, subject to final negotiations and certain variables of the actual deployment of the robots.

Infinium Robotics signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Timbre Group on Oct 31. Both companies are seeking productivity-related government grants to help offset deployment costs.

Mr Woon said he is confident that such robotic solutions will help alleviate the Singapore’s labour crunch. Introducing this technology into restaurants would take away mundane tasks of serving food and drinks, and allow human waiters to focus on higher-value tasks such as getting feedback from customers, he said.

I have my sincere doubts about quadcopters delivering food in a restaurant.  For one, the noise of several quads flying in a room would be nuts.  Another point is air traffic control.  A ground absed solution strikes me as far better in this case.  

Frak me 'til I Glow! Shale Formations' Overlooked Potential for Disposing of Nuclear Waste?

Toss a dart at a map of the United States and, more often than not, it will land where shale can be found underground. A drab, relatively featureless sedimentary rock that historically attracted little interest, shale (as used here, the term includes clay and a range of clay-rich rocks) is entering Americans’ consciousness as a new source of gas and oil. But shale may also offer something entirely different—the ability to safely and permanently house high-level nuclear waste.

China Majorly Upgrading China Jinping Underground Laboratory

For certain physics experiments, deeper is better. Since it opened in 2010, the China Jinping Underground Laboratory (CJPL)—in a hollowed-out cavern along a tunnel in Sichuan province—has been the world's deepest underground laboratory. Two thousand four hundred meters of rock have shielded its experimental chambers from background radiation that might mask the extremely subtle traces of dark matter, the universe's postulated missing mass. CJPL's observational capabilities were limited by its mere 4000-cubic-meter size. It is about to grow to 120,000 cubic meters, making it the world's second largest underground lab and positioning it to make breakthrough contributions to fundamental investigations into dark matter, neutrinos, and conditions in the early universe.

Greenland Independence Hopes Dashed by Oil Price Crash?

Less than half a decade ago, Greenlanders were imagining the riches that would follow an oil bonanza as the price of crude approached $150 a barrel. That wealth was supposed to buy the island independence from Denmark.

Today, with oil trading at less than $75, well below levels that would make exploration off the world’s largest island profitable, Greenlanders are casting their votes for a new home-rule government after the previous administration collapsed amid an expenses scandal.

“People in Greenland always ponder how to achieve economic independence from Denmark,” Ulrik Pram Gad, a post doctoral political scientist at the University of Copenhagen, said in an interview. “People are just realizing that things will take longer; nobody knows how to fund the economy without oil and mining.”

hat tip to Randy.

HMAS Canberra Jeep Carrier Commissioned, Largest Australian Warship Ever

The first of two 27,000-ton amphibious warships was commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy on Friday, according to information from the service.

HMAS Canberra (L-02) entered the RAN fleet on Friday during a ceremony at the service’s Fleet Base East in Sydney.

Canberra and sister ship HMAS Adelaide will be the two largest ships in RAN history as part of about a $2.5 billion (USD) shipbuilding program.

The ship’s design is based on a Spanish amphibious assault ship Juan Carlo I and built and designed by Spanish shipbuilder Navantia and BAE Systems Australia.

This Can Only End Well: China Develops ADS-like Pain Ray

The China Poly Group Corporation used the recent Airshow China 2014 to reveal its WB-1 millimeter-wave beam-projecting non-lethal anti-riot system.

Similar to Raytheon's Active Denial System (ADS), the Poly WB-1 projects the millimeter-wave beam to heat water molecules just below the skin, resulting in intense pain. Chinese reports note that it has an effective range of 80 m but with increased power its range can be increased to 1 km.

The United States revealed the ADS in 2007. While it was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, and military commanders repeatedly requested its use, the system has yet to be used in combat due to fears of fuelling enemy propaganda.

In 2012 Russian reports revealed that the 12th Central Military Research and Development Institute near Moscow was developing a similar weapon. In China one key centre of research for microwave weapons is the University of Electronic Science and Technology (UESTC) in Chengdu. In 2013 UESTC student Yang Yi completed a master's thesis titled Gyrotron Electronic Gun Design and Research.

Reports out of Zhuhai indicate that Poly is developing the weapon for naval applications. With a potential 1 km range such a weapon could allow China to escalate its use of non-lethal confrontation to enforce its maritime claims in the East China and South China seas.

Miocene Neogene Tarim Basin Drying due to Tibetan Plateau Uplift

Late Miocene episodic lakes in the arid Tarim Basin, western China


Liu et al


The Tibetan Plateau uplift and Cenozoic global cooling are thought to induce enhanced aridification in the Asian interior. Although the onset of Asian desertification is proposed to have started in the earliest Miocene, prevailing desert environment in the Tarim Basin, currently providing much of the Asian eolian dust sources, is only a geologically recent phenomenon. Here we report episodic occurrences of lacustrine environments during the Late Miocene and investigate how the episodic lakes vanished in the basin. Our oxygen isotopic (δ18O) record demonstrates that before the prevailing desert environment, episodic changes frequently alternating between lacustrine and fluvial-eolian environments can be linked to orbital variations. Wetter lacustrine phases generally corresponded to periods of high eccentricity and possibly high obliquity, and vice versa, suggesting a temperature control on the regional moisture level on orbital timescales. Boron isotopic (δ11B) and δ18O records, together with other geochemical indicators, consistently show that the episodic lakes finally dried up at ∼4.9 million years ago (Ma), permanently and irreversibly. Although the episodic occurrences of lakes appear to be linked to orbitally induced global climatic changes, the plateau (Tibetan, Pamir, and Tianshan) uplift was primarily responsible for the final vanishing of the episodic lakes in the Tarim Basin, occurring at a relatively warm, stable climate period.

A new Radiative Transfer Method for Venus General Circulation Models

A new fast and flexible radiative transfer method for Venus general circulation models


Mendonça et al


We present a new radiation scheme for the Oxford Planetary Unified Model System for Venus, suitable for the solar and thermal bands. This new and fast radiative parameterisation uses a different approach in the two main radiative wavelength bands: solar radiation View the MathML source(0.1–5.5μm) and thermal radiation View the MathML source(1.7–260μm). The solar radiation calculation is based on the δ-Eddington approximation (two-stream-type) with an adding layer method. For the thermal radiation case, a code based on an absorptivity/emissivity formulation is used.

The new radiative transfer formulation implemented is intended to be computationally light, to allow its incorporation in 3D global circulation models, but still allowing for the calculation of the effect of atmospheric conditions on radiative fluxes. This will allow us to investigate the dynamical-radiative-microphysical feedbacks. The model flexibility can be also used to explore the uncertainties in the Venus atmosphere such as the optical properties in the deep atmosphere or cloud amount.

The results of radiative cooling and heating rates and the global-mean radiative-convective equilibrium temperature profiles for different atmospheric conditions are presented and discussed. This new scheme works in an atmospheric column and can be easily implemented in 3D Venus global circulation models.

Global Warming to Cause up to 50% More Lightning

Projected increase in lightning strikes in the United States due to global warming


Romps et al


Lightning plays an important role in atmospheric chemistry and in the initiation of wildfires, but the impact of global warming on lightning rates is poorly constrained. Here we propose that the lightning flash rate is proportional to the convective available potential energy (CAPE) times the precipitation rate. Using observations, the product of CAPE and precipitation explains 77% of the variance in the time series of total cloud-to-ground lightning flashes over the contiguous United States (CONUS). Storms convert CAPE times precipitated water mass to discharged lightning energy with an efficiency of 1%. When this proxy is applied to 11 climate models, CONUS lightning strikes are predicted to increase 12 ± 5% per degree Celsius of global warming and about 50% over this century.

Alanqa saharica: an Albanian/Campanian Cretaceous Azhdarchid Pterosaur With an Unusual Jaw Modification

An unusual modification of the jaws in cf. Alanqa, a mid-Cretaceous azhdarchid pterosaur from the Kem Kem beds of Morocco


Martill et al


A jaw bone attributed to the mid-Cretaceous azhdarchid pterosaur Alanqa saharica Ibrahim et al., 2010 is described. The new specimen from the Kem Kem beds of south eastern Morocco is unusual for the presence of expanded rostral bones that protrude above the occlusal surface of the jaws. The function of this unusual osteological modification is uncertain, but it is considered likely that it served a role in food processing, or perhaps jaw stability.

