Friday, July 31, 2015

Report: MtGox CEO Arrested in Japan

Japanese police on Saturday arrested Mark Karpeles, CEO of the collapsed MtGox bitcoin exchange, over the loss of nearly $390 million worth of the virtual currency, local media said.

Karpeles, 30, is suspected of having accessed the computer system of the exchange and falsifying data on its outstanding balance, Kyodo News and public broadcaster NHK said.

The global virtual currency community was shaken by the shuttering of MtGox, which froze withdrawals in February 2014 because of what the firm said was a bug in the software underpinning Bitcoin that allowed hackers to pilfer them.

The exchange filed for bankruptcy protection soon after, admitting it had lost 850,000 coins worth 48 billion yen ($387 million) at the time.

US Air Force to Spend Around $57.5 Billion on Strategic Bombers Over Next Decade

The US government expects to spend $33.1B building its next-generation strategic bomber over the coming decade and a further $24.4B upgrading the Northrop Grumman B-2 and Boeing B-52, according to a 30 July Government Accountability Office report.

The figures come as the US Air Force prepares to award a development contract for the Long-Range Strike Bomber to either Northrop Grumman or a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team. An announcement is expected in late August or early September and could be worth upwards of $80B to the winner for 80 to 100 new bombers.

The 10-year spending projections are accurate as of May 2014, but represent the most comprehensive bomber figures made public so far.

By comparison, the Congressional Budget Office reported in January that strategic bomber spending would total $40B through 2024, $18B less than the government estimate.

US Marine Corps Declares F-35B IOC, Ready for War

The US Marine Corps has decided for good or ill to declare their F-35B has acheived IOC or Initial Operational Capability.   This means the F-35B can do to war.  However, it will not have its entire capability set.  That 'Initial' bit is still set.  The F-35B can do data fusion for 4 F-35Bs at once.  It cannot fire its cannon (which is an external pod on the B anyways).  It successfully went to sea on the USS Wasp, but, unfortunately, could only have 50% of the aircraft being combat ready at any time.

The first squadron will go to Okinawa.  Some will be based on land.  Some will be aboard an LHD.

This is being reported all over the place.

Report: Tu-160M2 to Incorporate PAK-FA Avionics

In addition to a new engine, Russia’s elite Tupolev Tu-160M2 strategic bomber (“White Swan”) is capable of carrying cruise and nuclear missiles and will receive cutting-edge avionics, said Vladimir Mikheev, the adviser of the deputy head of Russia’s Radio-Electronic Technologies Concern (RETC), according to Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

The new avionics and electronic warfare system of the Tu-160, codenamed Blackjack by NATO military experts, will begin this year. Construction of the design materials and documentation of battle performance characteristics and technical specifications are currently underway, Mikheev informed.

The new avionics system is currently being tested on the Sukhoi PAK FA Tu-50, Russia's fifth-generation fighter. After that, military engineers will take best elements tested on the Tu-50 and use them to create an aircraft with fundamentally new capabilities, the official representative of RETC said.


India Formally Cancels MMRCA Procurement, Rafale Looks Good in Malayasia, UAE

As per the India-France Joint Statement issued by the two countries during the Prime Minister's visit to France, Government of India conveyed to the Government of France that in view of the critical operational necessity for Multirole Combat Aircraft for Indian Air Force (IAF), Government of India would like to acquire (36) Rafale jets in fly-away condition as quickly as possible. The two leaders agreed to conclude an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for supply of the aircraft on terms that would be better than conveyed by Dassault Aviation as part of a separate process underway, the delivery would be in time-frame that would be compatible with the operational requirement of IAF; and that the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by IAF, and with a longer maintenance responsibility by France.

A Negotiating Team has been constituted to negotiate the terms and conditions of the procurement of 36 Rafale jets and recommend a draft agreement. The meetings of the Indian Negotiating team with the French side have commenced.

The RFP issued earlier for procurement of 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) has been withdrawn. In this multi-vendor procurement case, the Rafale aircraft met all the performance characteristics stipulated in the Request for Proposal (RFP) during the evaluation conducted by Indian Air Force.

However, it looks good for the Malayasians and for the United Arab Emirates

The Iron Toothed Multituberculate Mammal From Maastrichtian Cretaceous Transylvanian “Haţeg Island”

Red Iron-Pigmented Tooth Enamel in a Multituberculate Mammal from the Late Cretaceous Transylvanian “Haţeg Island”


Smith et al


Mammals that inhabit islands are characterized by peculiar morphologies in comparison to their mainland relatives. Here we report the discovery of a partial skull associated with the lower jaws of a Late Cretaceous (≈70 Ma) multituberculate mammal from the Carpathian “Haţeg Island” of Transylvania, Romania. The mammal belongs to the Kogaionidae, one of the rare families that survived the Cretaceous—Paleogene mass extinction in Europe. The excellent preservation of this specimen allows for the first time description of the complete dentition of a kogaionid and demonstration that the enigmatic Barbatodon transylvanicus presents a mosaic of primitive and derived characters, and that it is phylogenetically basal among the Cimolodonta. Another peculiarity is the presence of red pigmentation in its tooth enamel. The red coloration is present on the anterior side of the incisors and on the cusps of most of the teeth. Energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDS) analysis reveals that the pigmented enamel contains iron, as in living placentals. Such a red pigmentation is known in living soricine shrews and many families of rodents, where it is thought to increase the resistance of the enamel to the abrasion that occurs during “grinding” mastication. The extended pattern of red pigment distribution in Barbatodon is more similar to that in eulipotyplan insectivores than to that in rodents and suggests a very hard diet and, importantly, demonstrates that its grasping incisors were not ever-growing. As inferred for other endemic Transylvanian vertebrates such as dwarf herbivorous dinosaurs and unusual theropod dinosaurs, insularity was probably the main factor of survival of such a primitive mammalian lineage relative to other mainland contemporaries of the Northern hemisphere.

Chinese Kayitou Formation is Latest Changhsingian Permian, not Triassic, & Witness to PT Extinction

The terrestrial end-Permian mass extinction in South China


Zhang et al


The end-Permian mass extinction reflects the most severe life crisis during the Phanerozoic and was associated with major global environmental changes. However, the consistency of the time and pattern of the terrestrial and marine extinctions remains controversial. In this paper, we presented detailed analyses of the high-resolution biostratigraphical and geochemical data from terrestrial sections in South China. Our analyses show that the transitional Kayitou Formation actually recorded the process of terrestrial mass extinction as evidenced by the mass disappearance of the Gigantopteris megaflora in the lower part, the dramatic reduction in abundance of palynomorphs in the middle, and the last occurrences of plant remains and abundant charcoal fossils in the uppermost part. It is associated with a distinct negative shift of δ13Corg, beginning in the middle part of the formation, which is correlative with that in the top of Bed 26 at the marine Meishan section. In addition, the Kayitou Formation is characterized by a distinct shift of lithofacies of fresh lake-swamp or river flat environment from olive/grey/black mudstone, siltstone, fine to coarse sandstone in the lower part to gradually increasing maroon rocks, to purely maroon mudrocks with poorly-sorted breccia, calcic palaeosols and calcareous nodules in the lowest part of the Dongchuan Formation, which indicates a dramatic collapse of soil system associated with rapid deforestation and climatic warming and drying. In the coastal area, the Kayitou Formation contains marine beds with the typical Permian–Triassic mixed faunas and floras which are correlative with the latest Changhsingian marine mixed fauna 1 at Meishan. The Kayitou Formation also recorded a distinct transgression that began in the latest Changhsingian. All above phenomena suggest that the Kayitou Formation is actually the witness of the terrestrial end-Permian mass extinction; and it is mostly or entirely of latest Changhsingian (Permian), rather than Triassic age.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Robopocalypse Report #8: This one Came so Quick!

