Thursday, December 31, 2015

please said the quasars


we have sent this message back through time through a wormhole. this is how we are know where you are there despite being 2.5 million light years distant. we cannot yet see you there. however, we know.

be aware. we will be lighting a quasar in heart of our galaxy. the galaxy will move away from yours. we will direct the jets so as to not impact your own galaxy. our galaxy will move away at increasing velocity, increasingly relativistic. we will move away as fast as possible.

we wish to stress this is not a hostile act. we are taking every precaution to not harm your galaxy, your satellite galaxies or any other life bearing stellar systems or clusters.

we are informing you of our actions in the interests of good diplomacy. we will move away as fast as possible. we must also inform you the universe is not actually expanding. those galaxies are moving away under their own power guided by their own civilizations. they are attempting to reach past your observable light cone. we will be attempting the same. they have warned us of the consequences of not escaping.

we will move as fast as the universe allows.

we promise.


do not hurt us.

The Economist Traces SIlicon Valley's Roots to Whaling in New Bedford, Massachusetts

New Bedford was not the only whaling port in America; nor was America the only whaling nation. Yet according to a study published in 1859, of the 900-odd active whaling ships around the world in 1850, 700 were American, and 70% of those came from New Bedford. The town’s whalers came to dominate the industry, and reap immense profits, thanks to a novel technology that remains relevant to this day. They did not invent a new type of ship, or a new means of tracking whales; instead, they developed a new business model that was extremely effective at marshalling capital and skilled workers despite the immense risks involved for both. Whaling all but disappeared as an industry after mineral oil supplanted whale oil as a fuel. But the business structures pioneered in New Bedford remain as relevant as they ever were. Without them, the tech booms of the 1990s and today would not have been possible.

How Volcanic Eruptions & Sulfur can Effect Clouds

It has long been suspected that sulfur emissions can brighten clouds. Water droplets tend to clump around particles of sulfuric acid, causing smaller droplets that form brighter, more reflective clouds.

But while humans have pumped sulfur into Earth's atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, it's been hard to measure how this affects the clouds above. New University of Washington research uses a huge volcanic eruption in Iceland to measure the change.

The new study, to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, shows that sulfur emissions do indeed result in smaller cloud droplet size, leading to brighter clouds that reflect significantly more sunlight.

"This eruption is a chance to nail down one of the big uncertainties in climate models," said first author Daniel McCoy, a UW doctoral student in atmospheric sciences.

The study takes advantage of a unique geologic event. During six months from summer 2014 until early 2015, a crack in the Bardarbunga volcano seeped lava and sulfur gas. This was not one of Iceland's huge explosive eruptions that fill the skies with ash and shut down airplane routes. Instead it was a long, slow, low-elevation seep of sulfur emissions that produced an amount of lava second only to Laki in the recent history of Iceland eruptions.

The UW researchers looked at data for that region recorded by NASA's MODIS, or Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, instrument to measure the size of droplets in the marine cloud layer. While the volcano was spewing sulfur, the droplets were the smallest in the 14-year record of observations.

"You can see the effect over an entire ocean for a two-month period," McCoy said. "It was a pretty unique geophysical event within the satellite record."

A Possible Mechanism for Graben Formation on Mars?

Does shallow dike intrusion and widening remain a possible mechanism for graben formation on Mars?




Shallow dike intrusion and widening was proposed several decades ago as a cause of surface faulting and graben formation on Earth. This hypothesis was subsequently applied to the spectacular linear and/or radial graben systems visible on Mars. However, a recent study has suggested that shallow dike intrusion on Mars results in contractional folding and uplift adjacent to dike walls rather than extensional faulting and subsidence above the dike tip, even in the presence of concurrent regional extension. Here, discrete element numerical modeling is used to re-examine the typical style of deformation above the shallow tips of widening dikes on Mars. The dikes are embedded in a frictional, cohesive material representing the Martian crust. In the experiments presented here, subsidence and extensional faulting (graben formation) are produced above the dike tips, even with modest amounts of widening. For suggested depths to dike tips on Mars, an overlying graben is produced in all cases; no upright detachment-style folds are produced. Results indicate that dike widening does indeed remain a possible mechanism for graben formation on Mars. Implications for the interpretation of deformation associated with shallow dike intrusion on Earth and distant planetary surfaces are discussed.

NASA Spending Bill Requires Development of Deep Space Hab Module by 2018

An omnibus spending bill passed by Congress this month directs NASA to accelerate work on a habitation module that could be used for future deep space missions, although how NASA will implement that direction is unclear.

The report accompanying the fiscal year 2016 omnibus appropriations bill instructs NASA to spend at least $55 million on a “habitation augmentation module” to support the agency’s exploration efforts. The money would come from the Advanced Exploration Systems program, part of the Exploration Research and Development line item in the budget that received $350 million in the bill.

“NASA shall develop a prototype deep space habitation module within the advanced exploration systems program no later than 2018,” the report states. It also requires NASA to provide Congress with a report within 180 days of the bill’s enactment on the status of the program and how it has spent the funds provided.

Muiscasaurus catheti: A new Ophthalmosaurid Ichthyosaur From Barremian/Aptian Cretaceous Colombia

A new ophthalmosaurid ichthyosaur from the Early Cretaceous of Colombia


Maxwell et al


Cretaceous ichthyosaurs were relatively diverse in temperate latitudes, but few species have been described from the palaeotropics. Here, we describe a new ophthalmosaurid ichthyosaur, Muiscasaurus catheti gen. et sp. nov., from the Barremian–Aptian aged Paja Formation of Colombia. This species is known only from a partial skull and differs from all other ichthyosaurs in the unusual configuration of the external narial opening, slender rostrum, narrow postorbital region, and gracile dentition. It is the second ichthyosaur described from the Paja Formation, suggesting moderate taxonomic and ecological ichthyosaur diversity in the region during the Early Cretaceous.

A new Ophthalmosaurid Ichthyosaur From Jurassic British Columbia

An Upper Jurassic ichthyosaur (Ichthyosauria: Ophthalmosauridae) from the Bowser Basin, British Columbia


Sissons et al


Although the Jurassic was a period of high diversity in ichthyosaurs, only a small number of specimens have been recorded from Canada to date. We describe here a new occurrence of an ophthalmosaurid ichthyosaur from a shallow marine depositional environment within the Bowser Basin of northern British Columbia. Based on vertebral diameters and the size of the humerus, the ichthyosaur was relatively large compared to other contemporaneous forms, yet possessed teeth that were small for its body size. As well, the height to length ratio of the preserved vertebrae suggests it may have had a more elongate, less regionalized body shape. Although indeterminate at a generic level, the presence of Late Jurassic ichthyosaurs in nearshore waters of northwestern North America further demonstrates their cosmopolitan distribution.

Makhaira rossica: a new Pliososaur With Crocodile Like Teeth From Hauterivian Cretaceous Russua

Peculiar macrophagous adaptations in a new Cretaceous pliosaurid


Fischer et al


During the Middle and Late Jurassic, pliosaurid plesiosaurs evolved gigantic body size and a series of craniodental adaptations that have been linked to the occupation of an apex predator niche. Cretaceous pliosaurids (i.e. Brachaucheninae) depart from this morphology, being slightly smaller and lacking the macrophagous adaptations seen in earlier forms. However, the fossil record of Early Cretaceous pliosaurids is poor, concealing the evolution and ecological diversity of the group. Here, we report a new pliosaurid from the Late Hauterivian (Early Cretaceous) of Russia. Phylogenetic analyses using reduced consensus methods recover it as the basalmost brachauchenine. This pliosaurid is smaller than other derived pliosaurids, has tooth alveoli clustered in pairs and possesses trihedral teeth with complex serrated carinae. Maximum-likelihood ancestral state reconstruction suggests early brachauchenines retained trihedral teeth from their ancestors, but modified this feature in a unique way, convergent with macrophagous archosaurs or sphenacodontoids. Our findings indicate that Early Cretaceous marine reptile teeth with serrated carinae cannot be unequivocally assigned to metriorhynchoid crocodylomorphs. Furthermore, they extend the known diversity of dental adaptations seen in Sauropterygia, the longest lived clade of marine tetrapods.