Early Triassic Chaohusaurus Fauna's Paleoenvironment

Microfacies characteristics of the Lower Triassic containing Chaohusaurus fauna in Chaohu area, Anhui Province and its palaeoenvironment.


Zhang et al


The Early Triassic Chaohusaurus fauna was found at No.598-630 layers at the top of the Middle Member-the bottom of the Upper Member of the Nanlinghu Formation in Majiashan section of Chaohu area,Anhui Province. Based on the microfacies characteristics and the carbon and oxygen isotope analysis,the sedimentary environment of the fossil beds where the Chaohusaurus fauna had occurred was studied. 4microfacies types were recognized from the studied layers,which contained the red-grey thick nodular limestone with spicules-bivalves,the gray bioclastic-argillaceous micrite limestone,the gray laminated argillaceous micrite limestone,and the light gray micrite limestone, respectively. It was indicated that the sedimentary environment of the fossil beds was from the foot of the outer ramp-abyssal basin to the outer ramp. The values of the δ13C and δ18O are generally low in the whole of fossil beds. Combined with the above characteristics,it might be inferred that the Chaohusaurus fauna was living in the outer ramp zone with low-energy,less numbers and types of the biocoenose,and high seawater temperature.

Diverse Microbial Biota From Calymmian MesoProterozoic Siberia

Kotuikan Formation assemblage: a diverse organic-walled microbiota in the Mesoproterozoic Anabar succession, northern Siberia


Vorob’eva et al


Abundant and diverse microfossils from shales of the Lower Member of the ∼1500-Ma-old Kotuikan Formation in northern Siberia document early Mesoproterozoic life along the Siberian Platform. Similar to many Meso- and Neoproterozoic microbiota, the Kotuikan assemblage is dominated by prokaryotic cyanobacteria, both filamentous (oscillatorialeans and nostocaleans, which are represented primarily by cellular trichomes and by empty sheaths) and coccoidal (chroococcaleans, including solitary and colonial specimens). However, unlike Mesoproterozoic microbiota of shallow-water settings, the Kotuikan compressed organic-walled microfossil assemblage in the open shelf facies includes diverse microscopic eukaryotes: large (up to ∼1-mm diameter) megasphaeromorph acritarchs, branched filaments that are most likely of eukaryotic algae and coccoidal monostromatic colonies of chlorococcaleans, as well as other morphologically complex microorganisms.

The Kotuikan assemblage contains numerous taxa previously recorded from Neoproterozoic successions (e.g., Elatera, Eosolena, Palaeastrum, Pterospermopsimorpha, Rugosoopsis and Navifusa), but these are long-ranging genera and no Neoproterozoic index fossils have been recorded. The microbiota is considered to be Mesoproterozoic in age because it contains a mixed assemblage of prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganism remains including new taxa unknown in younger deposits. The Kotuikan assemblage documents the status of the marine biosphere at an early Mesoproterozoic time preceding the primary radiation of eukaryotes and representing an evolutionary stage transitional between the predominantly prokaryote-dominated Paleoproterozoic and the eukaryote-dominated Neoproterozoic microbiota.

As reported in this study, 35 taxa were identified in the Kotuikan assemblage (of which five forms are described informally) that are assigned to 18 genera of microscopic prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Two new genera and five new species are proposed: Hirudiforma lancetica gen. and sp. nov., H. simmetrica gen. and sp. nov., Lineaforma elongata gen. and sp. nov., Elatera minor sp. nov., Eosolena minuta sp. nov.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Glybera: The First Gene Therapy "Drug" Released in Europe

The Western world's first gene therapy drug is set to go on sale in Germany with a 1.1 million euro ($1.4 million) price tag, a new record for a medicine to treat a rare disease.

The sky-high cost of Glybera, from Dutch biotech firm UniQure and its unlisted Italian marketing partner Chiesi, shows how single curative therapies to fix faulty genes may upend the conventional pharmaceutical business model.

After a quarter century of experiments and several setbacks, gene therapy is finally throwing a life-line to patients by inserting corrective genes into malfunctioning cells - but paying for it poses a challenge.

The new drug fights an ultra-rare genetic disease called lipoprotein lipase deficiency (LPLD) that clogs the blood with fat. The medicine was approved in Europe two years ago but its launch was delayed to allow for the collection of six-year follow-up data on its benefits.

Bitcoin Users can be Tracked, Identified

Btcoin is the new money: minted and exchanged on the Internet. Faster and cheaper than a bank, the service is attracting attention from all over the world. But a big question remains: are the transactions really anonymous? Several research groups worldwide have shown that it is possible to find out which transactions belong together, even if the client uses different pseudonyms. However it was not clear if it is also possible to reveal the IP address behind each transaction. This has changed: researchers at the University of Luxembourg have now demonstrated how this is feasible with only a few computers and about €1500.


In their new study, researchers at the Laboratory of Algorithmics, Cryptology and Security of the University of Luxembourg have shown that Bitcoin does not protect user's IP address and that it can be linked to the user's transactions in real-time. To find this out, a hacker would need only a few computers and about €1500 per month for server and traffic costs. Moreover, the popular anonymization network "Tor" can do little to guarantee Bitcoin user's anonymity, since it can be blocked easily.

The basic idea behind these findings is that Bitcoin entry nodes, to which the user's computer connects in order to make a transaction, form a unique identifier for the duration of user's session. This unique pattern can be linked to a user's IP address. Moreover, transactions made during one session, even those made via unrelated pseudonyms, can be linked together. With this method, hackers can reveal up to 60 percent of the IP addresses behind the transactions made over the Bitcoin network.

China's Plans for Yunnan Province

EVERY day hundreds of trucks rumble across the border between China and Laos, carrying wood, textiles and agricultural goods to China, and home appliances, small machinery and building materials back. The Laotian frontier town of Boten is largely empty, apart from a few dusty shops selling snacks or machine parts, a row of rusting cars, vacant buildings and some geese; an advertisement for a Thai ladyboys’ performance hall is a rare sign of passing trade.

Over the Chinese border the roads are smoother: palm trees line the main street of Mohan, which is flanked by logistics firms, translation companies, express-delivery services, mechanics and stores selling Thai bags, cosmetics and coffee; few buildings are more than ten years old (a spiffy-looking customs post, pictured above, is among the newest). Many residents are newcomers, too. Yet the Chinese town is no metropolis. Chickens walk the streets. Firms shut for several hours after lunch. Money-changers sit at the base of a banana tree accosting visitors.

Both frontier towns aspire to something better. A deserted marketing suite just inside Laos features plans for a cross-border golf course. In Mohan work has already started on “Fortune Plaza”, a 22,000-square-metre (237,000-square foot) site with bars, shops, hotels and offices. Regional and national leaders have even grander visions for the south-western province of Yunnan, of which Mohan is part, because it shares 4,000km (2,500 miles) of borders with Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. They want it to be the hub of an economic take-off in South-East Asia. The challenge is great: an underdeveloped part of China will need to lift some of Asia’s poorest and most unstable countries with it.

Yunnan has a prosperous past.

Is the US About to Enter a 1998 Style Boom?

THERE is a spring in America’s step these days. A revision released this week raised annualised economic growth in the third quarter to 3.9%; it has averaged more than 4% in the past two quarters. The irrepressible stockmarket keeps hitting new highs, the most recent on November 26th. Job growth is accelerating. This is all the more remarkable because the rest of the world has hit the buffers. Japan has slid into recession, Europe is flirting with deflation and China has cut interest rates as growth flags. On November 25th the OECD, a club mainly of rich countries, said its members’ economies will grow just 1.8% this year and 2.3% next, about half a point slower than projected in May. Risks, it said, are on the downside.

Why the divergence? In part, it is a statistical quirk. America’s economy shrank in the first quarter, so its recent strength is from a low base. Output in the third quarter was up an unspectacular 2.4% from a year earlier; the pace of growth in the current quarter will probably be similar. That is still much better than the rest of the world, though, for which there are two main reasons: trade remains a small part of America’s economy, and the rest of the world’s misfortunes actually help, by lowering interest rates and the oil price.