This is my summation of the news about the robopocalypse: the machines coming to change our lives and radically alter our societies in the same way manufacturing did over the last century and a half in the West.  Except, much faster.  

I had settled on waiting until I had sufficient bits of news to share rather than waiting to write one up every week or banging it out every day.  This time, holy cow, the news poured in and I am going to put out a new report today rather than waiting for next week or at least the weekend!

As always, we start with the drones.

Facebook has unveiled its giant internet drone.  This is a replacement, in a sense, for comsats.  However, it will probably end up being more sensitive to weather than comsats are though.

Elsewhere in California, a General Atomics Reaper drone was used in a search and rescue effort at the request of the El Dorado County Sheriffs office to find a missing motorcyclist.

John Hopkins University decided to take the drone delivery to the next level and tested to see whether or not blood, lab specimens and other medical related examples could be delivered by drone.

Additionally, scientists used drones to monitor orcas, allowing precise measurements which they would not have been able to get otherwise.

In Hillview, Kentucky, William Merideth was arrested for shooting down a drone.  The drone kept hovering over his property and supposedly right over his family.  The drone's owner disputes that story.

Its not secret that the US military is into drones.  They have been for decades now and are an almost unique capability.  The US Navy has made history with its X-47B, to be sure, but it has a lot of programs in the works.  So much so, there have been articles about where they are going to put all those drones (UAVs, USVs and UUVs) on their ships, especially the ships which were not designed with being drone carriers in mind.  Furthermore, the US Navy is testing 3d printing custom drones on ships for specific needs as they arise.

Turning to the other poster child of the robopocalypse, the self driving vehicle, CNET profiles MCity again: the test ground for self driving and communicating cars.  

In something which ought to make you twitch, GM's cars can be hacked and semis can have their location-tracking devices turned off or even tracked remotely and hijacked due to a satellite security flaw.  Along with the Fiat Chrysler flaw, this should give everyone the chills when it comes to self driving cars.

Related, there is speculation if cyberwarfare hasn't broken out all over the world and taken over as the primary form of conflict. (snort)

Shifting to general robotics, the Koreans & Harvard have successfully built a very simple robot which can jump on water and act like a water skeeter, taking advantage of the surface tension.

In Dongguan City, China has started embracing the robopocalypse in its factories.  A factory which 6 months ago employed 650 workers building cell phones is now down to 60 (probably going to drop to 20!) and they mainly watch for problems while the bots produce better products (5% defet rate down from 25%) while making 21,00 pieces vs 8,000 before.

In the more mundane bot world, a robot box palletizer was unveiled by Ira Robotics. 

Stanford showed off their space robotics facility with some demos.

Obama directed the DOE, DOD, etc. to form the National Strategic Computer Initiative to produce the first exaflop supercomputer by 2025.  Those of you who have read this blog for a while remember when I put up the slides by Horst Simon explaining why we will not get an exaflop machine by 2020.  With Intel's admission they are going to be at least 8 months late with their next generation of chips, the NSCI is an attempt to force the issue and keep a roughly Moore's Law growth in supercomputer capability despite the fact Moore's Law is toast.  its going to require some fundamental rearchitecting which consumer products probably won't be able to use.

IBM has teamed up with CVS to bring Watson to CVS for chronic patients.  The service bots may be here and coming for the general practitioner.  

The robopocalypse did its first demo for coming to take down the Umpire in baseball.  Maybe we could get them to ref soccer, ahem, football games and killing the diving with its omniscience. 

The CEO of SoftBank thinks robots ought to be required to be programmed to develop emotional and empathetic bonds with humans.  Perhaps Huggable the Caring Bear is the step to that:

Pluto, the Kupier Belt & the Early Compact Solar System

Jerusalem Getting its own TransAmerica Pyramid?


(why I say the above...)

hmm.  Pharaoh would be pleased.

US Air Force Unveiled Roadmap for Deployment of EMP Weapons

The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has unveiled a technology roadmap for its cruise missile-based “CHAMP” high-power microwave (HPM) weapon, which successfully fried banks of computers at a test range in October 2012.

The organisation says it is working on an improved, second-generation “multi-shot, multi-target HPM cruise missile” that builds on the mature counter-electronics high-power microwave advanced missile project payload previously demonstrated.

Based on past comments by AFRL officials, this next iteration of the Boeing and Raytheon-built system will probably be carried on an extended-range Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM-ER).

The laboratory is also eyeing an “HPM advanced missile” in the longer term with a more sophisticated CHAMP-like payload, and then eventual integration with a manned or unmanned aircraft.

Persistent Oceanic Anoxia, Mass (?) Extinction Separate Cambrian, Ordovician Explosions

Persistent oceanic anoxia and elevated extinction rates separate the Cambrian and Ordovician radiations


Saltzman et al


Recurrent mass extinction events (at "biomere"—a biostratigraphic unit—boundaries) characterize the middle Cambrian to Early Ordovician (Tremadocian) time interval that is between the major Cambrian and Ordovician radiations of animal life. A role for anoxia in maintaining elevated extinction rates in the late Cambrian has been proposed based on coincidence of an extinction with positive excursions in δ13Ccarb and δ34SCAS (CAS—carbonate-associated sulfate). Here we examine an Early Ordovician extinction event at the base of the North American Stairsian Stage (upper Tremadocian), and demonstrate concurrent onset of positive excursions in δ13C and δ34S inferred to reflect enhanced organic matter burial under anoxic waters. Sea-level rise may have brought anoxic waters onto the shelf to initiate extinctions. The evidence for δ13C excursions and elevated extinction rates appears to wane in the Tremadocian, consistent with progressive oxygenation of the oceans reaching a threshold that helped facilitate initial stages of the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event.

Noel Maurer Asks: Could Bernie Saunders Win the Presidential Election?

Yes. It would be hard, but it is not science fiction.

An earlier post showed how many states Bernie Sanders would win in an absolute general election wipeout. In reality, such a wipeout is impossible. Consider the strongest post-1980 Republican candidacies in each major demographic group. In 1984, Ronald Reagan won 66% of the white vote. Robert Dole won 12% of the black vote. (Actually, Ford won 17% in 1976 and Reagan got 14% in 1980, but no Republican has come that close since.) George W. Bush won 44% of the Latino vote and 43% of Asian-Americans. If our hypothetical Rubio campaign managed to match all those numbers against Sanders, he would get only 55% of the vote. If he matched all those numbers and managed to get minority turnout back to 2004 levels he would get 56%. Now that is a big margin, but it is not 59%.