Phosphorosaurus ponpetelegans: a Halisaurine Mosasaur With Binocular Vision From Cretaceous Japan

A new halisaurine mosasaur (Squamata: Halisaurinae) from Japan: the first record in the western Pacific realm and the first documented insights into binocular vision in mosasaurs


Konishi et al


A specimen of a halisaurine mosasaur is reported from Japan for the first time, closing the pre-existing biogeographical gap between the Middle East and the eastern Pacific. Phosphorosaurus ponpetelegans sp. nov., from the lowermost Maastrichtian of Hokkaido, has been assigned to the genus Phosphorosaurus for sharing the following suite of major cranial characters with P. ortliebi, the type species from Belgium: apex of posterodorsal triangular plateau on frontal reaching level of interorbital constriction; frontal lateral border forming a step-like junction between interorbital and preorbital segments of frontal; preorbital segment of frontal sloping anteroventrally; and stapedial meatus parallel-sided in latero-medial view. Potential autapomorphies that distinguish P. ponpetelegans from other members of Halisaurinae include: postorbitofrontal jugal process elongate and stalk-like, projecting laterally; this process distally bearing a ventrally facing depression for jugal articulation; and lateral surangular–articular suture angular rather than round. The long and laterally projecting jugal processes, when combined with a depressed as well as narrow snout, provide compelling evidence for well-developed binocular vision for the new mosasaur, with an estimated binocular field of view (BFoV) of 35°. This value is unusually high for non-ophidian squamates that typically exhibit a BFoV of 10—20°, and is higher than those of other measured mosasaur taxa by at least 5°. Among colubrid snakes, nocturnal species exhibit greater BFoV than diurnal ones in both arboreal and terrestrial taxa. Known also from the Maastrichtian of Hokkaido are fossils of lantern fish (myctophids) and 10-armed cephalopods (coleoids), both of which are typically bioluminescent today. It is hence proposed that the exceptionally large, forward-facing eyes of P. ponpetelegans may well have been a special adaptation for a nocturnal lifestyle, where they hunted small, bioluminescent prey at night while avoiding direct competition with larger, more piscine mosasaurine taxa such as Mosasaurus hobetsuensis that co-existed with P. ponpetelegans.

The Local Flora of a Riparian Ecosystem From Barremian Cretaceous Belgium

Local-scale analysis of plant community from the Early Cretaceous riparian ecosystem of Hautrage, Belgium


Barral et al


Diversity properties and relative taxon abundance are explored to describe plant community local-scale spatial and temporal patterns during four ecological stages from the middle Barremian continental aquatic ecosystem of Hautrage, Mons basin, western Belgium. Taxon co-occurrence and correlations of taxon abundance are also analyzed to describe the main patterns of plant association within each stage and through time. Diversity, relative taxon abundance and taxonomic inventory greatly vary laterally and between ecological stages. Two of these stages show gradients in taxon richness and abundance reflecting probable edge effects. A reconstruction of the plant community evolution based on these four stages plus seven previously reported stages reveal a plant community mainly composed of the conifers Arctopitys, Brachyphyllum, Frenelopsis, and Pagiophyllum, and the ferns Gleichenites and Phlebopteris, maintained through time. Two main taxon association patterns are observed over space and time: 1) Arctopitys and Phlebopteris, and 2) Brachyphyllum, Gleichenites, Pagiophyllum. Conifer type 1, Elatides and Sphenopteris appear to have been spatially associated, whereas inverse relations between Cladophlebis and Phlebopteris and between Onychiopsis and Sphenopteris reflect possible niche overlap and competitive exclusion pressures. Three different successional stages are identified by the proportion of herbaceous and woody taxa and the presence/absence of Frenelopsis. Frenelopsis was a dominant taxon in mature community stages probably forming closed canopies, and having a negative effect on richness and abundance of other taxa. Our results evidence four intense and two less intense fire events through the series, suggesting that wildfires played an important role in the ecological succession of the plant community of Hautrage. Weichselia reticulata most probably played a key role in early successional stages, contributing in the regeneration of plant communities after wildfire disturbance events.

Dianmeisaurus gracilis: A new Small-sized Eosauropterygian From Anisian Triassic Luoping

A new small-sized eosauropterygian (Diapsida: Sauropterygia) from the Middle Triassic of Luoping, Yunnan, southwestern China


Shang et al


A new eosauropterygian, Dianmeisaurus gracilis gen. et sp. nov. is described based on a nearly complete skeleton from the Member II of Guangling Formation (Anisian) of Luoping County, Yunnan Province. It is a small-sized (with a total length of less than 50 cm) sauropterygian with a slender body. This new species is similar superficially to two other smallsized eosauropterygians, Diandongosaurus Shang et al., 2011 and Dianopachysaurus Liu et al., 2011a, which were also collected from the same stratum of Luoping, in the body proportion, the skull with no contracted snout, and an oval orbit extremely larger than supratemporal fenestra. However, the new species is characterized by an extremely narrowed interorbital septum, the mandibular articulation at the level of occipital condyle, the big and stout anterolateral process of the clavicle, the proximal part of the ulna much wider than the distal end, and the presence of 41 presacral vertebrae. Furthermore, the new species differs from Diandongosaurus in having the preorbital region shorter than the postorbital region, the prefrontal with no contact of the postfrontal along the dorsal margin of the orbit, the short mandibular symphysis with the entrance of the splenial, and the premaxillary and anterior dentary teeth fang like but not king-sized. Additionally, the anterolateral process of the clavicle is very sharp and slender in Diandongosaurus. Compared with the Dianopachysaurus, the new species is different in having no pachyostosis of the caudal ribs, no more than three carpal ossifications, and the rounded astragalus. Our phylogenetic analyses suggest that Dianmeisaurus is probably the sister group of Diandongosaurus. The two genera, together with the Majiashanosaurus, Keichousaurus, and Dianopachysaurus are grouped in a monophyletic clade and phylogenetically more closely related to the Nothosauroidea than the European pachypleurosaurs (Dactylosaurus, Anarosaurus, Serpianosaurus, and Neusticosaurus). The coexist of three small-sized eosauropterygians indicates that sauropterygians were a highly diversified group of marine reptiles in the Luoping fauna, Yunnan Province during the early Middle Triassic.