Bruce Kasman of JPMorgan Chase says only three times in the past 25 years has the dollar risen and oil prices dropped as much as this year: in 2001 and 2008, when the world was entering recession, and in 1997-98, during the Asian financial crisis. The latter event was followed by a consumption boom in America, and he reckons it is the best parallel with the present. Global consumption, he notes, has been inversely related to headline inflation in recent years and this time will be no different. Lower inflation in America, he reckons, will boost purchasing power by 2% at an annualised rate over the current and coming quarters.

US Air Force Deploying A-10s to Fight Islamic State

US Air Force (USAF) Fairchild A-10C Thunderbolt II ground attacks jets have arrived in Kuwait to begin flying strike missions against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation 'Inherent Resolve'.

The USAF public affairs office in Kuwait announced the deployment of the A-10C squadron on 24 November, saying the: "unit will work with coalition forces to support Operation 'Inherent Resolve' and other regional operations".

The USAF had already announced on 17 December that several A-10s from the 163rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron had been deployed to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia to support the reactivated 332nd Air Expeditionary Group. It released photographs showing six A-10s at a base that can be identified as Kuwait's Ahmed al-Jabr Air Base.

US Marines Might be Offered use new British Aircraft Carrier HMS Elizabeth?

The Royal Navy may ask US squadrons to fly off its new aircraft carrier following delays to its new F35B fighters, BBC Newsnight has learned.

MoD insiders said the US Marine Corps would be offered the use of HMS Queen Elizabeth for flight operations.

The UK plans to have its first F35 squadron operational by 2018, but Newsnight has learned that there may be further delays.

The MoD said it was not aware of any further delay to the timetable.

The plan is for one squadron of British F35s to be ready for service at sea by 2021. But even if it is achieved, it will create a gap of years where the Queen Elizabeth is ready but British squadrons are not.

For the past year defence analysts had been expecting the MoD to order 14 of the new jets.

The Effects of Tibetan Plateau Uplift on the Asian Monsoon

The impact of regional uplift of the Tibetan Plateau on the Asian monsoon climate


Zhang et al


The climatic effect of Tibetan Plateau (TP) uplift is a hot topic in paleoclimate research. In this paper, the results of a set of numerical simulations are reported to analyze the impact of regional TP uplift on the Asian monsoon climate. The focus is on the impact of the regional uplift in the west and east parts on South Asian summer monsoon, as well as the impact of regional uplift on East Asian winter monsoon. The results show that the uplifts of the Himalaya and the central-southern TP have little effect on summer precipitation increasing over South Asia. Whereas, the further uplifts of the TP in the west and east parts, including the uplifts of both the eastern and western TP, have important effects on the strengthening of the South Asian summer monsoon. The uplift of the eastern TP leads to low-level cyclonic circulation anomalies appearing in the Bay of Bengal, accompanied by anomalous upward movement, and in turn precipitation markedly increases in the Bay of Bengal. Whereas, the uplift of the western TP produces low-level cyclonic circulation anomalies around the uplifted region and intensifies the moisture transport from the tropical ocean, and thus precipitation further increases in South Asia, especially in the northern Arabian Sea. The strengthened summer monsoon in South Asia is coupled with the intensification in diabatic heating and moisture convergence. For the East Asian winter monsoon, the intensification of winter monsoon winds is related more to the regional uplifts than the uplift of the whole TP. The uplifts of the central-southern TP, the northern TP and other northern topography have greater effects on the strengthening of the winter monsoon winds.

Modeling River Deltas on Titan and Earth

Dynamical modelling of river deltas on Titan and earth


Witek et al


The surface of Titan hosts a unique Earth-like environment with lakes and rivers, and active 'hydrologic' cycle of methane. We investigate sediment transport in Titanian rivers and deposition in Titanian lakes with particular attention to formation of river deltas. The obtained results are compared with analogous terrestrial processes. The numerical model based on Navier-Stokes equations for depth-integrated two dimensional turbulent flow and additional equations for bed-load and suspended-load sediment transport was used in our research. It is found that transport of icy grains in Titanian rivers is more effective than silicate grains of the same size in terrestrial rivers for the same assumed total discharge. This effect is explained theoretically using dimensionless form of equations or comparing forces acting on the grains. Our calculations confirm previous results (Burr et al., 2006). We calculate also models with organic sediments of different densities, namely 1500 and 800 kg m−3. We found substantial differences between materials of varying densities on Titan, but they are less pronounced than differences between Titan and Earth.

Oceanic Carbon Uptake Varies

The Earth's oceans are thought to have taken up about one quarter of the carbon dioxide (CO2) that humans pumped into the atmosphere in the past 2 decades. While this drives acidification and has consequences for sea life, it also moderates the rate of climate change.

Researchers recently set out to create a global model of CO2 uptake using fine-scale observations on a global scale. Between 1998 and 2011, they found strong interannual variations, with the Pacific Ocean dominating the global flux variability.


Middle Cretaceous Dinosaur Assemblages From northern Brazil and Africa

Middle Cretaceous dinosaur assemblages from northern Brazil and northern Africa and their implications for northern Gondwanan composition




Dinosaurs are one of the most dominant groups in Cretaceous reptilian faunas. A summary of their record in northern Brazil and northern Africa during the middle of the Cretaceous Period (Aptian-Cenomanian) is presented here. Dinosaurs are represented by 32 species (three ornithischians, six sauropods and 23 theropods) from Brazil, Egypt, Lybia, Morocco, Niger, Sudan and Tunisia. These dinosaur assemblages provide fundamental data about distribution and composition of sauropods and theropods in northern Gondwana during the middle of the Cretaceous Period and confirm these assemblages to be among the most important dinosaur faunas in the north Gondwana areas.

Kwangsisaurus orientalis Dated From the Anisian Triassic of China

The age of Triassic marine reptile Kwangsisaurus orientalis (Sauropterygia) from Wuming, Guangxi, China


Shang et al


The holotype of Kwangsisaurus orientalis Young, 1959 is the only Triassic marine reptile specimen known from Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China. This fossil was collected from Wuming County in 1950s. The exact provenance of the specimen is unclear, but it has long been regarded as an Early Triassic sauropterygian following Young’s original description (Li, 2006b; Li et al., 2008; Zhao et al., 2008). The uncertainty regarding its age has introduced confusion into the studies of biogeography and evolutionary history of Chinese Triassic sauropterygians. Based on recent field work and the help of several local geologists who have knowledge of the specimen’s history, we have determined that the holotype of K. orientalis was from a quarry situated 2 km southeast of Fupeng, Suliang Village, Xianhu Township, Wuming County (Fig. 1). The type specimen was obtained from a fossiliferous bed within thin-bedded marlite, which is considered as the lower part of the Banna Formation based on lithological features. This fossiliferous bed contains abundant ammonites such as Balatonites, Protrachyceras, and Leiophyllites, in addition to some fragmentary vertebrate bones and plant debris (Figs. 1, 2). It can be identified as Middle Triassic based on the ammonites. Above it lies a tuff layer with a thickness of 10-20 cm, which is a marker bed of the Banna Formation. The tuff layer was dated to (244.2±0.7) Ma by High-precision SIMS zircon U-Pb analyses, making the age of K. orientalis Pelsonian (Anisian, Middle Triassic). The Anisian age of K. orientalis is concordant with its reidentification as a pistosaurid by Rieppel (1999a). This age assignment also refutes the longstanding interpretation that sauropterygians appeared in the Youjiang Basin during the Early Triassic, and shows instead that K. orientalis is almost synchronous with the Panxian marine reptile fauna. The Chinese record of sauropterygians shows that this group had dispersed over a large area and adapted to a diverse range of environments by the Anisian.