Moreover, no Republican is going to get 44% of the Latino vote in 2016. Maybe if immigration reform has passed, but that ship has sailed. Even Rubio would do well to match John McCain, which would give him an eight-point margin against Sanders; ten points if minority turnout collapses.

New Cambrian Lagerstätte Suggests Original Burgess Shale Diversity an Anomaly

Soft-bodied biota from the middle Cambrian (Drumian) Rockslide Formation, Mackenzie Mountains, northwestern Canada


Kimmig et al


A new Burgess Shale-type Lagerstätte is described from the middle Cambrian (Series 3, Drumian) Rockslide Formation of the Mackenzie Mountains, Northwest Territories, Canada. The Rockslide Formation is a unit of deeper water ramp to slope, mixed carbonate, and siliciclastic facies deposited on the northwestern margin of Laurentia. At the fossil-bearing locality, the unit onlaps a fault scarp cutting lower Cambrian sandstones. There it consists of a succession of shale and thick-laminated to thin-bedded lime mudstone, calcareous sandstone, and greenish-colored calcareous mudstone, overlain by shallower water dolostones of the Avalanche Formation, which is indicative of an overall progradational sequence. The Rockslide Formation is of similar age to the Wheeler and Marjum formations of Utah, belonging to the Bolaspidella Biozone. Only two 1 m thick units of greenish mudstone exhibit soft-bodied preservation, with most specimens coming from the lower interval. However, the biota is common but not as diverse as that of other Lagerstätten such as the Burgess Shale in its type area. The shelly fauna is dominated by the hyolith Haplophrentis carinatus Matthew, 1899 along with sparse linguliformean brachiopods, agnostoid arthropods, and ptychoparioid trilobites. The nonmineralized biota includes the macrophytic alga Margaretia dorus Walcott, 1911, priapulid worms, and the carapaces of a number of arthropods. The arthropods belong to Isoxys mackenziensis n. sp., Tuzoia cf. T. guntheri Robison and Richards, 1981; Branchiocaris? sp., Perspicaris? dilatus Robison and Richards, 1981; and bradoriids, along with fragments of arthropods of indeterminate affinities. The style of preservation indicates that most soft parts underwent complete biodegradation, leaving just the more resistant materials such as chitinous arthropod cuticles. The range of preservation and similarity to the coeval biotas preserved in Utah suggests that the composition of this Lagerstätte is probably representative of the community living on the relatively deep-water ramp or slope during middle Cambrian time in Laurentia. This would argue that the extraordinary diversity of the Burgess Shale at Mount Field is anomalous.

I Hate Self Referencing, but! Worlds Made of Dark Matter Theorized

img src here.

However, the image is NOT mine, but rather a cool picture to add some visual for this.   There are no, theorized, worlds made of neutron- and white dwarf star stuff and...dark matter.  Take a look.

Evidence for a Mid-Jurassic Adaptive Radiation in Mammals

Evidence for a Mid-Jurassic Adaptive Radiation in Mammals


Close et al


A series of spectacular discoveries have transformed our understanding of Mesozoic mammals in recent years. These finds reveal hitherto-unsuspected ecomorphological diversity that suggests that mammals experienced a major adaptive radiation during the Middle to Late Jurassic [ 1 ]. Patterns of mammalian macroevolution must be reinterpreted in light of these new discoveries [ 1–3 ], but only taxonomic diversity and limited aspects of morphological disparity have been quantified [ 4, 5 ]. We assess rates of morphological evolution and temporal patterns of disparity using large datasets of discrete characters. Rates of morphological evolution were significantly elevated prior to the Late Jurassic, with a pronounced peak occurring during the Early to Middle Jurassic. This intense burst of phenotypic innovation coincided with a stepwise increase in apparent long-term standing diversity [ 4 ] and the attainment of maximum disparity, supporting a “short-fuse” model of early mammalian diversification [ 2, 3 ]. Rates then declined sharply, and remained significantly low until the end of the Mesozoic, even among therians. This supports the “long-fuse” model of diversification in Mesozoic therians. Our findings demonstrate that sustained morphological innovation in Triassic stem-group mammals culminated in a global adaptive radiation of crown-group members during the Early to Middle Jurassic.

Mercury Anomalies Associated With Three Mass Extinction Events

Mercury anomalies associated with three extinction events (Capitanian Crisis, Latest Permian Extinction and the Smithian/Spathian Extinction) in NW Pangea


Grasby et al


Strata of Permian – Early Triassic age that include a record of three major extinction events (Capitanian Crisis, Latest Permian Extinction and the Smithian/Spathian Extinction) were examined at the Festningen section, Spitsbergen. Over the c. 12 Ma record examined, mercury in the sediments shows relatively constant background values of 0.005–0.010 μg g–1. However, there are notable spikes in Hg concentration over an order of magnitude above background associated with the three extinctions. The Hg/total organic carbon (TOC) ratio shows similar large spikes, indicating that they represent a true increase in Hg loading to the environment. We argue that these represent Hg loading events associated with enhanced Hg emissions from large igneous province (LIP) events that are synchronous with the extinctions. The Hg anomalies are consistent across the NW margin of Pangea, indicating that widespread mercury loading occurred. While this provides utility as a chemostratigraphic marker the Hg spikes may also indicate loading of toxic metals to the environment, a contributing cause to the mass extinction events.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

An Article in the New York Law Journal on Asteroid Mining Legalities

Over the last two years, U.S. business and policy makers have focused afresh on the commercial possibilities of the asteroids—the solar system's minor planetary objects. Most of these are located between Mars and Jupiter, while some are closer to Earth. Some have large deposits of precious metals and other potentially valuable substances. In the last few years, some private operators have announced plans to mine them commercially, a concept that, until now, has been exclusively the realm of science fiction.

In apparent response to these initiatives, the House of Representatives recently passed the "Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act of 2015," H.R. 1508, part of a broader SPACE Act of 2015, H.R. 2262. The proposed legislation aims to assure private companies of title over "[a]ny asteroid resources obtained in outer space"—assuming, of course, that they are eventually able to get there. Although this initiative only began in the late part of the last congressional session, with relatively brief hearings, it was sponsored by key members of the House Committee on Space, Science and Technology. The bill now goes to the Senate (where it already has at least two potential adherents, including presidential candidate and Senator Marco Rubio). If enacted, this will be a bold, if controversial, development in U.S. space policy.


Russia Commits to International Space Station Through 2024, bad Sign for Independent Russian Space Station

Russia has formally notified its International Space Station partners that it will continue in the partnership at least to 2024, ending several months of doubts that were fueled by the current poor state of Russia’s relations with the West.

The 22-nation European Space Agency confirmed that the Russia space agency, Roscosmos, had notified ESA and the other partners of its commitment to 2024, a decision that followed similar guarantees by NASA – the station’s general contractor – and the Canadian Space Agency.

That leaves ESA and the Japanese space agency, JAXA, as the only two current partners yet to make a decision. ESA has yet to commit even to 2020 but expects to do so at a meeting of its member governments in late 2016.


Much like the Tu-160 line restart is for the PAK-DA bomber, this announcement is a really, really bad sign for an independent Russian space station.  I suspect we will not hear about the independent space station for some time.  The only other way the Russians might do another space station outside of the ISS is with the Chinese.  However, like the ISS being bankrolled by America by and large, so too the other space station would be by China. 