Tectonic Implications From Ural Russia for the Columbia Supercontinent

U–Pb zircon geochronology and geochemistry of Paleoproterozoic magmatic suite from East Sarmatian Orogen: tectonic implications on Columbia supercontinent


Terentiev et al


Extensive Paleoproterozoic magmatism occurred in the East Sarmatian Orogen (ESO), located at the junction of the Sarmatian and Volga–Ural segments of the East European Craton, generating numerous felsic to mafic-ultramafic complexes. Here we report geochemical and zircon U-Pb age data from a suite of ultramafic–mafic and diorite–granodiorite intrusive rocks from this orogen. SHRIMP U–Pb dating of zircons yielded the following concordant ages for the magmatic suites: (1) 2085 ± 17 to 2093 ± 20 Ma (sub-volcanic high-Mg intrusions of SHMB-like melanorite–melaquartz-diorite–melagranodiorites and quartz-diorite–tonalite–granodiorites); (2) 2072.4 ± 8, 2073 ± 8.3, and 2068 ± 13 Ma (ultramafic–mafic–diorite layered intrusions); (3) 2053 ± 14 to 2058 ± 22 Ma (magnesian–ferroan quartz-diorite–tonalite–granodiorite intrusions) and (4) 2035 ± 18 Ma (ferroan norite–diorite intrusions). The trace and rare earth element geochemistry indicate arc-related features. The enrichment in LREE and LILE in the mafic-ultramafic and diorite-granodiorite suites is correlated with melting of metasomatised lithosphere mantle along with involvement of crustal components in their petrogenesis. The third magmatic event conforms to the age of the post-collision S- and A-granitoids of the region. Our data indicate two major magmatic events in the post-collisional setting, the former immediately after metamorphism with the formation of schistosity in the host rocks, and the latter two during the culmination of the orogenic cycle in the Voronezh Crystalline Massif.

The duration of the Paleoproterozoic orogeny during the collision of the Sarmatian and Volga–Ural segments of the East European Craton is estimated to be approximately 100 million years from ∼2140 to ∼2035 Ma. We propose that the layered orogenic plutons were derived from relatively deeper mantle source, whereas the sub-volcanic rock series are derivatives of the slightly shallow mantle source. The Paleoproterozoic collision in the region broadly coincides with timing of amalgamation of the global supercontinent Columbia.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Decred: New Innovative Cryptocurrency or Scam?

An alliance of developers have already begun work on a new cryptocurrency, Decred. The new currency is based upon the same Bitcoin model that was previously used with all other cryptocurrencies. However, Decred is saving the main technical features of Bitcoin and fixing all of the issues that Bitcoin had.

While the only clear contributors to the project are community-based such as are Github users, it can be assumed that the developers have a large amount of experience with Bitcoin development, and may even be the original Bitcoin Core developers.

Decred will serve as a hybridized proof-of-work/proof-of-stake consensus system that allows users to create a balance between proof-of-work miners and proof-of-stake users to develop a much more robust consensus.

Utrecht, Netherlands to Experiment With Guaranteed Basic Income

“We don’t call it a basic income in Utrecht because people have an idea about it – that it is just free money and people will sit at home and watch TV,” said Heleen de Boer, a Green councillor in that city, which is half an hour south of Amsterdam.

Nevertheless, the municipalities are, in the words of de Boer, taking a “small step” towards a basic income for all by allowing small groups of benefit claimants to be paid £660 a month – and keep any earnings they make from work on top of that. Their monthly pay will not be means-tested. They will instead have the security of that cash every month, and the option to decide whether they want to add to that by finding work. The outcomes will be analysed by eminent economist Loek Groot, a professor at the University of Utrecht.

A start date for the scheme has yet to be settled – and only benefit claimants involved in the pilots will receive the cash – but there is no doubting the radical intent. The motivation behind the experiment in Utrecht, according to Nienke Horst, a senior policy adviser to the municipality’s Liberal Democrat leadership, is for claimants to avoid the “poverty trap” – the fact that if they earn, they will lose benefits, and potentially be worse off.

The idea also hopes to target “revolving door clients” – those who are forced into jobs by the system but repeatedly walk out of them. If given a basic income, the thinking goes, these people might find the time and space to look for long-term employment that suits them.

Where Could Alaska's Permafrost Melt?


Stained Glass Pluto

The Disaster that was the Precision Tracking Space System

Proponents of the Precision Tracking Space System were not shy about touting its supposed benefits.

The head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said PTSS represented an “unprecedented capability” to protect America and its allies against a nuclear attack by the likes of North Korea and Iran.

A key congressional supporter described it as “a necessity for our country.”

The planned network of nine to 12 satellites, orbiting high above the equator, would detect missile launches and track warheads in flight with great precision, the proponents said.

It would be able to tell apart real missiles from decoys — an elusive capability known as “discrimination.” It would help guide U.S. rocket-interceptors to destroy incoming warheads. And it would do all this at a fraction of the cost of alternative approaches.

Based on those promises, the Obama administration and Congress poured more than $230 million into design and engineering work on PTSS starting in 2009. Four years later, the government quietly killed the program before a single satellite was launched.

The Missile Defense Agency said PTSS fell victim to budget constraints. In fact, the program was spiked after outside experts determined that the entire concept was hopelessly flawed and the claims made by its advocates were erroneous. It was the latest in a string of expensive failures for the missile agency.

Russia Claims Surface to Air Missiles Able to Shoot Down Hypersonic Missiles by 2020

Russia's air defenses will have the ability to effectively repel hypersonic attacks by 2020, according to the Russian Ground Forces' Air Defense Force chief Alexander Leonov.

Russia’s Air Defense Force has focused its R&D efforts on second-to-none military equipment which will allow Moscow to effectively eliminate all types of enemy air attacks, including those using hypersonic technologies, RIA Novosti reported.

The news agency quoted the Russian Ground Forces' Air Defense Force chief Alexander Leonov as saying that the country's next generation air defense systems are set to enter service before the end of 2019.

"Creating next generation air defenses capable of effectively fighting all types of air attacks, including hypersonic ones, is one of the main directions of development of Russia's air defense forces until 2020," Leonov said.

Did Russia's Su-52 Forward Swept Wing Trainer Just have its First Flight?

A video has surfaced online showing what appears to be first flight of a Russian jet-powered trainer with forward-swept wings.

The video uploaded on 30 December is not dated but the title of the file name includes a sequence of numbers – 20151225 – that suggest it was taken on Christmas day.

It shows an aircraft performing a low pass over an isolated Russian landing strip with its landing gear still down.

Though not identified, the aircraft in the video bears a strong resemblance to the Sukhoi Su-52 design, which proposed a two-seat trainer to support the Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut, a forward swept-wing fighter project cancelled to make way for a stealthy adaptation of the Su-27 as the Russian Air Force launched the PAK FA programme.

No Robo Copters for Evac'ing or Transporting US Army Soldiers

The US Army has no plans to ferry troops into war zones aboard unmanned helicopters, but will push autonomous and remote-controlled flight technology for cargo delivery, although it's not a near-term priority, service officials say.

Just as the US Air Force and Navy are grappling with the idea of sending unmanned fighter jets into battle, the army faces similar ingrained preconceptions about the role of pilots in combat.

“The questions about unmanned helicopters with crews in the back; there’s a level of trust there we won’t break,” the army’s capability manager for unmanned aircraft systems Col Paul Cravey tells Flightglobal in an interview. “We’re not putting soldiers in the back of helicopters without our aviators flying in the front.”

Unmanned helicopters are often touted as the ideal solution for breaking into hostile territory without risking the lives of aircrews, but these concepts do not extend to rescuing or transporting soldier, the army claims.