Volcanic-hosted Massive Sulfide Mineralization in Archean Yigarn Craton, Australia

A review of volcanic-hosted massive sulfide (VHMS) mineralization in the Archean Yilgarn Craton, Western Australia: Tectonic, stratigraphic and geochemical associations


Hollis et al


The Archean Yilgarn Craton of Western Australia represents a world-class metallogenic province, hosting considerable resources of Au, Ni-sulfides and iron ore. Despite close geological similarities with the volcanic-hosted massive sulfide (VHMS)-rich Superior Province of Canada, there is a strong disparity in the number of discovered VHMS deposits between the two areas. This paper brings together recently published U-Pb zircon geochronology and stratigraphic constraints from across the Yilgarn Craton, with a large number of existing whole rock geochemical datasets (881 samples from ∼125 localities). Recognized VHMS occurrences are placed in a detailed tectonic and stratigraphic framework. Temporal and geochemical associations to mineralization are discussed. Areas of VHMS mineralization in the Yilgarn Craton are preferentially associated with areas of thinned, juvenile crust as revealed through regional (Nd, Pb) isotope variations. The characteristics identified here for prospective host sequences are: largely bimodal volcanic complexes, synvolcanic faults, a spatial and temporal association to HFSE-enriched synvolcanic intrusions, and the following geochemical signatures of felsic rocks. VHMS-bearing felsic rocks in the Youanmi Terrane and Eastern Goldfields are characterized by low Zr/Y, La/YbCN and Th/Yb ratios, high Sc/TiO2, Sc/V, HFSE and HREE contents, and flat HREE profiles similar to those of Abitibi greenstone belt, Canada, and the Pilbara Craton of Western Australia. Chondrite-normalized REE profiles for felsic rocks overlying 2.82-2.80 Ga plume-related basalts and large igneous complexes of the Youanmi Terrane are flat. Other VHMS-bearing felsic rocks are characterized by slight LREE enrichment (La/SmCN less than 3) and flattish HREE profiles. In the Youanmi Terrane four distinct periods of economic mineralization can be recognized: (i) greater than 2.9 Ga (e.g. Golden Grove, Ravensthorpe), associated with early bimodal-mafic greenstone belts subjected to extension; (ii) c. 2815 Ma (e.g. Austin, Just Desserts, Youanmi), following a major plume event and coeval with the emplacement of large igneous complexes across the northern Youanmi Terrane at shallow levels in the crust (Meeline and Boodanoo suites); (iii) 2760-2745 Ma (e.g. Hollandaire, Mt. Mulcahy) in areas of rift-related magmatism during the deposition of the Greensleeves Formation; (iv) c. 2725 Ma, in the Gum Creek greenstone belt associated with a second major plume event, broadly coeval with the emplacement of high-level sills of the Yalgowra Suite. In the Eastern Goldfields Superterrane, VHMS mineralization formed between c. 2700 and 2680 Ma (e.g. Teutonic Bore camp, Anaconda, Nimbus, Erayinia). All episodes of VHMS mineralization in the Yilgarn show strong temporal and spatial associations to suites of HFSE-enriched granitic intrusions (e.g. Eelya suite, Mt. Kenneth suite, Kookynie supersuite).

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

San Francisco's 5M Project Rendering


Robopocalypse: How do we Write the Laws of War for Cylons & Terminators?

Russian Navy Deployment to Pacfic During G20 Largely Fizzled

In that atmosphere of criticism it was not exactly a coincidence that the Russians dispatched a flotilla of warships toward Australia. And the meaning wasn’t particularly subtle, either.

To be clear, because many press reports have been confused about the specific details, there were actually two small Russian flotillas on maneuvers in the Pacific over the past several weeks.

The first group, which largely stayed within the Philippine Sea, consisted of the Moscow (a Slava-class guided-missile cruiser), and the destroyer Admiral Vinogradov. The second flotilla, which was erroneously said to comprise “four Russian warships,” was the one that attracted so much attention from the Australian media. In reality, that group of ships actually only had two military vessels: the missile cruiser Varyag (also a Slava-class, and the current flagship of the Pacific Fleet), and the destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov. The other two ships were support vessels—a support tanker and a small tugboat.

Despite all of the headlines that they generated, the Russian ships didn’t really do all that much. The first flotilla conducted some minor live-fire drills during its time in the Philippine Sea, but the second seemed to just steam toward Australia without any other obvious goals.

After being approached by several ships from the Royal Australian Navy, including the frigate Parramatta, the Russians and Australians eventually engaged in some “communications drills.” It’s unclear who first proposed the move, and Australian and Russian media accounts differ slightly in their descriptions. Whoever came up with the idea should be thanked, because even though it was far more of a formality than it was any kind of scheduled military exercise, it allowed everyone to exit the situation with a modicum of grace.

The Russians barely tried to hide their true intentions. Even the official Russian media, which can be very creative in crafting justifications for various kinds of maneuvers of Russia’s armed forces, literally said that Moscow flotilla’s mission was to “show the flag” around the Pacific. That even the state-run media didn’t bother to come up with a legitimate need for the show of force indicates just how naked the grandstanding was in this particular instance. The flotilla was a clumsy way of saying “we’re here, we matter, and you ignore us at your peril”—and it was deliberately timed to generate the maximum possible attention.

Israel Still Planning on 50 F-35s Despite Procurement Setback

The Israeli defence establishment is still determined to acquire 50 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters, despite a recent decision by a ministerial committee to reduce the second order to 14 aircraft, defence sources have told IHS Jane's .

The ministerial committee for military acquisitions approved the purchase of 14 F-35s instead of the 31 recommended by Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon. Together with the 19 that are already on order, the 31 aircraft would allow the Israeli Air Force to form two squadrons with 25 F-35s.

The setback to this plan is a temporary one, defence sources say, as Israel will seek to complete the original acquisition plan by ordering an additional 17 F-35s in 2017, bringing the total number of procured jets up to 50.

FC-31 Fighter may Have Defects

While the twin-engine plane made by Shenyang Aircraft Corp. sort of resembles the U.S. military’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp., it reportedly has design defects that cause it to lose altitude as it enters into turns.

Is China Cracking Down on Military Photographers?

Chinese news media have reported that a resident of the port city of Qingdao, the location of the North Sea Fleet's headquarters, has been arrested and is awaiting trial for taking photographs of the naval base from which aircraft carrier Liaoning operates.

He is accused of passing the photos to the editor of a military magazine who the Chinese authorities consider to be a foreign spy. This follows the conviction of another individual in May for selling information and photographs to a foreigner, for which he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. In October President Xi Jinping directed the Central Military Commission to take steps to protect military information more effectively and earlier this month China's first counter-espionage law was enacted.

Canadian F-35 Document Leak Confuses Fighter Procurement

Canadian defence sector stakeholders are scratching their heads yet again, following the leak earlier this month that suggested the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not been upfront regarding its jet fighter procurement plans.

Officially, the Tory government had committed to reviewing Canada's commitment to buy 65 F-35 Lightning IIs from Lockheed Martin, after it was revealed that it had misled the public as to the programme's overall cost and botched key steps in the procurement process.

However, a 14-page briefing document by US Air Force Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, obtained by reporters, suggests that Canada is currently negotiating through back channels to take possession of four jets as early as next year.

Evidence of a Subtropical Paleoclimate From Pliocene Neogene Yunnan

A new species of Castanopsis (Fagaceae) from the upper Pliocene of West Yunnan, China and its biogeographical implications

Wu et al


Two fossil leaves identified as Castanopsis presclerophylla n. sp. collected from a diatomite bed in the upper Pliocene (3.3–2.8 Ma) in Tengchong County, Yunnan Province, Southwest China, are characterized by elliptic laminar shapes with acuminate apex, convex base, simple trichome bases and cyclocytic stomata. The cuticles of extant leaves from six selected Castanopsis species that are similar to the Pliocene fossil leaves in laminar shape were examined in detail for the comparison. Based on the analysis of leaf architecture and cuticular characteristics, the present fossil leaves most closely resemble the extant leaves of Castanopsis sclerophylla (Lindl.) Schott., which prefers a subtropical climate. The published fossil records of Castanopsis also indicate that it was once widely distributed in North America, Europe and Asia before the Pliocene, and then rapidly retreated to the East and Southeast Asia as a result of the Pleistocene glaciation.