Evidence of Carbonation of the Deep Martian Crust in the Isidis and Hellas Basins

Deep alteration between Hellas and Isidis Basins


Bultel et al


Recent investigations of alteration of martian crustal outcrops suggest putative crustal hydrothermal systems, which are favorable environments for the emergence of life. In this study, we perform an analysis of the CRISM targeted observations covering crustal outcrops in the region between the Hellas and Isidis basins with the goal of investigating the alteration phases. Over the wide studied region, we detect the presence of possible serpentines, chlorites, smectites and carbonates. These detections occur within ejecta blankets, crater walls and central uplifts of impact craters. We investigate the relation between the observed associations of minerals and the ages of the impact craters assessed by crater count. No clear relation is observed. We also investigate the relationship between the group of detected mineral and the pre-impact depth of the studied outcrops assessed from the size of the impact craters. This method allows us to reconstruct the pre-impact cross-section. We suggest that alteration of the first 7 km of the crust between the Hellas and Isidis basins may have undergone alteration processes.

How Sand Moves Across the Face of Mars

Unsteady saltation on Mars


Wang et al


Saltation is an important process on Mars, as it contributes to dust raising, bedform dynamics, and aeolian abrasion. Lander measurements and mesoscale meteorological models suggest that winds in the Martian atmosphere rarely exceed the fluid threshold value that is necessary to aerodynamically initiate saltation, a fact in stark contrast to the existence of dunes and ripples on the planet, many of which are in an active state of migration. In an attempt to reconcile these observations, we perform an unsteady simulation with a simple turbulence model to calculate the saltation transport rate. Sinusoidal wind variations are imposed on the saltation layer. The numerical simulations verify that gusty transport is one of the main manifestations of Martian sediment transport events. A formula for the saltation transport rate is reported, Qm∼(u∗-u∗it)pQm∼(u∗-u∗it)p, where u∗u∗ and u∗itu∗it are the friction velocity and impact threshold friction velocity. The power p varies in the range of 0.7–1.8 on Mars and ∼1.5 on Earth, depending on the period and amplitude of the gusty inflow wind. Our results show that the law of Martian and terrestrial transport rate are not universal, and hence one should be cautious when trying to extrapolate existing terrestrial results to Mars.

An Alternate Model for the Growth of PreColumbian Tiwanaku

Multiethnicity, pluralism, and migration in the south central Andes: An alternate path to state expansion




The south central Andes is known as a region of enduring multiethnic diversity, yet it is also the cradle of one the South America’s first successful expansive-state societies. Social structures that encouraged the maintenance of separate identities among coexistent ethnic groups may explain this apparent contradiction. Although the early expansion of the Tiwanaku state (A.D. 600–1000) is often interpreted according to a centralized model derived from Old World precedents, recent archaeological research suggests a reappraisal of the socio-political organization of Tiwanaku civilization, both for the diversity of social entities within its core region and for the multiple agencies behind its wider program of agropastoral colonization. Tiwanaku’s sociopolitical pluralism in both its homeland and colonies tempers some of archaeology’s global assumptions about the predominant role of centralized institutions in archaic states.

Kennewick Man is Native American, Related to Local Tribes

The ancestry and affiliations of Kennewick Man


Rasmussen et al


Kennewick Man, referred to as the Ancient One by Native Americans, is a male human skeleton discovered in Washington state (USA) in 1996 and initially radiocarbon dated to 8,340–9,200 calibrated years before present (bp). His population affinities have been the subject of scientific debate and legal controversy. Based on an initial study of cranial morphology it was asserted that Kennewick Man was neither Native American nor closely related to the claimant Plateau tribes of the Pacific Northwest, who claimed ancestral relationship and requested repatriation under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). The morphological analysis was important to judicial decisions that Kennewick Man was not Native American and that therefore NAGPRA did not apply. Instead of repatriation, additional studies of the remains were permitted2. Subsequent craniometric analysis affirmed Kennewick Man to be more closely related to circumpacific groups such as the Ainu and Polynesians than he is to modern Native Americans. In order to resolve Kennewick Man’s ancestry and affiliations, we have sequenced his genome to ~1× coverage and compared it to worldwide genomic data including for the Ainu and Polynesians. We find that Kennewick Man is closer to modern Native Americans than to any other population worldwide. Among the Native American groups for whom genome-wide data are available for comparison, several seem to be descended from a population closely related to that of Kennewick Man, including the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (Colville), one of the five tribes claiming Kennewick Man. We revisit the cranial analyses and find that, as opposed to genome-wide comparisons, it is not possible on that basis to affiliate Kennewick Man to specific contemporary groups. We therefore conclude based on genetic comparisons that Kennewick Man shows continuity with Native North Americans over at least the last eight millennia.

The Survivors of the Permian Mass Extinction Delayed Benthic Marine Recovery

Competition in slow motion: the unusual case of benthic marine communities in the wake of the end-Permian mass extinction


Hautmann et al


Changes of community structure in response to competition usually take place on timescales that are much too short to be visible in the geological record. Here we report the notable exception of a benthic marine community in the wake of the end-Permian mass extinction, which is associated with the microbial limestone facies of the earliest Triassic of South China. The newly reported fauna is well preserved and extraordinarily rich (30 benthic macroinvertebrate species, including the new species Astartella? stefaniae (Bivalvia) and Eucochlis obliquecostata (Gastropoda)) and stems from an environmentally stable setting providing favourable conditions for benthic organisms. Whereas changes in the taxonomic composition are negligible over the observed time interval of 10–100 ka, three ecological stages are identified, in which relative abundances of initially rare species continuously increased at the cost of previously dominant species. Concomitant with the changes of dominant species is an increase in faunal evenness and heterogeneity. In the absence of both environmental and taxonomic changes, we attribute this pattern to the long-term effects of interspecific competition, which acted at an unusually slow pace because the number of competing species and potential immigrants was dramatically reduced by the end-Permian mass extinction. We suggest that these non-actualistic conditions led to decreased rates of niche differentiation and hence to the delayed rediversification of benthos that characterizes the aftermath of the greatest Phanerozoic mass extinction event. A hyperbolic diversification model is proposed, which accounts for the positive relationship between the intensity of interspecific competition and the rate of niche differentiation and resolves the conundrum of delayed rediversification at a time when niche space was largely vacated.

Evidence of Wild Fires Found in Bonebed From Guadalupian Permian Brazil

Extending the database of Permian palaeo-wildfire on Gondwana: Charcoal remains from the Rio do Rasto Formation (Paraná Basin), Middle Permian, Rio Grande do Sul State, Brazil 

Manfroi et al


Macroscopic charcoal has been recovered from a bonebed from the Barro Alto outcrop, Middle Permian (Guadalupian), Rio do Rasto Formation, in the southernmost part of the Paraná Basin, Brazil. During this time, a global biotic crisis was taking place and changes in the palaeofloristic composition can be observed. Records of palaeowildfires from the Guadalupian Period are scarce on a global scale. In the Paraná Basin low plant diversity, compared to the entirety of Gondwana, persists and just a few plant bearing localities have so far been described from the northern part of the basin. In the studied locality, macroscopic charcoal could be detected in an outcropping bonebed and the occurrence of palaeo-wildfires was confirmed. Besides representing the first palaeobotanical data for the Guadalupian of the southern part of the Paraná Basin, the charcoal remains analyzed here are also a significant record of the local environmental conditions during the increase in aridity observed during the Guadalupian and Lopingian in Gondwana. This contributes to the understanding of regional changes that took place during this interval.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Future Military March #1: of Lasers, Pain Rays and Railguns

I had started out writing about military lasers and how they were virtually here and some of the history and implications.  Its only about a third done.  However, the blogosphere exploded with tons of news on lasers and their status and whatnot.  So I am going to scrap that post in favor of a quick run down on on the news and links much like the Robopocalypse Reports.