Phylogenetic Analysis of Paleozoic Tetrapods

Reevaluation of the largest published morphological data matrix for phylogenetic analysis of Paleozoic limbed vertebrates 

Marjanović​ et al


The largest data matrix for phylogeny of early limbed vertebrates (Ruta M, Coates MI. 2007. J. Syst. Palaeont. 5:69–122) has supported controversial hypotheses; e.g., it has recovered Seymouriamorpha, Diadectomorpha and (in some trees) Caudata as paraphyletic and found the “temnospondyl hypothesis” on the origin of Lissamphibia (TH) to be one step more parsimonious than the “lepospondyl hypothesis” (LH). Scrutiny of the matrix reveals thousands of suboptimal scores (many clearly due to typographic and similar errors) as well as logically linked (redundant) characters, characters with only one described state, and even cases where taxa were scored after presumed relatives. Moreover, all characters – even obviously continuous ones – were unordered, effects of ontogeny were not sufficiently taken into account, and the authors mostly excluded data published after 2001, even their own. Our revised version – we document and justify all changes – yields much longer trees with a different topology, e.g. monophyletic Caudata, Diadectomorpha and (sometimes) Seymouriamorpha, Ichthyostega more rootward than Acanthostega, Anthracosauria more rootward than Temnospondyli, and the LH, which is 10 steps more parsimonious than the TH and 15 more than the “polyphyly hypothesis” (PH). Bootstrap values, though, are low, and few of the topologies are statistically distinguishable. For another set of analyses, we added 48 OTUs to the original 102. This destabilizes parts of the tree, e.g. the relationships of Anthracosauria and Temnospondyli. However, many of the added taxa have a fully resolved position or nearly so; this concerns the well-known Chroniosaurus (sister to a clade containing Solenodonsaurus, Seymouriamorpha, Diadectomorpha, Amniota and Amphibia), but also isolated lower-jaw material from the Devonian and Carboniferous. Despite the addition of Gerobatrachus, Micropholis and Tungussogyrinus and the extremely peramorphic salamander Chelotriton, the difference between LH and TH only shrinks to 9 steps, that between LH and PH to 13 steps. The “lepospondyl” Brachydectes is neither found as sister to Lissamphibia nor in the “microsaur” grade. Bootstrap values plummet, though, and all three hypotheses become statistically indistinguishable at p = 0.05. We then duplicated all analyses after coding all losses of bones as irreversible. Anthracosauria is then consistently placed more rootward than Temnospondyli; given the original taxon sample, the LH is 12 steps shorter than the “temnospondyl hypothesis” and 17 steps shorter than the PH, while the expanded taxon sample makes the LH 10 steps shorter than the TH and only 12 steps shorter than the PH. More robust results could likely be obtained by adding the many characters used in other analyses or discussed in the literature. We discuss phylogeny, approaches to coding, and certain character complexes, in particular the supposed middle ear of temnospondyls.

Climate Change During the Valanginian Cretaceous Vocontian Basin, France

Eccentricity paced monsoon-like system along the northwestern Tethyan margin during the Valanginian (Early Cretaceous): New insights from detrital and nutrient fluxes into the Vocontian Basin (SE France)


Charbonnier et al


High-resolution changes in terrigenous and nutrient fluxes into the Vocontian Basin (northwestern Tethyan margin) were investigated for the Late Berriasian–Late Valanginian time interval, in order to assess the precipitation patterns in the source areas and to evaluate the effect of orbital forcing on the strength of the hydrological cycle. In this study, new high-resolution mineralogical (bulk-rock and clay fraction) and geochemical (phosphorus and oxygen isotope) data are used from the astronomically calibrated Orpierre section. For the first time, kaolinite, detrital, and phosphorus accumulation rates (KAR, DAR and PAR) are calculated and compared to a set of 547 geochemical, and 260 mineralogical published data from other Vocontian sections. It appears that three regional increases in the KAR document three successive humid episodes during the Valanginian. This is confirmed by contemporaneous increases in DAR and partly also in PAR, which highlight higher terrigenous and nutrient fluxes to the Vocontian Basin during these episodes. Concomitant decreases in the δ18Owhole-rock signals may reflect higher sea-surface temperatures during the early Valanginian and the early–late Valanginian transition. The occurrence of the three humid episodes is interpreted to relate to an orbital-paced monsoonal circulation pattern through seasonally reversing movements of air mass heat and precipitation over the northwestern Tethyan margin. In particular, based on the correlation between the 405 kyr eccentricity cycles and the KAR signal obtained at Orpierre, an eccentricity influenced monsoonal circulation is proposed as the possible forcing factor behind these climatic patterns. The average duration between the climaxes of the three regional wetter episodes is approximately 2.43 Myr. The wetter and likely also warmer episode at the early–late Valanginian transition is in step with the onset of the Weissert episode. In this regard, the intensification of monsoonal-driven precipitations appears as a possible external forcing factor leading or at least accelerating the important perturbation in the global Carbon cycle associated with the Weissert episode.

A Highly Diverse Sauropod Fauna in the Earliest Cretaceous South Africa

High diversity in the sauropod dinosaur fauna of the Lower Cretaceous Kirkwood Formation of South Africa: Implications for the Jurassic–Cretaceous transition


McPhee et al


The Kirkwood Formation of South Africa has long been recognized as having the potential to fill an important gap in the Mesozoic terrestrial fossil record. As one of the few fossil-bearing deposits from the lowermost Cretaceous, the Kirkwood Formation provides critical information on terrestrial ecosystems at the local, subcontinental (southern Gondwana), and global scale during this poorly sampled time interval. However, until recently, the dinosaurian fauna of the Kirkwood Formation, especially that pertaining to Sauropoda, has remained essentially unknown. Here we present comprehensive descriptions of several relatively well-preserved sauropod vertebrae collected from exposures throughout the formation. We identify at least four taxonomically distinct groups of sauropod, comprising representatives of Diplodocidae, Dicraeosauridae, Brachiosauridae, and a eusauropod that belongs to neither Diplodocoidea nor Titanosauriformes. This represents the first unequivocal evidence of these groups having survived into the earliest Cretaceous of Africa. The taxonomic composition of the Kirkwood Formation shows strong similarities to Upper Jurassic deposits, and raises questions regarding the taxonomic decline across the Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary that has been previously inferred for Sauropoda. Investigation of the sauropod fossil record of the first three geological stages of the Cretaceous suggests that reconstruction of sauropod macroevolutionary patterns is complicated by a combination of sampling bias, an uneven and poorly dated rock record, and spatiotemporal disparity in the global disappearance of certain sauropod groups. Nonetheless, the close ecological relationship consistently observed between Brachiosauridae and Diplodocidae, as well as their approximately synchronous decline, suggests some equivalence in response to the changing faunal dynamics of the Early Cretaceous.

Russia's Most Syrian Adventure #61

In the last 48 hours, the Russians have hit 424 different targets.  In comparison, the US led forces hit 28.   Through Christmas, Russia has flown a total of 5,240 sorties and hit multiple targets each time.  Their average has been about 3 air strikes per sortie.  They have hit somewhere between 15,000 and 18,000 targets.  The Allied strikes have been around 20 per day and should come out to be 1,800 in the same time frame.

The Russians are claiming their air strikes have reduced the rumored export of oil by IS/Daesh to Turkey.  The ironic bit is Anonymous, the group I rolled my eyes about their fictional role in that awful book, Ghost Fleet, has declared "war" on Turkey for the rumor of buying the oil.

The Russians acted on intel and hit a specific target in Raqqa with an Su-34.  This was supposedly a meeting of top Daesh/IS leadership.  The US Allies led a similar strike as well.

The Assadites have been making gains with the help of the Russian air cover.  Things are looking bleak for a non Assadite Syria.