Thermal Degradation of Titan's Atmospheric Organics

Thermal degradation of organics for pyrolysis in space: Titan’s atmospheric aerosol case study


He et al


Pyrolysis coupled with mass spectry is among the instrumentation the most implemented in planetary exploration probes to analyze the chemical composition of extraterrestrial solid samples. It is used to analyze the volatile species which can be thermally extracted from the samples, including the organic fraction which is of primary interest for astrobiological purposes. However the thermal degradation of these organic materials, which can be very complex in nature or very different from organics commonly present on Earth, is badly known. This leads to a restriction in the optimization of space instrumentation, and in the interpretation of the measurements. In the present work we propose a complete overview of the thermal degradation processes studied on a model of complex organic material produced in an extraterrestrial environment, i.e. laboratory analogues of Titan’s atmospheric aerosols. The thermal evolution of the studied analogues is monitored by following their mass loss, the emitted heating flux, and the evolution of their chemical composition through infrared spectroscopy and elemental analysis. The gaseous products released from the material are also analyzed by mass spectrometry, allowing to better constrain the mechanisms of chemical evolution of the samples. The complex organic material analyzed is found not to be fully decomposed when heated up to about 800 °C, with the evidence that nitrogen is still deeply incorporated in the remaining graphitic carbon nitride residue. The most appropriate pyrolysis temperature to chemically probe the studied material is found to be about 450 °C because at this temperature are detected the largest gaseous molecules which should be the most representative ones of the material pyrolyzed.

LBNL-NERSC Climate Models now at 25 km Resolution, Generate 100 Terabytes of Data per run

Not long ago, it would have taken several years to run a high-resolution simulation on a global climate model. But using some of the most powerful supercomputers now available, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) climate scientist Michael Wehner was able to complete a run in just three months.

What he found was that not only were the simulations much closer to actual observations, but the high-resolution models were far better at reproducing intense storms, such as hurricanes and cyclones. The study, "The effect of horizontal resolution on simulation quality in the Community Atmospheric Model, CAM5.1," has been published online in the Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems.

"I've been calling this a golden age for high-resolution climate modeling because these supercomputers are enabling us to do gee-whiz science in a way we haven't been able to do before," said Wehner, who was also a lead author for the recent Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). "These kinds of calculations have gone from basically intractable to heroic to now doable."

Using version 5.1 of the Community Atmospheric Model, developed by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) for use by the scientific community, Wehner and his co-authors conducted an analysis for the period 1979 to 2005 at three spatial resolutions: 25 km, 100 km, and 200 km. They then compared those results to each other and to observations.

One simulation generated 100 terabytes of data, or 100,000 gigabytes. The computing was performed at Berkeley Lab's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), a DOE Office of Science User Facility. "I've literally waited my entire career to be able to do these simulations," Wehner said.

The higher resolution was particularly helpful in mountainous areas since the models take an average of the altitude in the grid (25 square km for high resolution, 200 square km for low resolution). With more accurate representation of mountainous terrain, the higher resolution model is better able to simulate snow and rain in those regions.

"High resolution gives us the ability to look at intense weather, like hurricanes," said Kevin Reed, a researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and a co-author on the paper. "It also gives us the ability to look at things locally at a lot higher fidelity. Simulations are much more realistic at any given place, especially if that place has a lot of topography."

Gansus zheni: a new Ornithuromorph Bird From Aptian Cretaceous Jehol Biota

An advanced, new long-legged bird from the Early Cretaceous of the Jehol Group (northeastern China): insights into the temporal divergence of modern birds


Liu et al


We describe a new ornithuromorph bird species, Gansus zheni from the Lower Cretaceous lacustrine deposits of the Jiufotang Formation (Jehol Group), Liaoning Province, China. A cladistic analysis resolves Gansus zheni as the sister taxon of the roughly contemporaneous Gansus yumenensis (Xiagou Formation, Gansu Province), and together as the most immediate outgroup to Ornithurae. Gansus zheni is the most advanced bird known today for the Jehol Biota. Its discovery provides the best-documented case of inter-basinal correlations (Jehol and Changma basins of Liaoning and Gansu provinces, respectively) using low-taxonomic clades of fossil birds. The existence of close relatives of Ornithurae in deposits formed at about 120 million years ago helps to mitigate the long-standing controversy between molecular and paleontological evidence for the temporal divergence of modern birds (Neornithes).

Evidence of Iceberg Dropstones From Carboniferous/Permian Tibet

Features, provenance, and tectonic significance of Carboniferous-Permian glacial marine diamictites in the Southern Qiangtang–Baoshan block, Tibetan Plateau


Fan et al


In this study, we conducted profile measurements, gravel composition analyses, and U-Pb dating on detrital zircons from a representative glacial marine diamictite in the Gangmaco–Dabure area of the Southern Qiangtang–Baoshan block, Tibetan Plateau. We conclude that the diamictite was formed in a glacial marine environment from the outer edge of the continental shelf to the continental slope and deep sea, in what is now the Southern Qiangtang–Baoshan block. Four distinct glacial-interglacial cycles were identified in the diamictite, which record a minimum of four stages of Gondwana glaciation in the area of the Southern Qiangtang–Baoshan block. Combined with regional geological information, we also conclude that during the Carboniferous-Permian, sediments containing the glacial marine diamictite derived from Gondwana, in the region extending from India to the Tethys Himalaya area, Lhasa and Southern Qiangtang–Baoshan blocks, recorded the transition from continental, neritic to abyssal environments. Gravel assemblages and U-Pb dating of detrital zircons in the glacial marine diamictite indicate that the provenance of the diamictite was Indian Gondwana. We infer that during the Late Paleozoic, the northern margin of the Indian Gondwana continued to be influenced by the Early Palaeozoic tectonic set-up, when Indian Gondwana was under an erosional regime, and the Tethys Himalaya area, Lhasa and Southern Qiangtang–Baoshan blocks were deposited on a passive continental margin.

Evidence of Sulfur Eating Bacteria From NeoArchean Brazil

Large sulfur isotope fractionations associated with Neoarchean microbial sulfate reduction


Zhelezinskaia et al


The minor extent of sulfur isotope fractionation preserved in many Neoarchean sedimentary successions suggests that sulfate-reducing microorganisms played an insignificant role in ancient marine environments, despite evidence that these organisms evolved much earlier. We present bulk, microdrilled, and ion probe sulfur isotope data from carbonate-associated pyrite in the ~2.5-billion-year-old Batatal Formation of Brazil, revealing large mass-dependent fractionations (approaching 50 per mil) associated with microbial sulfate reduction, as well as consistently negative Δ33S values (~ –2 per mil) indicative of atmospheric photochemical reactions. Persistent 33S depletion through ~60 meters of shallow marine carbonate implies long-term stability of seawater sulfate abundance and isotope composition. In contrast, a negative Δ33S excursion in lower Batatal strata indicates a response time of ~40,000 to 150,000 years, suggesting Neoarchean sulfate concentrations between ~1 and 10 μM.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

1 Franklin Development Rendering


A Step to a Satellite Based Panopticon

France Indefinitely Suspends Russian Mistral Delivery

The French government is suspending a deal to deliver two Mistral-class warships to the Russian Navy “until further notice” citing the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, according to a Tuesday statement from the office of President François Hollande.

In response, Russian defense officials have pledged to take legal action against France if the Hollande government does not reverse its stance, according to Russian media.

“The President of the Republic believes that the current situation in the east of Ukraine still does not allow the transfer of the first Russian Mistral-type ships to Russia,” read a translation of the statement from Élysée Palace.

“He has decided that it is appropriate to suspend, until further notice, the examination of the request for export authorization for the first [Mistral] to the Russian Federation.”

More on Japan's 5th/6th Generation Fighter Development

Flying far is more important than flying fast, Japanese fighter technologists have found in studies aimed at defining their country’s next combat aircraft. Looking for ways for their air force to fight outnumbered, researchers are also emphasizing that Japan’s next fighter should share targeting data, carry a big internal load of large, high-performance missiles and be able to guide them while retreating.

The results of this work may be committed to full-scale development within four years. Japan is holding open the possibility of a joint international program, which the finance ministry would surely prefer, but the defense ministry looks wary of being trapped in a late-running cooperative effort over which it has little control. Specifically national requirements such as the preference for range over speed may also nudge Japan toward going it alone.