First off the Russians are doing their classic pull out the old Soviet equipment (or claim to) to try to compete with the American new tech.  In this case, they are claiming they are pulling back from museums (or threatening to) old blinding laser tanks.  Yup, the USSR built lasers in turrets on T-80 chassis to blind optics and whatnot.  Its a larger version of what the US Army developed with the AN/VLQ-7 Stringray laser for the Bradley IFV.

Secondly, the Iranians decided to fire a laser on a US Navy ship and helicopter in the Gulf of Aden.  It was low powered and obnoxious rather than damaging.  However, it prompted Secretary of the Navy Mabus to tell the US Navy to get its act together and move faster with deploying those lasers they have been developing.

 Breaking Defense walks through the status of various laser programs and the battle they face.

The US Air Force has retained some retired C-130U gunships for laser weapon demonstrations.  These demos would be for both offensive (attack ground target, etc) and defensive (shoot down incoming antiaircraft missile) weapons.  Even for Active Denial System (aka pain ray) tests.  Actually the US Special Forces want the ADS specifically for nonlethal options.  The USAF has stated they believe lasers will allow more flexibility and capability.

It should be noted the HELLADS laser which is, at report, 150 kw is being tested at WSMR. DARPA has offered the laser to the navy to test on a Burke class destroyer in 2018 and to the US Air Force as well.  The goal, which seems to have been met, is to have no more than 5 kg per kilowatt of beam power.  A 150 kw HELLADS would weigh 750 kg.  A single module, each producing a 75 kw beam, is said to be 130 cm by 30 cm by 50 cm (51.2 inches by 11.8 inches by 19.7 inches).  The modules can be aggregated to at least 300 kw or possibly more (as I've said before).

The USNI discusses the Navy's plans for laser - to send a 150 kw laser to sea in 2018 - and its plans for railguns.  A manually loaded railgun will be put to sea on a Joint High Speed Vessel next year.  The follow-on railgun with the ability to fire 10 rounds per minute will go to sea in 2018.  The Navy finished the study on placing a railgun on the last Zumwalt class destroyer.  As I have stated before, in the tour de force USS MC Perry class (and here), they really ought to place one on the Independence derived class Small Surface Combatant frigate.  The space and the layout just makes sense.

The US Army is beginning to get into the railgun mood (but Jane's hides it well).  Their interest is in ballistic missile defense and presumably general air defense since there will be times when the Army's lasers will be degraded by weather.

Robopocalypse Report #7

Welcome to the latest Robopocalypse Report.  This is where I highlight some of the changes coming due to the new robotics revolution we are going through.  There is a strong emphasis on the technology of what is happening, but links will be present for the implications when they are present too.

The explosive ordnance disposal community in the US is now really worried about flying IEDs.  Their concern comes from the idea someone could strap a bomb on a quadcopter or other commercial drone and...yikes!  

The US Navy nuclear attack submarine successfully deployed an unmanned underwater vehicle, drone sub, and recovered it while on deployment.

The Russians took their Platform-M (gotta love Russian project names) to Crimea and showed off at one of their 'military festivals.'  It seems the controller is from video game console.  There are other bits to criticize as well.  Their timing was pretty bad.

The reason being Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and others have called on United Nations to ban autonomous weapons.  So long as one member of the Security Council wants those sort of weapons, the UN is going to do bupkiss. 

Back to more peaceful uses of drones, Amazon proposed the altitude of 200 ft to 400 ft be set aside for drone flights as a way of regulating with a buffer of another 100 feet so manned helicopters and aircraft would be required to fly at 500 feet and higher.

Back down to earth Matt Burgess posits how autonomous commercial vehicles will have a far greater impact on our lives than self driving cars.

General Electric, in an interview by John Lizzi, discusses its vision of 'service robotics' and how bots will act like our apprentices.

MIT - those organic traitors! - have also greatly improved object recognition for machine vision.

Evidence Late Triassic Traversodontid Exaeretodons Were Scavenged

Biogenic control on the origin of a vertebrate monotypic accumulation from the Late Triassic of southern Brazil


Müller et al


This study is a taphonomic investigation of a new Late Triassic monotypic association from the Hyperodapedon Assemblage Zone (Santa Maria Formation, southern Brazil). All skeletal elements belong to the traversodontid cynodont Exaeretodon, representing a minimum of four individuals from different ontogenetic stages. Biogenic traces are identifiable on some elements, such as invertebrate scavenging traces, vertebrate bite marks, and evidence of trampling which was probably responsible for accelerating the disarticulation of upper postcanine teeth and for fracturing a skull and a lower jaw. We classify this accumulation as generated by extrinsic biogenic action (predation/necrophagy and possibly trampling) due to the following reasons: (i) random spatial orientation of the elements enclosed into the matrix; (ii) absence of hydraulic equivalence among the specimens and presence of mudstone lenses in close association with the fossils; (iii) presence of nearly all Voorhies’ groups; (iv) association of a large number of cranial elements presenting different stages of disarticulation; and (v) presence of biogenic traces. Both disarticulation patterns and invertebrate scavenging traces indicate that the bones remained exposed for some time before burial. During this time of exposure, carnivore vertebrates also scavenged on some nutritive and transportable postcranial elements. We suggest an ecteniniid cynodont as a potential modifier agent (predation/necrophagy) of this particular monotypic accumulation of synapsids.

Ichibengops munyamadziensis: a new Eutherocephalian From Wuchiapingian Permian Zambia

A new eutherocephalian (Therapsida, Therocephalia) from the upper Permian Madumabisa Mudstone Formation (Luangwa Basin) of Zambia


Huttenlocker et al


A new therocephalian therapsid, Ichibengops munyamadziensis, gen. et sp. nov., is described on the basis of two partial skulls from the upper Permian (Wuchiapingian) upper Madumabisa Mudstone Formation of the Luangwa Basin, Zambia. The specimens offer insights into the diversity of therocephalians in a poorly sampled region, preserving unique maxillary structures, dental morphology that is intermediate between basal therocephalians and eutherocephalians, and a maxillovomerine bridge forming an incipient secondary palate. A phylogenetic analysis of 135 craniodental and postcranial characters from 56 therapsid taxa (including 49 therocephalians) recovered I. munyamadziensis as the sister taxon of the Russian Chthonosaurus, with both taxa resolving near the hofmeyriid + whaitsiid + baurioid clade (either as the sister group to this clade or nested near whaitsiids). Ichibengops shares with Chthonosaurus several features, including a ventral maxillary flange in which the upper postcanines are situated (also in Lycosuchus), anteroposteriorly short suborbital vacuities with strongly scalloped anterior borders, a furrowed or ridged surface texture on the palatal surface of the palatine, and a possible maxillovomerine bridge (although this latter structure is incompletely preserved in Chthonosaurus). The new taxon, along with its proposed relationship to Chthonosaurus, adds to a list of sister-group pairs of Wuchiapingian tetrapods in southern Gondwana and Laurasia, indicating that effective, though largely unknown, dispersal routes persisted in Pangea at least through early late Permian times.