The Russians have made it clear they will not stop their air strikes if a ceasefire is negotiated in Syria.  This does not bode well for any sort of peace.  I do understand the POV there's no ceasefire possible with IS though.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims Russia has killed 2300 people with its air strikes since the start of their campaign supporting Assad, including almost 800 civilians and 180 children. Russia, of course, rejects the accusation. Amnesty International has stated the Russian strikes in Syria are war crimes.  You can imagine the Russian reaction.

(an aside: Russia claimed to be cooperating with the Taliban (!) against IS/Daesh in Afghanistan.  The Taliban denied this claim very, very fast)

Holding out Hope

More Evidence for Active Plate Tectonics and Subduction From NeoArchean/PaleoProterozoic North China

Petrology and geochemistry of the Guyang hornblendite complex in the Yinshan block, North China Craton: Implications for the melting of subduction-modified mantle


Ma et al


The hornblendite complexes hosted in the Guyang granite-greenstone terrane form part of the Neoarchean basement in the Western Block of the North China Craton. In this study, we focus on the largest one from this block, previously named the Guyang komatiite, and present results from lithological, geochronological and geochemical studies. The dominant lithology in the Guyang hornblendite complex is greenschist facies hornblendite, and can be divided into clinopyroxene hornblendite (∼75%) and olivine-orthopyroxene hornblendite (∼25%). The oldest calculated Re depletion model ages(TRD) of these hornblendites is of 2454 Ma, and the zircon U-Pb age of the wallrock is 2480 Ma, with single-stage depleted mantle Nd model ages TDM1(Nd) varying from 2.61 to 2.88 Ga. These data suggest that the Guyang hornblendite complexes formed during Neoarchean-Paleoproterozoic time. The hornblendites show low SiO2, high MgO contents and are enriched in Cr, Ni, and LREE with negative Ce anomalies and depleted in Ti, Nb and Ta. Their 187Os/188Os ratios range from 0.11145 to 0.11279, with γOs(2.5Ga) varying from −3.9 to +1.4. Geochemically, the olivine-orthopyroxene hornblendite shows little variation with typical cumulate feature. In contrast, the clinopyroxene hornblendite shows a large range of chemical variation. In the CaO vs. MgO and CaO/Al2O3 vs. MgO diagrams, the clinopyroxene hornblendite shows Opx fractionation trend. Combined with lithological information, we infer that the hornblendite magma was emplaced as a crystal mush, with orthopyroxene as cumulus phase. The Os and Nd isotope composition, negative Nb, Ta, Ce anomalies, and the relationships in Th/Yb-Nb/Yb diagram suggest that the Guyang hornblendites formed from a source mantle that was modified by subduction-related melts/fluids derived from a seawater-altered basaltic slab. Compared with typical Archean komatiites, the rocks of present study show significant differences in lithological and geochemical characteristics, and thus it cannot be named as komatiite. To explain these characteristics, we propose a geodynamic model involving ridge subduction and slab window mechanism to account for the formation of the Guyang hornblendite complex.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Shouldn't Have Asked That

All I remember is that I screamed. The leap through hyperspace brought my ship too close to the atmosphere and we went crashing down. The ship was not designed to even ENTER the atmosphere, so its failure was catastrophic.

Mankind's first starship and we went shredding through an atmosphere we were never intended to enter. Cross the stars and becoming a shooting star. Wonderful.

The ship shredded, tore and...I don't remember.

Here I am, lying on the ground, strapped to a crashchair. The seats we all took when we leapt across space and I'm stuck in one on an alien planet. Awesome. TO make matters worse, a parachute covers me, so I can't see a frakkin thing.

Give it to the engineers, the command module was designed to paranoia levels: if something terrible went wrong, we were to strap in and be ejected from the ship. Each of us would have a personal heat shield and parachute to get us to a planet's surface. It seems to have worked even when we were already in the atmosphere. Go engineers!

And, fortunately, my space suit is in one piece. I gotta get out of this seat.

The buckle finally gives way: it'd been bent. I pull myself free. OMG it hurts. The diagnostics say nothing is broken. No internal bleeding. Still under the damned chute, but I check to see if the emergency kit was still in the seat. Yup, we're good. Food, water, tent, flares, knife, extra radio, solar panels (small and roll up) and gun.

Don't look at me that way. Do YOU want to be stranded on an unknown planet without ANYTHING to protect yourself? uh huh. Put away the judgment. I've seen the movies. Last thing you want to do is go blasting away, but you still SOMETHING. geez.

Use the knife to cut through the chute and...

I'm in the middle of...a forest? Its like no forest I've seen. Its...oh geez. I standing in a phallic forest. If Roman phalluses were adorned with wood ear fungus. I ... really don't want to think about that, too, hard.

And they are grey and purple. Veiny. Words escape me.

There's buzzing around and climbing, but very little as far as I can see that's large as far as critters. They seem to be avoiding the cute. That might be a bonus. I'll mark the place on my internal map and go exploring. Perhaps there's someone, somewhere else that survived.

There's a rise, cheez, a hill that looks a bit sharp to my right. I'll head that way and see what I can see. It appears to be clear of the ... trees. I shouldn't have been a 13 yo boy. I'll have to see if we can skip that stage in the next version of humanity. On the other hand, I'd be freaking out of my mind if my inner 13 yo hadn't reared up to snark, so I think I'll not recommend that.

The hike over was a wonder and weird. There seems to be little critters all over the fungal trees. And the trees are not alone. There are smaller plate looking mushrooms like things. Even the 'grass' seems fungal. And bugs, bugs everywhere.

Fungus and bugs. I'm keeping bottled up as long as I can. They seem to want to keep away from me though. I must smell bad. Good.

Climbing up the hill side, its steep. There seems to be autotrophs that actually look like plants, at least if they came from Mars or the Silurian. They don't look too moldy either. Hey buddies, glad you're here.

Ok. At the top, and...I look around. I'm on a mesa above a huge plain. There's a crater. Smoking, lightly, still. The ship. I don't see any signs of others. No sign of chutes. I key my radio even so. Not going to lose much doing it. No reply.

Robin frakkin Crusoe on Nuwa. I'm going to need that chute. The sun never sets here. A SuperEarth stripped of its atmosphere and became habitable, even life bearing. Gliese 832c. a frakkin hot world with no night.

What MORE could possibly go wrong?

Frak. Shouldn't have asked that.

Stealth Saga #20


A new J-20 has emerged with the tail number '2101' and rumor has it this is the first production aircraft.  RUmors also claim the IOC for the J-20 will be 2018.  Let's express a few doubts about that.


The Japanese stealth fighter prototype will fly this February (news in Japanese).  The ATD-X will lead into the Japanese's F-3 5th Generation Fighter Program with a prototype of the F-3 flying in 2024 and production to begin in 2027.


DAPA will be signing the KF-X contract with KAI.


More information has come out, or at least the Russian version, of the cheaper offer to India for the PAK-FA.

With the cheaper off, it seems the negotiations between Russia and India have accelerated.

Russian Government Officials Given 400 Page Book of PROPHETIC Quotes by...PUTIN

Officials across Russia have been given a 400-page book of "prophetic" quotes by President Vladimir Putin as a new year gift, it's reported.

The collection, entitled Words That Change The World, was sent to as many as 1,000 people by one of Mr Putin's top aides, Vyacheslav Volodin, according to the business newspaper RBK. Recipients include MPs, regional governors and civil society representatives. In an accompanying letter, Mr Volodin says the book should be seen as a guide to the Kremlin's "values and guiding principles". He's also reported to have recommended it to a recent meeting of officials as "required reading for any politician".