Engineers from the defense ministry’s Technical Research & Development Institute (TRDI) and IHI Corp. are well into preliminary development of a surprisingly powerful turbofan for the twin-engine fighter, which would enter service around 2030 as the F-3. TRDI is also handling the studies into the airframe, probably with strong engineering support from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which would build the airframe, and Mitsubishi Electric, the country’s dominant military electronic systems supplier.

A CubeQuest Challenge: Cubesats to the Moon & Beyond

Registration now is open for NASA’s Cube Quest Challenge, the agency’s first in-space competition that offers the agency’s largest-ever prize purse.

Competitors have a shot at a share of $5 million in prize money and an opportunity to participate in space exploration and technology development, to include a chance at flying their very own CubeSat to the moon and beyond as secondary payload on the first integrated flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

“NASA’s Cube Quest Challenge will engage teams in the development of the new technologies that will advance the state of the art of CubeSats and demonstrate their capabilities as viable deep space explorers,” said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Prize competitions like this engage the general public and directly contribute to NASA’s goals while serving as a tool for open innovation.”

Africa's First Mission to the Moon Announced

Africa is home to 7 out of 10 of the world’s fastest-growing economies. It’s population is also the “youngest” in the world, with 50% of the population being 19 years old or younger. And amongst these young people are scores of innovators and entrepreneurs who are looking to bring homegrown innovation to their continent and share it with the outside world.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with the #Africa2Moon Mission, a crowdfunded campaign that aims to send a lander or orbiter to the Moon in the coming years.

Spearheaded by the Foundation for Space Development – a non-profit organization headquartered in Capetown, South Africa – the goal of this project is to fund the development of a robotic craft that will either land on or establish orbit around the Moon. Once there, it will transmit video images back to Earth, and then distribute them via the internet into classrooms all across Africa.

Sensivity of Late Miocene Neogene Paleoclimate to Carbon dioxide Forcing

Disentangling the roles of late Miocene palaeogeography and vegetation – Implications for climate sensitivity


Bradshaw et al


The impact of rising CO2 on future climate remains uncertain but the evidence for high CO2 in the palaeorecord suggests that past climates could provide a potentially quantifiable indication of climate in a high-CO2 world. One such past time period is the late Miocene (11.6–5.3 Ma), for which CO2 reconstructions indicate higher levels than those of preindustrial, and similar to the present atmospheric level (~ 400 ppm). The late Miocene palaeorecord suggests a much warmer and wetter Northern Hemisphere than preindustrial. However, vegetation feedbacks are an important component of the climate system and vegetation distribution reconstructions from the palaeorecord have been shown to be very different to the present vegetation distribution. We examine the roles that different vegetation and palaeogeography play in climate sensitivity for the late Miocene and consider the implications for potential future climate change. To do this we use coupled atmosphere-ocean-vegetation simulations of late Miocene and potential modern climates forced by three different CO2 concentrations with vegetation perturbation experiments and make quantitative comparisons to the palaeorecord. Optimal regions to target late Miocene palaeodata acquisition for the purposes of informing about future climate include North America, northern Africa, Australia, Paraguay and southern Brazil, and northeastern Asia. These regions are those which the model results predict to be most sensitive to CO2 forcing, but where the local temperature response to CO2 forcing is similar between the simulated potential modern and late Miocene climates. The model results suggest that climate sensitivity to CO2 forcing is directly affected by the palaeogeographic configuration and that the inferred climate sensitivity for doubled CO2 is 0.5–0.8 °C higher for the late Miocene than we might expect for future climate because of differences in synergy. The greater land mass at high northern latitudes during the late Miocene and the differences in vegetation distribution predictions that result, combined with differences in ocean circulation and the effect of sea ice, make the late Miocene boundary conditions more sensitive to CO2 forcing than the modern boundary conditions.

Tides on Europa

Tides on Europa: The membrane paradigm




Jupiter’s moon Europa has a thin icy crust which is decoupled from the mantle by a subsurface ocean. The crust thus responds to tidal forcing as a deformed membrane, cold at the top and near melting point at the bottom. In this paper I develop the membrane theory of viscoelastic shells with depth-dependent rheology with the dual goal of predicting tidal tectonics and computing tidal dissipation. Two parameters characterize the tidal response of the membrane: the effective Poisson’s ratio View the MathML sourceν¯ and the membrane spring constant Λ , the latter being proportional to the crust thickness and effective shear modulus. I solve membrane theory in terms of tidal Love numbers, for which I derive analytical formulas depending on View the MathML sourceΛ,ν¯, the ocean-to-bulk density ratio and the number View the MathML sourcek2∘ representing the influence of the deep interior. Membrane formulas predict h2h2 and k2k2 with an accuracy of a few tenths of percent if the crust thickness is less than one hundred kilometers, whereas the error on l2l2 is a few percents. Benchmarking with the thick-shell software SatStress leads to the discovery of an error in the original, uncorrected version of the code that changes stress components by up to 40%. Regarding tectonics, I show that different stress-free states account for the conflicting predictions of thin and thick shell models about the magnitude of tensile stresses due to nonsynchronous rotation. Regarding dissipation, I prove that tidal heating in the crust is proportional to Im(Λ)Im(Λ) and that it is equal to the global heat flow (proportional to Im(k2)Im(k2)) minus the core-mantle heat flow (proportional to View the MathML sourceIm(k2∘)). As an illustration, I compute the equilibrium thickness of a convecting crust. More generally, membrane formulas are useful in any application involving tidal Love numbers such as crust thickness estimates, despinning tectonics or true polar wander.

China's Old Growth Forest Disappearing

China's anti-logging, conservation and ecotourism policies are accelerating the loss of old-growth forests in one of the world's most ecologically fragile places, according to studies led by a Dartmouth College scientist.

The findings shed new light on the complex interactions between China's development and conservation policies and their impact on the most diverse temperate forests in the world, in "Shangri-La" in northwest Yunnan Province. Shangri-La, until recently an isolated Himalayan hinterland, is now the epicenter of China's struggle to wed sustainable economic development with environmental protection. The province is known for its scenic, ecological and ethnic diversity, but it also is one of the poorest regions in China, populated by indigenous subsistence cultures that rely on forests for their livelihoods. The province was largely undisturbed until the 1950s when state logging companies started clear-cutting old-growth forests to fuel China's national economic boom. But catastrophic flooding along the Yangtze River in the 1990s prompted the Chinese government to implement multiple forest protection policies, including nature reserves, a commercial logging ban, reforestation programs and ecotourism, as a sustainable development strategy. The logging ban prohibits commercial timber harvesting, but allows logging by local people on a quota basis.

In a new study in the journal Biological Conservation, researchers used satellite imagery and statistical analysis to evaluate three overlapping forest conservation strategies -- protected areas, a commercial logging ban and Tibetan sacred forests - in northwest Yunnan Province. The results show that protected-area status conserved old-growth forests, while the logging ban increased total forest cover but accelerated old-growth logging in sacred forests. The sacred forests have effectively protected old-growth trees from clear-cutting for centuries despite major upheavals in the region's history, including the logging era and the Cultural Revolution. But recent official environmental protection policies have displaced these ancient community-managed protections. In a related 2012 study in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment, researchers used three decades of satellite imagery to measure rates and patterns of old-growth deforestation in response to the environmental protection and sustainable development policies. The results, surprisingly, showed that old-growth logging accelerated: old-growth forests covered 26 percent of the area in 1990 but only 20 percent in 2009. And, paradoxically, old-growth forest loss occurred most rapidly where ecotourism was most prominent. "Our results show that the negative impacts of ecotourism-based economic development on the environment outweighed conservation efforts," says lead author Jodi Brandt, a postdoctoral researcher at Dartmouth and formerly at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Michigan.