Monday, July 27, 2015

People Conquered the World Because We're Delusional?!

His statement of 70,000 years is a few holes in it.  There's been evidence Homo erectus was significantly modifying the environment through the use of fire.  If so, I have to wonder...

There's a bit about the Robopocalypse at the end.

Extraordindary Claim? Possible Russian Submarine Wreck Found in Swedish Waters

The Swedish military is studying a video taken by shipwreck hunters who say it shows a wrecked submarine just off the eastern coast of Sweden which appears to be Russian, a spokesman said on Monday.

The discovery comes less than a year after Swedish troops and ships unsuccessfully hunted for a Russian submarine reportedly cited near Stockholm, in the country's biggest military mobilization since the Cold War.

Swedish Armed Forces spokesman Anders Kallin did not say whether the military also believed it was a Russian submarine.

"We choose not to comment on it before we have seen more material. We will continue the analysis together with the company in the coming days," Kallin said.

Ocean X Team, the company behind the discovery, said on its website: "It is unclear how old the submarine is and for how long it has been at the bottom of the sea, but the Cyrillic letters on the hull indicate that it is Russian."

One of the men who discovered the submarine, Dennis Asberg, told the Expressen newspaper it looked modern. But one expert quoted by the paper said he believed it was a Russian submarine that sank in 1916.

I tagged with the 'extraordinary claim' because Dennis Asberg, one of the finders, is noted for the heavily criticized 'Baltic Sea Anomaly' back in the day.  

A Better Understanding Gomphodont Cynodont Middle Ear Structure

The Stapes of Gomphodont Cynodonts: Insights into the Middle Ear Structure of Non-Mammaliaform Cynodonts


Gaetano et al


The stapes is known in several non-mammaliaform cynodonts, although it has only been cursorily studied. Here we thoroughly analyze the stapedial anatomy of several basal cynodonts in a phylogenetic framework. Our study shows that the stapedial anatomy is more variable than previously thought. The morphological variation of the stapes led to the recognition of 11 phylogenetic characters that were included in a total evidence data matrix centered in the analysis of gomphodont cynodonts. Stapes morphology does not provide evidence to suggest a direct connection between the stapes and a postquadrate tympanic membrane (if present) and the hypothesis of a dorsal process as the site of attachment of a small ligament or the stapedial muscle is supported. The re-evaluation of the theories concerning the position of the tympanic membrane in non-mammaliaform cynodonts allowed us to conclude that the hypothetical postquadrate tympanic membrane associated with the squamosal sulcus is at best relictual and most likely non-functional (not connected with the stapes). The sound waves were most likely transmitted to the stapes from a postdentary tympanic membrane through the quadrate. Our analysis results in a better understanding of the auditory system in basal cynodonts and its evolution, highlighting the variability of the stapedial anatomy.

Russian Navy Missile Launch Failure

We all have heard about the USS Sullivans missile launch failure by now.  While scary and embarrassing, little damage was actually done.  The Russophonic internet has been snarking about it.  They should not:

If that was an intentional test, the commanding officers should be shot.  Kids swimming, sailboats all all round.  Such safety!

Then you have the failure, which it obviously was.  So, the snark can stop.  :)

If this was an accident or unintentional launch in any way, Russia better be damned afraid.  And the officers ought to be proverbially shot.

Intraspecies Combat Probably Practiced by Roadian Permian Anomodonts Tiarajudens & Anomocephalus

Tiarajudens eccentricus and Anomocephalus africanus, two bizarre anomodonts (Synapsida, Therapsida) with dental occlusion from the Permian of Gondwana


Cisneros et al


Anomodontia was a highly successful tetrapod clade during the Permian and the Triassic. New morphological information regarding two bizarre basal anomodonts is provided and their palaeoecological significance is explored. The osteology of the recently discovered Tiarajudens eccentricus Cisneros et al. 2011, from the Brazilian Permian, is described in detail. The taxon exhibits unusual postcranial features, including the presence of gastralia. Additional preparation and computed tomography scans of the holotype of Anomocephalus africanus Modesto et al. 1999 discovered in the Karoo Basin of South Africa allow a reappraisal of this genus. Anomocephalus is similar to Tiarajudens with regard to several traits, including a battery of large, transversally expanded, palatal teeth. Molariform teeth are present in the mandible of the African taxon, providing additional insight into the function of the earliest tooth-occlusion mechanism known in therapsids. At least two waves of tooth replacement can be recognized in the palate of Anomocephalus. The outsized, blade-like caniniforms of the herbivorous Tiarajudens allow several non-exclusive ecological interpretations, among which we favour intraspecific display or combat. This behaviour was an alternative to the head-butting practised by the contemporary dinocephalians. Combat specializations that are considered typical of Cenozoic herbivores likely evolved during the Middle Permian, at the time the first communities with diverse, abundant tetrapod herbivores were being assembled.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Salmond Says Second Scottish Independence Referendum Inevitable

Former Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond said Sunday that another referendum on independence from the United Kingdom was "inevitable" because of policies pursued by Prime Minister David Cameron's government in London.

"I think a second independence referendum is inevitable," Salmond told the BBC, although he would not say when.

Salmond resigned as leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and first minister of the devolved government in Edinburgh after Scots voted "no" to independence by 55 to 45 percent in September.

But nationalist feeling has soared in Scotland since then, and in May's general election the SNP won 56 out of 59 Scottish seats in the House of Commons, making them the third largest party after the main opposition Labour party.

Alternate History: Irene Doesn't Cancel Rotrude and Constanstine's Engagement

One of the things I really enjoy is history.  Its something a story, a story of us all, with path ways none of us have explored, or if we have, there's always another point of view to take.  One of the tools for examining history which has appealed to my world building imagination is that of alternate history.  Through the pretty much defunct usenet group soc.history.what-if, I picked up some online friends which have opened my techie eyes to many, many more facets to history and the world around.

Recently, I've been extremely caught up in the techie world and events half a world away, but I thought I'd take a breather here and revisit the allohistorical.  So, for a moment, let's delve into a what-if that had the potential to change a lot, but probably would not have changed as much as some would think.

Let's tun back the clocks and take a look at the year 787.  It was an unfortunate year.  The Empress Regent of the Rump Roman, ahem, Byzantine Empire would end the engagement of her son, the future Constantine VI, to Rotrude, the daughter of Charlemagne.  Subsequently, the next year the Franks, or rather Charlemagne's army in the Adriatic, would turn on the Byzantines.  They would take Istria (in modern Croatia) and Benevento (Italy) from the Byzantines.