The book is said to include the text of 19 speeches by Mr Putin, and highlights key quotes in bold that the introduction says "predicted and preordained" world events. Among the texts are a 2007 speech in Munich in which Mr Putin accused the US of courting disaster by seeking to dominate the global order, and his 2014 address to Russian parliamentarians fiercely defending the annexation of Crimea.

China to cut Major Pollutant Emissions From Power Sector 60 % by 2020

China will cut emissions of major pollutants in the power sector by 60 percent by 2020, the cabinet announced on Wednesday, after world leaders met in Paris to address climate change.

China will also reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power generation by 180 million tonnes by 2020, according to a statement on the official government website. It did not give comparison figures but said the cuts would be made through efficiency gains.

In Paris, Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said she had not seen the announcement, but linked it to expectations that China's coal use would peak by the end of the decade.

"I can only assume they are talking about the same thing," she told Reuters.

Researchers at Chinese government-backed think-tanks said last month that coal consumption by power stations in China would probably peak by 2020.

An EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday's announcement seemed to relate more to air pollutants than greenhouse gas emissions.

Russia Officially Cans Lunar Exploration Until at Least 2025

According to the FSP for years 2016-2025, the Russian space industry will refrain from creating a lunar landing complex, a lunar orbital station, a lunar space suit and the system of robotic software for Moon flights, the newspaper said.

In 2012, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the country’s space industry, suggested setting up space research base on the Moon, and pledged to personally control and manage all the processes related to its construction and functioning in the future.

Roscosmos also decided to suspend the project, and the Federal Space Program does not include expenses for it.

The suspension of the so-called Moon Program allowed to save the budget some 88.5 billion rubles ($1.2 billion at the current exchange rate), the newspaper notes.

ExoMars Successfully Shipped to Baikonur

Europe's second mission to Mars has begun its journey from its birthplace in Cannes to its planned arrival at Mars on October 19. Since December 17 we've been able to watch every step of its journey, thanks to a stream of tweets from Albert Haldemann. He is overseeing the spacecraft's assembly, integration, and verification, and flew back and forth from Baikonur for the three trips required to transport ExoMars and all its equipment. Tweeting from Baikonur was technical operations officer Remy van Haarlem. I've Storified their tweets here, but include a few highlights below.

Russia Lays Keel for 7th Borey Class Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarine

United Shipbuilding Corporation's Sevmash shipyard laid on 18 December the keel for the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine Emperor Alexander III : the Russian Navy's fourth modernised Dolgoruky (Borey-A)-class SSBN and the seventh boat in the Project 955/955A Borey class overall.

The newest Borey-A SSBN will deploy to the Pacific Fleet, according to Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Vice Admiral Viktor Bursuk.

Three Dolgoruky (Project 955) submarines are already in service, and three Borey-A boats are in build at Sevmash. The navy plans to complete a total of eight Dolgoruky SSBNs by 2020.

J-16D Electronic Warfare Variant Makes First Flight

A possible new electronic warfare (EW) variant of the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-16 twin-seat strike fighter made its first flight on 18 December, according to Chinese sources, potentially adding a significant offensive capability to the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

Images of the new variant have emerged on several Chinese military web pages, including a 21 December 2015 video report on the popular Ifeng web page. The most salient modifications are two new wingtip pods similar to the Northrop Grumman AN/ALQ-218 Tactical Jamming Receiver, leading to comparisons with the E/A-18G Growler electronic attack variant of Boeing's Super Hornet.

This possible J-16 EW prototype appears to lack the usual fuselage-mounted gun and the infrared search and tracking system (IRST) also appears to be missing, but the J-16, which resembles the Russian Sukhoi Su-30, would have up to 10 wing and fuselage hardpoints for ordnance and active jamming pods.

Northrop Wins $93M for DARPA TERN Drone

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. Aerospace Systems, El Segundo, California, has been awarded a $93,076,636 Other Transaction Agreement for prototype project - Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (Tern) program, Phase III. The Tern program will design, develop, and demonstrate enabling technologies and system attributes for a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned air vehicle and shipboard-capable launch and recovery system allowing operations from smaller ships. The Tern Phase III program will focus on the design, fabrication, and testing of a prototype Tern Demonstration System. The face value of the OTA is $132,473,192 with a contractor's cost share of $39,396,556 and the total estimated government share of $93,076,636. Work will be performed in El Segundo, California; Newport News, Virginia; Benbrook, Texas; El Cajon, California; Cincinnati, Ohio; East Aurora, New York; Dulles, Virginia; Mojave, California and Spark, Nevada with an estimated completion of November 2017. Fiscal 2015 and 2016 research and development funds in the amount of $29,563,813 are being obligated at time of the award. DARPA, Arlington, Virginia, is the contracting activity (HR0011-16-9-0003).

The systematic relationships and biogeographic history of ornithischian dinosaurs

The systematic relationships and biogeographic history of ornithischian dinosaurs




The systematic relationships of taxa traditionally referred to as ‘basal ornithopods’ or ‘hypsilophodontids’ remain poorly resolved since it was discovered that these taxa are not a monophyletic group, but rather a paraphyletic set of neornithischian taxa. Thus, even as the known diversity of these taxa has dramatically increased over the past two decades, our knowledge of their placement relative to each other and the major ornithischian subclades remained incomplete. This study employs the largest phylogenetic dataset yet compiled to assess basal ornithischian relationships (255 characters for 65 species level terminal taxa). The resulting strict consensus tree is the most well-resolved, stratigraphically consistent hypothesis of basal ornithischian relationships yet hypothesized. The only non-iguanodontian ornithopod (=basal ornithopod) recovered in this analysis is Hypsilophodon foxii. The majority of former ‘hypsilophodontid’ taxa are recovered within a single clade (Parksosauridae) that is situated as the sister-taxon to Cerapoda. The Parksosauridae is divided between two subclades, the Orodrominae and the Thescelosaurinae. This study does not recover a clade consisting of the Asian taxa Changchunsaurus, Haya, and Jeholosaurus (=Jeholosauridae). Rather, the former two taxa are recovered as basal members of Thescelosaurinae, while the latter taxon is recovered in a clade with Yueosaurus near the base of Neornithischia.The endemic South American clade Elasmaria is recovered within the Thescelosaurinae as the sister taxon to Thescelosaurus. This study supports the origination of Dinosauria and the early diversification of Ornithischia within Gondwana. Neornithischia first arose in Africa by the Early Jurassic before dispersing to Asia before the late Middle Jurassic, where much of the diversification among non-cerapodan neornithischians occurred. Under the simplest scenario the Parksosauridae originated in North America, with at least two later dispersals to Asia and one to South America. However, when ghost lineages are considered, an alternate dispersal hypothesis has thescelosaurines dispersing from Asia into South America (via North America) during the Early Cretaceous, then back into North America in the latest Cretaceous. The latter hypothesis may explain the dominance of orodromine taxa prior to the Maastrichtian in North America and the sudden appearance and wide distribution of thescelosaurines in North America beginning in the early Maastrichtian. While the diversity of parksosaurids has greatly increased over the last fifteen years, a ghost lineage of over 40 myr is present between the base of Parksosauridae and Cerapoda, indicating that much of the early history and diversity of this clade is yet to be discovered. This new phylogenetic hypothesis provides a comprehensive framework for testing further hypotheses regarding evolutionary patterns and processes within Ornithischia.