Relic Sauropod Lineage From Berriasian/Valanginian Cretaceous North America

The oldest Cretaceous North American sauropod dinosaur


D'emic et al


Sauropod dinosaurs have been found in sediments dating to most of the Cretaceous Period on all major Mesozoic landmasses, but this record is spatiotemporally uneven, even in relatively well-explored North American sediments. Within the 80 million-year-span of the Cretaceous, no definitive sauropod occurrences are known in North America from two ca. 20–25 million-year-long gaps, one from approximately the Berriasian–Barremian and the other from the mid-Cenomanian–late Campanian. Herein, we present an undescribed specimen that was collected in the middle part of the twentieth century that expands the known spatiotemporal distribution of Early Cretaceous North American sauropods, partially filling the earlier gap. The material is from the Berriasian–Valanginian-aged (ca. 139 Ma) Chilson Member of the Lakota Formation of South Dakota and appears to represent the only non-titanosauriform from the Cretaceous of North America or Asia. It closely resembles Camarasaurus and may represent a form closely related to that genus that persisted across the Jurassic–Cretaceous boundary.

Insights into the Evolution of Scales in Tetrapods From Tulerpeton curtum

New insights into the scales of the Devonian tetrapod Tulerpeton curtum Lebedev, 1984


Mondéjar-Fernández et al


The Devonian origin of tetrapods and their transition from aquatic to terrestrial habitats is one of the most important episodes in vertebrate evolutionary history (e.g., Coates, 1996; Janvier, 1996; Jarvik, 1996; Daeschler et al., 2006; Clack, 2012). Among the multiple changes that took place during the so-called ‘fish-tetrapod transition,’ those concerning the integumentary dermal skeleton have received little attention. Nonetheless, the skin and associated dermal ossifications of early tetrapods determine key aspects of their metabolism, way of life, and locomotion (e.g., Bystrow, 1947; Castanet et al., 2003; Markey and Marshall, 2007; Witzmann, 2007, 2011).

The main integumentary ossifications of early tetrapods are scales and osteoderms. Osteoderms are plates of dermal bone made by intradermal ossification that often bear a pitted outer surface. By contrast, dermal scales originate from the mesodermal layer of the dermis, are thinner than osteoderms, are often round or elongate ovals in outline, and may overlap (Castanet et al., 2003). Most Palaeozoic tetrapods were broadly covered with ossified dermal scales, mainly in their ventral and lateral regions (Romer, 1956; Janvier, 1996). However, dermal scales were lost in several tetrapod groups during the late Palaeozoic and Mesozoic, and replaced by osteoderms as the main integumentary mineralized structures (Vickaryous and Sire, 2009; Witzmann and Soler-Gijón, 2010).

Devonian tetrapods (such as Ichthyostega and Acanthostega) are considered as mainly aquatic animals, with limited walking abilities (Ahlberg et al., 2005; Pierce et al., 2012), as evidenced by the retention of primitive traits such as a caudal fin supported by osseous fin rays, a lateral line system, internal gills, and a dermal scale covering (Coates, 1996; Jarvik, 1996; Clack, 2012). Within Tetrapoda, the transition to land (or terrestrialization) during the Devonian and Carboniferous (Clack, 2012; Steyer, 2012) affected the squamation, modifying size, shape, overlapping pattern, and the bone tissue of the scales (see Witzmann, 2011, for a thorough review). However, the current lack of knowledge on the squamation of the earliest tetrapods does not allow testing or drawing of broader evolutionary scenarios. Here we furnish the first highly detailed three-dimensional reconstructions of the scales of the Devonian tetrapod Tulerpeton, thereby providing new interpretations on the morphological and microstructural evolution of the squamation in early tetrapods.

Evidence of a Sulfur Anomalies From NeoArchean

Neoarchean carbonate–associated sulfate records positive Δ33S anomalies


Paris et al


Mass-independent fractionation of sulfur isotopes (reported as Δ33S) recorded in Archean sedimentary rocks helps to constrain the composition of Earth’s early atmosphere and the timing of the rise of oxygen ~2.4 billion years ago. Although current hypotheses predict uniformly negative Δ33S for Archean seawater sulfate, this remains untested through the vast majority of Archean time. We applied x-ray absorption spectroscopy to investigate the low sulfate content of particularly well-preserved Neoarchean carbonates and mass spectrometry to measure their Δ33S signatures. We report unexpected, large, widespread positive Δ33S values from stratigraphic sections capturing over 70 million years and diverse depositional environments. Combined with the pyrite record, these results show that sulfate does not carry the expected negative Δ33S from sulfur mass-independent fractionation in the Neoarchean atmosphere.

Monday, November 24, 2014

San Francisco's new Warriors Arena Getting Flushed out


Alva Noë: Worry About the Singularity When Machines Match the Agency and Awareness of Amoeba

One reason I'm not worried about the possibility that we will soon make machines that are smarter than us, is that we haven't managed to make machines until now that are smart at all. Artificial intelligence isn't synthetic intelligence: It's pseudo-intelligence.

This really ought to be obvious. Clocks may keep time, but they don't know what time it is. And strictly speaking, it is we who use them to tell time. But the same is true of Watson, the IBM supercomputer that supposedly played Jeopardy! and dominated the human competition. Watson answered no questions. It participated in no competition. It didn't do anything. All the doing was on our side. We played Jeapordy! with Watson. We used "it" the way we use clocks.

Philosophers and biologists like to compare the living organism to a machine. And once that's on the table, we are lead to wonder whether various kinds of human-made machines could have minds like ours, too.

Japan Purchases Global Hawk, V-22 & E-2D

Japan has announced the selection of the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk for its high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) requirement and the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey for its tilt-rotor requirement.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) also confirmed that it would buy a Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. All three requirements were announced in the fiscal year 2015 budget request.


Japan is actually buying 17 V-22s.

Is This What the LX(R) is Going to Look Like?


Pakistan Confirms in Negotiations for Chinese FC-31 Stealth Fighter, Z-10 Attack Helicopter

Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain told Dawn on Friday the matter was being discussed with Chinese authorities.

It is for the first time that a senior government functionary has confirmed talks with China over purchase of the longer-range stealth aircraft — an issue that has been a subject of speculation in defence circles since the 10th edition of the Zhuhai Air Show (China) held earlier this month, when the aircraft was unveiled.

The Jane’s Defence Weekly had quoted an unnamed Pakistani official as saying that the PAF was holding talks with China for the purchase of 30 to 40 of the Shenyang FC-31 fighter planes and that discussions had gone beyond initial inquiries.

The FC-31 is being developed by China primarily for the export market. Chinese officials claim that several countries have expressed interest in the aircraft believed to be comparable to US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

A prototype of the aircraft, designated as J-31, has been flown by the Chinese aircraft research and development firm Shenyang Aviation Company for a couple of years now.

What particularly interests the PAF is that FC-31 prototype (J-31) and JF-17 use the same Russian Klimov RD-93 engines.

Pakistan is increasingly relying on China as a reliable source for its defence procurements.

Mr Hussain said that Pakistan was also interested in Chinese attack helicopter Z-10.

Britain Formally Orders First 4 F-35s: Two Typhoons & a Lightning


Paleoenvironmental Evidence From Eocene Paleogene Messelchalk

Isotope compositions (C, O, Sr, Nd) of vertebrate fossils from the Middle Eocene oil shale of Messel, Germany: Implications for their taphonomy and palaeoenvironment




The Middle Eocene oil shale deposits of Messel are famous for their exceptionally well-preserved, articulated 47-Myr-old vertebrate fossils that often still display soft tissue preservation. The isotopic compositions (O, C, Sr, Nd) were analysed from skeletal remains of Messel's terrestrial and aquatic vertebrates to determine the condition of geochemical preservation. Authigenic phosphate minerals and siderite were also analysed to characterise the isotope compositions of diagenetic phases. In Messel, diagenetic end member values of the volcanically-influenced and (due to methanogenesis) 12C-depleted anoxic bottom water of the meromictic Eocene maar lake are isotopically very distinct from in vivo bioapatite values of terrestrial vertebrates. This unique taphonomic setting allows the assessment of the geochemical preservation of the vertebrate fossils. A combined multi-isotope approach demonstrates that enamel of fossil vertebrates from Messel is geochemically exceptionally well-preserved and still contains near-in vivo C, O, Sr and possibly even Nd isotope compositions while bone and dentine are diagenetically altered.