The consequences of breaking off the engagement seem to have been bad and were probably related to the fact Charlemagne was something of a sexist pig and didn't respect a woman on the throne.  Despite the fact Irene was a capable a ruler.  Part, too, may have been tied into Irene's attempt to negotiate a marriage between her and Charlemagne.  That ended in complete failure.  The combination or intertwining of the two was probably the cause and the end of the potential alliance between the man who Pope Leo would crown Roman Emperor and Rump of the Roman Empire itself. 

Let's say, for the moment, Irene does not attempt to negotiate the marriage between herself and Charlemagne.  She realizes even under the best of circumstances it'd be a disaster if it worked and would be a sore point, at best, if it did not.  She does want the alliance between the Franks and the Byzantines, so she does engage her son to Rotrude and she does not break off the engagement between her son and Charlemagne's daughter: after all, Constantine was against breaking off the engagement.  

So, the marriage goes ahead and in 790, Constantine (19) and Rotrude (15, nicknamed Erythro (red) by the Byzantines) are married in Constantinople.   Two of her brothers accompany her, Pepin (19, King of Italy) and Louis (12, King of Aquitaine).  Charlemagne would keep Charles back in the empire just in case something went wrong since Charles was to be his probable heir.

Constantine was far from what a middle class American would call a good man, but he could when he wanted to roll out the charm.  In this case, he would take pains to impress his new brothers in law and work to bond with them as strongly as he could.  Pepin he impressed as a buddy and friend, but with Louis he'd get a little bit of the idol worship going.

Constantine had tried to convince Pepin to join him for the campaign against the Bulgars he was planning.  Unfortunately, Pepin was already planning a campaign against the Avars and could not participate.  He would, in time, work with Constantine, but not on the first joint campaign.  Rather, it would fatefully be Louis who offered.

The Byzantine campaign against the Bulgars would be delayed and in 792 the army would march out much as in our time line.  However, this time a contingent of Franks under Louis would be present: 500 cavalry and 1000 foot.  The force would meet the Bulgars at Marcellae.  The battle would start to unfold much as it did our own; however, Constantine was wary of risking his now 14 year old brother in law and also was almost as concerned about sharing the victory: he wanted the victory to be decisively his own.  He placed Louis' cavalry as a rear guard and Louis' infantry he left protecting the train and fortress.  The Bulgars came boiling out of the flank and attacked.  Louis was right in the way.  He and his cavalry fought valiantly, but were forced to retreat when threatened with encirclement.  They ran back to the infantry and made a stand at the fortress.  Here they frustrated the Bulgars until the Byzantines could return.  And that they did catching the Bulgars between the anvil of the fortress and the hammer of Constantine's forces.  Kardam and Telerig, the khans of the Bulgars, was captured.  Sensing the opportunity, Constantine would march to Pliska and sack the city while the Bulgarian Empire was in disarray.  While on the return march, Constantine would take Varna and make the city into a Byzantine stronghold.  A tenth of the spoils, Constantine would send off with Louis and most of that would go to Aachen. Kardem would be released and would pay tribute for the next six years.  Telerig was executed.  As a consequence, Kardem moved the Bulgarian capital north of the Danube, close to modern Bucharest.  That is not to say the Bulgarian ceded everything south of the Danube, but it would give the Byzantines some momentum in reclaiming territory long lost.

Constantine would make sure the world knew he was the victor and while Louis played a role, he was very much a minor player.  He did enough to sooth the young Louis, but would make sure to have Louis leave as soon as possible.  He actually went as far as to escort Louis to Pepin's lands in Italy where Constantine and Pepin would meet, booze and conduct diplomacy while Louis made his way back to Aquitaine.  Constantine had a problem: his mother.  She was still his co-emperor and a major thorn in his side.  He could not kill her, but needed to be rid of her.  A deal was struck: Irene would be virtually exiled, but not called as such.  She would be sent to Rome itself to govern to help protect the Pope, who was friendly with both the Carolginians and the Byzantines with two small forces of Franks and Byzantines.

Louis would call on Constantine's help in turn.  In 797, the city of Barcelona rebelled against the Muslims and swore to the Franks.  Louis was mustering the Frankish soldiery against the Muslims for a campaign, but was concerned the Muslims would retake the city before he was ready.  Constantine would attack from the sea in a surprise Tarragona and Tortosa after reestablishing a naval base in Palma.  He could not hold those cities and would not even try.  He'd put up a resistance to the Muslims for two or three months, then bargain his exit for payment, fattening his treasuries and buying Louis time.  Just as he surrendered Tarragona, rather than sail back to Palma, he turned south and repeated his obnoxiousness at Denia and he would raid, but not take, Valencia.  This would force the Muslims south again and, again, he'd evacuate under the banner of bribery.  His campaign would last a little over a year, but by then, Louis would pass through the Pyrenees to defend Barcelona (successfully) and even taking Tarragona and Zaragoza.  Alphonso II also led an invasion from the north and took Lisbon and Toledo from the overextended Corbodans.

Constantine would neither hold Majorica (it and Minorca would revolt after he left) nor would he keep any territory from his supportive raids.  He did return with gold, a fair amount of it, and turned a profit from the venture, a significant one.  He would turn and squander it, unfortunately.  He erected a monument in Constantinople and then would go off to take Cyprus, expelling the Arabs in 802.

He and Pepin would launch a joint campaign into the Balkans.  Pepin would secure the Croats and Constantine, the Serbs in 809.

Ironically, Rotrude and Irene had grown close.  Rotrude had successfully bore Constantine a large number of children.  Except except when he was on campaign, they had a very active reproductive life.  Before the Spanish Campaign, she would bare him three children: two sons and a daughter.  Two who made it to adulthood, including the next emperor, Leo V (791) and daughter, Irene (795).  When he returned, she would bare another two children, one who would live to adulthood (another daughter, Maria (801)).  When Constantine returned from conquering Cyprus, she would have another three children, two sons (Constantine (804) and Karolos (806)) living to adulthood.  And when he returned from the Balkans, she would have two more children, a son and daughter, both living to adulthood (Loudovíkos (813) and Erythro (811)).  Unfortunately, her last son and his birth, would kill her.  She would pass away at age 38 in 813.
However, she was an intelligent woman in her own right and felt stymied as the empress.  Irene understood.  She helped Rotrude fit into Byzantine society and Rotrude would in turn become a patroness of learning and monasteries.  Interestingly, it was actually Rotrude's sponsorship of copyists of various manuscripts which would make the biggest impact.  She would have monks copying books of all kinds and even gifted her father numerous books circa 810 - three years before her death - and the Pope.  The former had far more impact than the latter, inserting several greek books into the Carolingian Renaissance and effectively doubly the size of the libraries in the West. 

When Irene was sent off to govern Rome proper, Rotrude stepped in to support her husband.  She was considered an outsider and not much of a threat, but she used that to her advantage and thwarted several attempts to usurp her husband while he was out campaigning.

Rotrude and Constantine, surprisingly in some ways, had been a good match.  She had tempered his nasty nature and given him an outlet.  However, when she passed, Constantine's darker side grew stronger. 
Without her tempering and in his grief, he became cruel and petty.  He blinded and mutilated those who challenged him.  An official he caught stealing from the imperial treasury, he tortured and then poured molten gold down his throat.  He would severely beat his daughter, Maria, until Leo intervened to stop him.  Leo would step in to be the guardian of his younger siblings.  Something which would end up being a positive turn for the empire, but that would be in the future when Leo V would appoint Constantine Strategos Autokrator of the Danube and Karolos the same for the Palestine, non reality, but useful ruse.