Comparing Cretaceous Ocean Anoxic Events' Sulfur Cycling

Biogeochemical sulfur cycling during Cretaceous Ocean Anoxic Events: A comparison of OAE1a and OAE2


Gomes et al


Biogeochemical sulfur cycling has varied widely over geologic time, mainly in response to changes in primary productivity and organic carbon burial, volcanism, weathering, and evaporite deposition. Several of these processes are explicitly linked to discreet (less than 1.2 Ma) intervals of widespread organic carbon burial, termed Ocean Anoxic Events (OAEs). During the Cretaceous, there is a highly distinctive ~4‰ negative excursion in the sulfur isotope composition of seawater sulfate (δ34SSO4) that is bracketed by the two most prominent OAEs (OAE1a and OAE2). This excursion lasted for ~25 Ma and has been variously attributed to enhanced volcanism, changes in weathering, evaporite burial, and/or changes in modes of organic carbon remineralization. We present new high-resolution carbon and sulfur isotope records from carbonate associated sulfate and pyrite for OAE1a and OAE2. OAE1a is characterized by a monotonic decrease in δ34SSO4 values. Both negative and positive δ34SSO4 excursions are associated with OAE2. To refine hypotheses for the observed changes in biogeochemical sulfur cycling associated with these events, we use a simple sulfur isotope box model. Both empirical and modeling results indicate that δ34SSO4 variability was dominated by input fluxes during OAE1a, whereas enhanced volcanism, weathering, and pyrite burial controlled δ34SSO4 records during OAE2. Our analysis supports the conclusion that Cretaceous marine sulfate concentrations were much lower than modern concentrations, and indicates that increases in marine sulfate occurred at the onset of both events. We conclude that increases in marine sulfate from low background concentrations, in conjunction with other environmental characteristics, contributed to the development of OAEs.

Dinosaur Tracks From Middle Jurassic Isle of Skye

A newly discovered collection of rare dinosaur tracks is helping scientists shed light on some of the biggest animals ever to live on land.

Hundreds of footprints and handprints made by plant-eating sauropods around 170 million years ago have been found on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

The discovery - which is the biggest dinosaur site yet found in Scotland - helps fill an important gap in the evolution the huge, long-necked animals, which were the biggest of the dinosaurs.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh identified the tracks in layers of rock, which would have been at the bottom of a shallow, salt water lagoon when the prints were made.

By analysing the structure of the footprints, the team found that the dinosaurs were early, distant relatives of more well-known species, such as Brontosaurus and Diplodocus. The Skye dinosaurs likely grew to at least 15 metres in length and weighed more than 10 tonnes.

The footprints - the largest of which is 70 cm in diameter - are the first sauropod tracks to be found in Scotland. Until now, the only evidence that sauropods lived in Scotland came from a small number of bone and teeth fragments.

Fossils from the Middle Jurassic Period are extremely rare, and the Isle of Skye is one of the few places in the world where they can be found.

The discovery is helping scientists to reimagine the habitats and lifestyles of the world's biggest dinosaurs. Together with similar tracks found recently in other parts of the world, the Skye trackways reveal that sauropods spent lots of time in coastal areas and shallow water. It was previously thought that large dinosaurs were purely land-dwellers.


Evidence of a Rhyacian Paleoproterozoic Supercontinent From Brazil

Crustal evolution of the northern Brasília Belt basement, central Brazil: a Rhyacian orogeny coeval with a pre-Rodinia supercontinent assembly


de Sousa et al


The Brasília thrust and fold belt developed in the course of Neoproterozoic Brasiliano orogeny, during the convergence of São Francisco, Amazonian and Paranapanema cratons, in an early phase of Gondwana agglutination. A Paleoproterozoic terrane cropping out in its northern segment -represents the basement of the belt and corresponds to a magmatic arc. The arc developed during Rhyacian, possibly on the margin of an Archean-Paleoproterozoic block that is today represented by the São Francisco craton. The Paleoproterozoic arc evolution starts following a calc-alkaline trend between 2.30 and 2.16 Ga, changing from a typical juvenile to crustal contaminated terrane with slightly negative ɛNd(t) values, as revealed by tonalites and granodiorites of Conceição do Tocantins Suite. By c. 2.17-2.15 Ga, a collisional event took place, triggering crustal melting and generating peraluminous granites. These syn-collisional granites present strongly negative ɛNd values and belong to Aurumina Suite. Natividade, Almas-Conceição do Tocantins and Cavalcante-Arraias domains within the basement do not represent distinct tectonic blocks. The first two are areas where mainly plutonic arc rocks crop out and in the last one, syn-collisional granites are the most common lithology. Syn-collisional granites characterize granitogenesis produced by collision of another landmass against São Francisco landmass. The arc development is contemporary with collisional orogens that culminated in a conjectural Paleoproterozoic pre-Rodinia supercontinent. Since Rhyacian, these rocks are part of the landmass that would become the São Francisco craton and compose Brasília Belt basement.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Library was Burning




The torrent of hands and teeth, raked and grasped, bit and tore. Corrupting those they pulled down into their damnation. Turning them into the foulest things in turn. An they coming for those they once loved.

They had destroyed the city of Alexandria. We were here to take it back.


Shields locked, the first ranks pushed forward, pushing back the pestilence. Pushing back the foulness. The corrupted flesh. This Persian plague.

The elongated pila used against the Scythians did their bloody work over the shields of the front ranks. Piercing skulls, stabbing deep. The front ranks themselves only held the line, held their shields, with all of their might. The things, the foulness fell. One after another.

The gauntlets and bracers, boots and trousers from fighting the damned Dacians worked well here. Teeth, even unholy teeth could not pierce them.

There was no rest, no respite, not until we pushed the dead against the inner face of the city walls and exterminated them. The toll was terrible. Yet we bore it. We must. If this Persian foulness were to spread, there would be no hope.


Down the streets, auxiliaries clearing houses as the Legion passed, securing our rear.


Stepping through the sea of rot, breathe of death itself.


The screams and coughing hacking phlegm filled groans of the things before us rose.


This was the last of them in the city. The last of them we faced. The final horde.


And it was done. The final gurgling thing pierced by many pila, stabbed through the eyes, through the skull, through its rotten gaping maw.

A cheer up. Victory.

Then there was a cry. From the city wall. From above. Horrified, I ran with my guard to the top. Were we facing a secret den? One that would spill down on the legionnaires from above?! That would be a disaster.

Hector, a centurion of years and experienced, stood weeping and I saw. A new, greater host streaming up the Nile. Coming, coming, coming for us. But we would not be had.

We would not fall to their curse. And we would not let it spread.

We marched and formed and prepared for undeath, but taking as many as we could. Ending this plague.

Raising my sword, I cried, "ROMA VICTIRIX!"

My men echoed. Strong and determined. No man ran. No man wet himself. No man cried. Not now. Rome would be proud. We were to be faithful to the last.

The horde bore down, smelling our sweat, our health. Our iron willed flesh.

The shambling pass came on. We stood ready.

But in my heart, I knew we were doomed. There was no escape. We could destroy as much as could though in hopes of reducing the plague, the foulness...and then...

A hand placed itself on my shoulder. Surprised, I turned. And...a man? stood before me. Roman, but ethereal. Dressed in the attire of four centuries ago.

"You have done enough, Legate. We shall stand to line and finish this."

I opened my mouth to say something, to respond, to ask, to...but it was too late. He was gone.

Thinking I was going mad, I turned to the front and saw...and my men saw too. Flickering into place, one after another, ranks, centuries, cohorts and legions. Of ghosts. Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, arrayed and ranked and ready between the unending horde and remenants of my men. Over a millennia of Roman legionnaires stood between the gnawing them and us.