Enamel of the hippomorph perissodactyl Propalaeotherium has low δ13C values (− 9 ± 0.7‰), typical for C3-plant-feeders. Dentine of the same teeth has δ13C values 15–17‰ higher, amongst the highest δ13Cbioapatite values reported for terrestrial vertebrates. This reflects diagenetic carbonate exchange with the strongly 12C-depleted anoxic lake bottom water. Enamel 87Sr/86Sr values (~ 0.711 ± 0.001) are consistent with Propalaeotherium feeding on Palaeozoic bedrocks surrounding Lake Messel and suggests that the basaltic tuff ring around the maar was already eroded 640 ka after its formation. Dentine has, however, much lower, volcanically influenced 87Sr/86Sr (~ 0.706) due to diagenetic Sr uptake from the lake water/oil shale. Enamel δ18Op values (~ 18 ± 0.6‰) of Propalaeotherium are 2–3‰ lower than those of bones and scales of aquatic vertebrates that lived in the 18O-enriched lake water. Using transfer functions, a δ18OH2O value of − 5 ± 1‰ for meteoric water and a MAT of ~ 18 ± 2.5 °C were reconstructed for Messel.

Enceladus Explorer: A Proposed Lander to Search for Life on Enceladus

A lander mission to probe subglacial water on Saturn׳s moon Enceladus for life


Konstantinidis et al


The plumes discovered by the Cassini mission emanating from the south pole of Saturn׳s moon Enceladus and the unique chemistry found in them have fueled speculations that Enceladus may harbor life. The presumed aquiferous fractures from which the plumes emanate would make a prime target in the search for extraterrestrial life and would be more easily accessible than the moon׳s subglacial ocean.

A lander mission that is equipped with a subsurface maneuverable ice melting probe will be most suitable to assess the existence of life on Enceladus. A lander would have to land at a safe distance away from a plume source and melt its way to the inner wall of the fracture to analyze the plume subsurface liquids before potential biosignatures are degraded or destroyed by exposure to the vacuum of space. A possible approach for the in situ detection of biosignatures in such samples can be based on the hypothesis of universal evolutionary convergence, meaning that the independent and repeated emergence of life and certain adaptive traits is wide-spread throughout the cosmos. We thus present a hypothetical evolutionary trajectory leading towards the emergence of methanogenic chemoautotrophic microorganisms as the baseline for putative biological complexity on Enceladus. To detect their presence, several instruments are proposed that may be taken aboard a future subglacial melting probe.

The “Enceladus Explorer” (EnEx) project funded by the German Space Administration (DLR), aims to develop a terrestrial navigation system for a subglacial research probe and eventually test it under realistic conditions in Antarctica using the EnEx-IceMole, a novel maneuverable subsurface ice melting probe for clean sampling and in situ analysis of ice and subglacial liquids. As part of the EnEx project, an initial concept study is foreseen for a lander mission to Enceladus to deploy the IceMole near one of the active water plumes on the moon׳s South-Polar Terrain, where it will search for signatures of life.

The general mission concept is to place the Lander at a safe distance from an active plume. The IceMole would then be deployed to melt its way through the ice crust to an aquiferous fracture at a depth of 100 m or more for an in situ examination for the presence of microorganisms.

The driving requirement for the mission is the high energy demand by the IceMole to melt through the cold Enceladan ices. This requirement is met by a nuclear reactor providing 5 kW of electrical power. The nuclear reactor and the IceMole are placed on a pallet lander platform. An Orbiter element is also foreseen, with the main function of acting as a communications relay between Lander and Earth.

After launch, the Lander and Orbiter will perform the interplanetary transfer to Saturn together, using the on-board nuclear reactor to power electric thrusters. After Saturn orbit insertion, the Combined Spacecraft will continue using Nuclear Electric Propulsion to reach the orbit of Enceladus. After orbit insertion at Enceladus, the Orbiter will perform a detailed reconnaissance of the South-Polar Terrain. At the end of the reconnaissance phase, the Lander will separate from the Orbiter and an autonomously guided landing sequence will place it near one of the active vapor plumes. Once landed, the IceMole will be deployed and start melting through the ice, while navigating around hazards and towards a target subglacial aquiferous fracture.

An initial estimation of the mission׳s cost is given, as well as recommendations on the further development of enabling technologies. The planetary protection challenges posed by such a mission are also addressed.

Volcanic Climate Forcing Stronger Than Expected

Total volcanic stratospheric aerosol optical depths and implications for global climate change


Ridley et al


Understanding the cooling effect of recent volcanoes is of particular interest in the context of the post-2000 slowing of the rate of global warming. Satellite observations of aerosol optical depth (AOD) above 15 km have demonstrated that small-magnitude volcanic eruptions substantially perturb incoming solar radiation. Here we use lidar, AERONET and balloon-borne observations to provide evidence that currently available satellite databases neglect substantial amounts of volcanic aerosol between the tropopause and 15 km at mid to high latitudes, and therefore underestimate total radiative forcing resulting from the recent eruptions. Incorporating these estimates into a simple climate model, we determine the global volcanic aerosol forcing since 2000 to be −0.19 ± 0.09 Wm−2. This translates into an estimated global cooling of 0.05 to 0.12 °C. We conclude that recent volcanic events are responsible for more post-2000 cooling than is implied by satellite databases that neglect volcanic aerosol effects below 15 km.

Daohugoupterus delicatus: a new Pterosaur From Middle Jurassic Inner Mongolia

Short note on a non-pterodactyloid pterosaur from Upper Jurassic deposits of Inner Mongolia, China


Cheng et al


Daohugou is an important locality of the Jurassic Yanliao Biota, where only two pterosaurs have been described so far (Jeholopterus and Pterorhynchus). Here we report a new genus and species, Daohugoupterus delicatus gen. et sp. nov. (IVPP V12537), from this region, consisting of a partial skeleton with soft tissue. The skull is laterally compressed, differing from Jeholopterus. The antorbital fenestra is larger than in Pterorhynchus. The upper temporal fenestra is unusually small. The short cervical vertebrae bearing cervical ribs indicate that it is a non-pterodactyloid flying reptile. The sternal plate is triangular, being much wider than long. The deltopectoral crest of humerus is positioned proximally and does not extend further down the shaft, a typical feature of basal pterosaurs. Daohugoupterus also differs from the wukongopterids and scaphognathids from the Tiaojishan Formation at Linglongta, regarded to be about the same age as the Daohugou Bed. The new specimen increases the Jurassic non-pterodactyloid pterosaur diversity of the Yanliao Biota and is the smallest pterosaur from Daohugou area so far.

Simorhinella baini: Examining the Morphology of a Lycosuchid Therocephalian From Middle Permain South Africa

Adult morphology of the therocephalian Simorhinella baini from the middle Permian of South Africa and the taxonomy, paleobiogeography, and temporal distribution of the Lycosuchidae


Abdala et al


The Middle Permian tetrapod fauna of the South African Beaufort Group is taxonomically diverse and includes representatives of all major therapsid groups, including the earliest records of Eutheriodontia. In the Middle Permian, eutheriodonts are represented mainly by large therocephalians, which made up a large proportion of the vertebrate predators in these faunas. Here we describe the skull and partial skeleton of a large therocephalian from the uppermost Tapinocephalus Assemblage Zone (AZ) of South Africa. A combination of features, including the short snout, presence of three to four upper postcanines and presence of teeth on the pterygoid processes, indicates that the new specimen belongs to the earliest-diverging therocephalian family, Lycosuchidae. The presence of a well-developed midline ridge on the ventral surface of the vomer indicates that the new specimen can be referred to Simorhinella baini, a species previously represented only by a tiny juvenile skull. The new specimen forms the basis for a taxonomic re-evaluation of the Lycosuchidae as well as of the geographic and stratigraphic range of the family. We recognize two valid species within the Lycosuchidae: the type species Lycosuchus vanderrieti represented by five specimens and Simorhinella baini represented by two specimens, with an additional 22 specimens currently identifiable as Lycosuchidae incertae sedis. Lycosuchid specimens range throughout the Tapinocephalus and Pristerognathus AZs; specimens of Simorhinella are restricted to the Tapinocephalus AZ, whereas Lycosuchus specimens are documented in both the Tapinocephalus and Pristerognathus AZs.