However, their father, Constantine VI would be turned from inflicting himself on the capital to attempting to take back territories in the east and to end the Arab raids into Anatolia.  He would retake Antioch and it would remain held.  He would march east to take Aleppo and Edessa as well.  He would be marching back from the campaign escorting the Image of Edessa to Constantinople when his army was surprised by a Muslim army. 
In the ensuing wild melee, Constantine was killed.  Leo would emerge a hero, publicly, and ascend the throne.  Some would whisper he'd had his father killed.  All the better, in some ways, for those who plot to fear him.  And for those who don' to love him.

But, Leo's reign would be a different one.  And a different tale for another time.

Habitat Preferences of Polar Dinosaurs in Maastrichtian Cretaceous Alaska

A Multi-disciplinary Perspective on Habitat Preferences among Dinosaurs in a Cretaceous Arctic Greenhouse World, North Slope, Alaska (Prince Creek Formation: Upper Maastrichtian)


Fiorillo et al


The Prince Creek Formation of northern Alaska is the most abundant source of polar dinosaur remains in the world and now corroborating data from this well-studied rock unit allow for making inferences about the paleoecological preferences for these extinct polar animals. The rock unit records high-latitude, alluvial sedimentation and soil formation on a low gradient, muddy coastal plain. Compound and cumulative andic Entisols and Inceptisols formed on levees, point bars, crevasse splays, and along the margins of floodplain lakes, ponds and swamps. Abundant organic matter, carbonaceous root traces, Fe-oxide depletion coatings and zoned peds indicate periodic waterlogging, anoxia and gleying, consistent with a high water table. In contrast, Fe-oxide mottles, ferruginous and manganiferous segregations, bioturbation, and less common illuvial clay coatings indicate recurring oxidation and periodic drying-out of some soils. An integrated reconstruction of pedogenic processes and biota suggests that this ancient Arctic coastal plain was influenced by seasonally fluctuating water table levels and floods, and in distal areas, marine waters. Four of the five bonebeds in this study are from more distal areas, represented by lower delta plain facies, while the fifth bonebed is from a more proximal part of the basin, represented by a somewhat better drained coastal plain facies.

Bonebeds in the distal areas are dominated by Edmontosaurus sp. while the more proximal bonebed is dominated by the remains of the ceratopsian Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum. The distribution of these bonebeds, sedimentological facies, paleosols and biota, suggest that Pachyrhinosaurus may have preferred more upland environments while Edmontosaurus preferred lowland, deltaic environments. This distribution may be the result of physiological adaptation to the pronounced seasonality provided by polar terrestrial ecosystems. In contrast to a preferred habitat distribution of these large herbivores, the large predatory dinosaur, Nanuqsaurus hoglundi seems to have had a more ubiquitous distribution across the landscape.

The Role of Continental Drift & Glaciations on Carbonifierous PaleoClimates

Impact of continental motion and dynamic glaciations on low-latitude climate during the Carboniferous: The record of the Wyoming Shelf (Western United States)


Blanchard et al


The dynamic character of the Late Paleozoic Ice Age is evident from glacial deposits, but its impact on tropical climate is not well constrained. Global changes in climate are overprinted on longer-term paleogeographic variations, resulting in a complex time–space distribution of climate-sensitive lithologies. The significance of such lithologies in Carboniferous successions of the western United States has not been fully explored. In this study, we provide new interpretations for the paleoclimatic context of the Amsden and Tensleep Formations (Pennsylvanian, Northern Wyoming, USA). The Amsden Formation consists of a basal sandstone member overlain by red siltstones containing pisolites. Very large-scale (~ 10 m) cross-bedding within the basal sandstone indicates deposition in an erg environment. Iron pisoid-rich layers in the overlying member suggest an evolution toward more humid conditions. Persistent arid conditions during the middle Pennsylvanian are suggested by eolian sandstones and calcretes in the overlying Tensleep Formation. These formations were deposited on the karst topography that developed on top of the lower to middle Mississippian Madison Group. Although the development of karstic features implies that humid conditions prevailed during the late Mississippian, evaporites and evidence for early dolomitization within the formation suggest that it was deposited under arid conditions. These relationships argue for a long-term climate evolution from arid to humid during the Mississippian, and a return to arid conditions during the Pennsylvanian. This trend can be explained by the northward drift from ~ 15°S to ~ 12°N. A comparison with contemporaneous records reveals a diachronous evolution across western Pangaea, with the climatic conditions documented on the Wyoming Shelf being reached later in eastern North America. These relationships indicate that plate motion considerably overprints long-term climatic records. Departures from this trend, suggested by the presence of erg deposits in the basal Amsden Formation, record the overprinting of shorter periods of climate change.

New Ediacaran NeoProterozoic "Shelly"/Biomineralizer Fossils Found in Spain

Late Ediacaran skeletal body fossil assemblage from the Navalpino anticline, central Spain


Cortijo et al


Mineralized fossils have been described from late Ediacaran rocks all over the world, and have been interpreted as the first metazoans capable of secreting a mineralized skeleton. Among these early biomineralizers, the tubular Cloudina has a cosmopolitan distribution. It often occurs in association with other mineralizing organisms, such as Sinotubulites and Namacalathus, which show a more restricted, and seemingly non-overlapping, distribution. Many aspects of the biology of these organisms remain poorly known, in particular the structure and composition of the ecosystems they formed part of. Here we report a diverse fossil assemblage from the Ibor Group of Villarta de los Montes of the Central Iberian Zone, Spain. The assemblage includes the first material of Sinotubulites baimatuoensis from Spain, which is found in association with Cloudina hartmanae and Cloudina carinata. Also found are small tubular fossils and a flask-shaped form comparable to Protolagena. Among previously described assemblages of late Ediacaran skeletal fossils, the Villarta assemblage, unique in Europe, most closely compares to that from the Dengying Formation of South China.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Extinct Cambrian Comb Jellies Had Skeletons

A vanished history of skeletonization in Cambrian comb jellies


Ou et al


Ctenophores are traditionally regarded as “lower” metazoans, sharing with cnidarians a diploblastic grade of organization. Unlike cnidarians, where skeletonization (biomineralization and sclerotization) evolved repeatedly among ecologically important taxa (for example, scleractinians and octocorals), living ctenophores are characteristically soft-bodied animals. We report six sclerotized and armored ctenophores from the early Cambrian period. They have diagnostic ctenophore features (for example, an octamerous symmetry, oral-aboral axis, aboral sense organ, and octaradially arranged ctene rows). Unlike most modern counterparts, however, they lack tentacles, have a sclerotized framework, and have eight pairs of ctene rows. They are resolved as a monophyletic group (Scleroctenophora new class) within the ctenophores. This clade reveals a cryptic history and sheds new light on the early evolution of this basal animal phylum. Skeletonization also occurs in some other Cambrian animal groups whose extant members are exclusively soft-bodied, suggesting the ecological importance of skeletonization in the Cambrian explosion.