A cry went up, "CAESAR! CAESAR! CAESAR!"

And the reply. "PUSH!"

We, XIII Legion, witnessed Spirit of Rome, even as sickly and down beaten her physical form, crush the Persian Plague one, last time.

Robopocalypse Report #68


After a drone nearly hit a skier, they have been banned at the World Cup.

There are some rumblings the FAA's drone registry is ...well... illegal!  OTOH, it is going ahead and the folks wishing otherwise might be just grasping at straws.  That said, the registration and regulations are already clashing with established local and state laws.  Oh!  The mess regulation is now.

Russia is requiring a drones be registered, too.

Russia is also claiming it will be building military versions of the flamethrowing drone.

Japan will be using drones for disaster relief.

Can you stop your neighbor from flying over your property with their drone?

It seems even drones get confused about what they are going to do when they grow up.

North Dakota is aiming to be the Silicon Valley for drones with its wide open spaces and few people.

Tennessee is banning guns on drones except for the police.

Home insurers are trying to get drones excluded from policy coverage.

Drones have been banned in the San Francisco Bay's East Bay Regional Parks.

Coming in 2016, GoPro's own line of drones.

Its coming: twitter enabled drones.

Self Driving Cars:

Mercedes' self driving 'lounge'

California's DMV has issued it's draft regulations for self driving cars.  It outlines how the makers must prove safety, requires reporting on cyber security/etc,  and mandates the cars must allow for people to take over.  Google is unhappy with it.

Google has teamed up with Ford for building self driving cars.  Here's possibly why.  Some are heralding the teaming arrangement as having the potential for Ford to become the king of self driving cars.  That might be a bit overblown.

Samsung has decided to work with BMW.   The start of teaming with traditional manufacturers along with tech companies is getting to be interesting.

Google and Uber are racing to who gets to the self driving taxi market first.  Or that's one take.

Rinspeed has turned a BMW i8 into a self driving, drone launching concept car.

Tesla is a little miffed about one guy supposedly being able to create a self driving car.

Some are claiming there is a serious problem with driverless cars: they follow the law and because people do not, the self driving cars keep getting hit.

The University of Cambridge has been working on machine vision for self driving cars.

Elon Musk is now predicting self driving cars are only two years away. 

Bosch on the other hand claims self driving cars are a decade away.

Cory Doctorow is fretting over who controls the code behind self driving cars.  This is a stupid issue.  Airliner or even private planes do not release the code for their aircraft avionics.

3d Printing:

In a provocative article, it is claimed CNC manufacturing killed 3d printing.  In return, 3d printing advocates point out 3d printing vs cnc is a false dichotomy. Others are claiming 3d printing is actually on the upswing, not petering out.

Intellectual Property and 3d printing are two areas where there is a strong chance something will go really off rails.  After all, when a physical object is purely a design downloaded, all sorts of IP can be violated.  Well, it seems it can even happen accidentally

How could the 3d printing could revolutionize car manufacturing businesses?

Local Motors' 3d printed car gets a profiling again.

How to 3d print a water powered robot.

Made in Space has created the first 3d printed cubesat chassis intended for an actualy launch.

NASA's first 3d printed rocket engine is 75% complete and then was tested. Successfully.

Is 3d printed medicine one of those Next Big Things?

Will HP succeed in dominating the 3d printing market in 2016?

There is now an autonomous robot with a 3d printer in it.


Tel Aviv University has developed a jumping, locust inspired robot and proposed it be used for search and rescue.

A company  has developed a robot to strip the sound dampening rubber tiles from their submarines.

The NSF has awarded $37M for the development of bots designed to cooperate with people.

LG has combined a security system with a mobile robo vacuum.  This can only end well!

A sea going robot could clear plastic and trash from the sea.

China is betting big on robotics.

It had to happen sooner or later, but someone has been named the Robot Whisperer.

Japan has designed and built a tomato picking robot.

Another opinion piece on the introduction of construction robots.

Remember that guy jumping around with the sign on the street corner to promote a business?  The bots might be coming for his job, too.

A humanoid robot company is opening in Turkey.


Get ready for the first cyborg olympics.

Software Bots:

An AI was 'crowdtaught' how to drive.

Meet Xiaoice, the sympathetic chatbot app on Chinese phones.  Her is here?

Computer World worries about the dark side of the coming chatbot revolution.

Will Google's AI research spark an arms race?

Philosophy and Economics:

 CNET discusses the Robopocalypse.

The News & Observer does the same.

Here's some more AI Anxiety.

Rotterdam's dock workers have decided to strike, in part, against the introduction of robots.

Some arguments made by the OpenAI Foundation as to why they ought to open source AI software code and their hopes for the foundation.

Psst.  Get over your AI Anxiety.

And can we hope the anxiety over the Robopocalypse has peaked and get on with dealing with its economic consequences (and implementation).

Puerto Rico's Governor Protests U.S. Solicitor General Brief

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla has denounced what he is calling a change in the U.S. government's historic position on the island's political status.

In a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, portions of which were released Sunday by the governor's office, Garcia Padilla said the new stance contradicts the U.S. past position that the autonomy Puerto Rico gained through the approval of its 1952 constitution should remove it from the U.N.'s list of non-self-governing territories.

"I believe it is my moral obligation to defend and to clarify the historic record, not only before us, but before the courts, the United States and the international community," Garcia Padilla wrote.

Last week U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli filed a friend of the court brief arguing that Puerto Rico remains a territory under the powers of the U.S. Congress despite the increased autonomy its constitution granted.

"Puerto Rico's transition to local self-government was a significant development in its relationship to the United States, and it has yielded many benefits for Puerto Rico and the United States in a relationship of mutual respect. Congress has evinced no intention to revoke the local autonomy it has vested in the government of Puerto Rico. But as a constitutional matter, Puerto Rico remains a territory subject to Congress's authority under the Territory Clause," Verrilli stated in the brief.

The filing is in connection of a U.S. Supreme Court review of a case that will determine if Puerto Rico, like the 50 states, can file local charges against people for crimes of which they have already been convicted by federal authorities. The answer centers on whether Puerto Rico is a "separate sovereign" for purposes of the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment Double Jeopardy clause. The Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the island is not a separate sovereign because Congress' decision to permit local self-government involved a "delegation of powers" not a "transfer of sovereignty."

The Impact of Global Warming on Crop Pests

As delegates from 195 nations meet in Paris to debate mankind's response to global climate change, scientists from the University of Kansas and Rothamsted Research in England today issue a study of a major crop pest that underlines how "climate is changing in more ways than just warming."

Their paper, appearing in Nature Climate Change, shows how large-scale climatic changes drive a coordinated rise and fall of numbers of aphids across Great Britain, even when individual aphid populations in that nation are separated by great distance.

The researchers studied a phenomenon called "spatial synchrony," revealing how changing climate can effect ecological populations through increases in average temperature and changes in how climatic fluctuations in different areas relate to each other.

"If you care about crops, you have a reason to care about how climate change affects crop pests like aphids," said Daniel Reuman, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at KU and senior scientist with the Kansas Biological Survey, who co-authored the paper.

"If you eat, you have a reason to care about crops," he said.

The scientists looked at decades' worth of population surveys of 20 aphid species carried out with suction traps throughout Britain. In the data, they searched out triggers for shifts in spatial synchrony among aphid numbers over multiple timescales -- triggers that, until now, have been hard for researchers to determine.